“These emotions— gratitude, compassion, authentic pride, and even guilt—work from the bottom up, without requiring cognitive effort on our part, to shape decisions that favor the long-term. If we focus on instilling the capacity to experience these emotional states regularly, we’ll build resources that will automatically spring forth in reflexive and productive ways. In essence, we’ll be giving ourselves inoculations against temptation that, like antibodies in our bloodstream, will be ready and waiting to combat possible threats to our well-being.”—How America Can Finally Learn to Deal With Its Impulses - Pacific Standard: The Science of Society
“7. Pity the readers
They have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don’t really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school —- twelve long years.
So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient readers, ever willing to simplify and clarify —- whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.
That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique Constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.”—Advice to writers by Vonnegut
“They hoped that I would become understandable —- and therefore understood. And there went my dream of doing with words what Pablo Picasso did with paint or what any number of jazz idols did with music. If I broke all the rules of punctuation, had words mean whatever I wanted them to mean, and strung them together higgledy-piggledy, I would simply not be understood. So you, too, had better avoid Picasso-style or jazz-style writing, if you have something worth saying and wish to be understood.
Readers want our pages to look very much like pages they have seen before. Why? This is because they themselves have a tough job to do, and they need all the help they can get from us.”—Advice to writers by Vonnegut
“Spade and Sperduti have eschewed the idea that the best way to sell a product is to tell your customers what they should think about it. Instead, they believe that a brand should speak for itself through its interactions with customers. Those interactions, in turn, must be driven by an authentic and clear brand vision. The general idea, says Spade, is that no matter the size of your company, your brand should “act small.””—The Power of Brand Identity | Inc.com
“The modern engineer, while blessed with libraries and frameworks that remove complexity in order to focus on the problem at hand, is still constrained by the need to walk up and down a ladder of abstraction levels. Software engineering is not yet plumbing — or Legos — because our standards are incomplete, our libraries incompatible, scaling is still not free and our software still buggy. All require the creator to leave his or her rung on the ladder of abstraction.”—The Happy Demise of the 10X Engineer | Andreessen Horowitz
“I won’t lie though. At a certain point, I got distracted. Some guy named Richard cold emailed me and offered to help me redesign my website. We spent time working on it and editing it together … Guess what? The design change didn’t affect my sales at all.”—How I grew Sumo Jerky to $10,000 a month
It struck me that part of the reason we always stay jacked in is that we want everyone — at the other end of the phone, on Facebook and Twitter, on the web, on email — to know that we are part of the now. If we look away, we worry we will disappear.
We are all on that train, the one that left print behind, the one where we are constantly in real time, where we know a little about everything and nothing about anything, really. And there is no quiet car.
“Whenever people complain in the winter, I want them to step back and appreciate what they have. Wait until perspiration soaks through your clothing daily. Wait until humidity violates you repeatedly. Wait until your electric bill is ten million dollars because any moment without freezing artificial air is unacceptable. Wait until you have to navigate the thick crowds of people who are finally brave enough to come outside. It’s a battle you cannot win. Winter is different. You bundle up. You’’e prepared. In the summer, you aimlessly wander. You’re out in the open. You’re vulnerable.”—Winter Is Better Than Summer | Four Pins
For our penultimate class for the semester last week, we asked the students to pair off and perform root cause analysis on a failure they experienced this semester. They summarized the conversations they had with the rest of the class, and these were the themes that…
One of my favorite classes in the SVA IxD MFA, and I’m thankful I can observe, send along some support (via Kickstarter) to some of the projects, and share in the lessons learned vicariously through this blog.
“Creating something great requires that you surround yourself with people who will do whatever it takes to get it right. It’s an obsession, and it’s fueled by caring. Finding these people is hard, but they are supremely worth it. When people who care attack a problem, magical things tend to happen.”—https://delightedapp.com/blog/care
“You have no idea what you would do if you were poor until you are poor. And not intermittently poor or formerly not-poor, but born poor, expected to be poor and treated by bureaucracies, gatekeepers and well-meaning respectability authorities as inherently poor. Then, and only then, will you understand the relative value of a ridiculous status symbol to someone who intuits that they cannot afford to not have it.”—http://tressiemc.com/2013/10/29/the-logic-of-stupid-poor-people/#
“First of all, one of the things that someone once told me is: this is not brain surgery. This is not rocket science. This is taking care of people and trying to meet their expectations. That’s it. If you identify what their expectations are, then you can let them know right away if you’re going to meet them. And if you’re not going to meet them, then you gotta tell ‘em…Usually what they want is recognition and acknowledgement.”—
“I was somewhat taken back, both in awe of my mom’s K-O defense of the Designer’s Bane and in what was an almost instantaneous re-wiring of how I viewed design and the audience it intends to engage. We so often wrap ourselves in aesthetic considerations that we’re blinded to the necessity of the things we’re actually designing around: purpose, function, and people.”—
The rub is that products are invariably an approximation of the promise behind them. This is probably more true today than ever before, as we can build and market earlier and more easily in a global web market.
