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December 07 2013


Graphic Icons: Jan Tschichold

John Clifford (one of the kind contributors to Work for Money, Design for Love) has written his own book, Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design. I’m enjoying the read, learning more about masters of the craft. Here’s the section about Jan Tschichold.

Der Berufsphotograph poster
Exhibition poster for Der Berufsphotograph (The Professional Photographer), 1938

Jan Tschichold
1902–1974, born in Leipzig, Germany, educated at Leipzig Academy for Graphic Arts and Book Trades

Just as his design predecessors influenced Jan Tschichold, so he shaped graphic design long after his own death. After growing up in the heart of Germany’s book industry, Tschichold had a formal education in classical typography and calligraphy. A Bauhaus exhibition in 1923 introduced him to Constructivism, and he soon began incorporating modern elements into his designs. His photomontage posters for Munich movie theater Phoebus Palast show the influence of László Moholy-Nagy and El Lissitzky.

In 1928, Tschichold published a manual that continues to influence people today: Die neue Typografie (The New Typography), which is still in print. The strict standards in this book aimed to free designers from traditional restrictions and move them beyond centered type and ornaments. He believed design should be clear and efficient—and that the tools of clarity were sans serif type, asymmetric compositions, photography, and white space.

“In addition to being more logical, asymmetry has the advantage that its complete appearance is far more optically effective than symmetry.”

As the Nazi party felt Modernism was “un-German,” they arrested Tschichold in 1933 and imprisoned him for four weeks. He and his family then moved to Basel, Switzerland. His work began to drift away from the rigid New Typography. Centered type, serif faces, and ornaments began to appear in his work, as he understood that different projects called for different solutions.

Advertising and Graphic Art cover
Advertising and Graphic Art cover, 1947

After a move to London in 1947, he standardized the look for the inexpensive paperbacks of Penguin Books. He color-coded the horizontal bands on the covers (orange = fiction, blue = biography), a design touch that is still in use today. In addition to design and typographic principles, he considered how the book felt in the hand, and established rules for printing, paper weight, and binding. Demanding and inflexible, he raised the level of quality and set standards that influenced the entire publishing industry.

Constructivism poster
Exhibition poster for Constructivism, 1937

Excerpted from Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design by John Clifford. Copyright © 2014. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.

The book’s an “introduction to the most iconic designers of our time, [...] packed with the posters, ads, logos, typefaces, covers, and multimedia work that have made these designers great.”

Available from publisher Peachpit, or get a copy:


More good books.

Tags: Books book

November 19 2013


Fail Fast, Fail Often: An Interview with Victor Lombardi

Retrospectives are common. You’ve likely conducted one before. But how many companies are actually good at them? How many companies actually have the courage to be open and honest about their own shortcomings? My experience tells me that very few are. And that’s why Victor Lombardi’s recently released book, is so necessary: unlike the ones designers are used to seeing, Lombardi’s stories are full of objective, thoughtful, and insightful commentary.

An award-winning product designer, Victor Lombardi’s had a hand in over 40 different software and internet projects throughout the course of his career. And during that time he’s clearly paid attention to one thing: namely, all of the different ways in which a project can unfold. His new book, Why We Fail, tells over a dozen stories of projects gone awry.

So why do design projects fail? Many reasons. Lombardi attempts to answer the question from a number of angles: product ideation, design, development, and marketing. After reading his book, we brought additional questions to the discussion: How does bias factor in? Or branding? And, on a different level, what can we learn from

Our full interview appears, below. Additionally (as is always the case when we interview an author published by Rosenfeld Media) the publisher has graciously offered to give away a few books to readers. More information on that follows the interview!

Hey, Victor! Thanks for taking the time to chat. Throughout the book, you note a wide variety of places in which cognitive biases might affect an organization (“survivorship bias,” for example, is a perspective that exclusively favors success). Were you aware of bias and its effects from the outset or did you simply start to see bias the further you delved into your research?
I wasn’t expecting to hear about bias when I interviewed people for the book. Maybe that’s because I didn’t think people would open up this way. But they did.

I think it’s good therapy for us to talk through not only what we did during a project but also what we thought and felt. From there I brushed up on my psychology—Max Bazerman’s “Blind Spots” was particularly helpful—to explain the cognitive science behind the issues that led to failures.

Many companies find it (understandably) difficult to financially justify a culture that “embraces” failure. What advice do you have for them?
If senior management rules by ego, believing that the people at the top have the best ideas, then I’ve got nothing to say. They won’t hear my message.

For others, I think the overt message of “fail fast” is actually better framed as “experiment fast.” The most effective innovators succeed through experimentation. They’ve updated the traditional R&D department by stepping out of the lab and interacting directly with customers, running thoughtful experiments, and executing them quickly to learn quickly what works and what doesn’t.

Anyone doing user-centered design is already 80% of the way there. It makes a huge difference just to shift your process towards the scientific method, phrasing research questions as hypotheses and iteratively testing towards them. A key difference is in the results: instead of a lot of usability data to analyze and interpret, you get a true or false result. This makes it much easier to decide what to do next.

I recommend reading up on methods like customer development, lean startup, or by starting with the final chapter of my book.

In chapter four you recount the story of Wesabe and Mint, two startups who approached the financial space from slightly different perspectives. Wesabe suggested that users manually upload their financial data (in the name of privacy and security) whereas automated this task (at the risk of perceived security). Both were minimum viable products, but one failed while the other succeeded. Can you speak a little as to what startups can learn, generally, from Wesabe and’s subtle differentiation?
Wesabe was a useful service with a smart Web 2.0 strategy. Given more time and investment it would still be around. But certain classes of startups are dependent on attracting large numbers of customers in order to attract more investment. chose features and designed them in a way that excelled at attracting customers. They won the competition even though Wesabe was superior in many ways.

But this isn’t true in every case. In the book I cover a broad spectrum of products: startups and mature products; mobile, web, and desktop software; hardware; and services. Different situations resulted in different lessons. I summarize the lessons at the end of each case study.

One of my favorite case studies in the book is Google Wave, in which you suggest that the first sign of trouble was that everyone had a different definition of what a “wave” actually was. Personally, I think this speaks to the strong connection between user experience, semantics and branding. How do we fail in this regard and how might we do better?
The UX field generally is not good at the conceptual design stage of creating new products compared to, say, industrial design or architecture. We fall in love with our first idea, and we can quickly and cheaply move from idea to working prototype—it isn’t natural to stay in the idea stage for a while to explore alternate solutions.

