Khoi Vinh’s Web Site
Sun 08 Dec
A charming, hand-animated ode to a passing era in interface design. “As skeuomorphism fades from popularity, ‘Skew’ turns the idea on its head: we re-made some well known skeuomorphic interface designs in the materials and objects they were trying to imitate.”
Sat 07 Dec
Nelson Mandela’s passing at age ninety-five is being honored everywhere, including the Apple home page.
This is going to seem churlish of me, but I can’t help but think that it would be more in keeping with Mandela’s legacy if, rather than waiting until a truly great black man dies to put his image on their home page, Apple could routinely allow a worthy living black man to appear on this page:
Thu 05 Dec
Among the many things I’ve been working on for the past six months is spending a bit of time helping entrepreneurs Tom Smith and Brad Flaugher realize their very canny vision for mobile publishing. It’s called Offline Magazine, and it debuts today in the App Store.
Each month, Offline delivers five essays about culture, comedy or design, curated as a proper issue (I wrote one of the pieces in the debut edition). The Offline app itself is beautifully designed (not by me, but by Trevor Baum) and purpose-built for mobile reading. That last bit is incredibly important; this is a reading experience expressly designed to complement reading habits on phones and tablets, not demand new, unnatural ones.
Tue 03 Dec
This is lovely. It’s a super-cut called “Projection: Eighty-five Years of the Projection Booth in Movies.”
“This 12-minute film created by Joseph O. Holmes features clips from forty-six different films that take place in a projection booth, from Buster Keaton’s ‘Sherlock, Jr.’ all the way up to Tarantino’s ‘Inglorious Basterds.’ The short debuted at the Redstone Theater at The Museum of the Moving Image on October 4, 2013, as part of the opening reception for Holmes’s ‘The Booth: The Final Days of Film Projection,’ an exhibition of photographs which continues through January 2014.”
You can watch “Projection” on Vimeo.
Mon 02 Dec
This “frequently-updated compendium of web app first-run experiences” could turn into a valuable resource. Its purpose is to break down the design, user experience, marketing and customer touchpoint aspects of how various successful Web products bring first-time users into the fold. The list of teardowns so far is not enormous, but each is thoughtful and revealing. My biggest complaint, though, is that these are focused on the desktop Web; teardowns of mobile native apps are much more critical, I find, and would make for a much more revealing survey.
From time to time, I get asked to bring back the “Hel-F’ing-Vetica” shirts that I first ran many years ago. Last week I finally got around to accommodating those requests via Spreadshirt, which allows users to print tee-shirts on-demand. They have a process called flex printing that is very close to traditional silkscreening, which even allowed me to run the design with a bit of silver, shown here on a heather gray American Apparel tee:
Even better, because the Spreadshirt route allows me to sell without having to hold inventory, customers can now get this design on long-sleeved tees, hoodies and — finally — women’s tees, too. You can visit my Spreadshirt shop here to get yours for the holidays!
Fri 22 Nov
This new book written and gorgeously designed by my friend Francesco Franchi is an awesome argument for print and editorial design and the continued existing of beautifully produced books — basically a superb refutation of many of the things I’ve found myself arguing against (even though I don’t really mean to) on this blog.
Thu 21 Nov
Hugo Award-nominated author Ben Rosenbaum spins this tale of a zombie apocalypse, told through Facebook postings within a circle of friends dealing with an infection and internal Facebook company emails debating on adding a feature to identify friends as zombies. It’s hilarious but incredibly specific to the worlds of using and building social networks. What’s also interesting, to me, is how the writing emulates the interfaces of status updates and user emails, almost replicating them — user interfaces as fiction. Read the short story here; you probably won’t be able to stop scrolling.
Mon 18 Nov
John Hilgart’s 4CP blog takes a detailed look at this amazing cover from the original Mad Magazine.
“Disguised to look like an interior page full of novelty ads, it is so dense with tiny print as to be almost illegible at original printed size. Business matters are handled in two small boxes at the top (with a delightful splash of color), while forty-six novelty ads cover the rest of the space. It is so true to the originals that it parodies that it’s almost indistinguishable from them from more than a foot away.”
We are accustomed to satirical graphic design these days, but I imagine this issue must have confused lots of stockists if not readers.
Hilgart has details of all forty-six ersatz ads in his blog post. I’ve actually written about Hilgart’s vintage comics blogs many times on this blog, and I’ll probably continue to do so as long as he blogs because I’m such a big fan. Even better, he’s just started a version of 4CP on Tumblr.
Fri 15 Nov
For four-plus years, Adrian Curry has been turning in a regular column at MUBI Notebook called “Movie Poster of the Week.” The name is a bit of a misnomer, because every entry features at least a half dozen fascinating specimens of posters past and present; it’s as compelling a survey of the intersection of cinema and graphic design as any out there.
