Defomicron

Software, Hardware, Silverware


Entries tagged: Design

Design is how it works.

Notifications Are About to Rule the Smartphone Interface

Mat Honan for Wired:

Interactive notifications will spur all sorts of new behaviors. (And yes, Android already has interactive notifications, but the ones in iOS 8 look to go beyond what KitKat can do.) Some of these will be simple, like the ability to reply to an email or text message. But they’re powerful in that you can do this without quitting whatever you’re already doing. And this interactivity is not just limited to system apps. Third-party developers can take advantage of this new capability as well, so you could comment on something on Facebook, respond to a tweet, or even check in on Foursquare. But others are going to be radical, stuff we haven’t imagined yet. Once developers begin to really harness what interactive notifications can do in iOS 8—and they will—it’s going to cause one of the most radical changes since third-party apps. With the advent of iOS 8, notifications are the new interface frontier.

‘Designed by Apple in California’

A good time to revisit this, the opening video from last year’s Dub Dub.

Why The Pull-To-Refresh Gesture Must Die

Did you notice Instagram has pull-to-refresh now? Probably not. Here’s Austin Carr on Instagram’s change and the gesture in general, for Fast Company:

In earlier versions of Instagram, the app featured a button that allowed users to refresh the images displayed in their feeds. Now, the button is gone—replaced by an Instagram Direct inbox icon—and the Instagram team moved to the pull-to-refresh paradigm. “We introduced pull-to-refresh, so now when you pull on your feed, it just refreshes,” Systrom says. “[But] I’d like [to get to] a day when you didn’t have a refresh button—where it just updates [automatically].”

I agree, 100%. Getting rid of refresh controls all together is one of those weird, intangibly uncomfortable ideas (at least to me). But it’s also necessary. Our phones are powerful enough and efficient enough now to do this. And if you think that argument’s crazy, here’s Loren Brichter, creator of pull-to-refresh, quoted in the very same article:

Brichter, however, feels that it’s high time his gesture evolves. “The fact that people still call it ‘pull-to-refresh’ bothers me—using it just for refreshing is limiting and makes it obsolete,” he says. “I like the idea of ‘pull-to-do-action.’”

It’s a testament to his genius that he realizes it is time we moved on.

Redesigning Rands in Repose

Alex King talks about his collaboration with Michael Lopp on the recent Rands in Repose redesign:

Borrowing from “the best camera is the one you have with you”, we wanted to make sure that the best device for reading Rands in Repose was the one you had with you.

How Apple’s Lightning-Plug Guru Reinvented Square’s Card Reader

Kyle Vanhemert interviewed Jesse Dorogusker, formerly of Apple and now the head industrial designer at Square, for Wired:

It’s a small detail, but on such a simple device, shrinking that gap between the two parts of the enclosure has a significant effect. It makes the device seem more substantial, more considered, and generally higher quality. And yet, even after months of toiling on custom components to make the new Reader the most elegant credit card processing device in existence, Dorogusker still sees the product through the eyes of a Cupertino-bred perfectionist. He holds the new Reader between his fingers, pausing for a moment while he considers his creation. “I’d love to get rid of that seam.”

Never stop going forward.

Let It Full-Bleed

MG Siegler:

Load up your favorite tech blog. Or almost any blog, really. There’s a good chance it looks like shit. There’s a better chance that the reading experience is even worse. And we put up with it, day in and day out.

He published this article on Medium and on TechCrunch; guess which one looks nicer and is easier to read. Readability has always been a driving goal behind Defomicron’s design. While I like owning my own writing platform, if I didn’t have the skill set to build something on-par with Medium’s reading experience, I think I’d just as soon publish there.

Tweetbot 3.2 Brings Night Theme

It’s the best implementation of “night” mode ever — more like “dark” mode. It adjusts based on your phone’s brightness, so if it’s night time but you’re in a bright room you’ll still get light mode. Vice versa, if it’s morning but you’re hiding under the covers, you’ll get dark mode. There’s a slider in Tweetbot’s setting that let’s you adjust at what brightness level it flips, and it took a little bit of playing with it to get it just right (I’m mystified by their default location of directly in the middle), but once I did it is completely set-and-forget. I wish I could do something similar for Defomicron’s dark mode.

