24 Feb

Creative Design Lab: Mobile app week 3

As a group, we decided that the mix of “education” and “food” was an idea we wanted to experiment with further. We produced the following mind map on all the things we could think of relating to an app of this nature.
Scan 24 Feb 2014 14_56
We then can up with a snappy description of our app; something that would be shown in the app store to sell our app. We came up with the words “Did you know, bananas grow upwards? If this kind of information is a-peel-ing to you, find out more on Food-For-Thought”. I think, at this stage, we didn’t really know which direction the app was going to go in.

We toyed around with quite a few ideas, including healthy eating apps for adults, and an app that could find a recipe using an ingredient, from a photograph taken by the user of that ingredient. We eventually decided that we would target the app at children, and turn it into a game to encourage children to play it.

I created the following storyboard as a basis for our app, which was based on many of the ideas that we came up with and bounced off each other during our group sessions.

scan storyboard
As it to be designed for children, I took inspiration from existing material aimed at children. It is particularly helpful that I have a pre-school child that I can draw inspiration from. I observe the things he likes, his preferences and images/designs he is attracted to.

Mr Potato Head One of his favourite toys is the Mr Potato Head, a version of which was first distributed in the 1950’s. Young children are naturally and instinctively drawn to faces, and I wanted to exploit this in my app design. All the features are exaggerated to epic proportions, and infants and young children seem to really love this.

I also took inspiration from my son’s magazines, including the popular Bananas in Pyjamas franchise. The colours are also very bright, using a lot of primary colours and the font is very playful and rounded.

I’ve also noticed, everything is either illustrated or accompanied by an image. As in the example below, the list of ingredients isn’t just text; each element has a picture of the food item. I think it is important to not give children too much to read, as this will quickly lose their attention.

Bananas in Pajamas

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17 Feb

Creative Design Lab: Mobile app week 2

Incase you missed week 1 of the creative design lab, view it here.

To begin the creative process this week, I drew shapes related to specific emotions. (I find it interesting how anger and excitement are quite closely related). This was an example of synectics – “the fitting together of seemingly diverse elements”. Emotion doesn’t have a shape, but somehow I couldn’t see happiness as anything other than rounded and circular, and excitement as being spiky.

Scan 17 Feb 2014 13_39

“Embrace the seemingly irrelevant”

The next stage of our mobile app project involved combining seemingly unrelated topics, to generate new ideas for apps. We focussed on quantity, didn’t criticise each others ideas, developed on each others ideas and welcomed more unusual thoughts. The following is a collection of completely uninhibited app ideas, from the mundane to the insane.

Scan 17 Feb 2014 14_03 1We then picked three ideas to take a little further using analogies to look at the problem differently. We generated direct, personal, fantasy and symbolic analogies for each of the three ideas below.Scan 17 Feb 2014 14_40 Scan 17 Feb 2014 14_41 1 Scan 17 Feb 2014 14_41I found the fantasy and symbolic analogies the most useful in this context. I was quite surprised at how effective this activity was. I found myself looking at the app idea from a completely different angle than before.

We decided that we were going to take forward the idea of an educational food app.

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16 Feb

Airbrushing: an app for impossible beauty

There has been much controversy surrounding airbrushing over the last few years. I read a very interesting article on BBC News describing the effects on an adult, fully aware of the practice. The psychological effects on impressionable children and teenagers will be, of course, decidedly worse. Since technology has been making it easier and easier for anyone to edit out imperfections in photos, I decided to try it on myself.

I am a Photoshop… err… professional, but I didn’t want to show what an expert can do. We’ve all seen the evidence in fashion and gossip magazines; women with flawless skin and absolutely no flab practically 2 hours after giving birth. I wanted to show how technology has made this impossible beauty available to everyone. I downloaded the app Perfect365 on my iPhone (also available on Android) and set to work on one of my pictures.

First off, I chose a photograph that I was already quite happy with. I think I looked alright in it, until I started to change things.

I smoothed out my skin, I even got rid of some of my moles (which, lets face it, make me who I am). I even made my face slimmer, eyes whiter and larger. I may have gotten a little bit obsessed with making changes. I realised it was effecting me, someone who prides herself on not being overly image-conscious, a woman of substance and not superficial.


