September 14, 2011
I’ve been a big fan of Leo Laporte and his This Week in Technology (TWIT) podcast for years. He’s been so successful that he now has a network of video and audio podcasts covering a wide range of digital topics; This Week in Google, TWIT Photo, Security Now, iPad Today, MacBreak Weekly, Windows Weekly, Tech News Today, All About Android and more. If you don’t already listen to one of these shows, start. It’s simple as that.
However, as a prognosticator he’s come up short a number of times. He predicted failure for things like the iPhone (“that’s not a business Apple should be in”) and Apple retail stores (“Remember Gateway?”). My personal opinion is that predictions are an area of chronic weakness in human intelligence; even the best informed experts have the same success ratio over the long run as a coin-flip. So I don’t really blame him for missing the boat with his guesses; I take them with the customary grain of salt.
But recently he’s been on a tear claiming that Email is Dead, replaced by social media like Twitter and The FaceBook (can you tell I’m not a fan of either?). I put social media in the same category as reality television: the most productive people I know consume very little of either. In the spirit of money talks and BS walks, let’s take look at the numbers in the infographic below.
- There are 3 times as many email accounts as there are Facebook and Twitter accounts combined.
- The total posts on Facebook and Twitter combined add up to 0.2% of all email traffic.
- The total number of searches on Google, Yahoo! and Bing combined equal just 1.1% of all email traffic.
- The total number of all page views on the Internet equal only 25% of the total numbers of email sent.
- Nearly 4 times as many emails are sent each day as the total number of Facebook/Twitter updates, Google/Yahoo!/Bing searches and Internet page views combined.
So, with no disrespect to Leo, the answer to the question Is Email Dead? has to be, not hardly.
This is leading.
Click image for larger size.
September 10, 2011
Just My Type by Simon Garfield is a unique book about a subject that is all around us and, except for professional graphic designers, mostly ignored by the general public.
However below the radar the subject of typefaces may be, it is also abundantly clear that they exert an enormous influence on how we perceive the written word. In everything from brand logos, the headlines and body copy of newspapers and magazines and, of increasing importance, in all digital user interfaces from the Web, smart phones to eReaders and tablet computers.
This book is sure to be on this Christmas’ wish lift for every graphic designer you know, but I would argue his real achievement is to take a niche subject and make it thoroughly engaging for the lay reader. Everyone is confronted with a variety of fonts every day, they are literally unavoidable. So I’d make the case that this book can be rewarding to every reader, not just those with a professional stake in the game. Because the story of typefaces is, at its root, also the story of people and communication.
26 letters plus a variety of numbers and symbols (ligatures, accents, fractions and dingbats) yield an almost infinite variety of styles, past, present and future – new typefaces are being designed and released every day. And all more accessible than ever before to the average computer user – even if all you ever type is a business letter – from the drop down menu in your word processor of choice. We can thank Steve Jobs and his college course in calligraphy for the early emphasis on good fonts in the personal computer market.
Garfield uses short chapters and abundant illustrations of his subject matter that include both biographic and historic detail that I found fascinating. I learned perhaps more than I ever wanted to know about the personal life of the creator of one of my all time favorite typefaces: who would’ve thought that a book on fonts could include topics like incest and bestiality? (It’s ranked number 8 on the chart below).
The take-away? Just My Type is my favorite book so far this year in any category and carries my highest recommendation. Buy it, read it, give a copy to every graphic designer you know.
Here’s a wonderful chart that’s used as the end papers of Garfield’s book, the Periodic Table of Typefaces – Popular, Influential & Notorious.
August 24, 2011
Adobe has released a free a beta of Muse, a new web authoring software that allows you to produce a high quality web site without writing code. In their promotion for Muse Adobe mentions that you can “focus on design rather than technology. . .as flexibly and powerfully as you do in Adobe InDesign.” So maybe this is neing pitched to print designers (and perhaps the average joe) who don’t want to get under the hood with HTML and CSS? People who want to learn more about web design sometimes decide to pursue online masters degree programs.
Certainly there’s a market for this, as an option for those who don’t need the power and flexibility of Dreamweaver, along with its steep learning curve.
I’ve always been amazed at how much of the functionality of the full Photoshop package that Adobe puts into Photoshop Elements. That’s one of the best bargains around for the non-print professional who wants to makes their personal photos look great. If the same ratio exists re: Dreamweaver to Muse, this could be a great niche product.
Wesley Fenion wrote a great piece on the Best and Worst Trends in Modern Web Design for the Tested site. I’d label it Highly Recommended Reading. Tested wants to be the site “for clever people who want to buy smarter, tweak better, hack harder and watch us destroy stuff.” Who can resist a Mission Statement like that?
Smashing Hub has a great piece on 10 Excellent HTML5 overlooked coding tools for creating games, forms, using the Canvas feature, determining browser compatibility and more. If you do web design on any level, you should check these out.
August 6, 2011
There’s a battle for animation in your browser that will begin seriously heating up over the next year. Will the video capabilities of HTML5 mean the end of Adobe’s Flash? How badly has Apple’s ban on Flash on mobile devices hurt the program? More than the poor implementations of Flash by web designers who value looks over content?
