Steve Jobs and Edwin Land corroborated Don Norman’s take on invention and design

No one could guess what this thing could do.

I’ve found a bit of supporting evidence for Don Norman’s unique perspective on technology and needs, in the form of what Steve Jobs once told John Scully about a visit by Jobs to Edwin Land, inventor of Polaroid instant photography.

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Beauty and usefulness in home screen design

It seems that there’s an Android subculture that revolves around the design of “home screens.”  (An Android “home screen” is equivalent to a “desktop” on a conventional computer.)  This subculture is so extensive that whole websites have sprung up to share home screen designs (e.g. MyColorScreen, and a significant portion of Deviant Art).  Given the overall customizability of Android, it’s no surprise that this should happen.  It should also come as no surprise that many of the home screens shown there, though beautiful, are surprisingly un-usable.

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Toronto street repair: a case of imbalance

A major intersection in Toronto is closed for two weeks to renovate the streetcar tracks that pass through it.  Whether the intersection should have been closed only at night – turning a two week job into a two-month nightmare – is a question on the minds of many.  Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure, because no one seems interested in determining the balance point of this situation.

The intersection of Queen and Spadina in Toronto is not only one of the city’s busiest intersections, it is one of the very few with all-way streetcar tracks that can turn in any direction.  The complexity of the track system at that intersection is huge.  And it needs to be renovated.

So the City of Toronto has decided to close the entire intersection down for two whole weeks to get the work done as quickly as possible.  This has obviously raised the hackles of many drivers who use that intersection in their commutes to and from work.

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Another Google summer

I heart Google
Need I say more?

I love Google.  They’re not perfect, but they’re one of the best companies out there.  And, I’d note, though they pay careful attention to what people say about them and their products, it seems that their primary source of direction and innovation is their own expertise.  This may fly in the face of some basic tenets of design, but it’s working for Google.  Indeed, this summer looks to be another fascinating googletime.

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Technology, analogy, evolution, and Don Norman

an old and a new Mini.
Technology drives analogy & evolution in design.

According to Don Norman, technology comes before identification of need. That is, you can only recognize a need if you already know about the technology that can be used to address it.  It’s not a conventional idea, and it can rub some people the wrong way, but – as I’ve written before – I think he’s right.

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An imbalance in the Ontario health care system

broken red cross
Our health care system is too brittle.

I think of design as an activity that seeks balance between efficiency and effectiveness. So understanding effectiveness and efficiency, and being able to recognize efficiency and effectiveness in systems, is a fundamental skill in design. In this post, I will describe a situation from my own life of hyper-efficiency in the Ontario health care system. The point is to demonstrate that the notion of balance is useful to explain why systems don’t always work properly.

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An overly effective system

Grand Cayman Airport
The airport on Grand Cayman Island.

I have many examples of hyper-efficient systems, but I lack examples of hyper-effective systems.  I’ve found one, though, in the Grand Cayman airport.  Chronically overcrowded, horribly organized, and highly unstructured, it is also incredibly malleable.  Both the structure and the staff seem able to accommodate nearly any situation and adapt to it easily. It doesn’t matter how late the flights are getting in, or how slow the security checks are, or how hot it is, or how far out into the parking lot the check-in lines are, the staff seems to just spontaneously come up with ways of jigging things to work out.

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Calvetica: weird name – sweeeet calendar

the calvetica logo
calvetica: simplicity and style in spades.

Rarely do I find software that is so wonderfully balanced between form and function that it becomes an instant favorite of mine. Recently, I’ve found three. Dropbox, which I’ve already written about, was first.  The second was Burstn.  Calvetica, an iPhone calendar, is the third such app.  If you use an iPhone and you’re looking for an amazing calendar, I think you’re search ends with calvetica.

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