31 May 2010

[design funnay] Superheroes Only Think They Have It Tough. Now, Designers ...

2426.A good friend pointed me to Evil, Inc, a comic that I didn't read before ... but now, I'll have to, with humor like this:

With that crowd, Daddy probably does the superhero gig just to take the pressure off.

When I saw the dude say You know this is all fake text, right? I had to laugh out loud. Someone actually said that to me once.

Thanks, Z!

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[design] I Like Windows 7 - But I Still Prefer Mac OS X. Here's Why.

2425.Just like a lot of people trained in design, I love Apple. And the previous post where I solicited public comment on the idea of using a Mac Mini as my design center made me think about why I was so set on staying Mac.

I love Apple.

Well, let me qualify that a bit.

I like the company. Jobs sometimes leaves me with that "uh-oh" feeling. But I love Mac OS X.

I've had a foot in both the Mac and PC worlds almost ever since I owned a computer. I've known friends who swore by their Macintoshes while we were piecing together Windows machines before we could finally own a Mac. I've seen and used Windows 7 and I've got to say that, within the Windows paradigm, all the upgood press you've heard about it is dead on the money: Win 7 looks good, works good, and is the most well-behaved Windows yet.

But, given my choice I'll stick with the X.


One word: Darwin. Another word: architecture.

Installing applications in X is a breeze and, even though the under-the-hood works has changed since the days of the earlier Macintosh OS's, the basics are still the same: for most applications, uninstalling still remains a matter of simply dragging the file to the trash.

I've just never been able to do that in Windows, even Win 7. And what dependencies there are are pretty easy to find. I don't need a "wizard" to install or uninstall a lot of things. That's simplicity because I can see what's going on. DLL? What's that?

The organization of the file system makes a great deal more sense to me. It's more intuitive. I also know Unix ... not as a pure power user, but enough of a power end-user that if I need to find something, I can break open Terminal and go looking. To me, the command shell of DOS is was always like a kind of poor-mans Unix, that doesn't quite work the way it ought to. Unix command line cryptic? I took one look at DOS Power Shell and my eyes instantly glazed over. And, unlike Windows, since Darwin is a flavor of Unix, it has a bunch of nifty and useful things installed that I'm well familiar with – vi, ftp, rlogin, ssh, all sorts of stuff that I learned to use effectively a long time back.

So, it's my hat's off to Win 7. It is indeed everything they're selling it as. But I'll stick with the X, because the X makes a whole lot more sense, and I feel a lot less lost in the Darwin environment.

It just works ... for me.

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[logo design] BP Logo Satire - Beyond Petroleum Logos

2424.The relentlessly-unfolding BP-Deepwater Horizon environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico influences minds and the public discourse in unpredictable ways. And, in the case of graphic designers, they unleash a humor as dark as the crude that's invading the Gulf waters.

Greenpeace UK is holding a competition called "Behind the Logo", an agitprop effort to come up with a new version of the now-somewhat-awkwardly tagged BP logo that more accurately, they feel, reflect what they see as, if not the company's vision, suggestive of what they feel the company's vision may result in.

Interestingly enough, the competition wasn't brought on by the Deepwater Horizon disaster but BP's effort to develop Canadian tar sands. It has, however taken a turn in that direction, and given the outlook, how could it not have?

The Beyond the Logo competition's Flickr stream is at http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeaceuk/sets/72157623796911855/, along with a link to the contest for those so inclined to find out about it (If you're a USAian, I doubt you're eligible for entry, but who knows?). Also, I'll remind the less left-leaning amongst my reader that this is Greenpeace, and if they've irritated you in the past, they won't make you any less mad here.

But the Gulf of Mexico tragedy is so remarkable ... who can tell what anyone thinks anymore? Maybe you just like your thoughts challenged about such a thing. Herewith, a selection of the ones that caught my eye.

They go from the obvious:

... and ...

This image suggests what the maker thinks perhaps what the energy company is selling the public:

Others combine wordplay and juxtaposition:

Still others are cheeky and abstract:

And it was a matter of time, I think, before someone came up with something downright nasty:

... those who understand what the word "goatse" means will get this joke. Those who don't, count yourself lucky. Don't put "goatse" in teh Google. You will regret it. No, I'm not actually daring you here. I'm serious.

And, they didn't forget the retro:

And this one just made me say "wow":

Another listing is available via TwistedSifter here: http://twistedsifter.com/2010/05/funny-creative-bp-logos-competition/. Has several from the flickr stream and some I didn't see there.

Interesting times, mah peoples.

Once again, the link to the Greenpeace UK flickr stream is http://www.flickr.com/photos/greenpeaceuk/sets/72157623796911855/.

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[type] Picking On Comic Sans Some Moar

2423.Old typographer's funnay joak, proving once again that when a designer runs low on blog material, there's always comedy gold in bashing Vincent Connare's niche in history some more:

Via here. Apparently from here, but I couldn't find it there.

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29 May 2010

[design tools] A Mac Mini for Graphic Design?

Special Update! 30 May 2010 Z1637: I am quite suddenly (and delightfully) getting merrily hit by MacSurfer's Headline News page, an am already on the way to having the biggest Sunday this blog's ever seen! Nifty, and gratitude obtain! Whoever loved me enough to put me at the top of the opinion section – words cannot express!

I am seriously interested in the opinions of designers about using the Mac Mini for everyday use, so if you have any opinions, please, sound off! I like the information I'm getting so far! - Samuel John Klein

2422.Presently, an opportunity might present itself for me to upgrade my equipment.

