Are We There Yet?

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“Design is often the place where ideas become flesh, and that is where you discover conflicts in the constituency. We were no different.”

Over two years ago, Boxes and Arrows’ then editor-in-chief, Erin Malone, and I decided it was time for a redesign of the magazine. The site had been tweaked and tortured into a shadow of itself over its first two years, the staff struggled with the hacked-up Movable Type installation (the software the site ran on), and it seemed about time for a makeover. Design magazines should be updated often. It’s in their nature.

That was over two years ago. And you, gentle reader, are still asking “Are we there yet?”

Finally, barraged by emails asking about the mystery surrounding the contest, the strange under-explained changes, the increasing degradation of Gabe Zentall’s elegantly understated design, we’re coming clean. We’re sharing the redesign and development process—in all its messy glory—with you.

Yes, folks, we are opening the kimono… just don’t expect Cindy Crawford underneath.

Where is the new design?
Back when we decided B&A needed an overhaul, we held a contest for a new design of Boxes and Arrows. Boy, was that a mistake.

Quality wasn’t the problem. Although the designs were terrific—beautiful, clear, and innovative—not one was what we needed. A successful design is more than beautiful; it is appropriate. And for a design to be successful, the designers need to work hand-in-hand with the client so they understand the client’s vision, and so the client understands the choices made by the designer. Collaborative iteration is the secret to getting to the right design solution. It’s embarrassing that we tripped up this way, knowing how many articles this site hosts on good process. We should have realized a contest was the very opposite of good collaboration.

Compounding our mistake, we chose to have judges—judges who weren’t us—because we thought that seemed right. A contest needs judges, right? Let the experts decide! Well, the fact is: Boxes and Arrows is our site, and the judges had differing ideas of what a great design for B&A was. They even had differing ideas of what kind of magazine B&A is—a usability blog? An information architecture site? They choose designs as winners based on their vast experience in IA, usability, design. But they all had different experience, none of it in being a B&A staff member, and they all choose different winners. The most usable, the most beautiful, the most… you get the picture. When Erin and I saw the judge’s favorites, we knew we were in trouble. Not only did they differ in preference, they could not envision the direction we planned the magazine would go. The judges just weren’t psychic!

Erin and I struggled through the contest process, realizing the issues but committed to following through. Too many people had worked too hard on wonderful designs to toss it all away. We tried to reframe the problem with additional instructions to our judges, and further-defined specs, but it was clear we were in too deep for an easy out. So we held fast to our core goals and prayed the winner might understand.

Luckily, the winning team, April 3rd, had a similar attitude about process. When they won, they immediately asked “Can we redo the design?” They wanted very much to work with us, iterating and exploring, to come up with the right design for B&A. Somehow they’d kept in mind what we had forgotten.

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Figures 1: Contest winner by April 3rd (Click to enlarge)

Those who don’t learn from history…
We also should have known better because we’d been down this path before. When we were working with Gabe on the first B&A design, it took a while to find the right style. He went through multiple color and font explorations before even beginning page design, and founding team’s struggle with the design led us to write a mission statement so we could share a single vision. Design is often the place where ideas become flesh, and that is where you discover conflicts in the constituency. We were no different.

Even after we thought our design was perfect and launched with it, we discovered many things needed to be changed to accommodate our audience and staff needs. Today it’s the font size-too small! The next it’s the color-too light! The next it’s the images-we don’t have a Welcome this week! We need a new icon! And soon the design only loosely resembled the original.

Even Gabe was annoyed with his design when he saw it in HTML. Daily, I received polite little fix-it notes. “The gray is #eeeeee, not #cccccc.” “Please make the type 10px, not .8em.” Eventually, he forced himself to stop looking at it and no more sad emails appeared in my inbox.

ba gabe sketch ba 2002 screenshot thumb

Figures 2: Original sketch by Gabe Zentall and the design in September 2002 (Click to enlarge)

B&A finally settled into a stable form, and lived more or less happily housing smarter and smarter articles by the design community. Until we decided to muck…

Our story continues
So finally we had a light at the end of the tunnel for the redesign. The design team had been selected, was ready to go and was eager to design something amazing. We had done our homework and we knew what we wanted from a new design! Ready, set…

And then several things happened at once. I decided to build a new CMS from scratch, and Erin decided it was time to pass the baton on to a new editor-in-chief.

