Radio with heart

Walking to BART, I listened to this story about a 17-year-old girl who does a lot to take care of her autistic younger brother (in large part because her parents don’t speak English) It was a little awkward, because my eyes teared up. It’s a remarkable story. Listen for what her younger sister has to say.

Talented bad web design

In the early days of the web, it was common to find examples of really bad web design done by obviously talented designers. As folks were learning the medium, they tried all kinds of things, many of them which lead to terrible experiences for users — overwrought splash screens, clever interfaces too difficult to use, aesthetics and style placed above utility, etc.

Since 2002 or so, though, these kind of site experiences have pretty much disappeared. As we all figured out what it meant to put together a basically good site that didn’t screw things up, it’s become harder and harder to find examples where otherwise talented creative folks have totally screwed up. This has made teaching web and interaction design harder, because it’s these examples of design that serve as great tools for instruction.

Which is why the site for the 2007 PDMA conference is so interesting. The Product Development and Management Association is perhaps the leading professional association for folks in its field. It’s a world that Adaptive Path has been getting closer and closer to as we shifted our focus away from marketing and toward product development, particularly product development that makes sense for the people using those products.


The website of the conference is a disaster. Or rather, the home page is a disaster. It is a giant flash movie, done in an-eBoy-like isometric pixelated style. And it’s impossible to figure out what to do. Originally, I went to that page looking for the date of the event. It’s nowhere on that screen that I can find. And I couldn’t figure out just where I should click. Nor do I know what the following phrases mean, all used on the page: “tool story”, “gurus @ play”, “research forum”, “innovation on demand.” I also found out that if you click in the pool, you go to “workshops.” I don’t know why there’s a geodesic sphere, or kilns. I had no idea where to click to get a simple overview of the event, with, you know, IT’S DATE.

Anyway, I don’t mean to be a Scrooge and all, and really, I do like fun and play in my web experiences… where appropriate. I realized I had a hard time taking this conference seriously if this was the way they were going to showcase it… What does it say about the philosophy of product development on display?

Panorama of San Francisco, 1971

If you have any interest in the evolution of “Baghdad-by-the-Bay” (funny how no one calls it that any more), view this panorama photograph of San Francisco, taken from atop the second Bay Bridge tower in 1971.

You can learn more about the photo here.

Things that interested me:

  • those giant oil drum things out in Potrero
  • the beginning of the TransAmerica Pyramid (right “above” the Ferry Building clock tower)
  • the hideousness that is the Embarcadero Freeway
  • no Sutro Tower (it went up the following year)
  • the Coca-Cola sign (still there!) peeking through the other tower
  • the Union 76 clock tower (which became the Bank of America clock tower, which has since been torn down)
  • how North Beach and all still pretty much looks the same


Poor dog

Here is a recent photo of mine that’s getting no Flickr love because the detail is too small in the thumbnail:
Click to see bigger

This poor dog, with the garage door open a crack, wearing one of those cones (which I call a “dork collar”), feebly scrabbling to get out.

Brief Book Review: The Architecture of Happiness

So, after something on the order of 5 months of reading, I finally finished Alain de Botton’s The Architecture of Happiness. I read it slowly not because it was a slog, not because I forced myself to get through it, but because it was truly delightful, and structured in a way that invites savoring in bite-size morsels. It’s definitely one of the best books I’ve read of late, and a real treat for anyone interested in design and/or architecture.

What impressed me most about the book was de Botton’s dedication to plumbing the depths of architectural history, considering that he’s not an architect, nor even a design critic, typically. He just seems to be a smart guy who writes books on subjects that intrigue, and it’s to our benefit that he chose a great topic with Architecture. He appreciates the prevalence of architecture in our lives, and the power it can have on us, our moods, our behavior… But because he’s not an architect, he doesn’t get caught up in the bullshit that practicing designers spread when talking about their stuff (and I’m as guilty of that as anyone).

What really puts the book over the top are the photographs used to illustrate points. I don’t know where or how he found his imagery (I’m guessing research assistants), but their appropriateness, and their own beauty, make taking in this book a singular pleasure.

Adaptive Path’s UX Week 2007 – The Best Ever

My colleague Sarah is the program chair for this year’s UX Week (August 13-16, Washington, D.C.), and she’s put together an amazing program.

The keynoters are particularly compelling. We’ve got Deborah Adler, who lead the design of the Target ClearRx pill bottle system, Jan Chipchase, a design researcher from Nokia, Lisa Strausfeld and her colleagues from Pentagram who worked on the interface for the $100 Laptop, and AP’s very own Dan Saffer.

Oh, and folks from will present a case study on their new “Web 2.0” design.

Of course, that’s not all. Topics covered include:

  • collaboration
  • mobile device design
  • research methods
  • managing user experience teams
  • evangelizing ideas
  • participatory design
  • hacking and prototyping
  • rich interaction
  • search engine interface

and much much more!

If this sounds like something for you, check out the UX Week page. Discounted registration ends July 13 (this Friday!) And if you register, use the promotional code FOPM (Friend of Peter Merholz) to get 15% off the registration price.