1x1.gif should have won a fucking Grammy. Or a Pulitzer. Or Most Improved, Third Grade Gym Class or something. It's the most important achievement in computer science since the linked list. It's not the future we deserved, but it's the future we needed (until the box model fucked it all up).
Given all of the awards Holman desires to present, I'm surprised he didn't mention the inventor of the spacer GIF, David Siegel. Siegel was perhaps the first celebrity web designer -- well, a celebrity among web designers anyway. He dispensed opinionated design knowledge from his personal homepage and used the High Five award to showcase his idea of cutting edge web design. (Fun fact: Siegel's own site was the first High Five award winner.)
Somewhere along the way, Siegel came up with the idea of using a 1x1 pixel transparent GIF to introduce whitespace on web pages. The file size was very small but you could scale it up visually using the height and width attributes of the <img> tag and use it hundreds of times on a site because it was cached by the browser the first time it loaded.
Popularized in the pages of his web design book, Creating Killer Web Sites, Siegel's spacer GIF was completely non-standard and hacky but had the great advantages of 1) giving designers superb control over a site's design and 2) working more or less the same in every graphical browser. The designers of the time weren't content to wait around for the SGML nerds at W3C to figure out better ways of displaying web pages, so when Siegel pulled this beautiful kludge out of his pocket, everyone quickly adopted the technique. For years the spacer GIF dominated web design, for better and for worse. So yeah, maybe Siegel does deserve a Grammy or something.
Love this concept cover for Fahrenheit 451 by designer Elizabeth Perez...the 1 is a match and the spine is striking paper for lighting it.
Fahrenheit 451 is a novel about a dystopian future where books are outlawed and firemen burn any house that contains them. The story is about suppressing ideas, and about how television destroys interest in reading literature.
I wanted to spread the book-burning message to the book itself. The book's spine is screen-printed with a matchbook striking paper surface, so the book itself can be burned.
You find it at the bottom of movie posters and often at the end of movie trailers. In an Op-Art piece from last year, Ben Schott explains how the billing block is carefully constructed with information from contracts and legal agreements.
The content, order and format of the billing block are governed by two things: personal service contracts with cast and crew, and industrywide agreements with professional guilds -- notably the Directors Guild of America (D.G.A.) and the Writers Guild of America (W.G.A.). Thus, while some elements of the billing block remain consistent, others depend of the type of film and on individual negotiations. That said, there has been a marked inflation in billing block credits. An "Ocean's 11" poster from 1960 credited just three noncast individuals; the 2001 remake poster credited, coincidentally, 11.
Shopping in a supermarket can be visually overwhelming. Designer Mehmet Gozetlik took the packaging of some well-known brands and simplified them (part two). It's interesting how some of these work and some don't. Duracell works really well because the batteries themselves still carry most of the branding:
The simplified branding of Guinness and Evian works pretty well too...the packaging is itself iconic and distinctive enough to carry them. The Pringles and Red Bull are missing something, but in almost all cases, I like one of the simplified options more than the original. (via @dunstan)
So when I'm looking at data, or working on an explanatory graphic, these are the moments I'm looking for. Little "Aha!" moments that I can point to, and say "Look here, something happened," and then try to explain. Often those small moments can help lead a reader into the graphic, or help to explain the whole.
The actual non-metaphorical weight of rain is surprisingly heavy; an inch of rain on an acre of land weighs 113.31 tons.
The second aspect of the original Mac that stands out today as Apple-like is putting just enough whimsy into the experience. Most famously, the smiling Mac you saw as the system booted. Had anyone prior even considered a smiling computer? But fundamental to the genius of the smiling Mac is that it didn't come across as silly or corny. Friendly and fun: yes. Goofy: no. Getting that right required that most Apple-y of talents: taste.
And he's spot on in that second footnote about the lack of whimsy in iOS 7. There's nothing funny about those Settings and Safari icons.
Type designer Tobias Frere-Jones claims he has been cheated out of his half of the company by his business partner, Jonathan Hoefler. In a blistering lawsuit filed today in New York City, Frere-Jones says he was duped into transferring ownership of several fonts, including the world-famous Whitney, to Hoefler & Frere-Jones (HFJ) on the understanding that he would own 50% of the company.
"In the most profound treachery and sustained exploitation of friendship, trust and confidence, Hoefler accepted all of the benefits provided by Frere-Jones while repeatedly promising Frere-Jones that he would give him the agreed equity, only to refuse to do so when finally demanded," the suit claims.
The full complaint is here. A descendant of Whitney (Whitney ScreenSmart) is what you're reading right now and I was an early beta tester of H&FJ's webfont service. This is gobsmacking news...I have no idea what to think about it. What a sad and strange situation. (via @khoi)
Last week, designer Tobias Frere-Jones, a longtime employee of The Hoefler Type Foundry, Inc. (d/b/a "Hoefler & Frere-Jones"), decided to leave the company. With Tobias's departure, the company founded by Jonathan Hoefler in 1989 will become known as Hoefler & Co.
Football as Football is a collection of American football team logos in the style of European football club badges. Here are badges for the Detroit Lions (in the Italian style) and New England Patriots (in the Spanish style).
Sadly, most infographics these days look like this, functioning as a cheap and easy way to gussy up numbers. But when done properly, infographics are very effective in communicating a lot of information in a short period of time and can help you see data in new ways. In The Best American Infographics 2013, Gareth Cook collects some of the best ones from over the past year. Wired has a look at some of the selections.
