When Apple introduced its third generation iPad back in early March, I immediately knew I had to buy it. I remember when I saw an iPhone 4 for the first time and noticed the absence of pixels and could only imagine how gorgeous that might be on a 10-inch screen. When my new iPad arrived three weeks later, that display exceeded my expectations. Apple delivered on the hype of its television commercial.
After a great Day One, our flock of really smart people came back today for Day Two. With twelve sessions, here are my highlights as I flitted about as staff photographer and occasional contributor.
Simona Brusa Pasqué led a discussion about designers founding or co-founding startups, not only making the argument about how it makes sense but also how hard it can be and sharing some of her lessons learned.
Nadya Direkova from Google led a lively discussion about how to gamify almost anything, even gene sequencing. While Yu Shan Chuang from Rosetta continued to explore another aspect about the role of the designer in organizations, touching about apprenticeships, mentoring and industry community.
Marc Escobosa from Arena Solutions talked about the buyer’s journey and how to design marketing to drive the buyer from one stage to the next—echoing Marisa Gallagher’s talk yesterday—and drawing parallels between experience design and marketing. My takeaway: Design—big D—must not only be involved in product development, but also the marketing of that product.
Andrew Crow from GE reminded us that there could be some extreme conditions in which our users might be using our products, such as in space where an unshielded tablet could be fried by the immense radiation from the sun.
If I were to some up both days of the conference, I would say that there were two emerging themes. The first was really about the role of the experience designer today and how it’s changing. It’s more than just determining the best interaction for an e-commerce shopping cart or best practices for forms. It’s expanding to business strategy, product development, brand and marketing. The second theme was clearly about the future and how we as designers need to be ready for it. Interfaces will only become more varied (ubiquity of smartphones, voice control, ocular control, agents and robots from Futurama) and surprisingly more human.
On a personal note—just like RE:DESIGN/CD—it was really awesome to see old friends. As an initial speaker list, I reached out to many of my former UX friends from past lives and was really happy to see them: Marisa, Sarah, Nadya, and Tim from the Razorfish days; Chris and Dan from the marchFIRST days; and meeting John Nack in person after corresponding with him about my iPad app DesignScene.
Today was the first day at RE:DESIGN/UXD. We had about nine sessions and below are my highlights.
Tim Richards from BLITZ started off the day by raising the bar and saying that experience designers shouldn’t only focus on interactions on a screen. Instead we should think about the macro-experiences to design ones that are authentic and resonate with the audience so that we can avoid the “Ice Cube Effect” (NWA vs. Are We Done Yet?).
Marisa Gallagher from CNN continued with an interactive session equating the UX process with brand strategy (it really is the same). She asked attendees to break out into groups to use their UX knowledge to solve hypothetical branding challenges for companies like Sears and the USPS.
Cooper designers Chris Noessel and Stefan Kolarek led a thought-provoking lunchtime session that looked back on the evolution of interface design and where it will go in the future. Hint: there is no screen.
Sarah Murgel from Razorfish made the following challenge: if protesters using social media in Tunisia can spark a cultural and political revolution in the Middle East, if a young startup can raise $7MM on Kickstarter for a watch in four weeks, why can’t we as UX designers innovate in corporate America?
Lots of phenomenal discussions and idea-sharing happening. As Marisa put it: it feels like a great salon. Day Two is tomorrow.
Yesterday Apple announced its third-generation iPad, simply named "iPad." Buried in MG Siegler's excellent take on the press event is this statement:
What’s more likely — 5 years from now, your primary home computing device is a PC? Or 5 years from now, your primary home computing device is a tablet? Just two years ago, this question would have been an absolute joke. Now it’s a joke to think it will take a full five years.
In the post-PC world, tablets are becoming the new normal more and more. In just the two years since the iPad was first introduced, we've seen it pervasive on airplanes to entertain children, many executives in Silicon Valley walking around with them instead lugging laptops, and even the President of the United States receiving his Presidential Daily Briefing via iPad instead of a sheet of paper.
How We Really Use Tablets
Rosetta—the agency for which I work—released a study last month around how we consumers use tablets. Consumption and entertainment are still the primary uses of tablets today, but here are some interesting points to note:
- 33% of tablet users (who owned one 12+ months) prefer to read/check email on their tablets
- 38% of them prefer tablets to read e-books, magazines or newspapers
- 34% of them use their tablets at work
- 45% on the go
In other words we're witnessing the trend of users either adding to their repertoire of connected devices or in some cases shifting away from traditional PCs to tablets. As MG Siegler said in the quote above, tablets are poised to become the primary computing device at home.
But I would argue that place is a misleading distinction. Yes, PCs will likely still be a primary computing device at the office, but maybe it's the wrong way to put it.
