kottke.org posts about design

Noodle World 2013Sep 18 2015

Noodle World 2013

I love this poster by Korean designer Chae Byung-rok. His web site is currently down, but you can see more of his work on It's Nice That. (via @djacobs)

1969 Bell System logo redesign pitch video by Saul BassSep 04 2015

From 1969, this is the video that Saul Bass made to pitch AT&T on a new corporate identity. What a time capsule. Here's the logo, which remained in use until 1983, when Bass designed the "Death Star" logo to replace it.

Att Logo 1969

The varying wavelengths of colorsSep 03 2015

Rain BrosRain-Bros by Daniel Savage is a fun visualization of the different wavelengths of light in the visible spectrum, from the loping walk of red to blue's energetic bounce.

Google has a new logoSep 01 2015

Google Logo 2015

....and it still looks like a middlebrow kids clothing brand logo.

So why are we doing this now? Once upon a time, Google was one destination that you reached from one device: a desktop PC. These days, people interact with Google products across many different platforms, apps and devices-sometimes all in a single day. You expect Google to help you whenever and wherever you need it, whether it's on your mobile phone, TV, watch, the dashboard in your car, and yes, even a desktop!

Today we're introducing a new logo and identity family that reflects this reality and shows you when the Google magic is working for you, even on the tiniest screens. As you'll see, we've taken the Google logo and branding, which were originally built for a single desktop browser page, and updated them for a world of seamless computing across an endless number of devices and different kinds of inputs (such as tap, type and talk).

Update: The design team shares how they came up with the new logo.

Update: When I said that Google's new logo "still looks like a middlebrow kids clothing brand logo", this is pretty much what I meant.

Gymboree Google

Gymboree's identity (1993-2000) vs. Google's new identity (Sep 01, 2015)

(via @buzz)

Reissue of the NASA Graphics Standards ManualSep 01 2015

NASA Standards Manual

When I posted about NASA's logo battle, I included a link to some photographs of the NASA Graphics Standards Manual. At the time, I mused to myself that someone should reprint the manual...hey, maybe the guys who did the standards manual for the NYC subway. Well, lo and behold, that is exactly what's happening. Jesse Reed & Hamish Smyth just launched a Kickstarter campaign to reissue the 1975 NASA Graphics Standards Manual.

Our Kickstarter will support the printing of a reissue of the manual. It will be printed and bound as a hardcover book, using high quality scans of [the original designer's] personal copy, who is in full support of the campaign.

Instant order.

Update: It's not a printed copy, but possibly (?) in response to the Kickstarter, or other renewed attention, NASA has released the standards manual as a free downloadable PDF.

The Architecture of American HousesAug 28 2015

From Pop Chart Lab, a beautiful poster showing 121 architectural styles of American houses.

Architecture of American HousesArchitecture of American Houses

Useful if you don't know your Victorian from your Tudor from your Greek revival.

Big brands swap logo colorsAug 27 2015

Paula Rúpolo took some famous brands' iconic logos (McDonald's, Starbucks, eBay) and swapped the colors with logos of their competitors (Subway, Dunkin Donuts, Amazon). Here's FedEx and UPS:

Logo Color Swap

Beautiful hand-painted globesAug 25 2015

Bellerby & Co. Globemakers are one of the world's last remaining makers of globes by hand. Their Instagram account is chock full of their handiwork.


If I could afford it (£2000!), I'd get The Livingstone globe in Prussian blue. Beautiful and wonderful craftsmanship.

NASA's logo: the worm vs. the meatballAug 20 2015

NASA's original logo looked something like this:

Nasa Meatball Logo

It was referred to, colloquially, as the meatball. In the 1970s, the meatball was switched out for the worm, a more Modernist take:

NASA Worm Logo

This logo was done by Richard Danne and Bruce Blackburn, and Danne wrote an essay about the experience.

And here is one of the most interesting exchanges I've ever witnessed in a design presentation:

Fletcher: "I'm simply not comfortable with those letters, something is missing."

Low: "Well yes, the cross stroke is gone from the letter A."

Fletcher: "Yes, and that bothers me."

Low: "Why?"

Fletcher: (long pause) "I just don't feel we are getting our money's worth!"

Others, not just the designers were stunned by this last comment. Then the discussion moved back to the strong red/rust color we were proposing. We had tried many other colors of course, including the more predictable blue range, but settled on red because it suggested action and animation. It seemed in spirit with the Can Do nature of the Space Agency.

Fletcher: And this color, red, it doesn't make much sense to me."

Low: "What would be better?"

Fletcher: "Blue makes more sense... Space is blue."

Low: "No Dr. Fletcher, Space is black!"

NASA's Graphics Standards Menu utilizing the worm logo can be seen here.

Nasa Design Manual

The space agency switched back to the original logo in 1992. Michael Bierut compared the two:

The worm is a great-looking word mark and looked fantastic on the spacecraft. By any objective measure, the worm was and is absolutely appropriate, and the meatball was and is an amateurish mess.

(thx, jarrett)

Artisanal cashAug 11 2015

Artisanal Cash

Cities, businesses, and artists are producing small batches of paper currency designed to be spent locally. I love the £20 note from Bristol, England (above)...it's got Wallace's head on it!

The local currency, though, is intended not as collectible but to encourage trade at the community businesses where they are accepted, rather than chain stores, where money taken in tends to flow out of town and into the coffers of multinational corporations. (Compare it to the farmers' market: Homegrown lettuce now has a whole new meaning.)

"If you use a local currency, you keep the money local, and that has a 'lifts all boats' vibe to it," said David Wolman, the author of "The End of Money."

Real Windows 3.0 Solitaire deck of cardsAug 10 2015

Susan Kare Cards

Susan Kare, who famously designed the original icons for the Apple Macintosh, has teamed up with Areaware to offer real decks of cards with her artwork from Windows 3.0's version of Solitaire. Nice example of defictionalization. They're currently sold out but I'm hoping they restock so I can order a deck. (via subtraction)

Update: Areaware tells me that the cards aren't out of stock, they are just not in stock yet. So don't worry...they haven't sold out or anything.

Cool furniture alert: the Fibonacci ShelfJul 29 2015

The Fibonacci Shelf by designer Peng Wang might not be the most functional piece of furniture, but I still want one.

Fibonacci ShelfFibonacci Shelf

The design of the shelf is based on the Fibonacci sequence of numbers (0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, ...), which is related to the Golden Rectangle. When assembled, the Fibonacci Shelf resembles a series of Golden Rectangles partitioned into squares. (via ignant)

Pixar: The Design of StoryJul 27 2015

Design Pixar

Pixar: The Design of Story is an upcoming exhibition at the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum here in NYC.

Through concept art from films such as Toy Story, Wall-E, Up, Brave, The Incredibles and Cars, among others, the exhibition will focus on Pixar's process of iteration, collaboration and research, and is organized into three key design principles: story, believability and appeal. The exhibition will be on view in the museum's immersive Process Lab -- an interactive space that was launched with the transformed Cooper Hewitt in December 2014 -- whose rotating exhibitions engage visitors with activities that focus on the design process, emphasizing the role of experimentation in design thinking and making.

More details are available in the press release. Definitely going to check this out and take the kids.

Muji's minimalist white toasterJul 24 2015

I think I'm a little bit in love with Muji's white toaster, designed -- along with a few other new items -- by Naoto Fukasawa.

Muji Toaster

Fukasawa also designed Muji's wall-mounted CD player. The toaster is only available at select stores in the US for now, but can be found in the UK and Europe in a few months. Or buy it now on eBay. (via @daveg)

Designers' summer reading picksJul 24 2015

Wired asked a bunch of noted designers -- Paola Antonelli, John Maeda, Jessica Walsh, Milton Glaser, etc. -- for their summer reading picks. Among their selections were Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, An Engineer Imagines by Peter Rice, The Success and Failure of Picasso by John Berger, and Just Enough Research by Erika Hall.

Winners of the 2014 50 Books | 50 Covers competitionJul 14 2015

50 Books 2014

Design Observer and the AIGA have announced the winners of their 50 Books | 50 Covers competition to find the best designed books and book covers published last year. The books are here and the covers are here.

Area X Book CoverWolf In White VanOn Such A Full Sea Book Cover

They're publishing a book and putting on an exhibition in New Orleans of the winners and need your help on Kickstarter to make it happen.

Wes Anderson color palettesJul 08 2015

Color palettes derived from Wes Anderson movies.