Rolling your own
Movable Type, despite the glowing blog entries and great success as a self-publishing tool, was not made for and is not a suitable tool for a team of writers and editors using an editorial workflow to produce quality articles. It’s a blogging tool. Knowing that we wanted a more-robust CMS, we looked at a number of open source solutions, including Drupal, WordPress, and Mambo. But after hacking Movable Type, we were wary of using the wrong tool for the job. That took WordPress out of the equation. And both Drupal and Mambo are like Swiss Army knives: they do everything, but not one thing well. Ever open a bottle of wine with a Swiss Army knife? Using an open source CMS is about as pleasant.

The fact that there were no tools for small groups to publish collaboratively seemed strange, and an opportunity. I suspected fate’s hand when, while giving a talk in Copenhagen, I was introduced to Lars Pind, a programmer who had built several CMS’s. He and I chatted, and he expressed the belief that it was time for a revolution in publishing tools. Around that time, both A List Apart and Digital Web were building their own CMS’s to run their magazines. I cried out “The writing is on the wall! Citizen journalism! New paradigm! Let’s make software!” With that, Lars and I started a new company, Cucina Media, and began our first product, PublicSquare.

So how does this fit with the redesign?
PublicSquare was originally designed to allow for lightweight customization. We thought if we wrote nice, semantic HTML all it would take to customize would be stylesheets, Zen-garden style. Again, we were mistaken. It soon became clear that people care even more about customization with their publications than with their blogs. A stylesheet can take you only so far, despite many articles to the contrary. It’s really not possible to completely separate form and presentation, as April 3rd learned to their chagrin. They struggled mightily to get the new B&A design launched for the 2006 IA Summit, giving up sleep only to see the launch fade in the 11th hour, thwarted by what CSS can and cannot do. With that failure, we decided to regroup.

Luckily, Lars tripped over an interesting templating language, Liquid, made by the folks over at Shopify. Liquid gives all PublicSquare users the ability to fully customize the design-including our much-put-upon B&A design partner, April 3rd. Now that we’ve got the templating language in place, we’re working to stabilize the markup so that April 3rd can do their job without having to redo it over and over again. Nobody wants to see the IA Summit fiasco happen again, even if the only ones who knew about it were Lars, April 3rd and I.

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Figures 3: More recent iteration on contest winner by April3rd (Click to enlarge)

Now what? The redesign and beyond
With Erin’s move out of day-to-day oversight, Boxes and Arrows’ internal processes really had to start changing. We brought on new staff, including our first managing editor Javier Velasco, who watches over deadlines and quality; and Liz Danzico, the new editor-in-chief, who helps shape strategy. With new people, we’ve gotten a few new projects underway:

* Publishing: We started a series of new projects, including our first publishing venture. We’ve been talking about paper publishing since the beginning, but it’s just been this year that we’ve started planning in earnest. We’re stepping out with a collection of essays on tags and tagging.

* Events calendar: The Events Calendar, which you may have noticed, is another new addition that came about from personal experience. As a former design manager, I always had a hard time finding events for my direct reports to attend. My staff often came to me trying to choose a conference, but I never really knew about every event that was out there. I saw another opportunity: why not create a centralized dedicated list of events for design practitioners? I see you folks agree; we’ve been bombarded with events!

* Suggestions: You may have noticed the Suggestions area. This is the place for you to add your own story ideas and vote on what you think we should be doing. Beyond that, people have been using it to ask questions, note interesting articles, and make suggestions about site functionality. Don’t think we’re ignoring that! It’s clear more features such as a forum are required. B&A is a place for many voices, and we want to work toward making a tool that makes publishing more participatory while maintaining the quality that an editorial process and staff provides. We’re also learning a lot about voting, reputation systems, and user profiles (i.e., what makes a community tick).

