Notebook

I love these two posts by Mark McGuiness on the 99% on why eccentricity and how daily routine helps trigger creativity.

He points out three characteristics of a hypnotic trigger:

  1. Uniqueness - it should be something (or a combination of things) you don't associate with other activities, otherwise the effect will be diluted.

  2. Emotional intensity - the kind you experience when you're really immersed in creative work.

  3. Repetition - the more times you experience the unique trigger in association with the emotions, the stronger the association becomes.

I live by daily routines, but I also associate that with my need to feel balanced and in control of my time and the living and working space around me. I also have a tendency to be impulsive or to dive very deeply into activities, so routine acts both as clock and trigger.

There are some excellent anecdotes about the routines of famous creatives. I find myself really intrigued by the more eccentric ones, like those of Victor Hugo and especially that of Orhan Pamuk. Pamuk's act of re-creating his "walk to work" trigger is pretty ingenious. Read more...

Sketching interfaces is a path focussed on generating many ideas and finding the right design. Lately I've been thinking about how to adapt the activity of physically sketching on paper to get the same results in Mockups. On the Balsamiq UX blog, I wrote about a technique I've been experimenting with to do sketchboards in Mockups using a Symbols library.

"Music is the space between the notes."

—Claude Debussy, as quoted in Turning Numbers into Knowledge (2001) by Johnathan G. Koomey

"It is always better to improve and strengthen your own line or knowledge than to try and cut your opponent's line."

—Ed Parker, Martial Arts Instructor and Author

Will Wright's talk at the Summit on Science, Entertainment, and Education looks at how game play can be relevant to education. These are my notes from this talk.

How we process information

Our basic model for processing and acting on data that we receive in the world looks something like this:

- Behavior
- Models (Predictive) ↑
- Schema (Abstractions) ↑
- Metaphors (Patterns) ↑
- Examples (Data) ↑

How our minds work when we play games

Games become relevant in education because they offer a more effective way to use and build knowledge.

Game play is about:

- failing
- changing your model
- repeating

Game players, through experimentation and repeated failure, ramp their model of the game up over iterations of play. Their model becomes more complex as their understanding and ability to succeed increases over each interaction and learning experience.

Wright tells a story about a pottery class, in which a teacher tells one group of students that their grade will be based on one single pot they are produced. The second group is told their grade will be based on the amount of pots they produce. The second group ended up with the highest grades.

When your work is based on building the most rather than creating the perfect work, you fail repeatedly, update your model, and produce the best work.

What makes a good educational experience

Wright applies what James Paul Gee lists as attributes for a good education experience and says these are the same for game play.

- allow identity
- offer a reason to do it
- allow and mitigate risk
- encourage failure
- provide situated meanings: you're learning for things you immediately need
- get you out of ordered problem solving

Blurring the lines of maker/player

In addition to becoming effective tools for learning, the game community is blurring lines between the game ecology and the community. Social experiences afforded by games like Spore and LIttle Big Planet are good examples. Players become creators and contributors. Learning and creation and contribution are one and the same.

Thanks to Alex for pointing me to this vid.

I don't use WYSIWYG editors in CMSes and blogs, but I like how Stephen Ou designed this simple WP editor plugin called Artsy Editor using a little HUD style popover.

Brian Fling's book, Mobile Design & Development, published by O'Reilly in 2009, is available to read in its entirety online. Fling says he says 75-80% of the content of the book (which is some 68,000 words) is up to date and extremely relevant as of March 2011.

More from the author:

I wrote this book to have something for everyone interested in designing in developing for mobile devices, regardless of experience and regardless of the application. The first half is a crash course in the mobile ecosystem: how to develop a strategy, address the mobile context—even how to decide which of the multiple mobile application types is best for you, and finally, how to create a user experience for it. The second half is focused on using these principles to make a mobile website or web app.

This means this book isn't for anyone looking for a quick fix to the “mobile problem.” As I told my excellent editorial team throughout the writing process, “this is a book that teaches people how to cook, not a collection of recipes.” However being O'Reilly's first book on mobile, we decided to cover a lot of ground, basically detailing mobile from it's origins to the devices of tomorrow.

Read at the book site.

Don't let anyone tell you that the tools you choose are wrong or inappropriate. Find the right design and keep winning.