Wes Anderson PalettesWes Anderson Palettes

Saul Bass' best film title design workJul 03 2015

Saul Bass designed the opening sequences for dozens of films, including North by Northwest, Psycho, West Side Story, and Goodfellas. Here's a look at some of his best work:

(via art of the title)

Beyond TufteJun 25 2015

From designer Karl Sluis, a list of nine great book about information visualization not written by Edward Tufte. Gonna keep my eye out for Stephen Few's Now You See It and David McCandless' The Visual Miscellaneum, but Herbert Bayer's World Geographic Atlas is a little too rich for my blood.

Design can change the world?Jun 11 2015

I love this piece from Jennifer Daniel about self-congratulatory "design can change the world" rhetoric.

Design can change the world. Are you kidding me? Are we having a debate or a therapy session?

Designers will do anything to convince themselves we are not in a service industry. Why are we so desperate to make ourselves feel better? Because we feel GUILTY and we have to reconcile what we do professionally with the world we live in. We WANT to save the world so we repeat our daily affirmations on our way to work...

"Design can change the world."

...on our way to yoga...

"Design can change the world."

This debate as is an attempt to assuage the guilt we already have and know we have because we're here doing THIS instead of something truly meaningful.

(via @jimray)

The mighty morphing Hillary logoJun 11 2015

Hillary Logo Multiple

Soon after the logo for Hillary Clinton's campaign was revealed, I wrote "I am not a big fan of the arrowed H". Well, the campaign's clever use of the logo has won me over. Quartz's Annalisa Merelli explains.

It is through all these iterations that Clinton's logo fully displays its iconic value: It is highly recognizable despite the changes, and the much-criticized right-facing red arrow is now appears as it was likely meant to: pointing the way forward. The different backgrounds aren't just an innovative graphic solution-they are the visual embodiment of the values Clinton is building her campaign around. It vehicles a leadership based on collectivity and inclusiveness rather than the elitist individualism Clinton is often accused of.

Design service just for restaurant websitesMay 28 2015

This is smart: a startup design service called BentoBox just for designing restaurant websites. Entrepreneur magazine recently profiled the service.

The site conveys important information -- location, hours and a phone number are featured prominently, as are frequently asked questions -- in a visually appealing way that expresses the restaurant's high-end yet relaxed atmosphere while also making you hungry.

This is what a restaurant website should do -- namely, serve as an extension of its brick-and-mortar presence -- and yet so many miss the mark, says Krystle Mobayeni. For years, Mobayeni ran her own web design agency. Clients included Rent the Runway, Sailor Jerry, the School of the Visual Arts, plus a few restaurants, such as David Chang's Momofuku. While companies in other industries usually had a good handle on their web presence, Mobayeni noticed that the restaurants were struggling. There wasn't a good platform that anticipated their needs and gave them an easy way to present themselves on the web, and so often, their sites suffered for it.

The number has been steadily dwindling the last few years, but it's surprising how many restaurant sites are still Flash, don't work on mobile, and make you work to find the location and opening hours. Some examples of Bento's work: Parm, Fedora, and The Meatball Shop. Damn, now I'm hungry. (via @adamkuban)

Jessica Hische's secrets revealed!May 21 2015

Jessica Hische

One of my favorite designers, Jessica Hische (she did the film titles for Moonrise Kingdom), is coming out with a new book in September called In Progress: See Inside a Lettering Artist's Sketchbook and Process, from Pencil to Vector.

This show-all romp through design-world darling Jessica Hische's sketchbook reveals the creative and technical process behind making award-winning hand lettering. See everything, from Hische's rough sketches to her polished finals for major clients such as Wes Anderson, NPR, and Starbucks. The result is a well of inspiration and brass tacks information for designers who want to sketch distinctive letterforms and hone their skills.

Hische made a video offering a quick tour of the book:

A video posted by @jessicahische on

Looks great!

Football commentary cheat sheetsMay 15 2015

Nick Barnes is a football commentator for BBC Radio Newcastle. For each match he does, Barnes dedicates two pages in his notebook for pre-match notes, lineups, player stats, match stats, and dozens of other little tidbits.

Nick BarnesNick Barnes

Wonderful folk infographics. NBC commentator Arlo White also shared his pre-match notes. Both men say they barely use the notes during the match...by the time the notes are done, they know the stuff. (via @dens)

Perfect cubes of foodMay 13 2015

Perfect Food Cubes

From the design shop of Lernert & Sander, a poster of almost a hundred different foods cut into perfect little cubes. No CGI involved, it's actually food. No idea how they got some of those foods to hang together...particularly the onion, cabbage, and leek. (via colossal)

Handdrawn logosMay 08 2015

Seb Lester can somehow freehand draw the logos for the NY Times, Honda, Ferrari, Coca-Cola, and many more.

Watching the video, I didn't even notice any tracing...it's all freehand. Keep up with Lester's drawings on his Instagram account.

Earliest Apple.com homepageApr 16 2015

Kevin Fox recently unearthed a screenshot he took of Apple's homepage in the early 90s:

Apple early homepage

I don't remember this version, but it looks like it was contemporary with this Microsoft homepage (which I do remember). I bet there's footage of this page in Triumph of the Nerds or Nerds 2.0.1 or on an episode of Computer Chronicles. Anyone?

Hillary Clinton logo typefaceApr 14 2015

Inspired by the logo for Hillary Clinton's 2016 Presidential run, designer Rick Wolff created an entire uppercase alphabet for a typeface he's calling Hillvetica.


From his Twitter stream, it appears that Wolff is attempting to make an actual Hillvetica font so stay tuned. FYI, Pentagram partner Michael Bierut designed the logo. The simplicity is appealing, but overall I am not a big fan of the arrowed H.

Update: The Washington Post made a little text editor so you can write whatever you want in Hillvetica. The Clinton campaign has already put it to use:

The ingenious design of the aluminum beverage canApr 14 2015

The aluminum soda can is a humble testament to the power and scope of human ingenuity. If that sounds like hyperbole, you should watch this video, which features eleven solid minutes of engineering explanation and is not boring for even a second.

More science/engineering programming like this please...I feel like if this would have been on PBS or Discovery, it would have lasted twice as long and communicated half the information. For a chaser, you can watch a detailed making-of from an aluminum can manufacturing company:

(via devour)

Modern day VHSApr 07 2015

Modern Day VHS

Someone pretending to be a Parisian hipster who only watches VHS versions of modern shows & movies like Game of Thrones and Interstellar created these VHS covers as an April Fools joke. These are actually pretty great. (via subtraction)

Haas Unica rides againApr 07 2015

Haas Unica

Conceived in the late 1970s as a hybrid of three of the most popular (and some would say, overused) sans-serif typefaces in the world, Haas Unica didn't make the digital jump to personal computers in the 1980s. It was nearly forgotten, but has been revived by Monotype, which released Neue Haas Unica as a webfont today.

Unica® was an attempt to create the ultimate sans-serif - a hybrid of Helvetica, Univers and Akzidenz Grotesk. Designed by Team '77 and released to great acclaim in 1980, Unica went missing under a heap of legal disputes and has never been available as a full, digital typeface. Until now.

Unica's story starts in the 1970s. Electronic, on-screen phototypesetting was gaining popularity, but most sans-serif typefaces on the market had been designed earlier, in the era of metal type. The revered Haas Type Foundry in Münchenstein, Switzerland, saw the chance to develop a new sans-serif face that was optimized for the new technology and filled the gap in the market. To develop their new product, they turned to Swiss type design trio, Team '77 (André Gürtler, Christian Mengelt and Erich Gschwind).

Team '77 set out to design a font based on Helvetica but drawing on other sans-serif typefaces, principally Univers. The name they gave it would also be a hybrid of the two.

The original name for Helvetica was Neue Haas Grotesk. Haas + Univers + Helvetica = Haas Unica.

Update: Several digital versions of Haas Unica have been available prior to this one.

For many years a digital version of Unica was available from Scangraphic (and Elsner+Flake) but it was pulled from the market due to a complaint by Linotype who claims the Haas rights. In 2008, Cornel Windlin did a Semibold for the the Schauspielhaus Zürich identity, used in 2009-10. Later, Louise Paradis created a revival named Unica Intermediate while doing research for the TM retrospective.

(via @typographica)

Top new typefaces of 2014Mar 31 2015

Cooper Hewitt typeface

Although I am slowly coming around1 to Massimo Vignelli's assertion that designers should only use a handful of typefaces, I enjoyed seeing Typographica's list of their favorite typefaces of 2014.

Typeface design and distribution is in a state of rapid change. Last year we noted its diffusion around the globe, and that trend persists. The majority of font production is no longer concentrated in a few regional epicenters.

