Posts about Culture


A Public Display of Interface

Graphic Design from the Collection, May 14–October 23, 2016, SFMOMA, Floor 6

The last time I visited SFMOMA was 3 years ago, just before they closed for a major expansion of the museum. I worked on an interface that had just won an interaction design award several months prior to my visit and was on a designer’s high, daydreaming as I walked through the museum, wondering, would a modern art museum, like SFMOMA ever feature the design of something like an interface? Maybe I could be part of that history, contributing to an innovative interface or at least one little icon. 


Amused by the idea that one day there could be an exhibition detailing the mode of interface style throughout the years, I imagined the possible exhibits celebrating a functional, digital aesthetic.

Consenting Affordances: Web vs. Desktop and their Lovechild, Mobile

Wistful Analog: Skeuomorphism and the Rise of Flatland

Extravagant Limitations: Evolution of the Application Icon

Window Shopping: The Armors of Netscape, Explorer, Firefox, and Chrome


Could something like a 16x16 icon be on display in a modern art museum? Would something so tiny and digital be considered too silly and insignificant to rest under the same roof as a Rauschenberg, O'Keefe, or Warhol? With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface.

Typeface to Interface.

I was reunited with those interface exhibition dreams during the opening of the overwhelmingly airy and far-too-much-to-see-in-a-day new SFMOMA. The 170,000 square feet of exhibition space turns the museum into one of the largest art museums in the United States (larger than the New York MOMA and The Getty Center in Los Angeles) making SFMOMA one of the largest museums in the world specifically focusing on modern and contemporary art. 

The exhibit takes selected work from the museum's permanent graphic design collection (spanning as far back as 1950) and joins it with examples of graphic design that has shaped the development of the interface – our modern day means of visual communication. Posters, visual communication systems, and annual reports are interwoven with a variety of technology platforms: the desktop interface, the stylus, and the mobile touchscreen – the tools and methods we’ve used to communicate via the interface. Underlying all of this are the foundations of visual design and as a result an understanding of human behavior.

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With the awakening of a new SFMOMA, the interface daydreaming stopped and revealed a new reality: the recognition of an artform whose infancy rivals that of Pop Art but until now has yet to be collected, to tell a new story, found on floor 6 in the exhibit: Typeface to Interface. 

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15 years, 5 months and 8 days

After many inspiring years, I am leaving Cooper. In this blogpost, I will reflect on my time at Cooper, and the powerful and formative experiences I've had here.

Before I came to Cooper (for the second time)*, my all-time longest stay at a job was 18 months. When I ran out of steam or patience, I found a new job, a new group of mentors, a new set of problems. My wandering stopped when I came to Cooper in April 2000. The work never got old. Mentors surrounded me. Clients with really complicated problems trusted me, and inspired me to do great work. New teammates arrived with exotic backgrounds, and injected divergent ideas into my process.

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After many inspiring years, I am leaving Cooper. In this blogpost, I reflect on my time at Cooper, and the powerful and formative experiences I've had here. 

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Dear College Seniors: Designing Your Career Search

Millions of college seniors will graduate in 2016, and many of them are looking for jobs, hoping to line something up before they graduate. Many of them want to break into the software industry, or, more broadly and more succinctly, “tech.” Below are some words of general advice for students looking forward to their first job in just about any industry. It also includes some specific advice for looking for a first job in Design, Product Management, or Strategy.

Dear Graduating Senior,

I know that finding your first job can be frustrating, especially when you’ll hear a lot of people make it sound so easy! The reality is not very glamorous. It takes time and patience. The good news is that you're doing the right thing: asking people for advice, and staying open to new things.

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Millions of college seniors will graduate in 2016, and many of them are looking for jobs, hoping to line something up before they graduate. Many of them want to break into the software industry, or, more broadly and more succinctly, “tech.” Below are some words of general advice for students looking forward to their first job in just about any industry. It also includes some specific advice for looking for a first job in Design, Product Management, or Strategy.

Dear Graduating Senior,

I know that finding your first job can be frustrating, especially when you’ll hear a lot of people make it sound so easy! The reality is not very glamorous. It takes time and patience. The good news is that you're doing the right thing: asking people for advice, and staying open to new things.

I'll offer you some general advice, and then suggest some courses of action...