Being without-profit
Until now, B&A has been a “without-profit” venture—just me, paying the hosting and keeping volunteers motivated with the help of an amazing volunteer editorial staff. B&A is still going strong, but we want to take it to the next level, which requires money. We could pursue sponsorships and go non-profit, but we’ve decided to try to make B&A into a self-sustaining business. People, no matter how committed to design and the community, eventually want their weekends and evenings back, and get sick of working with no return beyond the gratitude of the community. The goal is to be able to pay editors and writers, as well as fund new ventures needed by the design community.

This does mean some changes in the site you’ve grown so fond of, including the addition of ads. Don’t fret! We plan to stick with only relevant ads and relevant features. Although Budweiser won’t be advertising here anytime soon, do expect things like a job board or a bookstore.

We care about “Y”
We’re working toward a special way to launch the new design. We’ve asked a guest editor to curate a special issue on virtual and physical spaces, and we hope that will be the first in many special issues to come. Sure, we all love wireframes, but man cannot live on Visio alone!

We’re also interested in hearing more about the directions in which you’d like to see the magazine go. Too often, people dismiss the chance to help a publication grow—”They are all about X, they don’t care about Y.” Well, we do care about Y, we care about it very much. Boxes and Arrows was originally created to fill the need of senior practitioners to get better articles on the questions they faced in their work. As those practitioners have grown, we needed to grow also. Watch for more articles like Erin’s on creating a five-year plan, more articles like Icon Analysis, and, in general, more exploration of the issues you are just becoming aware of (…We hope! You are hard to keep ahead of!).

So, that’s our story so far. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We decided to let you know, even though it’s not a pretty story. We have made missteps, gone out in strange directions, realized we were drinking strange brew, and then tried our best to get back to a better course. In our daily lives we often make mistakes and then spend our time covering them up, trying to look cool. So this article is all about admitting we’ve done dumb stuff and owning up to those mistakes in the hope that you won’t emulate us, but will keep us honest and relevant.

Boxes and Arrows is our magazine. The line between staff and reader grows thinner and thinner. We welcome you to help us as we grow, with your honesty, your critiques, and your participation!

Excelsior!

Check It Twice: The B&A Staff Reveals the Way They Make Lists

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”… putting something on a list legitimizes it and increases the likelihood that it might actually happen, whether you’re talking about getting a new job, having another baby, or buying Cheerios.”

Holiday lists, to-do lists, grocery lists. With the end of the year come the holidays, and holidays are usually a time for … that’s right … making lists. Take a look into the process (and obsessions) of list-making from our staff. Have a sparkling holiday season and may all your lists come true.

From the staff:
Holiday cookie list
Holiday music list
Palm lists
Online lists
Mantra box list
Buy-Me and open checkbox lists
Refrigerator lists

Holiday cookie list
Every Christmas, from as far back as I can remember, we’ve made Christmas Cookies for Santa (and us!).

If one kind is left out—even if most folks don’t really like them—there is an uproar. Tradition is important in our house, and more than ever now that my daughter Amelie has joined the world. This is one list I have to check twice!

  • Frosted sugar cookies
  • Almond pretzels
  • Pinwheel or bar shortbread cookies
  • Cream cheese spritz (colored animals and shapes)
  • Chocolate (kisses) filled bon bons
  • Meltaways (which resemble Mexican wedding cookies)
  • Bourbon balls

These last two are my favorites, and the recipes for them are here, written in my mother’s hand.

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-Christina Wodtke

Holiday music list
I am a teeny bit obsessed with using iTunes to make playlists. I cannot describe how much I love music mixes. Putting together a bunch of songs in an unexpected way to set a mood or match a particular occasion just makes me all giddy. This pursuit used to take hours (when I was finding songs on record albums and taping them). Now it’s merely a matter of going through my library and dragging songs to a playlist. Such joy.

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For your listening pleasure, I’ve made a new playlist in honor of the holiday season. It’s not really full of holiday songs, although there are a few–it’s more about the feelings, good and bad, that this time of year evokes.

  1. Merry Christmas, Baby / Otis Redding

    Otis just has soul. He’s one of my all time faves, so I thought I’d use his best holiday songs to bookend this list.

  2. Money (That’s What I Want) / Barrett Strong

    To get everyone presents.

  3. In My Life / The Beatles

    During the holidays I typically start thinking about the big stuff.

  4. Turn Turn Turn / The Byrds

    We sang this at my sixth grade holiday concert.

