Red Line Shortcuts

These maps below are for my fellow Cambridge-Somerville residents who use the Red Line every day to travel south. It tells you exactly which train door to go through in order to reach the exit you’re looking for at your destination.

Please let me know if something isn’t correct. (mchenstudio @ gmail.com) Also feel free to email me if you know which doors to use for destinations outbound or for any stations south of South Station.

If you re-post this, make sure you link back to this page.

How to use the map:

The maps show the train as it would appear when you’re standing at the inbound platform facing the train. The train is traveling south to the right if you’re at Alewife, Harvard, Central and Kendall, and it’s traveling south to the left if you’re at Davis and Porter.

The stations are in geographical (chronological?) order.

Everything else should be self-explanatory.

Alewife Inbound (hi-res link)

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Davis Inbound (hi-res link)

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Update 1: The inbound platform at Harvard is to the right of the station. (Thanks mtrem225 on reddit.)

Update 2: The exit off by itself at Park St. is an emergency exit. (Thanks harbinger via email.)

Update 3: The Pearl St. exit at Central and the Main St. exit at Kendall are at the 2nd door of the front car. (Thanks DaWolf85 on reddit.)

Tuesday Thoughts about Hardware & Software

Once upon a time, iPhones fit in the palm of our hands. Holding and tapping anywhere was easy. The hardware never impeded you from using the software.

Now phones are mini tablets, but the software has stayed more or less the same. As a product designer who studied ergonomics in school, I occasionally find it strange that the two don’t always evolve together.

It creates some issues when performing certain actions like:

1) Taking a photo. Have you ever tried taking a phone of the sky with one hand? Try it. It’s hard to keep the phone steady while your thumb reaches for the camera button. Whenever this happens, I generally use the volume down button to take the photo instead. It’s because my thumb wants to be near the center of the screen or to the edge of it to keep it stable. It would actually be easier if the “trigger” button were on the top left and top right of the screen for either your left or right thumb.

2) Using Touch ID. Your thumb reaches for the center of the screen more easily than the bottom of the device.

What if the next Touch ID works by touching the screen rather than the home button? It would involve a lot of changes to the hardware, but it kind of makes sense from an ergonomic standpoint.

(I mocked up the last screen)

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My thumb has a much easier time with the option on the right.

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3) Using navigation bars and menus.

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Navigation and main buttons have always been at the top and at the bottom of the screen. It’s generally a good idea since you want content to be in the middle of the screen. But it doesn’t always make sense when you can’t properly reach the extreme corners.

Given that Apple is most likely implementing Force Touch on their next iPhone/iPad, I would want to enable navigation with different types of presses. Next step in navigation will be less about taps and more about gestures. Swipe-to-go-back and horizontal scrolling are already widely used. Let’s keep pushing UI in that direction.

Normal things I didn’t realize you needed two hands to do

…until I got into an accident three weeks ago.

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  1. Using zippers
  2. Hand-washing utensils
  3. Tying a ponytail
  4. Cutting fingernails on the healthy hand
  5. Tying shoelaces
  6. Tying trash bags
  7. Signing your signature on curly receipt paper.
  8. Using cling wrap effectively
  9. Rolling up sleeves for the healthy arm
  10. Chopping whole onions

The Solution:

When people leave the hospital with one working hand, they should hand them a weighted clamp in a bag.

Why? Because when you’re one-handed, the thing that really changes is you that no longer create strong opposing forces: you can’t pull or use one hand for the anchor while the other hand does something to an object.

A weighted clamp would allow people to do at least half the things on this list. It could hold a light object still while allowing the other hand to perform an action on that object. Boom.

Intentions & Execution of Design

“Look at this website,” my coworker said with his eyes rolled. I swivel my chair and peer at his screen. The website features a multi-colored word art title with a textured background that may have been popular twenty years ago. We both groan at the lack of professionalism the site shows.

We’ve all experienced the frustration of seeing bad design. Our gut reaction as designers is “someone ought to fix it.” Sometimes, we take it upon ourselves to fix it.

Several years ago, I saw a popular website that was promoting goods made in the US. The content was great, the navigation worked, but the styling of the website was appalling. There were boxes upon boxes, unnecessary drop shadows and weird illustrations that didn’t really make sense to me. I decided right there and then that I was going to redesign the site and then send the site owner my work.

I spent a weekend coming up with a new design for the site. “This is so much better,” I thought as I stepped back from it.  I emailed it to the owner, happy with the result.

A few days later, I got an email back. It went something like this: “Your designs are lovely, and I really like the ideas you came up with. But I’m really proud of the little drawings I did for this site, and I want to keep them.” I was exasperated. The drawings on the current site were, in my opinion, terrible.

It was then that I realized something. Even though my execution of the website was more modern and professional, the site owner clearly wanted her personal mark on it. I realized that maybe she wanted the website to be funky and unpolished. I was the arrogant designer, coming in and telling her to change something that she clearly did not want to change.

Jared Spool, keynote speaker at the User Experience Professionals’ Association Conference (held yesterday), spoke about this exact topic. In his presentation, a designer named Tyler Thompson saw the boarding pass for Delta Airlines, which can be difficult to comprehend at first glance, and decided to redesign it so that it could be “better.”

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Tyler’s design is beautiful. It uses modern fonts and rich colors. The flight, gate, seat and zone are clear to the customer. But Jared pointed out a few things about this design: the colors bleed out to the edge, it uses white stock, and it uses high-definition fonts that require printing at 300dpi. Delta’s low-resolution, thermal printers can’t do these things.

If Delta were to actually use Tyler’s design, it would have to replace 10,000+ boarding pass printers, change paper size and add cutting for bleeds on top of creating a new supply chain for colored inks.

