Peter Zelchenko's portfolio

If there is one word that sums up Peter Zelchenko, it is "resourceful." If you give me a medium — a sheet of paper, a pile of lumber, a set of software assumptions — I am good at examining that medium from all angles and squeezing the best and the most out of it. You should see that theme repeatedly in my work.

Many products turn out to be a waste of time and resources. I study hard before committing. For example, in response to the onslaught of touchscreen voting, I sat down with Don Norman and we brainstormed on it. He and I agree on almost everything else regarding interface, but we seem to disagree philosophically about election technology. Having such extensive experience manufacturing things out of both atoms and electrons, I am a proponent of very careful deployment of technology.

Technology, after all, is not for all things, and assuming it is can be dangerous to people's lives.

Good design is good interface. Every platform, from the side of a truck to a smartphone, has different basic application assumptions. However, since every human's input methods (our senses) all work mostly the same, these platforms also share a related set of problems and design responses.

Discovering the solutions is not difficult when you put yourself in the shoes of the unsophisticated user, but you also have to understand the needs of the producer — the printer, the effects artist, the JavaScript coder. Designers and programmers around Chicago will agree (I hope!) that bridging these things is something I do very well.

Screen and Interface. In the 1970s, we were constrained by very limited color and screen real estate. Today, we are often slaves to scrollbars. Keyboards, mice, direct input all have advanced, but the sometimes constraining, sometimes liberating browser experience has also forced us to think much more abstractly about guiding users in responsible ways.

Systems. Faced with a large problem, how do we proceed towards a concise and elegant solution? R. Buckminster Fuller said, "When I'm working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I have finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong." A hundred times a week, I see people stopped in their tracks, unable to get on with their lives, because of bad city planning, bad design, bad directions. Nearly every time I see that, my brain simply won't stop until I've thought it through and come up with a few ideas.

Flat Work. Over many years, I've done illustration and cartooning, and designed lots of logos. I've designed and printed hundreds of thousands (yes) of T-shirts, and I've also done a great deal of regular print design work.

Objects. From textile and industrial design projects in my youth, to starting a successful T-shirt screenprinting company, to constructing books and gadgets, I've been allowed to explore the limits of many fascinating materials.