Buy my Books!

The Sketchnote Workbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, showing how to use sketchnotes in new ways, along with advanced tips and techniques.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →
Watch a FREE video sample →

The Sketchnote Handbook is a fully-illustrated book and video, designed to teach regular people how to create sketchnotes.
Learn about and buy the book →
Download a FREE chapter →

Mike Rohde (Color - Square)

ROHDESIGN is the website of designer Mike Rohde, who writes on design, sketching, drawing, sketchnotes, technology, travel, cycling, books & coffee.
Read more about Mike →

SIGN UP! Get the Rohdesign Newsletter.

Entries in Web Design (23)


Going the SEED Conference in Chicago on Monday

Picture 1.pngOn Monday morning I'll be boarding the Amtrak in Milwaukee and heading South for the SEED Conference in Chicago. It's being put on by 37signals, Segura, Inc., and Coudal Partners at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The event features Jason Fried, Carlos Segura and Jim Coudal, leading a presentation and discussion on design, entrepreneurship, and inspiration. I like the work all three of these guys have done, so it will be a very interesting day:

You'll learn about taking control of your own work, seeking out methods to inspire new ideas, and adopting unconventional ideas about collaboration and business. The SEED conference will fill your head with knowledge you can use.

This isn't about theory, it's about practice. You should attend if you're a designer (print, web, video) or a business-minded soul who's looking to take your creative ideas and turn them into something satisfying and bankable. Anyone creative with an open mind will take away something useful.

I'll be taking sketchnotes, similar to the set I did for the UX Intensive back in April, 2007. I have a Moleskine sketchbook at the ready. I hope I can keep up with the presentations and discussions! I will post the collection of sketchnotes to my Flickr account, so others can view, read and learn from them.

If you're attending the SEED Conference on Monday the 29th and want to meet at the event, drop me a line and say hello.


My Podcast Interview on The Micro ISV Show

ch9bot.gifA few weeks ago, I was invited by author, micro-business owner and new MakaluMedia logo design client Bob Walsh, to be interviewed on Microsoft's The MicroISV Show (a podcast for software developers) with co-host Michael Lehman:

It's a brave new world for MicroISVs in which it's no longer enough to drag some controls onto a form and simply make sure they're lined up and the tab order is right. The mantra "form follows function" is becoming more and more important for developers as advent of Windows Vista, WPF and Silverlight once again change the expectations of how customers perceive software. You've got to "put your best face forward" and think about design of the user experience right from the beginning.

In this episode, Michael Lehman and Bob Walsh talk to Mike Rohde, designer and art director for MakaluMedia, about the changing role of design in software development and how and why MicroISVs must incorporate design thinking into their development process.

Listen to The Micro ISV Show #22 podcast:

• Putting your best face forward - The growing importance of design for MicroISVs
• Direct Podcast MP3 Link (Size: 36MB, Runtime: 40:13)

We had a great time! I had an opportunity to talk a bit about my views on design being more than window-dressing on applications, the importance of starting early with a designer, how to choose a designer, vector-based development tools and how they may effect developers and designers, and more.

Bob worked in questions about my creative process, asked how I generate so many sketch ideas, and even slipped in a mention of my Moleskine Planner Hack project.

Have a listen and let me know what you think.


UX Intensive Chicago 2007: Thoughts & Sketchnotes

UX Intensive: Interaction Design Sketchnotes 01

This week I attended Adaptive Path's UX Intensive: Interaction Design Workshop in Chicago. I've decided to share my thoughts on the event and my set of sketchnotes on the blog.

UX Intensive event was a 4-day series of workshops and lectures, and of those 4 days, I attended 1: Interaction Design. Here are my thoughts about that particular event:

The Speakers & Venue
Overall it was a good experience. Dan Saffer and Kim Lenox are both very smart, talented designers who know their stuff. I gleaned good ideas for tweaking my own design process, and was affirmed in the approach and process I already follow.