That goes for corporate epicenters as well. The independence of type designers themselves is increasingly evident. Small foundries have existed since the dawn of digital fonts, but now they are the norm. Only a handful of the selections in this year's list were published by companies with more than ten employees.

I discovered that one of the selections, a beautiful custom typeface made for the reopening/rebranding of the Cooper Hewitt Design Museum (sample shown above), has been made available by the museum for free download (including a web fonts version).

  1. I mean, not really. But when 95% of everything sucks, paring down to only the good stuff is a seductive idea, isn't it? Also, Vignelli's NYC subway map was not good and would have benefitted from a less Swiss approach.

How Apple Watch is madeMar 24 2015

Apple Watch

From product designer Greg Koenig, a fantastic display of Kremlinology on how he thinks Apple makes the Apple Watch, based on the available evidence (production videos, patents, product specs).

In the above shot, blanks are placed in an immersion ultrasonic tester. What Apple is looking for is the presence of voids or density variances within the structure of the blank that, under stress, could lead to part failure or surface defects as material is removed in further machining processes. This level of inspection is, to put it mildly, fastidious beyond where most other companies would go (save Rolex). Immersion ultrasonic inspection is typically reserved for highly stressed medical implants and rotating components inside of aircraft engines; not only does this step take time, it also is typically performed by custom built machines of tremendous expense.

If you don't have the time or energy to read through the whole thing, at least skip to the final two paragraphs about manufacturing as ritual.

Also, Koenig's Twitter stream is full of interesting nuggets about Apple. Here are a few that caught my attention:

Redesigning how people dieMar 21 2015

From the cool devices in our hands, to the software on our screens, to the smooth stylings of Jony Ive's Apple product video voiceovers, it's clear this is the era of design. Since design has touched and changed so many parts of our lives, isn't it time that we redesigned death? The chief creative officer at one of the top design firms in the world thinks it is:

With just a little attention, it seemed -- a few metaphorical mirrors affixed to our gurneys at just the right angle -- he might be able to refract some of the horror and hopelessness of death into more transcendent feelings of awe and wonder and beauty.

From Jon Mooallem in California Sunday Magazine: Death, Redesigned. (I like where you're going with the embalming and the eternal darkness, I just think it could pop a little more.)

Female amputees grapple with prosthetics for menMar 18 2015


Motherboard has an interesting story about how women who lose limbs are finding prosthetic devices are made for men: "Man Hands."

When Jen Lacey gets her toes done, she does both feet, even though one of them is made of rubber. "I always paint my toenails," she says, "because it's cute, and I want to be as regular as possible." But for a long time, even with the painted toes, her prosthetic foot looked ridiculous. The rubber foot shell she had was wide, big and ugly. "I called it a sasquatch foot," she jokes. "It's an ugly man foot."

Part of the problem is that most prosthetic devices are designed by men and most prosthetists are men.

There are a few reasons for all this male-centric design. The history of prosthetics is, in large part, a history of war. One of the earliest written records of a prosthetic device comes from the Rigveda, an ancient sacred text from India. Ironically, that amputee is a woman--the warrior queen Vishpala loses her leg in battle and is fitted with a replacement so she can return and fight again. But after that, the history of prosthetics is nearly entirely a history of men--Roman generals, knights, soldiers, dukes.

Every year, 30 percent of those undergoing an amputation are women. In other words, it's the 70 percent that's male that drives the market.

This light blooms like a flowerMar 17 2015

These Shylights are amazing. Kinetic ceiling lights that resemble blooming flowers, unfurling parachutes, descending ghosts.

The concept is based on nyctinasty, the process by which flowers open and close due to light or temperature changes.

"We wanted to find this exact moment, where the difference is in an object, when it is dead or when it starts to become alive."

(via This Isn't Happiness)

Patrick Bateman business card iPhone caseMar 17 2015

If you've seen "American Psycho," you'll likely remember the scene where Patrick Bateman and his peers pull out their business cards like Old West gunfighters pulled out their firearms. Now you can have Bateman's card -- "That's bone. And the lettering is something called Silian Rail." -- in the form of an iPhone case.


As for Silian Rail, according to IMDb:

This is not a real font, the name was invented by Bret Easton Ellis for the novel. In the film, the actual font seen on the business card is Garamond Classico SC.

You can watch the full scene here. (via The Cut)

Fornasetti snake rugMar 16 2015

This Garden of Eden-themed serpent rug by Fornasetti belongs in a bedroom.


The Wall Street Journal explores "The Cult of Fornasetti."

This Book Is a Planetarium by Kelli AndersonMar 11 2015

This Book Is A Planetarium

One of my design heroes, Kelli Anderson, is coming out with a pop-up book called This Book Is a Planetarium. What's unique about this book is that the pop-up elements are functional contraptions, in the vein of her record player wedding invitation. There's a tiny planetarium:

This Book Is A Planetarium

and a speaker for your smartphone:

This Book Is A Planetarium

The news comes via a video profile of Anderson's work by Adobe. So cool.

The Real Don DraperFeb 27 2015

Vice did a nice little feature on George Lois, the kind of 1960s big-egoed ad man on which Mad Men's Don Draper was based.

Lois created a number of iconic ad campaigns as well as dozens of fantastic Esquire covers. Or at least he says he did. ;) (via devour)

Update: Here's the transcript for the episode of This American Life in which Sarah Koenig interviews her father Julian Koenig about George Lois taking credit for some of his best ideas.

In my instance, the greatest predator of my work was my one-time partner George Lois, who is a most heralded and talented art director/designer, and his talent is only exceeded by his omnivorous ego. So where it once would've been accepted that the word would be "we" did it, regardless of who originated the work, the word "we" evaporated from George's vocabulary and it became "my."

Of course, Koenig also claims to have invented thumb wrestling and to have popularized shrimp in America, so... (via @kevinmeyers)

The Hungarian EuroFeb 20 2015

For her master's project, Barbara Bernát designed a set of fictional banknotes: the Hungarian Euro.

Hungarian euro

I am a total sucker for banknote mockups and aside from the simplicity, what caught my eye about Bernát's project is the one security feature: if you look at the notes under a UV light, you see the skeletons of the animals depicted on the notes:

Hungarian Euro

(via @shaylamaddox)

Neon ChinatownFeb 18 2015

Chinatown LogoChinatown LogoChinatown Logo

A project called Chinatown takes familiar logos like Pepsi, Starbucks, UPS, and Lego and translates them, imprecisely, into their Chinese equivalents.

It uses basic words for translation, such as "Caramel Macchiato" for "Starbucks" in order to maintain the visual continuity. By arranging the words this way, 'Chinatown' pushes viewers to ask themselves what it means to see, hear, and become fully aware. 'Chinatown' also demonstrates our strangeness to 1.35 billion people in the world, when you can't read Chinese.

(via @pieratt)

The DWR Champagne Chair ContestFeb 13 2015

The winners have been announced in the 2015 edition of the always-charming DWR Champagne Chair Contest in which contestants compete to build the coolest little chairs using only a single champagne cork. The winner and the runner-up:

Champagne cork chairChampagne cork chair

I actually like the second place chair more than the winner. You can check out all of the submissions to the contest on the main contest page, including this fantastic swiveling chair:

Champagne cork chair

(via @fromedome)

Vintage weekly bus passesFeb 12 2015

Milwaukee Bus PassesMilwaukee Bus PassesMilwaukee Bus Passes

A collection of weekly bus passes from Milwaukee, WI. Years covered are 1930-1979. Was there a new design every single week? (via @slowernet)

Beautiful hand painted ski trail mapsFeb 06 2015

If you've ever noticed most ski trail maps look kinda the same, the reason is many of them have been painted by a single individual: James Niehues.

Each view is hand painted by brush and airbrush using opaque watercolor to capture the detail and variations of nature's beauty. In many instances, distortions are necessary to bring everything into a single view. The trick is to do this without the viewer realizing that anything has been altered from the actual perspective.

Here's a selection of his work:

James NiehuesJames NiehuesJames Niehues

Responsive logos and abstraction in designJan 12 2015

Responsive web design is a technique used by web builders where the design adapts to different screen sizes. Designer Joe Harrison has built a page with responsive logos for several well-known brands, including Coca-Cola, Nike, Disney, and Levi's. If you resize the page, you can see the logos change. Here's how the Disney logo looks as your browser window gets smaller (from L to R):

Responsive Disney Logo

As the browser gets smaller, the logos lose detail and become more abstract. By the time you get to the smallest screen width, you're down to just the Disney "D" or Nike swoosh or Heineken red star, aka the bare minimum you need to render the logo recognizable, if only on a subconscious or emotional level. Which reminds me of Scott McCloud's discussion of iconic abstraction (and The Big Triangle) in Understanding Comics, which is still one of the best books on design and storytelling I've ever read. Here's a bit of the relevant passage:

Comics Abstraction

Defining the cartoon would take up as much space as defining comics, but for now, I'm going to examine cartooning as a form of amplification through simplification. When we abstract an image through cartooning, we're not so much eliminating details as we are focusing on specific details. By stripping down an image to its essential "meaning", an artist can amplify that meaning in a way that realistic art can't.

