February 20, 2013No Comments

Hello World,

I am Robert, Interaction Designer and enthusiast of arts n' crafts with a soft spot for artisan bakery. Read more

February 17, 2013No Comments

Poppy Vanilla Pseudo Challa


The traditional Challa is a very rich bread, full of sugar and eggs, yet scrumptious and a feast for the senses. There are many recipe variations available, even some eccentric ones and recently we ran into an adaption that sounded too good not to be tried. The Poppy-vanilla Challa. We changed the recipe slightly to a more everyday bread, but kept the slight vanilla-butter-sugar tone.

As with every bread, we start a basic list… If this is your first bread, here is the Baking Guide about all the basic steps it takes to end up with delicious loaf. It couldn’t be simpler. Next up are the ingredients:

  • 5 cups white flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1,5 tsp instant yeast
  • 350 ml water

The Add-on

  • 1 tbsp of poppy seeds
  • +4 tsp sugar (so we have 6 in total)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg

The dough then is rolled into rope-shaped pieces which are braided and brushed with an egg yolk wash before baking to add the golden sheen.

And Beer? No, this is just our little cheap trick to keep vanilla sticks sealed and accessible.

December 22, 2012No Comments

Communicating CoffeeCup

One of the most important aspects of product development is communication. From time to time you realize that people's expectations and views within a project can drift apart. Although everybody agrees on the same goal, the actual project might develop a little bit like this...

Software development can be a very artificial process and there is good reasoning why the sketch might have made you smile. The important part however is, that it doesn't have to be like this. From mockups we learned the value of allowing clients, users and the whole team to get an idea of how the resulting software might work in the future... not only does this help us to indicate the flaws of our design, we also through this process, that the actual piece is what the client had in mind, that we are following the same goal.

A long time ago we started to integrate mockups into the entire product development cycle and the results are great. The site http://getcoffeecup.net for example is a pure mockup. The product doesn't exist, yet by designing its box upfront it allows us to find out how much and where we have to invest to make this project a success. This mockup allows us not only to communicate the idea, but almost the entire project as it almost be finished.

Today we launched CoffeeCup, a software project we just started. However many artifacts we found important have been rapidly polished to communicate our mayor contribution points. Naturally this is far away from perfect, but that is the intention. Similar to most mockups, this is a playground nonetheless.

November 22, 2012No Comments

From trash to treasure in a day

Being developers of mobile applications, we have a lot of testing devices to field test our apps with users and customers. Due to the rapid development of the mobile market, however, we also have a lot of devices in our drawers getting dusty, because they are no longer industry standard or of interest to our clients.

Though not in a great demand anymore, these old devices are still incredible gadgets. Our latest addition to 'the drawer' was the iPhone 3G. This device still sports some pretty impressive specs for a mobile device and conveniently fits in the palm. Now, with the introduction of Xcode 4.5, Apple finally dropped the support for armv6, thus officially labeling devices such as the iPhone 3G dead meat and we understand this decision for the sake of progress. In comparison to its younger siblings, even our 3G is now a bit worn out. However,  because it has never been carried around a lot, it is still in good shape apart from the weak battery which eliminates its intended use.


Because the 3G is such a great device, but officially of no relevance to our work anymore, we decided to honor it with a day of our monthly tinkering. Brainstorming about ways to upcycle the device by taking advantage of its hardware and software power, we decided to create an app for the bathroom. The app we created is not rocket science, but a nice contribution to our office and an instructive little finger exercise for many of us.

In order to give new life to our old buddy, we gave ourselves a simple but fuzzy objective: "Let's create an app that uses specific features of the hardware and reintegrates the phone practically back into an office life." We wanted to repurpose the device by showing off its capabilities and morphing it from an unfortunately useless object to a smart ubiqutious piece of technology in the office. Location and purpose have been decided through lot with the results of "bathroom" and "comfort" as design parameters.

Let's make an app for that

The app coined “DJ Privy” is addressing a simple issue. Daily maintenance routines, such as the walk to the bathroom, are monotonous. Moreover, in a bathroom we sometimes create sounds that we don’t really like to share with the world outside the bathroom door. Everybody has been in this situation once and although it has never been an issue in the office, we thought it might be a valid problem case for the sake of tinkering.

