Author Archive for John Niedermeyer

Frank Chimero: Horizontalism and Readability

Illustrator/Designer Frank Chimero challenges the “vertical scroll”:

We take scrolling for granted today. It’s like running water or Friends reruns: they’ve always been there and they always will be there. And we like them well enough. But, it is an interesting mental exercise to actually consider scrolling as part of a continuum of solutions in solving the same problem.

This dovetails nicely with Rex’s thinking in his Mediaite design. But the real game changer is the arrival of the iPad. As we move away from the mouse pointer and scroll wheel, designers should revisit old assumptions, and embrace the horizontal.

Life Below ‘The Fold’

Irish designer Paddy Donnelly, in a nicely-designed article, attempts to subvert the accepted wisdom of the page fold:

The fold is one of those guidelines that has been thrown about so much that it’s now become a ‘rule’ of web design (or maybe more appropriately a ‘ball and chain’ of web design) with web designers blindly obeying without question…

If everything of exceptional quality is pushed upon the reader at the beginning, once they start exploring and the rest of the site isn’t of the same calibre, they’re going to be let down.

I agree—scroll below the fold on most large-scale web sites, and the quality diminishes as you move down the page. I don’t know if that’s because too much attention is paid to ‘the fold’ myth, or because most web sites have a vertical up-and-down ‘rail’ structure… or, if we’re just bad designers.

People scroll. People read left-to-right. We should design for these rules.

Actual Objects

Actual Objects provides elegant royalty-free (and reasonably priced) design and illustration assets by Matt Owens and the Athletics crew, here in Brooklyn.

Royalty-Free Illustration from actualobjects.com

Screen shot on Flickr

My talented colleague Jason Bishop worked together with Matt on the economic bailout collection, seen above, and two other sets. The two have previously collaborated for some of the great infographics in GOOD Magazine.

New Capndesign.com

I love Matt Jacob’s just launched redesign. Bright and fresh, with cool jquery charts, archives that mashup photos and posts, and some Typekit.

New Capndesign.com

Screen shot

Congrats, Matt! If only things didn’t look so stale around here.

Packer & Bilton, on Twitter

It’s been fun following the debate between the Times Bits blogger Nick Bilton, and New Yorker staff writer George Packer, on whether Twitter is a godsend, or a harbinger of doom.

Packer opened with a declaration that he’s old school:

I don’t have a BlackBerry, or an iPhone, or a Google phone, and I don’t intend to get an iPad. I’ve been careful not to mention this to sources in Washington, where conversation consists of two people occasionally glancing up from their BlackBerries and saying, ‘I’m listening.’

After pointing out recent news stories that Twitter had a hand in breaking—Iran, Haiti, Obama’s Election—Bilton fires back:

…when trains were a new technology 150 years ago, some journalists and intellectuals worried about the destruction that the railroads would bring to society…

I wonder if, 150 years ago, Mr. Packer would be riding the train at all, or if he would have stayed home, afraid to engage in an evolving society and demanding that the trains be stopped.

Ouch. One gets the sense that there is some kind of generational clash going on here. Packer tries again:

If a Luddite is someone who fears and hates all technological change, a Biltonite is someone who celebrates all technological change: because we can, we must.

George is asking the right questions, but it’s hard to disagree with Bilton’s point—by refusing to participate in social media, he’s missing part of the story… you can’t bury your head in the sand and expect to keep up.

Mother’s History of Birds

My colleague and friend Elliott Malkin just finished his short subject documentary, Mother’s History of Birds, the third film in his family trilogy. In it, he tells the story of his mother through her pet birds. (I love Roberta’s taste in eyewear.)

Also, if you haven’t seen it, check out his home movie reconstructions.

The Bold Italic

Jason Kottke just linked to an interesting design tidbit – the launch of a web magazine in San Francisco called The Bold Italic. (No, not that bold italic…)

We’ve seen some small-scale examples of art direction on the web, but this seems to me to be something in the ‘medium’-scale range – I really love this stuff, hopefully they can keep it fresh.