The reason why those particular logos work responsively is because they each have abstract representations that work on that meaningful emotional level. You see that red Levi's tag or Nike swoosh and you feel something.1 I think companies are having to design logos in this way more frequently. Contemporary logos need to look good on freeway billboards, on letterhead, as iOS icons, and, in the case of the Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest logos, affixed to tiny tweet/like/pin buttons. (via ministry of type)

  1. I've talked about this elsewhere, but in designing the "identity" for kottke.org (such as it is), having an abstract logo identifying element has been an important part of the process. I wanted to have an element (currently the blue gradient) that if you saw it and recognized it, you had a reaction to it on a emotional level. Here's what I wrote about an older kottke.org design: "The yellow-green thing at the top is a tag. Like the red tag on Levi's jeans or even the red stripe on Prada shoes. It's small, out of the way, but when you see it on something, you know exactly what you're holding in your hands." It's my favorite design trick and likely influenced by Understanding Comics more than I realize.

How They Got ThereJan 08 2015

Khoi Vinh is coming out with a book soon called How They Got There: Interviews With Digital Designers About Their Careers. It is, as Tyler Cowen would say, self-recommending. Vinh explains a bit more:

You can read terrific profiles of many of these folks elsewhere, but the conversations that I conducted with them are both narrower and more in-depth. They focus squarely on how these folks discovered their callings in the design profession, how they got their first big breaks, how they put together successful careers in digital media. There are some wonderful, insightful, brilliant, hilarious and amazing stories captured here.

Basically, this is the book that I wish that I could have had handy when I was just starting out, when I was trying to figure out how to get from A to B career-wise. Even better, what I found when I was writing it was that the conversations were so interesting that I felt newly inspired myself. I think you'll feel similarly.

Forget the book (I mean, it looks great), but Khoi, where do you find the time for everything? Three kids, two or three side projects, regular blogger, startup VP...you're almost as productive these days as Beyonce is.

Update: How They Got There is now out and available for purchase.

The best magazine covers of 2014Dec 19 2014

Piketty Bw Cover

The picks for the finest magazine covers of the year are starting to trickle out. Coverjunkie is running a reader poll to pick the most creative cover of 2014. Folio didn't pick individual covers but honored publications that consistently delivered memorable covers throughout the year; no surprise that The New York Times Magazine and Bloomberg Businessweek were at the top of the heap.

See also the best book covers of 2014.

The best book covers of 2014Dec 16 2014

At the NY Times, Nicholas Blechman weighs in with his picks for the best book covers of 2014.

Area X Book Cover

Dan Wagstaff, aka The Casual Optimist, picked 50 Covers for 2014.

Napoleon The Great Book Cover

From Jarry Lee at Buzzfeed, 32 Of The Most Beautiful Book Covers Of 2014.

Strange New Things Book Cover

Paste's Liz Shinn and Alisan Lemay present their 30 Best Book Covers of 2014.

Wolf In White Van

And from much earlier in the year (for some reason), Zachary Petit's 19 of the Best Book Covers of 2014 at Print.

On Such A Full Sea Book Cover

The best movie posters of 2014Dec 16 2014

Adrian Curry selects his favorites for the best movie posters of 2014. This one, for Gabe Polsky's Red Army, caught my eye:

Red Army Poster

See also the best poster lists from Empire, Entertainment Weekly, and Indiewire. (via subtraction)

Inside the brain of a designerDec 10 2014

If you've ever wondered how a designer does their thing (or even if you haven't), this look-over-the-shoulder view of Aaron Draplin designing a logo for a fictional company in about 10 minutes is great. A nice reminder that design is truly about making it up as you go along.

I love Draplin. Internet treasure, that guy. And that lefty writing claw! Go lefties!

Woz the designerDec 05 2014

Totally sweet and charming video of Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak talking about the early days at the company while setting up and using an old Apple II.

Of Apple's two founding Steves, Wozniak was the technologist and Jobs was the one with the artistic & design sense, right? But it's obvious from watching this video that Woz cared deeply about design and was a designer of the highest order. Those early Apple circuit boards are a thing of beauty, which is echoed in the precision and compactness with which Apple currently designs iPhone and Mac hardware. They each have their own unique way of expressing it, but Woz and Jony Ive speak in a similarly hallowed way about how their products are built.

Update: Wozniak still has improving the Apple II on his mind. From earlier this year:

I awoke one night in Quito, Ecuador, this year and came up with a way to save a chip or two from the Apple II, and a trivial way to have the 2 grays of the Apple II be different (light gray and dark gray) but it's 38 years too late. It did give me a good smile, since I know how hard it is to improve on that design.

(via @samryan)

Update: From Founders at Work, an interview with Woz that goes a bit deeper into the genesis of the Apple I and the early days at Apple.

By the time I was done, the design of the Nova was half as many chips as all of the other minicomputers from Varian, Digital Equipment Corp., Hewlett-Packard, all of the minicomputers of the time (I was designing them all). And I saw that Nova was half as many chips and just as good a computer. What was different? The architecture was really an architecture that just fit right to the very fewest chips.

My whole life was basically trying to optimize things. You don't just save parts, but every time you save parts you save on complexity and reliability, the amount of time it takes to understand something. And how good you can build it without errors and bugs and flaws.

Posters for imagined movie sequelsNov 14 2014

Iron Giants Poster

I am loving these posters for non-existent movie sequels, but the names might be even better. A sampling:

Fight Club: The 2nd Rule
Bigger Trouble in Little China
Spaceballs III: The Search for Spaceballs II
Titanic 2: Above Zero

Prints are available for all of these. (via @cabel)

Airbnb's unfortunate logo charactersOct 27 2014

When the new Airbnb logo was introduced, the company caught a lot of flack from the internet because the logo resembled an odd combination of almost every sexual body part. I actually liked the logo right away and after a few months with it, the juvenile connotations have faded.

But you know what makes Airbnb's logo really really really look like a cartoonish vagina butt? Putting arms and legs and hats on the logo and animating it.

Airbnb Butt

Airbnb is sponsoring the NYC Marathon this year, and the logo characters were created for the event. Maaaaybe they'd like to rethink this?

Google's open-sourced iconsOct 20 2014

Google MD icons

As part of their Material Design visual language, Google has open-sourced a package of 750 icons. More info here.

Norway's new pixel moneyOct 14 2014

This is the design that Norway has chosen for their banknotes starting in 2017:

Norway Pixel Banknote

From now on, I'm paying for everything with kroner. (via co.design)

Who drew the Sriracha rooster?Oct 03 2014

Sriracha Logo

The rooster on the Sriracha bottle has made its way to iPhone cases, t-shirts, and water bottles. But no one (not even the founder of the company) knows the name of the street artist who created the now famous logo.

Designing IdiocracyOct 03 2014


Over at Trivia Happy, Phil Edwards interviewed Ellen Lampl, who designed the logos for Mike Judge's underrated Idiocracy.

Some logos came from the script, while some came from the designers' brainstorming sessions. Brawndo and Carl's Jr. were written, while Lampl made logos for companies like Nastea and Fedexx once the overall look was approved. For Lampl, it was a great release, because "coming from the past constraints of advertising, it was cathartic to have the liberty to be bawdy and irreverent. Making everything ridiculously over-emphasized with bright colors, outlines upon outlines, and exaggerated drop shadows was my personal jab at the world of branding and in-your-face typography."

Wonderful combination of science and designOct 01 2014

Eleanor Lutz has a degree in molecular biology, works as a designer, and loves to combine the two interests by making these wonderful information graphics on her site, Tabletop Whale. Her most recent post is an animated graphic showing how several animals (birds, bats, insects) move their wings while flying.

Animal Flight Wing Movements

I love love love Lutz's animated chart of North American butterflies. So playful!

Butterflies Animation

There are only four posts on the site so far, but she's done other stuff as well; this woodcut map for instance. Prints are available...I'm getting one of the butterflies for sure.

You're My Favorite ClientOct 01 2014

After writing Design is a Job and noticing no one had written a book for clients who hired designers, Mike Monteiro of Mule Design decided to write one: You're My Favorite Client.

Whether you're a designer or not, you make design decisions every day.