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Designing Culture Bicoastally

As Operations Coordinator at Cooper, I am responsible for planning internal events and building culture for the company. Being effective at my job requires significant personal interaction and relationship-building. Many think that being a successful culture-builder also requires a bottomless well of creative ideas, and an engaging personality. However, I’ve learned that more than those attributes, creating an atmosphere of fun and cohesion is about following rather than leading. Here are a few tactics that have worked for me: 

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As Operations Coordinator at Cooper, I am responsible for planning internal events and building culture for the company. Being effective at my job requires significant personal interaction and relationship-building. I’ve learned that more than those attributes, creating an atmosphere of fun and cohesion is about following rather than leading. Here are a few tactics that have worked for me: 

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The Roles Trilogy

Modern product teams consist of three key groups working together—Design, Development, and Product Management. It’s surprising how many companies struggle, simply because they don’t recognize the need for all three to work on equal footing but with clear lines of responsibility. Putting expectations in place makes all three groups more effective, allows each to do the job they’re best at, and ultimately results in a thoughtful, well-constructed, kick-ass product. 

So let me tell you about your job.

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Modern product teams consist of three groups working together: Design, Development, and Product Management. Let me tell you how to do your job.

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A message from Alan and Sue Cooper

User experience leaders,

It is our great pleasure to share with you the exciting news that Cooper has acquired Catalyst Group, a user experience design firm in New York City. Founded 17 years ago, Catalyst Group is an exceptional team of skilled designers, researchers, and strategists led by Nick Gould and Jon Mysel.

As the world of digital products explodes, the expectations of users climb apace, and there is simply no room in the marketplace for a product that can’t deliver a great experience. Cooper understands your need for a strategic partner with the wisdom, experience, tools, and perspective to help you stay on top in a crowded and competitive world.

This new union strengthens Cooper in many ways. We add fresh talents and capabilities in the fields of high quality user experience design, product strategy, design thinking, service design, product management, and user research, both pure and applied. We are infused with new experiences, new talent, and new character and, of course, we are geographically closer to our clients in New York, the Eastern US, and Europe.

At a time when many companies are building in-house design teams, Cooper believes that by remaining independent we play a critical role that internal teams cannot. Our independence gives us an outside point of view, and the perspective to make it work for you. As outsiders, we never shrink from the tough conversations that can move a business forward.  

Our brilliant new teammates, now also called “Cooper,” stand ready to serve from their office in Manhattan, giving you the same superb quality you have come to value from our San Francisco office.  

- Sue & Alan 

Cooper acquires New York based UX Design firm Catalyst Group.  

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If Culture Is Character, What Are Your Organization’s Distinguishing Marks?

Getting to know the culture of Beezwax -- a custom web, mobile and  database solutions firm

 

Interview with Julian Nadel, President and Founder

At Cooper, we’re interested in how design tools and methods can be used to shape inspired work cultures. In that vein, this blog post is the first in a series of exploratory interviews to learn tips and tricks from other companies. If you, your team or organization would benefit from a day away from the office to explore how to evolve your work culture, join us for our next Designing Culture workshop on Wednesday, Dec. 10 in San Francisco. Or, we can bring the workshop to your turf. For ongoing work culture inspiration, also check out our #DesigningCulture topics page on the Cooper Journal.

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Getting to know the culture of Beezwax -- a custom web, mobile and database solutions firm Interview with Julian Nadel, President and FounderAt Cooper, we’re interested in how design tools and methods can be used to shape inspired work cultures. In that vein, this blog post is the first in a series of exploratory interviews to learn tips and tricks [...]

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A 15-minute investment in creativity

Despite the allure of the Newton’s apple story (Apple falls, and presto, change-o: an idea is born), creativity doesn’t fall from trees. On the contrary, the kind of creative thinking that drives true innovation takes nurturing. And by nurturing, I mean an honest and consistent commitment to exploration and out-of-the-box thinking in the form of time, resources, and space.

Because, here’s the thing: as product-design company Zurb aptly puts it, “People struggle to be creative when it’s not part of the culture.” Companies may tout “Innovation!” as their driving goal, but that proclamation means nothing if there isn’t infrastructure to support true creative thinking day-to-day.