  5. It’s Getting Better / Cass Elliot

    I have to believe it too.

  6. Baby It’s Cold Outside – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan

    It’s cold, it’s wet, it’s romantic.

  7. December, 1963 (Oh, What A Night) / The Four Seasons

    What a very special time for me.

  8. Blue Christmas / Elvis Presley

    Some of you may know I have a teeny teeny thing about The King. This tune is Elvis incarnate.

  9. Day By Day / Godspell

    More spiritual than religious. Besides, it’s groovy.

  10. He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother / The Hollies

    I’m just getting all mushy now.

  11. Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night / Jimi Hendrix

    I’ve come back to my senses. Jimi tears into some holiday faves.

  12. Where Have All the Flowers Gone / The Kingston Trio

    I can’t help thinking about our soldiers overseas now.

  13. The Morning After / Maureen McGovern

    She sang this on New Years Eve just before the ship turned over and that guy crashed into the skylight.

  14. He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands / Nina Simone

    Yes He does.

  15. Put Your Hand In The Hand / Ocean

    Another groovy ‘70s happy peace and love song.

  16. Joy To The World / Three Dog Night

    I couldn’t avoid putting this one in. Kind of had to.

  17. What a Wonderful World / Tony Bennett & K.D. Lang

    At least I try to think it.

  18. Get Together / The Youngbloods

    Try to love one another now.

  19. White Christmas / Otis Redding

    I’m dreaming of it too.

Get Dorelle’s Holiday Mix at iTunes, and at Y! Music.

-Dorelle Rabinowitz

Palm lists
The best thing about holidays is traveling, and whenever you travel, it’s critical to bring the right gear along with you. So this is a time when lists come in handy, to help you make sure the right luggage is there.

I have a small application in my Palm Pilot that lets me make all sorts of checklists. I use Checklist by Handmark, which allows me to make several lists, sort the items, and even beam lists to my wife. Once you check an item, it can disappear, shortening a list until it’s done without the need to scroll down.

Hol-list2005-06

My longest list is for doing groceries, but I rarely use it–paper and memory are handier for daily stuff. But the lists I force myself to use are my packing lists. I have one for weekend escapes, holiday vacations, and another for camping trips.

Of course, they all include my camera gear, the difference is made by the food and cooking supplies, travel documentation, and kinds of clothes needed for the situation. Using these lists, it is safer to drive away without the feeling that you have to find out what you left home before it’s too late to turn around.

My camping list is:

  • Tent
  • Hooks for tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Air Mattress
  • Flashlight
  • Pans
  • Stove
  • Fuel for stove
  • Knife and big spoon
  • Swiss army knife
  • Utensils
  • Matches
  • Cups/mugs
  • Dishes
  • Tea
  • Toilet paper
  • Cooking oil
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Pepper
  • Boniculars
  • Outdoor soap (the one that doesn’t need water)
  • Camera
  • Film
  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick
  • First-aid kit
  • Candles

-Javier Velasco

Online lists
Ta-da Lists, a free service from the good folks at 37 Signals, are a great way to create and manage lists online. (Really–it’s free). After a painless registration, you can create as many lists with as many items as you need. Just check an item and it moves to the bottom of the list, signaling it’s completed. Editing lists is effortless, but reordering items is a little clunky. You can also share lists with others, email them to yourself, and even set up an RSS feed.

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I tend to use online lists for longer-term inventories of things like gift ideas, repairs around the house, and music I want to buy. Think of a great gift for someone six months before his or her birthday? Jot it down online. Or, if I read a review of a CD I eventually want to investigate, I’ll add it to my “Music” list. This way you can snowball ideas, thoughts, and catalogs of things over time.

Hol-list2005-03

The portability of Ta-da Lists is key. Anytime you’re online you can access your stuff. OK, it’s no Memex, but it can help you recall things. If you travel a lot or move between computers, it’s quite handy to have a single record. You get a simple URL in the format “yourusername.tadalist.com”–very easy to remember.

Daily to-do lists are better on paper, close at hand, in my opinion. So it’s a combination of old-fashion, handwritten to-do lists and online list management that helps me keep track of things.

