published 9 October 2012
Alex Cornell has compiled advice from 90 creative professionals such as Debbie Millman, Paula Scher, and Nicholas Felton, all on overcoming creative block. And he’s packaged it all neatly in a book titled Breakthrough!: Proven Strategies to Overcome Creative Block and Spark Your Imagination.
My advice is found on page 47. With Alex’s permission, reprinted below are my remarks.
My process for battling creative block is to not prescribe a process for battling creative block. By that I mean no two creative blocks are alike. To assume the same process can cure each and every block would be a little bit nutty, if you ask me.
Sometimes just plowing through a block works great for me. The more I crank out bad or mediocre ideas, the better my chances of cranking out good ones eventually. Then again, sometimes that doesn’t work.
Sometimes temporarily conceding defeat works great. I leave a design alone for a time, only to return victoriously later in the day or the following day. But sometimes that doesn’t work either.
Sometimes just staring at a screen or printed matter works great. In fact, I find I tend to stare at my designs, comtemplating the rightness or wrongness of them, more than I actually spend time designing those designs. Of course, that doesn’t always work.
Sometimes I get lucky and amazing designs slip from my fingers as if fate was in the driver’s seat. Rarely does that work for me.
So, how do I overcome creative blocks? By having several block-curing methods at my disposal, rather than a single method. Overcoming blocks is an art, not a science, and we all know art is much more about trial and error than established practices.
I’ve not read all of the other strategies yet, but I’ll be taking the (nearly) pocket-sized book with me on my flight this evening to Brooklyn Beta, where I’m positive I’ll hear epic war stories about overcoming creative block. (Creative block is an all-out war sometimes, is it not?)
published 18 September 2012
Kirby Ferguson speaking at TED on the topic of remixing:
Our creativity comes from without, not from within. We are not self-made. We are dependent on one another, and admitting this to ourselves isn’t an embrace of mediocrity and derivativeness. It’s a liberation from our misconceptions, and it’s an incentive to not expect so much from ourselves and to simply begin.
This is the same topic I’ll be speaking on — creativity and remixing existing matter — at ConvergeFL in Tallahassee, Florida (October 4–5).
published 14 September 2012
Brand New on the new eBay logo:
This logo is not bad. Let’s establish that. There is nothing wrong with it. The letters haven’t been mangled, the colors don’t induce puking, and the ™ is, amazingly, all lowercase to match the logo.
But this logo is not good either. Very far from good actually but unfortunately not so far that it demands the full berating it deserves. Of all the potential logos that could be done for eBay this is the absolute most boring and risk-averse logo that could have been both presented and selected.
published 20 August 2012
Not available for purchase (yet), but I love the idea behind Kunihiko Okano’s Quintet type family: Weights are given choral names and can be combined as a chorus, or used individually.
published 17 August 2012
Noah Stokes, on moving away:
Don’t get me wrong, we left an awesome community of close friends. I left an amazing community of professionals (hello, gentlemen). I was in the heart of billion dollar, zero-revenue, businesses. Start-ups. Mash-ups. Money. Undeniably, the hub of all things web. But I gave all these things up for something more, something real. For the past three weeks I’ve been working on the web, but I’m no longer in the web. It feels awesome.
Honestly, this is a beautifully written piece. For many of the same reasons as Noah’s, I passed up a chance to work at Apple and now live in a retirement town laden with the elderly, tourists, a gorgeous beach, nearly devoid of a web community. In the end, it’s the right place for our family — not just my career.
It’s also worth noting I spent most of my youth in Antioch, northeast of San Francisco. Noah’s article hits home even harder as that comes to mind.
published 15 August 2012
GRID bills itself as a “remarkable spreadsheet”. It looks nothing like a spreadsheet. It does look rather remarkable.
Reminds me of the now (somewhat) defunct Backpack and its unconventional approach to organizing data when it launched 7 years ago.
published 14 August 2012
Fonts optimized for screen rendering look cheap on the retina MacBook Pro — sometimes downright cheesy — in the same way they do when printed in a glossy magazine.
