Jonathan Grudin

Jonathan Grudin is a principal design researcher at Microsoft.

Posts By Jonathan Grudin

Uses of ink

Posted: Fri, October 17, 2014 - 9:06:47

Many species communicate, but we alone write. Drawing, which remains just below the surface of text, is also uniquely ours. Writing and sketching inform and reveal, record, and sometimes conceal. We write to prescribe and proscribe, to inspire and conspire. My childhood colorblindness—an inability to see shades of gray—was partly overcome when I read Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But for nonfiction…

Lasting impact

Posted: Wed, September 24, 2014 - 9:35:29

An enduring contribution can take different forms. It can be a brick, soon covered by others yet a lasting part of a field’s foundation. Alternatively, it can be a feature that remains a visible inspiration. Eminent scientists and engineers have offered insights into making an impact. Inspiration “If you want to predict the future, invent it,” said Alan Kay. In…

Diversity and survival

Posted: Tue, August 05, 2014 - 11:40:21

In a “buddy movie,” two people confront a problem. One is often calm and analytic, the other impulsive and intuitive. Initially distrustful, they eventually bond and succeed by drawing on their different talents.This captures the core elements of a case for diversity: When people with different approaches overcome a natural distrust, their combined skills can solve difficult problems. They must…

Visual design’s trajectory

Posted: Thu, July 17, 2014 - 3:50:11

Some graphic artists and designers who spent years on the edges of software development describe with bemusement their decades of waiting for appreciation and adequate computational resources. Eventually, visual design soared. It has impressed us. Today, design faces complexities that come with maturity. Cherished aesthetic principles deserve reconsideration. An enthusiastic consumer People differ in their ability to create mental imagery.…

Organizational behavior

Posted: Mon, June 23, 2014 - 10:36:18

Two books strongly affected my view of organizations—those I worked in, studied, and developed products for. One I read 35 years ago; the other I just finished, although it came out 17 years ago. Encountering Henry Mintzberg’s typology of organizational structure In 1987, an “Organizational Science Discussion Group” was formed by psychologists and computer scientists at MCC. We had no…

Philosophical robbery

Posted: Wed, May 28, 2014 - 9:19:20

In 1868 I read Dr. Holmes's poems, in the Sandwich Islands. A year and a half later I stole his dedication, without knowing it, and used it to dedicate my "Innocents Abroad" with. Ten years afterward I was talking with Dr. Holmes about it. He was not an ignorant ass—no, not he; and so when I said, "I know now…

True digital natives

Posted: Tue, April 22, 2014 - 11:49:32

They’re coming. They may not yet be recognizable, but some are walking—or crawling—among us. The term digital native was coined in 2001 to describe technology-using youths, some of whom are now approaching middle age. At an early age they used family computers at home. They took computer skills classes in school. They met for other classes in computer labs or…

Swarms and tribes

Posted: Mon, March 31, 2014 - 10:03:23

A crack team led by Deputy Marshall Samuel Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) race about in hot pursuit of Harrison Ford’s fugitive Dr. Richard Kimble. Gerard finds one of his men standing motionless. Gerard: “Newman, what are you doing?!” Newman: “I'm thinking.” Gerard stares. “Well, think me up a cup of coffee and a chocolate doughnut with some of those little…

Theory weary

Posted: Fri, March 14, 2014 - 9:09:08

Theory weary, theory leery, why can't I be theory cheery? I often try out little bits wheresoever they might fit. (Affordances are very pliable, though what they add is quite deniable.) The sages call this bricolage, the promiscuous prefer menage... A savage, I, my mind's pragmatic I'll keep what's good, discard dogmatic… —Thomas Erickson, November 2000 "Theory Theory: A Designers…

Metablog: The decline of discussion

Posted: Tue, February 11, 2014 - 1:06:58

Is our changing relationship to information rendering discussion obsolete? More information of interest is online than I can consume. Pointers may be enough. Today I may need help or time to find some of it, but before long rivers of gold will stream to us; we will have to push some of it away. The cafés of Paris and Vienna,…