Friday, February 29, 2008

once every 4 years

Computers have evolved like a million years in just a couple of decades. Today I was remembering how complicated was to copy or rename a file using DOS. Even jumping from one folder to other was a challenging adventure and then to ask for a directory at each level using A:\>dir ... it was certainly the stone age! But not just computers have evolved. At that time many people (including me) used to say that computers could not possible replace hand work, pre-press high contrast negatives, or many of the work done for graphic design, including digital photography. And it was simply because there was not enough power and digital capacity back then. For example, the image below would take a third of a 320KB diskette, but the full size file would overflow a high density double sided 3.5" floppy, and the original photoshop file would almost fill entirely the 10MB hard drives used at that time.
2D and 3D logos
Anyway, printing techniques have evolved into amazing possibilities now that storage size is not an issue... at least not like it was back then. At those times it was usual to have a logo (or any material to be printed) on just 1, 2 or 3 inks (if you could afford that) Full colour prints were limited to millionaires.

Just think about old personal business cards: most of the people had business cards printed just black... nowadays, even "escorts" have high definition full colour business cards with their "real pictures". So, there's no excuse on having a boring "plaster" logo, when you can take full advantage of gradients and high definition printing. That's why many companies have changed their logos into 3D images. These are just some examples.

When I was collecting images for this collection, I found the history or autopsy of the starbucks logo. The merging of the old starbucks two tailed mermaid and "il giornale" was like the merging of the Mr. Sparkle logo only more pornographic. So, the mermaid had to cover her attributes, and a close-up was necessary to avoid a PG-18 rating. I never thought that political correctness could affect what we see or can't see on logos.

old and new starbucks logo
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4 Bookworms

I just opened my aStore account, it was quite easy and very fast to set-up! So, here's the result: 'round design's book and music store. I promise to organize the categories and "hand pick" book recommendations later. I just got it up and running. Enjoy (and eventually buy something if you like).
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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Dick Chenney is not a (design) user

design lab 08 - electroluxOnce again it's time to participate at Electrolux's Design Lab 08. Last year's brief was about the future, this year is about the so called "internet generation" or "NetGen" and how they expect to interact with household appliances.

One of the main problems with designers, is that we usually tend to see ourselves as users. Just like the example of the MacBook air that I discussed previously. I have no idea if there's an existing theory, but you may quote my "Theory of brainwashing in advertisement": "If a company advertises a feature using words like "you don't need..." it's because you will definitely need that missing feature!" Don Norman says otherwise :

Sometimes what is needed is a design dictator who says, “Ignore what users say: I know what’s best for them.” The case of Apple Computer is illustrative. Apple’s products have long been admired for ease of use. Nonetheless, Apple replaced its well known, well-respected human interface design team with a single, authoritative (dictatorial) leader. Did usability suffer? On the contrary: its new products are considered prototypes of great design.

On the other hand, his partner Jakob Nielsen makes very good points on his book "usability engineering". Specially that designers and engineers are tempted to regard themselves as "users" when they are not: they are more experienced and know how the item works. Designers are like the mobster who knew too much: they are biased and have to stay away.
But Norman also says that is wrong for designers to judge their own creations in terms of usability :
... (designers) are designing things for people, and since they are people themselves, they know just how people work and just what people need. The argument doesn't work. First of all, designers ... are not ordinary people. ... A designer of a kitchen appliance probably spends all day at work designing, not using the kitchen. The person who designs an adding machine or a carpentry tool may not be an accountant or a carpenter. And even if they were, skills at these tasks vary widely, and no single person can be expected to be aware of the wide range of needs of the prospective audience. Finally, once a person has worked hard on a design ... , they then know too much about the material to be able to step back and look at it with a neutral eye. Awkward or dangerous design features can be passed by if the designer is too familiar with the work. In order to evaluate something, you have to come at it fresh, with no expectations and biases.
It is typical that we "use" ourselves as anthropometric templates... as if we were a perfect fit. Don't tell me you don't know this scenario: It's 2:00 am, you are building a foam model for some kind of handle or any other prototype something thingy. Instead of getting up to get the anthropometric tables, you just sit or put your hand, arm, foot or any other body part on top of a piece of paper and draw the template you needed. That's just terrible!!! I just loved how is that explained in a powerpoint presentation I found by Dr. Beth Kolko : "Remember when your parents told you that you were special? They were right! DO NOT assume you are a typical user". (Lecture: Designing the World Thursday October 6, 2005) Designer sensei says: “Zen's mind, designer's mind. Let go of your ego. Don't design for yourself. Design for your primary persona.”

