published 3 July 2014
Craig Mod, who convincingly argues that app development (and their success) is often completely senseless, drops this astounding wisdom on readers about halfway through the article:
The first pass should be ugly, the ugliest. Any brain cycle spent on pretty is self deception. If pretty is the point then please stop. Do not, I repeat, do not spent three months on the radial menu, impressive as it may be. It will not save your company. There is a time for that. That time is not now. Instead, make grand gestures. General gestures. Most importantly, enumerate the unknowns. Make a list. Making known the unknowns you now know will surface the other unknowns, the important unknowns, the truly devastating unknowns — you can’t scrape our content! you can’t monkey park here! a tiny antennae is not for rent! You want to unearth answers as quickly as possible. Nothing else matters if your question marks irrecoverably break you. Do not procrastinate in their excavation.
Craig’s words ring loudly in my ears. You want to unearth answers as quickly as possible. Do not procrastinate in their excavation.
Superb advice for the exploration phase of just about any project, not just app development.
published 27 May 2014
Today the world lost one of the most influential designers of our time, Massimo Vignelli. Michael Bierut, who knew him well, offers a fitting tribute:
Massimo died this morning at the age of 83. Up until the end — I saw him on Thursday — he was still curious, still generous, still excited about design. He leaves his wife, Lella; his children, Luca and Valentina; and generations of designers who, like me, are still learning from his example.
Thank you, Michael. Grazie mille, Massimo.
published 14 May 2014
Today’s a big day. The Brooklyn Bridge letterpress poster is now (officially) available to the public, and on sale to boot. Additionally, a few supporting resources have been published.
Microsite summarizing the project. All HTML/CSS by the incomparable Adam Spooner.
In which I detail the expenses of my Kickstarter project and how I hardly broke even.
As always, I’m extremely appreciative of those who support my work. Thanks a million.
published 28 March 2014
Elon Musk, responding to reports about Model S collisions and car fires:
The odds of fire in a Model S, at roughly 1 in 8,000 vehicles, are five times lower than those of an average gasoline car and, when a fire does occur, the actual combustion potential is comparatively small. However, to improve things further, we provided an over-the-air software update a few months ago to increase the default ground clearance of the Model S at highway speeds, substantially reducing the odds of a severe underbody impact.
Wait, did you catch that? An over-the-air update that alters the vehicle’s suspension system?
I find this fascinating. Nearly all other cars on the road, even 2014 models, are incapable of remote software updates, partly for territorial reasons:
Unlike Tesla, most automakers depend on independent dealers to sell their cars, and dealers have good reason to oppose automatic updates that would take them out of the loop.
In my estimation, over-the-air updates are an inevitable part of our future, and consumer choice will eventually trump dealer opposition. It’s worth debating, however, whether or not it’s healthy for a software developer to remotely update your $70,000 car the same as it would your $300 phone, which is precisely what’s happening in this Hacker News thread (among other debates).
P.S. Equally fascinating to me is Elon’s choice to use Medium to share this kind of news with the world.
published 27 March 2014
A 200+ mile backpacking experience through Yosemite National Park captured by Colin Delehanty and Sheldon Neill. This project was filmed over the course of 10 months. We spent a combined 45 days in the park capturing the images in this video.
Colin and Sheldon employ the same setup as in the first; that is, a Dynamic Perception motion-controlled dolly and time-lapse photography.
(Is it just me, or does the intersection of photography and technology yield astounding results?)
published 24 March 2014
Mike Monteiro, recalling a trip to the car dealership as a teenager:
There are two things I’ll never forget from the following interaction. The first was the look of embarrassment on my father’s face as he realized he needed to tell the salesman he couldn’t afford the car, which, in my father’s eyes was akin to failing as a provider. The second was the salesman’s reply.
'Why didn’t you tell me what you could afford?'
Not everyone knows what their budget is. And that’s ok. It just means we’ll discuss a few options. Some below your price range, some above. It’ll take a little longer.
But if you know what your budget is; let us know. It’ll save us all from having to look at everything on the lot.
Also applicable: Why didn’t the salesman ask what you could afford?
published 5 February 2014
Short answer: It varies. Pretty widely.
A close friend asked me to share how I generate ideas for new projects, and I thought it’d be worthwhile to repeat my answer here. Below are few examples.
I don’t do print design that often. Not often at all, in fact (outside of my letterpress posters). When I do, I generally prefer to get an understanding of how many pages there will be if more than one, and the general flow of the content.
Above is the page layout for a 24-page booklet documenting my process for the Brooklyn Bridge poster. The booklet was sent to print recently, and this is what one of the completed spreads looks like.
It’s pretty rare that I begin on paper. I don’t know, maybe I’ve been doing it for so long that the most efficient method for me still remains a head-first dive into Photoshop.
