I recently stumbled upon a wealth of writing from the (arguably) preeminent graphic designer of our time, Paul Rand over on his website (though he now be deceased, since 1996). “The Politics of Design” was originally published in 1985 in the publication “A Designer’s Art.” It’s amazing how relevant the writing still is, perhaps no longer in the context of advertising, as Mr. Rand was writing then, but certainly in the context of the Silicon Valley bubble where the word “design” is bandied about like rumors of buy-outs and IPOs.
I selected a few choice sections, but really you should take yourself away to read the whole thing.
On what actual design is:
“Design is a way of life, a point of view. It involves the whole complex of visual communication: talent, creative ability, manual skill, and technical knowledge. Aesthetics and economics, technology and psychology are intrinsically relate to the process.”
On asking for multiple “drafts” or “concepts”:
“One of the more common problems which tends to create doubt and confusion is caused by the inexperienced and anxious executive who innocently expects, or even demands, to see not one but many solutions to a problem… This practice is as bewildering as it is wasteful. It discourages spontaneity, encourages indifference, and more often than not produces results which are neither distinguished, interesting, nor effective. In short, good ideas rarely come in bunches.”
On the skilled designer:
“His is an independent spirit guided more by an ‘inner artistic standard of excellence’(1) than by some external influence. At the same time as he realizes that good design must withstand the rigors of the marketplace, he believes that without good design the marketplace is a showcase of visual vulgarity.”
I’ll venture to modify his last sentence slightly: “After all, our epoch can boast of only one [Paul Rand].” (And by no means intending any disrespect to A.M. Cassandre!)
So much great stuff on the site, in general, and it’s beautifully (responsively) designed.
With critique like:
“…Gale is super hot… if Gale is a 10, then Peeta is only, like, a 6, maybe he’s a 7 when he has shorter hair…”
“In the end, it seems like if Katniss had to pick between Peeta and Gale, there really wouldn’t be a contest. Peeta would be like her cute friend that she hooks up with sometimes. But Gale, should be her actual boyfriend.”
…amazing and hilarious.
Unlike a lot of these lists that are just page view link bait, these are actually really good tips.
In an attempt to get back into the groove of blogging, I started dusting off my site and going through archives from yesterblog. Earlier today I came across this post from almost 7 years ago: Animated Director.
It was fascinating to see the results of the personality test I took almost a decade ago. I thought it would be even more interesting to see if the traits still hold true. So, I re-took the test.
I’m not sure what it means, but I am still a director. The results about me have not really changed all that much, the traits of me as a person are the same. What has changed, though, is the way I relate to others. It seems in my old(er) age I have become more compassionate and considerate, I like that.
I’ve been reading Norman Potter’s What is a Designer and am finding it to be quite intriguing - while a bit dense. Potter’s portrayal of the modern movement in design is both inspiring and applicable.
The book has got me thinking about: what is good design? Is it a strict adherence to the 9 key principles of the modern movement that Potter describes? Or is it an extraction from that? I’ve sat thinking about this for a bit, and have found a certain quoted passage to be the most insightful on the topic of good design.
Paul Schuitema was a graphic designer in the 1920s and 30s who worked in the Netherlands and Germany. Potter uses a direct quote from this designer that I deem quite worthy of reproduction here:
“We didn’t see our work as art; we didn’t see our work as making beautiful things. We discovered that the romantic insights were lies; that the whole world was suffering from phraseology; that it was necessary to start at the beginning. Our research was directed to finding new ways, to establishing new insights - to find out the real characterisitcs of tools and creative media. Their strengths in communication - their real value. No pretence, no outward show. Therefore, when we had to construct a chair or a table, we wanted to start with the constructive possibilities of wood, iron, leather and so on; to deal with the real functions of a chair, a living room, a house, a city: social organization. The human functions. Therefore, we worked hand-in-hand with carpenters, architects, printers, and manufacturers.
“To reduce chaos to order, to put order into things. To make things more clear, to understand the reasons. It was the result of social movement. It was not a fashion or a special view of art. We tried to establish our connection with the social situation in our work … The answer to our problems must be the questions: why? what for? how? and with what?” Design is inherently a commentary on the social atmosphere surrounding the designer. The designer and society are inextricably linked. Design, as an art, exists only as a form of communication, therein lies its power.
Good design, then, follows from the designer’s ability to transcend the form of the design, and realize the basic function of all design is social organization, the form will follow from that realization.
