Reblog, writing

I just created a TinyLetter to dispense the occasional links I’m dying to share with other designers. For a while, it might exist as blog posts too. I might phase that out, though.


Hello You

This first email is a bit of a story, and then some links. I promised links.

When I first thought about making this newsletter – still wondering if I’ll just make blog posts instead, I do hate email clutter – I had a bunch of great articles floating around my head that I wanted to share. Now I have no idea what those were, so I’m now getting lost in the blogosphere that, for 2016, is Medium.com.

I hate ending sentences with URLs.

 

What these Link Drops are for:

“Beginner’s Mind” comes from Buddhism, but I think it works just great for the attitude required when sharing information about any field of practice, especially design:

It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would. [wiki]

 

I consider job experience as a vague measurement or ranking of how many mistakes you’ve made so far. In this light, I can never imagine experience as a limiting factor on learning – yes, even learning the same thing twice.

 

Great stuff on the internet is usually doing one of two things for me:

  1. Showing me something really different, or something ordinary in a different way
  2. Reflecting my own way of thinking about things

It’s healthy to get a mix of both. I know, the second one seems very insulating, but I have found that reading what a like-minded person writes gives you the benefit of learning how to better articulate your own thoughts.

 

Feedback

Yeah, that would be super helpful. Left to my own devices, I will go down tangents about philosophy, freedom on the internet, and such. I’m going to try and stick to articles and resources for learning about design, and specifically about UX Design. If you really want to see “more like this” or “less of that” then feel free to reply directly to this. It goes to my inbox.


Link Drop #1

In my quest for links today I started digging through Medium and found one, two, three, whoa tons of great articles from UX Launchpad. So it’s safe to say that clicking any of those will be interesting and informative.

Design Explosions #3

Start here! It looks like an article, but really it’s a video. This serious called “Design Explosions” takes a deep look at a finished product and breaks it down to see what’s going on. I appreciate the diagrams.

Design Explosions #1

Craaaazy long, plenty of good diagrams though. Okay so this is a really long one and I don’t blame you if you can’t get through the whole thing in one sitting. What’s most important here is: there are multiple ways to design anything.

Junior Designers vs. Senior Designers

Oldie, but excellent. Another person’s idea of experience conveyed in squiggly line sketches.

A Faster FT.com

Last week, Nico gave an excellent talk about how people perceive time/waiting. Here’s an article giving us a very tangible, and yes, monetary case for an efficient web”

We wanted to understand how much the speed of our website affected user engagement, specifically, the quantity of articles read, one of our key measures of success. Using that data we then wanted to quantify the impact on our revenue.

Designing complex products

I’ll finish off on a strong note. This hits both #1 (something new to me) and #2 (reflects a lot back at me).
For example: I’m a big fan of the progressive reveal strategy and that’s reflected in a lot of my designs. To each their own, but I enjoyed seeing another designer explain it.

Sincerely,
Rob

Addendum

Some of these were long articles talking about real world examples of a design process in action. I could also include some things in the genre of listicles, like Typography Tips for a Better User Experience, or just general repositories of info and tools. If that’s more your speed, let me know.

deep thoughts kitty

I hope you like cats

 

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Musings

Hi there, it’s Rob again to go on and on about how amazing Simple is.

I often think of how great it would be to design for this product, but then maybe it’d be a room-mate kind of scenario where you risk souring the relationship – who knows!

In any case, I had a bit of surprise-fraud today. Long story short, I saw an Amazon transaction even though I didn’t buy anything on there recently. They quickly disabled my card until everyone could investigate. As it turns out, I had pre-ordered something and it was one big false alarm.

When I let Brenna know (customer service), she was equally relieved. I really cannot say more about how much I appreciate a normal, human response to situations such as these.

Simple Bank customer service screenshot

Yes, you might have noticed. She even included a reaction GIF!

