March 2012 Archives
Without the usual hassle - involving maths and grid locations - SpritePad lets you:
Simply drag and drop your images and have them immediately available as one PNG sprite + CSS code.
Looks like an invaluable tool to dangle from your web designer’s toolbelt.
We’re all aware of the disposable, fleeting nature of the ephemeral conversations we hold on Twitter. Embracing this very essence, Shitter is a new service that creates a physical manifestation of the cursory, transient exchanges otherwise confined to the virtual. In their own words:
Shitter will take one or more feeds from your Twitter account and turn it into four rolls of toilet paper, delivered straight to your door.
Delightful, useful and flushable.
The premise behind Scoreline is simple, as it’s creator’s put it:
Scoreline is a series of posters that graphically outline goals scored in classic football matches.
The results are lovely. If you share a passion for the beautiful game and beautiful infographics, you should take a look.
All too often we make excuses, as our friends at Atto put it in a recent masterclass they ran for our Masters students, “Excuses not to be awesome.” We talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk. We find 101 reasons not to start something. “There wasn’t enough money.” “I didn’t have access to the right equipment.” “I couldn’t find the right team members.” The list goes on and on…
A great idea only has the potential to be great if you actually start it; as Brendan Dawes put it at New Adventures, 2011: “Talk - Action = Shit”
Chris McClelland, co-founder of Belfast’s very own Ecliptic Labs, will be speaking at April’s Refresh Belfast on a one word topic: Start. It’s a topic close to our hearts as educators, often seeing great ideas that - at times – frustratingly fail to come to fruition 1. As McClelland puts it:
Everybody has the ability to start something. To some it may seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. This talk will be a frank discussion about ways to start and deliver successful products.
Based on experiences and insights Chris will share some real world examples. You’ll hear about what works, and what doesn’t, tales of starting from nothing, to thinking and delivering big.
If you’re in Belfast on Monday, 16 April, sign up and come along. Who knows, it might just be the kick up the proverbial you need to actually start that project that’s been knocking about in the back of your head all this time.
Josh Brewer is Principal Designer at Twitter, and an accomplished author and speaker who, “Spends his time thinking about, designing and building things that live at the intersection of form, function and aesthetic.” He lives and works in San Francisco.
Mr Brewer is the co-creator of 52 Weeks of UX, “a discourse on the process of designing for real people,” which serves as an excellent resource on the wide range of practices that, collectively, encompass user experience design. In addition to his work designing and shaping experiences at Twitter, Brewer has also written for Typekit on Choosing Fallback Fonts and co-created FFFFallback, a simple tool for bulletproof web typography.
We asked Mr Brewer a dozen questions.
Where did you learn your craft?
I learned to care about craftsmanship from my father. He is a musician, a painter and a brewmaster. Growing up I witnessed his commitment to practicing, his attention to detail, and his commitment to the process that would produce the best results. I am thankful he imparted that to me.
As for learning my craft, I can trace it back to high school and college where I spent countless hours drawing, painting and sculpting. I studied the history of design and read everything I could get my hands on. That led to endless nights viewing source trying to deconstruct other peoples’ design decisions and markup patterns. Then I would take that knowledge and apply it immediately.
In other words, I practiced. A lot.
Who inspires you?
My wife, Dana Brewer, constantly inspires me. She is an amazing mother, wife and friend, filled with boundless creative energy and tons of faith.
My children. The wonder and joy they exude discovering the world one day at a time is indescribable. They’ve given me a new perspective on the work I do. They inspire me to do great work that they and their children will be proud of.
Finally, this community. I am inspired daily by the amazing men and women that are working in our industry. The encouragement, the sharing, the honest-to-god magic that people conjure up to do things we couldn’t do before… so inspiring.
What are your influences?
My family and my faith have had a huge influence on who I am, and how I live my life. In my work, it has been people like Massimo Vignelli, Paul Rand, Jan Tschichold, Dieter Rams, Karl Gerstner and Bruno Munari. Men to whom we owe a debt of gratitude and in whose work I continue to find simple truths that inform my own work and thinking. Music has also been, and continues to be, a huge influence in my life.
Ably assisted by the talented Mr Joshua Porter, you’re the co-creator of ‘52 Weeks of UX’, a wonderful resource that we repeatedly return to and regularly refer our students to. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed Weeks 1-50, when can we look forward to the curiously missing Weeks 51 and 52 and what has proven the impediment to the completion of this project?
Life. I started at Twitter toward the last part of the year and Josh’s role at Performable was increasingly demanding. Between that and both of us having a wife and kids, it got harder and harder to keep up the writing schedule. And then, after a while of not writing, it got super-hard to just finish. We intend to get the last couple articles done very soon and then maybe do an ebook or some sort of compilation.
You’re currently a Principal Designer at Twitter. What role would you say your side projects had in landing you this dream job?
I think they definitely played a part. I think that side projects can show a diversity that might not be evident in a portfolio or even in your current job. Sometimes there is a part of you that does not have an expression in your day-to-day work and side projects can give you the freedom to play around and experiment and at the same time help to keep your skills current.
