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Field Study

An Unedited view of design and thought process:

work, experimental and otherwise by Keenan Cummings

This is pretty much how I’m feeling right now about Days. We have built a pretty rad app, have amazing users, and I am lucky enough to be on the team creating for those users. Here is wishing you all amazing SaturDAYS. Get the app and record your weekend →

This is pretty much how I’m feeling right now about Days. We have built a pretty rad app, have amazing users, and I am lucky enough to be on the team creating for those users. Here is wishing you all amazing SaturDAYS. Get the app and record your weekend →

just breath and pay attention.

I turned this illustration into an iPhone wallpaper and thought I’d share. Crossing my fingers that iOS7 will allow anyone to create animated wallpapers. For now, grab the static version through the links below.  (also thinking of creating different color options down the road. Stay tuned on that.)
Download iPhone 5 wallpaper
Download iPhone 4 wallpaper

I turned this illustration into an iPhone wallpaper and thought I’d share. Crossing my fingers that iOS7 will allow anyone to create animated wallpapers. For now, grab the static version through the links below.  (also thinking of creating different color options down the road. Stay tuned on that.)

Download iPhone 5 wallpaper

Download iPhone 4 wallpaper

Days posts now look 17000x better on Tumblr. So check that out (here) or JUST TRY IT

Days posts now look 17000x better on Tumblr. So check that out (here) or JUST TRY IT

(Source: days-app)

Odd as it may seem, I am my remembering self. The experiencing self, who does my living, is like a stranger to me.

Daniel Kahneman (via Jeremy Fisher, Photo Sharing and The Tyranny of the Remembering Self)

When things move fast there is no concept of mastery. In startups, lifelong learning is not a professional ideal; it’s a requirement of participation.

This idea used to frighten me. Now, I am much more frightened by the slow creep of comfort, complacency, and arrogance. “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” (Wikipedia, Shoshin)

The human experience is a singular, difficult, shadowed, brilliant experience that does not resolve into being comfortable in the world.

Cute lil’ faces on everything!
When using the Days App, you’ll occasionally see a message pop up to give you some tips and help you find your way. I did about a dozen little illustrations for these messages. Download the app to see them in action.

Cute lil’ faces on everything!

When using the Days App, you’ll occasionally see a message pop up to give you some tips and help you find your way. I did about a dozen little illustrations for these messages. Download the app to see them in action.

probably my best invention yet: The PB&PJ (Peanut Butter & Pre-Jelly). 

probably my best invention yet: The PB&PJ (Peanut Butter & Pre-Jelly)

I dream about a kind of criticism that would try not to judge but to bring an oeuvre, a book, a sentence, an idea to life; it would light fires, watch the grass grow, listen to the wind, and catch the sea foam in the breeze and scatter it. It would multiply not judgments but signs of existence; it would summon them, drag them from their sleep. Perhaps it would invent them sometimes — all the better. Criticism that hands down sentences sends me to sleep; I’d like a criticism of scintillating leaps of imagination. It would not be sovereign or dressed in red. It would bear the lightning of possible storms.

Michel Foucault, “The Masked Philosopher,” interview in Le Monde, 1980

via Frank Chimero

Against Critique

image

Part I : Challenging Assumptions

I’m working on developing a habit of challenging assumptions. It started with Designer’s Debate Club, a bi-monthly event I co-founded and have participated in as both organizer and debater. In selecting a topic, prepping the debate, recruiting debaters, and hosting the event, I have found myself digging into my own points of view on everything from formal education to the need for designers to learn code. It’s debate as sport, and the key is to dissect your own assumptions and anticipate the opponent’s attack. That habit has spilled over into my work and I plan on flexing that muscle further.

There are certain types of assumptions that now trigger this reflex. They are usually broad assumptions, things that have held true for a long time, and rarely been challenged. 

I recently joined a panel for a discussion/debate on the future of design education. The unchallenged assumption among that group was that the quality in-person discussion and critique that you get in institutions cannot be replicated online. But when you start to pick it apart, there seems to be little there that is fundamentally unique that can’t be — given enough time — broken up and provided by a series of specialized services. (Something I am slowly working on in my spare time).

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Made this mark for the Days Engineering team. We got a blog in the works that will let y’all in on some of the technical magic that makes Days shine. 

Made this mark for the Days Engineering team. We got a blog in the works that will let y’all in on some of the technical magic that makes Days shine. 

A Working Definition of Product Design

photo by Alexey Bednij

For the past ~18 months, I’ve been working as a product designer. And I’ve spent that same 18 months trying to understand what that means. This an attempt to articulate, in the broadest sense, what it means to practice product design.

My product design work is the work I am most proud of, but it doesn’t anthologize or summarize well. Most of it goes unnoticed. It’s doesn’t manifest as discrete, blog-able units. It doesn’t Dribbble well. It’s broader than wireframes or UI or screenshots. If a product were a house, it wouldn’t be the interiors, or the frame, or even the foundation. It would be the reason for the house, the motivation for the house, and the idea of what the house could be and the purpose it could serve. Product Design is formless.

I put a lot of time into brand, UI, UX, etc. But those all feel like they are at the periphery of what I do. Those skills exist in the execution layer and support the product, but without solid product thinking, they are baseless.

A year-and-a-half’s worth of thinking (and plenty of stammering through my explanation of why I left behind a more comprehensible design career) has landed me on this working definition of what it means to be a product designer. Here goes…

Product Design is…

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A picture means I know where I was every minute. That’s why I take pictures. It’s a visual diary.

—Andy Warhol (via @CollabFund)