IMMERSIVE

DESIGN

01

How does one design a sign that survives the test of time when design trends and technology are constantly changing? That is the unsolved dilemma of nuclear semiotics, a field which focuses on designing a long-lasting nuclear waste warning sign. When all is lost, which warning sign will actually stand the test of time?

ANNE VAN DE WIJDEVEN

We design our world to be inclusive for those handicapped. But how is it possible that we don’t necessarily design the internet in the exact same way? When it comes to online accessibility, people with disabilities – be it big or small – are left behind. Even when the solutions are multifold.

MATT VAN VOORST

The design community creates but they also frequently dictate the creation rules. No doubt they strive to ensure quality by sharpening our processes to the extreme, but at what cost? Are we willing to do so at the cost of creativity? Break free from the beaten paths written out by the design community and unlock your inner god-mode.

MENNO DEKKER

When we think of AR, we often think visual. But Bose is taking this to the next level. Bose AR is the world’s first audio augmented reality platform that is moving the boundaries of what AR can do, or be. Collaborating with developers, creators, and makers around the world, they build amazing experiences.  

ANTOINE RENAULT


‘CREATE DIGITALLY. 
THE TOOLS ARE HERE. 
IT'S TIME TO BUCKLE UP FOR THE NEXT WAVE.’ 

Immersive design revolutionises all aspects of the customer journey, from advertising to aftersales. These digital experiences are dancing off our screens and infusing our everyday life allowing people to experience new products and environments like never before.


AVOID THIS TERRIFYING ARTICLE ABOUT
NUCLEAR SEMIOTICS

ANNE VAN DE WIJDEVEN

ATOMIC WASTE

A NEW FIELD OF STUDY

ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES

PROTECT GENERATIONS TO COME


ACCESSIBILITY: OFTEN IGNORED, BUT IMPORTANT AF

MATT VAN VOORST

WE CAN DO BETTER

A CHANCE TO DO BETTER

YOUR NEW USP

HOW TO ADJUST


DESIGN LIKE A GOD,
NOT A DICTATOR

MENNO DEKKER

DESIGN SYSTEMS – A NEW WAY OF BUILDING

SEARCHING FOR CONSISTENCY

1999’ ERS VS. DIGITAL DICTATORS

NO MORE RULES

BECOMING GODS

01

DESIGN

IMMERSIVE

Immersive design revolutionises all aspects of the customer journey, from advertising to aftersales. These digital experiences are dancing off our screens and infusing our everyday life allowing people to experience new products and environments like never before.

How does one design a sign that survives the test of time when design trends and technology are constantly changing? That is the unsolved dilemma of nuclear semiotics, a field which focuses on designing a long-lasting nuclear waste warning sign. When all is lost, which warning sign will actually stand the test of time?

ANNE VAN DE WIJDEVEN

We design our world to be inclusive for those handicapped. But how is it possible that we don’t necessarily design the internet in the exact same way? When it comes to online accessibility, people with disabilities – be it big or small – are left behind. Even when the solutions are multifold.

MATT VAN VOORST

The design community creates but they also frequently dictate the creation rules. No doubt they strive to ensure quality by sharpening our processes to the extreme, but at what cost? Are we willing to do so at the cost of creativity? Break free from the beaten paths written out by the design community and unlock your inner god-mode.

MENNO DEKKER


‘CREATE DIGITALLY. 
THE TOOLS ARE HERE. 
IT'S TIME TO BUCKLE UP FOR THE NEXT WAVE.’ 

When we think of AR, we often think visual. But Bose is taking this to the next level. Bose AR is the world’s first audio augmented reality platform that is moving the boundaries of what AR can do, or be. Collaborating with developers, creators, and makers around the world, they build amazing experiences.  

ANTOINE RENAULT

ANNE VAN DE WIJDEVEN


AVOID THIS TERRIFYING ARTICLE ABOUT
NUCLEAR SEMIOTICS

Semiotics is the study of signs and symbols and how we can use them to communicate. For centuries, scientists have been exploring how we can interact with the world using words and pictures. This is a difficult task since we humans have a bad habit of ignoring warning signs. From rolling through a stop sign to touching wet paint, we’ve all done it. We frequently ignore warning signs. So how can we design a sign that will last for generations to come?