Not that I'm all that dissatisfied with the old stuff. But it is, as they say, old.

My design center has, for a long time now, consisted of a dual-processor PowerMac G4. It's a lovely thing. It has (in two versions, thanks the the donations of a few angels back when the first one let me down about two years back … thanks to you all, I still appreciate this boon) served me very well.

Actually, it's not so much as it's showing its age as the world is moving on. It's a 1.25 Ghz 2-processor machine, mounting standard 80 GB hard drive (and a couple since added), and runs Creative Suite 3 pretty well (unless I want to try drawing in 3D in Illustrator, which makes it cry like a schoolgirl).

In particular the moving on has been in the move of Apple to Intel, and the move of software away from the old Power PC. Snow Leopard – if I could get it, wouldn't run on this machine. Adobe Creative Suite 5 – forget about that. In the tech editing job I'm doing right now, I'm borrowing a Windows 7 laptop (and it's a nice OS, that – almost like using a Macintosh).

So, however successful I  do get, even though the old Macintosh is running quite well right now, I'll have to try to keep up.

As budgets go, I could move up to a 13" MacBook Pro, or something like that. And then more than one acquaintance suggested I look into the Mac Mini. I'd heard of them some time ago and loved the idea but I didn't know how they would support graphics apps. But looking at the specs of recent models has caused me to consider it seriously.

For less than $800, I can get a Mac Mini that has this amazing-looking SuperDrive, more than three times the OEM online storage of my original G4, and a clock-speed that's more than 2x as fast - and something that only consumes 14 watts when idle and uses no fan. That's something that turned my head. It's like getting more than twice the computer I have now for less than half the price I originally paid for the old warhorse G4.

And they're not making software I need for the Power PC anymore.

So, I'm wondering - is the current brand of Mac Minis worth it to do design work on? They make excellent economic sense for me, and would get me back closer to the cutting edge, where I need to be.

If anyone has anything to say, especially users of Mac Minis who may right now be using them to do design work, I'd be interested to hear it. Sound off in the comments.

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[webdesign] Web Pages as Posters

2421.There are at least two main rationales for how to lay out effective web pages that I can think of.

The first, which leans toward sheer functionality, depends on the observation that people tend to read web pages in a capital "F" pattern: along the top, then down the left side, scanning right as interest or necessity or interest directs.

The second depends on a sense of play. I've recently noticed a trend in web page design that takes precisely this antic approach to amp up the interest, and it works quite well.

A good example, pointed at by this article at Sean Nieuwoudt's blog, is the Carsonified "Summer Camp" event, whose web pages looks very much like a poster. As a teen I covered my room with them: posters are teh awesoem, providing witty decor, in many cases, long after the event they promote has faded into history and memories:

This could work very well as a poster in a public place, or decorating your studio or bedroom wall, or being framed as a kind of an ironic objet d'arte. It's cool style and simple touches provide a lot of fun for the eye: you remember it.

And, even though the event happened in 2009, you still like looking at it. It transitioned from information delivery into a kind of art work, in a nifty way.

Your eye pretty much eats up the charming imagery. The amusing "Sign Up Here!" sticker, looking as though it was picked at by some mysterious bored finger at some point, is a visual bonus. The hand-crafted-looking type speaks for itself.

In Sean's article, Design Posters Not Landing Pages, the principles of poster design are made relevant to web page design, allowing for an alternative way to present over the intartuebz: You can have your sober, ordered, pinstriped-navigationerly web page where it's appropriate. But, where it's possible to have the fun, you can think of your web page as a poster, imagine what it would look like on your wall & and design it accordingly.

It dovetails very nicely with the trend toward "hand drawn and lettered" looks in web page design that we seem to see in so many places these days. It's kind of a breath of fresh air, mixing it all up.

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26 May 2010

[pdx] Broken Down Farmhouses and Turbulent Skies over Washington County

2420.Broken down farmhouses ...

I've always wondered ... I've been more prone to see barns and old farmhouses slowly returning to the earth along the state highways in Washington and Yamhill counties than in Marion and Clackamas.

As mentioned elsewhere, I don't think it has anything to do with the character, health, or wealth of the east side of the Willamette Valley vice the west. But it is a truthful observation.

The weather this day, as many will remember, was trying to be more springlike. The Wife" was awestruck over the turbulent sky. She said it would make a great painting, and I agree; though she would use acrylics, where as I would do watercolors, or maybe dare with oils.

The above house, BTW, was from Highway 47 a couple miles north of Forest Grove. This picture was off Highway 6 between Banks and the US 26 merge:

Oregon does, just like every other season, Spring in a way that no other region does, and I happen to think better than anywhere else.

But then, I'm a native-born Oregonian.

If a bigger view is wished, clicky your way over to Posterous, here: http://zehnkatzen.posterous.com/broken-down-farmhouse-and-big-sky-in-washingt

Let me know what you think of in comments.

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22 May 2010

[type] NewType Mono ... More Gorgeous Monospaced Type

2419.Monospaced type is hard to make beautiful. Each glyph has to be engaging to the eye per se, and be designed - if it's to look good as well as merely functional - with an awareness of how it's going to look amongst others of its face.

People don't usually waste time kerning or tracking monospace type.

So, when a monospaced typeface grabs my attention, I tend to fall in sloppy love with it. As I did with Everson Mono (which is a free download but shareware license), I've done so with NewType Mono, of which some can be seen here:

I also love the fact that in the Newtype family there's a Newtype Mono as well as a Newtype Stereo, whose differences should be apparent.

