Instructional | User Interface | Learning Objects | Graphic | Web | Information Architecture | Visual Thinking | Software | Industrial

I am a designer.

Design Principles for Clock of the Long Now (Hillis)

design is not merely an indicator of esthetic taste, but a social phenomenon that both mirrors and shapes how we think. Whereas objects of art reflect the personal vision of their makers, manufactured goods - which are designed to be salable and profitable - tend to embody more generalized beliefs about society, and so ''can cast ideas about who we are and how we should behave into permanent and tangible forms.'' Modern office equipment in ''bright colours and slightly humorous shapes,'' for instance, can help perpetuate the myth that office work is fun; just as modern, streamlined kitchen appliances can underline the contemporary faith in progress and technological salvation. SOURCE

design tradeoffs


IBM on Design

Tog's First Principles of Design

Color Blindness
Efficiency of User
Explorable Interfaces

Fitts's Law
Human-Interface Objects
Latency Reduction
Limit Tradeoffs

Protect the User's Work
Track State
Visible Interfaces

Living with Your Users by Marc Rettig. This is the way all major projects should be planned. Absolutely wonderful.

The Ferrari 355 F1 has a clutch but no clutch pedal. A computer changes gears, using data downloaded from Michael Schumacher's Formula One races. Floor it and you experience Michael's greatest hits -- shocking, slamming shifts that expand one's sense of the possible.

Design History in a Box

The Design Dimension, Product Strategy & The Challenge of Global Marketing, Christoper Lorenz, 1986

The designer's personal attributes and skills are:
  • imagination -- the ability to visualize in 3D
  • creativity -- a natural unwillingness to accept obvious solutions
  • communication -- in words & sketches
  • synthesis -- bringing it together into a coherent whole

Design & marketing -- united in the search for meaningful distinction

Shaker Design Guidelines
  • Industry: Do all your work as if you had a thousand years to live and as if you were to die tomorrow.
  • Honesty: Be what we seem to be; and seem to be what we really are; don't carry two faces.
  • Functionalism: That which in itself has the highest use possesses the greatest beauty.

Less is more.

Form follows function.

The one-size-fits-all approach to training ignores that people learn in fundamentally different ways. Most current training is highly discriminatory. Howard Gardiner

"The most outstanding design is that which is perfectly appropriate to what is trying to be accomplished."

"Design is one of the few tools that for every (dollar) you spend, you actually say something about your business." -- Raymond Turner, exec, BAA

"The designer's purpose is to stimulate curiosity, amusement and affection."

Achilli Castilgioni
Alessi, Art & Poetry

Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.

Beautiful Things & Ugly Things

Design is in everything we make, but it's also between those things. It's a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda, and philosophy."
Erik Adigard

Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beautry to produce something that the world didn't know it was missing.
Paola Antonelli

Designer's Jumpola

The Psychology of Everyday Things
by Don Norman

keys to good design:

1. provide a good conceptual model

2. make things visible

3. good mapping

4. feedback

A reminder is (1) a signal and (2) a message.
(use different signals with different messages....)

why designers go astray:

1. aesthetics put first

2. they're not typical users

principles for design: 

1. use both knowledge in the world and knowledge in the head.

design model <-> system image <-> user's mode

"In the best of worlds, the manuals would be written first, then the design would follow the manual."

2. simplify the structure of tasks
Short term memory can't hold more than 5 (some say 7) unrelated items at once; the mitations of long term memory mean that info is better and more easily acquired fi it makes sense, if it can be integrated into some conceptual framework. moreover, retrieval from long term memory is apt to be slow and contain errors. limitations on attention are also severe.

provide mental aids.
use technology to make visible what would otherwise be invisible.
automate but keep the task much the same.
change the nature of the task
3. make things visible: bridge the gulfs of Execution and Evaluation

4. get the mappings right

Exploit natural mappings. make sure that the user can determine the relationships: between intentions and possible actions, between actions and their effects on the system, between actual system state and what is perceivable by sing/sound/feel, between the perceived system state and the needs, intentions and expectations of the users

5. exploit the power of constraints, both natural and artificial

6. design for error (Murphy's always there)

7. when all else fails, standardize

The nice thing about standardization is that no matter how arbitrary the standardized mechanism, it has to be learned only once. People can learn it and use it effectively.

Remember, standardization is essential only when all the necessary information cannot be placed in the world or when natural mappings cannot be exploited. The role of training and practice is to make the mappings and required actions more available to the user, overcoming any shortcomings in the design, minimizing the need for planning and problem solving.

