I’m currently working on some iOS apps, thinking about user experience, and at the same time reading stuff on an iPad and I’ve come to a conclusion: scrolling text is totally stupid. It has no analog to any previous human experience. And here’s the thing: that human experience even includes scrolls.
Even when paper scrolled, the text was organized in columns. Columns (and pages) make sense because you know where to continue reading when you’ve gotten to the end of a segment.
Device scrolling, though, is tedious because you never know how much distance has been scrolled by your finger flick. Instead of going back to the top left, you have to scan up and down to find out where you’re supposed to be:
This is another example of design for novelty rather than use. “It’s new so we gotta use it,” as opposed to “maybe what’s already working actually works.” This is, I think, a real minefield for designers – if we view ourselves as designers, we feel like we have to design something, but if we view ourselves as consultants, maybe we can advise against novelty for its own sake.
This is novelty design in that it feels like it was meant to take advantage of touch screen devices – design for the gadget’s capabilities, not design for the user’s um, use.
The good news is, everybody totally reads this blog and does what I say, so we can for sure look forward to at least having the option of paging through documents and magazines on the iPad from now on. World, you’re welcome.
I generally try to avoid knee jerk reactions to redesigns. They tend to fall into an easy nostalgia for the way things were, or a crotchety “what’s-the-world-coming-to” version of, well I guess that’s nostalgia, too. So I’m not predisposed to dislike a redesign just because it’s new. I’m not even disposed to dislike a design just because it’s ugly – I really do like to hold out hope that some kinds of ugliness are just new kinds of beauty that we don’t know how to process yet. But this isn’t one of those situations. This is plain bad design.
At right is a detail and below that the whole thing.
1. Type salad number one: carrot shreds. This is a badly-designed typeface trying too hard to echo the logotype but differentiate itself from it, without understanding either of those two things. Here, the serifs are too wimpy, the attempt at a compressed version too little thought out (a nearly circular ‘g’ is a bad punt), and I won’t even get into how it’s been letterspaced here.
2. Type salad number two: giant chunks of something. Bureau Eagle or something like it. With the header face above it and the italics and drop cap below it, this overly black choice is too big and intrusive. What is the hierarchy of what we’re supposed to be looking at – the illustration, border tape, clip art, and this fat ass type choice are all competing. And in this contest, everyone loses (although everyone gets a garish “Participant” ribbon).
3. Type salad number three: endives. I know that technically the italic and the face below it are the same, but italics differ so greatly in form that for my purposes it can be considered as discrete. Given the choice to small cap the intro to the paragraph below, this is just distracting. Too light to read as a subhead, too busy (as italics are) to be integral.
4. Type salad number four: croutons (okay, the salad analogy is getting creaky, I know). This is fine on its own, but the small cap intro is, along with the upper and lower case italics just above it, the all-caps Eagle above that, and the weird failure of the headline above that (and above the illustration and to the side of the clip art) is too much. In a way it’s kind of amazing: each element, even taken on its own, is just too much. It’s like a hall of mirrors. Irritating, legibility-destroying mirrors.
5. This gigantic Chartpak-era border tape. This is perhaps the most offensive thing on these pages. It doesn’t serve to define space or guide the reader or just be pleasing. All it does is shout at me.
6. Clip art. Clip art, for god’s sake. Okay, I know it’s not clip art, but compared to most of the cuts in the The New Yorker, it really looks a lot like clip art, especially just floating there, à propos of nothing.
7. I know there’s no number 7 down there, but I have an otherwise fairly full and interesting life, so sometimes things fall through the cracks, okay? But this giant rectangle illustration, cutting off the headline and clip art from the junk drawer of typography below. It’s just a mess.
8. Four columns here. Three elsewhere (the most comfortable for reading, IMO). Two else-elsewhere. To continue with the texting-level of discourse here, WTF?
The The New Yorker redesign isn’t just ugly or just new. What bothers me about it is that it’s screaming at me. Life is annoying enough without your magazine screaming at you, too. As if its screaming weren’t bad enough, it’s screaming something completely uninspired: “Look at me! I’ve been DESIGNED!”
This is a stupid thing for design to say because everything on a page has been designed. We all know it has been designed. The designer can, and in this case, should, get out of the way of the function of the design (I feel like I’ve written “design” and “screamed” a million times, but then again I ain’t no writersman). The older design was just that: function. It looked like how it worked, and that made it not just subtle or pleasing, but relaxing and comfortable. The design was invisible, subsumed by what it was supposed to do. This new thing inverts that, and does so to its detriment.
So here’s what we do: we send the Condé Nast intern who was very very excited to apply all of his or her first year design techniques ALL AT THE SAME TIME back to some publication that needs screaming design to distract its viewers from bad writing or idiotic subject matter; and we bring back the more anonymous, more rigorous, more respectful design that the magazine had until now.
