Proof it doesn’t need more cowbell

December 29th, 2010

Pull up these package redesigns from Antrepo for a client the next time they ask for a bigger logo or more “oomph” and ask which designs they think will stand out on a shelf in a sea of competing products?

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Via Fubiz

Top 13 Baby Products: From Zero to Four Months

December 29th, 2010

When you’re planning for a baby to arrive in your home, you quickly realize that babies come with A LOT of gear. They require diapers, blankets, strollers, bathtubs, carriers, places to sit…. and the list goes on. And on. And on. When you live in a small apartment, as many urban parents do, you start to get nervous about finding room for all this gear in a space that is probably already packed to the max.

I did so much research on baby products before Elise arrived, trying to find items that were not only the safest on the market, but that also fit into the design sensibilities of our home (Hello giant exersaucer! I will see you… never!). I also chatted with several friends and family with kids to find out what we’d really need.

Now that Elise is four* months old, Alex and I feel like we have a good list of items that we would absolutely recommend to new parents (particularly cityfolk). For the most part, they are items that helped us survive the first four months and made our lives a little easier. This list doesn’t include the obvious things like say, a changing table, or a boppy, but instead some of the lesser known products that were surprisingly terrific. So here goes:

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Kiddopotamus SwaddleMe Microfleece

Elise broke out of almost every swaddle blanket other than this one for the first three weeks of her life. She was like Chris Angel Mind Freaking those swaddles. And because she was so good at breaking out of the swaddle, she would often wake herself up as a result and you know what that means… That was until we started using the Swaddle Me. It gives tired, new parents a break and let’s them swaddle a baby properly and snuggly with velcro tabs. Once we started using this, our little Houdini started sleeping for longer lengths of time. It was amazing. However, you must use the micro-fleece version of this swaddle, as the cotton one is not nearly as strong, making it easier for the babies to escape.

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Maclaren 2-in-1 Baby Rocker and Chair

If it were not for this rocking chair, I probably would have held Elise all day long until she was 4 months old. Because of this chair, I was able to do things like shower daily. For that reason alone, you should buy this chair. It rocks (literally) AND vibrates, which babies love. So well in fact, Elise slept in this chair even at night for the first couple of months. We would carry her from the living room in the chair and put it down in her cradle alongside our bed. It kept her a little more upright, which she preferred over sleeping on her back. I actually think you could get any chair that would be a good spot for a baby to sleep during the day, but this chair worked really well for us.

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Aden + Anais Muslin Wraps

These all purpose blankets are fantastic. They’re light weight wraps that you can use to swaddle, cover a baby from the sun when strolling (not much for SUV protection though), put down on a bed or floor for quick changes on-the-go and they roll up into nothing to stuff into a diaper bag. I cannot recommend these blankets enough. Aden and Anais also makes great blankets too, which are just a little heavier than the wraps, but great for the cooler weather.

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Summer Infant Day & Night Handheld Color Video Monitor

Someone told us that we would never use a monitor seeing that our room is right next to Elise’s and we live in a small apartment. They could not have been more wrong. The day after she moved into her own room (around 8 weeks), we went out and bought this video monitor and have been tuned in to BabyTV ever since. It’s so great because you never have to get up to make sure she is breathing or check that she is positioned ok in her crib and risk waking her up–you can see it all right on your mini tv! While the monitor isn’t perfect–she looks like a zombie if she looks at the camera in the dark and you have to really look closely to see if she breathing, it’s really one of the best baby products we own.

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Total Baby App

I lived by this thing for the first 4 months of Elise’s life. Something I never realized you had to do when you have babies is track their diapers to make sure they are eating enough, and if you are breastfeeding you also need to track from which breast you most recently fed the baby, and then you also need to track naps. If you haven’t picked up on the theme here, you spend a lot of time tracking things when you have a newborn. Pair that with sleeping 2 hours at time (at best!) and you might start to lose your mind. Lucky for you though, there is something called the Total Baby App, which does all the work for you. It tracks everything from feeding times, naps, diaper changes, baths, vaccinations, weight–basically everything you need to keep track of when you have a baby. It also lets you add any details you would like about these actions. PS: I know one friend who rated BMs on a scale of 1-5…

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Baby Soothe App

The one thing the total baby app does not have is a sound machine, which is actually something you often need to have on the go. In a quiet restaurant? In the car? Have a crying baby? You’ll need the baby soothe iphone app. Since it plugs into the ipod speaker, it also works really well if you an iphone jack in the car. You can pipe in baby soothing sounds as you drive.