One look should be enough to deduce what I mean here. Each glyph uses its mono-space very well, very effectively, and relates and respects the other glyphs nomatter what they are. Through clever use of angle, curve, and corner, they all seem "of a piece", and you might not feel like kerning them ... because they don't look like they need to be. It's available in a lot of weights and some beefy meaty bolds that are an exquisite combination of slab and curve.

And you can get it from Fontfarm: http://www.fontfarm.de/themes/fonts/newtype/index.php

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[design] The Hipster NYC Subway Map, with Connections to Prague and PDX

2418.From Twitterer @FakeMTA, via Dave Knows PDX (@daveknowspdx) we give you the Hipster-friendly NYC Subway map (clicky on the piccy to embiggen)

On the upper right, you have connections to Prague, and the left branch takes you straight to glorious PDX (distance: 2,897 miles). Lines end in locations like "Talk about going here", "You Passed Out Again", and "Mom's House".

Teh funnay? You bet.

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21 May 2010

[pdx] Dusky Downtown Portland Late One May Afternoon

2417.Photos from a recent walk. Being as my camera is the rather popular but not-all-that-advanced Vivitar ViviCam 3705, a/k/a the "Plastic Fantastic", getting excellent pix is somewhat of a challenge. But the result is sometimes atmospheric, kind of like the reason you use a Holga when the conditions aren't optimal.

I adore this view south down Southwest 2nd Avenue:

Looking south from SW Yamhill Street & the first very tall building in the middle distance is a part of Portland's World Trade Center, and the one with the clipped corner farther on is called One Main Place. The gloom of dusk & PDX's own glomen & is kind of seductive. But as much as I like that one, I like this one, of SW 3rd Avenue:

& and I think it's because of the SEMLER building sign. That futuristic looking one with the combover top is the Mark Hatfield US Courthouse, for what that's worth.

The Saturday Market is held, in part, on a platform just under the Burnside Bridge. This is that place:

What I didn't know was, that in the off-hours, it's a fountain. Very romantic at that time of day.

And what's really romantic: Seeing the warm lights of the Lloyd District from just north of the Burnside, from across the Willamette:

Speaks for itself.

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20 May 2010

[liff] Best. Online. Sports. Headline. Ever

2416.As seen on the website of KPTV Channel 12:

Yep. Timbers Fall To Impact 1-0.

I mean, did they use an axe or summat?

I love great headlines. Like the rug in the Dude's apartment, it ties the whole thing together.

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[meta] 11 Top Integers from 1 to 10

2416.And now, todays top list: top 11 integers:
  1. One.
  2. Two.
  3. Three
  4. Four
  5. Rodney
  6. Five
  7. Six
  8. Seven
  9. Eight
  10. Nine
  11. Rodney Again
Watch out for Rodney. You never know when he'll turn up!

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19 May 2010

[design] HTML 5 Is Awesome Because You Can Implement Classic Asteroids In HTML

2416.Yes, that's what I said. Like anyone who's familiar with any amount of HTML, we know it can do amazing things, but we're finding real things to be excited about in HTML 5. This is not just another huff-and-puff update.

The canvas HTML 5 Element defines an area which allows for scriptable, dynamic rendering of 2D shapes and bitmap images. This implementation includes sprites which are simply arrays of points creating paths. They are drawn and translated using canvas translation commands. It plays well. It's by web designer Doug McInnes, and can be accessed by clicking on the piccy below:

Press Space to fire, left and right arrow to turn left and right, and up arrow to thrust.

And it's all HTML. Is that not nifty?

Oh, BTW, if you're using MSIE, you're out of luck: Internet Explodiator doesn't support HTML5's canvas element.

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[design] Free Scripts To Help Adobe InDesign Deal With MSWord Files

2415.Here's some free niftyness that I stumbled on today, via CreativePro.com: four scripts that will help you deal with text formatting in imported MSWord files, which is pretty much the bulk of the files you'll be importing and styling and which, even I can say, will occasionally give you unforgivable pains in da tuchas ...

These scripts help you correctly apply styles without having to bother with overrides, deal with GREP and export character styles. They also help you apply nested styles and turn GREP styles to character styles.

And a bonus free nifty free thing! I just found this out, but a membership to InDesign Secrets, a very good resource site to keep as one of the tools in your online toolkit, is now free! I just signed up and since there's no such thing as too much good quality free advice about InDesign, I think everyone should.

Just go to http://indesignsecrets.com and click on the Become A Member! link on the upper right below the search box. They'll send you a registration code … put the code number in the box and you're home, son!

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18 May 2010

[cascadia] Mt. St. Helens, The Way KGW Saw It, 18 May 1980

2414.This was then, 18 May 1980, courtesy the generous offices of KGW Channel 8. This newscast was anchored by Robin Chapman (who I was at the time majorly crushing on) and Ralph Wenge, and was rough and ready ... but they got the job done, such was the state of news media in Portland at the time.

Such was also the state of 1980 fashion, which was pretty much still 1970s fashion. Wenge was stylish in his always-in-fashion dark suit and tie, but the beginnings of the modern-day Columbia-Sportswear-festooned PDX location reporter.