If you’ve ever wondered just exactly how nerdly I sound in person, now you can find out. Yesterday I was interviewed by a very cool young woman for a very cool radio show in Kansas City. And was just tremendously honored to share the airwaves with Mr. Sull, too. Check it out on the KCUR site here. And here’s the direct link to the audio mp3.
Watching the Series, I was struck by the resurgence of what I’d thought were Dookie ropes*, inexplicably now brightly colored and popular for some reason with baseball players.
But no. These aren’t just garish Dookies (and it’s pretty hard to garish up a Dookie**). They’re pseudoscientific claptrap, too.
From the product page:
This necklace features Phiten’s Phild processed Aqua-Titanium, which has the ability to regulate the body’s natural electric currents through cell ionization
Promotes muscle relaxation, pain and stress relief, fatigue reduction, blood circulation improvement thus helping prevent injury.
And we know this because they told us.
There’s otherwise zero scientific research to support it. Wired has a good article on it, but come on – Wired? The sports blogs I admittedly didn’t delve too deeply into seem to take it at face value, which is a bummer. Even worse is the Washington Post taking no stance whatsoever, doing no research, and generally skipping the whole journalism thing.***
It’s not just that they’re selling a nickel’s worth of whatever for 50 bucks. These things are flacked all over MLB.com, and after all the steroid outcry we immediately get this stupid shit. We’re practically begging kids to believe snake oil pitches, or at least accept them uncritically in the name of fashion. I know there’s a limit to what we can expect sports to do, especially when it comes to kids, but they do emulate the guys in the bigs, even if they don’t canonize them like they used to. But does MLB have to promote bad science? I wish they’d just have taken the claptrap off of the product descriptions. If kids want to wear ugly necklaces, fine. Ugly necklaces that actively promote stupidity is kind of enraging.
* If I were a different person, in a different life, I would wear a Dookie rope, and wear it unironically.
** Why yes, I do love saying Dookie. Dookie dookie dookie!
*** If newspapers are dying it’s because they’ve stopped doing their jobs. Seriously, if this is the Washington Post, would it matter if it was gone?
Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, aka brain degeneration from repeated concussions. All that and it’s boring too!
“Most CTE sufferers die from either suicides or accidental overdoses,” he says. “CTE is responsible for most, if not all, of the absurd behavior these players show.”
I’ve always suspected as much, but research shows (and this time it’s actual journalistic research, although Cracked beat ‘em to the conclusions in a satirical way) that the average football game has just 11 minutes of action. The rest is people standing around.
The knock on baseball, from people who like to make pointless dualities like baseball vs. football, is that it’s a whole lot of guys just standing around. Which is true, apart from the pitcher-batter duel, which is what makes baseball interesting to many baseball fans. But it turns out the football is just as boring.
Judged by the metric of continuous battle and physical play, the best sport would have to be cycling. It’s best viewed on television (it’s tremendously exciting first hand, but you can’t really get the overall feel of the race), and it combines team and individual competition. Kind of surprising that it’s not more popular here. After all, cycling practically invented the steroid scandal, there are plenty of colorful logos on the uniforms (just like NASCAR!), and it can be quite dangerous. What’s not to like?
No, it isn’t. It’s not that bad, really. Smack dab in the middle of the road, sure. Boring, even? Yes. But this isn’t about the boring, middle-of-the-road choices that were made, or whether it’s better than Paula Scher’s previous logo. This is about how they screwed up the execution.
The r-t letterspacing is, however, total dogshit.
I don’t know why, but everyone seems afraid to properly letterspace the r-t connection. It’s as though there’s a force field keeping them from ever touching. It’s tricky, I’ll admit, but there are at least two strategies for letterspacing a word with a lower case r-t. This dogshit is now a teachable moment. And we’ll all pause to vomit at the term “teachable moment.”
One option is to keep the force field in place. It’s a bad option, but if you are the sort of a person who, like a chaperone at the junior prom, just is not gonna ever have no letters touching, then go with it. All it means is that the overall tracking will be a little wider.
You should treat letterspacing as negative space, not linear spacing between the letterforms themselves. So, if we’re keeping the r-t space (the black line above), we realize how that affects the space between the outer edges of the r and t (the green rectangles above). It’s a difficult area to translate to the other negative spaces in your word, and there’s lots of room for individual interpretation. But it will help pull your mark together into a cohesive design. Unlike the original, which looks like a gap-toothed hillbilly.
Above, a comparison, with the r-t space used as a guide for the rest of the tracking in the mark. The yellow is mine, the pink, original.
Option 2 – a.k.a. the better option:
This one connects the r and t, and allows for a tighter tracking across the mark.
It requires a little drawing and a little finesse, but it works much better. Nontrivially better. Because I do think the tighter tracking in the original is the better way to go. So, don’t be afraid to have the r and the t touch. Even though, if you compared the r in Art with the one in Director, they’d look different, they are similar enough that the difference disappears. The thing about tricks like this is that, generally, people don’t notice the little cheats. They notice that everything works together better, perhaps in ways they can’t articulate, but better.
