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With experience ranging from user research and design strategy to interaction design, hardware and software prototyping and interactive environments, Jeff Hoefs is able to contribute his skills and knowledge from the initial research and concept phase all the way through product development. His core interest lies in developing interactive prototypes to bring concepts to life throughout the design process. Over his career, Hoefs has contributed to the design, prototyping and development efforts of a wide range of digital and physical products and environments for clients such as Motorola, LG, Google, HP, Time Warner, Vodafone and Panasonic. Hoefs is currently a Lead Technologist at Method in NYC and an Adjunct Faculty member in the Interaction Design MFA program at the School of Visual Arts.

07.09.13

Making Sense of Sensors

How did you learn interactive/web design and get started in this profession? I started from the art side, mixing sculpture, code and electronics to create interactive installations. I actually avoided web design for a long time. It wasn’t until the idea of web applications became more prevalent that I got interested in designing for the web.

What tools do you find indispensable for your work? A good text editor, GitHub for code collaboration, Balsamic for super quick digital mockups, Adobe Illustrator for more detailed mockups and wireframes, Adobe Photoshop for pushing pixels around, Skype for interacting with remote contractors and clients, Keynote for presenting high-level concepts and Arduino for physical UI prototypes.

What personal/pro-bono creative projects are you working on, if any? I have developed a toolkit and JavaScript library called Breakout that enables designers and developers to create web applications that connect to the physical world via sensors and actuators.

How do you keep yourself inspired? Conversations with friends and colleagues, videos from conferences and other talks, teaching, Twitter, blogs, books and getting out of the city every now and then.

What sites/blogs do you frequent? smashingmagazine.com, berglondon.com, html5rocks.com, net.tutsplus.com, netmagazine.com, engadget.com and creativeapplications.net.

If the Internet didn’t exist, what would you be doing right now? I’d probably still be making interactive art or designing user interfaces for physical products and desktop applications.

What is your favorite app, and why? I don’t really have a favorite, but there is an app called Pocket that I use all the time to organize online articles and videos that I want to revisit and use in lessons for my class.

What's your favorite quote? Henry Ford: "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses"—although there is no evidence that Ford actually said these exact words. As much as I believe in and practice user-centered design, it really takes a combination of user-centered and “genius" design to develop a truly innovative product.

Whose work do you love and look toward for inspiration? I’m often inspired by Berg. Their approach to design is more experimental, more of a build-it-first mentality with lots of iterative prototyping and great documentation of process. This is the way design should be done, in my opinion.

What's the best site or app you've seen lately? What so great about it? Super Sync Sports, which was one of Google’s Chrome Experiments, was pretty great. It demonstrated pairing multiple devices to a web application to play a fun, retro-style multi-player game. I loved the use of gestures on the phone interface to mimic running, swimming and cycling motions.

What well-known site is most desperately in need of a redesign? Pretty much any government site: usa.gov, irs.gov, whitehouse.gov, uscis.gov, etc.

What excites you about interactive design right now? The boundary between web and native applications is becoming increasingly blurred as more and more hardware is accessible to the browser. When web applications have the same level of hardware access that native applications do, you can begin to design for what has been coined “just-in-time interaction.”

What emerging technologies and innovations will have the biggest impact on how you design in the next few years? We’re moving from an era of Smart Phones to an era of Smart Objects. As more objects are connected to the web, designers will be faced with the challenge of making sense of all of this data. They’ll need to look beyond the screen and social networks and into sensor networks, multi-device interactions, and interactive spaces.

What skills do young creatives need to succeed in interactive design today? Mastery of tools will only get you so far. Learn to listen, observe and engage.