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Articles By:

Michael Johnson

  1. Reading, More or Less

    Posted on 1/23/17

    “Don’t read trash.” This was the last thing Pulitzer Prize winner Marilynne Robinson said to the audience at Congregation Beth Elohim in Brooklyn after a reading and Q&A, amending the writerly advice writerly people always give to the question of how one becomes a better writer. Hardly anyone with a smartphone needs to actually “read more” — reading too little isn’t the problem. “We read while we’re socializing, working, shopping, relaxing, walking, commuting, urinating,” wrote Virginia Heffernan in Magic & Loss. “From a nation that can’t stop eating, we’ve become a nation that can’t stop reading.”

  2. Piracy Ever Follows Innovation

    Posted on 10/13/16

    For the first time in 120 years, a design patent is being argued in front of the U.S. Supreme Court. It’s the usual suspects. Samsung has appealed a lower court’s ruling that several models of its smartphones violated an Apple design patent. While the outcome of the Court’s decision may very well affect interface design at large, longtime issues with the patent system remain unchallenged.

  3. The Truth About Facts

    Posted on 8/12/16

    A significant portion of this country supports a candidate for President that I do not. By now you’ve already formed an idea of whom I’m talking about, though I’ve given no indication about my preference (unless you follow me on Twitter) and the statement is true for anyone who writes it.

  4. Under the rocks and stones, same as it ever was

    Posted on 3/21/16

    A few days ago Erik Spiekermann offered some perspective on a mobile-first article, relating its situation-based process to print design: “I always start with the smallest element and work up from it. In a book that may be the footnotes, in a timetable that would be the numbers, in a magazine the main text.” He goes on to say:

    “You do the same for screens. So what’s new? The present generation of UI/UX designers may think that they invented a new way of designing, but we’ve had these issues forever.”

  5. Using the distraction

    Posted on 11/16/15

    The night began innocently enough. Now it’s two in the morning, and the best I have to go on is a sense of irony that’s settled in my lower back. Distractions on top of distractions.

  6. Get Hired

    Posted on 8/10/15

    These are the markers for how we evaluate design candidates. I should point out that these rules, with the exception of #3, apply across the board, regardless of the role you’re applying for: development, project management, operations, etc. Admittedly, they’re not so unique to us. You’ll find with other studios’ or agencies’ hiring managers that processes will vary — what’s your experience? Tell us in the comments — but if you keep these rules in mind you’ll have a good shot with any people-first, quality-minded organization.

  7. Can an algorithm do your job?

    Posted on 3/5/15

    This is a question that’s been on my mind since stories about the Associated Press’s robo-journalists started making the rounds again. For those who don’t know, the AP uses an algorithm that translates data into corporate earnings reports, three-hundred word stories or so. They’re composed of short declarative sentences written convincingly enough to appear human-generated.

  8. The Magpie, the Peacock, and the Mole King

    Posted on 9/25/14

    We lost another job to spec work.

    Originally I came here, to this previously blank page, horrifyingly white (both myself and the screen—it’s been a busy summer) and blinded by rage, to rail against designer injustices (the ones made for designers and by designers) and gnash my teeth and furiously hammer out another scathing anti-spec article (that no one needs), when I remembered a conversation.

  9. Cognition Roundtable

    Posted on 6/5/14

    On this edition of Cognition Roundtable, we ask: “Does every site need to be responsive?” This question has been an undercurrent topic for conversation in the web industry ever since RWD was introduced, but our own work as well as others’ continue to spark it again and again. Design Director Michael Johnson leads a discussion on the differences between adaptive, responsive, and dedicated sites with Senior Designer Yesenia Perez-Cruz and Developers Anthony Colangelo and Sam Hernandez. Tune in for this half-hour discussion that also covers:

  10. For Shame.

    Posted on 8/8/13

    Our profession’s affection for public shaming is well-documented.

    Following morning exercises atop the Bauhaus, Johannes Itten lined his students at rooftop’s edge, held aloft their previous day’s work, and, before a gathered crowd, publicly humiliated each of his young students. While students showed significant improvement and other instructors adopted Itten’s pedagogy, the practice came to an official end in 1928. Tragically, a student stepped over the edge when Itten, still storming through a particularly scathing admonishment, thundered that the boy “lacked contrast of soul.”

  11. Invention is slow.

    Posted on 2/28/13

    By now you’ve probably seen Noah Stokes tweet assailing responsive web design’s command over aesthetic:

  12. All Systems Are Go!(ing to Come Apart)

    Posted on 11/15/12

    Bless her soul, Bessie stunk at jigsaw puzzles. She seemed less interested in recreating the dissected bucolic scene she’d purchased at Rose’s pharmacy decades ago than she was in hurriedly rearranging and redefining the jumbled mess splashed onto the modest kitchen table in front of her. There was no right way, just her way—and the multiple arrangements that lay ahead were every bit as valid to her as the ordered state its designer printed on the box. She just can’t see well, I figured. I never asked.

  13. Thank you, Hillman Curtis.

    Posted on 4/26/12

    When I learned of Hillman Curtis’ passing last week I tried to impart to someone unfamiliar with his work why, having never met him, he meant so much to my development as a designer and (former) animator. He taught me how to respect the audience, I told her. He taught me how to justify, how to edit.

  14. Stepping Out of Line

    Posted on 1/12/12

    Years ago, I was presenting comps on a scheduled call to a key stakeholder of my then-agency’s flagship account. It was my first call with him in months. He was unfortunately on vacation and without his laptop. That should have been the end of it.

    Instead, he asked me to paint him a picture.

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