6 posts categorized "Design"

The latest in family portraiture

If you and your family are in Tokyo for the Thanksgiving holiday, consider heading for Shibuya-ku to have your family scanned for a 3D printed portrait!

Omote3DHere's the process, as explained on the Omote 3D website.

I thought it would be fun to compare a sample portrait from the Omote site (it's the three figurines standing in a Joseph-Cornell like shadow box) with family portraits in other media.

The painting, Portrait of the Coozzadini Family (1584), is by Lavina Fontina.

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Adams family portrait

The daguerreotype is of the Adams family, from 1846.

Apple Products and the Force of Personality

As fascinating and well paced as Walter Isaacson's biography of the late Steve Jobs is, Jobs's character did not "click" for me until page 486.

The context is Jobs struggling in a hospital near death with pneumonia. Isaacson writes:

"Even when he was barely conscious, his strong personality came through. At one point the pulmonologist tried to put a mask over his face when he was deeply sedated. Jobs ripped it off and mumbled that he hated the design and refused to wear it. Though barely able to speak, he ordered them to bring five different options for the mask and he would pick a design he liked. . . . He also hated the oxygen monitor they put on his finger. He told him it was too ugly and too complex. He suggested ways it could be designed more simply. . . ."

Suddenly Isaacson's thesis fell into place: Jobs was hard-wired to be the person he was; Jobs's life is admirable, because he found a way to engage with and contribute to the world that wholly leveraged his temperament.

Apple Products and the Force of Personality

Later in the book (page 543) Isaacson quotes Jobs speaking about one of his own children. "She's in the process of learning how to be who she is, but tempers it around the edges so that she can have the friends that she needs." I read into this a self-awareness, too, and a moral philosophy of life, almost as though you should assess your own personality as a resource for which the optimum use should be found.

The book may have implications for the political debates between proponents of open or closed systems. Or, at least, it debunks the idea that all players in the market arrive rationally at the views they have.

You put the book down with the conviction that Apple's strong positions on the side of integration and utility are not reasoned business calculations but rather manifestations of Jobs's own aesthetic of control. It is absolutely eye-opening to pick up and work with an iPhone, having just read Isaacson's work.

Park Place

The building across University Street from my office's building is called Park Place.

It's not an ugly building but until recently it was invisible, perhaps because it lacked approaches designed to actually take you there. University Street functions as an on-ramp to I-5; the sidewalks funnel pedestrians away from the highway and west, down the hill in the direction of the waterfront, or else north, past my building, to the retail area.

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But some clever architect(s) or designer(s) have given the building, and the whole block, character, through a redesign of what had been Park Place's throwaway entry area.

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One of these pictures is of a workman finishing the installation of metal type to make sure you're struck with the name of the place (not sure I could put a name to the building before). Above the letters you can see a screen mesh, which somehow, by covering the space between the columns, accentuates the height of the columns. From inside, the mesh gives volume to the space, making it atrium-like, but still transitional - between outdoors and inside.

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In the gray, drizzly winter afternoons of Seattle, it's hard to get a picture that captures how well the re-design draws the eye through a play with materials and texture. But in the early evening, the space show off for pictures. Chandeliers glow from the box and warm the whole street. Really nice work. They may need to put a chair or two in there.

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Professional Indifference (or, Putting On the Best Typeface)

Over the long, sunny weekend, the last of summer, just ended, I sat in the backyard and read an entertaining book by Simon Garfield, "Just My Type," about typefaces.

Screen shot 2011-09-05 at 7.55.00 PMIt's terrific introduction for the novice. The book is broken up into small stories, each with a theme (e.g., "Can a font be German, or Jewish?") and each with a leading character to profile. Like New Yorker profiles, and that well written.

Something different about the book, though similar to the "Entrepreneur's Perspective" breakouts in Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson's 'Venture Deals' book, are the "FontBreaks," brief asides between chapters that discuss a single font.

There are plenty of pictures and samples of type throughout. Occasionally, Garfield's explication of the features of a given typeface extend past the sampling. It can be frustrating to be following his canny observation, say, of the innovative positioning of the bowls of a lower case g, only to flip back a page to the sampling of that font to find the book's designer chose to stop at the letters b, h and i.

