AEA Chicago 2009: Thinking Small

Session 2 of An Event Apart Chicago 2009 was Jason Santa Maria talking about small things that can make a big difference in a design.

example of: Choose your own adventure books: tiny choices affecting the outcome

7 things that can affect the outcome

  1. Be a thinker
    • keep a sketchbook
    • sketchbooks are not about being a good artist, they’re about being a good thinker
    • get past all of the obvious and to the real creative stuff
    • play around with words (how does the content work in space)
    • know your process, know your tools – (computer is a tool of refinement, mind is a tool of design)
  2. Find the Message
    • this one ran together w/ #1 in my mind, so some notes from #1 should probably go here.
  3. Be a Reverse Engineer
    • more than one way to do it
    • 6 ways to reinterpret content
      • Next/Prev Panel
      • Zoom In/Out
      • Embellish or Exaggerate
      • Disarm
      • Deconstruct
      • Re-contextualize
  4. Plot it out
    • just choosing a grid system is crap: why are you using it – “blindly go where everyone has gone before”
    • using a grid is not necessarily good design, it’s just organized design
  5. Think Horizontally, then Vertically
    • grid=parfait
    • tiers building on each other
  6. Stop, Modulate, and Listen
    • identifier, size, and placement
    • a la carte modules
    • class=”pic four left”it’s a picture, four columns wide, on the left
    • easy for clients to pick up on it and use, easy to place/repurpose content (the uber-semantic nazis flamed JSM for this, but there comes a point where usability for the content creators > semantics for the sake of semantics sake)
  7. Be a Matchmaker
    • typography online; matching fonts
    • pair typefaces from the same designer
    • harmony in structure


Why is typography going to be heating up?
@font-face, TypeKit, etc.
Modular? Semantic class names?
easy to use > purely semantic
Isn’t licensing the big hurdle w/ @font-face?
yes, that is a big hurdle but a bigger problem is that fonts aren’t designed for screen
How do I make sure I’m not violating copyright?
Look at EULA
What point of the process do you look at colors, photo styles?
Early on, seting the mood, during sketch phase
Flexibility on site (separate design per blog post), can you sell that to clients?
Yes, to a certain extent. If the client has a trained designer (but, a certain amount can be accomplished by placing images within blog posts using modular layout discussed above).
When do you bring IE in to the picture?
as he goes along, it tends to get later and later in the game
Does modular design described above work in expanding layouts?
image sizing is the issue in fluid grid (%, em), otherwise, could work
don’t like variable image sizes
How do you prevent bad design (from client)?
question any change requests that aren’t from the user perpective
How do you build sketching early on? (I couldn’t figure out what I meant by what I wrote here when I went to edit–maybe some day I’ll remember…)
phase of discovery, along with research, etc.
Special consideration for grid systems to work in CMSs?
no, it’s all CSS, so CMS doesn’t make a difference
Materials for developers/non-designers to understand design?