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The Art Center Design Conference, Part II Ornament Mar 31st, 2004

The start of the day brought the MaxiMog. This is quite the cool research vehicle that can traverse any terrain on the planet, and maybe even Mars. Read more about the vehicle if you are into total and complete research and scientific geekdom.

Art Center

James Dyson

One of the more dynamic speakers at the Art Center Design Conference was James Dyson. You’ve probably seen him in those commercials hawking his vacuum cleaners.

Art Center

Dyson is a great speaker, and was easily one of my favorites during the conference. He has a nice manner about him, and makes compelling arguments for the process he goes through in his work.

Art Center

Dyson tends focus on products that feel broken, and then goes on a search to discover the heart of the problem with that product. In the case of vacuum cleaners, he wanted to understand exactly why it was that vacuum cleaners seemed to lose suction, and thus fail to collect all the dirt found around the house. He discovered the problem was integral to the actual design of vacuum cleaners themselves.

Basically, a vacuum cleaner bag contains many thousands of tiny pores, so that air can pass through them. Yet, since a vacuum cleaner’s purpose is collect dust and dirt, those pores would get clogged far too quickly. His solution was to find a way to remove the bag from the vacuum cleaner, and created a design that involved the movement of air in the same form as a cyclone. He basically created a small wind tunnel inside the machine that grabs dirt but never clogs the pipes that move the air.

Dyson said that he made some 5,127 prototypes! Yes. Thousands and thousands of prototypes. Further, many of the major vacuum manufactures thought nothing of the product, ignoring it, much to the detriment of their current business as Dyson’s machines are crushing the competition.

This reminded me of one of the biggest problems in the current design process found at so many high-tech companies here in Silicon Valley. There’s simply not enough time put into creating prototypes, and iterating on design by working through the issues one finds in the prototyping process. I know my own work is always a thousands times better when given the opportunity to prototype extensively. With the internet culture that has designers working on three month schedules with maybe at best two weeks of design time built in, can anyone be surprised by the quality of work that comes out of internet companies?

One last important note was that Dyson spoke about taking approximately one third of the revenue generated by their sales and funneling that money back into research. That may seem like common sense, but so many companies rarely put that kind of money back into nothing but research.

Dyson also showed some photos of testing process and use of robotics for stress testing. An impressive set-up to say the least.

Art Center

I’m sold. I really want one of these things. I might even start cleaning the house!

Richard Saul Wurman

Sorry to say, I was bit disappointed by Richard Saul Wurman’s presentation. I didn’t really find his talk that inspiring or insightful, compared to the others that spoke. I find Wurman a bit too self-important and off-putting, I’m not sure why.

Art Center

Of the many things Wurman discussed, only one thing seemed relevant to me. It was a bit on education, and how people in the United Stated are trained at early ages in school to memorize data instead of learning how to ask questions. He mentioned that one should always be curious about everything. It’s important to recognize when one does not know something and go on the journey of discovery to learn everything possible about that topic from the questions that arise within you. This is the way to true education, not memorization of piles of data.

One small tidbit — During the book signing period, Wurman was asked by a designer type who seemed genuinely interested in knowing what book out in the market might best for budding Information Architects. Wurman reacted to him a bit aggressive, and slightly condescending, not understanding how one could answer such a question. (The underlying subtext I assumed was that all books are good and the designer should seek out as many of them as possible.) After a little of back and forth between the two, Wurman finally said, “Just go read Information Anxiety 2.” The designer seemed a bit miffed at Wurman’s reaction to his honest question, and simply walked away.

Andrew Stanton

One of the more entertaining speakers was Andrew Stanton, the writer behind Toy Story, A Bug’s Life and Monsters Inc., as well as writer and director behind Finding Nemo.

Art Center

Stanton, whose work proves that great screenplays are the true foundation for great movies, spoke about the importance of writing about what you know, and even more importantly, knowing about what you write. He talked about how the writers, animators and everyone at Pixar immerse themselves in as much as they can that relates to their stories, and they do a tremendous amount of research before embarking on any project.

The best way I can map this little bit of advice to design work is that designers should focus on truly understanding their users, their subject material. One can write personas, perform customer research, and even come to a great understanding of what it is that users need to do from an outside point of view, but at the same time, the best designers will dig in and get their hands dirty to truly grasp the details and nuances of what is really going on for users to find the best solutions to user problems from the point of view of the user.

One of the most hilarious bits of Stanton’s talk was when he showed how Pixar goes through the process of matching actors to characters in the story. Rather than try and find talent from the get go, Pixar basically first creates their characters that match the tone of the script. They then put together rough models that can be animated. Once that is in place, they grab dialog from scenes in exisiting movies of actors they think might be match for the character, and then they animate their models to dialogue from movies with that actor.