DJ Privy has been conceived as a combination of a stationary alarm clock, webradio and a light sensor. Placed in the bathroom, the app is built to play music once a light switch has been turned on so you don’t have to worry about any sounds anymore. On top of that it even caters for a little bit of entertainment.

Putting the pieces together

As mentioned, with the introduction of Xcode 4.5, Apple finally dropped the support for armv6 so there is no chance to deploy to the 3G under normal conditions. Fortunately, with the help of this little post, we were able to deploy to the 3G despite Snow Leopard and the new IDE.

Keeping in mind, that most of the problems we had to address had most likely already been solved by others, we looked around for code snippets and useful libraries. Matt Gallagher, for example, wrote a great streaming app that we used as foundation. Being able to stream a music station (we used soma.fm’s secret agent fm), we set up a little gcd to analyse the luminosity of the back camera in specific time intervals and handle the music stream at the same time. Thereby, DJ Privy is able to continuously check if the light in the bathroom has been switched on and to play a tune if this is the case.

Ready to take the stage

For a couple of days now, DJ Privy is filling the bathroom with acoustic irradiation. In the following video you can see our little project in action...

If you are interested in the source code, you can download a copy from the repository at github. It needs to be mentioned though, that we glued this app within a couple of hours with a variety of distraction along the way, so be warned, the code is as pretty as a rag rug.

Again, the app is neither rocket science nor constructive progress in any way. However, there is huge appreciation to them good folks on the interweb, who make this kind of prototyping possible and who love the idea of repurposing. It's good times for tinkering folks...

August 13, 20121 Comment

Elevator Pitch

Many companies present themselves on the interweb. Many of them do the same stuff.

So how do you stand out?

Truth is, that you don't have to be that different to make a lasting first impression. Just show who you are and why you are good at what you do, as a business, even on a personal level. As I was helping out friends with their online presentation, we revised a couple of factors that would lead to a successful and convincing site. We stated the following as essential:

  • Be clear, no gibberish. Just state what you are actually doing.
  • Get to the point and appreciate that everybodys time is valuable.
  • Ignite interest and create trust in you and your brand.

The elevator pitch

Image the following situation: You meet somebody in an elevator. Being a potential client or not, he is asking you, what you are doing.

  • Floor 1: Tell what you do.
  • Floor 2: Give examples.
  • Floor 3: Answer one or two questions in detail.
  • Floor 4: Thanks for the ride. Give me a call.

By the time your random visitor leaves the elevator, he should be able to grasp what you are doing and how good you are. Maybe he even asks for a number.

In a similar way, we created the site that you can preview at the bottom. Once you enter the site, it briefly describes what the guys are doing. If this is not for you, you can leave right now. However, if you think you stumbled upon sth interesting you are invited to the next floor. Scroll down, there is more beyond the fold. By the time you reached the end of the page, you have a pretty good understanding, what their business is about. The next step is up to you. Now this is neither rocket science nor novelty, however we paid particular attention to integrate the points that we stated as essential above. This is what happened:

  • Clarity not only on a textual but also on a visual level. In fact, you don't need to read a single word on the final page to understand what it is about and why you should go for it. Graphics, Gridding and friends are cerebral scaffolding and ease understanding. The text explains the rest.
  • Brevity comes by throwing out everything that doesn't add value. Pyramid writing and good content flow create a unique and coherent story from top to bottom.
  • Ignition by showing professionality and personality. That is all it takes as long as it shows who you are. The boys develop software. They are quick, practical, efficient, yet elegant and that is what they show.

July 31, 2012No Comments

Home Sweet Home


I recently took over some design work for an online configurator that allows people to personally design their glasses (or well... the framing for them). As you never really get a second chance to make a first impression, we looked at the home/landing page of the configurator which would consolidate all the incoming traffic. Within a couple of hours we came up with a simple yet effective design that is worth sharing for its structure and its components.

It only take a glance for this site to work. Through the photo it creates a mood with the characteristics of the product. It briefly explains the concept of the configurator and with the 3 doodles makes it main points. Further more this site introduces a colour theme with an explicit action color (in this case, orange is used throughout the app, to lead users).

With a very small amount of effort, this page welcomes, directs and convinces.

