Designers Weren’t Designed To Solve Everyone’s Problems

Interesting piece by Mills Baker on the failure of designers to prove themselves worthy at “the table”:

It’s now 2014, and I doubt seriously whether I’m alone in feeling a sense of anxiety about how “design” is using its seat at the table. From the failure of “design-oriented” Path [1] to the recent news that Square is seeking a buyer [2] to the fact that Medium is paying people to use it [3], there’s evidence that the luminaries of our community have been unable to use design to achieve market success. More troubling, much of the work for which we express the most enthusiasm seems superficial, narrow in its conception of design, shallow in its ambitions, or just ineffective.
This essay has been getting quite a lot of attention in the tech/design world in the last week.
I have a lot of thoughts on it, but not enough time to write fully my reaction. I will say this: Designers are but one person at the table when a company creates websites, devices, apps and software. In much the same way as the majority of people use the word “innovation” incorrectly, many people misunderstand the role of designers.
An example of what I mean: Despite how amazing a product designer Jony Ive is, if it wasn’t for Steve Jobs’ skills in BOTH business and design, the iPod—and iPhone and iPad—would have been nothing but beautiful museum pieces for the design wing of the MoMA. Tim Cook’s acute understanding of supply chains moved Apple to buy up the world’s supply of 1.8″ hard drives following the iPod launch.
There’s also a lot semantics we need to sort out with this topic. To design is to solve a problem, be it visual or otherwise. Creative directors are many times more involved with business objectives than they are about the quality ofd the visual designs.
Lots to chew on with this essay.

“it’s copyright law that leads to this bizarre result…”

At Techdirt, Mike Masnick on the Aereo court case:

We mentioned this briefly in our writeup of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the Aereo case, but I wanted to focus in on one particularly annoying issue that has come up repeatedly throughout this company’s history: the idea that its compliance with the law is actually the company circumventing the law. A perfect example of this is an incredibly ill-informed opinion piece for New York Magazine’s Kevin Roose that declares, based on a near total misunderstanding of the case, that the Supreme Court should shut down Aereo because its 10,000 antennas are a cheap “copyright-avoidance gimmick.”

But that’s simply incorrect. It’s actually 100% the opposite. We’ll fully admit, as that article does, that the setup of Aereo is simply insane from a technology standpoint. There is no good reason at all to design the technology this way. But the reason they’re doing this is not to avoid copyright but to comply with it. If you think that this is insane (and you’re right) the answer is not to whine about what Aereo is doing, but to note that it’s copyright law that leads to this bizarre result. Don’t blame Aereo for following exactly what the law says, and then say it’s a “gimmick.” Blame the law for forcing Aereo down this path.
Copyright law is broken. It’s been so for quite some time.

First-Sale Doctrine Ain’t In Effect, Yo

Joel Johnson from NBC New on the licensing around digital purchases from Amazon:

The core issue might actually be a simple matter of semantics: when we click a digital button that is labelled “Buy,” we expect that we’re actually buying something. But we’re not buying anything, we’re licensing it. Just last year, the Supreme Court ruled that the first-sale doctrine does not apply to software — or e-books. Or apps. Nor pretty much everything you “Buy” online that doesn’t get shipped to your home in a cardboard box.
The perpetual tug-of-war between content wanting to be free and companies trying to lock it down continues.


Jonathan Jones on why we can’t stop Retronauting (sharing old photographs):

What is nostalgia? For me it’s triggered by the sense that my parents might be young people in Butterfield’s deep colour vistas of the West End of London. For enthusiasts who post historic photographs on Twitter, it’s more broadly scattered. These pictures reveal the wealth of photographic documents, memories and arcana that these sites have dragged into the 21st-century limelight, from an 1890s portrait of Cornelia Sorabji, India’s first female advocate and the first woman to study law at Oxford University, to the building of the Hoover dam in Roosevelt’s America.
I won’t lie, I love old photographs—and old illustrations, old typography, old car manuals, and kitschy ads in the back of early 20th century magazines. I’ve been in orbit retronauting for many years now.
The idea for Daily Exhaust and The Combustion Chamber came from a 1950’s booklet on cars from my father.
In other news, Getty added another 77,000 images to it’s open content archive and the National Library of Ireland added 10,000 images to their online archive.

Smuggling Across Borders

Sometimes I get pissed off how damn smart and talented Frank Chimero is:

There’s one particular stupid wall I’d like to focus on today: the one we built between print and digital formats. I’m skeptical, so I have some questions.

1) Why do we think they’re at war with one another?
2) Why does one need to kill the other?
3) What kinds of interesting things happen if we keep both on the table?

The main line of inquiry of my career has been about undermining that barrier between print and digital. Rather than having a division, I make things that trade across the boundary. I’m acting as a merchant, a translator, and at my worst, maybe even a smuggler.
Great piece on the creative process. I wrestled with similar issues the book I’m publishing with help from my Kickstarter backers.
I started Charms, Quivers & Parades as a poster series, and then I wondered why I was imposing these artificial boundaries on my work? Where else did my ideas want to live besides 12-inch by 18-inch pieces of paper? It turned out my project was equally comfortable in postercard format, PDF/ebook and hardcover book (at least for now, I think they’d make great temporary tattoos and rubber stamps too).
We live in a world where people love to polarize things into binary competitions.
It doesn’t have to be that way.

Matthew Weiner

Matthew Weiner interviewed in the NYTimes:

I prefer print books, but I have purchased a lot of e-books. There’s an incredible power to holding the iPad or the Kindle and seeing all the choices available, but it’s a little bit like opening Netflix. It can be overwhelming and feel like a collection instead of a library. Deep down, I prefer paperbacks that I can bend the pages in, and write in with a ballpoint pen and take in the bath. Also, e-books completely nullify the adventure of used books. With a used book, I love reading inscriptions, finding business cards and notes, and constructing another narrative about who it belonged to.
Seems Weiner has the same book habits as me.


Interesting thesis by Avram Miller on what’s going to happen in September of 2015 (via Robert Cringely):

Jobs began to realize that Google could become the next Microsoft which would have the same effect that the old Microsoft had on the pre-iPhone Apple, it would cut the company off at the knees. Jobs realized that the only way to prevent that, was to put a dagger into the very heart of Google – Search. So he started up the most secret project ever undertaken at Apple. The name of the project was “Found.” Less than four people knew about Found and not one of them was a board member. Jobs understood that Search was a very vulnerable area that had no stickiness other than possibly the brand behind it. That when users did a search, they just wanted the best results.
Google is quickly catching up to Apple in the quality of their software and product design, I’d love to see Apple catch up to Google in search (Siri is part of that).
Hey, I can dream, can’t I?