Type and User Experience

Recently, I attended an Advisory Board meeting for a local Visual Art School. The Board meets annually with owners of local design businesses to discuss what is happening in the industry and how instructors can best prepare Design students. At the meeting, we discussed several issues affecting the industry including the topic of Print Design versus Web Design. There were some disagreements about Print and its place in the ever-growing digital world.

Print Design isn’t dying, but the delivery method of paper is declining as our society and the culture shifts increasingly to a mobile digital world. With this shift, I believe it fosters a desire for the visceral connection of holding a tangible book in hand along with the act of turning a page. You see this shift all around. As we become more and more technologically mobile, our aesthetic influences become retro in nature. We long for a handcrafted artisan look. We want to hold onto the feeling of texture and touch as we interact within a digital construct.

Secondly, Print Design and proper Typography standards and concepts should be integrated into all things web. The web slowly has been doing this integration through CSS and HTML 5 (together in tandem.) As a result, web designers have better tools at their disposal to make better looking and more readable websites.

Also, Type needs to be taught as User Interaction (UI.) Type just shouldn’t just exist on a web page or your web/mobile application. Type on a website should serve the content and help the end user. Mark Boulton of Mark Boulton Designs says in “UI is visible. Type is visible.” that, “Legibility is a baseline requirement for typesetting anything. It’s like edible food. It shouldn’t really be a measure of what is good or not. Just like audibility and comprehension are baseline requirements for speech. There is more flavour in words; spoken or printed. There is more flavour in type, that if applied well, transcends content from being merely legible, to that of being pleasurable.”

As I have said earlier, print design isn’t gone nor will it be. Print design isn’t about formatting words for the delivery method of printing on paper. Print is about User Experience (UX) and always has been. Typography should be taught as a part of UI and UX design. Of course, Type principles for print differs from type principles for web, but good type fundamentals and principles should exist, be practiced and used in both print and web. UI and UX are all about the end user and having a website that is pleasant to read should always be a priority.


Your Focus Determines Your Reality

Your Focus Determines Your Reality


Hey! Another Star Wars reference. I bet you thought we covered that subject in the previous blog. What can I say? Jedis kick some serious wisdom.

The words are true though. Your focus does determines your reality.

As you strive for a sense of balance and structure, you may tend to think that you have a sense of control over life. Take a moment and ask, “Do I really have control?”

As a business owner and creative designer, you might assume that having a sense of control would be most important when it comes to organization and development of a business or marketing plan. You’d like to believe that you can forecast the future and predict profit and success. Well, that kind of control would be nice, but it’s an illusion. So many variables come into play where business and life are concerned. You can design a plan and have contingency plans yet unseen variables get in the way and derail the plan in motion. Let’s call these unseen variables, “focus derailments.”


Similar to a high speed locomotive being propelled on its journey from one location to another, being focused keeps your mission on track from the start of your business venture to the present. Sometimes, unanticipated events occur, such as traffic delays, canceled meetings, paperwork glitches, and numerous unforeseen occurrences. That’s when you, like the train carrying its cargo, may experience delays in getting to your destination.

Of course, uncontrollable events can’t always be anticipated. You can’t account for every factor, but you can control your reaction. So when you’re stuck in traffic, a meeting gets canceled, or paperwork is lost, the best immediate thing to do is remain calm. Take a few breaths. Allow ten minutes to pass before reacting further. During these moments, you may be able to find alternatives, options, and, perhaps, solutions.

Know that you are like the train’s conductor and can only guide the flow of the process. So, as a business owner, you have to be more fluid with your plans. Sometimes, you have to bend, but when you do, stay focused on your objective and be mindful of your surroundings. Don’t lose sight of where you’re heading. Because with life’s unexpected “monkey wrenches,” it’s easy to get derailed. Don’t focus on the small issues and “Keep your eyes on the prize.” Otherwise, you may become frustrated and risk losing focus on your destination, which is growing a successful and profitable business.

So, do your best to avoid “focus derailments” but realize that you will encounter obstacles along your journey. Remember that there are always options in dealing with unforeseen problems, but the obvious solution isn’t always the only solution.


May the force of DESIGN be with you

Some say design is about problem-solving, but it’s much more. Design is like the Force.

WTF! Has this writer lost his (obvious) Star Wars loving mind. Well, young Jedi Knights, hear me out.

In Star Wars mythology, the Force is an energy field created by all living things, that surrounds us and penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together. I believe design is very much like the Force. It too drives the world around us and encompasses so much of our lives in ways we may not realize.

Think about your morning shower. Consider the bar of soap or shower gel container in your hand. That tangible item once existed in the mind of a designer who thought about the experience of using soap and the interaction with it. The designer wondered, “How should the soap be carved? Will it be easy to hold? How should its texture feel? How will the scent affect me?” The designer also considered the size and shape of the shower gel bottle and if the product is easy to squeeze from it.