-Jim Kalbach

Mantra box list
2005 was a challenging year for me; big changes in my life have forced me to reexamine some of my values and objectives. As part of this process, I’ve been trying to become better attuned to my inner voice—to approach important decisions in a more intuitive manner. One tool I’ve used during this time is what I call my “mantra box:” a list of phrases and words that I’ve come across in my reading, or in interactions with others, that resonate deeply with me.

Here is how it works: I keep a stack of 3” x 5” index cards and a Sharpie marker with me most of the time. When I come across a phrase that “calls” to me, I immediately write it on a single card in large block letters. It goes into my mantra box—one of those cheap card boxes you can find at drugstores.

I try to keep my “judging mind” out of the collection process; some phrases are trivial, obvious, or tacky. Others are quotes from personal heroes. Still others are somewhat mysterious at first; the full reason for their attractiveness is only revealed to me at a later time, when I’m in a more contemplative mood. All of them go into the box—the sole criteria for admission is having struck a deep chord in me.

Sometimes—when I’m feeling introspective—I review the contents of the box. If a particular mantra feels relevant to my current situation, I copy it to my day planner where I can refer to it frequently, and bring it into my daily life. (I don’t throw out mantras: it may turn out that even the stupid ones have a reason for being there.)

Here are, in no particular order, some of the phrases and words that have spoken to me—and merited a place in my mantra box—in 2005:

  • Simplify
  • He who owns little is little owned
  • Smaller, smaller
  • Do only what you love, love everything that you do
  • Collaborate
  • Underpromise, overdeliver
  • Embrace constraints
  • Less
  • Business is personal—not an abstraction
  • Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee
  • Context
  • Honor your mistake as a hidden intention
  • Disrupt business as usual
  • Convert talent into code
  • Anchor
  • Yes or no?
  • Eat like a bird, shit like an elephant
  • Axis thinking
  • Tenacity
  • Style—happiness—emotional appeal
  • Disorganize (for renewal and innovation)
  • Storytelling
  • As simple as possible, but not simpler
  • Nobody knows what they really want before they get it

-Jorge Arango

Buy me and open checkbox lists
Every day, I use at least two lists:

1. The Buy-Me method
While I pretend not to be cautious about music, I do tend to try a track or two before I buy an album. About once a month, I view the handy “Buy Me” smart playlist I created in iTunes. In it, neatly sorted by Play Count, are the tracks I’ve been listening to most often. No need to think about value of the purchase or an album’s potential for pleasuring. Chances are, if I’ve listened to a track at least once every three days for three weeks (roughly), I should buy the album. The Buy-Me recommendations are often a surprise to me, which is kind of a fun by-product of the system (no pun intended).

Hol-list2005-09
Smart playlists do the list making for me

2. Open checkbox method
Although I’ve tried all kinds, paper-based to-do list works best for me. Even though it’s analog, a consistent visual vocabulary helps me get things done. Here’s how it works:

When I need to get something done, I create a new list item. Each list item gets an open checkbox and a name. Other variables might include:

* Checkbox and asterisk: Indicates open task that is urgent
* Checkbox and “f/u:” Indicates an open task that needs additional follow-up before I can complete it.
* Checkbox and circled letter: Indicates that an open task needs to be performed in a specific location. Adding the location makes the list easy to scan to chunk potential errands. (“T” below indicates that the three tasks must all be performed at Target, for example.)

Hol-list2005-10

When a task is complete, I put a check in the checkbox, allowing the satisfaction of crossing something out without rendering the item illegible. Oftentimes, I must refer back to completed items, so I prefer to have them available. Sometimes, a task is still unchecked after a significant period of time or several pages in the notebook. In these cases, a strikethrough is necessary, and the unchecked item gets moved to a new page. When an entire list is complete, I put a strike through the entire page.

-Liz Danzico

Refrigerator lists
I write lists for lots of things, though I wouldn’t call myself obsessive. I like the legitimacy of putting something on a list. It means a commitment of some sort—something to be bought, a task to be completed, a thoughtful intention to do something.

I have the daily-weekly-monthly lists for work, but for the rest of my life, I mainly make lists for must-dos such as groceries, Christmas gifts, and errands. There is no formality to my lists. They are as basic as can be—words on paper. Often they’re written on small scraps or Post-Its with whatever I can get my hands on, pen if I’m lucky, pencil crayon if I’m not.

