Huzzah! This morning I published my first post to the Adaptive Path weblog, and people have been stoked on it all day. I’ve been working on designing the iPhone application to go along with the smart.fm learning website, and a large part of my contribution to the project so far has been sketching. Sketching, sketching, sketching.
I talk about it all in the post, but I can summarize it here as well. Smart.fm has a series of awesome learning games, based on heavy research into human psychology, that are designed to help you learn and retain facts. They have totally hit a sweet spot with people trying to learn other languages, and with the iPhone app we wanted to help people continue their learning, any place, any time. Their existing web-based games feature a sort of “flash cards on steroids” rhythm, which turns out to be a great functional description, but a poor metaphor for their actual gamelike feel. Thus, our goal with the iPhone app is to design something that perhaps resembles index cards at its most basic level, but from an experiential standpoint is a hell of a lot more fun.
And so, we began exploring metaphors. What makes something fun? What makes something gamelike? Alexa and Dan turned me loose with my sketchbook, and I began brainstorming enormous lists around such concepts as the materiality of the gamespace, the movements people perform to interact with the artifacts in the game, and how to best represent time and progress. I generated dozens and dozens of ideas, drawing inspiration from dollar store games to radio dials to Wooly Willy. Throughout my thought process I roughed these guys out on paper, giving ourselves a constant stream of tangible artifacts to look at, reflect on, believe in, or challenge. I talk about this process a bit more in this video, where I walk through my sketchbook with Chris and John, my fellow summer associates.
From these explorations I brought a few ideas up into a bit more coherence, which I talk about here:
We shared all this work with the client, who is absolutely stoked with it. In their blog post regarding this project they speak of a “super-talented summer associate” who produced some pretty cool visual explorations, but when they say that I wonder if they have me confused with Dave Pederson (a.k.a. “The Other Chris”, a.k.a. “The Mysterious Fourth Intern”).
Again, the thread at the Adaptive Path blog can fill you in on all the details. Needless to day, it is an absolute delight working with the fine folks at Cerego, and it is all thanks to them that we can be so open about our process in designing their iPhone app.