sustainable design

27 Apr 2006 - 3:33pm
8 years ago
6 replies
444 reads
Eugene Chen
2004

Here's a concrete problem that bugs the hell out of me:
- You print out an email and the second sheet of paper contains only a
signature
- Worse, you print out an email thinking the top part is important, but it
comes with 10 pages of reply quotations
- (On the other hand, what if the original quotation was exactly what you
wanted?)
- You print out a web page and the last sheet contains mostly footers and
ads

What do we need here? better print preview, more printing options (yuck),
embedding notions of printability into documents, better printer hardware
integration/control?

Eugene Chen | User Experience Design, Strategy, and Usability
main 415 282 7456 | mobile 415 336 1783 | fax 240 282 7452
web http://www.eugenechendesign.com

Comments

27 Apr 2006 - 4:33pm
Vassili Bykov
2005

Eugene Chen wrote:

> What do we need here? better print preview, more printing options (yuck),
> embedding notions of printability into documents, better printer hardware
> integration/control?

Or not having to print out emails and web pages?

When we print out an electronic document (and I don't mean a 40-page PDF
article, but rather a "primarily" electronic document such as an email
or a web page), apparently it's because the hard copy affords something
that the "soft original" doesn't. What is that? Could our software
environment be improved to provide it--or our workflow changed to not
require it?

--Vassili

27 Apr 2006 - 11:04pm
cfmdesigns
2004

"Eugene Chen" <eugene at amanda.com> writes:

>Here's a concrete problem that bugs the hell out of me:
>- You print out an email and the second sheet of paper contains only a
>signature
>- Worse, you print out an email thinking the top part is important, but it
>comes with 10 pages of reply quotations
>- (On the other hand, what if the original quotation was exactly what you
>wanted?)
>- You print out a web page and the last sheet contains mostly footers and
>ads
>
>What do we need here? better print preview, more printing options (yuck),
>embedding notions of printability into documents, better printer hardware
>integration/control?

While there could be software solutions, such as ways of marking
contents as "this is the part to print", the big answer sounds like
we need to *use* print preview. (Or improve it if it isn't giving us
accuracy.) Knowing that stuff I print often has junk I don't need
like that, I (usually) use the preview tools on Mac OS X to be sure
of what I want, and then print page range. I sometimes hack out
unneeded content to make sure I get what I want on the right page.

The best answer is simply communication; in this case, us the users
"listening" to what the software is willing to tell us.

Vassili Bykov <vbykov at cincom.com> writes:

>When we print out an electronic document (and I don't mean a 40-page PDF
>article, but rather a "primarily" electronic document such as an email
>or a web page), apparently it's because the hard copy affords something
>that the "soft original" doesn't. What is that? Could our software
>environment be improved to provide it--or our workflow changed to not
>require it?

It's always worth analyzing what we print and why.

For myself, I do print out some e-mails, but only specific ones.
Most often, those are for when I travel: the page of travel info that
I keep for myself, and the e-mail confirms for plane, hotel, event
registration, etc. Part of that is intentional duplication: I
usually only use the main travel info page, but the other stuff is
there in case I transcribed stuff wrong or incompletely. Mostly it's
efficiency, though: I *could* dig out, unsleep, and search the laptop
while in line juggling two suitcases and a carryon, but a piece of
paper is way easier.

I'll also print web maps (but not the sometimes useless "directions")
if I know I need to drive somewhere in the city I'm going to and
won't otherwise have easy access to map or electronic tools.
--

----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- ----- -----
Jim Drew Seattle, WA cfmdesigns at earthlink.net
http://home.earthlink.net/~rubberize/Weblog/index.html (Update: 4/1)
(Subject: What Were They Thinking: DVD Clearinghouse)

9 May 2006 - 7:24am
Patrick G
2006

I've been following this thread with interest and finally had a spare
moment to kick in my two cents. This thread parallels some thinking I
have been doing about Bruce Sterling's Shaping Things and the potential
of ubiquitous computing to enable sustainable production processes:

http://www.gneumatic.net/2006/05/01/review-of-bruce-sterlings-shaping-
things/

Sterling writes that, "without sustainability, information is
top-heavy, energy-hungry and heading for a crash; while sustainability
is impractical without precise, comprehensive information about flows
of energy and materials… [Ubicomp] have the capacity to change the
human relationship to time and material processes by making those
processes blatant and archiveable" (43).

What Sterling envisions (along with Greenfield, et. al.), is the point
in the not-too-distant future when the price of passive RFID tags drops
below five cents apiece and it suddenly becomes more economical to tag
every manufactured object than not. Eventually, we could find ourselves
in a position where the human-created physical environment is
exhaustively represented by a stream of bits - the physical world as an
'instantiation' of information.

