The Flat Design Era
When LayerVault 2 launched earlier this spring, we believed that we were taking a risk by pursuing an entirely flat interface.
Well-loved products on the web share a similar design aesthetic, with roughly the same kinds of bevels, inset shadows, and drop shadows. For designers, achieving this level of “lickable” interface is a point of pride. For us, and for a minority of UI designers out there, it feels wrong.
We certainly didn’t invent the flat style but arriving at it was a violent process. We tore through hundreds of revisions (we have the LayerVault timelines to prove it) to potential interfaces before arriving at the answer that now makes us say “of course.” The desk at LayerVault’s original headquarters (my Manhattan apartment) still has the battle scars from objects being slammed down in anger. At one point, while working on a mockup, a MacBook was slammed shut so hard it was nearly unhinged.
Stop Reading! Look! On Bikeshedding and Furry Genes
“Bikeshedding” is a term for the tendency to give minor issues disproportionate weight in the decision-making process. In a famous example from the naval historian C. Northcote Parkinson, a finance committee agrees to build an atomic reactor within a couple of minutes, but then deliberates for hours on what materials the clerical bike shed should be made of. Why does this happen? An atomic reactor is incomprehensibly complex, which means that most members of a committee have a difficult time wrapping their head around what it means. In contrast, everyone knows what a bicycle shed is and what it could be made of. Thus, everyone has an opinion about it.
For months, the little-used “Hairy/Furry/Shaggy/Fluffy” gene was The Art Genome Project’s bikeshed. Humorously, we often found ourselves debating its existence. We wondered how other controlled vocabularies delineate the furriness of artworks. We asked ourselves what the difference is between fur and hair or what to do in instances where you can’t tell if something is composed of faux fur, human hair, or real fur. Everyone on the team had some level of investment in it. We theorized that maybe people feel protective of hairy and furry things, i.e. their pets or other people. But then when we looked at the issue closer, we realized we were consistently preoccupied with whether this gene was supposed to capture content (what an artwork is depicting, e.g. dogs) or its physical qualities (e.g. furriness). When we stepped back and asked if every other appearance gene properly made this distinction, we realized that we had found our atomic reactor.
More on the atomic reactor…
Best comment ever on the Higgs Boson article in Wired
- Larry Washom: Would be alot more rewarding feeding all the hungry in the world with all this money spent on this BS. What is the whole agenda in finding this particle, only thing i can think of is that they would use this information to make another device for killing people with it, because that is mainly what science is used for, either control, weapons, maiming ect.
- pixelaided: If all of this research leads to a troll killing machine, it will be worth it.
“Taxonomy (the science of classification) is often undervalued as a glorified form of filing—with each species in its folder, like a stamp in its prescribed place in an album; but taxonomy is a fundamental and dynamic science, dedicated to exploring the causes of relationships and similarities…
Mindfulness: The counterpoint to Isaacson’s HBR post on The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs
Here’s the original post: The Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs
Rotenberg disagrees, positing the eastern concept of Mindfulness as the fundamental reason for Jobs’ success. Rotenberg accuses Isaacson of merely summarizing the effects of an eastern Mindfulness based approach to western capitalistic pursuits.
Isaacson has a lot of good facts, but misses HOW Steve led, HOW he made decisions, and HOW he created the products and companies he did. Steve spent his entire life trying to teach a very different approach to business leadership. Most people (including Isaacson) weren’t able to listen during Steve’s life, because they were so stuck in their own preconceived ideas.
I knew Steve closely for more than 30 years. He introduced me to meditation and Buddhism when I was 18 and he was 26. Steve struggled mightily to try to get Westerners to wake up from their half-alseep, wrong ideas about how business works.
The essence of Steve’s approach to leadership are contained in the two-word tagline with which he relaunched Apple in 1997: THINK DIFFERENT. Isaacson projects a lot of his own misconceptions onto what Steve meant by “Think Different.” Isaacson mistakenly attributes delusional ‘magical’ thinking, perfectionism, reality distortion, and artistic exuberance to how Steve did what he did.Steve was a deeply dedicated, disciplined Buddhist practitioner. He followed an Eastern wisdom tradition that is antithetical to many Western theoretical models about business leadership. Buddhism sees competition, free markets, asset-management theories, and much of what is inculcated at Harvard Business School not as first-principles to reify, but as relatively minor, man-made artifacts.The source of all wisdom in Eastern traditions—and what Steve meant in the words “Think Different"—is MINDFULNESS. Mindfulness means paying attention to your present-moment experience as it is received through your sense doors. Where HBS would have business managers pack their present-moment experiences with theoretical frameworks and opinions, "Think Different” means: Drop ALL your theories, concepts & preconceived ideas. PAY ATTENTION instead to the raw reality coming in through your five senses and your mind. This is where you will find real insight and wisdom.In trying to understand how Steve Jobs succeeded as a CEO, Isaacson is like someone who has never played basketball observing what he see as the elements of Michael Jordan’s success. Michael Jordan sweats, makes serious expressions on his face, leans as he passes the basketball, etc. This is an outside observer’s view who doesn’t see things from Michael Jordan’s vantage point or and doesn’t gets what is going on in Michael’s mind.In fairness to Isaacson, he would probably have had to spend several years investigating his own preconceived ideas before he could truly listen clearly & receptively to Steve Jobs. Isaacson did a yeoman job of capturing Steve’s life story under very stressful, difficult circumstances. Isaacson has given humanity a tremendous gift in all of his good work.As far the “Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs,” however, I don’t think Isaacson is even close. One could test whether or not Isaacson’s insights work with an empirical experiment. Take two similar portfolios of ten companies. Ask the senior leadership of the first ten companies to read Isaacson’s article and follow its advice carefully. Ask the senior leadership of the second NOT to read Isaacson’s article. Wait a year and see: Did Isaacson’s article make a difference in the performance and effectiveness of the first group? I don’t think it would, but I could be wrong. I believe the Real Leadership Lessons of Steve Jobs are still to be written. The true leadership lessons of Steve Jobs are the lessons born of the first high-profile business leader to build a global company from a deep foundational grounding in BOTH Western Capitalism and in Eastern Wisdom traditions. In other words, Steve Jobs was the first Boddhisatva Warrior in history to become a Fortune 500 CEO.
Jonathan Rotenberg Founder, The Boston Computer Society
I was at the “Raise Cache” fashion show to benefit HackNY last night at the armory on Lexington. A few things occurred to me:
- This event could not have happened or even been contemplated five years ago in NYC
- The crowd was almost exclusively 21-35 year olds
- There were very few if any…
Just as water, gas, and electricity are brought into our houses from far off to satisfy our needs in response to a minimal effort, so we shall be supplied with visual or auditory images, which will appear and disappear at a simple movement of the hand, hardly more than a sign.