Also, I can’t wait for the day when ad budgets and tools are at the point where designers can art direct on the article-level, as opposed to just designing templates and frameworks. Maybe this gets us an inch closer to that goal.

Fringe Politics Meet Art History

Steven Heller on another Glenn beck gem:

In a recent broadcast, the resident propagandist at Fox News takes Rockefeller Center’s vintage public art and architecture to task for promoting Communism and Fascism through murals, friezes, and engravings bearing symbols that subliminally project vile values.

Politics aside, just watching the video, what is Beck’s point? That oil money funds communist revolution? That he is as good a propagandist as the communists?

The mind reels at his delusions.

European Vacation ’09

…or, what I’ve been up to this summer…

I’ve been neglecting the blog lately, though I am tentatively sketching out big plans for its future… some day, (probably in the fall), I’ll get back to this.

But, in way of an update, Lisa finally posted all of her photos from our little European adventure a couple of weeks ago, see below. 10 days with Jason and Cristen in Paris, Amsterdam, the Rhineland, Bavaria and Berlin.

Berlin is an amazingly weird place — I feel like we only scratched the surface, I must go back.

My iPhone-only photos are on flickr »

‘Buttermilk’ Font, From Jessica Hische

‘Buttermilk’ Font, From Jessica Hische
‘Buttermilk’, from Jessica Hische.

Illustrator/Designer Jessica Hische released her first typeface today, and it looks gorgeous. Buttermilk is a “bold script that would be just perfect for magazine headlines, book title type, holiday cards, initial caps, you name it.”

The numerals are especially beautiful, and she promises a “huge array of ligatures to help you set it beautifully and easily.”

I worked with Jessica last fall on a nice retro logo for the Pogue-o-matic. Be sure to check out Jessica’s work, (I’m particularly fond of her letterpress stuff.)

Mediaite Launch

Rex Sorgatz on the design of Mediaite, Dan Abrams’s new media website:

…‘horizontal sites’ build a new kind of importance hierarchy. Designers don’t realize it, but unaligned vertical stacks are a remnant of the way that newspapers were designed—in columns, up and down. These new layouts are more like movie screens and wide monitors, with action moving left and right.

A very simple, but potentially evolutionary step in our understanding of how readers can best scan and make sense of content.

Ghost in the Machine: The Clash

Ghost in the Machine: The Clash

London Calling, cassette tape on canvas, 2009 — By Erika Iris Simmons

Two things that I really love about this illustration by Erika Iris Simmons:

  1. It’s the iconic image from the cover of The Clash’s masterpiece London Calling.
  2. It’s rendered with casette tape!

View it at the largest size to see the detail.

Fever° From Shaun Inman

Shaun Inman launched Fever today, a re-imagined feed reader. The big difference between Fever and other products like Google Reader, is that it is designed to help float important or trending links and discussions to the top. So rather than reading through hundreds of posts to find what’s hot, Fever analyzes all of your feeds, and looks for re-linking and repeat references.

I haven’t yet sprung for a license, (mostly because there isn’t any offline caching so that I can read on the subway). But, there is a lovely looking iPhone-optimized site, and it looks as thoughtfully and lovingly designed as his web analytics product, Mint.

Be sure to watch the video demo, and note that Fever is not a hosted service—you have to install it on your own server.

Reunited Blur Perform First Gig in Nearly 10 Years

Oh man, I’m so excited for the Blur reunion this summer, even though it seems limited to the UK for now. The first of these new gigs happened on June 13th at the site of their first gig, and from the looks of a few YouTube videos, they sound fantastic.

From NY Mag’s Vulture Blog:

On Saturday, before an audience of 150, Blur played its first concert as a four-piece in a decade, at Essex, England’s East Anglian Railway Museum (it’s where they performed one of their earliest gigs) — and some wonderful person has uploaded video of practically the entire show.

Video of Blur performing ‘There’s no Other Way’ on June 13th.

