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Monday, October 10th, 2011

99Designs: One Of The Best Web Apps I’ve Ever Used

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I’m on the Web all the time — I estimate I’ve looked at more than 50,000 Web sites in my lifetime

When one of them stands out, I like to spread the word.

99Designs is one such Web site.

99Designs solves a common problem in an unusual way: it allows you to submit your design requirements to their audience of designers who compete to win your project (or “contest” as they call it).

I tested them out for a logo I needed for a personality type site I do in my spare time. It hasn’t launched yet but it’s going to be called “TopTypes.”

Since real-life examples are more useful, I took screen shots of the experience I had running a design contest on 99Designs for the TopTypes logo I needed.

Step 1: Pick What You Want Designed

You can choose from such categories as:

  • Logos (that’s what I chose)
  • Web Design
  • Stationary
  • T-Shirt Design
  • Other
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Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Inside Tips From Apple & Steve Jobs


I just finished reading a terrific book called Inside Steve’s Brain by Leander Kahney.

If you’re interested in Steve Jobs or Apple or technology or design, I highly recommend you read it.

I dog-eared a handful of pages of favorite bullets or quotes – here they are:

Beware the “Osborne Effect”

Jobs is careful to announce new technology (e.g. the Mac OS X) still under development before it’s ready to be sold…so as to avoid the “Osborne Effect”(named after the Osborne Computer Corporation) in which sales of existing technology or products being sold can be hurt.

The Osborne Computer Corp. took more than a year to get its next product available, ran out of cash and went bankrupt in 1985.

Borrowing Design Ideas Is Encouraged

The inspiration for the type of plastic case (a first for computers) for the Apple II came from Jobs seeing a Cuisinart food processor in the kitchen section of Macy’s.

Additionally, Jobs showed up at a design meeting for the Quicktime software product with a brochure from Hewlett-Packard with the H-P logo in a brushed metal.

The brushed metal ended up being adopted in across much of Apple’s software and some high-end hardware including the Safari Web browser and iCal calendar.

Design Tip: It’s More Important What You Leave Out Then What You Put In

Former Apple CEO John Sculley believed that a key part of Jobs’ greatness were decisions he made about things NOT to do.

Kahney points to an interesting study by Elke den Ouden, of the Eindhoven University, in which nearly half of products returned by consumers for refunds still work perfectly but new owners just couldn’t figure out how to use them.

Jobs and Apple are widely credited with keeping their product line lean and product functionality simple.

Another Design Tip: Functionality Is More Important Than How It Looks

Jobs explained in an interview with Wired in 1996 that:

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it worked. The design on fht eMac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked…”

Apple’s Design Problem Solving

Apple designers subscribe to the “generate and test” approach to solving problems in which all the possible solutions are generated and tested to see if they offer a solution.

It’s key to use trial and error to make an “embarassing” number of solutions to get to one solution

Apple designers spends 10% of their time on traditional industrial design (brainstorming ideas, drawing, etc.) and 90% of their time working with manufacturing on implementing their ideas.

Jobs Doesn’t Believe In Focus Groups for Technology Products

He quotes the Henry Ford line: “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said a faster horse.”

The “Hero/Asshole RollerCoaster” Management Style

Kahney says he interviewed many people who work for Apple who say that the management style of Jobs and other Apple leaders is what is known as the “hero/asshole rollercoaster” in which there’s a constant tension at Apple between the fear of getting fire and a “messianic zeal” to change the world.

Apple’s Stock Plan

Apple employees can buy discounted stock of Apple in chunks based on their salary . The stock price is determined by the lowest price in the previous six months plus a small percentage discount.

Motives Are More Important Than Profits

“The older I get, the more I’m convinced that motives make so much difference,” Jobs is quoted in the book as saying.

“…our primary goal here is to make the world’s best PCs — not to be the biggest or richest.”

Great Steve Jobs Quote (from his 2005 Stanford commencement speech)

“Rembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.

…have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

I really recommend you read this book!

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