November 2009 Archives
Saturday, 28 November is Buy Nothing Day – the one day a year you’re encouraged to, “switch off from shopping and tune into life”. To celebrate the event, Virus Fonts are generously releasing their classic 1997 typeface Apocalypso, free for personal use.
Get it while it’s hot.
Despite the pressing need to work on paying projects, URL ABC calls. The perfect game for procrastinators, the rules, courtesy of Mr Van Damme, are simple: “Go to the address bar in your favorite browser, and type one letter. Start with ‘a’, end with ‘z’.”
- http://www.webstandardistas.com *
Be warned. This will take time. (As will following other players’ links.)
Mr Simon Edhouse, the focus of Mr David Thorne’s excellent satirical piece Please Design a Logo for Me… For Free, is unhappy:
To all those who might have visited here in relation to a posting by David Thorne on his website, David’s story is of course quite untrue, the emails fraudulent, and we may take appropriate action.
The things he has said about me are fabrications, and he does this type of character assassination often and wantonly.
BassJump is a sweet, one-of-a-kind, go anywhere, USB-powered subwoofer that turns your MacBook into a mini sound system. Custom software blends the music coming out of your built-in speakers with the sound output of the BassJump for dramatically enhanced audio performance.
It looks lovely and is designed to sit right next to your MacBook complementing its design. As if that wasn’t enough it also comes with a lovingly crafted software interface, the BassJump Sound System - complete with two, glowing, old school analogue VU meters - for fine-tuning your sound. Lovely.
Why Google when you can GoogleGoogleGoogleGoogle? Multitasking made easy with four times the search power in a single window.
David Thorne in response to Simon Edhouse, the archetypal delusional ‘client’ that, no surprise, would like a logo (with pie charts) for free:
Your last project was actually both commercially viable and original. Unfortunately the part that was commercially viable was not original, and the part that was original was not commercially viable.
I have, as requested, attached a logo that represents not only the peer to peer networking project you are currently working on, but working with you in general.
A priceless email exchange. (With lovely pie charts.)
Mr Zeldman has put together some excellent thoughts On Self Promotion (complete with Jedi mind trickery). It’s all about sharing, a hurdle most frequently fall at; equally important, you can’t fake this. Zeldman states:
The more you find and promote other people’s good work, the more in-the-know and “expert” you are perceived to be — and the more you (or your brand, if you must) are liked.
It’s all about karma (which, incidentally, is the title of our first lecture for our final year interactive design students). What goes around comes around or, as Mr Zeldman puts it, “Share for the joy of the sharing, and because the information you’re sharing genuinely excites you. Do that, and the rest will follow.”
Sound advice. Well worth reading.
As Mr Zeldman’s third, annual Blue Beanie Day fast approaches - for the uninitiated it’s on Monday, 30 November, 2009 - it would be remiss of us not to point out that:
- We wholeheartedly support Mr Zeldman’s initiative (and we encourage you to sport some suitably blue headgear on the aforementioned day); but
- We prefer Mr Tangerine’s somewhat more gentlemanly attire in the hat department.
Show your support for Blue Beanie Day with a nod to sartorial elegance by sporting a Blue Bowler courtesy of Mr Tangerine. Not only will you look good, you’ll also send a message, elegantly tailored, supporting standards.
Both good things.
Dustin Curtis spends, “a lot of time thinking about how to improve user experiences”. As part of this thinking he’s put together some very interesting thoughts on the use of language as a design element, encouraging users to follow him on Twitter and measuring the effects of language on clickthroughs. (For the record, he’s well worth following.)
We spoke about the use of language as a design element, and the importance of functional microcopy like this, at our talk on Carsonified’s FOWD Tour (and have recently been commissioned to provide some consultancy on precisely this topic). As such, it’s no surprise to discover that we’re firm believers in the power of language - or good copy - as an integral part of the design process.
