I'm spending my final full week as a Brooklynite and feeling the bitter sweet pain of saying goodbye, while looking hopefully towards the next chapter of my life. After 19 years as a New Yorker, I'm heading with my family to live in Marin County, CA.
New York is a city that I've loved from childhood, and the only place I could see myself living as a young adult. With my head full of every cliché dream, I believed it was the place I needed to live to find myself. When I moved here I thought I would work in the art world, where I spent the first few years hustling, but I discovered my path was to lead elsewhere. I've thrived in this inspiring city for a long time, and drew energy from this place. It's helped make me who I am today.
I spent a short time in the first few years living in Manhattan at Times Square and the East Village. The rest of my days were spent primarily in Brooklyn at Cobble Hill, Boerum Hill, Sunset Park, and in the last 9 years, Park Slope. If you know me, you know I've considered myself a Brooklynite more than a New Yorker. There's an energy, creativity, diversity, and much more relaxed sense of being I've found in Brooklyn that is wonderful. But nothing lasts, and although I thought I'd live the rest of my days residing in Brooklyn, the pull to the outdoors became too strong. With 2 sons that need to bust out, break free from living in boxes, and restraining their boyish need to bounce and scream to be quiet for neighbors, the timing just feels right.
Many of the designers I've come to know, respect and admire have been my neighbors here. This town introduced me to some incredibly smart people who have influenced me, from the original group of IAs that met in Victor Lombardi's IA Salon over 10 years ago, to the more recent impromptu gatherings Lou Rosenfeld, Yoni Knoll, and I have put together with our BK/UX peeps. I've had a good run, and I've met so many incredible people here who I hope to never lose as friends. I hope none of you hold it against me for leaving to the left coast, and I thank you for your friendship.
So it's with a little sadness that I say goodbye to New York, and with hopeful anticipation that I'm welcomed to the Bay Area. If you're in San Francisco, know that I plan to spend a lot of time exploring in your beautiful city, and that I'm always looking for like-minded UXers to have coffee with. I've owed a few people a coffee date for years now.
The 2012-2013 conference calendar is lining up and I've been starting to track the upcoming events as tickets start to go on sale. I've omitted those that are already sold out. Here's what's looking interesting on my radar, listed in date order. Am sure I'm missing quite a few. This is a good start.
Usable yet Useless: Why Every Business Needs Product Discovery Great discovery and "right design" article in ALA. "We’ve long accepted that for a product to be useful, it needs to have acceptable levels of both utility (“whether it provides the features you need”) and usability (“how easy & pleasant these features are to use”). Yet far too often, we seem to ignore the former in favor of the latter, ending up with lots of easy and pleasant applications that have no reason to exist."
Left to its own devices, the mob will augment, accessorize, spam, degrade and noisify whatever they have access to, until it loses beauty and function and becomes something else.
It seems democratic and non-elitist to set it and forget it and let the users take over. But the tools we use (Wikipedia) and the brands we covet (Nike or Ducati) resolutely refuse to become democracies.
Note: @brennen takes issue with the Wikipedia example when it comes to feature selection, and convinced me that it's not the best example to make. Although I think maybe the point is that Mediawiki implementation on Wikipedia is controlled, but whether or not the decisions about what is used in Wikipedia is democratic or not, I don't know.
Light drop this week because I was out camping for most of it. Little tidbit about the Link Drop name. I like it because it reminds me of a record needle drop.
Keeping the goal in sight while designing component flows - (Ryan Singer) Ryan Singer looks at a product component that fails to deliver on satisfying a user's core need, and reminds not to design and reviewing components in isolation. Every build and iteration requires review and circling back to evaluate the component in terms of the need identified in the use case scenario. Put into action, he says:
How do we integrate the components back into a context for review? Ask the question: “What is the user trying to do here?” The job the user has in mind is the best integration point because the user’s mind doesn’t tidily follow the boundaries of implementation.
Everything in its Right Pace This is a terrific essay on considering the pace of delivery of information in web products, and how in a world of constant delivery, sometimes a slower pace, selective or scant data delivery, and better signal to noise is more appropriate and valuable in a given context.
Apple Literally Designs Its Products Around a Kitchen Table "Longtime Apple industrial designer Chris Stringer testified that the company has a small team of 15 or 16 people that fashion all of the company’s products. The group meets frequently, literally sitting around a kitchen table, to debate all products under development. “We’ll sit there with our sketch books and trade ideas,” Stringer said, appearing as the first witness in the Apple vs. Samsung trial. “That’s where the really hard, brutal honest criticism comes in.”
