Hey y’all, welcome to the first edition of the Solomon.io newsletter. Now, I know this newsletter isn’t exactly new to most of you. However, I have decided to experiment a bit with the format.
For a decade I was a pretty active Twitter and Instagram user—maybe that’s how you found me. But I’m spending less and less time on social media. That’s made me reflect on ways I can share what I’m thinking, interesting links and the occasional photo.
So I’m going to try and share those things here—with this newsletter. Once a month I’ll go through links I’ve saved, my photo library and if there’s something interesting I’m reading or learning, you’ll read about it here. If there’s a new post, you’ll find that here as well.
How does that sound? If you have feedback or ideas on this format, you can either reply to this email or leave a comment. I’d love to hear it!
In a nearly decade of writing my annual reviews have frequently been a year or two late. I set a record this year for being a month late. But my 2022 Year in Review finally did get published—the streak is still going.
The review covers several things. I had a lot of pretty big life events happen this year—Holly and I got engaged. We adopted a little sheepadoodle named Otto. I wrote a bit about Product Notes and some of my other projects. Also, I’m pretty excited about advances in AI—we’ve got some exciting and uncertain things ahead of us. As usual, I think most overestimate the near-term impact of such tools while underestimating the long-term impact.
The start of 2023 has been pretty chaotic—triggered by record freezes around Christmas day. In short, we had pipes freeze and break, which lead to having to repipe our house. The intermittent water supply damaged our ice maker. Repiping left huge holes in the dining room and laundry rooms walls. Oh, the cold also cracked a window in our kitchen. Apparently, moisture was getting through the outer pane. When it was below freezing for three days, the pressure broke the glass. A few days later we had flash floods that dumped about 4 inches of rain in 3 hours. That caused flooding in our basement.
I hope we’re nearing the end of the repairs we need to make. Granted, we have a waterproofing warranty and I knew the house needed to be repiped. I was thinking we’d replace our Prius with a new car this year. Looks like that will probably need to wait a little longer.
OK, that’s enough ranting.
Just a warning—the things I find interesting tend to be pretty obscure. If these topic doesn’t look interesting, just skip to the photos and links below.
Perceptually Uniform Colors
I’ve been thinking a lot about color systems for the last few months. You might have seen my presentation on how design tokens can improve accessibility. The unmentioned caveat is that it doesn’t matter if your color system doesn’t give you accessible colors, to begin with.
I was first introduced to the concept of Perceptually Uniform Colors through an article on the Stripe Engineering blog. Essentially the LCH (Lightness, Chroma, Hue) color space attempts to organize color by how humans perceive it.
One way to visualize and generate color systems based on LCH is by using a tool like Huetone. To the left, you have individual colors in different shades indicated by numbers. The colors get lighter as they go to 0 and darker as they approach 1000. To the right, you’ll see several charts. The leftmost charts represent all shades of the selected color. The ones on the right represent all 500 colors or whatever shade is selected. The perceptually even part comes by trying to keep all in the top right chart at a similar level. The more varied those colors are, the more perceptually different they will be.
This approach has some interesting downstream effects when designing color systems. Most notably, it allows predictable contrast ratios. This means perhaps whenever a designer uses a 500 color or greater, they can be sure that it will have a 4.5 or better WCAG contrast ratio. That also means that if you’re trying to pick colors for something like charts, you can be certain that any 400 color has at least a 2.0 contrast ratio against any 600 colors.
Anyways, I think any designer planning to build a large color system should consider perceptually uniform colors in the planning process.
Several childhood friends were in town at the beginning of this month. Then I got a last-minute text from Kevin, an old co-worker, saying he was flying into town from Miami for a shoot and wanted to grab dinner one night. Kevin’s request was to do something “Atlanta” while he was here.
I decided that Virginia Highlands might offer up a few good options. We met with CRowe, another old co-worker, at Moe’s and Joe’s for Trivia. Then we went to Atkins Park for dinner, Blind Willies for blues, 10High for live karaoke. For those that aren’t aware 10High is a legendary Atlanta karaoke spot where you get on stage with a live band and sing 80s and 90s rock hits. Finally, we stopped at Limerick Junction for one more beer before close.
It was a Wednesday night after all.
We didn’t carve a pumpkin for Halloween this year, despite picking up several at Uncle Shuck’s. For all of October, they just hung out on the porch. Then we left them out for November because squash on the porch is pretty fall, right? Then for December Holly had the fantastic idea to paint the pumpkins white and dress them up as snowmen. It’s a pretty clever way to get 3 months out of pumpkins purchased for Halloween.
There’s something about old photos—ones that aren’t on a screen. My mom was going through some old photos and sent my sister and me this one on New Year’s Day. If I were to guess, I’m probably 6 years old here. We used to take a weeklong trip to Seaside, Florida during the summer. That’s probably where this was taken.
Designing Windows 95’s User Interface
A look at early user research findings before the release of Windows 95. Recently I’ve become interested in software design decisions from this era. The more I study, the more I realize how much previous experience with UI informs the next generation. Maybe that’s why everyone feels software looks boring today? Boring software is familiar—and familiar is easy to use.
Newsletters, a calmer alternative to social networks
This post articulated a lot of what I was feeling about social media. The value that was once part of the network is eroding. I was rethinking the newsletter before I stumbled across this post, but this made me realize I wasn’t the only one thinking about it.
The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forget
A moving short story I stumbled upon. It’s worth a few minutes of your time:
There was a time in my life twenty years ago when I was driving a cab for a living. It was a cowboy’s life, a gambler’s life, a life for someone who wanted no boss, constant movement and the thrill of a dice roll every time a new passenger got into the cab.
What I didn’t count on when I took the job was that it was also a ministry. Because I drove the night shift, my cab became a rolling confessional. Passengers would climb in, sit behind me in total anonymity and tell me of their lives.
Remaking Old Computer Graphics With AI Image Generation
The author takes an old game, Nemesis 2, and uses Stable Diffusion and Midjourney to update the graphics. Cool experiment shows the process and hints at yet another way this software might be used to make old things feel new again.
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