Last week I finally bought the incredible Phaidon Archive of Graphic Design. It is a box filled with 500 sheets of paper, each with a description and a few images of one masterpiece from the history of graphic design. It is a fantastic resource for graphic designers, lecturers and students. The only problem I have with it is that it is a physical box with papers in it. You can not click through it, and you can not link to the works. I thought about digitising the whole thing, so I could create a webpage that shows you one random work every time you open it. It turns out you’re not really allowed to digitise books.
That’s stealing, according to some
I’m working on a talk for my students about what a visual (interface) designer is supposed to do. What does it mean to be responsible for what things look like? I asked for examples of sites that look the same, or sites that are boring, or ugly. Charis Rooda tweeted a link to this very good presentation about the value of good (visual) design by David S. Wieland. It is a perfect recap of some brilliant articles — like the instant classic Design Machines — and it translates the ideas about the future of visual design into some very clear points. It answers the question what the value of template-based things is, like Shopify for instance.
But it looks good
A while ago I decided that if I think a web page is interesting enough to link to, I should use more than 140 characters to explain why. This means that I publish links here, on my blog, instead of using Twitter. Most of the time I like this idea. It gives me more time to reflect, and it offers the possibility to add some other links, and to place the link in context.
The network connection at my job sometimes doesn’t work. There seems to be some sort of conflict between some wifi access points and my computer specifically. The problem is that this doesn’t occur all the time. As you might understand, it doesn’t occur when the network support crew calls you back to further investigate the issue. So we agreed that I will call him back next time it happens.
When I think about people who use screen readers I usually think about blind people. But recently I found out that some dyslexic people use them as well. A few students of mine started experimenting with them. They have difficulty understanding technical English articles about web design and web development. But they find it much easier to understand if someone reads the articles to them, while they’re reading along. This is a use case I hadn’t really heard about before. I’m sure there are many others. I can imagine people listening to articles while driving, for instance.
How do you use them?
This week I bought a sandwich at the cafeteria at my university. On first sight, it looked pretty good: you can see the burn marks the toaster left on the bun. But then I noticed the guy preparing the sandwiches. He pulled a big plastic bag filled with buns out of the fridge. There were grill lines on all buns. It turns out they were somehow printed on them. When you look a bit closer at the picture you can see that indeed, the lines are purely decorative. They’re not there because the sandwich was pressed between hot plates for a few minutes. They’re there because of some quick industrial process.
Maybe they used lasers!
The most refreshing thing that happened to design in a long time is the Alphabettes blog. All the articles they published so far are brilliant and highly relevant. Today I read one about the use of the terms feminine and masculine to describe fonts. The short version of the article is
don’t. If you don’t know why, or if you want to learn new stuff, go ahead and read the rest.
The web was never a fixed format. But only when Apple started selling the iPhone designers(*) started to get interested in creating fluid and responsive layouts. Flash always was a pain in the ass. But only when Apple decided not to support it on iOS, everybody dumped Flash. Banners were always terribly annoying, but only now that Apple — finally! — allows us to block all non-apple banners, people start to realise that online advertising is indeed a problem. And now that some of the new content blockers on iOS also offer the option to block all web fonts, designers are urged to think about fallback fonts.
The ideal measure — that is the length of a line in body text — should normally be somewhere between
40em, according to Robert Bringhurst, and he knows these things. If it gets wider it’s hard to find the beginning of the next line while reading, and if it gets smaller not enough words fit on a line. This is a very good rule of thumb for most designs, but of course there are exceptions. And there are also factors that influence the ideal width of the measure. For instance, simply said, when the line-height is larger the measure can be wider. Which makes sense: it’s much harder to find the next line on a wide text if all the lines are cramped together. Extra white-space between the lines can solve this.
Today Maarten P Kappert posted this quote by South African pastor Xola Skosana. Mister Skosana explains that liberal whites and conscious blacks don’t want the same thing. And he concludes in saying that since we fight a different battle, whites cannot lead a black struggle.
There are quite a few things that struck me in this article by Lynne Yun on the brilliant new Alphabettes site. One of the things she writes is that when she jumped
into the corporate world of Typography and Design she was shocked how male-oriented the business was. In recent years I became very aware of this fact, but before that I thought this male domination was normal. And as long as the people who dominate an industry, in this case white males, don’t see this as a problem, it’s very hard to change it. I think this is starting to change in certain places.
There are many ways to create responsive layouts on the web. The most famous is, of course, using media queries. It gives you very fine control over how things look on the web. But there are situations where fine control is not necessary, unwanted, or even impossible. There are a few alternative ways to create highly responsive layouts. I was invited to talk about this at the fantastic Frontend Conference in Zürich. Here’s the video of the talk.
Years ago every element on every website had rounded corners and drop shadows. Which was pretty hard to do, because back then browser didn’t support
box-shadow. We had to use hacks. A weird thing happened when
box-shadow were widely implemented though: webdesign became flat. No more rounded corners, no more shadows. It’s as if there was a secret meeting where people unanimously decided that, now that we have it, we don’t want it.
In a lengthy and very inspiring blog post Peet Sneekes explains — in Dutch — that we should redefine the definition of perfection. Right now, most people think that perfection means something like new, or shiny or intact. But perfect things, says Peet, are things that can be used for a very long time, and after that time can be mended, if necessary. Things don’t have to look perfect to be perfect.