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links – Rob Brogan

August 18, 2016Comments are off for this post.

Excerpt: A Prayer for Owen Meany

The quotes of Owen Meany throughout the book are written in ALL CAPS, which is an effective technique in print to encapsulate the character's voice, attitude, and other deeper aspects of who Owen is. I've "translated" the CAPS into regular case letters so that it's not as jarring when reading the excerpt. The Audible narrated version is perfectly done, too. I think he really captures such a unique character.

A Prayer for Owen Meany was a moving book in so many ways, but in an unexpected dimension, the political commentary (mostly against the Vietnam War) still rings so true for our contemporary situation.

What’s wrong with this country?” he wrote. “There is such a stupid ‘get even’ mentality—there is such a sadistic anger.” He turned on the tv, keeping the volume off; when I woke up, much later, he was still writing in the diary and watching one of those television evangelists—without the sound. “It’s better when you don’t have to listen to what they’re saying,” he said.

In the diary, he wrote: “is this country just so huge that it needs to oversimplify everything? Look at the war: either we have a strategy to ‘win’ it, which makes us—in the world’s view—murderers; or else we are dying, without fighting to win. Look at what we call ‘Foreign Policy’: our ‘Foreign Policy’ is a euphemism for Public Relations, and our Public Relations get worse and worse. We’re being defeated and we’re not good losers.

"selling old Jesus-stories like junk food"

and look at what we call ‘Religion’: turn on any television on any Sunday morning! See the choirs of the poor and uneducated—and these terrible preachers, selling old Jesus-stories like junk food. Soon there’ll be an evangelist in the white house; soon there’ll be a cardinal on the Supreme Court. One day there will come an epidemic—I'll bet on some humdinger of a sexual disease. And what will our peerless leaders, our heads of church and state … what will they say to us? How will they help us? You can be sure they won’t cure us—but how will they comfort us? Just turn on the tv—and here’s what our peerless leaders, our heads of church and state will say: they’ll say, ‘I told you so!’ They’ll say, ‘that’s what you get for fucking around—I told you not to do it until you got married.’ Doesn’t anyone see what these simpletons are up to? These self-righteous fanatics are not ‘religious’—their homey wisdom is not ‘morality.’

"What’s wrong with both of them is that they’re so sure they’re right!"

That is where this country is headed—it is headed toward oversimplification.You want to see a president of the future? Turn on any television on any Sunday morning—find one of those holy rollers: that’s him, that’s the new Mister President! And do you want to see the future of all those kids who are going to fall in the cracks of this great, big, sloppy society of ours? I just met him; he’s a tall, skinny, fifteen-year-old boy named ‘Dick.’ He’s pretty scary. what’s wrong with him is not unlike what’s wrong with the tv evangelist—our future president. What’s wrong with both of them is that they’re so sure they’re right! That’s pretty scary—the future, I think, is pretty scary.

A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving

June 18, 2016Comments are off for this post.

Finally a new podcast episode!

Letters Podcast — Episode 02: Life

It has been a while but I finally got around to posting the second episode for my little side project!


Letters podcast artwork

In this episode, I received four letters in response to a letter of mine that was part statement and part question. Picking up where Habiba concluded the previous episode, I thought about the connection or disconnection of work and life. I asked Habiba to respond and invited three others to contribute their thoughts as well.

Note: This is episode will be released in two parts. In this first part, you’ll hear from Habiba and Mike. In Episode 02B, you’ll hear Nick and Crystal.

Podcast Players:

April 18, 2016Comments are off for this post.

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

 

Subscribe!

December 14, 2015Comments are off for this post.

Rilke

A friend sent me this book with the note that it's one of his favorites and still picks it up again once in a while. That last part is most impressive to me, since I never read anything twice – there's too many books in the world! I could immediately see why this one might be so re-readable.

I won't give much background – descriptions and summaries you can find online – but I think I first heard of Rilke from the podcast Entitled Opinions. He was some German poet that left a lasting mark on his era, but I didn't know much more than that. I know it's sad, but I never pick up books of poetry. I guess I don't know how to read it. Maybe it's because poetry is work, and unless you sit and think and feel for a few days with the words in your mind, it never goes deeper than the surface. A story however will do the work for me, and I have a character to follow down deeper into some other experience. I would completely recommend this book to anyone that feels the same about poetry. This is Rilke's only novel, and it holds my hand (somewhat) to where I need to go – as novels do – but along the way I can get an idea of some of the beautiful poetry out there that I'm missing.

Here's my favorite paragraph so far. The only context that you need is that there's a bit of fog in Paris.

