Mark Pagel: How language transformed humanity

Biologist Mark Pagel shares an intriguing theory about why humans evolved our complex system of language. He suggests that language is a piece of “social technology” that allowed early human tribes to access a powerful new tool: cooperation

Julian Treasure: The 4 ways sound affects us

Playing sound effects both pleasant and awful, Julian Treasure shows how sound affects us in four significant ways. Listen carefully for a shocking fact about noisy open-plan offices.


Trust = (Knowledge + Reliability + Intimacy) / Self-interest

Knowledge has to do with the words we speak. In a sentence, we might say, "I can trust what she says about intellectual property; she is very knowledgeable on the subject. "

Reliability has to do with actions. We might say, for example, "If he says he'll deliver the product tomorrow, I trust him, because he's dependable." 

Intimacy refers to the safety or security that we feel when entrusting someone with something. We might say, "I can trust her with that information; she's never violated my confidentiality before, and she would never embarrass me." 

Self-interest refers to the focus of the person in question: in particular, whether the person's focus is primarily on himself or herself, or on the other person. Increasing the value of the factors in the numerator increases the value of trust. Increasing the value of the denominator, that is, self-orientation, decreases the value of trust.  

Magic Ink - information software and the graphical interface

The ubiquity of frustrating, unhelpful software interfaces has motivated decades of research into “Human-Computer Interaction.” In this paper, I suggest that the long-standing focus on “interaction” may be misguided. For a majority subset of software, called “information software,” I argue that interactivity is actually a curse for users and a crutch for designers, and users’ goals can be better satisfied through other means.

Information software design can be seen as the design of context-sensitive information graphics. I demonstrate the crucial role of information graphic design, and present three approaches to context-sensitivity, of which interactivity is the last resort. After discussing the cultural changes necessary for these design ideas to take root, I address their implementation. I outline a tool which may allow designers to create data-dependent graphics with no engineering assistance, and also outline a platform which may allow an unprecedented level of implicit context-sharing between independent programs. I conclude by asserting that the principles of information software design will become critical as technology improves.
— Bret Victor 2006


The secret canon & page harmony

Explanations of the J.A.Van de Graaf canon, Villard de Honnecourt’s Diagram, Raúl Rosarivo’s Gutenberg Canon & Tschichold’s Secret Canon.

Designing Culture

Design’s real power is that it makes relationships and divisions between people concrete. Without physical stuff to remind us of how we supposedly differ from one another, our hierarchies would be awfully ramshackle; stripped of our possessions, categories like “class” start to look like just a bunch of learned behaviors and confused ideas.

Incredibly insightful and powerful article by Colin McSwiggen on the complicity of design in creating and maintaining class boundaries.

52 Shades of Greed

"Art directed by two New York-based illustrators, a freshly designed set of 52 illustrated playing cards looks to educate the masses about some of the main contributing factors in the US to the current recession..."

Redesigning Highway Signs, To Talk To Your Smartphone

"Highway signs are an unavoidable and unmistakeable part of the American landscape, and they’re not likely to disappear anytime soon (Wikipedia says that the United States has "no plans for adopting the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals standards.") Still, the signage plays such a big part in our lives that even a speculative redesign represents an irresistible challenge for designers to tackle. For their annual Rethink issue, Icon Magazine asked the San Francisco-based studio Manual to do just that."

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum

The Hamilton Wood Type and Printing Museum was founded in 2000 and is located in Two Rivers, Wisconsin, USA. The museum is run by the Two Rivers Historical Society. It is dedicated to the preservation, study, production and printing of wood type used in letterpress printing.