Steven Hawking came up with a simple and clever way of seeing if time travel is possible. On June 28, 2009, he threw a party for time travellers from the future...but didn't advertise it until after the party was already over.
In an effort to improve the chances of the party invite being noticed by future generations, Peter Dean, working with approval from Hawking, has made this gorgeous hand-printed poster of the party invitation:
Vitamins is a design studio in London that made a wall calendar out of Lego. They also built a mechanism to sync an online calendar to the Lego one: you just take a photo of the Lego calendar and send it to a special email address and voilà!
My favorite of Jason's posts are the ones that are wrong. I love the spirited debate, looking at the @messages directed to him, and I especially love the "Post Updates" feature and its self-documenting "wha?" Kottke.org is not about viral videos or amazing facts (although it has those, too), it's about Jason saying: "Look at this cool thing," and starting a conversation around it. Jason has worked for almost fifteen years as programmer, editor, designer and of course blogger of the site with sharing at its core.
I've always loved how he thinks and talks about the way the site works:
"The yellow-green thing at the top is a tag. Like the red tag on Levi's jeans or even the red stripe on Prada shoes. It's small, out of the way, but when you see it on something, you know exactly what you're holding in your hands." - On the occasion of his 2004 redesign
Stellar is the natural extension of Jason's work. The site is an enthusiasm engine, allowing you to see the best of the Internet through the eyes of friends and trusted strangers. It's one of the Top Five pieces of software of all time.1 Jason's fine hypertext products buy us time by filtering out the crap. If you want something good to read or look at or retweet, Stellar won't let you down. And it's made Kottke.org better too.
Last night I swung by Jason's neighborhoodplace to raise a glass in Jason's honor. Meg generously offered me a few glasses more and soon I was telling strangers to buy the Stellar fun pass. Some people are angry drunks, I tell strangers about Stellar. But I do want to take this (sober!) moment to encourage you to buy the stellar fun pass, it helps Jason do what Jason does best - he does it better than anyone else, and it makes all of us better at internet.
The Art of the Title chats with the excellent Jessica Hische about the lettering and type design she did for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.
To me, that was really fun because if you think about New England in the '60s... it's not like most places would be staying on top of the most current trends in type, using typefaces that were released that very year. So, using something from the '40s made sense to me. If you think about a small, conservative New England town, lord knows all the printers and designers in town are probably still using type from years ago. I think when people think about historical type references, they often don't think about that. You should be reaching from that time period to 15 - 20 years earlier and then you'll be getting stuff that's quote-unquote "current."
And she's releasing the typeface commercially so everyone can use it! Yay!
In the parlance of NYC graffiti enthusiasts, going "all city" means getting your stuff known all over the five boroughs. Now a group of designers are challenging each other to go "all RGB", to make images that contain all of the 16.7 million colors that make up the RGB spectrum once each. This entry is amazing because it still looks like an actual photograph when you zoom out (many others do not):
Publication design is a field addicted to ceaseless reinvention. Sometimes a magazine's redesign is generated by a change in editorial direction. More often, the motivation is commercial: the publisher needs to get the attention of fickle ad agency media buyers, and a new format -- usually characterized as ever more "scannable" and "reader-friendly" -- is just the thing. In contrast, one senses that each of the changes in The New Yorker was arrived at almost grudgingly. Designers are used to lecturing timid clients that change requires bravery. But after a certain point -- 80 years? -- not changing begins to seem like the bravest thing of all.
The New Yorker's design changes over the years have been so slight that, as Bierut notes, the latest issue looks remarkably like the first issue from 1925.
Mugi Yamamoto's inkjet printer, designed for his diploma project, eliminates the paper tray and related components by having the printer sit directly on top of the paper, which it "swallows" as it prints.
Apple fan fiction is more popular than ever and usually takes the form of mockups of designs for new products and alternate designs for existing products. There's been a recent burst of creative energy unleashed on Dribbble around the idea of an iPhone with a screen that wraps completely around the device (or at least down around the sides). Claudio Guglieri seems to have accidentally started it with this mockup of an RSS reader he's working on:
Details are scarce and publication is months away, but hotshot book designer Peter Mendelsund is coming out with a book called Cover. I bet it will contain a collection of his covers. Or will be about covers. Or something. But I love book covers so whatever it is, I am covered.
New prints in the Dorothy shop: these really cool Hollywood Star Charts, available in Golden Age and Modern Day editions.
The Modern Day version of our Hollywood Star Chart features constellations named after some of the most culturally significant films to have appeared on the silver screen since 1960 - present day. The stars that make up the clusters are the Hollywood stars that appeared in them.
The chart is based on the night sky over New York on June 16th 1960 -- the date of the first showing of Hitchcock's 'Psycho' at the DeMille Theater. With its new approach to storytelling, characterisation and violence it is seen as a key movie in the start of the post-classical era of Hollywood.
The 108 films featured include those chosen for preservation in the US National Film Registry due to their cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance; Academy Award winners; and a few personal favourites. Films include Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, The Exorcist, The Godfather, Chinatown, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction and Avatar.
..Though the poster contained no painted imagery, it did introduce a new logo to the campaign, one that had been designed originally for the cover of a Fox brochure sent to theater owners....Suzy Rice, who had just been hired as an art director, remembers the job well. She recalls that the design directive given by Lucas was that the logo should look "very fascist."
