Friday, March 30, 2007
My friend Tony J, of Ratio Interactive and I were talking a while back about presenting User Interface designs to team members and clients. The de facto standard for presenting designs generated on a computer seems to be PowerPoint but Tony was explaining how his team has begun to use prints mounted on boards, even for draft designs being discussed internally. He feels that having a physical object helps people "respect the design."
I also like the idea of presenting designs in a physical media because it allows me to leave the designs around the office for people to walk by, point at, and discuss. It is also great to make displays of competitor products to compare and contrast. The non-linear browsing just doesn't work as well with PowerPoint.
I asked Tony what steps Ratio takes to prepare a design exhibit. This is what he said:
- create designs (of course)
- print designs on ink jet printer
- obtain black matte board (8-ply is nice and "substantial" feeling)
- cut a trim print outs to size (if need be)
- cut matte board to size based on print outs to be mounted. Make sure to lightly pencil in your mounting marks (the corners) so you can easily place the printed piece after it's sprayed.
- use Super 77 (from 3m) spray mount. (very permanent, no second chances. But the paper becomes 1 with the matte) Home Depot sells it very inexpensively.
- In a well ventilated area (stair-well, covered outdoor area, or garage) we place the printed piece face down in a box and spray the back until it's covered like a light morning dew.
- after you've sprayed the paper you have a minute or two to place it on the matte. Be careful to not let it touch the matte until you're ready to commit. I recommend starting with the corners on one side and placing that side edge between the corners. Then carefully stretch the paper across the matte taught and bring the opposite corners to their marks on the matte. This will give you the opportunity to slightly stretch and align as you go to make sure you hit the marks on the opposite corners.
This week, I make my own exhibit for a project I am consulting on. I used a slightly different technique. Here is what I did:
- Took screenshots of popular web sites as well as my own designs and imported them into iPhoto.
- I cropped them into a normal print size and used iPhoto to order the images as prints. I did a second batch at a local Costco using their "matte" finish prints and like the look even better. 5 x 7 size worked nicely for me. The nice thing about photo prints as opposed to doing them on an inkjet is that the quality is high, the is no expensive ink to run out, and there is no cropping required.
- I used black foam core for my backing.
- Instead of glue, I tried this Handi-Tak Reusable Adhesive stuff that I found. I cut it into small pieces, roll each piece into a ball, and put a little ball on each corner of the print. Then I press it on the board using gloves or a tissue to avoid finger prints. I like that the Handi-Tak makes the print hover off the backing by about an 1/8". It also is easy to remove and reposition, which is nice if I don't get them straight the first time or so that I can reuse the backing board.
All in all, it costs a few bucks and about 10-15 minutes to make one of these boards once you have the supplies. I'm a fan of this presentation method so far. Earlier this week I did a Keynote walk through of a mock-up design idea, but had a board with all the screenshots too so that people could compare it against previous slides for discussion.
If you are a presentor or a designer, what is your favorite method for presenting exhibits?
Thursday, March 29, 2007
This week I treated myself to my first new music album in a while, Robert Glasper's In My Element. I first heard Robert Glasper on NPR a few days ago and it really caught my ear.
I've often been interested in combining jazz music with funk / hip-hop music but it is an elusive combo. Good jazz is often sophisticated and complex and good funk and hip-hop are often honest, raw, earthy, and physical. Unfortunately, many musicians combine them and loose the sophistication as well as the honesty and physicality. What they end up with something, well... smooth.
What struck me about Robert Glasper is that he seemed to be combining genres without loosing the good qualities in each. This album is definitely a jazz trio record, but it is fun to hear hip-hop and other styles mixing with the jazz. Unlike other artists, he isn't bringing in turntables and samplers, but rather tipping his hat to other genres using the jazz trio format.
Of course, having Glasper fail to point out his influences makes me listen for them even more. I don't know about you, but when I listed to this record I hear a similarity to Gonzalo Rubalcaba, especially the way the trio interacts. There is definitely a Keith Jarrett influence on the piano playing. And, does anyone else hear a connection to Vince Guaraldi?
Anyway, check it out. I think a lot of different people will appreciate this album, regardless of what you normally listed to. I'd like to know what you think and what influences / connections you hear in the music.
Saturday, March 24, 2007
We satisfice. Satisfy plus suffice, which is to say good enough. It's a term economist and Nobel Laureate Herbert A. Simon coined in his 1957 Models of Man to describe the typical human decision-making process by which we go with the first option that offers an acceptable payoff. We'll take whatever seems to meet the bare minimum requirement to achieve the goal. Then we stop looking for the best way to solve the problem. That flies in the face of ingenuity and the pursuit of perfection. In the end, it's selfish, because the customer loses.
I just finished enjoying Matthew May's book on innovation and the pursuit of perfection. If you resonate with the quote I listed above, you will probably enjoy the book too.
Here are a few tidbits that made me think (in my own words):
- Discipline and Creativity are partners, not enemies.
- Force an elegant solution by using paradox in your design goals (for example, in next version of Bee Docs' Timeline, I am trying to find a design that adds more features, while making it even easier for beginners to use).
- Contrary to many urban legends, constant baby steps are almost always the path to breakthrough, not radical new ideas.
- Build tomorrow's solutions to today's problems. There are enough problems in the world, we don't need to build products or businesses that are built around future or speculative problems.