It’s unfortunate that Google Wave failed because the problem still exists. The solution was close. …maybe “Concept Design” should be my next book ;-)

Chapter 7, titled “Do the right thing,” tells the story of Plaxo and, two companies who each decided to employ dark patterns to “better” their business. What other kinds of stories/examples did you consider including in this chapter that exhibited bad behavior?
In cases like I had no doubt the behavior was unethical. Others were less clear cut. Some of the things Plaxo did [ed: such as mass emailing its members’ contacts] that annoyed us back then are now accepted practice. So it’s relative. I decided against including others because there was no smoking gun, so I’ll refrain from mentioning them here as well. If you really want to know, you’ll have to buy me a drink sometime.
Last question! I know it’s a bit premature, but what, if anything, do you think designers might learn from the (highly publicized) failure of
Let’s say we solved for the myriad of political and vendor integration problems that plagued the project. What’s left are some intriguing customer experience issues. One seems to be that a long registration process is required before the customer can view prices of health plans, because the plans and prices are determined by your registration information. I don’t know how they ended up with that design, but the decision to design it this way sounds like a policy decision made around a conference table rather than through a design process that included running experiments.

What you can do if you find yourself in this situation is to acknowledge, out loud, that the goal of not showing prices prematurely is a good one, but the solution of making the customer do a lot of work up front is risky because more people will abandon the process before receiving any value from the site (see Wesabe vs. Mint). To mitigate this risk, you can generate alternate designs, mock them up, and test them out with customers.

Offhand, I can think of a few options:

  • Let visitors browse plans upon arrival and show the range of prices next to each plan to give people a general idea of cost. Then show them the actual prices after registration.
  • Show some realistic content so visitors know what factors will influence the price, like “Sally, a single mother of two in New York will pay $100/month for Plan X which includes benefits A, B, and C.”
  • If just a bit of data is needed to determine price, like state and income, just ask for that data, and require registration later when people are ready to buy a plan.

Thanks, again, for taking the time, Victor! Your book was a pleasure to read.

If you’re as jazzed about learning from failure as we are, I’d strongly suggest entering for a chance to win a copy of your own, courtesy of our friends over at Rosenfeld Media. To enter, simply follow UX Booth on twitter and leave a comment on this post answering the question: What’s your favorite story of design failure (one you’ve witnessed firsthand or otherwise) and what lessons to you think it provides? Rather than pick the winners at random, as we usually do, we’ll work with Victor to pick the three best stories of failure. Their authors will receive copies of the book. Entries must be made by Midnight, PST of November 21st. Good luck!

The post Fail Fast, Fail Often: An Interview with Victor Lombardi appeared first on UX Booth.

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September 20 2013


Blank Slate: A Comprehensive Library of Photographic Templates

I’ve talked before about how showing identity work using Photoshop mockups can really bring an idea to life. So it was interesting to get Blank Slate in the post, courtesy of publisher Gestalten.

Blank Slate

You know the idea…

Blank Slate

Blank Slate

The book is a hardback reference catalogue that might make it a little easier to find the exact “blank slate” you’re looking for. More than 1,000 images are labelled with codes that correspond to the TIFF files on the included DVD.

Blank Slate

All images are available on white and on black backgrounds, except for the few in the sadly lacking “environment” section — it’s a shame there isn’t a wider variety here.

Blank Slate

Blank Slate

Blank Slate

Blank Slate

Blank Slate

I’ve built a decent library of these images, but this is a nice alternative to signing up to a stock photography website, and I’m sure I’ll make use of it at some point soon.

You can get a copy of Blank Slate direct from Gestalten, or here:


From the archives: Where to find contextual image templates for client presentations.

September 11 2013


The Design Method

The Design Method is a new book by Eric Karjaluoto, creative director and founding partner of smashLAB. He kindly took time to answer a few questions that I thought would interest you. The questions are separated with some illustrations from throughout the book.

Both the client and designer play important roles in the creation of good design. However, each one holds certain strengths and insights that the other doesn’t. As such, think carefully about the part each group plays, and try to avoid stepping on the other’s toes.


You talk about presenting just one idea to your clients. I get occasional enquiries where I’m asked to create a number of designs. Have any of your clients been adamant about seeing more than one idea?

Although many clients start by asking for three options, I explain to them why aiming for one target is more sensible: Doing so minimizes tangential directions that can take the project off course, helps keeps the project on track/budget, and reduces the number of decisions they’re forced to contend with.

I explain that we run many (often hundreds of) variations in studio, and edit down the choices before presenting the most workable option for their review. If they disagree with our recommended direction, we note what isn’t working, and then iterate.

We don’t mind going back to the drawing board if necessary; we just want to ensure that we’re moving the client and project forward in one clear direction. When I explain this, most clients see the logic and agree that it makes more sense than the alternative.

IKEA’s designers employ a number of consistent rules when producing assets. As a result, you could change the text to gibberish and most would still be able to identify the brand.


You say the voice of the designer is irrelevant — what do you mean by “voice?”

I’m speaking specifically about individual personality and style. Design is often considered a close cousin to art, and this misunderstanding clouds what our industry is about. New designers, in particular, want to imbue their work with their own sensibilities, but this desire isn’t actually that important.

Clients, for the most part, don’t want the designer’s personality to show through the work they produce; instead, they need design that is built around their needs and amplifies their organization’s values and aspirations. Designers need to gear themselves to think about their clients’ needs first.

Leg warmers
It’s understandable that you’ll find trends compelling, but it’s a real drag to look back and realize that you were lured into the same pointless fads as everyone else.


How do you present your project quotes? Are they solely for what the client requests, or do you break it down into options, perhaps with a lower and a higher value in order to offer more choice?

Providing design quotes is almost always difficult, as the nature of design projects tends to be quite variable. On the odd occasion, a job is cut and dried, and I simply look back on past projects we’ve completed, with a similar scope of work, and use that (alongside a look at the billable efficiency of that project) to determine a suitable price. For the most part, we tend to provide a fixed cost; however, if the prospective client tells us that they have less to spend, we can sometimes reduce scope to meet their budget.

Increasingly, though, we’re asking prospective clients to contract us to complete some initial Discovery and Planning work, as a trial run of sorts. This approach allows us to really dig into their situation, needs, and expectations, and subsequently produce a plan for them. Upon having done so, they’re free to take the plan to another organization and leave us behind, should they choose.

Most times, they have us continue with the project, as they now have a better sense for our agency, how we think, and the way we work. Additionally, our pricing tends to be more accurate at this point, as having done this work allows us to really understand the scope of the project, instead of guessing what’s involved — which most studios are forced to do if they haven’t conducted any initial Discovery and Planning.

Stages and phases
The Design Method relies on four key process stages; however, the working phases you employ are informed by the kind of design you do and the project milestones you establish.


How do you protect your studio from potential legal issues that might arise after a project has started (where a client might not pay yet still use your work, for example)?

We produce a clear document at the outset of a project that lays out the scope of the project, timeline, and needs, as well as the associated requirements on the client’s behalf. After that, we request progress payments at key stages throughout the project.

Most of the engagements we take on are long and involved, and this allows us to really get to know our clients (and vice versa). Therefore, we tend to get a sense in advance if there might be some kind of discomfort/frustration on the client’s behalf. We then address such concerns before the situation gets ugly.

I’m sure that at some point we’ll need to bring in lawyers to help with a project that goes completely off the rails, but we’ve never yet found ourselves in that spot. Frankly, by the time you need to bring in lawyers to deal with such a situation, you’ve likely not been running your studio the way you should have been.

