Stacking the Deck

To a person, we’ve changed and then changed again. Each of us has moved in and out of seasons of high productivity and then (understandably) anxiety about the state of the world. I’ve seen us adapt in particular ways to what each member of the team is doing in real-time, like players sitting around a card table. I’ve taken to using the symbolism of the traditional playing card suites to think about these periods. Sometimes we make big bets, sometimes we fold. The point, of course, is to stay supple… to stay loose… to stay in the game.

Select your default skin tone

Recently, applications and operating systems have begun offering a skin tone setting for what is increasingly (and perhaps woefully) our common tongue: very small pictures of stuff thoughtlessly transmitted. As a point of comparison, avatars are projections of identity and rightly rooted in physical attributes. You may deign to select a signature hair style, a favorite accessory, etc. But I’ve always conceived of emoji as symbols, and symbols are at their best when at their most universal.

Towards a vernacular design

I’m old enough to remember when you could pick up any regional graphic design annual, open it, and know exactly which area you were looking at just from the work itself. Tennessee or Texas. Southern California or the Pacific Northwest. New York or Chicago. Each had clear stylistic tells. And as an aspiring designer myself, I loved the way concert posters, packaging, and logos all possessed the spirit of their place—and reflected the particular tastes of the people who lived there.

Published in UX Collective

Modern Mythology

As ideas for a better-designed tomorrow start flowing, it may be useful to identify a few of the false narratives that creep into our world and into our work. Particularly when we are afraid, we humans tend to wrap ourselves in ancient stories that make us feel safe. I certainly understand that instinct. But, if we let it, this is also a perfect season in which to evaluate the underlying belief structures that shape our design thinking—and perhaps bust a few of our most enduring myths.

In preparation for a son

  1. Remain ready at all times and in all places
  2. Approach every opportunity to receive help
  3. Adopt the adventures of Robin Hood
  4. Avoid the culture of sports
  5. Honor all women at all times
  6. Treat all men as equals at all times
  7. Think about your own death only enough to prepare
  8. Be careful never to become too comfortable
  9. Borrow as little as possible
  10. Learn to sharpen blades
  11. Delight in good food and drink
  12. Find a trade and a bride and a place

Architecture as a verb

This past weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the first workshop offered by Umbau School’s new Studio Shenandoah in Staunton, Virginia. Umbau, which means something like transformation zone, is a school of studios—or places of focused study.

Dollars and sense

Whenever feasible, I’m an advocate of value-based pricing in creative work and particularly digital work. Having tracked and billed hours for many years, I understand the model and that it’s sometimes appropriate, but I think the future is fixed.

Device crippling

Smartphones come out of the box in full-on casino mode. They are pre-programmed to do everything they can to trigger your inner Neanderthal screen junkie. But it need not be so.