Before and after

The thing is, I realise the ‘after’ photo looks fake. I realise that it is so altered that I can only now class it as loosely based on me. But still, there was something that made me want to try making one of my most loved memories and most hated pictures better.

The story behind this one is being on a lovely holiday to Paris, eight months pregnant, and after dragging myself up 200-300 steps to the top of the Sacré-Coeur wanting to take a lovely picture of me with the glorious view. Except you can imagine what I looked like after this feat. This calls for Perfect365…


See? Addictive. I know a lot of friends who Photoshop secretly. Sometimes you can tell, sometimes it’s just intuition. The odd spot here and there, a stretch mark, a bit of excess flab. Where does it end?


Making me perfect: even my cheeks shrunk.

The app works, a little too well maybe. It was so easy to make changes with a number of different selections and a slider for more extreme editing. The app has a colour palette for choosing makeup and even some rather fake looking wigs to top it all off.

The face slimming section surprised me. I had previously learned to live with my round, slightly chubby face. Is feeling this way down to new technology? I don’t think so. We need to be responsible with the way in which we use programs like this. We need to tell our children they are beautiful, because they are. There is technology out there saving lives and doing amazing things, beautiful things. This is not one of those things.

If you do decide to download this app and try it for yourself, do so at your peril. It could cost you your self-esteem, and in this day and age it is rather hard to build back up.

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10 Feb

Creative Design Lab: Mobile app week 1

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 19.07.11Learning techniques to work creatively is invaluable in the design industry. As an introduction to working in this way, I took  two main points moving forward; to aim to think in an imaginative and innovative way, and to be unafraid of failure.

Phase 1: Promoting Individuality

The first experiment involved my subject describing herself to me, beginning with a few trigger questions, such as “what do you do for fun?”. It is interesting to hear how a person thinks of themselves, and prioritises parts of their lives. Notes from this conversation highlighted that sleep was a big deal.

Scan 17 Feb 2014 20_57

I then went on to Phase 2: Communicate Information were I used this information to make apps specifically for her. I firstly focussed on sleep, with a fantasy app that you could plug into your body to recharge yourself as if you were a robot or machine that had batteries. As the creativity flowed, I also noted that it would suit her very well to have an app that could pause time. Then I decided to link in sleep with her long-distance relationship, to create an app that could send her an alarm when her partner woke up in the morning so they could arrange to speak.

The next app idea was a potato recipe app, because her favourite food is potatoes. It could also show arts and crafts ideas and songs – anything fun to do with potatoes in one app.

Another thing she likes is puns – a pun generator was my next idea – something to make her smile on the bus to town.

I also came up with a dictaphone app to aide creative writing and an app that plays a collection of calming sounds like sea and white noise. My initial icon design ideas are below, followed by a representation in Photoshop of my ideas. I used an app icon template available for download and use.

Ci138 app ideas

app representation


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07 Feb

Samsung vs iPhone: the debate continues

I’ve recently upgraded from a Samsung Galaxy S2 to an iPhone 5s. These two phones aren’t directly comparable; the iPhone is a much newer version, equivalent to the S4 in real terms.

I have noticed a few major differences though.

The iPhone feels more substantial, and the actual device is nicer to hold. The screen is quite noticeably smaller though, and I find myself missing the larger functional area of the Samsung. The iPhone has a few annoying design flaws too. I find myself accidentally hitting buttons that have been placed on the touch screen in the wrong position. This never happened with the Galaxy.

There is also the difference between iOS and Android, with Android being an open source platform. For some, this is a deal breaker, but for other users this makes no difference whatsoever.

I still haven’t decided which I prefer. There are more similarities than differences, so it is hard to say definitively that one is better than the other. Next time my contract is up though, I’ll have a hard time choosing. There is another major difference – the Galaxy is cheaper. For some, the choice is clear. For now, I’m hanging on to my S2 as a back-up phone. Are you loyal to one brand in particular? I’d like to know your thoughts.

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