My name is Jack Moffett
. I am an Interaction Designer with over ten years of experience. According to Herb Simon
, that makes me an expert, so I must have something worth sharing. I have started this venture as an exercise to spur critical thinking about my chosen profession. I hope that others may find it thought provoking as well.
DesignAday will present a brief thought about Design every weekday.
I was on a business trip last week (training the crew of the USS Carl Vinson) and made good use of my travel time. During take-offs and landings, when I couldn’t have my laptop out, I read Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design, published by A Book Apart. It’s one I’ve had sitting on my desk for months now. The book itself is well designed with full color screenshots. The code is nicely formatted with just enough syntax coloring to improve readability without painting every page a rainbow. Ethan did a fantastic job explaining and demonstrating fluid and responsive layouts. He walks the reader through the design of a webpage, starting with a Photoshop mockup from “a designer” on their team. His writing style is easy on the brain with a good dose of humor.
I highly recommend the book, not just for front-end developers, but for designers that contribute production code. I’m looking forward to putting media queries to use in my own work.
Dan Saffer’s new book, Microinteractions, is now available. I received mine from Amazon on Friday. This is not a book review, though I’ll likely write one later. Between Mother’s Day activities and getting my grades submitted, I haven’t had time to read the book. I just wanted to take the opportunity to give the book what little publicity DesignAday can offer. If you enjoy my In the Details posts, you should like Dan’s book as well. This is taken from the acknowledgements:
Jack Moffett, writer of the “Design A Day” blog, should also get a nod of appreciation. Not only did I draw many examples from his “In the Details” section, but how he dissected those details has long been inspirational to me and led indirectly to this book.
I want to thank Dan for that. I get a great sense of satisfaction knowing that my writing here is respected by, and occasionally inspirational to, the very designers that have inspired me.
One recommendation: get an electronic version of the book, if you can. The pictures, of which there are many, are printed in a rather poor quality grayscale in the paperback.
The hardest choice I had to make at Interaction 13 was the first multi-track session on the first day of the conference. Pittsburgh’s own Matthew Powers was presenting Smart and Beautiful: Designing Robots and Intelligent Machines. He actually had presented it a week before for our local group as a practice run for the conference, including a tour of the robotics lab at CMU. I really wanted to attend that, but had an obligation to be somewhere else. In the other corner was Dan Saffer with Microinteractions: Designing with Details, a preview of sorts for his soon-to-be-released book by the same title.
Of all the 45-minute talks to be presented during the week, these were the two I most wanted to see. It figures they would be scheduled for the same block. The deciding factor I typically fall back on in such situations is which one I could more easily make a case for directly applying to my daily work. Microinteractions won out. Actually, it’s a topic that I’m particularly interested in. If you have been reading DesignAday for any length of time, you’ll know that I regularly make posts in my In the Details series. These are exactly the types of interactions Dan is talking about.
It’s the little things that make the difference between a good digital product and a great one. In this insightful book, author Dan Saffer shows you how to design microinteractions: the small details that exist inside and around features. How do you turn on mute? How do you know you have a new email message? How can you change a setting? These moments can change a product from one that’s tolerated into one that’s treasured.
I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to see one of the examples I wrote about fairly recently on screen towards the end of his presentation. In fact, when I spoke with Dan afterwards, he mentioned that he had mined my posts during his research. It’s good to know they’ve been of use, and I’m looking forward to reading about all of the examples he has included when the book releases this May from O’Reilly Media.
In preparation for the course I’ll be teaching this semester, I read John Ferrara’s Playful Design: Creating Game Experiences in Everyday Interfaces. John did a good job with the book. The writing is very accessible, and it’s broken up into relatively short chapters, making it easy to reference. John’s target audience is the User Experience (UX) community, so the book approaches the topic from the perspective of applying game design principles to interaction design. Having already read Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design, I didn’t find value in Part II of Playful Design: Designing Game Experiences, but that part of the book will be quite useful to any designer new to the subject. Parts I and III I enjoyed more, with the latter, titled Playful Design in User Experiences, being most beneficial. Here are the descriptions of the chapters in that part of the book:
Chapter 11: Games for Action surveys a variety of ways that games have been applied to influence people’s actions in the real world.