The Birth of the iPhone

An excerpt from Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products by Leander Kahney:

Jony in particular had always had a deep appreciation for the tactile nature of computing; he had put handles on several of his early machines specifically to encourage touching. But here was an opportunity to make the ultimate tactile device. No more keyboard, mouse, pen, or even a click wheel—the user would touch the actual interface with his or her fingers. What could be more intimate?

The Desert Boot

Jake Gallagher for GQ:

The year was 1941, and the soldier, well he wasn’t just any infantryman, he was Nathan Clark, and he’d been sent to war with two missions. First and foremost to protect his country, and, secondly, to discover some new shoe designs for his family’s company. As a member of the Eighth Army, Clark had been deployed to Burma, and it was here that he noticed that the officers in his formation were wearing these strange, sand colored chukkas during their downtime. Clark investigated the shoes and learned that they had originally been commissioned to Cairo cobblers by South African soldiers whose old-military issue boots had failed them out on the desert terrain. They wanted something that was both lightweight and grippy which led to creation of a boot with a suede upper on a crepe sole.

Motherfucking Website

Unfortunately no German ever said that, ever.

Daniel Weil Redesigns the Chess Set

Angus Montgomery for Design Week:

Carrying through the Classical theme, Weil linked the eight major chess pieces to the eight columns of the façade of the Parthanon. He redrew the height of the pieces to reflect the pitch of the façade, so that the pieces before play would evoke the structure of a Classical building.

Desk or Garage Design

Michael Lopp on Keynote 6’s redesign:

I’m wondering about their definition of simple. There’s the simplification where you clean your desk. The clutter on your desk is bugging you, so you decide to clean it up. This small act of simplification gives you the pleasant illusion that the world contains less chaos and you can suddenly magically focus on the task that you were procrastinating on while you were cleaning your desk.

The other version of simplification is harder. This is the simplification where you spend the weekend rearranging your garage. This process still involves tidying, but its primarily goal is to answer the question: “How am I going to get work done more efficiently?” You look at all your tools, you remember recent projects and what was hard and what was easy, and using these thoughts you embark on a weekend-long quest of simplification where the goal is improved efficiency.

With Great Joy

Rands in Repose has moved to WordPress and launched its fifth redesign. My favorite part of the old Rands was the depth of content. There was always more to discover if you were interested, and that fact has definitely served as inspiration for Defomicron. The new design is much more modern, cleaner, and adds to that depth with a great “Sandbox” footer with Instagrams and tweets. I’m sad to see the old design go, but I love the new one.

Starbucks Reinvents the Coffee Cup

Margaret Rhodes for Fast Company:

“Even though today’s life forces most of us to be on the go, drinking tea is a traditional ritual,” says Daniele Monti, Creative Director for Emerging Brands at Starbucks. With that in mind, the Teavana cup was designed to evoke the feeling of drinking from porcelain china. That meant nixing the cardboard sleeves, which Monti calls a design “afterthought.” Instead, the cup has double-walled insulation that mimics the effect of a sleeve (and uses an estimated 50 percent more material than a cup-and-sleeve combo). Gone is the familiar, flat cardboard texture of the standard Starbucks cup, replaced by an embossed paper that has a feathery, foamy feel. “It’s a Zen moment, and the cup should reflect that,” Monti tells Co.Design.

I don’t like tea very much, but I live in New York and will definitely be visiting Teavana to see this cup. I’m a cool kid.

Lucida Grande “Retina-optimized” in OS X Mavericks

Tim Ahrens:

The more interesting question is, of course, what is the difference between the old and new design, which I will simply refer to as “2012” and “2013” here. After opening both versions of the Regular style, my FMX Compare Fonts macro spits out that outlines were changed in 115 glyphs, components were modified in 43 glyphs, metrics were adjusted in 64 glyphs and kerning pairs were added.

OS X Mavericks includes a new, retina-optimized version of the Lucida Grande system font for retina machines. It seems increasingly less likely that the OS X system font will change ever change to Helvetica.