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Sleep Sheep

When we weren’t on the go, the Sleep Sheep was our go to sound machine. It’s a stuffed animal who makes soothing sounds that babies apparently love, like waves, rain, and a creepy heartbeat. We turned the rain setting on for Elise as soon as we put her down to sleep and have continued to use it ever since. It does a great job of creating white noise for her especially as we walk around on our creeky old wood floors which can often wake her up.

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Lovey (Angel Dear Blanket)

When Elise was not swaddled, her arms were always floating in the air. She seemed to have a really strong startle reflex. Giving her the lovey when she was several weeks old gave her something to hold on to and allowed her to fall asleep without her arms flying in the air and waking her. Note: we only used this for naps when we were watching her—never when she was alone in her crib snoozing.

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Kimono (or sidesnap) Onesies

A friend told me before Elise arrived to get a bunch of these sidesnap onesies because babies don’t like things to go over their heads. I only partially listened to her and got only four of these onesies, which in retrospect, was stupid. Babies REALLY hate anything to go over their heads so all the cute little onesies we had for Elise weren’t used until she got a little bigger. These have the added benefit of making your baby look like a little ninja or Luke Skywalker, which is awesome. I can’t recommend these onesies enough. We picked out these organic ones from Giggle, but many baby brands carry sidesnap onesies.

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Happiest Baby on the Block DVD

I started to read the Happiest Baby on the Block book the while I was waiting for Elise to arrive (she was a week late) and I didn’t like the book. It could have been summed up in 5 pages and it kept going on about how you can’t spoil a baby and you should carry a baby all day long and even as a not-yet-parent, I knew that sounded really weird. How would I shower if I was holding a baby all day?

Fast-forward a month into Elise’s existence and she was crying a lot, more than seemed normal and we thought maybe we had a collicky baby on our hands. A friend suggested we watch the DVD rather than read the book, so we did one night as Elise was tweaking out and within 10 minutes into the DVD, we had a chill baby on our hands. It was amazing. All I can say is the sidehold is like some kind of baby Vulcan hand grip thing, because when we did that, Elise would stop crying immediately. Insane.

Now, while I recommend this DVD because you can see Dr. Karp’s soothing style in action and he shows you how to properly swaddle a baby, I have to say he comes off as a bit of a weirdo in the DVD. I don’t know what these people were thinking handing over their babies to this man in the film. Also, he gets very intense about the “shushing” factor in the film. We didn’t do anything like that, we just calmly “shushed” Elise when she was upset and that seemed to work. Point being, I think you can take away things from this video that work for you and your baby and you’ll find you’ll all sleep better in those crucial first several weeks.

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Skip Hop Activity Mat

The Skip Hop activity was a favorite of mine and Elise’s since the very early weeks. It was so nice to have a place for Elise to lay down, stretch, play with the toys, and frankly, entertain herself for a bit.

In the earliest weeks, Elise would just stare at the cow hanging from the center of the overhang, and “talk” to the cow, but then she soon started pulling and chewing on all the toys on the mat. If she was tweaking out, I could press the sheep who plays “Old McDonald” and she’d break into a huge smile. I think this mat is one of my favorite baby items we own. It was used many times a day, everyday.

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Sophie Le Giraffe

I saw Sophie Giraffe all over the place when we were first shopping for baby stuff and I didn’t understand the appeal of this dog toy turned baby teething device. I really felt like someone was pulling a fast one on new parents. Then someone gave us a Sophie as a gift and as I started to hand it over to Elise, I could see the magic of this toy. All the legs make it easy for babies to wrap their gummy mouths around the toy easily and munch on something chewy, especially as they are teething. And as you can see from the photo above, Elise loved her Sophie.

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Spa Baby Tub

My Mother-in-Law recommended a bucket tub when we were registering for baby items and it seemed very strange to me to bath your baby in what is essentially an overpriced bucket. Then I read the reviews on these tubs and people really loved them, so I went ahead and registered for one and I am really happy we did.

Elise loved the tub and it calmed her down very quickly if she was upset about something. I think having the water go up to her shoulders, so that no part of her body was cold while she was bathing was comforting and for the first several months, probably reminded her of the womb.

My one issue with the spa tub is that it’s not easy to rinse off a soapy baby. We always pulled her out and then rinsed her quickly under the sink hose, so it’s often a two person job the first few times you bathe the baby. Though overall, this tub is definitely excellent.

