I’m a tailor, too, am I not?

But what I really do most of the time is trim, tuck, iron, cut, press, and fit.

…The only things missing are the proper tools for doing the job like a tailor.

On the Signal vs. Noise blog I just read this nice metaphor of software developers / software engineers being software tailors.

I design, I edit, I think, I review, I suggest, I teach. Some things I mess up, some things I fix up. But what I really do most of the time is trim, tuck, iron, cut, press, and fit. I’m a software tailor. [From I’m a tailor – (37signals)]

I like that picture. The only things missing are the proper tools for doing the job like a tailor.

Touch & Write Table: Collaborative Knowledge Tool

Social knowledge management, in general, and collaborative knowledge representation, in particular, need the right tools for assisting in these tasks. The touch and write table, developed at the knowledge management research department provides just that.

Social knowledge management, in general, and collaborative knowledge representation, in particular, need the right tools for assisting in these tasks. The touch and write table, developed at the knowledge management research department provides just that. Just watch the short video on YouTube.

Yes, you can think like a designer!

If one already has a complex software tool that one wants to enhance with explanation capabilities it surely does not help to overwhelm the user with additional explanatory information, one needs to carefully design the explanation capabilities and the explanations. Garr Reynolds compiled a nice list of tips that I’d like to share with you: Most people do not really think about design and designers, let alone think of themselves as designers.

In my research on explanation-awareness I am looking very often into what designers do or don’t do (see elsewhere on my blog). If one already has a complex software tool that one wants to enhance with explanation capabilities it surely does not help to overwhelm the user with additional explanatory information, one needs to carefully design the explanation capabilities and the explanations. Garr Reynolds compiled a nice list of tips that I’d like to promote here:

Most people do not really think about design and designers, let alone think of themselves as designers. But what, if anything, can regular people — teachers, students, business people of all types — learn from designers and from thinking like a designer? And what of more specialized professions? Can medical doctors, scientists, researchers, and engineers, and other specialists in technical fields benefit in anyway by learning how a graphic designer or interaction designer thinks? Is there something designers, either through their training or experience, know that we don’t? I believe there is.

[From Presentation Zen: 10 Tips on how to think like a designer]

[composed and posted with ecto]

Indeed, why dots?

A while ago I blogged about Scott McCloud’s book „Understanding comics“ (see understanding ontologies ). I just came across a presentation (via Garr Reynolds‘ Presentation Zen ) where Jeffrey Monday shows the use of abstraction in a brief presentation.

A while ago I blogged about Scott McCloud’s book „Understanding comics – The invisible art“ (see understanding ontologies). I just came across a presentation (via Garr Reynolds‘ Presentation Zen) that shows the use of abstraction in a very nice way.

Basic design lessons

Robin Williams The Non-Designer's Design Book - Second Edition No, I am not talking about magic again (see last post), although most magic in novels follows exactly this principle: „If you know the true name of XYZ you can command it to change form or to show where it is hidden, etc.“, whispered the wise beyond the limits of the Earth wizard <insert your favourite wizard’s name> in a gravely voice. … As the book is for „all the people who need to design pages, but have no background or formal training in design“ it was a perfect introduction for me.

„Once you can name something, you’re conscious of it. You have power over it. You own it. You’re in control!“ 
Robin Williams

No, I am not talking about magic again (see last post), although most magic in novels follows exactly this principle:

„If you know the true name of XYZ you can command it to change form or to show where it is hidden, etc.“, whispered the wise beyond the limits of the Earth wizard <insert your favourite wizard’s name> in a gravely voice.

The Non-Designer's Design Book - Second EditionA few months ago I read the book „The non-designer’s design book“ by Robin Williams and recognised just what Robin described in the introduction. Since I know about design and typographic principles I cannot stop noticing where those principles are being ignored or violated. I also think I began to better design documents and presentation. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but (basic) design can be learned.

As the book is for „all the people who need to design pages, but have no background or formal training in design“ it was a perfect introduction for me. I learned about C. R. A. P. 🙂

  • Contrast—Make elements, that are not the same very different.
  • Repetition—Repeat visual elements of the design, thus, strengthening the unity of the piece.
  • Alignment—Make elements visually connect with each other on the page.
  • Proximity—Group related items close together.

Robin Williams illustrates the principles in great detail and—this is the most important part—with lots and lots of examples. The book has now its regular place on my desk where I can grab it easily when I need to be reminded or when I look for some ideas.

Another MIT legend: On-screen Designer Muriel Cooper

I haven’t heard about Muriel Cooper before but I think now I should have.

I haven’t heard about Muriel Cooper before but I think now I should have. Read about Muriel Cooper: The unsung heroine of on-screen style [via].

[composed and posted with ecto]

Design vs. Art

For quite some time now I enjoy regularly reading Maeda’s SIMPLICITY blog, which is a constant source of inspiration for me, but it took me nearly as long to buy his small book on “The Laws of Simplicity”…. But—you already saw this ‚but‘ coming, don’t you?—it is necessary to be reminded of those things from time to time and to take your time reflecting on those experiences and lessons learned.

For quite some time now I am an avid reader of Maeda’s SIMPLICITY blog, a constant source of inspiration. But it took me nearly as long to buy his small book on “The Laws of Simplicity”. In many ways the book does not contain anything new to me (as I had been warned of). Most of its content I already have learned over time. But—you already saw this ‚but‘ coming, don’t you?—it is necessary to be reminded of those things from time to time and to take your time reflecting on those experiences and lessons learned. What strikes me most is the concentrated and fresh view, interwoven with personal believes and insights, which in the end made it so accessible and easy to relate to. It was definitely a worthwhile read!

Over the last year my private and my research life—btw, for a scientist: can there be a difference between private and research life?—gravitates towards art and design (see, for example, my actual project proposal Mnemosyne). So, John Maeda’s differentiation of art from design struck a chord in me, helping me a great deal in grasping the concepts:

“The best art makes your head spin with question. Perhaps this is the fundamental distinction between pure art and pure design. While great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear.” (“The Laws of Simplicity”, p. 70)

As a researcher, your head most of the time spins with questions. Viewing part of one’s research as art and some the resulting systems as art work could serve as a way of channelling questions. From those pieces of art one then can work towards design, towards making things clear. This viewpoints allows for more personal freedom in approaching complicated or overwhelming research questions. Look at the problem from a (probably naïve) artistic and fun point of view. Play with the research questions! Use your right, synthesis-oriented half of your brain instead of your left, more analytic half. The ten “laws” then help channel one’s efforts.

These are, by no means, breathtakingly new insights. Research work is always about asking questions and coming up with reproducible results and valid evaluations using the right tools and approved methods. But looking at research from an art/design viewpoint makes it a tad more interesting and a bit more fun, at least for me 😉

[composed and posted with ecto]

All I want to be

John Maeda’s little Haiku [1] reminded me to repeatedly maintain my knowledge, i.e., assessing its state and adapting it accordingly … Think-Make-Think may then be translated to Review-Restore-Review for the knowledge worker.

John Maeda’s Haiku [1] got me thinking …

[1] Maeda’s SIMPLICITY: Think-Make-Think


[composed and posted with
ecto]

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