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

Welcome to the first official Gurus v. Bloggers Design Shootout. What exactly is that? I’m glad you asked!

G v B Grudge Match

I’ve gathered examples of web sites of a few well known — and highly respected — web, design, and technology Gurus, along with a few web sites of a few well known Bloggers in the design sector.

What are we going to do with them?

Have them duke it out, Celebrity Deathmatch Style! (Ok… without the fun claymation or witty writing. You get what you pay for.)

Playing for the Gurus: Richard Saul Wurman, Bruce Tognazzi, Peter Merholz, Jakob Nielsen, Edward Tufte, Gerry McGovern, Donald Norman, and Myself.

Why me? Am I bold enough to claim myself a guru? Not really, but since I do consider myself fairly experienced in the field, I’m gonna play on their team. Neener neener!

Playing for the Bloggers: Jeffery Zeldman, D. Keith Robinson, Andy Budd, Didier Hilhorst, John Gruber, Greg Storey, John Hicks, and Josh Williams.

Who is on the judging panel? That’s easy — Me. How is this possible when I’m batting for the Gurus? Don’t worry. I play fair. What is the judging criteria? Whatever hits me while I’m viewing the sites. Isn’t that unfair, you ask? Of course.

It’s my blog and I’ll judge if I want to.

So, step right up, and join in the fun. Read the results of the very first Gurus v. Bloggers Design Shootout!

Wurman v. Zeldman

G v B Grudge Match

Both are giants in their fields. Both are idol worshipped by their peers. Both are requested to speak more than Scott McLellan. Both have names ending in “Man.” So why is Zeldman on the Blogger side and not the Guru side? Hey, us Gurus have to give the Bloggers a chance now, don’t we?

Looking at Wurman’s site, one can really only ask one simple question: Is this it? Is this all I get? (True. That was two questions.) A poorly formatted bio, a link pointing to the Wurman.com site with those bizarre red squishy balls, and to add insult to injury, a frame based layout? Disappointing start to say the least. (I could have used the Understanding USA web site, but it’s about as confounding a design as any I’ve ever seen, not to mention it breaks every rule about Flash and usability. Nielsen be damned — Flash really is 99% bad!)

Switch it over to Zeldman, whose recent compliant, standards-based redesign is smart and snappy. Zeldman uses orange, which everyone knows is the new black, so that wins major points already. He also uses a simple layout, with clean, reasonably sized type, along with well placed links. Besides, Zeldman knows that aesthetics really do matter, and one can’t argue with beautiful women placed throughout the site rather pictures of the man himself.

Winner: Zeldman

Merholz v. Robinson

G v B Grudge Match

Okay, information architect versus the self-proclaimed web designer. Should be a knockout for the Gurus.

But wait, Merholz is using one of the default MoveableType templates! One that uses pop-up windows for comments even. Oh no, this can’t be. This just won’t do. The template is a prime example of poor information architecture at best, and does Merholz no justice. In fact, that template will go down in history to the same fate as Los Angeles. (The font on the original Macintosh, silly… not the city.) This is over before it even began.

Meanwhile, Robinson has organized his site into a cohesive, simple structure that makes just about everything he has ever written extremely easy to find. If you are somehow having difficulty finding what you want, which probably means you are just too lazy to be reading blogs, his site’s got music to listen to while you peruse the place. (Did I just contradict myself?) Further, since Robinson dropped that awful black-pattern in favor of a new, classier, more pleasing blue pattern, it’s easy to declare victory.

Winner: Robinson

Tufte v. Hilhorst (& Rubin)

G v B Grudge Match

I’ve pitted my favorite Guru and personal inspiration against a lowly student. Better yet, a student who doesn’t even remember Photoshop 1.0 because he was ten years old at the time, and one who is studying economics of all things. I did this just to prove how biased and unfair I am when it comes to judging these things.

Sadly though, as much as I admire Tufte and his work — the man’s work changed my life for crying out loud! — I simply cannot admire his web site. It’s stuck in some early web form of thinking and design, uses a really poor message board format, and has rendered type for its menu system! Ouch.

Hilhorst, and recently missing cohort in crime Rubin, constantly impress me with smart illustrations that follow many of the principles found in Tufte’s own Envisioning Information. That, along with well-thought out write ups about design, and I have no choice but to give them the nod.

Winner: Hilhorst (& Rubin)

Nielsen v. Gruber

G v B Grudge Match

Ok, if anyone can break this streak for the Gurus, it has to be heavy-weight Nielsen, right? His web site is one of the most well-known on the planet. So how on earth could someone like Gruber even compete?