The grocery list is my most formalized list. It lives under a magnet on the side of the fridge. It’s simple, accessible. Everyone in my house knows what it is, and why it’s there. And to my great annoyance, I’m the only one who uses it. That means that even after a $300 grocery bender, I can still come home to someone asking why I didn’t buy Cheerios. “Because you didn’t put it on the list!!” Big sigh.

Hol-list2005-05

My favorite lists are ones I do most infrequently—life goals and ambitions. The list of big dreams. I’ve done these off and on for years, and they follow a fairly strict format. Things can’t be as simple as “win the lottery.” Items on this list have a certain amount of thought behind them that address the particulars of how to make something happen. My practice has been to spend time creating these lists, and then promptly forget about them. I now tend to save them on my computer, which means I could look at them occasionally, but I never do. Since I’m rather disorganized elsewhere in my life, these lists are usually lost, then turn up accidentally while I’m going through old notebooks or papers and files. The best thing about these occasional findings is remembering what I dreamt about long ago, and what I can check off.

Much to my surprise, I seem to have had a plan for how I wanted things to be. I have the two kids, a house by the ravine, work I can do from home, a Master’s degree—all things that have appeared on my life’s grocery lists over the years. I think it comes back to the notion that putting something on a list legitimizes it and increases the likelihood that it might actually happen, whether you’re talking about getting a new job, having another baby, or buying Cheerios.

-Pat Barford

Under the Boxes-and-Arrows hood

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Boxes and Arrows started as a lunchtime conversation, a whim shared by two colleagues pondering the emerging disciplines the web bubble had produced. Before long, it grew up into a respectable magazine (although we still won’t admit that in public) with professionals around the world contributing content that matters to them. We’ve already made a difference.

As an editorial team, we thank you. We think about you all the time, in fact, and enjoy working with you. But now there are so many of you. And you have such brilliant ideas. That’s why we’ve decided to give the magazine to you, in part.

Starting today, you’ll begin to see some changes. While the editorial team will still maintain the tone and consistency of B&A, you’re now officially invited to be part of the process.

Here’s how:

Better ideas, better magazine.
Instead of emailing your new story idea to an editor, you post it here for comments and ratings …by everyone. This shared editorialship will help authors refine ideas and help us understand what you want and need to read.

Say that again?
Yes. You decide what gets published. (Well ok, we’ll weigh in some too.)

Ratings and transparency and reputation points. Oh my.
The B&A community has always been a smart, respectful community. We’ve been amazed at how little spam and how few trolls we attract. But we know this can’t last forever, so we’ve instituted a reputation manager. See an offensive comment? You no longer have to wait for us to get to the issue, you can help get rid of the drek. Moreover, you can star the best comments, and help the cream rise to the top!

Location, location, location.
You can see where the conversations are happening and who’s having them. Each page posts stats on conversations and people, so you can quickly find the most interesting, controversial or insightful moments on the site.

Home transparent home.
The homepage gives you the full list of site stats as well as access to your profile on B&A. You can now see what we see—what a vibrant, smart community we’ve got!

But wait! This is only the beginning. The new look and feel is still to come, now that we’ve got a new set of features. And you, our beloved community, are invited to let us know how we’re doing (as if you’d hold back!) And watch this spot—the tool we’ve build for you to enjoy B&A, we plan to make available to you to build your own community of practice.

Excelsior!

Leaving Las Vegas

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“Now here it is: four years later. We are part of the landscape and a resource that is often referenced. Everywhere I go, folks refer to an article they read on Boxes and Arrows. We are expected to be here.”As we near the fourth anniversary of the crazy idea that Christina had, I find that it’s time to look to other priorities in my life.

When Christina first approached me four years ago, it was to be a writer for this new secret project of hers. I was honored and of course immediately said yes. Within a month of that request, she and George Olsen approached me about being co-editor, and with that I was pulled into the fold. Several people were working furiously trying to craft and shape and design a place that information architects could have a voice. This was to be a place to share and learn and not be encumbered by the baggage of academic language or obscurity. This was to be a place of practice, craft, and open arms as we sought to find our home in the greater universe of the user experience realm.

