Observing Design Observer’s design

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.

The Past

DO’s head­er boasts proud­ly that it’design-observer-2s 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.

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MOOCing for fun (and profit?)

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 StanfordHarvard 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.

The Premium McWrap packaging is very nicely designed

McDonald's Premium McWrap 1I’m clear­ly no stranger to mar­ket­ing, but my ca­reer hasn’t yet brought me in touch with prod­uct pack­ag­ing. I like pack­ag­ing, and I’ve ac­tu­al­ly bought things over the years be­cause they were nice­ly pack­aged — stuff like can­dy,1 Altoids Sours, some ran­dom bike part… and yes, I’ve even bought my­self a few low-balance gift cards2 to keep in my this is so awe­some file.

I re­cent­ly found my­self im­pressed with the card­board pack­ag­ing around the McDonald’s Premium McWrap — I should prob­a­bly go ask for a clean one while they’re still avail­able. I guess I didn’t no­tice when they added this item to the menu, be­cause I or­dered my first one by mis­take. My an­noy­ance at pay­ing about dou­ble what I ex­pect­ed turned to in­trigue about as soon as I peeked in­to my drive-through bag.

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  1. Still pissed that my par­ents wouldn’t buy me Bubble Tape.
  2. Confuse your lo­cal cashier to­day — ask for a $1 gift card!