More Coverage:

[Via HalfAlien]

Introducing Typekit

Jeff Veen announced Typekit today, a hosted solution for embedding fonts on the web:

We’ve been working with foundries to develop a consistent web-only font linking license. We’ve built a technology platform that lets us to host both free and commercial fonts in a way that is incredibly fast, smoothes out differences in how browsers handle type, and offers the level of protection that type designers need without resorting to annoying and ineffective DRM.

Soon enough, @font-face CSS at-rule support will come to all major browsers, so use of non-traditional web fonts will increase. If this catches on, the web in 2010 might look a lot different than it does now—I wonder who will be the first major online content provider to use it?

The New New Times Square

The New New Times Square

Looking north at 42nd Street, in Times Square.

A few colleagues and I walked over to Times Square at lunch to check out the new Broadway—now shut off to cars, it’s another attempt by the city and the Bloomberg administration to reclaim the streets for pedestrians.

The Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff says:

Now, standing in the middle of Broadway, you have the sense of being in a big public room, the towering billboards and digital screens pressing in on all sides.

This adds to the intimacy of the plaza itself, which, however undefined, can now function as a genuine social space: people can mill around, ogle one another and gaze up at the city around them without the fear of being caught under the wheels of a cab.

There’s a couple of great slideshows, too. And, don’t miss Michael Crowley’s New York Magazine profile of the woman behind it all, NYC Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Al Shaw on Redesigning the Front Page of Talking Points Memo

On Redesigning the Front Page of Talking Points Memo »
Al Shaw talks about some of the design considerations and technical wizardry that went into the face lift of the Liberal-leaning politics blog. Be sure to watch the video demo of the ajaxy front page CMS editor.

The Times Wins 5 Pulitzer Prizes

NY Times newsroom, Pulitzer announcement
Photo by Soraya.

The New York Times, my employer, won 5 Pulitzer Prizes today, “for work on subjects as varied as America’s wars in Asia, the sudden downfall of a political titan, art from ancient to modern, and a history-making presidential campaign.”

The interesting one, from my point of view, is the award for breaking the Gov. Eliot Spitzer prostitution scandal. No, not because it’s salacious or bawdy, but because the exclusive wasn’t held for the next morning’s paper – it was put up online, on NYTimes.com, in the middle of the day. I think that this will be an important milestone in the evolution of quality journalism.

The Nieman Lab points to a funny anecdote that ran in the NY Observer last year:

Back in the day — you know, five years ago — when a big news story had been written, edited, fact-checked, vetted, proofread, and anguished over one last time, an adrenaline-pumped editor would cry out, “Run it!” As in, the presses.

When The New York Times was ready to report that Eliot Spitzer, then governor of New York, had been implicated in a prostitution ring, managing editor Jill Abramson yelled 20 feet across the newsroom, “O.K., hit it!” As in, the button to publish the story on NYTimes.com.

I love that. Congrats to my colleagues in the news room, and let’s keep it up!

Camera Obscura & DJ Victoria Bergsman, at the Bell House

Victoria Bergsman
Victoria Bergsman, DJing at The Bell House in Brooklyn.

Nedward: Victoria Bergsman (formerly of The Concretes) is DJing at The Bell House, much to my delight. Waiting for Camera Obscura!

As big a fan of Camera Obscura as I am, the more interesting bit Tuesday night was a special guest DJ, Victoria Bergsman. A lot of people know her voice as the female counterpoint in Young Folks, the Peter Bjorn and John sing-along hit from a couple of years ago. But she was also the singer in one of my favorite bands, The Concretes. (Camera Obscura fans should check out their eponymous debut album.) She has since left the band, and formed a solo project under the name Taken By Trees, (also a great debut).

Anyhow, I might have been the only person in the crowd that had any idea who she was – or cared – so Lisa encouraged me to say hello. But, I’m just not one of those people who walks up to a famous person, and just gushes in their face. Call it shyness, call it fear of disappointment… the bottom line is that I chickened out.

To make matters worse, Lisa went over to the DJ booth without me, and told Ms. Bergsman that “her friend was a big fan,” but that he “didn’t want to bother her.” Nice. So now I’m shy, and embarrassed.

