Wed 29 Nov
I’ve been fighting what’s apparently a twenty-four hour bug since midday yesterday. Shivers and aches pained me all through the day and into night, and I didn’t even know if I could make it through a whole day of work today. But I underwent sustained, Cold-Eeze-powered counter-attack, and I feel loads better tonight, remarkably. Zinc is the magical cure for all my threatening colds, I’m finding.
Actually, I’m not back completely at one hundred percent. I’m still tired, and bound to my couch for the most part. But, at the very least, I have my senses about me enough to want to clear out some blogging items that have been hanging around for a while. So this is going to be another round-up style post. Get ready for random.
Over the Thanksgiving break, I installed Expression Engine on my server as a follow-up to my recent post about looking for new blogging options, and to see just how complicated it might be. Verdict: it ain’t. In fact, it went smooth as silk. The whole program, as an alternative to Movable Type, is quite alluring, being all slick and what not. I’ve only spent a few hours with it, so I’m not nearly ready to say I’m going to make the switch (I’m still effectively bound to Movable Type thanks to some nontrivial switching costs), but I can tell you this: Expression Engine, at first blush, feels the way I wish Movable Type would feel.
This coming Sunday, AIGA New York is hosting its annual holiday bash at Pentagram’s offices here in New York. As is the chapter’s annual custom, we’ll be selling gift wraps and tapes custom-designed by graphic designers. These are invariably beautiful and clever, and they’re priced to move. Be sure to come early to get some of the gift wrap designed by Jason Santa Maria; I think it’s my favorite gift wrap design ever, except for that Superman-themed wrapping paper that my bike came in when I was eight. Anyway, all are welcome, regardless of which side you’ve chosen in the War on Christmas. Please be sure to R.S.V.P. ahead of time, though.
Over at the continually fascinating Boxes and Arrows, Liz Danzico just published a terrific interview with Paco Underhill, the author of “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.” Forget everything bad you’ve heard about Underhill (and if you’ve never heard he could be nicer, then never mind); he’s got valuable wisdom to offer to experience designers everywhere.
This interview is just one example of the amazing breadth of work that Boxes and Arrows continues to publish, year after year, and for the low, low price of free. It’s hard to believe they’ve survived this long; not so much that they made it through the recession in the early part of this decade, but rather that they’ve made it through the subsequent boom, when their all-volunteer editorial staff might otherwise have evaporated in the face of more, ahem, profitable distractions — like paying jobs.
Still, all is not rosy in Boxes and Arrows’ world of information architecture. Among the year’s not-to-be-missed threads was Adam Greenfield’s early October rant entitled “To I.A. or Not to I.A.” I’m really late posting about this, but Greenfield is among the bona fide brainiacs of our industry, so when he takes issue with what he sees as an increasing myopia of ambition amongst the sub-group of interaction design practitioners we typically regard as the most intellectually adventurous… well, then, he should be listened to. An example:
“After years in which many of us tried to argue that I.A. potentially constituted a powerful, general skillset applicable to situations far beyond the Web, it seems as if that ‘beyond’ extends only as far as corporate intranets and the like. And this strikes me as a failure, locally and globally.”
Youch. Also, read the comments in the overflow post.
Speaking of information architects: my NYTimes.com compatriot and main man for all things info-architectural, Elliott Malkin, has received some well-deserved notoriety lately for some of the artwork he’s been developing in his off hours. His latest project is “Cemetary 2.0,” which is “a concept for a set of networked devices that connect burial sites to online memorials for the deceased.” It’s a kind of cross-generational, conceptual twist on social networking. Check out the write-up at Boing Boing and We Make Money Not Art, too.
Speaking of dead people (I could go on with these segues), I don’t quite know what to make of this: the comic book illustrator Dave Cockrum, who made a name drawing Marvel Comics’ “X-Men” for many years, has just passed away. The weird thing is that, according to some reports, he died wearing Superman pajamas, which adds a potentially distracting oddness to his passing. Nevertheless, I always find it sad to these old comic book artists pass away.
Many of them toiled away for years with only meager pay and a passion for the genre as rewards, never to be properly compensated for the popular mythologies that much lesser men later capitalized upon. Take, for instance, the directorial hack Brett Ratner, who directed the abysmal film “X-Men: The Last Stand,” which drew at least in part on the work that Cockrum did many decades ago. When you think about how much Ratner likely made from the X-Men franchise and then think about how much Cockrum likely made… it doesn’t seem quite right.