Tweetbot 3

Tweetbot 3, the first version designed for iOS 7, is out now. It’s delightful and without doubt one of the great iOS 7 apps. The $3 is a no-brainer, and it’s replaced Twitterrific as my Twitter client of choice on my iPhone. If you’re interested, Federico Viticci has a thorough review of it (he’s been beta-testing it for several months).

First Photos of the Special Edition Jony Ive-Designed Leica M

When I first heard about this project last September, I couldn’t wait to see the result. Jony’s Leica M isn’t disappointing, but I had the wrong expectations. It’s obvious looking at it that a complex manual camera cannot be simplified to Apple hardware standards.

Next for Nest: A Smoke Detector

Jessica Lessin:

The device will be the technology company’s latest trojan horse into your home, which it wants to make as easy to control as a computer or smartphone. Think of it as the next node in the home network Nest is building device by device with the original thermostat as the hub.

Makes sense. I’m surprised no one’s joined them in building great replacements for mundane home appliances.

39-Word Review of the $39 iPhone 5S Case

Josh Centers:

Its exterior leather feels nice and the microfiber interior protects the iPhone’s finish, but the case fits so tightly that it’s hard to remove. Worse, it makes the buttons hard to press, and it bulks up my sleek iPhone.

The buttons get easier with time, and the fact that it’s hard to remove strikes me as a good thing. I wouldn’t want a case that feels like it’s about to fall off. I bought the blue1 leather case for my iPhone 5, and I love it. It’s the best phone case I’ve ever used. Very thin, light, and attractive. Last year Apple nailed earbuds with EarPods; this year they’ve nailed the case.


  1. My thinking: Which would Jony have me use? ↩︎

Naming Overcast

Marco Arment, on the naming process behind his new podcast app, Overcast (coming soon):

I brainstormed many potential names in a giant text file over a couple of weeks, enlisting help from friends, Invent-a-Word, Wordoid, and lists of English prefixes and prepositions. Even if I knew a name was bad or unusable immediately, I still wrote it down in case it could later inspire a usable variation.

A Hand-Drawn Map of Midtown Manhattan, from 1890

1st - 6th, 34th - 59th.

Human Authenticity

David Barnard:

Many have touted iOS 7 as Apple’s break from skeuomorphism, and that’s true if we apply its strictest definition, but in iOS 7 Apple chose to double down on physicality and the use of real world metaphors. Creating a physics engine for the user interface is most certainly not digital authenticity. While designing for iOS 7 and beyond, usability should always trump ideology and aesthetic. Beauty can enhance usability, but ultimately we’re creating software for people to use, not stare at in awe. That’s where texture heavy design went wrong, and that’s where “digitally authentic” design will likely stumble as well.

Constraints

Matt Gemmell:

The most egregious example of a terminal constraint is the constraint of choice, and we see it in every electronics store. Devices littered with ports, switches and throwaway features. PC-Card slots, VGA connectors and modem ports can actually still be found. Internal optical drives, banks of USB ports, and ethernet jacks. Kickstands, and even a stylus. They look like choices for the user, but they’re actually choices that weren’t made by the designers.

The result is products that are riddled with cancer of the compromise. Yet our industry lionises the accompanying spec-sheets. Look at all these failures of imagination and commitment and judiciousness!

Skeuomorphism in Logic Pro X

Stephen Hackett on Logic Pro X’s skeuomorphic UI elements:

In short, I think Apple views skeuomorphism as acceptable, as long as it’s functional. In Logic Pro X, it is. Dials and knobs make sense in the world of professional audio, so Apple has dials and knobs in its professional audio application.

Sorry, Stephen, wood paneling isn’t functional. The explanation for Logic Pro X’s skeuomorphism is much simpler: there are still loose ends for Apple to tidy up, especially in their desktop software. These plugins to Logic Pro X were clearly designed before Apple switched design philosophies, and rather than take longer to put out this release, they shipped this to be corrected later.

Compare iOS’s New Icons to Old

I know many don’t like the new icons, but is anyone really arguing they’re worse than their iOS 6 and earlier1 counterparts?


