The Arc of a Design Career: Khoi Vinh on The Big Web Show № 128

Khoi Vinh, photographed by Khoi Vinh

KHOI VINH IS my guest in Episode № 128 of The Big Web Show (“Everything Web That Matters”).

Khoi is a web and graphic designer, blogger, and former design director for The New York Times, where he worked from January 2006 until July 2010. Prior to that, Khoi co-founded and was design director for Behavior, a New York digital design studio. He is the author of  How They Got There: Interviews With Digital Designers About Their Careers (coming in 2015) and Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design (New Riders, 2010), and was a leading proponent of bringing grid-based graphic design principles to web design in the mid-2000s. In 2011, Fast Company named him one of “The 50 Most Influential Designers in America.”

Listen to Episode № 128 of The Big Web Show.

URLs

http://www.subtraction.com
https://twitter.com/khoi
http://howtheygotthere.us
http://trywildcard.com
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/21/business/media/21askthetimes.html
http://www.creativebloq.com/khoi-vinh-using-sketch-instead-photoshop-6133901
http://www.behaviordesign.com
http://vllg.com/constellation/galaxie-polaris


Sponsored by DreamHost.

Big Web Show № 127: Those Who Can Teach with Jared Spool

Jared Spool of Center Centre and User Interface Engineering

IN EPISODE № 127 of The Big Web Show, Jared Spool of User Interface Engineering and I discuss the goals and workings of Center Centre, a new school Jared cofounded with Dr Leslie Jensen Inman to create the next generation of industry-ready UX designers. Topics include “teaching students to learn,” what schools can and can’t do, working with partner companies, “Project Insanity,” and designing a program to make students industry-ready.

WEBSITES & URLS MENTIONED

Center Centre
User Interface Engineering
@jmspool
@UIE
@CenterCentre
UX Mobile Immersion
Unicorn Institute
Brain Sparks (UX writing by Jared and others)
All You Can Learn

Pick Up Hicks

Jon Hicks

JON HICKS. One of twelve great reasons to attend An Event Apart Boston 2015. Zeldman.com fans, save $100 at registration using discount code AEAZELD.

Jon Hicks is a Graphic Designer based in Oxfordshire, UK. He runs Hicksdesign with his wife Leigh and is most widely known for his work on the Firefox, Mailchimp, and Shopify logos, as well as recent projects such as the Skype emoticon redesign. He also quite literally wrote the book on Icons: The Icon Handbook for Five Simple Steps Publishing.

Big Web Show № 125: “You’re My Favorite Client” with Mike Monteiro

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Monteiro and I talk design:

Designers Mike Monteiro (author, “You’re My Favorite Client”) and Jeffrey Zeldman discuss why humility is expensive, how to reassure the client at every moment that you know what you’re doing, and how to design websites that look as good on Day 400 as they do on Day 1. Plus old age, unsung heroines of the early web, and a book for designers to give to their clients.

5by5 | The Big Web Show № 125: “You’re My Favorite Client,” with Mike Monteiro.

Designer Blindness

AFTER USING the web for twenty years, and software for an additional ten, I’ve come to believe that I suffer from an affliction which I will hereby call “designer blindness.”

Put simply, if an interface is poorly designed, I will not see the data I looked for, even if it is right there on the page.

On a poorly designed table, I don’t find the column containing the answer I sought.

On a poorly designed interface, I don’t push the right buttons.

On a poorly designed social sharing site, I delete my data when I mean to save it, because the Delete button is in the place most designers put a Save button.

This doesn’t happen to everyone, which is why I call it an affliction. Indeed, it happens to almost no one.

My non-designer friends and family seem quite capable of using appallingly designed (and even undesigned) sites and applications. Somehow they just muddle through without pushing the button that erases their work.

In fact, the less concerned with aesthetics and usability these friends and family members are, the more easily they navigate sites and applications I can’t make head nor hair of.

Like the ex-girlfriend who mastered Ebay.

Or the colleagues who practically live in Microsoft Excel, an application I still cannot use. There are tabs on the bottom, way below the fold, way past where the data stops? And I’m supposed to scroll a blank page until I find those tabs? It’s easy for most people, but it never occurs to me no matter how often I open an Excel document. I could open a thousand Excel documents and still never think to scroll past a wall of empty rows to see if, hidden beneath them, there is a tab I need to click. Just doesn’t occur to me. Because, design.

It’s not a visual or mathematical disability. If something is well designed, I can generally use it immediately. It’s the logic of design that trips me up.

