How They Got There—Now on Sale

I’m finally finished with my new book “How They Got There: Interviews With Digital Designers About Their Careers” and it’s on sale right today! You can get your copy right now at howtheygotthere.us.

“How They Got There”
Mockup of my book (just a mockup—the book itself is available in PDF, iBooks and Kindle formats only)

As I wrote when I announced it, the book features fourteen interviews that I conducted with digital designers of prominence—many of the names will be familiar to readers of this blog, while others are up and comers or have built fantastic careers outside of the main spotlight. I talked to studio designers, agency designers, startup designers, designer entrepreneurs—I worked hard to get a diversity of folks who have done meaningful work “online” in recent history. Here’s the full list:

  • Dan Cederholm of Dribbble
  • Alex Cornell of Firespotter Labs
  • Nicholas Felton of Daytum
  • Agnieszka Gasparska of Kiss Me I’m Polish
  • Cemre Güngör of Branch
  • Erika Hall of Mule
  • Naz Hamid of Weightshift
  • Karen McGrane of Bond Art + Science
  • Wilson Miner of The Factory
  • Jill Nussbaum of The Barbarian Group
  • Evan Sharp of Pinterest
  • Geoff Teehan of Teehan + Lax
  • Justin Van Slembrouck of Digg
  • Marcos Weskamp of Flipboard

The book has already gotten some great buzz from folks like Jason Kottke, Michael Bierut, Jeffrey Zeldman, Jessica Helfand, Cameron Moll and others.

This book is special to me in that it’s the book that I wanted to be able to read when I was starting out in my career. And even as I conducted the interviews, I found lots of sage advice to consider as I think about what’s next for my own career. I think you’ll get a lot out of it too, regardless of whether you’re new to digital design, you’re a longtime veteran considering a career change, or even if you’re an executive trying to understand what motivates the very best designers in their careers.

The full price of the book is US$30, but for a limited time, you can get a discount for just tweeting about the book and helping to spread the word. (If before today you were a subscriber to my mailing list here at Subtraction.com you get an even bigger discount—sign up for future sales if you haven’t already.) Find out more and buy your copy (you get PDF, iBooks and Kindle vesions all in one) at howtheygotthere.us.

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Getty Images and Unfinished Business

This is a pretty clever publicity stunt for Twentieth Century Fox’s upcoming film “Unfinished Business,” a comedy about a business trip starring Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson and Dave Franco. The studio partnered with Getty Images’ iStock to create a series of free, downloadable images in the grand tradition of cheesy, painfully bad stock photography. Frankly, the movie doesn’t look all that great, but I think the humor in these images is pretty sharp.

Stock Photography from “Unfinished Business”
Stock Photography from “Unfinished Business”
Stock Photography from “Unfinished Business”

There are twelve of these images in total, and Getty is doling them out in small batches at this site.

So Long, Facebox

Speaking of stock photography, this is a good time as any to mention that my frequent collaborator Matt and I recently decided to retire Facebox, our collection of fifty stock user avatar images for UI design and business presentations. We released Facebox in September 2013 after a sprint of photographing, editing and packaging that took a few short weeks. It was great fun, and we’ve been really pleased by the reaction—seeing Facebox photos show up in all kinds of product marketing on the web has been a blast. Ultimately, however, we decided that in fairness to our models, who were very generous with their likenesses, we should stop selling the package so that their faces don’t get overexposed. We accomplished what we set out to do; create a useful resource for ourselves and share it with others, so it’s time to move on to new projects.

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Danger 5

Danger 5

Thanks to my Australian friends for inventing “Danger 5,” the absurdist action comedy TV series that, in its first season, blended together 60s spy movie conceits, historically inaccurate Nazi villains and generous doses of “Thunderbirds” into a bizarre and generally inappropriate pop pastiche.

That first season is now available in the U.S. on Netflix—I know because I watched all six episodes while laid up in bed over the weekend with a winter cold, and I really, really enjoyed myself. Be warned though: the show is riddled with gags that will offend everybody sooner or later.

Season two is airing now in Australia, but we won’t see it here for a while. It jumps forward in “time” (the show has a very loose interpretation of that concept) to the 1980s, apparently so it can send up a fresh slew of pop culture touch points. I can’t wait. The trailer is below.

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A Message from Mister Rogers to His Viewers Who Have Grown Up

This brief, heartbreaking video was just released yesterday. Its privacy settings apparently don’t allow it to be embedded, unfortunately. PBS writes:

A few months before his death in 2003, Fred Rogers recorded this video message for those who grew up watching ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.’ This message was one of the last things he recorded in the WQED studio, according to the Fred Rogers Company. He died of stomach cancer twelve years ago today.

I grew up watching this show and my children are watching a lot of episodes now on YouTube, so seeing this was unexpectedly resonant. It nearly made me cry, and certainly made me recall what a unique and wonderful person Fred Rogers was.

Via pbs.org

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The Virtues of Old-fashioned Play

Maybe it’s just because I’m a father of young children, but when I read this story earlier this week I couldn’t get it out of my mind. It’s not new; it actually keys off of a book written in 2008 by Howard Chudacoff called “Children at Play: An American History .” Chudacoff, a cultural historian at Brown University, wrote about the evolution in thinking about how children should occupy their free time.

…During the second half of the 20th century, Chudacoff argues, play changed radically. Instead of spending their time in autonomous shifting make-believe, children were supplied with ever more specific toys for play and predetermined scripts. Essentially, instead of playing pirate with a tree branch they played Star Wars with a toy light saber. Chudacoff calls this the commercialization and co-optation of child’s play—a trend which begins to shrink the size of children’s imaginative space…

Clearly the way that children spend their time has changed. Here’s the issue: A growing number of psychologists believe that these changes in what children do has also changed kids’ cognitive and emotional development.