If weekly strikes you as insufficient, Curry also maintains a Tumblr called Movie Poster of the Day, which as the name suggests presents a single poster once a day. It’s great too, but the writing at MUBI is a reward in itself, so visit Movie Poster of the Week first. Oh, also, MUBI is phenomenal.
Thu 14 Nov
Two decades ago, U-Haul moving vans and trailers started sporting surprisingly engaging illustrations on their sides. Granted, they weren’t high art, but they were tasteful, at least, and they were a commendably restrained use of what amounts to thousands of highly mobile, highly visible billboard spaces. According to the company:
“The space each graphic occupies on our trucks is priceless. It’s not for sale. We could sell this space to corporate America, but U-Haul believes we must give something back to the communities we serve…Over 250 different images have been created since the Super Graphics program began, each one honoring individual states and provinces, and saluting North America’s public.”
Now someone clever over at U-Haul has finally compiled all the graphics into one place on U-Haul’s Web site. Go spot the ones you know well, and/or the ones from your home state.
Wed 13 Nov
For graphic designers, this is a big deal:
“The ‘International Review of graphic design and related subjects,’ was initiated by designer Josef Müller-Brockmann and published in eighteen issues between 1958 and 1965 by an editorial collective consisting of him, Richard Paul Lohse, Hans Neuburg und Carlo Vivarelli. The complete volumes are now available in an excellent facsimile reprint from Lars Müller Publishers.”
The reprints come case-bound, obviously intended to be displayed prominently on your bookshelf so that visitors can see how hardcore Modernist you are.
Now, in the past I’ve been guilty of a certain, design-centric flavor of conspicuous consumption-oriented blogging in which an artifact of mid-Century Modernism like this one is presented along with a declaration of purchasing intent. The tone is usually flagrantly concise, as in “Must have!,” or “Sold!” or, “Just bought it,” as if to imply that the object is so essential, so unimpeachably critical to the worldview of any designer that it simply must be owned, and if you didn’t know that already, you’re not a real designer.
But this reprint goes for US$300, and to be frank, most of these things are incredibly boring, not particularly relevant any longer, and highly overrated. Don’t get me wrong; I’d be very keen to get my hands on one of these sets to peruse it, and maybe spend a few hours reading through its pages. But after indulging in many of these sorts of things over the years, I feel now that I understand that they are really more about showing off than studying up.
Don’t let that stop you from buying a set, though, if you are so inclined. Read more here.
This new, seven-minute short film from director Wes Anderson is “presented by Prada” and is an homage to the work of Federico Fellini. Imagine the set of a Fellini film as a backdrop for Andersonisms, and you get the idea.
By the way, I find it fascinating how ostensibly indie directors are free to make obviously commercial contract work like this with no loss to their credibility. Imagine Lorde, say, writing a song “presented by Prada.” We hold different kinds of artists accountable to different kinds of standards, apparently without a unifying logic.
Tue 12 Nov
In spite of nearly everyone I know preferring Google Maps to Apple’s own Maps app on iOS, this article from The Guardian (which is excellent and mercifully un-multimedia-ized) argues that in fact Apple Maps emerged as the dominant player on iOS.
“Apple’s maps have turned out to be a hit with iPhone and iPad users in the US — despite the roasting that they were given when they first appeared in September 2012. But Google — which was kicked off the iPhone after it refused to give Apple access to its voice-driven turn-by-turn map navigation — has lost nearly 23 million mobile users in the U.S. as a result.”
The article argues that the power of incumbency is apparently difficult to resist. Google’s offering is superior in accuracy and, arguably, in user experience, but “all roads lead to Apple’s maps” throughout the operating system, which is a tremendous advantage.
For my part, I’m incredibly frustrated by the whole maps ecosystem on my phone. I’m one of those tortured souls who would prefer to avoid giving Google more of my information if I can, though my efforts to do so are not exactly thorough. But using Apple Maps is not a realistic option, in my view, because it’s so frequently wrong. Worse, Apple missed a terrific opportunity when Google acquired Waze last summer. That’s my favorite maps app by far and would have injected a much needed sense of populism into Apple’s ivory tower approach to mapping data.
Read the full article at The Guardian.
Mon 11 Nov
The Toronto studio, who have rightly received a lot of acclaim for crafting and maintaining Photoshop templates of the iOS graphical user interface, just released a version of their work for Sketch. This new pack, which was prepared largely by designer Tyler Howarth, is an invaluable resource for those of us who have moved to Sketch for the majority of our design work.
As always, Teehan + Lax are releasing it entirely free. Accordin to Geoff Teehan, an iPad version is forthcoming.
Fri 08 Nov
London designer Sinem Erkas designed the covers for new editions of Fitzgerald’s books from Orion Publishing Group. Contemporary cover designs for historical books often leave me somewhat cold, but these seem really appropriate.
