The Road Runner Ahead

Road RunnerWhen the first previews of Mac OS X’s “Aqua” interface made their way around the Web, I remember a designer friend of mine pronounced them to be “ass.” This was in the midst of a rage for a pixel-based aesthetic that fetishized jaggy fonts and graphics tied intimately to the display limitations of computer monitors.

Many designers then looked down upon any design element that was anti-aliased, shaded or that cast a shadow of any sort, and yet it’s since become apparent that this is the future of interface design. Soon afterwards, Windows XP copied much of the same aesthetic, and Windows applications like the recent version of AOL and new programs like Picasa have whole-heartedly embraced this direction.

Road Runner Portal Final Candidate

If you need further proof of this style’s rising dominance, then have a look at this ‘release candidate’ for the Road Runner portal, which will soon be the default home page for Time Warner Cable’s broadband customers. It’s a beautiful, intricate and painstaking implementation of Flash that makes Yahoo! seem painfully dated. I will admit that it has its fair share of questionable design elements — its dodgy, amorphous header will be looked back upon as an embarrassment of early 21st century design clichés — but in total, the site is a winning endeavor of smart, consumer-friendly Web development.

The site practically delights in clever, subtle interface details of an order more commonly found in major software packages than on Web sites (I challenge anyone not to find at least some measure of amusement from the animated Road Runner head), which is as good an indication as any that the people who worked on this — I don’t yet know who, but I hope to find out soon — enjoyed their work on this project. I’ve long been convinced that there is a secret stash of notably smart, forward-thinking creative professionals and executives at Time Warner Cable, and this proves it.