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bloatwareI recently posted about how much I like Flux versus Dreamweaver. With it’s emphasis on being intuitive and focused on what to do that a web designer needs. But one thing that I really liked about it too was getting rid of the clutter and un-needed features in an interface and how smaller the application was. Mac applications in general have amazing intuitive interface design. But there’s a couple of app titans out there that are still kicking and screaming into that idea. That’s Adobe and Microsoft. Adobe’s general interfaces really haven’t changed since their most early versions of software. What has changed though is they’ve added more and more bloated features and windows and fucntions to their software. The result a 1000 pound gorilla you’re taking to the horse race. What I’m happy to see is people are actually competing against these monsters of software. You have competition to things like Office with Open Office, iWorks, etc that are either free or substantially at a lower cost point. Acorn and Gimp are taking their shot at the Photoshop juggernaut and if they can get some of the compatibility issues resolved they’ll have something pretty solid. These new apps are a much smaller foot print in file size and often offer the same functionality minus a few of the features only a handful of people ever even think about using so I’ll take my software on a diet thank you very much. It’s also much better on my wallet.

the flux interface

My holy grail has been for a WYSIWYG editor to truly handle CSS layout intuitively and properly. While Dreamweaver is very powerful it’s lasting roots are in traditional table layouts and their CSS preview has a lot to be desired plus it’s an interface that’s quite overwelming and confusing. What I’ve been seeking is a CSS layout program that is designed for designers not coders. Program like Codoa and CSS edit really appeal to hard core developers and not the visual layout designer. It’s never really made sense to me that people work in a text editing view to render something visually it seems archaic and counterintuitive. That’s a big reason I got so excited with the prospects of a program called “Flux” by a company called The Escapers. Their current release 2.47.7 and its quite impressive. I’ve been working for only a short while with the 30 demo and already see the tremendous amount of productivity gains from this app. All your css atributes are presented in intuitive side dialog boxes while you can still edit in a code view I think you’ll find the layout interface a breath of fresh air from the tedium coding. Drag and drop your elements, lists, divs, and tables while still adhering to css standards and simply point and click to make adjustments. it’s the closes I’ve seen yet to bridging the gap of desktop layout to web page layout. Check out this screencast of Flux in action. 1.21 gigawatts not needed. http://www.theescapers.com/screencast/index.html

Check out some these great t-shirt designs you can buy for your favorite designer.

html t-shirt

with all this corn...he needs more brand.

With all that corn...he's gonna need some more brand in his diet.

 

You know as a web designer nothing is more disheartening then working on a website that has a truly horrible logo and accompanying outdated marketing materials. Usually it’s a bad hand drawn of artwork or something that looks like it was rushed out by a highschool kid with his first PC. It’s not just that it makes designing so much more difficult to work around that sore spot but you get so frustrated because you know that small business or organization is doing some great things and their visual identity quite frankly says the opposite. Often the client is like “well we’ve had that logo for 30 years, it’s what people know us for, but we want a website that really shows us as leaders” Do you see the disconnect? They want a great website that really reflects their amazing organization but they never looked at a root problem, their brand and more specifically the anchor that is their visual identity. They almost feel personally attached to it and it’s human nature to oppose change even for the better.

Listen, it’s time to let that 70’s disco inspired abstract symbol with the courier font to go to pasture. It’s not what your company is…it may have been what your company was when everyone in your office was in leisure suits smoking cigarettes and drove without seat belts but this isn’t who you are any more nor how you want to be portrayed. Your competition is utilizing social media, is taking fresh approaches in how they market themselves and you continue to trudge along in the trenches not realizing your getting passed by everyone else. It’s time to set yourself apart and take your branding to the next level.

Your brand needs to have a strong visual identity that not only can reach out to your existing customers and potential new customers but your own employees as well. It solidifies your direction and connects the points in the intangibles ways about  describing your business, it’s energy, it’s advantages. It helps create brand loyalty among your customers. Just remember you need a great business/product or the logo is just lying. the new brand has to be truthful and open just like your business has to be.

Since I’ve been doing logo design in tangent with developing an online presence, I’ve seen clients renewed and energized about their business again. They love being involved with the creative process of creating a logo and more importantly clearly laying out what their business is about and how it should be represented. My job as a designer is just to focus that and make it easily communicated visually. I’m not saying every business needs a logo redesign but I think a lot of companies could use a brand makeover. It might not be redesigning their logo but sometimes an evaluation of a business goals and direction can unmask some unforeseen problems in their visual identity that can be tweaked. Even if its font usage, colors or simple thematics around it which can better support their logo both in their print materials and the web. In the end a company or business that is excited about what they’re doing makes the world a little better in my opinion. I’m glad I can try to help in that.

 

stock

Who are these people? I’ve never seen them in any office I’ve been in yet. This article talks about how stock photos aren’t true representation of the companies they’re trying to portray. I mostly agree but the flip side is the difficulty in convincing a client they need to invest in hiring a photographer to take some quality photos of them in the office or their clients which could run them hundreds or even thousands of dollars when they see a stock photo for $5 as a better alternative. I would lean towards the nice stock photo over someone using their new digital camera and trying to shot photos themselves. The selection of reasonably priced stock photos which might seem large is actually quite small when it comes to very specific types of photos you’re looking for at a quality level you need. That’s why you’ll see a lot of the same photos creeping up in multiple sites. There’s a much smaller selection of reasonably prices and the highest quality a customer needs. Places like Istock and Shutterstock offer a large selection at low prices while places like photodisc have a smaller selection at amazing quality but the prices are ridiculous high. I think if someone found a middle ground they could make a killing in the market, or better yet photographers that offer special package pricing for web usage.

