The construction of a site or app should be dictated by the content and the goals of the operators. Recently, Luke Wroblewski and others have popularised the idea of “Mobile FIrst”, which suggests that the process of designing an experience for mobile screens at the onset is ideal, as it constrains us to focus on only what is important. But designing “Mobile First” is as arbitrary as designing “Desktop First”. While I applaud the spirit of the concept, we may be diving headlong into another catchphrase that will need unlearning later.
I am leaving Unit Interactive as of the 4th of May, and will soon start work with the team at Mark Boulton Design. In the footer of this site, those viewing this on screens wider than 800px should notice the words “Look Up for Inspiration”. This is a mantra. You see, I am trying to be the best designer on the planet. I don’t expect I’ll reach that goal any time soon, and it may take more time than I have, but arriving is not really the point.
There are many shapes good designers aspire to fill: T-shapes, I-shapes, Ninja Turtles. Rockstars, even. After working at a five person (at most) shop for three years, I have seen how T-Shapes work well, but I know we generalists can push our skill sets further. Ts leave a lot to be desired; there is a lot of missing knowledge and experience on the sides. A generalist can and should be more rounded. To put a metaphor on it: I strive to be Mega Man. For those of you that didn’t misspend your youth on video games, let me explain.
Support is the most important feature of any app. When we released Unify nearly two years ago, I was only equipped with customer service skills dulled by the years since my lackluster retail jobs in college, and an all-consuming drive to make sure people got the most satisfaction from our product. In the duration since, I have learned how to support human beings and how to face an onslaught. While I could probably write a all-too-lengthy article on the subject, I found a passage from the Tao Te Ching this weekend that perfectly summarizes my top-level thoughts on Support.
The Internet and mobile devices do not make us antisocial. They make us hyper-social. Technology has outpaced etiquette, the evidence of which permeates any public space. People constantly let digital interaction interrupt real-life interaction, but if we all start viewing online as real life, we will understand that we already have societal frameworks for being social and polite in this freshly connected world.
I have been aspiring to be an expert for just under 30 years now, creeping ever forward with each bit of knowledge and experience. “Experts” are people with efficient answers and deep explanations. Malcolm Gladwell calls them “mavens” in the The Tipping Point, and correctly observes that one cannot just amass an expertise – a maven must compulsively share.
The Form of the Book, by Jan Tschichold, is the authority on book design and the best book I have ever read on typography (and I’ve read many, mind you). As a web designer this book taught me how to set readable, easy-to-digest blocks of type. As the lead designer on Unit Interactive’s recently launched Curations series, I found new relevance in these pages. The principles of setting type to be read and laying out a harmonious page transcend medium and materials. A solid understanding of the fundamentals detailed in this book will make any designer better. Instantly.
It was sickening to watch the ship go down. Our main client walked in early one morning and tore a devastating gash in our hull. All hands were called; half our crew was lost. The brave few that were asked to stay knew our moments were brief. Thankfully, my life raft was ready to go.
My first true creative love was writing. As early as I can remember, I told stories. I have been focused for while now on growing an app I created named Unify, as well as writing professionally for the Unit Blog and Smashing Mag. All of these experieces have been tremendously rewarding, but none have given me the same satisfaction as pure creative writing – writing to no purpose but my own.
So, I am rededicating this site with a new design and a new purpose. We will still talk about design, development, and the like… but I am warning you: it may get weird.
For the last fifty years or so, there were a few ways for a person to be influenced by the outside world (radio, television, printed materials, actually leaving the house) and advertisers had every base covered with their brand-related stories: a billboard with a smile, a commercial alluding to Orwell’s 1984, an ad that talked about cars like normal people do… each expertly tuned to play on our emotions.
Some typefaces aren’t bad: they’re just poorly applied. Some are so useful, they become ubiquitous, and others are just completely devoid of purpose. I like to think of typefaces more as tools of communication, with specifically designed purposes, rather than objects of art. Here are some of the most ubiquitous typefaces used in design these days, and how each is used, abused, or can be properly avoided.
Too often, I hear design referred to in terms generally reserved for grade-school art classes. We, as professionals in this industry, are expected to throw out rules, eschew convention, and break down any barriers to our wild creative whims. Armed with this sentiment—their egos checked only by their client’s limited pocket books—many creatives brazenly tromp down the path less traveled, knee high in the formless mirth of their fantasies, with no regard for efficacy or financial return.
Fear can be a designer’s asset, or instrumental in their own creative impotence. As designers, we need not fear fear itself, only be mindful of how it is focused.
I do not consider myself an overly emotional being, so please note that this article’s indulgence in one particular emotion is not to promote all emotions, all the time. In fact, I am particularly focusing on the ways in which we can control these emotions, specifically: fear, so that they need not override our professional behaviors (yes, I am still talking about creative people here).
I just finished completing a survey on professionalism on Andy Rutledge’s Design View. I am keeping my response here for future reference. If you get a chance, please contribute to the survey. Andy’s pursuit is definitely worthwhile.
Recently, I have came across numerous job postings, portfolios, and agency sites that throw around the word “rockstar” as a term of distinction. To me, this is a reckless misinterpretation of a designer’s role.
How much should a website cost? Any given web professional can produce an array of pricing models based on the complexity of a project. The amount of time estimated, multiplied by the hourly rates of those involved would probably be the most common approach, and for good reason. Costs should be a trade on efforts, and thus an hourly rate, based upon the quantifiable measurement of the professional’s abilities is the most rational approach.
Dearest Advertising: It’s not me; it’s you. We have been rapidly growing apart, lately, and it is due mainly to your obstinate and dedicated grip to the way things used to be. Now don’t get me wrong, I love hearing your old stories as much as anybody, but, ultimately, they echo of fiddles on the Titanic. I am sorry, but I am too young to die drowned in memories and old habits.
Pro-wrestling has long been a pariah of intellectuals. And no industry considers itself smarter than the creative world. I say, though, we should not be so quick to judge a wrestler by his banana hammock. Considering pro-wrestling’s successful tenure, spanning 50 plus years pandering to the lowest common denominators in entertainment, and its ability to continually survive countless attacks volleyed from the trebuchets of polite society, there might yet be a few gems of knowledge that we as marketers, advertisers and creatives can adapt from our more aggressive, muscle-bound, kindred spirits. Such as…
Nathan C. Ford is a busy man.
Flying around Dallas, he doesn’t care much for safety …but he does care about making great web stuffs. Interrupt him here: email@example.com