Which takes me back to Norman. I think he is absolutely right to say that we should talk about People: Not Customers, Not Consumers, Not Users.
Words matter. Psychologists depersonalize the people they study by calling them “subjects.” We depersonalize the people we study by calling them “users.” Both terms are derogatory. ... If we are designing for people, why not call them that: people, a person, or perhaps humans. But no, we distance ourselves from the people for whom we design by giving them descriptive and somewhat degrading names, such as customer, consumer, or user. Customer – you know, someone who pays the bills. Consumer – one who consumes. User, or even worse, end user – the person who pushes the buttons, clicks the mouse, and keeps getting confused. ... we are in the age of “gizmos,” often electronic, often networked. Gizmos have “users.”
Finally... about the design competition : This is an unique opportunity to be designer and people, creator and user. It's an unique chance to let your ideas flow from technology, gizmos, gadgets to home appliances. Don't think about the future, think how you would like to interact and use your home appliances... better yet, how do you imagine your home appliances becoming "eGadgets"? Watch the brief at Design Lab '08, be inspired and get creative!


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Monday, February 25, 2008

Design Police

This is great! You can print these Design Police templates on sticker paper to enforce aesthetic/visual laws. We know that many design studios are ruled by anarchy... it's the law of the jungle out there! This templates are for graphic designers, but it would be a good idea to expand this concept into industrial design, architectrure, fashion, interior, landscape, etc. The impunity of some designers breaching the basic rules and laws of design is overwhelming and getting worse everyday. We should do something about it... OH, won't someone just think of the children!!



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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Positronic Elmo

Who would have thought that Elmo could become more dangerous than Hal 9000 or the terminator? First, was the lead paint recall scandal. Now is the "Elmo knows your name " causing concerns by making death threats to a two year old:
"With a squeeze of its fuzzy belly, the Sesame Street character now says, in a sing-song voice, "Kill James." "It's not something that really you would think would ever come out of a toy," said Melissa Bowman, James' mother. "But once I heard, I was just kind of distraught."

Seems like the fear of Isaac Asimov's three laws for robotic positronic brains being broken by artificial intelligence is once again present. One would expect that only a sophisticated computer evil elmo killerlike Hal 9000 could have enough artificial intelligence to go berserk and attack it's human master. -That's good!
Except maybe the terminator or a Krusty doll! -That's bad.
"Killer Elmo" lacks the "Krusty seal of approval"! -That's good.
However, some of the nasty remarks of Evil Krusty have been left out! -That's bad.
Evil Krusty is still very rude! -That's good.
Krusty's knife is not included! -That's bad.
Elmo comes with a free dose of Potassium Benzoate and lead.

-That's bad!

Sounds like an old cliche: "My name is Elmo, and I don't like you"

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Friday, February 22, 2008

UK designIT

UK designers still have time to enter the designIT competition sponsored by microsoft (OK, they're not always evil).
You can choose from 4 specific briefs to address the needs of different charities in the UK. It's a good chance to bring your ideas on immaterial design. The winner will be awarded the opportunity to have their system design implemented by Microsoft for their chosen charity (provided their chosen charity meets the eligibility criteria set out above). A maximum budget of £15,000 will be assigned to the implementation. My advise as always: check out previous winning projects and learn from them.
Fauna & Flora International is a leading international conservation organisation which is saving species from extinction and habitats from destruction, whilst improving the livelihoods of local people. According to our recent online questionnaire, a massive 95% of our website users would like to use technology more to open up discussion on conservation issues. How can we bring conservation closer to people with the use of technology? How can we better link grass roots projects and experts in the field to the public who want to know more and get involved?

Global Action Plan delivers tangible environmental, social and financial improvements by working practically and creatively with hundreds of thousands of people from all sections of society. To completely redesign the infrastructure of Global Action Plan’s ICT and optimise how Global Action Plan utilises ICT. The charity would like the new system to achieve: Minimal new hardware purchase (reducing manufacturing impact on the environment and cost) Minimal power requirement of ICT equipment (reducing carbon emissions and operating cost) Maximum reliability of access and speed of access to the server for head office and non-head office staff Optimal efficiency of data handling (increasing server efficiency and speed) Better options for meeting-without-travelling (reducing travel but also improving charity efficiency by allowing more frequent meetings where required and less waiting at train stations!)

