Archive for the 'design' Category

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.

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.

‘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.)

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.

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?

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.

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.

Michael Bierut on the Move from the “Drawing Board to the Desktop”

From Michael Bierut’s piece in the Times this weekend, Drawing Board to the Desktop: A Designer’s Path:

All of us assumed that these machines [computers] were just fancy hybrids of typewriters and calculators. We did all the artwork with rubber cement, colored paper and paint. We had no idea, but we were looking at the beginning of the end, and the end came quickly.

Michael is a partner at Pentagram, and blogs regularly at Design Observer.


Make your own Obamicon:

Your image in a style inspired by Shepard Fairey’s iconic poster. Regardless of your candidate of choice in the 2008 election, here’s your chance to sound-off.

From the folks at Paste, via Sean.

Design Loves a Depression

Vermelha Chair

This past weekend, The New York Times Week in Review argues in a story headlined Design Loves a Depression that the recent economic slowdown will force designers to eschew novelty and the impractical, and focus more on the “intelligent reworking of current conditions”:

Design tends to thrive in hard times. In the scarcity of the 1940s, Charles and Ray Eames produced furniture and other products of enduring appeal from cheap materials like plastic, resin and plywood, and Italian design flowered in the aftermath of World War II.

Will today’s designers rise to the occasion? “What designers do really well is work within constraints, work with what they have,” said Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art. “This might be the time when designers can really do their job, and do it in a humanistic spirit.”

Related: Designing Through the Recession, by designer Michael Bierut

UPDATE: Murray Moss takes the WIR to task in a piece today on Design Observer:

Design loves a depression? I can assure you that design, along with painting, sculpture, photography, music, dance, fashion, the culinary arts, architecture, and theatre, loves a depression no more than it loves a war, a flood, or a plague. Michael Cannell’s article is regressive and mean-spirited, and it demands a response.

…quite a provoking discussion.

Image courtesy of The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

New Year’s Eve in the Berkshires


Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, in North Adams, Massachusetts.

Things have been quiet around here over the holidays. I turned 31 years old on December 22, and then Lisa and I spent some time in Buffalo with our folks, where I got to see my newest baby cousin Aline.

North Adams
The MASS MoCA campus was once the Sampson Shoe Company.
Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective »
Anselm Kiefer: Sculpture and Paintings »

Then, after a few days back in Brooklyn, we headed up to the Berkshires for New Year’s Eve in North Adams – it’s not the most exciting town to ring in the new year, but we visited MASS MoCA, stayed in a wonderful hotel called The Porches, and had the best meal North Adams has to offer at the Gramercy Bistro.

I didn’t do a lot of reflecting and resolution-making, but I am thankful for my family and friends, and for how great 2008 was for Lisa and I. Lisa is fond of saying that each year has been better than the last, which is more than one can hope for in this world.

More photos below the jump.

Continue reading ‘New Year’s Eve in the Berkshires’

A New Pair of Sox for the Red Sox

New Red Sox Identities

This design link is near and dear to my heart – The Boston Red Sox recently updated their team identity and uniforms. Overall, I think it’s a positive evolution, though seems a bit nostolgic. I love the gray primary road jerseys.

Armin Vit mostly likes what he sees:

Replacing the old seal as the team’s official logo is the lone pair of red, hanging sox. Unless I’m wrong, there is no typography associated with it. None. No “Boston.” No “Red Sox.” If that’s the case, this is one of the best cases of visual identity and brand equity becoming so strong the icon doesn’t need explanation. They are sox. They are red. They can not be anything other than the Boston Red Sox.

Illustration courtesy of

Bruce McCall on Letterman

I TiVo most of the late-night talk shows each night, in the hopes that some band or author that I love is featured – somehow, that’s easier than preemptively scanning TV Guide. But, I was genuinely surprised and thrilled to see the illustrator and writer Bruce McCall as a guest on David Letterman’s show, the other night.

I’m far too young to know his work from the National Lampoon, but McCall’s New Yorker covers are ingrained in my memory:

Bruce McCall New Yorker Covers

Some of Bruce McCall’s New Yorker covers, from 1995–2008.