On 15 November, 2006, you joined Twitter as a user (with a Twitter user id of #12,555 your relationship with the platform was clearly long standing). On 29 June, 2007, the iPhone went on sale. Do you think Twitter would have broken into the non-nerd mainstream without the phenomenal growth of the iPhone and other smartphones?
Yes. I think that the service alone has been transformational in the way we communicate and discover things in an absolutely unique way. However, there is no denying the massive impact the iPhone and other smartphones have had on the adoption of Twitter. After all, the product’s roots are 140 characters delivered via SMS. The power of Twitter is most evident in the mobile context in my opinion.
You’ve had a vocal role in promoting Responsive Web Design, not least through your impromptu elevation to the chair of the ‘RWD Summit’ not long ago. Is there room for non-responsive design in our industry anymore?
That’s kind of a loaded question. Responsive Web Design, as defined by Ethan Marcotte, is the use of media queries, fluid grids and flexible images. But I honestly think that Ethan happened to get people to open up to the reality that the way we have been designing and building for the web has to change and adapt.
RWD, and I would add the ‘mobile-first’ approach, have been bundled together and are often mistakenly being thought of as a silver bullet. The reality is that you have to do your homework. You have to understand the content, the context, the business goals, the technical constraints, the financial constraints, the platforms on which you are building and then you can make the right choices about how you go about delivering the right product.
On the subject of responsive web design, if you could name one obstacle to the creation of responsive designs - technical or otherwise - that you could remove with a magic wand, what would it be?
The use of
px as the default standard of measurement on the web. If we would have been able to really embrace the fluid, adaptive nature of the web from the beginning I think things would be totally different. But the tools we had and the capabilities of the browsers weren’t in a place to support that kind of thinking and this approach to building.
I feel like I have had to unlearn a lot of ways of thinking and approaches to designing for the web that I developed over the last 10+ years. But I have to admit that thinking about design as a highly adaptable system of interconnected components from the very start is an incredibly exciting new way to work.
At Build in 2011 you quoted Paul Rand, stating: “design is relationships.” As designers, we should be in the business of creating better experiences for people which lead to deeper relationships, however, we’re often seen by those who commission us as mere decorators. What can we do to change this mindset?
For one, stop acting like decorators. The more we cater to demands like, “I need a mockup of a brand new design for our homepage in two hours to show to our investors,” the more we reinforce the notion that we just ‘make pretty’. That’s not design, that’s being a pixel-monkey.
Another thing, and maybe the most important, is to talk about and share our design process. Helping people understand what it is we do when and how we do it is key in changing that perception. It gives them a vocabulary and a context that changes the way the conversation happens and ultimately can lead to more collaboration up-front, which is a good thing.
What’s your favourite typeface?
Don’t I get to pick eight? Oh, wrong publication. Probably Akzidenz Grotesk, but man, Harriet from Okay Type feels like it was made just for me (will report back once I get the chance to use it a bit).
What’s your favourite plain text editor?
I wrote all of this in iA Writer for Mac and iPhone. I love it and have used it since the beta for the iPad came out. For coding, I have recently joined the cool kids and started using SublimeText. It’s pretty amazing.
What’s your favourite tea?
Single-malt scotch, preferably Speyside and at least 15 years old. Oh, wait, tea? Um, probably Egyptian Licorice.
As attendees at Brooklyn Beta since it began we can testify to the relentless care and attention to detail that is invested in the conference by all of those involved. Cameron Koczon and Chris Shiflett, the driving force behind the conference, pour every last ounce of passion they have into it and, as if this weren’t enough, have a dedicated and hugely committed team of volunteers pouring their hearts and souls into the conference too, ensuring - ably - that Brooklyn Beta lives up to its core values summarised in its motto:
Make Something You Love
Messrs Koczon and Shiflett care. They care about our industry and they care about supporting it to do more and to do better. As they put it:
Brooklyn Beta has two goals. We want to inspire you to make something you love, and we want to help remove any barriers that stand in the way. With our conference, we do our best to help spread big ideas and connect designers and developers together.
They succeed in this aspiration, admirably.
Brooklyn Beta Summer Camp is the next, exciting instalment in this dynamic duo’s passion and commitment to do right by our industry. As they put it, “Summer Camp aims to help designer-developer teams build the next generation of web products and change the world.
The Summer Camp to End All Summer Camps
Across a twelve week programme in the summer leading up to the Brooklyn Beta 2012 conference, the inaugural Brooklyn Beta Summer Camp will support a number of creative startups to pursue projects - big ideas with big impact - in short, projects that aim to change the world and maybe even, “Put existing abusive, mammoth institutions out of business (pretty please).”
In return for a 6% equity stake - which is designed to be reinvested to sustain future Summer Camps - they’ll invest $25,000 in your company, but that’s not all… not by a long shot.
Successful companies will have the opportunity to pitch their finished products to a small room full of the best investors in New York and beyond (given Koczon and Shiflett’s extensive connections, this alone is a fantastic opportunity).
