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Nodefy

Fall 2016
(4 weeks)
Collaboration: Gautam BoseAdvisors:
Austin Lee and Peter Scupelli

Problem Space—

When designing anything, it is critical for designers to have a record of their steps and thoughts for each stage of the process. This is so that they have a clear understanding of their next steps as well as a tool to communicate their work to others. In many student contexts, the staple visualization for process is a timeline, organizing the steps taken in chronological order. Though this makes sense at a glance, timelines struggle to portray the multidimensional aspects of process, highlighting order while masking the relationships between ideas.


Abstract—

To break this linear framework, my partner and I created a new way of visualizing the working process in a way that highlights the connections between thoughts and stages while retaining a general chronological order.





The Value of Process Visualization—

Spatial memory is a powerful thing; the way space is portrayed influences our experience. We are also visually inclined; images often have a far more impactful and communicative effect on a viewer than text. There lies great value in being able to describe specific parts of a project in an isolated and localized way, while having the visualization to back that up.

This visualization serves as an abstraction of the project entity. It defines the parameters of the project, and essentially places/ contextualizes/ maps the project in our cultural landscape.


In a sense, these maps embody the locations they reference. They become tangible symbols that somehow encompass the complexities of and help navigate through space.

In the same way, we concluded that we could create a visual that embodies a project, giving position to the intangible parts of the process.



The Timeline—

The timeline itself has many merits. If one wants to simply portray how a project came to be, chronological order makes the most sense. But unless it is a purely technical exercise, where the primary thing to be gained is the use of technics (yes, that is a real word), the true value of a project lies in the reason behind each step.


The linear timeline. Notice how time is highlighted, while flow of thought is hidden.


How Nodefy Works—

I designed a system that traces the paths that come from ideas. Modeled after tree data structures, this visualization takes the form of a tree, with a root prompt/ problem space/ reason for project, parent nodes that lead to child nodes. This tree describes the true multi-layered nature of a project.


The tree diagram. Each branch is in chronological order, but the important thing is that the train of thought is highlighted instead of the order.

One can clearly see the way these prototypes and ideas emerged.
For example, if a specific piece of feedback leads to multiple directions, the system would record all of them, giving the designer the agency to weigh different ideas and decide on the best course of action, while retaining the ability to come back to those ideas later on.

This system keeps far better track of how a specific part of the project came to be, by giving the viewer the agency to trace back where exactly it came from. In a way, each node on this tree has its own timeline.


“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” -Anton Ego, Ratatouille

The Role of Inspiration in Design—

A great idea can come from anywhere. In structured environments, inspiration and direction usually come from critique, prototyping, storyboarding, and reflecting, but they can really come from anywhere. It is important to reference the inspiration to the step, because that describes intent. I subscribe to the idea that there are multiple ways to answer a question. When intent is preserved, the designer can unlock more ways to achieve that intent. Nodefy preserves intent by connecting process steps to the inspirations they came from.

The Seamlessness between Working and Recording—

In my experience with recording process for projects, there is a problem when I have to pause in my flow to record what I just did. It is difficult to restore my train of thought, tempo, and it feels like I am doing the same work twice.

There has to be a way to seamlessly do the work and record the way it being done in a way that is insightful and clear.

While I’m working, I want to be able to make sure I’m in the right node. I want to have my last step/ current timeline/ set of goals directly accessible, so that I can keep my work justified.

This is me using a HoloLens. I was amazed by how seamless it was to convert physical things into digital memories.

This is why we thought it best to envision Nodefy to take place in Augmented Reality.


The important stuff—>
What I learned—

I learned a lot about the nature of design with this project. I thought and developed frameworks that describe why things happen. I developed a way to give definitive (though admittedly reductive) meaning to the experiences we have. I believe that design involves introducing and fighting for new frameworks for living, and giving people the agency to do life better. Design should focus on erasing life’s limiting reactants, focusing on the humanity behind the things we do, and developing tools that extend our physical, mental, and spiritual reach.

Technically, this project involved a lot of these skills:
  • Creating and pitching slide decks
  • Collaborative communication on the whiteboard
  • Researching existing systems
  • A plethora of Adobe After Effects
  • Videography

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