Always design a thing by considering it in its next larger context--a chair in a room, a room in a house, a house in an environment, an environment in a city plan.--Eliel Saarinen

Instructional design

Internet Time Group Methods of delivering eLearning

Time Capsule of Training and Learning from Big Dog
Product Development Process from Payback Training (now Avaltus)
Characteristics of a Complete eLearning System (Hambrecht)
Instructional Design and Learning Theory
Theory into Practice Database 50 theories relevant to learning and instruction

from the University of Denver School of Education: Theoretical Sources | Instructional Design Models
Instructional Design in Distance Education (IDDE) database of instructional theories and tactics to support the design of effective distance education

Training magazine's April 2000 issue had a wonderful article debunking the effectiveness of traditional instructional systems design (ISD). Why is ISD obsolete?

  • It's too slow and clumsy to meet today's training challenges.
  • There's no “there” there.
  • Used as directed, it produces bad solutions.
  • It clings to the wrong world view.

here's more on the subject...

Roger Shank's delightful Top Ten Mistakes in Education

The implications of the research literature on learning styles for the design of instructional material, Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 1999

source: Cisco

International Society for Performance Improvement
History of Instructional Design
Big Dog and Glossary
Yale Web Style Guide

Distributed Learning: Approaches, Technologies and Solutions
Lotus Institute (1996)

Fred Nichols

(This is why HPT won't work. It's Taylorism in new clothing.)

(It's a joke. Don't get bent out of shape.)

Remember: knowledge work must be configured not prefigured.

It is the day-to-day stuff of leading people, not of managing them or their work, that really affects productivity; it's the hand-holding, the encouraging, the going to bat for people, and the sharing of the hardships, the risk, the recognition, and the rewards that tempts people to contribute and sustains them as they strive for excellence. These leadership behaviors must themselves be configured not prefigured. In other words, conformity at the executive level is as deadly as compliance at the working level.

To sum it up, the era of compliance has ended, and with it has ended the dream of engineering individual human performance. The era of individual contribution has just begun and we don't even have a vocabulary suited to discuss the issue let alone formulate decisions and then carry them out.

Roger Schank interview with Cappuccino, Deloitte

Learning Objects

"Object-orientation highly values the creation of components (called "objects") that can be reused in multiple contexts. This is the fundamental idea: instructional designers can build small (relative to the size of an entire course) instructional components that can be reused a number of times in different learning contexts. Learning objects are generally understood to be digital entities deliverable over the Internet, meaning that any number of people can access and use them simultaneously (as opposed to traditional instructional media, such as an overhead or video tape, which can only exist in one place at a time). Moreover, those who incorporate learning objects can collaborate on and benefit immediately from new versions. These are significant differences between learning objects and other instructional media that have existed previously."

So states the online version of The Instructional Use of Learning Objects, a complete book on learning objects by David Wiley, David Merrill, Wayne Hodgins, and a host of others. Wiley: "Atoms, not Legos."

Cisco's Reusable Learning Object Strategy.

Objects of Interest, a nice intro

Terms like classes or courses don't capture the essence of personalized learning. I'm starting to think in terms of learning experiences. Here, between the section on instructional Design and User Interface Design, is the ideal spot to point out a really practical site, Good Experience.


1. Assess
2. Design
3. Develop
4. Instruct
5. Evaluate

Instructional Design grew up building courses. Courses are being supplanted by eLearning experiences. A new discipline is called for, Instructional Infrastructure Design. For most enterprises, you buy this from someone else. You can build your own from components, but often that's about as practical as assembling your own Chevy from bags of gadgets you buy at the auto parts store.


The Webby Awards for Education

Impact of different learning media

User Interface design

Human Computer (HCI) Interface Bibliography
Information Design
Nathan's Interaction Design Bibliography
Information Presentation for Rapid Knowledge Transfer
Review of Alan Cooper's The Inmates are Running the Asylum
Interface Design and Usability Engineering from Isys Information Architects provides great examples of what to do -- and what not to do -- in interface design.
Hans de Graaff's HCI Index, Jakob Nielsen's Recommended UI Books
Common Ground, a Pattern Language for HCI -- iffy, incomplete.

Personalization Consortium

Don Norman -- human-centered design

...major improvements in interface design are both profitable and moral — profitable because a good interface is cheaper to implement, is more productive, is easier to maintain, has lower training costs, and requires less customer support than a bad interface — moral because it brings smiles to the faces and erases furrows from the brows of users. One can do good and yet do well by rethinking interface design.

Jef Raskin, The Humane Interface

Future UI

"The art of being wise is knowing what to overlook" -- William James

Graphic Design

Edward Tufte Graphical excellence consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency. Graphical excellence is that which gives the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space. Avoid chartjunk! Burn USA Today. See also Tufte's reading list.

