Notes on interaction design & development. Get the Feed.
By Christoph Ono, builder at GBKS, and tweetable at @GBKS.

How They Did It: Haraldur “Halli” Thorleifsson


They did this experiment where they put a really great violinist, Joshua Bell, in a DC Metro station. He played like an hour or two, and made maybe $20. The next night, he played at a theater in Boston and sold out an auditorium at $100 a seat. People need help perceiving value. People may think something is valuable because it costs a lot, or in my case because it’s put into some kind of context so that you can see that there’s care put into it. I was thinking about Joshua Bell, the same guy playing the same piece in both places. Maybe the acoustics weren’t the same, but there was something with the context that made one group of people in one situation understand the value of the work and another group of people in another situation value it completely differently, or more accurately, not value it at all.

What I Learned From 10 Years of Doing PR for Apple


If you ran any Apple press release through a readability level test it would most likely score a level easily understood by an average 4th grade student or lower. Any hint of jargon, cliché, or techno mumbo-jumbo would be removed in the editing process. If a “mere mortal” couldn’t understand our language, then we had failed. And failure was not an option. Steve Jobs read and personally approved every press release. Run your communications through a readability test to determine how difficult the language is to comprehend as written on a scale of 1 – 100. These are available free on sites such as Word Count Tools and Readability Score. Ideally, you want your content to score 80 – 89, and requiring the education of an 11-year old child. The easier your communications are to understand, the broader the reach.

An insider talks Apple Watch development: engineering versus design; innovation; secrecy


One great example is [when] I went to a meeting and said I’m going to put sensors in the watch but I’m going to put them down here (he points to the underside of the Apple Watch band he’s wearing) because I can get a more accurate reading on the bottom of the wrist than I can get on the top of the wrist. They (the Industrial Design group) said very quickly that “that’s not the design trend; that’s not the fashion trend. We want to have interchangeable bands so we don’t want to have any sensors in the band.”

Then at the next meeting I would go “we can do it here (on top of the wrist) but it’s going to have to be kind of a tight band because we want really good contact between the sensors and the skin.” The answer from the design studio would be “No, that’s not how people wear watches; they wear them like really floppy on their wrist.”

That creates a set of requirements that drives you toward new engineering solutions […] Engineers left in a vacuum might say “well, that’s maybe not so important; we can get a better signal by doing it the other way so let’s do it that way.” So, left to their own devices, that would be the way the product would end up. So you have to have a really strong voice supporting the user. I think the idea of focusing on that is uniquely Apple.

The Digital Designer of the Future


A digital designer is a facilitator, assisting others in refining and transmitting ideas. A steward, supporting and protecting empathy and the creative process. A connoisseur, maintaining a high bar of quality.

Is a Mobile-First Approach Really Best?


Just amazing that this stuff has to be spelled out. The natural tendency of marketing thinking seems to be a quick race to the bottom where people are bombarded with ads all day by all means possible. In the same vein, I've stopped taking articles about beacons serious, since they all boast about how awesome it's going to be to send people coupons on their phones when they are near a specific store. Really missing the consideration of the human experience in all of this.

Because the mobile screen is smaller, fewer ads can be served than what's possible on a computer. "On desktop, the thinking was, 'How many ads can be crammed on the screen?' But that same idea can't be applied to mobile," said Ian Schafer, founder-chairman at Deep Focus. "Mobile is a smaller screen and there's much more emphasis put on user experience. That just limits the number of ads we see." Limiting ads isn't necessarily a bad thing. Crowding desktop screen space with banners has likely done more harm than good. Limited space may actually prompt agencies and marketers to be smarter about the kinds of ads they serve. "Mobile has created new pressures for brands that are actually really healthy pressures," said Chet Gulland, head of strategy at Droga5. "When we're talking about branding, because mobile is more on consumers' terms, it makes us ask, 'Is this a piece of content people will actually like? And is it useful?' Those two questions have become so much more important."

Bruce Mau Translates the Power of Design


We’re inventing new scientific domains, new technologies all at the fastest pace ever. That produces noise, but design and architecture makes it music. The practice of making music from noise is one of the greatest challenges and opportunities we have. Our work is to take many contradictory inputs and synthesize those into positive, productive, new clarity.

Process is Process


we should look to architects and urban planners for inspiration in our process. He said that products like Facebook and Twitter are spaces that people dont just use but exist in. They are environments that form behavior. This really resonated with me because it feels so true. People act differently on Twitter, Facebook, Quora, 4chan, Snapchat, not because these are all different types of people but because of the way these spaces are designed. We should learn how to create spaces to guide and encourage behavior. We can't just apply the same process that you would when designing a physical clock (Sorry Dieter Rams). We have to do more because the things we are building have become so much more. You may have heard of Twitter referred to as a town square before. This is because of subtle and powerful product decisions that made it feel that way. In Twitter, anyone can yell and some of them are heard. There is no other way to exist in the twitter space. Now I don't think we need physical metaphors for every product we make. That's not the point. The point is that every space has attributes that form behavior. If you built a park with no trash cans, people would throw their trash on the ground. If you build a photo sharing app with self destructing content, people are going to share naked pictures.

Fairytales much older than previously thought, say researchers


Analysis showed Jack and the Beanstalk was rooted in a group of stories classified as The Boy Who Stole Ogre’s Treasure, and could be traced back to when eastern and western Indo-European languages split – more than 5,000 years ago. Beauty and the Beast and Rumpelstiltskin to be about 4,000 years old. A folk tale called The Smith and the Devil was estimated to date back 6,000 years to the bronze age.

Google self-driving car lead dismissive of Tesla-like iterative autonomy approach in first public comments


“Aiming for full autonomy not only reaches the most people, our team believes it’s also the safest approach,” Krafcik told the assembled car folks. “Having this audacious goal was what drew me to the Google self-driving car project.”

But is it a realistic approach? To me, Google's insistence of replacing people seems like an immature perspective of the world. The world is complex, people are complex, and technology is at it's best when it supports and empowers people and reduces complexity and friction around activities people want to do. My not-expert impression is that getting from semi-autonomous vehicles to completely autonomous vehicles is 1,000,000,000,000 times the effort, and believing you can get there instantly just seems a little arrogant. Having audacious goals doesn't mean you can't iterate yourself there. And it's not just yourself, the world needs to accept and adjust to this technology.