Pixel City

Oh look, another blog about design and technology

More awesome housing

This place is amazing. The only thing that could make it better would be surrounding it with a lazy river. :-)

Great article about designing with accessibility in mind

I can't say enough about this piece. Lots of good info here from a member of the Salesforce.com design team.

Disney color palettes

Very cool. Check'em out.

Apple Watch App Design

I'm sure there will be many articles about this. Here's one. It's a great overview of how he made the app, and how he changed it immediately after actually spending some time using it.

Before (left) and after (right)

Cinematography Analysis

"Every Frame a Painting". Good stuff.

Every Automotive Emblem, Explained

Title says it all. (Except they don't cover every emblem. Sadly, they mention Oldsmobile's but they don't show it.) Not super in-depth, but they cover a lot.

The story of EA's hockey game

Not quite "design of", but the story behind the game is pretty neat.

Evolution of the Star Wars logo

I love this stuff. I drew countless 'STAR WARS' logos in my notebooks as a kid. These are much better. :-)

Awesome housing

I just found out about this: "Habitat 67", in Montreal, Canada. "It was originally conceived as [a] master's thesis in architecture at McGill University and then built as a pavilion for Expo 67, the World's Fair held from April to October 1967."

You always get the coolest things from World's Fairs.

Pixels: The Movie

Of course I was going to link to this.

Happy 25th birthday, Photoshop!

Video of some current Photoshop users trying to use Photoshop 1.0.

Progress!

Stephen Hackett at 512 Pixels has a great writeup on how the iPad has changed in 5 years — and how much it hasn't. The most striking thing to me is that it's gone from 1/2 inch thick to 1/4 inch. As he points out, "the entire iPad Air 2 is as thick as the sidewall on the original iPad." (Referring to the gently tapered profile of the original iPad.)

Sound design?

Yup, love that too. It's everywhere — computers, cars, and even food.

Detail about fajitas is here:

Chili’s kept the recipe simple and relied primarily on the sizzle to not only turn heads but also trigger a barrage of senses: you hear them, then you notice the smoke and smell the aroma. Add up all of that, and you don’t just taste or see a neat-looking dish with Chili’s sizzling fajitas. You experience it.

Great job, Samsung!

No, really. Not being sarcastic here. They really did a great job with this series of fine-art-based ads.

Arrange by Color

From an interview with Faith Korpi:

I arrange all the app icons in my dock by color because that’s the only way I’ll remember where everything is. I’ve tried sorting them by type and how often I use them, but by color is the only method that doesn’t leave me scanning the whole bar for the icon I’m looking for.

Good to know that...

.. the targeting system for Terminators is coming along nicely: Dynamic Target Tracking Camera

 

Vague UI: Bad.

From Stephen Hackett's review of Evernote's new "Context" feature:

On the Mac app, the verbiage makes me think that Context can’t be turned off, just hidden. Clicking the “Manage Context Sources” button loads the Evernote web app, where sources can be turned off. These settings do sync with the iOS device, which is nice, but again, it’s unclear if this feature can be disabled completely.

This is very bad. There is a world of difference between "do/don't do" and "show/don't show". "Show/don't show" implies that the action is happening no matter what you choose. Unless you have good reason to do otherwise, it's generally better to build an app with settings that "do/don't do" instead of "show/don't show". It impacts many important things, including performance, battery life, network data usage, storage space usage, and privacy.

A Note to Designers

If you're going to put links at the bottom of your page, DO NOT use infinite scroll. Otherwise, cool site.

40 hidden logo symbols

Hiding symbols inside logos can be a gimmick, but it can also be done very well and for good reason. Here are a bunch that span the spectrum. Some are a bit of a reach (the hidden tire in the Continental logo?) but there are a lot of good ones here.

Pixar's Cars

Cars is generally the least-liked Pixar movie. Most people agree that even the worst Pixar movie is better than the average film, but beyond that, I think it is very underrated. I think it's one of the best, especially for young kids, for many reasons.

