Google Celebrates The Invention of The Barcode

October 7, 2009

While checking my gmail today, I noticed a barcode where the Google logo should have been. Apparently, on this day in 1952 a patent was granted for the first ever barcode. Go figure.

Car Talk for The Uninformed (Huh? Vespa makes cars?)

August 10, 2009

Vespa 400 with unidentified driver and passenger.

One day I’ll get to writing about graphic design again. In the meantime, enjoy all the other beautiful things this world has to offer.

Take the Vespa 400, for instance. A project I’m working on, which involves Vespas, led me to Smaller Is In!,a blog entry featuring a photo of this diminutive wonder. Needless to say, it was love at first site.

While I’m a more of a cyclist than a driver, growing up in Jersey gave me an appreciation for cars. Like practically all Jersey kids, I once owned a Honda Civic. Luckily, I wasn’t wealthy enough to trick it out. The only “modification” my car had was a broken speedometer whose needle would bounce erratically once the car went over 50 miles per hour. Also, I didn’t get my car until I left for college in NYC, so it ended up sitting around in the driveway until I sold it after my second year of college.

Nevertheless, I do someday hope to purchase a car. Perhaps when the rising sea levels finally flood my neighborhood, along with the rest of New York City, and I’m forced to find lodging in Detroit, Texas. Instead of purchasing myself a refurbished Mini Cooper, as I had originally planned, I’ll opt for something classier, that’ll get me instant street cred with the handful of microcar enthusiasts in the Greater-Detroit-Texas area. The ex-girlfriend who once threatened to break up with me if I ever purchased a Mini Cooper would be pleased to know that I have found an even kitschier, retro-styled car to adorn what would have been our hypothetical four walls and adobe slabs.

The Nissan Figaro is to the Mini Cooper what Sailor Moon is to Josie and The Pussy Cats.

If for some reason I can’t get my hands on a Fiat 400, I’d gladly settle for the Nissan Figaro. I encountered this vehicular equivalent of delicious lentil soup while hunting down photos of the Fiat 400. Sadly, the car wont be street legal in the US til the year 2016 when it gets classic car status. Till then, I’ll compulsively return to this Car Lust blog entry, when my knees hurt from riding around town on my relatively uncool commuter bike.

Hort Updates Site w/ More Work For Nike

July 22, 2009

My favorite of the bunch, b/c the tagline is pretty brilliant. Gold star for wit.

When I think of the design shops who inspire me most, there are five that come to mind instantly. Hort is definitely among the top three. Looking at their work is akin to rolling around in a pile of freshly laundered tube socks. Don’t worry about why this would be a good thing, just try it sometime and you’ll understand where I’m coming from.

Hort updated their site today with some new work for Nike. It seems they’ve got this whole Nike poster thing down. Although some of the taglines are a little forced (don’t know who is responsible for that), the executions are fantastic.


Europe By Designers and The Topiary Quandary

June 24, 2009

Came across Europe By Designers, a slick online exhibition of European artists, illustrators, and designers on Design Observer today. The site itself is nicely designed and there’s some great work to be seen.

The exhibition reminded me of something I’ve been thinking about lately: What exactly does it mean to be a designer? The definition of design seems to be expanding daily. Often, I see work that I’d classify as illustration or fine art, but the artist is known and identifies himself as a designer.

I guess, at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter. If the work is good, you can call it topiary for all I care. Speaking of topiary, where’s my Edward Scissorhands sequel? Isn’t it about time?

Edward Scissorhands showcases his topiary handiwork

Europe By Designers

Being A Designer Is About Accepting Certain Truths

April 13, 2009

Adrian Shaughnessy’s Ten Graphic Design Paradoxes: Not so much a list of paradoxes as they are a tally of keen observations from someone who obviously knows the deal about being a graphic designer. Read it. Ingest it. Come up with your own.

The Numerati vs The Designer: Why Google Web Designers Keep Quitting

March 28, 2009

Yesterday, Silicon Alley Insider tried to shed some light on why Google web designers keep quitting. Fundamentally, Google is a data-driven company; All decisions made there, including design choices, must be supported by data. While a case can be made for running a company this way, many designers would find it particularly difficult working there.