Successful design projects require equal participation from both the client and the design team. Yet, for most people who buy design, the process remains a mystery.

In his follow-up to Design Is a Job, Mike Monteiro demystifies the design process and helps you prepare for your role. Ensure you're asking the right questions, giving effective feedback, and hiring designers who will challenge you to make your product the best it can be.

Monteiro recently wrote 13 Ways Designers Screw Up Client Presentations and gave an interview to fellow designer Khoi Vinh.

I've been doing the primary research for this book for 20 years. I deal with clients every day and I see what works and doesn't work and I've screwed up more times than I'd like to think about. But every lesson in that book is field tested. This book has zero percent theory in it. It was written on a factory floor.

Video tour of Brooklyn and Queens typographySep 17 2014

Join designer James Victore for an opinionated tour of the typography of Brooklyn and Queens.

We're going to do a typographical tour of Brooklyn and Queens, We're going to look at type on the street and signage on the street and try to figure out what the hell it's for.

Favorite quote: [Pointing at a logo for a waxing salon] "There's been a designer here. Which is not always a good thing." (via gothamist)

2013 Feltron Personal Annual ReportAug 19 2014

Feltron 2013

The 2013 Personal Annual Report for Nicholas Felton is available for pre-order and online perusal. Pre-ordered...I own a copy of every one except for the first year.

ps. The NY Times did a video about Felton and his annual reports.

2014 Emmy nominations for Outstanding Main Title DesignAug 18 2014

The Art of the Title has a look at the Emmy nominees for best title design for 2014: Black Sails, Cosmos, Masters of Sex, Silicon Valley, and True Detective. As noted, the excellent titles for Halt and Catch Fire missed the eligibility period by a day. Spoilers: True Detective's titles won.

Milton Glaser, foodieAug 06 2014

Today I learned that iconic designer Milton Glaser co-wrote a column for New York magazine (which he co-founded) about where to find cheap-but-good food in NYC. It was called The Underground Gourmet. Here's a typical column from the October 27, 1975 issue, reviewing a ramen joint in Midtown called Sapporo that is miraculously still around:

Underground Gourmet

Glaser and his co-authior Jerome Snyder eventually packaged the column into a series of books, some of which you can find on Amazon...I bought a copy this morning.

I found out about Glaser's food enthusiasm from this interview in Eye magazine about The Underground Gourmet and his long collaboration with restaurateur Joe Baum of the Rainbow Room and Windows on the World.

We just walked the streets ... When friends of ours knew we were doing it we got recommendations.

There were parts of the city where we knew we could find good places ... particularly in the ethnic parts. We knew if we went to Chinatown we would find something if we looked long enough, or Korea Town, or sections of Little Italy.

More then than now, the city was more locally ethnic before the millionaires came in and bought up every inch of space. So you could find local ethnic places all over the city. And people were dying to discover that. And it was terrific to be able to find a place where you could have lunch for four dollars.

In 2010, Josh Perilo wrote an appreciation of The Underground Gourmet in which he noted only six of the restaurants reviewed in the 1967 edition had survived:

Being obsessed with the food and history of New York (particularly Manhattan), this was like finding a culinary time capsule. I immediately dove in. What I found was shocking, both in the similarities between then and now, and in the differences.

The most obvious change was the immense amount of restaurants that no longer existed. These were not landmarked establishments, by and large. Most of them were hole-in-the wall luncheonettes, inexpensive Chinese restaurants and greasy spoons. But the sheer number of losses was stunning. Of the 101 restaurants profiled, only six survive today: Katz's Delicatessen, Manganaro's, Yonah Schimmel's Knishes Bakery, The Puglia and La Taza de Oro. About half of the establishments were housed in buildings that no longer exist, especially in the Midtown area. The proliferation of "lunch counters" also illustrated the evolution of this city's eating habits. For every kosher "dairy lunch" joint that went down, it seems as though a Jamba Juice or Pink Berry has taken its place.

Man, it's hard not get sucked into reading about all these old places...looking forward to getting my copy of the book in a week or two.

Update: Glaser's co-author Jerome Snyder was also a designer...and no slouch either.

Thoughts on DesignAug 05 2014

Thoughts On Design

Legendary designer Paul Rand's Thoughts on Design is back in print for the first time since the 1970s. The new version, which will be out on Aug 19, is available for preorder and comes with a foreword by Michael Bierut.

One of the seminal texts of graphic design, Paul Rand's Thoughts on Design is now available for the first time since the 1970s. Writing at the height of his career, Rand articulated in his slender volume the pioneering vision that all design should seamlessly integrate form and function. This facsimile edition preserves Rand's original 1947 essay with the adjustments he made to its text and imagery for a revised printing in 1970, and adds only an informative and inspiring new foreword by design luminary Michael Bierut. As relevant today as it was when first published, this classic treatise is an indispensable addition to the library of every designer.

Books on book coversJul 23 2014

An extensive collection of book covers featuring books. Confused? Maybe an example will help:

Yarn Whisperer

Book postersJul 22 2014

I love these book posters by Gunter Rambow from the 1970s, especially this one:

Gunter Rambow

(via @michaelbierut)

The New Yorker's new siteJul 21 2014

The New Yorker has got a new web site and with it, they are offering everything they've published since 2007 online for free all summer. From the editor's note:

Beginning this week, absolutely everything new that we publish -- the work in the print magazine and the work published online only -- will be unlocked. All of it, for everyone. Call it a summer-long free-for-all. Non-subscribers will get a chance to explore The New Yorker fully and freely, just as subscribers always have. Then, in the fall, we move to a second phase, implementing an easier-to-use, logical, metered paywall. Subscribers will continue to have access to everything; non-subscribers will be able to read a limited number of pieces -- and then it's up to them to subscribe. You've likely seen this system elsewhere -- at the Times, for instance -- and we will do all we can to make it work seamlessly.

Previously, only select articles from each issue were available for free online...everything else was for subscribers only. (Umlaats and extensive commas will be forever freely available on all the New Yorker's publishing platforms.) Longform has a solid list of their 25 favorite now-unlocked pieces.

See also: In Praise of Slow Design, a piece by Michael Bierut about The New Yorker's careful design evolution.

Can I get some reverb on that GIF?Jul 15 2014

Audacity is a sound editing program, but it turns out you can open and edit image files with it. With varying results, mostly of the glitch art variety:

Audacity Image

(via 5 intriguing things)

The hidden message in the old Milwaukee Brewers logoJul 07 2014

Somehow I lived in WI for the first 17 years of my life, was a Brewers fan for many of those years, and never realized the old Brewers logo contained the letters "m" and "b" hidden in the ball and glove.

Old Brewers logo

Wow. If your mind is blowing right now too, there's a Facebook group we can join together: Best Day of My Life: When I Realized the Brewers Logo Was a Ball and Glove AND the Letters M and B. (via kathryn yu)

ps. If you've somehow missed the hidden arrow in the FedEx logo, here you go. Best kind of natural high there is.

Minimalist movie posters made out of card stockJul 03 2014

Spanish design firm Atipo made these nifty minimalist movie posters out of card stock. I really like the one for Rear Window:

Rear Window

Fantastic recursive book coverJun 23 2014

The book cover for Naive Set Theory by Paul Halmos is so so good:

Naive Set Theory Cover

The cover is a riff on, I think, Russell's Paradox, a problem with naive set theory described by Bertrand Russell in 1901 about whether sets can contain themselves.

Russell's paradox is based on examples like this: Consider a group of barbers who shave only those men who do not shave themselves. Suppose there is a barber in this collection who does not shave himself; then by the definition of the collection, he must shave himself. But no barber in the collection can shave himself. (If so, he would be a man who does shave men who shave themselves.)

Reminds me of David Pearson's genius cover for Benjamin's The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

John Philipps EmslieJun 13 2014

These maps, diagrams, and charts by John Philipps Emslie done in the mid-to-late 1800s are gorgeous.

John Philipps Emslie

Intrigued, I went searching for more examples. I loved this one just for pure compositional beauty:

John Philipps Emslie

And this lithograph from 1850 showing various machines of the time:

John Philipps Emslie

(thx, greg)

Hoefler, Frere-Jones, and the celebrity typographer "type designer"Jun 04 2014

"A Type House Divided" is Jason Fagone's feature for New York magazine on former partners Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones, who split up earlier this year after disagreeing about the nature of their partnership. (TFJ thought he was a fifty-fifty partner; Hoefler says he was an employee.)