The story is very simple: a racercar wants to win a race, but he gets lost on the way, and winds up making new friends. That's it. It's not a complicated plot. There's no violence, other than cars pushing each other around a bit. Nothing scary. No dead parents. No monsters. No warping of time and space. No evil villains. No giant sharks. No sadistic kids. No toys getting pulled apart or being tossed into a grinder or incinerator. You don't need to know anything about how the world works — fossil fuels, energy production, land rights, or economics. No complicated references to other film genres or mythology.

Granted, Cars 2 is pretty much the exact opposite, but the original Cars has many great qualities that a lot of people overlook.

One thing Apple kinda glossed over today...

Yosemite Review

This button. Click it.

'Reduce transparency' option in Yosemite

Seriously. Transparency is bullcrap. No, Sir Jony, your OS is not all about "focusing on my content", you're just smearing crap all over the screen. When I have a window open, I want to see that window, not part of what's behind it. You're making what I want to read, harder to read. I want to read what I want to read, not what's behind it. How is that so hard to understand?

I worked for a publisher. Like almost all publishers, we used the cheapest paper possible, but we weren't so cheap as to use paper that you could see through. That makes things worse, not better. Didn't you guys move away from this once already?

Screenshot of transparency in OS X 10.1

I can't wait for brushed metal to come back in OS X 10.11: Pittsburg. (Coincidentally, there is a Pittsburg in California, so that name could work.)

Color and Usability

Interesting article from C. G. P. Grey about how color imacts usability. (Via Marco Arment)

Reasons to Upgrade Your Phone

Not just rationalizations — there are actually good reasons to upgrade your phone sooner rather than later.

  • The new phone will be in warranty.
  • Flash drives slow down over time.
  • Batteries degrade over time.
  • Buttons wear out. Probably on all phones, but in particular, the home button and sleep/wake buttons on iPhones seem to wear out a lot as you hit the two-year mark.
  • You will be able to run the newest OSs and apps well.
  • If you're on a plan where your phone is subsidized and your monthly payment doesn't go down once it's paid off, you're leaving money on the table if you don't take advantage of the ability to upgrade as soon as it's possible.
  • iPhones hold their value well, and you'll get more money for it the sooner you sell it.

So... if you can afford to upgrade comfortably, do it!

Inspiration

You don't always get a big "aha!" moment when trying to solve a problem, but when you do, it's pretty sweet.

"... image stabilization was the answer, but the technologies of that time, which you’d find in Final Cut and myriad other video editing programs, were simply unworkable for smartphones. ... image stabilization algorithms typically analyze a movie frame by frame, identifying image fragments common to each. By recording how those shared points jump around across frames, algorithms can then infer how the camera has been moving. By reverse engineering that motion data, software can recreate a new, steadier version of a film clip. Yet every step in that process requires processing muscle. That’s fine for a movie studio, which has massive computers that crank overnight to re-render a scene. It’s ridiculous for a smartphone... Karpenko had an aha moment: Smartphones didn’t have nearly enough power to replicate video-editing software, but they did have built-in gyroscopes. On a smartphone, instead of using power-hungry algorithms to model the camera’s movement, he could measure it directly. And he could funnel those measurements through a simpler algorithm that could map one frame to the next...

From an article in Wired about the creation of Hyperlapse for Instagram.

Name design?

Yes, it exists. This great old (1999!) article popped into my head so I figured I'd add a link to it. I think it's hysterical — a view into an industry that's so nuts it almost reads like satire.

“What a crummy name,” he says. “[Agilent] sounds like a committee name. ‘Who’s your competition?’ ‘Lucent.’ ‘Well, we want to play off Lucent — only we’re agile.’ I mean, if you wanted a name like that, I could come up with that kind of name in about four seconds.”

...

Landor, for its part, is quick to defend its handiwork. “To our critics, I can only say, vive la diffirence, vive the competition and vive individual entrepreneurialism,” says Redhill, in his gentle, grandfatherly voice. “We have the utmost confidence in our model.” To drive home that point, Redhill put me in touch with Darius Somary, the research director who had confirmed to an empirical certainty the allure of names like Agilent. “From a quantitative standpoint, it’s a very appealing name,” Somary told me. “On all the scalar measures of distinctiveness and appropriateness, it tested right off the charts.”

Wine

I occasionally post things here that are not design- or technology-related but are just really interesting. This is one of them — an article about how climate change will affect the grapes grown for wine production. (Via Paris Lemon.)

