kottke.org posts about design

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 Sofa

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 pixel

Nice 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 Nature

The 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.

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.

Parisianer

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 Matchbox

Euro 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

CloudPaint

CloudPaint 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 01

Japanese Manholes 02

Japanese Manholes 03

Japanese 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):

All RGB

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 Hunting

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

StackAug 19 2013

Mugi Yamamoto Printer

Mugi 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.

iPhone 6 InfinityAug 12 2013

Apple fan fiction is more popular than ever and usually takes the form of mockups of designs for new products and alternate designs for existing products. There's been a recent burst of creative energy unleashed on Dribbble around the idea of an iPhone with a screen that wraps completely around the device (or at least down around the sides). Claudio Guglieri seems to have accidentally started it with this mockup of an RSS reader he's working on:

Iphone 6 Infinity

Fabio Basile dubbed it iPhone 6 Infinity and made a Photoshop template that others could use to make further mockups. More mockups from them and others followed: Side Screen, another Photoshop template, a wrap-around social app, an alternate lock screen, and these subtle side indicators.

Iphone 6 Infinity

Leaving aside for the moment the issue of how a touchscreen device that's all screen would function while being held, the visual effect is pretty cool.

Posters of famous movie carsJul 31 2013

The CarsAndFilms Etsy shop sells posters featuring famous cars from films.

Cars And Films

(via cup of jo)

Time lapse of old photo restorationJul 25 2013

Nice peek into the process of Photoshopping an old photo to make it look new again:

(via @DavidGrann)

Cover by Peter MendelsundJul 24 2013

Details are scarce and publication is months away, but hotshot book designer Peter Mendelsund is coming out with a book called Cover. I bet it will contain a collection of his covers. Or will be about covers. Or something. But I love book covers so whatever it is, I am covered.

Hollywood Star ChartsJun 20 2013

New prints in the Dorothy shop: these really cool Hollywood Star Charts, available in Golden Age and Modern Day editions.

Hollywood Star Chart

The Modern Day version of our Hollywood Star Chart features constellations named after some of the most culturally significant films to have appeared on the silver screen since 1960 - present day. The stars that make up the clusters are the Hollywood stars that appeared in them.

The chart is based on the night sky over New York on June 16th 1960 -- the date of the first showing of Hitchcock's 'Psycho' at the DeMille Theater. With its new approach to storytelling, characterisation and violence it is seen as a key movie in the start of the post-classical era of Hollywood.

The 108 films featured include those chosen for preservation in the US National Film Registry due to their cultural, historical, or aesthetic significance; Academy Award winners; and a few personal favourites. Films include Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, The Exorcist, The Godfather, Chinatown, Star Wars, Pulp Fiction and Avatar.

You may remember Dorothy from their movie name maps.

The evolution of the Star Wars logoMay 31 2013

An extensive examination of the evolution of the Star Wars logo, which went through too many iterations to count.

..Though the poster contained no painted imagery, it did introduce a new logo to the campaign, one that had been designed originally for the cover of a Fox brochure sent to theater owners....Suzy Rice, who had just been hired as an art director, remembers the job well. She recalls that the design directive given by Lucas was that the logo should look "very fascist."

"I'd been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas," she says, "a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today -- how they developed into what we see and use in the present." After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, "I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most 'fascist' typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black."

(via df)

On Hoefler and Frere-JonesMay 22 2013

From the AIGA, a lovely short film on type designers Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones. I love the bit about starting a typeface design with the O, H, and D. Elsewhere, Hoefler recommended other potential starting points:

Work out the B, the ampersand, and the bullet before you get too far: you'll have to confront decisions about thinning strokes, intersections, and shapes without any counters, which might inform what you do on the other letters.

(via daring fireball)

The design of cattle brandsMay 01 2013

Before personal brands were something to be seared into the minds of a rabid fanbase, brands were symbols that were literally burned into the flesh of livestock to keep track of ownership. The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has a guide to designing your own cattle brand.

Cattle Brand Design

Smithsonian Magazine's Jimmy Stamp has more info on what cattle brands are all about. For more info on what personal brands are all about, spend more than 30 seconds on Twitter.

Design studio of the year: Bloomberg BusinessweekApr 30 2013

Creative Review has named the design department of Bloomberg Businessweek as the 2013 Design Studio of the Year. Well deserved.

But we have chosen to recognise an in-house design team which has had an enormous impact on its industry. Under creative director Richard Turley, (not forgetting editor Josh Tyrangiel) Bloomberg Businessweek has trounced its rivals with a verve and energy that recalls the heyday of the printed magazine.

You can check out BBBW's design on Flickr and Tumblr.

The new $100 billApr 24 2013

US currency is already embarrassing and this new design for the $100 bill is not helping.

New 100

This may be worse than the horrible US passport.

Hummingbird, a new music notation systemApr 10 2013

I don't read music so it's difficult for me to say how useful this is, but the folks behind Hummingbird claim their new system of music notation is "easier to learn, faster to read, and simpler for even the trickiest music".

Hummingbird Notation

Roll over, Beethoven. (via @veen)

The standardization of chess set designApr 05 2013

As chess increased in popularity across Europe in the 1800s, the proliferation in the variety of chess sets caused confusion amongst competitors, especially those hailing from different countries. The English typically used Barleycorn sets:

Chess Sets Barleycorn

or St. George sets:

Chess Sets St Georges

The Germans often used Selenus sets:

Chess Sets Selenus

Regence sets were popular in France:

Chess Sets Regency

Chess set collector Ty Kroll explains the confusion:

English saw a different design for every chess club: St. George sets with their appearance of stacked disks, Dublin sets with more rounded middles, and Northern Uprights with columns instead, as well as elaborate, easily tipped Barleycorn sets. Germany had delicate Selenus sets, beautiful beyond belief, but fragile, tippable, and problematic for play. To tell which piece is which on some of these sets one must count the stacked crown. France saw elegant Regence style sets with some of the most confusing signatures in history. As in the English sets, queen's were represented by orbs. The king's floral crown closely resembles the modern Staunton signature for the queen. Knights were always taller than bishops the old French sets. Bishops were represented as fools, not clergymen, and therefore lacked the signature miter. What was worse, the knights in these sets were sometimes simple turned designs, not the recognizable horse's head. This lead to common confusion as to which minor piece was which. The confusion of antique French knights and bishops is still a common problem today.