While the story covers both sides of the dispute with detail and pathos, the most affecting bits treat how H & FJ worked together and the tiny details of the letters they made and loved:

At his computer, he drew an uppercase H, O, and D, because they contained flat and round elements that would determine how other letters looked. When he moved on to the G, the R, and the S, he started to deviate from the mathematical grid, hoping to give the font a subliminal playfulness. As he filled out the alphabet, the letters revealed a promising flexibility; if Frere-Jones set text in caps and spread the spacing out, the words felt authoritarian, imposing, and if he set them in lowercase and pulled the spacing in, they felt fresh and young. He tried to think of a name for the font that would showcase some of the more distinctive letters: the stark, powerful G; the circular o; the strange-tasting a. For a name, he thought about Goats, and Gomorrah. He finally settled on Gotham.

If the deep dive into the beauty and business of lettermaking doesn't grab you, the essay's packed with other-cultural analogies. My favorite is probably this: "According to a designer who used to work with Frere-Jones, his eye is so sharp that he can look at a printout of a letterform and tell if it's one pixel off, the same way Ted Williams was said to be able to hold a baseball bat and tell if it was a half-ounce too heavy."

Disclosure: Jason Fagone is my friend. Kottke.org uses Whitney Screensmart, a version of one of the fonts discussed in the article. Also one time Jonathan Hoefler got really mad at me because of a story I wrote about iPad magazines. The font people don't play.

Update: If you want to know just how much the font people don't play, I immediately was contacted by a friend to change "typographer" to "type designer." I've spent years writing about this, and if I ever manage to get all of the terms right, the universe will collapse on itself.

Apple Design Awards 2014Jun 03 2014

Apple Design Awards 2014

Apple recently announced their annual design awards for 2014. Some nice work there.

Early Apple prototypesMay 28 2014

From a book by Hartmut Esslinger, a collection of photographs of prototypes his company Frog Design worked on for Apple Computer.

Apple prototype

The portables and phones are especially interesting.

Massimo Vignelli, RIPMay 27 2014

Massimo Vignelli at his desk

A giant in the world of design, Massimo Vignelli, passed away this morning at the age of 83. Michael Bierut, who worked for Vignelli, has a nice remembrance of him.

Today there is an entire building in Rochester, New York, dedicated to preserving the Vignelli legacy. But in those days, it seemed to me that the whole city of New York was a permanent Vignelli exhibition. To get to the office, I rode in a subway with Vignelli-designed signage, shared the sidewalk with people holding Vignelli-designed Bloomingdale's shopping bags, walked by St. Peter's Church with its Vignelli-designed pipe organ visible through the window. At Vignelli Associates, at 23 years old, I felt I was at the center of the universe.

Great Jaws book coverMay 22 2014

Jaws Cover

No idea if this is for sale anywhere (I couldn't find it) or if it's just a design exercise, but this cover for Peter Benchley's Jaws designed by Tom Lenartowicz is inspired. (via ★interesting)

Dear Massimo...May 09 2014

One of the greatest designers in the world, Massimo Vignelli, is very sick and "will be spending his last days at home". His son is requesting that if you were influenced at all by Vignelli's work, you should send him a letter:

According to Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, "Luca said that Massimo would be thrilled to get notes of good wishes from people whom he's touched or influenced -- whether personally or remotely -- over the years. Luca has visions of huge mail bags full of letters. I know that one of Massimo's biggest fantasies has been to attend his own funeral. This will be the next best thing. Pass the word."

Here's the address:

Massimo Vignelli
130 East 67 Street
New York, New York 10021

A look back at the Sony WalkmanApr 09 2014

Sony Walkman

Andrew Kim of Minimally Minimal got his hands on an original Sony Walkman and provides an interesting look back at a seminal piece of personal technology. Initially, the Walkman was billed as the "Walking Stereo with Hotline":

Next to the dual headphones is a button labeled "Hot Line". This was another key feature of the TPS-L2. When the user pressed the Hot Line button, the device would would override the music with audio from the built in microphone. It allowed you to listen to Subway announcements or talk to a friend without taking off your headphones. I find it to be a particularly clever idea as it uses existing parts from tape recorders. Hot Line wasn't really a sought after feature though, and was axed in later models.

(via @sippey)

Design and Violence debatesApr 01 2014

The MoMA is hosting a series of debates on the intersection of design and violence. The first one took place last week and pitted Rob Walker against Cody Wilson on the topic of open source 3D printed guns. The next two center on a machine that simulates the "pain and tribulation" of menstruation and Temple Grandin's humane slaughterhouse designs.

The debates this spring will center upon the 3-D printed gun, The Liberator; Sputniko!'s Menstruation Machine; and Temple Grandin's serpentine ramp. Debate motions will be delivered by speakers who are directly engaged in issues germane to these contemporary designs -- the Liberator's designer Cody Wilson; Chris Bobel, author of New Blood: Third-Wave Feminism and the Politics of Menstruation, and distinguished professor of law Gary Francione, to name a few. We want them -- and you -- to explore the the limits of gun laws and rights, the democracy of open-source design, the (im)possibility of humane slaughter, and design that supports transgender empathy.

Tickets are still available; only $5 for students!

Milton Glaser reviews beer bottle artMar 28 2014

Legendary designer Milton Glaser (of I❤NY fame) critiques craft beer labels.

Glaser Craft Beer

(via @bn2b)

The Uncomfortable ProjectMar 27 2014

For her Uncomfortable Project, Katerina Kamprani redesigned useful objects; they're still technically functional but are a pain in the ass to use. Like this key:

Uncomfortable key

Or this awkward broom:

Uncomfortable broom

How neon signs are madeMar 24 2014

A cool short documentary about neon sign making, a dying industry in Hong Kong.

As Jonathan Hoefler notes, the letters are designed so that the designers don't burn their hands while bending the glass over an 800°C flame.

The design of Grand Budapest HotelMar 24 2014

Grand Budapest

The Grand Budapest Hotel is Wes Anderson's most design-y film, and that's really saying something. Typography is present in almost every frame; at times, it was almost oppressive. Creative Review interviewed designer Annie Atkins, who was responsible for the film's graphic design elements.

Oh my goodness, so many signs in the 1960s hotel lobby! I have to give credit to Liliana for this work, as she took care of nearly all of these. She had three sign-writers from Berlin painting non-stop for a week to get them all done in time for our first day of shoot, as that set was first up. Wes and Adam had seen so many examples of quite officious signage in what had been communist East Germany -- don't do this, don't do that, do this but only like that! The signs really added to the claustrophobic feeling of that set, and Wes had asked for them all to be black with simple white hand-painted lettering -- based on the style of the old sign at Yorckstrasse subway station in Berlin.

Always. Be. Knolling.Mar 19 2014

You've probably seen instances of knolling without knowing there was a word for it. Knolling at the Apple Store:

Knolling Apple

Knolling the contents of your bag:

Knolling Bag

Knolling a recipe for a book:

Knolling Food

Knolling the parts of a machine:

Knolling Motorcycle

Knolling is the practice of organizing objects in parallel or at 90° angles. The term has been popularized by artist Tom Sachs; he picked it up from Andrew Kromelow when both were working at Frank Gehry's furniture fabrication shop. Gehry was designing chairs for furniture company Knoll, and Kromelow would arrange unused tools in a manner similar to Knoll furniture. Hence, knolling.

Knoll SofaUpdate: Things Organized Neatly is really something. Lots of knolling.

The shoe masterMar 18 2014

Hitoshi Mimura

That is a bespoke running shoe made by a small company started by Hitoshi Mimura, who is considered one of the top shoe designers in the world. Mimura had great success at Asics, outfitting Olympic gold medal runners with shoes lighter, grippier, and more breathable than those worn by competitors, but now he has struck out on his own.

"I take 13 measurements of the foot, each foot has to be measured separately," explains the sensei of shoemaking. "I only trust hand-measuring. Currently, each shoe takes about three weeks to make, mainly due to determining which materials to use." Preparation is also key. "For a world championships or Olympics I check the course once or twice. I went to Beijing three times."

A NY Times feature on Mimura written before the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing emphasized the designer's reliance on rice husks in the soles for grippiness. Mimura takes his job and his responsibility to the runners very seriously:

Surreptitiously, Mimura made soles of two slightly different thicknesses, to compensate for the fact that Takahashi's left leg was eight millimeters -- about a third of an inch -- longer than her right leg. She had tried a pair of the uneven soles before the Sydney Olympics, but felt uncomfortable.

Still, Mimura felt Takahashi needed such shoes to win and to avoid a recurrence of pain caused by the disparity in her legs. Without Takahashi's knowledge, Mimura gave her the uneven soles, then wrote a letter of resignation, in case she failed to win gold.

"I decided to take full responsibility because I made this pair against her wishes," Mimura said of the letter. "I didn't have to hand it over. It's still in my desk."

