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 mobile design
February 18th, 2014



I almost always have my phone set to “silent” mode. The reason is simple: I don’t want to annoy those around me with a basically never-ending barrage of push notifications.1 But the past couple of days I’ve been trying out a new device, the latest Jawbone Era Bluetooth headset, and now I feel rather ridiculous given all the audible wonders I’ve been missing.

You see, with the Era in-ear and tethered to my phone, any sounds that would normally go through the speaker of the phone go right to the device. So I no longer feel bad about leaving the sound on. And now that means I get to hear not only push notification sounds, but all sounds being put to clever usage within apps. And some of them really do alter the way an app feels.

To some of you, this will be the most obvious thing in the world. But I know a lot of people are like myself and almost always have their phones set to silent. And we’re all missing a big component of many apps and the overall mobile experience.

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January 29th, 2014
In Movie OS, visual storytelling is used to make the system’s important, critical reaction to a user’s action abundantly clear. In Movie OS, you know if you’re logging into Facebook. I’d argue that visual storytelling doesn’t exist – if it does, it hardly exists at all – in computer or consumer eletronics user interfaces. The entire palette of visual storytelling in terms of interface, through accident of history, is purely engineering and control-led. This is where, I’d say, Apple is grasping when it says that interfaces should sometimes look toward real-life objects. Real-life physical objects have affordances that are used in effective visual storytelling – and animation – that can be used well to make clear the consequences of actions. It’s more complicated than that, though, and it can go horribly wrong as well as right.

The future is Movie OS : Extenuating Circumstances

I quoted this in part because it was written in 2010, years before animation became the main affordance indicator on the average handheld device.

March 25th, 2013

These scenarios are not uncommon, though. Even a great app like Moves, an app that is basically doing everything right, faces these hurdles. How many people would:

• notice an app was missing?
• take the time to search for it and download it again?
• continue using it if previous data, scores, achievements were missing?
• continue using it if it didn’t work initially?

If the app is considered essential (part of the mail, messages, lists, and calendar flow, tied to friends or family, an addictive game or service) we’ll jump through many hoops, but that is the exception.

November 5th, 2012
If your vision for mobile is designing for context, then the first step you need to take is getting all your content onto mobile devices.
March 5th, 2012
I recently exper­i­mented with an alter­nate approach in design­ing the UI for Lik­ables for iPhone, with a 4-pixel rhythm. No major no minor. Just 4 pix­els as a basic inter­val unit. Firstly, both the width and height of the iPhone and even the iPad screen can be divided by 4. Using 4 as a basic unit we can con­struct hor­i­zon­tal and ver­ti­cal grids with equal parts of 4, 8, 16 and 32-pixel inter­vals. It is highly flexible.