Leonard Cheshire Disability exists to change attitudes to disability and to serve disabled people around the world. Our principal activity in the UK is the provision of services in support of disabled people in the widest context. These services include care homes, supported living, domiciliary support, day services, resource centres, rehabilitation, respite care, personal support and training and assistance for those looking for work. We want to create a positive expression of ability on the Internet in which people with and without disabilities have a chance to express their talents. To do this we want to tap into the power of social media. We want to invite people to help build a blanket of virtual squares. Each square will be filled by a person who wants to say what their greatest ability or achievement is and a little bit more information about themselves.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)was set up to protect children from cruelty, support vulnerable families, campaign for changes to the law and raise awareness about abuse.
They have 177 community-based projects, and run the Child Protection Helpline and ChildLine in the UK and the Channel Islands. This application should include: Record information about incidents, victims, and perpetrators. Be able to capture sufficient consistent case information to enable them to be progressed though to resolution. Provide simple enquiry facilities to support locating cases by victim, perpetrator, or incident details. Allow export of data for local (National Governing Body) monitoring, research and analysis. Upload via a secure mechanism anonymous incidence data on resolved cases to a central incident database Allow for the development of resources to reduce the incidence of abuse within sport.
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Show off your creativity and promote the many benefits of your favorite browser as part of the Firefox 3 T-Shirt Design Contest. The winning design will be featured as the official Firefox 3 T-Shirt in the Mozilla Store. You will receive worldwide recognition for your work, and an opportunity to win prizes!

How it Works:
  • First, create your T-Shirt design. View the sections on Submission and Design Guidelines for more details.
  • Upload your design to the contest-specific Flickr group FF3 T-Shirt Design Contest for review.
  • An internal team at Mozilla will conduct first round judging to select the top 5 designs.
  • These designs will be posted online at the Mozilla Store for public voting. You determine the winner!
  • The winning design will be printed on 100% organic T-Shirts, as the official Firefox 3 T-Shirt and featured in the Mozilla Store as an exclusive item!
  • For contest details including eligibility, terms and conditions, please read the Official Rules.
  • If you have any additional questions, check out the FAQ or post a discussion topic.

1st Place Winner:
  • Worldwide recognition for designing the official Firefox 3 T-Shirt featured in the Mozilla Store.
  • A free Firefox 3 T-Shirt to show off your winning design.
  • $250 gift voucher to
4 runners up:
  • A free Firefox 3 T-Shirt with the winning design.
  • A $50 gift voucher to
Submission DEADLINE: Sunday March 16th 11:59 PM Pacific Standard Time (PST)

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Bono & the Wellington airport

Like Randy would say: "is this the biggest? or what?" According to Wellington Airport, this project is endorsed by famous NZ personalities The Rock - Wellington International Airport - exterior(using celebrities to endorse a product is one of the 12 kinds of advertisement) It doesn't matter if the celebrity endorser actually knows anything about the subject, but it sure works to impress weak minds). Let's see: We have someone from Weta studios, you know the ones that made the special effects for LOTR like the orcs, mount doom, etc. I guess he would like to see the city transformed into some kind of middle earth's Mordor. Then someone from "world of wearable art"... the ones that organize a fashion show with clothes made out of garbage, and an MP/Nurse that in my view doesn't have a reputation of having so much of good taste... it probably got influenced by this article (click on the picture gallery to see the spookiest objects ever).

It's not a matter of who endorses a project, it's a matter of doing things right. And this looks like it has serious flaws and horrible taste (inside and out). If they wanted to create a rocky look, they could (and should) have explored the aesthetic much further. The Rock - Wellington International Airport - interiorThis is a typical mistake of a novice designer: to hold on to the first intention. Yes, sometimes the essence of the first intention is good because it is free from other constraints that will raise later during the project, but sometimes it is "raw", it needs to grow or develop into a mature idea. But you have to be careful to extract the essence from Number 1, to create a perfume and not actually "eau de toilette"; or you can end up with a big Number 2 like Randy... or like this case, with 2 big ones in the middle of the airport.

livingstonesI have nothing against the concept of organic rock elements instead of hard geometric forms... in fact they could have designed the interior using the amazing "livingstones" "les coussins galets" by Stephanie Marin (via) to go with the "rock theme"... although, I don't know if they actually look like rocks or as Halloween pumpkins! (I mean the terminals, not the coussins!)