Often overlooked in the design process or added as an afterthought, it’s interesting to read Mr Curtis’s detailed, and well-reasoned, thoughts on the power of copy as he moves through a variety of phrases, tracking their clickthrough and conversion rates:
- “I’m on Twitter.” (4.70% Clickthrough)
- “Follow me on Twitter.” (7.31% Clickthrough)
- “You should follow me on Twitter.” (10.09% Clickthrough)
- “You should follow me on Twitter here.” (12.81% Clickthrough)
Mr Curtis concludes:
At the very least, the data show that users seem to have less control over their actions than they might think, and that web designers and developers have huge leeway for using language to nudge users through an experience.
Looking at the numbers, it’s hard to argue with this reasoning and clearly highlights the importance of considering copy up front in the design process. (Needless to say, you should follow us on Twitter here.)
Working with Tim Brown’s Web Font Specimen, Santiago Orozco of Thinkinginweb has created an interactive typetester. A little jQuery goodness courtesy of Mr Orozco coupled with Mr Brown’s original specimen equals a flexible and useful tool allowing you to quickly get a feel for how different types work together.
Offering a cross-section of typefaces available via a neatly hidden dropdown menu typeQuery enables rapid font pairing prototyping at the click of a mouse, resulting in a tool that’s well worth bookmarking.
Generous to a fault, FontFont have created a set of Instructions for Use for Daniel Utz’s FF Netto Icons showcasing some of the creative possibilities achievable with a little imagination when combining the various members of the FF Netto family.
Utz’s beautifully designed PDF sample showcases the flexibility of the FF Netto family which is well worth exploring.
Without question, news of the week is the availability of (some of) the FontFont Catalogue on Typekit.
Whilst the entire FontFont catalogue remains tantalisingly out of reach, it’s great to see a foundry with the weight of FontShop getting behind Typekit and encouraging the move towards a richer typographic landscape on the web.
It’s worth noting that the FontFont families licensed to Typekit have been specifically optimised for on-screen use and re-hinted to ensure the best possible display in browsers, ensuring they are dependably legible, even at the smallest sizes.
The issue of optimisation of typefaces for use specifically on-screen has been one of the key concerns raised by typographers as
@font-face has taken hold and it’s encouraging to see a foundry of the calibre of FontFont addressing this issue with the distribution of carefully crafted ‘Web Pro’ versions of some of its favourite typefaces.
Our favourite FontFont Web Pro fonts available now on Typekit are: Daniel Utz’s utilitarian FF Netto Web Pro, “a no-frills typeface with as little historical ballast as possible,” and Erik Spiekermann’s iconic FF Meta Serif Web Pro, “a serif companion to the most influential sans serif of the digital revolution.”
Designed by Daniel Utz in 2008, FontFont’s FF Netto Icons Bold is a flexible and reconfigurable icon set perfect for interface design. Designed to be layered up in a variety of combinations to create custom icons, the set allows for the creation of an almost infinite set of possibilities.
At only €49 they’re very tempting.
FontShop is 20 in 2010. To mark the occasion they’ve created a lovely microsite designed by Nicholas Felton collecting twenty years of vital statistics which reveal, amongst other interesting facts, the following:
- 9,233,188 FontFont Glyphs (82,115 by Mr Spiekermann)
- 62,000 FontBooks Printed
- 1,326 Contemporary Typeface Designers
In the words of one FontShop user quoted at the site, “Quietly brilliant.”
The one and only Michael Beirut reveals the secrets of his success in The Lazy Designer’s Guide to Success, published by Azure Magazine. Beirut, founder of Design Observer and a partner at Pentagram’s New York office, states:
Keep it simple. Steal. Make others do the work.
So that’s how it’s done.
Get your 2010 Pocket Calendar courtesy of Peter Biľak of Typotheque. A “limited edition of the pocket-size, no-nonsense Typotheque calendar and sketchbook”.
We’re tempted. You should be too.
An independent type foundry established by Brighton studio The Entente, Colophon distributes and acts as a platform for fonts designed by The Entente, offering limited edition typefaces and type specimens.
