I am doing an online course at the moment, via the coursera.org website. It’s called Design: Creation of Artifacts in Society, and is being given by Karl T. Ulrich of the University of Pennsylvania.
Each student was asked to identify several “gaps” in personal life that seemed to cry out for some sort of design solution, and then pick one to work on for the 8-week course. We’re just about to start the third week, but I’ve already had to produce three schematic drawings, one physical prototype, and gather data via research and interviews to come up with 30+ user needs for my ‘product’! So yes, very busy, when you throw in the day job and real life! But I love the opportunity that the course gives me to work within the realm of my skills, yet provides new tools with which to expand that realm.
I decided to make some sort of journal/repository for creative travelers…an object I’d very much like for myself, but parts of which I thought might be incorporated into the hand-bound journals I sell in my shop, as well.
Travel journals need to be so much more than books with pages for writing. A traveler needs a place for important information, checklists and itineraries; needs somewhere to keep photographs, stamps and postcards, and a place for small objects like charms, seashells, pressed leaves, bottle caps, or “those bracelets from discos when you hook up with a guy,” as one of my interviewed users suggested. There’s more than writing to be done on the pages, too—there’s sketching and art-making to take into account. Maps and travel routes. Quick access to useful foreign language phrases. Addresses and numbers of the people you meet, the shops where you found the best bargains (you think you’ll remember, but you won’t…write it down, or keep their business card!), and so on.
I’ve looked at a few commercially produced travel journals on the market…Moleskine’s Passions and City Notebooks, Nomad, Clairefontaine and Habana journals…
Prototype 1.1 was pretty simple…after all, we hadn’t been taught anything yet in the first week! Ulrich just wanted to see what we’d come up with, initially. I used cardboard, brown paper, old magazine pages and duct tape to make a modified Limp Binding book, with pockets (mail envelopes) inside the covers, a pocket on the back of the book (for a set of aquarelle pencils or watercolours), and besides standard pages, stitched in an accordion book, some pockets with mylar ‘windows’ for photographs, and a small pamphlet-stitched notebook that can be pulled out and used separately from the main book.
I had a hundred ideas for making the journal ever-more-fabulous as I stitched up this prototype…but anyone who’s been to uni learns NEVER to pour all of their brilliant ideas into the first prototype…what’ll you do for the rest of the 8-week course?
Don’t go giving those professors the idea that you’re some kind of wunderkind, or they’ll expect you to build an iPad from scratch for the next prototype! Keep pace with the syllabus, pretend to make slow but steady progress under your professor’s gentle guidance—that idyllic, fairytale model of learning, so beloved of experts in education—and help create a warm and fuzzy feeling in the academe by reinforcing stereotypes of “The Mind: How It Works”. ;)
Truth is (at least for me) that prototypes become obsolete long before I’ve finished them because while I’m waiting for things like glue to dry, my mind has raced ahead to assemble, use, disassemble, and improve the next three or four versions of the thing. You’ll often find me, coffee cup and cigarette in hands, staring into space, and you’ll think I’m spacing out, but what I’m really doing is building something, one step at a time, in my mind. Most of my design solutions are manufactured and tested in the lab behind my eyes. It’s cheap and saves time.
I’ve already put together a list of 30+ user needs for my proposed “ultimate travel journal”, but if you are the sort of person who keeps a creative journal while traveling, I’d love to hear your own ideas of what such a journal would have to include to make it your favorite. Just wondering whether I’ve overlooked anything. I’ll show you my own list of 30+ User Needs tomorrow…
- norway travel journal (dispatchfromla.typepad.com)
- 5 Tips for a Detailed Travel Journal (stephaniesilk.wordpress.com)