Great fonts, intricately designed for high-resolution output, aren’t just allowed, they are necessary for a design that truly sings on this display. In fact, if anything falls down on the software side, it’s Lucida Grande, Mac OS X’s system font. It was a stellar choice by Apple in 2001 and has served ably for more than a decade, primarily because it renders so crisply through Apple’s anti-aliasing algorithms. In short, Lucida Grande renders better than most fonts on pre-retina displays. But on the retina MacBook Pro, it looks like what it is: a font optimized for low-resolution displays. There’s a reason you seldom see Lucida Grande used in print.
Curious to know if this sentiment extends beyond the Lucidas and Verdanas to include webfonts, too. If it does, I worry we might see the type industry do an about-face with all the webfont optimization that’s taken place the last few years — just as it was beginning to hit critical mass.
(I don’t own a retina MBP and would love to hear your opinion over on the Twitter.)
published 9 August 2012
When you put pure black next to a set of meticulously picked colors, the black overpowers everything else. It stands out because it’s not natural. All of the ‘black’ everyday objects around you have some amount of light bouncing off of them, which means they aren’t black, they’re dark gray. And that light probably has a tint to it, so they’re not even dark gray, they’re colored-dark gray….
Bottom line is: when you find #000000 in your color picker, ask yourself if you really want pure black. You’re probably better off with something more natural. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try staying away from the left edge of the color picker altogether.
This is one of those things experienced web designers do without thought, whereas newcomers tend to choose blacks at the absolute end of the spectrum. You’ll notice the type on this site, for example, isn’t
#222. Background colors in light-on-dark designs, such as DesignersMX, are also a shade or two above pure black.
published 26 July 2012
- September 20–21: Circles Conference, Dallas | @circlesconf
- $175 (early bird special ends July 31)
- Authentic Jobs + charity: water
- I’ll give an inside look at what it’s like to run a for-profit company that rallies its customers and users to support a non-profit organization, and how others can do the same.
- September 27–29: HOW Interactive, Washington D.C.
October 29–31: HOW Interactive, San Francisco | @howinteractive
- $995 (early bird special ends August 15)
- Tools for Building Your Interactive Dream Team
- Insight and advice from successful companies, and stories and observations from my 13-year career in the web industry. Come prepared to take plenty of notes. Update: I failed to mention you’ll receive an additional $50 off with promo code CAMERON.
- October 4–5: Converge Florida, Tallahasse | @convergese
- $200 (registration begins August 1)
- The Burden of Creativity
- We’ve all been endowed with the ability to create. So why is it such a challenge? I’ll answer this question with a math equation, naturally (wink). I’ll also live sketch my presentation.
published 25 July 2012
Oliver Reichenstein, in an interview with The Verge:
Good screen design happens in the subatomic level of microtypography (the exact definition of a typeface), the invisible grid of macrotypography (how the typeface is used), and the invisible world of interaction design and information architecture. Minimum input, maximum output, with minimal conscious thought is what screen designers focus on.
Update: Some of you responded on Twitter saying good design isn’t always invisible. Case in point: my letterpress posters (if they can be considered “good”) employ design that is very visible.
published 24 July 2012
Apple’s latest celebrity ad, “Busy Day”. Score.
/via The Verge
published 23 July 2012
The thing with Flickr isn’t that it is no longer awesome, but that it is no longer fashionable.
The web has matured a lot in recent years, to the point where websites have become brands. Brands that can advertise and market themselves, brands that work hard to influence the minds of the younger internet users. The brands want to lure people in with the promise of free stuff and social networks, in return for personal information. Which of course, having grown up with Facebook, many of today’s teens and 20-somethings are perfectly happy to give away.
I know I probably sound like a moaning old grandad at this point, but: Flickr has never been like that. It offered a service, in exchange for money. That’s a tried and tested way of doing things. It worked very well before the internet came along, and there’s no reason why it shouldn’t continue to work now.
Just renewed my Flickr Pro subscription last week, in fact.
published 18 July 2012
On Monday, I purchased an Asus/Google Nexus 7, mostly for testing purposes. It arrived the following day (yesterday).