Which leads me back to Zurb and a simple little practice called Friday 15. On Fridays, their team dedicates, you guessed it, 15 minutes, to some kind of creative exercise. They do this for team-building, fun, and to inspire a creative culture. Here’s a taste of the brain-ticklers they’ve explored together:

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Despite the allure of the Newton’s apple story (Apple falls, and presto, change-o: an idea is born), creativity doesn’t fall from trees. On the contrary, the kind of creative thinking that drives true innovation takes nurturing. And by nurturing, I mean an honest and consistent commitment to exploration and out-of-the-box thinking in the form of time, resources, and space.Because, here’s [...]

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From Superman to the Avengers: Rethinking Bruce Mau Design

[Excerpt from a UX Magazine  article written by Teresa Brazen. Full article here.]

Everyone loves a hero. But what happens to

organizations when their heroic leaders retire?

Four years ago,  Bruce Mau Design  (BMD) faced this dilemma. The company's infamous founder,  Bruce Mau, left so that he could create a platform to address bigger global issues that were meaningful to him called the  Massive Change Network. Those who remained at BMD and its new President and CEO,  Hunter Tura, were presented with an interesting opportunity: reinvention. Curious about the  culture of BMD  today, I interviewed Tura in his Toronto office. Here are some takeaways for teams and organizations from their evolution.

Rethink Your Mental Model

Bruce Mau Design was founded upon what Tura describes as the "Superman model,” which meant the founder was seen as the "creative auteur" of the company. Mau's exit gave the BMD team an opportunity to rethink how they positioned themselves, what services they wanted to offer, and how they wanted to work together. Read the rest of the  article  here.

[Excerpt from a UX Magazine article written by Teresa Brazen. Full article here.]Everyone loves a hero. But what happens toorganizations when their heroic leaders retire? Four years ago, Bruce Mau Design (BMD) faced this dilemma. The company's infamous founder, Bruce Mau, left so that he could create a platform to address bigger global issues that were meaningful to him called [...]

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Your Flat Design is Convenient for Exactly One of Us

Illustration built on creative commons 2.0 Portrait of a Man by Flickr user and photographer Yuri Samoilov

I’m OK with fashion in interaction design. Honestly I am. It means that the field has grappled with and conquered most of the basics about how to survive, and now has the luxury of fretting over what scarf to wear this season. And I even think the flat design fashion of the day is kind of lovely to look at, a gorgeous thing for its designers’ portfolios.

 

But like corsets or foot binding, extreme fashions come at a cost that eventually loses out to practicality. Let me talk about this practicality for a moment.

In The Design of Everyday Things, Donald Norman distinguished between two ways that we know how to use a thing: information in the world, and information in your head.

 

 

Information in the world is stuff a user can look at to figure out. A map posted near the subway exit is information in the world. Reference it when you need it, ignore it when you don’t.

 

 

Information in the head is the set of declarative and procedural rules that users memorize about how to use a thing. That you need to keep your subway pass to exit out of the subway is information in your head. Woe be to the rider to throws their ticket away thinking they no longer need it.

For flat design purists, skeuomorphism is something akin to heresy, but it’s valuable because it belongs to this former category of affordance: it is information in the world. For certain, the faux-leather and brushed-aluminum interfaces that Apple had been pumping out were just taking things way too far in that direction, to a pointless mimicry of the real world. But a button that looks like a thing you can press with your finger is useful information for the user. It’s an affordance based on countless experiences of living in a world that contains physical buttons.

Pure, flat design doesn’t just get rid of dead weight. It shifts a burden. What once was information in the world, information borne by the interface, is now information in users’ heads, information borne by them. That in-head information is faster to access, but it does require that our users become responsible for learning it, remembering it, and keeping it up to date. Is the scroll direction up or down this release? Does swipe work here? Well I guess you can damned well try it and see. As an industry now draped in flat design, we’ve tidied up our workspace by cluttering our user’s brains with memorized instruction booklets for using our visually sparse, lovely designs.

So though the runways of interaction design are just gorgeous right now, I suspect there will be a user-sized sigh of relief when things begin to slip a bit back the other way (without the faux leather, Apple). Something to think about as we gear up our design thinking for the new year.

Illustration built on creative commons 2.0 Portrait of a Man by Flickr user and photographer Yuri SamoilovI’m OK with fashion in interaction design. Honestly I am. It means that the field has grappled with and conquered most of the basics about how to survive, and now has the luxury of fretting over what scarf to wear this season. And I [...]

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