Reading Notes, December 2015

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Article: Helpful Talk Tips by Paul Ford

By no means do I consider myself a public speaker. However, in the limited experience I have speaking to groups, these tips seem relevant to public speaking.

First: do you ever wonder why most talks begin with a joke or story? Here’s why:

I’m finding that it’s very important to just get up there and talk a little bit, make some dumb jokes, let people get used to you existing.

Second: it’s generally a good idea to get rid of slides and notes and just have statements that you can respond to, then it feels conversational as opposed to dictated:

I’ve thrown away most of the slides with bullets, and I’ve thrown away all of my slide notes. Notes are terrible and half the time you can’t see them anyway. Then, what I try to do is make every slide a little statement, and respond to it…By throwing together statistics and pictures and quotes, it looks like I’m giving a talk, but what’s really happening is that I’m having a conversation with myself. The slides are saying things to me and I’m responding.

Article: Valet Apps Are Silicon Valley Entitlement at Its Silliest

Apparently, on-demand valet parking services are springing up in Silicon Valley as a thing — it’s like the Uber of parking. You drive your car, pull out the app, and summon a valet who will park your car in a secure lot and retrieve it whenever you want (for a small fee of course).

The author of the article makes this observation, which I can’t help but agree with wholeheartedly:

In our oversaturated world of on-demand anything, the emergence of insta-valet services is, sadly, not shocking. We want everything to be cheap and easy … but at what point does our obsession with convenience go from maximizing efficiency to optimizing laziness?

That last line so perfectly sums up so many of the venture-backed startups I’ve seen: “at what point does our obsession with convenience go from maximizing efficiency to optimizing laziness?”. Why does it seem like almost every new consumer app/service merely panders to our indolence?

Article: Brighton, England: The San Francisco of Silicon Valley’s dreams

An interesting look at the tech culture differences between Brighton, England, and San Fran, California, centered around the person of Jeremy Keith:

[Keith said about Brighton] “It’s not the classic startup obsession with a quick-buck IPO tunnel vision. It’s more about long-term happiness. Nobody’s going to work too hard if working too hard means giving up fun, giving up life. Or else what is all this technology for?”

Book: A Designer’s Art by Paul Rand

An interesting look at the root meaning of the word “art” and its relationship to design:

We know that where we perceive no patters of relationship, no design, we discover no meaning … The reason apparently unrelated things become interesting when we start fitting them together … is that the mind’s characteristic employment is the discovery of meaning, the discovery of design … The search for design, indeed, underlies all arts and all sciences … the root meaning of the word art is, significantly enough, ‘to join, to fit together’ — John Kouwenhoven, as quoted in “A Designer’s Art” by Paul Rand (xiii)

The essence of graphic design:

Graphic design is essentially about visual relationships–providing meaning to a mass of unrelated needs, ideas, words, and pictures. It is the designer’s job to select and fit this material together–and make it interesting.

On the process graphic design, and why respect for the individual and his/her process is absolutely necessary (LOVE THIS!!):

The separation of form and function, of concept and execution, is not likely to produce objects of aesthetic value … any system that sees aesthetics as irrelevant, that separates the artist from his product, that fragments the work of the individual, or creates by committee, or makes mincemeat of the creative process will in the long run diminish not only the product but the maker as well.

A statement on the process of design, the first part always being that the designer must break down before he can build up:

Design starts with three classes of material:

  1. The given - product, copy, slogan, logotype, format, media production process.
  2. The formal - space, contrast, proportion, harmony, rhythm, repetition, line, mass, shape, color, weight, volume, value, texture.
  3. The psychological - visual perception, optical illusion problems, the spectator’s instincts, intuitions, and emotions (as well as the designer’s own needs).
    As the material furnished him is often inadequate, vague, uninteresting or otherwise unsuitable for visual interpretation, the designer’s task is to restate the problem. This may involve discarding or revising much of the given material. By analysis (breaking down of the complex material into its simplest components - the how, why, when and where) the designer is able to begin to state the problem

Lastly, the job of artist (and by extension a good graphic designer) is to call attention to the ordinary, to make people stop and reconsider what they believe they already understand:

[designers should practice] the fine art of exhibiting the obvious in [the] unexpected…The problem of the artist is to defamiliarize the ordinary.