Chapter 12: Games for Learning takes a look at games that have been designed to help people learn new concepts and skills.
Chapter 13: Games for Persuasion describes how games can convince people to adopt a different point of view.
Chapter 14: How Games Are Changing concludes the book with a speculative look toward the future of games, as suggested by current trends in design.
While Schell’s book touches on such topics, it doesn’t do so in great detail, as his book primarily deals with the “how” of game design. Spending a chapter each on learning and persuasion gave Ferrara the opportunity to cover a number of examples I wasn’t previously aware of. Note, also, that Challenges for Game Designers by Brenda Brathwaite and Ian Schreiber has similar chapters with even more examples.
If you are seriously interested in designing games, I would first recommend The Art of Game Design, and it will still be the primary text for my class. If you are a designer looking to add game design principles to your tool belt, Playful Design will be perfect for your purposes. I am already sprinkling my lectures with notes from it.
I’ve been using Tom Kelley’s The Art of Innovation as a textbook for my class about product innovation through design process for several years now. It’s 11 years old, and I was thinking about finding a contemporary replacement for it. I just read Tim Brown’s Change By Design, figuring it would be in the same vein, but fresher, considering it was published in 2009. I was a bit disappointed.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad book, but I really didn’t find anything new in it. Most of the examples—and there are a lot of examples—are the same ones cited by Kelley. In fact, the majority of the book tries to convince the reader that Design Thinking is a thing, and that it is what makes companies successful. Part I is titled What is Design Thinking? Part II is Where Do We Go From Here? Both sections string together story after story of projects to demonstrate the importance of IDEO’s approach to problem solving. And while that is all interesting, the book doesn’t contain the much more useful, actionable direction that Kelley provides.
The book is intended for a very different audience. As I was reading it, I kept thinking that Brown’s book was something I’d like the management of my company to read, but not my students. I’ll be sticking with The Art of Innovation next semester, coupled with Don Norman’s The Design of Everyday Things.
Of course, if you have another suggestion, fire away in the comments.
This semester, I will be teaching my information visualization course for fourth time. It has been two years since I taught the course, and in that time, three noteworthy books have been published on the subject.
Manuel Lima’s Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information is an absolutely gorgeous collection of network visualizations. I have yet to read the book, but from flipping through it, I could see that the first three chapters and the last two contain the majority of the written content. The juicy middle two chapters are a gallery of beautiful and complex visualizations with very short descriptions. Consider the book to be visualization porn; if you are into data visualizations, this book will definitely turn you on.
Then there is Beautiful Visualization: Looking at Data Through the Eyes of Experts, a collection of essays edited by Julie Steele and Noah Iliinsky. I’ve read the first chapter of this one, so I can’t give it a review yet, but with contributors ranging from artists and designers to scientists and statisticians, I expect it to be well worth reading. There is less eye candy, and they are generally smaller, than in Lima’s book, but most spreads have supporting examples.
Visualize This: The FlowingData Guide to Design, Visualization, and Statistics by Nathan Yau is the book I’ve decided to use this semester as a companion to The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte. Yau’s book is not one to pick up for pretty pictures. It is a practical guide, giving the reader an overview of where to find data, how to acquire it, how to transform it into a useful format, and how to render it using a variety of technologies and tools available to anyone with a computer and an internet connection. This is exactly the type of instruction that I’ve known was missing from my course, and I’m anxious to work it into my assignments.
I’m looking forward to sharing my students’ work with you. Stay tuned.
