Suggestions for iPhone folder icons

About the user interface for iPhone folder icons …

With app icons on the iPhone, we have nice big visual cues. With folder icons, they all look the same, and they have one line of very small text at the bottom as the main thing that differentiates them.

Suggestions: It would be great if the text you chose for the folder filled the icon itself. Maybe we could even scale and crop the text, like we scale and crop a wallpaper image, so that just the letters we want fill the icon. And what if we could also choose a color for the icon, or even choose a photo or some clip art for the icon? The iPhone suggests categories when you make a folder, so maybe it could also suggest an image for the icon. Maybe the icon also gets bigger, so a folder icon takes the space of two or four app icons.

How would I describe these suggestions in some proximity thinking terms?

  1. These changes would honor the integrity of how our eyes work. That’s the whole point of icons in the first place. You can distinguish something at a glance when it’s a good icon.
  2. These suggested changes are an example of the ProxThink Core Idea, which is: In a situation, change elementsrelationships and the proximity to better relate to each other. The situation is the challenge of telling the folder icons apart. Our eyes, our vision, the iPhone screen, technology and readability-at-a-glance are elements and relationships, among others of course, in the proximity of this situation. The suggestions above change elements and relationships (text in icon, scaling, cropping, color, photos, clip art, icon size) for the icons. These change our user relationships to the icons, and in the process also change the proximity of this situation to the extent that perhaps it’s no longer a situation!

Mass emails often hard to read on a mobile. Where’s the proximity thinking?

It’s amazing that the people who design mass emails don’t consider that many of those emails will be read on mobile phones. Things like newsletters, gallery announcements, sales promotions, and other emails sent simultaneously to many people usually don’t have designs that respond the type of device that they are read on. Worse yet, they often have a lot of text on each line, so even if you rotate to portrait view, you still have trouble reading them. Where’s the proximity thinking?

Cool but lame sink?

Cool but lame sink? image 1 IMG_0615 1100pxmax

Cool but lame sink? image 2 IMG_0614 1100pxmax

This hip sink is sort of like fashionable shoes that hurt.

I like being hip and cool as much as the next guy, but not so much in the bathroom.

I stayed at an Aloft Hotel in Dallas recently, and there it was, an uber-cool sink.

Cool, that is, until you try leaning on it when you’re shaving or brushing your teeth or rinsing your mouth.

That’s when the sink cuts into your hand or your arm.

That’s when you know the price of being cool.

I’d like designers to relate to a wider variety of constraints. Why can’t a sink have a cool shape AND be ergonomic? This sink is like a monoculture, being mainly a geometric design, but monocultures are not very sustainable.

Where’s the ProxAwareness? Did they test this on androids or people? Did they try it themselves? They needed to honor the integrity of the hands and arms that will interface with this sink.

They needed to use the Core Idea of proximity thinking: In a situation, change elementsrelationships and the proximity to better relate to each other.

Next time, they might want to ProxThink that.

How to make an ergonomic pillow from a blanket when you are traveling.

Enjoying this post, or using it? Consider a proxri. Thank you!


I didn’t create this innovation, but I helped trigger it through the use of two ProxPatterns. It also illustrates how it can take multiple people to innovate. I’ll tell you the story first, and then mention the proximity thinking involved.

I use an ergonomic pillow at home, but don’t travel with it. I’ve never found a hotel that offers them. I was in Denver at a hotel, needed an extra blanket, and went to the front desk. After I got the blanket, I thought, hey, it never hurts to ask, so I said, “This is going to be a crazy question, but by any chance do you have an ergonomic pillow?”

The front desk clerk said, “What’s an ergonomic pillow?” I explained it to him, and drew a shape in the air that shows the side of an ergonomic pillow. And he said, “Oh, I know what those are. Those are cool.” Then he went back into the supply room.

When he came back, he had one of those foamy blankets folded inside a pillowcase. He said “Would this help?” I said, “Yeah, maybe, thanks so much! That’s a great idea!” It wasn’t exactly the right shape, but the basic idea was born.

