The origins of IXDS lie in fundamental research. Our first projects were funded by research departments within large corporations, and ever since it’s been clear to us that this is something we needed to continue on our own in order to stay relevant and up-to-date.
One aspect of our own fundamental research which is really important to us is the fact that we always share our insights and results with the community.
We don’t want to waste our own and other people’s time by holding back research results, especially in our field of UX/UI design (and related technologies) there's so much we – as mankind – need to learn. We have to do this together! Furthermore, working with the community raises the overall quality of work and helps everyone avoid wasting time and having to do things twice!
Close collaboration with universities
Since the very beginning of IXDS, our close relationships with the interaction design labs at the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam, has enabled members of our team to be involved in publicly funded research projects.
Tools and Methods
Working creatively with technology constantly requires new tools and methods. Our early interest in designing innovative services and interactions based on novel uses of electronics, in particular, made us realize this much-needed requirement for new tools.
Prior to the start of IXDS, it was nearly impossible for non-engineers to work in creative ways with digital hardware: one was limited to a few complicated and expensive technologies. This is why we decided to develop the open-source-tool Fritzing, which would allow us (and others) to design our own PCBs (printed-circuit boards) without being hardware engineers! The project was initially funded by the regional government of Brandenburg, but quickly became financially independent..
This mentality has stayed with us up until today. We always put in a little extra effort to ensure we share our insights with the community: in Github we share codes; and if things get more complex, we try to publish our insights in papers.
Design for Change
Another fundamental question for us at IXDS is how UX/UI can help people to change their behaviors. This is important for personal services, e.g., supporting one’s health or one’s finances. It’s also important when building services, which are meant to have an impact on our society or on our environment.
With the project “Eco-Viz” we had three years’ time for explorations in this area and learned about the chances, but also about the limitations of 'persuasive technologies'. The main focus of our research was how interfaces could help individuals to reduce energy consumption. We worked amongst others, including Riedel, a Berlin based heating controller manufacturer, and VW in their design center in Potsdam.
One major insight we formed was that services needed to overcome the alienation of energy production: the closer people are involved in energy production the better they take care of it. Therefore, one of the outcomes of this research project was Sunride, a spin-off service which allows communities that solar panels to act as an energy provider for themselves and others.
Interfaces for Big Data
As connected hardware produces a lot of data, and working with this data is part of many business strategies, it became clear to us at IXDS that we needed to learn how to build interfaces that would not only allow for the exploration of large data sets, but would enable creative work to be done with such data.
So, our research was around a much more active approach to data-viz (visualization). “Traditional” data-viz solutions already built on the way data is displayed – we were therefore curious about how to allow for a more open approach to data visualization and interpretation.
Our team worked for two years in a research consortium called “SASER - Safe and Secure European Routing”, funded by the European Union, with partners as Nokia, Fraunhofer Institute and Leibniz Gesellschaft.
One of the main outcome was a new combination of visualization tools with text - so that searches or filtering activities within large texts become more visual.
Research through Startup-ing
Inspired by the speed of innovation in the startup world, we changed our approach to fundamental research: our goal now is to produce relevant results at the same speed as startups.
The development of the right approach to “research through startup-ing” is an ongoing and agile process – currently it is organized into two phases: a startup-thon, followed by a rapid-implementation-phase.
The startup-thon is a two-day work session. The outcome is an initial pitch-deck. In these two days, all participants are supported around the clock by various experts, e.g., people who work in the market, technologists who understand the challenges of technology in a particular setup, or business designers who support the teams in identifying the right business models.
Everyone at IXDS, plus selected individuals from outside, are invited to participate in these startup-thons. The startup-thon ends with a pitch presentation, where the team, as well as external investors, invest virtual money to identify the winning team.
This team is then invited to continue their work for three more months – supported by anyone in the IXDS team. These three month are organized into phases of prototyping, testing, networking, etc., with the ultimate goal to have a proven concept ready for presentation with investors.
Any fundamental technology which is being developed in that phase is of course shared under an open-source license with the community.
The first project where we applied this approach was HINT. HINT is part of the research project “DAAN-Design Adaptiver Ambienter Notifikationsumgebungen” (design of adaptive and ambient notification systems), funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.
"It is my job to never be content." (W. v. Braun)
Research was and still is an essential part of our self-understanding. We see every project as a research project and aim to challenge exisiting approaches, tools and general setups. If you are interested in doing research with us, please contact Dr. Christine Dicke or Prof. Reto Wettach.