* I started this post when Elise was 4 months old and never finished it, so even though she’s 9 months old now, this list is still specific to the 0-4 month age range for gear.

p.s. Originally posted on teamrainert.com

Sunset for Delicious

December 16th, 2010

Today Yahoo announced that they will soon kill off one of my most favorite digital products: delicious. The internets are all atwitter about this, because it’s one the best tools out there for bookmarking. Fans of the service have been storing their bookmarks with delicious for many years.

As everyone is in a hurry to find a good replacement for their archive of bookmarks, lots of folks are recommending pinboard.in, so I’ve signed up and I’ll be importing six years worth of bookmarks tonight as a backup. I’m happy there’s a place to put years of organized bookmarks, but the one thing about pinboard is that they tout themselves as an anti-social bookmarking platform. For lots of delicious users, this isn’t a big deal, because they are probably only using delicious to store their own bookmarks. I’d say 75% of my delicious usage is for that purpose too, but the other 25% is the discovery of new content from people I don’t already know, who share similar interests, so I’m disappointed this isn’t a feature for pinboard. I can follow people I already know on pinboard, but I’m already getting good content from these same people on Twitter. What I want is to discover content from new people with shared interests (and maybe a similar tagging style).

When we planned our wedding in 2005, I used delicious to bookmark all the wedding ideas I found on the web, but I was able to find new content through the people who saved the same links as me as well. I could see that someone who tagged natural looking rugs, as “aisle runner” also had some great links to venue decor that I had yet to discover on my own. Last winter when we were planning for the arrival of our daughter, I found lots of nursery decor or registry ideas from people who saved similar content on delicious.

I’m sad to see my social bookmarking tool will be put to rest after years of little to no support since it was first purchased by Yahoo, but I’m confident that lots of new services will emerge in the coming year and hopefully fill the gap in the social bookmarking world.

How to mix + match with UX

September 30th, 2010

I just got an email from Anthropologie titled “Have you met your mix-and-match?” advertising their bedding line. I’m a fan of their bright and whimsical bedding, so I clicked through and found they’ve put together a super simple, but wonderfully effective interface that lets the user mix-and-match sheets with bedspread options. It’s a nice reminder that the best interface solutions aren’t always the most technically difficult and that simple is sometimes all you need when creating a convincing experience.

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Searching for chemical free and eco-friendly toys

August 26th, 2010

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For the last several days I’ve been searching for soft baby blocks that are made of either BPA free plastic or fabric made in the USA. Do you know what an impossible task this is? IMPOSSIBLE. I searched for “made in USA toys” on Amazon and I get a few pages of results, but half of the “toys” are really just bottles or teethers, and the few toys they’ve listed we either have or something like it. I just want some lead free, BPA free blocks that a small baby can play with easily (and not wood). Is that asking too much?

During my search it came to my attention that several of the toys that were gifted to Elise are likely not BPA free, like her favorite monkey with a mirrored tummy. Crap. When I realized this, I decided to do a little more research to see which toys might be BPA free and discovered that Sassy brand toys actually has a BPA free listing of their toys. This got me thinking that all toy companies should have such a section on their site—assuming they have some BPA free toys in their collection, which frankly at this point in the game, everyone should. This is a hot concern for parents right now, so why are toy companies not looking into making their toys a) safer for kids b) eco-friendly?

Fisher-Price, Lamaze Toys, Skip Hop, Carter’s: I’m looking at you. Take all your creative toy and game ideas and start wrapping them in a layer of responsibility. When you do, do yourself and your customers a favor and let them sort your toys by categories that are of likely interest to them (eco-friendly, BPA free, lead free!). When you do, I’ll come back as a customer.

p.s. Even the blocks distributed by Parents Magazine don’t appear to be BPA free. This is the same magazine that often writes articles about how to keep your family safe from toxic chemicals.

This post is part of a month long blogging exercise inspired by Seth Godin.

Doing your customers a favor

August 25th, 2010

A few weeks ago I was heading out of the house with our five month old daughter, Elise. I wanted to take her out in her carrier rather than the stroller as I was running errands around town and it’s easier to get in and out of Brooklyn stores without a giant stroller in tow. I decided to see if Elise weighed enough now to sit in her carrier facing forward (there’s often a weight minimum for facing forward in many carriers), so I did a quick google search for “Cybex Carrier” only to find that the carrier we’ve been carrying our baby around in for the last five months had been recalled! Something to do with faulty buckles. Awesome!

