Brian Feeney

Designer & Front-End Developer

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Resident of Brooklyn, NY. Senior Product Designer at the Wall Street Journal.

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February 21, 2019

WSJ Award in Communication Arts

Communication Arts awarded us, the WSJ design team, an award for best Typography in their Jan/Feb 2019 issue. I'm really proud to have worked on this with a really amazing team of people. Thomas Williams, Fernando Turch, Bonnie Jarvie, Che Douglas, Cory Etzkorn, Adele Morgan; all great people.

February 21, 2019

Pinteresting

I still occasionally enjoy browsing Pinterest for visuals to pin. Skimming my full page of pins really does keep my tastes and preferences fresh in my mind.

December 21, 2018

2018 Music in Review

This year was an okay year for music. I listened to a ton of new releases, but the number of high quality albums was a little low. Here are my faves:

- Merrie Land - The Good, the Bad, & the Queen
- The Now Now - Gorillaz
- The Hex - Richard Swift
- Blank Panther - Kendrick Lamar

And other great records:

- Isolation - Kali Uchis
- Everything is Recorded - Richard Russell
- Everything is Love - The Carters
- Babelsberg- Gruff Rhys
- POST- - Jeff Rosenstock
- 7 - Beach House
- Dirty Computer - Janelle Monae
- Room 25 - Noname

Pretty skimpy. Two Albarn records in one year is great, though. I'm thankful for them. Looking back over my favorite tracks of the year it's fantastic to see a ton of genre blending. It's getting harder to draw hard lines between rock, pop, R&B, rap, etc. Everyone is stealing from everyone else and that's exciting.

April 19, 2018

Problems with Charter Schools

America’s Charter Schools Have A Commitment Problem

But modern charters are not public schools, and they do not make a public school commitment to stay and do the work over the long haul. They are businesses, and they make a business person’s commitment to stick around as long as it makes business sense to do so. That does not make them evil, but it does make them something other than a public school. And it underlines another truth ― students are not their number-one priority.

I think the perfect metaphor for charter schools are those Magic Eye posters from the 90s. If you stare from a very particular angle, cross your eyes, and focus intently only on what’s right in front of you, you get to see the sailboat.

From a conservative point of view, charter schools are perfect examples of how unregulated markets can improve an industry. Competition is good! The better schools will win and the bad schools will close!

But if you look at charters from any other angle, the problems become crystal clear. What happens to the kids when the schools close? What affect does for-profit financing have on the curriculum, or the design and furnishing of the building? Of the nutritiousness of the kids’ lunches? What does it mean when schools play roles in communities more like Walmarts and less like decades-old public institutions.

When I cross my eyes and look at charter schools from the conservative angle, I get it. They seem great. But it’s now obvious there are a hundred problems which piggyback on the one single solution they offer.

I support higher governmental support for our current public schools. Give our teachers huge pay raises. Double the funding for educational infrastructure. Care about the kids. Forget about “markets”.

April 19, 2018

The Beholders Share

“The beholders share”: the percent of work the viewer brings to a work of art, versus what the artist offers of themselves in making the art.

Design, as a craft, is finding pragmatic ways for taking on as much of the beholder’s share as necessary to bring about the desired outcome. To remove maximum uncertainty. Usually, this means creating designs which make life as easy as possible for the user.

A website should be usable even when a user is barely paying attention. Natural instincts should usually be enough. Buttons clearly defined and placed in logical positions. Navigation and content more or less exactly where people expect to find it. This is how a designer takes on more of the beholder’s share.

It’s not always in the users’ interest to move them through a flow as quickly as one could. There are times when a user should slow down and be required to pay more attention. Like when actions could result in deleted files or when important information needs to be entered into forms. In these cases, the user shouldn’t be made to feel frustrated at unintelligible UI, but to feel that the content they are confronting is worth considering more closely.

