"My advice for aspiring writers..."

My advice for aspiring writers is to go to New York,” Mr. Kirn said. “And if you can’t go to New York, go to the place that represents New York to you, where the standards for writing are high, there are other people who share your dreams, and where you can talk, talk, talk about your interests. Writing books begins in talking about it, like most human projects, and in being close to those who have already done what you propose to do.

Walter Kirn’s advice for an aspiring writer also describes perfectly what I love about plying the user experience trade in San Francisco. Found in the article A Critic’s Tour of Literary Manhattan - NYTimes.com

To have new ideas, be more interested in new things.

If you look at the way successful founders have had their ideas, it’s generally the result of some external stimulus hitting a prepared mind.

Love this article on how to get startup ideas. The answer? In a nutshell, be interesting, engaged, and observant.

I love this quote, too: "Since what you need to do here is loosen up your own mind, it may be best not to make too much of a direct frontal attack on the problem—i.e. to sit down and try to think of ideas. The best plan may be just to keep a background process running, looking for things that seem to be missing."

This quote is a good reminder for me that brute force design thinking exercises are just one approach to innovation work — and often not the most effective. Of equal importance: the tickler file! In other words, keep a running list of the things that inspire you, the things you notice, the weird ideas that pass through your head. Have faith and curiosity about what you notice. Write it down, and revisit it often.

What the heck is orthographic sketching?

Really great post on sketching the design process over on Core 77. Kind of makes me want to go back to school and become and industrial designer. The author (Paul Backett at Ziba design) suggests some interesting techniques, including design themes (think, Mood Boards Lite) and orthographic sketching, which I’ve never heard of before, but seems to produce some pretty lovely renderings.

User Exposure Hours

Interesting article from Jared Spool this week. He’s claiming that quality designs directly correlate to the number of hours the team spends watching users: “Over the years, there has been plenty of debate over how many participants are enough for a study. It turns out we were looking in the wrong direction. When you focus on the hours of exposure, the number of participants disappears as an important discussion. We found 2 hours of direct exposure with one participant could be as valuable (if not more valuable) than eight participants at 15-minutes each. The two hours with that one participant, seeing the detailed subtleties and nuances of their interactions with the design, can drive a tremendous amount of actionable value to the team, when done well." http://www.uie.com/articles/user_exposure_hours/

None of the answers I gave were precise. Quite a few of them were guesses or “close-enoughs.” If the statisticians are using the data from 55,000 U.S. households to calculate the official, important, complete, and accurate final results, and 55,000 real-live, human, unique participants are approximating numbers and shrugging their shoulders about which radio button to select, then how helpful is that information?

Really great writeup from Indi Young on her own experience as a survey respondent for the Census Bureau. Entertaining, insightful, and thought-provoking.

Read the whole thing here: Who Can Believe the U.S. Unemployment Figures?

[A proposal from Scott Brown over at Wired:] A Facebook app we’ll call the Fade Utility. Untended Friends would gradually display a sepia cast on the picture, a blurring of the neglected profile—perhaps a coffee stain might appear on it or an unrelated phone number or grocery list. The individual’s status updates might fade and get smaller. The user may then choose to notice and reach out to the person in some meaningful way—no pokes! Or they might pretend not to notice. Without making a choice, they could simply let that person go. Would that really be so awful?

Scott Brown on Facebook Friendonomics

(Thanks to Jen for the link, which — yes, I admit it! — sums up my feelings about Facebook perfectly.)

Booze Barchart

I just added some thoughts for things to do at the beginning of each project over on the AP site, and immediately heard this great idea from David Gartner: celebrate project milestones with a bottle of Scotch. I’d occured to me that you could flip this on its head and celebrate the failures instead. A cool byproduct: the bottles turn into life-sized bar charts of project successess and happiness. Here’s the idea:

  1. At the start of a new project, you buy a bottle of booze. (David likes scotch.) 
  2. Whenever things seem bleak, you do a shot.
  3. At the end of the project, you put the bottle the on your Bottle Shelf.
  4. Over time, the bottles line up next to each other, showing a liquid bar chart of project happiness and success.

Of course, this would work with other important life activities, too.

Years. Children. Vacations. Marriages. You name it.

ideal bookshelves

I love this. Illustrator Jane Mount does these illustrations of her friend’s bookshelves. This friend reads the kind of stuff I like to read. Good taste, friend.

I discovered this a few days ago and keep coming back to it. Basically, they’re just little sketches of books on a bookshelf, but which books are put together forms a neat little picture of the person who reads them.

I want to find some way to work “what’s on your bookshelf?" into every job interview, essay, drinking game, etc. I do from now on.

By the way, this comes via Design*Sponge.