Designers' book list (and philosophical discussion)

Discussion in 'Graphic Design' started by AllWeatherGal, Aug 16, 2007.

  1. AllWeatherGal

    AllWeatherGal Not Just for Fair Weather Political User Folding Team

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    Hey all ...

    Favorite books, anyone? Either the ones that changed your perception in some way, or books that you reach for all the time?

    I'm currently reading "Ambient Findability" (http://www.amazon.com/Ambient-Finda...2252144?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1187282139&sr=8-1)
    and ... it's slow going, but pretty interesting as philosophy.

    I'm struggling a lot at my place of employment with software development managers who think in terms of "looks nice" while I try to keep focus on "what would our user/customer make of this?" ... they say "usability" without knowing what its principles are.

    How do you balance use and esthetics in your own work?

    Hmn ... I guess that's a couple topics.

    Comments?
     
  2. falconguard

    falconguard Carbon based lifeform Political User Folding Team

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    James Rollins-- Map of bones and Black Order, some good ones i have read currently.

    For a phlosophical read try Zero : the Biography of a dangerous idea by Charles Seife
     
  3. dave holbon

    dave holbon Moderator

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    One of the most important things missing from software developers training is not how to code efficiently or to provide “pretty” interfaces, but to have an understanding of the entire process you are attempting to code. This does not rely on “managers” or “users” of the system being queried as they themselves probably only have a “vague” understanding of what they actually do in relation to the whole especially if an existing system is in place. For many industries the people with this sort of knowledge were the first be gotten rid of as they are both expensive to employ and represent a threat to incoming new senior management, who know only to well that knowledge is power.

    I have personal experience of this as projects that were supposed to be simple and quick to implement go on for years on the back of promises made by professional development companies specialising in their subject where the retaining company has no, or little, IT experience themselves, and do not understand how their own company operates at a fundamental level. They (the development software company) always seem to optimise their position by utilising existing software and “bolting on” modules in the hope of making a fortune. This never works or if it does initially fails a year later but by then the commitment is made.

    Of course by this time the expenditure has been enormous resulting in a sort of “stand off” position where the software developing company has its masters by the short and curliness, so to speak. Five years down the road the whole thing is repeated again.

    Large companies are very “canny” about which users you have access to and managers for that matter. I’ll bet now that if you have the luxury of a properly written set of specifications (almost always wrong anyway) that you as the actual writer of the code do not understand the processes and nuances of what you are actually doing as opposed to what the company want, as they do not have the ability to codify it in the first place. Smaller companies are not a problem but the bigger they are the worse it gets.

    To me the workflow process and its understanding are they key and not the writing of the software which in fact them becomes easy.


    :nervous::nervous::nervous:
     
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  4. AllWeatherGal

    AllWeatherGal Not Just for Fair Weather Political User Folding Team

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    David ... you're singing my song :)

    >>To me the workflow process and its understanding are they key and not the writing of the software which in fact them becomes easy.<<

    I'm going to grad school now ... the program is "instructional and performance technology" ... using the term technology in its wider sense to include methodologies, protocols, processes, any applied science.

    It's really cool stuff, but too cool for my former (yep, I got laid off just this morning!) employers. I spent a lot of energy on performance needs of our users, as much as I could anticipate them, and made significant inroads through the documentation set as well as UI ... but as you note, it's "too expensive".

    I wonder if I can just go to school full time and not return to the workplace until I have a graduate degree to wave around. *sigh*

    Thanks for the recommendations falcon ... I'll have plenty of time to read now :)
     
  5. Geffy

    Geffy Moderator Folding Team

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    The Non-Designers Design Book
    The Non-Designers Web Book
    Don't Make Me Think

    The first book I found quite useful when doing my Advanced Web Design module at Uni. I am not a designer, I can appreciate good design and like things which are designed well but at my core I am a programmer and therefore can't design my way out of a paper bag, but the book helped a fair bit.

    I've not got the Don't Make Me Think book, but I've been meaning to get it for a while.
     
  6. Aprox

    Aprox Moderator Political User

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    This might sound a bit condescending, but it really applies. If you are truly a designer, then you don't need a book to tell you how to do it. It should come naturally, when you get a project you should already have ideas forming in the back of your head as your (probably clueless) client lists off the things they would like in their design.