  1. And to be fair, some of these are iOS 5 and earlier icons. ↩︎

Brick by Brick

Inga Saffron for Philly.com:

Still smarting from the days when it was tagged the “ugliest campus” in America in a college-ranking survey, the West Philadelphia institution has begun a massive effort to colorize its oft-derided orange-brick buildings, transforming them from garish tangerine to tasteful collegiate red. It is accomplishing this by equipping workers with miniature paint rollers and dispatching them to coat each offending orange brick, one by one.

This would have been my commentary, but Inga took care of it for me:

The worst thing about Drexel’s tangerine-hued buildings probably isn’t their color. Like many government-built structures of their time, they present a hostile face to the street and lack a certain human grace. Coloring them red won’t change that.

Yay! Fireworks!

A couple days late (on my part), but here’s Cabel Sasser’s annual roundup of interesting fireworks packaging.

Change Is Difficult

Owen Williams:

Before WWDC, there was endless complaining that iOS had become boring and stale, that Apple had to change the entire OS to save themselves. Now, within minutes of seeing/installing the early iOS beta, many are declaring it “too confusing” and “too far in the other direction”. Both of these examples were published on June 10, the day Apple announced iOS 7. I somehow doubt they spent more than an hour actually using it.

“Designers” are the new “analysts”.

Grounds Zero

Stephan Faris reports on the mysterious absence of Starbucks in Italy:

“Starbush?” he says. “No. I’ve never even heard of it.”

Finally Everyone Stops to Pee at the Same Time

Dave Hamilton on peeing and coalesced updates in iOS 7:

My dad was focused on being as efficient as possible, of course. Instead of stopping for just one person to pee and then getting back on the road, it makes way more sense to have everyone pee at each stop. That at least prevents the inevitable inefficiency introduced ten minutes later when the next person feels nature urging them along.

Gestures

Patrick Rhone:

As it stands right now third-party developers have virtually created a wild west of gestures amongst and throughout various applications. A two finger swipe to the right in one app could do something completely different in another … This creates confusion even with experienced users as we humans are especially prone to habit when it comes to gestures and touch. To us, gestures are linked to specific meanings and expectations. When such meanings change or expectations are challenged on a per app bases, it tends to betray and confuse our intentions at a very human level.

Considered Opinions on iOS 7’s New Direction

I’ve been running iOS 7 on my only iPhone for about two weeks. It’s very different I’ve avoided writing about it because it is a big change, and in order for me to write reasonably about it, the initial shock needed to wear away.

What’s most important to realize about iOS 7 is what hasn’t changed. We still slide left-to-right to unlock. We still have a grid of icons. Applications still consume the entire screen. All the controls we’re used to are still in the same place. Despite the totally new look, iOS 7 is still familiar. While it looks totally different, we still know how to use it. So will your grandmother. Brace for the inevitable initial outcry from those who hate any change, but understand that it’ll fade away as it does whenever Facebook redesigns the timeline.

Gradient-heavy toolbars have given way to “flat” translucent bars that give a sense of depth by letting content flow beneath them (albeit heavily blurred). The new toolbars aren’t as beautiful in screenshots or ad material, but in practice they fade into the background and allow the content to shine through. Which is how it should be. While there’s always been a delight in opening a new app and finding a hand-crafted, beautifully-textured interface, the appeal wears thin after use. I don’t find myself remarking on the artitistic value of TweetBot after a couple days of use. iOS 7 apps will be forced to compete on how they display content, not on beautiful pixel art.

Buttons in iOS 7 have lost their borders. Whether you like the borderless aesthetic or not, it’s important to note the utility of these buttons has not changed. Borderless buttons aren’t new. We’ve been using them on the web for decades, and in Mobile Safari for six years. The appearance of a button has two goals: to differentiate itself as a tappable object and to convey what will happen when it is activated. The new buttons approach these goals differently. Glossy 3D pixel drawing of buttons with at times confusing glyphs have been replaced with text labels differentiated by color. Approached differently, but met just as well.

