At Bay

January 21, 2016

1915 Map of San Francisco Bay

A 1915 map of the San Francisco Bay (from zpub.com).

January and February 2016 bring me to Oakland, CA. This trip marks my second visit to California (or the West Coast, in general) and my first to this beautiful part of the state. I have a few morsels of exciting news to share, chiefly about my two ongoing internships, my first ever design conference, and a recent LEGO creation.

Internships

Logos of 826 Valencia & Kala Art Institute

I came to the Bay Area to work at 826 Valencia, a children’s tutoring center in San Francisco, and Kala Art Institute, a gallery/studio in Berkeley. At 826, I help children from first through eighth grade with their homework. At Kala, for the other half of my week, I help out the motley team who run the gallery, and I hope to design something there soon (online or off) as their head of Communications returns (two days ago! ... I think) from an extended trip. Both of these jobs are a new kind of job for me. I like both.

O’Reilly Design Conference/Eli Schiff Interlude

O’Reilly Design Conference, January 20-22, 2016, San Francisco

If you happen to attend, say hi.

An exclamation point would best describe my feelings about this conference in San Francisco. For some months, I’ve eagerly followed the design criticism (and work) of Eli Schiff. His design philosophy aligns increasingly well with my own budding one, and his words on the current state of the design industry ring true for me. He is writing a book called Humanist Interface (which will fly onto my shelf as soon as it comes out); as I understand it, some or all of his blog posts are excerpts from this book.

Mr. Schiff emphasizes the “expressive” abilities of depth, color, and contrast, and the general importance of aesthetics, in the graphical user interface (GUI). He criticizes the views of “modern minimalist” designers who have, over the past several years, collectively rejected these expressive techniques, such as the creative use of lighting effects to make a button look obviously press-able. Schiff’s excellent introduction to the Humanist Interface project, the aptly titled “Humanist Interface: Introduction,” opens with this paragraph:

The design community has converged on a principle of austerity in the visual design of graphical user interfaces (GUI). Leaving behind the textured, dimensional aesthetic that was previously the norm, the digital design of today is superficially minimal, with flat planes of color. It has been heralded as a simpler and more honest approach to designing interfaces. It is quite remarkable to see major industry players finding common ground, with the Big Three operating system giants urgently pushing out new design languages: Microsoft’s sparse Modern, Apple’s flattened iOS and Yosemite and Google’s deceptively named Material. With an effective consensus in digital design favoring modern minimalism, it warrants questioning: have we lost something essential by rejecting expressive interfaces?

If this intrigues you, you are thinking like me. When any design does not meet Eli Schiff’s standards for one of the areas I mentioned above—depth, color, contrast, etc.—he says so, and he explains why he disagrees with the designer’s decisions. Wherever his writing appears, I find the thinking behind it more rigorous than the majority of online design writing. All this is to say that I really like Eli Schiff’s ideas.

This fact made it all the more too-good-to-be-true when, last Wednesday, I received his Humanist Interface e-mail newsletter, in which he announced that he would be speaking at the fast-approaching O’Reilly Design Conference in... San Francisco, CA. I was fortunate enough to buy a ticket, and now my first ever design conference, and the rare shining chance to see Eli Schiff speak, are only hours away.

My LEGO Pickup Truck

I recently finished the first LEGO creation I’ve made in quite a long time. I began with the desire to make some kind of English-styled mail truck with geometric construction and a color palette of white, light tan, red, yellow, and blue. As I built, the vehicle’s mail-to-truck ratio became less “mail” and more “truck.” Nevertheless... I am so happy with how it turned out (though, as you might notice, the front right hubcap is missing: I failed to find that last tan piece before leaving for California). Ta-da:

LEGO Truck, Photo 1
LEGO Truck, Photo 2
LEGO Truck, Photo 3
LEGO Truck, Photo 4
LEGO Truck, Photo 5
LEGO Truck, Photo 6
LEGO Truck, Photo 7
LEGO Truck, Photo 8

As always, thank you for glimpsing into my mind. Expect another post post-haste, and post-first-day-of-conference. (Expect the next post when the bell tolls one!)

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