• Config 2024

    I’ve been away from work the last week, so I’ve been catching up on little bits and pieces of Config 2024. The biggest thing to come out of it, and the most impactful to designers, is the AI elements. I haven’t had a chance to test things yet; I fired up Figma and updated, but it doesn’t seem like anything is available on my end. 

    Along with many other designers I felt this pit in my stomach catching the news of the AI features. It seems—again I don’t know until I test it—that the AI features will do basic UI things, along the lines of ChatGPT prompts. That’s not a concern for what I do as a designer, but it does have me wondering where all this is headed. 

    For my part I focus on asking questions when I approach a design project. I am more curious about the problem a stakeholder is facing than immediately understanding any solution. Then I take that whole spaghetti of chaos and sketch it out, by hand, until I see something that starts to make sense. This is something I love deeply, and it’s more of the user experience side of design. That’s something I hope isn’t up for grabs by AI. If it is, I’d find myself rather sad. 

    I’ll be watching all these new features and seeing where it goes, and am curious to see how other designers and business owners respond. 

  • The tech industrial complex

    At least I have my integrity. The machine may grind on, but I’m glad to have stepped off the treadmill.

    Joan’s openness on the topic of being involved in tech’s greater whole is so refreshing. To feel hampered, unable to share the words you actually feel, to couch everything in a specific language catered to a specific audience, to always filtering what you think through the lens of ensuring it won’t cause problems—frankly it can get overwhelming. 

    And for the first time in years, when I look in the mirror, I can recognize the person looking back. 

    I’ve left out the far juicer parts of the post, and encourage anyone feeling stuck in the tech wheel to think through Joan’s words.

    For me I’m trying to understand how I can continue to do the things I love, work with a few people I really connect well with, and make sure that I maintain that original nugget of care I had for this thing called design. 

    I’m not at a point of leaving it behind, but I do think it’s important to make sure I’m taking time each day for the things that matter.

  • Kindness and the taste gap

    Nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish somebody had told this to me — is that all of us who do creative work … we get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap, that for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good, OK? It’s not that great.

    I’ve thought a lot about this quote in the last few days and have been blending it with another thought. People can be incredibly creative. You might be artistically minded in a way that the world recognizes, or in other ways where you mix words and communication and thought to inspire change. 

    The piece for me, in all this, is finding a way to be kind and gracious while each of us strive to match our creative abilities to the taste we have in our mind. It’s hard, it’s a lifetime of work, but it’s worth it when you start to see your abilities improve. 

    I’d also venture that taste morphs and twists and grows, and your abilities can follow it. 

    We must be kind to ourselves and others in this journey. You can drive yourself to insanity thinking you’re not good enough, but you can also encourage yourself to keep trying, to keep pushing, and to find a balance between giving up and going crazy. 

    (Via goodreads)

  • Things 3 and Reminders

    Things 3 is my main to-do list. Its design is simple, elegant, and fits well with how my brain works.

    The funny thing (ha) is, Things 3 is not too dissimilar from Apple’s built-in Reminders app. The app’s layouts are strikingly similar; there are two columns: one for lists, one for tasks. The features are similar: both support lists, sections inside lists, “folders” (called “Areas” in Things), tags, smart lists, due dates, etc. And both apps have similar platform support, with each supporting iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple Watch.

    I tried an experiment last Fall, switching from Things 3 to Reminders. I moved everything; but within a week had to move back. My life runs very tightly across Things and Apple Calendar (recently switched from Google Calendar) and I haven’t found a way to get Reminders to work the way I want.

    I understand that’s part of the problem. If I want to use Apple Reminders I need to adjust how I think. I’m not quite willing to do that at this stage. Perhaps, like my switch from Bear to Apple Notes, whatever Cultured Code ships next may have solidify things. 

    Via Andreas Reif

  • RSS and Email Subscription

    There are no ads, no engagement-thirsty UI patterns, no invasive interference. Just pure, uncut, personally-chosen content delivered in a calm, orderly environment. It’s the Marie Kondo method of information consumption – only content that sparks joy, delivered in a way that itself sparks joy.

    I’ve wrestled with how to share and consume media, separate from the social media tech giants. I love Joan’s take on all this. Maybe it’s time to give Reeder another spin. 

    Via Westenberg

  • Interviewing as a proxy

    Unless we’re interviewing for people who have interviewing as their job, there isn’t a lot of evidence that doing a great job in the interview means you’re going to do a great job.

    Learning to interview decently is a skill I’ve acquired over years of effort. I’m glad I have it now, but agree it has little overlap with my actual abilities.

    Via Seth

  • Default wins

    Something changed in me today with my password habits. After over a decade of using 1Password as my default for account login management, I finally had a break in my habits. I went to create a new account for a piece of software, saw Apple’s suggestion for a new password, and chose to use it. This creates a split in where passwords reside. 

