Today, January 15, marks the first application deadline for students to apply to the MFA Interaction Design program at School of Visual Arts. The school will continue to accept applications on a rolling admissions basis as space allows, but don’t count on spaces staying open long—the program is limited to fifteen students. An application timeline shows what students can expect between today and April.
In a city that also boasts Parsons, Pratt, and Cooper Union, New York’s School of Visual Arts holds a unique place. There are no full-time professors; instead, faculty are drawn from the ranks of New York’s top full-time practitioners. They are working designers, art directors, painters, sculptors, and so on. Sal Devito, a creative director for whom I was privileged to work in the 1990s, is a legendary SVA instructor; so is Milton Glaser.
As you would expect, the faculty of the MFA Interaction Design program includes some of the brightest people in user experience. (By some fluke, I am also a faculty member.) Liz Danzico, former experience director of Happy Cog Studios, chairs the program.
A good education is hard to find. When it comes to web and interaction design, it’s almost impossible. I’m honored to be one of the faculty in the School of Visual Art’s MFA Interaction Design program, and look forward to teaching and learning there.
Doug and Brian Alvey and Adam Greenfield and I were working on a big client project when Doug’s back went out. He was so sick, he couldn’t work, and it was unclear when he would be able to work again.
As a friend, I was worried about Doug. As a creative director, I was worried about finishing my client’s project.
Doug and I had both done designs. The client liked my design but I’d sold him Doug’s. Now Doug couldn’t finish, and I didn’t trust myself to execute the remaining pages in Doug’s style. I needed someone skilled enough to finish what Doug had started and mature enough to sublimate his own style while still making good design choices.
I had just read “Grey Box Methodology,” a well-written romp through a personal design process. The author was a young designer named Jason Santa Maria. His site looked great, his portfolio was impressive, he had good ideas about design, and the process he had written about lent itself to the technical aspects of finishing Doug’s work.
I wrote to Jason Santa Maria, telling him I had a small freelance project that was probably boring and would bring him no glory, since it required him to design like someone else. Jason was game and said yes. He did a great job and was egoless about it, and he seemed perfectly comfortable working with better established, heavyweight talents. His quick, professional, selfless work kept the project going until Doug was back on his feet.
To reward Jason for what he had done, when a new and juicy assignment came my way, I asked if he wanted to be the project’s lead designer. The rest you can you figure out.
For four and a half years, Jason Santa Maria has been a designer and then a creative director at Happy Cog. In an agency filled with talent, he made a huge personal mark. I’ve trusted him with some of the most important designs we’ve handled, from AIGA to the redesign of A List Apart. He has never let me down, professionally or personally. More than that, his work has expanded my conception of what web design can be.
Four and a half years is a couple of centuries in internet time. For about a year, Jason and I have known that it was getting to be time for him to move on. Not that we had any problem with him or he with us. But just that nearly half a decade is a long time for any designer to spend in one place.
As he has just announced, Jason is leaving Happy Cog. He will stay involved in A List Apart and perhaps a few selected projects, but basically he is out the door and spreading his wings. Godspeed.
[tags]jasonsantamaria, Jason Santa Maria, JSM, Stan, adieu, happycog, design, webdesign[/tags]
Real type on the web?
A proposal for a fonts working group is under discussion at the W3C. The minutes of a small meeting held on Thursday 23 October include a condensed, corrected transcription of a discussion between Sampo Kaasila (Bitstream), Mike Champion (Microsoft), John Daggett (Mozilla), Håkon Wium Lie (Opera), Liam Quin (W3C), Bert Bos (W3C), Alex Mogilevsky (Microsoft), Josh Soref (Nokia), Vladimir Levantovsky (Monotype), Klaas Bals (Inventive Designers), and Richard Ishida (W3C).
The meeting started with a discussion of Microsoft’s EOT (Embedded OpenType) versus raw fonts. Bert Bos, style activity lead and co-creator of CSS, has beautifully summarized the relevant pros and cons discussed.
For those just catching up with the issue of real type on the web, here’s a bone-simple intro:
Microsoft’s EOT (based on the same standard CSS mechanism) works harder to avoid violating your licensing agreement, and has long worked in Internet Explorer, but is not supported in other browsers, is not foolproof vis-a-vis type foundry licensing rules, and may also cause PC security problems.