It turns out that all that time spent playing make-believe actually helped children develop a critical cognitive skill called executive function. Executive function has a number of different elements, but a central one is the ability to self-regulate. Kids with good self-regulation are able to control their emotions and behavior, resist impulses, and exert self-control and discipline.

More at npr.org.

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“How They Got There” Is Getting There

Folks, I’m nearing the finish line in preparing my book “How They Got There: Interviews With Digital Designers About Their Careers” for sale. Last week I applied the final round of changes from my eagle-eyed editor, Sue Apfelbaum, put the finishing touches on a marketing page for the book (which will replace the teaser page you see at howtheygotthere.us), and I’m now taking care of a few final details getting the actual product ready for sale next week.

How They Got There
Mockup of my book (just a mockup—the book itself is available in PDF, iBooks and Kindle formats only)

I’ve also created a PDF sample of the book—basically the first thirty pages (of about two-hundred and fifty). This includes the foreword, written by my friend Liz Danzico, chair of the MFA Interaction Design program, my author’s preface, and the first of the fourteen in-depth interviews. As the interviews are all ordered alphabetically, this first one is with Dribbble co-founder Dan Cederholm. Dan offered some terrific insights into the evolution of his career and how Dribbble evolved from an idea into a business, and how it all relates back to his first career aspiration: playing in a rock band.

So here’s the deal: next week I will release this sneak peek of the book—for free—to anyone who has signed up for the mailing list at howtheygotthere.us before midnight next Monday, 2 March. Signing up for the list gets you the sneak peek. Of course, it also gets you a discount for the book, about 30% off the price when it goes on sale. So rush on over and sign up now!

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Birdman: The Action Figure

To be clear, though I argued on Monday that it did not deserve the best picture Oscar, I still enjoyed Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s “Birdman.” I also enjoyed this promotional video from its studio, Fox Searchlight: a satirical commercial for an action figure version of the Birdman character, produced in the style of such commercials from the 1980s and 1990s. I found it about as clever as the movie itself, in fact.

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Wildcard SDK for iOS

Wildcard iOS SDK

Last fall my colleagues at Wildcard and I released Wildcard for iPhone, the first browser that lets you experience a different kind of mobile web, one that uses the card metaphor—fast, native, interactively rich—instead of the page metaphor. We’re continuing to evolve Wildcard for iPhone and have some really exciting things in development, but we think of our mission as broader than any one app. We want to effect a sea change in the way the mobile Internet works, and that means that we have to work on a number of fronts to spread the gospel about cards, so to speak.

Today we’re announcing another of these initiatives: the Wildcard SDK for iOS. This is a free toolset that lets third-party developers bring cards into their own native iOS apps quickly and easily. Once implemented, the SDK transforms hyperlinks that users might exchange in, say, a messaging app into fully functional, interactive, performant cards, and it does so on the fly, automatically. To emphasize: this happens in the context of the developer’s own app—the user is not taken anywhere else and engagement is not interrupted. The cards can appear in an elegant overlay or even directly in situ with the app’s original user interface, where they can be customized to blend into the look and feel seamlessly.

This short demonstration video illustrates the concept:

The SDK is available starting today at trywildcard.com/sdk. You can also read more about it in this blog post. If you’re an iOS developer, I encourage you to give it a try.

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Boyhood and The Oscars

Ellar Coltrane in “Boyhood”

In a thoughtful essay at The Dissolve about last night’s Oscar ceremony, writer Jen Chaney reflects on the the best picture trophy going to “Birdman” instead of “Boyhood”:

Yes, as some predicted (not me), Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s one-shot take on artistic integrity and raging narcissism was named the best picture of 2014 over Richard Linklater’s far more low-key but equally inventive ‘Boyhood.’ This immediately prompted some disappointed commentary on social media, as well as another manifesto of sorts from Slate’s Dan Kois, who published, just minutes after the Oscar ceremony ended, a piece that accused the Academy of totally blowing it by not honoring ‘Boyhood.’ ‘This one’s an epochal Oscar travesty,’ Kois wrote. ‘This one hurts.’

While I must admit that there was some delicious irony in watching a woman, Patricia Arquette, win the single Academy Award for a film called ‘Boyhood,’ and then devote a portion of her acceptance speech to advocating for gender equality, I have to agree with Kois. Epochal travesty may be a bit much, but I completely agree that this one does indeed hurt.

Chaney goes on to describe how this miscarriage of justice is actually “pure Linklater” in a journey-is-the-reward kind of way. It’s an incisive point, and worth reading. (See the full article at thedissolve.com.) I largely agree, though I still find myself tremendously disappointed by the outcome.

I try my best to ignore the inanity that is the Oscars, but it’s difficult not to pay some mind to one of the highest profile platforms anywhere for articulating what is valued in cinema. A best picture or best director nod is more than simply an honorific; it’s a reflection of the things that the Hollywood establishment, so to speak, thinks are important.

In this case, in an apparent face-off between one picture that tries to chronicle the quotidian beauty of childhood and another picture that is at its heart an exercise in what Chaney correctly characterizes as “raging narcissism,” the message is pretty disheartening. I actually enjoyed “Birdman”; it’s an extremely well-made and bracingly entertaining film. It’s also heavy-handed, a thematic mess, and sadly preoccupied with a very small, exclusive segment of the population and their esoteric privileges. Somewhat self-importantly and incoherently it asks, “What kind of films do you want?” The answer, from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, seems to be, “More films about people like us here at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.” That’s depressing.

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