Notebook

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.

Beth Meredith and Eric Storm summarize the concept of Slow Design.

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.

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.

Via Harry Brignull

  • 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.
  • NASA: First full resolution Mars images from Curiosity Rover If this doesn't inspire you, you need to watch some Star Trek.
  • 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."
    /via @paperequator
  • XOXCO - Is it time for password-less login?
  • FreeUIKits.com | Free UI Kit PSD FilesFreeUIKits.com
  • Forcing scroll bars to appear on an element in WebKit Stack Overflow comes to the rescue on CSS overflow issues where the scrollbars are now hidden on Mac OS webkit browsers. Nice.
  • The Bricks - Photoshop User Interface Framework
  • Wikipedia Redefined New! agency Wikipedia redesign project. Looks for the ways how to make it better, reader or editor friendlier, clearer and aesthetically satisfying.
  • Context-Rich Scenarios Make UX Projects Manageable
  • Sketchcamp San Diego | A Design Day for UX folks Sketchcamp SD is a one-day unconference in San Diego where UX professionals share and learn sketching techniques that can be applied to user experience design.
  • 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.

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.

UX A Day looks like a nice new blog of resources and tools for UX design folks, curated by Philippe Said. Not a lot of review or commentary, but hopefully will keep us updated with new finds.

protomoto is an excellent showcase of prototyping or wireframing tools created to helps designers find a tool that's suited to the specific devices or platforms they are designing for. The site, developed by Paper & Equator, will be adding more filters in the future as they continue to evolve the resource, so that you can browse the tools based on features. Very cool.

Check out protomoto.

Telling yourself, “Oh, you have all the time in the world, you have all the money in the world, you have all the colors in the palette you want, anything you want,” I mean, that just kills creativity.
—Jack White

I was going through the parts I had highlighted in my Kindle version of Austin Kleon's book, Steal Like An Artist, and I keep thinking of how much I like this quote from musician Jack White, talking about using constraints to stay creative. I think about how much constraints and removal of the unnecessary makes a difference in helping flow in the tools I use as well.

The quote was actually taken from an interview of White that you can watch in the documentary Under Great White Northern Lights. There's an extended except in the Makin' Ads blog here, or watch a video clip on YouTube here.

Sergey Chikuyonok's Smashing Magazine article on PNG optimization is an oldie, but I just found myself returning to use it for maybe the 4th time since I originally read it. I don't do web graphics so frequently anymore, so I always return here to get reminded of things like the posterization layer in Photoshop. See also Sergey's JPEG Optimization article.

"Getting the details right is the difference between something that delights, and something customers tolerate."
—Jeff Atwood

I didn't read Jeff Atwood's article about cat feeders right away, because it really is 90% about a cat product. It's also a terrific demonstration of what he's saying above. The first version of the product, a cat feeder, served a core need well enough for him to satisfice with its shortcomings because the net return in time savings and improved quality of life, for him anyway, was absolutely worth it.

The punchline is this.

  • Be sure you're first getting the primary function more or less right.
  • Do the work of listening to users every day.
  • Refine the details of your product based on their feedback.

Listening to the opinions expressed by customers, obsessing over the details, and getting them right in the design is necessary and hard. But over time, if the points of pain are incrementally addressed and the design improved, the collection of those well-thought-out details embody a better experience.

Get better slowly, but do get better. Suck it up and feel your users' pain. Assure them that you're listening by sweating the details.

People still occasionally ask me if I make the small bound Wireframe Sketchbooks, but I stopped selling them after a few years, and instead just posted instructions for how to make your own. I know that few people have the time or interest to do that, so I've been looking at alternatives for them.

A month ago, Brad from JetPens contacted me to tell me that he started supplying a sketchbook from Maruman that I might like. What I really liked is how closely it resembles the one I made. Some of my Instagram friends have been seeing pics of me using the Maruman Mnemosyne Inspiration Notebook, and a few like it as I do. The one I'm using is the A5 (5.8" X 8.3"), which has a 5 mm X 5 mm pale gray lined grid, title line, and 70 perforated sheets.

Below is a photo of the Konigi notebook on the left and the Maruman on the right. The Sharpie is there to give you a sense of scale.

You can see that the Maruman is the same width, and only 1/4 inch taller. The Maruman paper is smoother paper than the Konigi, and works well with inks. I'm using with a fine Hi-Tec-C and really love the feel of pen and marker on it. The Konigi book had a little tooth/texture because I like to work with soft pencil as well as pen/marker.

I think this is the closest of any notebook I've tried to mine. It meets the same requirements that I had for a sketchbook: small and wire-bound, white sheets with small quadrille, perforated paper, and can ideally be used in landscape orientation.

Thanks to Brad Dowdy for indulging my pen and paper addiction by letting me test and review the Maruman. If you're interested, you can check it out here.