    For so many years I’ve ensured that 1P is the source of truth; passwords are generated there, and my web browser can sometimes remember them and pick up on them, but at the end of the day I trust 1P. 

    Now, with the new Apple Password app in MacOS beta, I’m second guessing my previous defaults, and wondering if the system password manager will be enough for me. 

  • Easy vs useful

    There will forever be a struggle between the simplicity of a thing and how useful it is. I deal with this in software every day. I want something to be easy and I want it to do all the things I could dream of. Those two are, of course, complete opposites and generally impossible. Great design, and great software in the case of my own career, tries to strike a balance somewhere in the middle of these two. 

    That’s why so many designers (in my own experience) are a fan of Apple. It’s not that they get this right all the time, but they often try and sometimes do figure it out. 

  • Thinking and productivity

    Productivity methods, no matter which you turn to, revolve around intentionality. It’s applying a system, a tool, or a practice to a thing that could be made better. More efficient. But if applied without intention, none of that will help a bit.

    I’ve found that my ability to get something done is tied to more than just brute forcing something through. In fact, these days I find that nerely impossible. I can’t just make myself do better. It’s important to think more, to go on walks, run in the woods, drink water, sleep, and above all make sure I’m keeping my mind and body healthy.

    When all those elements are in place I can then focus on a problem and figure out the best way to do it. 

    Via tbr.

  • Owning my site

    As a followup on the previous post, I’m feeling so disconnected from WordPress these days in terms of my ability to tinker.

    Back in the day I worked very closely with my templates and files; editing things directly via Transmit in SFTP. Now with the new WordPress page editor I struggle to find where to change what. It’s all a mess. 

    As a designer I want to modify a lot of things in CSS, while understanding the template system enough to tweak a tiny bit of the code. I’m intrigued by Kirby because it feels like a return to what I loved.

  • Kirby as a CMS

    For the past year or so I’ve been on a journey to look at other options for publishing my writing. I’ve poked around with Ghost, Medium, and others. 

    I am currently working on checking and adapting the Kirby CMS system to my needs. It is very possible that I will migrate in the near future, I just need to make sure it is something I want. I’ll write about my conclusions as to why I chose Kirby once I’ve done the migration. If I do.

    My friend, Michal, is exploring Kirby. I may have to give it a try!

    Right now my process involves writing in MarsEdit, and publishing to WordPress. I’ve been a WordPress user for a longtime now, going back to ~2006. I don’t know if it’s time for a change, but I want to make sure I’m exploring the best tools for how I work. 

    Beyond the writing, I want to integrate things into an email newsletter. We’ll see how this journey goes. 

  • Adobe‘s subscription goes long

    The US government is suing Adobe for allegedly hiding expensive fees and making it difficult to cancel a subscription.

    Whenever I start a monthly subscription I immediately go in and cancel it. If I need it I’ll renew again the next month. I

    I’ve been through the pain of trying to cancel an Adobe subscription and not realizing I was locked in for a year contract. It sucks. It’s not consumer friendly, and I’m curious where this case will go.

    Via The Verge

  • Apple Passwords

    I’m excited about the passwords app from Apple.

    As a 1Password user for years, I’ve love great password management and, controversies aside, feel like 1P has nailed it. 

    I keep hundreds of logins locked away in my 1Password vault, protected by TouchID and a long safe password, known to my wife and I. I’ve been tempted to transition to something else, and may try Apple Passwords. Over the last week, while running iOS 18 Betas, I’ve slowly started to allow Apple to remember each password I use. After some time I’ll test a switch over. 

    My password system is a bit odd, though. I like having some friction between logging into accounts. For instance, I have a problem with checking email too often. So I’ll logout daily, forcing myself to log back in. Going into 1P and manually pasting passwords in (I disable autofill) is fine, as it takes me a good 30 seconds to do so. Making things more automatic with Apple might defeat one of my personal goals of having a bit of a disconnect between myself and apps I’m trying to check less often. 

  • Canva for the rest of us

    You can’t blame individuals for taking the path of least resistance. Creating a Canva design takes minutes and requires no skill. It’s fast, cheap and gets the job done for cash-strapped small businesses, students, nonprofits and others who can’t afford a professional designer. An original design carefully crafted from scratch is always going to look better. But why go to the effort when Canva lets you churn out something nearly as good that’s based on best practices?

    Canva has been a fascinating tool to watch for the last few years. More and more I’ve seen friends and family turn to it, where they would have hired a freelancer in the past or attempted something with Microsoft Word or Apple Pages. While those tools might seem odd to a designer, they are what’s available on most computers and if you’re not a graphic designer they are the most obvious to try. 

