Map: 'design-t.GIF'

Design Tools

To work with alternatives the Utopia project built an experiment and test environment which was called the technology laboratory. Through working together on the simulation equipment, graphic workers and researchers could learn from each other and gain concrete experience which made it possible to define the requirements for computer based graphical work.

In the technology laboratory there were essentially three kinds of tools: workstation mock-ups with picture sequences, prototype programs and the organizational tool kit.

A really cheap "workstation"
To make the experiments as realistic as possible we built mock-ups, using adjustable tables to represent workstations. Graphic display screens were simulated with slide projectors backprojecting transparent screens. A few cardboard dummies represented keyboard, tablet menus, and laser printers were added. Several pointing devices were made of wood and plastic. Two types of workstations were constructed. One station for sitting work, and another for standing work. Thus both the ergonomical and the organizational aspects of the design of the workstations could examined.
Parts of the image processing were selected for slide simulation.
Sequences of snapshots of the work process were developed and pasted on the wall and were later made into slides
We went through the work process step by step. With each step we posed the question: What tools does the graphic worker need to process the material in a qualified way?

The concrete design of the simulation method gave the project's graphic workers the opportunity to influence the development work. Their requirements of good tools and smooth operations interacted with the researchers' knowledge of the possibilities and limitations of the technology.

All participants learned from each other
We obviously learned just as much from creating the simulation, as we did from later looking at, and discussing the results.

The slide simulation method is relatively simple and inexpensive. It can be advantageously employed in the training of graphic workers in general and when trade union requirements for page make-up and image processing systems are formulated locally.

Blackboard image sequence for cropping

Computer Based Development Tools
The technology was new. The participants wanted to know how pictures and newspaper pages could be presented and manipulated on a display screen. How are the available operations activated? What help-information is available, and in what form can it be presented? The part of the computer system which determines these and similar aspects is called the man-machine interface.
The Perq workstation had a portrait orientation A4 black-and-white dispay
The Utopia project used graphic workstations to experiment with various designs for computer based equipment for graphic production. A graphic workstation can in a very realistic way be applied to illustrate various possibilities for design of the system's man-machine interface. With such equipment at hand, prototypes of the man-machine interface of, for instance a page make-up system, can be constructed without necessarily having to construct the whole system. Programs for controlling the phototypesetter are, for instance, not necessary.
Flexible and adaptabe graphical tools were envisioned
The Utopia-project suggested that parts of both the graphic in-service training and of the vocational training at the graphic schools could in the future include development and application of prototypes. This would illustrate the spectrum of possibilities for designing man-machine interfaces of computer equipment for graphic production. In this way trainees could supplement a thorough knowledge of graphic production with an understanding of the fact that computer based tools for graphic production can be designed very differently, and that the design may be of decisive importance for the quality of both work and product. Unfortunately the available facilities for developing prototypes were still very poor. With better facilities for program development it would be realistic in the future to let the trainees design and use the prototypes themselves. This would develop qualifications which later could be used for local development and individual adaptation of the computer based graphic production equipment.
Local Development and Adaptation
Graphic workstations which are usually used for page make-up, image processing, or for making advertisements in a plant might also contain facilities for program development which would make it possible to design individually adapted man-machine interfaces. Systems were typically delivered without these facilities, and with a man-machine interface which has been determined once and for all.
Part of the skill of the new graphical worker would be the ability to adapt the tools
Suppliers wish to ensure that they keep the exclusive right to develop programs. With training like the one outlined above, and with the right equipment, adaption of man-machine interfaces to local and individual requirements would become a realistic possibility. Changing things which experience proves inconvenient would become easier, but perhaps even more important, new possibilities might be found and tried out at the work places.

The Organizational Tool Kit
Not two persons describe the organization of work alike
As a supplement to the simulation, we needed a method for working out concrete descriptions of the work organization. We wanted a framework for discussions around questions like: how can the current work organization be described, and what should an organization supporting quality and democracy look like?

We found the traditional methods for system description insufficient and too abstract. In response to this we developed the organizational tool kit.

All functions are symbolized with icons on cardboard bricks. Work material and technological equipment are symbolized the same way. The bricks are waxed on the back which make them easy to place and move again.

A model of the work organization at a newspaper can quickly be made with the icons of the building set. The building technique illustrates both the details and the overall picture of a work organization. The technique may be employed to describe conflicts like "demarcation disputes", i.e. which assignments should be carried out by editorial staff, and which should be carried out by make-up staff. Solutions may also be described, e.g. conflicts concerning the right to operate graphic page make-up work stations can be solved through work organizational changes. And it may describe how, at the same time, the competence of both the make-up person and the assistant-editor can be developed.

Latest update by Axel Henriksson 96-04-16