Department of Design

Curated by Timoni West.

Primarily focused on product design, technology, cognitive psychology, and the brain. Also—pretty pictures, sometimes moving.


Posts about design
September 1st, 2014


8th August 2014

This guy’s stuff is legit.

August 31st, 2014

Calendar window UI by Andrée Afonso. I’m always a sucker for a good calenda rinterfaec.

August 27th, 2014

Mary Galloway’s The Night Market. Her other work in the series is lovely too.

May 18th, 2014
The idea of “seamlessness” as a desirable trait in what we design is one that bothers me. Technology has seams. By hiding those seams, we may think we are helping the end user, but we are also making a conscience choice to deceive them (or at least restrict what they can do).

Jeremy Keith, Seams

January 13th, 2014
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.
November 25th, 2013

Send me screenshots of how you’ve set up your design apps

I’m doing some research into art/drawing/design app interfaces and want to see how everybody else sets up Tools in Photoshop, Menus in Illustrator, sidebars in Omnigraffle, top bars in Keynote, and so on. You can reply to this post, @-reply my on Twitter (@timoni) or shoot me an email: Thanks, everybody!


November 22nd, 2013
November 18th, 2013

Product design. This is my definition, at least. The term is being used to describe any interface designer who happens to work on a product, which is unfortunate, but I’ll keep using this one.

But why us? Why should designers be in these roles? Well, one immediate answer is simply that I would like to be in control over the future I’m building. Right now, many of us can only change our answer to Wilson’s questions by just quitting and finding a new job where we’re bought into the vision.

But deeper, I think this is something designers can be really great at. We already understand how to induce utility, delight, motivation at the level of the interface. Expanding that toolset to apply to the bigger picture is not a huge leap.

This is a way of thinking about design that’s growing in popularity, but I recognize that it’s still a minority, maybe even an extreme minority. Nonetheless, I remain optimistic. When I look at the major shifts in our field over the past years — user-centered design, standards-based design, responsive design — years of advocacy have led to genuine, sustained progress. I’m confident we’ll get there.

November 8th, 2013
November 5th, 2013

Available for small side projects

I’m interested in picking up some small design projects, particularly designing (or redesigning) personal sites, band sites, and small business sites. If you need help, take a look at my portfolio, and get in touch!


July 22nd, 2013

If I were given carte blanche to write about any topic I could, it would be about how much our ignorance, in general, shapes our lives in ways we do not know about. Put simply, people tend to do what they know and fail to do that which they have no conception of. In that way, ignorance profoundly channels the course we take in life. And unknown unknowns constitute a grand swath of everybody’s field of ignorance.

To me, unknown unknowns enter at two different levels. The first is at the level of risk and problem. Many tasks in life contain uncertainties that are known — so-called “known unknowns.” These are potential problems for any venture, but they at least are problems that people can be vigilant about, prepare for, take insurance on, and often head off at the pass. Unknown unknown risks, on the other hand, are problems that people do not know they are vulnerable to.

Unknown unknowns also exist at the level of solutions. People often come up with answers to problems that are o.k., but are not the best solutions. The reason they don’t come up with those solutions is that they are simply not aware of them.

June 24th, 2013
April 17th, 2013

Want to make people run? Don’t give them a badge for running. Give them a ball and shove four sticks in the ground. They’ll run around the field chasing the ball (and each other) for ages. The experience is intrinsically challenging and amusing, and the running is a by-product. Games rely on dynamics like these and rules to generate the conditions for positive engagement.

…The badges in and of themselves are meaningless. They’re only of value in the context of an activity that is intrinsically rewarding enough to make people want to participate in it. When an activity is designed well enough to be intrinsically rewarding, you can start assigning extra rewards like badges. These rewards gain endogenous value – a value that truly exists only within the context of the game.

April 2nd, 2013
Startups are run by people who do what’s necessary at the time it’s needed. A lot of time that’s unglamorous work. A lot of times that’s not heroic work. Is that heroic? Is that standing on a stage in a black turtleneck, in front of 20,000 people talking about the future of phones? No. But that’s how companies are built. That person who did that for the iPhone launch at Apple, we don’t know who he is. All we know is that Steve Jobs came up with the iPhone. But he didn’t ship it. The person who bought the donuts did.

The Silent Partner, a really wonderful interview about Jason Goldman, product manager at Twitter, and cofounder of Obvious Corp.