Show Us Something You Created | Yale Class of 1974 (2024)

Show Us Something You Created | Yale Class of 1974 (1)

These are my Yale FOOT Leaders for the orientation program I have directed for 40 years now. Just the leaders! In uniform!

Forty years ago, I got a call from Yale undergraduate Jamie Williams. He asked me if I was interested in helping a student group start a wilderness orientation program for freshmen. He and another student, Greg Felt, had just completed a NOLS semester course and they realized the value of being in the outdoors, not only to connect better with nature but to bond with a group of other hikers on a backpacking trip. I just started another job, so I initially said no, but my gut said yes, so I called Jamie back. We had lunch and the rest is history. (Footnote: Jamie is now Head of the Wilderness Society in DC.) I have been the Program Director of FOOT, First-Year Outdoor Orientation Trips, at Yale ever since. We started small. Twelve leaders, 3 support crew members, 6 trips all in the Catskills, 1 coach bus and 2 vans. We are now big. I have 180 leaders, 27 support crew members, 80 trips in New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Jersey. We are hiking on the Appalachian Trail from mid Vermont to the border of Pennsylvania. We are also in the White Mountains and still in the Catskills. We have kept the formula of the FOOT trips the same. We are backpacking from point A to point B in groups of 8 freshmen and 2 leaders. We added base camp day trips, arts trips circling a lovely pond in northeast CT, and service trips in Vermont. The Yale students I have worked with over the years are the BEST. They are responsible, resourceful, spirited, joyful, and funny. They are a “can do” bunch of young people, always up for a challenge. Freshmen walk through Phelps Gate as nervous nellies and come back from FOOT confident, bonded, and jubilant — and perhaps a bit smelly and dirty. Even though the trips are short, they have an immense impact on the lives of the students. In some cases, life-changing. The wilderness setting promotes self-discovery, connectedness, and as Rachel Carson said, a sense of wonder.
Cilla Leavitt [TC]

Show Us Something You Created | Yale Class of 1974 (2)

Books by Jeff Johnson

After working for several tech companies from 1979 to 1996, I went out on my own as a digital design consultant, forming UI Wizards Inc. Client companies create computers, software apps, and websites. I help make their products and services easy to use. I noticed that many of my clients were making the same design mistakes. I started keeping a catalog of common mistakes — which I called “bloopers” — and how to avoid them. I gave a “GUI Design Bloopers” talk at a conference, and a publisher invited me to expand it into a book: GUI Bloopers: Simple Guide to Understanding User Interface Design Rules was published in 2000. It did well (for a technical book) amd was translated to other languages. In 2001 the publisher asked me to write a similar book about common Web design mistakes. Web Bloopers: 60 Common Web Design Mistakes and How to Avoid Them was published in 2002, during a downturn in interest in Web commerce. Web Bloopers mostly flopped but was popular in Russia. In 2006 the publisher had me update GUI Bloopers with fresh examples, new bloopers, and the Web bloopers, producing GUI Blopers 2.0. Colleagues started calling me “Dr. Bloopers”.

Soon, reader feedback indicated that many wanted to know WHY the bloopers were poor design. Most — especially college students — had no background in human psychology, so many design guidelines seemed to them to be arbitrary and debatable. Drawing upon my Yale and Stanford psych degrees, I gave classes at universities and professional conferences explaining the perceptual and cognitive psychology behind design guidelines, illustrated by many compelling examples. The publisher of GUI Bloopers convinced me to turn those lectures into another book: Designing with the Mind in Mind, published in 2010. It proved popular and I’ve updated it twice — most recently in 2020 — with an invitation to update it again in 2026.

In parallel with the saga of the Bloopers and Mind-in-Mind books, in the late 1990s I and Austin Henderson, a colleague I knew from Xerox, lamented that many software designers start by laying out screens, pages, and controls without first identifying the conceptual objects, operations, and use-cases of their intended product. The usual result is incoherent products and services that are hard for people to learn, navigate, and remember. We published an article advocating designing conceptual-level models of products before laying out screens and controls. We presented courses at conferences about why and how to do it. A publisher — a different one — invited us to turn our course into a book, so we did: Conceptual Models: Core to Good Design was published in 2011. In early 2023 the publisher requested an update, the final proofs for which we just reviewed two days ago. It should be out by the Reunion.

In parallel with all that, in 2009 I and another colleague, Kate Finn, developed an interest in how older adults relate to emerging technology. We weren’t interested in designing specifically for older adults; people usually avoid products or services that identify them as “old.” Instead, we wanted to determine how to design digital technology that doesn’t exclude or repel seniors. You know the drill: we wrote articles about it, presented courses at conferences, and — surprise! — the publisher of my Bloopers books requested a book. Designing User Interfaces for an Aging Population: Towards Universal Design was published in 2017, and the publisher now wants a 2nd edition with a target pub-date of late 2025.

The books are my main creation, but I’ve also published technical articles, written many software programs, obtained patents, and posted an online collection of travel photos. And I helped Stu Rohrer update the Yale74 website and design this 50th Reunion Classbook.
Jeff Johnson [CC]

Show Us Something You Created | Yale Class of 1974 (2024)


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