Design Interface design

Design is not a democracy

This morning I read Small Change by Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker. Besides his remarks about the impact of social networks there is another interesting passage in his article.

There are many things, though, that networks don’t do well. Car companies sensibly use a network to organize their hundreds of suppliers, but not to design their cars. No one believes that the articulation of a coherent design philosophy is best handled by a sprawling, leaderless organizational system. Because networks don’t have a centralized leadership structure and clear lines of authority, they have real difficulty reaching consensus and setting goals. They can’t think strategically; they are chronically prone to conflict and error. How do you make difficult choices about tactics or strategy or philosophical direction when everyone has an equal say?

Image from Sketching User Experiences by Bill BuxtonFor a while this topic has been fascinating me. Why design needs direction, someone with a vision or clear ideas? Why do most open source projects fail to get this right? And why do you often need a designer or someone who thinks like one for innovation?

Building a house from a design could very well work like an open source project. Designing a house as an open source project would probably be a disaster, it would end up over complete and hard to stand out. Networks are good in converging, designers are good in diverging.

The networked and peer-culture that founded Google is likely why they are incredibly successful in finding things (“to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful“) This might also explain why they fail in building social networks (Orkut, Jaiku, Wave, Buzz).

This is what makes Facebook and Twitter succeed, those are fare more hierarchical organizations where there is a clear vision set by one or a small group of people.

Design is what makes you stand out. Good design is about making choices. Even in a networked culture.

The image in this post is a picture I took from the book Sketching User Experiences by Bill Buxton.


Playing with Fonts

I’m playing with Google Webfonts and Webfonts from It’s really easy to use and this will finally make typography on the web a thing. This really is a big step in interface design.

Only 16 fonts are similar on all different operator systems. If you wanted to make a user and computer friendly website you had to choose one of those fonts. Well not anymore…



Music taste match installation based on your profile

In this installation I matched random people in the audience based on their account. I used Roomware to scan for smartphones.

Match installation
Match installation
Building the installation
Building the installation
A match
A match

Yournews, a video interface for mobile video and citizen journalism (graduation project)

Yournews (renamed to Medialandschap) is a project designed to amplify the power of low-end video content people create. At a growing speed this by users created content – so called ‘citizen journalism’ – is created and spread online. Yournews ask users to upload this video, usually created with mobile phones or digital photo-cameras and uses meta information to create a rich set of data.

The visual interface and structure enhance the value of the information in order to get more and a better coherent information structure for users to play with, form and reshape.

The news videos created by people will connect to videos with content alike.


The button is click and drag, the raised level of a box indicates the amount of videos, the color signals how long ago a new video was posted in a box, the slider allows you to go back into time. The 3 layers above the map are video channels automatically generated.

The interface uses many different axes to sort information, giving the user freedom and make it easy to search large collections of data. Axes like: time, location, popularity, latest changes, additions, amount, subject or on a visual selection (attractive images). Users are also able to view broadcasts based on predefined values. The goal of the interface is to be very clear and easy to use, like an infographic.

Interface design Mobile

Why I want to design something for the iPad

I don’t own an iPad, actually I have never seen one in real life. I’m not even sure if I will ever buy one (I probably will).

What I know is that I really would like to design a news application for the device.

The iPad envisions something that computers or mobile phones don’t. It show us a new platform of interaction.

1. The device is made for consuming instead of producing. Personal computers were never designed for entertainment. The computer was designed for work, it was never designed for fun. People my age will remember how desktop computers invaded our houses. Your dad probably brought one home, because he used it at work.

If you wanted to relax and have fun, game consoles are designed for just that.

The iPad is all about consuming and relaxing. How you hold the device, the weight, the wireless network, the size, everything. It’s the perfect device to enjoy what a connected world has to offer on the couch.

2. No history. This device has no past, the only mistake you can make designing for the iPad is to design for a media carrier from the past, like a magazine or personal computer.

3. Newspapers and magazines love it. They probably do love it for the wrong reasons. I don’t think magazines or books will re-live on the iPad. It’s a new medium and like every new medium this one also comes with its own set of rules.

Why would you want a magazine? It’s a connected device. It’s fully interactive, social and connected. You might like the content, but you probably don’t want the form.

The fact that newspapers and magazines love the device is great though. They are spending money on innovation again and this is a good thing, it will help the platform to develop. Eventually we will find out how to tell or sell a story on the platform.

The device symbolizes hope, revenues and new opportunities. The success of the iPhone makes expectations for the iPad even higher.

This is why I want to design something for the iPad.

Projects Somehow

Goodbye Volkskrant, hello SOMEHOW branded utilities

I’m leaving the newspaper the Volkskrant. For the last 4 years I designed new interfaces for news platforms and researched the future of news distribution. Besides my work at the Volkskrant I worked on installations, and other little interactive experiments.

I had a great time and am very proud of some of the projects I did. The new direction the newspaper is heading is not attractive for me personally. It’s time to move on and take the next step.

I believe information technology is such widespread that it’s a standard. This means everyone has access to it and knows how to use it.

Gartner has a scheme what they call the Hype Cycle. The Hype Cycle is like a wave, that transforms into a solid line. It says that any new technology has to go through these phases.