"I'd been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas," she says, "a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today -- how they developed into what we see and use in the present." After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, "I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most 'fascist' typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black."
Work out the B, the ampersand, and the bullet before you get too far: you'll have to confront decisions about thinning strokes, intersections, and shapes without any counters, which might inform what you do on the other letters.
Before personal brands were something to be seared into the minds of a rabid fanbase, brands were symbols that were literally burned into the flesh of livestock to keep track of ownership. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has a guide to designing your own cattle brand.
But we have chosen to recognise an in-house design team which has had an enormous impact on its industry. Under creative director Richard Turley, (not forgetting editor Josh Tyrangiel) Bloomberg Businessweek has trounced its rivals with a verve and energy that recalls the heyday of the printed magazine.
I don't read music so it's difficult for me to say how useful this is, but the folks behind Hummingbird claim their new system of music notation is "easier to learn, faster to read, and simpler for even the trickiest music".
As chess increased in popularity across Europe in the 1800s, the proliferation in the variety of chess sets caused confusion amongst competitors, especially those hailing from different countries. The English typically used Barleycorn sets:
English saw a different design for every chess club: St. George sets with their appearance of stacked disks, Dublin sets with more rounded middles, and Northern Uprights with columns instead, as well as elaborate, easily tipped Barleycorn sets. Germany had delicate Selenus sets, beautiful beyond belief, but fragile, tippable, and problematic for play. To tell which piece is which on some of these sets one must count the stacked crown. France saw elegant Regence style sets with some of the most confusing signatures in history. As in the English sets, queen's were represented by orbs. The king's floral crown closely resembles the modern Staunton signature for the queen. Knights were always taller than bishops the old French sets. Bishops were represented as fools, not clergymen, and therefore lacked the signature miter. What was worse, the knights in these sets were sometimes simple turned designs, not the recognizable horse's head. This lead to common confusion as to which minor piece was which. The confusion of antique French knights and bishops is still a common problem today.
Then in the 1849, Nathaniel Cook designed and John Jaques began to sell a set that eventually came to be called the Staunton chess set:
Howard Staunton was regarded as the top chess player of his era and organized the first international chess tournament in 1851. Staunton endorsed the set and it soon became the standard in chess competitions and, later, the official standard of the World Chess Federation. The most recent iteration of the official Staunton set is Daniel Weil's design for World Chess:
If you're interested in learning more, Jimmy Stamp has a nice piece about the design of the original Staunton set and Weil's update at Smithsonian magazine.
"These are primarily fashion items and art items," Harvey tells me. "I'm not trying to make products for survivalists. I would like to introduce this idea to people: that surveillance is not bulletproof. That there are ways to interact with it and there are ways to aestheticise it."
I imagine that at some point, anti-drone clothing will eject chaff as a countermeasure against incoming drone-launched missiles. (via @DavidGrann)
Designer Ben Pieratt calls Hessian "an invader, an ode, a brand in waiting, a pitch to the market". It is also a fully developed brand (logos, Twitter handle, web themes, app icons, etc.) for sale.
As a newborn idea, Hessian is aggressive and evolving. Its only conduit the working mind of designer Ben Pieratt, it fights for life by building meme-hooks through studies in contrasts, nostalgia, repetition and confusion. The Hessian could be a restaurant, a start-up, a clothing brand or more.
Like any great brand, Hessian is for sale. The current asking price is $18,000.
The bureau's head of climate monitoring and prediction David Jones said the new scale, which also features a pink code for temperatures from 52 to 54 degrees, reflected the potential for old heat records to be smashed.
"The scale has just been increased today and I would anticipate it is because the forecast coming from the bureau's model is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees," Jones told Fairfax newspapers.
Australia's all-time record temperature is 50.7 degrees, set in January 1960 at Oodnadatta in the state of South Australia.
The nation as a whole experienced its hottest day on record on Monday with the average maximum temperature across the country hitting 40.33 degrees, surpassing the previous mark of 40.17 degrees set in 1972.
I feel like climate change needs a Steve Jobs to kick everyone's ass into action on this, iPhone announcement-style. "Unprecedented polar ice cap melt, new colors on Australia's weather map, massive East Coast hurricanes, are you getting it? These are not three separate incidents. This is one global pattern. And we are calling it anthropogenic climate change. [wild applause]" (via @ftrain)
On December 14th, I helped chaperone my daughter's second-grade-class field trip to a local production of "The Nutcracker," where I spent most of my time not watching the ballet but marvelling at the calm efforts of the teacher to keep the yelling, excited class quieted down. Teaching was not, I concluded at one point, a profession in which I could survive for even one day. Our buses came back to the school at midafternoon, and I and the other volunteer parents left our children for another hour of wind-down time (for us, not them) before returning for the regular 3-P.M. pickup. I came home, however, not to any wind-down but to the unfolding coverage of the Newtown shooting. Shaken to the core, I returned to the school, where a grim quiet bound myself and the other parents together, the literally unspeakable news sealing our smiles while, at a lower strata, our happy, screaming children ran out of the building into our arms still frothed up by sparkling visions of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
Peter Dean is a big Beatles fan. And so he set out to reproduce exactly -- from photographic evidence only -- an old circus poster owned by John Lennon. In true Sgt. Pepper's fashion, he had a little help from his friends.