You want a trophy to celebrate your achievements? Why not join your local 4H club or bowling league, or attend a fishing derby? They’ll give you a trophy!


During a few of my past projects it became clear that the client wanted to drive the design, asking for this to go here, and that to go there, etc., almost to the point of relegating me to a pixel pusher. Has this ever happened to you? And if so, how did you handle the requests?

Yes — it happens all the time, and this will never change. The work designers do is very personal to those who hire us, and they’re going to want to get their hands “in there.” In my mind, both the client and designer play very distinct roles in this sort of work, and the designer needs to define these roles clearly in order to produce good design for their clients.

The client/designer engagement needs to be thought about practically. Most clients aren’t experts in creating brands, defining visual identities, producing elegant user experience, and the like. Meanwhile, most designers don’t really know their customer’s business, clients, history, operations requirements, and so on.

Therefore, each party needs to own their role and try to avoid infringing on the other’s — for the good of the work they’re trying to produce. This is an issue of perspective: Neither the designer, nor the client, should be concerned with what their individual visual preferences; instead, they need to ask how they’re going to reach the objectives set out at the outset of the project. Most times, this means concentrating on how the choices they’re making might impact the user.

So, when you’re struggling with a client getting a little too close to the work you’re helping them with, try to get them to pull back a little. Keep asking what will work best for the audience/user, and you should be able to steer the project back on course.

Exit signs
Although both signs seem like reasonable approaches, which one do you expect will make the most sense to someone who doesn’t speak English?


You say in the book that “if you want to get new business, taking prospective clients out for lunch may be more effective than chasing awards.” What proportion of your clients are local, and does it affect your working relationship when you’re unable to meet face-to-face?

The ratio tends to vary. At this moment, most of our work is for clients who aren’t in Vancouver. That being said, it’s the relationships that started with local groups that led to a number of these projects. For example, the website we built for The Vancouver Aquarium has been very well received by groups abroad. As a result of that project, we started working with organizations including WWF Canada, The University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment, and The Nature Conservancy. Personally, I like meeting our clients in face-to-face, but that isn’t always possible. For those who are close, though, we try to get together for lunch every here and there — not necessarily for sales purposes, but instead just to get a sense of what they’re up to. We’re lucky to work with a lot of nice people.

The Design Method

Book giveaway

Eric is giving away five codes for downloading digital copies of his book. They’ll go to five of you who leave comments that share the number of design options you present to your clients, and why. Names will be drawn from the comment thread (below) next Monday (16th).

The Design Method is available from the Peachpit website and here:


From the archives: What employers look for, by Eric Karjaluoto

August 20 2013


Book giveaway

My publisher sent me seven copies of each of my books as well as twenty codes for each title (the codes are for downloading digital copies from the Peachpit website).

I’m giving them to people who subscribe to the mailing list, and I’ll draw names from all subscribers next Wednesday (28th).

I’ll sign and mail copies of both books for seven subscribers. And give codes to download digital copies of both to twenty others.

LDL and WFMDFL books

If that interests you, sign up here.

Both books are available from Amazon.

Thanks so much for all the positive vibes.

August 08 2013


Where UX Comes From

Earlier this week, we interviewed Leah Buley, author of the new book UX Team of One. Leah talked about her own experiences as a UX team of one, and how her approach has changed over time. Now we are very excited to present an excerpt from the book itself.

As a team of one, knowing the history of user experience helps you reassure people that it’s not just something that you dreamed up in your cubicle. If I were to sum up the history of UX in a few short sentences, it might go something like this: villains of industry seek to deprive us of our humanity. Scientists, scholars, and designers prevail, and a new profession flourishes, turning man’s submission to technology into technology’s submission to man. Pretty exciting stuff.

UX has a long and storied history that intersects with other business, design, and technology developments that your colleagues may be familiar with.

Now here’s the longer version. User experience is a modern field, but it’s been in the making for about a century. To see its beginnings, you can look all the way back to the machine age of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At that time, corporations were growing, skilled labor was declining, and advances in machine technology were inspiring industry to push the boundaries of what human labor could make possible.

The machine age philosophy was best exemplified by people like Frederick Winslow Taylor and Henry Ford, who both pioneered ways to make human labor more efficient, productive, and routinized. But they were criticized for dehumanizing workers in the process and treating people like cogs in a machine. Still Taylor’s research into the efficiency of interactions between workers and their tools was an early precursor to much of what UX professionals think about today.

Frederick Winslow Taylor, the father of Scientific Management, pejoratively known as Taylorism.

The first half of the 20th century also saw an emerging body of research into what later became the fields of human factors and ergonomics. Motivated by research into aeromedics in World War I and World War II, human factors focused on the design of equipment and devices to best align with human capabilities.

By the mid 20th century, industrial efficiency and human ingenuity were striking a more harmonious relationship at places like Toyota, where the Toyota Production System continued to value efficiency, but treated workers as key contributors to a continually improving process. One of the core tenets of the Toyota philosophy was “respect for people,” and it resulted in involving workers in troubleshooting and optimizing the processes that they were a part of. As one example, workers at Toyota factories could pull a rope called the Andon Cord to stop the assembly line and give feedback if they saw a defect or a way to improve the process.

Around the same time, industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss wrote Designing for People, a classic design text that, like the Toyota system, put people first. In it, Dreyfuss described many of the methods that UX designers employ today to understand and design for user needs, as shown below. In Designing for People, Henry Dreyfuss writes “when the point of contact between the product and the people becomes a point of friction, then the [designer] has failed. On the other hand, if people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficient—or just plain happier—by contact with the product, then the designer has succeeded.”

At the same time, some interesting parallel movements were taking shape. A small handful of academics were doing research into what we now describe as cognitive science. As a discipline, cognitive science combined an interest in human cognition (especially human capacity for short-term memory) with concepts such as artificial and machine intelligence. These cognitive scientists were interested in the potential of computers to serve as a tool to augment human mental capacities.

Dreyfuss created Joe (and a companion diagram, Josephine) to remind us that everything we design is for people.

Many early wins in the design of computers for human use came from PARC, a Xerox research center founded in the early 1970s to explore innovations in workplace technology. PARC’s work in the mid-70s produced many user interface conventions that are still used today—the graphical user interface, the mouse, and computer-generated bitmap graphics. For example, PARC’s work greatly influenced the first commercially available graphical user interface: the Apple Macintosh. The term user experience probably originated in the early 1990s at Apple when cognitive psychologist Donald Norman joined the staff. Various accounts from people who were there at the time say that Norman introduced user experience to encompass what had theretofore been described as human interface research. He held the title User Experience Architect, possibly the first person to ever have UX on his business card. Norman actually started out in cognitive psychology, but his writing on the cognitive experience of products, including technological products, made him a strong voice to lead and inspire a growing field. According to Don Norman, “I invented the term because I thought Human Interface and usability were too narrow: I wanted to cover all aspects of the person’s experience with a system, including industrial design, graphics, the interface, the physical interaction, and the manual.”

