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TRIZ course by Valeri Souchkov

TRIZ, an acronym for Теория решения изобретательских задач, is a problem-solving, analysis and forecasting tool derived from the study of patterns of invention in the global patent literature.

TRIZ is better known in English as the Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TIPS). The method was developed by the Soviet inventor G.S. Altshuller and his colleagues in the former USSR between 1946 and 1985, and it tries to define generalisable patterns in the nature of inventive solutions.

Valeri Souchkov is the founder of ICG Training & Consulting: TRIZ and Systematic Innovation Expertise with over 20 years of experience developing and applying the TRIZ method. He is currently teaching a course at the University of Twente about TRIZ and how to apply it, in order to better manage the innovative front-end of product development. His lectures and examples are very engaging; TRIZ strikes me as a very valuable design tool and I’m glad to have been offered the opportunity to participate in this course.

The art of product design

“Only the marvellous is beautiful”, André Breton

It is important for a designer to have a wide array of tools at their disposal as each project (and product) calls for its own unique approach. A product and its (re)design is more than the sum of problems that it solves: creativity can lead to inspiring and clever designs. Art is a perfect muse: it inspires and offers an infinite wealth of examples by free thinkers.

The past 300 years has seen a great development in art styles and movements. Styles and ideas merge or split up to take new directions, at a faster rate than ever before in human history. The evolution of art goes hand in hand with the ideas and morals of a generation, ultimately reflecting in the items they surround themselves with. In our current society of mass production and consumption, it is easy to overlook this point of view.

To acquire a deeper understanding of both the process in general as well as the characteristics of the art style, I have used art styles as a basis for a design analysis followed by a redesign. Record players were a perfect candidate for this study due to the product’s long existence and well recorded history (pun intended). You can see my redesign in the concept design section, hopefully it shows how valuable art can be as a tool for product design.

Design and emotion

“It’s almost shunned to say it: men and women are not the same. This is usually interpreted as meaning not equals. However, the fact that they are different is actually quite interesting. So: equals but fortunately not the same. Designers should also be conscious of this difference”, Bernique Tool

Customer expectations and connotations.

Design and emotion share an interesting correlation. Some products have a strong emotional connotation, think of an alarm clock for example. An alarm clock has a major effect on your mood in the morning, so why should the product not take your feelings into account?

Other products are simply hard to probe, for instance a product aimed at autistic children: how does one uncover the bond between the user and the product in such a case? Design and emotion offers designers tools to handle these situations.

And of course (consumer) products in general appeal to our emotions, to our sense of self. The products we surround ourselves with (have to) reflect who we are, who we want to be, or how we wish others to see us. The latter I find both intriguing and disconcerting: I highly recommend watching the amazing yet disheartening BBC documentary “The Century of the Self“, describing how consumerism has dictated our paths since its inception. The documentary makes you question your role and responsibility as a product designer: are you going to use your skills and abilities to try and push limits and inspire, or are you going to fall in line with contemporary consumerism to create purely profit driven incremental product changes?

Human factors / ergonomics

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man”, George Bernard Shaw

Human factors and engineering psychology - human performance and information processing diagram.

In the current highly competitive market, it is more important than ever before to deliver a perfect user-centred, highly integrated product experience. Throughout the entire cycle of product development the user is taken on board, design thinking is key with human factors providing the tools for research and evaluation.

Human factors (or ergonomics) is the scientific multi-discipline concerned with the understanding of the interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and applies theoretical principles, data and methods to design in order to optimise human well-being and overall system performance. It is essential knowledge for structured design and development. After all, as designers we try to ensure that technology and (artificial) objects in our environment adapt to us rather than the other way around.

As example, user interface design illustrates the importance of human factors perfectly: a user interface forms a thin layer of interaction with a very limited bandwidth between human and machine. One must be fully aware of the existing conventions, how tasks affect attention allocation and intensity, what search patterns are followed, how data is processed by the user, whether or not auditive or cross-modal attention may be of use, etc.

From scenario based product design with its design improvisation, endowed props, role-playing or tangible interaction to ethnography with its observation, CUTA or probing techniques (to just name a few): there is a wide array of human factors related tools available to address any possible scenario.

Minor music design

  1. Tonight there is sound
  2. 1, 2, 3, uh
  3. Touch it


The majority of deliverables for the minor music design at the conservatory were of course in the form of music. It’s already been almost a year ago since I’ve finished my minor, but with the new site I figured it’d be fun to share three of the songs on here.

Slight backstory: I participated in the minor together with a fellow student with whom I’m also in a band. In the past we have been in a fair few cover bands and fairly recently we have started making our own music. The minor provided a nice opportunity to improve our producing skills, and we figured it would be nice to get some experience creating digital (house) music.

The song “Tonight there is sound” makes use of a presidential speech by Carter, and is an experimentation with creating contemporary catchy music (much like the last song).

The song “1, 2, 3, uh” differs in the sense that it was part of a more elaborate assignment. Each week the group participating in the minor would propose a line for an instrument, or a part of the song. For example one week a bass line would be proposed, next week a beat. After all parts were gathered, each individual would have to use those lines to compose a unique song. The lines were all rather dull, so Ruud and I decided to switch it all up: the bass line would become the beat, the melody the bass line, etcetera. And of course Ruud and I introduced some new elements, as well as a new melody.

The minor ended up mostly interesting for networking to be honest, skill wise improvement was entirely autodidact.

Producing music

  1. Wax my soul
  2. Moonlight
  3. Look
  4. Penny
  5. Oversize
  6. Holiday


After having played in a fair few cover bands, it was time to create some music of our own. We‘ve experimented a lot with different microphone setups to record our sound, and we’ve bought some gear to be able to process our recordings. We’ve used a Roland Edirol UA-1000 for recording, and Cubase in combination with KRK studio speakers for post-processing. We’ve recorded the pieces in one go to be as natural as possible; not everything needs to sound crisp and clean. It’s material back from 2005/2006, I hope you enjoy our experiments.

Flash portfolio

Here’s to my brand new portfolio, made from scratch in Adobe Flash. As my first fling with flash and web design it was a rather steep learning curve with a lot of backtracking as soon as I learnt better methods to accomplish what I wanted – the usual learning process really. The skills learnt will definitely prove useful for future presentations or user tests. But for the time being it means my work is now available online.

Blog

My blog describes events from my life related to design and engineering. Hopefully it will give you more insight into my work processes and personal interests.

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