In this cycle I think the internet as media is in the last, fifth fase. We had the bubble, and it bursted. Followed by new hope and a strong recovery through Google and social media. Now we reach the productivity plateau. Nobody doubts the web anymore. It is widely accepted and used. Removing it today would be devastating to our economy and culture.

Gartner Hype Cycle SOMEHOW

We’re entering the internet of things. You aren’t surprised anymore if your tv, car or house is connected to a network. The network is everywhere. What we need right now are ideas that make a difference and stand out.

I like the shift to a utilized web, where functionality and a good concept are more important then the next technical innovation. My favorite internet things didn’t have much to do with technical innovation. Blogging, social networks, the iPhone. They didn’t thrive on new technology as much as they thrived on good ideas and implementation of technology.

Access to information – through technology – democratizes. This is true for many businesses. It also true for communication and advertising. This information age asks brands to engage, by storytelling, social skills or services. Communication through services is also referred to as “branded utilities”.

For someone who’s driven by making concepts, prototypes and new ideas using design and technology, things only get better. I think the costs of creating something have gone down a lot, at the same time competition has gone up. Creating a space for good ideas to stand out.

SOMEHOW branded utilities

With Marco van Heerde I started SOMEHOW. SOMEHOW is a company that makes interactive services. The company works from concept to project. We create concepts, designs and prototypes. We deliver by working with different technical partners, depending on the technology used in the concept. From concept to project. It’s almost like advertising, only the kind of advertising you like because it helps you.

The company has two type of projects. Personal driven and client driven. We believe in learning by playing and experimenting and research driven and iterative concept development. We learn and play with our personal projects and implement learnings for our clients.

The third pillar is the weblog Medialandschap. We use this place as an open research platform. This is an open group blog exploring trends, art, advertising and technology.

I’m very exited how SOMEHOW will turn out. I strongly believe in a researched based way of working, I like how service design is developing and I admire companies like IDEO.

I just started tumbling down a new rabbit hole, and loving it. For the news fans, don’t worry I’m still looking how to redesign news ;)

Contact me
E-mail me at, connect to me on LinkedIn or Skype me at
wilbertbaan if you want to meet, talk or just drink a beer.


Design Interface design Projects Somehow

My 2010 predictions for Fontanel (in Dutch)

The leading Dutch design weblog Fontanel asked me (and some other guys I really admire) to write down our thoughts for 2010.

The article is in Dutch. For the English readers you can try to read it using Google Translate.

screenshot Fontanel

In 2010 vermengt internet zich nog meer met apparaten, apparaten die weer aangesloten zijn op diensten. Het web grijpt op deze manier veel dieper in op ons dagelijkse leven, op het gebied van gezondheid, productiviteit, afspraken en vermaak. 2010 is het jaar van het omnipresente internet.

Internet op mobiel is geëvolueerd tot een markt die qua veelzijdigheid inmiddels ver voorbij de ringtonemarkt is. Op de mobiele markt is de technologische race – even – voorbij en is er ruimte voor verdieping. Wat kun je nu eigenlijk met GPS, bewegingssensoren en internet. Met welke diensten maakt je iemands leven beter én wat maakt je als bedrijf interessant in een markt met honderdduizend applicaties waarbij er per persoon slechts enkele dagelijks gebruikt worden.

Slimme apparaten
Technologische vooruitgang en prijs werken naar elkaar toe. Dit heeft inmiddels een punt bereikt waarop je RFID in speelgoed kunt stoppen, WiFi in een weegschaal, of een draadloze energiemeter in je meterkast. Informatie voegt waarde toe. Hoe meer informatie je kunt maken hoe meer waarde je toe voegt aan het product dat je (al) verkoopt. Nike+ maakt de schoenen niet beter, wel de loopervaring. Hoe? Door informatie op te slaan en te duiden.

Acceptatie AR
Augmented reality is geland in 2009. Mede dankzij het Nederlandse Layar heeft de techniek een gezicht gekregen en zit Nederland in de voorhoede. Augmented reality is van zijn science fiction imago af en tastbaar geworden. Dit maakt het eenvoudiger voor mensen om er toepassingen mee te bedenken. In 2010 is augmented reality de hypefase voorbij en zullen we nog heel erg veel nieuwe praktische toepassingen gaan zien.

Paradoxaal genoeg zijn we zelf het grootste gevaar voor onze privacy. Via Location Based Services (LBS) gaan we steeds meer informatie over onszelf geven. Waar we zijn, wat we er van vinden en met wie we er zijn. In 2010 zullen er diensten komen die uit de veelheid van verschillende sociale netwerken heldere analyses kunnen maken en deze informatie perspectief kunnen geven. Wat betekenen al jouw sociale activiteiten in tijd? Naast scepsis, zal uiteindelijk het voordeel winnen want zo’n dienst kan door efficiency en patronen ons dagelijks leven verbeteren. Informatie is waarde.

2010 is het jaar van de interface designers en informatiespecialisten. Als je weet hoe je extra waarde aan informatie kunt maken en zinvol kunt ontsluiten maak je relevante diensten. De creatieve sector zal zich steeds vaker in een positie zien dat ze in plaats van campagnes functionele diensten aan het ontwikkelen zijn.

Lees ook wat Victor D. Ponten, Luis Mendo en Marcel Kampman schreven.