Their typefaces – in particular Montefiore, Pantograph and Perfin – are beautifully crafted, idiosyncratic and well worth exploring.
Sid Savara, life hacker extraordinaire, has some interesting thoughts on the importance of an understanding of context in achieving goals, neatly wrapped up in Time Travel 101, helpfully subtitled, ‘Techniques for Reliving the Past and Seeing the Future’. (In short, a time travellers’ guide to the secrets of success.)
Here are the ways I time travel back into the past as well as travel forward into the future, and then successfully return to the present.
(Coupled with a healthy warning: “Proceed with caution, use at your own risk, and kids – don’t try this at home.”)
His article, including the idea of visualising the future, map neatly onto a great deal of our teaching on the different courses and training programmes we run. His writings are well worth reading, and his theories, tried and tested, are well worth exploring.
A great read for the macro-level pointers to the secrets of success.
As we sign off on Mr Zeldman’s inaugural Web Type Day, closing out a day of web typography related posts, we’re delighted to be hitting Google’s Number Three spot for the search term “web type day”, behind Mr Zeldman, Web Type Day’s founder.
We hope you’ve found our web typography roundup useful. We’ll be back in the saddle tomorrow.
That’s the problem with loving typography. It’s always a pleasure to discover a formally gorgeous, subtly expressive typeface … but that joy is swiftly obliterated by the sight of a typographic howler. It’s like having a heightened sense of smell. You spend much more of your time wincing at noxious stinks, than reveling in delightful aromas.
We couldn’t have put it better.
Test your typographic skills with Typewar.
With a system that awards additional points for correctly answering questions that others struggle with, Typewar allows you to showcase your typographic prowess, allowing you to pwn your typographic colleagues along the way. Our current best score: 716th place.
Watch this space as we test our typographic skills tomorrow in an effort to hit the top one hundred.
It’s all about the details.
Not only have Ligature, Loop & Stem created a beautiful web site (with some beautiful products), it also repays repeated exploration.
We’re firm believers in easter eggs, double click on the picture frame in their iPhone Wallpaper Images page (or any of their picture frames).
Ligature, Loop & Stem, courtesy of designers Scott Boms and Luke Dorny, offers an appealing array of limited edition typographic paraphernalia guaranteed to appeal to the discerning palette of the typographic connoisseur, all wrapped up in a beautifully designed web site.
Be warned, however, with Christmas around the corner (and even without Christmas around the corner) you may tempted to spend money you can’t quite afford on their hand-crafted products. (Though, as we all know, as they put it, a little “stroking your serif” is no bad thing.)
Jason Santa Maria’s article On Web Typography, published today by A List Apart, is well worth reading, highlighting a number of important points as we move forward into a richer typographic web.
Writing on the importance of understanding typography as we enter the “brave new world” of web typography, Santa Maria states:
There’s a serious possibility that by gaining access to the world’s font libraries, we’re opening Pandora’s Box. Many people working on the web today have some knowledge of typography, but being a web designer will soon require a deeper understanding of typography and how typefaces work.
This is an important point and it’s one that’s worth reiterating. As we embark on a journey into typographic richness on the web, the importance of appropriate typeface choices becomes an additional skill, one that in many cases will need to be learned. Santa Maria summarises it neatly, “practicing the art of typography involves understanding typefaces and what they mean.”
Santa Maria’s roundup of key points to consider when venturing into the widening world of web type is well worth reading. His ‘Drop Dead Guide to Choosing and Pairing Typefaces’ not only equips you with the means to pick the perfect pair, it’s also a comprehensive guide to the fundamentals of typography that will repay repeated readings.
Santa Maria concludes:
As more typefaces hit the scene, we need to understand how they can best serve our designs, and to push ourselves to move beyond mere novelty in our selections. If much of the web is made up of text – and it is – web typography can be a very powerful tool indeed.
Wise words indeed.
An interview in two parts, Ellen Lupton talks web typography with Jeffrey Zeldman in Typography on the Web: Questions for Jeffrey Zeldman — Part 1. Mr Zeldman summarises the current situation apropos web typography succintly:
Things are shaking out quickly.
