Icons and Technology

I recently did a lunch and learn presentation to my co-workers on the subject of iconography and, after the excessive ragging I got last time for not recording a presentation, I caught it on Silverback. I’ve included a copy of the powerpoint and the quotes which I used below.

One note – I did realize in going back over my notes that the article is not “Realism in UX Design” but “Realism in UI Design” from UX Magazine. This has been corrected in the Powerpoint version.

Iconography Powerpoint

“Noobs in the digital space don’t understand things holistically. They barely understand the basics. They lack any cognitive surplus to provide themselves with an overview of the environment they interact with.”
Thomas Peterson, “Anatomy of a Noob

“It’s pretty rare in the real world that we rely on iconography alone to represent ideas. Bathroom doors generally have an icon of a man and the word “Men.” Stop signs have the word “Stop” on them.”
Jensen Harris, “The Importance of Labels

“Part of the user experience effort around Outlook 98 was improving the menu and toolbar structure. One of the problems noticed again and again among non-expert users was that people didn’t use the toolbar at all! …In the end, one change caused a total turnaround: labeling the important toolbar buttons. Almost immediately, the toolbars were a big hit and everyone at all skill levels starting using them.”
Jensen Harris, “The Importance of Labels”

“Web iconography instantly denotes certain site elements… it’s important to appeal to the viewer’s sense of familiarity here. A custom set of icons has a certain cachet, but if your ideogram is too obscure, it will fail to communicate the desired message.”
Jessica Neuman Beck, “Does Your Copy Hold Up To A Quick Glance?

“Ever notice how many iPhone icons use analog objects? Phone, envelope, etc. We are wedded to the comforts of familiar objects.”
“Yet how many kids growing up these days will know why an icon for a phone is shaped like that?”
Brenden Dawes tweets, “Iconography: Where are we headed?

“Images are the main content of our thoughts regardless of the sensory modality in which they are generated and regardless of whether they are about a thing or a process involving things or about words or other symbols.”
Antonio Damasio

Also referenced are these articles and books-

Realism in UI Design
The Humane Interface
Designing Web Navigation


What’s in a Name?

I admit it. I have a little bit of an obsession when it comes to names. Behind the Name is bookmarked on multiple computers so I get to it at a moment’s notice. I can tell you the historical route that my name took to achieve the spelling that I have. In fact, I figured out in high school what each part of my name means.

I’ve always been a word nerd and the 4 or more years of etymology in grade school probably didn’t help. So when it came to choosing a name for this blog naturally I had to ponder it a bit. A lot of names were tossed around in my head when one day, as I was sitting there contemplating some notes from the 2010 UX Web Summit, it hit me – Something Magic.

I do not practice magic. I can’t pull quarters out of people ears or escape from locked chains or even pull a rabbit out of a hat. If you’ve come to this blog thinking that you might pick up that kind of magic trick I’m afraid you’ll be sorely disappointed. Instead the reference comes from a presentation by M. Jackson Wilkinson (@whafro) entitled Designing the Product.

Wilkinson had a lot of good things that he covered in his presentation about balancing goals, being cognizant of your objectives and reality, and knowing when and how to change. He even included the quote that graces my mac’s wallpaper (which winds definite cool points):

A common mistake that people make when trying to design something foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.

– Douglas Adams

The part of the presentation that really stuck with me, though, and the one from which this blog’s name comes was #7: Sweat the Important Details or, as I have it in my notes, Make it seem like magic. It only has to be one part.

He was speaking in terms of designing user experience with products, but as I thought about it I realized that it really can apply to so many parts of life. As adults we tend to forget to see the magic around us. We discount it as some parlor trick and in the process we can lose a bit of the wonder that we once found. I can’t promise that I won’t take things apart from time to time in my posts as I seek to better understand the inner workings of whatever has caught my interest, but I want to make ‘magic’ in the things that I do and try to find and appreciate that magic in the work of others.

I hope that you will do the same.

A special thanks to Refresh Detroit (@refreshdetroit) and Environments for Humans (@e4h) for making the viewing of the 2010 UX Web Summit possible. It was awesome.