Thu 07 Nov
Wed 06 Nov
A bummer of a coincidence from yesterday: after using Everpix for several months and enjoying it immensely, I decided to pony up for the US$49 annual fee. Hours later, I happened to read that Everpix is shutting down. A note signed by the Everpix team said: “We were unable to secure sufficient funding in order to properly scale the business, and our endeavors to find a new home for Everpix did not come to pass. At this point, we have no other options but to discontinue the service.”
Possibly losing forty-nine dollars doesn’t bother me so much, since Everpix promises to refund all of its subscribers (they hope to do this by 15 Dec). It’s the fact that Everpix was a terrific product that in many ways fit the bill for what I think a modern photo experience should be: an inexhaustible storage locker in the cloud that effortlessly backs up my photos from every source.
Facebook, Twitter, Path, Instagram, my phone’s camera roll, even pics that people sent to me via MMS; Everpix comprehensively backed up all of these sources to the Web and made them navigable through an intelligently self-organizing and elegantly designed web interface. It was really a pleasure to use, especially its Flashback feature, which would send me daily emails to remind me of photos taken a year or two ion the past.
While I have no inside knowledge of what went wrong with Everpix (the writing was on the wall for a long while, apparently, and The Verge has a lengthy account of the wind-down), I have some guesses.
Tue 05 Nov
Nikon’s new hotness is a full-frame digital camera styled in a flagrantly retro fashion. It looks fantastic, if you ask me, a welcome break from the Nike sneaker-esque styling of digital SLRs from the past decade-plus.
On the other hand, DP Review, in its first impressions of the camera, has some thoughtful comments about the practicality of this nostalgic sensibility.
“As far as I can see there are no unequivocally good reasons, either from an engineering or ergonomic point of view, for the Nikon Df to look like an over-sized [Nikon] F3… My worry about the Df is that Nikon might have gone too far backwards for the sake of cosmetic appeal, without really adding any practical benefit to the shooting experience… from a cold, hard practical point of view, I can’t shake the feeling that the Df is a little bit… silly.”
Mon 04 Nov
The prolific director writes about his affection for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”:
“For me there’s no question that cinematically ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ is the best Bond film and the only one worth watching repeatedly for reasons other than pure entertainment (certainly it’’s the only Bond film I look at and think: I’m stealing that shit). It’s like [director] Peter Hunt (who cut the first five Bond films) took all the ideas of the French new wave and blended them with Eisenstein in a Cuisinart to create a grammar that still tops today’s how-fast-can-you-cut aesthetic.”
I agree, it’s a terrific film, though I’m not sure it would edge out “From Russia, with Love,” for me as the most interesting installment in the franchise. Read full article here.
Fri 01 Nov
A new multimedia extravaganza from The Guardian takes an in-depth look at what Edward Snowden’s leaks “mean for you.” It comes replete with plenty of high quality video, a gorgeous custom page layout, and lots of doodads throughout. It wouldn’t be inaccurate to say that it’s The Guardian’s volley in the “Snowfall” game first served up by my former colleagues at The New York Times.
I’m pretty ambivalent about this new strain of multimedia journalism. As well executed as these early examples are, both this and “Snowfall” clearly cross the line from utilitarian storytelling to superfluous bells and whistles. Also, in my own personal, decidedly unscientific polling, of all the people I’ve met who marvel at “Snowfall,” no one has ever told me that they actually read it. (That’s actually not true; someone told me they did read it, but then again that person has three newspapers delivered to her doorstep every morning, so I would say she’s an outlier.) I suspect the same thing will be true of “NSA Files Decoded.” These kinds of things, I think, are meant to be marveled at more than they are meant to be read.
Thu 31 Oct
From this press release today:
“The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration Administrator Michael Huerta today announced that the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with implementation guidance. ”
It shows you how established the agency’s obstinacy had become that the introduction of this completely obvious bit of common sense had to be accompanied by a press release. Practically speaking, what this means is that airlines must first prove that they can “safely handle radio interference from portable electronics” before passengers can start openly admitting that they’re not turning off their tablets, phones and laptops when they’re told to. Read the frequently asked questions here.
Wed 30 Oct
A new Mac app that applies two-dimensional graphic designs into three-dimensional renderings — a label for a soup can, for instance, can be turned into a convincing image of a real soup can in just a few steps. Works with Adobe Illustrator. Read more here.
Mon 28 Oct
I don’t have a great Lou Reed story, though I wish I did. I saw him around downtown Manhattan a few times, but never talked to him. The closest I really ever got to him was through his music. When I was fourteen or fifteen and living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., my family took a trip to New York. I was already in love with the city at that time, and I remember stopping by an open air market — probably the one on Broadway near Fourth St — and bought this album:
Actually I bought it on tape, which tells you how old I am. I think I was a dollar short of the cost, but the vendor let me have it anyway, almost like an elder hipster passing along an heirloom to a wannabe hipster.
