Close your eyes. Now imagine that someone hands you an iPad and asks you, with your eyes still shut, to send an email. Good luck with that.
At Kicker Studio, a San Francisco-based design consultancy co-founded by alumnus Jody Medich in 2008, a team of designers and researchers is at work on a system of touch-screen vibrotactile feedback that would allow blind people to use such devices, which currently rely on a visual interface. This is only the latest innovative undertaking for a company that has developed products such as a gesture-controlled television, a smarter conference phone, and a re-imagined teapot. Uniting the work is a desire to create products that, despite being high-tech, are driven by human needs and behaviors.
“People are presenting technologies because they can, and then our job is to say, ok, but why?” explains Jody, who previously worked as the Global Design Director for Cadillac.com and as a creative director at Yahoo. Kicker Studio takes a problem-solving approach, posing questions to figure out what people are trying to do, the challenges they face in accomplishing those tasks, and how emerging technologies might help. Then they use sensory cues—visual, sound, and tactile design—and the tools of interactive technology to arrive at solutions that are intuitive and simple. “Technology is really awesome, but if nobody knows how to use it then it’s kind of pointless,” says Jody. “You don’t want to sit down and think, ‘I am using an interface.’ ”
Jody credits SFAI, where she embraced the school’s interdisciplinary approach to study Design and Technology while majoring in painting, for fostering this philosophical approach to design. “SFAI gave me time to really explore what art making means to me personally, but I also got an amazing foundation of critical thought and theory. Because of that, I was able to think about design in a very different way, and put frameworks around what I was trying to do. To be honest, it totally changed my life.”
Visit Jody’s website: www.jodymedich.com
Visit Kicker Studio: www.kickerstudio.com