Then in the 1849, Nathaniel Cook designed and John Jaques began to sell a set that eventually came to be called the Staunton chess set:

Chess Sets Staunton

Howard Staunton was regarded as the top chess player of his era and organized the first international chess tournament in 1851. Staunton endorsed the set and it soon became the standard in chess competitions and, later, the official standard of the World Chess Federation. The most recent iteration of the official Staunton set is Daniel Weil's design for World Chess:

Chess Weil

If you're interested in learning more, Jimmy Stamp has a nice piece about the design of the original Staunton set and Weil's update at Smithsonian magazine.

URLs are for people, not computersApr 05 2013

You should design URLs for people because they are important UI elements.

URLs can contain information about the page contents before they are even clicked. This is very advantageous in some communication mediums, such as chats, IMs, tweets, emails and forums.

(via hacker news)

The anti-drone hoodieApr 04 2013

Designer Adam Harvey, who gave the world the anti-paparazzi purse and dazzle camouflage for the face, has developed a hoodie that makes the wearer invisible to the sort of thermal imaging utilized by surveillance drones.

Anti Drone Hoodie

This is the most New Aesthetic thing I have ever seen. The Guardian has more:

"These are primarily fashion items and art items," Harvey tells me. "I'm not trying to make products for survivalists. I would like to introduce this idea to people: that surveillance is not bulletproof. That there are ways to interact with it and there are ways to aestheticise it."

I imagine that at some point, anti-drone clothing will eject chaff as a countermeasure against incoming drone-launched missiles. (via @DavidGrann)

Lovely simple chess setMar 26 2013

Pentagram's Daniel Weil has designed a new chess set that is currently being used at the World Chess Championship Candidates Tournament in London. The set is beautifully iconic and simple.

Chess Weil

The set is available for sale for £200 or with the board for £300.

Simplicity is...Mar 18 2013

There are a zillion definitions of simplicity. Here is Christoph Niemann's, which he applied in building his new iOS app, Petting Zoo.

Simplicity is not about making something without ornament, but rather about making something very complex, then slicing elements away, until you reveal the very essence.

(via @djacobs)

Hessian, a brand in a boxFeb 01 2013

Designer Ben Pieratt calls Hessian "an invader, an ode, a brand in waiting, a pitch to the market". It is also a fully developed brand (logos, Twitter handle, web themes, app icons, etc.) for sale.

Hessian

As a newborn idea, Hessian is aggressive and evolving. Its only conduit the working mind of designer Ben Pieratt, it fights for life by building meme-hooks through studies in contrasts, nostalgia, repetition and confusion. The Hessian could be a restaurant, a start-up, a clothing brand or more.

Like any great brand, Hessian is for sale. The current asking price is $18,000.

Best movie posters of 2012Jan 10 2013

From MUBI Notebook's Adrian Curry, a round-up of the best movie posters of 2012.

Ai Weiwei Poster

Extreme temperatures force new color code for weather mapJan 08 2013

The forecasted temperature in the interior of Australia is so high for next Monday that the country's Bureau of Meteorology has had to add an extra color code at the top end of the temperature scale for REALLY FUCKING HOT.

Aussie Weather Map

The bureau's head of climate monitoring and prediction David Jones said the new scale, which also features a pink code for temperatures from 52 to 54 degrees, reflected the potential for old heat records to be smashed.

"The scale has just been increased today and I would anticipate it is because the forecast coming from the bureau's model is showing temperatures in excess of 50 degrees," Jones told Fairfax newspapers.

Australia's all-time record temperature is 50.7 degrees, set in January 1960 at Oodnadatta in the state of South Australia.

The nation as a whole experienced its hottest day on record on Monday with the average maximum temperature across the country hitting 40.33 degrees, surpassing the previous mark of 40.17 degrees set in 1972.

I feel like climate change needs a Steve Jobs to kick everyone's ass into action on this, iPhone announcement-style. "Unprecedented polar ice cap melt, new colors on Australia's weather map, massive East Coast hurricanes, are you getting it? These are not three separate incidents. This is one global pattern. And we are calling it anthropogenic climate change. [wild applause]" (via @ftrain)

Chris Ware on his Newtown-themed New Yorker coverJan 07 2013

Chris Ware designed the Newtown-themed cover for the New Yorker last week and describes the process that went into it.

On December 14th, I helped chaperone my daughter's second-grade-class field trip to a local production of "The Nutcracker," where I spent most of my time not watching the ballet but marvelling at the calm efforts of the teacher to keep the yelling, excited class quieted down. Teaching was not, I concluded at one point, a profession in which I could survive for even one day. Our buses came back to the school at midafternoon, and I and the other volunteer parents left our children for another hour of wind-down time (for us, not them) before returning for the regular 3-P.M. pickup. I came home, however, not to any wind-down but to the unfolding coverage of the Newtown shooting. Shaken to the core, I returned to the school, where a grim quiet bound myself and the other parents together, the literally unspeakable news sealing our smiles while, at a lower strata, our happy, screaming children ran out of the building into our arms still frothed up by sparkling visions of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

Brilliant book cover design for Orwell's 1984Jan 05 2013

A new series of George Orwell's books are being published by Penguin and this is the cover for 1984:

Penguin 1984

Cover design by David Pearson...more covers from the same series here. (via @torrez)

Designers pick their favorite book covers of 2012Dec 28 2012

The NY Times asked a bunch of designers for their favorite book cover designs of 2012. Lots of nice work here.