This is a reproduction of the poster that inspired John Lennon to write the song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, which appeared on The Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is printed in a limited edition of 1,967.
Lennon bought the poster in an antiques shop and hung it in his music room. While writing for Sgt. Pepper one day, he drew inspiration from the quirky, old-fashioned language and set the words to music.
This camera will be the mother of all limited editions based on one simple fact: only a single unit of the camera will ever be produced. Aside from announcing this camera, not much else was revealed. It is, however, for more than just a publicity stunt: the camera will be auctioned off, and the proceeds will be donated to charity.
The regular M retails for almost $7000 so I imagine the iLeica will go for about eleventy gajillion. Also, designed? How much leeway will Ive have to really change the camera? He'll just slap some new colorways on it, yes? (via df)
The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day. The ways people experience our products are our most important "brand impressions". That's why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.
The shoes are fabricated using a selective laser sintering process that uses precise 3-D scans of an athlete's foot to achieve maximum fit. The really tantalizing (but unfortunately uncited) bit about Fusaro's design is that by fitting shoes to a sprinter's feet so precisely, significant performance improvements might result:
Scientific investigations have shown that tuning the mechanical properties of a sprint shoe to the physical abilities of an athlete can improve performance by up to 3.5%.
For 100-meter world record holder Usain Bolt, a performance improvement of 3.5% could lower his world record to 9.24...just by wearing different shoes. That seems insane but Speedo's LZR Racer suit that was responsible for dozens of world records falling in 2008 were shown to lower racing times by 1.9 to 2.2 percent so that sort of improvement is certainly possible. (via @curiousoctopus)
Gawker has rebranded their new commenting system...it's now called Kinja. The name is recycled from a project that Nick Denton worked on with Meg Hourihan starting in 2003. Kinja 1 was an attempt to build a blog aggregator without relying solely on RSS, which was not then ubiquitous. Here's a mockup of the site I did for them in late 2003:
Luckily they got some real designers to finish the job...here's a version that 37signals did that was closer to how it looked at launch.
Where is the team that worked on that Kinja? Nick's still hammering away at Gawker, Meg is raising two great children (a more difficult and rewarding task than building software), programmer Mark Wilkie is director of technology at Buzzfeed, programmer Matt Hamer still works for Gawker (I think?), intern Gina Trapani is running her own publishing/development empire & is cofounder of ThinkUp, and 37signals (they worked on the design of the site) is flying high.
For the most recent issue of Fast Company, Jeff Chu profiled Tadashi Yanai, the CEO of Uniqlo, one of the hottest retail companies in the world. The piece is full of interesting business & design wisdom throughout.
Yanai, though, cannot resist the American market. Around the corner from his Tokyo office, there's a large map of Manhattan. There are push pins marking Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Forever 21, Gap, Hollister, and a half-dozen other brands that could be considered immediate competitors. Significantly, there's one outlier marked: the Apple Store. When I ask Yanai about this, he replies simply, "People have only one wallet."
More notably, Apple is perhaps the best example of a company whose products have become ubiquitous without losing cachet. "Specialness is nice to have," Yanai says, "but what's more important is being made for all."
One of my favorite things about shopping at Uniqlo is how they hand you your credit card back:
All associates are trained, for instance, to return your credit card and receipt with both hands, as a sign of respect.
It took three years for Ekuan and his team to arrive at the dispenser's transparent teardrop shape. More than 100 prototypes were tested in the making of its innovative, dripless spout (based on a teapot's, but inverted). The design proved to be an ideal ambassador. With its imperial red cap and industrial materials (glass and plastic), it helped timeless Japanese design values -- elegance, simplicity and supreme functionality -- infiltrate kitchens around the world.
When some unknown ancient civilization invented the Solo cup, they placed several lines on the outside of the cup, seemingly at random intervals. Was it a star chart? A moon calendar? A representation of their water god? Recently internet memiticians have uncovered the startlingly simple pattern behind those lines. Are you ready for this?
There you have it, the ancients used those marks to measure out appropriate quantities of alcohol, just like today's college kids do at frat parties. Nevermind that Solo is moving away from that cup design...this is still an amazing discovery. (via stellar)
From how rub-on lettering democratized design by fueling the DIY movement and engaging people who knew nothing about typography to how the concept of the "teenager" was invented after World War II as a new market for advertisers, many of the ideas are mother-of-invention parables. Together, they converge into a cohesive meditation on the fundamental mechanism of graphic design -- to draw a narrative with a point of view, and then construct that narrative through the design process and experience.
Blown Covers is a new book that details the illustrations that never made it to the front cover of the New Yorker. At Imprint, Michael Silverberg interviews Françoise Mouly, the book's author and the New Yorker's art editor since 1993, and shares some of best rejected covers. I like this one by Christoph Niemann showing the attempted return of the Statue of Liberty to France:
"Think of me as your priest," she told one of them. Mouly, who cofounded the avant-garde comics anthology RAW with her husband, Art Spiegelman, asks the artists she works with -- Barry Blitt, Christoph Niemann, Ana Juan, R. Crumb -- not to hold back anything in their cover sketches. If that means the occasional pedophilia gag or Holocaust joke finds its way to her desk, she's fine with that. Tasteless humor and failed setups are an essential part of the process. "Sometimes something is too provocative or too sexist or too racist," Mouly says, "but it will inspire a line of thinking that will help develop an image that is publishable."