PCs today are not stationary. Almost every workplace I've come across in recent years outfits its workforce with laptops. Those laptops are often taken home so that work can be done at home. And here's the thing: as much as we'd like to draw a hard line between work and home, it's too fuzzy. It's too gray.
Workers check their personal emails and Facebook while at work, on their work machines. They IM their friends or watch funny cat videos on YouTube in the office. Conversely they check their work email on their personal smartphones and catch up with industry-related reading before bed.
The workforce of today achieves work/life balance by seamlessly blending the two to get things done. Wherever they are.
Responsive Web Design
Out of this notion of users being connected constantly and wanting access to information all the time, wherever they are, the responsive web design movement was born. Essentially it's a set of techniques to enable a single codebase to deliver multiple layouts for different screen sizes. The redesign of BostonGlobe.com has become the poster child for this modern and forward-looking approach to designing for the web. It's about letting users access content from whatever devices they have, wherever they are. And with this approach, content creators are also saving money on operating expenditures because they only have one site to maintain, not two or three. No longer should you need to write a different headline for mobile.
The Impending Future Is Here
With all this data staring at them in the face, it amazes me that when it comes to digital marketing, many corporations still have the traditional view of developing for mobile. They are still stuck on starting with the desktop experience and then dumbing it down for smartphones and tablets. The old way of thinking made sense at the time (three, four years ago?): users on the go have different needs, and the screen real estate is too small to do anything significant.
However, as we've become used to having the Internet in our pocket and as we've found a place for the tablet to live in our lives, that four year-old thinking is sadly out of touch with the impending future.
432 million users use Facebook on a mobile device every month. Facebook partially attributes the 76% increase from 2010 to the release of its iPad app. With Apple selling more iPads in Q4 2011 than PCs sold by any PC manufacturer, and with annual tablet sales projected to be at over 45 million by 2016, tablets are here to stay and will become more and more prevalent.
Additionally 472 million smartphones were sold in 2011, 46% of the U.S. adult population have smartphones, and 69% of smartphone owners use it for business. Last, but not least: 81% of smartphone users browse the Internet. The mobile web and the notion of content anywhere cannot be ignored.
The workforce of tomorrow will read their work emails on their smartphones and tablets. They will do research and consume work-related content on those devices. And they will go beyond consumption and produce work on those devices.
As designers and marketers, to ignore this is ignoring the inevitable.
I’ve been slowly getting through Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs. One tidbit I was struck by:
…he pulled out a device that was about the size of a desk diary. “Do you want to see something neat?” When he flipped it open, it turned out to be a mock-up of a computer that could fit on your lap, with a keyboard and screen hinged together like a notebook. “This is my dream of what we will be making in the mid- to late eighties,” he said. They were building a company that would invent the future.
That was Steve Jobs in September 1982 at a retreat with the Macintosh team. He had imagined the laptop one-and-a-half years before shipping the first Mac, and seven years before the Macintosh Portable saw the light of day.
I have been a Mac user since 1985, when I was in the seventh grade. For months I lusted after the Mac on display at Computerland on Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. I’d go there after school just to play with MacPaint. It simply captured my imagination. Finally, after many weeks of begging, I got my dad to buy me a 512K Mac. Thus began my love affair with Apple.
Imagine how lucky I felt when I actually began working on the brand and on Pixar in 2001-2002. It was such a privilege to be so close to the magic and to Steve Jobs himself.
The Steve Jobs I knew was human. Not a god. Not someone who could distort reality. Just a man.
But he was sharp and always focused with his opinions and observations. He demanded perfection. Always.
I was a lowly pixel pusher when I worked directly with him. In addition to Pixar.com, I also designed some pitch slides for him. His feedback was always direct and always right. Yes it was surreal to have him call me on the phone and for me to load slides on his Mac.
Near the end of my tenure at Pixar, I wanted to do more. I was hoping to build a little design department there. But Steve didn’t think I was ready, and he told me so—directly. Even though I was crushed at the time, it was probably one of the best pushes I ever got to do better, to stay hungry, and to stay foolish.
Thank you, Steve. You changed me—and more importantly, the world—for the better.
I’ve been working behind the scenes on a little thing called the RE:DESIGN Conference. It is a whole series of events around Design and the format really encourages intimate conversations led by session leaders.
The first event is themed around Creative Directors and I’ve had the privilege of trying to get many designers whose work I’ve long admired and many friends, colleagues and mentors to come speak at the conference.
Here is a quick rundown of those I know, and how I know them, arranged in autobiographical order:
- Lawrence Azerrad was in my class at California College of Arts & Crafts (CCAC, now California College of the Arts (CCA)). I am envious that he has the pleasure of working with my favorite contemporary band Wilco.
- Mark Fox was my one of my teachers at CCAC and I interned for him. A lot of what I know about logos and symbols I learned from him.