As if that weren’t an added bonus enough, companies will also be able to avail of the support and adice of a stellar who’s who board of advisers which includes: Charles Adler, co-founder of Kickstarter; Dan Mall, founder of SuperFriendly; Fred Wilson, partner in Unions Square Ventures; Jason Santa Maria, Creative Director of Typekit; and Jeffrey Zeldman and Jessica Hische, of whom more than enough’s already been said. (And that is just the tip of a very, very large and very, very experienced talent iceberg.)
It’s this board of advisers, perhaps more than any other aspect of Brooklyn Beta Summer Camp, that’s the real jewel in the project’s eye. This level of talent and experience to draw from - all operating at a truly global level - is almost impossible to measure, provides a truly invaluable brain trust, and offers the shortlisted Summer Camp comapnies an enviable head start. With a collective few hundred years of experience contributing their all to the Summer Camp companies, you’d be hard pressed to find better minds to draw from.
If You Care, Step Up to the Plate
Koczon and Shiflett, and their respective FictiveKin and Analog teams, are that rare breed in our industry: passionate individuals who care enough about our collective future that they’ll take the time, care, and attention to detail to invest in people, invest in you. More importantly, rather than talking about what’s possible, they’ll put their heart and soul into making what’s possible, possible.
That commitment, that passion to put action before talking, is a rare quality, a quality to recognise and celebrate.
On the fringe of conferences we often hear idle discussion about the wonderful things we can collectively achieve if we just put our combined talents together. More often than not two barriers stop this from happening: time and money.
Brooklyn Beta Summer Camp removes one of these. As they put it:
We do our best at Brooklyn Beta to help spread big ideas and connect designers and developers together. With Summer Camp, we want to take it a step further and remove what is quite possibly the biggest barrier of all, money.
With that barrier now removed all that remains is time. If you’re passionate, have a great idea and have an entrepreneurial spirit you’ve no excuses.
If you’ve an idea for a web product and you’re in a designer-developer team (or can find a designer ying to neatly fit your developer yang, or vice versa), you should get your thinking cap on and put in an application. Applications open on 31 May, 2012, allowing you plenty of time to get something inspiring together. Sign up to be notified the moment applications open.
Go on. Take Messrs Koczon and Shiflett up on their offer. Make something you love. Make something to change the world. Make something awesome.
If you’ve yet to experience the annual cornucopia of delights that is Build Conference 1 we’d urge you to fire over to the conference’s lovely new iconic teaser site (complete with mysteriously suggestive icons) and sign up to be kept informed the precise moment tickets go on sale.
Scheduled for 12-16 November, 2012 in our fine city of Belfast it will, we’ve no doubt, prove once again the must attend conference of the year (but then, given our involvement in the conference and its surrounding fringe events since it started in 2009, we’re understandably just a little biased).
Sign up now to be kept informed when tickets go on sale in a fortnight. Given the conference’s very loyal following, tickets will doubtless be snapped up in next to no time.
Type Connection – an MFA thesis project by Aura Seltzer, currently enrolled at Maryland Institute College of Art – is a, “game that helps you learn how to pair typefaces,” which is both carefully thought out and very nicely designed indeed.
Following the model of a conventional dating web site, Type Connection imparts a little typographic wisdom along the way. As Seltzer puts it:
The game features well-known, workhorse typefaces and portrays each as a character searching for love. You are the matchmaker. You decide what kind of match to look for by choosing among several strategies for combining typefaces.
The model is simple:
Step 1: Start by choosing a main character to match, perhaps: ITC Century, “an effective communicator who found a niche”; Univers, “a structural engineer who dreams in grid formation”; or Adobe Garamond Pro, “a modern-day high renaissance man.”
Step 2: Choose a strategy for finding a match: ‘Rely on Family’; ‘Seek the Similar’; ‘Embrace the Other’; or ‘Explore the Past’.
Step 3: Meet the prospective typographic dates and review their biographies in an attempt to guage their suitability for typographic romance.
Step 4: Evaluate your choice’s potential through the provision of a series of extensive type samples.
Finally, if you’re happy your two typefaces are suitable for a sport of character canoodling, ‘Send Them on a Date’ and discover how your matchmaking capabilities measure up. Lovely, and extremely educational along the way.
Type Connection is an excellent piece of work which is well worth spending a little time exploring by an MFA student who’s well worth keeping an eye on.
Zuzana Licko’s lovely Mr Eaves typeface (a sans serif inspired by a serif inspired by Baskerville) has been on a diet and trimmed down a little. Say, “Hello!” to Mr Eaves Narrow, a slim looking gentleman of a typeface that looks vicariously versatile.
In a twist on the typical op-ed piece, The New York Times runs an op-art piece by Peter Funt and Martin Venezky on The Rise of the 1%. (Question: What are the odds that you’re part of the 1 percent? Answer: Higher than you’d think.). Regular readers will know we’re admirers of the work of Mr Venezky, his take on this infographic is typically idiosyncratic.
Should you have missed it, James Mellers - who previously published the much-linked Responsive Design, Responsively Illustrated - has published Responsive Layouts, Responsively Wireframed, “A simple interactive experiment with responsive design techniques and a call for new tooling.”
You should take a look, it’s a lovely piece of work.
…a short but heartfelt manifesto about the difference between liking something on the internet and loving something on the internet.