For example, on Perks.io I started with a greyscale comp:
For the overhaul of Authentic Jobs we’re currently working on, I started with a high-fidelity comp using components from the existing site:
The design has been iterated many times since and probably will look nothing like this when it’s completed.
I do a decent amount of video, much of it for fun and some of it for work. This is the “comping” I did for the Authentic Jobs ‘Eight’ campaign video:
Notice the two intros I was considering. We went with ‘B’. This was the completed video:
For the aforementioned Authentic Jobs ‘Eight’ campaign, there were many moving parts—microsite, video, t-shirts, sponsors, etc. Most of this planning began in my trusted Moleskine notebook:
The final campaign was executed fairly close to what you see sketched here.
And that’s a sampling of how I begin a project.
published 17 January 2014
Why are there no decent blank tees for comping t-shirt designs?
Recently I’ve been designing a t-shirt for a friend, and for the life of me I couldn’t find any nice blank t-shirt artwork. So, I decided to fix that.
Using the photos I shot for our 'Eight' t-shirt, I’ve clone-stamped out the design to create a Photoshop .psd blank that I can use for future projects. You’re welcome to use it, too. I only ask that you don’t resell it or redistribute it. (Link back to this page.)
published 15 January 2014
Jason Santa Maria, writing for The Pastry Box:
We talk all the time on our personal and periodical sites about the latest techniques for design, but how often do we break down new designs? I mean really discuss them, not just add them to a gallery of notable sites.
Aesthetics are just one lens we can use to look at web design. Culture, time, place, and technology are others. Some websites look and act the way they do because of the state of technology during the time they were made. The landscape of architecture was changed by the invention of steel, just as the landscape of web was change by Flash, CSS, mobile phones, and Retina screens….
If work like Bowman’s WIRED.com website was so wonderful, does the fact that it isn’t suited to today’s web diminish that fact?
The problem is that we don’t have the right words to talk about this stuff, let alone the right context to find common ground for real discussion inside our industry or the folks just outside it. If our eyes are only attuned to the latest shiny thing, we can’t possibly understand anything of influence or consequence.
For as long as I’ve known Jason, he has championed more thoughtful discussion in, about, and surrounding web design. I hope he never gives up the fight, as user interface design is becoming (if not already) the most ubiquitous form of design in our time.
published 11 December 2013
As we left our hotel in Addis Ababa the final morning of an amazing trip to Ethiopia with charity: water and Will Smith, we headed to the local market. Goods of every kind were offered: artwork, scarves, jewelry, clothing, housewares, and so on.
At the market, a boy, probably 8 or 9 years old, began following us. The right side of his face was badly disfigured, as if it had been burned by fire. He wasn’t shy and immediately starting asking for things in very broken English. Money was the first request, and we hesitated to hand any out, as we were informed that doing so had the potential to create chaos in a busy marketplace.
I had on a small backpack, and soon this young boy began pointing to it. In broken but comprehensible English, he simply said, “Food, please.”
The first few times he said it, I couldn’t figure out why he was thinking I had food. And then I realized that just before we left the car to tour the market, I had placed a large, clear ziplock bag with several food items in it—nuts, granola bars, beef jerky—in the outer mesh pocket of the bag. It was easily visible to anyone.
“Food, please” he continued. “Food, please.”
Again I was hesitant to offer any, as it had the potential to create a swarm of children around us if not done carefully. At this point, we were done shopping and needed to leave for the airport. He continued to follow me. Suzanne and I returned to the car. I was stuck in a quandary. I knew if I left that little boy without giving him something, my conscience would haunt me unceasingly in the coming days and weeks.
Literally as our driver began to pull away, I quickly removed the bag from my backpack, rolled down the window, and handed the food to that young boy. By now he had a companion with him, about the same age, and probably just as famished. As soon as he perceived I was handing the bag to him, he snatched it as quickly as he could.
As we drove off, I watched the two of them run to an alley in the marketplace. They disappeared behind one of the stores, undoubtedly to devour their gain. I had a difficult time holding back the tears as I contemplated what had just taken place. How grateful I am, as is my conscience, that I didn’t stay my hand that day.
Our trip to Ethiopia could not have been filled with more insight into the lives of people in Tigray, more experiences to be touched and affected by the people of the area, and more opportunities to see just how blessed many of us are.
But there is something even more essential than food; even more vital to the famished. It is water.
We’re so close to surpassing $100,000 raised for clean water. I come to you with hat in hand, requesting your help one last time. This Monday I’ll be attending the 2013 charity: ball. How incredible it would be to personally thank Scott Harrison on your behalf for allowing us to participate in the global fight for clean, safe drinking water.
I’ve just contributed another $500 of my personal funds to our campaign. If you can do the same, please join me. If not, any amount you can afford will do amazing things for clean water.