The demonstration Stanton showed was Al Pacino as Hopper from A Bug’s Life. The piece of dialogue they used was from Scarface. It was quite hilarious to see Hopper cursing and charging around in the over the top style of Pacino. Stanton also showed a snippet of Hopper smoking a cigarette, using the voice of Alec Baldwin from what I think was Moon over Miami.

Stanton left us with this quote:

Fun and wonder are the important elements, in addition to quality in production and performance, which are most responsible for the success of Disney productions. Fun in the sense of cheerful reaction — the appeal to love and laughter. Wonder in that we appeal to the constant wonder in men’s minds, which is stimulated by imagination.

Walt Disney

Eiko Ishioka

Nearing the end of Day 1 of the conference, Eiko Ishioka spoke in an interview format with Chee Perlman.

Art Center

The first thing they showed was an eleven minute clip of Eiko’s work, which was an impressive collection of production design, set design and costume design. If you have seen the movies Mishima, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Cell, watched M. Butterfly on Broadway, or enjoyed Cirque du Soleil’s Varekai, then you have sampled some Eiko’s amazing work. A quiet and unimposing woman, her visual sensibilities are truly her best form of expression of her inner voice.

To be continued…

Next up in part three, Dean Kamen, Brenda Laurel, Lee Clow and Frank Gehry. Plus, my dinner with Tom Dolan of Polychrome and Greg Storey of Airbag.



Standards rant

Repeat after me Separator Standards do not block, impede or otherwise hinder innovation. Businessmen, engineers or product managers who only care about how they want to implement technology or only care about their own bottom line are the ones doing the real damage in the larger economic picture.

Design by Fire strives to be as standards compliant as humanly possible in spite of the fact that those in charge of developing the technology, the browsers and the operating systems can't seem to to code to the W3C specification with 100% compliance.

However, even though I'm a firm believer in standards, I'm beyond sick and tired of trying to figure out what works and what does not work according to the W3C specification. So while I make every attempt to do the right thing, occasionally I'll just do what I have to get the thing working. In other words, if you run any Design by Fire URI through a code validator and find invalid markup or css, please don't bother sending me an email.

With that little rant out of the way, here are some good articles about the benefits of web standards.

And of course, there's Zeldman's Designing with Web Standards, which is easily one of the best reads from both a practical and technical point of view on the subject.

All of these sources discuss simplification of code, rapid development, smaller file sizes, faster download times, better accessibility for a larger set of users, easier code maintenance and platform scalability - all benefits of standards at a technological level. There's also some ROI discussion on using standards.

Really Simple Syndication is still a pain in the ass

Here's the RSS feed.

RSS Feed
Design by Fire RSS Feed

You should know the drill by now.

Andrei Michael Herasimchuk

Updated 2010 Separator The quick and dirty summary is that I am largely considered one of the first official interface designers hired by Adobe Systems. That is, the first one hired to do nothing but interface design across the professional product line. I worked personally on the interfaces for Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe InDesign.


One of these days, I'll convince Adobe's legal eagles to let me write a book about all that I have been through while working on those products. I just doubt they'll agree to it in my lifetime. Until, then you'll have to be satisfied with the History of Photoshop, an article written by a long-time friend of mine, Jeff Schewe.


Director, Design Team bullet Twitter
March 2011 - Present

Sr. Director of Product Design
Applications bullet Yahoo!
September 2009 - March 2011

Chief Design Officer, Co-Founder bullet Involution Studios
July 2004 - September 2009

Project Lead, Adobe Lightroom bullet Adobe Systems
December 2002 - June 2004

Director, User Interface bullet ePeople
April 2001 - December 2002

Director, User Interface bullet Impresse
January 2000 - April 2001

Director, User Interface bullet Mambo.com
August 1999 - January 2000

Senior User Interface Designer bullet Adobe Systems
August 1995 - July 1999

Co-Founding Member, Director bullet Specular Int'l
June 1990 - August 1995


Having the opportunity to work on Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom has given me a chance to explore photography in way I would not have had access to otherwise. You can find samples of all my personal work on this web site, and unless otherwise noted, everything here is photographed by me.

For a short period of time, I was exploring a screenwriting career. I had a script optioned by Hyde Park Entertainment (a division of MGM), a studio that has since gone under. I even had an agent in Beverly Hills for a short period of time.

I enjoy playing poker on the side and find the game infinitely fascinating. I have made the final table in a few bigger tournaments. One at The Hall of Fame Poker Classic and the other at the Bay 101 Open, but no World Series of Poker bracelet for me yet. I have had the opportunity to play against some world-class poker professionals and have gotten crushed by them.