The role of Design is twofold in a world where the map of information
has overtaken the terrain of the real. First, it is up to Designers to
create the systems that will manage all the possible relationships and
transactions between the informational micro-histories generated by
every object/box of objects/palate of boxes, every room, hallway,
building, public space, etc. The second role of designers is to create
the interfaces through which human beings will interact with this vast
universe of data. A designer’s goal in this context would be to create
a “transparent and accountable infrastructure” that would reveal how an
object came into being. In such an information-saturated world, time
and attention would be, as they have already become, the scarcest of
resources. In the latter context, the design goal would be to minimize
the impact of cognitive load and opportunity costs, enabling a user to
interact with these objects without being crushed under the burden of
micromanaging information.

Sterling argues that once we have this level of control over how we
bring the physical world into being, the ability to do so in a
sustainable fashion is within reach. It certainly seems that the
instrumental capacity would exist. But I'm less certain that this is
all that is needed. At the risk of oversimplification, this position
seems to assume that we are all conscientious consumers, we just need
more information about products in order to avoid the "bad" ones.
Certainly there are people who do fall into this category. But, as Fred
and Nathan mentioned in their posts, we must not only convince
ourselves to be more conscientious, we must convince others as well.
IMO, sustainability is an inherently political project, so the issue of
influencing behavior is paramount, regardless of how much technical
mastery we obtain over the physical world.

------------------------------
Patrick Grizzard
265 Union Street
Apt. 3C
Brooklyn, NY 11231
m: 646.522.9667

10 May 2006 - 4:33pm
Nathan
2006

Patrick,

Thanks for sharing Sterling's vision. It feels remarkably close (and
compatible) to what I've been working on in the past year. The
interface for this information, though complex if it's to be usable,
need not be complicated. This is the solution I've been working
toward: http://www.revealinfo.com

Of course, the system that drives it is what's most important,
including benefits for manufacturers, retailers, NGOs, and government
agencies as well as consumers. The most difficult thing is not the
technology (it's remarkably straight forward, almost easy). Instead,
it's convincing manufacturers to cooperate and share their products'
and services' life cycle data (energy and materials use over their
offerings' life) that will be the biggest challenge.

As for your comments about people's interest:

>all that is needed. At the risk of oversimplification, this position
>seems to assume that we are all conscientious consumers, we just need
>more information about products in order to avoid the "bad" ones.
>Certainly there are people who do fall into this category. But, as
Fred
>and Nathan mentioned in their posts, we must not only convince
>ourselves to be more conscientious, we must convince others as well.
>IMO, sustainability is an inherently political project, so the
issue of
>influencing behavior is paramount, regardless of how much technical
>mastery we obtain over the physical world.

You're absolutely right. I have found, however, in my modest market
research, that most people (over 90%) DO care about social or
environmental issues when they buy products and services but that
their particular mix/goals/agenda is pretty personal (it would be
necessary to allow them to customize scores (buy to THEIR agenda),
rather than accept a baseline score. Also, they have little
confidence in making these judgments without reliable, transparent
information available at the point of purchase. A very high-level
pass of what I've found includes:

64% would pay 5% more
23% would pay 45% more
In some cases, 44% of consumers would pay 75% more if they trusted
that the ratings met their agenda!

This is encouraging and gives us something to grow the market with.

Nathan
________________________________________________________

Nathan Shedroff WEB www.nathan.com
Experience Strategist

22 Cleveland Street NET nathan at nathan.com
San Francisco, CA 94103

10 May 2006 - 11:31pm
Patrick G
2006

This is really fascinating and is causing me to interpret the
sustainability/information nexus/synergy in a different, possibly more
accurate way:

> You're absolutely right. I have found, however, in my modest market
> research, that most people (over 90%) DO care about social or
> environmental issues when they buy products and services but that
> their particular mix/goals/agenda is pretty personal (it would be
> necessary to allow them to customize scores (buy to THEIR agenda),
> rather than accept a baseline score. Also, they have little
> confidence in making these judgments without reliable, transparent
> information available at the point of purchase. A very high-level
> pass of what I've found includes:
>
> 64% would pay 5% more
> 23% would pay 45% more
> In some cases, 44% of consumers would pay 75% more if they trusted
> that the ratings met their agenda!

My initial formulation was that, at least in the West, we have the
ability to democratically elect representatives we know will enact
legislation and initiatives that support decreased/renewable energy
consumption, low-impact manufacturing processes, etc. The fact that we
as an electorate choose to do otherwise (or to look the other way when
officials fail to meet their campaign promises), was, in my mind, a
function of apathy. For a long time, the solution to this dilemma
seemed to be to demonstrate the incompatability of various positions
(i.e. - opposing fossil fuel consumption, but feeling one requires the
'safety and security' of a massive SUV).

