iPhone University?


Experience with tech-bent courses has taught me that students often get mired in and, well, a little bent, by still-underdeveloped and inaccessible technology.
Hello Mr. Armen, I’m a fourth-year Industrial Design student at Emily Carr considering enrollment in your 2D design concentration in January. If I understand correctly it’s about developing for small screen technology, in particular the iPhone. That’s basically all the course description accounts for, so would you be able to answer a few questions before I make the leap?
Update December 17, 2008: Haig Armen emailed a reply:
“I’d be happy to answer some questions for you. The course is a new advanced interactive design course – its goal is to familiarize participants in a variety of emerging mediums. Although I plan to give some lectures on possible new approaches for designing for new media like web, mobile and projection, I hope to balance that with some practical workshopping – development tutorials.”

  1. What basic level of knowledge of the iPhone, or similar development platforms, is required–or recommended–to really enjoy the course?
    I’m assuming that no one knows anything about iPhone dev–much of the real work I’ll expect people to take time outside of course time to learn more about development techiques.

  2. Can you quantify the balance (say, in percentages) in the course between theoretical thinking and applied development? Like, is the course more about the meaning and future of ‘small screens’ or about developing useful applications now, that people can use?
    theoretical thinking – 40%
    prototyping (not fully functioning but excellent for usability evaluations) – 30%
    applied dev – 30%

  3. What would your response be to someone concerned about the course, and its students, being mired in API documents and technical hurdles?
    I have a fairly extensive technical knowledge and many resources to find answers including a design and dev team at my design firm LiFT Studios. I plan to impart that development knowledge on to the students of this course. That said, we will not be diving into the deep end of programming for iPhones and more working prototypes that will allow us to get familiar with multitouch screens, device orientation and using a development library.

  4. What technologies and hardware, if any, are provided in the course?
    We actually only need a mac to develop for iPhones and will run an iPhone emulator for testing. Although this is not the ideal for launching a product for release purposes it will be beneficial for our requirments. Having an iPodTouch will be great for testing.

  5. What is your level of experience in developing for small screens?
    My own experience in developing for small screens is not exactly extensive but I’ve been working on small screen design for a year and have been learning a lot about iPhone development over the past year.
  6. Have you taught this particular course, or ones similar to it, before?


My friend Jason is an iPhone nerd. I’m an iPod Touch nerd. We’d probably develop applications for them on our own, so what can a university course offer us that online forums and hours alone troubleshooting in our bedrooms can’t?
Me? I’m a CSS/HTML web designer with little other coding knowledge. I own a first-gen iPod Touch. I noticed your background includes the original CBC Radio 3 website, which I remember and was rather impressed with back in the day, so I guess one more question (well it’s really a compound question, but):

  1. What have you been up to recently and what are some of your other
    interests (graphic design? philosophy? bird watching?)?
    It’s been a couple of years since I’ve left CBC – After CBC’s radio 3 magazine I helped develop Radio 3’s podcast. I’m forging forward with new web technologies with my own interactive design boutique, LiFT Studios. Our studio uses WordPress, Drupal, RubyOnRails and are beginning to create some iPhone app prototypes.

    Some of my recent projects:
    http://www.sala.ubc.ca/
    http://beta.bang-on.com/
    http://www.ccsp.sfu.ca/

    I am very interested in where the web meets our physical space. I would like to explore using the web as a performance instrument or a source of content for dynamic installations.

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