So you'd like to...

become an information architect or user interface designer

A guide by Stefan J. Smagula "smag" (DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York, NY, USA)
(REAL NAME)   

Products sampled from this guide:
Hello friends. Maybe you're here because you believe that our technologies have run amok and user-centered design (UCD) is the only way to fix them, or maybe you think UCD is dead, and want to know: "what's next?" Maybe you're here because you're a software engineer who's starting to become curious about that most mysterious of interfaces, the human interface. Or maybe it's because you're a graphic designer looking to extend and expand on your skills to design interactions, tools, applications, and experiences. Even if you're here because you are using your laptop in front of the TV and thumbed the wrong link, I think you'll find these books and resources intellectually challenging and fun.

Start your journey with two CLASSICS: The Design of Everyday Things, and Envisioning Information. Way back in the 80's Don Norman and Edward Tufte wrote primers on cognitive psychology and information design that twenty years later are still the foundation of this crazy, emerging field of user experience design. To be taken seriously by an employer or colleague you'll need to be familiar with these two texts. Once you've digested these two, move on to some EXPLORATIONS: In About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design you'll learn from a true veteran of UI and interaction design: Alan Cooper. Cooper popularized the "persona and scenario-based design" methodology, and you can read more about that in The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity, which is the kind of book that business analysts / MBA's would do well to read because it shows that good interaction design has tangible business value. For the visually-minded, I know of no better introductions to programming and interaction design than Design by Numbers. John Maeda is a digital renaissance man. He's a professor at MIT, a programmer, an award-winning graphic and interaction designer, a typographer, and your guide to the world of DBN, a spritely programming language that you'll love to learn. To get a taste of where you can go from DBN, see http://www.proce55ing.net.

Finish your explorations by reading Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites, 2nd Edition and Designing With Web Standards. They go together--the first teaches you the basic concepts that underly all types of information seeking and classification. The second will deepen your understanding of the "means of production" which is key to the the detailed design and development phases of any Web project. Standards make business and design sense, but standards are something more--they're at the heart of what makes the Internet such a rich resource. So think twice about using that table tag, my friend.

OK, the DEEP CUTS. Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life is a book that continues to impress me. Barabasi is a mathematician who explains the basic laws that govern how networks form and grow. It's two steps removed from the actual work you'd do as an IA or UI specialist, but if you want to understand the medium you're working with (it's a network, after all), and want to make informed guesses about 'what's to come' this book will help. There are a few equations, but don't let them stop you from enhjoying book.

Likewise, The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (Science Masters) is one step removed from the work interaction designers, IA's and UI specialists do, but it's also at the heart of everything we do. It's about the simple concepts that make computers work. Undergrad computer science majors have read this book in my class and have told me: "I wish I had read this book when I first started the comp. sci. program three years ago." Learn how to build a computer (a real computer) from tinker-toys, among other things. Learn about Turing machines, and finite state machines, and appreciate the elegance and magic of it all.

Now that you've read all these books, now it's time to find that job where you will conceive of, design and maybe develop a socially and culturally relevant application (hell, why not anoperating system?!) that determines the course of your entire generation, transforming you into a philosopher-king/millionaire. But seriously, if you can't help it, do go into user experience design, for it's one of a few professions I know of in which the not-complete defeat is a victory.

Fnd that job at: http://jobs.ok-cancel.com/

and tell them Stefan Smagula sent you: http://www.smagula.org

Products mentioned include:
1.  The Design of Everyday Things  by Donald A. Norman
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2.  Envisioning Information  by Edward R. Tufte
$40.89 Used & New from: $8.24
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3.  About Face 2.0: The Essentials of Interaction Design  by Robert Reimann
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4.  The Inmates Are Running the Asylum: Why High Tech Products Drive Us Crazy and How to Restore the Sanity  by Alan Cooper
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5.  Design by Numbers  by John Maeda
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6.  Information Architecture for the World Wide Web: Designing Large-Scale Web Sites, 2nd Edition  by Peter Morville
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7.  Designing With Web Standards  by Jeffrey Zeldman
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8.  Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means for Business, Science, and Everyday Life  by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi
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9.  The Pattern On The Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work (Science Masters)  by W. Daniel Hillis
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Author

Stefan J. Smagula "smag" (DUMBO, Brooklyn, New York, NY, USA)
(REAL NAME)   
Qualifications: Interaction Designer at Google, frmr faculty U of TX, Austin
Last updated: 12/16/10
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