That is belief in yourself and in your craft. Many people believe in "giving people not what they want but what they need" but how many of them will put their livelihood on the line for it?

Rare interview with Jony IveMar 17 2014

John Arlidge scores a very rare sit-down interview with Apple design chief Jony Ive for Time magazine.

He spent "months and months and months" working out the exact shape of the stand of the desktop iMac computer because "it's very hard to design something that you almost do not see because it just seems so obvious, natural and inevitable". When he has finished a product, even one as fresh and iconic as the white headphones that came with the first iPod, he is haunted by the idea: could I have done it better? "It's an affliction designers are cursed with," Ive frowns.

It was an affliction he shared with Jobs, although he seemed to apply it to everything, with -- almost -- funny consequences. Ive recalls traveling with Jobs. "We'd get to the hotel where we were going, we'd check in and I'd go up to my room. I'd leave my bags by the door. I wouldn't unpack. I'd go and sit on the bed and wait for the inevitable call from Steve: 'Hey Jony, this hotel sucks. let's go.'"

Would have preferred more of the actual interview -- lots of biographical filler in this to make it accessible for the general public -- but there are good bits here and there.

Best typefaces of 2013Mar 12 2014

Best Of 2013 Type

From Typographica, a list of their favorite typefaces from 2013. As you'll see, good type design is happening all over the globe.

As evidence of that diversity, the 53 typefaces selected from 2013 were created by designers from at least 20 countries. [...] This new phase of globalization and democratization of the font market began in earnest about a decade ago, propelled by newly accessible digital tools, online commerce, and post-graduate education in type design. It is a sea change. For centuries, places like Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, Lebanon, and New Zealand were vastly underrepresented in a type design community that was dominated by western Europe and North America. (And this only goes for Latin-based type. The burgeoning production of fonts in other scripts tells another fascinating story.) We will have much more detail about these changes in an upcoming report by Ruxandra Duru on the current state of typefounding around the world.

One that caught my eye is Clear Sans.

The amazing invisible spacer GIF hackMar 05 2014

In his post about 1990s web development techniques, Zach Holman praises the 1-pixel transparent GIF.

1x1.gif should have won a fucking Grammy. Or a Pulitzer. Or Most Improved, Third Grade Gym Class or something. It's the most important achievement in computer science since the linked list. It's not the future we deserved, but it's the future we needed (until the box model fucked it all up).

Given all of the awards Holman desires to present, I'm surprised he didn't mention the inventor of the spacer GIF, David Siegel. Siegel was perhaps the first celebrity web designer -- well, a celebrity among web designers anyway. He dispensed opinionated design knowledge from his personal homepage and used the High Five award to showcase his idea of cutting edge web design. (Fun fact: Siegel's own site was the first High Five award winner.)

David Siegel

Somewhere along the way, Siegel came up with the idea of using a 1x1 pixel transparent GIF to introduce whitespace on web pages. The file size was very small but you could scale it up visually using the height and width attributes of the <img> tag and use it hundreds of times on a site because it was cached by the browser the first time it loaded.

Popularized in the pages of his web design book, Creating Killer Web Sites, Siegel's spacer GIF was completely non-standard and hacky but had the great advantages of 1) giving designers superb control over a site's design and 2) working more or less the same in every graphical browser. The designers of the time weren't content to wait around for the SGML nerds at W3C to figure out better ways of displaying web pages, so when Siegel pulled this beautiful kludge out of his pocket, everyone quickly adopted the technique. For years the spacer GIF dominated web design, for better and for worse. So yeah, maybe Siegel does deserve a Grammy or something.

If the Moon was only 1 pixelMar 05 2014

Moon 1 pixelNice visualization of the solar system; the Moon is one pixel across and everything else is scaled to that, including the distances between planets. Get ready to scroll. A lot.

It would be neat to do this with a plutonium atom or something. Related: typographically speaking, what's the point size of the Moon?

Wolf in White VanMar 04 2014

Great book cover design alert:

Wolf In White Van

The book is the forthcoming Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle. Cover art direction by Rodrigo Corral, designed by Timothy Goodman. (via @robinsloan)

The opening lines of famous novels, diagrammedFeb 28 2014

Pop Chart Lab has produced a print of grammatical diagrams of the opening lines of notable novels. Here's Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea:

Hemingway Sentence Diagram

There are also sentences from DFW, Plath, and Austen. Prints start at $29.

Burn this bookFeb 27 2014

Love this concept cover for Fahrenheit 451 by designer Elizabeth Perez...the 1 is a match and the spine is striking paper for lighting it.

Fahrenheit 451 with match

Fahrenheit 451 is a novel about a dystopian future where books are outlawed and firemen burn any house that contains them. The story is about suppressing ideas, and about how television destroys interest in reading literature.

I wanted to spread the book-burning message to the book itself. The book's spine is screen-printed with a matchbook striking paper surface, so the book itself can be burned.

(via @daveg)

Evolution of the Warner Bros logoFeb 25 2014

Fine work as usual from Christian Annyas: a look at the design of the Warner Bros logo from 1923 to the present. The classic "WB" shield of my Bugs-and-Daffy-saturated youth will always be a favorite, but I do like the Saul Bass logo of the 70s and early 80s:

Saul Bass Warner Logo

Affleck's Argo and Soderbergh's Magic Mike both used the Bass logo in place of the contemporary logo, which is the kind of little detail I love.

And introducing: the billing blockFeb 24 2014

This is called a billing block:

Billing Block

You find it at the bottom of movie posters and often at the end of movie trailers. In an Op-Art piece from last year, Ben Schott explains how the billing block is carefully constructed with information from contracts and legal agreements.

The content, order and format of the billing block are governed by two things: personal service contracts with cast and crew, and industrywide agreements with professional guilds -- notably the Directors Guild of America (D.G.A.) and the Writers Guild of America (W.G.A.). Thus, while some elements of the billing block remain consistent, others depend of the type of film and on individual negotiations. That said, there has been a marked inflation in billing block credits. An "Ocean's 11" poster from 1960 credited just three noncast individuals; the 2001 remake poster credited, coincidentally, 11.

Brand minimalismFeb 14 2014

Shopping in a supermarket can be visually overwhelming. Designer Mehmet Gozetlik took the packaging of some well-known brands and simplified them (part two). It's interesting how some of these work and some don't. Duracell works really well because the batteries themselves still carry most of the branding:

Duracell Brand Simple

The simplified branding of Guinness and Evian works pretty well too...the packaging is itself iconic and distinctive enough to carry them. The Pringles and Red Bull are missing something, but in almost all cases, I like one of the simplified options more than the original. (via @dunstan)

The weight of rainFeb 10 2014

In a presentation for the Visualized conference, Jonathan Corum says that he looks for the "weight of rain" when working on data graphics.

So when I'm looking at data, or working on an explanatory graphic, these are the moments I'm looking for. Little "Aha!" moments that I can point to, and say "Look here, something happened," and then try to explain. Often those small moments can help lead a reader into the graphic, or help to explain the whole.

The actual non-metaphorical weight of rain is surprisingly heavy; an inch of rain on an acre of land weighs 113.31 tons.

The art of the rap logoJan 31 2014

Naughty By NatureThe Art of the Rap Logo is a collection of rap logos from NWA to Snoop Dogg to Def Jam.

The Apple-ness of the MacintoshJan 30 2014

On Daring Fireball, John Gruber reflects on the 30th anniversary of the Macintosh by noting what seems particularly Apple-like about the Mac.

The second aspect of the original Mac that stands out today as Apple-like is putting just enough whimsy into the experience. Most famously, the smiling Mac you saw as the system booted. Had anyone prior even considered a smiling computer? But fundamental to the genius of the smiling Mac is that it didn't come across as silly or corny. Friendly and fun: yes. Goofy: no. Getting that right required that most Apple-y of talents: taste.

And he's spot on in that second footnote about the lack of whimsy in iOS 7. There's nothing funny about those Settings and Safari icons.

Frere-Jones sues HoeflerJan 17 2014

Oh, wow. Tobias Frere-Jones is suing his business partner Jonathan Hoefler over ownership of world-reknowned type foundry Hoefler & Frere-Jones.

Type designer Tobias Frere-Jones claims he has been cheated out of his half of the company by his business partner, Jonathan Hoefler. In a blistering lawsuit filed today in New York City, Frere-Jones says he was duped into transferring ownership of several fonts, including the world-famous Whitney, to Hoefler & Frere-Jones (HFJ) on the understanding that he would own 50% of the company.