Potter suggests this when he advises students “…if you climb on top of a job, trying to master it, the work will suffocate. Let it take you, play with it, search for its own life” (author’s emphasis). Essentially, allow the design to flow on its own. Each element in a design is derived from the previous, you cannot master your design, it is its own creation. When a design begins from the basic function of social organization, the form will derive from that basic element an importance, a “goodness.”
If I use Apple as an (overused, I know) example, and even more cliché the iPod, we can apply this commentary to a real world design. The iPod has not been a big hit just because it’s a cool music player, it has become an icon because Apple recognized the socially derived desire to download music, perfected a device to play that music in a simple, easy-to-use package, then from that sprung an entirely new infrastructure, the iTunes Music Store.
Apple saw society’s love of music, and desire for simple, convenient access, and from that fundamental recognition of social organization sprang the iPod and its underlying infrastructure. That is design derived from social organization, a social need was dictated and has been addressed in a simple and elegant way. That is good design.
Apple’s next update to the OS X operating system, Lion, will be released sometime this month. There are a few things to consider before making any major OS upgrade on your Mac, and Lion has a few unique things to consider.
It’s a safe bet if you’re running 10.6 Snow Leopard and have the Mac App Store, you’re good to go. But Apple have outlined specific processor requirements — buried on the “How to Buy” page of their website — you need to have an Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, Core i5, Core i7 or Xeon processor.
Lion will drop support for Rosetta, the layer of OS X that made it possible to run apps written for the PowerPC chip on the Intel based models. It’s been 5 years since Apple made the switch to Intel processors, and makes perfect since that the next generation OS X will leave the old PowerPC-only apps in the dust.
But what if you’re still running PowerPC only applications? Well, they’re not going to work anymore after the Lion upgrade. So, find out what they are and replace them now, if you can. Anything mission-critical that is not Intel-only or Universal by this time probably never will be, so best to stay with Snow Leopard.
Anything with the Kind “PowerPC” will no longer work after the Lion upgrade. For me there are about 10 apps, and I actually don’t care about any of them.
This is the major question whenever upgrading to any new version of OS X. For me, in the past, I have opted for the “Archive & Install” option, which created a backup for your previous OS software and installed the new version fresh. From what I can tell, that is no longer an option with Lion because of it’s Mac App Store only distribution process. The only options here are a straight upgrade on top of Snow Leopard, or to do a clean install onto a new partition.
Fine, so what am I going to do? Part of me wants to perform a clean install, but the other part doesn’t want to deal with re-installing applications, copying back hundreds of gigabytes of media, re-customizing my user account, etc. I haven’t performed a fresh install of OS X on my iMac since Leopard, which makes me want to go that route. But the hassle isn’t worth it — Apple seem to be pushing upgrade-on-top-of-Lion as the way to go, so I’m inclined to trust that process will be fleshed out, and go with it.
Even though it isn’t due out until iOS 5 is officially released this fall, I already have my developer iCloud account with iOS 5 beta 2. The real power of iCloud doesn’t show up until you can use it on all of your devices, including your Mac. This is the killer feature of the new Apple OSes, no doubt about it.
These three working together will take computing to a whole new level of simplicity. And it sure does solve the problem of a floppy disk save icon. Amiright?
Its release is imminent, and I will be buying, downloading and installing on all of my Macs the day it comes out. What about you?
Aside from a few moments perusing if/when I receive my invitation, I will avoid Google+ for as long as possible.
Way back on May 12 of this year I posted the first entry into the freshly installed and slightly customized MoveableType engine on this very website. It would be my first foray back into blogging in 4… no, wait… 5 years.
Then something happened. Five days later, I forgot to post… for a month and a half. Yet I am intent upon making this work, I will not let this attempt fail alongside the previous. And so, here is my breaking through the silence entry — wherein I’ve reached the point that it might be easier to just let the blog sit with the thought that “well, I haven’t posted in a month, so why bother now?”, but instead I shall push through and pretend nothing is wrong.
I am so valiant.
In some defense, I was rather busy during that time. We had just launched Memorable Wines, the second in our Memorable Apps series, and had been highlighted by none other than the old-gray-lady of old-fashioned-journalism, The New York Times. A couple of weeks later I had to trudge north to Montana for a week for my day job’s annual meeting of the membership — which actually ended up being quite a relaxing trip (aside from the ongoing daytime technological hurdling that is inherent with any conference). I did manage to slip away for an afternoon into Glacier National Park, where I had the privilege to witness a Grizzly Bear fishing in the rapid runoff that feeds Lake McDonald, and only moments later was stalked by a Mule Deer the size of a large horse.