I recognize that I’m an edge case—although I bet I’m not the only designer who feels this way. Give me something that is well designed, and I will master it, teach others about it, and unconsciously steal my next five original ideas from it. Give me something poorly designed, something that works for most people, and I’ll drive a tank into an orphanage.

Not that I’m a great designer. I wouldn’t even call myself a good designer. I’m just good enough to get messed up by bad design.

Yet you won’t hear me complain about my designer blindness.

See, divorce is a terrible thing, but if you have a kid, it’s all worth it. The heartache, the anger, the loss of income and self-esteem, the feeling that no matter what you say or do, you are going to be someone else’s monster forever—all the unbearable burdens of failed love and a broken family are worth it if, before that love failed, it brought a wonderful child to this world.

For my daughter I would suffer through a thousand divorces, a million uncomfortable phone calls, a trillion emotionally fraught text messages.

And how I feel about my kid is how I also feel about my design affliction. The pain of being unable to use what works for other folks is more than compensated for by the joy of recognizing great design when I see it—and the pleasure of striving to emulate that greatness, no matter how badly I fail every time.

A Holiday Wish

We are all designers. You may call yourself a front-end developer, but if you spend hours shaving half-seconds off an interaction, that’s user experience and you, my friend, are a designer. If the client asks, “Can you migrate all my old content to the new CMS?” and you answer, “Of course we can, but should we?”, you are a designer. Even our users are designers. Think about it.

ON THE TITLES that divide, and the spirit that unites us: My Holiday Wish for all people who make websites—in today’s 24ways.

Big Web Show № 123: Why Clients Spend More on Toilets Than Design

Andy Budd

DESIGNER Andy Budd and I discuss why clients spend more on toilet cleaning than design; honest pitching; the ins and outs of agile pricing; modular code libraries; selling web services instead of deliverables; the maturation of our industry since the mid-1990s; the value of reputation; design as a collaborative process; how and why agencies get invited to pitch; passion as studio marketing; our field’s evolution from layout-making to strategic design thinking; and much more.

Enjoy Big Web Show № 123: Leading a Design Agency with Clearleft’s Andy Budd.

What’s Wrong With This Picture? Flickr is about to sell off your Creative Commons photos

SHORTSIGHTED and sucky.

From Dazed comes news that Flickr is about to sell off our Creative Commons photos. This means photos we’ve taken with the idea of giving them away freely will now be sold, whether we like it or not. And who gets the dough for these photos we took? Only Yahoo.

As a photographer, I now have to choose whether to prevent people from using my photos, or prevent Yahoo from selling them. I can’t have both.

I want people to use my photos. That’s why I take them. I want that usage to be unencumbered. That’s why I chose a Creative Commons license. Some of the publications and businesses that use my photos make no money at all. Others make a little something. I don’t care either way. That’s why I chose a Commercial Attribution license. The license makes my work available to all publications and products, whether commercial or non-commercial. Fine with me.

But Yahoo selling the stuff? Cheesy, desperate, and not at all fine with me. I pay for a Flickr Pro account, and am happy to do so. That’s how Yahoo is supposed to make money from my hobby.

I know the site’s founders (who left years ago). Other friends of mine still work there as designers & developers. They are great people. Talented, user-focused, righteous. None of them is for this.

I’ve had a Flickr Pro account for about ten years. I love Flickr. Sometimes, for years, it has been like loving a friend who is in a coma. Now it’s like helplessly watching a cocaine-addicted friend snort up their kid’s college fund.

Come on, Yahoo.

Updates

  1. Read Jen Simmons’s I Don’t Want “Creative Commons By” To Mean You Can Rip Me Off, which addresses weaknesses in the current CC licensing that permit Yahoo to do what it’s doing; clearer and more subtle licensing would prevent it.
  2. Whether or not CC licenses would benefit from what Jen proposes, Yahoo, if it understood the spirit of the community it bought in Flickr—or even if it simply wanted to pretend to understand—could prevent a lot of bad feeling by writing to members whose work is covered by CC Attribution licenses; asking for feedback on its plan; making the plan opt-in; and offering some kind of revenue sharing for those members who don’t mind having Yahoo sell prints of their work. That Yahoo doesn’t think of this—and that some usually thoughtful people are defending Yahoo on the grounds that the CC license allows what they’re doing—I find profoundly depressing. We were a community. What happened?

Hat tip: @Rasmusuu