But that's a small complaint. The book is having an impact on me, as Jason and Adam of General UI will find out when they check their emails this morning. :)

One theme I foresee blogging about this Fall could be categorized under the tag, "professional indifference." I mean to bring it home and include lawyering in the discussion.

For the moment, however - and probably for as long as the main body of this blog remains set in Arial - permit the following quotation from Garfield's book to stand in on the subject.

"Spiekermann's rise to prominence coincides precisely with the rise of digital type, and also with the reunification of Germany. His fonts adorn the Berlin Transit Network and the Deutsche Bahn national railways, while a short walk from his office is the Philharmonie, the home of the Berlin Philharmonic, for whom Spiekermann designed the corporate branding. But that was a few years ago, and he isn't entirely happy with what's happened to it since. 'They fucked it up as quickly as they could,' he says. . . ."

"He's not very keen on the new posters either, preferring the images he gave them of landscapes. 'They said, "What does landscape have to do with music?" Like type, landscape and music are all about emotion. But that's the one thing about this job - I love to be a graphic designer, but could we get rid of the clients somehow please?'"

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Pictured: modern allegory in Bauer BodoniĀ® Bold Condensed; photo from Okan Tustas website.

Joe's New Blog Design (And a Note on "Bad Actors")

Joe Wallin has revamped the design of his blog and it looks great.

It's easier to read, and the design now pulls you into Joe's opinionated writing, which is what you're there for.

Screen shot 2011-07-28 at 8.42.56 PMNot that he's always right! His post this week about the SEC's proposed "bad actor" disqualifications raises a perfectly valid concern - one I share - that the new rules could do to Rule 506 to Reg D, what, well, 409A did to startups wanting to issue options to early employees. That is to say, in an effort to chill bad behavior in other, later stage, better capitalized sectors of the economy, regulators could write rules that, as applied to startups, are sheer overkill.

Keeping "bad actors" out of 506 offerings is a good idea. It's one of the mandates of Dodd-Frank and, as Joe knows, it's one of the reforms that were part of the Angel Investor Amendment that saved 506 from (then Senate Banking Committee Chair, now MPAA lobbyist) Christopher Dodd's initial, indiscriminate attack on startups and angel financing.

So I support the bad actor exclusion. Even as I applaud Joe for bring up the concern that the proposed rules are trending to overkill as applied to startups.

The "bad actor" disqualifications should be as easy to comply with as startups today comply with the accredited investor standard. Ideally, a questionnaire filled out by the appropriate persons should do it. And if it takes everyone some time for everyone to learn what the "bad actor" definitions are, I think that's okay. The integrity of Rule 506 is really important! If we're fortunate to get reform (elimination) the general solicitation prohibition, then it's probably even more important to keep scamming middlepersons out of the financing process.

Pictured: detail from Joe's new blog design. I like the buttons that navigate by making different use of the right hand column, without switching the page.

Blog Design

The blog design that's standing out for me lately is Chris Dixon's.

Picture 38It's simple, which signals right away that it's about the content. There's no sizzle, the links are sotto voce, but the design supports the product Chris delivers.

I wouldn't call Chris a prose stylist, but he is a good expository writer. It's evident he does the hard thinking off-site, out of view. The blog presents his considered report on a given topic. It's as if he's come prepared, not presuming you want to watch him in the process of building his conclusions.

Picture 41I love the ragged text at both vertical borders of the frame, justified along a vertical rule. The layout reminds me of legal pads with the "down line" a good inch and a quarter in from the left edge of the paper. Of course you're going to scribble phrases in that margin, even as you fill the main field of the pad with the argument.

The color scheme is basically two tones against against a white page. And the links to other pages, or elsewhere, stack in cascading boxes as you move the cursor down the left margin.

But when you hover over the name of a post, a link declares itself in red. I like that alert. That's one way to enter the comment thread (Chris is blessed with good discussions; but then again, the topics he picks and the calls he makes invite and deserve comment). The design invites you to spend time with a post as a "thing," an event for deliberation, a space in which to gather your own thoughts.

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