Some bits about design

The Burden of Precision

Without beautiful, precise pictures of the product we wish to create, how do we gain resources to actually make them a reality? This new approach would turn the process on its head: it makes building and designing something one and the same. Rather than creating and presenting a design prototype, only to dismantle it in order to build and present a functional prototype (often at a lower quality), the functional prototype itself becomes the presented artefact, greatly reducing the cost of making it a stable, complete product.

The burden and responsibility of precise, perfect design should be shared between designers and engineers. The fact that this is true for every other related industry—architecture, industrial design, printed matter—and not for digital product design is indicative of nothing but the immaturity of our tools, processes, and philosophy.

Daniel Eden on the current state of design tools and workflows, short and on point.

I have always believed we need to stop treating design and development as two distinct disciplines and start following a more cohesive and authentic approach.

November 27, 2017

The world is poorly designed. But copying nature helps

Vox and Roman Mars

Nice video from Vox and 99% Invisible’s Roman Mars about biomimicry.

It reminds me of Bruno Munari’s analytical study of plants and fruits in his must read Design as Art, in which he meticulously describes and praises the essential features of natural objects as a source of inspiration:

This object [an orange, an almost perfect object where shape, function and use display total consistency] is made up of a series of modular containers shaped very much like the segments of an orange arranged in a circle around the vertical axis. Each container or section has its straight side flush with the axis and its curved side turned outwards. In this way the sum of their curved sides forms a globe, a rough sphere.

November 10, 2017

This Italian company pioneered innovative startup culture, in the 1930s

A politician, as well as a chemical engineer and entrepreneur, Olivetti had a philosophical view of entrepreneurship, one that put people and communities at the center of a business. He was a firm believer in the competitive advantage of treating workers fairly and investing in their wellbeing. Andrea Granelli, president of Associazione Archivio Storico Olivetti (Olivetti’s historic archive association), told Quartz “the profits from sales were invested in innovation, expansion, higher salaries, social services.”

Looking back at the rise and fall of Adriano Olivetti’s vision for sustainable and socially responsible entrepreneurship is both depressing and extremely inspiring at the same time. So many lessons to learn from that experience.

November 10, 2016

The story of Nebiolo

The Italian type foundry Nebiolo of Turin was the biggest type and printing equipment manufacturer in Italy. It started in 1852 and thrived in the first half of the 20th century, but never made the transition to phototype. The foundry closed in 1978.

Great profile of Nebiolo, one of the most influential type foundries in Italy. The text in the article was aptly set in Forma, Nebiolo’s answer to Helvetica, designed by Aldo Novarese in 1968 and digitally revived by David Jonathan Ross.

October 13, 2016

Is this my interface or yours?

Why do products sometimes label things as my stuff, and sometimes label things as your stuff?

Interesting post by John Saito on the use of different points of view in user interfaces.

August 10, 2016

Why do we need new typefaces?

This is a perennial question from non-designers and folks who don’t use typefaces. They do, of course, need them on a daily basis. Modern life would grind to a halt if every typeface suddenly vanished overnight. Typefaces are so ingrained into our existence that it seems like they’ve always been there. It’s a “problem” that’s been “solved”. Most people don’t see the typeface, not consciously anyway, they read the words. To notice the forms of the letters is a learned, higher-level process and largely unnecessary for daily life. If meaning and information have been sucessfully extracted from the words, conscious recognition of the typeface is unnecessary: any old typeface will do.

However, if this were strictly true, the purpose of typography would be to merely convey information, to crystallise spoken words into symbols. It would thus render people as simple automatons blithely absorbing data. Efficient, but utterly joyless. Our relationship to typography is like our relationship to food—we eat for pleasure, not simply for nutrition.

Delightful short piece about the meaning and purpose of typography by Klim Type Foundry.

May 8, 2016

Archivio Grafica Italiana


Archivio Grafica Italiana is the first digital archive dedicated to the Italian graphic design heritage. A growing overview to spread and promote the culture of quality that distinguishes the Italian design tradition. From the greatest classics to the best contemporary projects, commissioned by Italian clients or made by Italian designers, to explore and discover the fundamental aesthetic and cultural contribution brought by the Italian graphic design all over the world.