Read about it here:
What Google Web Designers Hate About Working For Google

Also, read my original thoughts on this topic. As a designer who has worked in a fairly data-driven company, I’ve thought about this quite a bit.
The Numerati vs Designer Dialectic

What Is Good Design Now? A Conversation with Three Designers

March 27, 2009

photo by Swissmiss

Last night, I had the pleasure of sitting in on What’s Next For Design?, a VW sponsored panel discussion held at the New York Museum of Arts & Design. Moderated by Adam Gopnik, author and staff writer for the New Yorker, the panel featured three designers from three different disciplines: Pentagram partner, Paula Scher, architect, Ahmad Sarder-Afkhami, and furniture designer, Jonathan Adler.

The discussion began with Gopnik speaking briefly about his own relationship to design, its power, and his view of how design has always been “the primary impetus for innovation,” even in the realm of fine art. He then introduced each panelist, briefly discussing their work and engaged them in conversation. The atmosphere was informal and Gopnik did a wonderful job of moderating what shaped up to be a fairly lighthearted discussion.

His first question asked of the panel, what, if they can remember, was the first thing that made them notice design. Paula Scher recalled Alex Steinweiss’ album cover for South Pacific, while Jonathan Adler (who was absolutely hilarious) talked about a ceramic leopard and a ceramic cake owned by Mrs. Goldstein, his neighbor growing up in southern New Jersey. Ahmad Sarder-Afkhami discussed what he called “the permeability of sound” in his childhood home, in Iran.

South Pacific album cover by Alex Steinweiss. What Paula Scher recalls as the item that made her first notice design.

The discussion then moved to the design process, specifically, the rationale and logic each designer has when approaching a project. Adam set this question up by talking a bit about Paula’s recent design for The New York Philharmonic. It was interesting to hear her speak about the logic behind some of the design decisions. For instance, the brief called for a mark that needed to be legible regardless of language barriers, which is why Scher chose to do a circular lock-up. The mark itself, though it’s a wordmark and in English, communicates without ever having to be read.

Paula Scher’s design for The New York Philharmonic

In posing the question, Gopnik spoke of good design possessing a certain “lucidity” in that the style dictates the solution, to which Paula responded, “That’s what you’re supposed to do.” (Probably my favorite quote of the night. Can I get an AMEN?)

No discussion on contemporary design can be had without the recent Tropicana gaffe getting a mention. Gopnik used it as an example to ask the question, how does bad design happen. While Paula spoke specifically about the problems with the Tropicana redesign, Jonathan Adler summed it up succinctly. “Bad design is done by focus groups. . .The more idiosyncratic the design, the more a focus group would hate it.” Yet, often the most memorable designs are fully idiosyncratic. He spoke specifically of a banana vase he recently designed, a terrible idea in the eyes of his business associates, which proved to be a hit at a recent trade show.

Jonathan Adler’s banana vase. An example of idiosyncratic design being good design. Photo from

The final question, directed at Mr. Sarder-Afkhami, asked how an architect works through a recession. Although he has been fortunate enough to not have experienced a major drop-off in work, Ahmad has found himself thinking more about what is excessive and what “inherited programs” of living are no longer pertinent to the way we live. It’s a fascinating subject, which I’d love to hear more about.

When the floor opened up, I asked if the designers noticed that design has been getting more media coverage than ever, and how that affects the way they approach a project. The consensus is that it certainly has. “Every magazine has a design column,” said Paula Scher. It’s definitely true, but where does that leave us as designers? Moreover, how does this new transparency in design affect what is considered good design, now?

more coverage of this event over on Swissmiss

Why The New Facebook Doesn’t Suck. Part 2 of 2

March 24, 2009

brought to you by the Zuckerberg Appreciation Society

In part 1 of this article, I pointed out some of the changes that made the new Facebook a little, if not significantly, better than the old Facebook. If you’re still not convinced the new Facebook doesn’t suck, I’m not sure what else I can say to sway you, but here are some more notable improvements.