Also not-to-be-missed: a commercial block at 25:15 in (approximately) is a young Ron Wyden running for Oregon's 3rd District and an Air Force recruitment commercial, and yeomans work from KGW reporter Boyd Levet. And if that weren't enough, there was the couture of the PSU geologist who was rushed on on, I'd assume, very little notice, with beautiful plaid, wide lapels, and a comb-over that was both the best and the worse I've ever seen.

It's about an hour long, and I've babbled enough. Here you go.

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[cascadia] It Was 30 Years Ago Today, Ol' Saint Helens She Began To Play

2413.When Loo-Wit finally testified on 18 May 1980, I was living in Salem. I don't recall ever seeing much of the actual eruptions, even though on a clear day, Mount Saint Helens was visible from the state capitol.


I do remember, along with everyone else, following all the geologic news for the year leading up to the eruption. Being some 150 miles south southwest of the peak, Salem was never in for much trouble; I recall one or two very light ash dustings, on those rare days when the prevailing wind was from the north northeast, but that was pretty much it.

In Salem, that was big news. Not the ash-fall, so much, as the change of wind direction. Nothing much ever happens in Salem. Thirty years ago, Salem's half again bigger than it was, but somehow, it feels just as big as it ever was.

One bit of fallout that we did get from Mt. Saint Helens actually occurred before the eruption. On 14 May, Just four days before he was to meet his maker with the assistance of the largest known landslide in recorded Cascadian history, Harry Truman – otherwise known as the foul-mouthed, whiskey-and-coke-swilling, curmudgeonly-with-a-heart-of-gold owner of the St Helens Lodge, was flown via helicopter by the National Geographic magazine to what was felt a good place to show him with the peoples ... and decided that they would give the students at Clear Lake Elementary School, in what we today call the City of Keizer, just north of Salem, a payoff on the letters they sent him.

They do say that no good deed goeth unpunished.

This always struck me as taking a drunken sailor to speak to a group of Cub Scouts, but hey, I never was one for PR. The Spokane Daily Chronicle reported on it:

The Columbian also reported on The Legend Of Harry Truman.

And then, on 18 May ...

Big Bada Boom, Cascadia style. Yes, it can happen here, and we have documentary proof (and, incidentally, documentary proof that Salem once had an afternoon newspaper: the Oregon Statesman and Capitol Journal merged for good in June of 1980 after having a combined weekend edition (also known as the Statesman-Journal) for some years).

After that, of course, years of authentically-Cascadian silliness, as vials of what was supposed to be St. Helens ash made retail bank for years and paper mouth-and-nose masks became part of Pacific Northwest couture. The Lonely Planet guidebook gleefully published how Portlanders were subject to daily ash alerts for years after there were such things (one reason I still, to this day, doubt the scholarship inherent in a Lonely Planet guidebook). And, of course, the "Oregon, Get Your Own Volcano" bumper-stickers owned by perpetually pissed-off Washingtonians who, for some reason, won't take what ash fell on Oregon back (hey, fair's fair!).

And besides, we do have our own volcanoes. Still in one piece, neener neener.

Well, for now, anyway.

When I first heard of the geological activity potentially available almost literally in my own back yard (having grown up within site of Wy'East almost my entire life) I was hoping to see an eruption, but now that I know what a dacitic eruption can do to a cone, I'll pass on that desire, thanks.

I like Mount Hood just the way she is.

In one piece. Though people do occasionally look eastward with a  bit of suspicion. As do Salemites, I'm sure, but to be a true Salemite, you kind of have to look at everything outside city limits with a bit of suspicion. Yes, that includes Keizer.

And so it goes.
  • Also See This! At Boston.com, as part of their Big Picture series, A collection of 32 great images of the day the mountain blew as well as pictures of David Johnston, the man who emitted the signature shout of the disaster (Vancouver, Vancouver! This is it!!!), which would have been a cooler line to have been famous for saying had he not died only seconds after saying it – being only six miles from Mount Saint Helens at the moment of eruption. http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/05/mount_st_helens_30_years_ago.html.

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16 May 2010

[design] Is A Flat-Rate Model A Better Choice For Freelance Designers?

2412.When I can score design work, say a business card or a logo or something small, the question of pricing arises.

One battle every independent (a word I prefer over freelance) designer has is between themselves and the rate they'll charge. The typical model is an hourly-rate model, and seems to be pretty pervasive in the industry.

It's hardly an unreasonable approach. You charge for the time and sweat you pour into creating a great design. Makes sense.

But at least one thing I've done for someone was charged on a flat rate. And this article at BizNik (that I stumbled on at URL http://biznik.com/articles/hourly-rates-you-could-be-making-so-much-more) actually makes a credible and thoughtful case for the independent designer shifting to a flat-rate model, and makes a through case that an hourly-driven model actually limits your creativity and earning potential (there are only so many hours in the day you can work, after all).

Moreover, pursuing a flat-rate model makes your work value-based, which is how your clients might just be actually looking at it – a value-for-money transaction.

I'm still rereading the article, digesting the intellectual content thereon. It will obviously require a slight change in how designers may look at the work they do and the jobs they complete. At least the prospect of not having to keep track of billable hours is encouraging.

Go ahead and read it yourself. Does it make sense to you? Does it successfully make the case for "value-based" pricing? Feel free to leave a comment with any thoughts along those lines.

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[writery] Young Dr. Spock, Paging Young Dr. Spock

2411.When I was a kid, one of the first memories I have was watching Star Trek on a Silvertone black and white console TV.

I didn't know the alien was green for a very long time.