Our everyday lives are filled with a massive flow of information that we must interpret in order to understand the world we live in. Considering this complex variety of data floating around us, sometimes the best -- or even only -- way to communicate is visually. This unique book presents a fascinating historical perspective on the subject, highlighting the work of the masters of the profession who have created a number of breakthroughs that have changed the way we communicate. Information Graphics has been conceived and designed not just for designers or graphics professionals, but for anyone interested in the history and practice of communicating visually.
The in-depth introductory section, illustrated with over 60 images (each accompanied by an explanatory caption), features essays by Sandra Rendgen, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Richard Saul Wurman, and Simon Rogers; looking back all the way to primitive cave paintings as a means of communication, this introductory section gives readers an excellent overview of the subject. The second part of the book is entirely dedicated to contemporary works by the current most renowned professionals, presenting 200 graphics projects, with over 400 examples -- each with a fact sheet and an explanation of methods and objectives -- divided into chapters by the subjects Location, Time, Category, and Hierarchy.
Any scientist or engineer who communicates research results will immediately recognize this practical handbook as an indispensable tool. The guide sets out clear strategies and offers abundant examples to assist researchers-even those with no previous design training-with creating effective visual graphics for use in multiple contexts, including journal submissions, grant proposals, conference posters, or presentations.
Visual communicator Felice Frankel and systems biologist Angela DePace, along with experts in various fields, demonstrate how small changes can vastly improve the success of a graphic image. They dissect individual graphics, show why some work while others don't, and suggest specific improvements. The book includes analyses of graphics that have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, Annual Reviews, Cell, PNAS, and the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as an insightful personal conversation with designer Stefan Sagmeister and narratives by prominent researchers and animators.
The official report by French accident investigators is due in a month and seems likely to echo provisional verdicts suggesting human error. There is no doubt that at least one of AF447's pilots made a fatal and sustained mistake, and the airline must bear responsibility for the actions of its crew. It will be a grievous blow for Air France, perhaps more damaging than the Concorde disaster of July 2000.
But there is another, worrying implication that the Telegraph can disclose for the first time: that the errors committed by the pilot doing the flying were not corrected by his more experienced colleagues because they did not know he was behaving in a manner bound to induce a stall. And the reason for that fatal lack of awareness lies partly in the design of the control stick - the "side stick" - used in all Airbus cockpits.
Among the problems Nabokov's Lolita poses for the book designer, probably the thorniest is the popular misconception of the title character. She's chronically miscast as a teenage sexpot-just witness the dozens of soft-core covers over the years. "We are talking about a novel which has child rape at its core," says John Bertram, an architect and blogger who, three years ago, sponsored a Lolita cover competition asking designers to do better.
Now the contest is being turned into a book, due out in June and coedited by Yuri Leving, with essays on historical cover treatments along with new versions by 60 well-known designers, two-thirds of them women: Barbara deWilde, Jessica Helfand, Peter Mendelsund, and Jennifer Daniel, to name a few. They don't shy away from frank sexuality, but they add layers of darkness and complication. And like Jamie Keenan's cover -- a claustrophobic room that morphs into a girl in her underwear -- they provoke without asking readers to abdicate their responsibility.
The images in this post all come from Columbia University's very large assortment of commercial stationery (featuring architectural illustrations): the Biggert Collection.
The vast majority of the images below have been cropped, cleaned and variously doctored for display purposes, with an intent towards highlighting the range of letterform/font and design layouts. The underlying documents are invoices (most), letters, postcards, shipping records and related business and advertising letterhead ephemera from the mid-1800s to the 1930s.
Out today: Mike Monteiro's Design is a Job. The book is an important reminder that how effective you are as a designer depends on many things aside from what you can do in Photoshop or InDesign. You need to build a stable environment for yourself (and your employees) to do your best work: you need to get clients, know how to talk to them, set up a stable and sustainable business, collaborate with others, etc. etc. For a taste of what the book has to offer, A List Apart has an excerpt of the second chapter, Getting Clients.
The biggest lie in this book would be if I told you I don't worry about where the next client is coming from. I could tell you that once you build up enough of a portfolio, or garner enough experience, or achieve a certain level of notoriety in the industry, this won't be a concern anymore. I could tell you I sleep soundly, not bolting out of bed at 4 a.m. to run laps around the local high school track. I could tell you that I never worry about enough presents under the tree. I could tell you these things, but I'd be lying. And I don't want to lie to you. Getting clients is the most petrifying and scary thing I can think of in the world. I'd rather wrestle lady Bengal tigers in heat with meat strapped to my genitals than look for new clients.
If putting in the work to get the kind of work you want to do sounds too daunting, then close this book right now. Walk away. Rethink your life choices and take up a less stressful craft, like cleaning out cobra pits. Do it. No one will think less of you. Cover yourself in sackcloth and pray to your god for penance.
If you're actually reading this on the site and not in RSS (guys, come on in from the cold, don't be shy), you'll already have noticed that I changed the "look and feel" of the site. In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.
Aside from those three things, one of my unstated goals with the redesign was to increase the number of people reading kottke.org2 and I had a hunch that the focus on simplicity, sharing, the reading experience would do just that. Using Google Analytics and a couple of other sources, I compared the traffic stats from the past 30 days (I didn't include the day of launch because that was an outlier day, traffic-wise) to that of the previous 30 days. Here are some of the results. (Except where noted, when I say "traffic", I mean visits.)