George and I worked diligently to define types of articles and features we wanted—what would be regular columns and what would be monthly features. We aspired to a lofty goal of two articles a week plus a monthly “Welcome.” On a volunteer basis with two editors, that was lofty indeed. We made lists of people whose writings – from articles, books, blogs, and list postings – that we liked, admired, or just plain suspected would be thought-provoking or controversial. We approached people to write for us.

When we launched at the 2002 IA Summit a few months later, it was with a full stable of articles, a planned calendar, and a queue full of works-in-progress. At the Summit, Christina said, “I’ll be happy if we last six months.” Little did we know. It was a few months later, when George resigned, that I took on the mantle of editor in chief.

Now here it is: four years later. We are part of the landscape and a resource that is often referenced. Everywhere I go, folks refer to an article they read on Boxes and Arrows. We are expected to be here. The last few years has seen a dot-com bust and gradual rebuilding. Folks have been out of work, freelanced, became entrepreneurs, and finally joined staffs and rebuilt organizations in-house. This cycle has also affected Boxes and Arrows. As a volunteer organization, we have seen the cycle of authors, of volunteers, and of readers rise and fall as people became employed again and became engaged in a myriad of activities. The landscape, too, has gotten more crowded as more people have found their voice to share. Yet, despite the pressures of jobs and life, we continue to have a flow of great people interested in writing. People want to share their experiences and their practice. I am continually amazed at how open and giving this community is.

Over the years I have had the pleasure of meeting some great folks and of working with very dedicated people. George Olsen, Ryan Olshavsky, Brenda Janish all gave their time and effort. Our current editorial staff—Dorelle Rabinowitz, Liz Danzico, Javier Velasco, Jim Kalbach, Jorge Arango, Elisa Miller, Pat Barford—all eager and working behind the scenes to keep the knowledge flowing. Our copywriters Lara Ferguson McNamara, Emily Wilska, and Kirsten Swearingen always ready at a moment’s notice to turn something around in 24 hours. Thanks.

It is with this reflection that I announce my resignation as editor-in-chief and the appointment of new leadership. It is time for new voices and fresh eyes.

I am confident that Boxes and Arrows is going to be in great hands and am proud to pass the baton to Liz Danzico as the new editor-in-chief. And Javier Velasco has accepted the first ever managing editor role.

I’d like to thank Christina for the opportunity that she gave me—without really knowing me at the time, and for our readers for being there and continuing to come back.

Most of all I’d like to thank all the authors that I have worked with over the years. Some of the work was hard (you know who you are) and some of it was easy, but because of all of it, I am a smarter person because of what you have shared.

Thanks for the privilege of working for you.

Erin Malone

Erin Malone is currently Director of Design, Platform group at Yahoo! Her team is currently responsible for developing tools, brand guidelines, cross-network research and a knowledge management system for Yahoo! Design Standards and Best Practices for the entire User Experience group. Before Yahoo!, she was a Product Design Director at AOL (America Online) and worked on such applications as AIM, WinAmp, AOL Radio, AOL Media Player, AOL Wallet, My AOL, various Community products and other things deemed important to the company. Prior to AOL, she was Creative Director at AltaVista, where she managed a team of Information Architects and Designers working on the AltaVista Live portal and various other web applications. Other work has included being the first and only IA/Interaction Designer at Zip2, working on the first generation Adobe web site, redesigning the San Jose Repertory Theatre web site, as well as designing GUI for several projects at Eastman Kodak company and early AOL Greenhouse partners. She has plied her trade in interactive and digital information spaces, including the web since 1993. Prior to that she worked in some crazy field called Advertising where she was indoctrinated into the world of Brand and Marketing.

Erin has a BFA in Communication Design from East Carolina University, Greenville NC and an MFA in Graphic/Information Design from the Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester NY.

As an editor she spends a lot of time reading these articles and wrangling writers. In her spare time, she cycles, takes a lot of photographs, plays guitar and keeps multiple websites including The Dr. Leslie Project a web interpretation of her Masters Thesis; a Photolog and Design Writings, in which she talks about Design, Design History, Information Architecture, Design Theory and Design Criticism.