Norman’s book The Design of Everyday Things is a popular text that deconstructs many of the elements that contribute to a positive or negative user experience. It’s still pretty much required reading for anyone who is interested in UX.

With the rise of personal computing in the 1980s and then the Web in the 1990s, many of these trends converged on each other. Graphical user interfaces, cognitive science, and designing for and with people became the foundation for the field of human-computer interaction (HCI). Suddenly, more people had access to computers and, along with it, a greater need to understand and optimize their use of them. HCI popularized concepts like usability and interaction design, both of which are important forebears to user experience. In the Internet bubble of the mid and late-1990s, new jobs with titles like “Web designer,” “interaction designer,” and “information architect” began cropping up. As people became more experienced in these roles, a deeper and more nuanced understanding of the field of user experience began to develop. Today, user experience is a rapidly growing field, with undergraduate and graduate level programs being developed to train future generations of professionals to design products for the people who use them.

Enjoy this? Get the full book at Rosenfeld Media and use code UXBOOTH for 20% off!

The post Where UX Comes From appeared first on UX Booth.

August 06 2013


One to Many: An Interview with Leah Buley

Everyone’s been there: “going it alone.” Learning, prodding, and making sense of a problem – all in complete isolation. Sometimes the hardest thing in that situation is knowing that, regardless of whether or not we succeed or fail, we’ll have no one to share that outcome with. And that’s exactly what makes Leah Buley’s story so compelling. In her latest book, UX Team of One, Leah explains how we can beat the odds and feel that sense of camaraderie even when we’re the only person ensuring that our organization practices design in a user-centered way.

I first heard of Leah Buley from her presentation at UX Week 2008 titled, not surprisingly, UX Team of One. And at that time I could certainly empathize: I worked as the sole – and therefore “lead” – interaction designer at an agile development consultancy. By the end of the presentation I couldn’t help but share it with my colleagues and friends.

You likely saw something about it on UX Booth’s Twitter feed. Shortly thereafter, Leah received a book deal with Rosenfeld Media, giving her a platform to bring her message to the masses (well, the print-based masses).

Recently published by the gang over at Rosenfeld (PS: use code UXBOOTH if you decide to purchase a copy), I didn’t hesitate to reach out and ask Leah what I felt to be pertinent questions. Namely, it’s been four years since her presentation. That’s quite a while in terms of our industry. And not only that, but Leah’s made quite a transition herself in that time – from being a team of one to being an in-house designer at Intuit. Read on to hear Leah’s thoughts on her transition as well as a chance to win a copy of your own!

Congratulations on the book, Leah! To even begin to codify user experience design is an incredible feat. Now that you’re done, will you ever look at our craft the same way?

Thanks so much, Andrew! It’s pretty thrilling to have a book out and alive in the world. Truthfully, it took me so long to write it that I was secretly worried that its time might have passed. But the feedback has been really heartwarming, and it would seem that there are still lots of “UX teams of one’ in the world. So, phew! Thank heavens for that.

As for our craft, I don’t know. I feel like the more I learn, the less I know. When I look at the book, I realize how much is not included in it: responsive design, service design, lean UX, augmented reality, big data, flat design, the internet of things, retrofuturism, flying cars (well, self-driving, at least). There are so many new approaches and methods and possibilities emerging all the time. (Thankfully! That’s what keeps it interesting.) that I wince a little when I think about everything that’s not included. But it’s ok. When that happens, I take a deep breath and pour myself a glass of wine and reassure myself that my goal wasn’t to be comprehensive but rather to capture a mindset that can help user experience professionals win support and influence better work. I hope I’ve accomplished that.

You’ve made quite the transition since your initial presentation, switching companies as well as roles. How has your approach changed over the years?

When I started doing UX work I was full of misdirected bravado. I had this idea that UX designers should be able to fight for what’s right for users. I believed my job was to come in with guns blazing and challenge teams to reinvent their products.

I think the biggest change to my approach is now I focus less on the fight and more on the process. Consequently, I have less bravado and more innate confidence. I’ve become more confident because I’ve been through the research and design process repeatedly enough to know that it works. I have trust in the process. There seems to be a moment on every project where I feel like the solution is hard and unknowable, and I can’t possibly imagine how we’re going to figure out what to do. But I just let myself keep marching forward.

It sounds weird but I liken this to walking off a cliff. I walk off a cliff – into the abyss of the problem – and trust that insights gleaned from observing real people will point the way. And somehow they always do. I used to be afraid to let my colleagues know that I was in the abyss. Now, I try to be transparent about it; I try to help other people get comfortable with being in the abyss, too.

I’m actually leading a really complicated design project right now. The goal is to bring consistency to a user experience that connects a bunch of disconnected products while also bridging brand and product strategy and UX. It’s got, like, four dozen stakeholders. It’s a beast. Some days are really hard. Those are definitely falling-off-the-cliff days. But even on the hard days, I can remind myself that 1) I know how this process works and I just need to keep moving ahead, and 2) in the end we’ll have something markedly better than where we started. And I know this is true because I’ve been through enough messy UX projects to know that the user-centered design process will get me there.

You’re presently a design strategist at Intuit – a company who, I imagine, employs quite a few UX designers! In other words, you’re hardly a team of one anymore. What philosophies and practices mentioned in your book apply “UX teams of many” and what new techniques/practices have you learned?

I have a great job. I get to work on ambiguous design problems that cut horizontally across a large organization with a lot of vertical structures. Sometimes I focus on product-oriented, customer-facing design problems—things that affect our products – and sometimes I focus on process-oriented, internal-facing design problems – things that affect how we work. In both instances, the key to success is (and always will be) people. My job is to find ways to bring everyone along for the ride. In that way, actually, all the philosophies and practices from the book still apply. Intuit has an extremely large user experience community, and yet I still feel like a UX team of one. And that’s not because I’m unsupported, it’s just the nature of working with a cross-disciplinary team, which just about every UX professional does.

I’ve also add a lot of new techniques to my toolkit that I picked up at Intuit. Intuit has this really phenomenal program called the Innovation Catalyst. (Not invented by me, alas. Here, I’m just an eager student.) Basically, they train hundreds of people throughout the company in design thinking skills, and then send those people back into every branch of the organization to act as facilitators and coaches for design. The Innovation Catalyst program teaches loads of methods that run the gamut from customer research to generative design to rapid prototyping and experiments. One of my current favorite methods is this poster-sized canvas called the NEXT tool. Using the NEXT tool, teams answer some really interesting questions about their product vision, their “leap of faith” assumptions, and various hypotheses that they ultimately need to test with users. The NEXT tool is really complementary to the Lean Startup approach.

Another, simpler tool that I learned at Intuit that I really love is called a brainstorm box. If you’re doing a team brainstorm on product ideas, just put a box in the middle of the table with thought starters written out on sticky notes. If you get stalled, pull out a sticky from the box and, voila, brainstorm re-ignited. Some example thought starters: “What if it had to be purely mobile?” “What would be the opposite of our last idea?” “What would get us fired?”