From there, the group puts the sketches into a computer-aided design program and, if warranted, creates a physical model. “Our role is to imagine products that don’t exist and guide them to life,” Stringer said. There could be 50 designs for a single button, he added. “We’re a pretty maniacal group of people,” he said."
Hannah Donovan's essay in A List Apart considers the issue of pace of delivery of information in web products. In a world where information is streamed constantly to us if we allow it, sometimes a slower pace, selective or scant data delivery, and better signal to noise is more appropriate and valuable. Context, medium, and place of use are important factors for determining delivery and pace.
I've been interested in the slow movement in recent years, as it relates to sustainable living, slow design, slow food, and the 1K Movement. In the summer of 2011, I was fortunate enough to experience a very special meal on a very small farm/restaurant in Italy's Le Marche region. All the food and drink prepared is grown on the farm or sourced hyper-locally, from meat and vegetables, to wine—everything within 1 kilometer. It was the most profound eating experience of my life. Little bits and pieces of that day have made me think about how my approach to work and life have become more and more connected to each other, and how much of an impact one's production and consumption decisions have on the world.
From a design and lifestyle perspective, I like to reference this summary of the philosophy of the Slow Movement by Professor Guttorm Fløistad, found on Wikipedia:
The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.
It's a bit touchy-feely, and lives entirely in the center of Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs. But the idea of taking a holistic approach to fulfilling needs in all things, provides the basis for actually satisfying them in other ways up the triangle. Specifically, I'm thinking of the idea of fulfilling the needs for esteem and self-actualization as one example. In a scenario where speed and volume has become the norm, how has that situation impacted our lives?
I like how Donovan tells the story of learning from the experience at Last.fm to imagine This is My Jam, a product that goes the other way, and focuses on the quality and value of the experience, using pace as the point of pivot. I like this approach. I have mostly stopped consuming from the firehose, and seek out the products that deliver a signal that I get more value from, more satisfaction, or that fulfill my basic needs with less fluff and noise. The decision to work with a product and team that follows those ideals is important to me as well.
Slow Design is a democratic and holistic design approach for creating appropriately tailored solutions for the long-term well being of people and the planet. To this end, Slow Design seeks out positive synergies between the elements in a system, celebrates diversity and regionalism, and cultivates meaningful relationships that add richness to life.
The Slow Movement is not just a lifestyle choice, but as designers, we can choose to have an impact on the world based on these ideals.
Stephen Kenn: Inheritance collection LA designer learns of a military surplus facility and upcycles tons of fabric into furniture with a mid-century nod in form. The video tells the story of the vison and spirit of Kenn. I love videos like this, and the Made by Hand series, that show how a maker starts with a pure idea that is imbued with the creator's beliefs and turns it into a usable product. /via Core77
Design Tip: Never Use Black by Ian Storm Taylor "Problem is, we see dark things and assume they are black things. When, in reality, it’s very hard to find something that is pure black. Roads aren’t black. Your office chair isn’t black. The sidebar in Sparrow isn’t black. Words on web pages aren’t black."
Sir Jonathan Ive: We nearly axed the iPhone, it wasn't enough to be good ...we knew it had to be great - The Independent Sir Jony, who has worked at Apple since 1992, said it was not uncommon to feel during the planning stage of a device that "we were pursuing something that we think 'that's really incredibly compelling', but we're really struggling to solve the problem that it represents". "We have been, on a number of occasions, preparing for mass production and in a room and realised we are talking a little too loud about the virtues of something. That to me is always the danger, if I'm trying to talk a little too loud about something and realising I'm trying to convince myself that something's good.
MPG - OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion - OS X Mountain Lion: Data Loss via 'Save As' Apple is crazy bold. I wonder how many would go with hiding options like Save As, using a key combination. There are some serious side effects to their hidden save as, by the way, as this post notes, resulting in the need to use the Revert To... feature, a technique also referred to as "unfucking." All of this only makes me think of people who use the term "unfuckingbelievable" in moments of crisis and disbelief. It's never easy to remove from an interface, but at this level of use, it is is bold and not at all unbelievable.
I got around to watching David Gelb's documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi after seeing it making the rounds on the web repeatedly. I've been on a documentary kick lately, and this has made it into the category of films I'd re-watch.
The film looks at the life of celebrated sushi chef, Jiro Ono, whose small restaurant serves only sushi and requires a reservation 3 months in advance, and who is regarded as the most masterful sushi chef in Japan. After watching, I took a week to see what resonated with me, and there are a few topic that stick, related to the nurturing of one's craft.
