VIS-able: a visual research gallery to provide inspiration for beautiful (and therefore usable) objects
This paper describes an important stage in the development of an on-line Visual Research Gallery, known as VIS-able. The web site is intended to inspire creative solutions across a range of design disciplines, though it has its roots in Product Design Education. The content explores the theme of 'beauty' and its role in improving usability and the experience of using objects. Particular elements of the web site content can be downloaded and used as a teaching resource for the classroom; they take the form of a series of self-contained Flash movies that introduce practical considerations when designing interaction. The following describes the use and subsequent evaluation of these components. The movies were used within the Creativity Zone at the University of Sussex to create an interactive learning experience for second year Product Design BSc students. The students were subsequently asked to use the principles to design a series of products and also to evaluate how useful they found this way of learning. The net result was that the students found the experience helpful in forwarding their understanding and the principles were effectively and creatively utilized in project work. The tutor and the student's peers evaluated success. Interestingly the students also commented that because their work might be part of a shared experience and also published on the net, this inspired them to work harder. The project has been facilitated through a research award provided by InQbate, a Centre of Excellence in Teaching and Learning focussed on Creativity. Although the resultant Gallery has provided a useful teaching aid for a variety of design undergraduates, it is intended that the tool will also, in the future, be an eclectic source of ideas to all who share in it, including product design practitioners.