Thus begun years of correcting my elders: "No, Mom, it's Mr. Spock. Not Dr. Spock"; "No, Mom, it's not Captain Spock, it's Captain Kirk, Mister Spock ... no, that's Mr. Spock, not Dr. Spock ... "

And so it went. Now, I was alive long enough ago to know who Dr. Spock was. If you'll recall, he was the pediatrician who gained fame for a book, Baby and Child Care, as was blamed by a lot of rural, John Bircher, and old-fashioned old-school parents for creating the so-called "permissive" childrearing approach.

Kind of the opposite of a Vulcan child-care expert, actually, if you think about it.

But you'd think we'd be beyond the name confusion, tho? Heck, no, not even caaa-lose!. Today, at the website The Celebrity Cafe, in announcing the cancellation of Heroes, enumerated the achievements Heroes alums have notched, including Zach Quinto's assistance in the recharging of the Star Trek mythos:

The text, which still reads of that as of this writing, is as follows:

Several of the show’s breakout cast members such as Ali Larter, Hayden Panettiere and Zachary Quinto found success on the silver screen during the show’s tenure. Quinto was cast as a young Dr. Spock in the 2009 remake of Star Trek,  which was one of the year’s biggest hits and he is expected to reprise the role in the expected 2012 sequel.

Quinto was cast as young Dr. Spock. Wow.

After I unrolled my eyes (I mean, how lame can you be – you're a website, reporting on TV shows, operating over an Intartuebz that is a result, largely, of Star Trek geeks ... and you can't get TV's most famous alien's name straight?!?) I actually thought it kind of reminded me of those golden-era medical soap opera dramas.

With that in mind, let's look in on a long-lost scene of that medical serial Young Dr. Spock, brought to you by Tide (Tide's In, Dirt's Out) ...


INTERCOM: Young Dr. Spock, Young Dr. Spock, you're needed in pediatrics, Young Dr Spock ...


CHAPEL: Young Dr. Spock! Dr. Spock! Please, come quickly! You're the only one who can help this patient!

SPOCK: Illogical, Nurse Chapel, as this is the premier hospital in the district, employing more than 150 medical professionals. Certainly there are other physicans who can be of as much assistance.

CHAPEL: No, young Dr. Spock! This is a problem that only your unique experience can shed any light on.

SPOCK: Very well, Nurse. (SPOCK RETRIEVES THE CHART FROM THE GURNEY. THE PERSON UPON IT IS MOANING; AMONGST HIS CLOTHING THE VIEWER CAN SEE A BELT BUCKLE READING SS BOTANY BAY. AFTER REVIEWING THE PATIENT'S CHART, DR SPOCK RETRIEVES AN OTOSCOPE FROM HIS VEST POCKET AND SHINES ITS LIGHT INTO THE PATIENT'S EAR. HE RAISES AN EYEBROW) Hmmm. Fascinating. (MAKES NOTES ON THE PATIENT'S CHART, RETURNS IT TO ITS POCKET) Nurse, your illogical summoning of me was a logical move. You are correct. It's a Ceti Alpha eel, but we may have caught it in time. Put this patient on 15 cc's of quadro-triticale stat. I am due in pediatrics. The drug should stablize him until I return.

CHAPEL: But, doctor ... can you save him?

SPOCK: Affirmative. Prognosis is excellent and indicates a full and logical recovery.

CHAPEL: Thank you, young Dr. Spock!


KIRK: Spock! I ... need to speak to you ... immediately! These ... Medicare reimbursements are ... throughtheroof! What ... are we gointodo ... about it!?

SPOCK: Sir, those are records of successful treatment. All of my patients have made sastisfactory recoveries. This is, logically speaking, a maximum benefit for the taxpayer's dollar.

KIRK: That may be ... SpockbuttheFedsare ... coming to audit. They are sending thier ... top auditor a man who ... isruthlessastheycome, I believe his name is ... Khan N. Singh!


SPOCK: Fascinating.


It needs polishing, but I think I could sell this.

Damn shame it's not 1955. I would have liked to have met Jack Paar.

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13 May 2010

[art] Insights To Drawing In Adobe Illustrator For The Vector-Intimidated

2410.Using Adobe Illustrator can be an intimidating experience if you're new to vector drawing. Vector drawing creates wonderful illustrations that are crisp at any size and don't "pixelize" when you scale 'em up or scale 'em down.

Drawing lines with pencils, pens, or whatever you fancy and then filling in (or not) the areas you define with color, texture, hatchings or whatever is wonderfully intuitive when you're doing it on da paper, but not so much when you have to think of those lines as vector objects.

You might figure that doing a successful vector drawing involves a bunch of near-miss vector creation then a bit of tweaking to get the line just in the right place using the anchor point handles, but the pros know just where to put the line, every time, right?

Not quite true! As illustrator David Lanham shows in this sped-up drawing process posted in a video on Vimeo, even a pro puts down a line and adjusts it until it's just right. Like every other pro, though, they take the basic movies and use experience as a multiplier to get the job done,
and that's why you practice if you really want to accomplish.

View it:

Like with me, it probably verifies that you probably have the beginnings of how to work with paths to create your art in Illustrator, as you can probably understand that David's doing there. Practice and use them, and you can expand them and make them yours.
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12 May 2010

[design] Why Photoshop's Staying On Top, Pop

2409.Because it's become a verb, says MyInkBlog:

So how can this help Photoshop maintain its market share? I think it’s simply a matter or prevalence. The applications’ name has developed into a verb because it is so widely used and known. Designers use it. Artists use it. Photographers us it. Its fame has become so widespread that it has actually trickled out of these circles and into the public discourse in a way that none of Adobe’s other offerings have.