Apple has been big on animations since the first version of OS X. This fixation carried over into the first versions of iOS, and version 7 extends animations across the board by integrating physics and particle engines and transforming screen elements into objects that interact with each other. All of that sounds overwhelming, but trust me when I say that the animations in iOS 7 are delightful. The only complaint I have with them is speed. They aren’t laggy, but I get the impressions that the engineers and designers behind them were a bit too proud, and wanted to everyone to see every single frame. This is one area that I think will change before iOS 7 ships this fall.

The use of Helvetica Neue Ultralight, while handsome, is overdone in iOS 7. It looks great in advertisements, but in daily use as a body font, it can be difficult to read. Light variants, like bolds, should be uses sparingly for emphasis. I think this will be fixed, though probably before this fall. The light typeface speaks to one of iOS 7’s unspoken goals: to be lighter, freer. The light typeface furthers this message, and Apple’s designers got carried away (as they’ve done with pinstripes and brushed metal prior).

Apple went too far elsewhere. In particular, icons. Overall I like them. Yes, yes I know, there went all of my credibility as a designer1. I like each individual icon better than its iOS 6-and-before counterpart. Even Safari. The icon set is simplified and vibrant. Apple erred on the side of too much simplification and too much vibrance, and I love that. These are not conservative or restrained changes. Apple went all out. My least favorite icons are the ones with pure white backgrounds. Safari, Newsstand, and Game Center feel unfinished. It’s important to remember that all of these icons will be iterated upon going forward. Design is a process.


The entire OS will be iterated upon. If you imagine the design of iOS on a pendulum, iOS 6 and before were firmly to one side of center. With 7, the pendulum has swung all the way across equilibrium and up the other side. Overall, it is closer to the center, the ideal. It’ll take more iterations to get there, but Apple will.

It would have been easier if iOS 7 looked more or less like iOS 6. If iOS 7 looked just like iOS 6 Apple would still sell hundreds of millions of devices this year. There was no need or obligation for iOS 7 to look totally different. They did it anyway. Not because they had to, but because they knew it was the way forward.

Saying I’m “proud” of Apple is lazy but I struggle find a more appropriate word. Others have said that WWDC 2013 felt like the first post-Steve Jobs keynote. iOS 7 is the first departure from Jobs-era Apple, and it’s the first big leap for Tim Cook’s Apple2. iOS 7 is a statement by Tim Cook. Steve is gone, and it’s time to move on. This is moving on.

iOS 7 is unlike anything Apple has done before, yet entirely Apple-like.


  1. Or a guy with opinions of designers. ↩︎

  2. One could argue that Scott Forstall’s ouster and Jony Ive’s promotion was the first leap, but really these are two effects of the same decision. ↩︎

Windows 8.1: What Microsoft Changed (Back)

Tom Warren for The Verge:

The controversial Start button returns to Windows 8.

It was totally-unlike Microsoft to remove the start button in Windows 8. It was bold. This is the same weak Microsoft we’ve always known.

Look and Feel

Dan Wineman, with an interesting counterpoint to the benefits perceived by iOS 7’s depth:

iOS 7 may be “trading” affordances for kinetics, but only in the sense that it’s losing the former and arbitrarily gaining the latter. They are not interchangeable. Kinetics, or UI Dynamics in Apple’s parlance, are visual effects that occur while you interact with an object, or afterward. (You pull up on the camera icon and let go, and the lock screen falls back down with a realistic bounce; you scroll quickly in Messages and the word bubbles act like they’re mounted on springs.) But affordances can only help if they appear before you interact. You need to see the handle to mentally feel how to open the door, or even to know that it’s a door in the first place, regardless of how smoothly it’s going to swing open. In user interfaces we call this trait “discoverability.”

I’d argue though that iOS 6’s interface wasn’t anymore discoverable than iOS 7’s. In both cases it is pixels beneath glass. Is an arrow really less intuitive than a grip handle?

‘Apple’s New Design Is No Longer About Making It Work’

Boris, who I assume has a last name but was told by his parents not to share it on the internet:

It isn’t the first time that Apple has launched something I didn’t immediately like. When I first saw the iPad I thought the spacing of the home screen icons was off and I also remember not liking the black bezels on the MacBook Pro when they were first shown. Of course, once I played around with an iPad or MacBook Pro I pretty soon realized that they just worked, or I simply got used to it.

