I’m Hiring … a User Interface Designer

October 7th, 2012

Hi! I’m on the lookout for a talented User Interface Designer in Toronto. If concept sketching, visual design and prototyping are your thing, then please checkout the job posting and reach out to me. Looking forward to hearing from you.


Interactive Sketching Notation v1.2

April 24th, 2012

The next version of the Interactive Sketching Notation is rolling out today. One of the biggest adjustment was to the Adobe Illustrator template by adjusting the scale of all the icons, screens and widgets from a way smaller scale to a more screen friendly set. Before, when I tried to export my sketches from Illustrator I realized that all the work is so tiny that it is unreadable. So now the template contains 1024×768+ and 1366×768+ scaled screen outlines (along with additional iPhone, iPad, Android device screens) that are all to scale on a standard computer monitor. Screens edges have also been straightened a bit to make it easier to align items.

Another big improvement was expanding the set of sketchy style icons to 49. I spent a few good hours drawing out typical icons for things like: zooming in, zooming out, cameras, social icons, trash cans, settings, attachments, portraits, shopping carts, etc, etc. Hoping this might be useful.

Finally, the other improvement is in expanding the range of widgets such as sliders, progress bars, date pickers and an android keyboard.

Although the notation itself is shareable under Creative Commons, the Illustrator Template is now a paid product ($19 CAD) – as I’m putting more time into it (and plan on in the future).

Please let me know if you have recommendations, requests or just want to give feedback.


Predicting Usability & Usefulness

April 20th, 2012

When dealing with problems of usability, I think it’s still relatively easy to rely on experience and be able to predict if a user will be able to manage through a task. Over time, an experienced designer builds up a number of rules, best practices, or guidelines that can help him or her to make an interface more usable (that is, answering the problem of: can people use it).

When dealing with problems of usefulness (that is, answering the problem of: will people actually use it) I think it becomes harder and harder to predict the answer. Problems of usefulness are of a higher complexity and therefore are more difficult to predict and resolve with just experience or guidelines alone. Instead, in order to improve usefulness of a product, the designer has to get scientific, measure, test, experiment and simulate.

… just a sketched out hypothesis.

Social Computing Sneak Peak Preview

November 10th, 2011

The guys over at interaction-design.org just tipped me in advance with a few videos they will soon be releasing on the topic of Social Computing. The page is loaded with HD videos interviewing Tom Erickson (a veteran researcher in social computing at IBM Watson Research Lab) as well as write ups on the topic. Looks like high quality content and inspiration. Thanks Mads Soegaard for the link! :)

Interactive Sketching Notation v1.1

May 16th, 2011

Here is a quick and minor update to the Interactive Sketching Notation. The new release comes with a few additional icons (thumbs up, thumbs down, starring, file, portrait, folder) which I found I use on many projects over and over again. Another thing I’ve done was to clean up the Character Styles to have more “dark text” styles, as well as an orange “Feedback” style. Two new back and forward buttons, as well as a larger default standard button were included as well. Finally, I’ve also added an additional pagination component. Will try to throw in a couple extra ones in the future. Oh, and for those who wish to support the project, I’ve enabled the option to purchase a royalty free license. Cheers.

Interactive Sketching Notation v1.0

January 6th, 2011

The time has finally come to update the Interactive Sketching Notation for the new year. This time around it now comes with an Adobe Illustrator template that’s loaded with swatches, character styles, and symbols ready for use (pen tablet highly recommended). The whole sketching system has also been elaborated to also include such things as: variation, notes, and multiple user types. Please let me know how you use it or if you have recommendations. Enjoy.

Varying Scope of Interaction Design Artifacts

December 13th, 2010

Design artifacts such as sketches, wireframes, visual mockups, and prototypes are the essence of what interaction designers use to communicate their work. However, not all deliverables have equal scope. Instead, each deliverable type mentioned covers an area of the design space that is smaller or larger as they represent less or more screens.