June 24, 2012No Comments

Pine Pesto Pane

2013-01-12 17.28.52

This is the result of a tiny experiment. My wife and I love bread with a thin spread-like layer of genovese pesto. Now we were curious how the taste would evolve if we bake the pesto directly into the rolls. We tried a couple of combinations and liked this combo quite a lot. Basically we are taking a basil pesto (pesto verde i.e. olive oil, pepper, fine pine nut pieces, some parmesan and garlic) and some halfed pine nuts to create a nutty emphasis and some structure. Nom Nom Nom

As with every bread, we start a basic list... here the Guerilla Guide about all the basic steps it takes to end up with delicious loaf. It couldn't be simpler. Next up are the ingredients:

  • 5 cups wheat flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1,5 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 350 ml water

The add-on

  • 4 tsp pesto verde
  • 100g halfed pine nuts

Bon appetit!

June 12, 2012No Comments

Digital Wedding Preparations

Screen Shot 2013-02-24 at 3.23.06 PM

I'm excited that Michelle and I will finally celebrate our marriage in the alps, bringing together family and friends from all over the world. Due to the babylonian nature of the event we are keeping it takes quite some preparation to get everybody on track. However it is also a lot of fun :-)

As of now, the progress of our preparations can be found at: http://meetthebrauers.com/

May 20, 2012No Comments

Rosemary Sourdough

2013-01-24 23.43.13

Wholefoods, please come to Germany! One of my favourite food temples in London and across the States is wholefoods. A haven for every food snob. Their bakery sections are incredibly good for a chain and I always wanted to reverse engineer the bakery goods. Now that we live back in Germany, I had to get my grips on it and start to bake those wholefoods goodies myself. The first success story is the rosemary sourdough.

As with every bread, we start a basic list... here the Guerilla Guide about all the basic steps it takes to end up with delicious loaf. It couldn't be simpler. Next up are the ingredients:

  • 5 cups wheat flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1,5 tsp instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil (less prominent than the usual olive oil)
  • 350 ml water

The add-on

  • 4 tsp chopped up rosemary
  • 75g sourdough

Bon appetit!

May 4, 2012No Comments

Removing Stumbling Blocks

Hands down, forms are probably one of the most annoying topics when it comes to user interfaces. For users as well as for designers it seems to be an odyssey, brimming with bad experiences. In the last couple of months, I have been working in a lot of projects involving interfaces for mobile devices in all shapes and colors. For me, it was very interesting to observe in user testing how my designs as well as the designs of colleagues, although all of them seemed to be very informed and sometimes clever solutions, finally were torn apart by users.

As designing mobile interfaces is still pretty much virgin soil for a lot of people and as there are not a lot of useful guidelines, I started to write down all the common problems, that I observed. Embedded into a little bit of prose, the guys from Smashing just recently featured those notes. The original article can be found on Smashing Magazine.

March 9, 2012No Comments

Only for qew

Side projects are the bee's knees. I am helping out a friend with some design work. Above our current logo idea. There new baby is a sort of video heap. As you surf the net, you can add interesting videos to the heap (or the queue = qew). Then, when you are bored or have the time to watch a video, qew will have already sorted your collection and will suggest a good one to watch.

Looking forward to see, where that goes.

February 19, 2012No Comments

It’s all about the Snooze

I am not a morning person. I never was and will probably never be, but I have a plan. In the last couple of years I tried many things to improve my personal ability of getting out of the bed in morning, after a fashion. The problem is simple and consistent. I work late, tinker until early in the morning, sleep, try to do some sport, run to work. Most of the times: half asleep. This is going to end.

Trying a lot of different helpers to get out of the bed led up to the conclusion that I have to combine the forces. There are a variety of factors that would create a perfect wake-up system. Naturally this might only work for me. Everybody's routine and preferences are different, but maybe you are a similar kind of edible dormouse and can benefit from this.

In the picture above you can see a little sketch. The sketch only shows some components that would make up a perfect personal alarm. It is a bit technical, but this is what will be built and in a couple of posts how it exactly works and how it will look like.

These are the important components...

The mobile

Like a lot of other folks, I don't really have a physical alarm clock anymore. My mobile phone is with me all the time and I don't even remember when exactly it replaced the alarm clock. Since it became some sort of miniature mission control for my life, it also handles the management of waking me up. Actually it doesn't do a great job, but is the most practical device for management and set-up.

