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L. Pursuing Aesthetic Refinement


Valued computing tools can desirably communicate with knowledge workers on an emotional level, delighting users and creating a sensory environment that is conducive to focused thinking.

Generally speaking, product aesthetics have traditionally been an afterthought in the development of computing tools for the workplace. This positioning often stems from the fragmented specializations within product teams, a demonstration of the implicit priorities of project groups staffed with a proportionately high number of technically oriented engineers. Perhaps more importantly, the case for emphasizing aesthetics can be difficult to make in many highly specialized and niche markets, where the bar for product design is often set very low.

Designing such compelling aesthetics requires the critical examination of a product’s formal qualities, behaviors, and larger positioning.

At the time of writing, explorations of aesthetic meaning in complex and technical interactive products — beyond surface level branding — have received relatively little attention. Although aesthetic decisions contribute to brand, not all aesthetic ideas need to be driven exclusively from top down ideas about literal brand attributes. Application concepts can meaningfully reference aesthetic ideas from targeted knowledge work domains in order to invoke workers’ existing understandings and better situate products within work contexts.

During application envisioning, product teams can map and explore potential aesthetic meanings and refined aesthetic directions. By taking time to locate and generate relevant emotive qualities for their onscreen tools, teams can uncover opportunities for more appealing, recognizable, comprehensible, and brand differentiated experiences.

Going a step further, product teams can envision the aesthetics of their application concepts with pleasure, engagement, and workers’ sense of accomplishment as principle motivations. While these goals may not weigh as heavily as they would, for example, in an entertainment technology, there is nothing inherent to knowledge work products that requires them to be so far behind consumer products in meaningful and desirable aesthetic refinement. Teams can strategically reconsider established aesthetic priorities within their targeted markets, especially in mature product genres where new sources of value and differentiation are at a premium. This category contains 5 of the 100 application envisioning ideas in this book: L1. High quality and appealing work products L2. Contemporary application aesthetics L3. Iconic design resemblances within applications L4. Appropriate use of imagery and direct branding L5. Iconoclastic product design Product teams can use these ideas to explore overriding aesthetic approaches for their application concepts, which can subsequently be used to inform aesthetic decisions throughout detailed design and implementation. Early ideation focused on those overriding choices, rather than post hoc efforts during the mid or final stages of a product’s development, can help teams uncover innovative opportunities and promote a unifying clarity in application design. The central notion of this category is most closely related to the “Defining interaction objects” (B), “Establishing an application framework” (C), and “Enhancing information representations” (F) categories.

Working through Screens (Tabloid Size)  

Working through Screens: 100 Ideas for Envisioning Powerful, Engaging, and Productive User Experiences in Knowledge Work This heavily illus...