But not to be a total curmudgeon, there is some nice craftsmanship. I’m not sure if they used a different digitization of Franklin than mine, or if it was custom made, but it’s a nice version. I especially like the rounded joins (rather than the angled join shown in the blue circle below) and overall character. Frequently, in a logotype, I’ll sand those edges off, too, because it’s just nicer and adds a little craft to what could otherwise look like just another typed-in word. So, they get some points for the subtleties.
BTW, I redrew everything in like, nine seconds (because I’m not getting paid to do it), so, yes, it’s not perfect. (Man oh man, the trolls have made me preëmptively defensive. Thanks, trolls). Anyway.
Integrity is something I’ve been thinking about lately. Also dignity. And my thought is that these are things that have gone the way of the mimeograph.
Writing the words up there, they even sound quaint, if not stupid and ridiculous in the way that kvetching about the modern world makes you feel like a grumpy, out-of-touch old man (and old people are no good at everything).
There are several threads involved in this (which is how my brain works for better or worse) including:
- that the bar for celebrity has now been lowered to a point that we can be famous for… well I was going to say willingness to embarrass ourselves on camera, but I’m not even sure what this person has done;
- sub rosa shilling for companies via personal essays (now regulated by the FCC and who even remembers that once, product placement in a novel was grounds for much sturm und drang?);
- that we never apologize for anything (“sorry if someone was offended,” and “lapses in judgement” are not apologies);
- and, to get back on topic, Shepard Fairey. But I should keep this simpler and just go with the Fairey thing.
My point with the other things was that integrity seems to boil down to saying “no” to money; to there being some one thing at least that is, at bottom, not for sale. Or some one instance where you will forgo money that you could’ve taken, just because it’s the honorable (another dusty word) or at least fair thing to do. Which all seems like anachronism these days. It’s money and money is good!
Why would anyone ever say no to money? Which is why I’m wondering if dignity and integrity have any place at all in a country that has seemingly eliminated the last vestiges of “society” and now operates purely in an “economy.” But anyway.
So Fairey lied in his court documents and destroyed evidence and his lawyers have now abandoned the case. Which is something I did not expect to happen. He was (imo) hiding behind a mendacious concept of fair use to defend his image theft and the resulting badly-rendered (also popular) poster, although that was to’ve been a matter for the courts.
That he’s a cheesy copycat* is one thing. That he’d go so far to manipulate the case this badly is another thing entirely, and something I never saw coming.
The point about integrity might be something like this: if he had just paid the photographer – forgoing, really, a miniscule percentage of whatever money he’s gotten from the poster (he says none, but he’s said a lot of things that aren’t accurate) none of this would’ve happened and he could continue blithely LiveTracing photos for Nike** and whatnot (why is he called a “street artist” again?). So that’s your economic argument for doing the right thing. Hooray! We still live in an economy.
Here’s a link to the AP’s story (and bear in mind that it’s the AP reporting on a lawsuit against the AP, so, you know).
* Do click that link. Glaser rocks.
** Ugh, that’s so horrible. And it’s in my neighborhood.
Mike Webster, the longtime Pittsburgh Steeler and one of the greatest players in N.F.L. history, ended his life a recluse, sleeping on the floor of the Pittsburgh Amtrak station. Another former Pittsburgh Steeler, Terry Long, drifted into chaos and killed himself four years ago by drinking antifreeze. Andre Waters, a former defensive back for the Philadelphia Eagles, sank into depression and pleaded with his girlfriend—“I need help, somebody help me”—before shooting himself in the head.
Looks like Gladwell‘s getting his ideas* from this blog now. Or maybe I’m just part of the tipping point.
- Gladwell views head injury as implicit in the game of football, and I’m tempted to agree, but I also wonder how much helmets have to do with it. There is research showing that cyclists take more risks when they’re wearing helmets, feeling somewhat more immortal with the protection (anecdotally, I know I sure as shit do – at least until I frighten myself enough to take it easy). Which is not to say that cyclists shouldn’t wear helmets, just that it’s complicated.
Watching Gladwell’s slide show, I wonder how much the head-on attack style comes from having such a convenient battering ram in the form of that hard plastic globe on top. Would there be as much injury if they were wearing the old leather helmets (okay, I just wanted to button up that cool image of the football player – I don’t really think they should go back to leather)?
- That said, do rugby players (unhelmeted) suffer as many head injuries? I do not know. But helmets don’t help them, according to this study.
*Except with, you know, reporting and analysis and other stuff beyond my trademark lazy, blank ranting. By which I mean of course he isn’t getting his ideas here. But still. Hooray for football!
I’d thought this was going to be a one-off rant, but the awesomeness of football is unstoppable.
You might think that’d be enough to doom an activity to the fringe subcultures lurking in the darker corners of craigslist, but add to that the actual experience of watching it (as reported by the fine journalists at Cracked) and it’s kind of amazing that we’d all watch (and love!) something so boring. Yes, it’s violent. We love violence. But other than that, what’s the appeal? That I do not know the answer makes me feel like an alien.