07 Oct
   Filed Under: Apple, IconResource   

I was sitting in an office as news started coming in yesterday that Steve Jobs had passed away. Shocked, I verified the news, paused speechless for a moment, shared it with my wife in astonishment, and worked on. I worked hard and finished designing a subset of an app that I would say is the best work I’ve done in my life.

I haven’t really been ‘with Apple’ for that long. I’d gotten my first Mac not too long before joining the Academy in late 2005. Before that, in high school I bought a 2003 iPod with the money I’d earned working as a dish washer in a Chinese restaurant. In my little rural school, only a handful of kids even knew what an MP3 file was, let alone an iPod.

I’d grown up with an innate dislike for Macs. Since I’d always had a PC, once I had overcome my fear for its intimidating hidden workings I started taking it apart. From hardware to software, I wanted to know what made computers tick. The Mac seemed like such an antithesis, such an impediment to creativity, learning, and curiosity. Why would people prefer closed, shiny plastic boxes?

It’s only when I got my iPod that I figured it out. The experience was enthralling. When the Mac finally switched to Intel chips is when I felt comfortable switching, and I never looked back. I took the amazing experience that welcomed me – and swallowed me whole – apart, bent on finding what made me love my Mac so much. That year I found my passion for visual user interface and user experience design. Fast-forward to today: I am changing the experiences millions of people have with software for the better as a job. I love it. I have never been happier.

Steve touched us all, and I am no exception. Before going to the Academy of Arts and before getting my first Mac, I started learning about the history of Apple as a company. I devoured books, documentaries and even the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley, in which the early years of Apple and Microsoft are told from the perspective of Jobs, Wozniak, Gates and Ballmer. The movie, and Steve’s 2005 Stanford Commencement address, are what motivated me to let myself go, and let myself be submerged in my inner drive to obsess. I put a picture of him and Woz in my sketchbook.

When I worked at Apple, having my work reviewed by him and getting feedback and input from him was my lifelong dream made a reality, and the greatest honor I ever had. It has helped me tremendously grow as a person, and a professional.

When I sat on my couch this morning after a terrible, sleepless night full of confusing dreams and racing thoughts, it finally struck me that that man is gone. Even writing those words now, I feel a terrible sinking feeling.

Steve was my greatest inspiration. We all have to fight, live, work and most importantly love more and more strongly than ever to fill the void he left behind. I’m in a lucky place where I have never lost a close member of my family to cancer, but I am sure I will some day. Until then, I will do all I can to fight it: I am donating all proceeds of my video tutorial website, Icon Resource, to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network between now and Monday, October 10, midnight PST.

As my friend (and amazing human) Aza, whose father was robbed of him by the same disease put it so well:

First my father, then Steve Jobs. Pancreatic cancer has had a disproportionate and dire impact on early Apple people. Imagine if it hadn’t.

And I will end this post on a note I wrote myself:

If you want to honor Steve, don’t mourn. Do your best work every day. Live your life to the fullest. Never settle. His spirit lives on.

28 Feb
   Filed Under: Apple, Design, News, webOS   

There’s some discussion on Apple-centric and tech news websites about a video that’s doing the rounds with a new approach to notifications for iOS. While the system in the video is really nothing new (there’s been at least one alternative notification system in the App-Store-for-jailbroken-phones “Cydia” since 2010) it is getting a lot of attention, presumably because iOS users are quite satisfied with almost all the interactions of the OS except those dang stacking modal dialogs that interrupt your game of Angry Birds every time you get a text message.

And I can relate: when I am abroad, with my three email accounts, whenever I open Mail on my iPhone, I have to dismiss three ‘data roaming is off’ dialogs, and three ‘cannot get mail’ dialogs ( — that’s one per mail account). On an iPad, it can be even more jarring, with a tiny alert disabling the whole 9.7″ screen until you act on it.

This is a real issue. I have no doubt Apple is aware of this, like they were aware of copy and paste and multi-tasking.

This is not a post about what Apple will or should do to improve notifications on iOS. It’s a post talking about what solutions other platforms currently use to notify the user, and why Apple is (possibly, probably) taking such a while to create an optimal solution to the notification problem.

Continue reading…

10 Dec
   Filed Under: Apple, Personal   

I own a Mac Pro, the beefiest and most user-serviceable of all Macs, and I love it for a multitude of reasons. Out of all the reasons, my favorite thing remains being able to replace parts of it myself like you would with a tower PC. And when my second Apple-sanctioned Nvidia 8800GT died, I did just that: I took out the old card and stuck in the then-best shipping graphics card that works with Mac OS X: the ATI Radeon HD5770. I got a lot of questions from people on how well it performs, how silent it is, and more, so here’s a little post about the card that can.

