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Design Challenge: Thinking Outside the Wrist

Thinking Outside the Wrist - Mark Notermann

Until the end of the year, I'll be sharing design challenges from my book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, which was just released by HOW Design Press. The book consists of 80 creative challenges that will help you achieve a breadth of stronger design solutions, in various media, within any set time period. Each exercise includes compelling visual solutions from other designers and background stories to help you increase your capacity to innovate. Here's the last one in this series, "Thinking Outside the Wrist."

Time is a slippery fish for any creative professional.

From aggressive deadlines to daily schedules chock full of meetings, time is a rare commodity—and the unit of measure that governs market success and profitability. Plus, designers yearn to submerge their minds for long stretches of design time, where they can ignore the ticking clock and luxuriate in the process of making.

In this challenge, however, you’ll be asked to confront the role of time in your daily life—and to find ways that you can use your design thinking to bend it to your will.

For one week, keep a diary about time. Every day, as you interact with your watch, phone, computer, or clock, write down how you feel when you check the time. When the week is up, use the data that you gathered to design a “watch” prototype that redefines how people keep track of time—both in their day-to-day life, and in their pursuit of fashion. You can only take two hours to design the prototype.

What comes out of this exercise may not resemble anything like a watch at all. The watch may leave the wrist, merge with clothing, communicate via Bluetooth with phones or computing devices, and so forth. However, because time is money, the cost of production on these watches must be fifty dollars or less.

Some good questions to ask before you begin designing may include: What high-level themes emerged from your diary study related to time and your emotional state? How did you feel about your watch/phone as you interacted with it? What would you change if you had unlimited control over time and space? How would you feel if your watch/phone was thrown out? And what would take its place?

Mark Notermann’s solution for this challenge was pictorial: “The SeeTime watch interacts via Bluetooth with a desktop app which allows you to build custom photo libraries or follow an online photo-sharing account. The watch would have a very simple touch screen that brings up the numeric time when you choose. In this view, the ‘second hand’ runs vertically in one-minute strips, which complete a full picture each hour. Options would allow for control of image flow and refresh rates, as well as visual alarms, reminders, etc.”

Want more? The first 24 pages of Creative Workshop are available free on Scribd.

David Sherwin is an interaction design director at frog. He has built his reputation as a design leader, interaction designer, and researcher with 17 years of experience in generating compelling solutions for systemic business problems. David is the author of Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills and Success by Design: The Essential Business Reference for Designers. You can follow David on Twitter @changeorder.