How To Think Like An Architect: The Design Process

This same thought process is used with Interface Design as well.

Santa Barbara architect Barry Berkus takes us through the process he used to design the Padaro Lane Residence in Southern California. He demonstrates his conceptual design process through a series of raw drawings and diagrams, along with a detailed explanation of the site conditions, and client needs. This preliminary diagramming stage is a necessary first step in creating a functional, and well thought out design.

Luke Wroblewski on mobile design

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Luke Wroblewski


WriteBoard is a Wi-Fi-connected Drawing Board that retrofits the classic Whiteboard to allow Seamless Sharing & Syncing between Devices.

We worked on a concept quite similar to this while at CL a few years back, ours had a business focus and was planned to work on a much larger surface but the working concept is much the same. Great to see someone trying to take the idea through to execution.

On Usability testing

Brief demonstration illustrating how they carry out usability research in the labs at Amberlight.

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you did a usability test on fruit?

Author Steve Krug’s demo test as a companion piece to his latest book, Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems. The main purpose for creating this video is to demonstrate how easy and simple usability testing can be.

In this video, Julie Blitzer covers the basics of writing a usability test script, finding test subjects, and interpreting results.

Performing a usability test early in your website planning process can have huge returns – a paper prototype allows you to do this with a minimal time investment.

And so is doing the work. It uplifts you. The idea that you’re doing what you love. It’s very important. It’s very sad that most people in the world are not happy with their lot or with their jobs and they can’t wait to retire. And when they retire, it’s like death. . . . They sit at home and watch the television. And that is death. I think you’ve got to continue. We never retire. We shouldn’t retire. Not in our profession. There’s no such thing. We want to drop dead onstage. That would be a nice theatrical way to go.
Christopher Plummer

Experiences in Studying Chinese

I’ve been studying Chinese for over 4 years now, 2 years of that was full-time. The first year and a 1/2 I was at Tsing Hua University in their part-time studies program; every week you have a class with about 25 other students, though that number decreases over time. After about 1 year of study I could hardly speak one sentence of Chinese. Needless to say, the classes weren’t very successful nor useful for me. Afterwords, I entered National Central University’s intensive Chinese program where my progress was far more apparent, especially language outside the textbook. With their help, and a patient online conversation tutor in Taichung, I improved quickly, and could actually start using the language.

Yes, most people learn the language when they first arrive in Taiwan, not after living here for 12 years, but I’ve always done things differently and it’s better late than never.

Learning Chinese has been extremely rewarding, not just because I can now be more aware of my surroundings, can communicate with interesting people, but also because it’s led to all kinds of new knowledge and experiences.

One experience which consistently surprises me, perhaps due to my naivety, is when I attend a formal meeting at my kids school. These are generally quite different from parent-teacher meetings which I have no trouble with at all. After all this study I’ve managed to reach a certain level in the language, I wouldn’t characterise it as fluency, but I have no trouble expressing myself under normal circumstances, and I can read books of interest within a timely manner. It’s still a struggle of course, I still study everyday, but practically speaking my abilities generally exceed required usage. It’s fun, I try to make a habit of talking with people on Skype almost every day about all kinds of topics. But recently when I’ve attended formal meetings at my kids school it’s like I had never learned the language at all.

It comes as a complete shock, and though I certainly understand the broad strokes, many times the subtle details in these meetings escape me. And then I am required to interject and comment with my opinion. By this point I become nervous, and often what comes out is an unintelligible mess.

Also, I find it fascinating how 2 people during a meeting can be saying the same thing, but one can be completely comprehended while they other cannot. Sometimes I’ll say to the Principal, I have no idea what you are talking about, and a parent will comment that they don’t either and they are Taiwanese.

It comes down to the kind, or level, of language they are using, and the method in which they use to express themselves. My kids’ school is a great study in the abstract and indirect ways of expressing a point. Nothing is ever stated directly and whenever possible more poetic or literary language is used. To advanced learners of the Chinese language this might not be a problem but for me I sometimes feel I get as much education from school-to-parent communication than from any of the Chinese language textbooks I’ve used in the past.

I know this shouldn’t surprise me, I have trouble listening to anything finance related on the radio as well, but it always does. When learning a second language over a relatively short period of time you can’t be expected to grasp every topic. But the dramatic drop in comprehension is amazing and at times embarrassing. Hopefully one day before my kids graduate school I will be able to join one of these meetings without the uncomfortable feeling of being lost at sea.

Edit: Apparently others, native speakers, find these meetings difficult to follow as well.

Sometimes travel can show us how our life is… Or can give us a glimpse of how it can be. Being untethered, I could float away, lifted to a great height where everything is new, and I could look back on my life with new perspective and go, ‘Oh!’
Lucy Knisley – “An Age of License”. Via Ruk.

Practicing with Sketch


I spent an hour this week trying to come up to speed with Sketch as an interface design tool, not just a wire-framing tool. Lightweight software like this appeals to me as they tend to focus on specific use cases vs. a more swiss army knife approach. The result can be seen in both the speed of the software, it’s function, utility and importantly it’s price. Unfortunately for me I’ve come to rely on specific features of Illustrator which make up for my lack of love for bezier curves. With Illustrator, I can import sketches, create some outlines and in many cases just clean up the curves and be finished. I haven’t seen anywhere yet where Sketch has any crutches to help people like me.

I’m still planning to spend more time using Sketch before deciding to replace Illustrator and OmniGraffle in my workflow. I’ll be finishing the interface design solely in sketch of a couple apps. I’m involved with.

The above is a bit of skeumorphic goodness from the days before Apple dictated everything should be flat. It’s amazing just how dated that style has become in a very short period of time. Though unpolished it was great practice in using Sketch.