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Some Reading for the week of February 10

We’re a bit design heavy this week, across content, events and jobs. 

We begin with me. Actually an interview of sorts, more of a rambling conversation (that’s been edited thankfully) with Aaron Walter, now Vice President of Design at Invision, long time head of design at Mailchimp, and someone I’ve known and been fortunate enough consider a friend for many years now.

Apparently the first of two parts, in it we talked about the history of design on the Web, where the Web is at 30, and where we might be headed.

The Design We Swim In

Something I’ve picked up on in recent months is a concern, expressed by many very established, experienced, and well regarded designers that design systems, for all their benefit, might constrain the possibility for novelty and innovation in design.

Ethan Marcotte, who’s spoken at our events on a number of occasion writes in The Design Systems We Swim In

“when our industry talks about the value of a design system: we focus on the consistency it will provide.…But a design system that optimizes for consistency relies on compliance: specifically, the people using the system have to comply with the system’s rules, in order to deliver on that promised consistency. And this is why that, as a way of doing something, a design system can be pretty dehumanizing. Jeremy recently suggested as much, and Dave agrees; and as someone who occasionally worries about automation in design, I share their concerns. But it doesn’t have to be that way. (Probably.) (Hopefully.)”

A Time for Craft

Ethan’s essay quotes Ursula Franklin’s The Real World of Technology, which in Ethan’s paraphrasing of Franklin–

“contrasts prescriptive technologies—which divide work into small, easily-reproducible tasks, so that they can be performed by unskilled laborers—to holistic technologies, which are quite different.
He then quotes Franklin in more detail”

“Holistic technologies are normally associated with the notion of craft. Artisans, be they potters, weavers, metal-smiths, or cooks, control the process of their own work from beginning to finish.”

This idea of design as craft has its distractors, who find the idea pretentious, but at Atlassian (in my experience a very far from pretentious place), they build the opportunity for “craft time” into people’s schedules. Alex Skougarevskaya, a Design Manager there (and recent speaker at Web Directions Summit) talks about “design detention”

“one of the rituals that we do across the company. It came out of designers wanting to spend time with other designers. We’ve actually renamed it to “craft time” so it can extend to product and content teams, too. It helps people feel they belong to their own discipline.”

“It’s an optional block of time in everyone’s calendars where you come in and work on your own stuff, but you’re basically sitting with a bunch of other designers that you would not necessarily ever get to sit with. Designers are often embedded in their own products and don’t get a lot of exposure to other designers. They need an opportunity for that.
There’s a lot more there besides, really a valuable interview for anyone in design.”

Mentoring Remote Employees

As teams become increasingly distributed, we’re discovering things that might have come relatively easily when folks were working in the same location might work different when they no longer are.
So how might mentoring work in distributed teams? This FastCompany piece has some things to consider.

The Reality of Augmented and Virtual Reality

Even year or two for the last 20 or more years has been the year VR (and/or AR) become a reality, and transcend the hype.
So, why does it always seem to elude us?
Partly it still feels like a solution in search of a problem, but it’s more technically complicated than that.
Few people know more about AR and VR than Mark Pesce (among many other things co-inventor of VRML, a markup language for VR that shipped with IE for many years).
In this piece, Mark looks more deeply at the challenges VR and in particular AR still face

Connecting what’s inside our heads to what is outside our bodies requires a holistic approach, one that knits into a seamless cloth the warp of the computational and the weft of the sensory. VR and AR have always lived at this intersection, limited by electronic sensors and their imperfections

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