Those of us in the business of making products know the drill well. The slide from big idea to customer experience is a long road of approximation; a honing that is often reduced to throwing out what doesn’t work in the hopes of discovering what truly does. That’s just reality, exacerbated 1000x when the gestalt of the product in any way depends on the network of users who adopt it.
This changes the marketing game completely, making the best solution to wire intent and customer context into the bits of the product itself.
“The truth is, learning how to learn is the hardest part of acquiring knowledge. Learning takes courage, to admit what you don’t know; it takes paranoia, to question the wisdom of those who tell you what they know; it takes persistence in the face of the impossibley (sic) formidable weight of the amassed brilliance of those who came before you. Most of all, it takes a brash foolishness to believe that you could ever add anything of worth on top of said brilliance.”—
Love this post. You can learn a lot from people’s reactions to a reference point, even if that reference point is wrong. It becomes a conversation that’s relative to something as opposed to being in absolute terms.
“Many people my age or older half-joke about wishing to be younger. Wishing to be young is a coward’s wish. People who wish to be younger would squander that miracle. They’re wasting the time they have now pretending they’d make better use of a different now.”—
“As the details fade, the stories - what we remember of them - become more interesting as the rough edges smooth out. My memories are better than the reality. Not only is that ok, it sustains me as I get older.”—http://blog.aweissman.com/2013/04/memories.html - Great post on why time and distance between memory and fact can be good/valuable.
“What I discovered is that if you care about other people first, even business people cannot help but care back. Of course, it is theoretically possible that someone cannot reciprocate empathy, and in that case my approach will not lead to a deal. But I haven’t found anyone like that yet, and I wouldn’t want to work with them if I did.”—http://qz.com/77020/the-secret-to-a-higher-salary-is-to-ask-for-nothing-at-all/
“In retrospect, Flowers believes that “the most sophisticated thing designers ever do is decide what to design.” Telling students in an introductory class to design “something” thus challenged them with the most complex task they could face. It’s much more reasonable, he says, to get them to think about “how do you solve this problem—rather than what is the problem.””—http://www.technologyreview.com/article/422808/a-champion-for-supernerds/ Thank you Timehop for resurfacing this profile of MIT professor Woodie Flowers.
“Going beyond empathy is imperative for designers. At its best, our discipline allows people to understand, debate, and acknowledge our differences, but also work for the greater good. Isn’t this an imperative for the larger world?”—
“Modern science was only invented 400 years ago, and it is a good example of what social thinking can do with a high threshold. Science requires a society because even people who are trying to be good thinkers love their own thoughts and theories — much of the debugging has to be done by others.”—Lots of good stuff in this interview with Alan Kay. http://techland.time.com/2013/04/02/an-interview-with-computing-pioneer-alan-kay/
“Simplicity is not about making something without ornament, but rather about making something very complex, then slicing elements away, until you reveal the very essence.”—From this interview w/ Christoph Neimann regarding his app Petting Zoo. Both highly recommended.
Imagine that it is your professional duty to report a cost-benefit analysis of liberalizing immigration policy. You wouldn’t dream of producing a study that counted “men only” or “whites only,” at least not without specific, clearly stated reasons for dividing the data.
So why report cost-benefit results only for United States citizens or residents, as is sometimes done in analyses of both international trade and migration? The nation-state is a good practical institution, but it does not provide the final moral delineation of which people count and which do not.
Timo Arnall debunks the current infatuation with the #NoUI concept, suggesting that it demeans the user and oversimplifies the difficulties involved for design to make complex things seem simple. His argument is directed both at the metaphor of an invisible UI, but also the value of what it…
Perhaps the most important point he makes in my opinion is:
3. Invisible design ignores interface culture
Interfaces are the dominant cultural form of our time.