Letterman’s show might not have the cultural relevance that it once did, but you get the sense by watching the segment that he’d rather be sitting there talking to McCall, than Mary-Kate or that chick from Twilight. It’s just one of the many things that make Dave tick, and why I have a TiVo season pass for the Late Show.

In the clip below, Letterman and McCall look at and discuss some of the work in McCall’s new children’s book, Marveltown.

Continue reading ‘Bruce McCall on Letterman’

The Mostly True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway

The Mostly True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway:

There is a commonly held belief that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system, a belief reinforced by Helvetica, Gary Hustwit’s popular 2007 documentary about the typeface. But it is not true—or rather, it is only somewhat true. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today, but it was not the typeface specified by Unimark International when it created a new signage system at the end of the 1960s.

R-train icon, set in Helvetica and Standard.

I noticed this discrepancy earlier this year – I had to recreate some MTA subway icons for use on a project, and noticed that the R train map icon looked nothing like the Helvetica “R”. The MTA’s own website seems to be confused about the type used in the system icons, let alone its station signage.

Enter typographer Paul Shaw, and his 10,000+ word piece on AIGA’s site. Did you now that Boston’s subway signage system was the first to use Helvetica, without modifications? Ever curious as to the process by which enamel signs are made? Want to just look at pretty pictures of subway signs over the years?

It’s a great history, for fans of typography and the MTA.

What’s Hebrew for “Yes We Can”?

Well, that didnt’t take long – given the success of Barack Obama’s digital and design strategy in our recent presidential election, someone was bound to, ahem… completely rip him off, sooner or later.

Surprisingly, the most recent example is the campaign of Benjamin Netanyahu, the conservative Likud leader running for prime minister of Israel. The Times reports:

The colors, the fonts, the icons for donating and volunteering, the use of embedded video, and the social networking Facebook-type options — including Twitter, which hardly exists in Israel — all reflect a conscious effort by the Netanyahu campaign to learn from the Obama success.

I wonder if that type is the Hebrew Gotham?

Streetsy: 40+ Streetartists You Should Know Besides Banksy

Jake Dobkin presents 40+ Street Artists You Should Know Besides Banksy:

Everyone knows who Banksy is – but the international streetart community has hundreds of other great artists that deserve your attention. Here’s a selection of the very best.

Christoph Niemann’s Abstract City

One of my favorite blogs on is written by the German illustrator Christoph Niemann, called Abstract City. He only posts once a month or so, but each one is as unique and interesting as the last.

And, it is amusing that his blog – of all blogs – doesn’t have an illustrated icon in the header. It’s not intentional on our part, he just hasn’t gotten to it yet.

See More of Christoph Niemann’s work »

Mad Men, Mad Props

Mad Men is such an enjoyable show – but, typeface designer Mark Simonson takes Mad Men’s prop masters to task for their typography sins.

None of these missteps occurred to me when watching, so maybe I need to brush up on my history of typography?

Beehive vs. Chompers: V.P. Debate Party

V.P. Debate Party

Invitation design for our party, Thursday night.

I couldn’t resist – Lisa and I are hosting a V.P. Debate party this Thursday night, so I whipped this invite up. The idea was to play up two of the more striking elements of the candidates’ appearance: Sarah Palin’s beehive and eyewear, and Joe Biden’s abnormally large teeth.

The result is kind of awkward but fun. It looks like an elongated John Kerry-sized head, but it’s not worth fussing with the proportions at this point. Just go with it… I did.

UPDATE: The always charming Emily pointed out a rather obvious spelling mistake in the design above. Can you find it?

Economix & Green Inc. Blog Headers

The Times is in the process of beefing up its business coverage online, adding new verticals on the economy and green energy. As part of that roll out, we launched two blogs last week, and I was tasked with the header designs and illustration assignments.

I really enjoy the little bits of art direction that I get to do at the Times. It’s fun to search for the illustrators, work with them on concepts and sketches, and in the end they do all of the work.


Economix Blog header
Illustration by Headcase Design

Economix is written by David Leonhardt and Catherine Rampell, and will focus on both the global economy and the personal decisions readers make everyday.

The illustration was done by Paul Kepple’s team at Headcase Design, with art direction and design by myself.

Continue reading ‘Economix & Green Inc. Blog Headers’