Unfortunately, iOS 7 is not something you will just get used to.

So is it really ugly? Yes, it is.

“As you can see from this example, I hate change. But no really listen to me this time.”

When Wrong Does Not Apply

R. E. Wagner:

I have great respect for Neven Mrgan as a designer. He’s an accomplished artisan and not to be trifled with. However, his post on how the design of iOS 7 icons is “wrong” is misguided and I feel the need to address why I think that is, because I often see designers get caught by this particular hobgoblin of consistency — that a design just ‘feels’ right to them without offering any rational justification.

Agreed. Mrgan, who is generally a smart guy when it comes to these things, is totally off base here. The idea that the icons are “wrong”, regardless of whether or not you like them, is absurd.

Given Time

Chris Clark:

Where keyboards, pickers, and action sheets were once imposing screen elements with a lot of personality of their own, they now reflect the personality of their environment. Your bright red app won’t have a dull blue-gray keyboard anymore; it’ll have a light red keyboard as the bits of UI beneath it shine through. If your app uses a lot of wood textures, the standard action sheets won’t look out of character because they’re no longer plastic. No matter what you do with your apps, iOS 7’s default visual language will be a better complement.

Make It Invisible

Rich Mogull for MacWorld:

For many years, Apple tended to choose good user experience at the expense of leaving users vulnerable to security risks. That strategy worked for a long time, in part because Apple’s comparatively low market share made its products less attractive targets. But as Apple products began to gain in popularity, many of us in the security business wondered how Apple would adjust its security strategies to its new position in the spotlight.

While I feel bad for the fine folks at AgileBits, I’ll be switching to iCloud Keychain for secure password storage once iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks ship. The convenience of being built into the browser outweighs any of the pro-user features 1Password has to offer.

I remember when Apple used to tout “Macs don’t get viruses”. It’s hard to argue that Apple hasn’t knocked security out of the park.

Been There, Done That

Craig Hockenberry:

Some designers are saying that the new look is “over the top.” The same thing was said about Aqua over a decade ago. And in succeeding years, that original UI has continuously been refined to what we see today.

We’ve become accustomed to Apple’s incremental approach which continuously refines their products. This is typically an additive process where new features are included or existing ones are improved.

But with major user interface changes such as Aqua or iOS 7, Apple has another tendency: they overshoot the mark. Their incremental approach then becomes one where unnecessary items are removed (such as Aqua’s stripes) or improved (excessive shadows and transparency are toned down.)

Form and Function

Dr. Drang, with exactly what I was thinking all day long:

Here’s a thought experiment: Imagine a new note-taking app written by an unknown developer. It’s has a nice, clean look and is easy to use, but it has no syncing, no TextExpander support, and no URL scheme. Assuming the app got any attention at all, how much effort would Apple bloggers put into defending that design choice? How often would the phrase “data silo” be used?

Personally, I’ll take Notes.app’s ugly UI over Vesper’s flat (and in this writer’s opinion, bland) UI every day because it is on all my devices and it syncs like magic.

Anatomy of a Logo: Star Wars

Alex Jay examines the exceptionally long process that turned out the Star Wars logo.

Choose Wisely

Neven Mrgan:

You’re building an iPhone app. There’s a button that lets the user upload a photo. When they tap it, a sheet comes up, offering two* choices: take the picture now, or picking an existing photo. How should those two buttons be labeled?

Consistency is different from uniformity. One of them is good.

‘Almost Flat’

Tim Green wrote a smart piece on what we should expect as far as flattening in iOS 7.

Why You Should Move That Button 3px to the Left

Braden Kowitz:

When a product is close to launch, I become a perfectionist. Each misaligned element or awkward interaction is like a thorn in my side. There’ll be a dozen tiny implementation mistakes that taunt me each time I run into them. Everything seems so broken.

