Ex Libris

Screen grab of a hand/arm and a chicken

Some choice words from the pundits that I’ve posted, shared, pointed to, quoted, and enjoyed.

Below is a combination of design-specific commentary, some useful insights and inspiration.

There is so much written these days, on a multitude of platforms and outlets–it’s how some designers build careers after all–but as someone recently pointed out objectivity and actual design criticism in relation to tech products is pretty much non-existent. Work is almost always being discussed from a designer’s perspective and often by someone with interests directly connected to what is being examined.

Anyway, here are my indulgences:

The Art of Designing With Heart

How to make useful, friendly software for real people.


We all know about the revolution of the 60’s and we are familiar with terms like “youth activism,” “student protests” and “children of the revolution” – but are these phrases of the past? Where is this happening today? Are we becoming lazy or just revolting via taps of our iPhones?

Making a case for letter case

A little thing like capitalization can be a big deal.

10 Icons of Brutalist Architecture, from the Breuer to the Barbican

With béton brut (“raw concrete”) as its namesake and primary material, Brutalism initially surfaced in the middle of the 20th century, in part as a quick, economical solution to the urban destruction wrought by World War II. At first centered in England, the style spread across the world in the following decades, proposing a radical new form of Modernism, steeped in socialist ideas, that embraced hard lines and a utilitarian lack of ornamentation. Long reviled but recently revived, Brutalism is nothing if not striking, with its heavy, imposing buildings that privilege function over form. Here are 10 of the world’s most iconic examples of the style.

Mobile First: Insights from going mobile only

Joe Toscano spent a month without a computer. Here’s what that experience taught him about mobile-first best practices.

Goodbye, etc: why the UK government will stop using Latin abbreviations online

Software for the visually impaired often has trouble with ‘eg’, ‘ie’ etc – ergo gov.uk plans to phase them out.

How to Support Design Decisions Through Iterative Testing

A while ago I was tasked with designing new features for a client’s data-rich web app. The requirements came from business analysts who, together with the product owner, would talk to the client’s product manager and discuss the features that needed built.

8 principles of bot design

Despite plenty of excitement it’s still unclear how conversational UIs can be made to work in a practical sense.

Complexion Reduction: A New Trend In Mobile Design

We have been living in a world of ‘clean and minimal’ for quite some time, so what’s next?

A designer’s guide to Parkinson’s Law of Triviality

What to do when your team is focused on unimportant details.

The London Underground’s Iconic Typeface Gets A Redesign

Monotype overhauls Johnston, the official font of the London Underground, for the first time since 1979.

How to choose the right UX metrics for your product

When designing for the web, you can analyze usage data for your product and compare different interfaces in A/B tests. This is sometimes called “data-driven design”, but I prefer to think of it as data-informed design — the designer is still driving, not the data.

“Styling and the Experimental Car”

Sponsored by Ford Motor Company in 1964, this consummate design process piece manages to be both expressive and promotional whilst educating its audience about sophisticated ideas such as product design, branding and styling.

Video still - click to play

I particularly like the segments that focus on the value of design and how the separate disciplines work together — something that still needs defining fifty years later! These design fields are also positioned as something that the audience may not be aware of but consciously or subconsciously respond to, and that these instincts have existed as cultural phenomenon since the ‘dawn of time.’

The film goes on to leverage the company’s design prowess further by saying that it is this attention to detail, embodied in a culture of innovation that makes their products the obvious choice in an evolving consumer marketplace that demands quality, style and [aspirational] luxury.



Some of my recent posts from Instagram — I’m focussed on selecting inspirational imagery rather than camera uploads…

Photographic mage of a hand



Matta-Clark: Building cut-outs, NYC


…philosophical instantiations probing a range of ideas—site-specificity, the ephemerality of art, presence and absence, life and death, being and nothingness and on and on and on—they also, in hindsight, seem to be about the texture of New York City as it was then. – STATION TO STATION


Android close-up from Metropolis


Still from the film Solaris

#Solaris – BWV 639


Scene from Orson Welles' The Trial

The Trial (1962)
#OrsonWelles #Kafka





Profiles of Scottish band, Josef K



Julie Christie, still from "Petulia"

#JulieChristie “Petulia”
‘…set against the mid-sixties San Francisco scene’

Beautiful interior by Joseph Dirand

Luxurious Minimalism

I’ve been obsessing (a little) over the architectural interiors of Joseph Dirand. His attention to the details of space, light, form, materials, objects in the pursuit of what’s been called luxurious minimalism is close to my heart.

But the way in which Dirand refers to his work, claiming that he is not interested in style or design as a passing, temporal pursuit but instead is merely seeking to honor the traditions of the great minimalists (Rams, Le Corbusier) seems like an unnecessary denial of a natural ability as an accomplished stylist. Being a spiritual crusader in pursuit of aesthetic purity and a hip, style arbiter du moment do not need to be mutually exclusive.

The work I have been doing lately is spare, formal and restrained and attempts to solve complex UI/UX problems within a business application that uses science to predict customer behavior–the perfect place to apply minimalism in it’s most luxurious form. And within that framework of restraint, that essential need for ease of use and the expression of complex data points, there are abundant opportunities to add style, elegance and aesthetic purity.

Preact - web app screen 01

Preact - web app screen 02

(Initial screens for the Preact product redesign.)



(Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” – final scenes in an interior that juxtaposes classical and modern elements–cited as an inspiration for Dirand.)

StudyBlue Redesign

Starting with the relaunch of the marcom site and other product/marketing initiatives–such as Class Stats, Study Guides, mobile quizzing and SEO display screens–a beta release of the new StudyBlue is live!

All platform apps (web, iOS, Android) have been overhauled in terms of brand identity, visual and experience design–plus some very nifty back-end and code updates that have radically improved performance.

Here’s the new design direction, and here’s what TechCrunch had to say about it all recently.

StudyBlue web app

StudyBlue web app 03

StudyBlue web app 06

StudyBlue iPhone app 01

StudyBlue iPhone app 02