Simple is awesome

Aside

An Instagram comment from someone at Tumblr inspired me to whip up a few potential sock patterns for Tumblr. All based on the brand colors and official logo. The sock shape is adapted from an icon file.

swagsock

Work

Swag Socks!

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Project Planning

Creating “Letters”

I’ve been thinking about starting up another podcast (I had four of them in back in College) and after setting a personal deadline of the end of January, I finally got it together!

You can learn more about the podcast from visiting the site or listening to the introductory episode, but basically it will have a different topic in each episode and feature opinions, perspectives, and thoughts from other people.

Since all the podcast stuff has its own home online, I’d like to briefly share my process for getting everything set up here:


1. Site & Hosting

This was the easiest step for me, because I already have hosting (thanks Dreamhost!) and a domain name set up. I might buy a unique domain name for the podcast, but that’s a bit premature right now. For the time being I set up a sub-domain (anything prefixing the main domain) as letters.robrogan.com.

If you don’t have any of the above, you’ll want to shop around for some affordable hosting and a domain name. Both of these should be super easy to find with Google and I don’t feel like writing a tutorial. ;)

2. Setting up the CMS

A CMS is yet another tech acronym for Content Management System. You’ll have lots of content—blogs, podcasts, etc.—and you’ll want to manage it. WordPress is by far the easiest to set up in my opinion so I’m using that.

With WordPress, you can quickly get it set up to distribute your podcast with a single plugin. There are a few to choose from but so far I recommend: Seriously Simple Podcast. What a godsend. Literally all I had to do was fill in the title of my show, author, description, and a few other pieces of info and it was good-to-go.

There are a few other details that I put into my WordPress, but you should set it up however you like. I’m trying to find a balance between practical, low-maintenance customization with just a dash of unique design. Using the plugin Easy Google Fonts I changed the typeface to a much softer sans-serif called Nunito. Note: I would not recommend using more than one or two web fonts as each font file increases the loading time for your site.

3. Making the Podcast

Well this point could be all sorts of things, but let’s just say that at some point you’ll have to sit down and record some audio, then edit the track, save it as a reasonably sized *.mp3 and upload it to your blog’s “Media” (if using WordPress).

In my case, I have a USB microphone (even a cheap one is a lot better than the built-in source) and I recorded with Adobe Audition. If you don’t have Adobe then Audacity is 100% free and gets the job done. Podcast editing a pretty big topic that is covered elsewhere better than I could here, so I’m not going to go into detail.

4. Album Art, Finishing Touches

People can agonize for hours—nay, days—trying to create the perfect artwork for their show. Right from the start I told myself that it will never be perfect, and it’s not going to ooze symbolism either. Erring on the side of simplicity, I just typed up the podcast name in a few fonts and colors and went from there.

I ended up using a strong serif font for the base, and then I masked-out most of an ornamented font, retaining just a few interesting characteristics, and overlayed that in a bright color. I think it has an interesting effect, so that’s good enough for me! Lastly, I needed something else to give it a bit of weight and not feel like a word just floating in the middle of a square. In addition to adding the two lines (reminiscent of lined paper), I added a thick border so that the light background didn’t get lost in the mix of a white web design or podcast app.

Letters podcast artwork

5. Now It Really Begins

So, setting up all of this was a bit of a chore, but in reality it’s just the beginning. I think the interesting challenge remains in creating each episode, especially if I require the participation of other people. I hope it turns into something great, but if not, it’s been a fun design and build process.


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Musings

Brain Dump

What’s on my mind?

There’s a misconception that the practice of meditation involves clearing your mind of thoughts. There are amazing resources to learn all about it, but in short: the aim is to remain aware of thoughts as they come and go like clouds and not grab on to one and get lost in a train of thought.

Perhaps that’s not the best definition, but I think it explains how I’ve been this week. I used to meditate once a week at this place in Manhattan for about a year straight, and for whatever reason I lost the habit. Last Tuesday I returned and I’m already excited for next Tuesday’s sitting.

