An Event Apart: Thinking Small

by Luke Wroblewski October 13, 2009

In his An Event Apart Chicago presentation, Thinking Small, Jason Santa Maria discussed how small decisions can have a big impact on Web designs.

  • In choose your own adventure books, we were given a choice about where to go next. Even small choices would affect what would happen at the end of a story. In Web design it’s the same -small decisions can make a big impact.
  • Be a Thinker. Many people jump onto a computer and start designing. They get into a solution before they get into a problem.
  • Keep a sketchbook for your ideas. Sketchbooks are not about being a good artist they are about being a good thinker. Once you get past the obvious ideas in sketching, a lot of new ideas come out.
  • Find the message. Between wireframes and design, you begin to see how content works relative to itself and the collective.
  • Know your process and know your tools. A computer is the tool of refinement. Your mind is the tool of design.
  • Be a Reverse Engineer. Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Try to think from the perspective of others.
  • How to reinterpret a message for interest: think about previous and next panels; zoom in or out; embellish or exaggerate; disarm, deconstruct, or re-contextualize the content. These are ways to free up your thinking.
  • Plot it out. Grids create a sense of cohesion for content. But you need to think about why you are using a grid and how.
  • Grid frameworks sometimes push people to solutions that are not thought through. How do the grids you use represent and support your message?
  • Think horizontally before vertically. This helps you move from thinking about columns to thinking about slots. Design systems instead of pages.
  • Stop, modulate and listen. Make a modular system that you can utilize a la carte. A system constructed of CSS classes for identifier, size, and placement allows you to use simple rules to enable a large range of layout solutions.
  • Be a matchmaker. A lot of type solutions are coming online now. This will open up opportunities for new messages and designs.
  • Do not use two script or display types faces together because they each have a lot of character. One goes a long way.
  • Do not use two similar sans serif typefaces –they are often too close.
  • General rule of thumb in type selection is one of each face –kind of.
  • Pair fonts from the same designer. Often share some qualities or feel.
  • Find harmony and structure –for example humanistic typefaces (getting to basics).
  • Look for contrast –find fonts that have contrast so they can play off each other.
  • Web sites are always changing because their use is always changing. Prepare for it.

For more...

Check out my notes from three years of An Event Apart presentations.