A Short Lesson in Perspective is a personal, sincere and mournful story about the decline and “wholesale industrialization and mechanistation” of the creative industries, from the hand of a dying Art Director.
Mesmerising, painful, true, full of soul and certainly worth 15 minutes of your time.
Over on Github, the debate under Issue #20: Use of Foul Language on a Public Site, a concerned citizen in making a complaint about the use of foul language in Mark Pilgrim’s Dive into HTML, a copy of which is hosted on Github since the author deleted his web presence last year.
The individual in question is making the case for the removal of foul language in the book:
I have found this site of immense use, that I want to add it to a list of resources for an educational presentation. But am I loathe to do so when there is foul language on it.
The objection is to the inclusion of phrases like “In an attempt to prevent people from just making shit up, the microformats community maintains a registry of proposed rel values”. (Emphasis added for clarity)
In this particular case, it is argued that the offending word
…is unnecessary and is easily replaced with a more-appropriate ‘to prevent people from just making their own rel values’. This would increase the value and legitimacy of this resource.
A very interesting debate follows, with those who want to keep to the spirit of the original text intact, whilst updating and keeping it current and accurate, and those who wants to ensure that the text is free from words likely to offend.
A fascinating read.
Microsoft launches (yet another) IE campaign – The Browser Your Loved to Hate – this time to promote the fact that, “Internet Explore 9 is pretty damned cool!” As they put it:
Some people are trying the new Internet Explorer and actually liking it. Not that they would say that out loud. Curious? It’s a new browser.
Full-time chalk letterer, Dana Tanamachi (‘The Queen of Chalk’) is interviewed over at The Great Discontent. Fetch a cup of tea and take a moment to read the interview and take a look at Ms Tanamachi’s stunning work. It’s inspiring to see what’s possibile when a knowledge of typography, a generous supply of chalk and lot of hard work comes together. Great work.
A year ago, this very day, we wrote a short piece titled Ideas of March as part of Chris Shiflett’s call to arms (of the same name), which encouraged a reappraisal of the balance between shortform and longform writing, urging a return to reflective writing.
Arguing for the need for a renewed balance between shortform (shallow) and longform (deep) content; and the need for a refocusing on original, longform content to counterbalance a move towards linked, shortform content, we wrote:
There’s nothing wrong with Twitter, and it certainly has its uses, however, working longform allows you to clarify your thinking; sharpens the mind; and maps into other areas of practice.
A year later we still hold those sentiments to be true so, when we received an email from Mr Shiflett inviting a number of writers, ourselves included, to celebrate the Ideas of March once again, it afforded a timely opportunity to reflect on a number of issues around writing, and its importance, that we’d been discussing.
Shiflett’s original call to arms revitalised many and, in a number of cases, proved the tonic for writers to dust down their ideas and start sharing them once again. Elliot Jay Stocks, writing yesterday, stated: “Last year’s post (by Shiflett) was the one single thing that got me back into writing, and I’m happy to say that the pace has stayed relatively healthy since then.”
When we wrote our first ‘Ideas of March’ piece, we believed - as we believe now - that there is immense value to both readers and writers through the creation of original content. Original content helps shape our collective knowledge and, when written with passion, can spark debate which, through dialogue, can result in our collective thinking moving forward.
Not all content is original, however. As publishing has evolved, twin tracked by the evolution of new publishing platforms - like Tumblr, for example - a content continuum has begun to emerge which represents different types of published content and, equally, different motivations for both creating and sharing the written word.
A spectrum exists which spans everything from the original or ‘created’ (new thought, wrought from thin air and strong black coffee) to the discovered or ‘curated’ (second hand thought, wrought from a culture of research and signposting towards others’ thoughts).
Original content and signposted content both have a place - and there is certainly a role for signposting - however, we feel that the real value lies in the former, contributing new knowledge… In short, in writing. (Bringing us back to Mr Shiflett’s motivation behind the Ideas of March.)
Let Me Quote That For You
There was a golden age when the writer’s craft was celebrated. Synthesising thought and reflecting on the world we inhabit was something to be valued. Make a discovery? Write about that discovery. Offer your opinion on it. Since then, the emergence of platforms like Tumblr and its associated culture of reblogging, have given rise to a testimony to the reduction of the level of reflection once afforded, to nothing more than a ‘like’ and a bumping on of others’ content to one’s audience.
A consequence of this move towards signposting, over the creation of original content, has been a focusing on systems to codify this point and click model. The Curator’s Code – a project launched last week by Maria Popova with input from Tina Roth Eisenberg and design by Kelli Anderson – has given rise to an often heated discussion about the need to acknowledge the sources of content shared on the web.
At its heart lies a proposal for a method to honour the work of those sharing links through, as Popova puts it, “a system that codifies the attribution of discovery in curation as a currency of the information economy, a system that treats discovery as the creative labor that it is.”
Whilst we believe in the importance of accurate citation and offering credit where it’s due, we believe the focus should be shifted from citing discovers to citing creators. A not so subtle, but important point.