From my personal experience I find that sketches (or wireframes) afford the designer to cover the widest possible scope. Sketches can be used to draw up or think through the widest possible design space. Sooner or later more detail is required beyond sketches as one steps into the world of visual design. Here the discussion takes on pixel level details, styles, branding elements, colours and fonts. At this level of detail, however the number of screens that are represented diminish relatively to that of sketches. Only a few selected screen types need to be explored as mockups. Finally, the scope that prototypes cover I find are the smallest. Most of my prototypes test the interactivity or behaviour for a particular page. These are often the closest in detail to the real thing as they often exist in HTML, Javascript form, and live in the browser.

What’s more interesting is that once the scope is broken up and varied across these various types of deliverables, they can begin working together in a hierarchy to serve different goals. Sketches are used to explore the breadth and flow of the interface as they unify the largest numbers of screens with user scenarios or stories. Visual design mockups are used to test the visual style details for a couple of page types. Finally, prototypes are used to test experimental page level interactions and convey the feeling of rich interactivity to get stakeholders excited about a particular concept. Taken together, each deliverable only needs a uniquely defined scope to fulfil its purpose.

User Interface Refactoring

July 15th, 2010

In the world of software development there is a well established practice of refactoring which aims to improves code quality without changing the core functionality. Instead, other attributes such as greater maintainability or reduced complexity are achieved. I very much well find that time and time again, design work on an interface (especially with multiple designers and over longer periods of time) creates inefficiencies, divergences and breaks in consistency. interface design then I see benefiting from such a refactoring like practice, just as the following two articles suggest as well:

Sticky Floating Navigation

June 29th, 2010


Positioning fixed elements in a user interface is a common practice for such cases when we need to have something visible at all times. Without fixed positioning these elements disappear as a user scrolls.

But what about a case when such floating boxes begin to get in the way (of a top navigation or some copyright text at the bottom). Here is a quick and dirty Javascript & CSS experiment which explores a possible solution. This example shows a semi fixed state of sorts for two particular elements. These two elements (the help and footer box) are fixed for the most part, but are then also switched to absolute positioning above a certain scroll threshold to move out of the way as a user scrolls. In a way then, this behaviour allows such navigation elements to be sticky to the edges of smaller container. The best of two worlds perhaps?

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

>> http://linowski.ca/experiments/03_sticky_floating_nav/

Form Variation

June 15th, 2010

Inspired by evolutionary thoughts, variation is one idea that helps to achieve the most optimally fit forms during a design process. All the things we design, be it web sites, toothbrushes or orange squeezers, eventually leave the artificial boundaries of the studio and get in contact with a real environment to stand the test of time. One could argue that the more variety of ideas we have, the higher the chance that the form and context will be properly fit and adapted to each other. On this note, I wonder if we have enough variation in the artifacts we design, or perhaps could we strive for even more? Comparing a design process to what happens in nature, each individual living thing is slightly different. Each person is a little bit taller, has a slightly different face, etc, etc. But if we look more closely on the products we design, variation seems to be tighter and more artificially controlled. If we open up a delivery truck filled with well designed toothbrushes, we can probably identify a thousand individual objects that look exactly the same (something that is less visible in nature). In nature we have form variation within a population (between each individual object), whereas in a design studio we have variation in a more phased approach between each cycle or iteration.

Perhaps what I’m really wondering is if there is room in a design process to inject more variation to all instances of a product. What if each user was exposed to a slightly different product and the best forms trickled up automatically like in evolutionary biology? What if a web site, each time a user visited it, appeared slightly different. Perhaps this is too difficult (costly?) with real physical products which under the forces of industrialization have undergone a shift from highly variant art and craft products toward more standardized forms. In the virtual world of bits and bytes however, the cost of bringing back variety should be theoretically lower.

This is not to say that there already aren’t variation causing process. The popularity of sketching in design already is an approach which thrives on the multitude of ideas. Design studios also make use of A/B Testing, which is another sign that people are seeing the value of taking variety and experimentation into the real world. Nonetheless, this all makes me wonder what an automated method for A/B/C/D/E/F/G/H/.. testing would look like where every item produced is unique and thus more open to the laws of adaptation and survival of the fittest.