The object of the dayDec 05 2012

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum has a relatively new Object of the Day feature. Recent items include an abacus image by Paul Rand, an 18th-century version of bingo, and a Tiffany lamp.

Women of science postersOct 16 2012

I love these posters featuring six women who changed science and the world. Hard to pick a favorite but I'll go with the Sally Ride one:

Sally Ride Poster

The Rosalind Franklin poster is a close second. The same artist also did this wonderfully minimalist poster for Louis Braille.

ps. Today is Ada Lovelace Day!

John Lennon's posterOct 09 2012

Peter Dean is a big Beatles fan. And so he set out to reproduce exactly -- from photographic evidence only -- an old circus poster owned by John Lennon. In true Sgt. Pepper's fashion, he had a little help from his friends.

This is a reproduction of the poster that inspired John Lennon to write the song Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, which appeared on The Beatles' 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. It is printed in a limited edition of 1,967.

Lennon bought the poster in an antiques shop and hung it in his music room. While writing for Sgt. Pepper one day, he drew inspiration from the quirky, old-fashioned language and set the words to music.

A limited edition letterpress reproduction of the poster is available for sale.

Praystation meets PinterestSep 26 2012

Designer Joshua Davis is putting many of his past designs up on Pinterest. Lots of great stuff there. For example, here's the first version of Praystation. (via ★antimega)

The Jony Ive LeicaSep 19 2012

Leica announced a new version of their M series camera on Monday and the "one more thing" concerned a Jonathan Ive-designed special edition of the Leica M.

This camera will be the mother of all limited editions based on one simple fact: only a single unit of the camera will ever be produced. Aside from announcing this camera, not much else was revealed. It is, however, for more than just a publicity stunt: the camera will be auctioned off, and the proceeds will be donated to charity.

The regular M retails for almost $7000 so I imagine the iLeica will go for about eleventy gajillion. Also, designed? How much leeway will Ive have to really change the camera? He'll just slap some new colorways on it, yes? (via df)

Car logo rip-offsSep 11 2012

Some examples of car company logo rip-offs, mostly from China.

Car Logo Knockoffs

And really, who wouldn't want a BYD instead of a BMW?

New logo for MicrosoftAug 23 2012

After using the same logo for the past 25 years, Microsoft introduces a new logo that echoes their Windows brand.

New Microsoft Logo

The Microsoft brand is about much more than logos or product names. We are lucky to play a role in the lives of more than a billion people every day. The ways people experience our products are our most important "brand impressions". That's why the new Microsoft logo takes its inspiration from our product design principles while drawing upon the heritage of our brand values, fonts and colors.

(via df)

I love thisAug 20 2012

Solid State

From Simon Walker at Flickr. (via ★glass)

3-D printed shoes that could help sprinters shatter recordsJul 12 2012

For his final project at the Royal College of Art in London, Luc Fusaro outlined a process for building custom-fitting sprinting shoes that weigh just 96 grams.

Laser Sintered Shoes

The shoes are fabricated using a selective laser sintering process that uses precise 3-D scans of an athlete's foot to achieve maximum fit. The really tantalizing (but unfortunately uncited) bit about Fusaro's design is that by fitting shoes to a sprinter's feet so precisely, significant performance improvements might result:

Scientific investigations have shown that tuning the mechanical properties of a sprint shoe to the physical abilities of an athlete can improve performance by up to 3.5%.

For 100-meter world record holder Usain Bolt, a performance improvement of 3.5% could lower his world record to 9.24...just by wearing different shoes. That seems insane but Speedo's LZR Racer suit that was responsible for dozens of world records falling in 2008 were shown to lower racing times by 1.9 to 2.2 percent so that sort of improvement is certainly possible. (via @curiousoctopus)

The naughty 2012 Olympics logoJul 12 2012

With the Olympics about two weeks away, consider this a final you-can't-unsee-it reminder that the 2012 London Olympics logo looks like Lisa Simpson performing oral sex.

2012 Olympic Logo Lisa Simpson

It's not as bad as some of the others on this list (oh, that Mon-Sat logo), but it's still exceptionally unforgettable. Enjoy the wall-to-wall Olympic coverage for the next two weeks!

Gawker's Kinja, circa 2003Jun 27 2012

Gawker has rebranded their new commenting system...it's now called Kinja. The name is recycled from a project that Nick Denton worked on with Meg Hourihan starting in 2003. Kinja 1 was an attempt to build a blog aggregator without relying solely on RSS, which was not then ubiquitous. Here's a mockup of the site I did for them in late 2003:

Kinja 2003

Luckily they got some real designers to finish the job...here's a version that 37signals did that was closer to how it looked at launch.

Where is the team that worked on that Kinja? Nick's still hammering away at Gawker, Meg is raising two great children (a more difficult and rewarding task than building software), programmer Mark Wilkie is director of technology at Buzzfeed, programmer Matt Hamer still works for Gawker (I think?), intern Gina Trapani is running her own publishing/development empire & is cofounder of ThinkUp, and 37signals (they worked on the design of the site) is flying high.

Profile of Uniqlo and its CEO, Tadashi YanaiJun 26 2012

For the most recent issue of Fast Company, Jeff Chu profiled Tadashi Yanai, the CEO of Uniqlo, one of the hottest retail companies in the world. The piece is full of interesting business & design wisdom throughout.

Yanai, though, cannot resist the American market. Around the corner from his Tokyo office, there's a large map of Manhattan. There are push pins marking Abercrombie & Fitch, American Eagle, Forever 21, Gap, Hollister, and a half-dozen other brands that could be considered immediate competitors. Significantly, there's one outlier marked: the Apple Store. When I ask Yanai about this, he replies simply, "People have only one wallet."