Rather than encourage a ‘Curator’s Code’ we should perhaps encourage a ‘Creator’s Code’, one which foregrounds the value of independent thinking and the addition of value. Rather than aggregating links, why not offer an informed opinion on those links, or even better, create something original yourself?
Whether we should call the sharing of links ‘curation’ is another question up for debate, with some disagreeing with this choice of terminology in strong terms. Writing about the Curator’s Code in Stop Calling it Curation, Matt Langer states:
The business in which we’re all engaged when we’re tossing links around on the internet is simple ‘sharing’. […] But we should not delude ourselves for a moment into bestowing any special significance on this, because when we do this thing that so many of us like to call ‘curation’ we’re not providing any sort of ontology or semantic continuity beyond that of our own whimsy or taste or desire.
While there’s arguably value in the filtering, editing and selection process - call it sharing or curation - it is by no means comparable to the process of creation. Matt Langer again hits the nail on the head in this regard:
…the often tortuous act of writing compared with the reading of someone else’s writing are two vastly different things, not just simple variations of unicode runes.
The problem with particular, some might argue, over-engineered ‘solutions’ like the Curator’s Code (reminiscent in its folly of the search for, and eventual discovery of, the ☃ character… for sarcasm) is that it serves to encourage a culture of endless linking, rather than a culture of reflection, not to mention creation of original content.
This comment, from one of the many discussion threads that followed the launch of the Curator’s Code, highlights another complication:
I feel like the problem is not that there isn’t some sort of universally recognised symbol, but rather a lot of sites just aren’t using best practices. The sites that aren’t doing a good job of sourcing aren’t going to magically start doing it once they have a nice bookmarklet to use.
As educators who face a perennial challenge to encourage our students to embrace accurate citation we understand the frustrations that a failure to cite sources properly can engender, however, we believe the solution to this problem doesn’t lie in adding another layer of complexity, which the Curator’s Code does.
Having to learn that ᔥ and ↬ mean ‘via’ and ‘hat tip’ respectively adds a layer of cognitive burden that, far from solving the problem of failure to give credit where it’s due, adds to confusion. This is only underpinned by the fact that we now have two symbols to decipher, further adding complexity. Marco Arment, who states forthrightly that the Curator’s Code is, “completely misguided,” summarises this line of thinking neatly:
First of all, readers aren’t going to learn what those symbols mean. The distinction between them is also unnecessary and will lead to more confusion.
On the distinction between the differentiation between references being either ‘via’ another discoverer or being due to a ‘hat tip’ he writes:
I’ve been running a hybrid articles-and-links blog here (↬DF) for a while, I wrote the function that added ‘via’ links to billions of reblogged posts on Tumblr, and I didn’t even know the difference between ‘via’ and ‘hat tip’ until today.
It’s very difficult to argue with this. What, pray tell, motivates one to deploy a set of newly minted symbols instead of existing, tried and tested terms i.e. via, or a set of existing conventions, i.e. hyperlinks or footnotes? Why replace an existing, working paradigm, with an obfuscated symbol: ᔥ – the hyperlink formerly known as ‘via’?
It’s a hard enough task to appreciate the value that lies in providing an accurate trail of references; adding a further level of granularity to this will, inevitably, lead to confusion. One can imagine the inevitable conversation: “Run that by me once more, what’s the difference between the ᔥ and ↬ symbols again?”
Over and Above
In an excellent ReadWriteWeb article titled Down the Rabbit Hole with Hyperlinks in Hand, Scott M. Fulton III comments on Popova’s Curator’s Code as follows:
For about three-and-a-half years, I ran the news department of a major web site where I had one hard and fast rule, the utterance of which will surely bring back headaches for my former writers. The rule was called ‘Over & Above’, and it boiled down to this: We would print nothing without the inclusion of original reporting.
If a story was inspired elsewhere, we would give full attribution to both the source and the author. But we would add original reporting - and by that, I didn’t mean, “original ruminations from the safety of one’s armchair.”
It’s this last sentence that’s critical. Citation is, of course, important; we’re all for credit where credit’s due, however, the opportunity should be embraced wherever possible, to add original reporting and a fresh perspective. The web is overflowing with content. There’s room for more of course, but we should - as writers - strive to add value at every step of the way. Rather than simply add one more link (and very little more), we should instead aim to at least offer an opinion along the way.
As Fulton puts it, “The balance, if there is to be one, is to assert that our job … is to add value - if not as a whole, in at least in substantively large part.”
If all you’re creating is one more link, what have you added, other than noise to what is an already noisy place? Opinionated criticism adds to the conversation, your contribution may even offer additional insight, a different perspective or new thinking.
It’s precisely this sentiment that underpinned our enthusiastic participation in the Ideas of March in 2011, when Mr Shiflett first promoted the idea. One more link on Twitter offers value, of course, but even greater value lies in offering an opinion through a more thoughtful and longer form piece of prose. By all means point your audience to what you’ve ‘curated’, but give them more than a link, give them informed opinion. Better still, address the ratio of original content and signposted content so that you err on the former, tell your audience - critically - why you signpost what you signpost (preferably in more than 140 characters).
Fulton summarises this line of thinking neatly:
While I appreciate the nobility of promoting an ethical concept [The Curator’s Code] as something cool to do, I often wonder whether the web as a whole has taken the linking business way too far.