"In the most profound treachery and sustained exploitation of friendship, trust and confidence, Hoefler accepted all of the benefits provided by Frere-Jones while repeatedly promising Frere-Jones that he would give him the agreed equity, only to refuse to do so when finally demanded," the suit claims.

The full complaint is here. A descendant of Whitney (Whitney ScreenSmart) is what you're reading right now and I was an early beta tester of H&FJ's webfont service. This is gobsmacking news...I have no idea what to think about it. What a sad and strange situation. (via @khoi)

Update: H&FJ has released a statement from their general counsel:

Last week, designer Tobias Frere-Jones, a longtime employee of The Hoefler Type Foundry, Inc. (d/b/a "Hoefler & Frere-Jones"), decided to leave the company. With Tobias's departure, the company founded by Jonathan Hoefler in 1989 will become known as Hoefler & Co.

Update: According to a document filed with the New York County Clerk, the matter between Hoefler and Frere-Jones "has been settled". No other details are available at this time.

The best book covers, movie posters, and magazine covers of 2013Dec 23 2013

Magazine covers, movie posters, and book covers all have the same basic job, so it seemed proper to group these lists together: 50 [Book] Covers for 2013, The 20 best magazine covers of 2013, The 50 Best Posters Of 2013, Top [Magazine] Covers 2013, The Best Book Covers of 2013, The 30 Best Movie Posters of 2013, Best Book Covers of 2013. Lots of great work here. I still can't figure out whether I love or hate this cover of W with George Clooney on it:

Clooney W Mag

If the New Yorker were set in ParisDec 23 2013

Covers for The Parisianer, an imaginary version of the New Yorker set in Paris.


Santa's brand guidelinesDec 11 2013

Communications agency Quietroom came up with a tongue-in-cheek set of brand guidelines for Santa Claus outlining a brand refresh for the jolly Pole dweller.

Santa Brand Refresh

Top 25 album covers of 2013Dec 06 2013

From Pitchfork, a list of the best album covers from 2013. My favorite is this one from Tyler, The Creator, which looks more or less like the opposite of a rap album.

Tyler The Creator Album

I also liked Michael Cina's cover for Fort Romeau (which he adapted from his very fetching art) and of course Yeezus, which is this year's unignorable album in every way. (via @pieratt)

Massive collection of Eastern European matchbox labelsNov 25 2013

Euro MatchboxEuro Matchbox

From Flickr, a collection of more than 1600 matchbox labels, most of them from Eastern Europe. (via @themexican)

Football as FootballNov 14 2013

Football as Football is a collection of American football team logos in the style of European football club badges. Here are badges for the Detroit Lions (in the Italian style) and New England Patriots (in the Spanish style).

Football As Football 01

Football As Football 02

Watch a hand-lettering master at workOct 22 2013

Glen Weisgerber is a wizard at the art of hand-lettering. Make sure you watch all the way through for the big flourish-y finish.

(via colossal)

Wood type alphabetsOct 17 2013

More than 80 photos of marvelous wood type alphabets in this Flickr set.

Wood Type Alphabet

The scans are from Rob Roy Kelly's 100 Wood Type Alphabets. (via @H_FJ)

The Best American Infographics 2013Oct 08 2013

Sadly, most infographics these days look like this, functioning as a cheap and easy way to gussy up numbers. But when done properly, infographics are very effective in communicating a lot of information in a short period of time and can help you see data in new ways. In The Best American Infographics 2013, Gareth Cook collects some of the best ones from over the past year. Wired has a look at some of the selections.

Dog Infoviz

CloudPaintOct 08 2013

CloudPaintCloudPaint is a fully operational online version of the original MacPaint released with the Macintosh in 1984. The source code for version 1.3 of MacPaint is available from the Computer History Museum.

Stephen Hawking's party for time travellersOct 02 2013

Steven Hawking came up with a simple and clever way of seeing if time travel is possible. On June 28, 2009, he threw a party for time travellers from the future...but didn't advertise it until after the party was already over.

In an effort to improve the chances of the party invite being noticed by future generations, Peter Dean, working with approval from Hawking, has made this gorgeous hand-printed poster of the party invitation:

Hawking Party Poster

There's also a smaller less-expensive version of the poster in grey and a fetching yellow/orange.

Lego calendarOct 01 2013

Vitamins is a design studio in London that made a wall calendar out of Lego. They also built a mechanism to sync an online calendar to the Lego one: you just take a photo of the Lego calendar and send it to a special email address and voilà!

(via ★interesting)

Fine Hypertext ProductsSep 27 2013

My favorite of Jason's posts are the ones that are wrong. I love the spirited debate, looking at the @messages directed to him, and I especially love the "Post Updates" feature and its self-documenting "wha?" Kottke.org is not about viral videos or amazing facts (although it has those, too), it's about Jason saying: "Look at this cool thing," and starting a conversation around it. Jason has worked for almost fifteen years as programmer, editor, designer and of course blogger of the site with sharing at its core.

I've always loved how he thinks and talks about the way the site works:

Stellar is the natural extension of Jason's work. The site is an enthusiasm engine, allowing you to see the best of the Internet through the eyes of friends and trusted strangers. It's one of the Top Five pieces of software of all time.1 Jason's fine hypertext products buy us time by filtering out the crap. If you want something good to read or look at or retweet, Stellar won't let you down. And it's made Kottke.org better too.

Last night I swung by Jason's neighborhood place to raise a glass in Jason's honor. Meg generously offered me a few glasses more and soon I was telling strangers to buy the Stellar fun pass. Some people are angry drunks, I tell strangers about Stellar. But I do want to take this (sober!) moment to encourage you to buy the stellar fun pass, it helps Jason do what Jason does best - he does it better than anyone else, and it makes all of us better at internet.

Jason was way ahead of his time with his Micropatronage project, which has been a huge influence on how I work and think about the web ever since. I also love How Cranberries are Harvested, NFL maps, God Fave the Queen,
Hilarious bad lip reading of NFL players
, Megway, the old domain "yoink.org," kottke.org/random, and kottke.org posts tagged kottke.org. I love kottke.org.

Happy Birthday, Jason!

1. I am tweaking this list in my head almost weekly, but Stellar is always on it.

Moonrise Kingdom typographySep 23 2013

The Art of the Title chats with the excellent Jessica Hische about the lettering and type design she did for Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom.

To me, that was really fun because if you think about New England in the '60s... it's not like most places would be staying on top of the most current trends in type, using typefaces that were released that very year. So, using something from the '40s made sense to me. If you think about a small, conservative New England town, lord knows all the printers and designers in town are probably still using type from years ago. I think when people think about historical type references, they often don't think about that. You should be reaching from that time period to 15 - 20 years earlier and then you'll be getting stuff that's quote-unquote "current."

And she's releasing the typeface commercially so everyone can use it! Yay!

Japanese manhole covers are beautifulSep 19 2013

This group on Flickr shows just how fantastically designed Japanese manhole covers are. Here are some of my favorites:

Japanese Manholes 01Japanese Manholes 02Japanese Manholes 03Japanese Manholes 04

(via mr)

All the colors, once eachSep 17 2013

In the parlance of NYC graffiti enthusiasts, going "all city" means getting your stuff known all over the five boroughs. Now a group of designers are challenging each other to go "all RGB", to make images that contain all of the 16.7 million colors that make up the RGB spectrum once each. This entry is amazing because it still looks like an actual photograph when you zoom out (many others do not):


You can find many more entries on allRGB.com or make your own using this code on GitHub. (via digg)

The New Yorker's slow designSep 17 2013

On the occasion of the latest New Yorker redesign, a worthy re-link to Michael Bierut's appreciation of the magazine's practice of slow design.

Publication design is a field addicted to ceaseless reinvention. Sometimes a magazine's redesign is generated by a change in editorial direction. More often, the motivation is commercial: the publisher needs to get the attention of fickle ad agency media buyers, and a new format -- usually characterized as ever more "scannable" and "reader-friendly" -- is just the thing. In contrast, one senses that each of the changes in The New Yorker was arrived at almost grudgingly. Designers are used to lecturing timid clients that change requires bravery. But after a certain point -- 80 years? -- not changing begins to seem like the bravest thing of all.

The New Yorker's design changes over the years have been so slight that, as Bierut notes, the latest issue looks remarkably like the first issue from 1925.

A ton of vintage typeAug 20 2013

Type HuntingType Hunting. Prepare to lose yourself in this for awhile. Wow. (via df)

StackAug 19 2013

Mugi Yamamoto PrinterMugi Yamamoto's inkjet printer, designed for his diploma project, eliminates the paper tray and related components by having the printer sit directly on top of the paper, which it "swallows" as it prints.

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