The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and Adobe have published some interesting insights into (via its Designer of 2015 project), among other things, the necessary competencies of a designer. Don't miss it.
The American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) and Adobe have published some interesting insights into (via its Designer of 2015 project), among other things, the necessary competencies of a designer. Don't miss it.
This is pretty amazing. Many of the resources on this list will be of interest to, in particular, graphic designers.
Thanks to Chris Miller for pointing us to it.
When I share files publicly or with a client, I want them to be streamlined. Without the remnants of all I did in creating them. And, to minimize the download time and storage space, I want to reduce their size.
Just to get you thinking, here are some good insights on reducing file sizes in Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign/PDF.
I was discussing search engine optimization (SEO) with a colleague today—and how it remains a moving target. Which drew me back to a few sites to read what the experts are saying about SEO trends in the coming year. The first two links are articles, the rest are top SEO blogs where you'll find more as the year progresses (and everything continues to change).
Here's an interesting article from the Nielsen Norman Group addressing the two basic structures for organizing content.
There are lots of text tools online. Those that compare two different versions of your text and point to the differences, sort lists alphabetically, by word order, and length, that remove duplicate lines, that number each line, and so on.
That's just a glimmer of the possibilities. If you ever perform some form of tedious manual text edit and think, there must be a better way, these handy text tools prove there is.
I don't need to tell you how sophisticated wedding design has become. What gets's designed? Well, for starters: The invitations, the dress, the ring, the cake, the flowers, the photographs and videos, and that's just the obvious stuff.
The annual number of weddings in the United States is 2,077,000 (CDC, National Survey of Family Growth) and the wedding industry is measured in the tens of billions of dollars. That spells opportunity for folks who specialize in storytelling. And storytelling is what weddings are all about.
Have you considered how you might get your piece of the cake? Have a look at a few of these sites and think creatively.
I am enthralled with the design of MailOnline, the world's most popular online newspaper website. It was designed by London based creative agency Brand42 for Associated Newspapers Ltd, is part of the Daily Mail, and is said to have generated revenues over 90 million dollars in 2014.
The Design Business Association (UK) annually presents the Design Effectiveness Awards using commercial data as a key judging criteria. MailOnline was the recipient of its top prize in 2013, the Gold, Grand Prix Award.
Below is a look at the site and insights from a case study published as part of the Design Effectiveness Awards. Clearly, key to the sites effectiveness are the long-form headlines and lead-ins, the bullet point summaries that precede each article, and the abundant illustrations and images.
Those mechanics, of course, are just supporting players to the real star of MailOnline, the tremendous amount of fascinating information written and aggregated by the newspaper's staff and its contributors.
PhotoShelter is a platform for marketing photography. But I think graphic designers will find some interesting ideas here as well. They are both, after all, about marketing visual ideas.
Take a look at these three guides: to Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I think you'll find some smart thinking that applies to both fields.
Or are these ads actually pretty wonderful. I remember reading about someone saying that the reader should look at an ad an ask themselves, "What's going on here?" I love to see more modern equivalents of this type of storytelling.
Mobelux is a developer in Richmond, Virginia that specializes in mobile apps. Full disclosure, my son Rob Green designed them.
Between (roughly) 1935-1946 photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, and Arthur Rothstein crisscrossed the United States for the United States Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information (FSA-OWI) to document the results of government programs.
What resulted is "The File," an amazing collection of 170,000 storied images that are nothing short of a national treasure.
Photogrammar is a web-based platform that organizes that collection by places on a map.
You'll find other examples of the work of these and many other photographers on Shorpy.
Stuck using five or ten primary typefaces all the time? Been there.
So I invite you to join me in reading designer David Hyde's blog series titled, From Albertus to Zapf Dingbats: The 52 fonts that you could use instead of Helvetica. His idea being, to remind us of some solid alternatives to everyday typefaces and to break the habit of using just a favorite few...
I happened on this presentation of "IBM's 100 Icons of Progress" and I thought the execution of the illustrations was well worth a look. It's also a good reminder of what a significant role IBM has played in the evolution of computing.
Michael Bierut is, by all measures, a highly successful, well respected designer. So when he was commissioned by MIT Media Lab to remake its popular identity scheme, you'd think it would be a sure bet that he would produce something interesting and innovative.
But this one leaves me cold.
While a grouping of the marks might generate some visual interest, I wonder about, for example, the Social Computing group's mark (below). When the dust settles and they are left to deal with their particular piece of the larger puzzle, I can't help but think they'll find it difficult to reconcile. Do you disagree?
Michael Newhouse is my kind of designer—he's all over the place. Someone else called him a "jack-of-all-trades,"—what we're getting at is he has a talent for adapting to the project.
Michael Waraksa is a master of reinvention. Watch how he jigsaws old parts and pieces (plus colors, and shapes) into new ideas.
It's a VERY broad question that the Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) is attempting to answer. To do it, they have surveyed tens of thousands of art school graduates to determine where they are and if and how they are putting their art education to work.
Its latest report, "Shows that America's most recent arts graduates are using skills learned in school combined with internship experiences to find work, forge careers and engage their communities, despite higher student debt levels than older alumni."
I'd be interested in knowing how many designers (like me) do NOT have an art degree (I made it through two years).
I was doing some research for a client and I came across Trey Ryder, a marketing advisor who specializes in marketing the services of lawyers. As you might expect, the articles on his website are addressed to his legal audience, but take a closer look and you'll find that much of his thoughtful advice applies to anyone marketing a product, service, or idea.
There is, of course, plenty of generic marketing advice online, available for the taking. But I find Trey Ryder's advice is worth special note. It is comprehensive, detailed, and articulates some ideas I had not heard before.
His website is super-simple and his opinions are straight-forward and thought-provoking. Nice.
The UXies is an award program that showcases the best in UX design: the designers, the clients, and the outcomes. I particularly appreciate the case studies which give you a behind the scenes look at the problem and solution.
By the way: I have used Build A Sign a couple of times in recent months (to create banners for a client). The quality of the product is is quite good and the prices, to me, seem almost unbelievable......
Kunst-Formen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature) is a book that features lithographic prints created by biologist Ernst Haeckel around the turn of the twentieth century. It is an amazing collection of vibrant, graphic illustrations.
Thanks to Eric Gjerde for posting it.
Marty Blakes work is an interesting mix of collage and illustration. Her website describes the process like this, "Marty's illustration is grounded in collage, most often executed digitally. Her pictures are composed of scraps from her extensive library of old books, magazines, ephemera, and a prized set of 1939 wallpaper swatchbooks. She uses her own photographs and stock photography when needed."
My son Jeff knows one hundred times more about the design and development of broadcast email than I ever will. So I took particular notice when he pointed me to MailChimp's Email Design Guide web page. It is smart, simple, and concise—everything you want an email to be.
And that got me looking for other similar sources of information and inspiration about email design and coding. Here's a sampling...
By the way: I have used Build A Sign a couple of times in recent months (to create banners for a client). The quality of the product is is quite good and the prices, to me, seem almost unbelievable......
Martijn Rijven is Bolt Graphics in Amsterdam. I was struck by the energy in his wonderful drawings of the Mozilla FireFox. Here's the story of the project...
In case you're interested, I buy most of my fonts from MyFonts.com. A little tip: Look among these listings and you'll find that many of the typeface families include one or two weights or widths for free...
The design firm IDEO, it is reported, did the design thinking on a PillPack in return for an equity stake in the business. PillPack is a next-generation pharmacy that "...pre-sorts prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, and vitamins into personalized packets, organized by date and time. This makes it easy to take the right meds at the right hour."
I point you to it for a couple of reasons, first because of the elegance and (seeming) simplicity of the concept and its execution. And secondly, to emphasize that more and more design firms are trading their services for a piece of the action.
It is a particularly elegant combination of an idea, branding, systems, packaging, and a web presence.
I don't know about you but my penmanship is awful. A decade or so ago, my brother bought me a beautiful fountain pen that, lately, I'm almost embarrassed to use. Early in my career I wrote and sketched daily, now handwriting is a secondary skill.
As an devotee of good penmanship, my jaw dropped when I started going through the The Zaner-Bloser, Inc. / Sonya Bloser Monroe Collection at The Weinberg Memorial Library at The University of Scranton—it documents the history of American penmanship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries through a company that, "...prepared students for careers as penmen. Penmen often worked in business, preparing ledgers, writing correspondence and creating documents before the invention of the typewriter."
By the way: I have used Build A Sign a couple of times in recent months (to create banners for a client). The quality of the product is is quite good and the prices, to me, seem almost unbelievable......
The Clio Awards have been around since the 1960s (and through many incarnations). But they're generally viewed as a legitimately prestigious award these days so it's interesting to see what a "jury of our peers" think are the best of the best for 2014.
Here, in each of 33 media categories...
All politics aside (please), this is an interesting experiment. In August, Mikey Dickerson, formally the Site Reliability Manager for Google, went to work for the United States Government as the Administrator of the newly formed United States Digital Service.
"The team has one core mission:," explains the fact sheet announcing the service, "To improve and simplify the digital experience that people and businesses have with their government by:
Establishing standards to bring the government's digital services in line with the best private sector services;
Identifying common technology patterns that will help us scale services effectively;
Collaborating with agencies to identify and address gaps in their capacity to design, develop, deploy and operate excellent citizen-facing services; and
Providing accountability to ensure agencies see results.
Hopefully, almost a month in, the players are beyond all the references to the cliche that Dickerson doesn't wear a suit and tie (it makes the politcos and reporters sound like dinosaurs).
It will be interesting to read (a few months from now) how the bureaucracy has received its new experts. And whether the people that invited the changes are willing to implement them.
From a design and marketing standpoint, take a look at the playbook. It offers a thoughtful outline of the design and development of large-scale web development, some of which could be clearly be applied to smaller projects.
Thanks to Lee Garvey for pointing us to it.
In case you're interested, I buy most of my fonts from MyFonts.com. A little tip: Look among these listings and you'll find that many of the typeface families include one or two weights or widths for free...
This is an interesting idea. As explained in an AIGA Los Angeles interview, designer Michael Stinson started TypeEd because he thought there was a learning gap between design school and professional practice.
I point you to it (even if the courses it offers are not online) because I like the model (you might think of other applications) and I like the design of the website—the UI and the aesthetic.
Today I want to point you to the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) in the United Kingdom. They write and maintain advertising regulatory codes that are administered by a group called the Advertising Standards Authority. They explain their mission like this:
"The UK advertising industry is respected and emulated around the world, not only for its creativity and effectiveness, but also for the well-established system of self-imposed controls it has developed for advertising.
The advertising self-regulatory system is based on an agreement between advertisers, agencies and media owners that each will act in support of the highest standards in advertising, to ensure that all ads are legal, decent, honest and truthful. The Codes reflect requirements in law, but also contains many rules that are not required by law at all.
The advertising industry has chosen to exercise this self-restraint not only to make further legislation unnecessary, but also as a public demonstration of its commitment to high standards in advertising."
I point you to this labyrinth of regulations because I think it presents a rather frightening model of how a public/private organization, under the guise of good, can grow into what seems like a potential censor of free speech.
No, of course I don't want illegitimate organizations to be allowed to bamboozle the public. But, at the same time, I don't want well-meaning people to dictate what we can and can't design, and write, and publish within, what seems to me to be, such a nebulous framework.
For example, a few quotes from the materials these two organization provide:
"Advertisements must reflect the spirit, not merely the letter, of the Code."
"The ASA Council is the jury that decides whether advertisements have breached the Advertising Codes."
Under a publication titled, "Food, food supplements and associated health or nutrition claims... 13.12.1 Nothing in an advertisement may seem to encourage children to pester or make a nuisance of themselves."
Under a publication titled, "The BCAP Code: Faith, Religion and Equivalent Systems of Belief... 15.9 Advertisements must not refer to the alleged consequences of faith or lack of faith. They must not present the advertiser's beliefs as the "one" or "true" faith."
Under a publication titled, "Introduction and Dating Services... 27.3 Advertisements must not dwell excessively on loneliness or suggest that people without a partner are inadequate."
Is this the purview of a self-elected organization? Must designers, writers, and other creatives become lawyers forced to interpret and apply a catalog of requirements and regulations to every project? In a world where we are increasingly relegated to the status of an audience, this language seems dangerously vague and this organization's powers seem expressly presumptive.
In case you're interested, I buy most of my fonts from MyFonts.com. A little tip: Look among these listings and you'll find that many of the typeface families include one or two weights or widths for free...
Christian Montenegro is doing something different here. I love the bold colors, the flat shapes, and his insightful ideas.
There are times when I hesitate to enter a business because I'm not quite sure what I'm going to find.
Ever enter a store without display windows? If so, you know what I mean. For example, my wife Leslie and I were recently in Washington, D.C. and visited a store that had a big, very interesting selection of italian food products and wines. The catch was, it was situated within a row of nondescript warehouse offices with no clue as to what we would find behind the front door. Fortunately, Leslie had done some detective work beforehand and we had an idea it was worth visiting.
I have discussed this phenomenon with store owners. If the buying public can't see inside your shop, I tell them, there's a whole group of folks who won't travel out of their way, or even approach the front door if they think they might open the door and themselves in the middle of a place, for whatever reason, they don't want to be. (I'll never forget the time we went to a cheese maker in the middle of a small town. It was a tiny little room with a bunch of the folks who worked there sitting around drinking coffee. And they didn't seem happy to see us.)
Anyway, Google is hoping to spare us from that awkward moment with Google Business Views. A feature of Google Maps and Street View that allow you to virtually enter the place of business beforehand.
Now, if you have the type of place that people don't really appreciate until they get inside (in my experience, the vast majority of the most interesting shops) you can hire a photographer to create a Business View, 360 tour of your operations.
It's pretty cool idea.
Gallica is the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France. It contains imagery in the form of books, periodicals, maps, and other materials containing countless type treatments, illustrations, and photographs.
I saw this wonderfully different cover by Peter Donnelly for Organic Gardening magazine and I tracked him down. Here is the cover and some other examples of his work.
Food isn't all they do, but Mucca Design does some lovely, food-oriented work—menus, signage, websites, packaging, table elements, and so on.
My son Rob Green, Johnny Hugel, and their firm Mobelux have launched an interesting new app that helps you find something to eat versus somewhere to eat.
Best Dish is a perpetual, user-judged competition that allows folks to vote for the best dishes in a particular community/city. So, for example, everyone votes for the best pizza in Richmond, Virginia and those who check-in can look up "Pizza" in "Richmond, Virginia" and easily see the dishes that currently hold the top spots.
I like it. Best Dish is fun to use and has none of the complexity of an UrbanSpoon or Yelp (though I like and use those too). I can see how Best Dish could become a go-to forum for those who are more interested in finding a new favorite dish than searching out the best-rated places to eat (clearly a more time consuming task).
Among other things, Typecast lets you layout, size, and combine fonts from Typekit, Fontdeck, Fonts.com, Webtype, MyFonts, and Google Web Fonts. It is free for use with Google Fonts and has a charge for including the other type providers. (You can test drive it free for two weeks--without using a credit card.)
I came across a website I wanted to share with you and I thought I'd try something new: a quick show and tell. It's a simple-looking design but it has a lot of visual interest. And thats what its all about isn't it?
Last month we discussed the logistics and etiquette of taking photographs and I heard from a few folks who shared their experience. I though you'd appreciate, this fascinating story from Ed Lain at Lazer Grafix"
"For anyone interested in history, here's a brief article about a Philadelphia photographer turned Sci-fi writer who took a picture of the Liberty Bell...
Also, somewhat related, do a search of YouTube for "recording police" or "photographing police" and you'll see that the laws are different from state to state and that not everyone even knows what the laws are."
Here's a new-to-me feature of iStock, a look at trends in illustration. From "paper effects" to "vintage print techniques," some of the recent trends they are following.
Typeface designer Tobias Frere-Jones, formally of Hoefler & Frere-Jones, is now blogging.
There are many repositories of photographs, illustrations, film, audio, and writing the feature work that has fallen out of copyright. Material that is free to use without restriction or with some provisos but without cost.
Public Domain Review says, "Our aim is to help our readers explore this rich terrain - like a small exhibition gallery at the entrance to an immense network of archives and storage rooms that lie beyond."
It definitely belongs on your list of resources.
I like the idea Eye Magazine has here. They translate the practice of leafing through a magazine off a magazine rack into the online world simply by shooting a video of someone leafing through the pages. It certainly gives you enough information to decide whether or not you're interested. Without giving away the content.
In case you're new to Eye, it is a graphic design journal, that offers, "...Informed writing about design and visual culture."
A friend who teaches a college-level design course bought a walls-worth of small frames and invited fifty designers to contribute a piece of work. The idea being, to provide future students with nuggets of motivation and inspiration. This phrase, an opinion near and dear to my heart, is one I would like every young designer to hear. (I wish someone had told me early on.)
To that end, I have created a 8.5 by 11-inch sheet that includes the phrase and a few tips on keeping your solutions new and fresh.
Agree? Print it out and hang it up. Disagree? Print it out, hang it up, and throw stuff at it.
While we're on the subject of legality and photographic rights (Friday's post). Let's visit a few resources that will help you figure out whether or not you can photograph a specific product, person, building, and so on, for a particular purpose.
I LOVE logo design, always have (a few of my own designs are pictured below). This post features a few odds and ends on the subject that have crossed my path lately.
I've been looking for a link like this for a long time. For a site that features "normal" copywriters (as if there were such a thing), versus those who write "killer direct mail" and whose every page ends with an "Add to cart" button.
Modern Copywriter is the home of Jason Siciliano, an ad agency copywriter and creative director who explains, "I started Modern Copywriter as a way to keep track of all the fabulous copywriters out there and, possibly, as a way for us to connect. That's really all there is to it."
Well, as far as I'm concerned, it's gold.
I'm always curious about what we are currently teaching about marketing and design at the university level. Why? Because I think it's useful to understand that perspective. I don't know about you but I've been at this for a while so I find it useful to pull in other perspectives to ensure that my approach to things takes current, conventional thinking into account. (Not to imply that I necessarily knew all of this to begin with.)
To that end, here, from the publisher's website are two chapters from Integrated Advertising, Promotion, and Marketing Communications, by Kenneth E. Clow and Donald Baack.
Transparent film and film processing were not available to the public until the late 1880s, so I think it's safe to say it was around that time that photography first became a part of human consciousness.
Today, photographs are the air we breath. In 2013 one source estimated Facebook users alone were uploading an average of 350 million photographs PER DAY.
The statistics about Facebook photography uploads comes from a white paper about Internet.org, "A global effort to make affordable Internet access available to the next five billion people." (972KB PDF)...
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If primes, ampersands, and solidi don't float your boat, move on —this post is not for you. If, however, you find such minutia interesting and useful, you have a great treat in store. Meet Keith Houston, enjoy his wonderful blog, order your copy of his book, Shady Characters—The secret life of punctuation.
Thanks to Jim Green for pointing us to it.
Nikon's Small World website identifies itself as, "the leading forum for showcasing the beauty and complexity of life as seen through the light microscope."
Here's a challenge. Next time you're stuck for a stylistic direction, choose an image from Small World and use it as inspiration for the shapes, textures, and/or color palette of the project.
Here's an excellent post by Amit Agarwal regarding some, somewhat esoteric, components you should include in your website design.
Last week someone leaked an internal New York Times report regarding its challenges in the digital age (dated March 24, 2014), that included this declaration: "Of all the tasks we discuss in this report, the challenge of connecting with an engaging readers -- which extends from online comments to conferences -- has been the most difficult."
Clearly, the entire report is worth reading as it relates to technology, design, and marketing. But what struck me, from what I've read thus far, is the particularly difficult issue of personalizing (socializing) a large organization. It is the element of the equation that has made it possible for tiny little startups to big-bang their way into the marketplace—and in doing so, challenging the standing of institutional organizations like the Times.
How, as it applies to reader interaction, do you transform a big organization into a small one? And, after the dust settles, is it even possible?
If you had unlimited resources to determine the direction of advertising and marketing, what would you conclude? Coca-Cola, a company that spends more on advertising in a day (10 million) than I will make in a lifetime, decided a few years back that it's all about content marketing.
First is Coca-Cola's strategy followed by a recent article that questions whether the strategy is working.
If you read my blog regularly (optimism), you know I'm interested in copyright law. Not only because I want to be sure I establish and maintain the intellectual property rights of my work, but because I occasionally like to find and re-use photographs, illustrations, and other types of ephemera in the public domain.
If you think determining what is and is not in the public domain is easy, you haven't dug deep enough. This link points to an excellent article by the Senior Policy Advisor to the Cornell University Library on such topics, Peter Hirtle.
