Sex and Design Axioms

Juhan Sonin (Involution Studios)
Design & Usability, Web Applications
Location: Meeting Room J3
Average rating: ***..
(3.86, 7 ratings)

Sex and Design Axioms

Juhan Sonin, juhan@mit.edu

Architects are expected to have a handle on civil, material, and mechanical engineering, landscape architecture, building contracting and city codes, aesthetics, manipulating light, and how people engage with buildings and each other.

Interface designers require a similarly broad spectrum of skills from typography to layout and graphic design to interaction design to storytelling.

Sex and Design Axioms describes the minimal rule set for designing interfaces: the foundational concepts that are required knowledge for designers and engineers to create usable and elegant interfaces.

This session (and future book) is a re-education for designers and engineers. For 15 years, a production stratification has evolved into stove-piped disciplines from information architecture to user experience to interaction design to usability to graphic design much to the detriment of designers. Emerging is the Renaissance interface designer: a technically savvy artist that’s fluent in typography, color theory, composition, layout, usability, interaction design, and code.

There are hundreds of design books and workshops on usability, HCI principles, design research, user interface patterns, and graphic design. However, there is a dearth of concise interface design advice for the craftsman, for the lone engineer trying to be the interface designer, and for IT teams struggling to develop elegant services.

Sex and Design Axioms is the analog for The Elements of Style by Strunk and White on user interface.


Design Axioms

  • Let data scream
  • Reality bites
  • Prototype like crazy
  • Pixel perfect
  • Bitch! Loud and often
  • Eat your own dog food
  • Stop seeking approval
  • Date your users
  • Grid it
  • Type less + less type
  • Color carefully
  • What interface?
  • Repeat customers ROCK
  • Deja vu all over again
  • Get physical
  • Lust to dust

The topics are grouped into 4 areas: Data, Feedback, Layout, and Interaction.

Data (Examples: let data scream, reality bites) concentrates on the presentation of information, information visualization, using real data to drive design decisions, and allocating the most screen real estate possible to data (vs interface widgets).

Feedback (Examples: prototype like crazy, pixel perfect, bitch! loud and often, eat your own dog food, stop seeking approval, and date your users) revolves around the power of rapid prototyping and uber-quick feedback from your design+engineering teams, requiring the use of the service at your own office to feel how it really works (or doesn’t), understanding the users’ point of view, and providing straight-forward feedback mechanisms in the service for quick hits from the customer.

Layout (Examples: grid it, type less + less type, color carefully) is a straightforward tutorial on text as interface and the power of the grid for readability, usability, and orientation.

Interaction (Examples: what interface?, repeat customers rock, deja vu all over again, get physical, lust to dust) design are the conscious and unconscious design patterns we use every day from the act of making a phone call, creating a task list on a wiki, to writing a technical review. The design of these interactions (physical and digital) need to feel familiar from service to service and allow people to make faster and better decisions (by designing applications for the intermediate user and making the user interface invisible).

The overarching themes:
  • Learn how to think about answers to problems, show participants how to care about simplicity, how elegance can crush practicality, and how beauty can be worth more than utility.
  • Interface design is not just about pixel jockeying and interaction flows. Savvy designers see it’s a multi-disciplanary attack from data viz to massaging the business to early adoption tactics to engineering to making the interface invisible. By taking a system engineering approach to interface design, one covers the disciplines and processes surrounding business, technology, and design.

To keep pace with the evolution of this young discipline and publication/workshop, a companion wiki (open to all) will let readers add to and edit the design tenets.

Interface Design Tenets @ Ignite Boston in May.08: http://cachefly.oreilly.com/ignite/boston3/IgniteTranscripts/04_Juhan_Sonin.m4v

Photo of Juhan Sonin

Juhan Sonin

Involution Studios

Juhan is the Creative Director of Involution Studios Boston, and has been the creative leader of four different organizations, producing work recognized by the BBC, the New York Times, Ars Electronica, National Public Radio and Billboard Magazine. Prior to joining Involution, Juhan spent time at Apple, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA), and MITRE. He is also a lecturer on design and rapid prototyping at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

  • Intel
  • Microsoft
  • Google
  • SourceForge.net
  • Sun Microsystems
  • Facebook
  • Gear6
  • Kaltura
  • Liferay
  • MindTouch
  • MySpace.com
  • Novell, Inc.
  • Open Invention Network
  • Rackspace Cloud
  • Schooner Information Technology
  • Silicon Mechanics
  • Symbian Foundation
  • Twilio
  • WSO2
  • Yabarana Corporation

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