At its core, I would say the interview is a recorded conversation. You can add structure to it that suits your purpose, but too much structure puts you at risk of missing novel insights and getting valuable corrections – the questions you thought were the most relevant to ask might quickly be thrown away once you start actually using your interview “script”.

My background in Business Intelligence taught me to value structured quantitative data, but I want to grab the opportunity as a student to experiment with more qualitative methods – and only extract quantitative data from them when I come across it. There is still a lot of magic and mystery to qualitative methods for me, especially since I used to be much more focused on order and structure in data.

So far, for the user interface course I took last year, and Design for Use this year, I have tried both some pretty structured (but open-ended) and more loose interview guides. The take away so far is that I do not yet have the interview experience to build a high quality interview guide before I get it field tested, and that the first few interviews often provide a lot of new insight!

It has been very interesting to see which changes we have to make to interview guides in these two courses. Some questions become unecessary – the interviewee always answers them earlier in the interview. Likewise, some questions become completely irrelevant because they were based on preconceptions and assumptions that are proven wrong or cover areas that become less interesting once you start talking to people. Both of these points make the interview highly valuable as an initial data gathering tool, to be used before any of the more high cost methods like focus groups or questionnaires. You can test your inintial hypothesis and gain insights that help you radically change direction early on.

Ok, so interviews are also high cost if you intend to use them on a large chunk of your population, if measured strictly on time used per respondent, but perhaps that is not a smart and economical use of this method? If the purpose is to inform a design process and not scientifics research, you could easily make a small but broad interview selection by mixing some personality types from different life phases.

A good example of interview value came last year, in the user interface course. We ran a big questionnaire with 140 respondents before we had interviewed anyone. This turned out to be pretty wasteful, as half of the 30 or so questions (that is over 2000 data points!) were proven irrelevant to the project after just three interviews! We should really have done it the other way around. In fact, for this years project, we chose to avoid the questionnaire altogether in the initial phase, as the more qualitative interview and focus group methods provided enough insights to start a first iteration.

I have of course also had a lot of informal topical discussions – almost in interview style – held just because I am doing the course and taken without any guide or preset questions at all. Some of these were never planned as interviews, and so not really recorded except for the most interesting insights they gave. Oh, and I must mention that I also see the “user test debrief” as a perfect short interview setting! I will write more about the user test in a later blog post.

To close off, I would like to mention a couple of interesting limitations of the interview. One point, and this is mentioned in design literature like Design driven Innovation (Verganti, 2009), is that the user seldom knows what he or she really needs in the future. If you work on an assignment where you need to define future meanings or more radical innovations, an interview would be an information gathering tool that is far removed from the finished design compared to what we did in this project. I have yet to try it in a context like this, but I hope to do that a lot in the future.

Another context in which the interview gets limited, is when your task is too trivial. For instance, working on the calendar project, interviewees gave similar responses, and the outcomes became predictable. The same can happen with user testing. Again, check out my next post for more on that! Until then – keep observing and keep asking pointed questions to your users and stakeholders:)

Spying. Or just observing.

As part of the course “Design 3: Usage” – we have been asked to blog our thoughts on the methods and theories presented in the course. I would love to – it’s a great push to be more active on the blogging front this fall. And don’t worry, this all starts out with some pretty fun (and sometimes quite scary) stuff which requires little theory and no money to try yourself. One word, three syllables: Ob-ser-vation!

Intuitively, I think of observation as closely watching someone do something, while taking notes and maybe recording video and audio. Or just simply taking a mental note of some interesting event, and acting on it later. Many inventions – many succesful designs and plans have started with just that mental note. But the chance of success, the chance of observing more discrete but equally important events, obviously increases when you make an effort to plan and record your observations.

Still, the real magic of observation is when you come across something you did not expect. To be open to those impressions, you must try to approach the observation objectively, leaving preconceptions or expectations aside. This is hard. And even harder: the art of observing without influencing. In which situations could you be present without affecting the people around you? And if you hide, in which situations could you do that without breaking rules – being unethical? This is why I said observation is scary – you somehow interact with people on a deep level – analyzing and trying to see if there is something they are not themselves conscious of, or perhaps even trying to hide from you. It’s an act of voyeurism – perhaps not everyones’ cup of tea?