He explains some of the complexities of what he calls the science and the art of determining what is in the public domain and what is not.
I've always gotten along better with copywriters than art directors. Copywriters, to me, have the real power in the art director/copywriter relationship. That's because, logically, most projects are born from ideas and words verus designs and illustrations. Yes, yes, I understand that designs are ideas, but the words used to express them fall to the copywriter.
Dave Trott reminds me to some of the old school copywriters and agency principals I have worked with. They are (generally speaking) smart, certain, hardened, and a wee bit cynical.
A couple of folks have pointed me to a recent post from The Colossal regarding a 700-plus-page, handwritten and illustrated, "peek into the workshop of 17th-century painters and illustrators."
In Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l'eau, Dutch artist and author A. Boogert, "describes how to make watercolour paints." As you will see, it would seem to be the predecessor of modern color matching systems such as the Pantone Guide.
I think what make it so interesting is the exactness and subtlety of the artist's color shade interpretations. I don't know if we can say, anyone alive today "knows" color any better than this artist who lived almost 300 years ago—or whether technology will ever replace such feeling.
Yes, this is a boring link. However, free information about the subject is not all that easy to find and, when you want to know which agency currently services which clients (or vice-versa), it can come in pretty handy.
Agency ComPile is, "the most current, comprehensive and powerful directory of North American marketing communications agencies."
Here's a good example of how many small design decisions contribute to a subtle, but effective style. For example...
The navigation controls at the top right.
The "HERE TODAY" "GONE TODAY" text icons to the left and right.
The GIF animations.
The diversity of thumbnail accent images.
Broadly speaking, I believe, yes. Certainly, there are certain situations in which, I am sure, brainstorming has produced a product that was superior to that the individuals were able to produce on their own. But, to me, it has always been a rather tortuous process.
My mind works by associating one thought with the next and brainstorming does nothing more than form a roadblock to my moving to the next logical conclusion. No, not because my idea is always the best idea, but because I don't think like a group—I think as an individual.
In any case, another piece of research is just now surfacing that seems to take another few steps toward proving that brainstorming is not the creative outlet so many think it is.
He is best known for his iconic Rolling Stone nameplate but that, as far as I am concerned, is a mere footnote to his real contribution—typefaces including Modesto, Roswell, Poster Black, and so many others.
He's the real deal, a hand lettering artist whose work has the added dimension that comes with knowledge of the physical craft of typography—the composition of characters with pencils, pens, and ink.
I saw The Grand Budapest Hotel over the weekend and it is a feat of design. As the world becomes more and more design-centric, it is this type of film that will satiate our hunger for rich visual style and substance.
If you love ephemera and visual energy, put it at the top of your list.
It points to a story, reported last week, about 14-year-old student Suvir Mirchandani who published an article that the United States Government could save over $136 million per year by changing the typefaces it uses to Garamond. What surprised me was, when I mentioned the same on Facebook last week and it reached more people than any other post I've ever written.
What the on-air story failed to mention was, while it is a good idea on the student's part and a good reminder, that it was, by no means, a revelation. Having dug a little deeper, I found a large number of initiatives in and outside of government that address this very issue.
But what really piqued my interest was, how easily restating your case in a different context can so dramatically revive interest in a topic. It got me thinking about other issues and ideas that I could help clients recast in different terms.
Here is the original story followed some examples of what anyone can do to save money on paper and ink.
Thanks to Matt Hanna for pointing us to it.
This report from the EPA demonstrates how to reduce the use of ink AND paper using a combination of reduced margins and line spacing, changes in fonts used and their size, using "shrink to fit," deleting advertisements from web articles, and so on.
Newspapers have been upping the ante the last couple of years by publishing in depth, illustrated features that include stills, video, audio, animation, maps, and so on—a form of interactive journalism. It seems to be catching on.
There's plenty of controversy about whether parallax scrolling has replaced the drop shadow for the most overused web effect, but (to me) these examples were worth seeing.
BTW, the piece I pointed you to last week, Ken Burns On Story, includes some of the signature parallax scrolling he has used in so many of his documentaries. So much so, in editing circles it is known as the Ken Burns Effect...
A new royalty-free image collection has sprouted up that is offering, what looks like, a very attractive deal—it's called the Dollar Photo Club.
Membership, they explain, is simple: "...just $10 a month gives you unlimited access to our images, all royalty-free and available for any project or document with absolutely no limits on time, region, or print runs."
The collection is from Fotolia.com and includes access to over 25 million images. So far, I'm impressed by both the selection and the quality.
Thanks to Lee Garvey for pointing us to it.
In this wonderful short piece by Sarah Klein and Tom Mason, Ken Burns talks about the craft of storytelling.
I must have been in the principal's office the day Kirby Ferguson introduced his Everything is a Remix series—somehow I missed it.
Since 2010 he has published a four-part video series making the case that we have lost sight of the original copyright laws from which the concept of intellectual property grew.
Ferguson says, "The belief in intellectual property has grown so dominant it's pushed the original intent of copyrights and patents out of the public consciousness. But that original purpose is still right there in plain sight. The copyright act of 1790 is entitled 'an Act for the encouragement of learning.' The Patent Act is 'to promote the progress of useful Arts.'"
"Nobody starts out original." He explains, "We need copying to build a foundation of knowledge and understanding. And after that... things can get interesting."
This is the most interesting graphic design, illustration, photography, and intellectual property news I've read in the last five years: Today, Getty Images announced a new policy that allows users to embed millions of its images for non-commercial use.
I believe this has the potential of changing the whole face of image use.
Thanks to Lee Garvey for pointing us to it.
To me, what identifies a truly talented type designer is their ability to create organic-looking shapes and curves. Australian designer Bobby Haiqalsyah has a particular gift for creating compositions of letters and filigree that look as if they grew from magic ground.
Knowing who our decedents are, where they came from, what they contributed, and what their lives were like, to a degree, helps us put our own lives in perspective. The same holds true about understanding your craft—knowing some history about graphic design and some of the players has, to me, always seemed a worthwhile pursuit. When, for example, I look back at a particularly handsome nameplate for a magazine, knowing how it evolved potentially helps me identify the steps that might reveal ways of producing a similarly impressive outcome.
To that end, here is a piece of typographic news that is worth knowing, noting, and appreciating: Mike Parker died Sunday. If you have not heard the name, I hope the following parts and pieces will begin to help you appreciate the gravity of his life—and his influence on ours.
Thanks to my friends Jessica Mills Jones and David Frenkel for alerting me to the news. They have many good remembrances of their friend Mike's passion for the art and science of typography.
I was struck by this post about famous landmarks under construction. It reminds me of how much of design is about simplifying the appearance and function of the subject--and how often good design masks its real complexity.
The sleek, gentle curves of the Eiffel Tower, for example, are deceptively elegant and simple. I did not fully appreciate the complexity of its structure until I began looking at the original plans.
I think graphic design works the same way. Our job is to take a complex mix of facts, opinions, and imagery and translate them into a seamless, easy-to-understand action.
Michael Flarup designs app icons and is kind enough let the rest of share in his workflow. His "templates" for presenting icons are more than a shape and shadow. His Photoshop resource files allows you to add your basic design and automatically generate all the various sizes required on iOS and Android. The PSD also includes a collection of built in textures and colors.
An impressive, media-rich website created by ad agency Mullen.
This is very smart design. "Automated micromarketing" provider Nimblefish creates a series of video snippets that address specific, individual issues. It then produces multiple variations of its client's presentations—each to address a specific set of choices the user provides.
For example, if the user selects A, B, and C, they are shown presentation 1. And if the user selects A, C, and F, they are shown presentation 3.
You don't need a hybrid system to do the same thing. You simple ask questions and produce a version of the video for each set of answers.
Thanks to Karla Humphrey for pointing us to it.
To me, branding coffee is a lot like branding wine. There are lots of wine and coffee connoisseurs but there are also many of us who, all other things being equal, look for style and packaging.
So when a recent article from Roast Magazine listed the 10 most popular coffee shops in America, my eyes perked up. It's interesting to see how differently each company (the REALLY successful ones) markets its product.
I was commenting that I wasn't "feelin" the graphics from the new H&R Block ad campaign. It is a rather plain-looking border (everything is "flat" these days) with a clown-like bow tie symbol. I not only didn't understand the style, I didn't understand the bow tie reference.
When others began to speculate what the bow tie might mean, my interest was piqued and I dug a little deeper. I discovered that, if you look close, that the spokesperson for the ads, H&R Block preparer Richard Gartland, is wearing a brightly-colored green bow tie in the four spots that make up the campaign.
And that reminds me of how important it is to avoid getting stuck in the account cocoon. Where you see the whole of what you're doing but others don't. Where you, because of your daily involvement, see nuance that the average viewer (who sees a single spot on one occasion) does not.
I forget where I heard this but it has always stuck with me: When creatives present full page newspaper ads to a group, they typically hang or project them on a wall. The problem with that is that standing six feet away from an ad and holding a newspaper in your hands 12 inches away is a very different experience.
My point is, we've got to continually remind ourselves of who we are trying to reach—who they are, where they are, what we can realistically expect they understand about our subject, and how involved they will actually, realistically, become in it.
What follows is a fascinating example of how one group of artist's pulled parts and pieces of the work that preceded them and recast it as their own. It is not about relative unknown, in this case it is a side-by-side, shot-by-shot comparison (by StooTV) of George Lucas and Steven Speilberg's "Raiders of the Lost Ark" and 30 other adventure films produced between 1919-1973.
My point is, questions of intellectual property are complex. When does borrowing become stealing? When is imitation, transformation? What is the difference between the idea and the expression of it?
An aside, two more interesting, related links...
I have been wondering why the posts I create using images, links, and text on my Ideabookfb Facebook page seem to "reach" significantly fewer readers than those without images and links.
So I tried an experiment prompted by an article by Shelly Palmer, a Tech Expert for WNYW-TV in New York. He posed that Facebook posts created using text, images, and links reach far fewer of your potential readers than those without images. And, if you read through Palmer's article, it appears the folks at Facebook agree (with the expected provisos).
In any case, I did a simple (albeit unscientific) test of my own and what he says certainly seems to be the case. If you've made the same mistake as I have (using images with my text and links) I think you'll find this quite interesting.
To be fair, I don't believe the numbers "lie" but I do think, if you are not aware of this issue, the way it works is counter-intuitive and something I wish had been made more clear.
I received an email recently from a PR firm asking me to look at a product that requires a Facebook login as criteria for participation in the use of its service.
I wrote them back to say, "I've got to admit that I have a problem with services that use a Facebook login as criteria for participation in the use of a service. That makes me a bad candidate for an positive outcome."
Do others feel this way? Honestly, I simply don't want anyone looking over my shoulder any more than they already do, feeding me what they think I want to hear.
It recalls an article which appeared in a local newspaper a couple of weeks ago. It discussed what they labeled "junk mail" and featured a reader who had collected a years worth of mail and done an analysis of how little of it addressed any of their real, personal needs. The article went on to ask, "...when is enough, enough?"
To me, these are two stories about the same issue. An important one.
When is enough, enough? My hope is never. Slow or shut down direct mail? To the contrary, I believe it's critical, at this particular place in time, to defend, even encourage, the sharing of products, services, and ideas through advertising (direct mail, newspapers, magazines, television). It not only provides opportunities to buy, sell, and win others to our way of thinking, it is fundamental to the creation of commerce and jobs.
Why so critical now? Because the universe of many Web users is fast becoming, what internet activist Eli Pariser has dubbed, a "filter bubble."
I've mentioned this before. He is referring to the fact that many online services now operate using algorithms that determine, because a particular user has shown interest in "A," that they will, necessarily, be interested in "B." And that, based on the accumulation of that data, the services begin to feed the user more and more of what they have determined to be the user's interests to the exclusion of other, perfectly valid and useful information. Ultimately, the known exceeds the unknown, and the user is isolated in a commercial, cultural, or ideological bubble.
That's why I told the PR firm I didn't like services that require a Facebook login (for example) as criteria for participation in the use of a service. And why we should hold dear what many demonize as "junk mail" and other forms of non-invasive media that provide us opportunities to see, read, and hear offers and ideas. Yes, these forms of communication require you to exert the energy to accept or decline such invitations, but that seems like a small price to pay for the good that free, unfettered commerce and sharing provides.
Once a week Adobe and FWA award The Cutting Edge Award to "the project that best highlights the newest capabilities of the modern web."
There are countless paths to mastering the arts of marketing and graphic design—I know of at least three: via the classroom, through a mentor, and on-the-job.
In the classroom, a teacher uses their knowledge of the subject, a curriculum, and supporting materials to lead you through theories and explain practices. Ultimately, you find a job and use what you are taught as a foundation for figuring what works and what doesn't and building your own mix of practices.
You learn from a mentor by going to work for a design studio, an advertising agency, or some other entity. The individual or the group that leads it, presumably, has already built a repertoire of practices that you ultimately amend and adopt as your own.
Perhaps the most challenging way to learn about marketing and design is on-the-job (to work on the engine while it's running). In this case, you are thrust into real marketing situations and invent solutions in response to the problems you are presented with. Ultimately, through trial and error, you cobble together what works for you and your clients. It's a tough, long-way-around learning process, but the fact that your ideas are proven by experience gives you the confidence that comes with that type of certainty.
Today I want to point you to a book and website produced by a designer who learned his craft that last way, on-the-job. His name is Dan Antonelli and the name of his book is Building a Big Small Business Brand. I point you to it for two reasons. First, because it offers a thoughtful look at small business branding, and second, because he provides an excellent model for promoting and selling marketing and design services.
First, the book.
As I said, Antonelli learned his craft on-the-job and Building a Big Small Business Brand is a blueprint for what, he found, works for real clients in the real world. His primary message is this: In small business branding, the logo is the hub around which all marketing revolves. The book presents a smart, clearly explained approach to branding that should be required reading for anyone planning to open a small business (or turn around a failing one).
"Most businesses make a critical error," he explains. "They never really consider a brand or logo for their business, they don't understand how important it is, so they opt for the expensive way to move forward. They've exhausted most of their funding on equipment, rent, furniture, etc. Ironically, they've spent all their money on getting into business, and they have little left to actually market their business."
The book lays out broad, foundational ideas, discusses specific approaches to naming, logo design, and branding, cites real-world marketing case studies, and explains how and where to get help.
Secondly, and what I think other graphic designers and marketers will find particularly interesting, is how Antonelli's uses the book and his website to promote his studio's design and marketing services.
The book presents the studio's philosophies, reveals its process, and shows examples of its work—and the web site fills in the details (displaying the book prominently throughout). I'm not suggesting that every designer or marketer need write a book, but when you view it as a package, you'll see the value of how the book and the website are used together to establish credibility and attract new business.
I met another designer online today and immediately pointed to a typo on his website. Yes, I know it's obnoxious, but as I've always said, I'd rather find out sooner than later. Fortunately, I believe he felt the same way.
It reminded me of a campaign that ran a bunch of years ago for a large state economic development agency. They ran a series of ads in business publications, I believe multiple times, before someone noticed that, in the headline of the ad, the name of the state had been misspelled.
What was so extraordinary was the no one seemed to notice. Perhaps an indication of the quality of the ad's impact. Perhaps one of those quirky typos that your brain fixes automatically. In either case, I doubt the account executive enjoyed making that call to the client.
Someone mentioned recently, the technique of reading text backwards for proofreading purposes which prompted me to search out a more comprehensive list of tips. Here are few useful style and proofreading resources I found.
Forbes magazine and its Contributor Avi Dan asked 1,850 CMOs and other marketing executives to rank the top advertising agencies. And they voted those below as the top ten.
Why list them here? I think it's important to keep track of the most visible work and these big agencies clearly have tremendous influence on our business.
Though I worked as a freelancer for The Martin Agency and others earlier in my career, when I started my own company, I did not pursue big clients. I became, instead, a small business designer—and, over the years, I've come to think of it as an almost entirely different business.
Thanks to Diane CookTench pointing us to the article.
I am an affiliate of several services. If you use these links to make purchases, I get a small commission. Thanks in advance for your support.
Typically I'd describe an illustrator's work by comparing it to something I've seen before or a feeling it provokes. Though I definitely like Longo's work, I'm having a hard time identifying either.
What do you think?
Nature Valley is the brand name of a granola product line first introduced by General Mills in 1973. It's nice to see company's get creative about giving back.
As website designs and apps get simpler looking (the trend), it's more difficult to make your work visually distinctive. Very subtle stuff that requires a very delicate touch.
One way of distinguishing your design from others is how it functions—subtleties like how menus open and text appears. While that certainly isn't a revelation, the tutorials, articles, and the playground at Codrops is.
As they explain it, "Codrops is a web design and development blog that publishes articles and tutorials about the latest web trends, techniques and new possibilities. The team of Codrops is dedicated to provide useful, inspiring and innovative content that is free of charge."
And they're doing it. This is exciting stuff.
Thanks to Chris Miller for pointing us to it.
At the risk of hurting your brain (this kind of stuff sometimes hurts mine), I point you to Adobe Web Platform team's blog.
As they explain it, "The Adobe Web Platform team is committed to providing better features for the web by working with the community to develop new standards and make them possible by contributing to Open Source projects such as WebKit and Chromium. We're just one of the several teams working on some amazing Open Web technologies at Adobe."
Something over 20 percent of all websites use WordPress as their content management system (W3Techs)—roughly six times that of the next runner up, Joomla. Yet, until now, I did not know the story behind its development or the names of the people who developed then and contribute to it today.
Nielsen Norman Group, the firm made famous by Jakob Nielsen (the usability expert), offers this thoughtful piece on website carousel design. It's my favorite type of design insight: an examination of the details that make a real difference.
To me, though he looks like a fairly young guy, Matthew Tapia is an old-school lettering artist. The best way I can think of describing it is, though it has a feeling of being free-form, when you look at it closely, his work is methodically organized.
It's called Niice and it is a search engine for creative inspiration. I've played with it for a while now and am impressed by the quality of what it finds.
As the designers of Niice explain it, "The internet is full of inspiration, but since Google doesn't have a 'Good Taste' filter, finding it means jumping back and forth between blogs and gallery sites. Niice is an inspiration search engine, letting you search across multiple hand-picked sources (Behance, Illustration age, Designspiration, SiteInspire & Fonts In Use for now, but we're working to add more)."
By the way, I very much like the idea that the sponsor of the site is given top billing at the top left, just below the search window.
Essayist and cartoonist Tim Krieder struck a blow for creatives Sunday in the New York Times. As he explains it, "People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn't be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing."
As of noon Sunday there were already over 400 comments, including this gem from Max Alexander: "With every new book I write, the publicist of the moment earnestly advises me that the best way to get publicity is to do lots of free blogging and tweeting. Then she sends me a bill."
Thanks to Jessica Mills-Jones for pointing us to it.
And we know that rarely happens. But I l-o-v-e the new interface and design of Square Cash. It is a new service offered by Square Inc.—the folks who make Square Register, the device and app you've seen being used for completing credit cards transactions using an iPhone.
Square Cash allows you to transfer money from your debit account to another person's debit account—for free. Yes, for free.
Square's Creative Director is Robert Andersen, formerly a product designer at Apple. I must say, I admire his ability to oversee a project of this magnitude and arrive at such a simple-looking solution. Stand by, I've asked who should be credited with the design and I'll share it with you when (and if) they share it.
In the meantime...
Hoefler & Frere-Jones, by any measure, one of the world's premiere type foundries has introduced Cloud.typography, a new, impressive webfont solution.
Thanks to Rob Green for pointing us to it.
As you know, I'm always looking for interesting ways to approach design and marketing problems.
AmericasPrinter.com is doing something I haven't seen before. Each of their sales managers has produced a video and its website offers them up as a way to choose who you would like to be your rep. I'm curious to know how many people make the choice and whether there are a few people who have gotten the most conversions because of their presentation.
If you've got a few minutes, tell me what you think about the process and who you would choose.
In any case, its easy to think of lots of ways to use a similar appeal.
Here's an interesting idea to add to your illustrative repertoire.
As part of its campaign for Brandermill Woods (a retirement community), Five19 Creative created a series of illustrations that feature real faces amongst illustrated backgrounds.
I can think of lots of ways to employ that technique. Cool idea.
Moonbot Studios is about trying to do things that we've never done before. In one piece I watched, William Joyce, its co-founder says, "The less qualified we are the more excited we are to take something on."
Moonbot Studios bills itself as a multi-platform storytelling studio specializing in feature-quality animation, traditional publishing and mobile app development.
I received this email September 17th...
