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

Warren Buffett and Geopolitical Forecasting


Overall, Buffett looks at the world as it is and observes the obvious, which may be that everyone needs car insurance, or that trains are a very efficient way to transport goods in the United States, or that people like to eat candy. These are not banal insights. They represent a profound understanding of everyday life that is anchored in not needing to be novel.

Strategic Writing at SVA


Writing is part of every design project—from jotting down notes and questions to summarizing research, instructing users, and presenting work in proposals and marketing pages. In this course, we’ll examine the writing process, collaborate on long and short-form pieces, practice editing, and use language as a strategic tool in the design process. This course focuses on clarity of ideas, structure, and style over grammar and mechanics.

When Pixels Collide


Last weekend, a fascinating act in the history of humanity played out on Reddit. For April Fool's Day, Reddit launched a little experiment. It gave its users, who are all anonymous, a blank canvas called Place. The rules were simple. Each user could choose one pixel from 16 colors to place anywhere on the canvas. They could place as many pixels of as many colors as they wanted, but they had to wait a few minutes between placing each one. Over the following 72 hours, what emerged was nothing short of miraculous. A collaborative artwork that shocked even its inventors.

Deep-Fried Data


For the generation growing up now, the Internet is their window on the world. They take it for granted. It’s only us, who have seen it take shape, and are aware of all the ways it could have been different, who understand that it's fragile, contingent. The coming years will decide to what extent the Internet be a medium for consumption, to what extent it will lift people up, and to what extent it will become a tool of social control.

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.