How many of your non designer friends would know what Illustrator is? InDesign? Flash might be a bit more well known, but probably more as a product that is experienced on the internet rather than an application for building rich, dynamic and interactive content.

Sure, Photoshop risks becoming a genericised trademark that way … think Escalator, which was once a trademark. Genericized trademarks are a boon and a problem because, once it's wormed its way into the lexicon far enough, courts have ruled that it can't be protected as a trademark.

That's not an automatic assumption one can make, however. xeroxing has not quite gotten that far; Xerox, I believe, is part of a campaign to remind authors and editors that its trademark (amongst others) is still not considered sufficiently genercised, and to please say photocopy instead.

But people have been photoshopping instead of image editing for a while now and, as long as Adobe keeps an active informational campaign up to remind the public, they'll probably be okay legally. And they'll keep all that sweet sweet mindshare!

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[logo] The New Seattle's Best Coffee Logo: Cool - or Too Cool?

2408.At Seattle's Best Coffee, it's out with the old:

… and in with the new:

Now, that is a change of tune! The front end on the SBC site introducing the new look is optimistic and wants to show a change of focus:

It's new - but jarringly so.

Is it successful? Did SBC need a brand-refresh that badly?

Salem-area designer Von Glischka has his own take. Put down your … ah … coffee before you look though.

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10 May 2010

[art] Frank Frazetta, 1928-2010

2407.Again one of the greats leaves us: Frank Frazetta, dead of a stroke at age of 82.

I always thought he should've illustrated Dune, myself. His palette, running from cool-hot to hot-hot, really brought the powerful to life.

Of course, he was responsible for the look'n'feel of Conan, Burroughs's Barsoom, Normans Gor …

This is one of the giants current illustrators perch upon the shoulders of.

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[logo] 5 Oregon Political Candidates Who Identify With Mount Hood, w/5 Totally-Made-Up-Facts About Them

2406.I was sad this morning, coming back from my third shift "day job": there was no Mount Hood. Gray skies, don'tchaknow. Which reminds me of a joke. Here's your official:

Mount Hood Weather Predictor
  1. If you CAN'T See Mount Hood:
    It's raining.
  2. If you CAN See Mount Hood:
    It's ABOUT to rain.
It works with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on how far away from the northern Willamette Valley you are. If you're in Frenchglen you can use Steens Mountain; if you're in KFalls you can use Mount Shasta (even though it's in Cali; we don't hold that against it!).

The thought comes to mind because, during campaign season, several peoples wanting to be elected peoples tend to use Mt. Hood (or Mt. Hood-esque) imagery as campaign logos. I didn't have to swing a cat too far this season to find several examples.

1. Dan Saltzman. Dan's running for re-election to the Portland City Council, so his use of Mt. Hood doesn't seem so gratuitous; after all, Mount Hood forms a significant and signature feature of the Portland skyline. It's like running for Silverton mayor with a picture of Silver Falls on your website.

Made-up Fun Fact About Dan Saltzman: He has a hybrid fixie-10 speed bike.

2. John Kitzhaber. Oregon's once-and-future governor doesn't so much use the mountain as a logo element as he does a design element, but it's in a prominent and theme-making position. The website header is a great place to set a mood and an attitude, and Kitz is Very, Very Oregon … almost as Oregon as I am (I am more Oregon than most, because I'm smug about being native born):

Made-up Fun Fact About Dr. John Kitzhaber: In 1998, John Kitzhaber was not invited to the Bohemian Grove … but his mustache was.

3. Rick Metsger. Once KOIN sportscaster, current State Senator, and hopeful future State Treasurer, his bio says he hails from the Wy'east area, so he perhaps has more natural right to boast about a Mt. Hood connection than anyone else, so that's solid Oregon cred, perhaps even more than me. What Mount Hood says about one's financial acumen, though, is a bit less clear.

Made-up Fun Fact About Rick Metsger: His hairstyle resembles a sacred Buddhist icon. If he were to travel to Lhasa and stand on a certain spot and recite a magic chant, he would unify Hinayana and Theravada Buddhism.

4. Chris Dudley. This very tall man, who apparently is a Republican, has a rather uninspired website design but the mountain does form a backdrop. Presumably it was chosen because, like him, it is very tall, one of the few things in Oregon that you can actually stand on and look down on him.

Made-up Fun Fact About Chris Dudley: was once a Portland Trail Blazer.

5. Scott Bruun. Bruun (name rhymes with "vacuum") wants the Republican nod to challenge freshman 5th District congressman Kurt Schrader in the general election. His rather tastefully-designed website has a red tone (who says red-states and blue-states have become passé?), and his logo has a red sun rising:

Made-up Fun Fact about Scott Bruun: His stylishly short coif smells of rasperries. If elected, Gordon Smith's hair has applied to transfer to Scott Bruun's scalp.

Have I missed any Wy'easts amongst our electoral challengers? Got any totally-pulled-out-of-your-arse fun facts to share? Let me know in the comments.

And happy voting. Vote Mountain – unless you don't of course.

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[net liff] How Gizmodo Made Everyone On Twitter Lose All Thier Followers

2405.I love it when trendy services FDGB (fall down, go boom) in an embarrassing way, even if I enjoy them.

Today's victim: Twitter. John Herrmann, writer at Gizomodo, figured out how to force anyone to follow you. Anyone. Even Ashton Kutcher. Fo'reals, apparently.

