Embracing Prototyping


I used to think that designers were naturally creative people that just had better ideas than the rest of us. I used to (and still do) envy the ones who make “making” look so effortless. Now that I’m a designer, I know that there is no making that comes easily. The really great stuff requires an arduous slog through the weeds of failure, partial-wins and iteration. There are days when you’ll feel directionless, exhausted and inept. Now I know that the great designers, the ones who I admire most, are the ones who are like Rocky. They fall down, but they always get back up and keep swinging.

What differentiates designers and artists for me is the degree to which their work is informed and evolved by feedback. An artist can work for days on end without any contact with the rest of the world and then surface with a finished product. One marathon of creativity making a thing and they’re done. Designers do that too, of course. They just call what they made “the first prototype of many”. As soon as they’ve shown their work to the people who will be using it to get feedback, they disappear again, scrap some or most of what they’d made and begin making a new improved version. And that process repeats itself until the feedback they get consistently tells them the design is right.

Design is sweet servitude.

What I love about being a designer is the opportunity it affords me to learn about people. Everything you make, especially things that don’t quite hit the mark, teaches you about what people really want and really need. As soon as you learn to embrace the awkward, uncomfortable moments where you show the work you’ve labored over (and become attached to) to people who will inevitably make you realize that you need to change it, you’re on a path towards being a good designer. If you make this feedback and iteration loop the cornerstone of your process, you’ll become a better designer. And if you relentlessly hone your team’s process to prioritize faster and faster learning, you might even become a great designer.

The challenge, of course, is maintaining the passion and drive to keep changing, improving and coming back for more feedback. It’s hard not to get attached to your work. There will be moments where your ego, no matter how much you think you don’t have one, will take a hit. Be like Rocky. Remember that you are designing for other people. Get back up. Dust yourself off. Find grace and poise in the realization that you’re designing for others and that it’s not about you at all. It never was. It’s about them. It’s always about them. And, so on to the next prototype…

Keep calm, and iterate.

Adobe Edge Reflow Common Resolutions and Breakpoints Templates (Download)

Download Adobe Edge Reflow Common Resolution Breakpoints Template

The preview release of Adobe’s Edge Reflow CC through Creative Cloud this month, from a design perspective, is one of the most exciting developments in responsive web design to date. Even though the Adobe team is still in the early days of development, the preview release shows a lot of promise and it’s easy to see how the tool has the potential to create a big change in workflow for designers and developers. Designers will particularly love that Edge Reflow allows you to use a flexible design approach to create rich, responsive designs using visual media-query breakpoints and fluid customizable grids inside an interactive user interface. We’ve already seen video demos of the deep integration Edge Reflow will have with Photoshop CC, which gives us a glimpse into how the tool will provide seamless web design workflow in the future. For those who are just learning about the tool and are curious, here is a full list of Edge Reflow CC features.

As designers, the rapid shift towards mobile, while desktop screens are getting bigger, has created a tremendous amount of complexity in our workflow. Designing for every screen size means being able to anticipate as many unique screens as possible. Reflow eases the pain of designing for multiple screen sizes by using a resizable design canvas and visual media query breakpoints.

The Common Resolution Breakpoints Templates For Adobe Edge Reflow (Download)

The templates, which you can download for free below, take the guess work out of designing across common screen resolutions and devices. I took a huge list of displays by resolution for the most common devices across platforms (e.g. iOS, Android etc), did some analysis, and built in the least amount of breakpoints that work for all of them. There are 2 files – one for a “desktop first” traditional workflow, and one for a “mobile first” modern workflow. If you’re designing for “mobile first”, there’s a total of 12 key breakpoints that will cover almost the full gamut of exiting devices. As of this writing, the templates cover over 99% of known mobile devices and tablet screen sizes (portrait or landscape) and just about any desktop screen, so either one makes a great starting point for designing across all of them. Here’s a screenshot of the desktop first template and a list of resolutions that are covered…


Preview of the Common Resolutions Breakpoints Template:

Download Adobe Edge Reflow Common Resolution Breakpoints Template

List of Visual Media Breakpoints In the Reflow Template:

  1. 240 px
  2. 320 px
  3. 360 px
  4. 480 px
  5. 540 px
  6. 640 px
  7. 720 px
  8. 768 px
  9. 800 px
  10. 854 px
  11. 960 px
  12. 1024 px
  13. 1280 px
  14. 1440 px
  15. 1680 px
  16. 1920 px


Download Reflow “Desktop Browser First” Common Breakpoints Template (version 1.0)