The Cooper-Hewitt recently announced the winners of the 2011 National Design Awards. I was pleased to see that Ben Fry is the winner in the Interaction Design category. Ben has created some fantastic information visualizations and authored the O’Reilly book, Visualizing Data. He has a Ph.D. from the Aesthetics + Computation Group at the MIT Media Lab and was the Nierenberg Chair in CMU’s School of Design during the 2006-2007 school year. He is also one of the creators of Processing and has published books on using the language. He is an outstanding representative of our field, deserving the recognition.
Also of particular note are Steven Heller, author and editor of over 130 books and winner of this year’s Design Mind category; Rick Valicenti, winner in Communication Design; and the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement award, Matthew Carter, designer of many popular typefaces, including some of the most used, such as Verdana and Georgia.
You can check out the winners and finalists in all categories on the Cooper-Hewitt website.
Carolina de Bartolo and Erik Spiekermann have a new book out titled Explorations in Typography / Mastering the Art of Fine Typesetting. It appears to be a very good book, and given the authors, that’s not surprising. But, I haven’t read the book yet, so I can’t review it. What I want to tell you about is the website for the book, which was designed and developed by Gregory Cadars.
The site is an outstanding study of typography for the web. It provides a sample of Spiekermann’s writing in a grid-based layout that resembles the design of the book. Rather than freely reflowing as the window resizes, the number of columns and column widths adjust to the width of the window based on the fixed grid. In other words, as the width of the window shrinks, the layout changes from two columns spanning 3 grid columns, to two 2-span columns, to one 3-span column, to one 2-span column. On the far right is a UI with which you may change the size, leading, and alignment. You can also turn hyphenation on and off or change it to “mock text”, replacing the lines of text with gray bars. You are able to select from 12 different typefaces that are rendered using Typekit. Finally, you can select 7 different explorations, which are basically presets of the settings I just listed. The explorations are: Indent, Exdent, Extra Leading, Graphic Element, Rule, Initial Capital, and Drop Capital. Each exploration provides annotations displayed by hovering over the indicators within the content.
Certainly, there is good information here about typographic layout, but perhaps even more useful is inspecting the source to see how Gregory implemented such an elegant and flexible layout.
I’m eight chapters into Jesse Schell’s The Art of Game Design and very much enjoying it. I like his writing style, and I love his anecdotes. I also very much appreciate his approach. His first instruction on how to become a game designer is to say the magic words, “I am a game designer.” Yes, there’s much more to it than that, but this fits well with my own philosophy.
What I find most interesting, if completely unsurprising, is that most of the content so far is not specific to game design. It is the same design process that is used for interaction design, product design, service design, etc. The examples are from games, and everything is related to games, but the process is the key. Once you are a designer, you can apply your knowledge and experience to any problem. In fact, Jesse even suggests that you approach designing a game as a problem.
The purpose of design is to solve problems, and game design is no exception. Before you start coming up with ideas, you need to be certain of why you are doing it, and a problem statement is a way to state that clearly.
I also quite like his method of framing key aspects as lenses, listing questions you should be asking for each one. From what I’ve read so far, I believe this will be an excellent textbook for my class.
I just received an email notification from Amazon that William Gibson’s new novel, Zero History, will be released September 7th. I was in high school when I first read Neuromancer and fell in love with Gibson’s cyberpunk. I’ve never been pessimistic enough to believe that we would end up in such a dystopian future, but that path there seemed plausible. His poetic style of writing created for me a very tangible experience that only Neil Gaiman has been able to match.
Zero History will be picking up the story of Hollis Henry, the heroine from Spook Country, once again working for Hubertus Bigend and his mysterious marketing firm, Blue Ant. It’s a contemporary setting that very much backs up his famous line, “The future is already here—it’s just not evenly distributed.” Perhaps I enjoy this soon-to-be-trilogy so much because it’s characters are very much the people I interact with on a daily basis thrown into extreme circumstances believable enough to be right around the next corner, or link in my web browser. Gibson takes what I do, and turns the cool up all the way to eleven. I can’t wait.