Then, I'm assuming, an ass-ton of people tried it.


Because, suddenly, at about 1015 PDT, everyone's followers fell to zero.

And everyone following fell to zero.

And there was much RT WTF.

At the time I postulated three possibilities:
  1. CERN had a glitch in the Large Hadron Collider.
  2. Justin Bieber, somehow. I don't know how.
  3. Deepak Chopra meditated.
But soon enough, it was revealed that Gizmodo's force follow hack may well have been the problem:

We identified and resolved a bug that permitted a user to “force” other users to follow them. We’re now working to rollback all abuse of the bug that took place. Follower/following numbers are currently at 0; we’re aware and this too should shortly be resolved.

Update (10:18 AM PST): Of note: protected updates did not become public as a result of this bug.

So, at this writing, we await Twitter putting things to rights.

And Gizmodo and John Hermann are probably going to wonder if another lawyer is going to show up at the door soon.

Ain't modern technology wunnerfull?

Update, 1101 PDT:
Twitter's appeared to have fixed the problem. The oppressor @aplusk rules once again.

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06 May 2010

[design] Escape From Illustration Island

2405.Here's a great site I just stumbled on to.

Local illustrator Thomas James is one of those creative professionals that I think our chosen professions would die out without, because without such people we'd all feel completely isolated and alone. They don't believe the illustration or design world is a pie with only a limited amount of pieces to give out, but that you increase what's out there by sharing what you know.

His omnibus site is Escape From Illustration Island. It's the sort of site where he encourages community and shares what he knows about what's cool and what helps you go 'round to get 'round. He helps you fuel your passion.

I'm still getting to know and going round the site, but it sure looks good. It's quite inspiring and even though this might not be the most read blog around, if you stumble this way, I recommend it.

The amount of stuff requires more of a review than I have time to give it. The quality, however, is a high standard, and if nothing else, the sentiment is a winning one: No illustrator is an island, and he wants to help you build a bridge off yours.

How can you not accept a hand like that?

Also, these go into my links basket.

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[pdx liff] Great Art At Powell's Books

2405.There's great art to be found at Powell's Books.

Of course, any gentle reader who's been there knows this, and you might thing I'm referring to the Hallward Gallery on the top floor. And you'd be right in the main, though, sometimes, some of the stuff up there, my 15-year-old nephew could do …

I kid! I kid!

Anyway! Like I said, you'd be right about the great art you can see regularly in the Pearl Room. But fun and great art is frequently where you find it, not on a schedule, not in a gallery. The bright side of that is that suddenly, you're at an art show, and it's very delightful and inspiring.

In the center aisle of the Blue Room (enter from NW 10th and Burnside, turn left and go up the ramp just by the cashiers). The end caps show off featured literature, new stuff, good things. I usually let my eyes play over them – you can spot trends by watching these shelves, I've found. And, then, just by chance, I looked up.

That, my friends, is one groovy hand.

My favorite illustrators create illustrations from which the confidence and command of the media are clearly there. For instance, the comic strip Maakies, by the excellent Tony Millionaire, is always funny, and sometimes disturbing. But the obvious skill with which the cartoonist commands every element of the drawing means I can't not look.

And while this is hardly a panel of Maakies, I can't not look at this. Doing chalk on blackboard or black paper, or any pastel-work, has my respect: me and pastels still do not et along very well. But that hand is beautiful! Whoever drew that hand had confidence and command of the medium, and for me that's the meat in any work of art. It elevates the artwork to the memorable stage with me.

This next one is pretty good too …

Not as moving as the other one, but still very good. The last one is of a very high standard:

Sure, it's art done in the service of selling more books, so maybe you don't notice. But I look up, and I admire the skill involved, and I'm enchanted just a bit.

Everyone should look up more often. You don't know what you'll find yourself in. It might be something wonderful, something that lifts you for a few minutes from the mundane to the "aha!".

Although you do start from a slightly higher plane in Powell's Books.

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04 May 2010

[logo] AT&T: The Point of Inflection

2404.With the subjective lesson I learned in the last chapter still fresh in my mind, I turned to one of my favorites bit of history: the evolution of the AT&T logo.

Ah, for the days of Ma Bell. For many years, up to 1969, the Bell System logo was a dependable presence on the commercial scene. Since approximately 1921, the Bell logo looked more or less like this:

This was the 1968 version. Pretty uncomplicated compared to what had come before; the same bell, with words in the ribbon comprising the name of the associated company (Pacific Northwest Bell, in Oregon's case) and the words American Telephone & Telegraph. Dependable.

As the 1960s closed, however, AT&T presumably felt that even this simplified version was a bit too charming and rustic, so, employing on of the two Elder Gods of American Graphic Design, Saul Bass (the other being Paul Rand, of course), a spiffy, minimal, modern design emerged and was empire style until the 1984 AT&T Bell Breakup:

Suitably modern, with Helvetica type to accompany the look, this modern style fit right in with the wide lapels and ties of the day, but had that certain something that told you that it would well survive them.

I've often wondered how the hell Bass and Rand did it. You and me, we'd fret and wonder and try to include everything and thumbnail our fingers down to nubs but Bass, hell, it's like he'd just wake up with this stuff during breaks in composing type and titles for the then-latest 007-James Bond film (seriously, he did Bond titles!). Throw out a few lines and curves and ... dead brilliant.