    I have learned from personal experience that finding inspiration and motivation is probably the biggest roadblock in doing design work. Some days you just don't "feel it" and your work suffers and piles up. Those due dates get closer and more To-Do stickies appear on your monitor. In these cases you need to figure out something that works for you. Everybody is different and you will need to do a bit of inner soul searching to figure out how to find that inspiration when it hides from you. The motivation should come naturally if you can find the former.
     
  7. dave holbon

    dave holbon Moderator

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    I think that there are two totally separate issues here, one being “design” or the look and feel of the product (the user interface) and the other being the design of the core software. The former is in the eye of the beholder that latter is merely an applied logic mythology (not a science) more of a “craft” in reality. The two are still quite close as software development itself has never been codified or understood as a concept like a formal science subject.

    Some of the most complex objects known to man (that don’t exist in nature) exist in the field of operating systems as far as software is concerned, where tens of millions of lines of code, all operating as one, are the norm. The UI design for these types of systems is an emerging art form, still in its infancy.

    No one person has any understanding of this order of complexity or can envisage a user interface as a “design” either without working in teams, the best current designers work alone, so a new “craft order” is needed this being teams of designers working as one entity, sounds like the “Borg” to me. We are a long way from this type of interactive brain play using multiple individuals who can add to each others perspectives and knowledge without upset, but I suspect without it we are all going to be in XP or Vista land for a long time to come.

    :):)
     
  8. Steevo

    Steevo Spammer representing. Political User Folding Team

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    I have put off our internal site for a few months due to the lack of want to. It takes only a few minutes to throw together a rough site with the ideas in place, but the actual main building is what hurts when you get interrupted every few minutes. Mebey this winter I will bring in my coffee pot from home, turn up the music and get to it.
     
  9. dave holbon

    dave holbon Moderator

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    I'll have a pint of whatever you've been drinking?

    :)
     
  10. Geffy

    Geffy Moderator Folding Team

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    Being a developer when the client is listing off what they want I am already thinking about how best to implement that, things like the data model, model/controller interface and so on.

    The sad fact is that often developers get put in a design role and sometimes designers are put in a development role. Designers and Developers are two different types of people, left/right brained and so on.

    I remember an interview with Tim Berners-Lee being asked if he was a "coder" or a "creative", and he replied that he felt he was a bit of both as the writing of elegant software takes a bit of creativity as well as the ability to code.
     
  11. Aprox

    Aprox Moderator Political User

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    I agree 100% about coding requiring creativity. I'm not coder by any stretch of the word, but I have had to code a bit. And being new at it, I was amazed at how many different ways there are to accomplish the same task. Sometimes its a matter of "getting creative" to work around a certain obstacle with code.

    I see the role reversal happen all the time at my work, I get put in situations were I have to figure out Action scripting in flash work which can be very very confusing (to me at least). The coders around my work sometimes get stuck doing design work because of lack of communication within the office.
     
  12. Geffy

    Geffy Moderator Folding Team

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    Robby Russell's got some good blog posts about Devs and Designers over at RobbyOnRails.com
     
  13. AllWeatherGal

    AllWeatherGal Not Just for Fair Weather Political User Folding Team

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    Thanks Geffy ...

    I'm afraid I've lost interest in this discussion ... between losing my job (and the hassle of looking for a new one) and the general tone ... it seems as though some of you aren't clear that there are many components to design in addition to coding and visual esthetics.

    Interaction/flow, evaluation, navigation, productivity ... Dave's model is that on which the discipline of performance technology was born in early WW2. The military needed to teach/train a lot of people really fast. A team of three types of experts -- a cognition/learning process person, a SME, and a graphic designer/producer -- worked together to create learning products.

    Yeah, a lot of us are put in the position of wearing all three hats, and I think that at least one of them must suffer ... but the worst situation is one in which the designer never gets to understand his/her user's needs or dismisses them (clueless client?) when they should provide a foundation for many aspects of design.

    I should probably figure out how to stay cheerful in the face of "gui design is esthetics is usability is java (or javascript/html/css) coding and if you can't do them all you're no good" ... but I'm at least inspired by the fact that the Web 2.0 principles are based on how people use things and learn. I strongly believe that delivering on those principles is enabled by the increasingly sophisticated control that development tools provide, and it takes a couple perspectives to put it together.

