The Materials of Digital Products

This post was originally posted on the Adaptive Path blog.

I have the good fortune of having a number of industrial designers as friends. As is the case with most people in the creative field, we have spent a considerable amount of time discussing our work. Throughout our conversations, there have been two tracks of thinking that impressed me. The first was a commitment to craft and an understanding of its importance to the final product's quality. The second was a sense of pragmatism and, for lack of a better word, accountability for how the design would impact the final product. I loved to hear designers take execution into account during the creative process due to the fact that I was someone who was often responsible for creating the final product. What struck me the most during our conversations was the deep familiarity my industrial design colleagues had with the materials used in the design. One friend in particular explained the necessity of understanding the materials, because without that knowledge, it would prove challenging to understand if the materials were appropriate to use in the first place. Strangely, that consideration for materials has traditionally been absent from design in the digital world. In my experience, designers have often expressed the sentiment that getting mired down in the details of technology would only limit the creative process. Unfortunately, the lack of understanding in craft would often lead to irreparable problems with the final product. Designers of digital products need to have that same dedication to craft as those in other design disciplines. That dedication to craft begins with an understanding of the methods and materials used in their trade.

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Twitter of 2006 Should Have a Talk With Twitter of 2011

Fail Whale

The diversity inherent in public design/development was considered the strength of the Web 2.0 movement. In many ways, Twitter has become the behemoth it now is based on that very notion. In an odd turn, Twitter has decided to ask developers to stop making conventional Twitter apps. To put it lightly, there seems to be a lack of historical perspective in this change in opinion. Perhaps the hardest part for myself to swallow is the fact that Twitter’s official client was not the product of an internal design team, but simply a revised version of an acquired third-party application. Continue reading “Twitter of 2006 Should Have a Talk With Twitter of 2011”

Why You Should Give Away (Some) of Your Work

I am an ardent supporter of the open-source philosophy – but who isn’t? It is a safe assumption to make that just about anyone working on the web in some capacity (developer, designer, information architect, marketer, etc.) is taking advantage of free/open-source work in one way or another. The internet would not be the internet that we know without free and open-source projects moving it forward. With that in mind, I consider it the obligation of those who make a living on the internet to carry their share of the weight and offer up something in return.

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Differentiating Between Web Craft and Web Design

I do not think it will be argued against too much if I contend that most of the web design blogosphere spends the majority of its articles on how to put websites together. We have a plethora of CSS, HTML and Javascript tutorials on the internet, but, as Andy Rutledge points out, the same cannot be said about design topics. Granted, both facets are very important, but we cannot begin to mistake one for the other. There is web design and there is web craft; two equally important pieces to the end goal, but nonetheless separate pieces. Continue reading “Differentiating Between Web Craft and Web Design”