What about Adobe’s new Edge program; will it cannabilize Flash from within their San Jose headquarters?
My biggest complaint about Flash is that it slows down my access to the content I want to get at in web sites; restaurant sites are one of the worst offenders as a class in this regard. These animations also discourage repeat visits. It’s a very rare Flash animation on the web that bears repeat viewing, in my view.
Here’s an interesting infographic about Flash versus HTML5 (below). It will certainly answer some of the questions you have about the upcoming transition.
July 27, 2011
The folks at Mozy, who offer online, off site “cloud” based storage for the data that lives as ones and zeros on your hard drives, MP3 players, SSDs, external drives and network back-ups have created an infographic that shows where your information is stored geographically (along with other interesting statistics). Fascinating stuff, I think.
Click on the image for larger size.
July 17, 2011
KISSmetrics, an online marketing and customer acquisition blog, has a great infographic about the history and development of web design. There’s also a lot of solid content on their site that’s informed by the use of similar excellent infographics.
Well worthing checking out if you’d like to understand things like say, the most effective day and time to post on Facebook or how often you should Tweet.
Click on image for larger size.
May 30, 2011
There are 33 sets of excellent Photoshop smoke effect brushes collected here on the YouTheDesigner web site, all free and available in various downloadable formats. If you need smoke effects for a design project, I’m sure you can find what you’re looking for in this great collection.
May 15, 2011
The Information: A Theory, A History, A Flood the new book by James Gleick, author of Chaos, Genius and Isaac Newton is 2/3 of an amazing work. The theory and the history are there in great and compelling detail but the flood? A mere 26 pages at the end of this 426 page book.
From African talking drums and the need for redundancy in their messages to Charles Babbage (the Difference Engine), Ada Byron (the world’s first programmer?) and Claude Shannon (who created the field of information theory with his 1948 article A Mathematical Theory of Communication) Gleick covers this territory thoroughly and, as is his particular gift, makes engineering, hard science and intellectual striving as clear and exciting as Spielberg does an Indiana Jones action sequence. But all of this is the background to today’s networked world of instant communication (if not always information).
I closed the book wishing for more. I’d like Gleick to guide me through the current flood, analyzing it and pointing the way, perhaps, to future trends and coping strategies. Despite this, I’d highly recommend this book to anyone with even a passing interest in learning how we got to where we are today, clicking and tapping and swiping our lives away staying current and connected. Gleick gains bonus points from me personally for name-checking one of my heroes, Richard Dawkins and offering a solid explanation of a meme.
However, I’m pleased that even someone so knowledgeable as Gleick shows his own limits. On page 230 he refers to Pickup on Noon Street as a Raymond Chandler novel. Of course, we Chandlerites know this is a mistake, there is no novel in the canon by that name. It’s a short story.
There’s a collection of 4 stories published under that title, but that packaging does not make a new Chandler novel, as fervently as we might wish it. Shocking that a major book published by Random House would allow this small mistake to pass through the editing process. It seems to be true then, that no one “reads” anymore, not even copy editors at the world’s largest English language trade publisher.
April 30, 2011
Chris Foresman at Ars Technica has a nice piece about the ongoing conflict between Apple and Adobe over Flash. Read the complete piece here Adobe throws in towel, adopts HTTP Live Streaming for iOS
“In other words, instead of trying in vain to persuade Apple to build Flash into iOS, or losing potential Flash Media Server customers to some other iOS-compatible solution, Adobe seems to be implicitly acknowledging that content publishers need Flash-free video streaming. It’s also worth noting that HTTP Live Streaming will also be served to compatible clients on non-iOS platforms, including Safari on Mac OS X. Apple recently began selling its portable computers without Flash pre-installed, and we discovered that running Safari without Flash seemed to increase battery life of the latest MacBook Air as much as 33 percent.”
January 26, 2011
I can’t believe that I’ve never written up Design Tools Monthly (though I have featured info from them in the past). DTM is billed as “The Executive Summary of Graphic Design News” and I’ve been a subscriber for more than a decade (they began back in 1992). It is that summary and much more.
They used to have a pitch on their mailing envelopes that presented two options: you can spend all your time keeping current with all the new software, hardware and graphic design news OR you can make a living doing graphic design and read DTM. I think that is on the money.
I’m a long time subscriber to MacWorld, Mac|Life (formerly MacAddict) and Photoshop User (published by the National Association of Photoshop Users) and between them they do a pretty good job on keeping me informed about Mac-specific news.
But DTM monitors those magazines (and websites) and a host of others, including Creative Business, Graphic Design:USA, InDesign Magazine, CreativePro.com, MaxFixIt, MacInTouch, MacNewsNetwork, The Mac Observer, MacUser, InDesign Secrfets, Planet Quark, MacUpdate and Web DesignNews.
In addition to the monthly newsletter editor Jay Nelson and contributor Jeff Gamet host a free podcast Design Tools Weekly that covers some of the same items you get when you subscribe.
If you are a designer, you simply must check DTM out. On their website you can get a free PDF of a sample issue to help you decide. There’s also a reduced subscription rate for freelancers, teachers and students.