Above is a Scandinavian innovation agency driving positive change through a seamless fusion of strategy, design & technology.
I started working at their Malmö studio in Sweden in May 2018 after I was offered a role as a Design Technologist or Interaction Designer. Leveraging my background in Engineering and Interaction Design, I try to blend together design and technology through projects, people and culture at Above.
Through Futurecasting and Exploratory Prototyping, I lead/co-lead multidisciplinary teams via different projects that I can’t talk about yet. The kind of work I do there involves helping clients to kick start their future product portfolio by clearly addressing the problems, conducting people-centred research and coming up with concepts through futurecasting. These concepts are then realised through prototypes. Depending on what we want to learn from the concept, the method of prototyping is chosen accordingly.
Since I cannot talk about the projects I have worked on at Above due to confidentiality reasons, I can, however, share the tools and methods I use to prototype different concepts. The most popular ones which I will be talking about below are Functional Prototyping, Experience Prototyping and Video Prototyping.
Functional prototypes shine due to their ability to validate the technical aspects of a concept; these don’t necessarily have to look anything like the final product. I often use these to discover hidden interactions or also to experiment with emerging technologies.
Once in a while, we also create completely functional and aesthetic prototypes that clearly communicate how the product will look and work. These often help the client understand the product better and also to plan for its development moving forward. These prototypes, combined with a video, usually help clients win their pitches internally.
I often use tools around physical computing as well as digital frameworks like processing, unity, etc., to create these prototypes. The key is to stay open and flexible to use any new tool that serves the purpose.
I often use experience prototypes to simulate how an experience of using the product will feel like. These are often used to test the concepts with people and to learn more about its interactions. These prototypes are usually either completely functional, semi-functional or a wizard of oz prototype.
Sometimes I use machine learning for rapid experience prototyping. Tools like wekinator, yolo darknet, runway ML, etc., that use convolutional neural networks make it easy to prototype an experience because of its ability to identify patterns and learn new behaviours instantly. You can see more examples of using machine learning for prototyping from an article I wrote here: Machine Learning - A magic ingredient for prototyping .
Video is a great medium to explore user experiences and future cast concepts. A video prototype, if used the right way, helps me understand and anticipate the gaps and flaws in a concept and helps communicate the story externally. Our clients love video prototypes because of its ability to communicate the concept clearly and how it is easily shareable.
It is one of the most effective ways of testing an idea where each iteration gradually develops the concept further and evolves the overall experience from when it started. I am always careful about how sometimes video prototypes are confused with concept videos, even though I have worked on both. I have written about this topic in detail here: Lights, Camera, action, Prototype!
The tools I use for working on these prototypes include the Adobe creative suite of applications like Premiere, After Effects, Illustrator, etc.
Having said all this, life at Above isn’t always about work, I also occasionally get to play and experiment with new things there. One of the main reasons I enjoy spending time there is the ability to learn new things through the multidisciplinary studio culture.