Blog

November 7, 2014

Best Kids Books for a Two Year Old

Basket with children’s books.

My son is well into his second year of life. During his first year of life, I wrote about the best books for a one-year-old. He’s now moved on to an entirely new set of books. As he crossed the two-year mark, I saw how the standard elements that defined a good book for him began to change. While thick pages used to be essential, the dexterity of his hands has significantly improved making it easier for him to handle books with thinner pages. And while he previously preferred simple illustrations and short bits of text, he’s now graduated to books with more complex visuals and narratives.

August 28, 2014

In Swahili, Tangawizi Is the Word for Ginger

Stoney Ginger Beer Can

Stories of an intriguing East African ginger beer had been making their way to me for a couple of years. As told by a handful of travelers, the tale was always strikingly similar: hot and sweaty under the mid-day sun, a local guide, or an ex-pat friend, introduced a brown glass bottle with an elaborate logo and a funny name over lunch in a market or neighborhood restaurant. The taste–an intense ginger burn and an explosion of carbonation–cut through the midday heat and the dusty streets leaving a lasting memory. So goes the tale of Stoney Tangawizi.

August 26, 2014

Kiva’s Design Space

In a recent post I talked about how to create an environment for successful design. One way we’ve gone about this at Kiva is by transforming an under utilized conference room into a dedicated design space. The room is filled with white boards, prototyping bins and my favorite—Play-Doh. There are 24 different colors to choose from and it’ll instantly make you feel like a kid again—that’s the point. When you’re in Kiva’s design space (where plenty of Play-Doh is on hand) we want you to return to your childhood. You’ll never hear a child say they’re not the “creative type” or they can’t draw. Kiva’s design space is built to bring out the creative side of everyone from engineers and product managers to legal and accounting. We accomplish this by making it easy—putting the materials at your fingertips—and providing helpful, simple guidelines to activities like brainstorming or conducting research.

June 30, 2014

An Environment for Successful Design

Man leans on his tent while waiting to climb a mountain. Photo by John Keane

Each year I work as a designer I devote less and less time to traditional ‘design’ work, like creating wireframes, aesthetic layouts or prototyping interactions. These days I spend most of my day establishing an environment for successful design to occur. For me, this shift has greatly accelerated in the past few years, partially due to specific needs at Kiva, but also, a general shift within Silicon Valley has occurred which has significantly broadened the role of ‘design’ within an organization.

April 4, 2014

Change Is Afoot

Colored pencils in a circle

Measured in web years, three years is a lifetime. Yet it’s been that long since I’ve done any serious work on my own website. Over that time significant shifts have occurred in the landscape – responsive design, retina displays and a mobile first focus have changed how websites are designed and built. Not wanting 2 Out of Three to fall too far behind the curve – and looking to scratch my developer itch (something that’s been gathering dust as of late) – I carved out some time to make the most substantial updates to the site since releasing version 2 in May 2010. While I don’t consider these updates a full redesign, there are some meaningful changes that address mobile usability, retina images and a renewed focus on my design work. Here is a full list of changes:

January 7, 2014

Eight Best Children’s Books for a One Year Old

Books for a child with a few blocks.

Every night before I put my one and a half year old son to bed we sit together and read a few books. Early in his life the book hardly mattered, but the older he’s gotten the more particular he’s become. A few favorites will always keep his attention, while others are tossed to the side after only a few turns of the page. A few he closes immediately with a terse reply of “no no”.

In the time I’ve been reading to him I’ve noticed a handful of commonalities that make a great book for kids that are around one year of age. Here’s what I look for when picking out books to buy:

December 13, 2013

Virtual Self Reflection

Man man blurred and reflected in an elevator mirror

The lines between work and life blur quickly for many internet professionals—myself included. Each blog post, tweet, or photo you share finds its way to a mixed audience of friends, family, colleagues, former clients and potential clients. Personally, I find this limits the subjects I discuss online—you’ll rarely see me branch out beyond the topics of design, surfing, or ginger beer. This primarily stems from a reluctance to share personal details about myself or my family on such a public, and permanent, stage.

November 22, 2013

A Thought on Chairs and Software Development

Wooden Chair

From Daniel Jalkut excellent post on Stagnation Or Stability?

He applauds the app for allowing him to do his work “frictionlessly.” How does a software developer achieve this level of performance? By first building a quality product and then working deliberately over months and years to address the minor issues that remain. Woodworking makes a reasonable analogy: after a chair has been carved and assembled the job is functionally complete. It’s a chair, you can sit in it. It’s done. But customers will gripe with good cause about its crudeness unless the hard work of detailing, sanding, and lacquering are carried out. Only then will it be considered finely crafted.

Personally I love the analogy of a chair to building software. The visual is so tangible – everyone can picture the contrast in quality between an unstained or unfinished chair and the one you’d purchase for your dining room. As software developers we should view our work through the same lens.