Many people who find themselves as the sole UX professional in a company struggle with how much they need to “teach” the rest of their team. What are the essential principles a UXer should teach his or her team in order to be successful?

First and only principle: go watch some users. Actually, I wouldn’t even call it a principle. Call it a suggestion. “Hey, let’s go watch some users.” All knowledge derives from that. The ability to envision the product from a user’s point of view is like a muscle that can be strengthened. And like a muscle, it responds well to repetition. Jared Spool has written about user exposure hours and the high correlation between the number of hours a team spends watching users and the overall quality of their product. If you can get your team to take the time to actually watch real people in action (whether it be a usability test, exploratory research, or even lean-style rapid experiments) they will be strengthening that muscle. This makes the whole team better informed about user needs. But just as importantly, it will make them more curious and empathetic about users in general, which is how a fan of UX is born.

The second half of the book is comprised entirely of user-centered design activities and methods and serves as a wonderful resource for anyone working in UX. What gave you the idea to structure your book this way?
The structure of The User Experience Team of One was inspired primarily by my deep love for reference books. I covet and collect reference books of all kinds—cook books, dictionaries, craft and activity books. In my first job out of school, when I was still muddling my way through HTML and CSS, a co-worker gave me a copy of O’Reilly’s Javascript: The Definitive Guide. It was like my bible, the first reference book for my professional career. I loved its structure—this highly glanceable, easy-to-peruse manual for making interesting things. Ever since then, I’ve loved and looked for books that have clear, reassuringly repeatable structures. Surprisingly few UX books have that ’cook book’ quality. Two books that do this well are Universal Principles of Design and Universal Methods of Design, both of which contain one utterly complete, bite-sized thought per page.

That’s a wrap, guys! Thanks, again, Leah, for taking the time to share your thoughts with readers.

As for the giveaway, here’s how that works: just follow @uxbooth on twitter and leave a comment on this post answering the question: “What user-centered design technique do you rely on most frequently and why?” Be sure to include your twitter handle in your comment and to leave it before this Thursday at midnight PST. We’ll contact three lucky winners over Twitter. Good luck!

The post One to Many: An Interview with Leah Buley appeared first on UX Booth.

June 17 2013


The Fortune Cookie Principle

Bernadette Jiwa has just published her new book, The Fortune Cookie Principle: The 20 keys to a great brand story and why your business needs one.

It’s full of inspiring stories about what makes businesses unique (and successful) in today’s supersaturated markets. Here’s an excerpt.

Fortune cookie
Fortune cookie photo via SodaHead

The best confirmation email ever written

When Derek Sivers first built his business, he set up a standard confirmation email to let customers know their order had been shipped. After a few months, Derek felt that this email wasn’t aligned with his mission — to make people smile. So he sat down and wrote a better one.

“Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed on a satin pillow.

“A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

“Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

“We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.

“I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to!”

The result didn’t just delight customers. That one email brought thousands of new customers to CD Baby. The people who got it couldn’t help sharing it with their friends. Try Googling “private CD Baby jet”; you’ll find over 900,000 search results to date. Derek’s email has been cited by business blogs the world over as an example of how to authentically put your words to work for your business.

The Fortune Cookie Principle

The Fortune Cookie Principle is available to buy as a paperback and for Kindle:


“This should be the next book you read. Urgent, leveraged and useful, it will change your business like nothing else.”

A few other book recommendations here.

Identity Designed

Brand identity inspiration on Identity Designed.

Tags: Books book books

June 04 2013


15 Years, 115 Projects

15/115 (15 Years, 115 Projects) is the second book from designer Mark Bloom of Mash Creative.

15 115 by Mark Bloom

It features 115 projects spanning a 15 year career to-date, divided into three chapters: 15 x posters, 80 x logos and 25 x case studies. Mark also asked me to write a foreword, which I was more than happy to do (he was one of the kind contributors to my second book).

15 115 by Mark Bloom
Royal Mail identity idea (above), previously featured on Identity Designed

15 115 by Mark Bloom

I asked Mark a few questions about his self-published project.

Q/ How much has this book cost to produce in terms of time and money?

A/ Let’s just say it’s several thousand pounds in total — it’s been a labour of love. Time, probably around six months, but not solid, this was in between client work.

Q/ Why did you choose Screaming Colour as your printer? Did they print your first book?

A/ They didn’t print my first book but I knew they had a good reputation for producing high quality print. The print spec on 15/115 is quite special so I wanted to ensure the printer I used would meet my high standards. Screaming Colour is only a 10-minute walk from my studio, I went to visit them and was very impressed. They’ve invested a lot of time and effort into the book, even before the job went ahead, and they’ve been very hands-on during the whole process. I was initially tempted to get the book printed in the Far East to reduce costs, but being able to meet with the printers, check proofs, etc. has given me far more peace of mind.

15 115 by Mark Bloom

Q/ What particular GF Smith papers did you choose, and why?

A/ Cover stock: GF Smith Colorplan Ebony Black 350gsm with gravure emboss. I’d seen a piece of print that used a gravure emboss and really liked it, I think it gives a nice contrast against the white foil text and internal pages. The black and white colour scheme follows on from my previous book, 14/41.

Internal page stock: GF Smith Accent Smooth Glacier White 135gsm (subject to any last-minute change). The book showcases several projects which were printed in fluorescent inks, so colour reproduction was very important. After some print testing and discussions with GF Smith it seemed like Accent Smooth was the most suitable choice.

Q/ What exposure have the books generated for Mash Creative?

A/ It’s hard to put this into figures but it has certainly helped me gain exposure through design blogs, which in turn has raised Mash Creative’s profile, making potential clients more aware of my work.

15 115 by Mark Bloom

Q/ Have any clients specifically mentioned your first book when contacting you?

A/ Yes, in fact even since launching my second book just four days ago I’ve had several work enquires off the back of it. 14/41 also helped win new business last year, mainly smaller companies. I also used 14/41 as a showcase of my identity design work when meeting with two well known London design studios, both of whom ended up giving me freelance commissions.

Q/ Would you recommend that other designers create similar work archives?

A/ Not necessarily in terms of a book — it’s very time consuming, stressful, and not to mention expensive — but I definitely think it’s important they keep an archive of their work, at least in digital form.

Over the years I’ve always had an AI file into which I simply copy and paste any logo I design, a simple and easy way of archiving my logo work. This makes it very easy to find older designs without having to go through external hard drives or similar. I also have a folder on my computer called “press images.” That’s where I keep high-res and web-res images of all the work I’ve produced since starting Mash Creative nearly four years ago. I’m fortunate enough to get a lot of press requests from book publishers such as Victionary to feature my work, and by keeping a press folder on my system it means I can access all relevant images very quickly. When designing 15/115 it meant I already had a lot of high-res images close at hand.

The finish really does look superb, featuring a white foiled cover with a thread sewn spine for lay-flat spreads. I’m looking forward to picking up a copy.

