Category Archives: design

Tools for thrashing early

If you’re building something, it’s critical to thrash early. The biggest and loudest changes should be vocalized early on.

Everyone gets heard, opinions are out in the open and the design gets refined from there.

If it’s done right, there is little to no thrashing at the end and the project ships on time and on budget.

Here are two resources that will help if your project involves any kind of prototyping or wireframing.

is a really neat online tool for creating and sharing mock ups.

If you’re more of a hardcopy person (I sometimes use both), Geek Chix has a super handy list of sketch templates you can print for wireframing.

Thrash early.

Ship on time.


How TED got even better

One of the best websites in the world just got even better. recently rolled out a “Best of the Web” section, designed to be a “one-stop portal to the very best talks on the Internet”.

You can view some of the early selections at the TED Talks page here. In the ‘Show by Event’ selector on the left, scroll down to the bottom to “Best of the Web”.

Martin Luther King Jr.: I Have a Dream
Steve Jobs: How to Live Before You Die
Michael Sandel: What is the Right Thing to Do?
Robert Sapolsky: The Uniqueness of Humans
and the famous “last lecture” of Randy Pausch.

Wisely, TED is crowdsourcing new content for the page from their intelligent and connected tribe. If you find video worthy of TED’s new page, email with “Best of the Web suggestion” in the subject line, and a link to where the talk can be seen.

50 Extraordinary Billboards

Interruption marketing rarely works. Permission marketing is always better.

I honestly believe that most people can’t remember a single billboard they saw in the last week.

Can you?

What if you saw these billboards? Whether you want to buy the product or not, would you at least point it out to anyone else in your vehicle? Would you tell your friends?

[I think some are probably Photoshopped but most are real.]

Ponds Pores





Full list of all 50 on Johnson Koh’s blog here.

Daily Sense’s new clothes

(email and RSS subscribers – feel free to skip this post)


Like a five-month old outgrowing his Garanimals overalls, after over 140 posts, DailySense has outgrown the Max is NOW! WordPress theme that it’s been running on.

After inspiration from Chris Brogan and a pep talk from my friend Matt, I’ll be migrating Daily Sense to a popular WP theme called Thesis. There are many reasons for the change, including better SEO, improved flexibility and a better experience for you, my valued readers.

I want to thank Max over at Max is NOW for his generous sharing of the existing theme.

One of the huge benefits of Thesis is its flexibility. When I roll out the new design, I’ll be asking you for feedback. Tell me what you like and what you don’t and I’ll try to make sure Daily Sense gives you the experience you want.

Until then, let’s all pour out a little liquor for the colorful checkerboard. You will be missed.

Design to remind


When designing your next logo or brochure or website or packaging or storefront or book cover, or deciding what to wear, ask yourself one simple question.

What do I want to remind people of?

The whole point of (most) design is to remind people of something, even if only subconsciously.

The screenshot of the website above reminds me of Basecamp or many high quality “Web 2.0″ sites that I’ve been on before. That’s exactly the point and it’s perfect. I already have an idea of not only how the website works but what type of company they are before I click on anything.

A Malcolm Gladwell book looks and feels very different than a self-published book. If I handed you a book you’ve never seen before, your mind immediately notes which of the two it reminds you of.

A Bell & Ross watch feels significantly different than a Timex from Target. There is no right or wrong, but if I handed you a watch, you could probably tell whether it reminds you of one with a three digit price, or a five digit price.

The same is true with customer service. If you start a new business and your outstanding customer service ‘reminds’ a new customer of phenomenal service they remember from Disney, Zappos or Nordstrom, you automatically reap some of the benefit from that customer’s positive memories.

I bet you can name the movie that this typeface reminds you of.

Everything your business does, says, feels or displays will remind someone of something. Do you know what that something is? Is it what you want to remind them of?

The only exception is when you’re designing something so unique that you (intentionally) don’t want to remind people of anything. The iPhone. The Blue Snowball microphone. The Soul iD book. If your product is that remarkable, you don’t need (or want) to remind people of anything, you want to blow the lid off.

[Be careful if you’re thinking your product or service belongs in that exception category. It’s possible, but unlikely.]

It’s right

One of my favorite movie scenes happens midway through Good Will Hunting. The main character, Will (played by Matt Damon) hands in a solution to a difficult proof to a genius math professor. Despite understanding Will’s genius, the professor challenges the proof and his method for solving it. Will insists, “it’s right”.


Watch the scene above or on YouTube here. (warning for my 8-year old followers – it does contain some adult language)

When pushing a new idea or an improvement, there will always be dissenters; people that are terrified of the slightest change to the status quo. Stick to your guns. Show them why it will succeed.

If you’re passionate, ignore the dissenters and execute with reckless abandon.

If that means you need to light your idea on fire to prove a point, do it.

Generation Lap


Parents, if you can’t understand how your kid can jump from Facebook to instant messaging to texting, all while doing their homework, watch this.

Parents with young children, watch this.