- Neal Zimmermann was one of my bosses in my first full-time design job. Always funny, he would push us junior designers to kern five-letter words for a week, earning him the nickname of “The Kernel.”
- I worked with both Angie Wang and Eric Heiman at Zimmermann Crowe Design (ZCD) and they have both since become inspirational educators and design practitioners.
- Colleen Stokes was my boss at USWeb/CKS (which became marchFIRST). Her designs were always impeccable and she eventually moved to New York to work for a number of style and fashion brands.
- Adam Connelly and I met at marchFIRST (formerly USWeb/CKS, formerly CKS) while working on the Sega account. We would cross paths again at Apple and Razorfish. His wealth of indie music knowledge is amazing.
- Shawn Hazen and I worked at Apple together. Although we were in different groups within Graphic Design, we were both part of the growing team of highly-skilled designers cranking out layouts with Apple Myriad on white.
- I met both Cinthia Wen and Christopher Simmons while working on a side AIGA/SF project dubbed “The Pub Project.” Both are CCA alumni and both are brilliant.
- Dan Buczaczer is the likely outcast of the bunch. He is not a designer, but he and his company are incredibly creative when it comes to innovative ways to get one’s message out. He is also my neighbor in Oakland.
- Dave McClain and I are counterparts at LEVEL Studios. We also both previously worked for Razorfish (formerly Avenue A | Razorfish, formerly SBI.Razorfish, formerly SBI and Company, formerly marchFIRST). Don’t remind him that the Oakland Raiders beat the Denver Broncos at Denver, in their 2011 season opener.
I cannot wait to see all these people in Palm Springs in November. I think it will prove to be a very fun, interesting and inspiring time. More info at the RE:DESIGN website.
I’ve been using
Mac OS X 10.7 Lion for a few days now. I won’t go through all the new stuff; you can read John Siracusa’s epic 27,000-word review instead. But I do want to talk about one thing: natural scrolling.
Apple calls “Natural Scrolling” the reverse of what we have all been accustomed to for the past 15+ years since Microsoft’s IntelliMouse made the scroll wheel popular. And despite my tweet to the contrary, it is definitely taking some time to get used to it completely so that it’s muscle-memory. But I need to break current muscle-memory that’s been a decade-and-a-half in the making.
Natural scrolling actually does make sense for a complete computer newbie. On a trackpad, the user is pushing the page up with her fingers, just like on a touch device such as an iPhone or iPad. This works fine on the Magic Mouse too.
But there still is cognitive dissonance. As the user pushes up on the trackpad the scroll bar moves down and the cursor stays put. Yes on iOS the scroll bar moves down as well, but the user’s actual finger is directly pushing the content up. Whereas the finger gesture on the trackpad or mouse is physically dislocated from the screen, there’s a another layer of abstraction that’s happening (at least in my head).
And then I thought about how that gap might be closed. What if that stationary cursor turned into a grabber hand and moved with the scroll gesture?
Here’s an experiment.
As soon as the gesture starts, the cursor changes into a grabber hand that will move with the gesture. When the gesture is finished, the grabber returns to its original position and changes back to the normal cursor.
I was working at Apple in the motion graphics group within the Graphic Design department. I was assigned to work on the intro animation for the Mac OS X 10.3 Panther setup assistant. We went through the normal design process with our stakeholders (people in charge of “MacBuddy”) and got to an animation that was essentially swarms of dots that formed each of the different translations of “Welcome” on the screen. And then we showed this nearly-final animation to someone higher at the top—forgive me, I’ve forgotten who this was—and he killed it because the dots looked too much like sperm. OK, they kinda did. (Think about swirling points of light but with motion trails. We tried increasing the motion blur, but it was no use.)
It was back to the drawing board and I presented more ideas. Eventually Steve got involved and started looking at the animations. Each week my boss would show Steve a new revision of it, and each time we got a little closer. Then on Round 14, the week my boss was on vacation, I had to go present it to Steve Jobs.
He was eager to see this new revision. No pleasantries. No introductions (actually he knew me from Pixar). Just got right down to business. But he did say this to me, “Wow. We spend more time on MacBuddy than Microsoft does on all of its UI.” And then he chuckled.
The presentation was quick and he only had a couple of pretty minor notes. I think I had one more revision and it was finally done.
What my time at Apple and working with Steve taught me was this: Keep going until it’s right. Don’t settle.
Thank you, Steve.
The AIGA is sponsoring a 24-hour online conversation about Design (with an uppercase D). This is all happening on Twitter, moderated by some pretty big names like Alex Bogusky, Erik Spiekermann, Armin Vit and others.
I’m happy to see the AIGA doing this online and using social media. And I’m happy there are moderators that represent a couple of generations of designers.
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