Another nice feature for the terminals could be a "distance make out lounge" using Tomoko Hayashi's "mutsugoto", just like they sometimes have free internet booths for travelers at some airports. (check out the video)
mutsugoto"Mutsugoto is an interactive installation that invites couples to experience an intimate communication over a distance. Begin by laying on the bed and wearing the special ring. As you relax and think about your partner, gently move your hand around your body. These movements are traced on your own body as well as your partner laying in the other bed." (via)
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

unPC vs NZmac

First, I thought about just inserting a small update on my previous post about advertisement campaigns from NZ army, police, navy, etc. I don't want to get political here, but this crosses over into bad adversing due to political incorrectness /propaganda. This week we have been literally bombarded by TV ads for the army. The scene goes : Soldiers are riding on a Pinzgauer truck and come across some women walking by. The women are carrying their babies... or so you might think. The task is to identify (spot) the "suicide bomber woman" carrying "illegal" weapons.

Why? Why didn't they choose normal guerrilla soldiers? Why women with babies? In the long run this only serves as propaganda that civilians (specially suspicious women carrying babies) may be suicide bombers. Yes of course, they should be carrying their babies on a Mountain Buggy as any (western) civilized person would do. It's their fault that they carry their babies like that, making it difficult to recognize if they are "good" or "bad". Come on!!! Later on, we complain about innocent civilian casualties... or people turning into racists. I just have to agree with Tucholsky once again. Just look at this comments from YouTube users:
"Take aim all of them first, tell them not to move, open the door, if anyone makes any sudden moves, shoot. Then take home there guns as trophies."

"just shoot first and then ask the questions"
Is that the kind of attitude that the army is looking for with this kind of advertisement?

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

OSX freebits

Android is the new open source mobile phones platform created by Google et al. based on linux. Last week it became the center of attention during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona despite kiwi concerns about it's vulnerabilities or a tight competition by LiMo. I think that the move into open source is a great idea and hackers usually leave open source applications in peace. Now that mobile phones are not just the phone, but they run small applications like a palm pilot, they would certainly benefit from contributions from small developers as well.

Open source is not bad after all. For example: There was a time when freeware was limited to small utilities. Thanks to many developers, now we can find really extraordinary software that actually competes against established commercialware. Here's a list of some of the freeware I've been gathering for the last couple of months. To be honest, I haven't found anything decent to replace photoshop... so I'll have to wait until next month's release pf PSE6. Anyway, here's a list of my favourite mac OS X freeware:

open officeForget about microsoft office or iWork... why pay for any of those? when open office is absolutely compatible with all your MS-office files and it's absolutely free!

button builder
Button Builder lets you create aqua like buttons... Yes, I should change/upgrade the ones here, but I haven't got the time.
special kiwis
Live Quartz
Live Quartz claims to be a "photoshop for the rest of us..." well, it's still a bit short of features for my taste, but it gets the job done for simple layer management. Definitively better than preview.

morphXAlways wanted to do a cool morph movie like the one in Michael Jackson's videoclip?* Norrkross MorphX can blend a single image or morph one into other. Cooool!

* (If you need music for your morphing clip, look below for Jared)
I know that being scared of viruses for mac is useless like the terrorist alert alarms... but a little precaution doesn't hurt. ClamXav is a free antivirus scanner with free updates, so you can have peace of mind when downloading e-mail attachments or office documents.

adiumAdium is an instant messaging application for mac OS X that can manage all your accounts into just one window. The actual chat window uses "cartoon" style bubbles like iChat, and the emoticons are limited, but it's still nice to have it all in one.

dtaDownthemall (dTa) is a very practical firefox add-on to batch or single FTP download images, videos, or embedded links.