I don’t really regret it that much, but I would’ve liked to show off some dance moves from The Concretes’ On The Radio video. I’d like to think that she would’ve laughed.

Continue reading ‘Camera Obscura & DJ Victoria Bergsman, at the Bell House’

David Letterman Got Married

Wow: David Letterman got married!

A New MoMA.org

Nedward is digging into the new MoMA.org… so far, very intriguing. Fixed nav bars are the new hottness.

I just sent the tweet above a few minutes ago, but wanted to post some more context about it here. MoMA launched a revamped web site today, with a lot of hook-ins to social networking sites like Flickr, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, etc. But, one of the more compelling changes is the addition of a Facebook-style fixed nav bar, at the bottom:

new MoMA.org

The new MoMA.org, with its fixed navigation bar.

Continue reading ‘A New MoMA.org’

President Obama Unveils New Stimulus Logos

The stimulus package is now law, so there are going to be a lot of public works projects in need of a logo, right?

Yesterday, the president unveiled 2 such logos – designed by Mode, Aaron Draplin and Chris Glass. The logos will be stamped on public works funded by the economic stimulus package, FDR style. President Obama said that its intent was to remind Americans that:

When you see them on projects that your tax dollars made possible, let it be a reminder that our government – your government – is doing its part to put the economy back on the road of recovery.

One wonders if the Obama team is going to rebrand the entire Federal government, one agency at a time.

U2 on Letterman, $4 Album Download

U2 kicked-off their historic 5-night residency on David Letterman’s Late Show last night, with a performance of Breathe. They even participated in a little sketch, where Dave had them outside on 53rd Street, shoveling snow.

The residency is to celebrate the release this week of their twelfth studio record, No Line On The Horizon. And it just so happens that you can grab a copy of it in non-DRM MP3 format for $4 from Amazon. I don’t regularly listen to U2 much any more, but this is a great thing for a major-label artist to do, and I’m more than happy to give it a few listens for that price and format.

UPDATE 3/5: Night two, the boys played Magnificent, which sounds like a classic U2 song. Bono needs to treat his voice with more care, though.

The Times on Brooklyn Food, Frank Bruni on Buttermilk Channel

Today’s Times Dining section has some great coverage of Brooklyn food. First, there is a great article on food producers throughout the borough:

These Brooklynites, most in their 20s and 30s, are hand-making pickles, cheeses and chocolates the way others form bands and artists’ collectives. They have a sense of community and an appreciation for traditional methods and flavors. They also share an aesthetic that’s equal parts 19th and 21st century, with a taste for bold graphics, salvaged wood and, for the men, scruffy beards.

Make sure to check out the interactive map, too.

Also, Frank Bruni reviews one of my favorite new restaurants near our home in Brooklyn, Buttermilk Channel, along with an audio slideshow:

Buttermilk Channel [is] a restaurant of real standards, noteworthy ambition and uncommon slavishness to trends. It’s laudable and predictable in equal measures. And it was packed every time I went…

The look of the restaurant, whose corner location affords it pretty windows on two sides, is on the polished side of homey. There’s nicely buffed wood, a spidery brass lighting fixture and a honeyed glow from it and handsome sconces along the walls.

There’s also ample space between tables: the owner, Doug Crowell, isn’t trying just to jam in as many people as possible. But he does ask you to trade some comfort and convenience for the refreshingly low prices.

These few blocks on Court Street are starting to fill with interesting and tasty culinary operations: Buttermilk Channel, Frankie’s Spuntino, and the newly opened and not-yet-visited soon to open Prime Meats.

UPDATE: The Times posted a Q & A between readers and subjects of the Brooklynite food producers piece.

Gondry’s Flight of the Conchords

The first four episodes of season two of Flight of the Conchords were uninspired and forgettable, but that all changed with episode five. Directed by Michel Gondry, the Conchords return to the top with two great songs – the Sausagefest anthem Too Many Dicks on the Dance Floor, and an ode to Jemaine’s ex-girlfriends titled Carol Brown.

I’m just catching up on this season now, but episode six has Kristen Wiig from SNL… omgz!