Kids (anyone under 35), if your parents don’t seem to get you, the digital you, watch this with them. Help explain it to them.

Educators, watch this. Think about how you can use this knowledge in the classroom.

Everyone else, watch this anyway. We can all learn a lot from Don Tapscott.

A branding mistake, corrected

Tropicana branding mistake

The last of the generic-looking Tropicana cartons are almost gone. If you didn’t get any, don’t worry. They’re not like baseball cards with errors. They won’t increase in value over time.

Many different takes on Tropicana’s mistake from:

Fast Company

The New York Times (need free registration)

Peter Merholz

David Wertheimer

And a different take by Todd Wasserman at BrandWeek.

Some say that it looked too generic. Some say that making the carton look like a store brand communicated value. Some say they couldn’t find their favorite type among many (no pulp, with Calcium and Vitamin D – see below).

Now that Tropicana has relented and brought back the old carton design, what do you think?

IdeaPaint from Behance

I’ll admit it. I have an unhealthy love for whiteboards. Ever since college, when discussing ideas or processes or technology with colleagues, I frequently pop up from my chair and grab a whiteboard marker to sketch out my thoughts or those of the group. I’m definitely a visual thinker and learner, so having the idea sketched out helps me think through it. And since my first iteration is usually way off, the “erase-ability” is nice.

Until this week, I knew that someday my future office would be ‘wallpapered’ in whiteboards. For the second time in a month, I’d like to thank Scott and the great team over at Behance. Now I don’t have to hang heavy and cumbersome whiteboard material on the walls.

From the Behance site:

IdeaPaint helps you make ideas happen in the existing areas around your creative space or office. We recommend using IdeaPaint to boost productivity while brainstorming. By transforming your walls into useful space, you can track ideas, capture action steps, and bring order to the creative process.

Each IdeaPaint kit contains Behance tips for use, 50 sq ft of IdeaPaint, a specified foam roller, application instructions, a can opener, a stir stick, and an “Available for Use” sign.

Idea Paint is used by leaders across multiple industries, as well as in schools across the country. IdeaPaint is the most environmentally friendly dry-erase product on the market, making significant improvements in raw material utilization, energy consumption, and air quality. In 2008, IdeaPaint won Best of NeoCon Gold for Wall Treatments and Best of NeoCon Innovations Award.

You can find all of the information, including where to buy over at

Thanks, Behance. Now if you could make Aeron chairs in aerosol cans, I can just paint and spray until my office is complete.

9 lessons from

Uncrate succeeds because they do a lot of things right.

1. Well-defined niche
Guys who like cool stuff.

2. Well-defined goal

Cool stuff. For guys.

3. Frequency

New cool stuff. For guys. Every weekday.

Right now, on the front page of their blog they review a cool knife, an innovative grill brush, a new hip-hop album, unique stools made from skateboard decks, a stylish tattoo machine and some good old blue jeans.

I’d say they’re staying true to their niche.

4. Design

A minimal, clean, easy to use design with bold colors and a quality logo. Easy navigation. Quality photos. Obvious search. Lots of whitespace. A useful footer. No Flash because no Flash was necessary.

5. Copy
Succinct descriptions, written by a human, that tell you just enough to decide whether to click.

6. Pricing
Obvious pricing for every product (where available). Many sites make you click through to find out.

7. Social

Uncrate makes it easy for you to follow their updates. Web. Email. RSS. Twitter. Facebook. Tumblr.

They understand that different customers want to hear from them in different ways and they not only enable that, they make it easy.

8. Sharing

Uncrate makes it easy to share any product with any social bookmarking site, and they make it fun to email to your friends

9. Simple

Everything about Uncrate is as simple as possible. The interface is minimal and obvious. It just works.

Oranges are green

Oranges are green

When you go to the grocery store, which oranges do you put in your cart? If you’re like most people, you pick the richest, orangest ones because they are the ripest and most flavorful, right?


On the tree, a mature orange is usually green-skinned. It will turn orange only if the cold temperature destroys the green chlorophyll pigments. In warmer climates, oranges are always green; but, in the US, oranges are green only if they are picked in the fall before the first cold snap or if they are picked early in the spring when the tree is flooded with chlorophyll to nourish the coming new growth.

The moment the orange growers pick the orange off the tree, they are green, (like in the picture) and that is as ripe and juicy as they will ever get.

So how do the oranges get all “Tropicana” orange before they arrive at your local grocery store? The growers gas them with an ethylene compound, which breaks down the chlorophyll. The deepness of orange is not an assurance of flavor, just a matter of how much extra chemicals went into fooling us.

Even people who know this little fact choose the deeper colored oranges at the grocery store.

This consumer desire for a deep orange color runs so deep it even affected Tropicana in their recent branding debacle. Consumers want the orange, and in this case the straw too.

The same thing is happening right now, across America. Unable to see inside, consumers are choosing services based on the things they can see. This is why design and first impressions are so important. You could have the absolute best service in your industry but if your website looks unprofessional, you’ll get passed over for oranger oranges.

Are you putting your best peel forward?