- Overall traffic to kottke.org was up 14%. And February was a pretty good month itself so that's a nice bump.
- As I hoped, the two areas that saw the most improvement were mobile and referral traffic. Mobile was the lowest-hanging fruit I addressed with the redesign...kottke.org's previous mobile experience sucked. It's better now. And the focus on sharing boosted referral traffic.
- Mobile traffic now accounts for 19% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 25% over the past 30 days. iPad usage in particular shot up 40% and iPad users are spending longer on the site than they previously were. iPhone and iPod touch traffic both showed double digit percentage increases as well.
- Referral traffic now accounts for 45% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 28% over the past 30 days. Most of this increase come from social network sharing. Traffic from Facebook increased by 45%, Facebook mobile was up 43%, Twitter increased by 6% (I already did Twitter sharing pretty well before, so not a huge jump here), and Tumblr referrals went up 125%.
- That big Tumblr increase was due to kottke.org's new Tumblr blog. Having kottke.org posts be properly rebloggable is paying off. In addition, it's got over 800 followers that are reading along in the dashboard. I'd like to see that number increase, but I'd probably need to engage a bit more on Tumblr for that to happen.
- One of the small changes I made was to stop using post titles for posting to Twitter. I had hoped that using more descriptive text would make the tweets more easily retweetable...look at this tweet for example and compare to the title of the post it links to. This hasn't really happened, which is surprising and disappointing.
- I also removed the links to the tag pages (like this and this) from the front page. I had a hunch that very few people were using those links compared to the real estate they took up and the traffic numbers bear that out...traffic to tag pages decreased only 3%.
That's enough for now...I very rarely dig into the traffic stats so it's difficult to stop when I do. That and it's rewarding when you redesign something and it actually works out the way you thought it was going to.
 Like this weird Safari bug that results in overlapping link text. Many people have reported this but it only happens sporadically (and usually goes away with a refresh) and I can't reproduce it or find any other sites/designers who are having the same issue. Oh, and it seems like it only happens on OS X Lion. I have no idea if it's the web fonts or something in my CSS. Anyone have any ideas? ↩
 Not for $$$ reasons, although that is certainly a consideration. No, it's more that I believe there are literally millions of people out there who are not reading kottke.org that would love it. I put a lot of myself into the site, I'm proud of it, and I want people to see it. That's pretty much it. Oh, and I would also like the unlimited power that comes with millions of readers. evil cackle and cat stroking noises And the money. even more cat stroking noises And the chicks. expensive champagne cork popping noises And my kids' love and respect. surprisingly loud whining noise that you can't even believe came from someone less than 40 inches tall oh come on you just watched Wallace and Gromit for the past hour and you want more orange juice jesus come on give it a rest and now there's a surprisingly loud whining noise coming from a 38-year-old man that should know better...↩
We were exploring things like, 'How shiny should the skin be? How visceral and uncomfortable can we make it? How abstract can we get? Is that a flower? Is it a vagina?' -- that sort of thing.
During David's visits to the studio we would brace for impact, because he has a reputation for being incredibly picky. The first time I met him, I asked one of his friends, 'How picky is David?' And he said, 'You've heard of pixel fuckers? Well David breaks each pixel down to its separate RGB components and fucks them one at a time.' So there was some fear every time we would send something in, but 99% of the time we were just told to keep going.
You've seen the now-famous Keep Calm and Carry On poster and its many many variations, but did you know that this British WWII poster was never distributed to the public and was discovered only recently in an English book shop?
If you're actually reading this on the site and not in RSS (guys, come on in from the cold, don't be shy), you'll already have noticed that I changed the "look and feel" of the site. In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.
Simplicity. kottke.org has always been relatively spare, but this time around I left in only what was necessary. Posts have a title, a publish date, text, and some sharing buttons (more on those in a bit). Tags got pushed to the individual archive page and posts are uncredited (just like the Economist!). In the sidebar that appears on every page, there are three navigation links (home, about, and archives), other ways to follow the site (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and an ad and job board posting, to pay the bills. There isn't even really a title on the page...that's what the <title> is for, right? Gone also is the blue border, which I liked but was always a bit of a pain in the ass.
Reading/viewing experience. I made the reading column wider (640px) for bigger photos & video embeds and increased the type size for easier reading. But the biggest and most exciting change is using Whitney ScreenSmart for the display font, provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones' long-awaited web font service, which is currently in private beta. Whitney SSm is designed especially for display in web browsers and really pushes the site's design & readability to a higher level. Many thanks to Jonathan and his web fonts team for letting me kick their tires. I believe that kottke.org is one of only two sites on the entire Internet currently using H&FJ's web fonts...the other is by some guy who currently lives in a white house near Maryland. Barnaby something...
The reading experience on mobile devices has also been improved. The text was formerly too small to read, the blue border was a pain in the ass (especially since the upgrade to iOS 5 on the iPhone & iPad changed how the border was displayed when zoomed), and the mobile version was poorly advertised. The site now uses the same HTML and CSS to serve appropriate versions to different browsers on different hardware using some very rudimentary responsive design techniques. Whitney ScreenSmart helps out here too...it looks freaking AMAZING on the iPhone 4S's retina display. Really, you should go look. And then zoom in a bunch on some text. Crazy, right?
