Designing The New Tech Wearables

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WEARTHINK BACK TO around 2007 and try really hard to recall something that you’ve probably long forgotten: What was it like the first time you used a touchscreen phone? You don’t remember? Me neither. But that’s OK! In fact, that’s the mark of successful design.

At that time, designers made choices about the way we would interact with our phones. How should we navigate from app to app? How much information is too much to squeeze into a 4-inch screen? Watching Steve Jobs introduce the first iPhone in 2007 is like listening to a teacher giving a lesson on a foreign language. It took time to figure out what worked, and how, across various operating systems. Eventually, things got easier and more streamlined. Over the better part of a decade, nascent design concepts became long-standing principles, and interacting with our smartphones became second nature.

Today we’re experiencing the same awkward period, only this time it’s with computers we strap around our wrists. Designers are quickly learning that the rules they came up with for the phone don’t necessarily work on the shrunken screen of a smartwatch (just imagine if the design principles of our laptops had carried over to our smartphones). New rules apply.

We’re sort of at the throw-shit-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks phase of designing wearables. A very public beta testing, if you will. Plenty of people have tried defining what it means. Concepts and principles have been floated. Words like “glanceability” are tossed around. Apple and Android Wear are doing a pretty good job, but the canon for wearable interactions is far from set.

Fjord has its own ideas about what works. The London-based interaction design studio has come up with five principles it believes will guide the future of wearable design. These aren’t intended to be the principles of design, just a jumping off point for thinking about what it takes to create a thoughtful experience on our increasingly tiny screens.

Read more at WIRED