    I just rememebered that this forum is "graphic design" ... but since it's under creative development and my choices were coding or graphics, I was limited. Maybe it's a limitation we could all bust open?

    I tell ya, I miss my status/reputation (guess I need to learn something useful FAST) ... maybe I'll spend today looking for a good version of cowbell for my new ringtone.
     
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  14. Steevo

    Steevo Spammer representing. Political User Folding Team

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    I used Office with a template that matched our company colors, changed a few things, and since most is as easy as drag and drop........



    But the building of a customer database with mulitple user enviroments, different rights, as well as a database of suppliers and a common address book for everyone to share with, again, different rights and user abilities. As well as merging other sites that I have wgot, changing all the links to point to our internal server, createing a batch job to check the site regularly for updates and either create a report, or print one for me to change links again on new material.



    That might take awhile.
     
  15. AllWeatherGal

    AllWeatherGal Not Just for Fair Weather Political User Folding Team

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    Interesting article ... I've been so heads-down in the stuff that we (used to) use where I work(ed) ... I just learned about Ruby on Rails perusing the craigslist classified ads for jobs. Cool.

    The solution they came up with, to specify "design" ids with a prefix is one that I also use(d) with the online help ... but I tend to do that with anything that gets a name because I'm ... well, a bit obsessive about order ;) Also, for whatever reason, the production system (that changed the xml into html) required that all elements be in the same directory. Organizing a naming convention early on helped everyone on the team find items more easily in the huge pile of files.
     
  16. Geffy

    Geffy Moderator Folding Team

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    Yeah, I am a big fan of defining a convention of use early on.

    Robby has some good information on designers and devs as does Vitamin
     
  17. AllWeatherGal

    AllWeatherGal Not Just for Fair Weather Political User Folding Team

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    So ... Geffy ... HOW does anyone keep up with all the changing resources, proliferation of information/support and have a life?

    Or is life optional?

    That's what they told me when I signed up to take 7 credits this semester (grad school program in instructional and performance technology), and I can't imagine managing to stay current with the latest web content AND school.

    Yikes.

    (Thanks for the Vitamin link ... very rich site!)
     
  18. Geffy

    Geffy Moderator Folding Team

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    My main area of focus these days is Ruby on Rails so I can stay reasonably current by reading the blogs of the main devs and other prominent members of the RoR community. Also the rubyonrails chat room is a good place to keep up with new ways of doing things.

    I usually manage to have some life in the evenings and weekends.
     
  19. dave holbon

    dave holbon Moderator

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    User interfaces are about to change dramatically with the introduction of .NET3 and DirectX10 compliant hardware. This will alter the look and feel and the design process beyond recognition, the coding model (as access to the graphics cards power is now available) and it’s complexity will also change, this time for the worse as most designers have no clue what they are doing already let alone with the introduction of two more powerful tools to play with.

    The .Net3 environment is so complex that even programmers with ten years experience (full time professionals) are going to struggle a bit, to get up to speed. There will be no room for “designers” here or for that matter “weekend programmers” who will be left in the cold if they are not already.

    All those C++ programmer’s out there are going to have to be re-trained, as are the unmanaged code cowboys that used to be called VB programmers and Com compliant coders. This is to me an error of an order of magnitude greater than the last one they made (Microsoft) in the vain attempt to make the now coding and design community compliant with their own wasteful way of doing things on the back of the old message handling systems that windows still uses and is CPU cycles reliant. But again this type of thinking still resides in MS-DOS land and the ability of the keyboard to switch the CPU into a different mode to allow windows to access additional memory, hence .NET3 which does the same thing but this time for the graphics card.

    Things are complex not easy, we weed teams of designers and software developers, the individual here cannot compete unless they understand the”workflow process” but again like most developers and designers this process does not exist in their thinking process so will end up in lost wasted time as the developers tell the designers what can and what cant be done within (n) number of CPU cycles.

    DaveH

    :):)
     
  20. AllWeatherGal

    AllWeatherGal Not Just for Fair Weather Political User Folding Team

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    Dave ... not all designers start with a production tool. While the tools may indeed change the development process, I like to think that savvy interaction designers an esthetic experts often design without the limitations imposed by tools first, and then work with developers/coders to mitigate the the technical production issues.