But to everyone else on the team, the product seems fine! It’s functional. They ask, “Will moving that button by 3 pixels really improve our product?” They argue, “The last time we fixed a small design bug, the product didn’t feel any different.” And so the team moves onto the next big idea and the next set of features.

If you’re anything like me, this situation can be incredibly frustrating. As designers, we are held responsible for the overall quality of the experience. Yet we’re at the mercy of our teams. We can design beautiful, intricate, delightful details — but we can’t build, test, and deploy them all.

As the design editor of my high school yearbook, I can relate to this 100%. While not precisely analogous to software development, I faced the same struggle: my aim for perfection clashed with my colleagues desire to ship.

Most people who look through the yearbook we shipped won’t notice the section titles next to the page numbers, how they’re all perfectly uniform and beautiful. But if they weren’t all uniform or if we’d left some out, then people would notice. Immaculate attention to detail in design isn’t often praised, but it goes a long way towards making a product “nice”.

“If we can convert colors into math, we can do math on colors.”

— Brad Ellis, speaking at Çingleton.

Material Honesty on the Web

Kevin Goldman:

The palette of emotional design for flatlanders is instead temporal. Temporal beauty lives in state-change animations, nuanced timing effects, strategically placed user feedback, and other “interesting moments,” not drop shadows and Photoshop layer effects. Flatlanders build all kinds of emotion and depth combining these moments with delightful microcopy, personality, and typography. All honest—all web—all good.

With the redesigned Defomicron I launched early this year, I focused on the reading experience. I tried my very hardest to focus on good, clean typography and cutting out the unnecessary. I’m proud of what I’ve done so far, and it keeps getting better. Granted, my focus might change if this site ever brought in revenue, but right now I want Defomicron to be accessible in as many mediums as well as can be done.

That’s why Defomicron has an RSS feed, a Twitter feed, and an App.net feed. Today, I’m happy to announce I’ve added a Tumblr feed to the mix. For those of you that swing that way, you can head over there and follow along with all the latest and greatest.

The Tax of ‘New’

Julie Zhuo, of Facebook:

This is how good, simple products become quite the opposite. Like a Katamari ball gunning for a record score, your product picks up more and more features until one day, your typical user opens up your app to see 4 different toolbars and 50 icons littered across the UI. Or they look through your list of services and have to wade through 32 line items spread across 7 different pages. Or they click to open a menu and are presented with 20 different options. Your app becomes one of the ones that my mom needs to call me to figure out how to use (“Honey, what does ‘release and trust sender’ mean?”).

That’s what Apple has been so very good at in the past: avoiding new for the sake of new. It’s why we only get a new iPhone once per year, why we didn’t get an iPhone with a larger screen until last fall, and why we won’t see Apple’s watch until it is ‘insanely great’1.


  1. This iterative design approach is best covered by John Gruber’s oft-referenced Macworld piece on the subject. ↩︎

‘Podcasts’ Removes Reel-to-Reel Tape Deck

Apple today updated its Podcasts app to version 1.2. I think this is our first taste of Jony Ive software design.

Hulu Plus for Apple TV Redesigned

Et tu, Netflix?

‘Skeuomorphism’

Louie Mantia, on skeoumorphism:

The first problem is defining it. Every person seems to have a different understanding of what that word means. The most obvious issue with that is when people are talking about it with each other, we’re talking about different things.

Something I’d never really considered: apps like Game Center and Find My Friends aren’t skeuomorphs. They use gawdy textures, sure, but they don’t act like real-world objects.

Louie Mantia Imagines Disney/Lucasfilm Fanfare

How the next Star Wars movie should begin.

Solving Problems the Square Way

Austin Carr, profiling Square for Fast Company:

The level of detail is common of Square’s team, which pays its products pixel-close attention. Once, for example, the team urged Fast Company to change an image we featured in a Square story about Starbucks because it contained the incorrect rendering of the picture’s green coloring. (“It’s subtle,” the PR rep wrote to me then by email, “but the green at the top is [fashioned after] a [Starbucks] apron [material], versus just being green and flat.”) And that sense of detail stretches to the highest levels of the company.