It didn’t change my life the way rock albums are supposed to do, but I did fall deeply in love with it, listening to it constantly for years. It was a big part of that era of my life, as were the other Velvet Underground albums and many of Reed’s solo albums. Thanks, Lou.
Fri 25 Oct
Since leaving Etsy over the summer I’ve had the good fortune of working on lots and lots of interesting things with lots of interesting people. At some point, I will provide a more thorough accounting of what that stuff is, but one of the best projects on my plate is helping my friends Anil Dash and Gina Trapani with their new company ThinkUp.
ThinkUp was actually an app before it was a company. In fact, you can download the open source version right now, which you can install on your own server. Even with that old school distribution model for Web software, the product has already gained a devoted following of tens of thousands of users. Now Gina and Anil are transforming it into a centrally hosted service, easy enough for everyone to use without having to wrestle with the complexity of running your own server.
What is ThinkUp? Anil and Gina answer that question in great detail here and here, but I like to think of it as an insight engine for your social network activity. It looks at your postings and returns a myriad of fascinating statistics and revelations about the who, what, where, when, why and how of your tweets and updates. Aside from being really smart, it’s also loads of fun.
Gina and Anil’s ambition is not just to transform ThinkUp into a much easier to use, much more robust product, but also to build a new company in the process — a different kind of company. Like any startup, they want to achieve hockey stick growth, but they also want to do that in the framework of “a great tech company that’s focused on doing the right thing for our users, our community, and the Web.” They are just as proud of the list of privacy-compromising features that ThinkUp doesn’t engage in as what the software does do.
To pull this off, they are in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign that will fuel this journey. I encourage you to read all about it on the campaign page to get a sense of how unique their mission is, and join the campaign.
Thu 24 Oct
A new exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
“Modern design of the twentieth century was profoundly shaped and enhanced by the creativity of women — as muses of modernity and shapers of new ways of living, and as designers, patrons, performers and educators. This installation, drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection, celebrates the diversity and vitality of individual artists’ engagement in the modern world, from Loïe Fuller’s pulsating turn-of-the-century performances to April Greiman’s 1980s computer-generated graphics, at the vanguard of early digital design.”
Included: Linder Sterling’s still awesome design for the Buzzcocks’ “Orgasm Addict.”
More information at MoMA.
Wed 23 Oct
AIGA recently put forward a proposal to sell its not quite iconic but still spiritually critical national headquarters, situated in a hugely desirable lot on Fifth Avenue in New York City. The building was bought in a fundraising campaign in 1994 — “The money was raised through blood, sweat and tears, and it was a grand moment in the organization’s then 80-year history” — and is now worth nearly twenty times what was paid for it.
A list of notable designers including Michael Bierut, Hugh Dubberly, Steven Heller, Paula Scher and others believe this proposal is ill advised, and in this blog post on Design Observer, come out squarely against it.
“In short, we believe the proposed choices outlining the future of AIGA are misguided, misinformed and manipulative, and should be regarded skeptically by our fellow members. We want you to know what’s going on with your organization. We urge you to reject this false choice.”
You don’t see much dissension in the graphic design community, so this is conflict of the highest order. Every signatory to this objection is a former AIGA board member, president and/or medalist. The public nature of this dispute between actors who have been historically aligned so closely is unprecedented. Read the full post here.
Tue 22 Oct
Yesterday I took the train to Baltimore to moderate a panel with three of that city’s leading digital design practitioners, as part of the local AIGA chapter’s ambitious Design Week. On stage with me were Andy Mangold of Friends of the Web, April Osmanof of Fastspot, and James Pannafino of Millersville University. It was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed meeting the Baltimore chapter immensely.
It was also my first introduction to James, and his book “Interdisciplinary Interaction Design: A Visual Guide.”
The book’s title is more than a mouthful of syllables, but its contents are expertly succinct and useful. It is truly a “visual guide” to the sometimes amorphous concepts that guide work in our profession, from affordances to Fitts’s Law to user errors. Each concept is explained clearly and thoughtfully, with crisp, unfussy illustrations that help root its central idea in real world examples. It’s truly excellent, and highly recommended. Find out more at the book’s site and order it from Amazon.
Mon 21 Oct
The hook of this is “Was iOS 7 created in Microsoft Word?,” which is slightly provocative but not really the point. Rather, this time lapse video actually shows the upgraded operating system’s entire home screen — app icons and all ” being recreated using the infamously tetchy and primitive design tools in Microsoft Word. It’s surprisingly compelling to watch. See it at YouTube.
Fri 18 Oct
The font co-op and marketplace Village recently relaunched its Web site (beautifully designed by Oak). I find that Village is the font source that I return to most consistently — the quality of typefaces there is superb. My current favorite is Domaine Display.