15 115 by Mark Bloom

  • 15/115 is available to pre-order at the discounted rate of £17.50 (normal price £22.50)
  • Pages: 140pp, size: 170 x 230 mm, supported by GF Smith Papers
  • Shipping date estimated at end of June to early July 2013
  • Available to pre-order from:

See a few photos of Mark’s first book, 14/41, over on Logo Design Love.

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Brand identity inspiration on Identity Designed.

Tags: Books book

May 14 2013


April Resource Roundup: Food for Thought

While they might provide food for thought on the weekends, a new perspective before the workday, and/or even a way to unwind before bed, many design resources are far from revolutionary. Yet we hold out hope, as some of the best help change our (team’s) perspective. Nine such resources came to our attention this past month.

Design research, content strategy, gamification, oh my! Here’s the goods to make us good (err, well, better):

Design research

Design research is a necessary part of every user-centered design project, so more resources to that end never hurt:

Content Strategy

Far too many content strategy articles focus on the outcome rather than a productive “how to” – especially when it comes to writing. The following resources focus more on how to write effectively.

  • Tone of voice. Creating a solid “voice” is difficult, even for experienced content strategists. Enter Gather Content: A Guide to Tone of Voice. Created by Gather Content’s Kevan Gilbert back in November, this article provides a rough heuristic for lending personality to your website or application.
  • Valuable content. Those looking for more content strategy advice should check out Ahava Leibtag, President of Aha Media. She’s been practicing content strategy since 2005 (!), and her Creating Valuable Content checklist is a gift to anyone tasked with its creation. It’s simple to use and easy to adapt.
  • Using comics. Kevin Chang’s book, “See What I Mean,” was written in a show-and-tell fashion, beginning life as a presentation. The book demonstrates how comics can engage teams and facilitate understanding. Read it, and you’ll… see what I mean.
  • Health literacy. Although it was published all the way back in 2010, the US Department of Health and Human Services’s Health literacy online guide is as contemporary as ever. Chock full of research, design advice and content considerations, it’s an easy recommendation.


The gamification debate is complex. While it’s generally agreed that adding a “game layer” to an application is not a solution, there’s definitely value in incorporating engaging elements into our websites. These two resources dig a little deeper into the true aim of gamification:

  • Fun and (learning) games. Keeping the Play in Learning is a video highlighting the game mechanics inherent in education, banking, eCommerce, and other daily tasks. Play is also the subject of a TED talk or two.
  • Engagement via gamification. Chris McClelland’s presentation, engagement through gamification, examines the differences as well as the similarities between game mechanics – rewards, achievements, and competition – and UX best practices.

Live and learn

Ours is a rapidly evolving field, and every so often we learn another way to make the process more efficient. Leave a comment with your own favorite infographics, process-changing checklists, or a slideshare or video that speaks to the innovative designer in you.

The post April Resource Roundup: Food for Thought appeared first on UX Booth.

March 12 2013


Everywhere All at Once: An Interview with Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Print design is not web design. This we know. And a design that works well for the web may not translate to mobile and handheld devices. True, true. But is there a way to ensure that content – the “stuff” around which design orbits, after all – can be communicated effectively regardless of the medium in which it’s presented? This isn’t a problem limited to visual designers; it affects the entire organization. Sara Wachter-Boettcher’s new book, Content Everywhere charts a path away from the web’s previously popular, one-size-fits-all approach.

The motto guiding NPR’s API is abbreviated COPE: “create once, publish everywhere.”

Now, there’s an idea. Wouldn’t it be nice to publish everywhere, rather than once for desktop, once for mobile? Once for this app, once for that one? Robust content frameworks such as COPE challenge the rather simplistic notion that designers can create templates beforehand, into which content is added after. They come from a place where content strategists, information architects, and visual designers – the entire organization, really – work together in preparation for publication; where content is viewed as a system, rather than a two-dimensional “deliverable.”

Sara’s philosophy frees content from its container.

And the book bringing this idea to a broader audience? Content Everywhere by Sara Wachter-Boettcher. We jumped at the chance to read it and, afterward, implored her for an interview to better understand her perspective. What, exactly, is the ethos guiding this movement? And how does she see it affecting content strategy as a profession?

We don’t blame you if you’re just as fired up as we are. And if you haven’t had a chance to read the book just yet, don’t worry: we’ve got details on how you might win a copy after. Enjoy!

Hey Sara, thanks for taking the time to chat! What inspired you to document your understanding as a book? Are there other mediums you’ll use to share Content Everywhere, well, everywhere?
It all started in the summer of 2011. I’d long been thinking of the content I worked on as a system, not just a series of pages. I was pretty involved in decisions around content structure and architecture simply because I wanted the content to work – to be more usable and easier to find. I’d never formalized any of that thinking, though, or really even considered that it might be something other content strategists weren’t doing.

Then Ethan Marcotte’s book came out and I realized the time was right. Responsive design makes it nearly impossible not to deal with content in a substantial, deep-dive sort of way. So I wrote some blog posts and started to talk about this stuff when I was subsequently approached about writing a book.

Of course, I’ve given conference talks and workshops about this idea (I try to keep my Lanyrd up-to-date); I’ve written articles where I can. But one of the most important ways I spread this thinking is simply by bringing this ethos – that content is a system, and that we have to change not just templates but our practices—to everything I do. It’s changed how I tackle projects, talk to and educate clients, and collaborate with project teams.

So how would you say this notion intersects with other user experience design concerns: findability, accessibility, aesthetics, etc.?
Clear, purposeful content is also well defined, structured, and organized. This benefits everyone. Metadata and content chunks make content easier to find because they enable things like faceted search and also give you better deep linking – not to mention more ways that you can jigger your internal site search engine to give more relevant results. Clear labeling of content – according to what it is, rather than big blobs of text – tends to aid accessibility as well.
In order to “chunk” content you’ve proposed content modelling, a process frequently employed by information architects. As content strategists take on tasks such as content modeling, where do you see the line between IA and Content Strategy?
I don’t. That’s not to say that they’re the same discipline – or that they’re interchangeable – but content strategists and information architects have many shared concerns and practices, and I don’t see a problem with that. In fact, we should share concerns. You can’t have too many people on a project who care about content. You just have to be willing to cede control over some of the things you could do, but the other person might be better equipped for – and vice-versa.

I’d also like to point out that information architects adopted content models from database developers in the first place. It’s not like any one discipline has a lock on them. In fact, precious few IAs – or content strategists, for the matter – are currently using them, and that’s a shame, because they’re really a great, cross-disciplinary tool. I suspect it’s because we’ve placed a lot of priority in recent years on interaction design (IxD) rather than IA. IxD is an important discipline, to be sure, but lovely UI patterns alone won’t solve the problems so many sites have: content that’s buried, lost, disconnected, and generally difficult for users to find and use.

Many of the things for which you advocate – metadata, for example – feel poorly handled by today’s basic, off-the-shelf Content Management System (CMS) software (such as WordPress). Do you believe that architecting and maintaining a robust system of content necessitates that companies build their own CMS from the ground up?
I specifically don’t advocate for any one technical solution in the book, because I don’t think you can make decisions about how to store and publish content until after you’ve figured out (1) what you’re doing, (2) why you’re doing it, and (3) what sort of content structure and systems you’ll need to support that. Well, that and the fact that I’m not a CMS expert.

