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Portrait of Matthias Wagler
Matthias Wagler


UX Toolbox: Hardware Hacking

These are fascinating times. We’re currently facing new challenges and projects that require a new kind of skillset for interaction designers. The tools we use to design experiences are getting more and more diverse and powerful at the same time. Actually our role as designers and our tools are changing. This led to an update of our design toolbox. It’s now equiped with a new tool: Hardware Hacking. Let’s find out why…

Music: „When waves trying to catch marvel“ by Antony Raijekov (Powered by Jamendo)

1. Our role: Making tomorrow’s products and ideas tangible today

In a lot of projects we are working on, our job is to make products of tomorrow tangible today. In order to design the experiences with these products and to evaluate enjoyable interaction we sketch paper prototypes, we build interactive mockups, etc. But recently amazing, additional possibilities have evolved quickly.

2. Standing on the shoulders of giants – Open Source Hard- and Software enable new possibilities for designers

The open source movement has led to a variety of interesting and new approaches to soft- and hardware design. Distributed communities create components that all of us can build upon, making it far easier to implement our ideas. Today we’re able to sketch low fidelity and high fidelity hardware prototypes without studying electrotechnology. Projects like Processing, Arduino, Phidgets, Fritzing etc. are just some of the tools you can leverage as a designer in order to tell stories and to make your ideas tangible.

3. School of Hackin‘ – Creating a playground for new ideas

Massimo Banzi and the Arduino guys formed a tinkering movement in the design community. They’ve been evangelizing the hacking approach for some time now, conducting numerous workshops with design students. I think the fact that hacking as one option for creating innovation is becoming common sense these days. The whole mashup movement in web development is another signal for the expansion of this school of thought. Sometimes taking apart, remixing and looking at a problem without taking it too seriously is important to stumble upon new solutions to a design challenge.

4. Sketching with human needs in mind

This creative approach to hardware hacking can get out of hands quite quickly. It’s challenging and time consuming especially in the beginning. So it’s very important for us to focus on small solutions and on human needs while sketching in hardware. With the help of this approach you’re able to create fast forward prototypes.

Conclusion: New tools to sketch extraordinary experiences

All these subjects are helping us to create extraordinary experiences and to bring a human touch to future technologies and services. So the role of hardware hacking will increase for communicating our ideas. We’ll try to document our learnings from past and future hacking adventures as often as we can. To be continued…

The web is your friend – Check related articles

Sketching in Hardware on Core77