sambeau.com

I’m a bit Mad, Me.

Dear Reader, "you don't have to be mad to work here – but it helps!"

"Were all a bit mad here! A bit weee! A bit oooh! You should hear him: he's hilarious. He should be on the TV! And me – you should hear some of the things I get up to."

"…what things? Well. You know. 'Wacky' things."

No. Just don't. Just shut the fuck up.

Dear Reader, I detest 'wacky' people almost as much as I detest amateur jugglers and people who ride unicycles in the park. I detest wear-your-pyjamas-to-work days. I detest city men in indian trousers and I spit upon fluorescent odd socks.

But, Dear Reader, as you may already have learned: I am a Hypocrite.

I regularly wear odd socks because I am lazy. I'd love to be able to juggle if only to impress small children. I've never been to Goa but I'd probably really like swanning along the beach in floaty trousers. I even once learned a couple of magic tricks.

I am also a huge fan of Terry Gilliam.

Is Terry Gilliam 'wacky'? He is known for wearing big colourful shirts and I would guess he may be prone to the occasional floaty trouser. He hasn't (as far as I know) appeared on 1980s television wearing huge red glasses hitting people over the head with an inflatable hammer. But he might have.

Terry Gilliam is not 'wacky' and I will tell you why, Dear Reader.

Terry Gilliam is a genius and therefore he gets an instant exemption. Terry Gilliam is his art and his art is certainly 'a bit mad' but it is also passionate, intelligent and thought-provoking. He has provided some of the most memorable visual moments of the late 20th century. Terry Gilliam is also very, very funny.

And just to be totally sure: Richard Feynman was not 'wacky' either. Yes, he played the bongos. Yes, he was prone to sandals and floaty trousers in his later years. But he was authentic. These were not affectations. Feynman also did years of hard work in a dark suit and thin tie to deserve the right to hang loose a bit.

Feynman was, and Gilliam is, the real deal.

So where am I going with this, I hear you ask. It's nice to have heros'n'all but what has this to do with design?

Well, Dear Reader, I am clearly not about to compare myself to Feynman and Gilliam. I do have a big ego but not quite that big. Instead I am going to move on and talk about myself.

I love Gilliam's Monty Python designs. They are fascinating, playful, poignant, creepy and very funny. They are also very, very british (despite Gilliam being an American). They are not 'wacky'. 'Wacky', for me, implies an inherent pretence. Gilliam didn't create that look for Monty Python – that look is what Gilliam already did. He is those cartoons.

Gilliam's work is not an affectation.

I am greatly influenced by Terry Gilliam, so, Payday is influenced by the work of Terry Gilliam. Not because I purposely went out to make a Pythonesque app, but merely because I can't help but make a Pythonesque app.

It's what I do, it's who I am.

Every squint piece of text (why do I love squint text?), every silly hand, every block of register that looks like it should be over someone's eyes. That's Gilliam's influence on me.

I try really hard to design with clean, modern lines and beautiful sparse typography but it always ends up looking like an affectation. The closest I usually get to this is mimicking the Designers' Republic. I've pulled it off here and there, but my natural drift is towards Gilliam, Robert Crumb, The Dead Kennedys and Loony Tunes.

Payday was supposed to evoke money rather than Monty Python, but from the moment the curtain goes up and the squint victorian text appears I know that many people will expect a giant foot to come down to a loud raspberry.

Only Allah is Perfect

Dear Reader, knowing when to stop is difficult.

John Lasseter likes to say that Pixar films don't get finished, they just get released. Also, perhaps to counter perfectionism, every Persian carpet is purposely given a fault to ensure that a flawless rug is never created: only Allah is perfect.

Version one of Payday is complete. It is not perfect, but it is complete.

Some of its flaws are due to external restraints; some are due to design decisions that cannot (and may never) be revisited; some have grown to become charming to me, so they will remain.

Most of the imperfections that remain in Payday exist because the designer is a flawed, imperfect individual and it was designed for a flawed, imperfect individual: Me.

Payday began before I owned an iPhone; it began before the iPhone existed. It is a tool I have been wanting for years and a tool that has existed in various unsatisfactory forms in spreadsheets, Palm Pilots and notebooks throughout the years.

Dear Reader, I must confess. I am useless with money.

I am one of those unfortunate souls who has neither the courage nor short-term memory to keep my bank balance in my head at all times. I have tried on so many occasions to organise, sort, tally, tabulate and ration. Some days I have succeeded but never for more than a few days. My problem is that while I am perfectly capable of sorting my finances out, I am incapable of the level of daily admin required to keep my calculations relevant.

Dear Reader, I must confess. I loath bureaucracy.

When the iPhone beamed from heaven into my life, Payday was the first Application I craved. I evaluated every personal finance app I could but was bitterly disappointed: they were designed for people who were good with money! Organised people! People with short-term memories! People who could be bothered!

The fundamental flaw with every personal finance app on the market toady is that they are essentially a time and motion study. They require you to collect every receipt and enter it. If you miss just one entry then you are fucked and your finances are built on lies.

Payday is built the other way round because that is the way I think.

With Payday, I have to spend at most five minutes every month setting it up and then I should never have to touch it. In fact, if I behave and keep within my daily budget I can get away without touching it ever again.