I smile every time I meet a small business owner accepting payments through Square. Here we are, in just 2013, and small shopkeepers and food truck runners are carrying around iPads accepting credit card payments.

That anecdote reminds me of the Steve Jobs story where he decided the Google logo looked like a turd on the original iPhone, so he called up Vic Gundotra and had it changed. The little things, even or especially the ones no one will notice, are incredibly important and essential to taking something from “good” to “great”.

Becoming a New American Airlines

Mark Kingsley, writing for Brand New on American’s rebranding:

The result is astounding — see the Becoming a New American launch site. The mark, known internally as the Flight Symbol, deftly manages to honor American’s design history and, at the same time, convey a stark, confident modernity which stands among the best symbols anywhere. It does much with very little, in a straightforward way which feels so American. That is… American in the way we like to think America can be.

He seems to really like it. Actually, everyone does. But I don’t get it. The new logo is awkwardly skewed to the left, and looks horrible on its own. The new livery is horrible, with a terrible rendition of the stars-and-stripes done up on the tail. Dustin Curtis summed it up better than anyone:

After forty-six years, one of the finest corporate brands in history has been reduced to patriotic lipstick.

About App Icons

Louis Mantia, creator of several fine icons including for iTunes 10:

And while you can focus on marketing needs, that is a one-time scenario for each person. Any individual will only buy your app once. One time. It’s important to recognize that optimizing for this one situation may hinder the needs of your everyday user.

15 Years of Apple’s Homepage

They’ve come a long way.

The Best

Dustin Curtis:

If you’re an unreasonable person, trust me: the time it takes to find the best of something is completely worth it. It’s better to have a few fantastic things designed for you than to have many untrustworthy things poorly designed to please everyone. The result–being able to blindly trust the things you own–is intensely liberating.

Jony Ive to Design Limited Edition Leica M

Michael Zang at PetaPixel:

At Leica’s special event last night, after the new Leica M was announced, company owner Dr. Andreas Kaufmann revealed that they’ve got a very special limited edition version of the camera planned — one that’s designed by legendary Apple designer Sir Jonathan Ive.

That is too perfect.

HP Announces Spectre One Desktop

Get a load of that keyboard and that trackpad.

Virginia is for Lovers

According to Martin, a $100-a-week copywriter named Robin McLaughlin came up with an advertising concept that read, “Virginia is for history lovers.” For a beach-oriented ad, the headline would have read, “Virginia is for beach lovers”; for a mountains ad, “Virginia is for mountain lovers,” and so on. Martin thought the approach might be too limiting. Woltz agreed, and the agency dropped the modifier and made it simply “Virginia is for Lovers.”

Fascinating history of one of the most enduring and popular state slogans.

The iMan Cometh

Jony Ive, in an interview with the London Evening Standard:

It is so important to be light on your feet, inquisitive and interested in being wrong. You have that wonderful fascination with the what if questions, but you also need absolute focus and a keen insight into the context and what is important - that is really terribly important. Its about contradictions you have to navigate.

Interested in being wrong.

The entire thing is worth a read, and a rare sight.

The Little Things

Some small things I’ve noticed about all the new software released today:

Want a tip? Open your RSS reader of choice, right-click on your technology folder, and hit “mark all as read”. The pundits (read: nimrods) will be screaming about what a let down the new iPad is for at least a week, but trust me: they’re going to sell a lot.

iOS-ification of OS X

Ben Brooks:

This is what I see happening with OS X and iOS: bringing both to the point where the average user doesn’t have to see a difference between the two OSes, but where there very much are differences between the two.

I hope Ben’s right, and I honestly think he is. Apple’s end goal here isn’t to make OS X into iOS. We’re going to have OS X with its mouse, keyboard, and file system for a long time to come, but in the mean time Apple’s going to unify the experience between the two OSes.

Windows 8 Gets a New Logo

The best way to consider this is, I think, to compare Windows’s and Apple’s logos of the past 30 years. I’ll let you make your own judgements.

Porsche-Designed Blackberry

3.6 Liters, 500 BHP, 6-speed gearbox.

Wait, no, it’s just a $2,000 Blackberry.