Emergence and the many uses of a chefs knife

THE LANGUAGE OF DESIGN implicates a top-down culture. Designers spend years studying people and their behavior so they can optimize the artifacts people use to advance their agendas (if not the agenda of their employer). But an overly prescriptive view of design refuses to make eye contact with the fact that the world is only semi-designable. Because users are always finding new ways of using an object, a “design” is never fully “designed”. With any design, certain aspects will always be under- or undesigned. User interviews are punctuated with idiomatic reminders, like the defensive, “Oh, well that wasn’t part of the design,” or the prouder, “Of course, that feature was by-design”. Use-cases that emerge are the subject of this article.

Emergent use cases: unplanned, user-discovered ways of using an object.
Emergent use cases, like commenting out code for the purpose of debugging, are invaluable — their existence echoes a real-world need, one that was elusive enough to escape the design…

Data Visualizations for Text: How to Show the Writing Process with the Writing Graph

TEXT EDITORS (and the files they work) reveal surprisingly little about the history of editing. Sophisticated tools provide revisions to browse, while others limit you to undo/redo. By adding temporal metadata to files, apps can display more than just the product--they can show process. This post introduces the writing graph, a timeline for viewing editing activity.

THE HISTORY OF MANIPULATING TEXT is rich with innovation (e.g., water-soluble cave paint, clay tablets, printing presses, copy & paste, 💩, etc.). But for the most part, the narrative converges on a digital standard of the late 20th century: Adding and removing characters via a caret in a sequence of lines we call the “document” (metaphorical trappings included).

A quick preface: In teaching data vis, there are always students eager to share new visualizations. These are usually tweaks on canonical visualizations, or sometimes combinations thereof (like a 4D scatterplot of small multiples). Unsurprisingly, many research…

Teaching Design Ethics & Universal Design at the Startup Institute

I really enjoyed talking ethics, function & form, the psychology of attention and universal design with the latest design cohort at the Startup Institute.

Empirical Systems & Tableau

Congratulations to Richard Tibbetts and the incredibly talented team at Empirical (for which I served as UX advisor) on their acquisition by the folks at Tableau!

Check out the press release.

Teaching Rapid Prototyping at Bentley University

Professor Jon Ericson invited me to teach his Master's in Human Factors in Information Design students at Bentley University.

Talent Expo & Student's Choice Award

I attended the Talent Expo for Boston's Startup Institute graduates (and the web design students humbled me with a Student's Choice award). It's been a pleasure working with this cohort!

Teaching Navigation & Flow at the Startup Institute

I sometimes teach a seminar on how users should or do navigation through applications. Topics of focus include the psychology of flow and choice architecture and the techniques of journey mapping and progressive disclosure.