The themes I latched onto focussed on the conversations about Jiro's craft. He holds steadfast to a strong work ethic, and the notion that perfection can only be achieved through years of rigor, experience, and apprenticeship.
The chef has focussed his life on serving sushi only. Apparently master chefs around the world agree that his minimalist approach and focus have lead to a remarkable depth of flavor that is hard to match. Food writer, Yamamoto, interviewed extensively for the film, sums his work up saying, "Ultimate simplicity leads to purity."
What's valuable to notice in this story is the excruciating attention to detail and rigor, especially as told by Jiro's son and apprentice, Yoshikazu, who is to inherit his fathers restaurant. He talks about having talent (taste in this case), and says making a mark depends on how hard you work.
"We're not trying to be exclusive or elite. The techniques we use are no big secret. It's just about making an effort and repeating the same thing every day."
I think in a way, he is selling himself short when he talks about talent, because I get the feeling he is talking about his father, not himself. But there is something in the depth of knowledge that Yoshikazu has acquired that interests me. It's shown in a much simpler manner, as if he is the worker/doer behind the master, but to me this story steals the spotlight. In doing the work, he is completely subservient to and obedient to the discipline and to his teacher. Everything is taken seriously, and rules are stubbornly adhered to.
I like this idea of the acquisition of skill in the pursuit of being perfect, but there's a sense of sadness, doubt, and feeling of inadequacy in Yoshikazu, until the punchline at the end. There are interesting and at times sad stories of parenting or lack of it, cultural and familial responsibility, and the struggle and drive that comes out of necessity and need to survive. Throughout the telling of this story, it felt like the hyper focus and obsession cost dearly in other ways.
I think if anything, I feel humbled by the obsession with craft told in the story. I don't feel compelled to be as extreme in my own pursuit of craft, at the cost of balance and life, but there is something positive in the message about showing up and doing the work that is told so much more completely here than in any clever and terse poster. Definitely worth the watch.
An Unexpected Ass Kicking Great post by Joel Runyon, who talks about getting schooled by Russel Kirsch. 2 takeaways: 1) Nothing is withheld from us which we have conceived to do. 2) Do things that have never been done. The first meaning: if you’ve conceived something in your mind, decide to do it, and are willing to put in the work – nothing can stop you. The second is fairly self-explanatory but carries the extra weight of it coming from the guy who invented the very thing that’s letting me type these words out on the internet.
Disney Researchers Augment Touch Sensation with REVEL "Presenting at SIGGRAPH earlier this week, Disney researchers showed off REVEL, experimental technology for adding virtual textures to everyday objects using electrical charge. You can touch two-dimensional objects, projections or objects in the distance and receive sensation of touching a texture or even a whole, complete three-dimensional object."
Inge Druckrey: Teaching to See on Vimeo “This [film] is about patient and dedicated teaching, about learning to look and visualize in order to design, about the importance of drawing. It is one designer’s personal experience of issues that face all designers, expressed with sympathy and encouragement, and illustrated with examples of Inge [Druckrey]’s own work and that of grateful generations of her students. There are simple phrases that give insights into complex matters, for example that letterforms are ‘memories of motion.’ Above all, it is characteristic of Inge that in this examination of basic principles the word “beautiful” is used several times.”
I'm trying some new things. The link drop will be an unfiltered list of things I bookmarked during the week, with some minimal notes. Some of these things may make it to parts of the wiki or blog. Here we go with the first one.
Google Web Fonts Open Sans Open Sans is a humanist sans serif typeface designed by Steve Matteson, Type Director of Ascender Corp. It was optimized for print, web, and mobile interfaces, and has excellent legibility characteristics in its letterforms.
Asbury Agile has launched the site for their second conference, which takes place in Asbury Park, the The Boss' stomping grounds, on October 3, 2012. I'm honored to be one of the guest speakers, to give a talk on interface sketching. There'll be an awesome cast of speakers including Chris Ackermann, Matt Bango, Brad Frost, Sasha Laundy, Kenneth Reitz, Tomer Sharon, Rob Spectre, Srjdjan Strbanovic. Early bird tickets are now available (save $50).
Asbury Agile is a friendly, single track conference for web professionals and students to gather, share ideas, learn, and connect with their peeps. The event lakes place at Watermark, in Asbury Park, NJ. You can follow @asburyagile for event updates.
The video from last year's conference looks like it's a manageable, intimate event that draws a great crowd from the NJ/NYC web development community. I'm excited not only because I grew up in NJ, but I'm also looking forward to chatting with people about interface sketching, and learn from everyone I meet. I will likely be posting some of my thoughts in a new Sketch section I'm working on for the Konigi wiki. Stay tuned.