Which design is better now? It’s easy to create designs without understanding the real constraints, but the best design is the end is one that satisfies real world needs. As Jared said, “to improve design, we must work on both the intention and the skills of rendering.” We can’t only improve the rendering.

Both my own website redesign from years ago and Jared’s talk have taught me that we, designers, need to have a little bit of humility. We can’t just tell someone how to do something “right” if we don’t know the context around which the original design was created. It’s easy to be nit-picky, and there are circumstances where better design is absolutely called for. But it’s time we stop to understand what situation we’re in so that we can do things with the right intention and execution.

3 Quotes from The Purpose Economy

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Below I’ve highlighted in bold what I believe are the essentials to employment engagement. A lot of it may seem like common sense, but it’s surprising difficult for many people to actually feel that they’re achieving all of these things.

“Purpose is not a noun, it is a verb. It is about how we work. We experience purpose when we do something that’s greater than ourselves. We experience purpose when we push ourselves and grow. We experience purpose as part of a community.”

“When it comes to purpose at work, there are three core drivers that will determine whether we feel fulfilled in what we’re doing: who we serve, how we serve them, and why we serve them.”

“But, there are times when job crafting and meaning-making don’t cut it. There are times when it is important to make a bigger change to a new profession or a new employer. The cliche, backed by research, is that most people take a job for the organization and leave because of their manager. No manager is perfect, but there are managers who are simply not a good fit for someone, or worse yet, are incompetent and undermining the teamwork of those around them. Sadly, most managers are clueless about what motivates their team. When asked to identify what their employees want, the top three things cited are good wages, job security, and promotion opportunities. When employees are actually asked, they report the top three as appreciation, feeling ‘in’ on things, and an understanding attitude. Not only did managers fail to identify these as the top drivers, they put them at the bottom of the list.”

Reasoning & Physics

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My roommate has recently being watching a lot of Elon Musk interviews. She sent me a section of transcript from the Q&A that followed his TED talk. I’d like to share it, because it’s not often that I find ideas about thinking itself to be so crystal clear.

Watch the TED talk

Question to Elon Musk:

18:46 CA: My theory is that you have an ability to think at a system level of design that pulls together design, technology and business, so if TED was TBD, design, technology and business, into one package, synthesize it in a way that very few people can and — and this is the critical thing — feel so damn confident in that clicked-together package that you take crazy risks. You bet your fortune on it, and you seem to have done that multiple times. I mean, almost no one can do that. Is that — could we have some of that secret sauce? Can we put it into our education system? Can someone learn from you? It is truly amazing what you’ve done.

Musk’s Answer:

19:30 EM: Well, thanks. Thank you. Well, I do think there’s a good framework for thinking. It is physics. You know, the sort of first principles reasoning. Generally I think there are — what I mean by that is, boil things down to their fundamental truths and reason up from there, as opposed to reasoning by analogy. Through most of our life, we get through life by reasoning by analogy, which essentially means copying what other people do with slight variations. And you have to do that. Otherwise, mentally, you wouldn’t be able to get through the day. But when you want to do something new, you have to apply the physics approach. Physics is really figuring out how to discover new things that are counterintuitive, like quantum mechanics. It’s really counterintuitive. So I think that’s an important thing to do, and then also to really pay attention to negative feedback, and solicit it, particularly from friends. This may sound like simple advice, but hardly anyone does that, and it’s incredibly helpful.

“Focus”

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Meaghan Nolan, the founder of UX Lab, said to me this week during a General Assembly event something to the effect of: “For my parents’ generation, the mantra in life was to work hard. You got to where you wanted to be by working hard. In our generation, working hard just ensures that you’ll be overwhelmed. We can’t just work hard, we need to focus.”

We all have many opportunities in life. The hard part is knowing which ones to pick. If we work hard and pick them all, how do we fit sleep in our lives? We can’t. We can only pick the opportunities that we feel most strongly about and focus on those.

Her words really resonated with me, because I work hard on all the things I do – whether it’s design related or not. That hard work brings me many interesting opportunities that appear shiny and wonderful. I always want to jump in and be a part of them.

It’s so easy to become distracted. There’s so much noise around us with people telling us how to best grow our careers, what our next moves should be and where we should go. Many people want to do it all. But doing it all comes with a price. It means that you’re getting pulled in more directions and that you won’t be moving as fast as you want in any one particular direction.

If you have somewhere you want to go, you can’t just hustle. You need to make it your focus to get there.

I see to think.

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I use images to think. I’m not thinking with words and then using images to describe that thought. Images are how I think.

It means that I “see” something first, then that image turns into a thought. And only then does that thought turn into words.

At school, it meant that word problems in math class were the worst things on the planet. I had to process the written words, translate them into images and then think about solving them.

When the English teacher asked us all a question verbally, I had to translate those words into images, answer it with images and spit it back out in words. This generally took me a minute, so by the time I knew what to say, another student’s hand was already chosen.

At work, it means that when people problem solve things in a long email, I diagram their words afterwards. I feel like I have an extreme case of visual thinking, but I’m sure other artists and designers feel similarly.

Having these experiences has made me more empathetic to people who see the world through numbers or tones. It’s made me realize that miscommunication is more than what was perceived incorrectly through someone else’s lens. It’s also what the lens is.

So next time when someone you’re talking you doesn’t get what you’re saying, it might not be because you didn’t explain it well enough. It might just be that you’re not using the way that person thinks to get to the point.

The Artists I Know

…make things not because someone told us to. We make things because they want to. We have intrinsic motivation to make something that no one else has made before. It means that we’re not listening to what the world wants. We’re listening to ourselves.