When linking becomes the focus at the expense of expressing an opinion or contributing original knowledge, what is one adding, other than noise to drown out the signal? Of course its important to attribute what we’ve learned to where we learned it from, but if we are to offer anything of substance and value it should be creativity, first and foremost. Going ‘Over & Above’, adding to the canon of knowledge, suggesting, questioning and exploring.
What’s Your Thinking?
Creativity has many guises, and the written word has always existed on a continuum ranging from the disposable and frivolous to the durable and profound.
We believe that there is value and opportunity in both the creation of content and the knowledge contributed by sharing and spreading the words of others. But the balance must lie in favour of the creator rather than the distributors of original content. By throwing praise, as the Curator’s Code has suggested, on the discovery of a link, we are, in the words of Fulton, “Confusing reproduction with creativity, and confusing source with origin.”
Finding a particular link first should not deserve a medal or a special unicode character. Original content, on the other hand, should be worthy of such attention. Perhaps we should promote a unicode symbol indicating that instead.
Whilst the hyperlink might serve as the backbone of the web, tying together threads of knowledge, the web offers us the opportunity to do so much more than mere linking - to offer insight, opinion and criticality. The Ideas of March offer us an opportunity to push further, to offer our own thoughts and share them with others.
Chris Cornutt has compiled a list of contributors to the Ideas of March appeal. Once you’ve worked your way through those, the #ideasofmarch hashtag has you covered for the remainder of the month and, hopefully, for some time to come.
We fully intend to answer Mr Shiflett’s call to arms, we’d urge you to do so too. The web has enough links, why not take this opportunity to add some original content as well?
Should you have missed the tweets, notes and newsletters, it might have slipped beneath your radar that Sarah Parmenter – .net Magazines’s 2011 ‘Designer of the Year’ – will be speaking in Belfast on Wednesday, 21 March, 2012 as part of this year’s Ulster Festival of Art and Design (an annual festival we play a heavy part in organising).
We’re once again teaming up with our good friend, Mr McMillan, to promote the event as part of our ongoing series of guest lectures delivered under the ‘Standardistas + Build Presents…’ banner and we’re very much looking forward to what we’re sure will prove an entertaining and engaging evening.
A celebrated interface designer specialising in iPhone and iPad design, Ms Parmenter will speak on the topic of ‘Crafting the User Experience’, unravelling the mysteries of user experience journeys, and the subtle, but important design decisions that shape the choices we make as consumers daily.
As Ms Parmenter puts it:
As we journey through life we are influenced by design around us and conditioned through our various experiences. What makes us click ‘buy’ on one web site rather than another? What small design details can we add to our sites that truly enhance our design for positive benefits? How can design shape our everyday decisions without us realising?
The show’s sure to be action-packed and, what’s more you’ll be able to enjoy a post-presentation beverage with the lady herself after the main event. Tickets are a snip and, with very few remaining, we’d urge you to book your ticket for ‘Crafting The User Experience’ now.
We hope to see you there.
Occasionally one serendipitously stumbles across truly aweinspiring corners of the Internet. Telehack is such a place. Described as:
a simulation of a stylized arpanet/usenet, circa 1985-1990. [Telehack] is a full multi-user simulation, including 25,000 hosts and BBS’s the early net, thousands of files from the era, a collection of adventure and IF games, a working BASIC interpreter with a library of programs to run, simulated historical users, and more.
For an even more authentic experience, fire up your trusty terminal and telnet your way 25 years back in time (on port 23). Just type:
More from the project statement:
The 25,000 virtual hosts within Telehack were real systems available via modem dialup, fidonet, uucp/usenet, or on the arpanet in the 1980’s and 90’s. Real people used these systems and could often be seen logged in doing work, reading, socializing or playing games.
Data archaeology applied against the oldest available uucp archives, UUCP network maps from the era, as well as other available electronic sources has allowed Telehack to reconstruct the online occupants of these vanished network hosts.
An amazingly rich, interesting and captivating piece of history, Telehack is worth dwindling away a few hours (or a weekend) at. Fascinating.
You appreciate United Pixelworkers. You appreciate The Manual. Then you’ll be delighted to hear you can now appreciate both, together, at the same time, by picking up a step-by-step instructional illustration for The Manual by Dan Cassaro printed in white on a Tri-Black American Apparel United Pixelworkers tee. Nice.
After 244 years, Encyclopedia Britannica halts the presses. The Guardian asks the question: Is it a victim or beneficiary of the digital age?
From The Olá Brothers comes Sip App, a super-charged, “refreshingly simple,” color-picker for OS X. Now at an app store near you for a measly $3.99.
In an effort to showcase what’s possible when advertising pushes the boundaries of technology, Google’s Project Re:Brief revisits four classic advertisements from the golden era of Madison Avenue, re-imagining them for today’s connected culture. As the Project Re:Brief team put it in the project overview:
This year, internet advertising turns 18… and yet despite almost two decades of innovation online, digital ads are still being used to simply inform more than they’re being used to connect, engage and entertain. So we designed this experiment to re-imagine what advertising can be and push the boundaries of how creative ideas and our technology can work hand in hand.
