Designing Chat Interfaces

There are some pretty intriguing riffs on the basic premise of chat-based user interface design collected on this page by Muzli (which was apparently acquired by InVision today, congrats!). It’s definitely worth a scroll if you want to take the temperature of designers who are thinking about how to expand the form of chat in visually appealing ways. A few examples:

Designing Chat Interfaces
Designing Chat Interfaces
Designing Chat Interfaces

It’s interesting that even though chat interfaces would in theory obviate a lot of UI design, there’s tons of playful UI design going on these examples. There’s many, many different formal tweaks to the basic building blocks of chat—avatars, speech balloons, threads, embedded content, and animations. What you see aggregated on this page is a kind of meta conversation, if you’ll forgive the pun, between dozens of different, independently operating designers about the best ways to present a fairly standard interface paradigm.

Another thing that strikes me is that in the long run users will probably only have so much patience for an endless number of variations on these basic paradigms. There are certain innovations, like automatically expanded inline content and being able to @reply people, that will soon become expected features of any chat interface, regardless of what color or shape its speech balloons take. In spite of the wide range of visual expression on display here, it seems likely that before too long the most successful chat interfaces will all start to look more and more like one another.

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How Graphic Design Reduced Damages to VanMoof’s Shipments

VanMoof Shipping Box

Dutch bicycle company VanMoof printed a picture of a flat screen television on its shipping boxes and saw an incredible 70-80% reduction in damages. Nothing on the box explicitly claims that there’s actually a TV inside—there’s even a silhouette of a bike in the screen—but the image alone spurred those handling the shipments to treat them with significantly more care. It’s a truly ingenious, low-tech hack of delivery channels, and it’s netted tons of attention for the company, as demonstrated by the fact that you’ve now heard of VanMoof. You can read their creative director’s thoughts on it at medium.com and Quartz has a write-up at qz.com.

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A Head-Slapping Proposal for a New Google Logo

Proposed Google Logo

When I saw this proposed redesign of the Google brand by L.A.-based graphic designer Dana Kim, my jaw dropped a little. I can’t believe no one thought of this solution before—using a search field to suggest the company’s two Os and relying on the elongation of the field to visually express the “oo” sound is extremely clever. (Maybe someone has thought of it before, but it’s the first time I’m coming across it.)

Kim’s stationery designs aren’t half bad either.

Proposed Google Rebranding

Pedants will complain, “That doesn’t say ‘Google.’ That says ‘Gogle.’” Well yeah okay, I guess it could never fly in real life. Still, doesn’t stop it from being brilliant.

See the rest of the project at behance.net.

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Hidden Feature in Apple Pay

Apple Pay

So, bad news: my wallet got stolen yesterday. I won’t go into the details, except to say that it’s basically my fault that it got swiped. There wasn’t a lot of money in it, but there was a nice picture of my daughter that I’ll miss. Of course, aside from losing cash and a photo, the worst part of losing a wallet is that I had to spend yesterday morning canceling all my credit cards and, when the new cards arrive, I have to re-enter new card numbers across the many subscription services that hold my payment information on file.

One small bright spot though: I discovered today that for the credit cards that I had connected to Apple Pay, each respective bank went ahead and updated my Apple Pay information with the new card number. So even though I had no identification (my driver’s license was taken too) and no way to get cash from an ATM today, I was still able to buy lunch and pick up some goods at the drug store—with just my phone. I didn’t have to do a thing; everything was taken care of automatically and my bank sent me an email saying that it had been done before I realized it was even possible.

This is not the kind of feature you ever really want to discover for yourself, much less actually benefit from, but it impressed me greatly. It also confirms for me the notion that of all the many fronts that Apple is moving on, their work on Apple Pay is among their best initiatives right now. Of course I would like to see wider adoption of Apple Pay by retailers, but aside from sheer scale, almost everything else about the way Apple Pay works strikes me as exactly the way it should work.

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Where the Comic Book Font Came From

Vox shines a light on comic book letterers, none of whom you will ever recognize in public, but who have together inadvertently created a universally recognizable and understandable visual vernacular. Most people would be surprised to learn that this kind of typography is not uniformly the same, or that a business like Comicraft can sell such a wide variety of fonts that mostly riff on a single, visually common trope—just look at this selection to see.

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Movies Watched, August 2016

Still from “Don’t Think Twice”

Whenever I’m about to do a bunch of travel, as was the case last month, I re-up my subscription to Mubi, a “hand picked” streaming video service that specializes in independent fare, movie classics and international cinema. Most people assume Mubi is analogous to Netflix except for film snobs, but that’s not quite right. There are only thirty films available on Mubi at any one time; each day a new one is published by the service’s curators and an old one expires—disappears, gone, forever, more or less.

