Monday, July 12, 2010

disquieting input

Barry Katz, a consulting professor at Stanford's Design School, stopped by a few weeks ago, thrilled to find that we had included nearly ten pages about industrial and HCI design in our book. He is in process of doing a "definitive historic book" about ID and HCI in the Valley, and we chatted convivially for quite a while. Barry and I taught together in Stanford's VTSS program in the 1980s. I gave him a number of names worth following up with in the Valley, including the long time head of HP's Design Group, Allen Inhelder.

Imagine my surprise with an e-mail blast a few weeks later, from Allen (his P.S. note said his name is not spelt Alan, which we got wrong in the text p. 234, but right in the footnote, p. 577 -- embarrassing!). The bigger concern though was his message: "Your creative story telling about the history of HP Industrial Design is incorrect. Your writing also denigrates by omission an outstanding body of work that has never been duplicated. Your literary alchemy has managed to turn the HP golden years of industrial design into a mound of bullshit. It is obvious that you didn't bother to fact-check your sources. I am deciding how to tell the readers of your book the facts about the early days of industrial design in general and at HP."

Allen included his phone number, and I called him directly. His chief concern seemed to do with our crediting Carl Clement as heavily as we did for the "Clement Cabinet" which Allen feels he mostly designed, but politics meant that Carl was the chief name on the patent filing. We do credit Allen with the replacement cabinet, done fourteen years later -- he calls them System 1 and System 2, but really was clear that he, not Carl, was chiefly responsible for both. Couple this with the fact that we didn't acknowledge that Allen led the Corporate Design Group for nearly twenty-five years -- you can imagine that he was pretty worked up!

I doubt that the call placated Allen much, but it was very important to hear his point of view, and reflect on so many good things that he did do or did lead. We can patch some things in a later printing perhaps; meanwhile, he will have his story told more fully in Barry's definitive work.

Joel warned me about the likelihood that this will be a common kind of occurrence, based on what he has seen with other authors trying to give credits that are elusive sometimes to pin down. Ah, well... For those of you from the ID / HCI community, our apologies if we were inadequate here; our intent (by contrast with most computing and electronics company histories which ignore ID / HCI altogether), was to try to include it and give some context for its importance as a discipline in this crazy-quilt high-tech world

5 comments:

婉婷 said...

Pay somebody back in his own coin.............................................................

Me said...

I read your latest blog post about the industrial design of cabinets. HP
Corporate Global Industrial Design Group of the mid-to-late 1980's was a
powerhouse design shop of some of the smartest people I've ever met... They
didn't know beans about programming or computers or software design but when
I met them all in 1988 or 1989 I was in awe.

The particular project involved the short-lived HP Widget Set which evolved
into OSF/Motif. These three individuals:

- Barry Mathis (manager)
- Shiz Kobara
- Steve Anderson (Steven R. Anderson)
- Jennifer Chaffee

were largely responsible for what became known as "the New Wave
look-and-feel". Shiz did the industrial design of the OSF/Motif widgets
(the beveled buttons and recessed text fields, colors, themes, etc.). Steve
Anderson did the New Wave and OSF/Motif style guides and Barry managed the
whole enterprise. Applying industrial design to software 'look and feel'
was a radical concept at the time...

Barry's group was also responsible for the cabinet design HP used in the
1980's and 1990's (remember the Indigo? the cabinet's industrial design was
the first instance of Barry's group's work...).

You can Google Shiz Kobara to find out what he's up to now. Here's a
synopsis of Barry's career prior to Corporate:

http://www.hpmuseum.org/designs/designs.htm

Steve Anderson retired from HP long ago and I last ran into him at a Randy
Newman concert at Villa Montalvo in the mid-1990's.

I probably worked with Steve the most but the others provided valuable
insight into what we were trying to do (build a GUI tool to design GUI
interfaces for X Windows). Barry and Shiz, while not involved as much
day-to-day, offered somtimes-brilliant insights to user-interaction models.
I learned a great deal from all of them.

