Illustrating the McLaren F1 Owner’s Manual

This charming video features reflections from McLaren Design Operations Manager Mark Roberts on his experience illustrating the elaborate owner’s manual for the McLaren F1. I drive a Kia, so obviously I know nothing about luxury sportscars, but this one from the 1990s is apparently fondly remembered. It’s very endearing to hear Roberts talk about the joy he took in executing these technical illustrations, and even how he managed to fit in a lot of personal touches—like a Bob Dylan reference—into a kind of work that is typically considered impersonal.

Here’s a look at the manual itself, which is quite impressive, maybe even intimidating.

McLaren F1 Owner’s Manual

Less than two hundred of these were ever printed, so they’ve naturally become highly desirable for collectors at the Venn intersection of design enthusiasts, the highly affluent, and people who just want what they want when they want it. If that’s you, you can acquire one here.

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Audio Cards on Twitter

Back in August I tackled the question “What is a card?,” and noted that Twitter is starting to add more interactively rich cards to its platform. Today, Twitter announced that they are rolling out another card type: audio cards, starting with SoundCloud. When any tweet includes a link to SoundCloud content, official Twitter clients will let you play the audio directly within the tweet. On iPhone it looks like this:

Audio Card on Twitter

If you click directly to the link, you can try it for yourself.

Bit by bit, the web is becoming cardified. By this time next year I expect that cards will be much, much more prevalent, and more capable, too. If this concept is still new to you, be sure to read my primer.

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The Town without Wi-Fi or Cellular Service

Did you know that a 13,000 square mile area crossing West Virginia and Virginia is a congressionally mandated “radio quiet zone” in which wireless technologies like cellular service and wi-fi are forbidden—and that there are people actually living there happily? It’s true, according to Ripley’s Believe It or—I mean, according to National Geographic.

Via Stephen Meszaros’s wireless device.

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How Long Is Too Long for the Apple TV?

Invitation for Apple’s October 16th Event

The headline for Apple’s media event tomorrow is “It’s been way too long.” That could mean anything, but what I most want it to mean is that the company will unveil a new Apple TV tomorrow. I don’t see how Apple could use that headline and not address that device.

It really has been way very long time since the company updated the Apple TV. The last revision was in late January of 2013, almost twenty-one months ago, or an eternity in tech product cycles. It’s been an especially long time when you consider CEO Tim Cook’s admission that, having done over US$1 billion in business last year, the Apple TV is no longer a hobby but a real business. We’ve been waiting for the fulfillment of this product’s potential for so long that Apple even had time to cook up an entirely new product category in the form of the Apple Watch—I’m not sure how many people were clamoring for the Apple Watch, but I can’t imagine it was as many people as have been clamoring for a new Apple TV.

According to The Verge, this is tomorrow’s announcement slate. There’s nothing about the Apple TV on deck here. If this proves accurate, that almost assuredly means that any new Apple TV would miss this year’s holiday season. Going yet another year without a meaningful upgrade to this product line would make me really wonder if Apple is indeed treating the Apple TV as a real business, and not still like a hobby.

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BannCars

Last month I wrote about DKNG’s Icon series, which illustrated the moving vehicles of famous pop culture franchises. Here’s a similar project, executed with a very different style: BannCars depicts modes of transportation from movies, television and video games, all from a single dramatic, consistent perspective.

“Dr. Who” by BannCars
“Scooby-Doo” by BannCars
“Night Rider” by BannCars
“The A-Team” by BannCars

Many more at BannCars.

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Virgin America Boarding Pass

I just checked in online for a flight to California tomorrow on Virgin America, and was pleasantly surprised by how cleverly their boarding pass is designed. It’s recognizably optimized for a standard letter-sized sheet of paper, with instructions to fold the printed sheet into quarters.

Virgin America’s Boarding Pass Design

Over the years a number of enterprising designers, including Peter Smart, Timoni West, Tyler Thompson and others, have taken it upon themselves to propose redesigns for the hoary old boarding pass. The results have generally been fascinating, at least. But Virgin America’s designers (probably a team from an agency?) may have edged them all out, I think, if for no other reason than it acknowledges that these documents almost always get folded up for convenience.

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Norway’s New Banknotes

Here is the front of one of Norway’s new banknotes, as reported by Fast Co. Design.

Norway 100

Everyone complains about how ugly American greenbacks are, and I agree with them, but I find many banknotes from other countries to be indistinguishable from one another. The view of the Norwegian krone shown above suffers from that, in my opinion. The other side of the note though, as designed by Snøhetta is a different story. It’s a highly abstract, pixelated pattern inspired by ocean waves. It’s gorgeous.

Norway’s New Banknotes

More views of the banknotes at fastcodesign.com.

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Los Angeles’ Old Theaters

Orpheum Theater, L.A.

Last Sunday, while I was in L.A. for Adobe’s MAX conference, a ten mile stretch of the city was shut down to auto traffic as part of the city’s ClicLAvia series, which runs a few times a year. It’s a chance for Angelenos to experience the city on foot or bicycle—rare for L.A.—and it feels like a combination of street party and parade.

I was staying at a hotel not far from the route, so I took a stroll north on Broadway to meet some friends who were starting out from Echo Park. I was surprised to discover how beautiful the architecture was; Broadway, aptly, used to be the city’s theater district, and there are still lots of old theater fronts along it. Many of them have been repurposed for other businesses, but their distinctive marquees remain. I took a bunch of pictures, which you can see after the jump.

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Reactions to Project LayUp

I’ve been really flattered and gratified by all of the reactions to Project LayUp, the iPad app for design brainstorming that I’m working on with Adobe. We’ve been toiling away on it for so long in secret that sometimes it’s been hard to know if we were just talking in abstractions, without any real sense of whether the app was solving a real world problem.

As a product designer, the biggest fear is that you’re creating a product for nobody. Even after Adobe ran a study in which we put our early prototype in front of real users for their reactions, the feedback was encouraging but not particularly definitive. Most of them said, “There’s something interesting here that people might use—I might use it myself, but not necessarily.” After hearing that, I worried that Adobe would pull the plug, but to my relief their belief in the idea never wavered. In fact, that was when they expanded the team.

Of course, positive reactions to a five-minute demo don’t necessarily translate into marketplace success, or even into real users. But after working for so many months in relative isolation, and after having also built my share of software products that never really caught the imagination of the public, I’m going to let myself enjoy the good vibes right now, whatever may come.

After my demo at Adobe’s MAX 2014 conference, and after blogging about the project yesterday, we got a flurry of enthusiastic tweets and comments. The thing that’s been most striking to me about the common sentiment among them is that people seem very eager to get their hands on LayUp. That’s still kind of shocking to me.

So I decided to collect a whole bunch of them for posterity; you can see them after the jump. Viewed as a group like this, it’s remarkable to me how the message is so consistent: “Finish it and ship it!” We’re not as close to being able to do that as we’d like, but believe me, we’re definitely motivated to do so.

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