Gaming on the Mac is certainly not as common or well-supported as it is on Windows, but the HD5770 handles whatever you throw at it quite well. I still have to adjust to it, though: the HD5770 is not a brand-new top-tier graphics card, like the card I use in my Mac Pro for gaming under Windows (the HD5970), and can sometimes have issues with the latest games at 30″ monitor resolution (2560×1600 pixels -are- a lot to push around).

As for the PC enthusiasts that often sneer at the Mac GPUs ( – “What, doesn’t STEVE want you using *illegal* cards in your Mac? Sniff! Why buy the expensive Apple card?!” ), I have to explain that Mac OS X compatible GPUs require EFI / EBC firmware on their ROM chips to be initialized for use under OS X. This is not something you can just ‘hack together’: the cards’ ROM chip needs the extra space to have a (Windows) BIOS-compatible and (Mac) EFI-compatible firmware on there, and even then Apple has to make drivers that lets you use the card to perform well. Apple would, of course, love it if everyone could just drop a good GPU in there, as it’d just make the Mac Pro more attractive to consumers. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. On the bright side: you can do that just fine with hard drives, eSATA controllers, USB cards, firewire cards, most audio cards, and so on.

Despite that, it performs great. Fortunately for Mac owners that enjoy gaming, most titles that run on Macs can be shown in full detail on 30″ / 27″ displays using the HD5770. And best of all: it remains almost perfectly silent. You won’t be hearing it rev up the fans like the old 8800GT, completely nullifying Apple’s care to acoustics in the rest of the computer (my Mac Pro nary makes a sound).

It’s easy to connect; the card has my requisite dual-link DVI (for all ‘typical’ LCDs and the 30″ Cinema Display I use) and two mini Displayport outputs, for the LED Cinema Display and other DP monitors. It uses a single 6-pin cable from the Mac Pro motherboard to supply extra power, which is the same as my old Nvidia 8800GT, although the HD5770 is far more efficient: it draws far less power when idle, for instance.

The only two issues I have with the card are the price, as it’s about 75 dollars above the ‘street price’ of a PC HD5770, which is unacceptable for a larger ROM chip and some firmware and the requisite Mac Pro motherboard cable. I understand ATI may have to produce these cards in smaller runs, but it’s a big chunk of cash on top of what is normally 135 dollar card. The packaging sort of makes up for it:

(yes, that’s a little Sony Vaio UX UMPC. With OS X on it. Blog post coming? Hell yes!)

The other issue is grapical glitches in Minecraft. Somehow, despite having excellent performance, Java OpenGL graphics are a terrible mess. I suppose this isn’t as much an issue with the card as it is a matter of the Java runtime, but the artifacts are awful.

Overall verdict:

8/10. If you’re in the market for a graphics upgrade, I’d check out how well the now-finally-shipping HD5870 compares in terms of pure bang for your buck. If you’re using all the extra power pins on your Mac Pro motherboard already (check!), and need an affordable replacement for Nvidia’s horrible, unreliable cards and crash-prone drivers (especially in Photoshop – check!), this is a no-brainer. And you can use the box for… well, I don’t know. Storing cats.

09 Jun
   Filed Under: Apple, Design, Goodies, Icon Design, Personal Work   

I’ve updated the iPhone / iPad icon PSD I released not too long ago with some fixes and a 114×114 pixel icon template for designing icons for Apple’s hottest new device.

Download it here. I cannot be held responsible for inaccuracies, flaws and errors in this this PSD I might have overlooked, but if you notice anything please let me know in the comments.

Again, if you appreciate it, tweet this to help your fellow designers and developers make nicer icons for iPhone 4 (and beyond).

01 Feb
   Filed Under: Apple, Design   

Mike Matas is a very talented 23-year old designer from the United States, currently living in San Francisco. He’s best known for his design work on the original Delicious Library, and working at Apple, designing key parts of Mac OS X and iPhone OS. He’s even been listed as co-inventor on patents Apple has filed.

In 2009, he left Apple. Lately, he uploads the fruits of his also impressive photography skills to his website and blog, mikematas.com.

I’ve asked him a few questions in this interview to learn more of one of the designers of the most innovative and beautiful interfaces of the last decade. Unfortunately, he wasn’t willing to disclose what he’s working on these days, but I’m sure we’ll see a lot of quality design from his hand in the future.

Continue reading…

28 Jan
   Filed Under: Apple, Icon Design, Interface Design, iPad, News   

Unless you’ve been living under in a multitude of nuclear holocaust-proofed rocks, you’ve heard all about Apple’s new tablet, the iPad.

As usual with a large Apple product launch, I’ve written up this post to round up the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the new interface and interaction designs that were set loose on the world by the company that’s regarded as the most influential and skilled when it comes to designing experiences. The usual disclaimer applies: iPad hasn’t hit the market yet, and thus its UI may still be subject to change or improvement.

Continue reading…