April 10, 2016

Drowning the Crystal Goblet

Ty­pog­ra­phy is the vi­sual com­po­nent of the writ­ten word. But the con­verse is also true: with­out ty­pog­ra­phy, a text has no vi­sual char­ac­ter­is­tics. A gob­let can be in­vis­i­ble be­cause the wine is not. But text is al­ready in­vis­i­ble, so ty­pog­ra­phy can­not be. Rather than wine in a gob­let, a more apt par­al­lel might be he­lium in a bal­loon: the bal­loon gives shape and vis­i­bil­ity to some­thing that oth­er­wise can­not be seen.

Matthew But­t­er­ick on the false dichotomy of form and substance.

March 9, 2016

The Secret UX Issues That Will Make (Or Break) Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars went viral again recently, when Tesla dropped a $2,500 software update on its customers that promised a new “autopilot” feature. The videos are fascinating to watch, mostly because of what’s not happening. There’s one, titled “Tesla Autopilot tried to kill me!” where a guy drives with his hands off the wheel for the first time. He hasn’t replaced driving with, say, watching a movie or relaxing—instead, he’s replaced the stress of driving with something worse. (…)

Somewhere in between where we stand now, annoyed at how much time we waste sitting in traffic, and the future, where we’re driven around by robots, there will be hundreds of new cars. Their success doesn’t simply depend on engineering. The success depends on whether we, the people, understand what some new button in our brand-new car can do. Can we guess how to use it, even if we’ve never used it before? Do we trust it? Getting this right isn’t about getting the technology right—the technology exists, as the Tesla example proved so horribly. The greater challenge lies in making these technologies into something we understand—and want to use.

Great piece about one of the most compelling questions around the advent of self-driving cars: how do we build trust in a machine?

February 9, 2016

Design iterations


A visual history of the design process behind Morning Boost’s brand new website:

As a project I worked on comes to life, I like to compile a snapshot of the key iterations that lead to its final, or better, initial form, in order to spot early mistakes and snatch unexpected insights. It’s like a near-death experience, but safer.

November 24, 2015

Tufte CSS

The web is not print. Webpages are not books. Therefore, the goal of Tufte CSS is not to say “websites should look like this interpretation of Tufte’s books” but rather “here are some techniques Tufte developed that we’ve found useful in print; maybe you can find a way to make them useful on the web”.

Agreed. I’ve always been fascinated with Edward Tufte’s distinctive typographic style, and this experiment is an interesting, web-focused interpretation of Tufte’s principles.

November 16, 2015

3D Touch: Enhancement, Not Requirement

Although the actual implementation of the 3D Touch is somewhat problematic, the approach taken to the functionality assigned to this feature is the correct one: 3D Touch should be an enhancement to the user experience, not a requirement to achieving a user task. Indeed, so far, all the functionality provided by 3D Touch, whether in quick actions or peek-and-pop mode, is redundant: users who don’t have the latest iPhone or have trouble with the 3D Touch can still do their tasks without using it and achieve the same kinds of actions, albeit in a more roundabout way. This redundancy is the right solution to the problems that gestures pose: lack of affordance and memorability, as well as difficulty in performing them.

Great in-depth analysis of 3D Touch by Raluca Budiu, Nielsen Norman Group. Adding a whole new dimension of interaction can be a double-edged sword, but Apple seems to have nailed it by encouraging the adoption of microsession-oriented patterns focused on efficiency, like “Quick Actions” and “Peek and Pop”.

November 2, 2015

Eurostile, the modern typeface

Eurostile in Mr. Robot

While watching Mr. Robot, Sam Esmail’s terrific new TV series, I couldn’t help but noticing a small detail from main character Elliot Alderson’s personal computer.

I find it fascinating that in 2015 we still use Eurostile, the iconic typeface designed by Aldo Novarese in 1962 for the Turin based Nebiolo foundry, to convey modernity and technological edge.

Not only Eurostile has stood the test of time, it still dictates time.

October 18, 2015

Marginalizing the auto industry by looking inside

The modern day automobile is not intuitive. Drivers need to learn to operate an automobile. Passengers have to conform to a car’s existing seating arrangement with only marginal modification. Software has the potential to change all of these limitations.

While Tesla has become a pioneer in electric vehicles and BMW continues to slowly build momentum in the space, both companies have not actually altered the automobile’s fundamental purpose.

Great piece by Neil Cybart on how Apple uses design as an asset to marginalize industries.

October 14, 2015
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