Download Reflow “Mobile First” Common Breakpoints Template (version 1.0)


Finding Real Solutions For Getting College Credit For Free Online Classes

We’re finally starting to see real, viable solutions materialize for getting college credit for free online classes. It’s happening slowly considering that the demand for free classes online is so high, but you can’t really fault the brick and mortar institutions for the lack of pace. Many of the universities that are participating in the effort to go digital are also some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious organizations. We can’t forget that they’re businesses too, and you can’t expect them to upend the industry they’re leading all at once without a rigorous approach to testing and measuring what happens when you give hundreds of thousands of people instant free access to what used to be reserved for a privileged few. That said, one big answer to how students may start to get credit for free online courses are starting to emerge – Proctored tests. Read More

Cab Drivers Are Adopting Square in Boston

This happened to me again last night:

I’m getting out of a cab and, as I pull out my debit card and reach for the clunky card swipe attached to the cab divider, the cabbie turns around and says “oh no, I use Square”. Then he takes my card, pulls out his iPhone, and rings me up with a smile. Five seconds later, I get a text message saying that I’ve paid.

“Saves me a ton of money,” he says. With this, I pay 2.75%. With that thing (points to the card swipe in his car), they take me for a ride.

I first got my square account when the company was first announced. Back then, you couldn’t charge less than $100 bucks, so it wasn’t useful for most of the transactions an individual would want to use it for. I’m glad Square has overcome that hurdle. They are really solving a problem that needed to be solved, and they’re creating so much opportunity for individuals and small businesses that didn’t previously exist. Hat tip to Jack Dorsey and the Square team. They’re making a difference, and it’s awesome to see the smiles on people’s faces that they’re helping.


Jason Goldberg: You Can’t Iterate Yourself To A Business Model

This 99U talk is a goodie. Jason Goldberg breaks down the thinking and execution behind Fab.com’s famous pivot from gay social networking site (Fabulous) to a design-centered online marketplace. He mirrors what I hear a lot of successful entrepreneurs talk about when they finally reflect on what worked – the importance of authenticity, creating culture, maintaining focus, having a sense of purpose and creating joy and happiness for customers. I also appreciated the “go ahead and start from scratch” advice. I’m a little sick of hearing people in the start up world talk about iterating their way to success no matter what the starting point is. From where a lot of startups stand, iterating out of a crappy business model doesn’t make sense, it makes waste. There’s a message embedded in what Jason is saying, and I think it’s that the core mission has to resonate with users, and the solutions you come up with have to create delight. Without those things, you’re dead in the water.

Premature Scaling Kills Startups: The Genome Data

I tweeted the link to this Bostinno article exactly a year ago today, but it’s still a great read. It popped up in my Timehop  activity and I went back and re-read it. The Startup Genome project isn’t up anymore, and the report isn’t available for download, but the article is still a great read. This quote in particular stands out… Read More

Barclays and The Work Foundation Are Trying to Find A Solution for Unemployed Youth on OpenIDEO

As people transition through various stages of education into the workforce, they face increasing hurdles to secure employment and career opportunities. There’s been a lot of public criticism about how the education system here in the U.S. is broken and, not surprisingly, it has a lot to do with cost. Across many industries and trades the price of buying an education has risen so high in the last 20 years that the cost of earning a degree eclipses what you can earn post-degree. Naturally, a lot of young people are rethinking their need to seek formal education as a direct result. Rightfully so. Most importantly, we’re starting to see broader negative consequences materializing across the country – skills across the population in important categories like math and science are declining in the aggregate, for instance. Not good. Clearly something’s got to give.

Currently about seventy-five million young people are unemployed globally and are looking for work. I don’t know the statistics in the US, but in the UK there are apparently around 1 million people between 16 and 24 who are unemployed. As I’m typing this, OpenIDEO, Barclays and The Work Foundation are supporting an open challenge to crowdsource solutions to help young people move into employment. They’ve framed the problem as one that applies mostly to the young, but I’d argue that it applies to anyone in the workforce who’s been laid off or would like to make a career switch that forces them to start over. The OpenIDEO challange is currently in the ‘refinement’ stage, so it’s a great time to start following along and joining the conversation. This is just my take, but I found that fewer solutions than I would have expected focused on different ways to get training cheaply, and more than I expected focused on helping students find a path through job discovery and trying out new careers before committing to a plan of action. Hat tip to Vishal Shah – I thought his solution in particular “The Uninternship” had a good mix of novelty, utility and promise.

