Monthly Archives: March 2009

Beautiful Application Design

When you talk to designers about “application design” there seems to be an invisible box created that immediately gets filled with assumptions. Overly beveled. Tons of chrome. Boring. All too often, whether because of application bloat, feature creep or simply inelegant & unimaginative solutions, designs for applications end up looking like they were stamped out by the same “application making machine”. Well It doesn’t’ have to be this way. As digital/interactive solutions occupy more channels,  brand touch-points get closer and more frequent and the lines get blurred on the continuum from applications to advertisements, different ways of approaching application design will prove to be successful. These solutions will  be elegant and nontraditional and they should be embraced and learned from. These will be as much brand-immersing experiences as they will be tools to accomplish a task. As such the traditional approach to application design will need to be bent a bit.

We’re starting to see glimpses of this new breed to “application design” in Fallon‘s new social media aggregator called Skimmer (designed by Andy Gugel):

Lots of usability experts will surely take issue with some of the affordances and contrast decisions made in this application, as well as pick apart some of the ID. And they’ll have points to be considered surely, but at the end of the day – it’s gorgeous. And my point of view isn’t just as a visual designer geeking out on a beautiful design. Skimmer represents the possibility of moving away form the expected and into the immersive.

We’re moving toward that future-state we’ve all known was just around the corner, a state where highly meaningful and functional interactions are facilitated through immersive interfaces. And business needs are solved through interactive design.

Great work Andy and the entire Fallon team.

You Don’t Get It

My Favorite Rolling Stone Author, Matt Taibbi, has a fantastic (and fantastically long) article on the financial crisis; where we are, how we got here and where we’re going. Here’s a snip:

The most galling thing about this financial crisis is that so many Wall Street types think they actually deserve not only their huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles but the awesome political power their own mistakes have left them in possession of. When challenged, they talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.

“But wait a minute,” you say to them. “No one ever asked you to stay up all night eight days a week trying to get filthy rich shorting what’s left of the American auto industry or selling $600 billion in toxic, irredeemable mortgages to ex-strippers on work release and Taco Bell clerks. Actually, come to think of it, why are we even giving taxpayer money to you people? Why are we not throwing your ass in jail instead?”

But before you even finish saying that, they’re rolling their eyes, because You Don’t Get It. These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they’re on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.

Good luck with that, America. And enjoy tax season.

Read On

Steven Johnson Killing It Some More

Steven Johnson is my favorite writer. Interface Culture was a seminal read for me in college, as was Emergence. When The Ghost Map came out, hyper-local content was the buss term du jour. Johnson spring-boarded from writing a book about hyper-local information and organization to creating a digital product with it as it’s thesis. A few years later is thriving. It is through this lens that I’m anxious to read The Invention of Air, his latest book. A few days ago I couldn’t wait to see what offshoots it would spawn, his latest talk at SxSW (sadly I was NOT in attendance) gives us a glimpse. As usual he does not disappoint, this read is amazing – so thought provoking:

The Ecosystem model:

The funny thing about newspapers today is that their audience is growing at a remarkable clip. Their underlying business model is being attacked by multiple forces, but their online audience is growing faster than their print audience is shrinking. As of January, print circulation had declined from 62 million to 49 million since my days at the College Hill Bookstore. But their online audience has grown from zero to 75 million over that period. Measured by pure audience interest, newspapers have never been more relevant. If they embrace this role as an authoritative guide to the entire ecosystem of news, if they stop paying for content that the web is already generating on its own, I suspect in the long run they will be as sustainable and as vital as they have ever been. The implied motto of every paper in the country should be: all the news that’s fit to link.

Read More

More analysis to come…

It Does Look Generic

It Does Look Generic, originally uploaded by victor.brunetti.

I was a big fan of the redesign because I like the clean almost international-style aesthetic. However I do have to admit that it DOES look like a generic brand next to the competitors (the biggest complaint of the redesign). I think it has to do with the contrast or saturation ratios. It simply gets lost on the shelf. However taken alone I think it’s fantastic… This is why you user-test and focus-group and never ever fret about killing your darlings.

Bad News for MTV

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the MTV paradox, which is, they are (or were depending on which letter is next to your “gen-” label) the first name that comes to mind when people think music videos. Oh, and footage of dancing spring break babes and shirtless meat-heads, they’ve got that too… But now people are going to YouTube for music videos, and why not? The content is available for free on-demand. And new bands without the resources to create highly produced videos are experiencing more than a modicum of notoriety when something truly engaging is created. Remember OK Go from 2007? The only drawback to YouTube in my opinion are the annoying people recording their reactions to things I could care less about and the crap quality of the video and audio that comes form their videos. Both fixable issues.
So what does MTV do to maintain its relevance in the music video space? We’re all accustomed to the meme, “content is king”. And there is no better test case for this than MTV. They’re a marginal player in the record industry, produce only some of the videos they air and of the videos they do produce they don’t necessarily own the rights to those songs. Lawyer Wars – fight!

And now comes even more bad news:

YouTube, Universal in Talk on Music Video Site

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Google’s YouTube and Universal Music Group are in talks to create a premium online music video service, sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

If they reach a deal, the service could mark a significant step forward in Google’s attempt to generate revenue from YouTube, which it acquired for $1.65 billion in 2006.

Read On

It looks like the lessons of Hulu are being heard loud and clear: team up at the source and crack open the honey-pot for all to taste. Only this time there’s a twist by involving YouTube, which I can only guess is intended to leverage their well-known, well-used and cross-channel (web, mobile, Apple TV) distribution platform. You Tube also provided both the biggest threat and the biggest benefit to record labels at the same time. Their content was being pirated for free, which no one at the big bad labels could stomach, but paradoxically, this freely distributed content contributed to cold, hard, record sales by promoting bands through social networks and rankings. In one fell swoop this deal mitigated the negative and reinforced the positive. Brilliant!

So what is MTV to do? Without exclusive ownership of content, licensing restrictions must provide significant handcuffs to continued domination. With users already establishing digital use-patterns that don’t involve MTV at all, eating away at that pattern must be nigh impossible. Sadly, the ship might have sailed on this one. Record labels no longer have an incentive to call a do-over and bring MTV into the digital fold. It’s too bad too, I grew up on that channel, man – used to love 120 Minutes…

Not A Fanboy, But…

I’m no Microsoft fanboy, but this future-vision piece they put together paints quite an exciting view of the future. I especially love the idea of children collaborating and interacting from across the world, becasue if there’s anything we could use at this point, it’s a deeper understand and respect for divergent cultures & customs.

The tech stuff is hoTT as well:

<a href=";playlist=videoByUuids:uuids:a517b260-bb6b-48b9-87ac-8e2743a28ec5&#038;showPlaylist=true&#038;from=shared" target="_new" title="Future Vision Montage">Video: Future Vision Montage</a>