Now let’s talk about nuclear waste. Radioactive material is lethal, yet we keep producing it to meet our energy needs. Obviously, we’re trying to be careful with said toxic waste. We store it far from people with armed guards, fences and lead doors barring us from accessing it. We also have signs which indicate the looming danger, which tell you not linger and which explain the consequences of doing so. 

Surely no one would ignore these signs? Well, we humans are interesting creatures. We sometimes like to do what is explicitly not allowed. We find danger intriguing and new experiences give us a euphoric feeling. Thus, designing a sign which simply conveys how dangerous radioactive material is, is not an easy task.

ATOMIC WASTE

In 1981, the US Department of Energy deputised a diverse group of scientists to consider this exact problem. The committee was named the Human Interference Task Force and together, they founded the field of nuclear semiotics. Their focus was, and still is: how do we keep future generations from stumbling across nuclear waste repositories, or even disturbing them on purpose?

The Task Force came up with three requirements for designing a long-lasting nuclear waste sign. The sign must convey:

Now, telling people exactly where something is and how dangerous it is, can be risky. Since they then might be more interested because you're telling them to stay away. Like all of you reading this article when the title explicitly tells you not to. Thus, instead of creating hype around nuclear waste and painting it as a big and dangerous mystery, we should present it as something bland. Something you don't want near you. 

For example, you've got a colleague with a cold who leaves a used tissue out on their desk. Do you then think: wow, I wonder what would happen if I touched that tissue? No, you think: “ew”. Or when your boss drops a 300-page report in your inbox, do you think: I wonder if there's a big surprise on the final page! No, you think: “ugh”. When it comes to nuclear semiotics, “ugh” and “ew” are the emotions scientists want to elicit.

A NEW FIELD OF STUDY

  • that this is an important message
  • that dangerous material is stored near/at this location
  • and information about said dangerous substance(s)

The Task Force has released a detailed report with numerous options. But a definite measure has yet to be chosen, let alone implemented. One of their solutions was ray cats, specially bred cats whose fur changes colour or whose eyes start flashing when exposed to low levels of radioactivity. Another option was hostile architecture and landscaping around nuclear waste. This entails creating an inhospitable-looking environment, hoping that that will be enough to ward off any onlookers. Lastly, there was the possibility of creating a mountain which produces an eerie growl when the wind blows through it. These are just a few examples of many. The goal is to present a concrete solution by 2028.

The problem with all the solutions so far is how intricate they are. For every proposal, there's a condition. For every solution, a drawback. For every remedy, a new danger. Since we don’t know who will see this sign (as it could be anyone) and we can't predict how much people will know about radioactive material, simplicity is the best bet. Simple things tend to last. But they don’t always communicate the right message. On the other hand, complexity is better at transferring our thoughts, but it doesn’t last.

ENDLESS POSSIBILITIES

Nuclear semiotics is a puzzle. A challenge. And this article holds no solution, unfortunately. But, hopefully, it left you pondering how we can safeguard our future. How do we leave a global legacy behind that educates instead of eradicates our descendants? How do we create something truly future-proof?

PROTECT GENERATIONS TO COME

MATT VAN VOORST

Real-life is adapted pretty well to people with disabilities. All public buildings in the country have ramps, The National Railways gets you on and off the train when you travel with a wheelchair. But websites? That’s a different story.

During my high-school years, I used to work for a small student company where we earned some pocket money by building websites for local companies. I worked with a friend of mine named Florian. Both of us wrote code. However, you should know that Florian is blind, and always has been. Now, someone being blind but also writing code is difficult to imagine for most people. Well, Florian doesn’t care. He just needs a few extra tools: a cane, a dog and a screen reader.


ACCESSIBILITY: OFTEN IGNORED,
BUT IMPORTANT AF

Florian isn’t alone; according to the Central Bureau for Statistics in the Netherlands, 12.9% of its population has one or more disabilities. There are several gradations of disabilities, from slight colour blindness to full-on physical immobility. This might make interacting with the digital products we make today a little tricky. We call these disabilities functional disabilities as they inhibit a person’s basic ability to function.