Design For People, Not Awards

This talk by Timothy Prestero is right on the money. He makes great points about designing products for impact, and highlights some important lessons learned about what it takes to actually take something from design through to the point where you’re actually making a difference with what you’ve built. There are some great reminders in this talk on the importance of seeing a project all the way through and designing for real-world use, rather than accolades.

Giving Co-Working a Shot


I took a break from the office today and tried something new. Instead of working from home, which I do a few times a month, I headed over to WorkBar, a popular co-working spot downtown. All things equal, it’s been a nice change of pace and atmosphere – everything that I hoped it would be. There are probably 30-50 people here, and it’s surprisingly quiet. Everyone seems to be getting stuff done on their own, and respecting the airspace. There’s free coffee (I recommend the “Love Buzz”), tea, Vitamin water and even beer in the kitchen. There are conference rooms you can duck into for phone calls and meetings. The wifi is quicker than what I get at home (speed tested it this morning at 54mbps) and the chairs are super comfy – just the right amount of lean and give (hat tip the designers at Turnstone).

I could definitely get used to this co-working thing. You get the friendly, casual atmosphere of a Starbucks without the crappy wifi and melee of people, and all the facilities of an office, without the boring taupe cubes and constant disruption. I honestly didn’t think co-working would be like this. I secretly thought this was going to be a mostly counter-productive space where people came to have an excuse to socialize when they should be working. It’s definitely not that. I get it now.

I can’t speak for other co-working spaces in Boston, but WorkBar is kinda awesome.

Designer’s Handshake


This was a personal mini project I did for fun last night. It’s an adaptation of “The Designer’s Handshake” that was written in 2009 by Emily Pilloton in one of my favorite design books ‘Design Revolution: 100 Products That Empower People‘.  

I was leafing through the pages of the book one day, found this bit inspiring and I just thought it would be a cool to put it up on my wall near my desk, so I made this and posted it to Behance. Thanks, Emily!

Lease With An Option To Buy…In The Cloud

Adobe’s new subscription-based pricing structure for the Creative Suite (CS6) and Creative Cloud scare me a bit – not because it’s not a great deal, because of what it signals about the way that software might be priced and purchased in the future across the market. At face value, the Creative Cloud sounds great – $50/month for immediate access to the latest version of just about everything Adobe makes, and then some. That’s if you sign up for a full year, which comes to $600 annually, per person. Month to month plans are $75/mth. Photoshop alone retails for $699, so for a lot of creative professionals this seems like a no brainer. Even if you commit to a year as an individual, and cancel after 6 months, you’ll only owe 50% of what’s left on your contract to get out (6 months would cost you $300 + $150 = $450 ).

Adobe is smart. By making the entire suite affordable, they’re counting on you locking yourself into a product that they can license and maintain in real time. So what’s the big deal?

Read More

Should we ditch our blogs and just use sites like Google+?

This is a question I find myself coming back to often. As longer form sharing starts to move to central platforms like Google+, should we be migrating our activities to where our friends’ eyeballs are? I dig what Google has done with plus. I think they’re opening the door for longer form content sharing in a way that Facebook or other social networks haven’t. From an interaction standpoint, posting to Google+ generates far more discussion, feedback and attention in real time (that’s been my experience so far). The flip side is that in the long term, you don’t really own your longer posts and after only a short time, they disappear into the stream, never to be found again. I suppose it comes down to personal preference and whether you’d rather have more real-time conversations than build a library of articles that you own and control.

To those of you who have subscribed to this blog, how would you rather consume long form (for this blog)? Thoughts or opinions either way?

First Fast Follower And The Myth of First Mover Advantage

I watched a short Stanford entrepreneurship lecture on Udemy.com today given by Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur. In the second section, Steve comments briefly about ‘first mover advantage’ and why the difficulties of being the first mover can hinder, rather than hurt your startup. This is for reasons like having to spend a lot of time and effort creating the market and educating users, and learning hard lessons when testing assumptions that no one has ever tried before that don’t end up working (which slows you down). Read More

How Might We Create A Community That People Asirpire To Be A Part Of?


This morning I put together this little mind map on my iPad using Adobe Ideas. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what a learning platform specifically tailored for creatives might look like, and how we might (HWM) create an online community for that platform that people would aspire to be part of. Given that the core of great branding is the expression of the right values, I started brainstorming there, asking myself “what types of values and traits might provide a good foundation for growing such a community?”. That exercise produced this. It’s incomplete, but I thought it was worth sharing.

If you had a place where you learned online with others, what type of community would you be proud to be a part of?