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Architects: 1998 called and it wants its web sites back

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 121 comments

I’ve been poking around a lot of architects’ web sites lately and I’m thoroughly surprised at how bad they are. It seems almost without fail that they are either blowing my browser window up full size, asking me to read light grey 9px text, overflowing with obfuscatory flashterbation, teasing me with custom designed scrollbars that don’t behave as you’d expect, or asking me to evaluate their work based on postage stamp sized photographs. It really feels like 1998. I see I’m not alone in this observation.

Architects have so much to gain from the web. Big huge photographs of their work, clear statements of who they are and what they believe in, easily linkable and sharable portfolio pages, daily links of interest.

As it stands today, if you want to show someone an interesting piece of work you usually have to give them a step-by-step guide on how to get there: First go to the home page, wait for the countdown timer to expire, then hover over the logo, then grab a magnifying glass, then squint, then click the 4th tiny icon on the left (I can’t really tell what it is), then use that custom scrollbar that looks like an elevator, then take a screenshot, then pull that screenshot into Photoshop, then zoom in about 8 times so it’s all nice and big on your screen, then take about 10 steps back from your computer, then look.

I’m only half kidding.

Come on, architects, get with it! Anyone got any links to a great architect’s site that bucks this trend?

Designing a better ballot

Matt Linderman
Matt Linderman wrote this on 66 comments

“How Design Can Save Democracy” is AIGA’s attempt to identify common design problems in election ballots and offer improvements.

Problem (excerpt)

Solution (excerpt)

More details.

Is it an improvement? Sure.

But the real crime here is how terrible the original one is. Looks like a bunch of lawyers trying to figure out Quark. It’s tough to have much faith in your government’s ability to solve truly complicated challenges when it seems so inept at dealing with relatively simple issues. Hasn’t this been a known problem for eight years now?!

It’d also be interesting to see what ballots look like in other parts of the world.

Update: Julien links to this can’t miss ballot used in Quebec.

37signals on Github

Jeff wrote this on 26 comments

For the unenlightened, Git is a distributed version control system that’s recently taken the software development world by storm. It’s what we use to manage all of our source code at 37signals. GitHub is an online service providing Git repository hosting and collaboration tools (we featured them recently on the Product Blog).

Rails, Capistrano, and Prototype are already hosted on Github, and we’re going to be releasing some of our internal libraries and plugins there as well. Feel free to follow, fork, clone, and contribute!

[Screens Around Town] Darden Studio, ShoeGuru, and Cymbolism

Matt Linderman
Matt Linderman wrote this on 14 comments

Darden Studio
Even though it works like typical lightboxes, the lightbox at Darden Studio (example) feels different due to design choices the firm makes.

The loading screen has custom typography centered on a black bezel:


And then check how using a non-browser typeface, including the x on the upper right, and the arrows in the lower right spice up the design of the lightbox itself.


ShoeGuru makes shoe shopping elegant.


Cymbolism is a new website that attempts to quantify the association between colors and words. You can search for a word and see what colors people associate with it. The goal is to “make it simple for designers to choose the best colors for the desired emotional effect.” Here are the results for the word spring.


Profanity works

David wrote this on 156 comments

I’m a big fan of swearing. Not in the derogatory, directed-at-you kind of way (“hey, fuck you!”), but as verbal marker to underline key concepts, create emphasis, and express passion. It certainly doesn’t work in every environment nor should it, but there are plenty were it does.

The first place where I’ve found it to be useful is between coworkers (“fuck, that’s awesome”). A team of British researchers found a while ago that profanity at work can help build solidarity and release stress. Couldn’t agree more. When people feel comfortable enough to let their emotions bare with the use of profanity, I’ve found the resulting atmosphere to be so much more relaxed and pleasurable. It’s not the profanity itself (although I adore “fuck” as one of the most versatile words in the English language), but what it says about the knitting of the culture.

The second place I’ve used profanity to great effect is at conferences where you feel you know the audience enough to loosen your tie and want to create a mental dog ear for an idea. Of all the presentations I’ve given, I’ve generally had the most positive feedback from the ones that carried enough passion to warrant profanity and it’s been very effective in making people remember key ideas (“they sell fucking shoes”).