More notably, Apple is perhaps the best example of a company whose products have become ubiquitous without losing cachet. "Specialness is nice to have," Yanai says, "but what's more important is being made for all."

One of my favorite things about shopping at Uniqlo is how they hand you your credit card back:

All associates are trained, for instance, to return your credit card and receipt with both hands, as a sign of respect.

iPhone in CSS3Jun 19 2012

iPhone CSS3

Is it real or is it CSS3? Amazingly, the above image was made entirely in HTML and CSS3 by Dylan Hudson. (via ★interesting)

Who designed the Kikkoman soy sauce bottle?Jun 15 2012

Soy Sauce Bottle

The iconic bottle was designed by Kenji Ekuan and his team at GK Design.

It took three years for Ekuan and his team to arrive at the dispenser's transparent teardrop shape. More than 100 prototypes were tested in the making of its innovative, dripless spout (based on a teapot's, but inverted). The design proved to be an ideal ambassador. With its imperial red cap and industrial materials (glass and plastic), it helped timeless Japanese design values -- elegance, simplicity and supreme functionality -- infiltrate kitchens around the world.

The secret meaning of the lines on a Solo cupJun 13 2012

When some unknown ancient civilization invented the Solo cup, they placed several lines on the outside of the cup, seemingly at random intervals. Was it a star chart? A moon calendar? A representation of their water god? Recently internet memiticians have uncovered the startlingly simple pattern behind those lines. Are you ready for this?

Solo Cup

There you have it, the ancients used those marks to measure out appropriate quantities of alcohol, just like today's college kids do at frat parties. Nevermind that Solo is moving away from that cup design...this is still an amazing discovery. (via stellar)

Update: Getting lots of mail about this...apparently the memiticians were wrong!

The lines on our Party Cups are designed for functional performance and are not measurement lines. If the lines do coincide with certain measurements, it is purely coincidental.

(thx, everyone)

Frida Kahlo rocking Daft PunkJun 05 2012

Fabian Ciraolo does illustrations that mash up old and new pop culture. My favorite is Frida Kahlo rocking a Daft Punk t-shirt:

Frida Kahlo Daft Punk

Here are a few others I particularly like:

Dali Vampire Weekend

Dorothy Bling

He-Man Plaid

Low-resolution 3D printingMay 21 2012

Dirk van der Kooij is a designer who uses a low-resoution 3D printer of sorts to print out plastic furniture with plastic recovered from recycled refrigerators.

Images of the finished product are available on his web site as are the chairs themselves, for €840. (via @curiousoctopus)

100 ideas that changed graphic designMay 14 2012

From Steven Heller and Veronique Vienne, a book about 100 Ideas that Changed Graphic Design. Maria Popova has a preview at The Atlantic.

From how rub-on lettering democratized design by fueling the DIY movement and engaging people who knew nothing about typography to how the concept of the "teenager" was invented after World War II as a new market for advertisers, many of the ideas are mother-of-invention parables. Together, they converge into a cohesive meditation on the fundamental mechanism of graphic design -- to draw a narrative with a point of view, and then construct that narrative through the design process and experience.

The best rejected New Yorker coversMay 11 2012

Blown Covers is a new book that details the illustrations that never made it to the front cover of the New Yorker. At Imprint, Michael Silverberg interviews Françoise Mouly, the book's author and the New Yorker's art editor since 1993, and shares some of best rejected covers. I like this one by Christoph Niemann showing the attempted return of the Statue of Liberty to France:

Statue Return

"Think of me as your priest," she told one of them. Mouly, who cofounded the avant-garde comics anthology RAW with her husband, Art Spiegelman, asks the artists she works with -- Barry Blitt, Christoph Niemann, Ana Juan, R. Crumb -- not to hold back anything in their cover sketches. If that means the occasional pedophilia gag or Holocaust joke finds its way to her desk, she's fine with that. Tasteless humor and failed setups are an essential part of the process. "Sometimes something is too provocative or too sexist or too racist," Mouly says, "but it will inspire a line of thinking that will help develop an image that is publishable."

Information Graphics, a new book from TaschenMay 04 2012

This looks like an interesting new book from Taschen, Information Graphics (buy at Amazon).

Our everyday lives are filled with a massive flow of information that we must interpret in order to understand the world we live in. Considering this complex variety of data floating around us, sometimes the best -- or even only -- way to communicate is visually. This unique book presents a fascinating historical perspective on the subject, highlighting the work of the masters of the profession who have created a number of breakthroughs that have changed the way we communicate. Information Graphics has been conceived and designed not just for designers or graphics professionals, but for anyone interested in the history and practice of communicating visually.

The in-depth introductory section, illustrated with over 60 images (each accompanied by an explanatory caption), features essays by Sandra Rendgen, Paolo Ciuccarelli, Richard Saul Wurman, and Simon Rogers; looking back all the way to primitive cave paintings as a means of communication, this introductory section gives readers an excellent overview of the subject. The second part of the book is entirely dedicated to contemporary works by the current most renowned professionals, presenting 200 graphics projects, with over 400 examples -- each with a fact sheet and an explanation of methods and objectives -- divided into chapters by the subjects Location, Time, Category, and Hierarchy.

A practical guide to graphics for scientists and engineersMay 03 2012

This looks like a potentially interesting book from Felice Frankel: Visual Strategies (at Amazon).

Visual Strategies

Any scientist or engineer who communicates research results will immediately recognize this practical handbook as an indispensable tool. The guide sets out clear strategies and offers abundant examples to assist researchers-even those with no previous design training-with creating effective visual graphics for use in multiple contexts, including journal submissions, grant proposals, conference posters, or presentations.

Visual communicator Felice Frankel and systems biologist Angela DePace, along with experts in various fields, demonstrate how small changes can vastly improve the success of a graphic image. They dissect individual graphics, show why some work while others don't, and suggest specific improvements. The book includes analyses of graphics that have appeared in such journals as Science, Nature, Annual Reviews, Cell, PNAS, and the New England Journal of Medicine, as well as an insightful personal conversation with designer Stefan Sagmeister and narratives by prominent researchers and animators.

