November 2010 Archives
Sage advice from The Ultimate Productivity Blog. Hear, hear.
The very talented Mr Benjamin De Cock has created some vCard loveliness. Fire on over and take a look, you won’t be disappointed.
Sam Brown has published his Build 2010 Experience Graph and a very short reflection on what he rightly describes as the Build “Web Design Festival”. We’d broadly agree with his graph, as is perhaps evident from our recent review; we’d certainly agree with his concluding sentence: “All in all, the best web event I’ve attended.”
We’ve all been there… With the client who’d like their logo to, “to be simple and yet detailed,” not to mention, “forward-thinking without looking too futuristic.” Good news, thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can get this creative excess out of your system once and for all. In the words of the ‘How Low Can Your Logo?’ team:
We are testing your capacity to willingly create that which you spend your entire life trying not to create: the worst logo ever. Participants have the chance to conjure up design demons from the darkest nether regions of their inner world and be purged of them forever. The logo lancelot with the worst design will surely bask in the glory of industry infamy for generations to come.
The winning designer will win a stellar list of prizes on offer, including a Laserdisc player, a copy of Robot Monster (“considered to be one of the worst of the worst films ever”), a bag of popcorn and year long subscriptions to Print magazine and How magazine (not to mention a host of other prizes). There is, however, one prize on offer that is the prize to strive for: infamy.
So, go on, How Low Can Your Logo?
There’s no need to tell you we enjoyed the inaugural Build conference in 2009, we wrote a round up of it - Built - days after the event drew to a close last year.
Given the generous and well-desrved praise the conference generated in its first year, creating a Version 2.0 was always going to be a challenge and it’s no surprise that Andy McMillan - the one man, human dynamo behind the brand - rose to this challenge admirably. Delivering a conference that matched and exceeded expectations, and that truly ranked alongside any of the world’s leading web design conferences, was a challenge; one that Andy embarked upon the moment the excitement around the first event had died down.
A Year in the Making
Over the course of the last year, we’ve been fortunate to share many’s an evening ‘working’ with Andy in The Duke of York, our local of choice. Needless to say we were delighted when he invited us to become more heavily involved in Build 2010. We enjoyed delivering our workshop at the first Build conference and we were happy to provide all-round-assistance and moral support where possible, so to be invited to become more substantially involved this year was both an honour and a privilege.
Andy had a vision for Build 2.0. He had a clear picture of where he was heading, and it’s fair to say that every evening we met, we were entertained by his stories of all, “the awesome stuff he was going to pull off,” to ensure the follow-up would be even better. (Given how much of a widely praised success the first conference had been, this was no tall order….)
It’s fair to say Andy met, and far exceeded our expectations. In the countdown to this year’s conference our ‘working’ meetings in The Duke increased in number, as did our incredulity around what he hoped to pull off.
Ask yourself, what other web design conference provides: free pic’n’mix on arrival; branded cupcakes (thanks to the generosity of Typekit); beautifully branded pencils, notebooks and badges, free for all delegates; infographic maps of the city’s bars complete with the availability of beer (bottled and draught), all visualised by information visualisation maestro Nicholas Felton; a dedicated Caffeine Monitor application to track delegates’ caffeine intake; plus, as if that wasn’t enough, a week’s worth of fringe events, including the inaugural Fr00tball tournament and a screening of Jurassic Park).
Does that sound like any other conference you’ve ever attended? In a word: No.
Fedoras off to Mr McMillan for what proved to be, by all accounts, one of the best conferences anyone had ever attended. The event was an all-round success and we have no doubt that many of the new friends we made this year, many of whom were making their first trip to Belfast, will be back in 2011 for more of the same; only, no doubt, better.
One of the elements of Build that distinguishes it from other, competing conferences is the nature of the week-long series of fringe events that Andy organises around the main event itself. Build 2010 took this idea to an extreme with content scheduled on either side of the conference day that would, in many other conferences, be of the calibre required to be scheduled as a part of the main event itself. The result of this was a conference that built a community, centred around the shared experience of a week of inspiring events, that drew in both visiting delegates and local practitioners.
Build 2010 kicked off on the Monday evening with an opening of Jessica Hische’s eagerly anticipated Illustrated Initials, a series of lovingly crafted letterpress prints drawn from her ongoing Daily Drop Caps series, exhibiting alongside our very own ‘Inspired Interfaces’ exhibition, inspired by the groundbreaking work of celebrated designer Dieter Rams. (We promise a link to a web-based version of ‘Inspired Interfaces’ shortly). It was inspiring to see how many people had decided to make a week of the conference and fly in early to attend the week’s worth of events, kicking off their participation at an opening that attracted a sizable number of passionate delegates.
On Tuesday, workshops from a host of internationally respected thinkers - including Liz Danzico, Frank Chimero and Tim Brown (in addition to yours truly) - got delegates not just thinking, but making things. The day was by all accounts a huge success, hosted in style at The Merchant, home of the celebrated £800 cocktail.
Hot on the heels of the workshops it was a quick pitstop for food, followed by ‘An Evening with Jessica Hische’, an entertaining and inspiring lecture in which Ms Hische mapped out the journey her career had taken. Told in a down-to-earth manner, it was a journey that captured everyone’s imagination, proving that reward, indeed, follows hard work and endeavour.
Immediately following Ms Hische’s presentation it was off to what was promised to be, “one of the most exciting events in this year’s geek calendar,” The Standardistas’ Open Book Exam. With over £5,000 of prizes from a host of celebrated supporteers, it was no surprise to find the exam filled to capacity and - though we say it ourselves - the difficulty of the questions notwithstanding, a great night was had by all. All eyes were on the final, sudden death round which saw Pete Kerr of Belfast based design firm Atto take the coveted title of ‘Last Geek Standing’ (not to mention a complimentary iPad).
This wasn’t all the fringe had to offer, however - far from it - with a number of other events rounding out the schedule. These included a fascinating presentation by Brock Rumer, of noted T Shirt purveyor Threadless who talked about the challenges and rewards of building a global community; and the much anticipated launch of Onotate, an excellent web application, which we have had the pleasure to beta test, that enables designers and developers to present and discuss mockups with clients and team members, courtesy of Belfast’s very own Rumblers.
The Main Event
Wednesday saw the start of the main conference day with a stellar line up of speakers from all over the globe (though primarily drawn from the United States of America).
Like making a mix-tape, programming a day’s worth of presentations is a task not to be undertaken lightly. The trick is to get a variety of topics and themes that segue nicely into each other, whilst retaining the attention and, hopefully, adoration of the intended audience. Andy’s playlist did not disappoint.
The day was admirably kicked off by Tim Van Damme and Keegan Jones of Gowalla, reminding us that the mobile web is at a tipping point and offering the audience some practical advice on designing for this rapidly emerging landscape. Following this hands-on double-act, the morning continued with a predominately theoretical theme….
An excellent talk by Tim Brown, recently appointed Type Manager for Typekit (and noted for his work at Nice Web Type) followed. Focusing on the often overlooked craft of typography, Mr Brown introduced us to, amongst many other things, The Modular Scale, a very useful tool for defining ratios and proportion within a typographic context. (Thank you again, Mr Brown, we appreciate your generosity in sharing the tools you create.)
Hot on his heels, everyone’s favourite Krelboyne, Frank Chimero delighted us with a presentation on ‘The Shape of Design’, stressing that, to really think about design, you need to learn and think about everything other than it. His talk, which encompassed a gamut of characters from Aristotle to Woody Allen, was a rare delight and one we’re still returning to.
After a pause for refreshments at St. George’s Market, Liz Danzico continued the journey towards the philosophical upper hemispheres with her meditation on ‘The Power of the Pause’. Danzico’s writings at Bobulate have long been a favourite of ours and her insightful and meticulously researched presentation - complete with a performance of John Cage’s 4’33” (not to mention John Williams’ soundtrack to ‘Jaws’) - left us speechless.
Turning the tape to Side B, the day was rounded out with presentations by former stablemates Meagan Fisher and Dan Cederholm. Talking on ‘The Blank Canvas’ and ‘Handcrafted CSS’ respectively, both covered topics more firmly grounded in the practical aspects of our industry.
After speaking to a wide range of attendees at the after party - all at various ages and stages of their careers - it was evident that some were hugely impressed by the hands-on, practical presentations, whilst others (ourselves included) were left reverberating by the bigger-picture, cogitative aspects of the day.
So, What’s Next for Build?
So, what’s next? It should come as no surprise by now, to discover that Build 2011 is already well and truly in the making. As the main event drew to a close, Andy - just like someone else we know - announced, “Just one more thing…” and proceeded to announce the line up for next year, complete with an early bird offer for those that had attended this year’s event.
We’re delighted to finally be able to reveal that we’ll be speaking next year. We’re honoured and not a little humbled to be joining the stage alongside a number of speakers who we very much respect and admire, not least Simon Collison, Ethan Marcotte and Jason Santa Maria (plus a few other speakers we can’t reveal just yet), for what we’re sure will prove an entertaining and informative event.
We look forward to seeing you all next year for what will, we’re sure, prove one of next year’s must attend conferences. Congratulations Mr McMillan, you did it again. Bravo.
In a disappointing move that lacks both insight and foresight Ed Vaizey, the UK Coalition Government’s Minister for Communication, Culture and the Creative Industries (and Member of Parliament for Wantage and Didcot), has stated that UK ISPs should be allowed to abandon the principle of net neutrality and prioritise users’ access to certain content providers.
In a telecoms conference hosted by the Financial Times in London, Vaizey stated:
ISPs should be free to favour one content provider over another as long as they inform customers in order to manage internet traffic.
Worrying words indeed and some might say the first step in a process that could see long-held principles of open access and freedom of (and to) information challenged.
The issue of net neutrality - that there should be no favouritism when connecting to certain sites online - is an important one, indeed, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web wrote about it recently, stressing that the internet must remain neutral.
Net neutrality is one of the founding principles of the web, where the free and open sharing of information, accessible to all on a level playing field, has driven both innovation and growth. The danger of allowing certain companies to pay a premium for their content to be delivered faster than rivals is that we will soon inherit a two tier web that inhibits innovation and erodes the principle of freedom of speech.
A more informed opinion on net neutrality was expressed recently by Erik Huggers, the BBC director of Future Media and Technology, who eloquently stated the BBC’s position as follows:
An emerging trend towards network operators discriminating in favour of certain traffic based on who provides it, as part of commercial arrangements, is a worrying development.
Why? For companies that can pay for prioritisation, their traffic will go in a special fast lane. But for those that don’t pay? Or can’t pay? By implication, their traffic will be de-prioritised and placed in the slow lane. Discriminating against traffic in this way would distort competition to the detriment of the public and the UK’s creative economy.
The founding principle of the internet is that everyone - from individuals to global companies - has equal access. This innovative and dynamic ecosystem, that enables huge public value, could be put at risk if network operators are allowed to use traffic management to become gatekeepers to the internet.
Huggers’ article is well worth reading in full, for a balanced and persuasive view on the importance of net neutrality and the dangers inherent in allowing ISPs and network operators to become ‘gatekeepers to the internet’.
Mr Vaizey’s announcement is worrying and has the potential to stifle innovation and growth in what has always primarily been an open medium. Should you live in the UK, we would urge you to contact your Member of Parliament and express your concern.
20 years ago, last Friday, the Proposal for a HyperText Project going by the name of the “WorldWideWeb” was published at CERN, by Messrs Berners-Lee and Cailliau.
As well as marking a significant point in history, the document proves fascinating reading. A lot has changed and developed in the last two decades, but it is quite astonishing how much of the original specification still holds up as a description of the web today.
What is really striking is how simple the proposal is. This simplicity, arguably, could be taken as an explanation of the success of the WorldWideWeb over the last 20 years. From the Abstract:
HyperText is a way to link and access information of various kinds as a web of nodes in which the user can browse at will. […] We propose the implementation of a simple scheme to incorporate several different servers of machine-stored information already available at CERN…
The proposal also outlines the requirements to realise the proposal: 5 1/2 people working in 2 phases of 3 months each. In hindsight, “Hey, we’re gonna build the World Wide Web, give me five guys and six months” seems utterly ludicrous.
But that’s more or less what happened.
From the company behind the excellent text-editor WriteRoom, “the ultimate spartan writing utopia” according to the accolades, comes QuickCursor, a menu-bar application which allows you to use your favourite text editor to edit text in any App on your Mac.
For those of you happy to fork your own, QuickCursor is currently on GitHub, but will be available at the Mac App Store soon. If you prefer using BBEdit, Espresso, MacVim, Smultron, SubEthaEdit, TextMate, TextWrangler, or WriteRoom, be sure to check it out.
Anyone who attended Tim Brown’s keynote, More Perfect Typography, at this year’s Build conference will have enjoyed his measured presentation on the importance of craft within our profession and the need to pay attention to detail. As Brown rightly put it:
Typography is an ancient art and craft; we are merely its latest practitioners. By looking to our tradition for guidance, we might once more attain our finest typographic achievements in this new medium.
One aspect Brown explored was the importance of ratios and proportion within a typographic context, not least the importance of the Golden Section. Outlining the benefits of embracing ratios within a typographic context, he revealed a tool to render the task of identifying ratios a little easier. Meet Modular Scale, a handy tool that, once given a base ‘ideal text size’ or ‘important number’ (say, a key column width) takes care of the rest.
Bookmark it now - we guarantee you won’t regret it - and, like us, you’ll be joining a chorus of a growing number of people saying, “Thank you Mr Brown!”
‘A World of Tweets’ is all about playing with geography and bits of information. Simply put, ‘A World of Tweets’ shows you where people are tweeting at from the past hour. The more tweets there are from a specific region, the ‘hotter’ or redder it becomes.
This continuous collection of Twitter statuses also allows for the presentation of other interesting visuals as well as statistical and historical data about the tweeting world we live in. Through the activity of Twitter users it is possible to tailor a new map of the world that evolves during the day according to the timezones and the spreading of mobile technologies.
Lovely work and fascinating to explore, ‘A World of Tweets’ is well worth a bookmark.
If you’re the sort of person who consumes copious quantities of coffee whilst enjoying deciphering information graphics, you’ll love Caffeine Monitor, Campaign Monitor’s contribution to this year’s Build conference. A simply lovely web application created by the talented team at Go Free Range and featuring a typically restrained design by Nicholas Felton, the application was designed to track the coffee consumption of the Build conference attendees and was, itself, a stunning visual feast.
Needless to say the ‘Number of Drinks Consumed’ fast approached infinite, the ‘Grams of Caffeine Consumed’ were extraordinarily high and the ‘Audience Caffeination’ level was set to ‘Alert’ (though this might also have had something to do with the free pic’n’mix on offer and the lovely Typekit cupcakes).
All round great work and precisely the kind of attention to detail and ‘added extra’ that sets Build apart from most other web design conferences. Hats off to Messrs Paper and Felton and, of course, the team at Campaign Monitor who sponsored something that was truly teh awesome.
Gavin Elliot, another of the fine attendees we had the pleasure of meeting at this year’s Build conference, has written an excellent piece on ‘Why your design will never be complete…’. Using the metaphor of a house, Elliot explains why a web site is never really ‘finished’ and is really just the beginning of a (hopefully long) process and relationship:
Two weeks later you notice some cracks appearing around the door and window frames. Not because the house is breaking, but its settling in to its foundations. Nine out of ten times these little cracks just need filled over.
Over more time you’ll realise that you need a lampshade, carpets and a new colorful wall in the entrance area to the house. Your house is never finished, in the same way as your new system will never be finished.
It’s hard to argue with Elliot’s closing insight, “Your design will never be complete, because it was never meant to be in the first place. It can only ever be great, as perfect is only ever in the future and you’re not there yet.”
It’s worth noting that Mr Elliot, amongst other things, is the organiser of another fine conference: DIBI. If you haven’t already you should sign up to be notified the moment tickets go on sale. If it’s anything like last year’s event, it looks set to be another winner.
With all of our shenanigans at this year’s Build conference (which we’ll be writing about in full shortly), we haven’t had a chance to write as much as we’d have liked to of late. Rest assured, however, that the flow of Standardistas’ content goodness is, once again, resuming.
First up, and tweeted about extensively on the main Build conference day, is the very talented Ms Jessica Hische, who won over everyone’s hearts at both her exhibition opening and lecture. What better way to illustrate the tenth Daily Drop Cap letter ‘X’, than with a Build inspired letterform?
Lovely indeed. Thank you Ms Hische.
With just five days to go until the Open Book Exam, we’d like to take a moment to thank our sponsors. We’ve been overwhelmed with the response to the Open Book Exam and the generosity of our friends who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to support our event.
When we first wrote: “The Standardistas’ Open Book Exam - promises to be one of the most exciting events in this year’s geek calendar,” we were of course guilty of a little hyperbole. However, we’re sure you’ll agree - looking at the prize list below - there’s a lot of schwag up for grabs.
The Prize Fund currently stands as follows:
- 01 × iPad
- 02 × Copies of The 2009 Feltron Annual Report
- 03 × Silverback Licenses
- 03 × Signed Bit Monsters Prints by Dan Cederholm
- 03 × Signed Copies of Dan Cederholm’s Handcrafted CSS
- 03 × Copies of Andy Clarke’s CSS Artistry
- 05 × Copies of Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing with Web Standards (3rd Edition)
- 02 × Copies of Messrs Lawson and Sharp’s Introducing HTML5
- 02 × Copies of Messrs Bowles and Box’s Undercover User Experience Design
- 01 × Copy of Andy Clarke’s Designing with CSS DVD
- 01 × Copy of John Allsopp’s Developing with Web Standards
- 01 × Copy of Tantek Celik’s HTML5 Now DVD
- 01 × Copy of Filament Group’s Designing with Progressive Enhancement
- 01 × Copy of Denise Jacobs’ The CSS Detective Guide
- 01 × Copy of InterACT’s Interact with Web Standards
- 03 × Copies of The Web Standardistas’ Bible (King James Edition)
- 02 × Copies of Messrs Sambells and Gustafson’s AdvancED DOM Scripting
- 02 × Copies of Andy Budd’s CSS Mastery (2nd Edition)
- 05 × Copies of Jeremy Keith’s HTML5 for Web Designers
- 02 × Copies of 8 Faces, Issue 1
- 25 × Raven’s Wing Field Notes 3-Packs with Assorted Schwag
- 01 × DIBI Ticket
- 01 × New Adventures in Web Design Ticket
- 04 × Courier Licenses
- 02 × RapidWeaver Licenses
- 02 × LittleSnapper Licenses
- 02 × Socialite Licenses
- 03 × Onotate Licenses
- 02 × Fontdeck Bags of Schwag
- 02 × Typekit Personal Accounts
- 02 × Gowalla Schwag Bundles
- 01 × Ubuntu Schwag Bundle
- 05 × Signed Copies of Nick Disabato’s Cadence & Slang
We owe a personal thank you to the many people who responded so generously and efficiently to our Request for Schwag (RFS™), not least the following: Andy McMillan at Build; Nicholas Felton of The Feltron Report; Andy Budd at Clearleft; Dan Cederholm at SimpleBits; the team at New Riders; our friends at friends of ED; Jeffrey Zeldman, Jeremy Keith and Mandy Brown at A Book Apart; Elliot Jay Stocks of 8 Faces; Michele Seiler at Field Notes; Gavin Elliot of DIBI; Simon Collison of New Adventures; Nik Fletcher of Realmac Software; Simon Hamilton and Steven Hylands at Onotate; Rich Rutter and Jon Tan at Fontdeck; Jeff Veen at Typekit; Tim Van Damme and Keegan Jones of Gowalla; and, last but not least, Inayaili de León at Canonical.
We’re looking forward to seeing you all at Build and entertaining you for what we are sure will be a memorable evening. With just days to go we’d encourage you to get revising and follow @standardistas on Twitter where we’re sprinkling clues in our timeline and revealing revision topics daily.
After what’s been an altogether-all-too-long hiatus, everyone’s favourite podcast You Look Nice Today is back. Get the latest episode, That’s Babies, now - you won’t be disappointed.
The team’s excuse for the lengthy silence? Simple:
Let’s hope they work this biweekly concept out, sooner rather than later.
Inspired by the ongoing Flash vs. HTML5 debate, the folks at Code Computerlove created Flash vs. HTML5, a witty take on the often heated discussion around the competition between the two. In their own words:
The Flash vs. HTML5 debate has caused much discussion over the recent months and it certainly got us thinking. We believe the two technologies are not in competition and each have their purpose, but thought it might be amusing to actually put them in direct competition. Flash is on the left and the HTML5 Canvas is on the right.
The result is a - how can we put it? - death match, in which the two competitors fight it out via the medium of Pong. Great work (and enjoyable to play too).
Microsoft Word is good at laying out your document, but poor at understanding writing and suggesting edits to it.
It’s now feasible to embed on-demand human computation within interactive systems. Crowd workers on services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk will do tasks for very small amounts of money. Soylent is a word processor with a crowd inside: an add-in to Microsoft Word that uses crowd contributions to perform interactive document shortening, proofreading, and human-language macros.
Students take note, this might be just what you need to complete that Future and Emerging Technologies essay.
Following up on Andy Rutledge’s ‘The UX Design Education Scam’ (the focus of our last note 1), Josh Brewer of 52 Weeks of UX (and more recently, Twitter) has written an excellent article, Keep on Learning, on the importance of creative problem solvers maintaining a thirst for learning. Brewer states:
One of the greatest qualities in most creative problem solvers is a thirst for learning. Most designers and user experience professionals I know have some level of post-graduate education. But if you were to dig a little deeper, you would likely find that many have degrees in either partially or completely unrelated fields. The truth is the greatest thing you learn while getting a college education is that you alone are responsible for what and how you learn.
We wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment - that the true learning undertaken whilst studying for a qualification is the learning you drive forward yourself - and we were humbled to be mentioned in the article alongside Liz Danzico, Chair of SVN’s excellent MFA in Interaction Design.
We strive to instill in our students a hunger for knowledge and an understanding that the most successful graduates are, more often than not, those with a high level of self-motivation and inquisitiveness.
Universities offer a framework for learning. The best courses equip their students with core competencies in addition to an understanding that learning is an ongoing process that should be lifelong.
Brewer’s article rightly highlights the importance of this, concluding with an extensive - and very well curated - reading list that is well worth bookmarking and working through. As Brewer puts it, “Something to read through this long cold winter season … to help get your UX education off to a good start.”
Having just written an opinion piece for .net magazine on the importance of Crafting Web Design Education, we’re always interested to hear others’ opinions about the state of web design education, especially at graduate and postgraduate level.
Teaching this topic is tricky, not least due to the relentless pace of change our industry is constantly experiencing, however, we’re convinced that there are pockets of excellence out there (but then as educators, you’d expect us to say that, wouldn’t you?).
Andy Rutledge recently penned a forthright - some might say polemical - piece on The UX Design Education Scam that is well worth reading. (As is generally the case with Mr Rutledge’s writing it’s not on the short side, so we suggest you fetch a cup of tea and take a few minutes out of your day to read it.) His opinions are, for the most part, hard to argue with, though we’d take issue at the sweeping nature of some of the assertions he makes.
His closing remarks make alarming reading and should act as a wake up call to anyone truly interested in the education side of the equation of pushing our industry forward:
The future is not dim; it’s bright, but universities and colleges have nothing of value to contribute in the context of UX design degree programs outside of the à la carte design and psychology courses they can offer, which form the foundations of that pursuit.
We must cease dialogue with these institutions, for a worthwhile dialogue requires something other than one interested party and one blind, deaf, unmalleable party, cowering within an ivory tower behind a brick wall and surrounded by a moat, fearful of losing the false cloak of competence.
Whilst we wouldn’t 100% agree with the less than constructive nature of this assessment, there’s no question that academia - within our sector in particular - does, indeed, have a lot to answer for.
There are pockets of excellence out there. The trick perhaps lies in finding these, finding out what characterises them, and learning from them to improve the web design education landscape. By learning from examples of best practice one would hope we can move the state of web design education forward; away from the scam and towards investment.
Though - due to other considerations 1 2 - we’re a little late to the party, we couldn’t help but mention Campaign Monitor’s recently announced Gallery of Stunning HTML Email Templates. In their own words:
For too long HTML email has been the ugly step-child of the web. It’s time for a change, so we teamed up with some seriously talented designers to bring their skills to the world of HTML email.
With a wide range of hand-crafted templates courtesy of a stellar range of designers - Messrs Collison and Stocks to name but two - you might want to convince yourself you really need an email newsletter just to enjoy the pleasure of putting them to good use.