A possible solution is indirect observation. This could be user/subject-written diaries, or perhaps automated software generated logs. These two alternatives could reduce the chance of unexpected discoveries, though, especially logs allow only pre-defined variables and value ranges to be recorded. Maybe the user could record a video of themselves? They would still know they were being observed, but at least they would still be in control.

In our specific case, we want to observe students using time management tools. I am starting to find subjects in my class to observe, and have already started doing that, but it is hard to find opportunities where they use time management tools “live” to find out where the lecture in 5 minutes takes place for example. Still, this is possible somehow, and a good excercise in making observation work as a tool (I can definitely imagine these obervations giving valuable insight too).

The other tool I really want to talk about is the interview! I have already done quite a few of those, with some great results and some great improvement opportunities. But that will have to be in the next blog post. Until then – do observe the people and the world around you – there is so much to learn!

Spring upgrade!

It’s a week since easter. We had a nice easter, Julie took some days off and we spent time with friends and family. Plus a little project to start de-cluttering our apartment: scanning scraps and documents so the physical copies can be thrown away. Also, I did a lot of thinking about the design project(s) I can spend my summer holiday doing.

I am lucky in that I can spend my time doing projects for myself this summer. The last months have been very empowering as I learn new ways to create things both mentally and physically. This summer it is time to build upon that. Sadly (but understandably) the school workshop will probably be closed most of the summer, so any work there will have to be planned for the weeks the teachers are available (they of course lock the heavy machinery when there is no supervision). But other than that, I can come a long way with pen, paper, cardboard and a glue gun:)

Top on my list of possible projects is a daycruiser design project – what I mentioned in my last post. I like the idea of outriggers for stability and expanded deck space. Kormaran and Wider are doing similar things, but I envision something different with cleaner lines. Didn’t find as much time as I had hoped to plan this in the easter holidays, but no worries. The thoughts need to mature anyway.

What I have planned, though, is an upgrade to my blog. First of all, I am not happy with the layout and typography of this current wordpress theme. Second, I want my blog to have a home. In the coming weeks I will talk to friends and fellow students about contributing to a new website and see if we can make something that people can find helpful and interesting. Exciting!

The folding balcony and the Dieter Rams coffee maker

A couple of calm days at school, and high time I update the blog. We are finally done with the first of two projects in aesthetics this term, and I am eager to show you a picture of that! The project was to redesign the Nespresso category of coffee-machine into a product that clearly communicates function, in line with the principles established in the interaction between Ulm Hfg, brAun and Dieter Rams, and further revitalized the last decade with “Super Normal” design. I will show you what we did soon:)

But first: Boats again! I mentioned that I had been at Dusseldorf, at “Boot 2015”. An absolutely enormous boat show, where you can do everything from diving to touring 100 foot yachts – all indoors! It’s like a small city – just the permanent administration of the trade fair takes up two tall office buildings! Look here:

Messe Dusseldorf! Home of Boot…
Big boat hall, seen from the Azimut 80...
View of the big boat hall of Boot 2015, as seen from the Azimut 80…

I was awestruck, like I often am when I experience something grand for the first time. What a great feeling! Many brands were generous with their time, and so I got to see a good selection of new boats! A big thanks to Discovery Yachts for sponsoring my tickets and showing me the new Discovery 58. Magnificient yacht! I don’t know much about sailing, but there are some obvious practical design requirements I recognize. And I recognize when good looks and practicality magically combine! Plus, it’s top craftsmanship. It’s even got a GN Espace galley – they are very well designed – down to how they use the gastronorm system to make yacht cooking and galley storage much more efficient.

I also saw my first ever Sunseeker – the 86 yacht. And Ferretti Group’s Norwegian representative showed me the Riva Rivarama, Ferretti 750 and Pershing 62. A Riva! I had never set foot in one before, so this was a big day. We had a lot of fun and talked at length about the boats, their features and how they are used. Another italian highlight was the big Azimut stand, where I got a tour of both the brand new Atlantiz 43 and the Azimut 80 foot flybridge.

My friends from my study trip were well represented. Linssen had a big stand, where the brand new 52.9 impressed me a lot. Beautifully modernized interior, well proportioned and more curved exterior than the smaller sisters, and a wonderful touch: a decorator had personalized the interior with everything from tableware to flowers. Fresh! Werner Yacht design was represented both with a large trawler and with many models. Mulder had a stand in the super yacht hall, and Storm Yachts had a big stand showing a model of the 78′ and part of the interior of the 65′. It was very nice to meet them again, and I think they got a lot of well deserved attention at the show.