WordPress works great for lots of small businesses, and it works fine for my oft-neglected little blog. Many startups operate with no CMS, but they also often have tremendous engineering resources at their disposal and don’t really publish that frequently. It works for them to hard-code copy changes. But for the sorts of organizations and content challenges I’m talking about – in industries like media, higher education, nonprofit, and government – a CMS is pretty critical.

Some organizations do well with completely custom CMSes. NPR, for example. They’ve built lots of structure into their CMS interfaces, so their content can easily make its way into the NPR API. They’ve also invested in their CMS’s interface, so writers and editors can focus on their job rather than getting an overwhelming desire to walk out into traffic every time they log in.

But you can get structured, reusable content out of many, many existing CMSes – from open-source options like Drupal to enterprise-style products like Sitecore and Vignette. Their features and benefits (and drawbacks) vary, but they’re all capable of being configured to support many things for which I advocate: metadata, content modules, and the like.

The problem is that, quite often, CMS purchasing and configuration decisions are made by an IT person with a checklist rather than someone with deep knowledge of the content being managed. The content crowd is oftentimes too daunted by the technical bits to try to poke their nose into the conversation.

What I want is for content people to see that CMS decisions affect the success of their work, and to get comfortable enough with the vocabulary that they can be an advocate for users, and for the content itself, when CMS decisions are made. We could talk all day about the flaws with the CMSes that exist on the market: crummy code, bad text editors, broken user interfaces, baffling configurations. But they’re not going to get better unless people like us understand enough to know what to ask for.

So what advice would you offer designers, writers, architects – or even developers – who want to make content strategy part of their wheelhouse?
Content strategy, at its best, is more than the high-level goals and messages or the copy on a few key pages; it’s being able to design and work with your content as an interdependent system of assets, and about keeping that system of assets functional even as the site grows and changes. This means understanding both the big picture and all the little details that might stand in the way.

For writers or editors interested in doing more strategic work, this often means pulling off the blinders and looking at a broader scope. For example, you might be used to assessing the narrative within a single story, adjusting structure and pacing to make it work. In content strategy it’s the same skill, but you’ve got to apply it a plane or two higher: how does this individual piece affect the narrative of the broader content system, and where does it fit? Is every piece of content serving a purpose, or are some things just filling up space?

For people who come from design, UX, or development, there’s often the opposite gap to fill. While you might be used to thinking about systems, you might not be used to getting really, really close to the content that will go into that system – or considering how that content might change the way you design the system in the first place.

Wherever you come from, getting strategic about content demands that you can do both – even if you’re always going to be stronger in one side than the other.

Final question! With so many noteworthy books coming out recently, it’s almost impossible not to wonder: what’s next? What do you think is the next big thing for content strategy?
The more we tackle content, the more we realize just how many of our problems start not on the website or even in the CMS, but in the very way our organizations are structured.

So many people imagine content as living in “their” sections and belonging to “their” department, rather than thinking of it as a system of information another human (who almost certainly does not give a damn about said department) has to find their way through. And it’s hard to blame them. If your job description has always been tied to checking “content tasks” off a list, then that’s how you’ll see your role. We have to show people at all levels of an organization, C-level on downward, that they need to think of the web as more of an organism than a repository.

The problem of silos isn’t new – it’s been coming since the internet started fundamentally changing both the way people live and what they expect from organizations. But the problem of disconnected companies is now impossible to ignore, because it’s being exposed, often painfully, by mobile and multichannel. If we want our content strategy work to be sustainable – to last once daily operations take over – then we’re going to have to keep unsnarling these messy organizational issues. There’s no other way.

Closing thoughts

Many thanks, again, to Sara for sharing her strategies with us. If you have a question that wasn’t answered above, please ask it in the comments below – we’ll do our best to make sure Sara sees it!

Want to get bust some silos and create great content for your company? Head on over to and purchase Sara’s book with discount code UXBOOTH.

But if “free” sounds better to you, you’re in luck. We’ve got five books to give away courtesy of the fine folks over at Rosenfeld Media. To enter for a chance to win, simply follow @uxbooth on twitter and leave a comment below. Be sure to include your twitter handle and tell us a brief story about the content strategy (or lack thereof) at your current organization. What problems have you solved? What problems might Sara’s book help you solve? We’ll randomly draw five members in the next week, and contact you over Twitter. Good luck!

About the Author

Sara Wachter-Boettcher

Sara Wachter-Boettcher is an independent content strategist, writer, editor, and the author of Content Everywhere from Rosenfeld Media. When she’s not helping clients embrace flexible, mobile-ready content, she’s serving as the editor in chief of A List Apart; contributing to the Pastry Box Project; and speaking at conferences worldwide. You can reach her at

The post Everywhere All at Once: An Interview with Sara Wachter-Boettcher appeared first on UX Booth.

March 06 2013


Ninety percent of group discussions start off on the wrong foot

“Ninety percent of group discussions start with group members talking about their initial impressions. The research is clear that this is a poor idea; instead, by starting the discussion with relevant information, this data will be weighed more carefully for a better decision.”

Quoted from page 214 of 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People (New Riders, 2011), written by Susan Weinschenk (good book, by the way).

100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People

Think of it like this: When you’re presenting design options to a client (whether in person or with a presentation document), always begin with a recap of the design brief. That way, everyone’s focused on the project objectives, and the most appropriate decision is more likely to be made.

Identity Designed

Brand identity inspiration on Identity Designed.

Related posts worth a look

August 03 2012


Available for pre-order

Work for Money, Design for Love is now available for pre-order through Amazon.

Plugging in light bulb

Published by New Riders (an imprint of Peachpit), you can read my next book’s introductory description, and pre-order or add to your wish list, through the following links:

Work for Money, Design for Love

Thanks so much for keeping me motivated.

Light bulb illustration credit

Identity Designed

Brand identity inspiration on Identity Designed.

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Tags: Books book

December 27 2011


Champions of Design

Champions of Design is a paperback book and free-to-download PDF published in December 2011 by Jones Knowles Ritchie (jkr).

“In this book we celebrate twenty-five great works of design, the people who created them and the clients who bought them.”

Here’s an excerpt, featuring on one of the 25 brands.

Old Penguin logo


Given its beloved status as a British institution to rival the BBC, it’s worth remembering what a revolutionary idea Penguin originally was. The company’s cheap but well-made, well-designed books found a new audience of working and middle-class readers that few believed existed. The future really was orange.

If the point of a brand mark is to guarantee quality, then Penguin excels. My father, a lifelong devotee, describes it as ‘my university’. Many share his trust and appreciation. Like holding a Guinness at the bar, one feels part of a select band when reading a Penguin on the Tube or beach. Generations of investment in great design has helped earn this status.