- True innovation leverages every single person in a company. Not just a design guru, or a visionary CEO.
- Reflection is necessary for learning, and is not well practiced in western cultures (or dot-com cultures I would add).
Good stuff, I say. Give it a read and use the comments to let me know what you think of the book.
Friday, March 09, 2007
Testing 1, 2, 3... Is this thing on? (sqqquueeeeel)
Oh, I guess so! OK, this post goes out to all my friends who read this blog.
iTunes has been putting some pretty great music on-line for free over the past couple months and I want to make sure that no friend of mine is missing out on free goodness.
You may say, "well I tried downloading the Single of the Week once, but it was a hip-hop track I didn't like." My tip to you is that the Single of the Week is only one third of the free music available each week, and often it isn't the best third.
Besides the Single of Week, iTunes also has a Discover Download track and iTunes Latino track for free each week. Both of these tracks are particularly good this week and a high percentage of them have been keepers recently. There have been classical, pop, singer-songwriter, dance songs... All kinds of great stuff.
The easy way to find all the free songs is to scroll near the bottom of the iTunes music store home page and find the "FREE ON iTunes" box. The free music tracks are usually the first 3 in the list, followed by some TV episodes and misc other stuff that I don't care about, but you might. The new free songs are posted every Tuesday, so put a reminder in your calendar to visit the iTunes store each week and grab the new songs, OK?
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Some of you will know that Seal is among my favorite musicians. Back in the mid-90's I used to collect all the imports and singles that I could find (no fair that they are so easy to get on iTunes now). I also would contribute photos and tidbits to the Future Love Paradise fan site when I could. Seal was actually the first concert that I camped out for tickets for (back in '94)
Anyway, fast forward to 2007. Besides a baby and supermodel wife, Seal has a great blog which he has been using to answer fan questions, show of photos from his life, and even preview new songs that he is writing!
I believe the days of creating in a secret lab, whether it be art, software, music, or novels are coming to an end. The future is creating in the open, letting your audience participate in the process. Thanks Seal for leading the way for the music industry!
It makes you wonder about these tech companies that make you sign an NDA before even telling what their product is... There is a (probably remote) possibility that someone is going to rip off all your ideas and get to market before you, but perhaps it would help customers spot and avoid the rip-off if the creative process was more transparent in the first place.
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The iPhone, as it has been shown, fits well with what I want. Easy syncing with the Mac, Address Phone, phone features, music, and voice mail all look very nice. But there are 3 missing features that need to be there for it to be a good value for me.
RSS News Reader - Mobile web browsing is good, but mobile newsreaders are even better. On my Sidekick, I lived in my web-based news reader during my bus commutes. I don't want to spend time surfing around the web and slowly downloading banner ads, etc... I like my news and blogs in a nice updated, quick and easy to read list. If the read/unread and flagged/unflagged status can be synced with my work and home computer, it would be icing on the cake. Offline support so I could sync in the airport and read news feeds on the plane would be nice too.
Basically, I want an application that looks just like the Mail on the iPhone but reads RSS feeds. Perhaps this is something Apple could integrate into the Mail application, or something they could let the NetNewsWire folks develop as a 3rd party application. But, I need my feeds!
iChat - I was shocked to see iChat support missing from the iPhone on it's introduction. The introduction showed SMS messaging by not AIM. This is such a big hole that no one I've talked to can believe it. I say "I wish the iPhone had AIM" and they say, "I'm sure it does." Well, Apple hasn't shown it yet. I hope it is in there by the release date.
The Sidekick had great instant messaging support. The great thing about instant messaging, compared to SMS, is that personal and business contacts can see when I am available. With the Sidekick, I was able to be available at my desk computer, my home computer, and on the road. I didn't have to have my phone on all day because I could change my "presence" to my desktop, and I didn't have to use my minutes or annoy other bus riders shouting into my phone when a simple chat message would do.
So Apple, please bring on the IM! It would be ok with me to start with text and introduce audio and video chat later. It would also be ok with me to start with AIM and add other services later. But, I need my instant message!
Developer SDK - I would love to develop applications for this exciting new platform. I know many other developers would too. I think a safe way to do this would be to open it up slowly. Start with widgets, expand access as time goes on.
Apple has sited security and stability as issues... right. I have tons of 3rd party applications on my Mac, and it is very stable. I'm not saying that security and stability with 3rd party applications is easy, but I am confident Apple can do it. Users would need to know when an application is about to be installed, they would need to be able to easily remove it when they no longer want it, and certain functions (such as turning off other audio when a call comes in) would need to be protected. But, I'd love to see Apple open this door, even if they open it slowly.
The Mac platform has many of the best developers in the world. I'm sure the iPhone could attract many top developers as well. Users will want niche applications, and developers will want to provide them. Show us some love Apple!
I'm hopeful that Apple will add these soon. They have done a great job of keeping innovations flowing on their other products, and I'm sure they won't let the iPhone get stale. I'm going to try and hold out for second generation before I buy one, but I can't wait to play with an iPhone in person.
In the mean time, please buy my timeline software so that I can afford an iPhone when this apple is ripe!
Friday, March 02, 2007
I got a chance to work on my stamped calling cards again last night. I bought a new "sky gray" ink and tried out as many color combinations and I could make. I think my favorite so far is a black bee with the gray block.