A fascinating look at the possibilities open to advertising, when a little creativity and technology are combined, the result is a fascinating series of four case studies: Coca-Cola’s ‘Hilltop’; Volvo’s ‘Drive It Like You Hate It’; Alka-Seltzer’s ‘I Can’t Believe I Ate the Whole Thing’; and Avis’s ‘We Try Harder’. Four icons. As Google put it:
We selected four of the most iconic commercials of all time, and asked the legendary creatives behind them to re-imagine them for the digital age. These advertising icons defined the mediums of the past. Now they’re back to help shape the medium of the future, prove that great ideas come first, and inspire a new generation of creative minds along the way.
With a Swede on the team it’s no surprise to hear we’re partial to the re-imagining of Amil Gargano’s Drive It Like You Hate It 1962 ad for Volvo. Re-imagined fifty years later it centres around the wonderfully down-to-earth Irv Gordon, “an ordinary driver with an extraordinary car,” which he has driven since he bought it in 1966, age just 26. Following Irv and his 1966 Volvo P1800s as he surpasses his three millionth mile, it’s an evocative piece that cleverly uses Google Maps and a live GPS data feed to allow viewers to follow Irv’s story in real time as his odometer ticks relentlessly towards the magic number 3,000,000.
Whilst Google’s re-imaginings might lack the warm, rose-tinted nostalgia of the original ads, there’s no denying the creativity behind the Project Re:Brief outcomes unveiled so far. We look forward to seeing the rest as they’re published. Great work.
You had us at ‘Beer’ though, guys.
When Instapaper launched, it was pretty much alone in a market that has since grown, and now features both independent and in-browser players.
When Readability launched its new version just recently, including, “gorgeous typography from some of the best in type: Hoefler & Frere-Jones,” the incumbent had been surpassed. In the words of Marco Arment, creator of Instapaper:
I experimented with custom fonts in Instapaper last year, but my efforts fizzled out.
Due to the technical and legal restraints in place just over one year ago the efforts were not worth pursuing, but Marco continues:
I’m taking this misstep as a wake-up call: I missed an important opportunity that’s necessary for the long-term competitiveness of my product. […] I wish someone had kicked my complacent ass [about fonts] sooner.
That’s the backstory. The moral (of the story) comes in the next paragraph of Marco’s piece:
Reacting well to competition requires critical analysis of your own product and its shortcomings, and a complete, open-minded understanding of why people might choose your competitors.
If you can’t react well, you can’t win. Just like life, really.
Yesterday, as SXSW was kicking off for another year of shenanigans, Gowalla quietly closed its doors.
As they did so, eminent scholar Paul May summed up the sentiment perfectly in less than 140 characters, stating that, “There are lessons-a-plenty, for everybody, in the complete, pathetic capitulation of Gowalla to Facebook.”
Again, just moments ago, we’re seeing the beginning of another lesson taking shape, one where Twitter bought Posterous, and promises that the service will remain, “up and running for now,” and that they will give users, “ample notice,” before making any changes to the service.
Although it could be argued that a hosted blogging or location-based service consists mostly of frivolous, non-essential matter, it also consists of the stuff, albeit mundane, that is making up our very lives. For our sake, and that of future generations, this data should remain sacrosanct, and locatable for years to come.
Let’s hope that if we learned any lessons from the past, we won’t repeat all the mistakes we made in the future.
Though the data visualisation is a far cry from Nicholas Felton’s, the sheer mass of information Stephen Wolfram has collected, and now published in The Personal Analytics of My Life, offers a fascinating insight into one man’s data “self awareness”.
Amongst other fascinating glimpses are an analysis of the, “third of a million emails,” Wolfram has sent since 1989 which show, as he puts it, “that he’s been very busy.” For many years, Wolfram has also captured every keystroke he’s typed (more than 100 million of them), again shedding light on his daily work patterns.
It might not look as pretty as Mr Felton’s work, but the results make for extremely interesting reading.
Made in Belfast by that talented little rascal @Armstrong from Front (the fine folks who gave you Typecast), Responsive.is is a nicely executed little tool which allows you to display and present responsive web designs.
Great execution and limited scope couple to create a great recipe. Don’t try to do many things; do one thing and do it well. Responsive.is is a splendid example of this put into practice.
From the mind of Paddy Donnelly comes The Hunt, a unique print offered as a prize at last year’s annual Open Book Exam, and a lovely piece of work to boot. As Mr Donnelly puts it:
I have this vision of a desert-like planet, where whales fly in the air rather than in the ocean. Usually cruising thousands of feet up, they descend lower down every so often to lap up the rich oxygen. This is where the inhabitants hunt them using spears with ropes wrapped around rocks to weigh them down.
Lovely (and apparently the beginnings of something bigger).
If you’re looking for an illustrator with a keen eye and a vivid imagination, look no further than Mr Donnelly. (in the interests of full disclosure, he’s one of our graduates, a mighty talented chap and a very good friend.)