Cozy chair in the airy and light new Linssen 52.9
Cozy chair in the airy and light new Linssen 52.9
Borrowed from Storm Yachts – model of their 78 at their stand

Most of all, I was inspired to think. I saw runabouts and small wooden designs that possibly surpassed even Riva in pure beauty. I saw works in progress that made my heart jump. It might not be that I will devote the rest of my life to designing yachts, because there are so many other fantastic things I can use my new education for. But there are so many aspects of the yacht industry that intrigue me that I want to bring forward. And if I could just design, and have built, at least one boat to these standards… I am developing a new, more hands on project. Something doable, and not full size, but hopefully very exciting nevertheless. Hopefully I can plan it in more detail come easter time… Will keep you posted.

While you wait, why don’t you Norwegian readers go grab Båtliv #2, on sale around friday March 6th at your nearest Narvesen? On pages 75-78 you can read my first ever published feature – a travelogue of my fantastic study trip in December. Now you see the reason why I did not post much about it here – I was saving it for Båtliv :)

And then there is the coffee maker. As mentioned, we wanted to take back that very matter-of-factly design of Braun in the 50s-60s, and make a machine you can understand. We felt that these principles also stood for a conservation of energy – we did not want to defy gravity in any point of the flow from water to coffee, and we saw the need to have a much cleaner treatment of coffee capsules – no hidden overlooked trash compartment or spill area. In the beginning our design was like a water tower – with a single axis of production and user interaction, but to improve the latter we lifted the axis of interaction towards the user, while still making sure to clearly communicate the functionality of the machine. I will give you a little before and after here – before was the complex and not easily interpreted form and functionality of Nespresso machines, after is our machine. Form enables function. Talk to you soon!

DeLonghi Nespresso machine. What is everything? Why 6 or more buttons?
Capsule Coffee Maker made by my group in Aesthetis 2 - communication
Capsule Coffee Maker made by my group in Aesthetis 2 – communication

Distant Close Friends

Hello Blogosphere!

I just felt like blogging a little before going to bed. My rythm is off after two long nights with good old friends in Oslo, so it will take some to fall asleep anyway. You see, I got an invite to a former colleague’s 40th birthday outside Oslo, and since I really like him I flew down for the weekend. I was lucky and got to see many other friends too. I did lunch with a few good colleagues who are still at DNB, and I went to Oslo National College of Arts (KHiO). There, Marlene and Nina gave me a warm welcome and showed what they were up to. They are so talented, and if I have anything to say here at NTNU we should incorporate some ideas from their education!

My friend Clemet was my host for the weekend, my friend Bjørn Sigurd travelled in from his home town, and we gathered a small band of people for a reunion of sorts! Reunion both from Roskilde in 2005 and from a party weekend in Trondheim that same year – some met then and did not see each other again until now:) On saturday I went to my colleague’s 40th. We have met in real life only 3 times I think – we became friends on the intranet – then stayed friends on the internet after we both left DNB. The party was filled with great conversations and lots of good food and cake. My kind of party!

Many of my friendships started with a chance meeting somewhere else, and many of my friends live far away. Weekends like these are one of the great joys of my life, and now that I am studying I have more energy in the weekends to travel and meet my friends again:)

Coming soon on trulsblog: My trip to Boot Düsseldorf 2015!

Rock and roll youth on their way to a concert back in 2005. Me on the right. Most of us met again this weekend:)
Rock and roll youth on their way to a concert back in 2005. Blurred image reflects our general tipsyness, I think:) Me on the right. Most of us met again this weekend!

Happy New Year!

It’s already 2015! I hope you all had a good few days with your loved ones. Maybe even some time for your hobbies? I had such a good time with friends and family this christmas. I think it helped to have that long school holiday. I managed to get the most pressing tasks out of the way just in time for the christmas week, and so I could relax and be social. Yesterday we played the “Eldritch Horror” boardgame with many friends well into the moring hours;)

How I felt after seeing yachts being built and designed in Holland
How I felt after seeing yachts being built and designed in Holland

I have been feeling that I should have done more writing, drawing and designing in the christmas period. I probably should NOT, though, because then I would have missed meeting all my friends and family. The issue, I think, is that I still not feel proficient enough at drawing, writing, and designing to be efficient at it, and so I some times procrastinate or just spend too much time on simple tasks. I do however feel things are moving in the right direction! There have been so many great moments of discovery lately, and I feel like drawing a lot more these days.