An excellent read. Part II is published tomorrow.
As “real” web typography begins to take hold with the launch of services like Typekit and Typotheue’s excellent Web Fonts Service (not to mention widespread browser support for
@font-face) the need for web font specimens becomes increasingly important.
Several experiments with @font-face, including some preliminary work with Typekit, have led me to a single, urgent conclusion: I need to know how my type renders on screens, in web browsers.
To this end the ever-generous Mr Brown has put together a considered and comprehensive Web Font Specimen to demonstrate “real web type in a real web context” – better still it’s free to use (and free to build upon). Released under a Creative Commons license, further development of the specimen is encouraged.
Usage is simple: grab the specimen; add a typeface; study and test. Now you’ve no excuses to get started.
Any foundry offering a “moustache font” (Tash) is fine by us.
Today is apparently the day that Mr Zeldman celebrates Web Type Day. In the words of Mr Zeldman, “Please stand by.”
Adam Saltsman, the creator of Canabalt, share some of his initial sketches of the game, offering an insight into the design process of one of the simplest, most addictive and most talked about games out there.
The sketches and notes reveal that the finished game is even simpler than first conceived, proving that taking away features often enhances the overall quality. Lovely.
Christian Swinehart’s extensive data visualisations of the structure of Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books are not only beautifully crafted, but reveal the deep structures of narrative that apply not only to choosing your own adventures, but also apply to the design of user experiences or pathways through information.
Think ‘the narrative of web design’.
An interactive designer at Pentagram, New York, Swinehart’s detailed analysis of the mechanics of the various pathways through CYOA books offer a great deal of insight to anyone involved in the design of information pathways – storytelling in the broadest sense. Swinehart states:
Whether in paper or electronic form, these games all hinge upon movement through a set of static locations: pages in the book, or ‘rooms’ in the text adventure. And from any one of these locations you can move to a new one based on a set of fixed rules.
Sounds familiar. If you’ve never had the pleasure of reading a Choose Your Own Adventure book, Swinehart has kindly put together an interactive version of Zork: The Cavern of Doom (complete with a narrative pathway visualisation). Prepare to lose an hour as you explore it.
With Christmas almost around the corner, Print Society might just be what you’re looking for for that special someone. With a goal to make the art market radically more transparent, they state:
You might think of Print Society as the first completely open and transparent marketplace for printed artwork. We exist to help artist and consumers find one another.
If we’re your special someones and you’d like to send us a Christmas present, our favourites include: Anthony Burrill’s Work Hard and Be Nice to People; Mr. Bingo’s The Mighty Boosh; and Eboy’s ultra-affordable New York.
Google’s Steve Souders has put together an excellent test page demonstrating the issue of slow loading fonts embedded using
@font-face causing a Flash of Unstyled Text (FOUT). Covering a comprehensive range of examples his test page highlights some potential issues we might face as
@font-face begins to take hold.
Mark Boulton’s presentation at last week’s Build Conference covered this topic very effectively. Building on his Web Directions South 09 presentation on Typographic Structure, his Build presentation demonstrated the importance of a well considered fallback font stack to minimise the visual effects of this.
With luck, and a little friendly persuasion, Mr Boulton might cover this in further detail at The Personal Disquiet of Mark Boulton.
A week ago the inaugural, and much-anticipated, Build Conference kicked off in Belfast.
We were delighted to be a part of the lineup, taking the stage alongside a stellar cast of presenters, to deliver a thoroughly enjoyable and event-filled workshop on Getting Started With HTML5 and CSS3. (More on that to follow in a separate post (with free - yes, free - downloadables)…)
As educators based in Belfast with a significant stake in the web design and development industry both locally and internationally, we were looking forward to what Andy Good - Build organiser, and all-round human dynamo - had described as a conference created for “obsessive-compulsive” designers. We had high hopes.
We were not to be disappointed.
