PAPER TO PIXELS: Who is Ian Adelman?

PAPER TO PIXELS: Who is Ian Adelman?

What does an industrial designer know about designing a website?
Ask the man responsible for taking New York Magazine online.
(He was the founding art director of, too.)

Ian Adelman is the Design Director of the New York Media websites: and recently acquired (and soon to be redesigned)

Prior to joining, Ian spent several years as an independent consultant, working across media for clients big and small. Whether designing software applications for medical practice management, developing design-driven technology strategies for the retail banking industry, building a website for the US House of Representatives, creating an identity for a non-profit arts organization, illustrating magazine articles, crafting typographic dioramas, or making record covers, Ian brings his love of problem-solving and enthusiasm for the design process.
Before all that, he worked at Microsoft, designing interactive television prototypes until the company decided to start an online magazine; Ian was the founding Art Director of, launched in June of 1996, where he guided the visual design and user interface for two years. Ian holds a BFA in Industrial Design from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he has also been a critic.

Tuesday, October 7th, Ian will be a panelist on SPD's next event at FIT  Paper To Pixels.

BK: To what degree does direct user feedback or data affect design and photo decisions on the web?
IA: At a basic level, the way user feedback is considered on the web is no different from the way it might be in print. On a magazine, when someone writes in because they don't like the pictures you ran last issue -- or some similar subjective comment -- you probably read it, file it, and forget it. On the other hand, if a bunch of people write in because they can't read the tiny caption type you just implemented in that last issue, you consider that objective feedback in your design.
The difference online is that there are more ways to hear from users, the feedback comes faster, and the number of highly tangible, functional (and often business-impacting) issues that are subject to that feedback is much greater. Feedback comes in several ways; some directly from individual users - in the form of e-mails, site comments, and usability tests -- and some indirectly from the audience in aggregate - page tracking, click-mapping, and other web metrics.
While the direct written feedback can be useful and usability testing is an excellent tool for refining user experience, it's the indirect feedback from audience behavior that is most interesting. The usage patterns and behavioral tendencies can tell us things that individuals are generally incapable of expressing directly.
It's another tool in the problem-solving kit that provides an informational dimension that you just can't readily get in other media. We still rely primarily on our own experience and knowledge to make design decisions, but in many cases we can meaningfully test the efficacy of those decisions and learn from the process.

If you have a question for Ian, leave it in the comments below and he will answer it at the event or right here on



Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Katie Murphy Amphitheatre, F.I.T.
27th Street & Seventh Avenue, NYC

7:00 - 8:30 PM; doors open at 6:30

SPD Members, $15 CASH ONLY at the door
Non-members, $20 CASH ONLY at the door
Students & faculty with valid ID: $5 CASH ONLY at the door

Please call SPD at 212 223 3332 by 5pm on Friday, October 3rd for advance tickets; Advance tickets no longer available. Tickets can be purchased at the door Tuesday night, CASH ONLY.

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