Monday, September 06, 2004

Spoon view


When I made this macro shot of our reflections in a shiny spoon Sunday morning at the Hotel Monaco's restaurant Poste, I wasn't thinking about the Mirror Project. I haven't submitted to or visited the site in a long time, but I see they recently reached an amazing 25,000 submissions, and they have a section of photo themes of which one is on spoons. I think I'll submit this mirror photo for a change.

11:30 PM in Family, Washington, D.C. | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Circles recycle


The open rooftop rotunda of AARP Headquarters satisfies my need to have a grand vista before me at my place of work as I meditate on the challenges of the day. To me, the rotunda walls represent strength and harmony, a circle that makes all ends beginnings, and caps a physical and organizational entity that must persist for many decades into the future. It's a private little Stonehenge that helps me focus learnings from the past and present into visions of the future. Looking up into the open sky from the center of the rotunda, the blue sky reminds me of the infinity of space/time, but almost aways there are some clouds of uncertainty.

Last week, two circles of work life completed and began again. My friend Victor Lombardi resigned from the job he took over for me about a year ago when I left AIG and New York City, and I started a new job role after completing another at AARP.

I recruited Victor from the then SBI Razorfish to take over the new Senior Information Architect role I created at AIG Corporate eBusiness. Victor has since grown his practice of one into a team of three who, along with the rest of the eBusiness team, work with business units to define corporate standards for web information archictecture, content strategy and usability for AIG's 2000 or so web sites around the world. Victor finally announced on his blog yesterday that he is leaving the corporate world to become an independant consultant, and his (my former) boss is eager to find a replacement. Taking the expanded perspective he's gained from working in a thriving global enterprise out into the world of free agency, some number of lucky clients will soon be able to apply Victor's talents to their digital projects and products.

At AARP's Web Strategy & Operations (WSO) group where I work, a re-org was completed last week and it was announced that I am the Acting Director of Client Services. I will oversee the newly-merged editorial content and online community teams, which total 12 people and will grow to 19 next year. For the first time, I don't have to squint to see where I am on an org chart. I am going to serve in this acting capacity for the next many months to define the new role and finalize a new client service process. And yes, my wife and I are now directors in the same group, but we don't manage each other's work. We both report to the new General Manager, and my team takes a larger place adjacent to my wife's design/production team and the technology team. I'll also continue working with John Maeda on projects at the MIT Media Lab.

The new client services team remains responsible for content strategy, editorial oversight, online community, e-mail newsletters and more for the web site. Bringing on new staff in the coming months will help us fulfill our mandate to take on a more consultative role as a group and do more outreach and education across the AARP organization.

In preparation for our first team meeting on Thursday, I've invited Jesse James Garrett of Adaptive Path to come speak to most of WSO and some of our internal clients on the Nine Pillars of Successful Web Teams tomorrow morning. Jesse and his partners are in town to deliver User Experience Week 2004. The talk should be an inspirational boost to the start of our newly-restructured teams.

Interesting times ahead...

11:42 PM in Washington, D.C. | Permalink | TrackBack

Monday, May 24, 2004

Maeda and me


Captured with my digital camera this morning: A simple moment with MIT Media Lab professor John Maeda at the National Building Museum.

John directs the Physical Language Workshop at the lab in addition to heading up the Information Organized Research Consortium in which AARP is a sponsor/member. He was in town today to chat with us on how we could adapt some of his technology platforms to enhance the online experience of a select group of AARP members. We're still in the early stages of planning, but I'm excited about helping to drive this joint initiative through our Web Strategy and Operations group.


Making technology usable, understandable, and enjoyable has been a theme throughout John's extensive career as a designer and teacher. He took new action on some of his ideas earlier this year to form an experimental research program called simply, simplicity. You'll notice that the letters M-I-T are even embedded in the logo treatment. Many point out that MIT is also in complexity, and what better an institution than this high temple of technology to come to the realization that we need a return to the basics.

The effort is still in its infancy, but John has turned the mantra up a notch with a recent essay [reg. req.] by Jessie Scanlon in the New York Times. John has assembled an impressive group of research fellows to do some initial thinking. Some of their first principles of simplicity:

1. Heed cultural patterns. The iPod, for instance, succeeded not just because of its sleek form, but because, in conjunction with iTunes, it solved so many of the problems of buying and storing music.

2. Be transparent. People like to have a mental model of how things work.

3. Edit. Simplicity hinges as much on cutting nonessential features as on adding helpful ones, the Newton MessagePad and the Palm Pilot being prime examples.

4. Prototype. Push beyond proof-of-technology demos and build prototypes that people can interact with.

Scanlon has started an outline for a book on simplicity, but in addition to upcoming press, some of the fellowship's ideas and examples will start to appear to the general public in a couple upcoming books. John's book Creative Code will arrive this summer, and Bill Moggridge of IDEO is finishing up a book manuscript entitled "Designing Interactions" for MIT Press to be released in the fall of 2005.

The simplicity braintrust reconvenes at the Media Lab early this July, and I'll likely be there to listen in. Stay tuned; stay simple.

11:15 PM in Information Design, MIT Media Lab, Washington, D.C. | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Wright close


To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brother's first flight, I went out during lunch today to see the original Wright Flyer at the National Air and Space Museum. They've taken the flyer down from its hanging place in the main Hall of Flight and wrapped an exhibit around it: The Wright Brothers: Aerial Age Begins. The flyer is now at floor level in a second floor gallery where you can inspect it from just beyond arm's reach.

The exhibit offers a rare opportunity to study the finely-crafted and brilliantly-engineered flying machine up close. I didn't have much time to look at the exhibit's info panels and many historial artifacts (including a rare Wright bicycle), so a trip back is certain. I did run into my buddy of 20 years, Bea Mowry, who is the design director of the museum. She's been working almost 'round the clock to get the displays for new Dulles Extension ready.

A TV news crew from Dayton, Ohio was taping a segment on the Wrights, and the museum had two actors present dressed as the brothers speaking in character to answer questions for visitors. I walked by the Apollo Lunar Module on my way out of the museum to feel the magnitude of how humans first achieved powered flight and later set foot on the Moon in the span of a lifetime.

The web press kit says the exhibit will run for at least two years. Until you get a chance to see the exhibit yourself, you might enjoy this TypePad gallery of some of the photos I took today.

11:47 PM in Washington, D.C. | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack