January 2012 Archives
Tina Roth Eisenberg, perhaps better known by her swissmiss moniker, is a ‘Swiss Designer Gone NYC’, entrepreneur and all-round creative whirlwind, with an eye for beautifully designed products which she curates and shares with the world daily via her much-visited swissmiss blog. She lives and works in NYC.
In addition to the daily inspiration she posts via swissmiss, which has gathered a not inconsiderable international following, she is also the founder of CreativeMornings, TeuxDeux and Tattly. As if that weren’t achievement enough, she is also the founder of Brooklyn based studio Studiomates, a hive of creative activity that’s quite literally home to a Who’s Who of creative talent.
We asked Ms Roth Eisenberg a dozen questions.
Where did you learn your craft?
I grew up in the Swiss Alps, surrounded by a minimal Swiss design aesthetic, and was taught the ins and outs of graphic design in Geneva, at the Ecole Des Arts Décoratifs and at the Fachhoschule Munich, Germany.
Who inspires you?
My studiomates. Daily.
What are your influences?
My Studiomates. The blogs I read. New York City. CreativeMornings Talks. Masters like Charles and Ray Eames, Milton Glaser and Dieter Rams.
You’ve been curating swissmiss for six years now, during which time you’ve gathered a not insignificant following. How much of a full time job is writing for the blog, and how has it changed over the years?
I started swissmiss in 2005 as a personal visual archive. Fast forward seven years and it’s anything but personal. The fact that I have over one million monthly uniques makes my head spin. You have to understand my context, I grew up in a town with a population of 3,000 people in the Swiss country side, cows in front of my door, and all that.
I spend about two to three hours a day on my blog. Sometimes more, sometimes less. Usually, when I blog a lot I have other deadlines that I keep pushing out. Blogging is my way of procrastinating.
I would love to spend more time on the blog, and there were times when I spent a good four to five hours a day writing and researching, but I have since put on more hats and I need to divide my time between swissmiss, CreativeMornings and Tattly.
It takes time to build a personal brand, but - as Gary Vaynerchuk put it in his recent TED talk [Do What You Love (No Excuses!) 1 - it’s entirely possible in our new-fangled internet age. At a conservative estimate, how long did it take, and what sustained you, while you grew the swissmiss brand?
I am not sure that’s the right way to talk about ‘swissmiss’. Sure, some people say I built a brand, but I just simply believe I created a work environment and life that is 100% true to what I believe in, and that makes me happy. People are fascinated by others that follow their heart and take risks. Now people say I created a ‘brand’. I say, I created an ideal life. The word ‘brand’ makes it sound too calculated and planned. There was no strategy behind anything I did. I simply followed my gut.
Luckily I picked a catchy name for my blog, which helps the ‘brand’ feel. So, in that regard, what sustained me is the fact that I just did what felt right and made me happy. Nothing fuels you more than being ‘in the flow’ and feeling that you’re doing what you’re supposed to do and what fulfils you. I don’t want to get all spiritual, but I deeply believe that when you’re on the right track, things fall into place. When you’re trying to force something and it’s just not happening, maybe it’s just not meant to be, and you need to steer left or right. I am just lucky I found my path.
You created Teux Deux with Fictive Kin. What problems with existing to-do applications were you trying to solve?
I just wanted a simple, straight-forward app, without any bells and whistles. A simple list app that allows me to check things off and see the week in overview. No scheduling, no alerts, no repeat tasks. Just a basic list. We built TeuxDeux for ourselves and we use it every day.
In Communication Crisis you wrote about the irony of hyper-efficient communication leading to a world of under-efficient communication (being overwhelmed with messages). When email becomes your, “primary source of guilt,” what other channels would you suggest?
Messenger Pigeons? OK, just kidding. Yes, the guilt-inducing-email-problem is keeping me up at night. I get an unhealthy amount of emails every day. Add to that Tweets, DMs, Text Messages and regular mail. It’s a full-time job in itself to respond to everyone, and people get upset when I don’t reply and it kills me.
For a while I had an auto-responder that basically said, “I will try to get back to you as soon as I can, but it might take a while. I just want to set expectations right!” For some people that worked and they were understanding, others were downright offended by it. I will find a solution, I am determined. I will let you know when I find it. For now, I try to stick to five.sentenc.es.
As well as practicing as a designer you teach at Parsons The New School for Design. How does your teaching influence your design practice?
I’ve stopped teaching at Parsons, but will start teaching at the new SVA MFA Program called Products of Design next year. Teaching definitely shows you the power of experience. We tend to forget just how much work experience teaches us, until you are standing in front of a group of complete beginners that ask the same basic questions you did, when you started out. But, you also realize how hard it is to explain things, that after years of working in the industry, come intuitively. For me, teaching is forcing me to put into words what I just instinctively do, every day.
What do you like better? Chocolate or cuckoo-clocks?
What’s your favourite typeface?
Trade Gothic Condensed. And no, it’s not Helvetica.
What’s your favourite plain text editor?
Notational Velocity It’s a barebones note taking app. It doesn’t get any more straightforward. I love that it syncs with the Simple Note iPhone app, so I have all my notes on the go.
What’s your favourite tea?
We wrote about Craig Oldham’s Hand Written Letter Project when it was first published in July, 2011 1 and again when we received our beautifully crafted books in August, 2011 2. If you didn’t get in early enough to pick up one of the original limited edition, good news, Mr Oldham’s published a second edition. As he puts it:
This new edition features an expanded collection of new correspondence … including more additions from the design world’s leading figures alongside heartfelt correspondence from people who just had something they wished to say.
Meticulously produced, this edition documents the correspondence chronologically presenting each letter uninterrupted on its individual page. Section sewn into signatures and bound with an 8-page double gatefold cover, this new books presents letter after letter, message after message, presenting the most complete and uninterrupted résumé of the [project] to date.
We’d urge you to pick up a copy second time around, you won’t regret it.
With our New Adventures in Web Design Workshop around the corner, we’re looking forward to spending an action-packed session exploring the benefits of a paper-driven design process with our New Adventures workshop participants in the fine city of Nottingham (where, we’re led to believe, Robin Hood lives…).
We’ll be exploring a variety of idea generation techniques - which even include the benefits of using good old-fashioned typewriters - and applying these processes in the service of a brief we’ve conjured up for the day.
We’re looking forward to working with our workshop participants and meeting conference attendees at the conference itself. If you’re around, please do introduce yourself, we’d love to make your acquaintance.
As usual we’ll be the gentlemen wearing tweed. We look forward to seeing you during the conference or, as is statistically likely, at the after party.
See you there.
Combine Dribble with Spinning-Coke-Can CSS antics, and you get CSSDeck, a collection of useful and not-so-useful pretty looking things made out of pure CSS and HTML. Although we probably don’t need a BMW Logo made out of the finest CSS, the showcase does its job in presenting the power and flexibility of the tools currently at the front-end developers disposal.
Created to show the commitment of the individuals who make Wikipedia what it is, wikistream provides a wonderfully nerdy insight into the velocity of updates of Wikipedia, wikistream is, in their own words:
…an experimental visualization of realtime edits in major language Wikipedias. Every time someone updates or creates a Wikipedia article you will see it ever so briefly in this list. And if someone uploads an image file to the Wikimedia Commons you should see the image background update.
Hopefully wikistream provides a hint of just how active the community is around Wikipedia. wikistream was created to help recognize the level of involvement of folks around the world, who are actively engaged in making Wikipedia the amazing resource that it is.
Andrea Gallo’s Six Architects poster series demonstrate a finely tuned eye for detail and abstraction. Every one is elegant in its simplicity and wonderfully restrained.
You don’t have to be a devoted follower of US politics to have noticed that the US Congress are in the process of trying to pass legislation that, if implemented, will have serious implications for the web as we know it.
In the words of Defend the Internet:
In January 2012, Congress is set to debate the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect-IP Act (PIPA), bills designed to let the US government block websites and information from the public.
Not only does this bill let the government restrict free speech, but also does not effectively address the issue of online piracy, the stated intention of the legislation.
If you’re a citizen of the United States, the site provides an excellent grounding in the problems the bill poses, and gives you clear advice on what you can do to try to stop the bill. For anyone else, the site is an exquisite example of great web design, and worth a visit for this reason alone.
Longstanding favourite the Believer Magazine recently let their authors free on Tumblr, creating The Believer Logger, Featuring incidental and tangental content relating to articles published in the magazine, it promises to be yet another essential and delightful addition for your trusty RSS reader.
Marian imagines the classics of the typographic canon reinvented for the contemporary world: Garamond, Granjon, van den Keere, Kiš, Fleischmann, Fournier, Baskerville, Bodoni and Austin restyled and revived.
These aren’t strict revivals, for they are not accurate recreations, nor are they interpretations per se. Instead they reduce the historical models to their basic skeletal forms. Nine serrifed typefaces and one Blackletter reduced to their basic structure. This reduction strips them to their core, whilst at the same time retaining the life and spirit of the letters.
The resulting typefaces are subtle and understated, retaining the ‘essence’ of the original typefaces on which they’re based, spirited revivals that subtly echo the past whilst looking to the future.
The word on the street has it that none other than Jessica Hische conjured up the titles for Wes Anderson’s new movie Moonrise Kingdom, coming to a silver screen near you soon. Great work Ms Hische, your place on The Walk of Fame is long overdue!
Given our appreciation for both Markdown and Dropbox it should come as no surprise to discover that scriptogr.am hits our sweet spot. “A simple online tool that converts static Markdown text files located in your Dropbox, into a beautiful web log,” it’s easy to use and, better still, it’s free.
With an extremely short learning curve, the ability to host your blog with your own custom domain name, and the ability to customise your CSS (not to mention a selection of upcoming themes from which to choose) it might just be the perfect tool you’ve been looking for. Give it a whirl, you’ll be up and running in next to no time.
Like all calendars, it’s a bit of escapism, a parallel life, the year we want to have; a year of time spent in the garden, of the smell of woodsmoke, that kind of carry-on.
You can download it to match your hemisphere (to make sure the seasons match up properly - we’re from Aotearoa, where the weather is back-to-front).
Download it, print it out, hang it with twine and you’re good to go for 2012.
We had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Chandler Van De Water at Brooklyn Beta 2011. Not only is he a gentleman and a scholar, “with an unnatural affection for beer,” but also a mighty talented designer and - this was news to us - an occasional designer of typefaces.
Download his latest creation Cubano at a price of your choosing from the wonderful Lost Type Co-op. A confident, yet friendly display sans serif, Mr Van De Water describes it as follows:
Cubano’s personality is defined by its rounded corners, wide strokes, and semi-condensed letterforms. Featuring 167 glyphs, Cubano is available in all caps with numerals, punctuation, symbols and most accent marks. And with webfonts included, you can easily solidify your next site with Cubano!
Viva la revolución!
Speaking of Responsive Design, responsivepx is a splendid little tool developed by talented bastard Remy Sharp. Through a simple interface responsivepx lets you load up your website and adjust the viewport to find out exactly where your responsive design breaks, allowing you to add precise and accurate breakpoints in your media queries.
Responsive Design, Responsively Illustrated - an intelligently designed single serving site by James Mellers to interactively showcase responsive design techniques - does, as we say in this country, exactly what it says on the tin.
As Mr Mellers puts it:
Resize your browser to reveal just a handful of the kind of devices you should expect web pages to be viewed on. Each device illustration is rendered using the same basic HTML which adapts its appearance to the changing viewport size, representing different devices accordingly. This is achieved using media queries to apply different CSS rules for different sizes. This experiment is intended to illustrate the basic premise of responsive web design and the power of CSS to tackle it.
This is not a guide for the breakpoints for all layouts. Values here were chosen arbitrarily for a discreet set of devices, you should take a flexible approach with logical breakpoints to suit your content and design aesthetics. Put another way: We should not serve specific sites to specific devices based on detection of screen size.
Offering a “Free unlimited rebooting experience from vintage operating systems”, the Restart Page is surely the most appropriate way for any self respecting and/or ageing geek to restart 2012 in style. Happy Restart.
‘Making the Iconic, Iconic’, Micons is a new side project by the talented Mr Tim Potter, one of our colleagues teaching Interactive Design at the University of Ulster. A free collection of icons from the world of technology, the first in the series is Apple’s iconic Mac Mini.
Micons are more than just free icons, however. Intended as a learning resource, offering an insight into how to craft your own beautiful icons, each pack includes PSDs and PNGs. As Mr Potter puts it:
Sharing is great, it’s how we can learn from each other. Each Micons series will be accompanied by an insight into the design process. It may look complex but it’s actually a simple manipulation of shapes and textures.
The Photoshop files in each pack retain the original layers, so you can take apart and remix at your pleasure.
In addition to the included files each Micon is accompanied by a short video revealing the design process involved in its creation. That’s sharing indeed.
Next up is ‘Classic Consoles’, featuring some much loved consoles from yesteryear, essentially an excuse for Mr Potter to get it on like Donkey Kong.
Washington DC based designer Phil Zelnar has, as he puts it, “been designing things and writing code since the days of 14K modems.” (We remember those – s l o w – days well.) His latest project, 2012 Wishes, gathers up 2,012 wishes for 2012, all wrapped up in an elegant and minimal design.
A generous individual, for every wish submitted he’ll donate a dime to charity. Want to add a wish? There are just 1,851 wishes to go. Better get in now….
We’ve long had a soft spot for howies and have used them in our teaching as a case study on the importance of identifying (and adhering to) values in business. As a small company with clearly articulated core values howies faced a challenge in 2006 when, as they put it themselves, “[they] became a tiny part of a $2 billion company,” after being bought by Timberland.
The challenges - small scale versus big business - only increased when Timberland itself was bought by VF Corporation in late 2011 and howies became an even tinier part of a $10 billion corporation.
It’s difficult to retain your values when you’re becoming an ever smaller cog in the corporate mechanism and the pressures of big business are increasingly bearing down, often at the expense of a company’s original mission and purpose.
As such we were delighted to discover that, “while everybody was crunching the big numbers, the howies management team quietly bought the business back,” and, as of 1 January, 2012, howies became small again. As they put it:
We thank VF for giving us the opportunity to be small again.
It could be big.
Welcome back howies. We wish you well on your journey again, bonne chance for 2012.
We’d like to wish our readers a happy and prosperous new year. We hope 2012 is a fruitful one for you and we look forward to unveiling a few forthcoming surprises as the year evolves. Thank you, as ever, for your support.