I’m definitely feeling more aware of so many thoughts passing by, but I’m very out of practice in letting them go. I feel some mental arms flailing around as I want to keep each one and nurture it into some nice, grand thought.

I heard something interested on a podcast recently about letting go of identifying with your thoughts. If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, think of the House of Black & White where Arya is training to become “a girl” and lose her identity.
Jaqen-Hghar
A girl may think a thing, but Arya does not. If you have a blog, podcast, or just love to talk a lot, you might notice how the further you elaborate a thought, the more you’re trying to inject your identity into the idea as though it is your own. At least that’s the case for me.

Of course, a specific thought at a specific time can only happen inside your head, so in that regard you are the owner of the thought. The idea however is likely to be shared by thousands. There’s a point where I disagree with the above however: I think sharing ideas is the most important thing humans can do. We developed the ability to communicate and that’s probably our best attribute.

So, on a personal note, I hope to put things here in a spirit of sharing, not identifying or owning, or to be an expert or visionary, but for the sake of the same ideas that reside in so many others to light up and become connected; which is how great philosophies can be born. Also, fully knowing that all of this can happen without me entirely, but for my entertainment at least, I’d like to learn and to listen.

Now that the meta is taken care of…

Minimalism and Wabi-Sabi

I’ve been reading Kenya Hara, and John Maeda lately. I also started getting into Wabi-Sabi: Further Thoughts, which hasn’t expanded much of what I learned from his first book, but has definitely rekindled my interested in thinking of this aesthetic applied to digital interfaces.

Just yesterday I saw this beautiful phone interface designed by Kenya Hara, for an elderly population, but something that I would love to use!

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Now I have this crazy desire to make such an operating system in English, and include the sensibilities of Wabi-Sabi that I’m always talking about. I have no idea where to start in such an ambitious project and would probably need a whole design studio to be honest, but I think it’s going to be a fun concept to explore for myself.

Podcasting

For a guy that starts out a blog post about not identifying with thoughts, and letting them pass by, I’m really anxious to create more things. What can I say, humans are complicated.

I’ve had this idea for quite a while now, but I’ve set a deadline to complete a first episode by the end of January. The recording and editing will be done by then, and depending on the technicalities of publishing it, you may not see it until February.

In short, I’m trying this new style where I record a Voice Mail for a person, send it to that other person and wait for a response. With a few responses, or a few people, I hope to have something interesting that can be stitched together into a short episode.

This is inspired by old-timey hand written correspondence, but we’ll see how it really plays out. Recorded conversation is most interesting because it can have unexpected turns, and people can quickly adjust their stance on something and arrive at a natural conclusion. I’m afraid this won’t be as interesting to listen to, but I have a hunch that I could be different enough to still be interesting.

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Work

Design Thinking

On our work Slack today, someone linked this Wired article:

IBM’s Got a Plan to Bring Design Thinking to Big Business

To which I quickly replied with:

FullSizeRender.jpg

Anyone who knows me will know that I’m always crusading against saying words that don’t mean real things, and buzzwords. Design Thinking, in my mind is just thinking! Maybe that’s because I’m already a designer, but I feel like anyone can bring this type of thinking about a problem if they simply step outside of their typical problems and concerns of the day and dedicate some thoughtful time to an issue.

Later, someone shared this wonderful, 4 year old diatribe about design thinking by Dan Saffer.

Love. It.

On a more personal note, I suppose a lot of this comes from my perception that I’m not doing anything magical or special. I simply get paid to focus on certain things, and people in these “big corporations” we nebulously try to understand are just other people focusing on other things. I have no problem (and welcome) the inclusion of designers to help solve a problem. I also think that a business person can do a lot of this “design thinking” without involving a designer. You have to be willing to put your train on hold, switch tracks, and dedicate yourself to that problem. I fear the most toxic outcome of sharing vague words about an entire profession is to miss the point, and in some cases, acquire a design firm so that you have “in-house designers” to add value to your company – this won’t work.

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