Monday, August 14, 2017

Mounties, iDays & Meow Wolf

Weekly Update 2017-33: Mounties and the magic of supergroups, how to inject innovation into your agile design process, and Meow Wolf, an alternative Disneyland for people who like things a little weird.

Music: Mounties
Supergroups are both a blessing and a curse for music lovers. This very Canadian supergroup comprised of Limblifter's Ryan Dahle, Hawksley Workman and Steve Bays of Hot Hot Heat has only put out one album so far, way back in 2014. I had the extreme pleasure of seeing them perform the album at Riot Fest in 2014 and again at Lee's Palace, but I get the feeling that this band, like many other supergroups, will never surpass the one-album norm. It seems that they find each other in interesting ways like award shows or recording with other bands at the same studios, make one amazing album, and then lose interest in favour of the original bands from whence they came. I'm bitterly thinking of the supergroup Divine Fits as I type this.

If one album is all we ever get from Mounties, I will suffice to be happy with that because three years later, I still listen to it at least once a month. Check out Guaranteed Blonde Enough and Headphones.

This week has been an exercise in fitting a month of summer activities into a quarter of the time. I went waterfall hopping in Hamilton, got naked at the nude beach on Toronto Island, went to Osheaga in Montreal, jammed with my band on a rooftop patio in Kensington, saw a great documentary about Native Americans and the history of rock music in the 1960s, and visited the Pickering Food Truck Festival.

I also decided that I would display my Arduino research as a series of blog posts, each one about a different experiment and what I've learned from each one, as I build knowledge toward my dream project of a ping pong table sensor that tells you when the table is free to play!

That said, this week I'd like to publish my first Arduino post of the series. Many people are unfamiliar with the maker community, so I'll be outlining a bit of the history and background as a primer as well. I'm also going fishing this week FINALLY so I'm keeping the goals light for now.

Random Thought: iDay
Working as a product designer, I have found that the beginning stages of the design process are always the most important. Know your user, understand their processes, needs, problems, and experiences, and find creative solutions for those problems. This all sounds easy, but how do we access the part of our brains that contains the “aha” moments? How do we foster an environment that will allow us to find the innovative solutions?

In comes a concept called the “iDay”. Short for innovation day, an iDay is a specialized, hyper-collaborative ideation session that takes places in that beginning discovery phase of the software development life cycle.

iDays are different from brainstorming sessions in a very important way: they involve different project teams, stakeholders, users, and any other involved parties. An iDay can consist of designers, researchers, developers, members of the client team, and end-users. I have always been a big proponent of the fact that anyone can be a designer, given the right scenario. Different perspectives are key factors in understanding a problem from all sides, and so designers should have constant access to the brains of everyone involved in the problem.

So you've got all these wonderful minds together in a room. What comes next? The design team should be prepared with a series of prompts to present to the room, giving everyone 2-3 minutes to jot down any blue-sky ideas they may have regarding that problem. Then, everyone is given a chance to present their ideas. Each idea is written down on a post-it note, and after a few different prompts have been run through, the collection of post-its might look something like this:

Image courtesy of InVision

This may look like a lot of post-its, but it's actually the starting point of an affinity map – something from which the designers can extract key takeaways, draw conclusions, validate assumptions, and even re-define requirements.

Innovation can sometimes seem like a black box, but these sorts of formal processes that allow more voices to be heard will in turn foster an environment of openness and collaboration, perhaps even inspiring non-designers in a company to start thinking in new ways and uncovering new ideas.

Inspiration: Meow Wolf
Formed in 2008, a group of young residents hoping to supply Santa Fe with an alternative arts and music venue have come together to provide the public with an immersive experience for all the senses.

Over 100 artists and makers came together to become Meow Wolf.

Their biggest project and the only permanent exhibition is House of Eternal Return, a huge installation housed in what used to be a bowling alley. Lovingly referred to as “Bizarro Disneyland”, this 20,000 square-foot series of rotating art installations is an amazing tourist destination in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Ever open the fridge door and forget what you were looking for?

The project was funded in part by George R.R. Martin, and allows visitors to explore freely without any instructions or guidance. Simply interact with whatever you want, in whatever order, and see if you can solve the mystery.

From Meow Wolf's website:
House of Eternal Return is a unique art experience featuring an astonishing new form of non-linear storytelling that unfolds through exploration, discovery and 21st century interactivity.
The House is a 20,000 square foot art exhibit designed by the Meow Wolf collective. There are dozens of rooms, secret passages and interactive light and musical objects with which guests can play for hours or investigate the mystery of the Selig family, who disappeared one night after conducting a forbidden experiment inside their Victorian mansion. Who were the Seligs? Where did they go? and why is their home overrun by figures in white lab coats?
 I love the idea of a sort of Choose Your Own Adventure immersive experience. There's so much to do, it's like sensory overload!

Move through the glowing dinosaur skeleton into another dimension?

14 real, working arcade games straight out of the 80s.

DO NOT pee in this toilet. Visitors are invited to stick their heads in the bowl for a clue. The water is actually solid polymer...there's no toilet paper left anyway!

It's really wild. I hope to visit someday soon, but in the meantime I am really happy that such a place even exists. The fact that over 100 artists and makers from all walks of life could come together to create something so wonderful, unexpected and just plain weird is mind-boggling to me.

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