 

Vipp24YellowCab

Man what is up with people in Sweden and Denmark? They’re just a bunch of free wheelin snow lovin’ designers over there putting out some amazing useable products. And what do we have to show lately? The ShamWow? Check out this trash bin instead. The Vip Waste Bin is handmade in Denmark and is gorgeous as far trash bins go. What I especially love  is that the lid is specially designed to not making a loud banging noise when you shut it after releasing the pedal. Just goes to so even something as pedestrian as a trash bin can have aesthetic care and attention to usability enhancements that make it a far superior product. at $250 to $470 they better be awesome though.

IKEA has changed the headline and body fonts it uses in catalog and advertising from it’s custom futura type to less aesthetically pleasing Verdana. This has caused what I’d coin as a “complete insane uproar” in the design community. Designers are practically at their blue and yellow doors with pitchforks and torches making petitions, burning photos of the Swedish chef from the muppets,etc.

beforeandafter_futura-vs-verdana

Really I admire IKEA’s useable design…I do find their product aesthetics a bit too sterile but it is insanely useable. People need to relax over this font change a bit. It’s not like PEPSI who totally redid their logo and branding for the worse and for no good reason that costed them millions of dollars across the board. IKEA did this as a business choice as Verdana works easier for international publication and web use. I think if Futura was a standard web font this might not have occurred and thus shows the importance of the web presence. They actually unified their font useage across web and print now and while Verdana is a sad choice consider it’s one of only a few choices they have in order to take that route. In the end this is not going to cause people to no longer shop at their stores nor does it really damage their brand perception to the degree designers are saying. In fact I’d venture to say that most people won’t even notice. Sure we designers consider this a slap in the face to typography useage but this isn’t the worse thing they could have done. The Pepsi rebranding was a waste of a money this was a money saving technique.

While I consider this a dent in the IKEA armor I don’t think it’s the devastating bad decision the rest of the design community is making it out to be. There aren’t vikings running in the streets, people are not tossing their meatballs out kitchen windows. I think sometimes designers can be oh just a bit too high and mighty for their own good. Now relax and go down to IKEA and buy your $50 plastic table you and get your alan wrench ready. I’ll be hanging out at the Pottery Barn instead.

beforeandafter_ikea

One of the struggles in web design and more importantly Information architecture is to get the client out of the mind set that the website is all about them and how they see their business. In reality outside the office walls, It’s actually for their customers and potential customers. A web presence is not stroke corporate egos or to be used as a weapon of internal departmental struggles for attention. That’s not helping your customers.

It’s vital now to have a website to be viewed as a tool or resource rather than simply a online business brochure. We’ve moved past the days of having 3 main tabs of “about us, our services, contact us”. Users are expecting more…they’re expecting for you to engage and interact with them on equal footing. You want to be heard above the competition? This means understanding who is coming to your site and how they would potentially use it. The website needs to provide these pathways wether through promoting online web services or tying into social media outlets for value added service or simply organizing your content in a way condusive to your users finding information rather than just for yourself. Creating real dialog between customers and business and taking the board of directors out of their ivory towers. It Lets your customers become your advocates and you’ll sales increase because of it.

Even from an information architecture stand point if you continue to use internal terminology that only your employees would understand then how are you reaching your target audience. Think about how your website is currently organized. Is it setup according to your own internal business practices, processes, and corporate hierarchy? Would this site even be understood to someone outside your office and is it really helping anyone?

Your content needs to be organized and most importantly thoughtfully written in such a way that a person coming to your site immediately knows who you are, and what you can do for them and where to go to find out how get their problems solved. The web has evolved past the point of pure selling and wants to reach out to your customers who are anxiously waiting to find answers. They’re much smarter than you give them credit for and will see through gimmicky marketing jargon, flashy sales pitches and will abandon an unorganized bureaucratic website (take a look at some of your state government sites for example.) Honesty, openness and trust are the new ways of doing business. Time to get on board. your customers are already leaving the station.

Is this the potential of pure design function over aesthetics

Is this the potential future of pure design function over aesthetics sensibilities

Apple is leading the pack when it comes to the industrial design but I’m wondering where they can really take the design direction next? The ipod has become a super thin piece of aluminium…very sleek, powerful and caters to absolute usability but how can you change the design now? They’ve continuously stripped away elements down to the core aesthetics and I don’t see how they can improve on it aesthetics-wise. Johnathan Ives must be sitting around twittering his thumbs. I’ve seen this is design approach across multiple markets. Furniture design like that from IKEA emphasises minimal aesthetics and pure functional form but doesn’t it just seem a little sterile? Minimal font usage on simple stark backgrounds, commercials with just a white background? So is good design merely a result of great useability or do we run the risk of creating boring sterile environments and products akin to living in the land of THX 1138 as seen above? When I visit antique stores and look at the old advertising and wood crafted furniture there’s a totally different type of care and craftsmanship that went into these products. hand drawn, painted intricate designs that obviously took tremendous amount of time and care. This level of detail and intricacy in design we just don’t see anymore today when you can just use a computer and crank out something. While I definitely appreciate the pure design forms and simple usability focus at the same time miss a time when craftsmanship and artistic expression was more in focus. It could just be the artist in me.

popaganda_kermit

I am huge fan of Shepard Farley and vintage propaganda style posters. There was something very bold and unique about the style of posters we saw from Cuba, Russia and our own war-time illustrations. Check out this pop-culture take on the style.

Here’s one I did for my boss as a wall poster. Everyone seemed to get a kick out of it.

bunmi_big

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