Jennifer worked with Steve on the style guides mostly so our interactions
with her were limited.

On top of being some of the smartest people on the planet, they were nice
people to work with -- very collaborative -- they 'got it' almost instantly.
True HPers -- although Shiz wrote a book about his efforts on OSF/Motif, he
refused to take sole credit for the incredible amount of work that went into
it.

Our project is described in HP Journal, October 1990, Vol 41, Number 5. Our
project was cancelled shortly after this issue appeared :-( (our project
had been on the market less than a year). Incredibly, most of the group
stayed with HP working on other things until the Carly years when most were
laid off. We gathered regularly to celebrate our relationship and
families...

The code name for the project was "Zootsuit" -- it was the only word we
could think of with the letters "oo" and "ui" in it. New of it may have
reached your ears at Corp. Engr and/or SESD -- we were heavy Ivo users!

Anyway, another story and some more names for a future edition of your book
(I'll bet your file for this is bigger than a ream of paper by now!)...

If you're in touch with Webb McKinney, he, undoubtedly, can give you much
more insight into the (largely unknown) contributions of this outstanding
team...
--
Steve Witten

Me said...

I read your latest blog post about the industrial design of cabinets. HP
Corporate Global Industrial Design Group of the mid-to-late 1980's was a
powerhouse design shop of some of the smartest people I've ever met... They
didn't know beans about programming or computers or software design but when
I met them all in 1988 or 1989 I was in awe.

The particular project involved the short-lived HP Widget Set which evolved
into OSF/Motif. These three individuals:

- Barry Mathis (manager)
- Shiz Kobara
- Steve Anderson (Steven R. Anderson)
- Jennifer Chaffee

were largely responsible for what became known as "the New Wave
look-and-feel". Shiz did the industrial design of the OSF/Motif widgets
(the beveled buttons and recessed text fields, colors, themes, etc.). Steve
Anderson did the New Wave and OSF/Motif style guides and Barry managed the
whole enterprise. Applying industrial design to software 'look and feel'
was a radical concept at the time...

Barry's group was also responsible for the cabinet design HP used in the
1980's and 1990's (remember the Indigo? the cabinet's industrial design was
the first instance of Barry's group's work...).

You can Google Shiz Kobara to find out what he's up to now. Here's a
synopsis of Barry's career prior to Corporate:

http://www.hpmuseum.org/designs/designs.htm

Steve Anderson retired from HP long ago and I last ran into him at a Randy
Newman concert at Villa Montalvo in the mid-1990's.

I probably worked with Steve the most but the others provided valuable
insight into what we were trying to do (build a GUI tool to design GUI
interfaces for X Windows). Barry and Shiz, while not involved as much
day-to-day, offered somtimes-brilliant insights to user-interaction models.
I learned a great deal from all of them.

Jennifer worked with Steve on the style guides mostly so our interactions
with her were limited.

On top of being some of the smartest people on the planet, they were nice
people to work with -- very collaborative -- they 'got it' almost instantly.
True HPers -- although Shiz wrote a book about his efforts on OSF/Motif, he
refused to take sole credit for the incredible amount of work that went into
it.

Our project is described in HP Journal, October 1990, Vol 41, Number 5. Our
project was cancelled shortly after this issue appeared :-( (our project
had been on the market less than a year). Incredibly, most of the group
stayed with HP working on other things until the Carly years when most were
laid off. We gathered regularly to celebrate our relationship and
families...

The code name for the project was "Zootsuit" -- it was the only word we
could think of with the letters "oo" and "ui" in it. New of it may have
reached your ears at Corp. Engr and/or SESD -- we were heavy Ivo users!

Anyway, another story and some more names for a future edition of your book
(I'll bet your file for this is bigger than a ream of paper by now!)...

If you're in touch with Webb McKinney, he, undoubtedly, can give you much
more insight into the (largely unknown) contributions of this outstanding
team...
--
Steve Witten

黃柏盈 said...

If you can not be kind, at least have the decency to be vague.............................................................

初茂一嬌 said...

Pen and ink is wits plough...................................................................