Meanwhile, in between, I moved into a new apartment in The Presidio of San Francisco’s latest adaptive reuse of historic military construction, The Presidio Landmark — a former merchant marine hospital, turned public health hospital, turned vacant dilapidated graffiti-laden 20 year eye sore, turned upscale condo-style apartment living. I love San Francisco…
And so, in the spirit of recaps — but also new habits — I made a big prediction back in May that I want to review. A new habit to set up along with regular posting on this site.
On May 12, I published an article “On MobileMe” in which I explained my reluctance and irritation with renewing my MobileMe subscription for $99. I also pointed out a few ways in which I thought MobileMe could be fixed. And while iCloud was not even a rumor at that time, I’m pleasantly surprised and fiercely optimistic for the service previewed several weeks later.
Overall, I’m going to claim a win for this set. Apple did exactly what I had hoped, and more.
To start, the new setup experience for iOS 5 is entirely on the device itself, the first thing you do is setup an iCloud account and configure it to backup your apps, etc. Imagine when you need to replace your device in the future, all you’ll have to do is login with your iCloud credentials and your music, apps (including their data and documents), contacts, e-mail, calendars, and iDevice settings will be synced without a cumbersome plug into iTunes. What’s more, you can sync your media from your computer wirelessly as well, if you need to. And, in spite of my prediction, this will extend to iOS updates too… iTunes as it exists now is done for. iCloud is the new iTunes.
iDisk is rendered useless as well, and so, I think, is the entire “dropbox” model. The user doesn’t need to know, or care, where that special folder is that syncs to a server somewhere. Since it’s built into the OS and the apps, it just happens. Currently, to sync something to iDisk (or Dropbox) and thus have it available on all of my devices, I need to make sure that that “something” is specifically saved into the “iDisk” drive. With iCloud, it doesn’t matter where it’s saved — Apple’s quest to destroy the file system just got an adrenaline boost.
Then there is the price. I envisioned some kind of tiered system, specifically:
“Tier 1: FREE!; Back to My Mac, Find My iPhone, calendar, contacts, gallery, e-mail and iDisk (now an over-the-air sync capable media locker) with 16GB of storage;
Tier 2: $29/year; all of Tier 1 with 32GB of storage;
Tier 3: $39/year; Tier 1 services with 64GB of storage;
Tier 4: $99/year; Tier 1 services with 200GB of storage and Time Machine backups (after all, Backup App used to be a .Mac only application).”
I was very wrong. There are tiers, but for storage space (you start off with a mere 5GB), which have yet to be disclosed. The baseline cost? Free.
A fantastic metaphor I read recently, is iCloud as a highway for your data. After you setup your account, it’s invisible. It doesn’t matter where the server is, or if your on iCloud.com, your Mac, your iPhone, your iPod (I suspect, even, iWork.com). All that matters is what app you are in, and your documents are just there. The app can even remember where your cursor was, and the information is instantaneously sent down to all of your devices, all of the time.
iCloud is clearly much more ambitious than just MobileMe 2.0, and that’s why MobileMe will cease to exist when iCloud is launched (well, about a year after its launch anyway). The metaphor of iCloud as a highway fits so well, but I suggest one should belabor the analogy a bit further… it’s much more like the interstate highway system.
Apple is opening it to developers.
Let that sink in for a moment. Apple have created a means for developers to store, and thus sync, documents seamlessly and instantly to all of a user’s other devices. You better believe this functionality will be inherent in thousands of apps, and yes, even some Memorable ones…
Apple is continuing to position its entire device line-up into a league of its own, with a strategy no one can beat. We’re not talking competition with Google here, or Microsoft, or RIM, or HP. There is no competition. Only Apple has the integration in place that is required for such a breath-taking seamless experience.
Exactly as Robert X. Cringely put it in an article I linked to a month.5 ago:
“Apple isn’t the next Microsoft, you see. Apple is not the next anything because the role it aspires to transcends anything imaginable by Microsoft, ever…”
Over at Boy Genius Report, they’ve caught wind of some super-secret-planning-and-training-ceremony at Apple Stores this weekend. Probably nothing… and I really hope Scott’s comments is wrong. (Ha Ha Ha)
Three tantalizing tidbits:
There’s an overnight shift planned for around 10-15 individuals at each Apple Store to work from late Saturday all the way through mid-Sunday.
During the overnight shift, it’s going to be required that employees lock cell phones in the main office. They will also have to sign an NDA with Apple.
Employees have had to download gigabytes of data from Apple corporate labeled, “training” in a password-protected zipped folder that won’t accessible to managers or anyone else until Saturday afternoon.