Is poor cockpit design to blame in the Air France 447 crash?May 02 2012

In June 2009, an Air France flight from Rio de Janeiro disappeared without a trace. The disappearance turned crash and the questions started: how did a state-of-the-art plane go down so suddenly and who was to blame? The plane's black boxes were finally recovered after two years of searching and there's a case to be made that the design of the cockpit controls may be at least partially responsible for the crash.

The official report by French accident investigators is due in a month and seems likely to echo provisional verdicts suggesting human error. There is no doubt that at least one of AF447's pilots made a fatal and sustained mistake, and the airline must bear responsibility for the actions of its crew. It will be a grievous blow for Air France, perhaps more damaging than the Concorde disaster of July 2000.

But there is another, worrying implication that the Telegraph can disclose for the first time: that the errors committed by the pilot doing the flying were not corrected by his more experienced colleagues because they did not know he was behaving in a manner bound to induce a stall. And the reason for that fatal lack of awareness lies partly in the design of the control stick - the "side stick" - used in all Airbus cockpits.

Process blog for the NY Times Graphics deptMay 01 2012

chartsandthings is a behind-the-scenes look at how the infographic sausage is made at the NY Times.

The art of film and TV title designApr 25 2012

From PBS Off Book, a quick look at the thinking behind the opening titles for TV shows and movies, including Zombieland, Mad Men, and Se7en.

See also Art of the Title and A Brief History of Title Design. (via devour)

Covering LolitaApr 19 2012

The results of a competition to design a better cover for Nabokov's Lolita are being packaged into a book due out in June.

Among the problems Nabokov's Lolita poses for the book designer, probably the thorniest is the popular misconception of the title character. She's chronically miscast as a teenage sexpot-just witness the dozens of soft-core covers over the years. "We are talking about a novel which has child rape at its core," says John Bertram, an architect and blogger who, three years ago, sponsored a Lolita cover competition asking designers to do better.

Now the contest is being turned into a book, due out in June and coedited by Yuri Leving, with essays on historical cover treatments along with new versions by 60 well-known designers, two-thirds of them women: Barbara deWilde, Jessica Helfand, Peter Mendelsund, and Jennifer Daniel, to name a few. They don't shy away from frank sexuality, but they add layers of darkness and complication. And like Jamie Keenan's cover -- a claustrophobic room that morphs into a girl in her underwear -- they provoke without asking readers to abdicate their responsibility.

Of the covers shown, Peter Mendelsund's is a favorite:

Lo Lee Ta

Architectural stationery vignettesApr 13 2012

Lovely type and illustration on these architectural stationery vignettes collected by BibliOdyssey.

Arch Stationary

The images in this post all come from Columbia University's very large assortment of commercial stationery (featuring architectural illustrations): the Biggert Collection.

The vast majority of the images below have been cropped, cleaned and variously doctored for display purposes, with an intent towards highlighting the range of letterform/font and design layouts. The underlying documents are invoices (most), letters, postcards, shipping records and related business and advertising letterhead ephemera from the mid-1800s to the 1930s.

See also the Sanborn fire insurance maps.

Design is a JobApr 10 2012

Out today: Mike Monteiro's Design is a Job. The book is an important reminder that how effective you are as a designer depends on many things aside from what you can do in Photoshop or InDesign. You need to build a stable environment for yourself (and your employees) to do your best work: you need to get clients, know how to talk to them, set up a stable and sustainable business, collaborate with others, etc. etc. For a taste of what the book has to offer, A List Apart has an excerpt of the second chapter, Getting Clients.

The biggest lie in this book would be if I told you I don't worry about where the next client is coming from. I could tell you that once you build up enough of a portfolio, or garner enough experience, or achieve a certain level of notoriety in the industry, this won't be a concern anymore. I could tell you I sleep soundly, not bolting out of bed at 4 a.m. to run laps around the local high school track. I could tell you that I never worry about enough presents under the tree. I could tell you these things, but I'd be lying. And I don't want to lie to you. Getting clients is the most petrifying and scary thing I can think of in the world. I'd rather wrestle lady Bengal tigers in heat with meat strapped to my genitals than look for new clients.

If putting in the work to get the kind of work you want to do sounds too daunting, then close this book right now. Walk away. Rethink your life choices and take up a less stressful craft, like cleaning out cobra pits. Do it. No one will think less of you. Cover yourself in sackcloth and pray to your god for penance.

Go!

kottke.org redesign by the numbersApr 05 2012

A month ago, I launched a redesign of kottke.org. While there are still a few issues to iron out1, I am overall very happy with it so far.

If you're actually reading this on the site and not in RSS (guys, come on in from the cold, don't be shy), you'll already have noticed that I changed the "look and feel" of the site. In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.

Aside from those three things, one of my unstated goals with the redesign was to increase the number of people reading kottke.org2 and I had a hunch that the focus on simplicity, sharing, the reading experience would do just that. Using Google Analytics and a couple of other sources, I compared the traffic stats from the past 30 days (I didn't include the day of launch because that was an outlier day, traffic-wise) to that of the previous 30 days. Here are some of the results. (Except where noted, when I say "traffic", I mean visits.)

- Overall traffic to kottke.org was up 14%. And February was a pretty good month itself so that's a nice bump.

- As I hoped, the two areas that saw the most improvement were mobile and referral traffic. Mobile was the lowest-hanging fruit I addressed with the redesign...kottke.org's previous mobile experience sucked. It's better now. And the focus on sharing boosted referral traffic.

- Mobile traffic now accounts for 19% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 25% over the past 30 days. iPad usage in particular shot up 40% and iPad users are spending longer on the site than they previously were. iPhone and iPod touch traffic both showed double digit percentage increases as well.

