Apr 29

April 2012

A noteworthy minimalist website design »

I like the simplicity of this site created by the London design studio Spin for furniture designer and manufacturer Matthew Hilton.

matthew hilton spin

The Matthew Hilton website...

Its journal/blog..

The site was designed by Spin in the UK...

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Apr 27

April 2012

Ever dream of seeing one of your illustrations on the cover of The New Yorker? »

As a kid, we always had a copy of the latest issue of The New Yorker magazine on the coffee table in our living room. I doubt I ever read a story, but I loved looking at the covers and the cartoons.

I grew up thinking, one day, I'd have one of my drawings on that cover. I figured I could draw more realistically than lots of the artists who illustrated New Yorker covers so why not? I guess it didn't occur to me, at a young age, that it was not that the artists couldn't draw realistically, it was that they were actively avoiding such realism.

In any case I've always been interested with the process so I was excited to find BlownCovers.com, subtitled the "New Yorker covers you were never meant to see". In hosts a weekly cover design contest juried by none other than Françoise Mouly, the current Art Director of The New Yorker.

Ms. Mouly explains the submission guidelines:

"The themes on the Blown Covers website closely mirror what I suggest to the New Yorker artists I already work with. This blog and contest are informal and not affiliated with the magazine but I'm always on the lookout for ideas."

"The theme for each weekly cover contest will be posted Monday mornings. To enter, please send sketches on the week's theme through the submissions page or email your sketches to blowncovers at gmail dot com. I prefer sketches to finished work and good ideas to good drawings. The deadline is Thursday at noon."

"Please keep submissions confidential in case they are selected for later publication. The winning sketch (according to my own subjective whims) will be posted on this site on Friday."

If you too have thought your illustrations deserved the attention of The New Yorker's worldwide audience, you have only to grab Françoise Mouly's attention and convince her of it. Good luck.

blown cover new yorker

Past Themes and Winners...

The next week's theme...

About Françoise Mouly...

An example of an actual cover..

2012 cover archive...

2011 cover archive...

2010 cover archive...

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Apr 25

April 2012

Two must-have tools for gathering intelligence about online technology use »

If you design websites you're always looking for the next best technological solution and ideas for matching your client's needs with available products and services.

The BuiltWith Search and Trends tools offer a good way to gather data about who's using what and what the trends are. BuiltWith analyzes a specific website and returns information about the technology that drives it. BuiltWith Trends, among other things, tracks the number of websites using each technology within specific groups — widgets, email hosts, payment providers, and so on.

Both of those are free. For a subscription, you can sign on for an even more powerful set of tools for finding and refining similar types of data.

If you're responsible for recommending online products and services, BuiltWith will surely become part of your toolset.

online technology trends builtwith

An example: What are the top content management Systems?...

And another: Which e-commerce platforms grew the fastest last month?...

Analyze a specific website using the BuiltWith search tool...

There are also free BuiltWith browser extensions that make it easy to analyze pages as you move around the web...

For Chrome

For Firefox

For Safari

The advanced tools...

And a website optimizer...

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Apr 23

April 2012

Today, a new website from The British Monarchy »

Today my friend Grahame Berney points us to a website that just went live. It is, "A new website about Queen Victoria's life, using material from the Royal Archives, has been launched by Buckingham Palace, as an educational and public resource to mark the Diamond Jubilee."

I thought you'd want to take a look.

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Scrapbook

Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee Scrapbook...

And while you're in the neighborhood:

The official website of The British Monarchy...

The official website of The Queen's Diamond Jubilee...

The Royal Collection...

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Apr 20

April 2012

Meet illustrator Chris Gash »

Chris Gash's illustrations regularly grace the pages of The Times, The Globe, The Post, and other prodigious publications. To me, he draws like a designer — meaning his work is clear and purposeful.

tags

Example 1...

Example 2...

Example 3...

A nice little animated piece...

Gash's blog talks a lot about his process...

And his Tumblr page with some different perspectives...