The goal: The smart phone needs will be mission control centre.


Sleeping in on a Saturday or Sunday is great. Not because you can sleep late, but you can wake up with the sun. Naturally. Unfortunately, most of the times, that I have to get out of bed, the sun is not quite there yet, so I have to wake up in the dark and find my way out of the cave. Philips recently tackled this problem quite nicely. Their wake-up light simulates a sunrise in your bedroom, hence helps you to. They say it's a clinically tested improvement. Friends say it works great. I tried it, I love it.

The goal: The alarm clock will simulate a sunrise.

Versatile Audio

This is where the iOS built-in alarm sucks the most. It is repetitive and limited. Getting new sounds is a hassle. The bigger problem is, that I somehow get used to repetitive sounds and learn to ignore them without intent. People living close to a streetcar or train station are most familiar with this phenomenon. Once you have guests in your place and they ask you, how annoying the noise is, your first thought probably is: "What noise". You learned to overhear it. Same for me with alarm sounds. That is why I have an alarm clock that plays real radio in the morning. Every morning something different. Because many German music stations are

The goal: The wake-up sound will be some sort of webcast.


Many of the components in the sketch, I have never touched in my life. They all have been discussed with friends and colleagues. Everything seems to make sense, but it is all subject to change. The reason for putting this together is simply to learn about couple of things about prototyping (physical, server side, clients) and for the sake of tinkering. At the moment, there is absolutely nothing interesting on the telly.

The goal: Enjoy and learn while doing.

A little extra

There is a little extra gimmick that might be worth investigating... but more about that later.

January 5, 2012No Comments

Buffalo Bin

Seeing a bunch of kids swarming around any kind of furball in a petting zoo is quite normal and mostly adorable. Seeing a bunch of kids swarming around a trash can in that same petting zoo made me look closely. In fact it made my day.

Just a few weeks ago, my girlfriend and I were visiting the Woolaroc wildlife preserve in Oklahoma. Woolaroc itself is what's left of Frank Philips' (the founder of the Philips Pretroleum Company) private home and has been turned into a public wildlife preserve. It is a pretty tract of land in the middle of nowhere, but more importantly... it is the home of the best trash can in the world.

The trash can I am talking about is the cute little fellow in the picture on top and the first ever trash can that I made photos of or had to tell about to friends and family about. What you see, is a model of a baby buffalo that is hooked up through some sort of vaccum cleaner to a rubbish bin. If you put some light rubbish in front of the mouth of the buffalo, it will simply "eat it" out of your hand.

Long time ago the petting zoo at Woolaroc had a problem. The kids and adults that would come to the petting zoo created a significant amount of litter (Candywrappers and what not). They still do. The problem however was that some litter would be left on the grounds and hence got snacked by some of the animals. That wasn't too healthy for their diets. The usual educational sign or announcement through the speakers probably didn't solve the problem, so the people at Woolaroc chose a different angle: Making it fun!

It works, solves a problem and makes people smile. Design par excellence.

December 27, 2011No Comments

Plug and Play

This undercover USB stickman is a usability nightmare, probably not a long term investment but ingenious on so many different levels. Kudos to whoever contrived the little man, you make me smile.

Yours truly, Homo Ludens

November 28, 2011No Comments

Creative Cretaceous

I liked school. Not the whole deal in general, in parts it has been very boring. But there are a few things about this place that I start to miss and wish to incorporate back into the everyday. One of the things I miss the most are the big chalkboard walls in every room.

Chalkboards are fantastic canvases. Built to facilitate temporary and disposable pictures, they support and further thinking about any related area for teams, explorers and alike. Especially after having spent a lot of my professional time with visual thinking or the exploration of complex systems, I try to surround myself with doodles wherever there is a problem to solve, thoughts to develop, stories to tell, ideas to gather etc. Visualisations are incredibly helpful, canvasses are powerful tools. However only chalkboards seem to have an aura that is one-of-a-kind. My kind of canvas.

Recently I just bought some chalkboard paint, that is surprisingly available in almost every hardware store in the UK, a cheap mdf board, an old baroquian frame and some colourful chalk from ikea... and we are ready to go. At the top, you see the first trial... it is fantastic :-)

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