Now, think about other items in your bathroom. Observe the curvature and smoothness of the sink, the patterns within the tiles, and the flooring beneath your feet. In fact, if you think of items throughout your home, such as furniture, appliances, and artwork, they too began in the mind of a designer. The things surrounding you are part of your personal outer space – your universe – bound together by design.

You, as the Jedi Knight, have collected experiences represented by these particular items which are styled, colored, scented, and shaped for your environment. The packaging and products you use, utensils, drinking cups, and plates, are extensions of someone else’s influences, training, emotions, and thoughts. Everything you interact with that contributes to your life is design.

Design holds our world together, but good design gives your world greater potential. Writer and Designer Debbie Millman, host of the Design Observer podcast, Design Matters, recently gave a talk for Creative Mornings. She spoke about The Top 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Graduated College. Some things she said resonated with me, including:

Design is not about Design.
Design is about a whole bunch of things that ultimately results in design.

We need to have an understanding of anthropology, psychology, economics.
We need to be able to understand, from a cultural anthropological view, why we in the world we are in right now.

If you agree with Ms. Millman, then you believe that, as designers, we have to be part behaviorist, data analyst, and anthropologist. So, if design is about the study of people, then we must connect with each other and be a part of the Force which binds all living things together. Only then can we truly understand others’ needs and desires. Only then can we design for each other.

Think about the people with whom you come in contact – their faith, values, and beliefs. Reflect upon the friendships and acquaintances you form. We influence each other. We connect with each other because we consume similar experiences – the taste of a juicy burger, the sight of brilliant green street signs and flashing amber traffic lights. These are all from designers, engineers, and architects. At the core is creation. Design is all around us.
We can learn about design principles and fundamentals, but when we open our minds, immerse ourselves, interact with people, discover their thoughts and inspirations, and apply those ideas to our own designs, we elevate ourselves and others to a greater creative potential, the Force in the universe.

And…may the Force be with you.


Unanticipated First Year Business Costs

Recently, Praxis Creative has marked its first year in business. Although Year One has had trying moments,  it also has had great moments.

What have I learned this year?

Being a business owner and entrepreneur is hard work. There are so many things you THINK you know and understand, but you don’t. You encounter the unexpected: unanticipated costs and situations, personality issues, and odd team dynamics.

Unanticipated Costs and Situations:

Liability insurance. If you’re bidding on a contract, liability insurance is most likely a necessity. How much coverage should you get? Will you need both professional and general liability insurance? Well, if you’re leasing an office space, you’ll have to cover not only your business but your landlord’s too.

The high price of data plans for your business is another unexpected cost. Internet data and phone plans can be expensive. You’ll need routers and network security. These are business items that you more likely take for granted if you used to work for another corporation.

A fax number. Who the hell still uses fax machines? Well, plenty of people and companies do. If you want to conduct business with local, state, or federal governments, it’s required that you have the capability to fax documents.

Keeping your business cards in stock is a necessity too. You never know when or where you’ll meet a potential client. As long as you’re in business, you’ll continuously have this cost.

Networking. You’ll have to network as if your life depends upon it. It’s so important to interact with other business owners and entrepreneurs. You never know who is in a position to help you or if you can provide a service to them. In addition, you’ll need to develop a networking budget that includes costs for events, conferences, travel, and promotional items such as brochures and post cards.

Having a lawyer on retainer requires money and more money. It’s smart business to have a lawyer on call, especially if you need advice when drawing up contracts with your customers and business partners. Plus, other issues may arise. For instance, if some partners decide to leave (as in our situation), you’ll need to reallocate shares and update the company’s articles. So, even if you’re not looking forward to paying the monthly legal fee, it’s a relief to have a professional on call.

Personality Issues and Odd Team Dynamics:

In our situation, losing partners meant missing out on affordable (or free) skilled labor, that now becomes costly. Of course, freelance contractors need to be paid for their production, and remaining partners bear an increased financial responsibility when it comes to investor contributions toward other costs, such as the rent and data plan.

When it comes to networking, you may find that some team members may not be so outgoing and sociable while interacting with other business owners. Or, you may discover that others are not as enthused when it comes to tackling tasks such as proposal development and admin work. As a result, you could find yourself shouldering a bit more of the responsibility than originally anticipated.

Regardless of these unexpected situations, it’s necessary to remain focused on the BIG PICTURE. One of the most important things that I learned during this first year is to remain committed and dedicated. Success will not come easily or quickly. As a new business owner and entrepreneur, you have to do EVERYTHING! Answering phones, social media postings, blog updates, production, marketing, promotions, documentation, and research. You have to stay focused because things will seem difficult at first and, sometimes, you’ll feel so discouraged you’ll want to scream.

Instead, you have to buckle down and focus. Believe in yourself. Even when some people around you lose faith and give up. You choose to stay the course.