Like Netflix you can stream Mubi’s films at any time, and like Amazon Prime you can download them to your device for offline viewing, but this you-get-it-for-just-a-month model is a wonderful way to draw users’ attentions to films they might otherwise overlook. I’ve watched lots of really fascinating, powerful stuff on Mubi that I almost surely would never have seen otherwise. I’ve also watched some less than stellar oddball flicks, but I’ve never watched a Mubi selection that hasn’t been illuminating and rewarding in some unique way.

Here are all nineteen of the films I watched in August:

If you’re interested, here’s my list from July, June, May, April, March and my list for January and February. And you can follow along with my film diary on Letterboxd, too.

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Happy Batman Day

Today marks the third annual Batman Day celebration—a good time as any to dress up like a flying mammal and mete out some vigilante justice, if you haven’t done so lately.

Head over to the official site to learn more about how Warner Bros. wants you to promote their favorite comic book-derived intellectual property with events, deals and a sweepstakes. Or, just spend some time perusing my Pinterest board dedicated to Batman, including oddball renderings of the caped crusader like the ones below. Happy crime fighting!

Batman
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How Much Screen Time Do Actresses Get?

Software developed by The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media can now analyze a film and determine how much time an actress actually appears on the screen. A ninety minute film can be processed in just fifteen minutes, and The New York Times reports that in the first round of research, the findings are eye opening:

In the first round of research using the tool, a study of the 200 top-grossing, nonanimated films of 2014 and 2015, like ‘Jurassic World’ and ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron,’ found that overall, in 2015, male characters were both seen and heard about twice as much as female characters. Parity on paper does not help: In films with male and female leads, the men nonetheless appear and speak more often than the women. Even in films with female leads, the men still get nearly equal screen and speaking time.

The report is available at the Institute’s web site along with some interactive charts, which are vivid. Here’s the data for 2015. Pay particular attention to the pie graphs, which nicely summarize total screen time.

Screen Time for Actresses in 2015 Movies

Read the full report at seejane.org.

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Pretend Art Directing iOS 10’s Lock Screen

After a busy summer during which I never got to try the beta, I’ve finally got the official release of iOS 10 installed on my phone and tablet. Hooray! It’s always a kick to explore the many new twists and turns scattered throughout each major revision of almost everybody’s favorite operating system.

One of the changes that I like the most is kind of simple and not particularly earth-shattering: this landscape orientation-specific layout for the lock screen on iPad. It breaks iOS’s longstanding center-aligned layout by left-aligning the time and date. It’s a simple move but it was kind of shocking when I first encountered it, and I find it very elegant.

iOS 10 Lock Screen on iPad

Here is a screen grab of how the layout displays iOS 10’s notifications, which have been changed in this version to appear as cards. (I’ve redacted the information in each notification.)

iOS 10 Lock Screen on iPad with Notifications

One of the curses of being a designer is that one can never stop hypothetically redesigning things one comes across in the wild. For instance, I can’t help but think that the layout would work even better if the cards were placed on the right half of the screen. In their current position, they have to scroll beneath the time and date, but if they shifted over to the other side, they could scroll freely from top to bottom. It would also activate that space more effectively.

iOS 10 Lock Screen on iPad with Notifications (Revised)

That’s all I wanted to say today.

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Galaxy Note 7 Warnings on Flights

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

Last Friday, before I boarded a red-eye flight from San Francisco to New York, the airline representative at the gate made an announcement that any passengers traveling with a Samsung Galaxy Note 7 must turn that device off before boarding, and were forbidden from turning it on during the flight. I tweeted about it at the time.

This of course was a response to the Note 7’s notorious exploding battery incidents. In fact, the devices have not been banned by the FAA, just cited in an advisory. Still, the situation is extremely grim for Samsung, as plenty of airline passengers are hearing the same warnings.

These exploding batteries make for a terrible turn of events for Samsung—not to mention a horrible safety risk for their customers. But Samsung’s response does not seem to be up to the task of managing the crisis. Forbes writes in this article that the scandal is proving to be very damaging:

…the approach taken by the South Korean company is taking a significant amount of time, looks haphazard when viewed from the outside, and the story is being defined by external agencies–such as the FAA and international airlines banning the Note 7 from being turned on while on board.

Potentially embarrassing and even dangerous technological flaws are a fact of life for every hardware company—they may be extremely rare, but they are an ever present risk. What sets the best companies apart from others is their ability to respond in a way that preserves their brand and wins back the trust of customers. Unfortunately, I can’t imagine a worse situation for Samsung than having what amounts to a public service announcement before every flight advising customers not to use your product.

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