published 12 June 2012
I’ve been presenting at design and web conferences since 2005 and, as best as I can recall, I’ve been using Keynote since version 1.0, which debuted a couple years earlier.
Last month, for the first time in 7 years, the machine accompanying me on stage was running something other than Keynote. And the machine was more device than mechanism.
As I took the stage, I was hoping to surprise the audience with a new form of presenting, as well as shake things up a little for the speaking industry.
Rewind a few months: There I was in my office lounge chair, watching a Khan video on my iPad as I began my day. I knew I had two presentations coming up, one for DIBI and the other for Interlink 2012. So as Sal eulogized the virtues of quadratic equations, my mind wandered to a place where I imagined myself doing the same on stage. And then it hit me: Why not?
‘Paper’ for iPad had just been released a few weeks earlier, and it wasn’t long before I put two and two together. I had also been considering using mathematical equations, of all things, to describe my topic (creativity). Things were coming together nicely.
Following some informal testing with several styluses (which I hope to write about later), I began rehearsing. It quickly became apparent that the more complex sketches would require too much time on stage, especially while trying to talk at the same time. So I created a few canned sketches, such as these:
These were interspersed throughout the presentation to add a little variety. As for the on-stage sketches? My illustration skills severely lacking, they weren’t as pretty. But I wasn’t after pretty. I was after a new form of engaging the audience during a presentation, and in this case it was seeing words and equations sketched live in Khan fashion. Here are a few pages that were sketched on stage:
Not as sexy, but it worked.
To steal a few lines from the script for my presentation, everything we create is based on existing ideas, existing matter. Ultimately our ideas are others’ ideas—reincarnated, reimagined, and refined.
I’m banking on other speakers taking this idea—using Paper for on-stage sketching—and reincarnating, reimagining, and refining it. After all, conferences could use a little more Sal and Paper.
Update: Some of you have requested video demonstrating this style of presenting. Jina Bolton captured a brief snippet from my talk at Interlink 2012.
published 31 May 2012
Jonah Lehrer, author of Imagine:
Every creative journey begins with a problem. It starts with a feeling of frustration, the dull ache of not being able to find the answer…. When we tell one another stories about creativity, we tend to leave out this phase of the creative process…. Instead, we skip straight to the breakthroughs. We tell the happy endings first. The danger of telling this narrative is that the feeling of frustration … is an essential part of the creative process.
published 30 May 2012
Inspired by a talk I gave at dConstruct 2007, Remy Sharp has developed a simple extension for Chrome that applies a CSS-based blur to any web page. This is helpful for conducting a quick “hierarchy squint test” on work in progress. (More about that.)
Speaking of dConstruct, tickets are nearly sold out for this year’s conference in Brighton, UK. It’s a fantastic event with a unique lineup of speakers, held in one of the most unique venues I’ve ever spoken at. Can’t recommend it enough.
published 23 May 2012
Seth Godin on the elusiveness of getting to done:
For the marketer, the freelancer and the entrepreneur, the challenge is to level set, to be comfortable with the undone, with the cycle of never-ending. We were trained to finish our homework, our peas and our chores. Today, we’re never finished, and that’s okay.
That echoes my answer for a question I get asked frequently: “How do you balance everything, Cameron?”
Balance is a process, not a final resting state. I’m constantly juggling, shuffling, and re-prioritizing life’s demands. And I’m learning to be okay with that.
published 22 May 2012
Joe Moreno describes how Apple’s logo was originally right-side up to the onlooker, but switched to be right-side up to the user, before switching back to favor the onlooker:
[The] design group noticed that users constantly tried to open the laptop from the wrong end. Steve Jobs always focuses on providing the best possible user experience and believed that it was more important to satisfy the user than the onlooker.
Obviously, after a few years, Steve reversed his decision.
Opening a laptop from the wrong end is a self-correcting problem that only lasts for a few seconds. However, viewing the upside logo is a problem that lasts indefinitely.
Skim the comments for banter discussing whether or not Steve’s reversal was the right thing to do.
/via Hacker News
published 18 May 2012
Jeffrey Zeldman, in a beautifully written piece titled, “Web Design Manifesto 2012”:
This redesign is deliberately over the top, but new ideas often exaggerate to make a point. It’s over the top but not unusable nor, in my opinion, unbeautiful….
We can’t keep designing as we used to if we want people to engage with our content. We can’t keep charging for ads that our layouts train readers to ignore. We can’t focus so much on technology that we forget the web is often, and quite gloriously, a transaction between reader and writer….
A personal site is where you don’t have to compromise. Even if you lose some readers. Even if some people hate what you’ve done. Even if others wonder why you aren’t doing what everyone else who knows what’s what is doing.
published 14 May 2012
Kathryn Schulz, as quoted by Maria Popova:
If we have goals and dreams and we want to do our best, and if we love people and we don’t want to hurt them or lose them, we should feel pain when things go wrong. The point isn’t to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them… We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly — it reminds us that we know we can do better.”
published 10 May 2012
Similar to the way icon fonts replace keyboard characters with icons, FF Chartwell uses alphanumeric characters to generate beautiful charts on the fly. To my knowledge, however, this works only in software programs and can’t be embedded in web pages.