I’ve had it in my hands just 12 hours, so take the remarks that follow with a grain of salt. However, because I also own a Galaxy Tab, BlackBerry PlayBook, and Amazon Kindle Fire—all of which are roughly the same size as the Nexus 7—I’ve got a pretty good handle on what works well and what doesn’t for 7” tablets.
In no particular order, my initial impressions:
- Unboxing it wasn’t nearly as difficult as some have experienced. Perhaps they’ve tweaked the packaging since.
- Setup was a breeze. And because I’ve already connected a previous tablet to Google Play, apps and media I’ve purchased instantly began installing on this device. (Jury is still out as to whether or not that’s really a good thing.)
- I was surprised to learn Asus manufactures it. I didn’t pick up on that prior to ordering, and I didn’t even realize it until seeing the name imprinted on the back of the device. I’ve never associated Asus with a high standard of quality, but this device feels well-built.
- There’s greater potential for confusion when using the Nexus 7 than with iPad. Fundamentally, this is due to the buttons flanking the bottom of the screen on most (all) Android devices, as compared to the single home button on iOS devices. At times, especially when opening modals, it takes me a couple seconds to remember if I should press the home button or the back button to exit the modal. I dislike how often this throws me off. But again, this goes for any Android device, not just Nexus 7. (It should be noted that the buttons on this device are digital, not physical. This means they can disappear in some apps, which they do.)
- I love having Chrome on a tablet. The fact alone that I can use the address bar to type both URLs and searches means I never need to remember which field is which, as compared to Mobile Safari. Some claim this is a feature that works well on the desktop for advanced users but confuses novice users, which I partly agree with. But on a tablet, a single field for both just feels right. (This isn’t a feature exclusive to Chrome on tablets. Other browsers employ a single field, as well.)
- I rented and watched part of a movie last night to get a feel for how it handles video, and the experience wasn’t stellar. The screen is fairly good; that wasn’t the problem. The audio and streaming were at fault. The speaker(s) were simply too weak to provide ample audibility, even at full volume. And this was in a quiet room! I eventually plugged in headphones to hear adequately. Further, the movie paused for buffering a half-dozen times within a stretch of 10 minutes. Granted, this is likely the fault of Google Play rather than Nexus 7, but I’ve yet to experience that kind of latency with iTunes and iOS.
- The page-turn animation is neat. Download an e-book and you’ll see what I mean.
- Typing really isn’t any better than iPad, but those who follow me on Twitter know I absolutely despise typing on tablets. Any typing. If anything, typing is easier in landscape mode with Nexus 7 than with iPad, simply because the reach between thumbs is less wide than with the current 10” iPad.
The obvious question that begs to be asked is one that involves a reference to iPad and a murderous label. As solid as the Nexus 7 is, it’s unlikely a killer. I was enamored by both the PlayBook and Kindle Fire during my initial time with each, and you might say I’m equally enamored by the Nexus 7. However, weeks later neither device stood up to iPad. Now they both gather dust when not used for testing. I worry the Nexus 7 will suffer the same fate.
And with a smaller, less-expensive iPad just around the corner, I’m willing to bet Nexus 7’s time in the spotlight will be relatively brief. But as an Android alternative to iPad, it’s the best tablet I’ve had my hands on thus far.
published 13 June 2012
Now through June 20, all letterpress poster items are available for purchase at 25% off. Orders placed today (June 13) and shipped to U.S. addresses will arrive in time for Father’s Day.
published 13 June 2012
Paul Ford, speaking to MFA Interaction Design graduates on the value of time:
The time you spend is not your own. You are, as a class of human beings, responsible for more pure raw time, broken into more units, than almost anyone else. You spent two years learning, focusing, exploring, but that was your time; now you are about to spend whole decades, whole centuries, of cumulative moments, of other people’s time. People using your systems, playing with your toys, fiddling with your abstractions. And I want you to ask yourself when you make things, when you prototype interactions, am I thinking about my own clock, or the user’s?
If we are going to ask people, in the form of our products, in the form of the things we make, to spend their heartbeats—if we are going to ask them to spend their heartbeats on us, on our ideas, how can we be sure, far more sure than we are now, that they spend those heartbeats wisely?
Be sure to read the full transcript.