The proposed fonts working group hopes to navigate the technical and business problems of providing real fonts on the web, and in its first meeting came up with a potential compromise proposal before lunch.
Like everyone these days, the W3C is feeling a financial pinch, which means, if a real fonts working group is formed, its size and scope will necessarily be somewhat limited. That could be a good thing, since small groups work more efficiently than large groups. But a financial constraint on the number of invited experts could make for tough going where some details are concerned—and with typography, as with web technology, the details are everything.
I advise every web designer who cares about typography and web standards—that’s all of you, right?—to read the minutes of this remarkable first gathering, and to keep watching the skies.
Fast high-speed access for NYC internet professionals
I’m home watching a sick kid and waiting for Time Warner Cable to come make a third attempt to install a cable modem. If you’re good at math, that means Time Warner Cable, the market leader in my city, has twice failed to install the correct cable modem in my home.
Because the web never sleeps, even web professionals who work in an office need reliable high-speed access when they are at home. Speakeasy provided that service via DSL in our old apartment (our previous DSL provider having been wiped out, literally, on September 11, 2001), but, as documented in old posts on this site, it took two months of comedic mishap for Speakeasy to get our home DSL working. And after Best Buy bought Speakeasy, it became harder and harder to contact the company’s technical support people to resolve service problems—of which there were more and more. By the time we moved out of our old apartment in December, 2007, frequent gapping and blackouts made our 6Mb Speakeasy DSL service more frustrating than pleasant to use.
The monopoly wins the bid
So when we moved to the new apartment, we decided to immediately install cable modem access as a baseline, and then secure reliable DSL access for redundancy. Time Warner Cable had set up a deal with our new building, and no cable competitor was available to service our location (you read that right), so the Time Warner got the gig. They came quickly and the system worked immediately. The digital HD cable fails once a week, probably due to excessive line splitting, but that’s another story, and we don’t watch much TV, so it doesn’t bug us, and it isn’t germane here.
Unwilling to repeat the failures and miscommunications that marked our Speakeasy DSL installation, I went ahead and had Time Warner Cable set up the wireless network. It costs extra every month, and Time Warner’s combination modem/wireless/Ethernet hub isn’t as good as the Apple Airport devices I own, but it makes more sense to pay for a system that’s guaranteed to work than to waste billable hours debugging a network.
Due to the thickness of our walls, the wireless network never reached our bedroom, but otherwise everything was hunky-dory. Within a few days of moving in, we had reliable, wireless, high-speed internet access. Until Time Warner told us otherwise.
Last spring we received a form letter from Time Warner stating that they’d installed the wrong modem, and that we were not getting the service we’d paid for. Apparently this was true for all customers who chose the service. Some of our money was refunded, and we were advised to schedule a service appointment or come to the 23rd Street office for a free replacement modem.
I went to the 23rd Street office, took a number, and within about fifteen minutes I was sitting in front of a representative. I showed him the form letter and requested the new modem.
He asked me for my old modem.
I said I hadn’t brought it, and pointed out that I hadn’t been instructed to bring it.
We both reread the form letter.
“It’s implied,” the rep said.
“Implied?” I said.
“Sure,” he said. “If we’re going to give you a new modem, of course we’ll want your old modem.”
I guess it was implied. But it wasn’t stated. And when you charge an installation fee, a hardware fee, and a monthly service fee, and then give people the wrong modem, you probably shouldn’t rely on inference in your customer support copy. To avoid compounding your customer’s frustration, you should probably be absolutely explicit.
I didn’t say these things to the rep, because he didn’t write or approve the copy or send the wrong modem to all those homes. I left empty-handed and continued to use the modem we had. There didn’t seem to be anything wrong with it. Whatever the poorly written form letter had to say about it, as a customer, I didn’t have a problem with the modem.
A visit from a professional
As summer ended, Time Warner Cable sent me a new form letter. This time I was told, rather darkly, that if I failed to replace my modem, I definitely would not get the service I was paying for. Indeed, my service level would somehow be lowered, although it appeared that I would continue being billed a premium price.
So I called Time Warner, arranged a service visit, and spent the day working at home.
Around the middle of the service window, a Time Warner Cable authorized technician showed up with a regular DSL modem (not a wireless modem).
“You have wireless?” he asked in amazement.
“Yes,” I said. “Doesn’t it say that on your service ticket?”
“Hey, I’m just a consultant. I don’t work for Time Warner Cable,” he helpfully informed me.
