a web thing

Category: writing

Little pieces

I’m riding a train this morning to work. Not the subway but an actual train from Philadelphia to NYC. It brings back potent nostalgia for Barcelona.‬

When I was a teacher I would take a regional train from BCN to Molins del Rei. I didn’t mind the commute, in fact I got excited every time I got on the train. I got excited because I was SO new that I could feel myself getting better every class I taught.‬

I also loved the small amount of money. I can’t remember but I think it was about €60. I got paid daily, in cash. The day that it was enough to cover rent that month, felt like such an accomplishment: one more month I could make it as an immigrant.

Aside:
In the United States right now that can be a heavy word, immigrant, but to clarify my circumstance: I moved to Barcelona with two suitcases of clothes, a good amount of savings and a plan to support myself teaching English. I used my savings, taught English, but was unable to secure a visa. So, being undocumented really limited my travel. I couldn’t hop around Europe as I hoped, but Catalunya was enough for me. I also couldn’t go back to the USA until I was comfortable with the possibility I’d be barred from coming back to my new home in Barcelona.

When I filled my envelope under the mattress markered with RENT, the rest was mine. Each day I went to work was another 40 to 60 euros for cheap beer, jamón serrano, galletas Principe, wine, subway tickets, pay-as-you-go cell phone “top ups.” They had ATM style kiosks around shopping centers where you type in your phone number, insert the cash, and then your available balance on the phone gets updated. Wow.

So, each time I got on a train I would look out the window and soak up the sequence of quotidian landscapes. I didn’t know how long I would be there. Each day was an exciting step and I just wanted to keep going.


I can’t help comparing this feeling to present day. Now I ride a train and feel that nostalgia, but rarely look forward to work. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the daily reward and the Pavlovian effect has worn off. I definitely need work to pay the bills, but it’s no longer a day-to-day survival. I also don’t feel that daily progression that I did with being a new teacher. Now I work with a big company that only dares take incremental steps toward some undefined goal of “generate more money/customers.” Most employees aren’t needed for a specific day like a teacher is required each day for a class to happen. My work is spread out over the course of weeks, months, and then I don’t see a final result sometimes for a year.

There isn’t an inherent negative to taking the long view. In fact sometimes it is most valuable. [The Long Now Foundation] I also recall feeling a little lost in Barcelona, taking life in little pieces, with no idea how they added up to a big piece or what the next big piece should be. I’m sitting here on the train again, no longer at a loss for the big pieces, but missing the delight of the little ones.

Perhaps writing is one way to get them. Actually writing this very message feels like mixing the pallet of big and little, but to get meta about it, the act of writing is small in itself. I like that.


Link Drops, A TinyLetter

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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