The College for Human Rights commissioned an investigation which focused on the accessibility of websites of some of the biggest Dutch companies. This was following up on a UN resolution that went into effect on July 14th, 2016. Its aim was to improve, protect and warrant the rights of people with a disability in the Netherlands. 

This means all digital products should provide the same level of access and functionality to anyone using them. They investigated ten of the largest webshops, five energy providers, five travel agencies and 1,833 various other websites in the Netherlands. The results? We can do better.

Half of the websites were not operable with a keyboard, which makes navigating them with special tools like screen readers nearly impossible. The average Dutch webshop contained around thirteen hurdles that prevent people with a disability to order something without assistance. Out of all large Dutch webshops, only the Dutch version of eBay passed the test because of their efforts to adhere to the stricter American laws around accessibility. 

WE CAN DO BETTER

So improving accessibility will cost you time and money. Resources that could otherwise be spent on implementing new features that seem much more profitable. But what if we look at accessibility as a conversion tool, or as something that we could use for marketing purposes?

Bol.com saw this potential and grabbed it. They are well on their way to become the first large Dutch webshop that is fully accessible. 

New functionalities that are built are made accessible and they are working on retroactively improving all existing features on the website and app.By doing this they increase their potential engagement limit and become an even bigger love brand than they already are. They are truly becoming, “De winkel van ons allemaal” (“the shop for everybody”).

YOUR NEW USP

Do you want to make a change in your organisation, but don’t know where to start? You don’t have to solve the problems all at once, it’s perfectly fine to do this in increments. Here are a few tips on how to approach changing your mindset and your process.

#1 Find out what you can improve
Make a list of the points you want to improve on. There are a lot of automated tools that will analyse your website on technical aspects. You could also hire some professionals to do it for you.

#2 Create a backlog
Order your list in a backlog by priority and estimate them. The overview will make your workload more manageable

#3 Write small, concise stories
By keeping your stories small, you can pick some up every iteration of your project. That way you improve your product bit by bit, feature by feature. Want to spend an entire sprint on accessibility alone? That’s great! With your backlog complete and priority in order, you can decide how many improvements you want to make.

#4 Get involved with testers
Include a specialist in your quality assurance team or user test your product against a larger sample of users with a disability.

#5 Make accessibility part of your workflowThe more you include accessibility in your designs and code, the less time you will have to spend on it afterwards.

If you are willing to make your products the best they can be, you will eventually want to make accessibility part of your skillset. Don’t see accessibility as something that takes time and money out of your project, see it as an opportunity to reach a wider audience. See it as a marketing tool. Most importantly see it as something you want to do as a human being for others around you that need it. Do it for Florian.

HOW TO ADJUST

This data shows that there’s an opportunity to be taken. That brands can do better and also improve conversion rates while they’re at it. Let’s dive a little deeper into the data. 

Accessibility can be divided into three categories: hearing, sight, and mobility. In the Netherlands,10% of the working population has one or more sight or mobility disabilities. Traditional websites and applications usually don’t require interaction through sound, so let’s focus on sight and mobility for now. 

Looking at one of the largest webshops in the Netherlands, bol.com. I will show you two simple examples that have the potential to be improved; The tabindex and focus indicator. People that are not able to use a pointer device like a mouse or a trackpad, will have to use different means of navigating a web page. They would have to navigate through the website with the keyboard or any alternative input device. This can be quite challenging. For example, when trying to reach the daily deal (‘de dagdeal’) it takes around fifty tabs to get there.








So, it took far too many tabs to access ‘de dagdeal’ and you could not see where the keyboards focus currently was, because of the lack of visual feedback when tabbing. Let me show you how Etos.nl, a project I worked on, which tackled such issues.



 At the top of the page, we offer quick links to sections of the website that will only appear when tabbing through the site, offering users a quick way to jump to certain sections of the site skipping over menus which would require a while to get through.






We also added a very clear, contrasting, focus indicator under any element that has interaction to always show the user where they are on the website.