It can be embedded. It’s possible to embed it, but the current EULA doesn’t allow it. Demo by Yaron Schoen who says, “Besides the FOUT which was really hard (impossible?) to remove, it was glorious.”
The family includes “weights” for creating bar, line, radar, pie, rose, and ring charts. A simple math equation, such as
10+20+30, is all that’s needed to generate the chart. Each value can be assigned a color, which in turn becomes the value’s color in the chart.
In something such as Photoshop, it’s quite cumbersome to change the values, as you have to enable and disable the OpenType feature to do so. In other programs such as InDesign, this isn’t as cumbersome (as shown in the video above).
Here’s a simple example using Chartwell Rings and Chartwell Lines. The same equation is utilized in both charts:
Conceptually, I love the idea and hope to see this and other fonts expand to include webfont embedding, assuming the data could be represented semantically and accessibly. You can purchase FF Chartwell as a whole or as separate charts, and you can find additional usage examples on the FontFont blog.
published 8 May 2012
TL;DR: It’s challenging.
Some of you know we homeschool our four children. Their U.S. grade levels range from 1st to 6th grade. Suzanne teaches them Monday through Thursday, and I put in a half-day on Friday to school them in the morning.
Because Suzanne covers several of the foundational topics such as math, science, and history, I complement their studies with less fundamental things like Spanish, sports, music, and computers (most notably HTML & CSS). One might argue these latter subjects are equally foundational, but that’s another topic for another day.
It’s quite challenging, as you might expect, to gather, produce, and teach curriculum to four different grade levels simultaneously. I won’t delve into how we do it, as that’s also another topic for another day.
Instead, I’ll simply share our latest quiz (PDF) from last Friday, encompassing the four subjects I’m currently teaching:
Created somewhat hastily in Pages (questions) and Illustrator (rhythm exercises), they certainly aren’t anything to brag about in terms of production quality. And this is only one of four quizzes. Each child gets a different version of the quiz according to their grade level and educational maturity.
What’s notable, I think, is that this latest quiz was our most comprehensive yet. It covers quite a bit of material, in part because the last quiz I issued was back in January 2012. A crazy work schedule in recent weeks hasn’t allowed me to stay on top of schooling as much as I’d like. Which, you guessed it, is another topic for another day — that of adequately educating our children while balancing the rest of life’s demands.
All of this rambling and quiz tomfoolery leads to this pro tip and the real reason for this post: I’ve found it helpful to create the quiz for the most senior grade level first, and then pair down a) the volume of questions and b) the difficulty of the questions. This makes the insurmountable task of creating quizzes for four grade levels a little less impossible.
Note that I’ve said nothing about quizzing itself and the debate among homeschoolers about testing your children. Regardless of those debates, I find quizzes to be helpful to evaluate how I’m doing as a teacher and to gauge how they’re internalizing what I teach.
Hopefully, something I’ve said here is helpful for those of you currently homeschooling or those of you considering it. If you haven’t already, you’ll discover homeschooling is precisely the same as parenting: Read as many books and blogs as you’d like, but at the end of the day, it’s all about trial and error. Lest you think I have this quizzing thing figured out (and homeschooling in general), I’ve made plenty of errors and continue to error.
Maybe I’ll share that story another day, too.
Wednesday 25 April 2012
Monday 23 April 2012
Wednesday 4 April 2012
Thursday 29 March 2012
published 15 March 2012
There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
–W. Somerset Maugham
Pressing ‘Pause’ on this site for a while has afforded me time and distance to realign my writing objectives. An invitation from Chris Shiflett to join today’s “Ideas of March” has afforded me an opportunity to break the silence.
Successful blogging, much like Maugham’s quote about novel writing, is largely a mystery. While there are certainly foundational principles that can increase our chances of success, we’ve all seen articles and posts that break all the rules and go on to receive extraordinary traffic, comments, and retweets.
But if our definition of successful blogging — nay, let’s say successful writing — is measured in terms of audience reach and grammatical proficiency, we’re measuring the wrong things. Letters of Note, for example, repeatedly proves good writing does not necessarily equal grammatical proficiency. Additionally, I’ve read plenty of beautifully written pieces that may have been seen by only a handful of eyes beyond my own. (Many of these have been written by my wife and sons.)
Writing, at its core, is a means of personal expression. The greatest measure of its success lies in what it returns to the author. Consider this: I’ve handwritten — yes, with ink — many pages in my personal journal that have been read only by myself. But I consider this some of my most successful, and meaningful, writing because it comes from the heart, allows me to ponder what I’m doing with my life, and encourages me to be a better person.
For those of us who are creative professionals, there are few exercises more beneficial to our profession than writing; persistent writing, to be specific, as the act of writing does more for our ability to think creatively than just about anything else. It forces us to synthesize our thoughts and opinions on paper, which in turn yield an opportunity for critique by ourselves and by others. Synthesizing, as I’ll share in my presentations at DIBI and Interlink in the coming months, is simply the act of organizing unorganized matter — a fancy way of saying create.
And that’s the hope for Ideas of March: a rededication to creative, persistent, meaningful writing, specifically in the form of blogging. If you’d like to participate in Ideas of March, please see Chris Shiflett’s post.