Penguin book covers stripes
Photo source: James Muspratt (not in Champions of Design book)

The original (Tube map inspired?) system of distinctive coloured stripes met the business strategy; they would have been cheap to produce, compared with myriad cover designs and illustrations. However, we don’t want cheap brands. We want great brands cheap. Penguin used good paper, quality binding and typography that allowed the words to breathe. They were designs of hardback quality in soft covers.

This flightless bird has adapted beautifully over the years, radically changing its design approach in response to market forces and trends, from the graphical covers of the 60s, to the commercial designs of today. Penguin achieved coherent change mostly from having a strong in-house design culture. This ethos was not elitist. Edward Young was a 21-year-old office junior when he drew the logo and devised the colour-coding system. A secretary came up with the name.

Luck also plays a part in great brand design. Penguin was still young as World War II erupted, and its format just so happened to prove the perfect fit for a battledress pocket. On such quirks are great brands built.

Written by Silas Amos, a founder designer at jkr in 1990.

Each of the 25 case studies includes a brand timeline and “Did you know?” page.

Did you know that in 1989, following Penguin’s publication of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, bombs were planted in a Penguin bookshop in York and in Liberty’s in London where the company also had a concession?

Champions of Design

Download your free copy of the PDF here on the jkr website.

Somewhat related: Penguin logo guidelines.

Published on David Airey, graphic designer

Logo Design Love, the book

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October 27 2011


The Manual issue #2 is out

The Manual issue #2 is out! Having already read issue #1, I can’t wait to get my hands (and eyes) on the new one. This issue boasts stories and life / work lessons from six new influential voices within our community: Karen McGrane, Mark Boulton, Josh Brewer, Alex Charchar, Trent Walton, and Cennydd Bowles.

From a design standpoint, issue #1 was a printed masterpiece. Care was spent not only in words, but in production as well, and certainly #2 won’t disappoint in that department as well.

October 03 2011


‘CSS for Print Designers’ book

Here’s the book all of you print folk have been waiting for: CSS for Print Designers. While I haven’t read it myself (yet), it’s been reviewed by a good group of friends I personally trust.

September 25 2011


Just My Type

Just My Type

Just My Type: A Book About Fonts is a light-hearted collection of stories from the world of typography.

Just My Type

If you’ve been wanting to learn more about fonts (or founts, as once known), but didn’t want to get into a read that’s too technical or advanced, this one’s for you.

“Just My Type is a book of stories about fonts. It examines how Helvetica and Comic Sans took over the world. It explains why we are still influenced by type choices made more than 500 years ago, and why the T in the Beatles logo is longer than the other letters. It profiles the great originators of type, from Baskerville to Zapf, as well as people like Neville Brody who threw out the rulebook. The book is about that pivotal moment when fonts left the world of Letraset and were loaded onto computers, and typefaces became something we realized we all have an opinion about. And beyond all this, the book reveals what may be the very best and worst fonts in the world – and what your choice of font says about you.”

Just My Type

Just My Type

Just My Type

“Typefaces are now 560 years old. So when a Brit called Matthew Carter constructed the now-ubiquitous Verdana on his computer in the 1990s, what could he possibly be doing to an A and a B that had never been done before? And how did a friend of his make the typeface Gotham, which eased Barack Obama into the Presidency? And what exactly makes a font presidential or American, or British, French German, Swiss or Jewish?”

Just a few of the questions considered in the book.

Just My Type

Just My Type

Just My Type

Just My Type

Just My Type

Author Simon Garfield isn’t a graphic designer or typographer so don’t expect an advanced study of typography. I’m sure it’d be helpful for many if there were more images and comparisons of typefaces, rather than their isolated use within the actual body text. But fair play to the man for covering a topic close to every designer’s heart, and producing an enjoyable read, too.

Purchase Just My Type from Profile Books or:


Looking for more? A few good books.

Published on David Airey, graphic designer

Logo Design Love, the book

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June 29 2011


Aesop on hiring a professional

Although it’s unlikely that many of the 200 or so fables attributed to Aesop were created by him, his fame as a story-teller was so widespread that practically any fable heard gained his association.

Aesop the Greek

Last week I read a collection of his short stories, and as many of them relate to the business of design, I’ll share a few in a mini-series of posts. Here’s the first.

The Widow and the Sheep

Once there was a widow who owned just one sheep. Wishing to make the most of his wool, she sheared him so closely that she cut his skin as well as his fleece. Suffering from such painful treatment, the sheep cried out, “Why are you torturing me like this? What will my blood add to the weight of the wool? If you want my flesh, send for the butcher, who will put me out of my misery at once. But if you want my fleece, send for the shearer, who will clip my wool without drawing blood!”

Cutting small costs can cause great wounds.

Aesop’s Fables, published by Penguin Popular Classics. Good read. Bought it in Eason for two quid.


Aesop (circa 620 BC-560 BC). Photo via BookMarc Blogpants.

Published on David Airey, graphic designer

Logo Design Love, the book

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May 30 2011


Symbol, by Angus Hyland & Steven Bateman

Symbol book

Symbol is a new book by Angus Hyland and Steven Bateman, published by Laurence King. What’s the difference between Symbol and Michael Evamy’s Logo from the same publisher?

Symbol book

Symbol: “1,300 symbols organized into groups and sub-groups according to their visual characteristics.”
Logo: “1,300+ logos in 75 categories, classified by shape, indexed by sector.”

Symbol book

Symbol book

Clearly there’s going to be overlap between the two galleries, and they are very similar. In saying that, there are plenty of designs included that were created after Logo was released in 2007, and the more fleshed-out case studies in Symbol are a welcome addition, adding some context to the work.

Symbol book

An obvious difference is that this 2011 publication focuses solely on symbols, whereas logotypes/wordmarks are in abundance in Logo.

Symbol book

Symbol book

Symbol book

Symbol book

Symbol book

Symbol book

Symbol book

Symbol book

Symbol book

Symbol book

It’s the kind of book I’ll look to if I want details on a specific logo (year of design, designer responsible, etc.). Logo has proved useful when drafting posts for Logo Design Love. I’ve dipped in and out these past years, and I’m sure I’ll do the same with Symbol. So a worthy addition to my small library.

Angus Hyland is a graduate of the RCA and a partner at Pentagram Design London. He is the author of C/ID and the best-selling The Picture Book.

Steven Bateman is a freelance writer who has worked with some of the UK’s leading design agencies. A regular contributor to Grafik magazine, he also writes for ISTD Condensed, Nico, and Varoom.

My thanks to Debra Matsumoto and Lewis Laney for the review copy.

Symbol is available to purchase from Laurence King and here on Amazon:

More book recommendations in my little Amazon bookstore.

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Tags: Books book books

May 10 2011


Eight languages

My book’s available in the following translations.

the process of design

German, Polish, Chinese, Portuguese, Czech, and Korean.

Russian and Japanese are scheduled for 2011/12.

Logo Design Love foreign covers

Some of the cover redesigns are a bit funky, but hey, eight languages. Not bad, eh?

Links to the foreign publisher/bookseller websites here: book translations.

Logo Design Love cover

Book website: Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities

Published on David Airey, graphic designer

Logo Design Love, the book

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