I wanted to get in touch with somebody I could compliment for this amazing site & blog - I love your demonstrated work, tips, tricks, and professionalism. I think it is absolutely amazing. In the topic of graphic design, I thought you should know that we, [company name], are having a Logo Design contest! This contest is viewed by us as a career-making opportunity for a freelance designer to potentially have their work seen nationally by millions of people on TV and on the Internet, driven by one of the largest advertisers in the country...plus the winner will receive $1,050.
I thought this would be a great opportunity to mention on your blog for your aspiring graphic designers and followers to see. This is such a big opportunity that it can't be missed! It started today, Sept 17th and ends on Sept 23rd.
Instructions are as such:
The logo should communicate that [company description].
Follow [logo contest website] to register for a free account and to post your design. For more information on [company name], please do not hesitate to visit our website (contestants are encouraged to do so, as well).
Excellent--perhaps [company name] would like to have a contest amongst new accountants to see who can do the best job of filling out its 2013 tax return (with $1050 going to the winner!) or maybe amongst fledgeling manufacturers to see who can come up with the best new product (with $1050 going to the winner).
Better yet, perhaps [company name] could change its business model. You and your competitors each complete a project [they provide an expensive product and service], the customer chooses their favorite, and the winner gets $1050!
"It's not the same thing," you argue?
It is. If you think a brand designer's time, training, equipment, software, office space, and so on, are somehow less expensive or less important than those of any other profession, you are simply mistaken.
Be clear: Such "contests" are not participated in by any designer who respects his or her profession and are not offered by any organization that appreciates and understands the value of excellence.
They called it the 2013 Easter Bunny Apology Tour and it was designed for UNREAL Candy, a company out to "prove that candy tastes better without the junk."
Crunch Brands, the ad agency that developed the campaign describes it like this: "UNREAL was entering a crowded candy category saturated by mega brands with colossal budgets. In order to succeed, UNREAL had to make people aware of how much junk the candy industry puts in its candy that just doesn't need to be there. And then offer an alternative that's in the same aisle as traditional candy, and with equally great taste."
This, to me, the quintessence of smart marketing—educational, engaging, a little self-deprecating, and, at its heart, seemingly economical (or could be). I think it's a great model for other folks who have a good story and need to break through the clutter.
The dimensions of profile, cover, and other miscellaneous images are constantly changing. Here, from Raidious (a social media marketing firm), are the latest image dimensions for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and YouTube...
Among other things, Ruslan Khasanov dabbles in liquid calligraphy and studies of color. If you wonder where the next frontier of design is, or want to create it, you've got to experiment. I found Ruslan Khasanov's work particularly interesting.
Photoshop's Layer Style feature really has changed the world of design in profound ways. It makes it possible to simply copy and apply styles that instantly, fundamentally transform the artwork. It also makes it possible to create new effects by looking at how someone else as constructed a style and taking it a few steps further.
Thanks to my friend Chris Miller for pointing us to Graphic Burger, the home of Romanian designer and illustrator Raul Taciu who offers a growing collection of PSD layer style resources.
Thanks to Raul Taciu for sharing his expertise.
For years, the marketing community has been criticized for the mere notion of subliminal messaging. Yet, that idea pales in comparison to the way consumers are researched, prodded, corralled, and branded in 2013.
Haha... most, I think, would not be comforted to hear two of the folks from Google's Android Apps team describe how developers should view the user. They present a kind of "emotional framework" (my term) for UI design that employs principles such as "touch their hearts," "sprinkle encouragement," and "only show what I need when I need it."
Is it just me or does it sound somewhat foreboding?
It is time to begin shifting our thinking about people over 65 and the web (Earth to marketers: Pigeon-holing consumers as "senior citizens" will come back to bite you—to many it is a derogatory term).
What got me thinking about the subject is a summary of a Nielsen Norman Group report titled Seniors as Web Users. The tone of which seems to tag most older users as somehow unable to handle changes in color (seniors easily lose track of where they've been), no less navigate a complex user interface.
When nothing could be further from the truth. People now reaching the age of 65 are not a generation of clueless users—many are the folks who imagined the world wide web to begin with, who built the internet, who developed the codeing platforms, and invented the content management systems.
These were the first adopters and, in many cases, know as much or more about how technology works, what's new, and what's trending than many of their younger counterparts. Bill Gates, for example, was born in 1955, Walter S. Mossberg the WSJ technology expert is 66, Rob Enderle the renowned technology analyst is 58. Oracle's Larry Ellison is 68--these are not people we would consider out of touch.) Young or old, there are enthusiastic adopters and reluctant users, it just depends on where your interests lie.
For those reasons, from a marketing standpoint, I think we need to be very careful about treating these users like we would the generation before them—those who, in fairness, did not use computers for a significant number of years before they reached the same age.
My point is the marketing community has long used age as the gold standard for predicting behavior. As we approach a time when most affluent consumers have spent much of their adult life on computers and online, we need to reconsider if categorizing computer users by age is as relevant as it once was.
As we have discussed in recent weeks, the design world is experiencing a new trend, for lack of a better, all encompassing description, lets call it the rise of simplification. Here is an interesting, useful take on defining what some are calling flat design and an explanation of the principles behind it.
People and their stories.
How can a small business compete with its big competitors?
By showing us people and telling us their stories.
Why might I pay a little bit more for a product or service?
Because I know the players and I identify with their story.
Below is a link to the "About Us" page of a website that reminds me of the importance of this point. When I want to buy something from a new source, I always look around to find clues about who (or what) I am dealing with. I want to avoid, whenever possible, the robotic aggregators created by people who seem intent on remaining anonymous.
There is no right way of getting personal (thank goodness), and this is just one organization's attempt to present its story. But it tells me that the folks who run it think of themselves as something different and special and I like the idea that they're attempting to tell me why that makes a difference.
Does it work? You may never know. But I can't see how it hurts. With literally millions of ways to purchase goods and services on the web, you've got to understand that a sleek, easy-to-use, nicely designed store is only the minimum requirement. If you're selling the same type of stuff as the next guy, you're going to have to do things that set yourself apart. Introducing real people in real places is one way of doing it.
BTW, I love the idea of showing photographs of real stuff in a real warehouse. It makes me want to see some pictures of the people.
Learn to write headlines.
I recently came across this wonderful two-page newspaper ad by Schwab and Beatty Advertising credited to Victor Schwab and dated 1958. It is titled, "100 advertising headlines--and why they were so profitable."
For a headline to be effective, to paraphrase, it must be read by someone who is interested in the subject and promise the reader a worthwhile reward for reading it.
Lot of what is said here is as true today as it was fifty-plus years ago. Thanks to the Lawrence Bernstein and InfoMarketBlog.com for providing the scan and transcribing its contents.
The headline is a play on one from the list, "To people who want to write--but can't get started."
I was watching a news program the other day and it occurred to me how one-dimensional news set design seems to be. By that I mean there seem to be very few sets that don't look like the flight deck of the Star Ship Enterprise.
And that got me to looking. Here are some sources that will get you started at looking into this fascinating field. Whether it's the graphics used to represent specific stories or the design of the sets themselves, it would seem to be a burgeoning field for graphic designers.
It is certainly one close to my heart. I started my design career working at WTTG in Washington, DC creating the graphics for the 10 0'Clock News. It was, in those days, an exciting place to be. Not only because I was designing on the fly for the evening's newscast, but because I part of a newsroom team of dedicated writers, technicians, and talent that focussed on getting a one-hour program on the air every night—as you can imagine there was rarely a dull moment.
What was it like for me? This article on Television New Graphics from a 1978 issue of Broadcast Programming & Production discussed the Vizmo rear projection system we used to present graphics in prehistoric times.
Julian Frost, the animator of this wonderful little piece, said: "What an odd thing it is for a company to pay us to joyfully remind you that their products may kill you. I read somewhere that train accidents have gone down since the video. I hope that's true!"
Mumbrella.com quotes Chloe Alsop, marketing manager of Metro Trains, as saying: "This campaign is designed to draw people to the safety message, rather than frighten them away."
"The Dumb Ways to Die: devised by John Mescall and Pat Baron of McCann Melbourne, lyrics by John Mescall, music by Ollie McGill, vocals by Emily Lubitz, and characters and animation by Julian Frost...
Apple announced a major redesign of it's mobile operating system a few days ago which is, in some ways, analogous to the changes in Windows 8 that Microsoft thrust upon the market last year.
They call it simplicity. And as we discussed with the Microsoft redesign, the goal it to find an alternative to what some see as the heavy-handed nature of a skeuomorphic interface.
Whether you like the changes of not (I'm good with it), it occurs to me that, in cases such as this, design has become a dictate. With many of us getting antsy about how much control the digital world is wielding these days, I wonder how long we'll accept having a major shift like this thrust upon us at the whim of the provider?
In any case, here is the new design and some discussion about it.
Retailers of housewares and furnishings clearly have an enormous impact on the ever-changing design aesthetic. What people buy is, in large part, the vision of a designer—and the combination of decisions they make regarding functionality, materials, textures, color, and so on. People see a vision they like and adopt it as their own—and I believe graphic design is much the same.
I thought about the importance of such influences when I received the 2013 Restoration Hardware Catalog(s)—five parts, 1300-plus pages, roughly 8 lbs of highly opinionated design. Unlike some mass marketers, RH is not shy about asserting its vision, so much so that I suspect most who see it are either for it or against it.
I don't love it all, but I like lots of it. What intrigues me most about its most recent offerings is the "Objects of Curiosity" catalog. An eclectic collection of accent pieces, sculptures, and such. I don't recall ever seeing anything like it.
Stephen Gordon founded Restoration Hardware in 1979, "...I put together photocopied catalogues of fittings and fixtures, hung a sign advertising, 'Restoration Hardware,' outside my house, and invited people in to look at binders and order things."...
In 2001 Gary Friedman joined the company and, by at least one account, saved the company from bankruptcy. It would appear that Friedman was the one to cast RH's current creative vision...A profile of Friedman from the Wall Street Journal...
That's a quotation credited to Frank Chimero, one of many from The Designer Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom researched and edited by Sara Bader. A few more examples:
Vince Frost said, "In hindsight, I think I've always been a designer. I was always inquisitive. Even when I was delivering newspapers I wanted to do it quickly, accurately, and make sure the paper landed on the doorstep in a nice line.
Stephen Doyle is credited with this insight: "I try to staff our studio with people who have curiosity and passion. And you must keep a constant lookout for who you might want to hire next, because often the curiosity of our team leads them on to other things. You can't keep brilliance; you let it shine, and then you have to let it go."
And Paul Rand said, "It is important to use your hands. This is what distinguishes you from a cow or a computer operator."
I found that Bader also speaks through Quotenik.com, the mission of which is...
"To preserve the integrity of quotes by confirming their accuracy... Every entry added to this collection--whether published hundreds of years ago or today--is verified and properly sourced."
And, "To gather and expand the inventory of quotable thoughts in our conversations and cultural consciousness so we have fresh material to consider and share."
I particularly appreciate reading the insights of a number of relatively young designers.
I had a discussion recently with another designer about which file formats to use when saving graphics and photographs for websites. As the discussion progressed, I realized that I have adopted ways of saving images over the years, but that it has been a long time since I read anything on the subject.
So I did some looking (to support the way I do it) and I thought I'd share what I found.
I am anxious to hear if this jives with the way you handle it.
Somewhere way back I read that PNG-24 should only be used on rare occasions—it makes big files that don't really buy you anything over JPEGs unless you're dealing with alpha transparency.
Instead, I would typically use JPEG/High/60 for photographs and photographs that include graphics such as text.
For straight graphics, such as a logo, I use PNG-8 which is, basically, a replacement for GIF. In this article about PNGs. you'll notice, in his list of "When to use what formats," that the author only favors using PNG-24 over JPEG when he needs to use alpha transparency.
Finally, Tammy Everts wrote an interesting article for Web Performance Today titled, "Are we optimizing our images like cavemen?" If you're a total design geek, you might what to read through it—she offers some interesting insights.
Pretty interesting. StreetArt Agency out of Ekaterinburg, Russia has developed a corporate identity for Malina.am, a new Internet TV channel. The art director is Andrei Kolokolov.
The headline reads, "New Product Innovation to be Delivered Exclusively Through Adobe Creative Cloud." In short, what they're saying is that Adobe Creative Suite 6 is the last edition of the CS and all future products will be available by subscription only.
The press release says, "...The company will focus creative software development efforts on its Creative Cloud offering moving forward. While Adobe Creative Suite 6 products will continue to be supported and available for purchase, the company has no plans for future releases of Creative Suite or other CS products. Focusing development on Creative Cloud will not only accelerate the rate at which Adobe can innovate but also broaden the type of innovation the company can offer the creative community."
My reaction is, "Good!" I signed up for the program a couple of months ago and I don't see a down side for anyone who uses the CSs on a regular basis — for $600 per year ($49 per month) you have access to the entire suite of Adobe products. $600 compared to buying or upgrading to a new product every couple of years for hundreds more.
This, eventually, will save Adobe hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue lost to piracy — and that, hopefully, will keep the cost to subscribers reasonable. Again, "Good!," you and I have been subsidizing that piracy for for long enough.
Adobe also announced (Wacom ain't going to like this) its first hardware device, a pressure sensitive stylus and an electronic ruler (below).
I suspect most designers have seen an episode or two of the AMC series Mad Men. It provides us with a pulp fiction-like look inside a 1960s, Madision Avenue advertising agency (hence "Mad Men") against the backdrop of a rebellious time in United States history.
Today I want to point you to a behind the scenes look at the making of the opening sequence to the show. As Cara McKenney, the producer of the piece for Imaginary Forces, puts it, "This was a new show and a period drama at that, with no-name actors, on a network with no success in developing original content."
I like Webb's bold illustrations. How would you describe the influence? Art Deco?
Late last year we discussed the decline of the skeuomorphic interface. This year we're looking at it from the opposite angle: flat design.
That's the term given to the trend of simple, (for the most part) shadowless imagery that seems to proliferate so much recent UI design.
Thanks to Jeff Fisher for pointing us to the catalyst for this post, a recent article in The New York Times titled "The Flattening of Design."
Tim Girvin points us to the ethereal images of photographer Matt Molloy. As I understand it he uses Photoshop to combine large numbers of still images to create what he calls "time stacks."
To paraphrase Woody Allen: I am not a hypochondriac — what I am is an alarmist. Hence, I don't typically spend a lot of time looking a medical illustrations.
But there is no escaping it, medical illustration is a fascinating segment of the illustration and graphic design professions.
I received an email recently from Karen Clark, the studio manager
at the AXS Biomedical Animation Studio in Toronto, Canada — she pointed to their work and I wanted to share it with you.
Which lead me, of course, to dig deeper...
I like how Zhang uses layering and shadows to offset simple vector shapes. Nice color palettes too.
The Good Web Guide quotes the creator of this website, Chris Wild, as describing himself as a "retronaut" — someone who "goes back in time using just perception;" we travel in time he says in "that tiny, tiny moment, just before we grasp the fact that our beliefs are wrong."
I love the idea, but I love Retronaut.com more. Wild serves up what is, perhaps, the most intreguing collections of imagery I've seen on the web.
Thanks to Bonnie Larner for pointing us to it.
Teehan+Lax — a design company in Toronto, Canada — is at it again. A couple of years ago I posted about their generosity in supplying Photoshop PSD files of the iPhone and iPad GUI.
Their latest contribution to the design community is a wonderful tool for creating hyper-lapse image sequences called Google Street View Hyperlapse.
It is a tool that uses data from Google's Street View API to help you define, capture, and create camera moves on Street View sequences.
The Shard — as in shard of glass — is a 72-storey skyscraper in London that opened to the public in February.
Today, I want to point you to a website designed by Francesca Panetta for The Guardian (the British national daily newspaper). It features a 360-degree, augmented-reality panorama of London, which not only presents the spectacular view but also points to places of interest and plays sounds from the city.
Nicely designed website. An experience not to be missed.
Do you or your client have a commodity product? Something that has no real, distinctive advantage over its competitor?
Then you drop the product into a story. You present it in a way that gives people a reason to take notice of it.
Here is a smart, real-life example of how it's done.
Would you take a few moments to share your thoughts? I'd like to hear your answer to the question and I'd also appreciate it if you'd point me to resources — bloggers, professional organizations, studios, advertising agencies, and so on — that you turn to keep up with design trends in your part of the world.
To be clear, I'm not looking for international resources — my hope, instead, is to get an idea of what distinguishes, if anything, the graphic design business in your country from the United States.
There might be differences regarding technical details, measurements, religious or political influences, language and typography, legal restrictions on professional practices, pervasive color palettes, trends in design styles, particularly influential individuals or organizations, and so on. What are those differences? Where do turn to discuss them or learn more?
The reason I ask is I'd like to write an article examining this issue. Please send you answers to chuckgreen(a)ideabook.com and use the "Subject:" "design by country."
Thanks in advance for anything you're willing to share.
I'm always on the lookout for interesting website design ideas. Here are a few that caught my eye recently.
I haven't done this before but I want to use today's post to point you to a developer I've been working with. Yes i'm being very specific, but bear with me, this will be useful to the folks who use the Movable Type content management system.
I've been working with Mihai Bocsaru, a developer in Romania, for four or five years now. He is a Movable Type expert of the first order and I can't recommend him more highly. In addition to his development services, he recently started a service for upgrading Movable Type websites. If you've ever upgraded your CMS for security reasons or to add new features, you know it can be a can of worms.
I can tell you from experience that Mihai and his crew makes if pretty painless.
Design-Seeds.com is a site you can use to discover interesting and inviting color palettes — palettes that can easily be reinterpreted for use online or in print.
It reminds me how many decisons a good photographer sometimes makes before they press the shutter release — about subject matter, composition, atmosphere, depth of field, lighting, focus, color, and so on. (To me black and white is often a the boldest of color choices.)
You can, of course, do this yourself by opening a photograph in Photoshop and using the eyedropper tool to sample different areas of the image.
Thanks to my friend Bruce Schneider for pointing us to it.
If you're interested in finding the source of any of the images, copy the image URL to the Tineye.com reverse image search engine and you may find the source.
"Off Book is a web-original series from PBS Arts that explores cutting edge arts and the artists that make it."
The piece on graphic design, for example, features commentary from and work by design heavyweights Debbie Millman, Drew Freeman, and Steve Attardo. Trying to explain what you do to a non-designer? These five to seven minute pieces are a good place to start.
Humor me — pretend for a moment that you care what I think.
I believe that consumers will ultimately reject the current form of social media marketing more virulently than they have "junk" mail, telemarketing, and Ginsu steak knife commercials.
Why? Because (first of all), they have some problems in common...
They are often perceived as an unwanted interruption
They require some form of avoidance by the consumer
They regularly provide access to unscrupulous sellers
They are difficult to opt out of
But social media marketing has one more, highly-important advantage or disadvantage: it makes the interaction very personal. Advertisers use the interests and information you contribute to discriminate against you — algorithms that dictate the results your searches, or what you have access to, based on your age, race, sex, socioeconomic status, and so on.
Over the last two decades, the web's liberation of information and access has won the interest and participation of billions of people. I believe that the organizations that use social media to manipulate the consumer will ultimately cause a wholesale rejection of its platform.
(Don't get me wrong, this is not a dig at ethical, transparent marketing — there are clearly many organizations that turn out important, informative, and entertaining messages that we all use, to one degree or another, to make buying decisions.)
I don't normally recommend products I don't use myself — but MailChimp will be an exception. MailChimp is an email-marketing service that provides some of the most advanced tools in the industry. I use Constant Contact to send my email newsletters, but I have really come to enjoy and appreciate the Resource Guides MailChimp offers provides to their subscribers and non-subscribers alike.
Titles cover topics such as...
> Transactional email
> Common email marketing rookie mistakes
> How to manage your list
> Email security
and so on...
Some of this information, of course, relates specifically to the MailChimp platform, but lots of it will be useful to anyone sending email for marketing purposes.
I like it when companies are confident enough about the value of their products that they aren't afraid to share their ideas.
I don't know whether or not you want to use this particular service, but I like the result. ThingLink is used to "create rich images with music, video, sound, text and more."
Prelinger Archives is a treasure trove of advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur films produced by and for US corporations, nonprofit organizations, trade associations, community and interest groups, and educational institutions.
The good news is, as I understand it, that the films are free to use however you want. Obviously, I'm not a lawyer so you should confirm this for yourself by reading the "Rights" section (left column) of the the Prelinger Archives home page at the Internet Archive.