    I’m torn. Graphic design used to be my trade. I’ve now moved onto other things, but I have an affinity for it. The work I’m seeing from non-designers in Canva is better than the baseline and at least as good as what a junior graphic designer could do.

    I don’t know what this means longterm, but I also feel like something is both lost and gained as a result of a tool like Canva. 

    (Via Westenberg.)

  • Calendar troubles

    I both love calendars and find myself increasingly frustrated with them. An ideal calendar situation would allow me to add events on my work laptop, personal laptop, and iPhone. I also want to view events on my iPhone and Apple Watch widgets. With this requirement Google Calendar is out of the picture. It just doesn’t work. I tried it for over six months, the syncing is too slow and requires opening the app on iPhone in order to get it to propogate to the wigets. 

    Apple Calendar is the clear default here, but my work events come through on Google Calendar. When I setup my laptops and phone to allow for creating events I kept running into sync issues. An event I added on one laptop wouldn’t show up on the other. An event added on mobile wouldn’t show up on desktop. It just takes 2-3 times for this to happen for someone to completely mistrust the entire tech. 

    So I simplified things.

    I only add events on my mobile phone. It’s annoying and slow because I don’t have a proper keyboard, but it’s the source of truth I can trust. Whenever I add laptops back into the mix I seem to run into sync issues again. 

    The biggest friction from all this comes in when I need to schedule a personal event with multiple people outside Google. Apple’s calendar invite just does not seem to work. I send out invites and hear from people that they never got them. 

    I hope there’s a way to improve this going forward, but it’s the best I’ve found so far. 

  • On the slow horizon

    I’m slowly getting back into video games. It’s a nice way to relax a bit at the end of the day.

    Currently I’m switching (very slowly over months) between the Switch, iPhone, iPad, PC, and PlayStation. The latter two are on loan from my brother with their own libraries. 

    This approach to playing games is lovely. I find something I enjoy and play it slowly, 20-60 minutes/night a few nights a week (sometimes more, sometimes less). Then I pause for a while until I find another game, rinse and repeat. 

    My requirements are pretty simple. In general it needs to be a single player game, and I need to be able to pause it at any time (there are a few exceptions, namely if I’m playing with my family). Beyond that I prefer action roleplaying type games. Horizon Zero Dawn, Assassins Creed Odyssey, Witcher III Wild Hunt, and Breath of the Wild have been some favorites over the last five years. 

    Next on my list is to get a SteamDeck and PlayDate, but again I’m in no hurry. 

    It’s fun to approach games with a much more chill perspective than when I was a kid. I’ll get to it eventually and I’ll enjoy it over time. 

    One game I’m looking forward to, mainly for my kid’s sake, is Lego Horizon Adventures. It combines my son’s favorite game genre with my own. It will be fun to try it together. 

  • Vision Pro for accessibility

    i got injured over the weekend and have lost about 80% of motion in both of my arms as I recover, even sitting at a laptop is too hard for me – but the Apple Vision Pro has truly been a life saver.

    The Vision Pro remains an intriging device. I’ve only used it a little, and am curious how it will fit into my life longterm. But to hear someone’s story like this is heartwearming. I’m so glad a product in this category exists. 

    (Via Threads.)

  • Growing up from Dribbble

    Dribbble became a staple for many designers. We scrolled endlessly, saved our favorites, and even posted a few. It was the promise of a better place where great ideas would thrive. Some of us even built freelance careeres of its job listings. 

    While I still love places like Dribbble for what they provided, and got many great ideas from them; nothing beats in production designs. Over the last three years I’ve transitioned to getting my inspiration from ideas that exist out in the world, not just pretty shots that display an idealized version of what a designer would have preferred to create. 

    My phone has thousands of saved screenshots, and I make use of sites like Mobbin to look for examples of UI and UX based on what’s been tested and published. That’s not perfect, of course. Copying some else’s design without understanding the context of why it was created has its risks. But as I’m looking for design ideas it helps to see what else exists out in the world and use that to push my own concepts forward. 

  • Julia Chesbrough: Subscription business model for fractionals

    This week on Fractional we had the privilege of interviewing Julia, a freelance designer who has been running her own subscription based product design business. As a product designer myself I found this a lot of fun to chat with her. If you’re in the design field, or interested in design or starting your own subscription business, Julia is absolutely someone to follow.

    Check out the episode if you’re interested!

  • Where did Apple get its content?

    Everything was fun and cool until they showed generative image creation that spits out slop “resembling” (strong word) other people; and in this post, everything was cool until they mentioned how – surprise! – Applebot had already indexed web content to train their model without publishers’ consent, who can only opt out now.

    John nailed my sentiment.

    The slop part had me rolling my eyes. To know Apple scraped data like the rest is frustrating.