Sharing. I've always thought of kottke.org as a place where people come to find interesting things to read and look at, and design has always been crafted with that as the priority. A few months ago, I read an interview with Jonah Peretti about what BuzzFeed is up to and he said something that stuck with me: people don't just come to BuzzFeed to look at things, they come to find stuff to share with their friends. As I thought about it, I realized that's true of kottke.org as well...and I haven't been doing a good enough job of making it easy for people to do.
So this new design has a few more sharing options. Accompanying each post is a Twitter tweet button and a Facebook like button. Links to posts are pushed out to Twitter, Facebook, and RSS where they can be easily shared with friends, followers, and spambots. I've also created a mirror of kottke.org on Tumblr so you can read and share posts right in your dashboard. I've chosen just these few options because I don't want a pile of sharing crap attached to each post and I know that kottke.org readers actually use and like Twitter, Tumblr, and even Facebook.
Speaking of Apple, here's a profile of Jerry Manock, who worked for Apple from 1977 to 1984 and designed the case for the Apple II and helped design the Macintosh. Manock was Jobs' first Jony Ive.
The whole basis of the class I've taught at UVM for 21 years is ... integrated product development, which means concurrently looking at all of these things: the aesthetics, the engineering, the marketing ... which is what we were doing at Apple. Not necessarily purposefully, but everybody was just thrown together... I would walk through the software place and look around and see what people were doing ... walk through the marketing area. I had my drawings all on the walls, so anybody could come up. There was a red pencil hanging there. I'd say, "If you see something you don't like, or is a problem -- I don't care whether it's a janitor or Steve -- write the correction, circle it, put your phone there and I'll call you and we'll talk about it."
"During our initial meeting with Malcolm, he referred to the three books as 'intellectual adventure stories,'" Sahre tells Co.Design. "Brian and I really responded to that, as it suggested a specific and interesting way to think about how the books could be designed. We wanted the books to feel like first editions of Moby-Dick or Treasure Island or The Wizard of Oz."
The tasteful gray cloth binding and foil stamping of the set and its "extremely conventional" design, as Sahre puts it ("maybe 'comfortable' would be a better way to describe it," he adds) makes me think of famous children's literature collections, like The Chronicles of Narnia. "This 'traditional/comfortable' design allowed for the drawings Brian was doing to venture off into the abstract and unconventional place they ended up," Sahre continues. "More importantly, the quiet design allowed the text and the drawings room to interact and to breathe. I hope the reader doesn't notice the design of the book at all."
This map of the US was made by David Imus -- he worked seven days a week for two years on it -- and it won the Best of Show award at the Cartography and Geographic Information Society competition for 2010. Here's why.
According to independent cartographers I spoke with, the big mapmaking corporations of the world employ type-positioning software, placing their map labels (names of cities, rivers, etc.) according to an algorithm. For example, preferred placement for city labels is generally to the upper right of the dot that indicates location. But if this spot is already occupied-by the label for a river, say, or by a state boundary line-the city label might be shifted over a few millimeters. Sometimes a town might get deleted entirely in favor of a highway shield or a time zone marker. The result is a rough draft of label placement, still in need of human refinement. Post-computer editing decisions are frequently outsourced-sometimes to India, where teams of cheap workers will hunt for obvious errors and messy label overlaps. The overall goal is often a quick and dirty turnaround, with cost and speed trumping excellence and elegance.
By contrast, David Imus worked alone on his map seven days a week for two full years. Nearly 6,000 hours in total. It would be prohibitively expensive just to outsource that much work. But Imus-a 35-year veteran of cartography who's designed every kind of map for every kind of client-did it all by himself. He used a computer (not a pencil and paper), but absolutely nothing was left to computer-assisted happenstance. Imus spent eons tweaking label positions. Slaving over font types, kerning, letter thicknesses. Scrutinizing levels of blackness. It's the kind of personal cartographic touch you might only find these days on the hand-illustrated ski-trail maps available at posh mountain resorts.
Today, as webfonts are buoyed by a wave of early-adopter enthusiasm, they're marred by a similar unevenness in quality, and it's not just a matter of browsers and rasterizers, or the eternal shortage of good fonts and preponderance of bad ones. There are compelling questions about what it means to be fitted to the technology, how foundries can offer designers an expressive medium (and readers a rich one), and what it means for typography to be visually, mechanically, and culturally appropriate to the web. This is an exploration of this side of web fonts, and a discussion of where the needs of designers meet the needs of readers.
I love Typekit, but I am very much looking forward to switching Stellar over to Whitney or somesuch when H&FJ's webfonts are released (if the price and performance are right).
Inspired by the collaborative intelligence of her fellow software designers, Kare stayed on at Apple to craft the navigational elements for Mac's GUI. Because an application for designing icons on screen hadn't been coded yet, she went to the University Art supply store in Palo Alto and picked up a $2.50 sketchbook so she could begin playing around with forms and ideas. In the pages of this sketchbook, which hardly anyone but Kare has seen before now*, she created the casual prototypes of a new, radically user-friendly face of computing - each square of graph paper representing a pixel on the screen.
[Apple's] devices have become increasingly simple and pared down, even as the power contained in them has increased. There is very little, if anything, extraneous on the Magic Trackpad or the MacBook Air. And of course the iPhones 4 and 4S are radically simple, yet well-constructed masterpieces of industrial design.