“What such a small moon can achieve. There are days when everything about one is luminous, light, scarcely defined in the bright air, and nonetheless distinct. Even the nearest of things have the shades of distance upon them; they are remote, merely sketched in rather than bodied forth; and all things that do indeed partake of the distance—the river, the bridges, the long streets and the prodigal squares—have absorbed the distance within themselves and are painted on to it as upon silk. Who can say what a slight green vehicle on the Pont Neuf might be at such times, or some red bursting forth, or even a mere poster on the fire wall of a pearly-grey group of buildings. Everything is simplified, rendered into a few exact, bright planes like the face in a portrait by Manet. And nothing is of slight importance or irrelevance. The booksellers along the Quai open up their stalls, and the fresh or faded yellow of the books, the violet brown of the bindings, the more commanding green of an album: all of it is just right and has its worth and is a part of the whole and adds up into a fullness where nothing is lacking.”

Rilke

July 8, 2015Comments are off for this post.

Link Drop — Voice Interaction

Interesting sources and offshoots found in my research of designing for voice interaction

Read more

February 6, 2015Comments are off for this post.

Design Career Inspiration

I recently watched a documentary about Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli called The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness1. It's a beautiful movie, and I recommend everyone who has a career of "making things" watch this. No, you don't have to be familiar with his films, but it may be more interesting if you watch The Wind Rises2 beforehand.

I found myself pausing this movie to write down a few quotes that really struck me. This also happened within the context of a weekend where I happened to be reading a design publication that got me thinking about my own work. The design magazine was, of course, more explicitly focused on my own industry and happened to call out one of my major qualms with working at design agencies in general: they exist to serve big corporations, but the employees within are always dreaming about smaller, more beautiful things they could build.

A photo posted by Rob Brogan (@robrogan) on

As seems to be the theme for me this last year, I find myself in an adolescence of design where I'm of course working (I'm an Interaction Designer) but I feel there's little control over what I work on (projects come from the company of course), and I don't exactly know what I'd ideally work on. Some inspiration that came out of this documentary was that (1) doing good work, work that you want to be a part of is of utmost importance, and (2) the people you do this with are very important.

Toshio Suzuki, Producer, Studio Ghibli —

I'll say this, based on my experience. In your work, obviously, you'll meet many people. But ultimately, it's about who you work with. Only those who choose the right people to work with will be able to do the work they want.

I understand they go hand-in-hand, but thus far I haven't found the two to overlap in one place. I guess that's what I need to be more aware of, and always seeking out.

Hayao Miyazaki, Establishing Studio Ghibli —

We're going to build a three-story studio [...] Basically, our foremost objective here is making good films. No guarantees of lifetime employment here.
But companies are just conduits for money. Its success isn't our priority. What's important is that you're doing what you want, and that you're gaining skills.
If Ghibli ceases to appeal to you, then just quit. Because I'll do the same.


1. The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness IMDB | Trailer
2. The Wind Rises IMDB | Trailer
Bonus: The Wind Rises Soundtrack: Stream

December 2, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Most interesting (recent) read

I haven't posted here much, and that's basically because I'm lazy. I'm still here, though!

Quickly now, I'd like to share an article that - in my opinion - has a lot of meat, and all of it is interesting, if you're a designer.

Chinese Mobile App UI Trends

By Dan Grover

Some highlights include:
Chinese culture doesn't make a big deal of meeting strangers nearby through social apps.
CAPTCHA utilized on login screens (not just signup flows).
People really do use QR codes!
Moments – Just scroll to this part. I really dig the philosophy.

May 25, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Placeholder Content

I see it once in a while (latest Facebook update for example), but it's not very common that someone has clearly defined placeholder content that doesn't look like generic grey filler. Sonia Rentsch's site immediately loads with geometric placeholders in the same color scheme as the rest of the site. In fact, from a first impression I would say that this not-so-subtle graphic element really ties the whole site together. Wink, movie reference, wink.

Drag the divider thingy to compare the two screenshots. Or visit the site. Whatever.

May 19, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Getting Political

Oh look, an update! Fight For The Future Blog


Don't worry, just for a little bit... only while I have to!
For the record, I generally hate politics and think of it as a system incongruent with our ideals, but almost entirely unresponsive in practice. I feel entirely ineffective as a citizen, and this entire post is most likely going to be useless, but when something has a great enough emotional weight it will move anyone to try what they believe to be impossible.

Net Neutrality = The Internet as you probably think of it right now

It's important to me to feel that I will always have full access to any corner of the internet. I also don't like bills, but that's another story.