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i recommend base camp





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Apr 18

April 2012

A rare look inside Apple headquarters »

Years ago I was a member of the Microsoft Small Business Council, a group of six or eight authors and business owners chosen to put a face on Microsoft's small business efforts. For the announcement Microsoft flew us all to Redmond where we met its marketing team and got a look inside the headquarters.

Since then, I've always been interested in the culture of the big software and hardware companies. So I couldn't help myself when I saw this link from applegazette.com offering a look inside Apple headquarters.

I've been through Cupertino and the surrounding valley several times but I've never visited the Apple headquarters. Suffice it to say, what I have seen is fascinating — it's an intellectual, technological theme park. If you've never been, be sure to put it on your list of places to visit.

inside apple cupertino

Inside Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California...

A bird's eye view of the Apple Campus...

The Apple organization chart from the May 23, 2011 issue of Fortune....

Sadly we won't see another image like this...

Haha... the Microsoft Small Business Council...

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Apr 16

April 2012

How a great photographer creates an opportunity for something extraordinary to happen »

Some photographs look so effortless that you're tempted to think, "If I had the same equipment and opportunity, I'd have captured something equally as good." But then you remember that it is one's ability to control those details that dictates the quality of the result. It is access to the proper equipment, the knowledge of how to choose the right props, the wherewithal to assemble the players, and so on, that makes it possible for something extraordinary to happen.

Art Streiber is one of the most esteemed, prolific photographers on the scene in 2012. Here, I want to point you to a few of his many fascinating "ensemble" photographs.

tags

Example 1...

Example 2...

Example 3...

Streiber's website...

An in depth interview with Steiber from Diego Guevara's THEE BLOG...

Stockland Martel, representative of Streiber's work...

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Apr 13

April 2012

A lesson about how we perceive photographic imagery »

In the early 1900s, Russian chemist and photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii conducted a photographic survey of the Russian Empire. Between 1909 and 1915 he captured images from eleven regions of, what is otherwise, a thinly documented area of the world. What makes the images so unique is that he photographed them using an elaborate system that allowed him to reproduce the final images in color.

What I find instructive is how eerie they seem. Though they were taken 100 years ago, these vivid, high resolution photographs of people and places look as if they were taken on a movie set last week. Eerie, perhaps, because I'm just not used to seeing images from this long ago in natural color and my brain has a hard time finding them believable.

It's somewhat analogous to how the filtering effects applied to Instagram images inflence our perception of photographs folks are taking today. In that case, the effects remove the images from reality. (In case you're interested, here's a look at some new filters Facebook plans to offer now that they have acquired Instagram.)

Thanks to Russel Lacy for pointing us to it.

Prokudin-Gorskii

Example 1...

Example 2...

Example 3...

The complete gallery via the Library of Congress...

There are several venues that have edited and compiled some of the more interesting images in various forms. This is one of those compilations...

How it was done...

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Apr 11

April 2012

The real Mad Men »

The series Mad Men, set in 1960s New York, is a fictional portrayal of, as the producers describe it, "the ruthlessly competitive men and women of Madison Avenue advertising, an ego-driven world where key players make an art of the sell".

I don't claim that advertising is now or has ever been a business for the faint of heart — but the true story is a lot more complicated than the AMC series portrays. To illustrate, I tracked down some video clips of three iconic copywriters: David Ogilvy, Leo Burnett, and Bill Bernbach. Though I don't find that any of them had particularly warm and fuzzy personalities, I think it's instructive to see how they present themselves and explain their respective businesses.

the real mad men

David Ogilvy...

Leo Burnett...

Bill Bernbach...

Their agencies today...

Ogilvy & Mather...

Leo Burnett...

DDB Worldwide Communications Group...

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Apr 9

April 2012

What can a graphic designer learn from a storefront design? »

Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York is a book by Karla and James Murray, two photographers who have made a hobby of capturing the design of the one-of-a-kind storefronts that make New York City and the surrounding boroughs so distinctive.