Anyway, fast forward to 1984, and the Justice Department is breaking up the legedary AT&T monopoly, and they call upon Bass again because AT&T lost the right to call itself "Bell-anything". So he thinks and comes up with the design that's meant to depict the world encircled with electronic comms & and the famed "Death Star" is commissioned.

Dammit, but Bass was brilliant again. So powerfully solid was this design that, when SBC Communications (formerly a "Baby Bell" itself) bought AT&T a few years back, it saw the logic in retaining the old famous name (along with a the single-character stock-ticker symbol "T") and developed the Bass look further.

I mentioned something about inflection points. In math, that's a point along the line where a curve, a change in directions, truly begins. I think that, even though logos don't necessarily have to indicate anything more than this company is unique, they frequently do wind up signifying changes in direction and outlook.

Before: AT&T was the charming local phone co. After: AT&T is a modern communications titan, the dependable phone company you always knew & and so very much more.

The 70s-90s were AT&T's point of inflection, and whether or not Bass meant to, he aptly depicted AT&T's change of outlook in its logo design. In birthing a modern identity for a company more than a century old, Saul Bass turned out to be the midwife.

Read and Visit: a great record of the logo evolution of AT&T can be found here: http://www.porticus.org/bell/bell_logos.html

All logo designs remain the property of the respective copyright holders, of course.

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03 May 2010

[logo] Portland Public Schools - The Logo of Light, And What If I Rebooted It?

2403.A couple of days ago, I got the following tweet from Twitterer @AltF4LJDrama, a fellow who is known by some as … Ben:
@SJKPDX Ever think of taking a stab at analyzing the PPS logo? I was surprised how dated it seems. (yet somewhat timeless)
I didn't realize I was hungry for some whaleson-and-joss-stick logo talk until he tweeted that. Okay, Ben … your wish is my command here.

The first thing I can tell you is that the PPS – Portland Public Schools – has no "press kit/press materials" link on their website, http://www.pps.k12.or.us/. No particularly unique sin here – lots of companies and online presences who stand to be written about in the press have no sort of online graphic resource available.

What do I mean by this? At a minimum, if you're going to have a brand or logo presence, you ought to make available to researchers and authors the following:
  1. JPG, PNG, and TIFF versions of your logo in various sizes for use in print and on line. For JPGs particularly, have at least three different resolutions, say 72ppi, 150ppi, and 300ppi, because when someone scales up your JPG, it looks like hell. JPGs are good for web, PNGs are good for web, and TIFF goes pretty much everywhere.
  2. Full-color and grayscale/B&W versions of your logo and versions on dark and light backgrounds.
  3. Some sort of usage guidelines – how to use them, how not to use them. When I've huffed and puffed about logos in the past, this is one of the first things I look for. I respect the work of the designers who've created them, regardless of how I feel about the design, and I always respect usage guidelines.
So, PPS, everyone who cares about how your logo gets presented … do this. Please. Make good copies of your logo available for Fair Use and tell us how to present it. Unless we're doing some intepretive collage work, we'll respect it.

And on with the show. The PPS logo is, as Ben mentioned, dated, but timeless. Let's explore what that might mean. Here's two versions of it, from various PDF publications found on the PPS website:

The timelessness and the staleness comes from the same general place. It really is a simple logo, but the letterforms look kind of dowdy (and stacked to boot) and the torch-in-hand looks like it was drawn sometime during the 1950s. This is not to say they're ugly – far from it, in fact. And the imagery – meant to impart the idea that knowledge provides one with a torch to drive back the darkness of ignorance – is as timeworn as is it timeless.

There is, also, an imperfection about the letterforms – as though they weren't typeset, but drawn. The unnevenness in the S gives that away to me. It's as though it was done by one of those designers who did those flawless letterforms on movie posters and such but did them all by hand – before even Letraset existed.

To me, it seems evident that the PPS logo, even though it's hardly fatally flawed, is stale and could use a reboot. I don't have a design in mind specifically, but there are some things we could do:
  1. Elminiate the type altogether, or at least unstack it.
  2. Simplify the torch. The detail makes it look a little like Your Father's Torch™.
  3. The verticality of it makes it all sedate, centered, and locked-down. It's balanced and in-line, which reduces the dynamic tension almost to zero – even though it's really an asymmetrical design.
Like I said, I don't have a specific reboot in mind … or do I?

I've been looking at the PPS front page, and a stylization of the torch is repeated, not only in the welcome message:

But also in the contents-tabs:

You know how I was saying that the torch could be simplfied? I think they have it, right there. Let's see where I can take this.

Take the simplified torch shape:

Then rotate it about 30-45 degrees CW and place it on the circle, thusly:

I certainly think I have a beginning of something here, and with some polishing, we could make this the new logo of the Portland Public Schools, which could live with – or without – type. If we do use type, then choose something modernly-stylish that has the potential to exist a while without looking dated. I would suggest Myriad Pro or Gill Sans, something like that, that has modern sleekness and a sens of timelessness to it:

The simplifying of the torch and the tilting solve two problems. First, the new clean and minimal line of the symbol remove the hint of a specific period's design. Second, the tilting imparts the same sense of dynamic energy and tension which makes italicized or obliqued type impart emphasis and energy to the eye. The use of Myriad Pro in the type should bring, in and of itself, and obvious improvement.

If I were presenting this as a serious proposal, I'd try some other colors, some other arrangments of type. But this basic approach really brings the PPS look forward and, in my opinion, forcefully, without being too avant-garde or experimental

Thanks for the suggestion, Ben. That was fun!

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