Patterns are a vocabulary for design. Christopher Alexander coined the term "Pattern Language" to emphasize his belief that people had an innate ability for design that paralleled their ability to speak. His book A Timeless Way Of Building defines a 'pattern' as a three part construct.

  • First comes the 'context'; under what conditions does this pattern hold.
  • Next are a 'system of forces'. In many ways it is natural to think of this as the 'problem' or 'goal'.
  • The third part is the 'solution'; a configuration that balances the system of forces or solves the problems presented.

    P.S. Christopher Alexander finally admits that he's not a designer. (His website demonstrates this well, as does the house directly across the street from mine.)

What is Contextual Design?

Explanation Graphics, Nigel Holmes

The Master

Charles Eames: the intersection that maintains the designer's enthusiasm.

Charles and Ray achieved their monumental success by approaching each project the same way: Does it interest and intrigue us? Can we make it better? Will we have "serious fun" doing it?

They loved their work, which was a combination of art and science, design and architecture, process and product, style and function.

"The details are not details," said Charles. "They make the product." A problem-solver who encouraged experimentation among his staff, Charles once said his dream was "to have people working on useless projects. These have the germ of new concepts." from Charles and Ray Eames

Powers of Ten

Posted by Jay Cross at November 9, 2003 04:03 PM | TrackBack

ID magazine online. Check out the contest winners.

I.D. interview with Edward Tufte. The information design guru offers a few choice words about PowerPoint.

Posted by: jay cross at December 15, 2003 10:34 AM

from Lilia:

Quality that emerges in action .:new

I know that I'm not going to catch up with all interesting posts from Internet-cafe, but I'm still trying :)

John Moore (and long chain of others) point to a quote from Art & fear:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the quantity group: fifty pound of pots rated an A, forty pounds a B, and so on. Those being graded on quality, however, needed to produce only one pot -albeit a perfect one - to get an A. Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the quantity group was busily churning out piles of work - and learning from their mistakes - the quality group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

John adds a connection with the book Changing Conversations in Organisations by Patricia Shaw.

This is such a fantastic book I can't do it justice here, but essentially Shaw discusses
(moving from a) thought-before-action, design-before-implementation, systematic, instrumental logic of organizing, towards a paradoxical kind of logic in which we see ourselves as participatingin the self-organizing emergence of meaningful activity from within our disorderly open-ended responsiveness to one another

Shaw is talking about how we talk to each other, the story is about making pots; they're both about recognising that it is misleading to think we can entirely separate thinking from doing - an insight that may trouble a great many management thinkers.

Posted by: jay at January 5, 2004 09:14 PM

Web graphics resource

Posted by: Jay Cross at March 3, 2004 09:06 PM

Experience Design from Nathan Shedroff

Posted by: Jay Cross at March 11, 2004 08:40 PM

Fonts, column widths and readability

Design, especially for the Web, is a creative endeavor. But it also relies on some specific scientific principles in order to create the most optimal results. Jacci Howard Bear offers these four steps for ensuring the column widths you choose for your designs actually suit your project’s type fonts.

1. First, learn the alphabet-and-a-half rule. If you take the alphabet at 26 characters and add half (13) to it, you get 39 characters, which Howard Bear claims is the ideal line length for any project, "regardless of type size."

2. Next, measure the line length in inches or picas for your chosen body copy font using the alphabet-and-a-half rule.

3. Third, apply the points-times-two rule to your text. If you take the type size of your body text, say 12 points, and multiply it by two (24), the result is your ideal line length in picas. So in the example, your ideal column width would be 24 picas (or approximately 4 inches).

4. Lastly, compare the line length measurements for your chosen font using each formula and then set your column width appropriately. The result? The most readable text possible, she says.

One of many tips from Imaging IQ

Posted by: Jay Cross at May 12, 2004 08:26 PM

from Maish:

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Instructional Design

The seven habits based on Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's flow concept.

1. Focus Goals
2. Eliminate Distractions
3. Match Student Skills and Course Level
4. Create a Supportive Environment
5. Create Order Through Rules
6. Let Students Express Themselves
7. Provide Timely and Consistent Feedback

Posted by: Jay Cross at May 13, 2004 03:56 PM

Learning Objectives to improve learning. Boxes and Arrows

Posted by: Jay Cross at June 20, 2004 09:32 AM

Understanding Organizational Stakeholders for Design Success

Stakeholder analysis is a very effective mechanism for bringing other perspectives into the design process. Over the years, the user experience field has seen a flowering of methods and techniques for understanding users. It is time to expand the focus and include the perspectives of others who are impacted by (or have an impact on) user experience work. Stakeholder analysis is an effective way of making that happen.

Posted by: Jay Cross at June 20, 2004 11:04 AM

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