In the hotel room, I experimented and tweaked it. I found that with a different blanket, and a different way of folding it, I could mimic the shape and firmness of my ergonomic pillow at home.

The photo you see is after four nights of sleeping on the pillow. It was the best four nights of sleep I think I’ve had in a hotel. I thank that hotel clerk and the Drury Inn. I wonder if they encourage this kind of customer service from their staff?

Obviously, my tweaking of the clerk’s idea didn’t take any great talent. But asking him the question about whether they had ergonomic pillows was the result of two ProxPatterns I often use. One is seeking greater ProxAwareness. The other is allowing some uncertainty in asking a dumb question.

This led in turn to examples of two other ProxPatterns. The front desk clerk was seeking to honor the integrity of my request. He did this partly by ProxAwareness of the available resources. And partly by relating a wider variety of elements than normal, those elements being pillowcases and blankets. Normally, blankets don’t go inside pillowcases, but the clerk was able not only to consider it, but try it too, which is a great example of relating a variety.

Of course he didn’t consciously use those ProxPatterns. But I have found that useful and/or interesting ideas and processes often exhibit ProxPatterns.

Enjoying this post, or using it? Consider a proxri. Thank you!

McDonald’s has the Worst In-Store Menus

The font size on the menus in McDonald’s restaurants is way too small. The font size does not honor the integrity of the visual abilities of most people. It’s really quite bizarre. They are the worst in-store menus I’ve ever seen. I wonder if the graphic designers ever stood and looked at the menus after they were manufactured. Maybe an executive or manager made them design them this way against their will!

But I suppose, what can we expect from the corporation that is costing the global population billions of dollars in healthcare expenses due to the unhealthiness of the food they serve? On the other hand, it’s not really all their fault. McDonald’s operates within systems, those being markets and governments and even culture, which tend to emphasize elements first, relationships second, and proximities last. So, for example, elements like money and individuals (people’s own momentary desires and point of view) tend to get the most attention and effort. Relationships often come second, such as relationships with friends, other customers and employees, as well as relationships between food and health, vitality and energy. Last comes awareness and efforts regarding the general health and well-being of the population, the environment, healthcare expenses, and sustainability, all of which are aspects of proximities related to situations involving food and eating. Of course, most of us operate within such dysfunctional systems. So you can’t have really high expectations for most anyone or anything.

What is needed are models which allow for and integrate elements, relationships, and proximities, letting us think about and relate to each as appropriate. The ProxThink growth model is an attempt at a such a model. And it is more than just a set of ideas. The growth model can be implemented in what is called the sustainable proximities approach, which can complement or augment existing systems if needed, as well as be deployed on its own.

Kudos to Starbucks

This shelf to hold your drink is in the restroom of a newly remodeled Starbucks in California I went to recently. It recognizes that you are likely to have a drink in your hand when you enter the restroom. It helps you out and makes Starbucks look smart.

This is a nice example of the Core Idea of proximity thinking, as well as a few ProxPatterns.

The Core Idea states that: In a situation, change elements, relationships and the proximity to better relate to each other. Starbucks added the element of the shelf to the proximity of the restroom. This helps other elements in the proximity, such as people and coffee cups, better relate to the restroom. It helps people better relate to elements like the toilet, sink and hand dryer. It keeps the coffee cup safer, cleaner, and easily reachable. Coat hooks perform a similar improvement for restrooms. Both get unneeded things out of the way temporarily.

You also might come to an idea like the restroom coffee shelf via ProxPatterns. You might, with ProxAwareness, notice there is no good place to put your coffee when you enter the restroom after you yourself get a cup. You might think, I wonder if something could be done about this (Value of Some). There might be other things people want to put down temporarily (Relate a Variety), so the shelf should be wider than just a cup. You might also use the transition smoothly ProxPattern, by placing the shelf next to the side of the door which opens, so people will see it right away.