Getty Images is licensing broadcast quality clips from many of the same films for a fee. Why pay? here's what they say at Prelinger.com:
"Prelinger Archives allows free access to many (but not all) films from their collection on the Internet Archive site. However, the Internet Archive does not provide written permission to use any material, and the user therefore assumes all risk when repurposing Prelinger footage. By way of contrast, when you license Prelinger clips from Getty Images, Getty Images will indemnify you against claims for copyright infringement relating to copyright in the footage clip. Getty Images charges for this service."
Again, I am not declaring this material is free to use, you must perform your own due diligence.
On with the show.
I was reading a story recently that compared the life spans of people living in two places. The people in one place, the author explained, live twenty years less than the people living in the other place. Then she went on to make the case, using statistical data, for the cause.
I have no idea whether this particular case was credible or not — it could be exactly what the author speculates or there could be some underlying cause that she missed entirely — in this type of case, it's very difficult to know. But I have learned to question.
It did get me thinking (again) about how much and how often we use statistics to make a point, sell a product, or promote an idea. And it reminds me about the special responsibility we have as marketers to use statistics and data in an ethical way.
Here are two books on the subject that you might find interesting. (Haha... then you will be skeptical too.)
First, How to Lie with Statistics by Darrell Huff. It is one of the rare non-fiction books that, after over 50 years in publication, stands at 1,715 in the Amazon Best Sellers Ranking. In part, the description explains it, "runs the gamut of every popularly used type of statistic, probes such things as the sample study, the tabulation method, the interview technique, or the way results are derived from the figures, and points up the countless number of dodges which are used to fool rather than to inform."
And second, Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking by Thomas Kida. It explains Kida's "'the six-pack of problems' that leads many of us unconsciously to accept false ideas:
"We prefer stories to statistics
"We seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas.
"We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in shaping events.
"We sometimes misperceive the world around us.
"We tend to oversimplify our thinking.
"Our memories are often inaccurate."
"In a complex society where success--in all facets of life--often requires the ability to evaluate the validity of many conflicting claims, the critical-thinking skills examined in this informative and engaging book will prove invaluable."
An old discussion surfaced this week and I'd like to hear your opinion about it. The question being, is it necessary to recognize the trademarks of third-party brands in materials you create for your clients? (I'm talking about word marks here, not design images.)
First, a disclaimer: The content of this website is offered for informational and educational purposes only — it is not legal advice. I recommend you check into these issues for yourself before taking any action.
My understanding has always been that it is only necessary to recognize the trademark of a third party when there is the potential for confusion or misrepresentation. In that case you mark the text with a trademark declaration (TM), a registered trademark symbol (R), a service mark (SM), or one of the prescribed citations designated by the trademark grantor.
Yes, trademark owners would like us to help them build brand recognition by adding marks, but it is my understanding that actually doing it is more of a courtesy than a requirement.
As you'll see listed below, lots of organizations declare trademarks (TM) and many go to the added expense of register those trademarks (R) with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. They publish very strick-sounding rules about what you must do in order to use their word marks but the question is what are the actual legal requirements. That's where it gets cloudy.
Furthermore, when I do label trademarks, I was instructed a long ago that it was sufficient to mark the first or most prominent use of the word or words only.
That said, I'd like to hear how you handle this issue.
Examples of corporate trademark guidelines:
Apple's Mac Developer Library does not contain all there is to know about designing Apps and Icons, but is certainly a good place to learn the basics. Lots of this thinking applies to just about any type of web design.
Here's a thoughtful evaluation of some recent responsive website designs by Jesse Gardner over at Plasticmind.com. Jesse is the VP of Technology at Simply Recipes which, over the holidays, had a few days with over one million unique visitors — so he has some cred.
I'm working on a responsive design for a client in recent days and came across some of the same sites Jesse did. I am particularly enamoured with this site by One Design Company. Both for the reduction formula (break points) and for the scheme they use to stack the pages — I like that it allows you to sort of browse the big picture before you "look inside."
Here's an in-depth look at how Adobe brands their suite of design programs.
We've all had those moments. You're climbing a ladder toward a goal and you suddenly discover that the ladder is on the wrong wall. If you manage designers (or other professionals who spend lots of time in cognition), this could be one of those moments.
Daniel Pink makes a compelling argument (with proof), that money is not necessarily the motivator we think it is.
The controversial subject of designer certification has raised its ugly head once again. If this doesn't scare the heck out of you, nothing will.
"Not every well known designer has a formal education. Nonetheless, education is at the core of tackling the problems and challenges of our ever-changing world. A formal design education combines theory, history and design engaged with sociology, anthropology and the environment. Design should not be driven by aesthetics, but by a deep understanding of design principles, its history and the evolving practices and methodologies of our field."
That is the first of five proposed edicts that would earn you a capital "D" in your "Designer" title. A campaign christened as CertifyD proposed by Esteban Pérez-Hemminger at Pratt Institute.
Ironically, the first sentence points to the primary problem with entire argument: "...Education is at the core of tackling the problems and challenges of our ever-changing world."
First, no it is not. Formal education is certainly one way of learning some aspects of the design but it is by no means "at the core" of it. And the very nature of that statement demonstrates the obvious problem with certification: As soon as you allow someone to define what a designer is and does, you narrow the scope of those possibilites.
What the author has not yet discovered is that design is opinion, not a structured, hierarchal reality that can be articulated like algebra or law. Whether a particular designer is qualified to tackle a particular project — for a particular client, in a specific market, at a particular time — is easy to determine. The designer shows what they have done for others in the past and proposes what it is they can do for the new client in the present.
If proponents of certification think they can somehow insert themselves into that process and substantively improve the outcome by certifying the designer they are simply opening the door to corrupt the most rigorous of standards: the meeting, the portfolio, and the brief.
I point you to this website for three reasons.
it's a good reminder that the internet is not magic — it is, in fact, a tangible system of interconnected computer networks that is designed, constructed, and maintained by real people and their organizations. I fear that many of us push a switch and expect something to happen without appreciating the enormity of what that takes.
Second, the Google Data Centers Gallery website is a good example of responsive web design — a simple, clean design that automatically adapts to the device on which you are viewing it. If you're on a desktop or laptop, narrow the window of your web browser to see how the same page adapts itself to tablet and smartphone screen shapes and sizes.
Third, I like the design. Responsive layouts tend to use simple shapes, briefer/larger text, and more illustrations. I suspect 2013 will be the year that responsive design goes mainstream.
Happy New Year.
It is a long standing question and I believe the answer is your's alone to decide. But few would argue that art is not the foundation of design and therefor, we can gain great insights and inspiration by studying those roots. The Google Art Project is a wonderful resource for doing just that.
As they explain it, "The Art Project is a collaboration between Google and 151 acclaimed art partners from across 40 countries. Using a combination of various Google technologies and expert information provided by our museum partners, we have created a unique online art experience. Users can explore a wide range of artworks at brushstroke level detail, take a virtual tour of a museum and even build their own collections to share."
Designer Atle Mo created Subtle Patterns as a way of giving back to the web community at large. He curates a large collection of free background patterns that that can be used for both personal and commercial work. Very nice.
In the last few weeks a team of designers at the University of California have received a painful lesson in brand ownership. It's called "don't mess with my logo".
It's a fairly common problem: branding works. If you spend a lot of time and effort building one, you must understand that you can't just barge into the room and change the wallpaper. You've got to be diplomatic about how you make the transition. In some cases people simply don't like change. In others, a majority of those effected might not like the new solution.
In this case, it appears, the reaction was negative on both fronts. I even saw a comment from an internationally known type designer on one blog that simply said, "The new logo sucks" — that hurts.
The design aside, you'll see one seemingly silly, actually serious mistake was made in the video used to roll-out the design: they show the existing University of California seal unceremoniously wiped off the page. That was a very bad idea.
A monogram is "a mark composed of one or more letters". Ironically, in defense of the design it was later argued that it wasn't the seal that was being replaced at all, just the university's existing monogram. Oops. Ouch. Over.
I love the stark, simplistic illustration style that is so popular these days, but my heart is warmed by Mikael Eriksson's wonderful old school, realistic illustrations. He makes it seem new doesn't he?
Near field communication (NFC) has been around for a while but it is just now becoming into play in a big way because more smartphone now incorporate the technology. (Some are speculating that the next iteration of the iPhone will include NFC capabilities.)
In a nutshell, NFC is a standard the allows two smartphones or similar devices to trade information by bringing them into close proximity of one another (I've read roughly 4 centimeters or 1.5 inches). You've likely seen the technology been touted as a futuristic way to complete a credit card-like financial transaction.
But what is particularly interesting to me is that you can also attach a paper-thin NFC chip to a printed piece or even embed it within printed material. That means you can instantly connect the reader of your business card, poster, brochure, or other collateral piece, to virtually any online source.
If you're not already on board, it's time to start thinking about ways of incorporating this up and coming technology into what we produce.
If you don't, I encourage you to take a close look at all of the privacy, security, and search settings of the web applications and search engines you use — because that's exactly what they do.
For those who are unaware, many environments include algorithms that record the fact that you like "A" and assume by it that you'll like "B". And based on that accumulated data, they begin to feed you more and more of what they perceive are your interests to the exclusion of other perfectly valid, useful information. It is what Eli Pariser calls a "filter bubble".
I bring it to your attention because I would seem to mean that we are less likely to stumble across the material we're not looking for — and that those chance encounters, to my way of thinking, serve up some of life's most profound learning experiences.
Don't get me wrong, I want to see content providers compensated for what they provide (I am one) — and for advertisers to reach their audiences. But I don't believe in someone else deciding what I should see, and hear, and read about — and certainly not without it being explained up front and prominently.
In his TED talk, Pariser quotes Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO, as saying, "The power of individual targeting — the technology will be so good it will be very hard for people to watch or consume something that has not in some sense been tailored for them."
Yes, every platform obviously needs to determine what data it chooses to present, but when you show me one thing and the next person something different, that's when I begin to worry. In the interest of transparency I'd like to know, first, that you're doing it, and second, about the assumptions you're making in deciding what to show.
Analytics consultant LunaMetrics.com has just updated its comprehensive image sizing cheat sheet for these social media sites: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, LinkedIn, Pinterest.
Thanks to my friend Jessica Jones for pointing us to it...
Though Stefan Sagmeister is often billed as a graphic designer, I think of him as more of an artist — in either case, he is clearly an innovative thinker. So it is no wonder that two of his protégés — Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker — peeled off during a Sagmeister sabbatical to form a studio of their own — karlssonwilker.
Though I think of their work as experimental, I point you to it because I think you'll find the seeds of many worthwhile ideas.
I want to point you to an interesting discussion on Quora about the ultra-simple design grid and tiles being used on Microsoft Windows 8 and within application interfaces created using its Metro design language.
It seems that increasing numbers of designers are abandoning the skeuomorphic-rich interfaces that have been so prevalent in the ramp up years of personal computing.
The term is new to me. In the digital world, a skeuomorph is an object the visually emulates an object in the physical world in the hope that the viewer will associate a similar action or feeling to it. In other words, a designer might use a three-dimensional button with shadows and reflections to communicate that, like a physical button, it begs to be pushed.
Here is a smart, insightful, and uplifting new manifesto by Seth Godin: We Are All Artists Now. I'm not pointing you to it because Seth is a well known writer and some might find it useful, I'm suggesting you read it because it is brilliant and important.
This little nugget is a new fundamental...
Quality Is Assumed
We assume that you will make something to spec.
We assume that the lights will go on when we flip the switch.
We assume that the answer is in Wikipedia.
All we're willing to pay you extra for is what we don't assume, what we can't get easily and regularly and for free. We need you to provide the things that are unexpected, scarce, and valuable.
The manifesto gives you a taste of his upcoming book, The Icarus Deception: How High Will You Fly?
I created a web store for a client recently using Big Commerce. It's my first experience with this particular platform and I must say I am favorably impressed. (I also have some experience with E-Junkie, Volusion, VirtualCart, Magento, and a couple of others.)
I assure you I did my homework. To me, there are at least five prerequisites to buying into this type of "software as a service" (SaaS):
A robust feature set. Big Commerce has a robust feature set, a comprehensive set of tools for designing and marketing the website, and a client-friendly interface for capturing and processing orders.
Reasonable price. My client is paying $25 per month for the site and no transaction fees — that is a bargain. I liked Shopify too but I couldn't justify the additional transaction fees in this particular case.
Good corporate reputation and outlook. TechCrunch reported in September that Big Commerce had raised it's funding to $35 million and that "The company, which has 30,000 clients and is profitable, also launched an application for merchants to list inventory on Facebook." The company's sales, marketing and support teams are headquartered in Austin, Texas, USA and their engineering and product team is headquartered in Sydney, Australia.
Exceptional technical support. I used Big Commerce live chat support many times as I ramped up, as well as their comprhensive knowledge-base and video tutorial library.
Active user community. I can't emphasize enough how important that figure of 30,000 users is. It gives the organization the momentum and capital necessary to keep the platform current with ever-changing technological and user interface advancements.
If you find yourself in need of an e-commerce platform, this is a solid one. Now is a particularly good time to sign on as they have recently begun rolling out a new interface and website. My experience has been a good one.
Full-disclosure — I was impressed enough that I signed up for their affiliate program so if you use this linke to sign up, I'll get a small commission if you decide to open an account.
Adam Hill is all over the place — in a good way. I love how he is able to bring a very different look and feel to each of the pieces he produces. That, to me, is the mark of a truly talented designer.
There are lots of folks out there that attempt to outwit Google in an attempt to improve their standing on search engines. I have never been one of them. I figure the best way to optimize websites it to focus on improving the value and quality of what you offer — trying to fool people into buying stuff they don't want or need is not only unethical, it's a conscious choice to take the most difficult path.
That said, Google is happy to share some of the many ways you can optimize websites to provide information in a way that gets you pushed up the page on its search results. If you want to know how to do it, all you have to do is tune into what they're saying and showing.
The Present & Correct website is a thing of diagramatic beauty — is that a word? I particularly appreciate the thoughtful, unique layouts of the illustrations. But the products are interesting too — have you ever seen a circular wooden ruler? I hadn't.
I really like lyrical, narrative illustrations by Craig Frazier. His work reminds me a bit of Seymour Chwast (see my last post).
A few posts back I pointed you to a new forum for learning about integrated branding — here's another. This one, Google's Creative Sandbox, provides the names of people, the companies they work for, and the tools they used to create some impressive projects and campaigns. In this case you'll even find details such as the number of lines of code written, the number of photographs taken, and so on.
Though I believe it is important not to view one's self as a statistic, I thought these definitions and predictions from the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics were worth pointing to.
The folks at Beakbane Marketing in Toronto, Canada are working to create a resource for the marketing industry: A site that will document some of the many pieces and parts organizations create to build their brands. Collateral, packaging, advertising (print, radio, TV, online), identity, and so on — the whole of which we think of as of the integrated brand.
As they explain it, "There are many sites on the Internet that show astonishing advertising or that show phenomenal online communications. Or clever corporate identity. Or beautiful products. But there are no sites that show how savvy managers are creating brands with a singular vision that are expressed coherently across diverse modalities."
The website is IntegratedBrands.org and you are invited to join in by adding your client's brand or another brands that interest you.
These vector mosaic icons of beer bottles created by illustrator Inaki Soria Izquierdo got me thinking about how we translate photographic imagery into graphic objects. His illustrations look almost as if he pixelated a photograph to and extreme and stylized it. In any case it got me wondering how I'd do something similar.
If you're using Adobe Illustrator, there's a pretty easy way to do it (below). You simply place an image and use the "Create object mosaic" option.
You'll also find a few links to illustrator Charis Tsevis who creates complex mosaics using other techniques.
While we're on the subject of emblems (my last post) check out this glorious collection of bicycle head badges. Need some inspiration? I particularly like the wealth of ideas for integrating typography with imagery.
I really like these bold, old-school emblems designed by Richie Stewart at Commoner. They are not only distinctive, you can imagine how versatile this type of stark, on or off design is in everyday use.
It seems to me that there is an ever-increasing chasm between the fields of web design and web development. (I'm using the terms here to distinguish between the design of a website [web design] and the programatic execution of the design [web development]).
And, thought I know many designers who dabble in development and developers who dabble in design, I don't know many who are experts at both disciplines. Even among the most talented developers, it is rare to find those familiar with more than a few platforms.
When it comes to content management systems, for example, developers often specialize in one or a few, such as Drupal, Joomla, WordPress, ExpressionEngine, and so on. Currently I am working on projects that require development on no less than four platforms: BigCommerce, Joomla, Drupal, and Movable Type.
So where does a designer find a developer? Certainly my first choice is to get a recommendation from someone I know. But beyond that, I must search developers out.
Today I want to point you some of the many sites dedicated to, among other things, connecting designers to developers. I have some personal experience with Elance.com but I have not used any of the others. So I'm anxious to hear how you find developers and about your experiences in the process.
Haha... I'm still looking for a Joomla freelancer... do you know a great one?
The next generation of websites is being designed in a very different way. Instead of creating different designs for each device (desktop, tablet, mobile) the next generation of websites is being designed as a collection of elements that are automatically rearranged for the device on which they are viewed.
It's referred to as responsive web design and, if web design was chess, responsive web design is three-dimensional chess.
I've found it a little hard to get my head around, but I'm beginning to like the idea. There is room for distinguishing your design from others, but the fact that you're designing a layout that will be recast in three or four different ways offers a new and exciting challenge.
If you're not familiar with the process, here are some links that will get you started.
Here's beautiful custom typeface commissioned by creative agency Saturday from the pan-European design collective Underware. It, like many great typefaces by top typeface designers, was designed exclusively for use by a single client — in this case, MrPorter.com, a men's luxury-goods webshop.
If you have the resources, there's nothing quite so un-usual as a typeface that is your's alone. This one, to me, is particularly distinctive.
In academic and media circles Edward Tufte has long been touted as the master of data visualization. If that is the case, why do I find so much of his work (and the explanation of it) nearly incomprehensible?
Sacrilege? You tell me.
In a recent interview with Advertising Age he said, "Graphics are at their best for really large data sets, as in sparklines for time series and NASA's photographs of the Earth. Sensibly-designed tables usually outperform graphics for data sets under 100 numbers. The average numbers of numbers in a sports or weather or financial table is 120 numbers (which hundreds of million people read daily); the average number of numbers in a PowerPoint table is 12 (which no one can make sense of because the ability to make smart multiple comparisons is lost). Few commercial artists can count and many merely put lipstick on a tiny pig. They have done enormous harm to data reasoning, thankfully partially compensated for by data in sports and weather reports."
Really? Only "Sensibly-designed tables?"
Is "100 numbers" a hard number or does it have a margin of error?
Are "commercial artists" less intelligent than artists who are not paid for their work?
Hmmm. Mr. Tufte is one of those experts who seems to know exactly how everything should be done and how inadequate everyone around him is at doing it. Yes. If I read far enough and analyze long enough I see some of his points and sometimes agree with his assessments. But I think too that there are often ways of doing things that don't fall within these margins or the perceptions of a single human being.
Illustrator? Animator? Architect? Designer? Typographer? I'm not certain what to call Bradley W. Schenck. Instead, I'll just direct you to his web page labyrinth and you can decide for yourself.
The good news is high definition imagery is approaching the highest definition the human eye can articulate. The bad news is, the next step is going to be a painful one.
Why? Because, for the next generation of high definition devices, most everything we're designing today is going to need to be produced at a higher resolution.
I didn't really pay much attention to this until my son Rob brought his new MacBook Pro by the other night for me to drool over (no worries — no actual drool).
He showed me that when you view conventional web pages and typical applications on the MacBook Pro's super high resolution Retina display, it looks a little fuzzy. Yes, fuzzy.
That's because the most of the images created for websites are not high enough resolution to display with their normal clarity. I'm not saying they look terrible, I'm saying, if you look closely, you'll notice a very slight blur (there are some simulations of this in the links below).
And that points to a very significant issue for designers as we go forward. To produce images that look good on the next generation of high definition displays, the formula for graphics will have to change. Actually it already is, it's just that not a lot of designers have adopted the newly changing standards.
I'm not telling you this because I have an easy fix — I'm telling you this because the issue needs to be on your radar. The following articles explain the issue from various points of view and point to some developing workflows.
Alex Knapp of Forbes estimates the cost thus far of finding a particle consistant with that of a Higgs boson has cost the world $13.25 billion. The problem is that explaining the significance of the discovery is almost as complex as explaining an annuitized life insurance plan — 99.9 percent of us don't even understand what we don't understand about it.
THAT is the ultimate challenge of graphic design. To use words and imagery to break ideas into pieces that are digestible to the audience they are designed to address.
I like these links on two levels. First, I'm curious about the importance and ramifications of the Higgs boson discovery and in seeing how designers, writers, scientists, and others are going about communicating this highly complex event.