And no wonder. In my last blog post, I mentioned I was going on a study trip. Five of my favourite Dutch yacht companies welcomed me at their facilities, and I had a fantastic time! Mulder Jachtwerf, Storm Yachts and Linssen Yachts, all showed me how they build their yachts and run their business. We talked about everything from technical details to business strategy – it was amazing.

Then I met (Super)Yacht designers Guido de Groot and Theo Werner, who showed me how they design yachts – if you know me you can imagine how utterly awesome that was! And such a nice group of people too. Everywhere I was received with warmth, honesty and many good insights into the business of yacht construction and design. I have so much to say I could have written a blog post about every company, with spin-offs into a myriad topics. But I will not, at least not yet. I think they deserve a much wider audience, so I am working on something cool… So you will have to wait for pictures of the yachts and yards:)

Oh, and my trip actually took me to a lot of small places in the region. Many changes between trains, buses and taxis – and of course some leg work too:) Plus some good food and drink!

But most important for me, I finally got to meet my very good friend Christian Thüringer again. Almost exactly a year after Chris, Tobe and I rocked Berlin, I met Chris in Amsterdam and joined him (or pushed him around) on the train to Brussels. In Brussels we were received by Tom, who Chris had met on his travels through the USA. Tom is such a nice and intelligent man – just like Chris. He guided us to some really good local food, and the three of us had many interesting discussions that night. We of course talked a lot about Chris’ travels. While travelling he has been taking a lot of great pictures from all over USA, Canada, Ireland and Iceland. Meanwhile, he has been promoting his film, which has been doing very well at festivals. You should read about Chris, look at his fabulous pictures and see his film!

Travelling with Chris - just like in Croatia on the yacht in 2013!
Travelling with Chris – almost like in Croatia on the yacht in 2013;)

Can’t wait to hang out with Chris again. But right now, we are heading down to my sisters’ place to meet her, her man, her cat, and my mother:) So blog you later – and more frequently now in 2015!



Good evening readers!

Here is a quick summary of what has happened since last time:

+ Travelled to London with Julie – none of us had been there before!
— Lost our fantastic cat – he got very ill and had to be euthanised by the vet:( )
+ Finished everything except for the exams at school
+ Arranged and about to embark on super exciting yacht business + design study trip!

I wanted to talk a bit about one of the final assignments this term. As a follow up from the first aesthetics assignment, we were to design and model a lamp from three objects. The lamp should be made from three objects at 90 degrees or parallell angles to each other, and it should be spatial, dynamic, and well posed. If you wonder what we mean by these terms, I can only tell you that so did I back in august/september! I have learned a lot, but I feel I need to repeat these excercises many more times.

Working led lamp designed, modelled and built by me for my aesthetics assignment

My concept became “Read or Die” – a deadly lamp to ensure you don’t fall asleep over it when reading for your exams… My model takes advantage of the minuscule size of LEDS compared to light bulbs, and uses only simple physics to make sure the horizontal lamp arm rests on the vertical lamp foot, and that the lamp head can rest in a little hole in the arm. This hole also allows it to throw light down through the lamp arm.

Like many of my classmates, I took the opportunity to take this lamp beyond model stage – I wanted to try and build a working lamp of real materials. I choose to use the lathe (dreiebenk) to make a massive copper cone. I had never used a lathe before, and got a lot of help from Rolf at the product design workshop. It was a great experience, and while Rolf helped me with some really tricky stuff like cutting, I did most of the work myself and got a really smooth surface.

For the lamp arm I found a really light piece of wood to contrast the copper, and the lamp head (which contains the led) is a little piece of white “ceramic” dough. To add some life and get more interaction between the lamp and its surrounding space I chose to have a “freely” circling green wire. Proud of the result! I will make a few small tweaks for more elegant wiring and electronics (but it is already pretty cool – the copper cone itself is a conductor!) and keep it forever.

Now I gotta go and finish packing – I am leaving early tomorrow for The Netherlands again. This time I will visit some of my favourite yacht building yards and two very accomplished yacht design offices. I feel very privileged that they have set aside time to see me, and I hope to learn a lot about yacht design and the yacht building industry!

Truls out

PS: Ok, I did photoshop on that super pointy end of the cone. I couldn’t have a lamp that was dangerous for real, I really want to use it you know;)