Assignment #1, Apple Watch
Redesign the face of Apple Watch in order to change the way time is read, and how it changed during the last two years of the pandemic.
This is an in-depth, semester-length assignment.
Weeks 1–2: Begin by reading widely about a variety of means for time-keeping. From this basis, identify one aspect of time-keeping and display of particular interest. This could be an investigation of sundials or sand clocks; it could be a look into the changing schedules of contemporary workers; circadian rhythms and sleep cycles; or how an atomic clock keeps time. What is chosen must sustain work over the semester, so it should be genuinely fascinating.
Weeks 3–4: Prepare a brief research presentation on the area of interest. This presentation (more of a performance) must be exactly 16 minutes long. The presentation cannot run shorter. If it runs long, it will be cut off. Consider including some kind of temporal flexibility into the presentation.
Weeks 5–11: Begin sketching the clock interface, and work iteratively every week to develop the concept both conceptually and visually. Along with each week of development, review all work as a group. This is an extended process by design so that an idea can emerge from careful working and reworking of an initial idea which addresses a fundamental interest.
Week 12: Prepare a five to eight minute video that demonstrates the proposed clock interface, how it works, what it looks like, how it behaves, and why it matters.
On September 10, 2014, CEO Tim Cook stood on stage at an Apple Computer special event announcing he had “one more thing” to show the audience of developers, reporters, and fans. The one more thing was Apple Watch, a hotly anticipated hardware which took the outer form of a standard wristwatch but whose functional relationship to a wristwatch was that of the iPhone to a rotary-dial hard-wired Bell telephone. The Apple Watch is of both the future and the past, impossibly retrograde and fantastically forward-pointing. Apple Watch can send email, transcribe and send text messages, show the next events on a calendar, navigate step-by-step to a destination, forecast the weather, keep track of daily exercise, measure and record heartbeats, play podcasts, Apple Pay for goods and services, and so on. Many of its functions were familiar from the iPhone, but the way in which these were now presented to the user was entirely novel. For example, Calendar was reconceived from the spatial metaphor of a month at time, days organized on a two-dimensional grid to a temporal sequence of notifications delivered over the course of a day. Messages was also redesigned from a digressive, interactive chat tool to a more immediate and lower bandwidth channel to encourage brief replies with templated responses such as “Hello!” “What’s up?” and “On my way.” These changes, accommodations to the small screen size and bodily location, were interface design changes. The interface is a collection of choices and together these form a specific point of view which has consequences on how the watch is used.
Using the existing Apple Watch Human Interface guidelines and departing from the conventions only if and when necessary should help projects be more comparable from one student to another, as well as more plausible within the existing Apple Watch interface. As it turns out, redesign of the Apple Watch clock face is the one part of the interface which Apple has identified as off-limits to third-party developers.