If CERN spokesperson Joseph Incandela's statement, "We're reaching into the fabric of the universe," doesn't capture your interest, I'd like to know what does.
Seth Godin points us to an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal: Your E-Book Is Reading You, Digital-book publishers and retailers now know more about their readers than ever before. How that's changing the experience of reading.
Telling people what they want to hear is nothing new. The precise science of mentally and emotionally serving up exactly what they desire is. I like the idea of understanding how to meet people's needs and to provide products and services that suite them. But I'm not crazy about the idea of perfecting everything to fit within the clearly defined wants of the market.
That, to me, would seem to narrow the amount of energy that is devoted to produce new ways of doing things or ways of doing things that the majority doesn't much like. Isn't it often the counterintuitive and rebellious ideas that end up producing the most powerful impact?
Research and analytics have their place, but let's not lose the spontaneity of trial and error — it is a core principle of the creative process.
Simply put, an Application Programming Interface (API) is a structured process through which you access data that another party chooses to make available to you. APIs are used by many organizations that compile and organize various types of data, for the purpose of encouraging others re-use the same data in ways that make it of value to a wider audience.
Sometimes access to the data is free and anonymous, some sources require that you identify yourself and pay for using it.
So who cares? We do. Designers, marketers, and their clients can use APIs to create a "mashup" — the action of combining data from two or more sources to make something new and different.
Coding the API data once you have accessed it may not be something every designer is prepared to tackle, but knowing the types of data available and being aware of what might be possible is important.
To that end I'm pointing you to some further explanations of the API process and I've listed some examples of the many types data available through APIs.
Print is still the best way to deliver many types of messages
I consider myself pretty neutral on the relative value of print versus online communications. I'm as comfortable producing a brochure as I am a web page.
But I sense that print is getting a bad rap — it seems, is becoming a second class citizen. For what it's worth, here's a heads-up: Print, in many cases, continues to dwarf digital in the response category. There is some science to the assertion that a message in hand trumps its digital counterpart.
Digital (obviously) is a highly effective and efficient way to communicate, but let's not lose track of the fact that print is still, in many cases, the best way to cut through the clutter.
Here's some proof... (Thanks to Karla Humphrey for pointing us to the Millward Brown piece.)
We all dream. I guess that's what I like about illustration is that, in cases like this, you get a sense of how someone else imagines something. To me, it's just plain interesting to see the interpretation of an idea without the encumbrance of an explanation.
This is some brilliant stuff.
I appreciate a good icon — simplicity is tough to achieve. I'm impressed by these. I think Tim Boelaars has created something very much out of the ordinary.
Email design is a world unto itself. You'd think it would be easy, but as anyone who has done it knows, it is a format fraught with all types of issues — there's the marketing side, the design side, and the technical side. There's lots to know and lots to try.
My son Jeff Green specializes in email design and knows lots of the technical ins and outs. Recently he shared a couple of links that caught my attention and have gotten me interested in delving deeper. Hope you find them as interesting as I do.
I'm guessing most non-designers don't realize the amount of work it takes to photograph and edit product shots. It can take hours to shoot and edit a single image.
These videos reveal the reality of, first, the lighting and photography of a wristwatch, then the cleanup and editing.
If you've watched The Pitch on AMC you've seen a little slice of how advertising agencies go about pitching accounts. It dresses a very complex process in deceptively simple clothing. While most designers will never lead a team of executives into a board room and pitch a multi-million dollar account all designers do, in their own way, struggle with many of the same issues.
To that end I invite you to read (along with me) an interesting book about the pitch process: The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns. Yes, I have not read it, but I have done enough research to know that it is well thought of by those who have. Right or wrong, this provocative paragraph from the introduction convinced me it was worth pointing to:
"The forces of the creative professions are aligned against the artist. These forces pressure him to give his work away for free as a means of proving his worthiness of the assignment. Clients demand it. Designers, art directors, writers and other creative professionals resign themselves to it. Trade associations are powerless against it. Consultants and outsourced business development firms earn their living by perpetuating it. And conferences put the worst offenders from all sides on stage and have them preach about how to get better at it."
I'd appreciate hearing your thoughts (use the "Comment" area below).
A friend recently asked me about a problem every designer has struggled with...
You have acquired some design business and the interested, engaged person who awarded it to you has handed you off to the person in charge of managing the project. The problem is, the manager has no design sense or any of the enthusiasm for your work that the high-up did. To compound the problem, they want you to, in essence, carry out their vision for the design which is, in your view, off the mark. What would you do?
If this is a decision-maker, I'd blame myself. It's my job as a designer to produce work that wows my client. If I can't figure out how to wow the intermediary or at least satisfy their need, I won't have the account long.
If the decision-maker is nit-picking the design, I try to communicate Article 7 of my Design Constitution about Aesthetics. Again, it's on me. Once they understand where I'm coming from, if I can't make them happy, no matter how difficult they are to please, it's on me. (I'm not suggesting you send your client the Design Constitution, just that you incorporate it in your thinking.)
If, however, this is a person between me and the decision-maker (an intermediary), I'd try to (subtly) get the decision-maker involved. I would copy them on emails to the intermediary and explain what I'm doing and why I'm doing it in genial terms (it's very important to avoid being confrontational — that demonstrates an inability to successfully cope with everyday difficulties). Then, if the intermediary makes tries to muscle their way around, the decision-maker can see who's being unreasonable and who isn't and, hopefully, wave them off.
All that said, a great designer will find a way (in most cases) of satisfying everyone's primary need. Design is opinion and part of being a designer is recognizing that others have opinions as well. The question becomes: How can you move forward in a way that respects the opinion and acknowledges the needs of everyone involved. That's called leadership.
Your turn: How would you counsel this designer?
To paraphrase John Lasseter, the Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios says, the tools don't create anything, it's all about what the creative person does with them.
Here's one example of where design and animation might be headed: back to good, old-fashioned storytelling. Ryan Woodrich, a well-know animator with an impressive Hollywood resume has created the first animated graphic novel: Bottom of the Ninth.
It reminds me that communicating in ways an audience already understands and then ratcheting it up to the next level is a valid way forward. Here's the question: What is the next level of the thing you are most successful doing?
I've thought a lot about web design this year and I see signs that we are returning to some tried and true ways of thinking.
By that I mean we seem to be returning to formats that lead readers through material the way the author thinks they are best navigated. Why? Because, slowly but surely, the reader-driven, you-decide-everything approach is proving to be inefficient and ineffective.
Instead offering many choices to address every possible reader scenario, we're seeing some designs fall back to a more linear model where the reader relies on the author to show the way. I'm not saying it is totally old school — user interfaces still offer lots of choices — I'm saying that (in many cases) authors are choosing to put information in the context they believe the reader will best understand rather than throwing it all out there and asking the reader to find their way through it.
To that end I suggest reading Jeffrey Zeldman's Web Design Manifesto 2012. It talks about his approach to simplifying design. It is not, obviously, a definitive answer, but it's certainly a conversation worth having.
Watch how artist Berndnaut Smilde made a compelling image by simply changing the context within which we normally see clouds. I love it. Next time you're in need of inspiration, try recasting the familiar.
Thanks to Diane Cooke-Tench for pointing us to it.
Berndnaut Smilde also recreated the facade of a building in Askeaton, Wisconsin in a town in Ireland of the same name. He says, "The idea is that if the Google Photocar will come by (it was recently seen in Limerick city), this image will be picked up, and the building will simultaneously exist in both Askeatons."...
The older I get the more I realize how little I know. It's a fact of both my life and my profession. That said, I think what makes me a decent designer is that I'm always willing to learn and, for the most part, unconcerned with making studied mistakes.
Today I want to point you to a couple of articles on Core77 by Don Norman, one of the founders of the Nielsen Norman group. They discuss the growing complexity of the design professions and a warning that we need to improve design education.
But here's the takeaway: don't wait around for the ship of education to make its slow turn. To be a great designer you're going to have to know something about design and science. Norman points to the fact that there is plenty of misinformation about our trade — lots of it being propagated by design schools.
If you're interested in user interface design, here's a rather extraordinary portfolio. Jason Wilson has participated in a few projects you might recognize.
Imagine you are Gerardus Mercator, the cartographer who produced the world map in 1569 that forever changed the world of navigation. The map was the Nova et Aucta Orbis Terrae Descriptio ad Usum Navigantium Emendata: the "new and augmented description of Earth corrected for the use of sailors".
Now take a few minutes to watch the video below. It is a composite of a series of time lapse sequences of photographs taken by the crew of International Space Station expeditions in 2011.
Next, take a look at Mercator's map.
My point is this: The video reveals the amazing details of the terrain Mercator was attempting to map. By comparison, his map was, in large part, inaccurate.
It got me thinking about how much I think I know and how potentially inaccurate and uninformed my efforts could be. I mention it because I think it's occasionally necessary to step back and acknowledge the limitations of our experience and knowledge. And to make a renewed effort to dig deeper and do better.
Mercator's work, of course, was genius. Maybe your's is too. But let's not forget that we all have much to learn, and even more important, that we don't know what we don't know.
I like the simplicity of this site created by the London design studio Spin for furniture designer and manufacturer Matthew Hilton.
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.
There are also free BuiltWith browser extensions that make it easy to analyze pages as you move around the web...
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.
And while you're in the neighborhood:
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.
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.
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.
Are you a search expert? You should be. Search engines are a critical tool for a designer in 2012. They are the gateway between you and the vastness of digital space. If you're not using Google and other resources at an expert level you're conceding one of your most powerful design tools.
I realize it might seem as if I'm stating the obvious but I hear plenty of designers (and other professionals) who seem to ask questions that could easily be answered with an informed search. If that's the case, you can imagine all the other information goodness they're missing out on.
Searches can be as complex as you want them to be. To me the key has always been about putting yourself in the place of the person who produced the information you're looking for. It's about word order and "operators" and context.
If you're wondering if you know what you need to, take a look at this gem of a webinar from Stephan Spencer, author of Google Power Search published by O'Reilly.
The blurb about the webinar, Become an Expert Google Searcher in an Hour, explains it like this, "Do you use Google every day? Mastering Google's powerful search refinement operators and lesser known features could, over a year's time, save you days scouring over irrelevant results. Even more enticing is the promise of elusive nuggets of market research and competitive intelligence out there waiting to be discovered -- IF you know how to wield Google."
More than once, I've fallen into the trap of speculating about why a particular design isn't working rather than doing the research necessary to find out the real reason why. It's part ego and part stupid.
The reality is, an expert designer knows what they don't know. They are always willing to question, are forever learning, and will readily admit when someone else has a better way of doing things. (Someday I hope to be such an expert.)
Steve Krug, author of the web design classic, Don't Make Me Think, A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability, 2nd Edition (2005) offered up a new look at his theories and practices for evaluating websites and user interfaces in 2009 titled Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Finding and Fixing Usability Problems.
Krug describes it as follows: "Rocket Surgery explains everything you need to know to start testing, in the same non-technical-but-informative style as Don't Make Me Think. Like Think, though, it assumes that testing isn't your full-time job, so it tells you only what you absolutely need to know. I've even boiled down the most crucial points into six "maxims" so they're easy to keep in mind."
If you haven't already read it, I recommend you do. Krug processes are plain smart, no getting around it. If questioning makes you an expert, anyone who reads this will be one step closer to that status.
Yes even graphic design is, at its core, as much science as it is art. Those who see design as a pursuit of style miss the point. Design is about solving problems, communicating ideas, moving people to take specific actions, immersing audiences into new experiences, and so much more.
If you want a sense of what a broad, important discipline design is, take a few moments to explore these links. They are both inspirational and challenging. Lots of us flounder around in an attempt to find our place in the wonderfully rich profession of design. I have no doubt there is a place for anyone with a passion for the creative process and an open mind.
Let's start with Paola Antonell, senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design for the Museum of Modern Art. A few years ago, at the first 5D Conference she talked about design and science...
Organizations like OBLONG, think big — that's what great designers (and scientists) do. Instead of narrowing one's focus, their mission is to "fundamentally change how humans use computers". Design is a scientific discipline...
The Test Tube with David Suzuki is a rich, interactive experience produced by the National Film Board of Canada to promote The David Suzuki Movie. Follow the link, answer the question: "If you could find an extra minute right now, what would you do?" (any answer) and you're on your way.
I was particularly taken by the vibrant, film image of Suzuki on a bold black background. It's a particularly powerful example of combining photographic imagery with type and graphics.
David Suzuki's story is one of many works produced by the National Film Board of Canada — "Interactive works, social-issue documentaries, auteur animation and alternative dramas that provide the world with a unique Canadian perspective." The main website...
Photographer Tony Dorio's wonderfully theatrical images don't need lots of explanation. I'm guessing that's why Hello Monday decided to create a website design that allows them to stand on their own. The site design is refreshingly different and the work is solid as a rock.
Here's a bold, interesting use of color and silhouettes from the folks at Turner Classic Movies — TCM.com.
Startup Weekend is a weekend-long, 54-hour, hands-on experience for designers, developers, and aspiring entrepreneurs — a forum for sharing ideas, forming teams, developing products, and launching startups.
The organization's web FAQ says that all business ideas are eligible but that approximately 95% of all ideas are mobile- or web-focused, and given the short time-frame, it is recommended that even non-tech ideas focus on tech-related deliverables such as mobile apps and websites.
The program, started in 2007, now operates as a 501(c)3 non-profit and is funded, in large part, by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, the world's largest foundation devoted to entrepreneurship.
Thanks to my friend Owen Zanzal for pointing us to this very interesting resource. If you're in or around Virginia, there will be a Startup Weekend event held in Charlottesville March 23-25 and I am told they are in need of more designers.
It could be your chance to come out and get something started.
I was drawn in because this website looks interesting. I dug deep because it is interesting.
What more could you ask? The folks at Specimen Products make great products. They and ALSO (their design studio) tell their story with thoughtful copy. They've taken the time to craft a mountain of information-rich illustrations. And they have wrapped it all in quirky, deceptively humble design.
This website that is firing on all cylinders, you could do it different, but you'd be hard-pressed to do it better. Hats off to Matt Lamothe, Julia Rothman, and Jenny Volvovski of ALSO.
Making this many elements work in concert is difficult to do. I really like packaging of the article headline, in this case, "EPIPHONE ELECTAR AMPLIFIER REPAIR, the drop cap, the distinct difference in the sizes to of the text lead-in and the body copy, the color palette, and layout of the comment boxes — said another way: I like everything.
Would it be useful to you, as a designer, to be a fly on the wall of Facebook headquarters and to hear what the leadership believes are its strengths and vulnerabilities? Wouldn't it be educational to know all about the current platform and hear about the products and services Mark Zuckerberg and his team are planning for the future?
This is a close as we may get — absolutely fascinating stuff: The Facebook Form S-1 Registration Statement as filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Thanks to my friend Bruce Schneider for pointing us to it.
The "Business" section tells, in detail, how the Facebook platform works, what products and technologies it includes, how it currently fits into the social networking landscape, and reveals where its leadership wants to take it...
You don't need to read the research to know that many workflows and types of communication are shifting from desktops and laptops to mobile devices. One stat says there are already 1.2 BILLION mobile Web users worldwide. That's WEB users. Another asserts that 87 percent of the world population or 5.9 people are already mobile subscribers. Wow, I realized we were in another big technological shift, but (I must admit) I didn't fully appreciate the scope of it.
How will all this effect you and your business? I encourage you to read some of the research. That's what I've been doing. As my clients get more deeply involved with mobile, I do too. And if you need an orientation on the subject, mobiThinking's Global mobile statistics for 2012 is a good place to start.
The link below will take you to the full listing plus I have chosen a few other reports and linked you to them, just to give you a sense of the depth of research available.
In a world of websites that look, increasingly, as if they were pickled in the same jar, Justin Lerner's JLern.com stands out. I like the elasticity of it, the color palette, and the fact that it all fits on a single page.
The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, in New York have co-organized an international exhibition titled Graphic Design: Now in Production — what is being called, "an ambitious look at the broad-ranging field of graphic design".
As the exhibit's website describes it, the exhibit "explores how graphic design has broadened its reach dramatically over the past decade, expanding from a specialized profession to a widely deployed tool." The work featured, "explores design-driven magazines, newspapers, books, and posters as well as branding programs for corporations, subcultures, and nations".
Whether or not you are able to visit the exhibit, I encourage you to order a copy of the exhibit catalogue, a 225-page book that includes hundreds of examples plus twenty-some opinion pieces on the recent history and current state of graphic design by the exhibit's curatorial team and others.
The irony is graphic design, as Ellen Lupton puts it, is "about doing something in the world" or pragmatics — and the very nature of such an exhibit is to look at the work and describe it (for the most part) outside the context for which it takes action. It will fascinating to see how well the exhibit is able to bridge that divide.
I'm anxious to see it — here are the venues:
Walker Art Center, Minneapolis through January 22, 2012
Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York, May 16, 2012
Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, California, September 30, 2012
Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, Texas, July 19, 2013
Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, Winston-Salem, NC, Oct 24, 2013
Here's an interesting idea: When you click on a name in the The National Cartoonists Society Members Directory, up pops portfolio sample and mini-bio.
I've been doing a some research lately into Twitter hashtags, trends, and its overall design. In case you're interested in such things, here are some links worth visiting.
Political ideologies aside, I've got to agree with Jason Fried of 37signals.com that The Drudge Report is one of the best designed sites on the web. Among the reasons he gives is that the page is straightforward, unique, specific, "good cluttered," and concise.
Perhaps his best argument is that if you were to pull the logo off most of the home pages of the competing news organizations (CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, ABC News, CBS News, and so on) you probably couldn't tell one from the next.
In a recent The New York Times article, David Carr points to the numbers: "With no video, no search optimization, no slide shows, and a design that is right out of mid-'90s manual on HTML, The Drudge Report provides 7 percent of the inbound referrals to the top news sites in the country."
Ty Fujimura for Huffington Post explains, "Beauty is merely one component of design, like usability, speed, cost, and time. Design is not decoration, it's a concerted effort to solve a particular problem. Some sites don't need to be fast. Some don't need to be cheap. Others, like Drudge, don't need to be pretty."
It's certainly a design worth studying.
Here is some more work from Johnny Kelly and Matthew Cooper (I recently pointed you to an elaborate animation Kelly directed through Nexus Productions for Chipolte).
These examples are a reminder of how simple and effective an old-fashioned GIF animation can be. Viewing them as a whole adds another layer of interest.
In the recent past I was approached by a web startup to help with the design of a product user interface. To make a long story short, they wanted me to compete with several other designers to produce a design and, if they liked mine best, I'd get the job. All they needed to see, they explained, was one page.
Just one design of the grid size and column widths...
One definition of the primary functions — what needs to be said and show...
One definition of the terminology — how to say it and show it...
One set of innovations — elements that distinguish their UI from others...
One treatment for the logo and tag line...
One design of the menu and button styles...
One design of the illustration and photography styles...
One wet of choices for the aesthetics such as typefaces and colors...
One page that I figured, properly researched and designed, would take a minimum of 30 hours to produce.
My point is this approach is bad business for everyone involved. Among the risks of spec work, the AIGA writes, "Clients risk compromised quality. Little time, energy and thought can go into speculative work, which precludes the most important element of most design projects — the research, thoughtful consideration of alternatives, and development and testing of prototype designs."
Needless to say I declined the offer (too bad, it looked like an interesting project). But all is not lost, it leads me to today's post — the debate about whether or not you and I should do spec work. Yes, I understand many of us pitch accounts but this is different. This is comparable to producing a finished TV spot to get a job doing a TV spot.
There are plenty of theories about where interaction design is headed — the trick is to separate hyperbole from true vision. Why should you care? Because, as designer and engineer Bret Victor puts it, we shouldn't, "...just extrapolate yesterday's technology and then cram people into it."
"Technology doesn't just happen." Victor says, "It doesn't emerge spontaneously, like mold on cheese. Revolutionary technology comes out of long research, and research is performed and funded by inspired people."
He knows what he's talking about. Among his many accomplishments Victor, "...designed the initial user interface concepts for iPad, iPod Nano, and half a dozen experimental hardware platforms. Initiated, designed, and prototyped over seventy concept projects, including radically reinvented interfaces for video editing, animation, drawing, learning, collaboration, mail, photos, and much more. Invented features for Mac OS X Lion. Worked with designers and engineers from all parts of Apple. (And) Routinely presented to top-level management."
If you're anything like me you'll find his insights and predictions fascinating. Thanks to my friend Monique Larsen for pointing us to it.
That's a quote from a member of the development team for Muse, a new web design and publishing product Adobe is creating for professional graphic designers (now in public beta).