The Black Orchid was an OK venue. The room was relatively spacious, and the food was quite good. The tables, however, were designed for drinks while listening to jazz — not ideal for taking notes or working, and not positioned ideally for a conference. I got a bit of a cramp from sitting at an angle at my table, trying watch the speaker and take notes.

Workshop or Lecture?
UX Intensive was billed as a "workshop" even though Wednesday's Interactive Design session was actually a day-long series of lectures. Even though the topic very much interested me, by about 2pm I was having a hard time focusing, even after a second Starbucks cappuccino.

I heard from Matt and Que, 2 guys I met at my table, that Monday's Design Strategy and Tuesday's Design Research sessions were true workshops, with activities and interaction between the attendees — much different than Wednesday's lectures.

Concepts I Liked
There were many good ideas shared by Dan and Kim, some of which I'll note below:

• Research is useless in a raw, unstructured form. It's critical to filter the information and draw insights and conclusions from your research that can be applied to the project. I liked Dan's suggestion to use physical and visual representations of research, using post-it walls and drawings on various surfaces.

• Brainstorming for quantity and brainstorming in categories. Dan suggested brainstorming sprints with limited times and an emphasis on many ideas in that time. I also liked his idea of brainstorming within narrower categories, then displaying findings in a matrix or a grid.

• Failure is OK. A 50% failure rate was suggested as a good thing. I've noticed that in my sketches, the more ideas I can get through the sooner I usually find a solution. Trying out ideas that may fail, lead to a good ideas, so I find this to be very true.

• Good designers make better guesses. Intuition is important in design, and it's based on making good guesses. Dan shared principles and techniques for making better guesses and decisions.

• Living Documents. Kim Lenox talked about designing for suites and platforms, suggesting the use of living documents, sharing information and innovations, consistency and that interaction designers need to think about the integration of 3 key areas: the PC, the Internet and mobile devices.

• All products are broken. By starting with this premise, we're free to try and improve products rather than making them perfect and completely free of brokeness. Dan talked about good areas to focus on for fixes, breaking fixes down into smaller chunks, and the use of quick n' dirty wireframes with screenshots (I use this approach, and it works great!)

• Constant Communication. Use various tools such as blogs and wikis within your team, to keep communication lines open with each other, and to capture information as living documents.

View my detailed notes in my UX Intensive sketchnotes on Flickr.

I'll end this post with my thoughts on how the Design Interaction portion of the UX Intensive event could be improved:

• Call it a workshop only if it has workshop activities. I came expecting interaction and activities with my design colleagues and instead got a day of lectures. Workshop activities would have broken up the time, made it easier for me to focus on the ideas and apply them practically.

•  Add more breaks. We had breaks for lunch and for the morning and afternoon sessions, which were great. However, because of the day-long lecture format, by the afternoon I needed mini breaks in-between the individual sessions. By about 2pm I was losing focus on the topics that a few mini-breaks may have helped with.

• Show more real-world examples. We had some nice examples in the lectures by Dan and Kim, but I wanted to see more of them to illustrate the concepts presented. Having more examples might also have helped my focus in the afternoon.

• Go narrower and deeper. I think reducing quantity of material covered and focusing on deeper real-world examples, discussions on those ideas and workshop activities might improve the relevance of the information to attendees. So much info was presented, that I couldn't adequately digest, discuss or apply with those ideas to my own design practices.

I hope these thoughts are helpful to fellow designers, and might be useful to Adaptive Path in tuning and perfecting their UX Intensive series in Amsterdam in June.

Many thanks to MakaluMedia (my employer), for sending me to the event.

Technorati Tags: , , ,


AdaptivePath UX Intensive & SOBCon07 Blog Conference

chicago-events.jpgI'm excited about the end of April and beginning of May, because I'm attending 2 important events in the Chicago area. Both look like great events.

