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

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.


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


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, 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

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

Ned­ward is dig­ging into the new… 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:


The new, with its fixed navigation bar.

Con­tin­ue read­ing ‘A New’

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!