I haven't used it so I have no opinion about its value, but if you aren't familiar with it, you need to be. Why? Because the barriers to design are going to continue to fall away. To make a living at graphic design we're going to need to be independent thinkers and doers.
I believe that, as the tools become easier to use and proliferate, more and more people with want to design. And that, as the field expands, good design will be more widely recognized, better understood, and the best of it will be more highly valued.
But being a good designer will be more difficult too — it will no longer be enough to simply make our designs look good, we're going to have to know how to make them work well.
In other words, more than ever, we'll need examine and understand the entire picture:
1. What is my client trying accomplish?
2. How can I optimize the content and design to facilitate that goal?
3. What combination of devices, technologies, and messages will we use to draw our audience into the conversation?
4. How will my client keep their marketing fluid?
Yes it's all moving quickly and it can get a bit overwhelming, but don't be discouraged, if you love it, you can find your place in it.
If you love the nuance of design you'll love (like me) this behind the scenes look at the subtle changes recently made to the Google Maps user interface.
I like this animated presentation for two reasons: First, the information is fascinating. The author cites statistics that point to radical changes in world markets in the future. Second, I like the look, feel, and sound of it. I flows nicely and uses type to emphasize the soundtrack.
If you don't already know Fredrik Härén, he is an author and speaker on the subject of creativity (his book like mine is an "idea book").
Mobile devices, mobile searches, and mobile commerce are not big, they're huge. How do we design for mobile devices? If you're not up on it, it's time to start the climb.
One source for mobile design insights is Luke Wroblewski, among his many credits he wa the co-founder of Bagcheck, Chief Design Architect (VP) at Yahoo! Inc., and co-founder of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA).
Technology can be a little overwhelming sometimes. We're moving so fast, it's difficult to know which ideas to adopt and when to adopt them. Just when you settle on a content management system, for example, someone invents a new system that makes the one you just adopted looking kinda lame.
But it's inevitable. Hardware and software companies are like sharks, unless they keep moving forward, they drown — so they relentlessly invent and re-invent devices and tools in the hope that they'll maintain and grow their audience.
The good news is the creative options are ever expanding, the downside is it's almost a full time job separating the necessary and valuable from the gingerbread and hype. I love Adobe, in my lifetime they have played a major role in transforming my profession from a craft to a way of life.
I know it has become the industry way — but the Broadway show stuff makes me uneasy. I'm beginning to feel less like a partner and more like a member of the audience. Honestly, given the forces at work, I don't know that it is a problem that can be resolved, I just feel compelled to point to the obviousness of it.
You be the judge: Adobe's next big thing -- the creative cloud.
Do you know the terms "custom content," "content publishing," and "content marketing"? They all center around the idea of producing editorial-like content to promote brands in print and online.
A simple example is a magazine sponsored by a mobile device manufacturer that points to ways of using mobile devices to conduct business.
Following are some examples and resources (tip of the iceberg).
Much of the time the principles large companies use to develop and market their products does not translate well to small- and medium-sized concerns. The web is different. All websites have one significant thing in common — they all pursue a one-to-one relationship with the reader.
So it stands to reason that there is some value in understanding how successful websites make that connection. And there is no website that has more experience at it than Google. Here are their design principles.
When I saw this lovely lithograph by Angie Lewin, it made me think there are probably many ways it could be used for commercial purposes. On the cover of a brochure for a spa, to illustrate a web page for a bed and breakfast, and so on.
My point is, we shouldn't be shy about inviting artists to collaborate on projects. In some cases, artists will be receptive to the possibility, in some cases not. I'm just suggesting it's worth investigating. (I'm using Ms. Lewin's work as an example — I'm not implying that she would be interested, but I'm guessing most artists would be willing to entertain a proposal.)
Attention, in particular, managers. Here's a rare interview with one of the co-founders of Adobe, John Warnock where he discusses innovation and the manager's role in it.
On the future of computing, Warnock tell those students contemplating a career in computer science, "...There is so much more room to innovate now than there was when I was growing up with computers — and there's so many more inventions to make, and there's so much more to conceive of and build because of the capabilities of the machines, that the opportunity now is greater than ever — and the returns are greater than ever..."
In fact, I can think of only a few clients who seemed really difficult to work with. I've always though it was a two-way street — if, after a while, you're unable to demonstrate your value, you're either dealing with someone who is oblivious to well-executed, smart marketing, or you're failing to provide it.
But for the moment, let's entertain ourselves with stories of those less fortunate.
Clients From Hell is a collection of anonymously contributed client horror stories from designers. In the forward to a compilation of contributions in book form, the editors explain, "...What if the reason we were consistently running into the same issues with different clients was that we were the difficult ones?... Feeling the sting of insecurity, we launched Clients From Hell in a desperate attempt to validate ourselves."
A Website That Works: How Marketing Agencies Can Create Business Generating Sites by Mark O'Brien
You can't blame an author for writing a how-to book that remains somewhat generic — if you narrow your audience, you limit your sales. If you name software programs, point to online services, and get specific about technical issues you limit your book's shelf-life. If you cite too many details you're likely to raise objections.
If you do all of these things, you're clearly not writing to please everyone, you're writing because you have something to say — and that's a book worth reading. A Website That Works is a book written for a specific audience: marketing agencies, that offers a smart, detailed approach to creating websites for both the agency and its clients.
The author, Mark O'Brien, is the president of Newfangled.com, a web development company that specializes in working with creative agencies to build marketing sites. The publisher is Rockbench, a company owned by David Baker, founder of ReCourses, Inc., a management consulting firm that focused on the advertising and design fields (I've pointed you to ReCourses a couple of times in the past).
What I like most about O'Brien's book is that it maps a specific course. You can agree or disagree with any particular proposition or conclusion, but the value is in seeing, step-by-step, how one firm is developing websites 2011 — it's current, thoughtful, and easy to digest.
He look at everything from audience definition and search engine optimization to information design and lead generation. I particularly like the chapter on "persona development," — the process of creating profiles of the people who use your site. "Well crafted personas," O'Brien explains, "serve as a guide for the site development planning stages and are helpful when navigating through the trickier elements of dealing with information design, visual design, call to action creation, and content strategy planning."
The other thing I like is that the writing is succinct. It drives me nuts when authors require their readers to scour 300 pages of obfuscation for 25 pages of information. A Website That Works offers 140 pages of worthwhile, intelligent advice from an author who is clearly an expert in his field. I believe every marketer, designer, and most clients will find something significant in this book that they will use on their next project.
A Website That Works: How Marketing Agencies Can Create Business Generating Sites by Mark O'Brien; ISBN-10: 1605440086, hardcover, 140 pages, published by Rockbench Publishing, 2011
My general rule is don't use too many typeface families — too many meaning 3 or more. Here's how you break that rule with abandon. I see at least 6 typefaces from various families and it works just fine. I love how the hanging string and piece of chalk are used to divide the columns.
Pentagram Design is owned and operated by 16 partners as an "independent design consultancy." As long as I can remember, it has been a place you could turn to to find some of the world's top creative thinkers.
Though the founders have all moved on, the system they instituted continues to attract top talent and to produce great work.
Today I want to point you to their newly redesigned website and, in particular, the elegant slider bar that allows you to slide through work horizontally.
There's lots to see.
There are at least three things to like about this website design:
First, the fact that the site is just one page. It gives me a sense that I can find what I'm looking for easily.
Second, I like the light, delicate feel the designer achieved with the use of transparency and how it plays off the background texture.
Third is the way the multiple layers interact. It provides lots of visual interest but its not so much that it's distracting.
I'm pointing you to Brainfood.com becuase I want you to see their elaborate header and the animation associated with each menu category.
As the story goes, Adobe was founded in 1982 and named for the Adobe Creek that ran behind John Warnock's house in Los Altos, California. Who could have predicted what Adobe would become — the company that started as the home of the PostScript page description language, ended up precipitating the desktop publishing revolution and today has 9000-plus employees and revenues of $3.8 billion.
But the magic, to me, is what Adobe has done for my profession. It has helped to grow seemingly creative disciplines -- graphic design, photo editing, illustration, animation, and so on -- into scientific collaborations and pursuits of the highest order.
Adobe invests 20% of its revenues in research and development. But, as they explain it, "The company's commitment to innovation... goes far beyond dollars spent. With a wide range of initiatives that provide resources, tools, and support to stimulate innovative practices at every level of the company's activities, Adobe has ensured that innovation remains an essential element of its long-term strategy."
For a guy who once used a T-square and press type, the stuff going on in places like the Adobe Advance Technology Labs is science fiction made real.
Adobe Advanced Technology Labs home page (Above are just a few of the many developments Abobe has pursued on its own and in collaboration with other organizations. Be sure to explore the many headings under "Technologies" in the right column and meet the some of the players.)...
In his "Thoughts on Flash" article of April 2010, Steve Jobs makes his argument for why Apple no longer supports Flash — that Adobe's Flash is proprietary and therefor a "closed" platform and that Apple wants an "open" one.
"HTML5, the new web standard that has been adopted by Apple, Google and many others, lets web developers create advanced graphics, typography, animations and transitions without relying on third party browser plug-ins (like Flash). HTML5 is completely open and controlled by a standards committee, of which Apple is a member."
That's a necessary preface to showing you the official HTML5 website. I point you to it because of the technology it represents AND for the design of it's logo and icons.
When will HTML5 be ready for primetime? This recent article by Stephen Shankland for CNET News ends with the following "...although the HTML5 standardization process is very drawn out, it's not charting some future ideas. More often, it's codifying the present, settling down practices already supported in browsers and used on the Web. So in many regards, HTML5 is already here"...
If you're a writer, designer, illustrator, photographer, editor, developer, or marketer, the obvious answer is yes. The proof is in the many new studios popping up to specialize in the development of content for the new generation of phones and tablets.
Electric Type, for example, bills itself as a digital book foundry. Here, they provide us with a taste of how some of the aforementioned players have collaborated to reinvent a storybook.
SeventhStreet bills itself as a retouching and design shop. That's kind of like calling Pixar an animation studio — accurate but modest. These folks, under creative director Mike Campau, do amazing things with tools such as Photoshop, Poser, and other 3d and CG rendering programs.
Look and you'll find many examples of finished images and details about the many images that were used in their making.
Watch how the folks at Design Bridge show a project in story form. The illustrations of some are more elaborate than others, but among them you see information-rich compositions shot using a broad mix of angles and distances — establishing shots, medium shots, close-ups, high-angle, low-angle, and so on — many captured with a touch of drama.
Most show marks and packaging and then, depending on the project, show how the brand is applied to clothing, signage, accessories, collateral, and so on. In some cases, they also include a shot or two of people and places where interaction with branded materials is taking place.
It helps, of course, to have stunning work to show.
Creative Juice, a microsite designed by Matt Stevens for Hawse Design, is described as an effort to gain the attention of new clients. I am guessing it worked.
If you want a client to trust you to successfully represent their product, service, or idea, you'd better be successful at presenting your own.
If you're in need of a quick solution for creating an iPad compatible publication/app, I've seen a demo of a product that might interest you. Twixl Publisher is a plug-in (and service) of Twixl Media. It allows you to create a publication/app which can include features such as links, audio, video, slide shows — even a storefront.
Simply put, you create the document in InDesign and then save it using Twixl Publisher. How it works from there depends on the license you purchase. For example, you can purchase a standard license for $1400 and pay $350 for the final build of each app you create and you can purchase an advance license for $7100 and publish as many apps as you want without an additional charge.
I haven't used Twixl Publisher but, having seen some of the other solutions, it looks like a reasonable price. In essence, first time out, you're publishing an app for under $2000.
Have you used Twixl Publisher? Please comment here and share your experience with us.
I think the design of giraffe.net, a franchise restaurant chain in the United Kingdom, is worth pointing to.
I want to point you to this gleaming website design to draw attention to the rather unusual navigational structure. It's both high-design and practical — a rare combination.
I'm relatively new to QR (Quick Response) codes. Though they've been in wide use in Japan since the 1990s they haven't been adopted elsewhere (in a big way) until recent years.
The idea is simple: The code — which can be printed on a billboard, a business card, and everything in between — is scanned using a mobile device that is equipped with a QR code scanning APP.
The code — which can be used to contain text, map locations, web URLS, images, email addresses, and so on — then automatically finds the information contained in the code or to which the code points and displays it on the mobile device's screen. There are variations and other options, but that's the scenario most touted.
Some think the QR code will remain the standard for a time, others call it a gimmick. The latest controversy is that Google, an early adopter of QR codes is now turning it's attention to a chip-based scanner (reader) known as NFC (Near Field Communication). NFC is said to offer the prospect of even more advanced transaction capabilities.
In any case, whether you simply want to ride the wave by including a QR code on your client's business card or you want to fully implement a campaign and an accompanying mobile web site, the option should certainly be on your radar.
Design is often a collaboration. If you're sharing files with clients, other designers, and developers, it's worth asking yourself if the files you produce are user-friendly. In the case of a program such as Adobe Photoshop it's possible to produce a similar result using two, or three, or ten different approaches and common to produce dozens of layers.
To every problem a solution -- enter Dan Rose and his Photoshop Etiquette Manifesto for Web Designers: "A collection of ways to improve the clarity of a PSD when transferred. You stay organized, your developer stays happy."
I can't say every step is necessary, but it certainly offers some excellent ideas to consider.
Wow. There really isn't much that can't be programmed these days. A post on the New York Times' Bits blog pointed me to the McWorld — home of a game and story portal for kids.
It really is an impressive production. Lots of colorful, interesting illustrations, innovative interfaces, and, one thing I have not seen (or heard) before, audio rollovers (you roll over a button and a voice tells you what the button does).
My only (long standing) complaint has to do with the fact that Flash is used which means I can't point you to individual pages.
Here's a recent, graceful adaptation of GIF animation produced in a collaboration between photographer Jami Beck and designer Kevin Burg. They take still images and add subtle movement in a discreet area of the image. The result is a still image with isolated movement — a very nice effect. (Be sure you wait for them to load fully so you don't miss the effect.)
Thanks to Daniel Will-Harris for pointing us to it.
In Facebook's own words, "Facebook Studio is a place to celebrate marketers who are creating and innovating on Facebook. It is a community where you can share your work, get recognized for your creativity, be inspired by your peers, and browse a collection of work that represents some of the best marketing on Facebook."
Ad Age reports, "Facebook executives say this move is a first step in a give-and-take dialogue between Facebook and the creative advertising world. Until now, Facebook has been mostly hands-off with agencies, letting them navigate the frequently changing Facebook waters without a compass."
Whatever it is, it's interesting. Assuming Facebook can maintain the enormous community it has been the recipient of in recent years — it is a platform that creatives must reckon with. Here is a spot for sanctioned conversation.
I like how Carnegie Fabrics uses typography as a window to its products — simple, effective, purposeful.
Fifty and Fifty an fascinating project curated by designer Dan Cassaro. It offers a "...new way of looking at our country. Fifty designers, one per state, will illustrate their state motto, creating something steeped in history but completely modern and unique: a kind of designer's atlas."
I have two reasons for pointing you to it. First, the illustrations/designs are excellent, and second, Cassaro's choice of designers is out of the ordinary. He has tapped the talents of several designers I was not yet familiar with and that are well worth knowing.
I often take note of layout ideas that could be used in my own designs. Here are a few recent examples...
Wow. There are so many good ideas here: The floating navigation that gives you access to everything everywhere. The combination of graphics and video — watch how the vessel circles and shines light on the round badges. How various layers flow at different speeds to create a sense of depth. And the gradual, fluid movement of the line that leads you down the page.
And that's just what I like about the first page — gorgeous design.
This, to me, is a brilliant example of how designer and writer can collaborate to tell a story that adds real depth and interest to a brand.
First take a look at a photograph of the actual restaurant. I think you'll agree it looks inviting. But now look at the website — it provides a much better sense of what Marie Catrib's is all about. (I particularly like the first headline: "It's hard to imagine, but at one time Marie was banned from the family kitchen."
One mention of this at BestWebGallery.com attributes the project to designer Brandon Satterlee, design studio Fusionary Media, and illustrator Geoffrey Holstad.
Before I can design something — a website, a logo, a brochure, whatever — I've got to understand what needs to happen. What my client's purpose and motive is, and the action they want their audience to take.
Once I understand what I am being asked to accomplish, I can design with purpose. I'm not a decorator, I'm a designer — my job is to determine the combination of elements — the images, typefaces, and user interface — necessary to communicate messages in a way that makes them interesting and accessible.
Teaching that process is what John McWade is so expert at. Through the pages of Before & After Magazine, he has been teaching what others don't, in ways that others can't, since the days when the first version of Aldus PageMaker was in beta testing. He parses, deconstructs, and studies a design problem, then packages a solution in a form that is easy to understand, digest, and reproduce.
I've written for B&A and I can testify that there's nothing easy about making things simple. I have pointed you to John in the past, but there is some new news worth sharing: John McWade has begun a series of wonderful short stories about design — video snippets that once again have me thinking about what is possible.
Wufoo is an Internet application and subscription service that automates the design and development of online forms. I point you to it for two reasons: First (and most obviously): because you might find yourself in need of their services, and second, to tap the substantial gallery of forms and ideas they share — if you want to see how user-friendly forms are designed and executed Wufoo is a good place to start.
QUESTION: Do you have any suggestions for other forms design resources? Please comment below.
Let's pose for a moment that you know nothing about boating, that you have never even seen a boat... I can still assure you, I know less about boating than you do. But that doesn't lessen my enthusiasm about what I think is an excellent example of good user interface design: the Tige Boats site.
If you have a great story to tell, the web is the place to tell it. Tige Boats lays out their product from all angles: specifications, customizing, the manufacturing process, even after the sale lifestyle stuff. They seem proud to show you, tell you about, and invite you into any part of the process. If you've got it, why not flaunt it.
The site provides lots of boating information, but also equal or larger lessons in the design of user interface.
My old friend Martin Bounds points us to Big Think: "a global forum connecting people and ideas." Design is not the only focus, but the site does include many design-oriented interviews with people whose names you will recognize. In all, superb, personal insights well worth your time.
Here's a taste...
We live in a time of increasing transparency. People and organizations seem more willing, than ever before, to share their process and production insights.
Such is the case of The Wonderfactory, arguably, one of the top web development organizations in the world — a firm that counts among it's clients, behemoths such as WebMD.com, MarthaStewart.com, Newsweek.com, NationalGeographic.com, TheWashingtonPost.com, and TheHuffingtonPost.com
On it's web you'll find many interesting and important insights about how it's team develops in general and a history of some of the proprietary materials typically shared only with clients... moodboards, concepts, wireframes, and more...
Intercommunipackastratapromotising™ is a catchy little, easy-to-remember term Grip Limited devised to plant their ideas in your head. Once you see their work, you won't need a device to remember it — the work is brilliant.
So is their website — in fact, it works so well, on so many levels that it's difficult to know where to start.
A few things that caught my eye:
1. The "top down" menu at the top of the home page screen.
2. The fact that the layout would appear to work well on just about any device.
3. The adept choice and use of typefaces.
4. The fact that whether you scroll, drag, or click, you quickly see what does what.
To me, this site makes lots of other sites look like yesterday's news.
The Google Chrome team is offering up "big picture" story of the web in 2010. Both the content and the execution are worth a look. I particularly like the subtle but easily understood controls.
A List Apart offers their annual look at the "source code" of the web designer — what they characterize as, "...the first true picture of the profession of web design as it is practiced by men and women of all ages, across all continents, in corporations, agencies, non-profits, and freelance configurations."
In it you will find everything from from the salaries they command to the number of paid holidays they get. The A List Apart staff set a high standard, but they deliver the goods. The survey is interesting and filled with insights that I've seen nowhere else.
On the occasion of the 2010 survey, the results of the 2009 List Apart Survey...
Here's something for entrepreneurial photographers, illustrators, and designers to think about. Photodeck offers a full blown e-commerce platform (for a modest monthly subscription) that allows you to display, license (in a variety of ways), and sell images.
I like the fact that it moves control of the work back into the realm of its producer. I can't see why the same idea wouldn't apply to illustration and design work as well.
I like the convenience and variety the big conglomerates offer, but I also like the personalization and access afforded by sites that are handled by the people who do the work. I hope, as technology packages such as this become more widely available, that we'll see a better mix of both.
This is a wonderful design, but unfortunately it evidently does not exist. Wow--if this is the loser, what the heck was the winner.
I was talking to a fellow designer the other day and we were discussing the horrendous state of marketing in certain quarters—where unscrupulous marketers put forth products and services that are clearly meant to do nothing more than part people from their money. It's an old problem, the tactics of which, I hope and believe will become less and less viable in the years to come.