- Referral traffic now accounts for 45% of kottke.org's traffic and increased by 28% over the past 30 days. Most of this increase come from social network sharing. Traffic from Facebook increased by 45%, Facebook mobile was up 43%, Twitter increased by 6% (I already did Twitter sharing pretty well before, so not a huge jump here), and Tumblr referrals went up 125%.

- That big Tumblr increase was due to kottke.org's new Tumblr blog. Having kottke.org posts be properly rebloggable is paying off. In addition, it's got over 800 followers that are reading along in the dashboard. I'd like to see that number increase, but I'd probably need to engage a bit more on Tumblr for that to happen.

- For reference, kottke.org's Twitter account added 1000 followers over the same period, about 20% more than the previous month.

- One of the small changes I made was to stop using post titles for posting to Twitter. I had hoped that using more descriptive text would make the tweets more easily retweetable...look at this tweet for example and compare to the title of the post it links to. This hasn't really happened, which is surprising and disappointing.

- I also removed the links to the tag pages (like this and this) from the front page. I had a hunch that very few people were using those links compared to the real estate they took up and the traffic numbers bear that out...traffic to tag pages decreased only 3%.

That's enough for now...I very rarely dig into the traffic stats so it's difficult to stop when I do. That and it's rewarding when you redesign something and it actually works out the way you thought it was going to.

[1] Like this weird Safari bug that results in overlapping link text. Many people have reported this but it only happens sporadically (and usually goes away with a refresh) and I can't reproduce it or find any other sites/designers who are having the same issue. Oh, and it seems like it only happens on OS X Lion. I have no idea if it's the web fonts or something in my CSS. Anyone have any ideas?

[2] Not for $$$ reasons, although that is certainly a consideration. No, it's more that I believe there are literally millions of people out there who are not reading kottke.org that would love it. I put a lot of myself into the site, I'm proud of it, and I want people to see it. That's pretty much it. Oh, and I would also like the unlimited power that comes with millions of readers. evil cackle and cat stroking noises And the money. even more cat stroking noises And the chicks. expensive champagne cork popping noises And my kids' love and respect. surprisingly loud whining noise that you can't even believe came from someone less than 40 inches tall oh come on you just watched Wallace and Gromit for the past hour and you want more orange juice jesus come on give it a rest and now there's a surprisingly loud whining noise coming from a 38-year-old man that should know better...

Railroad company logosMar 30 2012

A beautiful collection of railroad company logos that show the evolution of logo design from 1845 to 2000.

Railroad logos

Fincher, designer, typographer, spyMar 06 2012

The Art of the Title has an interview with David Fincher, creative director Tim Miller, and designer Neil Kellerhouse about the opening title sequence of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

We were exploring things like, 'How shiny should the skin be? How visceral and uncomfortable can we make it? How abstract can we get? Is that a flower? Is it a vagina?' -- that sort of thing.

During David's visits to the studio we would brace for impact, because he has a reputation for being incredibly picky. The first time I met him, I asked one of his friends, 'How picky is David?' And he said, 'You've heard of pixel fuckers? Well David breaks each pixel down to its separate RGB components and fucks them one at a time.' So there was some fear every time we would send something in, but 99% of the time we were just told to keep going.

(via @capndesign)

The story of Keep Calm and Carry OnMar 05 2012

You've seen the now-famous Keep Calm and Carry On poster and its many many variations, but did you know that this British WWII poster was never distributed to the public and was discovered only recently in an English book shop?

(via ★interesting)

kottke.org redesign, 2012 versionMar 05 2012

If you're actually reading this on the site and not in RSS (guys, come on in from the cold, don't be shy), you'll already have noticed that I changed the "look and feel" of the site. In doing the design, I focused on three things: simplicity, the reading/viewing experience, and sharing.

Simplicity. kottke.org has always been relatively spare, but this time around I left in only what was necessary. Posts have a title, a publish date, text, and some sharing buttons (more on those in a bit). Tags got pushed to the individual archive page and posts are uncredited (just like the Economist!). In the sidebar that appears on every page, there are three navigation links (home, about, and archives), other ways to follow the site (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), and an ad and job board posting, to pay the bills. There isn't even really a title on the page...that's what the <title> is for, right? Gone also is the blue border, which I liked but was always a bit of a pain in the ass.

Reading/viewing experience. I made the reading column wider (640px) for bigger photos & video embeds and increased the type size for easier reading. But the biggest and most exciting change is using Whitney ScreenSmart for the display font, provided by Hoefler & Frere-Jones' long-awaited web font service, which is currently in private beta. Whitney SSm is designed especially for display in web browsers and really pushes the site's design & readability to a higher level. Many thanks to Jonathan and his web fonts team for letting me kick their tires. I believe that kottke.org is one of only two sites on the entire Internet currently using H&FJ's web fonts...the other is by some guy who currently lives in a white house near Maryland. Barnaby something...

The reading experience on mobile devices has also been improved. The text was formerly too small to read, the blue border was a pain in the ass (especially since the upgrade to iOS 5 on the iPhone & iPad changed how the border was displayed when zoomed), and the mobile version was poorly advertised. The site now uses the same HTML and CSS to serve appropriate versions to different browsers on different hardware using some very rudimentary responsive design techniques. Whitney ScreenSmart helps out here too...it looks freaking AMAZING on the iPhone 4S's retina display. Really, you should go look. And then zoom in a bunch on some text. Crazy, right?

Sharing. I've always thought of kottke.org as a place where people come to find interesting things to read and look at, and design has always been crafted with that as the priority. A few months ago, I read an interview with Jonah Peretti about what BuzzFeed is up to and he said something that stuck with me: people don't just come to BuzzFeed to look at things, they come to find stuff to share with their friends. As I thought about it, I realized that's true of kottke.org as well...and I haven't been doing a good enough job of making it easy for people to do.

