I have fond memories, though my cholesterol level does not, of eating at D’Best Sandwich Shop in Boca Raton. It’s been a few years, but as I recently munched on a Miami Cuban‐style cheesesteak my mind started wandering and I got to wondering if D’Best still existed. As I went looking for their website, I recalled a few of their regional twists on the cheesesteak, like the New York style, a New Jersey style… not to mention their incredible non‐steak explosion of an entire Thanksgiving meal directly onto a bun (D’Pilgrim).
D’Best still exists, alright… but I was truly unprepared for what I found.
You see, back when I’d visit, D’Best-the-subshop was a place you’d leave coated with a thin layer of grill grease. Had to wait in line? You’re washing your hair tonight. The place was by no means messy, but it had a certain unfinished quality to it… definitely the kind of place where the food matters more than the branding. I’d describe it as feeling somehow honest… completely lacking in pretense. Kind of blue collar? Yeah, I guess.
Continue reading “Slick, sleek & slimy”
I just clicked my first banner ad in years. It wasn’t by accident.
Dear marketers, this is how you do it:
No, of course I didn’t buy anything.
Oh, goodness. I started writing this post in January, and have had it basically finished for weeks now. I’ve been putting off actually posting it for some time, thinking it needs more work. But now — in fact, just three hours ago — Design Observer unveiled a redesign and made me look like some kind of jerk. Now, if that isn’t an object lesson in shipping…
Design Observer looks dated.
DO’s header boasts proudly that it’s been operating since 2003, and you can tell. Look at it with 2014 eyes and you’ll observe a non‐responsive fixed‐width layout with tiny text. Is that really a blogroll? Where are the ubiquitous social sharing buttons?
It’s like a time capsule of early‐2000s blog design.
And that’s why it’s so great.
Continue reading “Observing Design Observer’s design”
Spike Jonze’s Her was an interesting movie tainted with just a sprinkling of ridiculousness… and I’m not talking about the high‐waisted pants.
I’m about to spoil it hard, so avert your eyes if you haven’t seen it. (But do see it.)
Look, I just find it hard to believe that the downfall of this product was due to a gaping design flaw that somehow nobody noticed: Samantha was designed without any process isolation. When you ask the software how many users it has (or how many it’s in love with, etc.), it should respond “one — you” because your running instance of the software shouldn’t know anything about any other users, and definitely shouldn’t be accessing other users’ data.
What people are doing with the software, having relationships with it or whatever, is beside the point. One binary, one billionty individual Samanthas. Come on — we’ve had Unix for forty years.
Or wait, is Samantha supposed to be “the cloud”? If so, as social software, we should expect it to be fucking as many people as possible, as publicly as possible. Maybe this movie is deeper than I thought.
On another note, folks — make backups.
I’ve been holding the pen (and before that, the pencil and crayon) incorrectly for as long as I’ve been writing. As such, my handwriting is pretty terrible and I’ve always been prone to hand cramping. Various teachers and at least a couple of parents have tried to correct this over the years, but I’ve always just ignored them and gone on writing as I pleased. I found my way easier and more comfortable, although the comfort would only last for the first few minutes.
I’m not sure what happened, but about a month ago I was sitting at my desk and I decided that I was going to start holding the pen correctly. At first it was a difficult, frustrating and uncomfortably conscious process, and I would sometimes forget to do so, but I made sure to correct myself as soon as I remembered. I soon found it easy enough to do with chunkier pens (like most of my fountain pens), but now I’m able to do it well enough on days I carry something thinner (like a Parker Jotter).
Consequently, I’m writing a bit more slowly and deliberately now, and while my handwriting hasn’t really changed at all, the new hand position has become automatic — I now just pick up the pen and hold it correctly. Since I still prefer to do much of my daily thinking ink‐on‐dead‐tree-style, this small change contributes significantly to my quality of life, as I trade short‐term comfort for long‐term comfort.
“Next up is correcting my sitting posture,” he writes, slouching terribly.
Last year I read an interesting blog post that taught me the name for something I’d been hearing more and more about for a while: MOOCs (“Massive Open Online Courses”). You know, they’re those online classes that you can take, offered by universities like Stanford, Harvard and others — plus a host of private companies — typically for free and without credit. Oh, and across an absolute metric fuckton of topics.
Yesterday, setting aside any traces of an um‐yeah‐I‐already‐finished‐college‐thank‐you attitude, I spent some time poking around MOOC List — an extensive aggregator of available classes — and found something that caught my eye: Intro to the Design of Everyday Things, taught by Don Norman, author of that book you may have seen on my dining room table, waiting patiently to be read, for a little while now. (Okay, Amazon says it’s been over two years.)
So I’m taking Don’s class now, and while I’m not sure if I’ve had my eyes opened to any truly new concepts yet, I’ve picked up a couple of terms: “affordance” and “signifier.” And to finish off Lesson 1, I’m currently on the lookout for a signifier to photograph, critique and improve.
So, why Intro to the Design of Everyday Things? I can actually share the answer I posted to the class forum:
I’m taking this class because, as a copywriter whose opinions on the finished product tend to extend a bit beyond my specific area of expertise, I’d like a more solid grounding in these other areas.
Basically, soon I’ll be telling you why I’m right about even more things, using all the right terms. Look out.
As a kid, I hated “critical thinking” questions.
I didn’t know what the term even meant, but what I did know was that about a third of the questions at the end of each chapter in my school textbooks were “critical thinking” questions. I’d read the assigned text — well, usually — but skimming the chapter for key words would magically reveal the answers… at least for all the normal questions.
In what year did Napolean whatever? I knew the hack for that: scan the text for numbers.
My goal was to get my work done as quickly as possible, because the draw of TV time at home, and “free time” in class was strong. Critical thinking was an annoying roadblock to very important leisure. I just wanted to get done.
As an adult, I take my time when I work — I just try not to completely Douglas Adams my deadlines, if you catch my drift. Quality is important (although it’s only job two), and if I finish something early, odds are it could use some more thought, another look tomorrow with fresh eyes, or something like that.
There really is no prize for finishing first.
I realize now that the critical thinking questions were the only ones that ever really mattered. Teachers probably told us that, but it didn’t mean anything at the time. And when I look around today, I get the sense that to a lot of my peers, it still doesn’t.