Pixel City

Oh look, another blog about design and technology

Car Design

Well-known designer Peter Brock recounts designing the Daytona Coupe in the 1960s. (13 minutes)

Apple Ports: they come, they go.

This is a great piece and it's totally the kind of thing I would do. Now I feel bad that I didn't have the idea first. Great job, The Verge.

chart

Shifter Design

Whether it caused a death or not, this design is pretty bad. If the position is important, make the position apparent.

Whose point of view?

iTunes: It should either be "My music" and "For me", or "Your music" and "For you". :-|

Lightweight Web Pages

Here's a great article (transcript of a talk, actually) on making small web pages. (Small as in fast-loading and small file sizes.)

What do I mean by a website obesity crisis?

Here’s an article on GigaOm from 2012 titled "The Growing Epidemic of Page Bloat". It warns that the average web page is over a megabyte in size.

The article itself is 1.8 megabytes long.

Here's an almost identical article from the same website two years later, called “The Overweight Web". This article warns that average page size is approaching 2 megabytes.

That article is 3 megabytes long.

On a related note, there's this post at quirksmode:

Pushing the web forward currently means cramming in more copies of native functionality at breakneck speed — interesting stuff, mind you, but there’s just too much of it... I don’t think this is a particularly good place to push the web forward to. Native apps will always be much better at native than a browser. Instead, we should focus on the web’s strengths: simplicity, URLs and reach.

Logo and Icon Design

A general rule of logos is that they should work well at all sizes. It's worth pointing out, though, that you are allowed to manually tweak them if needed to make them work in certain situations. Craig Hockenberry discusses what he did to make his company's icon work at very small sizes.

The animation to the left shows the progression of changes Anthony made to align the roof and windows of our factory on a 256×256 grid. While we ended up with a shape that’s different than our official logo, it renders a lot more clearly in the space provided.

TiVo

The design of the new TiVo Bolt seems pretty silly. I can't see any good reason for it to be shaped the way it is.

TiVo Bolt, in bent enclosure

A/V components (and most things, really) should be flat, so they stack nicely. But TiVo used to be great at design. Two little things they did in the past stand out to me:

  • I had a TiVo and I replaced its hard drive with a larger one. Later, I added a second drive. But the second time I had it open, I forgot to reconnect the fan. I woke up the next morning, and when I turned on my TV, I saw a message from my TiVo saying it had shut itself down due to heat. TiVo's engineers saved me from my own carelessness, and after reconnecting the fan, everything was fine, and that box worked for years. If they weren't so good, I would have woken up to an expensive, melted, non-functioning paperweight.
  • I had another TiVo that I kept for many years. In 2007, Daylight Saving Time was changed in the U.S. My TiVo did not update itself to show the correct time but it never had problems recording things. They'd display at the wrong time, but everything still worked. A show that should be on at 8pm would show up in the menu at 7pm, I'd set it to record, and it'd record. I don't know how they kept the backend working, despite the frontend not, but I never missed a show.

How to design a deceptive headline

The headline: "Is Apple Music a Total Failure?"

The end of the article: "So, is Apple Music a total failure or just a slight disappointment? For the time being, I'd lean toward the latter."

Can you say "linkbait"? I knew you could. Seriously, Slate, you suck.

The Golden Ratio

Fun read. And I agree 100%.

"The golden ratio is total nonsense in design. Here's why."

Let me be clear. I agree with the general premise — that the ratio doesn't have any amazing properties. (Other than certain technical usefulness.) But lines like this — "'Strictly speaking, it's impossible for anything in the real-world to fall into the golden ratio, because it's an irrational number,' says Keith Devlin, a professor of mathematics at Stanford University." — are just flat out wrong. That's like saying that there's no such thing as a circle because pi is irrational. Oh wait, they go on to say that two sentences later: "Just as it's impossible to find a perfect circle in the real world, the golden ratio cannot strictly be applied to any real world object. It's always going to be a little off." Um, OK. Circles don't exist in the real world. Got it. Thank you, Fast Company!

Music Design

 

Meet the 44-year-old Swede who's been writing American pop hits for 20 years.

They also created a template for the Max Martin sound, which combines ABBA’s pop chords and textures, Denniz PoP’s song structure and dynamics, eighties arena rock’s big choruses, and early-nineties American R. & B. grooves. On top of all that is Sandberg’s gift for melody... Like many of ABBA’s tunes, these Backstreet Boys songs use major and minor chords in surprising combinations (going to a minor chord on the chorus, say, when you least expect it), producing happy songs that sound sad, and sad songs that make you happy—tunes that serve a wide variety of moods.

“... Baby One More Time” ... was ABBA with a groove, basically... Without being fully aware of it, he’d forged a brilliant sound all his own, and within a few weeks every American producer was desperately scrambling to emulate it.”

Swedish writers are not partial to wit, metaphor, or double entendre, songwriting staples from Tin Pan Alley through the Brill Building era. They are more inclined to fit the syllables to the sounds—a working method that Martin calls “melodic math”—and not worry too much about whether the resulting lines make sense. (The verses in “I Want It That Way,” for example, completely contradict the meaning of the chorus lines.) ... This very freedom from having to make sense lyrically has allowed the Swedes to soar to such melodic heights.

(Ugh. I just hate The New Yorker's archaic house style. "R. & B."? Really?)