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.
Ever since I was just a little baby elitist with pretensions to cultural literacy, I’ve revered the The New Yorker’s stable of visual artists; their illustrators and photographers have always been the best of the best. So it was hard for me to criticize the new design. Until I saw this.
Apparently, the typical New Yorker level of visual quality does not reach the typography department. Assuming there is one, which, of course, there isn’t. But just look at this nightmare: the S’s are tipping over – why? And doubly why considering you know that they will appear to the right of a cap A and be impossible to letterspace correctly. Why the fully round C next to an A (if you can call being two area codes over “next to”)? Why the underlines? Why the angled A crossbars? Why anything that we’re seeing here? Quirks can be great, if they work together for a cohesive whole. These are quirks from the fourth dimension of terribleness, unconnected to anything.
I could go on (and on) about the failures of this face, but I think we can encapsulate it with that goddamn ampersand. They didn’t even bother to design one. It’s Caslon for god‘s sake. Look, guys, if you’re going to design a typeface, no matter how badly conceived, and you know that it’s going to need an ampersand, pro tip: make an ampersand. That Caslon & doesn’t match the weight or feel or character of the rest of the letters. Possibly because Adobe Caslon is nicely designed and the other is some weird jumble of half thoughts and regret (at least I hope there’s some regret here).
I hesitate to even show the following, because I disagree so heartily with the whole debacular typeface, but here. Here’s an ampersand. I was tempted to offer it up for free, but screw that – Condé Nast is a giant company, they can buy it if they want. So here you go. If you’re reading this, Condé and/or Nast, and want to make a deal, let me know.
It matches the angles of the cap A, and it’s not italic, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s not Caslon italic.
There has been a lot of hue and cry over this new logo. And by hue and cry, I mean confused sighing at its lameness, which isn’t really hue and cry at all when you think about it, but anyway. The whole process – 30 days of a “lets throw this spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” type of (weirdly public) crit; the odd messages from the CEO, who apparently swooped in at the last second with the Optima solution, the blame/complimenting of the intern who did a (supposedly) better mark. The whole thing doesn’t make any sense.
Lost in all this, though, is just why it’s so bad. Optima is great, even if it’s generally seen as dated. It’s an extremely well-designed face and will have many more lives in the future, so it’s not necessarily a bad choice. I think, though (and Lord knows we need another stupid opinion about the stupid Yahoo logo, but here goes), that the reason it doesn’t work is because it’s badly designed. Not that it’s inherently a bad face, or that the ideas are bad (they are, but I’ll get to that in a moment). I’m also not arguing for the old logo or against the new one. I’m arguing for not sucking.
By that, I mean, here, the matter of expertise. There is no expertise in this new logo design, and that’s why it has failed so badly. In the original Yahoo logo, attention has been paid to the whitespace between the letters, which has as much to do with the rhythm, legibility, and character of a wordmark. The new one looks like it was done by an intern with an executive pointing at the screen from over his shoulder; a collaboration of two people with no expertise – one probably fueled by ego, the other probably by fear, and it that situation there’s no room for reflection or adjustment. And there’s also no consideration of expertise. This is, by the way, why there are design consultancies in the first place, and why the process (when it’s done right) doesn’t include the client looking at the screen while you work.
So anyway, it might indeed have been time to update Yahoo, but the old logo feels better because the white space works – not in a rigid way, but in a flowing way (B,C,D) that is pretty pleasing and also goes a long way toward conveying what Yahoo was trying to convey at the time. It really is the visual equivalent of that yodel jingle.
I tried to mark out the new Yahoo whitespace in the most generous way I could (2,3,4) to try and make it make sense – I tried more shapes and fewer shapes because I didn’t want to stack the deck, but there’s no way around the confusion of the letterforms, the spacing, and the white space. This confused, arhythmic jumble is, I think, what creates the overwhelming “meh” response of the new logo. It doesn’t communicate anything and it’s doing its non-communication in a jumbled, non-designed way.
In short, kids, don’t forget the white space. That’s my point here. And you CEO kids, hire a design firm!
If you like Spencerian script, and are a fan of artwork printed on smooshed up trees, have I got just the thing for you! I’m trying out the Kickstarter thing – check it out. I’ll have more updates as things progress.
Dang, I’ve been busy. But I’d like to pick this back up (Although there’ve been over a hundred posts in just over a year; one every three days ain’t so bad, really). It might have less of a single-ish focus on the Fortune (though there are plenty of pages left to scan, so it’ll still show up) and will include random blatherings, plus some examples of my work. Because I like to blather about work.
Okie dokey. Summer’s over, so I guess I should pick this thing back up. And because I’m too lazy to scan my Fortune just now, I’ll go with an update to something that I’ve mentioned before.