John C Jay of Wieden+Kennedy offers insight and wisdom in Ten Lessons for Young Designers. Lesson Two is one we stress in our teaching, hard work pays off:
Work harder than anyone else and you will always benefit from the effort.
Lesson Ten is also a gem.
If you’re a purveyor of digital products - ebooks, music, video, software… in short anything ones and zeros - you might want to take a look at Sellfy, a one stop solution that enables you to sell downloads with payments handled seamlessly by PayPal (for those of you of a PayPal phobic nature, apparently other payment gateways are on the way…).
Promising to be the, “simplest way to sell downloads with PayPal,” it might be just what you’re looking for to get your digital product offering off the ground.
Fergus Wessel is a letter cutter with a love – unsurprisingly – of lettering and an appreciation of the importance of considered typography. His hand-cut lettering is wonderfully expressive and demonstrates a level of craftsmanship that’s second to none.
Interviewed by Naomi Chapple for I Love Typography his favourite letter is ‘S’ (“I like the challenge involved in getting the balance between the top and bottom spaces just right.”) and, when asked how he achieves good letter spacing, the wisest bit of advice he offers – that we could all learn from – is this:
[I achieve good letter spacing] by eye. I never use a ruler! With a ruler one is limited to set measurements and sometimes a letter needs to be moved, “by a nothing.” I judge good letter-spacing by visualising an equal volume between letters. This skill is achieved by having the patience to start drawing out an inscription all over again if it doesn’t look perfect. We call this ‘killing one’s darlings’ and it takes a lot of self discipline.
If only all designers - stone, paper or web - took the advice to kill one’s darlings every once in a while (a discipline we could all benefit from). Fetch a cup of tea and read the full interview, it’s fascinating, hugely informative and thoroughly entertaining.
Salvador Dalí’s real masterpiece was, apparently, the Chupa Chups lollipop brand. Designed in 1969 the brand has endured virtually unchanged since and, four billion sales later, remains the most affordable Dalí on offer. Tasty.
Though the disclaimer in the site’s footer states, “Nothing on this site shall be considered legal advice and no attorney-client relationship is established,” Docracy has, at its heart, an admirable goal; namely, to serve as a social repository of legal documents. As the team behind it, put it:
Our mission is to make useful legal documents freely available to the public. We also hope to make them easier to find, customise and sign. No more crappy templates behind a paywall that you download hoping everything will be alright. Instead reputable, transparent sources and social proof to help you find something as close as possible to the perfect document.
If you’re in search of a spot of legal documentation it’s a useful place to start and yet another example of how collaborative working is changing our relationship to, well, pretty much everything.
Chrono is, “a nearly geometric sans serif,” designed by our friends at Process Type Foundry. As its designer, Eric Olson, puts it:
Chrono is a refined oval sans serif of 20th century origins and 21st century sensibilities. Influences ranging from the gruff Aurora Grotesk series to the elegant Neuzeit are paired with a subtle geometry and typographic utility to inform this family of sans serifs.
Available in a comprehensive range of six weights with accompanying italics it’s a beautifully crafted workhorse of a typeface that’s, naturally, available for use natively on the web.
Brought to you by the fine folks at Mark Boulton Design, Gridset is a tool for creating advanced grid systems on the web. As the team behind it put it, “Grids are difficult in CSS, getting more difficult … and we don’t need another framework.”
Their solution: “A tool for making grids that lets you create whatever type of grid you want: columnar, asymmetrical, ratio, compound, fixed, fluid, responsive and more … it serves multiple grids to your site based on breakpoints for different devices.”
Simple, universal, full-featured and fast, Tempus is a minimal and elegant iPhone and iPad calendar that’s perfect for the Helvetica lover in your life.
Write or Die is an application that encourages writing by punishing the tendency to avoid writing. Available on iPad and as a web app, it’s described thusly:
As long as you keep typing, you’re fine, but if you become distracted, punishment will ensue. Everything is configurable, name your word goal, time goal and preferred punishment, then start writing!
Complete with Kamikaze and Nyan Cat punishments regimes, Write or Die shows that distractions will have serious consequences, and might be just what you need to purge your inner procrastinator.
Weighing in somewhere between a hand dryer and a wall mounted Polaroid camera on the industrial design scale, Instaprint is described as:
…a location based photo booth that can transform parties and events by putting a camera in everyone’s hand. By setting Instaprint to look out for specific locations or hashtags, any Instagram tagged appropriately will automatically be printed out on inkless paper.
You can fund this little gem on Kickstarter, and get your own for a measly $399. At the time of writing there’s only $47,2483 to go, and if the bid is successful, rumours have it there might be some real-life Instaprint machines at Build.
Apple ships 25,000,000,000 apps in just 1,332 days. That’s 18,768,768 apps a day. Impressive, and confirmation, not that it were needed, that the app economy is a profitable one.
So far, the homeware seems focused on hand pulled screen prints, but mighty fine they are, and the blog-like section simply labelled ‘magazine’ makes for interesting reading.
It’s the kind of site that if it was a real world store, you’d call in every time you had made a detour just to walk past, to look at the splendid goods, and talk about design matters with the knowledgeable, design obsessed proprietors.
Nicer than a Google copy-and-paste job any day.