So this new design has a few more sharing options. Accompanying each post is a Twitter tweet button and a Facebook like button. Links to posts are pushed out to Twitter, Facebook, and RSS where they can be easily shared with friends, followers, and spambots. I've also created a mirror of kottke.org on Tumblr so you can read and share posts right in your dashboard. I've chosen just these few options because I don't want a pile of sharing crap attached to each post and I know that kottke.org readers actually use and like Twitter, Tumblr, and even Facebook.

So that's it. I hope you like it. Not every page on the site has the new design yet, but I'm getting there. For reference, here's what the site has looked like in the past. Comments, questions, criticisms, and bug reports are always welcome.

New personal annual report from Nicholas FeltonFeb 27 2012

Nicholas Felton just released his most recent personal annual report: The 2010/2011 Feltron Biennial Report.

Feltron 2011

Ordered. I believe I have the entire set (aside from the exceedingly rare 2005 edition).

How to design a movie posterFeb 17 2012

Travis Pitts outlines the six rules of modern movie poster design. Here are three examples:

Poster design rules

Best viewed large for easy reading of fine print.

The world's best designed newspapersFeb 17 2012

The Society for News Design recently posted their picks for the best designed newspapers in the world.

Apple's first designerFeb 07 2012

Speaking of Apple, here's a profile of Jerry Manock, who worked for Apple from 1977 to 1984 and designed the case for the Apple II and helped design the Macintosh. Manock was Jobs' first Jony Ive.

The whole basis of the class I've taught at UVM for 21 years is ... integrated product development, which means concurrently looking at all of these things: the aesthetics, the engineering, the marketing ... which is what we were doing at Apple. Not necessarily purposefully, but everybody was just thrown together... I would walk through the software place and look around and see what people were doing ... walk through the marketing area. I had my drawings all on the walls, so anybody could come up. There was a red pencil hanging there. I'd say, "If you see something you don't like, or is a problem -- I don't care whether it's a janitor or Steve -- write the correction, circle it, put your phone there and I'll call you and we'll talk about it."

(thx, mike)

Best movie posters of 2011Feb 06 2012

From MUBI notebook, a selection of great movies posters from 2011, including Chris Ware's lovely one for Uncle Boonmee.

Uncle Boonmee

(via dooce)

The mile-high club: airline on airline lovin'Feb 03 2012

I love the cover of the most recent Bloomberg Businessweek:

Airplane Sex

Here's a peek at how the design process works at the magazine.

What a five-year-old thinks about famous logosJan 31 2012

Designer Adam Ladd asked his five-year-old daughter for her impressions of several well-known logos. This is great:

(via stellar)

Truthful movie postersJan 26 2012

Posters for Oscar nominated movies that maybe tell the truth of each movie a bit more than the conventional posters. For instance, Iron Lady becomes Total Bitch, Tree of Life becomes Wuh?, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo becomes All the Rape, No Subtitles.

All the Rape, No Subtitles

(via ★vuokko)

Premakes: new movies with old actorsJan 23 2012

If recent movies like The Hangover, Drive, Inception, and Rushmore had been made in an earlier era, who would have starred in and directed these premakes? How about Dean Martin, Jack Lemmon, and Jerry Lewis in The Hangover?

Now Then Movies 01

Or Inception directed by Fritz Lang?

Now Then Movies 02

(thx, al)

1912 American Type Founders specimen bookJan 20 2012

The Internet Archive is hosting a copy of the American Specimen Book of Type Styles put out by the American Type Founders Company in 1912. It's a 1300-page book listing hundreds of typefaces and their possible use cases.

ATF Specimen

There's also a 1910 copy of what is basically the German version of the ATF book. Look at these swirls! (via @h_fj)

Clip art album coversJan 11 2012

On the Clipart covers blog, you'll find noted album covers redone with clip art and Comic Sans.

Clip Art Covers 1

Clip Art Covers 2

Clip Art Covers 3

(via @aaroncoleman0)

Malcolm Gladwell, collectedJan 05 2012

Gladwell box set

Paul Sahre and Brian Rea designed a 3-book boxed set for Malcolm Gladwell's "intellectual adventure stories".

"During our initial meeting with Malcolm, he referred to the three books as 'intellectual adventure stories,'" Sahre tells Co.Design. "Brian and I really responded to that, as it suggested a specific and interesting way to think about how the books could be designed. We wanted the books to feel like first editions of Moby-Dick or Treasure Island or The Wizard of Oz."

The tasteful gray cloth binding and foil stamping of the set and its "extremely conventional" design, as Sahre puts it ("maybe 'comfortable' would be a better way to describe it," he adds) makes me think of famous children's literature collections, like The Chronicles of Narnia. "This 'traditional/comfortable' design allowed for the drawings Brian was doing to venture off into the abstract and unconventional place they ended up," Sahre continues. "More importantly, the quiet design allowed the text and the drawings room to interact and to breathe. I hope the reader doesn't notice the design of the book at all."

The set is available on Amazon.

The best US mapJan 03 2012

Best US map

This map of the US was made by David Imus -- he worked seven days a week for two years on it -- and it won the Best of Show award at the Cartography and Geographic Information Society competition for 2010. Here's why.

According to independent cartographers I spoke with, the big mapmaking corporations of the world employ type-positioning software, placing their map labels (names of cities, rivers, etc.) according to an algorithm. For example, preferred placement for city labels is generally to the upper right of the dot that indicates location. But if this spot is already occupied-by the label for a river, say, or by a state boundary line-the city label might be shifted over a few millimeters. Sometimes a town might get deleted entirely in favor of a highway shield or a time zone marker. The result is a rough draft of label placement, still in need of human refinement. Post-computer editing decisions are frequently outsourced-sometimes to India, where teams of cheap workers will hunt for obvious errors and messy label overlaps. The overall goal is often a quick and dirty turnaround, with cost and speed trumping excellence and elegance.