Yet, when it comes to stuff that isn't hardware:
But no one laughs when Apple delivers a calendar application for the iPad that tries its hardest to look like a real-word desktop calendar pad, complete with fake leather and "torn" pages.
Still fewer have a chuckle when they see the new Address Book app on Mac OS X Lion, or the even more recent Find My Friends iPhone app.
These apps, and many more besides, all stem from a completely different, and I would say opposite aesthetic sensibility than the plain devices they run on.
They are an expression of purest kitsch, sentimentality, and ornamentation for its own sake. In Milan Kundera's brilliant definition, kitsch is "the absolute denial of shit". These are Disney-like apps, sinister in their mendacity.
This isn't a recent thing either...look at the cheeseball themes and transitions in Keynote (many of them used by Jobs in his keynotes), some of the default system fonts, the emphasis in past keynotes on things like Mail.app themes, etc. Without too much effort, you could pull together many design examples from their currently shipping software that make it appear as though Apple doesn't have a good aesthetic sense of design at all. But then you look at the general aesthetics of OSX and iOS...I don't know, it's really confusing how the same company, especially one that had such strong design leadership, could produce something as beautifully spare as iOS and something as cheesy as the Game Center app. (via ★thefoxisblack)
After years of inactivity, K10k, the venerable design portal, has finally been permanently shuttered. Sad to see it go...K10k was one of a handfull of sites that most influenced my design/online efforts in the 90s.
This evening and daylong program features presentations, conversations, interviews, and performances on the subjects of design and script writing, cognitive science, gaming, augmented reality, and communication.
Dieter Rams' 40 year stint at Braun until 1995 redefined the world of product design, taking pure modernism to the world of gadgets. He is the direct inspiration for much of Apple's product design after Steve Jobs returned and in many aspects his work is more rigorous and more coherent than Apple's.
The incomplete fonts found in the PDFs were reassembled into the text of Frankenstein based on their frequency of use. The most common characters are employed at the beginning of the book, and the text devolves into less common, more grotesque shapes and forms toward the end.
A couple years ago, I pointed to a 10-minute clip of a longer documentary called The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Some kind soul has put the whole thing up on YouTube:
This witty and original film is about the open spaces of cities and why some of them work for people while others don't. Beginning at New York's Seagram Plaza, one of the most used open areas in the city, the film proceeds to analyze why this space is so popular and how other urban oases, both in New York and elsewhere, measure up. Based on direct observation of what people actually do, the film presents a remarkably engaging and informative tour of the urban landscape and looks at how it can be made more hospitable to those who live in it.
Sanborn's fire insurance enterprise produced not only excellent and detailed urban maps, but they also maintained an elegant aesthetic in the headings and legends on the maps themselves, and in the title pages of the (larger) city volumes. The ornamental flair is diverse -- I don't think any of the examples above repeat type styles -- and lends an air of individuality and refinement to each of the towns surveyed.
Although this sort of artistic embellishment was unlikely to have increased map sales on its own, it's a charming addition which will have perhaps made the purchasers feel a sense of pride and a little more secure about their own unique town. And it's certainly in keeping with the cartographic tradition of decorative trimmings.
Chris Ware must have a stack of these babies near his drawing table from which to crib.
There's been a lot written about Steve Jobs in the past week, a lot of it worthy of reading, but one piece you probably didn't see is David Galbraith's piece on Jobs' similarity to architect Norman Foster. The essay is a bit all over the place, which replicates the experience of talking to David in person, but it's littered with insight and goodness (ditto).
The answer is what might be called the sand pile model and it operated at Apple and Fosters, the boss sits independently from the structural hierarchy, to some extent, and can descend at random on a specific element at will. The boss maintains control of the overall house style by cleaning up the edges at the same time as having a vision for the whole, like trying to maintain a sand pile by scooping up the bits that fall off as it erodes in the wind. This is the hidden secret of design firms or prolific artists, the ones where journalists or historians agonize whether a change in design means some new direction when it just means that there was a slip up in maintaining the sand pile.
And I love this paragraph, which integrates Foster, Jobs, the Soviet Union, Porsche, Andy Warhol, Lady Gaga, and even an unspoken Coca-Cola into an extended analogy:
Perfecting the model of selling design that is compatible with big business, Foster simultaneously grew one of the largest architecture practices in the world while still winning awards for design excellence. The secret was to design buildings like the limited edition, invite only Porsches that Foster drove and fellow Porsche drivers would commission them. Jobs went further, however, he managed to create products that were designed like Porsches and made them available to everyone, via High Tech that transcended stylistic elements. An Apple product really was high technology and its form followed function, it went beyond the Porsche analogy by being truly fit for purpose in a way that a Porsche couldn't, being a car designed for a speed that you weren't allowed to drive. Silicon Valley capitalism had arguably delivered what the Soviets had dreamed of and failed, modernism for the masses. An iPhone really is the best phone you can buy at any price. To paraphrase Andy Warhol: Lady Gaga uses an iPhone, and just think, you can have an iPhone too. An iPhone is an iPhone and no amount of money can get you a better phone. This was what American modernism was about.
Berg and its peers use design in the traditional way as a tool in the translation process, but they have also developed new means of enabling people to engage with technology, and to feel confident about using it. Mostly Berg does so by making complex technologies seem playful and humorous.