“So are you going to get a wireless router from your truck?” I offered after a pause.
“I don’t have those,” he said.
We looked at each other for a while, and then he said, “Besides, you don’t need to replace your modem. There’s nothing wrong with it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with your modem. You don’t need to replace it,” he said.
Then he called someone to inform them that he hadn’t swapped modems.
Then he asked me to sign a form.
“What am I signing?” I asked. “That you didn’t do anything?” I said it more politely than it reads.
“You’re signing that I was here,” he said. So I did.
That evening, as I was bathing my daughter, Time Warner Cable called to ask if I was satisfied with the experience.
I said frankly I was confused why I’d had to stay home all afternoon for a service visit on a modem that didn’t need to be replaced.
The nice lady said she would talk to her supervisor and run some tests.
I was on hold about five minutes, during which my daughter found various ways of getting water out of the tub and onto me.
The nice lady came back on and said, “I’m sorry, sir, but we just ran tests, and you do have the wrong modem. We’ll need to send someone out.”
So here I am, two weeks later, waiting for a technician to come try again. Will this one bring the right hardware? The suspense is awesome.
Although New York is a leading creator of websites and digital content, the town’s home and office internet connectivity lag behind that of practically every other U.S. city. Two factors account for it:
An aging infrastructure. It’s hard to deliver best internet services over a billion miles of fraying, overstretched, jerry-rigged copper line.
Monopoly. How hard would you try if you had no real competitors?
In future installments, I’ll discuss our adventures securing high-speed access to our studios at Happy Cog New York, and discuss the pros and cons of Verizon home DSL.
A List Apart, for people who make websites, is slowly changing course.
For most of its decade of publication, ALA has been the leading journal of standards-based web design. Initially a lonely voice in the desert, we taught CSS layout before browsers correctly supported it, and helped The WaSP persuade browser makers to do the right thing. Once browsers’ standards support was up to snuff, we educated and excited designers and developers about standards-based design, preaching accessibility, teaching semantic markup, and helping you strategize how to sell this new way of designing websites to your clients, coworkers, and boss.
Web standards are in our DNA and will always be a core part of our editorial focus. Standards fans, never fear. We will not abandon our post. But since late 2005, we have consciously begun steering ALA back to its earliest roots as a magazine for all people who make websites—writers, architects, strategists, researchers, and yes, even marketers and clients as well as designers and developers. This means that, along with issues that focus on new methods and subtleties of markup and layout, we will also publish issues that discuss practical and sometimes theoretical aspects of user experience design, from the implications of ubiquitous computing to keeping communities civil.
The trick is to bring our huge group of highly passionate readers along for the ride. My wife likens it to piloting the Queen Mary. (Q. How do you make the Queen Mary turn left? A. Very, very slowly.)
We review hundreds of articles and publish dozens. Some web magazines seem to have those proportions reversed, and some readers don’t seem to mind, and that’s fine. But any content you see in ALA has been vetted and deeply massaged by the toughest editorial team in the business. And when you see a new “design tech” article in our pages, you can be sure it has passed muster with our hard-ass technical editors.
Moreover, the fields of meaningful new CSS tricks have mostly yielded their fuels. We’ve done that. We’ve done it together with you. While a few new lodes of value undoubtedly remain to be tapped, we as a community, and as individuals who wish to grow as designers, need to absorb new knowledge. ALA will continue to be a place where you can do that.
When we began focusing on web standards in 1998, we were told we were wasting readers’ time on impractical crap of little value to working designers and developers. But we kept on anyway, and the things we learned and taught are now mainstream and workaday. While we apologize to readers who are again being made irritable by our insistence on occasionally presenting material that does not fall directly within their comfort zone, we hope that this experiment will prove to be of value in the end.
It’s back, it’s improved, and it’s hungry for your data. It’s A List Apart’s second annual survey for people who make websites.
Last year nearly 33,000 of you took the survey, enabling us to begin figuring out what kinds of job titles, salaries, and work situations are common in our field.
This year’s survey corrects many of last year’s mistakes, with more detailed and numerous questions for freelance contractors and owners of (or partners in) small web businesses. There are also better international categories, and many other improvements recommended by those who took the survey last year.
Please take the survey and encourage your friends and colleagues who make websites to do likewise.
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[tags]survey, web design survey, webdesign, webdevelopment, professional, alistapart[/tags]