All you can read Japanese magazines

Rakuten just announced an all-you-can-read book and magazine service. The space is heating up in Japan, where three services now compete — Kindle Unlimited (¥980/mo), Rakuten(¥380/mo), and NTT Docomo’s dMagazine (¥400/mo).

I’m intrigued by Kindle Unlimited but worry that I’ll start snacking on books and never finish anything… an existing behavior with books that I buy one by one.

Japanese magazines would be an interesting addition to my reading mix though, and after seeing a comparison of the magazine publications available from each one, I decided to give dMagazine a whirl.

The image above is the iPad app homepage, and basically looks like you walked into a conbini… for better or for worse!

You can flip through entire magazines like this: dmag2

These hand-selected features are pretty cool, where you can read articles from different magazines about featured topics. I’m looking forward to being more in touch with what the Japanese mass media is covering.

dmag3

The first month is free.

Artefacts of exploring ideas

I tend to find the idea of going to architecture exhibitions more exciting than the actual visit. The connection between blueprints, various models with bits of plaster and toothpicks, and glossy photos disappoint in its shallowness. Where is the story of the place, the drama of creation, and most importantly, the people?

The show “Architect Frank Gehry ‘I Have an Idea’” at 21_21 Design Sight in Tokyo last winter was different — it showed incarnation after incarnation of different ideas that went into the final, fantastical designs, and the breadth of materials and fidelity of the prototypes were amazing.

I love how intentional each prototype is, clearly meant to work through one specific idea, then building upon them. Look at how basic some of these models are… some are “simply” blocks of wood!

Our prototypes in the realm of digital products tend to more linear, each step increasing fidelity until it’s defined enough to be built. This opportunity to follow Gehry’s multi-dimensional trail through a wealth of artefacts made me think that we could be free-er in how and why we prototype.







“It’s not precious detailing, but carefully detailed.”
– Frank Gehry

Also — Aligning discussions to match the explorations of a particular prototype is difficult. For example, feedback on the readability of a label is not helpful when you’re working out the flow of an app…. but this kind of mismatch happens all the time, even with experienced designers. Imagine how confusing it gets when non-designers are around the table.

I’d love to know what kind of discussions that Gehry’s team has with their clients — were all of these prototypes shared with them, how were they presented, what kind of questions did people have etc.!

Bonus: Gehry, in a different medium.

A workshop on user research at the Intrapreneurship Conference

I had the opportunity to give a 80 minute talk to a wonderfully engaged audience at the Intrapreneurship Conference, organized at Numa.

Asking your own questions and knowing how to find answers are key to reducing uncertainty as you build out ideas. In this session on user experience research, we’ll talk about different ways to get actionable insights on user behaviors, needs and motivations. I’ll share my triumphs and failures working with research and product teams of all sizes, and we’ll go through activities to learn how to design a qualitative research project.

It was my first talk to a non-practitioner crowd. To get across the message that the key to effective user research is to ask the right questions, I chose that (rather than interview techniques and methodologies) the focus of the interactive segment of the talk.

The audience first paired up and interviewed each other about apps that they’d stopped using. Afterwards, we workshopped different ways to build hypotheses, frame questions, and carry out research. People were very energized and so was I, with a vibrant feeling of I-can-do-this-and-this-is-really-good in the air!