We cannot ignore and purposefully disregard the cultural context that these products are fitting within. Yes, an interface can be simple, minimal, but it must not be invisible to the user. We need to have distinct visual cues and experiences.
I wonder if invisible is a poor choice of words (kind of like ‘flat design’). I don’t know if writers strive for ‘invisible writing’, but clarity and brevity are certainly valued.
I think ‘implied design’ is more appropriate. I don’t think all interfaces need to disappear (I don’t know if it’s possible either), but designers should certainly take advantage of when interactions and information can be implied which allows other (possibly more important) elements in the interface to stand out.
Semantics aside, this and the original post are well worth the read.
I frequently get asked about process and how projects get structured where I work. One of the main questions is does user research happen. It’s always a little disappointing to say “not really”, but I wanted to think about why that’s the case.
Coming out of school, user research was positioned as an almost magic bullet that can solve any problem. We watched this video about IDEO using research to inform the design of a new shopping cart. It seems like an easily repeatable process of conducting research, gaining insight, and creating a solution. It’s been disappointing to learn after school ended, that the story doesn’t always end that way.
Design/user research at its best is an amazing process. We learn and gain some insight about people that we previously didn’t have which leads to better solution. The problem is (and this might be my problem), we don’t always gain insight. Instead, we confirm our assumptions about the world and it’s in this scenario where we get in trouble. Confirming our assumptions feels like a less valuable outcome because it ends up feeling like the research was unnecessary and a waste of time. This makes research hard to sell in my opinion because it’s hard to get people to admit when something is an assumption versus when something has been validated.
What are ways to make this better? I’ve got a few ideas:
1. Do better research and develop more insight. A fair criticism would be that maybe our research process isn’t good enough and needs to be improved. However, it’s a bit difficult to think every assumption can be overturned.
2. Acknowledge that we are making assumptions in the beginning, and one outcome of the research process is to validate that our assumptions are correct. This makes the scenario above a lot less painful since the expectations are much clearer up front.
This is pretty messy in my head and re-reading the above, it’s messy in words too. I’m hoping that by getting this written and out into the world, I can straighten and smooth things out a bit.
But a more subtle yet much deeper problem lies in the very concept of functionally skeuomorphic interfaces, independently of whether their appearance is realist or not.
That problem is that when borrowing elements from a design’s previous incarnation, you often also bring its limitations along for the ride, even when these limitations have no reason to exist anymore.
For example, calendars have traditionally featured one month per page, because they’re limited by the physical concept of the page.
But although the digital medium has no such limitation, many digital calendars still adhere to the one-month-per-screen rule out of tradition instead of (for example) centering the view on the current week.
Sometimes people write posts you wish you wrote-this is one of those.
An excellent articulation of the problems with skeuomorphism and why the pendulum is swinging towards flat design.
“I learned how to look deeper into the text and ask the right questions to really get to the heart of an idea. I ended up with more questions, but much better and more informed ones. These are all skills I learned from my liberal arts education, and they are essential to the work I do every day.”—
An excellent post from Chad Dickerson, Etsy’s CEO, on why the liberal arts are important. At the end of the day, the things we build are about people. Technology and math certainly help us understand the world, but I believe they’re a means to make the world better and not an end in themselves.
There are loads of lessons to be re-surfaced from literature, philosophy, history, and frankly, humanity. Looking forward to seeing more like this, and hopefully discovering some myself.
I was going through my instapaper queue and instead of just reading things I hadn’t read yet, I went back to revisit things I had already read again, and appreciated the second reading. This led to the thought that it would be great to print a book of my favorite articles from 2012 to have a physical copy.
The idea of a book reminded me of when I was a kid and would pour over video game and computer magazines, reading and re-reading them until they had little more to give and waiting for the next issue in the following month. This stands in contrast to how I consume information now where it’s become about clearing a queue and giving things a second look is a rare occurrence. Having something tangible and orders of magnitude more costly than a list of links leading to an array of pixels on the screen is one way I’d like to try to balance out how I’m taking in things in 2013.
The concluding thought in this sequence is that It would be great to see what other people found worth revisiting again from the past year. If you’re interested in sharing and seeing what others have shared, drop me a note. Looking to have this printed by late January.