When you think of it, a storefront is much like a page design: the store name is the headline, the store tag line is a subhead, the windows and doors are shaped like text boxes, and the myriad of logos and other imagery used as signage act as illustrations.

I find these photographs are a good reminder of the importance of distinguishing your client's brand from everyone else's. By that I mean, when you drive by a 7-Eleven or a Target or a Panera, you have a fairly good idea of what you're going to find inside.

As the world is homogenized there's a movement to homogenize design along with it. To create liquid layouts and non-specific designs that readapt themselves to the devices they are shown on. I want my client's website to work on a tablet, a smartphone, and a desktop, but to relegate the layout to a canned application surrenders a lot of what makes your branding unique.

There's a place for elasticity, but don't make the mistake of allowing your client's information to be interpreted as nothing more than data. Their "storefront", their unique design, creates some mystery and says and shows what they're about in ways others do not.

Store Front: The Disappearing Face of New York

Example 1...

Example 2...

Example 3...

The author's website...

A video about the process...

The book...

Here's an example of a liquid layout...

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Apr 7

April 2012

Here's a designer all graphic designers can learn from »

Roberto de Vicq is clearly someone we can learn from. I can typically look at six or eight pieces from a particular designer's portfolio and get a pretty good feel for what they do. I relate their work to a particular genre or design and study it within that context.

But I find de Vicq's work difficult to categorize. He has an unusual, interesting way of communicating ideas that, to me, is both bold and elegant.

Roberto de Vicq

Example 1...

Example 2...

Example 3...

The DE VICQ DESIGN website...

And his blog...

De Vicq is the author of Men of Letters and People of Substance...

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Apr 4

April 2012

What every lawyer (and graphic designer) needs to know about the proper use of typography »

Back in January, typeface designer Matthew Butterick sent a letter to film director Brad Bird chastising him about his use of the Verdana typeface for the subtitles of the film, Mission Impossible. Bird's response came in the form of a tweet and was dismissive: "...If you direct a big film on a tight budget & schedule, chances are fonts won't ever be your most pressing problem."

I can't think of an example that better illustrates the chasm between those who specify and apply typefaces without giving it a thought and those who find significance in the many ways typefaces, properly used, are used to clarify the communication of information and make it easier to read and digest.

Matthew Butterick, who is also a lawyer, is the author of Typography For Lawyers, Essential Tools For Polished & Persuasive Documents. Though it is clearly written for lawyers, most of the book is applicable to non-lawyers as well. As he states in its introduction, "If you ignore typography, you are ignoring an opportunity to improve both your writing and your advocacy."

Though much of the book is presented online we are told that about two-thirds, including many visual examples, specific technical instructions for specific word processing programs, and other segments are only available in the for purchase versions.

Though I do not adhere to every nuance, I certainly recommend you take a look. Matthew Butterick's book offers a valuable, compelling example of typographic mastery.

Thanks to Jeff Fisher for pointing us to it.

Typography For Lawyers

Typography For Lawyers, the Introduction...

Some excellent ideas on font substitution...

Before and after documents...

The front door to Butterick's website...

Sample pages (7) from the book (630KB PDF)...

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Apr 2

April 2012

100 things every designer needs to know about people »

That's the title of an insightful book by Dr. Susan Weinschenk — a Ph.D. in Psychology. In it she parses the intricacies of scientific research and restates it in the context of design and marketing.

It's a book in which even the most experienced designer will find valuable, useful insights that can readily be applied to all types of design work.

100 things every designer needs to know about people, Susan Weinschenk

Example 1: You make most of your decisions unconsciously...

Example 2: What you see is not what your brain gets...

Example 3: Size matters when it comes to fonts...

An archive of Weinschenk's articles...

One of Susan Weinschenk's presentations: The Top Ten Things Every Interactive Marketer Needs To Know About People (for the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association)...

On Twitter, Dr. Weinschenk is The Brain Lady...

Three of her books: 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People...

100 Things Every Presenter Needs to Know About People...

Neuro Web Design: What Makes Them Click?...

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