Though their approaches are very different, I want to point to two men who really do seem to have a finger on the pulse of that change—Seth Godin and Tim Girvin. They are both passionate advocates of honesty, clarity, and style.
The "honesty" part insists on worth and value. I doubt either of these guys would even consider selling a product they did not believe in. That would be antithetical to their nature.
The "clarity" component is what they are about. Though they are both great teachers (and prolific bloggers) their passion seems to be that of students. You simply can't understand and articulate foundational ideas if, from time to time, you don't shut up long enough to listen.
And "style" is their mantra. They both preach that the story you tell and how you tell it is what distinguishes you from everyone else. I can't help but think, as the world amalgamates, that greater and greater value is going to be placed on the positive things that make each person, place, and thing unique.
I'm not telling you anything you don't already know. But these gentlemen will.
Gestalten.tv offers a brief interview with the current generation of graphics reporters at the New York Times. It includes comments from Graphics Director Steven Duenes and Graphics Editor Archie Tse—generally, what a graphics editor does, and specifically some example of the current direction at the NYT.
TWO-N, the home of Hermann Zschiegner, demonstrates a broad palette--architecture, interaction, branding, data visualization, print, and photography.
I point you to it primarily to show you his wonderful menuing scheme but, if you're like me, you'll remain to explore the depth and quality of his work.
A deck of playing cards could be easily be pigeon-holed as a tired, old product. But watch how the designers of this site and the featured deck of cards make playing cards a 2011 product. Powerful stuff.
I don't know many designers who are really good at both the technical and the creative. Here's a guy (Nicholas Macias) who knows design. And user interface. And typography. And coding. And, perhaps most important, seems to know when to quit designing. His stuff looks simple yet it has lots of little visual and technical hooks that make it unique.
The arch is a beautiful thing. To me, the symmetry of it projects a sense of strength and grace. Watch how Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain uses arches in his latest design for Steinway.
My friend Sabu George points us to an interesting example of how a logo concept can be used for multiple purposes.
This is an extreme example, but it might help you conjure up ideas about how to make your next logo design perform more than one trick.
This is SO cool. If you're interested in iPhone or iPad development, you know that the graphic user interface (GUI) for the devices is both deceptively simple and beautifully designed.
This is the cool part: Teehan+Lax, a design company in Toronto, Canada, has gone to the expense and trouble of reproducing both interfaces in Photoshop and have made the PSD files available to you and I so that we don't have to re-invent them.
Even if you have no plans to develop for these popular platforms--if you are a Photoshop devotee--you should download and parse these files just to see how they are constructed and organized. They're downright elegant.
Thank you Teehan+Lan for a lesson in Photoshop, GUI development, and kindness.
There are two things worth noting on the Parish Foods & Goods web. First, the design. Commarts.com featured it in its Exhibit section this week. (I'm a sucker for engravings and type illustrations.)
Second is the fact that, when you click on a section tab, you skip down the page to that section--not a separate page. For all intents and purposes, it is a one page web site.
The great gift of the digital age is shared knowledge. Technology makes it possible to document levels of information that, until recently, were just too costly and difficult to capture and maintain. In the case of writing and design there is a repository of information, much of it freely available, that provides us with an extraordinary opportunity to dramatically improve the quality and effectiveness of communication.
It provides a foundation of ideas, expression, and practical information on which to build the next, better solutions. Want to write better documentation? Create a better web menu? Understand why people interact with messages the way they do? It's all there for the taking. Here's a taste...
Here's another chapter in the--of-interest-to-geeks-only--saga of the battle between Adobe's Flash and HTML5.
It really is kind of interesting. In case you missed it, there has been a bit of a falling out between big players such as Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft regarding the adoption of the software used to code dynamic content.
Are you still with me? Read on...
My first thought was: Why would anyone put a portfolio of static print and web design on video? Here's why. MINE, the design office best known for it's "Everything is OK" campaign, has a bright, upbeat vision. I'm a big fan.
I got this question from another designer recently: "My client requested a logo design. She filled in my design brief questionnaire, I presented a few concepts, and we went through three rounds of concepts, variations, and tweaking. They were not sure of any of the designs and finally backed off. Though I did get an advance, it did not come close to covering the time I invested in the project. How do you handle this type of situation?"
Whether you charge a few hundred dollars or a few hundred-thousand dollars, the great conundrum of logo design is this: If you can't provide the client with a mark that they are excited about and invested in you haven't done your job. It is that simple.
Designing a logo is a responsibility that should not be taken lightly. Remember, we're asking the client to build their organization on a framework that we provide—to adopt our ideas, our style, our palette, and to identify themselves with that brand for years, even decades to come. If we ask for that type of commitment from them, it seems entirely reasonable (to me) for them to be excited and energized by what we design.
That type of commitment does not come cheap. You cannot learn what needs to be learned and do what needs to be done in a few hours. I have no idea how many hours my friend budgeted to create the logo, but my advice to him is this: Charge what is necessary to deliver a compelling solution or turn the job down—you owe that to your client and your client owes that to you.
Logo design requires a commitment from both sides to see it through to its end. That means you need to charge enough to do the research necessary to understand the client's industry, their competition, and to clearly understand where they fall within that landscape—enough to create a design that not only speaks to those issues but that aligns with the aesthetic and intellectual sensibilities of the people within the organization who will be living with it. That's a lot of people to satisfy, but that's why logo design is not for the faint of heart.
How do you avoid my friend's problem? By making everything crystal clear up front. Some designers prefer a formal contract, some a letter of agreement, others just a few paragraphs in an e-mail before the job begins—whatever you choose, choose something. If you wait until you are in the heat of the project to address difficulties, you're going to get bruised.
Here are a few examples of such agreements.
Pattern Tap is an invention of Matthew Smith at Squared Eye. It is (loosely) similar to other pattern libraries (Yahoo has a notable one) in that it presents the what, how, and why of user interface. The value is, instead of searching through a thousand sites for interesting and innovative UI ideas, you can discover designs someone else has found to be particularly notable.
I think you will find that Matthew Smith know of what he speaks. His company site, Squared Eye, is nice to look at AND easy to use—I have long admired it.
Graphic design is not art—that it is the mantra of anyone who hopes to make a living in the world of graphic design in 2010. You can make things flow intuitively and look smashing, but if you don't deliver the desired result, your design is more barrier than doorway. Results, of course, are subjective—this time you may simply want to capture an e-mail address, the next time the goal might be to complete a complex series of financial transactions.
ABTests.com demonstrates the reality of the nuance and science of current-day web design. It is a forum analyzing two versions of a page and results of which performed best. It is, at once interesting, useful, and frightening. If you love minutia, you'll love graphic design.
Thanks to Jeff Green for pointing us to ABTests.com.
Graphic design is a quirky business. You can explain what you do to relatives and friends, but no matter how hard you try, only about 10 percent seem to get it. The say, "Yeah, ____ is a graphic designer. We're, uh, real proud...real proud."
So when I meet someone who speaks my language I appreciate it. Jeff Gamet and Jay Nelson do a podcast hosted by CreativePro called Design Tools Weekly--they speak my language. It's nice to sit down once a week and hear a discussion about the hardware, software, and the general state of our business. I recommend it highly.
Jack Schulze, the Director of New Product Development at BERG, offers yet another example of how it is possible to re-invent things--even something as literal as a map. This map puts the viewer simultaneously above the city and in it--both looking down and looking forward.
I was once told by the editor of a magazine that the rarest type of writer was one who can produce good design and then describe how and why they produced it. If that was once true, I don't know if it is true anymore. I am seeing more and more examples of amazingly well-rounded individuals and organizations that produce lots of good work and demonstrate a real talent for showing and telling how they did it.
Unit Interactive is one of those organizations.
Surely printing on paper and systems for delivery of print have and are changing dramatically, but we are FAR from the disappearance of the print model.
There is a tendency for the web dog to bark at the print dog—as if the web dog is somehow smarter, more capable, better. But the web dog needs to remember where he came from. The web is awash in print metaphors—menus, file folders, pages, indexes, and so on—all foundational structures of the printed page.
It's exciting, to me, to discover people who are more interested in the next step than they are in the argument—in combining the strengths of both worlds to craft new solutions.
This is one of those cases. It is a new take on the conversion of the magazine from print to pixel. The producer is BERG, a design consultancy that works "with companies to research and develop their technologies and strategy, primarily by finding opportunities in networks and physical things."
The two sites I want to show you are owned by the same organization—a multifaceted corporation called Luck Stone. I stumbled on what I'll refer to as the "before", their corporate site, while searching for a product. From there I found my way to the "after", where they house their consumer products.
What struck me was how profoundly different the two approaches are. To me, there's nothing particularly wrong with the corporate side—though it looks a bit dated, it's roughly what you'd expect. But the consumer side is entirely different. It conjures up a very different organization—I think of the consumer products side as sophisticated, forward thinking, and pretty design-savvy. I get a sense that it is the kind of place that has answers and insights others don't.
To me, it's a textbook example of what great design can do to re-define an organization and drastically change people's perceptions about it. It certainly changed mine.
(The consumer branding and web were created by WORK Labs—more on them next week.)
Anyone who thinks graphic design is merely about style doesn't understand consumption. You can bake a pretty cake, but the true test of its quality is in the eating.
To me, the future of graphic design is clearly in the development of intelligent user interface. On paper or the screen, the most highly prized skill will be a designer's ability to recast information in ways that make it most interesting and useful.
The recently redesigned blog of designer Simon Collison is a good example of that type of user-centric thinking. He generously gives as an in depth insight into his inspiration, ideas, processes, and type and design choices.
You don't necessarily have to agree with all of what Liam McKay defines as "quality" to see the value in his post on the subject. In addition to ideas on type and spacing, he points out examples of excellent graphics craftsmanship--an important aspect of web design that I haven't seen discussed often enough.
You really need to see this. Bronwyn van der Merwe, the Head of Design and User Experience at the BBC just posted an article explaining a system-wide redesign they have been working on. I recommend you read it because I think it demonstrates how sophisticated web design has become and because I think (if you are into web design) that you'll find smart thinking to incorporate into your own work. I certainly did.
What I like so much about Fred Showker is that he sees the graphic design industry from more than one angle--he's is a working designer, an experienced teacher and presenter, a bit of a technoid, and the creative mind behind one of the top marketing and design resources on the Web--the Graphic Design & Publishing Center.
Not only does he stay curious about what's next, he has amassed a huge archive of insightful articles and tutorials on design, photography, typography, marketing, and the business of graphic design.
He recently did a major reorganization and re-launch of the site so, if you haven't already, I urge you to take a look.
It is sometimes referred to as 2.5D animation, sometimes as pseudo-3D, this technique involves creating a series of 2D images separated into layers and animating them simulating film moves such as trucking and zooming. It can be elaborate or simple but either way it's eye-catching.
The FWA (Favourite Website Awards) describes itself as "...an industry recognized website award program and inspirational portal based in England and is one of the World's leading website recognitions". Throughout the year the FWA names a SOTM (Site Of The Month) winner and then enlists an impressive panel of judges to discern the web site of the year.
Such judgments are, of course, subjective, but you can bet that the winner is something worth seeing. For 2009, the winner is WeChooseTheMoon.com. The concept, design and development is credited to The Martin Agency and Domani Studios.
There is also a People's Choice Award, Soytuaire.Labuat.com developed by Herraiz Soto & Co..
I'm a sucker for this type of 3D-design. It gives you a sense of depth you just can't match with most artificially built shapes and shadows.
Here's another good way to show off you work. I suppose you could use it as a primary destination, or as a way of boosting your visibility by offering an alternative source. In any case, Carbonmade offers both free and paid versions.
I wish other things worked like the web. In many cases it provides lots of value for very little money. Wouldn't it be nice, for example, if you could buy a years worth of chocolate cake for the cost of a cupcake?
Well that's roughly the equivalent of an offer I stumbled across today. As of a couple of days ago, you can hire Khoi Vinh, Design Director for NYTimes.com, and WordPress authority Allan Cole to design the underlying structure of you web site for a grand total of $45. Not $45 per hour--$45 period.
How? By purchasing the WordPress theme/template they took a year to develop. Is it good? You tell me. Vinh says, "If I were to redesign Subtraction.com today, it would look like Basic Maths." (Subtraction.com is his much written about and admired personal web site.)
It would seem to be worth the price if only to deconstruct it to see how it works.
Even if you don't use the code, the page itself will get you thinking about elements you might want to include in your design.
If you are unfamiliar with the 960 Grid system, I have also included a link below.
I wish more of my work reflected the confidence and restraint this design does. So nice.
Adobe has produced a very useful white paper titled Deciphering the Web, A resource for print designers. It speaks to traditional print designers who need a basic introduction to web and interactive design.
Who doesn't do web and interactive design in 2009? You'd be surprised, I know more than a few talented designers and art directors have little or no web knowledge and have resigned themselves to thinking that it's "too late" for them to catch up.
Well that is simply not the case--as they say in the white paper, "Good design is good design." As a matter of fact, if you count yourself among this group, you might even have a bit of an advantage. Today, with some clearly established ways of doing things online, you can skip much of the insanity the online community has had to navigate for the last decade or so.
It is not necessary to be a technical wizard--if you so choose, you don't need to learn to write code, you don't even need to learn how to use all of the programs involved. There are many talented developers and technicians who are more than happy to team with you to produce whatever you dream up. Like print, the key is in knowing what you want to say and show, how you want to say and show it, and in cultivating a network of experts to get the work done.
Here is a 20-page web proposal shared by Rogue Element via HOW magazine. It is always interesting, often instructive to see how others conduct business. This (to me) is an excellent example.
I ran a sitemap of GordonRamsay.com and it exceeded the 500-page limitation of the scan—a rather intimidating figure (much like its namesake).
But you wouldn't know it by looking at the home page. Simple, elegant images and a thoughtful user interface make the information easy to find and pleasant to look at. Interesting how well it mirrors Ramsay's own mantra of "classic" and "simple."
(For those who don't know him, Gordon Ramsay is a chef with what one might term an "acerbic" personality who stars in several reality television series.)
This site, to me, is interesting on at least three different levels. First, it uses a standard metaphor—the printed page—in a slightly different way. When you click "Preview" at the top right of the screen, the entire page shifts to reveal the surface underneath it.
Second, I like the subtleties of the folds and light manifest as different shades of yellow.
And third, the icons ain't bad either!
If you're interested in graphic design and publishing you are (no doubt) familiar with America's Test Kitchen and its parent: Boston Common Press. The publications, books, television shows, and web content it publishes are among the best I've seen. The content seems well-researched, well-written, and well-designed--their web sports an impressive, intuitive user interfaces.
(BTW, if you're a foodie, these are also terrific products.)
Traveling the web as much as I do, I see lots of "can't see the forest for the trees" issues. Problems and opportunities that seem obvious to the visitor that you, the site designer, might never figure out for yourself. A reaction. A technical bottleneck. An seemingly obvious deficit of information or direction.
One way to harvest the ideas of those who have that all-important, arms-distance perspective is (simply) to ask. Here, for example, is a form offered by the Smithsonian's Museum Studies site.
(I know that this is restateing the obvious, but sometimes what is obvious to you is not obvious to me.)
I think personalizing a web site (in most cases) is a good thing. It provides a sense of who's doing the talking, the scope of the business, and (most importantly) that there is someone confident enough about the product that they are willing to attach their name to it.
Most sites are black holes--two or two hundred people so concerned about privacy that they don't even list the organization's street address. Don't get me wrong, providing too much personal information is not smart. But contracts require signatures. If you want information about me as a customer and are unwilling to share anything about you as the seller, I get a little queasy.
Here is one example of how it can be done. Have any others?
I must get some kind of endorphin rush from "different." I like to see people break the mold, send the conversation in another direction, turn the tables, innovate, and so on. Web pages that scroll sideways are no longer revolutionary but I still love the fact that they are so counter-intuitive. Here is yet another excellent example pointed to by my brother Jim (thanks buddy). Music ain't bad either.
I did not write this book--but I sure wish I had. As someone who actively searches the Web for great design, I can testify to the thousands of hours it must have taken Patrick McNeil (of DesignMeltdown.com) to locate, categorize, and assemble such a large cross-collection of superior web ideas. Simply having a snapshot of these hundreds of sites at this time in the history of the Web is well worth the price.
Here's another version of the "infinite canvas" idea articulated by Scott McCloud. This time, we move screen-to-screen, box-to-box. I just wish I could isolate and point you to a specific frame--that, to me, is the big negative of Flash development.
On his blog, you can view the photograph of Daniel Will-Harris--hands clasped across his forehead--as an artsy portrait of an urbane intellectual, or the final attempt of a defeated soul to keep his brain from exploding. Whichever you presume, I encourage you to read this laugh-out-loud design review of what Daniel crowns the worst of all hotel web sites.
I love the idea of exploring the size and shape of the page. In this TED presentation, author and artist Scott McCloud explains and demonstrates his "infinite canvas" design strategy.
It is SO easy to lull ourselves into adopting restrictions that are often the remnants of decisions that, in many cases, is no longer irrelevant.
I realize this is not a new idea, but it is the first time I have heard it formally discussed. Best of all, it has got me thinking about ways to expand on the idea.
Thanks to my friend Don Snyder "Don The Idea Guy" pointing me to this.
I've been a fan of Hornall Anderson for a long time. I point you to their site to show you some interesting ideas they have incorporated into the user interface. (Yes, they may not have invented these, but seeing them in this configuration caught my attention.)
Watch how the designers employ screen symbols to demonstrate Facebook's new home page design--the three screens below the heading, "More about the publisher." I like how they simply silhouetted the elements to show the position of what they are describing.
It's all about the details.
Who do you think are the most influential web designers and user interface engineers of the day? Here is the beginning of my list. Who am I missing?
I like how this web experience begins with an establishing shot and then how the larger picture is subdivided into conventional categories. I was also drawn to the subtlety of the menu changes.
I want to use this site as a catalyst for a discussion. I like the design--it's an interesting approach to teaching people how to react when an earthquake hits.
But it also raises two questions about user interface. First, does inviting the reader to pick and choose what they want to read and to potentially bypass a critical aspect of the presentation the best way to cover the information?
And second, is a multiple choice question that plants right answers among wrong answers the best way to help readers learn and retain answers in a potentially crisis situation?
UI experts (and others), I'd love to hear your thoughts.
A solid set of notes is often the most valuable outcome of attending a conference. Good notes are certainly not a substitute for attending and making all the associated connections, but composing and referring to a thoughtful set of notes is definitely useful.
To call Mike Rohde's "sketchnotes" useful would play them short. These notes are both a valuble resource and a lesson in visualizing information.
The saying is, "Do as I do, not as I say." If you want to see what the usability experts view as state of the art interface design, you would expect they are using it themselves. There is much to learn by simply looking at how the experts set up their own site navigation.
A few interesting examples:
This struck me as a particularly interesting use of positive and negative space. I like the way the designer changes the colors in the counterforms of select letters and numbers and how she uses a mixture of positive and reverse type.
Lots of good design appears to be uncomplicated (which means, of course, that it is)--it is often more about confidence in your choices than it is your ability to be wildly creative.
For the uninitiated, it is broadly referred to as a content management system (CMS). The idea is, instead of starting from scratch, you build your web to sit on a proprietary or open source CMS platform. That way you profit from all the thinking and development already contributed by others. Here is a good place to compare systems head to head.
Put this in the category of tools you will never need—until you need them. Browsershots is an online service (created by Johann C. Rocholl) that makes screenshots of your web design in as many as 85 different browser versions with a variety of settings (with and without Flash, various depth of color, and so on). If you wonder how others are seeing your work, this is a very educational and sometimes frustrating process.
TasteBook.com provides tools for re-purposing web content--in this case, recipes. The idea is simple: You find material you like on participating web sites and compile it into a book that is then printed and shipped to you. It's smart on three levels: One, it allows the reader to pick and choose the content of their book. Two, it offers a new revenue stream for the participants. And three, it provides the developer with a way of offering unique content without having to create it from scratch.
If you're interested in ecommerce, you'll be interested in the Get Elastic Ecommerce Blog. It includes lots of in depth information on marketing, usability, design, and so on. Want to know how to minimize shopping cart abandonment? Or what to include in a comprehensive product description? Get Elastic is a good place to start.
Pretty interesting idea here—design a web using what looks like an organizational flowchart. It gives the customer a very easy way to find an item. I wonder if it might even work better for a project where the product images were not so key (I tend to think showing multiple product makes a page more interesting).