I recently had a client request that I design his Facebook page. “Why would you want to do that?” I asked. My stance was that Facebook pages weren’t all that effective. On Myspace, there is no distinction between a regular user profile, and a musician profile; A musician profile can interact with others in the same manner as regular profiles. It is this direct connection with their audience that prompted musicians, such as David Hasselhoff, to create Myspace pages.

cover for Hasselhoffs hit single, Hooked On A Feeling

On the other hand, Facebook’s band pages were little more than a page on Facebook that served no real purpose. Sure a band (celebrity or business) could message users who became “fans” but beyond that, they couldn’t really interact with users. The overall effectiveness of the page was questionable. I suspect most bands created Facebook pages just to make sure all bases were covered.

The new Facebook has done away with Pages. Instead, profiles for organizations or public figures are no different than regular user profiles. The owner of such a profile now has the ability to become an active part of the information stream on user homepages. This means their messages have a much better chance of reaching their intended audience. Moreover, it forces them to actively engage their audience, which is crucial to successful new media marketing.

While an average user may lament a marketer or organization’s ability to “infiltrate” their content stream, it is important to note that for this to happen, the user would have to have already added the organization as a friend. Also, as I’ve mentioned before, with the click of a button, users can silence an overzealous marketer. This is far more effective than the old Pages model, where contact was made via messages that may or may not have been opened.

The other change, which I have to admit I’m not entirely crazy about, is the Highlights section. This acts somewhat like the old newsfeed in that it shows “photos, notes, and other content you probably don’t want to miss” over a longer period of time. While the stream is updated in realtime, the Highlights section only changes when something you might be interested in is added.

My issue with the Highlights section is that it’s not customizable. Unlike the stream, a user can’t determine what and from whom she wants highlighted. The whole thing seems kind of arbitrary, which was my problem with the old newsfeed. It’s a good idea, but unless they make the section customizable it’s working against what they’re trying to do with the rest of the site.

The last change I’m going to note, and I’m not really sure if this was changed in the last version of Facebook, is the toolbar. In the last version of Facebook, I found it thoroughly confusing that there was no obvious way of seeing all your events, or going to all your applications. If I wanted to go to an application, I’d do the ass-backwards dance of viewing my profile and clicking the app there. To see all my events, I’d look in the right column, and under whatever events were happening that day, there was a “see all events” link.

When the new Facebook launched, I found the link had been removed. After cursing aloud, and even considering writing a Why The New Facebook Sucks post, I realized all that information was easily accessed via the toolbar. This may have been the case in the old Facebook, but the fact that there were several other places to access the same information was more confusing than it was helpful. Now, if I want to access my applications (not that I ever use them. Well, only that cool bookshelf one.), I know to look at the bottom of the browser, on the toolbar.

I also noticed Facebook widened the rightmost column. It may look a little clunky but it makes sense from an ad space perspective. I don’t know much about Facebook’s click-through rates, but I suspect they’re pretty low. Anything that can be done to make it better is a good move on their part.

Well, that’s all I have to say about that. If you still don’t believe the new Facebook is an improvement, you should consider not using it. There are tons of other social networks out there. You’ll just have to convince everyone else to join.

read part 1 of this article


March 23, 2009

What’s up with the 30 degree weather, here in NYC? I thought spring was here. Oh well, here are some things worth checking out.

What Does One Trillion Dollars Look Like
Hint: It looks exactly the way it sounds.

Vandal (Squad) Vendetta
Two weeks ago, I posted about a Powerhouse Arena panel discussion which pitted Vandal Squad graffiti cops against their nemeses, graffiti writers. I did attend, however, of the notes I gathered, I couldn’t come up with anything remotely interesting to report. Hell, I even forgot to bring my camera. Luckily, freelance writer, Pauline Pechin was also present. She wrote a nice little recap of the event.

This Is Why You’re Fat
Just looking at most of this stuff gives me heart murmurs.
(thanks ASF&K)

“Music Covers Are Not Graphic Design. . .”
says Peter Saville, in a recent interview. Read about it over on Eye Magazine’s blog.
(via Design Observer)

Sci-Fi Channel becomes SyFy Channel, not that anyone cares.
Couldn’t tell you the last time I watched this channel. For some reason, the change makes me think of the book 1984 and the concept of newspeak. Let’s just hope I don’t get accused of thoughtcrime.

Hand Dryers From Around The World
Very cool…errm…dry.
(via Clusta)