In the winter of 2017 I was in Dublin for a fireside chat at the Offset conference. I wasn't seeking out a third-wave coffee mecca. I stumbled upon one anyway on Lower Canal Street in the city's 2nd district. More formally known as 3rd Floor Espresso, 3fe is a two-cafe and roastery coffee brand that's inspired other roasters and coffee sellers around the world. Owner Colin Harmon's book What I Know About Running Coffee Shops is not only a great personal story of scaling up a coffee business it's a good lens on small business operations and growing that anyone can learn from.
A classic in business environments, typically around new leaders, managers, or someone proving out a role for the first time: a plan to accomplish something in the first 90 days. 90? Arbitrary. But also pretty much the same as three months or one quarter. Maybe not that arbitrary. Quarterly thinking and quarterly results, baby!
According to Wikipedia an abecedarium is "an inscription consisting of the letters of an alphabet, almost always listed in order. Typically, abecedaria (or abecedaries) are practice exercises." I suppose these entries are like practice exercises in thinking through writing. I was first exposed to the term thanks to an extended session from MoMA's R&D departement. A day-long event of the same name was curated by Paolla Antonelli to accompany the exhibition Is Fashion Modern? I didn't attend the event, but I did show up for the afterparty. Credit for re-naming this section of the site—formerly, "resources"—goes to Rob Giampietro who suggested it in this Twitter thread. Other suggestions included: Noted, Definitions, Knowbase, Blogroll, and A-Z of Me.
Aren't they lovely? Craig Mod has some of my favorite writing about books, especially the essay Stab a Book, the Book Won't Die. Speaking of books about books, Gutenberg's Apprentice is a great piece of historical fiction about the early days of printing. Designing Books: Practice and Theory was a trusty guide the first couple of times I designed books.
It's a foundational life and business skill. I love opinionated software like You Need a Budget (YNAB), which teaches you good concepts while training you with good habits. I've been pleased over time to find many other YNAB lovers.
I'm thankful to have been learning about designing for print publications at the same time as I was learning to apply concepts of stylesheets to web projects. Like many others, I learned the fundamentals from O'Reilly and New Riders books, articles from A List Apart and Smashing Magazine, and some blood, sweat, and tears. Edit in text editor. Save. Refresh browser. Repeat. When the Twitter crew originally open-sourced Blueprint it helped many web practitioners see a foundational design system built simply and efficiently. We learned by using it, cloning it, and critiquing it. Tachyons appears to be a solid evolution of the same concept.
My wardrobe has two colors: black and white. A purist will tell you, black isn't a color, it's a shade. Color—applied consistently—can be a powerful identifier. It can build and amplify reputations. See: the little red book, Tiffany blue, Barbie pink. Color theory taught me that Hermès Orange is complementary to Yves Klein Blue. Numerous foundational colors guides are available, with the Alber's classic Interaction of Color being the go-to. In a screen-based context the tooling and explanations created by Kevyn Arnott have become a personal favorite.
Bringing people together. There are plenty of articles, training programs, and courses on the topic. If you had to start anywhere, I'd start with the Get Together book. It'll get you more motivated and inspired than you already are.
Before you can address the situation, you must understand that there is a situation. I regularly revisit and recommend this article from Fred Wilson, The Perception of Conflict is Conflict.
Sometimes, they say, you gotta do it yourself. They also say, clear writing is clear thinking. The Johnson & Johnson Credo, written in 1943 by then Chairman Robert Wood Johnson is an excellent example of brand writing and vision setting. I appreciate the hierarchy of stakeholders: patients/doctors/nurses, employees, communities, shareholders. Does it work out that way in their actions? Do they use the Credo to make decisions? I'm not sure, but it's a foundation.
One entry couldn't possibly cover this topic sufficiently. I suspect this will grow over time. I'm impressed with the launch of UX+ University, from the team behind the high-quality conference and community UX+. It's a great example of learning targeted at a specific purpose: employment in a UX design position.
They've become the topic du jour among many design professionals working at the intersection of design and technology. Adele by UXPin is an awesome open-source directory of Design Systems from organizations of various scales from around the world.
I'm pro-electric vehicles. After owning a Tesla Model S for several years, and going through both the speed bumps (pun intended, not so bad) and joys of electric vehicle ownership, I'm rooting for the speedy replacement of petrol-powered vehicles for commercial and private ground transportation. Since moving to Asia, I've been observing many more EV brands (like BYD), and wider adoption of Personal Electric Vehicles (PEVs) like electric scooters and bikes than I'd experienced in the United States.
When working on a problem, it's common to start at the beginning – duh! What I like about this alternative working model is that in encourages you to start at the center and work outward. I've found this powerful in getting jolted out of well-worm cognitive ruts. This article from 2004 and this from 2006, both by Jason Fried of Basecamp (FKA 37signals), summarise it well.
I've framed everything from family photos to works from blue chip artists in easy custom frames from Framebridge. I can't speak to the variety of frames, I've ordered the exact same frame every time. Each time I've been satisfied.
I remember listening to an interview with volleyball star Gabrielle Reece where she talked at length about "going first" as an approach to daily life. It’s stuck with me since. First to try. First to apologize. First to move on. There's little to loose and much to gain with this simple, proactive approach to many situations. This article summarizes then expands on the concept. The original interview is in this episode of the Tim Ferris's podcast (full text transcript).
Capital-G Good is seeping into everyone's vocabulary. It's a vague proxy for creating positive impact through your work, which as the primary or a secondary objective. I'd describe it as critically important, personally inspiring, and full of murky topics demanding deep consideration. See also: themes of social impact, corporate social responsibility (CSR), sustainability, triple bottom line.