Andy didn’t let us down. Build ran effortlessly, largely thanks to a huge amount of effort behind the scenes, both by the human dynamo himself and a dedicated team of assistants, led by the singular Ciaran Madden.
After a day of dedicated workshops, which also covered usability with Andy Budd of Clearleft and accessibility with Phil Strain of Ecliptic, the conference kicked off at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall. In the spirit of the conference’s title, ‘Build’, the six speakers - by intention or fortunate accident - covered a cross-section of topics that built upon each other seamlessly into a well-rounded day’s content.
Tim Van Damme kicked the day off with a passionate talk on the importance of ‘Passion’, begun, appropriately with a carefully modified homage to Steve Ballmer’s famous chimp impression: “Designers! Designers! Designers! Designers!”
With the audience primed up for the day, Andy Budd took to the stage ably assisted by Flight of The Conchords. Delivering an excellent presentation on ‘Seductive Design’ (with a few dating pointers thrown in) Andy hammered home some well made points. It was, indeed, Business Time.
The final morning session was delivered by Mark Boulton who introduced the audience to the potential and perils of ‘Font Embedding’ (with an all too brief foray into the tricky topic of car park design). Along with a comprehensive overview of typography’s role on and off the web, Mark stressed the importance of a well considered fallback font stack to minimise the effects of a Flash of Unstyled Text (FOUT), increasingly an issue as web fonts take hold.
Kicking off the afternoon with an epic basketball metaphor, Ryan Sims outlined the importance of practice, destroying ‘the myth of talent’ and stressing that ‘Practice Makes Pixel-Perfect’. His session really got the audience thinking and proved an excellent introduction to the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition (not as dry as you might think).
Asking the question, “Are you a designer or a developer?” Wilson Miner took the audience on a leisurely stroll around the topic of ‘Design/Build’. Introducing himself as, “a designer with code skills or, if the situation requires it, a coder with good design sense,” he made a case for professionals within our industry embracing both skill sets and adopting a hybrid approach.
The closing keynote was delivered by Eric Meyer, a true gentleman and one of the undoubted giants of the web. Speaking on the topic of ‘A More Tangled Web’, Eric demonstrated how ‘The Web Has Won’, illustrating how its simplicity and extensibility has taken the web to every corner of our lives. It was a fitting and appropriate end to a riveting day.
Andy has been rightly praised left, right and centre and he deserves all the praise he’s received. It’s worth rounding up some of the plaudits he has received. They’re certainly well earned and draw out some common themes.
The future looks bright for Build. If the speakers’ lineup is as good as this year’s and the same care goes into the planning, I’m sure a lot more people will be interested in attending.
The fact that it was in Belfast, in my opinion, contributed to its character as a smaller high quality conference. So, I’ll make mine Andy’s words and say that, indeed, Build was, “fucking lethal.” Bravo!
Sam Brown, an “extremely talented jackass” (in the words of Tim Van Damme), states:
Build was [Andy’s] biggest undertaking and he absolutely over-delivered in every aspect – this was especially evident when he got a standing ovation at the end of the conference day.
We could go on.
The praise is well-earned and well-deserved. Andy deserves a great deal of credit for having the self-belief and confidence to bring an internationally respected roster of speakers to Belfast. His work, along with the work of many others promoting similar design events in Belfast, is helping to place the city on the international design map. A place it deserves to be.
Add Build’s star-studded lineup to the numerous recent guest speakers, across the design spectrum that have been hosted at the Art College in Belfast - Nicholas Felton, Poke London and Adrian Shaughnessy, to name but three - and it’s clear there’s a lot going on in the city.
It feels appropriate to close with the words of Mr McMillan (to credit him with his real surname), who states:
We built it, they came…
Indeed they did. Indeed they did. Well done Sir.
Finally out of beta, Typekit is finally live.
Available in six weights with matching italics, Ratio is a lovingly crafted contemporary humanist sans serif designed by Mark Caneso. Several years in the making and designed for both print and screen, it’s available via p.s.type.