What, in broad strokes, the FCC and Internet Service Providers (ISP) are doing:

  • Chopping up the internet website by website, based on demand
    • i.e. Netflix > Yahoo
  • Popular sites become an extra commodity – even if you pay for the service itself
    • i.e. Buying a cable sports/movie "package" for TV
  • Less popular sites, like this one that actually provide a voice for people, will trickle in at much slower speeds.
  • Don't forget that "popular" is now decided by your provider (Comcast, Verizon, etc) and American politics shows that those with more money are also closer to politics. So, despite sounding like a conspiracy theory, a risk of complete or partial (slow/reduced access) censorship is very real. China has been doing this for years. It's called the Great Firewall of China by the outside world. Google it while you can.

I'm not suggesting that my site is important - by any means - but the lack of hierarchy, the freedom of choice, the delight of discovery, whatever you want to call it, is dependent on a blind or neutral connection to all of the websites in the world: Net Neutrality.

We have lost this battle. The United States does not legally require your service providers to be neutral with regards to the internet content they serve you. To finish off the saying... we haven't lost the war.

Illustrated Explanation of Net Neutrality

This video does a much better job than I did:

Related petitions

Fight For the Future: Tell the FCC we need Net Neutrality
Whitehouse.gov: Remove Tom Wheeler from his position as FCC Chairman

May 14, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Suggested Reading

Project Management, Design

I'm starting to get interested in project management. No, I don't ever want to leave my role as an Interaction Designer, but the more invested I am in a design projected, the more value I see for excellent management. Here are a few links that stirred up my interest:

Climbing Mount Enterprise

By Ken Norton on Medium
What Google’s first enterprise product manager can teach us about product roadmaps

Measure twice, cut once

By Rick Klau on Medium
What you remove is as important as what you add

Resources

By Dan Edwards on Medium
200+ sites, apps & books that I recommend any designer should check out.


Longer reads

It might be an ironic thing to add to a list of links, but the following article is very valuable to the Philosophy of Tech that I'm just beginning to discover. It's very much in line with this book I need to pick back up. Lastly, I found this updated perspective on Autism to be fascinating.

As We May Yet Think

By Andy Wilkinson on Medium
The amount of information we consume has exploded: but are we taking the time to digest it?

The boy whose brain could unlock autism

By Maia Szalavitz for Matter on Medium
Autism changed Henry Markram’s family. Now his Intense World theory could transform our understanding of the condition.
— Also as a free: ePubKindleAudiobook

April 18, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Japan Travel Pro-tips

My co-worker friend Will has provided me with a pretty extensive write-up of tips and takeaways from his recent trip to Japan. Putting this up to share with my travel mates and for easy access in the future.

The feature image is the exterior of a Ryokan, referenced below.


General Trip Advice

Get a JR Rail Pass. You’ll need to do it in advance, and you have to pick it up the US before you head over.

In terms of navigating around, if you can pick up a pocket WiFi thing you can use Google Maps. (we picked up one of these: http://www.econnectjapan.com/products/wifi - really nice, they deliver it to your hotel and it includes packaging to ship it back before you leave the country).

If possible, I'd recommend you venture outside of the cities and see more of the countryside. We took a few day trips and spent one night in a mountain town, and even with that I wish we'd spent a lot more time outside of the city.

Tipping is not a thing in Japan. Taxis and restaurants don't accept it, so whatever your bill is – that's what you pay. If you leave a tip they'll probably chase you down trying to return the money you forgot on the table.

People will not mess with your stuff. You're basically safe leaving your things unattended (assuming they're out of the way), and no one would even think about taking them. It's just not something that happens.

Etiquette

More than language, you should try to study a bit of the etiquette before you go over there. Japanese behavior is very structured and therefore predictable, so after a while you'll learn to read context clues and navigate social situations pretty easily. A few pro tips:

  • Don't talk on the subway (unless you're in Osaka)
  • Don't eat/drink in public places, esp. while walking.
  • Be careful where/how you throw things away.

People are extremely polite and helpful, so you should have no trouble. I mean, the customer service at a 7-11 in Japan is on par with that of a 5-star hotel in the US. Speaking of...

7-11

This is your north star. Your safety net. Your mother's milk.
In Japan, 7-11 is a utopia filled with amazing food and resources, and it was the only place where the ATMs would accept our cards. If all else fails, look for the green and orange banner.


Golden Gai, highly recommended, a few alleys filled with tiny bars

Tokyo

Hotels

We stayed in two hotels. The first 2 nights were at the Cerulean Tower – it's a massive business hotel right near Shibuya crossing, so it has a strong Lost in Translation vibe. The rooms were fine. The best part was the cocktail bar on the 47th floor with live jazz and a view of the Tokyo skyline.