So, another child’s been killed by our beloved game. Yippidy dippidy doo. The most stunning quote to me is this one, by Boron High athletic director:
“It still hurts. Everyday we talk about it. We wear his number on our helmets.”
On the helmets worn during the game that killed him. I understand the impulse, but isn’t that – looked at another way – kind of horribly crass? Like memorializing a car crash victim with a bumper sticker?
Is there anything else that ends in the deaths of children that we rationalize so blithely? It’s just goddamn entertainment. We are the Romans, these kids are the lion food. Enjoy football season.
I wanted to mark their passing but I couldn’t find a straight up GM ad in my Fortune, so this will have to do.
I might have to add another category to the companies from 1934: the dead, the agglomerated, and now, the government-owned. I’m not anti-government in any way, but I just can’t help but think that we’re headed to Trabant-style centrally planned Fiatillacs.
By the way, Fisher is now reduced to making one model of transit bus. Which is just depressing in a way. From Harley Earl to this. Yippee.
Again, I don’t blame the engineers or the designers. I blame the marketers. I wish an actual journalist would dig up the marketing reports that foisted such crappy cars through the hierarchies of GM and out the other end. I have a funny feeling a lot of innovation never made it past the tracing paper stage because of those reports. But that’s just me (and yes, I’m sure there was some macroeconomic shit flying around too, but I’m a designer not an economist, so).
It’s Warhol’s world, and we’re just living in it.
Lately I get the feeling that everything is kitsch, which is maybe the inevitable result of a mature capitalist economy (or past mature, considering that we’re arguably witnessing its collapse). I mean, the worth of just about everything has been reduced to a singularity: that of its monetary worth as measured by sales. If it doesn’t sell, it must suck; if it isn’t already popular, how can it be worth my time?
This is sort of reflected (in a way – this is tenuous, I know) in Internet culture. Everything is faster, to be skimmed, grasped, perhaps commented on, and forgotten. But in no way contemplated. Capitalism has compressed all values into a singularity; the Internet compresses our attention into tiny digestible bites (which is something else I don’t understand – say you’ve come up with and promoted a successful meme. Then what? What is it for? You get two million hits (more accurate to say “glances”) but they are hits of dubious, if any, worth. Okay, end digression.
But my main point is that, everything salable is, essentially, kitsch, if you buy the argument (and I do) that kitsch reassures us of the things we already know. And art tells things we don’t. In a way (and this is just to button up that opening sentence), Warhol slowed us down to tell us something we, in fact, didn’t already know. He was showing us the what and how of kitsch (and the occasional art that resides within it). But ever since then, we’ve been steadily abandoning his kind of thoughtful irony, and art, and just jumping in to a great boring pool of familiar soup. Shit, even irony is its own kitsch now – a shorthand for a set of shared and unchallenged aesthetic values.
I’ve been jolted out of this recently (and I’m as susceptible as everyone else – fuck, life’s hard, why complicate things further?) by a play and a record. The play was a Brecht joint, and, man was it difficult. Brecht himself is difficult, his messages were open-ended and oblique, and the guy has a logorrhea that would make Dostoevsky plotz. But in the end, that very difficulty was a kind of refreshing jolt. My mind is so used to being lulled, that actually having to dope out the threads of this monster (and I still can’t say I like it – but that was part of the small marvel) felt genuinely, surprising, invigorating.
More invigorating, I’m sure than this overlong post. So I’ll wrap it up –
The other difficult (although much less difficult) thing is the new record by a killer band called Rudder. I hesitate to call it jazz because jazz is unpopular and therefore generally perceived as worthless. But if you want some music that will tell you things you don’t already know, that will take you in directions you didn’t realize existed, check it out. The difference between this and the Brecht, though, is that I love this record. And it’s still just as invigorating and rewarding. Great reviews at the Boston Post, on Jambase, and on a cool site that I didn’t know existed until just now (though the reviewer moonlights for the LA Times),
Take an (abbreviated) listen here.
Apologies for the silence. I’ve been working my patoot off to stay ahead of the recession/depression/collapse/apocalypse.
Speaking of: so, the bank’s shareholders are afraid of a government takeover which would devalue their shares. But the only reason they’re susceptible to takeover is because they did virtually no oversight when it would’ve made a difference. And the government is already in pretty deep with bailout money. So, the next step is for the shareholders to dump their shares, hastening the devaluation that they’re trying to avoid?
I know nothing about money, so I have no comment, really. Except – really? This is really how banking works? In my little life here, basically, I work and make things that are sold to people for money. But it seems like in banking, the expectation is that you always make money no matter what happens or how badly you screw up. Wow. Must be nice. Look, I’m not exactly setting the design business world on fire with my decisions and acumen – can I have my free money now?