Customer Reviews: Analog In, Digital Out: Brendan Dawes on Interaction Design
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For those of us not inclined towards design, It's always a good idea to look for ways to "think different" about the process. Brendan Dawes does that in his book Analog In, Digital Out: Brendan Dawes on Interaction Design. It's definitely not a "how to" book, but more of an idea generator...

Contents: Looking Up; Revolutionaries - The Zephyr Skateboard Team; Just Ring the Bell When You Get There; "Brown Paper and String" Moments; Play-Doh as Interface; Recycling the Past; All This Useless Beauty; Anything Can Happen in the Next Half-Hour; Waiting for Departure; Nightmare at 30,000 Feet; Strangers on a Train; Spiral Notebook; Revolutionaries - John Whitney; The Power of Silence; Jazz Inspiration; Close to You; Don't Think; Constraints Are Good; Revolutionaries - Raymond Scott; The Special Capability of Making Many Mistakes; Perfection? In a Word, the Pencil; Designing for My Mum; Walk On By; Where's All My Stuff Gone?; A World without Undo; Mash-Up at the Movies; Contextual Memories; Rock 'n' Roll; Mariah Carey Syndrome; From Thin Air; Bending the Rules; Evidence of Use; Comfortably Numb

You know this isn't the typical design book when you start going through it... Large full-page graphics, unusual typesetting, and images that are not your ordinary book fare. But I guess that's to be expected from someone who has devoted their life to interaction design and wondering how the analog world can be made digital. I mentioned that it's not a "how to" book, in that you won't find any best practices lists or before/after website designs. It's more a "stream of consciousness" book on the author's feelings and thoughts towards the subject. For instance, he talks about how he took Play-doh (analog) and created an interface (digital) that allowed someone to see online effects of their real-world interaction with an object that has no interface. Or how he took music (analog) and used it as input to a graphic generation program (digital) in order to create musical fingerprints of songs. Maybe the specific idea isn't necessarily practical, but it leads you into taking a different view of things that fall outside of our normal established patterns. I think my favorite chapter was "Mariah Carey Syndrome"... Just because you have an eight octave range in your voice, it doesn't mean you have to use it on *every single note*... just because you can, doesn't mean you should...

The practicality-oriented readers might be a bit frustrated with the lack of "do this" material. But approached in the correct way, this book offers some unique insights that aren't normally considered. Definitely a different type of read...
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on October 7, 2006
I was fortunate enough to meet Brendan Dawes at the Chicago Design conference in 2005. He inspired me then, and continues to inspire me with his website and this book. This is a very different book than your usual design or computer book, (the bookstores place it in the "Animation section"?). In each chapter Brendan gives you a view into his world and how he solves problems. He shares his explorations with you from how he looks at the world, to the mechanics of how he completes a project. Along with several of the chapters he provides "Helpful websites", to explore beyond the book. My favorite is chapter 7, where he shows you his kit for always being ready to develop an idea, (I agree the Moleskin sketchbooks are ideal for capturing ideas).

The book itself is a true work of art. Great photos, and great ideas.

The book is a very personal view of his world, but a wonderful world it is. The writing style makes me feel like he is there with me as he explains what he is thinking or doing. I have already given several books away to family and friends.

Please consider, "Interaction Design", in the most general sense of the word. Anyone wanting to see the world in a different way, or just have more fun in life will enjoy this book. Each chapter will give you a lot of food for thought. So plan on taking time to think about all the ideas, and how you can use them. On the lower right corner of the book it says, "Voices that Matter", and Brendan's does. SO BUY THE BOOK!
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This book is not some academic treatise on user interaction design. Instead, it is a very short book that can be read in one sitting about constantly surveying the world around you and considering how people interact with their environment, what seems natural, what seems fun, and always taking time to wonder why something is the way that it is or just why it exists in the first place. There are about equal parts illustrations and text in this book, and it is a fun read.

The author has plenty of anecdotes from his own daily life, such as how he read a children's book while on vacation entitled "The Phantom Tollbooth" in which an entire town becomes invisible to the people that live there because they are so engrossed in getting as quickly as possible from A to B, that everything in between has simply disappeared. The lesson is that you should always be looking at your surroundings as though they are completely new and asking "why?". The author also talks about interesting projects such as a demonstration system he built that calculated the area of a piece of play-doh and changed the speed of a movie that was playing based on that number. These anecdotes and projects are not particularly useful in isolation, but taken together the book gives you a new perspective on the world around you, showing you how you can build an interface out of almost anything and how to make that interface inviting and interesting to the user. If the author wrote any code to do a particular task, he usually includes it, although it is highly unlikely you would want to copy his individual projects. He also includes "Helpful Sites" in most chapters that talk about certain pieces of software or hardware that he might have used. Overall, this book is a useful exercise in expanding your imagination and creativity, and I highly recommend it.
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on May 5, 2008
Brendan Dawes is one of my top inspirational people. This book gives great insight into how he thinks about the world around him and how he relates that back to his work. It comes complete with some great code snippets, all very simple to read, but the outcome is impressive.
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on October 30, 2007
I read this booking thinking I might find concrete methodologies for physical computing. It is maybe not so in-depth describing various projects made by the author over the years, many consisting predominantly of innovative (at the time) coding. Most helpful, were the pervasive philosophical inflections encouraging exploratory and experimental approaches, slightly anarchic motivations and quirky little inventions. Due to its heavily visual communication, i.e. lots of full-page pictures, the textual content is actually fairly slim. I wish it were not over so quickly.
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on September 5, 2008
Very interesting short read that is more about the art than the content. It made me think more about the interface and gave me a new perspective and approach to web design. Also, reading about Brendan Dawes was very interesting, especially since I've been a fan of his company for so long.
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on October 23, 2007
I just pulled this book back off the shelf last night and spent an hour or so flipping through it and re-reading bits and pieces. I've got to say, it gave me the same burst of creative inspiration as the first time I picked it up at the bookstore.

I'm not an artist by trade, but this book makes me feel like I can take my technical skills and make something beautiful with them.
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on November 22, 2013
Great book and super inspiring--its still one of my favorite design books despite being an older book on design--it's still one of the best :)
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