We all know Nielsen’s faults. He’s put them on display so often in the past there’s no reason to bring them up again. (Ok. Here are some: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7.) To add insult to injury, Nielsen can be a bit, shall we say, overbearing. Having said that, can Nielsen’s blinding color system, poor layout and unreadable typography be forgiven for someone who is attempting to convert designers towards better usability practices? Not in this lifetime.

Damn if Gruber isn’t witty, smart, intelligent and still able to pull off that cynism thing that Nielsen seems to miss by a mile. Damn if Gruber can lay on the criticism, while also explaining his point of view cleary and succinctly. And damn if Gruber’s site isn’t the epitome of simple, unobtrusive, smart typography and layout. Gruber has easily out usabilitied the king of usability. (Yes, I made up a new word.)

Winner: Gruber

McGovern v. Storey

G v B Grudge Match

Here we have the man who claims content is king, and a guy who is king of content!

So, what can we make of McGovern’s web site? Does design really matter? Can we look past the utterly uninspired design and see the site for what it is? Great content about content?

We could if only Storey wasn’t so damned good at providing both great content in one of the most bang-up designs this side of the blogging hemisphere. I think we have a new move to introduce to the Design Shootout: The Storey Smackdown.

Winner: Storey

Tog v. Budd

G v B Grudge Match

It’s the battle of the monosyllabic heavies. One’s from the old school and one’s from the old country. Whose gonna take this one down?

We all know and respect Tog, the man who was there in the glory days of Apple. This history certainly gives plenty of cred to Tognazzi. But wait, what is going on? Tog’s site is better than Nielsen’s, but not that much better. Where’s the inspiration? Where’s the attention to details. Where’s the design that makes one weep at the mere sight of it? Anyone who worked at Apple must surely create something that makes the rest of us feel completely and utterly unworthy of its presence.

This is becoming hard to stomach. Once again, the Bloggers are pushing their weight around. Andy Budd’s design looks more like what we would expect from someone working in design at Apple than the person who did work at Apple back in the day. Great use of shading, nice soft colors, along with amazing little details like comment previewing while you type! That’s the kind of detail we expect from Apple, not a Blogger, right? And don’t miss that photo gallery. Smart design. Very smart design.

Winner: Budd

Norman v. Hicks

G v B Grudge Match

Ok… this has gone too far. Time to bring out the really big guns. The man responsible for validating emotion and aesthetics in design, and the man who brings emotion and aesthetics to design. It’s Norman versus Hicks!

So, one can only hope that Norman will bring religion to NN/g with his new book, Emotional Design. Norman has always struck me as a happy man, the one Guru if any that would apply what he has researched to his own little spot on the web. So, after loading up his web site, was I happy about what I found? Did I connect with it? Did it make me want to lick it? Not even close. Sigh.

Over to Hicks, and one can see this whole contest is quite rigged. Hicks writes clearly, has great content, and I feel all giddy and emotional every time I load up his blog on my screen. The guy knocks it out of the park with his design work. Checking out Hicks.com must be akin to what it was like watching the Babe point to the bleachers and then BOOM! Homerun.

Winner: Hicks

Herasimchuk v. Williams

G v B Grudge Match

Alright. I got myself into this predicament by putting myself on the Gurus team. So surely, even poor little old me can take whatever the Bloggers have to dish out. I can win at least one for the team, right? So bring it on! I’m ready.

As mentioned from the get go, we all know orange is the new black. So I score major points there. I also recently added stylesheet switchers, larger fonts default sizes, more web standard compliant code (with a few problems here and there). I even did all my own layout, coding and artwork, and it works reasonably well. What you see on DxF is mine. Plus, what about all that work I did on all the applications most of you people use? There. I win.

But wait… Williams not only uses orange, but yellow and every other shade and compliment one can find for his design of Yellowland.com. Further, his layout is both more elegant and intricate, while not feeling overpowering. It’s well structured, and the content is great. Hell, even his icon work makes the stuff I did on Adobe’s products look ancient and weak by comparison. How can this be? I’m the judge here and even I can easily see how Williams has absolutely owned me. Oh, sad day!

Winner: Williams

The final score

It’s no contest.

The Bloggers win in a shut-out, 8 to 0. A total Guru smackdown. Completely knocked out of the ring. It’s as ugly as watching Stanford lose to ‘Bama during March Madness.

I was going to bring out the likes of Dave Shea, Doug Bowman, and Dan Cederholm for the Bloggers and match them up against Jeffery Veen, Mark Hurst and Jesse James Garret for the Gurus, but I can’t take watching this anymore. I have to end it before things get out of control.

Let’s all hope that Round 2 will see the Gurus getting back into shape and kicking some Blogger butt. Until next time…

Wurman Zeldman Merholz Robinson Tufte Hilhorst Nielsen Gruber McGovern Storey Tog Budd Norman Hicks Herasimchuk Williams



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