There is only one thing to remember: how much I can spend today and if I can't even remember that, Payday will tell me. If I misbehave all I have to do is confess my sin and enter a new bank balance. My penance is a slightly reduced budget tomorrow. No more lies.

Payday's initial customer is Me.

So, Dear Reader, please note that (unless you are my long-lost twin) Payday has not designed for you… yet. You will have different habits, different problems and vital edge cases that I have not considered. But, if you are more similar to me than to an accountant, there is a good possibility that Payday is the finance app for you, too. With feedback and iteration I hope it will become perfectly designed for you in time.

Gradually, I intend to address your unique problems but I can only do this once I understand you. As long as your problem is one that is shared by people like me (namely: the fuckwit-admin-o-phobic) I will endeavour to solve your problem with my little app.

However… Payday will never be an app for people who are already good with money. Those people are already well served. More importantly, I do not understand them, so how could I honestly design for them?

Payday does contain a few things that aren't personal issues: I am not paid twice-monthly, I do not use dollars and I don't need help as I already know how to use the app. Thus, these are probably some of the weaker parts of the design. I assume they will be revisited once real people use them.

The future roadmap contains a number of items that weren't personal issues when I originally designed Payday. Some have become issues since; some are my best-guesses at what other similar users might reasonably require. It would be great to get some feedback before we implement them.

For example:

  • Irregular Paydays: for students and the self employed,
  • Overdrafts and debt repayments,
  • Recording and budgeting for bills that change amount each time.

Payday will never have professional features, like:

  • Multiple Accounts
  • Expenses
  • Currency conversion

Unless, of course, I need them!

Why?

Dear Reader, I had a bee in my bonnet.

"Let's make a finance app!", I said.
"Wha?" they said. "No. We're making games."
"Bah", I said.

Months passed.

"Let's make a finance app!", I said.
"Not again", they said. "No. We're a games' company. We make games."
"Bah", I said.

More months passed.

"So", they said. "Games aren't doing so well."
"Let's make a finance app!", I said.
"Why?", they said, "There are loads of finance apps".
"But mine is different", I said.
"Explain", they said.

So I explained and they looked even more confused than before I had explained.

"But you're no good with money", they said.
"Exactly", I said.

❤Diego

Dear Reader, I kissed him.

He turned up at his job interview, at a games company in Dundee, wearing a blackwatch tartan kilt and a pair of mirrored sunglasses perched on his shaved forehead. His diabolic tattoos peeked out at the end of his sleeves. His monstrous boots evoked Dr Frankenstein; his hood evoked a Franciscan monk.

He spoke fast and knowledgeably in a clear, thick italian accent. He enunciated each syllable as if reciting Cicero or Byron. He grinned like a ferret about to snap at your smalls. He incanted of .Net and of C#, of Redmond and dinner at the Gates Mansion. He spoke with passion. He was a Guru.

His name was Diego: an Italian man with a Spanish forename. He was a little imp of a fellow with devilish eyes and a wicked grin floating with malice above his small pointy beard. If he wasn't a devil for real he sure was a devil of a man.

He got the job. And so began a love affair.

Diego already loved Scotland: he immediately bought another kilt, enrolled in bagpipe lessons with a retired policeman and sent for his wife and his ferrets.

I already loved Italy: I tried to impress Diego with the few words of Italian I knew and I presented him with a bottle of my parents' hand-made olive oil. In return he anointed me a Lord.

The love affair between Diego and his coworkers was unlike anything I have ever seen before: Diego was a cult.

Diego was passionate. Diego shouted with delight and swooned with fake distaste. Diego spoke with his hands and swore like an astronaut. Diego named his classes after "sexy guys".

Diego was tactile. Diego grinned when he saw you, clapped his hands at the pleasure of your presence and put his arms around you. Diego stroked your shoulder as he helped you program. Diego laughed at your jokes and told people you were a genius.

Diego hugged big, hairy, scottish men and big, hairy, scottish men hugged Diego back. Big oppressed presbyterian scottish men cuddled Diego and soon they started to cuddle each other. Diego's diabolic magick had converted them into cuddling cultists.

Diego was cheeky. Diego told fibs so wonderfully huge that they flipped over absurdity and back into plausibility. Diego made up words as often as he made up 'real' italian hand gestures. If it wasn't for Diego's lovely wife his fabrications, deceptions and inventions would have remained in the realm of reality and Diego would never be known as a spinner. But, Alessia was there, pin in hand, to burst his bubbles once in a while. Thus everything we knew of Diego, and Italy through his eyes, was built upon sand.

So… Bert needed a name for his iPhone software company: something exotic, something touchy-feely… Something Italian perhaps?

Naturally, Bert asked Diego…

"Toccame!", Diego announced with a flourish. "It means, 'Touch me … in a dirty way'".

Diego grinned broadly and made a hand gesture suggesting someone stroking a naked body in a loving way. Then, with a glint of his eyes, he turned his palm skyward and made another gesture that looked a lot more sensual.

"It is to caress", he affirmed with his teeth.

Dear Reader, I still have no idea what Toccame really means.

Scotland

Say what you will…

Wee Ben Nevis
Nestling in the foothills of Muriel Grey
Bright sun on scree
Mottled cloud moving shadow
Like the storming sea