This is an area where design and content strategy overlap, where it’s impossible to draw a distinction between the two disciplines. There’s surely more to say about this, but right now, I’m going to let this simmer in my head. It might not be worth defining any further. More like an aspect of the craft of design which is best intuited.

April 17, 2018

Own Your Own Site

Anil Dash on the missing building blocks of the web

[T]hings have gotten much easier. There are plenty of tools for easily building a website now, and many of them are free. And while companies still usually have a website of their own, an individual having a substantial website (not just a one-page placeholder) is pretty unusual these days unless they’re a Social Media Expert or somebody with a book to sell. … There’s no reason it has to be that way, though. There are no technical barriers for why we couldn’t share our photos to our own sites instead of to Instagram, or why we couldn’t post stupid memes to our own web address instead of on Facebook or Reddit.

I think about this problem all the time. I love having my own website and I have no doubt more people wouldn’t prefer to have their own domain, too, instead of a Facebook page.

April 13, 2018

Home Ownership 2018

Now that I’m finally about to be in the market for homeownership, it’s becoming very clear that way way way too many homes are owned by corporations or the extremely rich. One reason home prices are laughably inflated.

It’s a story that’s very familiar to any millennials scanning the property market and lamenting the high cost of a home: renting just makes a lot more financial sense right now. Statistics certainly bears that out. Burns says that while his research shows that homeownership isn’t dead, he believes the younger generation will achieve a roughly 10% lower homeownership rate than their parents.

Renting the American Dream

April 12, 2018

Corporate Design

Paul Robert Lloyd on corporate design:

Designers like to talk about how they finally have a seat at the table. It’s an attractive idea, especially since companies have started to build internal design teams rather than outsource to agencies. But sometimes it feels as if designers have been tricked into thinking they have a seat, when in fact they’ve been taken hostage, only to develop Stockholm syndrome.

This is such an interesting problem. One that has struck me before, but in a vague way I hadn’t been able to articulate nearly as clearly. I’m not yet convinced it’s actually happening, but I’m not done thinking about it.

April 12, 2018

Newsletters Are Not My Thing

I’ve unsubscribed from nearly every email newsletter I’ve ever signed up for. It’s no surprise to me that Jason Kottke sees a large number of unsubscribers after every email sent. Two obvious reasons and one personal one. Obvious: 1) people forget or don’t care they’re subscribed until the email arrives, and 2) the easiest way to unsubscribe is at the bottom of the newsletter email they want to unsubscribe from. If another email never comes, they’ll never remember or care to unsubscribe. The personal: I’m not the kind of person who wants casual reading content in my email inbox. It just doesn’t belong. There are plenty of newsletters I’d love to subscribe to, and would probably greatly enjoy reading, if I could send them somewhere which isn’t my email address. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

April 12, 2018

Blogging Again, Again

Back to the Blog, from Dan Cohen:

There has been a recent movement to “re-decentralize” the web, returning our activities to sites like this one. I am unsurprisingly sympathetic to this as an idealist, and this post is my commitment to renew that ideal. I plan to write more here from now on. However, I’m also a pragmatist, and I feel the re-decentralizers have underestimated what they are up against, which is partially about technology but mostly about human nature.
I’ve already mentioned the relative ease and short amount of time it takes to express oneself on centralized services. People are chronically stretched, and building and maintaining a site, and writing at greater length than one or two sentences seems like real work. When I started this site, I didn’t have two kids and two dogs and a rather busy administrative job. Overestimating the time regular people have to futz with technology was the downfall of desktop linux, and a key reason many people use Facebook as their main outlet for expression rather a personal site.

Two problems here which do need solving. One, it’s still far too difficult to publish a post on a self-hosted website. And two, there is a lack of innovative tools which could better connect all of these decentralized websites.

The first problem is actually hundreds of problems at once; a different set of problems for every single CMS. The second problem only needs some love and attention. I believe the answer is in newsreaders and new creative ways of using RSS. Self-owned data and content, but new ways to read blogs in centralized locations.