The User Experience
Traditionally, design research consists of two separate processes: research on the context and precedents of the design concept, and visual inspiration/creation, often with the aid of a visual tool such as a mood board. The interactive mood board is designed to allow the designer to integrate these two processes in a way that may provide some symbiosis—the user can see images that relate to the topic of his or her choosing without having to devote full attention to internet searching, all on the same board as the swatches and photos that have already been selected as visual inspiration.
How it works.
When the user is working on an ongoing project, instead of conducting the two disparate tasks of online research and visual inspiration, they can pull out their interactive inspiration board and get to work. The designer first has to decide what four aspects of the project they are looking for inspiration or help on, and can then label the different quadrants of the board to denote which is which with dry erase markers on designated label spots above the LCD screens. They then go on their computer and enter these four topics into the form provided in the corresponding web interface. Once the tags have been assigned (i.e. entered into a web form) the program does the rest—the script will perform a Google image search on the search terms entered in each tag, and display the images found in this search on the LCD screens for each topic.
The images will rotate through the display for the user to look at next to their other pieces of inspiration and are entered into a database that keeps track of all the search results it has returned to the board. If the designer likes the particular image, they can press a button to "star" that particular search result—this will trigger the system to email them a link to the article where the image was found and will make a note of the result's preferred status in the database. If a particular search result is either off-topic or simply doesn't suit the project, the user can press the "skip" button in order to remove the image from the group of images rotating through the frame. This image will be flagged in the database as irrelevant and will not show up in later searches of the database (unless the user specifically wants to browse rejected search results). If the user simply wants to hold the rotation for a minute to look at the picture for a longer period of time and make a decision, they can press a pause button that will freeze the rotation until they press it again.
This allows the designer to continue working on other aspects of the project but to glance up at the board from time to time and see if any new pieces of inspiration have appeared that help them create new ideas or simply flesh out their precedent research. Once the user has decided to return to their research, all they have to do is go back to their computer and view the database of collected search results via the provided web interface. There they can view a list of all search results returned with notations by the starred entries, a list of only the starred entries, or a custom search query or their choice.
Pulling back to a larger scale, the interface will allow each user to have multiple projects running on the same account on different mood boards, so if they have multiple projects going at once, they can retrieve their search results for all the various tags in one interface. (Or if the user only has one interactive mood board, projects are saved so that they can switch back and forth between projects on the same board if necessary.)
(Click on the image to see a larger version of the storyboard.)
What it looks like.
Below are some sketched prototypes of what the image will look like (on a general level).
The web interface.
The web interface will feature an area to select one of several projects that belong to the user, and a tabbed view of the four topics when a project is selected. The user will be able to change or modify the search queries at any time, and the system will retain a record of all past search results for later review. This way the user can change one quadrant of the board if they feel satisfied with a certain aspect of the design without losing the research they gathered in the process.
The following is an example of the types of images and search results will be pulled onto the LCD screens, stored in the database, and which can later be reviewed using the web interface. The search term used in this particular example was "Red Bench".
The measures of success for this project will be varied since it contains several different components relating to different classes and disciplines. On a base level, I will measure a certain amount of success by whether or not the prototype functions in a way that accurately reflects the purpose of the final product, from the displays through the interface. On a design level, success will be determined based on user testing and feedback, focusing specifically on designers and creative professionals and students that might ordinarily use some type of mood or inspiration board in their daily work.