But I'm noticing the flaws with this position: First, choosing an
elected representative is perhaps not granular enough when it comes to
these types of issues - it does not allow for the precise expression of
the individual's desires and opinions in a way that your system would.
My Congressperson acts at levels of abstraction (legislation,
regulatory enforcement, treaties, etc.) that are intended to bring
about certain effects without any guarantee or proof of their success,
which is gauged, if at all, months or years after the fact by inexact
studies and analysis of data and trends.

So I can see how the level of granularity/specificity does, in fact,
provide us with the capacity to be more responsible consumers. It
embeds mildly coercive effects within a system that is still grounded
in unbounded choice. No limitation is imposed on the market other than
those self-imposed by consumers who are exposed to the true 'costs' of
their purchases in the form of externalities that were once invisible.

And clearly, there is major incentive in an identified market that will
pay a 50% premium to a manufacturer who can transparently demonstrate
that their product consumes less energy, creates fewer harmful
byproducts, and benefits the social conditions of those who produce it.
A couple of questions, though:

Are you aware of any industry-specific projections as to whether the
premium that consumers are willing to pay would cover the increase in
cost of production that manufacturers would face to create more
sustainable products - not to mention the initial outlay and ongoing
maintenance for the technical infrastructure?

Also, could you give a little background on the demographic(s) that
participated in your market research (modest as it may be)?

11 May 2006 - 12:41am
Nathan
2006

> And clearly, there is major incentive in an identified market that
> will pay a 50% premium to a manufacturer who can transparently
> demonstrate that their product consumes less energy, creates fewer
> harmful byproducts, and benefits the social conditions of those who
> produce it.

I wouldn't exactly say it that way. My research shows that people
gain satisfaction from supporting their social agendas at the level
of emotions, values, and meanings. However, that doesn't mean that
everyone's values support less energy consumption, etc. However, when
people have reliable, informed choice, then we'll start to see what
the actual response is. Up until then, it's all conjecture.

> Are you aware of any industry-specific projections as to whether
> the premium that consumers are willing to pay would cover the
> increase in cost of production that manufacturers would face to
> create more sustainable products - not to mention the initial
> outlay and ongoing maintenance for the technical infrastructure?

It depends on how you define more sustainable products (we're back to
that again : ). For example, an iPod can be considered a sustainable
product in many ways: it's incredible dematerialized--to the point
that it's dematerializing other products, services, and distribution
mechanisms. Apple's also a pretty progressive company environmentally
and socially (thought they probably aren't THE best in their
industry. People are definitely paying a premium for iPods, (though,
perhaps, not for music on the iTunes music store). So, there's some
proof. The problem is that more sustainable offerings doesn't
necessarily mean that products will be more expensive.

The larger point is that people have been paying a premium for all
sorts of reasons: fashion, emotions, values, meaning, etc.
Sustainable criteria are just one more issue in this mix. If you look
at the LOHAS market (Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability) you'll
find a whole--and growing--market segment that does just that: http;//
www.lohas.com

Roper's 2002 Green Gauge Report segments the US consumer market into
5 groups along this line. The top two, True Blue Greens and Greenback
Greens regularly pay more (some more than others) for "more
sustainable" offerings, though every responds to different categories
(some will shell-out more for food items, others for cars, others for
clothes, etc.): http://www.sustainabilitydictionary.com/t/
trueblue_greens.php It's a complex market, however. Even the most
strident sustainability boosters may not (and probably cannot) buy
the most sustainable offerings in every category or way.

> Also, could you give a little background on the demographic(s) that
> participated in your market research (modest as it may be)?

My study was hopelessly skewed to the "left" simply as a measure of
who were in the social networks that passed the survey email around.
Out of 269 respondents, only 49 somehow identified as
"conservative" (there are a lot of ways that people might identify as
conservative, I'm talking only neocons and overt Republicans here).
As comparison, 174 people identified as somehow "liberal" (there was
a little overlap even--think "economically conservative, socially
liberal"). Anyway, even though the "conservative" group was much
smaller, the answers showed that they were still interested in buying
according to their social agendas, just that their social agendas are
slightly different than "liberals." This should make sense if you've
ever heard of the "What Would Jesus Drive?" movement or boycotts by
the American Families Council. Each group showed slightly different
preferences to certain issues or product categories but there was
clear interest from both skews. The upshot is that the basic premise
seems correct but the extent of the exact amounts, categories, and
issues needs much further investigation.

N
________________________________________________________

Nathan Shedroff WEB www.nathan.com
Experience Strategist

22 Cleveland Street NET nathan at nathan.com
San Francisco, CA 94103

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