This type of design grounds me. It reminds me that you can never go wrong by focusing on basics. To differentiate your product or service from your competitors you identify benefits, communicate your passion, demonstrate your uniqueness, and establish your style.
I'm always on the lookout for interesting ways of navigating the screen. Johnson Banks uses a simple click and drag method to move around a big picture. To me, adds a sense of discovery to the process.
The Mohawk Fine Papers web employs an interesting paging technique. It communicates the content via a stack of single pages which (to me) effectively mask the scope and complexity of the content.
Two questions. First, do you agree that the design communicates a sense of “less?” And second, do you see that as a positive or a negative?
Simple is my mantra—often said and rarely achieved. In a world that becomes increasingly complex, visual simplicity seems most appealing to me. That said, simple is THE most difficult type of design. It requires a unique talent for pairing elements that, at the same time, speak quietly and deeply. Designer Nicholas Feltron has that talent, here are two examples.
I'd like to hear about your reaction to this. Typically, I am not a big fan of forced Flash. By that I mean being forced to watch a Flash movie intro without first choosing to do so. But this I don't mind. And, honestly, I simply would not have learned as much about this business if they had not jumped in and told me. What is your first reaction? (I have no connection with these folks other than they sent me a link.)
First, let me preface what I am about to say (gush) by telling you I don't know anyone at this company and I get no compensation for recommending them—but I am compelled to say that Media Temple is THE most intelligently designed, high-powered, and user friendly internet service provider (ISP) service I have seen or used. If you or one of your clients is in the market for a place to lay your/their head, this is it. The interface is a pleasure to use, the selection of tools is deep and wide, and the technical support (the five or ten times I have called) is smart and friendly. Even at 2AM.
I urge you to take a look around the site and to study the interface design, it is the best I have seen anywhere and they are constantly honing it.
Click play on this TED presentation, hover your mouse pointer over the bottom of the screen, and a bar appears that divides the presentation into subject sections—a very nice way to make the content accessible. (This is Malcolm Gladwell's talk on the distinctions between universality and variability including the source of the quotation, “To a worm in horseradish, the world is horseradish.”)
Greg Story is credited as the designer of the Today page on msnbc.com so I will attribute this technique to him. What I am pointing to is how he uses a transparent border to surround and transition between the menu and main content areas and the background. Revealing what is behind an image adds a sense of depth and an air of delicacy.
Yes, I'm pointing to the obvious. I do so because I believe to truly understand a particular design structure, you need to identify and examine the details. Looking back, many of the most useful lessons I have learned were communicated by someone showing or describing something others considered too obvious to mention.
Here is an presentation that really hits its mark. It is the age-old battle between harsh and soothing. Ikea flies us through a rapid fire sequence of harsh realities and lands us in slow-motion on a cushion of jazz. Click CHANGE BEDROOM and you're on to the next sequence and room.
Watch how this menu matches photographers to their areas of expertise. When you rollover the names of photographers in the left-hand column, their areas of expertise are highlighted in the right-hand column. Rollover the area of expertise and photographers with that expertise are highlighted.
(While your there, don't miss the portfolios, Marge Casey is a representative for many very talented photographers.)
Thanks to Chris Miller for pointing us to this interesting navigational approach by EffectiveUI. I like the idea that everything carries near-equal weight. Kind of like a book table of contents—it displays the linear layout but it also gives you a simple, in depth way to pick and choose.
Here is a nice example of how to use a silhouette as a transition from one section of a web page to the next.
Sometimes it happens this way. You get started and find a solution within a solution. I'm guessing this started out as a web layout and someone had the clarity to say, why not publish it as a sketch? To me, the finished product is even more interesting than where it was headed.
Watch how the folks at Erowe Design stage their portfolio as three dimensional objects. And how they feature a closeup of one significant element of the design. It is one way to simulate the tactile experience of holding the pieces. Click on “PORTFOLIO” then “FINANCIAL&rdquo for an example. Notice how the position and lighting reveals the gloss coating applied to the cover headline. Nice.
As Christian Crumlish, curator of Yahoo's Design Pattern Library puts it, "Design patterns mean different things to different people." Suffice it to say, to a communications designer, they offer a look at (and code for) the structure and layout of the parts and pieces of web interface design. They are the best practices for creating elements such as tabs, forms, and selection devices for helping the user move around, browse content, and otherwise interact with a web page. The idea of the library is to ease the development of wheels that have already been invented and to propagate the use of proven practices.
There are many such libraries. Here are a few to get you started (I'd love to hear about others you have found useful).
I like the spare nature of Funnel Creative's site. It is small, compact, and easy to navigate. No bells, no whistles, and no man-eating animation. Bigger is not always better. Flashy is not always the best solution. Complex is not the only path.
Watch how the designer gets you to explore topics here. Just below the title "Explore/Themes" you can choose to page through a series of other choices and remain on the background page. Interesting take. By the way, this is a recently launched makeover of the British Museum site.
By the way: I realize I often point to the obvious. I do so because I believe to truly understand a particular design structure, you need to identify and examine the parts of its foundation. Looking back, many of the most useful lessons I have learned were communicated by someone showing or describing something others considered too obvious to mention. I love simplicity—it is (by far) the most complex, difficult form of communication.
Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain is among my favorite designers. I have used some of his web page structure ideas recently in my own work. His layouts are simple, elegant, and accessible. Here, he shares a behind the scenes look at the development of a web for Embrace Pet Community.
ShopComposition.com is a retail store web site that demonstrates some different ways of doing things. I doubt you will buy into all of the navigational bells and whistles—I find some are not intuitive—but it will certainly get you thinking. Thanks to my friend Daniel Will-Harris for pointing me to it.
Jeff Bridges is not only a talented actor, he has an eye for design. His web is a series of sketches and handwritten notes that (to me) make him seem friendly and accessible. Thanks to Sharon Carro for pointing us to his work.
Move the mouse cursor over the text that reads “GRAMMY NEWS”—instead of highlighting the text, the designer applies a soft glow to the background. A very subtle, effective technique I have not seen before.
McMaster-Carr boasts over 450,000 products. Their site is a great example of simplicity and usability. The austere design and limited use of images gives it a matter-of-fact look and feel. Be sure to play with it to see how subcategories, listings, and ordering are handled. Yes, it is extreme but I admire their willingness to stay lean.
Appears that the stress of the Christmas season has reached the folks at FutureMedia. If you have anything to do with web design, you'll appreciate this rather unconventional interactive holiday card.
Nessim Higson presents a very interesting use of Flash on iamalwayshungry.com. The layout changes and elements are repositioned as you resize your browser window or click parts and pieces of the design.
This is a very interesting, kind of “clinical” look for a German scientific organization: The Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science. I like everything about it. The delicate forms, the color palette, the way the layout is adapted to each page type, the use or type, and the sparse, bright illustrations.
North Kingdom, the Swedish interactive design firm, has created what they term a new branding site for Toyota Sweden. It is a combination of fantasy and fact in the form of a floating island in the sky. Suffice it to say, “Salvidor Dali ain't got nothin on Toyota.”
With so many wonderful tools and techniques available to us, it is easy to lose focus and to get overly complicated with a design. This web, though it sells a whole line of products, shows them in a singular way. It puts the product front and center in a neutral, gallery-like environment and sells on the merits.
Here's a nice use of rollovers. The designer highlighted the form of the products using outlines. Then, as you rollover them, the outlines change into full color examples of how they are actually used. Nice color palette too.
The site makeover of bookseller Barnes & Noble is worth some study. They are now using a classic serif/sans serif combination—a flavor of Bodoni and a condensed sans serif (it looks close to several but the fact that I can't find an exact match makes me wonder if it isn't a custom face. Comment below if you have an idea).
I particularly like the color palette of bronzes, teals, greens, and gold. Each of the sections—the cover, B&N Review, B&N Media and so on—has its own distinctive look yet they all clearly fall comfortably within the family.
Barnes & Noble has been carving out this “modern elegance” style for a while now, this makeover really cements it for me.
Kashiwa Sato is an artist/designer. Schooled a graphic designer, he is the type of creative director that often brings as much “product” to his projects as the client does. Like his projects, the web for his studio Samurai is sharp, colorful, and quirky.
WebbliWorld, brainchild of Aardman Animations (the folks who brought us Wallace and Gromit), is a “gateway to the internet for children.” It is home to the Webblis—“an irresistible and quirky gang of World Wide Wanderers—characters that reflect a range of personality traits so there is always at least one with which every child can identify.” It is certainly bright and inviting.
A design that does not reflect the logic of human interface is crippled. If you are interested in the science of web design, you are certain to find valuable insight on usability.gov and in the accompanying book titled, Research-Based Web Design & Usability Guidelines. This methodical look at the process by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services includes the type of detail sometimes missing from general business discussion.
This looks like such an obvious organizational solution to web menuing (a type of basic breadcrumb approach). I wonder why I haven't seen it used more often. Each primary subject heading is followed by its secondary headings. Simple hunt and choose.
Amazon is no known for cutting edge design, but when an organization this significant does a site makeover it is certainly worth analyzing. Studying its grid, layouts, terminology, focus, and so on, offers valuable insight into what we assume is working well for millions of customers.
Play with the width and depth of your browser window on this the home of Christian author Philip Yancey. It is the rare case (at least in my experience) when adjusting images and text to the width and depth of the reader's browser window seems to work. If you've read any of Yancey's books I think you will agree the designer has captured the spirit of his work.
A few nice things happening here: The amorphous logo, the horizontal page orientation, the color-coded city sites. And, of course, I will be forever in their dept for introducing me to the Swedish Street Knitter site.
If I am unable to come up with a sound solution to a design problem, it is typically because I am not looking outside the room. With Magnetbox, Ben Tesch proves that letting go of the designer's instinct to create elegant, smooth imagery can result in something that is truly unique.
I pledged I would never use lemon yellow. Then I ran across FOROALFA.com. I like it.
Two interesting ideas from designer Nathan Borror. Note his unique icon menu and an the dramatic effect as he switches from black to white backgrounds.
There are a number of interesting ideas incorporated into the recent makeover of the Earthbound Farm web. A time and temperature stamp for Carmel Valley (I have always liked the idea of giving your web a sense of place), an elegant vehicle for presenting still photographs (below), and some very cool motion pictures used in the place of static title images.
To see the elegant presentation of still photographs, click the “WHY ORGANIC” drop down menu and select “VIRTUAL FARM TOUR.” (note that if you wait a few seconds, the images within each category circulate...
Packaging is a fascinating design discipline. The content of the One80Design.com site demonstrates the innovation you would expect but the way the site is structured offers some lessons on usability. For example, watch how they reveal project details in stages:
Such a nice idea. This designer overlays fantasy (illustrations) with fact (photographs). The effect is warm and welcoming—a traditional look with a contemporary bent.
This site, dedicated to the response and recovery of the Red Cross following September 11th, (to me) demonstrates that there are no hard-and-fast rules about matching a design to its subject. My inclination would have been to make this site “warm” but the designer chose “cold.” An insightful choice I think. Using a rather technical looking, nothing-but-the-facts layout under girds the presentation of an unusual mix of information--the human story, the nitty-gritty of the services provided, and the controversy over funding.
Background art and patterns were big in the early days of Web design. Today? Not so much. I suppose the idea lost favor because is made pages so visually dense. This application (for the School of Visual Arts) works for me, it adds to the design's “work-in-progress” feel.
Small matter, but I like the way the ruled line bisects the menu and the information block below it.
What caught my eye here was the undulating menu at the top of the screen. It expands with the number of drop-down selections—interesting effect.
Very interesting to see the systematic approach Frog Design has developed for illustrating its Web. One large anchor illustration with (in many cases) a few small insets. It is a good reminder of the principle that complex subjects beg simple presentations.
This site features a totally unexpected visual metaphor: a rusty old refrigerator. It works.
Place all the information on one surface and to show the user how to navigate it.
Even more than the design, what strikes me about Jonathan Yuen's Web is how differently he thinks. The color palette... how the images build sequentially... how clicking a link sets off an animation... how the parts and pieces move around the screen. For those who fear there are no new ideas—courage. (Suggested by Will Sherwood.)
I have long been fascinated by virtual, interactive environments—Myst comes to mind. It has got me thinking, how can I incorporate the concept of traversing the page into conventional business Web design? Any thoughts? An interesting example of this idea is the fictional city of Zarovka (you click and hold the mouse button to zoom forward).
Design Within Reach sells classic modern furniture and associated products. The DWR site features a simple wire frame—a very effect foundation on which to present its products.
If you've ever attempted it, you will deeply appreciate the thought and energy that went into building this comprehensive identity guidelines site for John Hopkins. Beautifully done.
This just goes to show you can come at marketing a product from a million different angles. Makes you wonder—if I sat you down and challenged you to help me sell mint gun, where would you head?
The economical use of color (green, red, black) and type gives the GreenHomeGuide placid feel about it—almost a non-design.
Snap allows you to add high quality, informative link previews to your site. I've seen it used on a few sites recently and thought it was worth sharing.
Brown University offers an interesting way of organizing a lot of information. Roll over the listings here and up pops an anchor image for each section.
Haven't seen this pale yellow, gray/green combination for a while. It provides a great neutral setting.
Great energy on this page—the burst stripes draw your eye to the center—the imagery is interesting and fun.
If you like the “there's a lot happening here” look (I do), this site offers an excellent model.
A great example of leaning on a single, powerful design element: simple, close-up photography.
By separating the foreground images from the background images, this page creates some interesting, motion picture-like movement.
This a wonderful example of how to use a Web to tell a story. I particularly like the frantic Christmas trees.
(The illustration style reminds me, a little, of Robert McCloskey...)
An unusual but striking color combination.
Ever wish you could recall Web pages (yours, your client's, your prospect's, and any other) as they appeared four or five years ago? You can—whether you have a practical interest or simple curiosity, the Wayback Machine has recorded over 10 billion pages (multiple copies of the entire publicly available Web) since it began archiving in 1996. Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear, when Adobe.com was touting Photoshop 4.0 and cnet.com was recommending a bargain, $2000 133-MHz Pentium computer
The name plate is a nice example of melding two- and three-dimensional elements.
Like the neutral atmosphere of a fine art gallery, a black and white Web environment makes the introduction of color that much more dramatic.
There is a mountain of information here, but the Spartan nature of the design and navigational structure perfectly match the simplicity of the subject.
A good example of how “show” is often a better way of communicating than “tell.”
This site is almost “over-designed,” but the thinking behind the architecture, navigation, and presentation is impressive.
The precision of the layout and the organizational insights behind the presentation of the information at Subtraction.com are second to none. Khoi Vinh, the Design Director for NYTimes.com, is its host and architect.
Another simple, light Web design.
Effective use of color, type, and animation.
An interesting Web metaphor: A book inscribed with handwritten headlines.
Note how the site above and this one, both designed by Daniel Will-Harris, include an “About this site” page that features credits for the contributors. Nice touch.
This interesting site, created by an Istanbul design firm, uses lots of antique-like illustrations and jewelry pieces to create a rich, complex environment.
To me, the Tazo Tea site looks a lot like a print piece. It boasts a wonderful earthy palette and an interesting mix of still life photographs, intricate typographic treatments, and many ornamental illustrations. I particularly like the effect of steam rising from the cups.
An interesting use of real images as metaphors.
The subtle use of images and color really work well here.
Interesting how feathered gray edging is used to set off various sections of this page.
At times, clean design and sound thinking trumps complexity.
This site offers some of the most interesting examples of Flash animation I've seen. When you “Enter” Redwood Creek, the first screen offers a wonderful, gently animated line illustration reminiscent of a fruit crate label. Click each major section to zoom into and out of other scenes.
Wild, illustrated menus.
Crisp, bright images tell the story better than a graphics-intensive design.
Nice combination of images and solid colors. Great photography.
Thank John McWade, the editor of Before & After for sending me this link. It was produced for an AIGA conference a couple of years ago to showcase local attractions, shops, and restaurants of the host city. Very nice, thanks John.
How do you make flip-flops a fashion statement? Build a brand around them. Havaianas.com is an amazing, fresh site that is worth taking a look—you'll need a high-speed connection. I love the illustration style and color palette.
Very nice example of Web story telling—literal and figurative.
I like how the designer of this site uses an anchor illustration for each issue.
And uses little snippets of the illustrations to archive past stories.
The motion here certainly captured my attention.
As its head “cultivator,” Dave Shea describes the css Zen Garden as a collection of pages that demonstrate what can be accomplished visually through CSS-based design (Cascading Style Sheets). The folks who submit designs also include the actual style sheet used to create their pages. The designs and code are an excellent source of inspiration and information. An example.
The official list of designs.
The Zen Garden cover page.
Joshua Davis is a New York based artist, designer, and technologist producing both public and private work for companies, collectors, and institutions. This site offers some great examples of his fascinating illustrations.
Color me crazy, but for some reason, I love the OM Records logo (don't have a clue about the music but I'm nutty about the logo). I came across it on the designer's site (Capacitor Design Network)—it takes some doing to get to it, but I think it's worth the trip:
http://www.capacitornetwork.com/CDN2002_c.html (then click > Work > OM Records)
And here it is in use:
How do you get attention? Do something different with the same space everyone else is using.
I want you to see how this designer draws you into his Web using an illustrated street scene (following the intro). Very effective both visually and functionally.
Great illustrations show, at a glance, something that is difficult to say. Check out this striking use of color and image.
Got a clue what this is all about? I like it, but I don't get it. Be sure to check out the “graphics” section.
You can make great discoveries by following good designs to their sources but the process can be costly. For example, in my recent search for Christmas gifts I happened across...
a Brooklyn, New York-based bakery. Look pretty good don't they? The perfect holiday gift for a client, yes? Well I never found out. I was so struck by the simplicity of the site's design and the effective use of photography that I abandoned my shopping and followed a link to the site's designer: Steven Gross.
Nice stuff, “What else has this guy designed?” So I took a look at his list of links and found his brother, illustrator, artist Alex Gross...
Any question who designed Alex's site? Looks and feels a little like Fanciulla's doesn't it? Then I started looking at Alex's illustrations and decided to buy a print (this is the costly part. I was looking for gifts and ended up spending $50 on myself).
By the way, if you appreciate Alex's unusual illustrations, the print I received is exquisite. It is printed in Ultrachrome archival inks on fine matte paper using an Epson 2200 printer. The colors are stunning—color that could not be produced by a printing press.
From baker to artist? As I found out from Alex, Fanciulla is his sister-in-law's bakery (perhaps some grand conspiracy of creativity).
Check out how this designer uses film-like “panning” moves to highlight photographs...
Andrei Michael Herasimchuk was one of the first official interface designers hired at Adobe Systems. The fact that he was a key player in the development of the interfaces for Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign is sufficient reason (for me) to recommend his personal Web.
I love the simplicity of these paper cutouts. They provide a distinct contrast to the digital environment in which they appear...
A high-end fabric and furniture destination wraps its sight in brown paper and accentuates it with black and white photographs...
To explain its “Integrated Motor Assist technology,” Honda gets us to do a new thing in an old way: turn the pages of a book...
I've been searching for warm sites—sites with visual personalities that are, to my eye, warm and welcoming. Here are a couple that strike me that way. Your thoughts? Warm sites you've found?
It doesn't get simpler than this site, home of furniture manufacturer Vitra. Just goes to show complicated is not necessarily better.
If you believe that crop circles are the work of creatures from Neptune—skip this one—I'd rather not be the one to burst your bubble. That said, I love the design of circlemakers.org—for me, it is both bold and attractive.
Pirated-Sites.com showcases side-by-side comparisons of Web sites that are suspected of borrowing, copying or stealing copyright-protected content, design or code without permission. It is guaranteed to increase every designer's heartburn that we have seen something, stored it away in our heads, and later will design something that looks a little too much like the original.
Pirated-Sites.com: Design “theft” suspects
What makes this design distinctive? The colors, the typefaces, and the illustrations certainly are well chosen, but the thing that makes it work for me is the underlying symmetry or balance of its elements. I'm a sucker for symmetry. I am drawn to it in nature, in architecture, and in graphic design. (And forever pursuing it in life.)
I'm certain you know Second Story, but if you don't I'm excited to be the one to introduce you. It is, in my book, the premiere interactive design studio in the world. Its list of clients testifies to that fact: The Museum of Modern Art, the Smithsonian Institution, Discovery, National Geographic, PBS, DreamWorks, Kodak, and so on.
Or right to their extensive portfolio of projects:
Complaints about Flash sites have become cliche, “Nothing but zooming typefaces and blinking arrows,” they say. While it is true that much of what I see is mere decoration, panning the process discounts those who are using Flash to rethink how we organize information and to build interfaces to extraordinary new tools.