Video download helper is also a firefox add-on that detects flv and other media... which is fantastic, because in just one click, it lets you download videos directly from you tube or any other website containing flash videos.

burnYes, having toast is a good thing... since the OSX finder built-in burning folder is just horrible! Then again, why pay for toast and jam? Burn may not have an amazing look, but it's very powerful... it can encode flv videos directly into DVD or VCD. Let's explain that in plain words: remember that you can download youtube videos as flv files? ... well, you can now burn them into a DVD. Simple.

audacityThe only thing I've been missing the most from my PC times is CoolEdit. Not anymore, thanks to audacity!

Jared widgetAlone? Nobody to talk to? Even cockroaches leave ya alone? Jared is a faithful application that "will serenade you in ways you didn’t think possible. Every Mac in the world should have this."

lotsaescherLotsaesher is an hypnotizing screensaver. (yes, it's the one I have currently)

E Tux RacerIf you are a fan of Tux the penguin and/or miss the old tux racer you should get this game! Extreme Tux Racer is a very cool game (in many semantic levels). Lot's of Herring to catch, action... it's coooool!

USB overdriveOnce you become a Tux's extreme racing addict, you'll need a joystick... and well, in my case I needed a free driver for my logitech Attack 3. USB Overdrive is actually shareware, but it lets you use it unlimited times, you'll just get those annoying messages when you turn it on: "you are a cheap ba...rd! you should pay for this software!"

gromobileGromobile are very strange 3D kinetic puzzle gizmo devices to play on your desktop. It's hard to explain, but it's amazing to play with those gizmos.

nice player

QuickTime 4
Nice player it's actually very nice! Let's be honest, quicktime had the most horrible interface created by apple until iMovie'08. And $30 bucks just to play full screen mode it's a ripoff. Here' an excerpt from the Quicktime review on the interface hall of shame:

"In an effort to achieve what some consider to be a more modern appearance, Apple has removed the very interface clues and subtleties that allowed us to learn how to use GUI in the first place. Window borders, title bars, window management controls, meaningful control labels, state indicators, focus indicators, default control indicators, and discernible keyboard access mechanisms are all gone. According to IBM's RealThings, and apparently to Apple, such items and the meaningful information they provide are merely "visual noise and clutter". While the graphical designer may be pleased with the result, the user is left in a state of confusion: unable to determine which objects are controls, which are available at any point in the interaction, how they are activated, where they may be located, and how basic functions can be performed."

MPEG streamclipStreamclip MPEG has been the most useful video utility for me for many years. It let's me demux (separate audio and video) and encode movies or series of movies with a much precise control on dimensions, codec, target size, target speed, fine hue and volume, etc, etc. I can't survive without it.

miroForget about freeview! With Miro you can get thousands of free TV channels in HD. I love that many of them are in German... including Sendung mit der Maus, Deutsche Welle ... and may others like TED.

FLV playerEltima's swf & flv player for mac OS X. Well, it's just that, a player for flv files... it crashes sometimes when it starts. The pro version has some extra features, but for me... playing is enough.

fractalworksFractalworks is a very cool fractal viewer created by Duncan Champney. He also moderates a flickr group with images generated with his program. His tip: use "control" + click to create a Julia set when you click on a "seed". My tip: use "option"+ click to zoom out (took me a while to learn that).

cracks of reality
Cracks of reality is quality renderer (not exploring) for imported fractal parameters (including fractint palettes).
fractal treesFractal trees X is a very simple trees generator. "It draws somewhat realistic silhouettes of binary trees with a fractal structure. It allows you to interactively change the properties of the tree, like the broadness, fullness, and number of branches. You can also introduce normal (gaussian) randomness into the length and angle of the branches." Nice for drawing old fashioned clip-art trees for architects.

xaosXaOS is the mother of all fractal zoomers. The most amazing feature is recording a "fly through zoom"... and all the colouring variations, calculation planes, and adjustments you can make... like the pseudo 3D filter. Wow!
mandelbotLovely about MandelBot is the animated palette cycles. You can let it display all palettes and then stop it with a click. If you don't select "limit color rollover" (apple+L) it's like a hippie psychedelic magical mystery tour.
starmoresStarMores is a fractal based star generator, simple and yet fun to create star patterns.
spirographxSpirographX generates animated (or not) spirograph drawings. It works like a spirograph, but with limitless possibilities. "Add more loops, tweak loop diameters, and set colors to create endless visuals. The animate feature will even let you animate them in real-time." It's the ultimate retro fix!
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