Posts tagged ‘Design’

Front porch columns – Craftsman style architecture


The front porch will receive Craftsman style columns with stone bases. I’ve taken a real picture of the farmhouse and rendered in the five columns.

The bases will be 30" x 30" x 32" (W x D x H) and the columns will be 6′ tall square tapered with a 16-1/2" cap and a 21-1/2" foot.

The stone bases will be made from the same paver stones used for the patio-porch.

On paper the bases sound massive but given the proportions of the farmhouse, they do not look out of place.

… and yes, there is enough space at the top of the bases for a coffee cup … or to put your feet up !

Front porch columns – vote for your choice !


It’s time to finish the front porch. The current appearance is a stone paver "deck" that is at ground level. It is really just a patio extending from the farmhouse out to the end of the overhang. The overhang will receive a lapboard ceiling. The columns are currently steel I-beams resting on round concrete footings, about 24" in diameter. Since the column locations on the footings vary a bit, the base needs to be 30" square to have each column consistently center over each base.

The columns will be 6′ tall pre-formed fiberglass wraps and will be painted to compliment the farmhouse. The columns will sit on 32" tall bases.


  • strait vs tapered columns
  • strait vs tapered bases
  • painted material vs stone bases

What is your vote ?

Visualization exercise

I'm working my way through a drawing book called Rapid Viz. it's mean to help designers to think visually and be able to convey ideas easily through drawings, sketches, and simple mockups.

Today's exercise was “what do you see in the following squiggles?” It's part puffy clouds and part Rorschach test.

Here are my answers:

  • A candle stick
  • A camping tent
  • A flamingo swimming the freestyle leg of a relay race
  • An old pitcher pump
  • A table (with a boogie board on top)

What do you see?


User Experience – the challenge to satisfy left and right handed consumers

It's hard to define “user experience” but they say “you know it when you see it”. I say, “you know it when you feel it”. User experience is more than visual. Perhaps the best urban description it to say it is visceral.

Recently, I was reviewing ideas with a group do user interface designers. We were discussing software applications for smartphones.

While the design patterns being discussed were important, what was missing was attention to the person who would eventually hold a device in their hand. All of us in the meeting had a smartphone and yet, there was very little thought to “would I like to use'this thing we are designing?”

Precision vs non-precision gestures

Mobile devices support a number of different input. While shaking, bumping, and rotating the phone can be used, the majority of input comes from tapping and swiping. Tapping is typically a precision gesture – tapping a button, selecting from a list, typing on a virtual keyboard. The user must hit a specific target for a specific amount of time and not move while doing it. Contrast this with a swiping gesture where the user can typically start in any of a large part of the screen and only needs to slide the finger (or thumb) in the general desired direction. Thus, swiping is a non-precision gesture – scrolling a list, sliding between two screens, opening a menu at the side or bottom, exposing a drop-down from the top (for examplr the iPhone notifications page).

When given the choice of implementing a precision vs non-precision gesture, it is “kinder to the user” to go with the non-precision choice.

Left vs right handed users

A smartphone is not a large device – even the comparatively huge 5″ devices. Most smartphones are designed to be usable with one hand (as seen in the photo). The user is cradling the phone and only has their thumb for interaction. The thumb naturally follows an arch from the upper corner closest to the hand to the lower corner farthest from the hand. The challenge is that these locations are dependent on which hand hold the phone. In the right hand, the ease of access starts with the upper right, then lower left, then upper left, and finishing with the lower right as the most difficult location to reach. A user holding a phone in the left hand would reverse these to upper left, lower right, upper right, and then lower left.

So where do you put input control when you have both left and right handed users?

Part of the answer flows back to precision vs non-precision input. The more non-precision input you achieve, the less challenging to left and right handed users. Next, the comfort of top buttons exceeds that of bottom buttons.


There is no perfect answer. However, by thinking about “how” a user will interact with a mobile application, (in addition to why and what-for) you will achieve a better user experience and a happier user.


Proof of the upgradable aircraft panel design



This is a follow up to the previous post about already making an upgrade to the panel, even though it hasn’t actually flown yet.

Not including some mental perturbations, the upgrade from the new panel to the newer panel took less than a day!

The wire harness only needed one wire cut and that was not because of the new panel. It turns out I missed a ground wire in the autopilot servo harnesses and had to add those. Other than that, the wire harnesses were rearranged but nothing had to be reworked.

The new panel is probably not what most would have designed if they started with a blank slate. I would completely agree. It is a bit odd to see neither of the two largest screens in the center.

Esthetically, the finished panel is a little jarring but ergonomically, it actually works. Since the RV-8 has a stick rather than a yoke, the flight hand is in the center. That leaves the other hand to punch buttons. With the left hand on the stick, the right hand has the map right in front of it. Similarly, with the right hand on the stick, the left hand has the EFIS / autopilot right in front of it. While I tend to flight with might right hand, switching is not uncomfortable.

This panel change came about sooner than expected. I knew sometime in 2013 I’d likely replace the autopilot. I just assumed it would be late in the year. Well, TruTrak made a really good offer to trade in my obsolete unit. Along the way I also bought an old but unused standard servo and swapped out my big high torque servo. That switch netted me some extra cash which helped bring the new TruTrak EFIS SG AP3 into my price range. The challenge was going to be how much more panel space the new unit required.

I had to cut an addition 5/8" from the left side avionics space. I also needed to fabricate two new "shorty" rails for the remaining gear, along with a few small fastening plates (these hold the remaining its in the radio stack together for stability.

The radio moved up to the top and the old mechanical airspeed indicator was retired.

When I tally it all up I spent about 3 hours thinking about the project, 3 hours doing the metal work, and another 2 hours moving the wire harnesses around and reinstalling everything.

The upgradeable aircraft panel gets upgraded

One of the design goals of the new RV-8 aircraft panel was to support upgrades without starting over. Even thought the panel is going to be new, much of the avionics are used. Some of those will need to be replaced over the next five years. The DFC-250 autopilot controller is old and costly to support so it will eventually be replaced. The FAA will mandate new transponders one or before 2020 so the old KT76A will need to be replaced. There is even the likelihood that the radio or GPS will need to be upgraded in the next several years. Even the ELT (emergency locator transmitter) will soon need to be replaced to meet FAA requirements (not yet in effect).

So it came as a bit of a shock that the first upgrade would happen before the panel ever flew.

It turns out the old DFC-250 was closer to its “end of life” that I knew. The manufacturer -TruTrak –  announced it was discontinuing support for the unit because the parts were not longer available – it was now impossible to repair. TruTrak was very accommodating with my situation and after a couple of phone calls and discussing my current usage, they made a very attractive offer to trade in the old DFC-250AS for a new EFIS SG APIII. The change also meant swapping a servo but with a little luck, that change will actually reduce the total cost of the upgrade.

So the panel will go from the current rendering to the new one (next two pictures respectively). The layout is not optimal but it will require the least amount of work to achieve.