Posts Tagged ‘design’

Jony Ive

Sunday, March 27th, 2011

If you’re interested in design and/or Apple, you should read This Daily Mail article about Jony Ive. Jony is Apple’s VP of Industrial Design. Bonus: there’s a funny picture of him from high school.

Touring Google’s datacenters

Saturday, April 11th, 2009

In case you haven’t seen it yet, this video is worth a look if you’re interested in what datacenters look like:

It’s quite an amazing operation.

Data, design and risk

Friday, March 20th, 2009

Designer Douglas Bowman recently left Google, and wrote his rationale on his blog, causing quite a stir:

When a company is filled with engineers, it turns to engineering to solve problems. Reduce each decision to a simple logic problem. Remove all subjectivity and just look at the data. Data in your favor? Ok, launch it. Data shows negative effects? Back to the drawing board. And that data eventually becomes a crutch for every decision, paralyzing the company and preventing it from making any daring design decisions.

One of the things I like most about Google is how data-driven most of the decisionmaking is. Data is the referee that decides debates, and it’s a great equalizer: data doesn’t care who the idea comes from, so an intern’s idea can trump a director’s idea. You might argue that people can “make statistics say anything”, but among people who are pretty well-versed in statistics, I haven’t really found that to be the case.

Design complicates this, though, mostly because it’s just harder to measure. There are some things we can measure, though, for example, a design that reduces latency will likely increase usage. Eye tracking studies can yield some information about how complicated a page is and how distracting parts of the design are to the user. Someone suggested that data can be used to make incremental improvements in design, but it can’t often be used to validate a completely new design. This is where risk comes in.

Any significant design change entails risk, and there’s almost always a user backlash. People acclimate to changes, though. For example, I found Google SearchWiki distracting at first, so I wrote a script to hide the UI elements. I still don’t love the design, but it doesn’t bother me anymore.

A good example of design risks is Facebook. They iterate on major portions of their design, regularly incurring a user backlash (there’s one going on now, apparently). Think back to the news feed, though- when they introduced that, everyone was up in arms, but it turned out to be one of their best features. Making decisions on risks like this is rather difficult because it’s hard to measure. What would the metric for a new design- number of users who liked it minus number of users who didn’t? The facebook news feed would have failed that test for months until users acclimated and understood it.

I’ve had surprisingly many chances to design things at work, and I’ve really enjoyed discussion designs with others. Most of the things I learned about design came from The Non-Designer’s Design Book, which I recommend to anyone interested in the topic.


Monday, January 12th, 2009

I’m looking forward to the documentary Objectified, a film about industrial design from the director of Helvetica.

Here’s the trailer:

EPA Logo

Sunday, January 11th, 2009

Is it me, or does the EPA logo have a Death Star in the background?

I guess that they both deal with destroying planets, so it makes sense…

Enhance photo color with classical art

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

Via lifehacker, a method to improve your photography with classical art has a cool effect:

Scroll Direction

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

In high school, I used to tutor senior citizens to use computers at the town library. One thing that regularly tripped them up in the browser was the scroll bar. When they wanted to scroll down the page, their mental model of the page made them want to “pull the page up” to view the parts below. Thus, when they wanted to scroll down the page, they would press the up arrow. I’d never thought about scrolling this way, and I couldn’t really come up with a reason that their interpretation was wrong.

iPhone (and similar touch device) scrolling changes from the scrollbar model to the senior citizens’ model: now you flick up to go down the page, which feels intuitive, even for longtime scrollbar users.

The touchpad on macbooks has a gesture that denotes scrolling: dragging up or down with two fingers. Dragging down scrolls down the page (following the scrollbar, not touchsceen model). I use this a lot and really miss it when I’m on a non-mac touchscreen.

Today, the models converged in a funny way: I was reading through some blogs, and I scrolled down to a post that had a picture of the iphone browser interface. When I looked at the iPhone interface, my brain unconsciously switched scrolling models and I tried to scroll down by dragging my fingers up. Needless to say, I was quite confused for a moment.