In my off time I play bass guitar and far too many video games.

Publications and Awards

Industry Awards bullet 1995-2000
Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign have won far too many awards than is possible to list here.

The History of Photoshop bullet February 2000
An article written by Jeff Schewe for Photo Electronic Imaging Magazine. This covers the history and development of Photoshop. A copy of this article can be found here in PDF format. You can also find another copy on Jeff's web site, Schewe Photography.

Design Graphics, Cover Story bullet June 1999, Issue 46
This article covered the work I did on the redesign of the professional product line while at Adobe.

Collage with Photoshop bullet 1994
This book features 14 digital artists using Photoshop and Specular Collage. I'm only mentioned in the prologue, but the book was created to promote Collage and what digital artists were doing with it at the time. I'm still fairly proud about the book and the work produced inside of it.


Amherst College bullet 1989 to 1990
Left Amherst College to start Specular Int'l

The Hill School bullet 1984 to 1988
College preperatory school.


andrei@designbyfire.com bullet To avoid getting tagged by my spam filter, be sure to create a meaningful subject line.

Colophon and other details

Design by Fire v4.0 Separator A quick overview of the design and implementation of DxF for those who care about such details.

Browser Support

If you are viewing Design by Fire in either Firefox or Safari, congratulations! You are experiencing Design by Fire in the manner it was intended. If you are using Internet Explorer 6.0 or less, you have my sympathies as you are getting a version slightly less dynamic. The reason for that is due to Microsoft's lack of support for the CSS property "position: fixed;" plus a few other things.

Get Firefox

Bottom line, Internet Explorer promises to fix these things in version 7, so in the meantime you can either download the beta for IE7 or switch to Firefox.


If you have purchased the Adobe Creative Suite, you should have Helvetica Neue installed in your font library. If so, then you are reading Design by Fire as it was intended to be read. For everyone else, you are either seeing Lucida Grande or Arial.


Clearly, Helvetica Neue is far superior.

As for the logotype of Design by Fire, it's set using the classic Bodoni typeface, complete with ligature for that extra flourish.

Content Management System

This version of Design by Fire is managed using WordPress. So long MovableType.

Copyright Information

Design by Fire is ©copyright by Andrei Michael Herasimchuk. All rights reserved.

You may not use any material, articles, logos, essays, technical illustrations, photos or any content from this site without expressed written permission.

Design articles

This page intentionally left blank Bullet Oct 31st, 2008

Keeping up with the Joneses Bullet Aug 16th, 2007

Introducing Spivot Bullet Mar 5th, 2007

The unfortunate death of Helvetica Bullet Oct 23rd, 2006

An Open letter to John Warnock Bullet Aug 28th, 2006

Convenient Lessons from An Inconvenient Truth Bullet Aug 2nd, 2006

The kids aren’t alright Bullet Jul 17th, 2006

The Culture of Fugly Bullet Jun 25th, 2006

Please make me think! Are high-tech usability priorities backwards? Bullet Oct 10th, 2004

Rebranding the World Wide Web Consortium Bullet Sep 30th, 2004

You say toe – may – toe, I say [expletive] that Bullet Aug 17th, 2004

Gurus v. Bloggers, Round 2 Bullet Jun 20th, 2004

Design Eye for the Usability Guy Bullet May 18th, 2004

Et tu, Brute? Bullet May 6th, 2004

I would RTFM if there was an FM to FR Bullet Apr 30th, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part III Bullet Apr 27th, 2004

Gurus v. Bloggers, Round 1 Bullet Apr 9th, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part II Bullet Mar 31st, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part I Bullet Mar 29th, 2004

Redesigning Google’s search results page Bullet Jan 25th, 2004

Lifestyle articles

Welcome to the new school, same as the old school. Bullet Jun 19th, 2006

Bubble Boy at the Bay 101 Shooting Star Bullet Mar 1st, 2004

Beginner’s Tips for Poker Bullet Jan 31st, 2004

Crucial mistakes against Scotty Nguyen Bullet Dec 10th, 2003

Photography articles

Santorini in black and white Bullet Jun 17th, 2004

Santorini in red Bullet Jun 9th, 2004

Santorini in blue Bullet Jun 8th, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part III Bullet Apr 27th, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part II Bullet Mar 31st, 2004

The Art Center Design Conference, Part I Bullet Mar 29th, 2004

Party like it’s 1999 Bullet Jan 10th, 2004

An Oakland Rave Bullet Jan 10th, 2004

Random favorites from the shoebox Bullet Jan 10th, 2004

Portraits of Donna and Alexa Bullet Jan 10th, 2004

Politics archive

How terrorism works Bullet Sep 10th, 2004