37signals Illustrations

Benjamin W.

November 11, 2010

This is another great post from 37signals.

Jamie describes the product illustration process for Basecamp. You should go read it. It’s not long and it gives some great insights.

It’s not an easy task to give a sense of an app from a small drawing of some icons. What I love about this post is that it shows iteration. It shows that the first idea really wasn’t the best idea. Still the first idea had to be executed so that we could see what was or wasn’t working. And get feedback. If he just thought and thought and thought until it hit him like a bolt of lightning, he wouldn’t have come up with that final illustration which is by far my favorite. It says what it needs to say in a clean way.

This is something I need to work on. There are too many ideas in my head that stay there because they’re not good enough yet. They only way for them or me to get good enough is to do those ideas as best I can. Put them out there. And do it again and again.

Merlin Mann on Future Proofing Your Passion

Benjamin W.

May 18, 2010

Merlin Mann distills the unbelievable amount of over lapping anxieties in my head into small chunks of advice that make me think there might be another way of doing things that isn’t so painful. His new post on 43folders is no exception.

Just go read it.

Seth Godin: Linchpin Series.

Benjamin W.

April 22, 2010

If you are creative at all in any way, if you’re wondering how in the hell you’re going make a living doing something you love, download and listen to this talk right now.

April Linchpin Session – Seth Godin.

It is something I needed to hear. It’s for anyone who wants what they love and what they do for money to be the same thing. And anyone who wants to change things.

For more on Seth Godin, just google him.

The Law of Anti-Attraction by Sonia Simone

Benjamin W.

April 6, 2010

The law of Anti-Attraction.

Just a quick link to a post that really makes sense to me. The big secret in business or anything for that matter, there are big secrets.

Dont be stupid but don’t be a coward!

Benjamin W.

April 5, 2010

I’ve been listening to a couple new podcasts my Dan Benjamin. The Conversation and The Pipeline are really good. I also just read REWORK by 37signals. An awesome read.

There’s some really good advice in both. And though I agree, I couldn’t help but feel that there’s another side to it.

When 37signals says, “Don’t quite your day job” This isn’t an encouragement to be lazy, or afraid or anything else. They’re encouraging smartness. Most of the stuff you think you need to do to accomplish something isn’t actually necessary. The time or money you think you “have to” set aside to get something going is probably an overestimate. You’re making it harder on yourself than is necessary to get started.

Listening to The Conversation, I almost feel discouraged from going out on my own. There are comments from Garrett Dimon that make it sound like it’s a hassle to have a successful app that’s actually making money. And I know that Dan would definitely want to encourage people to do their thing. Whatever their thing is. And sometimes that takes courage.

I think you need smarts and courage and sometimes they go against each other. It takes courage to ignore every excuse and impulse you have to do anything but what really matters to you. And once you’ve overcome that bullshit, it takes a lot of learning and getting kicked in the teeth to make it work so you can keep doing what matters to you.

People have to do what matters to them. So, if what matters to me is hard to do, I only want to hear your advice on how to make it easier or how to deal with it. Don’t tell me how I should reconsider because it’s tough. Anything worth doing is tough. Get smart and get brave.

Seth Godin’s Linchpin. I got mine today.

Benjamin W.

January 12, 2010

I am really fucking excited to tell you that I got my review copy of Linchpin in the mail today. Already liking were it’s headed. I’ll write my full review soon. Now to get a snack.

Designing for engagement: Please make me think!

Benjamin W.

January 4, 2010

Hope your New Year is starting off with a bang.

I just bought Universal Principles of Design: 125 Ways to Enhance Usability, Influence Perception, Increase Appeal, Make Better Design Decisions and Teach through Design. I started reading it today and I can already tell I’m in for a few “Get out a town!” moments. But the second principle in the book, Accessibility, got me thinking about a different approach to design.

I’ve been studying web and graphic design for some time now. As soon as I began I came across the terms accessibility, usability and simplicity used everywhere. And these are ideas I definitely agree with. But there’s another side to it that I’d like to see talked about more.

Accessibility and Usability are means to an outcome. A way to help accomplish something. But they’re aren’t the thing you’re trying to accomplish.

In the example of an elevator, accessibility helps those who can’t see by adding braille to the numbers. Or those who can’t walk by putting the buttons low enough so that people in wheelchairs can reach. In this example the benefits of accessibility are clear.

In the world of web sites and software, the benefits of making something simple, understandable and easy to use are equally accepted by anyone taking this stuff seriously. But it’s not as cut and dry as in the case of the elevator. I’m not talking about making your site screen reader friendly or increasing the text size so it’s more readable. I’m talking about users, audience, customers and how to help them achieve an outcome that we want them to achieve. This goes beyond just getting out of the way and letting someone do what they want and into teaching them, inspiring them and pushing them to do what they really want.

As a creative person, the most difficult thing is not learning Photoshop or Final Cut Pro. It’s not picking up a camera and figuring out what that button does. It’s not my lack of a great “point and shoot” that is preventing me from becoming a photographer. And it’s not my lack of recording equipment or the complexity of Protools that keeps me from making that record I’ve been wanting to make. It is the lack of inspiration and motivation necessary to get my ass out of bed and believe in something strongly enough to learn, experiment, read, practice, try, persist, care and be passionate.

Most people are not lacking great tools to write. Writing something worth reading was never hard because of the pencil. We don’t need a new, simpler, more intuitive text application. We need a personal and relevant reason to write in the first place.

I think that products, software, sites, tools and everything can be better designed to inspire us to put effort into things because the outcome is worth the effort. I have no problem with making something easy to use as long as you don’t sacrifice the outcome in the process. People need challenges and obstacles. Overcoming them is the reason the goal is valuable at all. I like learning curves but I want get passed them without a reason.

So the next time you’re designing an interface, a piece of software or a poster, see if you can give them really good reasons along the way to use it and use it well.

Letter Case

Graphic Design & Web Design

Letter Case was my one-man design shop based in Los Angeles, CA.
I ran it for 2 years until I joined Typekit in January 2011.

In my spare time I've been learning to program by building my first web application.
A simple tool called Talkative to help people publish their talks on the web.

My current project is The Briefcase. A blog and podcast.
It's a place for me to create and publish stuff.

If you have any comments, thoughts or questions,
feel free to contact me at: benthomaswelch [at] gmail.com.

Thanks for checking out my blog. Cheers!

Simplicity is harder than it looks.