By contrast, David Imus worked alone on his map seven days a week for two full years. Nearly 6,000 hours in total. It would be prohibitively expensive just to outsource that much work. But Imus-a 35-year veteran of cartography who's designed every kind of map for every kind of client-did it all by himself. He used a computer (not a pencil and paper), but absolutely nothing was left to computer-assisted happenstance. Imus spent eons tweaking label positions. Slaving over font types, kerning, letter thicknesses. Scrutinizing levels of blackness. It's the kind of personal cartographic touch you might only find these days on the hand-illustrated ski-trail maps available at posh mountain resorts.

(via @rosscot)

Ink and paperDec 29 2011

A lovely short film by Ben Proudfoot about a letterpress company and a paper company who are scraping by next door to each other in Los Angeles.

Jonathan Hoefler on webfontsDec 05 2011

An excellent 26-minute talk by Jonathan Hoefler of the Hoefler & Frere-Jones about how they think about designing typefaces and webfonts in particular.

Today, as webfonts are buoyed by a wave of early-adopter enthusiasm, they're marred by a similar unevenness in quality, and it's not just a matter of browsers and rasterizers, or the eternal shortage of good fonts and preponderance of bad ones. There are compelling questions about what it means to be fitted to the technology, how foundries can offer designers an expressive medium (and readers a rich one), and what it means for typography to be visually, mechanically, and culturally appropriate to the web. This is an exploration of this side of web fonts, and a discussion of where the needs of designers meet the needs of readers.

I love Typekit, but I am very much looking forward to switching Stellar over to Whitney or somesuch when H&FJ's webfonts are released (if the price and performance are right).

Lorem ipsum on French wine labelNov 28 2011

Oof...a wine by Roland Tissier has lorem ipsum on the label.

Wine lorem ipsum

(via stellar)

Susan Kare's sketchbookNov 23 2011

Steve Silberman has a nice piece on Susan Kare, the woman who designed the original icons for the Macintosh, including a never-before-seen look at her initial sketches for some of them.

Inspired by the collaborative intelligence of her fellow software designers, Kare stayed on at Apple to craft the navigational elements for Mac's GUI. Because an application for designing icons on screen hadn't been coded yet, she went to the University Art supply store in Palo Alto and picked up a $2.50 sketchbook so she could begin playing around with forms and ideas. In the pages of this sketchbook, which hardly anyone but Kare has seen before now*, she created the casual prototypes of a new, radically user-friendly face of computing - each square of graph paper representing a pixel on the screen.

Speedometer designNov 01 2011

A collection of Chevy speedometer designs. My favorite is this one, from the 1970 Nova:

Speedometer design

My dad had a bunch of different cars when I was growing up and I remember staring at this particular speedometer for hours...I loved the way the numbers scrunched together in the middle. (via ★vuokko)

Type design gameOct 28 2011

Remember the kerning game? The same folks have built a letter shaping game where you can play at being a type designer. I found this to be a bit more difficult than kerning.

Apple's sometimes-screwball design aestheticOct 26 2011

James Higgs wrote a provocative piece on something that I've noticed recently as well: the two sides to Apple's design aesthetic. On the one hand:

[Apple's] devices have become increasingly simple and pared down, even as the power contained in them has increased. There is very little, if anything, extraneous on the Magic Trackpad or the MacBook Air. And of course the iPhones 4 and 4S are radically simple, yet well-constructed masterpieces of industrial design.

Yet, when it comes to stuff that isn't hardware:

But no one laughs when Apple delivers a calendar application for the iPad that tries its hardest to look like a real-word desktop calendar pad, complete with fake leather and "torn" pages.

Still fewer have a chuckle when they see the new Address Book app on Mac OS X Lion, or the even more recent Find My Friends iPhone app.

These apps, and many more besides, all stem from a completely different, and I would say opposite aesthetic sensibility than the plain devices they run on.

They are an expression of purest kitsch, sentimentality, and ornamentation for its own sake. In Milan Kundera's brilliant definition, kitsch is "the absolute denial of shit". These are Disney-like apps, sinister in their mendacity.

This isn't a recent thing either...look at the cheeseball themes and transitions in Keynote (many of them used by Jobs in his keynotes), some of the default system fonts, the emphasis in past keynotes on things like Mail.app themes, etc. Without too much effort, you could pull together many design examples from their currently shipping software that make it appear as though Apple doesn't have a good aesthetic sense of design at all. But then you look at the general aesthetics of OSX and iOS...I don't know, it's really confusing how the same company, especially one that had such strong design leadership, could produce something as beautifully spare as iOS and something as cheesy as the Game Center app. (via ★thefoxisblack)

So long, Kaliber10000Oct 24 2011

After years of inactivity, K10k, the venerable design portal, has finally been permanently shuttered. Sad to see it go...K10k was one of a handfull of sites that most influenced my design/online efforts in the 90s.

Talk to Me symposium live-streamOct 19 2011

MoMA is live-streaming the Talk to Me symposium all day today.

This evening and daylong program features presentations, conversations, interviews, and performances on the subjects of design and script writing, cognitive science, gaming, augmented reality, and communication.

Fifteen Dieter Rams classic designsOct 17 2011

Oobject has a collection of Dieter Rams' distinctive work for Braun.

Dieter Rams' 40 year stint at Braun until 1995 redefined the world of product design, taking pure modernism to the world of gadgets. He is the direct inspiration for much of Apple's product design after Steve Jobs returned and in many aspects his work is more rigorous and more coherent than Apple's.

I hadn't seen this massive speaker before:

Dieter Rams speaker

Hand-lettered department store logosOct 14 2011

A lovely collection of hand-lettered American department store logos from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Dept Store Logo

So you think you can kern?Oct 11 2011

Kern Type is a game that compares your kerning efforts to those of professional designers. It's surprisingly fun. (thx, damien)

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