Merry Christmas to all, and may clean water be one of the greatest gifts we give this year.
published 9 December 2013
It’s been 4 years since sharing my concerns regarding American Apparel’s suggestive advertising. My views remain unchanged.
Occasionally I’m asked about alternatives from those who, like me, print T-shirts from time to time. My response is generally this: American Apparel makes a great shirt, no doubt about it. They fit well, they look great, and they’re manufactured in the USA.
It’s tough to find a substitute. I’ve ordered numerous blanks from competing manufacturers over the years, and I’ve struggled to find a shirt I was satisfied with. Regardless, I’ll gladly wear substitutes if it means my money isn’t supporting AA’s advertising efforts.
However, I think I’ve finally found a suitable alternative.
Last year I ordered a couple shirts from a site that many of you may recognize*. The look and fit were outstanding. I ordered a third. And then a fourth. I’ve worn these shirts many times since.
Our fabrics are produced in China and the USA. Garments are assembled in China, Mexico, and Central America.
This is a definitely a trade-off, and a significant one. But it’s one I’m willing to make, and I’m appreciative of the efforts being made to detail—and hopefully improve—factory conditions outside the U.S. (Don’t miss NPR’s “Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt” series.)
While we’re at it, I’d be ashamed if I didn’t encourage you to pick up a copy of the Authentic Jobs ‘EIGHT’ shirt, printed on Next Level tees. You can also order a low-cost blank instead if you’d like to try on their stuff.
Give it a shot. I’m guessing you fall in like with Next Level, too.
* I’ve not requested permission to share their secret, so I’ve left them unnamed.
published 6 December 2013
Garrett Dimon, on building a business:
Whenever people talk about starting businesses, one of the most common deterrents people bring up is having a family to support. While being cautious and making sure not to put your family at risk is important, this fear assumes that there are only downsides. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m in my mid-thirties, married, and we have a two and a half year old daughter and a mortgage. We’re also a single-income family as my wife takes care of our daughter full-time….
The biggest hurdle here is to stop thinking of launching a business as binary and imagining quitting your job on a whim one day. With that approach, your fears are entirely justified unless you have a huge savings account that you can afford to risk.
The wrong way is by taking out credit, quitting your day job prematurely, spending other people’s money, leveraging your family’s future, and jeopardizing your mental/emotional well being.
The right way is by creating a system that is robust; a job to pay the bills, allocating some amount of free time to working on the business, focusing on sustainability, refusal to take shortcuts, spending your own money (when it’s needed) and not being in such a fricken hurry to get somewhere.
You do it properly by slowly gaining mastery in your business until when the time comes you’ve EARNED the right to quit your day job and go full time for yourself.
And that’s precisely the path I’ve followed with Authentic Jobs. Eight years later, and only the latter half of those years being full-time, I’m pretty happy with how things have turned out.
published 5 December 2013
Ale Paul, penning the most awesome font description ever:
Up to this point, my Father’s Day gift history was nothing unusual. Books, socks, hand-painted wooden spoons, the kind of thing any father would expect from his pre-teen son. So you can understand when I say I was bracing myself to fake excitement at my son’s present.
But this Father’s Day was special. I didn’t have to fake excitement. I was in fact excited beyond my own belief. Matí’s handmade present was a complete alphabet drawn on an A4 paper.
published 21 November 2013
A screen doesn’t care what it shows any more than a sheet of paper cares what’s printed on it. Screens are aesthetically neutral, so the looks of things are not a part of their grain. Sorry, internet. If you want to make something look flat, go for it. There are plenty of reasons to do so. But you shouldn’t say you made things look a certain way because the screen cared one way or the other.
Don’t stick around here. Frank’s microsite designed for his presentation at Build 2013, from which the above quote was extracted, needs to be seen to be fully appreciated.
published 8 November 2013
Dan and Cherrie Denney, two of the nicest people I’ve ever met, run one of the nicest conferences in our industry. They recently sent me a lovely gift in the mail.
Sean McCabe, known by many as Sean Wes, captured sketch notes during my talk earlier this year:
Below is his (abbreviated) transcript of my remarks. Video from the full presentation will be posted soon.
How do you balance everything?
I don’t. I prioritize. Not everything has to be top priority all the time. Long term goals help balance and shift short term priorities.
What’s the most significant mistake you’ve made?
My worst mistakes are the ones I didn’t learn anything from. Ask yourself: What can you do better?
How can I make a name for myself?
Write. Write passionately about something—regardless of whether you feel like you’re qualified. Write consistently & passionately.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to break into our field?
1) Copy. Imitate. “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” As we develop our own style, we can integrate some uniqueness into that. 2) Push yourself. Try things you don’t know how to do. 3) Understand and learn hierarchy. It is so fundamental to everything that we do. It’s often overlooked how important that one principle is.