May 30, 20191 Comment

Hello world!

Welcome to aThemes Demo Sites. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start blogging!

December 1, 2018Comments are off for this post.

UX and the Gadfly

"For if you put me to death, you will not easily find another, who, to use a rather absurd figure,

attaches himself to the city as a gadfly to a horse, which, though large and well bred, is sluggish on

account of his size and needs to be aroused by stinging."  -- Plato, Apology.

Who would choose to compare themselves to a gadfly? It's not exactly the most flattering of comparisons. But Socrates (or Plato through Socrates) nonetheless attempts to convince the state of his value by describing himself as such. Perhaps not surprisingly, the argument fell on deaf ears. I mean, what horse would actually choose to have a gadfly pestering and stinging it?

I often wonder if I am alone in viewing my role as a UX designer as similar to Socrate's gadfly. Presenting data about what the user actually wants can often sting, and the benefits of listening are often opaque to the stakeholders. As a large and well bred horse, the company knows how easy it would be to just shoo the gadfly away and keep on its merry course. But the UX designer must insist that its disruptive stings are actually worth having.


August 20, 2018No Comments


Like many other infamous UX twitter scuffles, Alan Cooper sits in one ring and Jared Spool in the other. The question is whether it is the UX designers role to make the Return On Investment of UX clear to employers. Alan Cooper is characteristically espousing the more radical and transgressive view, while Jared takes a more practical and congenial approach.

For Mr. Spool, communicating ROI as a UX designer has multiple recurring site-lines. UX leads to higher customer satisfaction and loyalty, less wasteful projects, more competitive and innovative applications, and more opportunities for leverage.

For Mr. Cooper, the designer is under no obligation to elucidate his ROI, if for no other reason than because it simply is not the designers job, its the managers (Cooper is pretty adamant about people not outsourcing their job responsibilities). Besides, a UX designers real value is in some ways inestimable and qualitative, not something that can be easily crunched into a number.

I cannot give an answer about which approach has more merit. I deeply admire Mr. Cooper's integrity and it is part of what makes him such an important voice in UX. In my day to day life, however, I tend to take Spool's advice more seriously. Maybe when I invent the next Visual Basic I'll feel more comfortable being a radical torch-bearer.

August 20, 2018No Comments

Color Power Rankings Part 1

These are personal, not trending.

1. Orange

Orange is unequivocally the best color. By degree, red and yellow are both colors associated with danger and alarm. Not so with orange. Instead, orange is that whistful twang you feel during autumn. It is unique in being both warm and inviting. Orange is to red what your chill uncle is to your opressive parents.

2. Green

Green has a very wide range of big moods. It's ties to natural splendor alone make it a color of rejuvination, the untamed, health, liberation, authenticity and groundedness. It is also the color of envy, simulation, sickness, inexperience, mold, decay, money and greed. For these reasons I consider green to be the color of psychological complexity and ambiguousness. It tells the story of humanity in its confrontations with death and natural order on the one hand, and the virtual world of currency, status and expertise on the other. Nietzsche liked the color green.

3. Purple

Purple dye was once a very rare commodity because of how difficult and time intensive it was to milk the predatory snails that secreted it. In addition, the "mauve" zone in Twin Peaks was so beautiful I cried. Honestly, purple should probably be higher on the list. Purple contains multitudes...but also contradictions. It is, on the one hand, a color of mystery and magic, the color of that which lies outside the techno-scientific biopower apparatus that glues us all in place. At the same time, it is the color of royalty and the upper crust, the color of supremacy and the reigning order. How do we synthesize these contradictions? Do guillotines come in purple?

4. Blue

In both the US and in Europe, blue is the most beloved overall color amongst both men and women. The color blue is invited to every party and is, ironically, never thirsty (because it's the color of water, see?). Blue is percieved as (but may not actually be) the color of professionalism, harmony, confidence, the infinite and the imagination. The future is so bright for blue that it's quickly becoming turquoise. But there's a light tickle at the back of Blue's throat that he just can't ignore. No matter how popular and well connected blue is, there is always that tinge of sadness, that tinge of isolation, that no social validation will ever cure.

July 30, 2018No Comments

Pomodoro + Block Site = ???

I have been using the Pomodoro technique through the app Focus 10, and the results have been good. It allows you to chunk your work in a way that is conducive to finding your flow. I've been using it casually, meaning I'm not strictly adhering to the Pomodoro sequence and rulesets (I have never "abandoned a Pomodoro" because an unexpected distraction has arisen).

Whenever I'm confronted with a loading screen or some other technical hitch that requires waiting, I almost instinctually load Twitter and see what's doing. This is true whether I'm on the Pomodoro clock or not. But when I am on the clock, reading twitter even for a minute completely murders my flow, much more than the technical setback does (I imagine this is primarily because social media is depressing as hell). Which is why I usually pair my Focus 10 with Block Site. This second layer of flow-protection prevents my Twitter muscle memory from taking my focus away from work, even for a minute.

For my SmartPhone I have a similar system using a "Minimalistic Material Timer" and ClearLock. But it's cumbersome to have to sync two apps at the same time.

I think creating an app that integrates these two functions into a single app would be well received. During a Pomodoro "work sequence", user-selected apps will be locked from use. During the "break sequence", they are unlocked. As a web-browser plug-in it would work the same way, but blocking websites instead of apps.

I'm going to start designing this concept and see where it goes.

August 10, 2017Comments are off for this post.

First Things First

In 1999 Adbusters released the "First Things First" manifesto, a declaration from a group of graphic designers and visual communicators to rethink the political aspects of their design:

We propose a reversal of priorities in favour of more useful, lasting and democratic forms of communication – a mindshift away from product marketing and toward the exploration and production of a new kind of meaning.

The manifesto was in fact a verbatim reproduction of an article of the same name, released by the legendary graphic designer Ken Garland in 1964.

60 years later, you can still read the manifesto and understand its relevance to contemporary circumstance.  And in fact, the central issue of arts relation to politics has been a perennial topic in philosophy ever since Plato decided it was politically necessary to eject poets from the republic.

With this blog I hope to explore the relationship between the new design perspective of UX in relation to the territory Ken Garland initially staked out.  Is it possible for UX to become a way to explore and produce the new kinds of meaning the manifesto advocates?


Also I might just shit-post random junk about being a designer and cat gifs.