How Blind People Use The ATM

I have become increasingly aware of how un-accessible websites and other technology can be for folks with disabilities.

The W3C Web Accessibility Initiative has a really great description of what “accessibility” means:

The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, culture, location, or physical or mental ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.

Thus the impact of disability is radically changed on the Web because the Web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world. However, when websites, web technologies, or web tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the Web.

My boss first turned me on to website accessibility in my first few weeks by sending me website after website of web accessibility standards and training. It’s really important to her and it has become really important to me too.

I just came across this video of how blind people use an ATM that illustrates the challenges they face. I’ve often wondered about how well it was designed and it’s pretty clear that there were some serious flaws in both the software and hardware design.

In fact, he has all kinds of videos about how blind people go about their everyday lives.

As design professionals, we really need to start making this a greater priority in our design. According to some studies, as much as 20% of the population has some kind of disability (obviously not all are unable to use the Internet), but it’s still a compelling number to think about.

For more information on accessibility, you should check out the W3C Web Accessibility Initiative and Web Accessibility In Mind (WebAIM).


Book Review: Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World’s Great Graphic Designers

I keep a sketchbook (I have three currently being actively used actually) and I have since I was but a wee pre-teen. It ebbs and flows. Sometimes I find myself adding things daily and other times I won’t add a thing for several weeks or months.

If you’re looking for a book to inspire you to keep a sketchbook or journal, I would highly recommend Graphic: Inside the Sketchbooks of the World’s Great Graphic Designers by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico. It’s filled with full page color scans of journals from illustrators, designers, animators, comic artists, web designers, architects… each page opens up a room into an artist’s personal world.

I was surprised by the level of sketches and writings. What one artist thinks of as a quick sketch looked to me like something you could mat, frame, and hang.

Highly recommended.


Using Popular Songs to Educate

Have you guys seen this? Teachers are using Daft Punk’s song Harder Better Faster Stronger to teach kids English.

They aren’t the only ones to use this song for education, but it’s amazing how music can be an educational tool for language. You can even see what the teacher did to educate the kids:

“I mapped out the seats/words, so after they sat according to the seating chart (attached), we read the lyrics off a lyrics site. Everyone read them together, slowly and then sped up while moving their word signs.”

What other ways are teachers using compelling media to teach kids? One of my favorites is when teachers allow kids to watch events in real time. When September 11th happened, I remember my history class wheeled in a TV and we watched reports about what was happening. I imagine (in that instance), it was largely out of immense curiosity on the teacher’s part too, but I still appreciated it.

Can you think of any time when a teacher used creativity to educate?


Daily: Christmas Cookies

Daily: 12-20-2011
Christmas Cookies 


The Personal Library’s of Famous Writers

Have you guys seen this? In the same way that I absolutely love the East Austin Studio Tour (an annual event in Austin, Texas where artists open up their studios for you to see the space where they work!), I love seeing into the libraries of famous writers.

Agatha Christie inside the library at Greenway House.

Agatha Christie in her summer home in Devon, England.

Looking at these photos, I wonder what each of the writer’s would stare at when the perfect word eluded them. Or what they read when they needed inspiration.

As my friend, Elizabeth, said: “Norman Mailer’s looks the most inviting until you remember that he once stabbed his wife at a party. (They stayed together.)”


Photo via National Trust.


Luis von Ahn: Massive-scale online collaboration

I try not to link to TED Talks too often, because if I do I’m afraid I just won’t stop, but this one is too good to keep to myself.

Luis von Ahn and his team (the guys behind reCaptcha, a free anti-bot service that helps digitize books) are releasing a new project called Duolingo. With Duolingo, you learn a new language FOR FREE and in the process help translate the web into different languages.

There are just so many things that blow my mind with this concept. It’s just a really clever way to solve a problem. Incredible. But more than that, they’re giving this away for free. FREE! They aren’t asking for a dime! Von Ahn explains why in the TED Talks, but it still blows my mind that he could have charged a small fee, but he didn’t, because education is more important than money.

As of today, they’re still in Beta, but you can sign up for languages now and hopefully get invited to participate early.

(Thanks, Chris!)


East Austin Studio Tour – Highlights

Every year in mid-November, artists in Austin, Texas open up their studios to the public for the East Austin Studio Tour. There are demonstrations of process, free samples (and beer and food!), works in progress, and artwork for purchase.

My favorite thing is seeing into the lives and spaces of some of the most talented artists in Austin. Some spaces are almost obsessively organized, others are piled with inspiration, paper samples, sketches, leftover supplies… The range is really pretty fascinating.

This year, Chris, Danielle, and I hit up E.A.S.T the right way: on our bikes. (P.S. If you ever visit Austin for a major event that requires you to navigate the city when it’s packed, I highly recommend biking. i.e. SXSW and Austin City Limits.)

Here were a few highlights:

Horsemuffin Letterpress
In complete disclosure, Gwen is a family friend, but I’d love her work even if I didn’t know she was the perfect definition of cool. (Seriously, that’s one groovy chick.)

Agave Letterpress Print


Austin Creative Reuse (ACR)
Again, in complete disclosure, I knew about ACR before E.A.S.T, but these guys are awesome. They recently reached non-profit status and their whole schtick is that they collect supplies and materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill and sell them to artists, teachers, etc. Sadly, no photos.


Grace McEvoy, Photography
McEvoy has some really wonderful photos of Austin using a fish-eye lens. In some ways I feel like it’s cheating, but I have to admit they’re still pretty.

Grace McEvoy



Vertallee Letterpress
Chris and I go to Vertallee Letterpress every year. They always have amazing work and cool demonstrations and you can get a really solid look at their working letterpress(es). Every year, we say we’ll get our business cards printed by them…  You can buy their letterpress cards on etsy too!

Vertallee Letterpress


East Side Design at the Willow House, Sculpture
So, these guys are in the process of renovating a house on Willow Street. Instead of throwing out the old materials, they used them to build this really cool sculpture in the backyard. I think this was probably my favorite thing I saw this year. Reused materials to make something super awesome. I love the colors and the texture. It’s just way cool.

Backyard Sculpture

Backyard Sculpture

All-in-all, it was a pretty rad couple of weekends. I already can’t wait for next year!


How to be a Retronaut

Have you seen Retronaut? It’s a website that has photos, advertising, illustration, etc from the past. It looks like a great place to get some inspiration for time-inspired design or art projects, but it’s also just kind of fun to look around.

How to be a retronaut

Might I recommend Vintage Weight Gain Ads? Or perhaps you’d rather see images from the Steampunk category? Or for you technophiles out there… the tech category is pretty cool.



This is the post where I admit I don’t actually hate science… completely

In high school, I despised science. No really. Despised. I could do math and English all day, but don’t effing make me do science. Please. For the love of…

Okay, so these days I’ve been embracing science a lot more. 1) I get to be selective about what I learn and 2) it’s just a whole lot more entertaining. (See episodes of The Big Bang Theory to see what I mean…)

A couple of months ago, I came across Minute Physics! They’re a bunch of YouTube videos about “cool physics and other sweet science – all in a minute!” And it’s pretty easy to understand with simple drawings for clarifications.

To settle you in, here is one on Schrödinger’s Cat!

And another one on fire!

Seriously though. Go check out the others on the Minute Physics YouTube channel!


Murmuration: A Collection of Starlings

Just stumbled across this video called Murmuration. It’s powerful and incredible and it made me feel good about living on this planet. It’s so incredible how organizations of animals move together, isn’t it? Enjoy!

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.


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