I’m annoyed with Cybex for designing a faulty product, especially when it’s one that people are trusting to carry their baby around in—and let’s not forget Cybex had their share of recalls this year. However, I’m more annoyed with Giggle, the store where the carrier was purchased.

See, we didn’t just walk in and purchase the carrier one day with cash and leave no trace of the purchase—we registered for the item, so there’s a digital history of us receiving this carrier. Knowing that this item was purchased for us and knowing my email from initially registering at the store, why would Giggle not do their customers a favor and email them news about the recall? I wouldn’t blame Giggle for carrying the broken carrier, but I do blame them for not taking the extra step to send an email to customers who may have received this carrier. It would make me believe they truly have the best interest of their customers’ families in mind—specifically the babies for whom all their merchandise is intended. Trusting a brand would certainly encourage me to return to their store in the future.

Small actions can really make an impact on a brand—either negatively (in this case by ignoring this recall and not alerting customers) or positively (by letting your customers know about the hazard). Next time you’re equipped with the information to do your customers a favor, I’d suggest making the extra effort; when you do, you’ll find your customers will be more likely to return to you in the future.

This post is part of a month long blogging exercise inspired by Seth Godin.

An Exercise: Finding inspiration instead of it finding you

August 23rd, 2010

Seth Godin recently posted on his blog a great exercise for people looking to find inspiration:

“…start a blog and post once a day on how your favorite company can improve its products or its service. Do it every day for a month, one new, actionable idea each and every day. Within a few weeks, you’ll notice the change in the way you find, process and ship ideas.

I’m not currently looking for inspiration, but I think this is a great exercise for a UX designer. It offers designers a chance to look into the details of an experience and think about how it could be improved.

In two weeks I head back to work after a six month maternity leave. I’m excited to head back to work, but it’s been a few months since I’ve been in the weeds thinking about some of these things. So, for the new few weeks, I am going to give this exercise a try as a way of getting back into UX shape. Stay tuned!

Very Cute Totes and Hobo Bags

July 25th, 2010

I don’t even remember how I came across these tote bags today, as I never shop at Land’s End, but somehow I was directed to their site today and found they have a few really cute tote and hobo bags. Many of them are on sale now to boot!

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The Ragtop Snap Tote reminds me so much of the Jack Spade dipped totes which are almost 8 times the price of this one!

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Lands’ End Route 63 Snap Tote

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Route 63 Canvas Leather Trim Bucket Tote

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Women’s Large Suede Snap Tote

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I love me a Leather Hobo Bag especially in classic brown. This style also comes in fun colors in the suede version too.

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This Suede Bucket Tote comes in a beautiful blue color too, which would be great for fall.

Urban Gardens

July 21st, 2010

We’re doing some work to our garden over the next few weeks that I have been wanting to do since we moved in to our apartment three years ago. Specifically, remove these very strange, out of place, yews that belong more in South Hampton than they do in our Brooklyn garden. They are so healthy and lovely, but they take up so much room in what is an otherwise small yard. Space in Brooklyn is hard to come by and I don’t think we need to hand it over to some very mature, yews that need lots of trimming.

I’ve been researching other urban garden ideas from various landscape architects for inspiration and have come across some great stuff. Here are some spaces I am really loving and trying to find the common denominator in:

from Brook Landscape:

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I love this yard, and realized that when I looked at Door Sixteen’s post the other day, that this is the same garden she posted but from a different angle:

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From Chicago Gardens:

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I love these solar lights in this Pocket Park posted on Mloco a few years ago:

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A Cup of Joe posted this lovely garden:

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An old favorite belonging to designers Carin Goldberg and Jim Biber:

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I’m drooling over all the photos from this townhouse garden round-up on Remodelista. Here are several that really stand out:

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And then a ton of inspiration sets on flickr for outdoor rooms. Here’s a good one:

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I think what I learned from this collection of photos is that I love modular garden designs with large spaces of green and simple color pooping around the space. Once our garden is sorted out in the next several weeks, I’ll post some photos!

How Sweet is Technology?

May 28th, 2010

I literally cried in happiness when I watched this 8 month old deaf baby’s reaction to his cochlear implant being activated. It’s so, so awesome and makes me wish I had taken an assistive technology class when I was at ITP. (via reddit and Ted Roden).

If that’s Jonathan’s Mom in the video, I don’t know how on earth she kept such composure. I would be sobbing, but then again, I cry easily (as noted earlier :) ).