A CHANCE TO DO BETTER

MENNO DEKKER

The design community creates but they also frequently dictate the creation rules. No doubt they strive to ensure quality by sharpening our processes to the extreme, but at what cost? Are we willing to do so at the cost of creativity? Fear not, there is a way of breaking free from the box created by the design community and unlocking your inner God-mode.


DESIGN LIKE A GOD,
NOT A DICTATOR

When I started as a designer, I taught myself the ins and outs of programs like Photoshop, Sketch, Illustrator and Adobe After Effects.
I knew every shortcut possible and had so much control over those programs that I felt as though I were pressing my keyboard keys like a professional pianist.  

Then, in 2017, Airbnb tested their Sketch to Wireframe tool. A simple but powerful piece of software which allows the designer to draw something on paper and get a fully coded template in return.

It’s a good example of what combining your style guide, pattern library and components library can lead to. This allowed the business to quickly be able to think, test, build, repeat. It’s actually a genius idea.

Airbnb had actually created a design system. A design system is a way of categorising your digital service into components. You can use small components, such as colour or typography, to create bigger components such as a button. Those items can be continuously reused for even bigger elements like a login page. The difference between this and a style guide is that instead of just defining these components you actually reference the exact piece. Meaning if you change one small aspect, it will update everywhere that it is being used. No wonder big tech companies jumped on the design systems bandwagon. They understood that they couldn’t innovate their products without first innovating the way they built them.

 

DESIGN SYSTEMS – A NEW WAY OF BUILDING

Two years later and everyone wants a design system which makes sense as it creates consistency. Coherence in design has two advantages: it helps the user to see the bigger picture and it helps the designer becoming recognisable for a certain style that doesn't constantly need to be justified to clients and stakeholders. So, we designers love consistency.

Yet we seem to constantly change our own rules. Much like dictators, telling everyone that the rules we have created don’t apply to our situation because “it feels off”. This makes creating guides and libraries more complex and it drives our colleagues and fellow developers insane because our approach is unpredictable.

SEARCHING FOR CONSISTENCY

There are two types of design dictators. The first type is designers that design like it’s 1999. These are people who use a computer to make their ideas a reality but none of their components are connected. So by changing something in one location, you outdate all your other creations. This is not a very efficient way of working, so why do these 1999 designers do this? Because design systems constrain creativity to provides consistent product experiences. A lot of time is required for this and during most projects, nobody has got the time for that.

So these designers quickly iterate, rather than having to define everything upfront. And if that means designs are going to be outdated, so be it.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have the digital design dictator like myself. We put every project in a digitally connected structure which limits creativity. However, if you keep repeating this same process you will end up with the same output. Yet, we choose to put people in a box to work in a more consistent manner.

1999’ ERS VS. DIGITAL DICTATORS

We shouldn’t be designing like dictators, we should be designing like Gods and create a “design garden of Eden” where designs can evolve on their own. So we need a different approach. One that interconnects all the pieces but also promotes creativity. This got me thinking. Instead of following a strict design system where one thing has to be built on top of the other in a systematic way, would it be possible to only use the basic elements without any structure? So every time I use a value – a colour, a number, a corner radius, those will be the only ones I will reference. All the bigger components like buttons and input fields and pages can emerge out of those basic elements. 

The cool thing about this is that there are no rules on how to use these basic pieces.

In this way, if you start turning the knobs and dials of these dynamic elements, you can start exploring emergent designs. Instead of having to think of what you want you can simply find what you want. You get all possible designs from the get-go. At any given point, you can stop and watch all the stuff your machine came up with. And if it gets a little too crazy, or when you are not satisfied with the result, just turn back the dial a little to find what you are looking for. This makes it much easier and faster to explore designs. You might even discover designs you hadn’t even thought of!

NO MORE RULES

This way of working lets you create worlds that are interconnected from the start. And best of all, they are truly unique. So for everyone who is going to design like a God, just match with the basics of your brand and find your own godlike commandments. 

The tools for digital designers to design digitally are here. It’s now up to us to become the Gods that make a design come to life.

BECOMING GODS