Table of Content

  1. Objectified
  2. Rams
  3. WeChat open class: the marathon talk given by Allen

1. Objectified

Objectified is a documentary film by Gary Hustwit. Because of my work, I have the opportunity to watch this documentary half year after I start to study human-computer interaction design. It was maybe the third or fourth time I watch it. I believe what I have learnt in the past several months have allowed me to have a new understanding of it. Due to the lack of time, I’ll only list the part that hit me the most.

First thing is about process, design process. I knew the design process was critical, I came here to try to figure out what is the right design process( though I know there is no “the” right design process now ). It seems that I thought design process was a mess and confusing only for HCI designers, or virtual designers. But it’s the same for industrial designers too. Design is always contextual, no matter it is a product or an application, and design process is not only different according to the problems we are facing, the materials we are interacting with, the people we are designing for, but also who we are as its designer. Like when I was confused about if there is no the right way to design, what are we supposed to learn. The professor said “but there is a better way for you to do it”, what we need to figure out, is the way that makes sense for ourselves.

The second thing I didn’t notice during my previous watching it is what Naoto Fukasawa mentioned as “Obsessive sketch”, which is raised by Takahama Kyoshi, a poet I believe. “When the poet’s sentiments are overly visible, the audience may become uncomfortable.” I think this could be somehow connected to Rams’ “Less, but better”.

The third is about sustainability. Last semester I’ve done a group project about sustainability. It was mentioned in the movie that “Although designers believe emotionally and intellectually in sustainability, they and the manufacturers they work for are finding it very difficult to come to terms with”. That’s exactly what I felt during the process. When I proposed to design something for preventing people from unnecessary impulsive buying, the first question we are facing is who is going to support the design. It seemed to challenge the essential model of how e-business runs today. Design for sustainability is not designing some individual things; it’s about design everything and their lifecycles. I like the question raised at the end of the movie: “Things you already own, why not enjoy them today?” something should be done for this.

I think the biggest difference compared with before when I watching it, is when someone in the movie said “People are creative by nature, and always not quite satisfied with the design of something”, instead of only regarding myself as one of those “people”, I now also see myself as a designer that could help “people” make things and define their own world.

2. Rams

It’s a documentary portrait of Dieter Rams, also directed by Gary Hustwit. I watched it several days ago so I might already forget some exciting parts of it, just write something down for reflection.

The open of the documentary was quite surprising. A student asked Rams how to overcome mediocrity in design on a forum. Rams gave an unexpected answer: Find the right people, “people who could actually achieve something through collaboration. Who think beyond what they are responsible for every day. Who think “what will our society looks like in the future.” This is something I didn’t expect. When I reflect on what I have learnt and experienced in group work in the past semester, I believe that this is at least an incredibly important part of a designers’ life and work.

Another interesting point is the director of the Vitra Design Museum mentioned that Rams is “from the generation where designers dare to say this is bad design”. Now we say a lot “this is interesting”, but you’ll never know what does “interesting” means. What is a good design, and what is a bad one? It’s scary to make a judgment in public now. Not only that the public opinion environment is getting worse, but part of it also because that we ourselves are puzzled.

Rams believed that digitization is “diminishing our ability to experience things”: “people are no longer looking at each other in the eye”, they are just staring at their phones. Things disappear so quickly, and there’s no trace left, he believed this is one reason why people want to consume so much.

Also, a very lovely detail is that when Rams was taking a picture with some young designers from Braun at the permanent exhibit, he suddenly looked around and said “I need to find my wife”.

“Keep your eyes wide open when you walk through the city, or through a room.”

“The term “design” is mushrooming. I fear we could lose our orientation at a point in time.”

3. WeChat open class: the marathon talk given by Allen

  • Allen is the creator of WeChat and Foxmail

I didn’t see the live performance, only read the transcription. Though he talked about a lot of major popular topics like mini-programs, mini-games and WeChat Pay, the most interesting part of his talk for me, is the opinion about how to recommend stories for people, namely the feature named “Top stories”, which is a section for personalized article recommendations. If my memory serves me right, he mentioned that they have tried in two directions for recommending: one by social ways and another based on algorithm. It didn’t work to use both ways, so finally they decided to pick one: it’s social. He said that this is a more humane way. Because in the reality, we didn’t spend a lot of time in libraries or bookshops to gain information. Instead, we seek for recommendations from people around us, or on forums. Like when we want to pick a movie, we didn’t always read their plots or make a list on our own interest, we spend a lot of time reading and listening to others’ feelings about movies. That’s how recommendation happens. This is part of what I want to dig deep into in my individual project. What is a better way to help people connect to the right content at the right time. Most of us would think of algorithm straightway, but we have a lot of existing recommendation system based on algorithm, did they work as we expected? I’ve heard serveral people complain that their daily mixtapes on Spotify always play songs that they’ve listened to for more than thousands times or songs that they can’t possibly like.

Allen might be one of the persons who know the essence of social products the best, at least those in China. He said social products is a way for people to impose their own personal image into others. We always want others recognize and like the personal image we build and express. This is also similar to the concept of “Avatars” I’ve written in my last week’s reflection about ZEPETO. Even for the recommendation system “Top stories”, it still serves partly as a stage for people to build and show their personal virtual image. “I am what I read.”