After that we spent about 5 nights in a hotel I really liked called Claska. It's quite small, the rooms are all unique, and it has a cafe, bar, design shop and dog grooming studio all within its walls. It's a bit far out from the main area of Tokyo, but it's actually near a good scene for design and fashion in this neighborhood called Nakameguro. I'd highly recommend it if you're ok being a bit removed.

Food

  • Ramen - you can't go wrong with it. The best we had was at a place called Afuri. At most of them, you purchase a ticket via a vending machine outside and bring it to exchange it at the bar.
  • Izakaya - Lots of great izakayas. Our favorite was definitely this place.
  • Soba - My favorite thing I ate in Japan was the soba at http://www.yutoku-soba.co.jp
  • Department stores - in Tokyo there are huuuge department stores, and on the bottom levels you’ll find hundreds upon hundreds of gourmet food stands. Many of them have free samples, so you can make an entire meal out walking around and trying lots of weird/delicious foods. The one we went to was called Mitsukoshi
  • 246 Common - pretty cool outdoor food market, sort of like Smorgasburg but in Tokyo.

Bars

  • Golden Gai – Not a bar but a neighborhood. Highly recommend this area for drinking – it’s basically a few alleys filled with tiny bars (3-6 seats each), often stacked on top of each other. Our favorite one was called Albatross (make sure it's the right one, there's another bar nearby with the same name that was no good)
  • Buri - cool little sake bar with hundreds of little sake jars on the wall. Looks like this.

Sights

  • Tsukiji Fish Market – v. awesome, but make sure you go early. We made the mistake of going around noon and only caught the tail end of it.
  • Ghibli Museum – if you're a fan of Miyazaki's work, or creative things in general, this is a must. It's amazing. A bit outside of town, so you’d need to allow half a day to make the trip. Also get tickets before you go.
  • Harajuku - crazy district famous for the Harajuku fashion scene. Not too many shops you'd actually want to spend money at, but it's totally worth exploring.
  • Shibuya crossing – needs no explanation.
  • Pachinko - not much fun to play but worth checking out a parlor
  • Akihabara - the electronics/anime district. Hasn't changed much since the 80s, so there isn't anything mind-blowing in terms of the actual technology, but the shops themselves are amazing. Go to the Mandarake store and prepare to get weird.
  • Mori Art Museum - Tokyo's main art museum, pretty great modern art, also super high up in the sky with an awesome observatory on the roof.

Shopping


Kyoto is beautiful

Kyoto

We stayed at a ryokan, which is a traditional inn (tatami floors, breakfast, etc.). It was amazing, but very expensive. So if you can afford it, you should by all means experience it – even just for a night. Otherwise there are plenty of normal hotels around, or you could stay in a capsule hotel.

Food

The Kyoto food market is incredible, and like the dept. stores in Tokyo you can subsist off of samples alone.

Shopping

We heard about this chopstick maker further out in Kyoto, Ohashi Kobo. The man who runs the shop is considered the best in Japan, and if you go there he’ll help you find the perfect set of chopsticks, taking into account your height, arm length, shape of hand, etc. It’s like something out of Harry Potter.

SOU SOU - cool shop that modernizes classic Japanese workwear. Stuff like this.

Sights

  • Temples – there are many temples but I'd recommend picking out 2-3 that interest you and spending some time at each. They're incredible, but honestly after a while they start to all look the same.
  • Gion District - Geisha territory. Great for wandering in the evening.

Drinks

Kazu. One of my favorite bars in the world. It is extremely difficult to find. Like, you literally have to walk down a few back alleys, cross over a garden, go up a backstreet and then a few flights of stairs to reach the door. Go at night. More


Awesome nightlife

Osaka

We only got to spend 2 days in Osaka, but it was one of my favorite parts of the trip. Awesome nightlife, good (and cheap) food, just all around fun and a nice break from the quiet, reserved mindset of other areas in Japan. We stayed in Dojima hotel. It was nice.

The only recommendations I really have are to go to the Dotonbori part of town and explore the scene. ENDLESS restaurants, bars, shops, nightlife in general. Two of my favorite Japanese foods come from Osaka: Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. Eat them both, ideally after a few drinks.

We got okonomiyaki at a place called Chibo. It was excellent and I'd recommend it.


Wow, that was some excellent advice! Thanks again, Will. If anyone has something to add or critique, please let me know in the comments.

April 6, 2014Comments are off for this post.

Infinite Hipster

Desktop Wallpaper via Kuvva Wallpapers

Artist: Mauro Gatti

infinite hipster