Occasionally I'm asked to provide an opinion about a topic that people think I should have some authority to comment on for some reason. That topic, as you might guess, is wireframing.

I enjoy pointing people towards good resources, or helping them with a problem using a tool that I'm familiar with. I also love to give my own design resources to peers, or to teach techniques that I think will help people perfect their craft. In the end, I benefit from that exchange the most.

When asked to comment on slanted opinions that throw a stake in the ground and tend to confuse and divide the community, I abstain. Navel gazing and defining the damned thing became an uninteresting use of time to me long ago. It took some time immersed in those conversations to know that I have nothing to contribute. I'd rather be making stuff than talking about it. I just say call yourself whatever you like, and do whatever works.

Interface design tools are as good as you make them. When I started out, I had to use Visio to communicate UI specs. It wasn't awesome, but I made it work. Later I found Omnigraffle. It was not designed specifically to enable interface designers, but we made it awesome. We learned how to use it to make our documents communicate design ideas.

We are the ones who determine what's useful for us after immersion in tools. We've debated what we want in the ultimate IA tool, we've found parallels in other industries and fields of practice and made them our own. We've experimented with forward-looking low-fidelity prototyping projects like Denim, and pondered what the right suite of tools are for our work. Some of us built them and shared our work. Some of us are still building them.

Over years of working and watching others work, I've noticed that some attributes are common among the people whose work I admire. The people who are the most effective seem to continue to study their practice, and perfect their craft. After long hours of use, they find the way to flow within any app at their disposal, and become as fast and effective as they can using it. The key is what they do with the app once they've become expert at their craft, expert in finding the right design, expert in communicating, and expert in refining. There's some kind of maker/doer tenacity I see in people, and it doesn't have to do with any one tool.

There are no good or bad tools for finding the right design. Paper prototypes are your thing? Awesome. If you want to sketch and go right to building in HTML? Go for it! I've done it. You want to craft gray box schematics in OmniGraffle, Photoshop, or Mockups? Godspeed you wireframer. Maybe I can help you with that. You want to use a tool that generates interactive prototypes? Have a nice day. :)

All the side-taking is useless to me. If you've ever interviewed people for an IA or IXD position, you know that beautiful documents and prototypes are meaningless if in the end they don't demonstrate good problem solving and good design decision making. I don't care what people use. They can use finger puppets and crayons if they help them.

I say use whatever makes sense or is at your disposal. Your tools are only as effective as you are at using them to accomplish goals. But don't let anyone tell you that what you choose is wrong or inappropriate. Find the right design and keep winning.

"Sensible defaults can reduce friction and provide simplicity anywhere one can think to apply them. They are the bedrock of minimalist practice and a quiet mind."

—Patrick Rhone

Don Lehman's MORE/REAL Stylus Cap is a cool iPad stylus project looking for funding via Kickstarter. The idea is to create a cap with a conductive tip that will fit over a Sharpie, Bic, or Fineliner pen. Lehman's introductory video below shows the stylus cap at work.

Looks fantastic and simple, and you'll have one fewer thing to carry with you because it acts as pen and stylus. Sweet. You can help fund the project and reserve a cap by heading to the Kickstarter page.

Via Core77 and @jenniferhogan

New sketching goodies hit the shelves at UI Stencils, from our good friends Design Commission. They've created an iPad dry erase board with dot grid, and updated their awesome iPhone sticky pads. Definitely want to get my hands on the dry erase board.

Update:
Mine arrived and I have to say that this is the nicest dry erase board I have now. It's made on hard particle board, similar to what you'd find on a clipboard, so it feels great in the hands. There's an interaction key laminated to the back with gesture symbols and common icons, to help you while you sketch. It comes with 2 fine point dry erase markers with eraser heads that work well.

I'm loving it, and so is my son, who plans to use it for stop motion animations. I'm not working on iPad design right now, so I'd love to have a few screen and browser dry erase boards, or a 6-up/8-up sketchboard for thumbnail sketches and storyboards.

Freelancers and design/dev shops have some better invoicing options at Blinksale. They just announced a new feature called BlinkPay that will allow clients to pay invoice by credit card without you having to pay for an expensive merchant account. It's a nice alternative to PayPal. Some beautiful interface design work by Jared Christensen in there.

Disclosure: Blinksale is one of Konigi's advertisers.