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Saturday, February 21, 2004

Submissive, Passive, Aggressive

We had Louise's friend Jen around tonight, and have drunk far too much wine. Ended up having drunken, rambling conversations about success, and how it's achieved. Louise mentioned some teaching that forbids the use of the word sorry. Obviously, the thrust of this was about presenting a confident, un-repentant, self to the world, and that hesitance made your peers lose their confidence in your abilities/leadership...Whatever.

Reluctantly, I had to acknowledge that being good at something isn't anything like sufficient. It's often better (or at least more successful) to be bad, but overrun with self-confidence. I'd imagine that this is a theme that will re-occur on this blog (if it continues!) - it's hardly original. Nonetheless, it's an issue that troubles me. Repeatedly.

I'm the most paranoid person I know, yet I genuinely believe I have some worth. My frustration at less-able persons achieving success forces me to confront some rather poignant issues. Do I begrudge them their success because I feel I deserve it more? Or do I begrudge it them because it's undeserved?

And all of this talk of refusing to apologise. It's all good and well (or is it?) when discussed among management consultants. But, what if everyone assumed this stance? Clearly, society depends upon the submissive, passive and dominant components. If the mix varied too much, things would fall apart.

Clearly, this could go on and on. More power to the humble - kind of.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Window Image

Monday, February 16, 2004

Todays' Design Rant

Maybe it's because it's a Monday, and I'm tired and grumpy. Today, as a result of discussions I've been involved in, I've felt a little frustrated. Hopefully, documenting it here will help me make sense of the root of this frustration (which I believe to be the consideration of style before content).

Frequently, I witness (and get involved in) discussions about minor details of a site's design. This is often frustrating, because energy needs to (or could be) spent on bigger issues. I'm not saying that such detailed observations are not valid, but that they are often observations of a symptom - and treating them does not cure the disease. Worse still, treating things at this level can often have unforeseen, and problematic side effects.

More specifically, I have witnessed discussions about unique cosmetic treatments that are given to objects (dependant upon the section of the site they reside in). I'm writing this to try and clarify (and hopefully justify) my negative feelings:

a) The creation of (arguably unnecessary) work for the designer

b) The increased likelihood of errors - where once existed a straight road, there's now a fork

c) A large site needs fewer variables, not more. Any sighted person can tell black from white, but ask them to differentiate between numerous shades of grey and your success rate will fall off. Obviously, I'm not against systems of organising, or creating hierarchies - but I do think that the success of such systems diminishes as variables grow.

d) This method of working assumes that artefacts are created on a per-section and not per-site basis. There may be such occasions where the distinctions aren't so clear and, as a result, a variant of the artefact now needs to be made for the rest of the site. Two versions of the same thing - not one good reason.

As designers, we need to ask why these variables need to exist - not why they look better than their counterparts. I suspect that issues like this often arise because a designer (or design team) are unhappy with a system that exists, not because they feel a visual distinction is required.

Instead of addressing the issue of the system (which may not be possible/practical) a locally acceptable variant is created that allows the team involved to feel proud of the work they have achieved. This work may be world class, and a clear improvement on the rest of the site. However, it has also created one more variant that undermines consistency - and provides a defence to those parties who don't want to follow guidelines. If one party is allowed to create a variant, why can't the others?

I've seen this time and time again - successful, well thought out systems crumbling rapidly as more and more people take it upon themselves to 'modify' their part of the offering to their own tastes. The decline increases exponentially!

As designers, we naturally want to make things better. I feel that our energies are better channelled into problem solving and improving the unified whole, than inventing new ways of dressing up what is, essentially the same content.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Unintended Consequences

Mackie, Tip=Cold, Ring=Hot. Samson, Tip=Hot, Ring=Cold

So that's it! Been messing with my soldering iron trying to sort out an irritating crackle on my monitoring setup, and discovered that one of the leads was causing a channel to run out of phase. All along, I thought I was imagining that one of them lacked impact! I don't know if this is indicative of my fine hearing, or an exposition of how bad it is (being as it took so long for me to realise).

If this post has a point, I guess it's that even highly irritating problems can have positive repercussions.

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