books archives

Cool bookshelf design on Design Inspiration (via Cameron Moll).
Love the idea—though a little high for the average reader in my family!

posted by ted 4 hours ago

One of my new favorite blogs, 1001 rules for my unborn son, read my mind and has a book coming out based on the blog (but where’s the cover art?).

posted by jason on Thursday, May 21, 2009

Reflections After the Flood

No, I’m not waxing apocalyptic, just thinking about some things after a minor workplace disaster this morning.

I walked in to our work area this morning and found several boxes of my stuff shoved into the middle of the floor and Frank’s desk looking like a tornado zone, with posters and papers stacked haphazardly on the floor, instead of on the desk near the wall where he usually has them.

Apparently an air conditioning unit exploded over the weekend, several floors above us. The water coursed down the inside wall of the building, flooding workspaces on several floors.

This little adventure has caused me to reflect on a couple of things:

That’s all. Nothing too profound, just gratitude that things weren’t as bad as they could have been, appreciation for some people that I never met being generous enough to put their expertise out there for others to benefit from, and some timely reminders that there are things I can do now to prepare for disaster later.

posted by ted on Monday, May 18, 2009

Google’s logo today for the first day of spring is also a tribute to one of my 2-year old’s favorite books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. Love it! (Apparently, it’s also the book’s 40th birthday. It wears its age very well.)

posted by ted on Friday, Mar 20, 2009

If the Friend magazine isn’t your cup of tea, take some time to browse through this great gallery of vintage sci-fi novel cover designs.

posted by john on Friday, Jan 16, 2009

This innovative shadow signage on a Hotel in Florence is a great example of originality and an intelligent use of materials. The letters are formed by the shadows created by the overhead spotlight. The effect makes its own statement in a simple, beautiful way. (via core77).

posted by john on Tuesday, Jul 22, 2008

Book Review: How Designer’s Think: The Design Process Demystified by Brian Lawson (4th Edition).

A month ago, in preparation for an in-house design workshop, we handed out 30 copies of Brian Lawson’s Book “How Designers Think:The Design Process Demystified” to our designers. I first came across the first edition of this book nearly 10 years ago when I started a job at a small design firm in Salt Lake City. I had just moved from a large fairly structured company into a small, very organic company with very little structure at all. I found a first edition book on the company bookshelf and started reading.

I’ll have to admit that the first read was very difficult. The book is quite academic – the author approaches the subject from the perspective an architect who also happens to have doctorate in psychology. Most of the examples in the book discuss architecture and it can take some extra mental work to draw parallels to the profession of graphic and interaction design. In many ways, I found Lawson’s book to be very refreshing.

Lawson’s unique background allow him to approach design from a unique “scientific” perspective, while his design background from architecture, a design discipline provides a balanced perspective. It doesn’t go to far into esoteric design theory that is often discussed by practicing designers, and it doesn’t try to be to prescriptive, a fault which often appears when scientists and engineers write about design. He is able to talk in the language of design, where other authors like Don Norman and Jacob Nielson seem to speak about design in the language of science. There’s actually a great chapter in the book where Lawson illustrates the difference between the scientific approach, and the “designerly” approach. It’s especially comforting to hear it from someone who has practiced both disciplines.

I think that this unique perspective makes the book especially interesting and useful to any practicing designer. Lawson covers the essence of design, the definition of problems, and artfully describes different approaches to the design process. His model of the design process is the best I’ve ever found (chapter 3). He describes design as a “negotiation between problem and solution through the activities of analysis, synthesis and evaluation.” Other essentials deal with strategies for measuring the success and value of design (Chapter 5), and chapter 7 provides an excellent overview of the nature of design solutions, problems, and processes (chapter 7).

My favorite chapter, and the one that has influenced my work perhaps the most, is chapter 13: Design Traps. Lawson outlines several common traps that designers find themselves in. You can’t read this chapter and not have an “aha” moment, or cringe at the things which might be affecting your design right now.

I consider this book a “must read” and believe that it is one of the best books on the subject. The viewpoint is unique, and it provides beneficial knowledge that will help you in all aspects of the design profession.

We’re looking forward to the discussion next Friday.

posted by john on Thursday, Jul 10, 2008

I love to read. Some books I want to keep, but others I only need to read once and then I’m done. Until recently, my books just piled up. But then I discovered a free web site that helps me manage my book piles. is a site that facilitates the swapping of books (both print and audio) with other people who also read way too much. A very cool site.