It seems that profanity can work as a record button for the brain. It brings people to the edge of their attention as they’re trying to figure out whether they’re supposed to be offended or inspired. And then the content warrants the emphasis, the idea seems to stick better and longer and with more affection.

As with any tool, it can certainly be misused and applied to the wrong audience. But you can cut yourself with a great steak knife too. Use profanity with care and in the right context and it can be fucking amazing.

Small Redux

Sarah wrote this on 13 comments

American Bungalow magazine (my current favorite periodical) has republished my post on their article “Bringing Back Stinesville.”

Since reading that article and posting about it here, I’ve visited Stinesville, and even started on a quest to buy a historic property in my hometown of Placerville, CA. I’m far, far away from ever being able to buy a home of my own there, but it’s become a goal I’m tacking to the top of my list. Being the change you want to see goes far beyond politics and societal pressures, it starts with our consumption and our landscape and our luxuries.

The folks at American Bungalow were also kind enough to send over a PDF of the article for everyone to read. (Although you should still pick up your own copy!) Find it at Whole Foods or a Borders near you.

Introducing our new designer: Jamie Dihiansan

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 52 comments

After wading through over 500 applications, meeting some great people, discovering some serious talent, and evaluating people on a variety of levels, we can finally announce our new designer. He’s Jamie Dihiansan.

Who’s Jamie?

First off, Jamie is a great guy. Kind, generous, curious, honest. We all get along well. He’s a good cultural fit. Without that nothing else matters. He’s also local which will be handy.

I’ve actually tried to hire Jamie a couple times before. Once about nine years ago when we first started 37signals (he didn’t want to leave the cushy confines of Big Agency life at Organic) and once a few years ago (we couldn’t afford him). This time the stars aligned.

For the past 7 years Jamie has been working at Crate & Barrel Online. First as a senior designer, later moving to the Senior Art Director role. He’s well steeped in designs that sell, clear communication, and understanding consumer behavior.

Why did we pick Jamie?

Part of the hiring process involved asking the leading candidates to redesign the Backpack home page in one week with no direction (we paid them for their time). We really liked Jamie’s take on it. It was the biggest departure from how we design our marketing sites today. It introduced some elements that we were hoping to see and surprised us with things we hadn’t thought of before. Down the road we plan on sharing all the designs submitted by the leading candidates.

We also picked Jamie because of his background, his artistic abilities (as much as I don’t like graffiti, I can see the art in Jamie’s work back in the day), and his approach to problem solving through design. He’s a clear thinker and an objective player. Good icon designer too. We liked all of those things.

We’re really excited

Jamie starts in September. We’re really excited to see his influence seep into our marketing sites and product UIs. The first major project will be reviewing our existing marketing/public sites and working on a universal redesign.

So, everyone say hi to Jamie Dihiansan!

Forbes misses the point of the 4-day work week

Jason Fried
Jason Fried wrote this on 44 comments

There’s a piece in Forbes called Why A Four-Day Work Week Doesn’t Work that suggests:

But there are serious drawbacks. Packing 40 hours into four days isn’t necessarily an efficient way to work. Many people find that eight hours are tough enough; requiring them to stay for an extra two could cause morale and productivity to decrease. As for saving on the cost of commuting, it likely isn’t true.

The article is right: More hours in fewer days is not an efficient way to work. That’s why this article misses the point.

The point of the 4-day work week is about doing less work. It’s not about 4 10-hour days for the magical 40-hour work week. It’s about 4 normalish 8-hour days for the new and improved 32-hour work week. The numbers are just used to illustrate a point. Results, not hours, are what matter, but working longer hours doesn’t translate to better results. The law of diminishing returns kicks in quick when you’re overworked.

Besides, very few people work even 8 hours a day. You’re lucky if you get a few good hours in between all the meetings, interruptions, web surfing, office politics, and personal business that permeates typical work day.

Fewer official working hours help squeeze the fat out of the typical work week. Once everyone has less time to get their stuff done, they respect that time even more. People become stingy with their time and that’s a good thing. They don’t waste it on things that just don’t matter. When you have fewer hours you usually spend them more wisely.

So don’t think 4 days means cramming the same amount of time a shorter week. Longer days isn’t the goal. Think 4 days means a shorter week with less time to get things done. And that’s actually what you want.