Great Video about Adobe Illustrator

Fast Company has a great video (19 minutes) about the history and impact of Adobe Illustrator. One of the interviewed subjects is Dylan Roscover, a former Full Sail student, who had his work used in Time Magazine while he was still in school.

Word Crimes

What does it take to make a 3 minute, 44 second video with amazing kinematic type? About "500 hours of work in After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator and Premiere". Read (and watch) all about it in this post by the creator, Jarrett Heather.

Word Crimes screenshot

I never would have guessed that these companies shared this typeface.

Apple, Reebok, and Trapper Keeper. Who knew?

logos

Via 512pixels.

How to Design a TV Show

OK, that's not really what this article is about, but the design stuff is my favorite part.

Siskel and Ebert had switched to sitting in movie theater seats—slightly angled, 18 inches apart—to a mock balcony, a kind of belvedere from which they could surveil all of moviedom. This created a narrative frame for the reviews. They were critics playing moviegoers, who discussed films as they were shown to them; it gave the show its sitcom quality, which became a central part of its appeal... In order to sustain the illusion, Siskel and Ebert would turn their heads in the direction of the screen after introducing a clip, as though they were watching it alongside the viewer... It read as inclusive; the camera always positioned the viewer either in a seat close to the hosts, or in an impossible spot just leaning over the balcony railing.

I totally want some of this material.

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it.

"You expect to see the hills and all you can see … it's like black, like a hole, like there's nothing there. It just looks so strange," said Ben Jensen, the firm's chief technical officer.

"Beats" Design

Congratulations to the design firm Ammunition for helping grow Beats from nothing* in 2006 to a $3 billion purchase by Apple in 2014. Never let it be said that you can't get anywhere with a stick-and-ball letter for your logo. Thanks to Ammunition for this great look into their work. (And thanks to Daring Fireball for letting me know that Ammunition exists.)

Beats logo wireframe

* OK, I guess they had a few million from Dre to start... but other than that — nothing. :-)

Birth of the Mall

Long and detailed (of course) story from The New Yorker about malls, by Malcom Gladwell.

Then he looked up and pointed to the second floor of the mall. The handrails were transparent. “We don’t want anything to disrupt the view,” Taubman said. If you’re walking on the first level, he explained, you have to be able, at all times, to have an unimpeded line of sight not just to the stores in front of you but also to the stores on the second level. The idea is to overcome what Taubman likes to call “threshold resistance,” which is the physical and psychological barrier that stands between a shopper and the inside of a store. “You buy something because it is available and attractive,” Taubman said. “You can’t have any obstacles.

Designing a Taco

The inside story of the Taco Bell/Doritos marriage. The idea is pretty simple; this story is all about the execution. It's full of sweet, sincere, unintentionally hilarious lines like "To tackle this huge challenge, for months we shared know-how between the technical teams at Frito-Lay and Taco Bell" and "We had teams of engineers working day and night to get the seasoner working", but also interesting stuff like...

"When you buy a bag of Doritos and you open it, and some of the corners are broken off, you're probably not going to be that mad, because they're still Doritos," Gomez says. "But if our taco shells are broken in transit or in the restaurants, we can't do anything with them. That was a big obstacle for us. How do we make these shells chip-like, but also be able to ship them and still be able to build a taco without having them break?"

Design (and manufacturing) is all about constraints.

a picture of a taco

Juice design? Of course!

It's easy to not think about the fact that juice companies can somehow make juice that tastes the same all year. Sadly, it's heavily processed and then re-flavored. Even the brands that are advertised as "natural", aren't. Still, it's interesting to see a little of how this happens, if also a bit sad.

After the oranges are squeezed, the juice is stored in giant holding tanks and, critically, the oxygen is removed from them. That essentially allows the liquid to keep (for up to a year) without spoiling — but that liquid that we think of as orange juice tastes nothing like the Tropicana OJ that comes out of the carton. In fact, it's quite flavorless. So, the industry uses "flavor packs" to re-flavor the de-oxygenated orange juice... Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren't listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor... Since they're made from by-products that originated in oranges, they can be added to the orange juice without being considered an "ingredient," despite the fact that they are chemically altered.