In the interest of full disclosure, if you use the above link to sign up, I get credit.

posted by cannona on Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding by Arnold Schwarzenegger seen in Chris Mayfield’s bookshelf. I wasn’t even sure he could read, let alone write a book (Arnold… not Chris =)

posted by aaron on Thursday, Mar 13, 2008

“At the level of detail I think is necessary to make them what they are, they simply can’t pay for themselves. In purely business terms, it’s an irrational enterprise. And it’s also the best work I do.”
children’s author Sandra Boynton, on making and publishing children’s music, in the excellent piece The Power of Whimsy

posted by jason on Sunday, Feb 17, 2008

A New Brand World is my favorite book on branding. Scott Bedbury who was instrumental in creating the Nike and Starbuck brands shares insights from that work and more. Highly recommended. And you can get it used for $2.42 on Amazon!

posted by tadd on Monday, Dec 17, 2007

The Accessibility Cookbook: a Recipe for Disaster

To many amateur bakers, making bread is a mysterious and often frightening process. For this reason, it is often avoided. Those who do decide to take the plunge usually are extremely careful not to vary the recipe one bit. In fact, most cookbooks with bread recipes warn strongly against experimentation. Some make the reader feel as though using one more egg than recommended would cause their kitchen to catch fire and their family to die a horribly painful death of bread poisoning. And so, the myth is perpetuated that bread making is a very complex process, the inner-workings of which can only be understood by those bakers with a doctorate in breadology. They forget that our ancestors (a few of whom had to be at least slightly dumber than they are) made bread on a regular basis with no problems.

Fortunately, there are a few enlightened authors who have written books explaining, in essence, how bread works. Many people are surprised to find out that it’s really quite simple. In fact, once they understand the basics, many home bakers find that they no longer need a recipe or even measuring utensils, and they go on to make excellent bread by guess work and intuition alone.

It has been my experience that many people who learn about accessibility are led down a similar path as would-be bread bakers. They are handed a recipe and told, “This is what you are to do, and if you don’t do this exactly, those crazy disability advocates will come after you with their blood-thirsty lawyers.” They are told things like, “mark headings up as such,” and “put skip-to-content links at the top of pages.” What all too often is not mentioned is why. The reader is not told, for example, that most screen readers have a hotkey which, when pressed, will present the user with a list of all of the headings on the page, and that this is often used to “skim”, just as a sighted user might look down the page to see what was typographically emphasized. No mention is made of the fact that persons who must use the keyboard as a result of limited mobility, find skip links a huge time saver, because they don’t have to tab through all those links that one usually finds in abundance at the top of most pages.

What is worse, sometimes advice is given that is just plain wrong. For instance, it is a common misconception that every image on a page should include an alt attribute with a verbose description. In actuality, only images with important information should be provided with descriptions, and those should be as brief as possible. For example, if there was an image which said “50% off this week on all orders over $50”, then that should clearly be provided with alternative text. However, if there was a picture of a man using a particular product, I’m really not interested in hearing “picture of a man looking pleased as punch to be using the new ultra-lite USB hair drier,” or worse, “picture of a man.” I really don’t care about what image the designers chose to use as eye-candy. I can’t see them, and descriptions of meaningless images just waste my time and delay my getting to the information I’m really interested in.

So, what’s a baker to do? Unfortunately, the efficient use of a screen reader takes time to learn, so it is not all that practical to simply install a demo version and try out your site. Your best bet is to learn the accessibility recipe, but then go on to learn why each step is necessary and important. However, in the end, one must ask the question, could a person with no sense of taste learn to make good bread? I believe they could. The real question is, could they do it consistently? Also, how will they know when they’ve botched it. The only real way to know would be to ask someone with a sense of taste, or, in other words, ask a disabled user to test it. As the person suffering from ageusia receives additional feedback on his or her bread, their skills will increase, and they will get it right more of the time. So, in short, learn all you can about the why of accessibility, and then go do your best. Most of the time, it will probably be good enough, and almost certainly better than if you just blindly follow a recipe.

A great book, which gives a lot of good detail on the why and how of accessibility is Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance by Andrew Kirkpatrick, et al.

posted by cannona on Friday, Nov 09, 2007