Since I'm a Chicago kid, going back to the hometown is always great fun. I'm planning on a train ride for one event and a road trip with a friend for the second. If I'm lucky, I'll even meet up with a few Chicago friends while in town.

Here are the two events I'm attending:

Adaptive Path: UX Intensive: Interaction Design Workshop
The First event on my schedule is Adaptive Path's UX Intensive: Interaction Design Workshop, happening on Wednesday April 25, at the Black Orchid in Chicago:

In this course, you will build upon your understanding of the principles of interaction design by learning tools and techniques that will improve your interaction design work and your collaboration with your teammates. Will be led by Dan Saffer, a Senior Interaction Designer at Adaptive Path and author of Designing for Interaction.

I'm very excited about growing more deeply in my interaction design practices, being challenged in new ways, and meeting some interesting people at the event.

SOBCon07: Successful Outstanding Blogger Conference 2007
The next event, SOBCon07, takes place Friday, May 11th and Saturday 12th at Hotel Sofitel at Chicago's O'Hare airport:

An evening and a day of community, strategy, and information about the art, technology, and science of relationship blogging for 250 experienced bloggers.

We will demonstrate to 250 bloggers how to take their existing blogs to the next level through interactive presentations on publishing, design and branding, tools, analytics, social networking, marketing, and coaching, from the perspectives of the blogger and the audience.

I'm heading down with my blogpal Phil Gerbyshak, who I suspect will know tons of people, and introduce me to more than I can remember. I'm looking forward to meeting other bloggers, and learning how to be a better blogger.

I'll likely write follow-up reports on the events, so keep an eye open here for those.

If you happen to be attending either UX Intensive or SOBCon07, drop me a line!


Word Count Journal Launch & Design Notes

On January 1st, 2007, Word Count Journal, a new project our MakaluMedia crew has been working on, launched for public consumption.

The Word Count Journal idea is simple — sign up and then write a little bit each day for 365 days. If you write the minimum every day for a whole year, you'll have written at least 66,795 words. Word Count Journal is especially well-suited to anyone who wants some encouragement to keep their words flowing every day.


I wasn't sure if the idea would interest me as a blogger, but it's actually pretty fun. You aren't penalized for missing a few days, since you can always log in and quickly catch up on your posts.

I've even found it fun to write more than the day requires — you only need to meet the minimum, but it's sometimes easier to keep on rolling.

My Word Count Journals Page

And now, a few words on the design of the Word Count Journal site.

Word Count Journal Identity Design
Our team had a great time working through the design of the site. wcj-logo.gifI had the pleasure of designing the Word Count Journal logo, as well as assisting my colleague Alex Bendiken in establishing a site design based on the new identity.

I had long wanted to use the font American Typewriter for a logo, and this project seemed the perfect opportunity to use this font.

While Word Count Journal is an online journaling application, I wanted to bring in the ideas of analog journaling — the pencil icon and typewriter fonts — as these recognizable elements help convey the idea quickly.

You'll note that the letters have been pretty tightly kerned, especially 'Journal' which I snugged so tightly that the 'u' and 'r' have merged into a ligature, and the 'n' and 'l' have been customized to allow for a close fit.

The pencil icon was kept intentionally simple, and also snugged into the space above the curl of the 'J' in Journal, keeping in the style of the overall "cozy" theme of the type treatment. Placement of the 'Word Count' text was a tough call — I wanted it centered in the space above 'Journal' initially, but decided to align the 't' of 'Count' on the right edge of the 'a' in Journal.

You wouldn't think so much goes into kerning of a few words, but I feel this little extra effort pays off in a more flowing identity.

Word Count Journal Site Design
Based on the logo, I assisted Alex in developing the initial direction of the site design, which he and the team completely fleshed out and built. I really like the cooler aqua blue and grays, combined with warm orange and bright yellow, and the use of American Typewriter throughout the site. Alex and the team did a great job keeping the structure simple, yet super-functional and beautiful.

If you'd like a space where you write a little each day, check out Word Count Journal!