A magazine and publishing outfit started in 2006 as the "free press for the critical idealist." Good's early creative direction was provided by Scott Stowell and his team at OPEN. Their work amplified a new to approach data visualization that has infused popular culture, publishing, and the design profession worldwide.
For all the feel-good that compliments heartbreak in pop music, nothing has been as unabashedly joyful since Pharrell Williams's song Happy released in November 2013. What felt radical at the time, and still would if released today, was the continuous 24-hour music video for the song. According to Wikipedia, Pharrell had originally written the song for Cee Lo Green.
This is not a paid endorsement, but it reads like one. Jet lag is a bummer. Falling asleep in the middle of the day, unable to sleep at 3am is not a good look. I speak from experience. I've lost count of the number of trips I've taken from one side of the planet to the other. And yet, jet lag has become a minor inconvenience if one at all. How? There's an app for that. Timeshifter helps you tune and adjust your circadian rhythms when traveling across timezones. You input your full itinerary, and then before, during and after your travel, the app guides you on the optimal times to sleep, avoid or get exposure to light, use melatonin, and use caffeine. It's behavior-shaping, science-based design that makes your life experience better. I swear by it.
It's the moniker of Kelsey Taylor Hunt's textile art and rug-making practice. Bright mind leads to tired hands lead to happy homes.
"It’s the idea that you are doing something important when you’re not doing anything," said my friend Kai with this recommendation (New York Times, soft-paywalled). He also said to me, that as I navigated a professional transition, his wish for me was "to see what the universe brings to me." These are related ideas. To do nothing, so that things may have space to sit if they come. And then, to be open to waiting for them to come. At minimum, it's a compelling message that put me in a healthy state-of-mind. It also seems to result in some nice outcomes.
There's no shortage of material on the topic of management. These are my favorites. I return to them regularly. The Know Your Team blog is full of practical and actionable advice. High Output Management by Andy Grove. The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhou (early Facebook designer and longtime design VP) put into words much of what I experienced as a designer who moved into management. It's a good read for anyone new to management, not only designers. Managing Humans by Michael Lopp was the first book on management I read. I've re-read it twice more since and recommend it to all new managers. It's full of anecdotes. You'll surely laugh at least five times while reading it. Managing Oneself by "the founder of modern management" Peter F. Drucker is a classic. Resilient Management by Lara Hogan is your brief guide for grounded, humane approach to management today.
Meetings get a bad rap. It's not that meetings are bad. It's that bad meetings are bad, and most meetings are bad meetings. So, how do you make for good meetings? One of my favorites on the topic is Meeting Design by Kevin M. Hoffman.
Three pieces of advice stick with me more than any other: Work for everyone's benefit. Know what you absolutely need before you start the negotiation. Be willing to walk away. For deeper reading, I enjoyed Getting to Yes. My pal Kai says "I would love to offer Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss. The author was a former FBI hostage negotiator. He took negotiation theories and shared real world stories and proven practices. It’s a pragmatic and entertaining resource." I agree with Kai. This book is fun, and just might help you in myriad situations in life such as negotiating a salary or with bank robbers.
A much more experienced colleague once shared this with me: "to optimize a system, you sub-optimize the sub-systems. When you optimize sub-systems, you sub-optimize the system." I think this comes out of mechanical engineering or another field, but it was used metaphorically talking about a company and the complex organism is any sizable group of people can be.
On the topic of how to present information in the format of a keynote, lecture, or other presentation, Russell Davies' series of posts on presentations do a wonderful job of a breaking down and illustrating a few key recommendations around clarity, simplicity, and bearability. I love that last one.
The idea of work-from-home, work anywhere, work remotely jobs is hardly novel. Today, they proliferate. That doesn't mean that everyone has embraced it. Finding all-remote and remote-friendly jobs can be a pain. Some resources that feature remote jobs or allow easy filtering by remote include: We Work Remotely, startup.jobs, Remote.co, No Desk, and Remote OK.
In America, "retirement" is used doubly to mean both the event of becoming or being retired and the money you have saved to support you in that time. For the former, one would "have a retirement party." For the latter, you would "tap into your retirement." Language is peculiar. So is the idea of stopping work for pure leisure. I enjoy work. At it's best, I find it feels similar to leisure.
One can't understate the importance of good security practices for online accounts. This article does a solid job of walking through how to use 1Password, a popular password manager, long with other security methods to protect yourself. What I love is the balance of security and convenience that offers a practical guide for most people. The author also addresses not only securing accounts, but also how to think about preparing for recovery should you loose access.
canisecure.com is an strong resource that will walk you through the best practices for security your account on various services, from general advice to popular social media accounts.
These are words that mean the same as other words. Somewhere on my top book list a thesaurus would sit. On my shelf, it does. When I write and want to simplify The A-Z Guide of Alternative Words is indispensable. Ironically, it doesn't have any suggestions for "indispensable."
There are so many good foundries out there. Emigre was the foundry that first grabbed my attention as I came up in design. House excited me with their novelty and the print production of their promotions. As I developed my own design voice, Typotheque captured my heart and I used their faces for numerous client projects in the mid-2000s and as well as some staples from Hoefler (especially Mercury and Knockout). Commercial was a favorite, too. I used to be dismissive about the Google Fonts project, but it's gotten quite good too. It might be the best font browsing and previewing experiences around. Grilli and Klim are recent favorites. Oh No has caught my eye, but I've yet to try any of the typefaces. Despite having built products that ship to customers in no less than six scripts (likely more), I lack the depth of understanding of non-Latin scripts that I wish I had. I guess that's what friends are for.
Curious about the kinds of choices a UI designer makes? The Can't Unsee quiz is a playful way to explore precisely that and test your own skills while you learn.
Happened upon, as one does, in a back alley in Tokyo, is Undecorated. They produce and sell lovely garments and objects that are durable, stylish, and timeless.