• 2023

  • What does Celsius feel like?

  • For years, I’ve wanted to get a personal handling on what xº feels like in C. For too long have I used Fahrenheit like a plebeian. I’ve come up empty on a solution for a number of years. Until now! I was googling around the web trying to find a chart from science textbook (or an app or something!). Lo and behold, Mr. Eric Carr saved the day! Thanks Eric. This chart is a lifesaver. A few words from his blog post on Celsius:

    For reasons that I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to use SI units whenever possible. For me, it’s about practicality — using SI units makes the math easier, since unit conversion requires few or no “magic numbers” to convert from one unit to another.

  • Logobook

  • I was re-organizing some of my bookmarks and discovered some old gems. Among them was an amazing design resource I have long forgotten about: Logobook – Discover the world’s finest logos, symbols and trademarks. Note: unfortunately this website does not have a SSL Certificate so it’s only accessible over http

  • The Apple Stores last headphone heads

  • Michael Steeber runs an awesome blog called Tabletops. It features stories and analysis of Apple Store’s visual displays and floor designs. His latest post caught my eye. Apple Stores used to feature wooden “headphone heads” in their music bays. I always thought they were quite striking, but it sounds like Apple is phasing them out:

    The Music bay, complete with its rows of spherical wooden heads, was part of the original set of Avenues introduced in 2015. It was perfectly suited for the on-ear Beats era and predated AirPods entirely. Apple began phasing out the display in June 2021, but at least two stores are still holding on: Apple Park Visitor Center, with its custom Apple Music display, and Apple Upper East Side, the first store in the world to pilot Avenues.

  • 2021

  • Why Google’s bookmark manager and Docs have purposefully bad UI

  • From Dave Lynam’s post on the Bookmark OS blog:

    Google’s core business is still search. By neglecting UI and design for these products, Google corals user behavior into a “search-first” mentality. The more disorganized you become, the more reliant you become on search, and Google benefits.

    I’ve often heard people say they no longer use bookmarks any more and just rely on search. I wonder if that truly is the most practical solution for them or if it is the result of a self-serving dark pattern from Google.

    Makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

  • 2020

  • Photos of the rare P-series iPhone prototypes running Acorn OS

  • The iPhone has no doubt been a crazy success since the early days. But how did the iPhone end up being such a success? Speculation, rumors and the lack of a design-first company in the market left Apple wide-open to squeeze into a already crowding market of cell phones and catalyze the smartphone industry into the behemoth that it is today. It took years of research, iteration and trial and error to produce the first iPhones. Apple was prototyping devices in secrecy with fabricators in China as early as 2005 with Foxconn and Pegatron. Looking back, we can see the design lineage and early ideas that were afoot in the company.

    Early on, there was a bet that the clickwheel, an invention of the successful iPod could be re-used in the iPhone. Thanks to @DongleBookPro, and (a few others over the years), we have some interesting images of late Acorns OS. Apple installed numerous diagnostic tools on these devices such as fabricator diagnostics, carrier and engineering diagnostic UI. Hap Plain of Cult of Mac put together this video showing just how rudimentary some of these early P-series iPhones worked here:

    The rudimentary touch-operated Acorn OS that ran on these prototypes eventually were refined and became the much beloved iOS. For further reading I recommend 9to5mac’s piece on the history behind Acorn OS and how it came to be.

  • What is a sand dam and how do they work?

  • A sand dam is a thousand-year old technique to collect water in arid regions. It has a surprisingly simple design that is constructed of rubble and cement. It has incredible agricultural benefits and can be constructed with very little ecological impact.

    A practical construction revolves around flood-prone or low-lying drainage areas that are dry in the off-season. During the rain seasons, they flood, so re-capturing these drainage systems are key. However, they should be permeable enough to allow for water to flow downstream for collection from sand — which if erected correctly can allow for water to be filtered of debris and in some cases very little water treatment will be necessary:

    Rainwater harvesting is integral to transforming agricultural yields and staying alive in regions where water can be scarce. The RAIN Foundation put together a wonderful PDF which has thoughtful construction methods, research and material recommendations. You can download the PDF here.

    For further reading, I would recommend visiting The Water Project for more information on sand dams.

  • ‘Parasite’ house is a custom-built film set, designed by Bong Joon-Ho and Lee Ha-Jun

  • That’s right. Namgoong Hyeonja, the architect mentioned in the film Parasite, is a fictional architect. He’s not real. However, the genius behind the house in the film was real. Bong Joon-Ho tapped his production designer Lee Ha-Jun, and their art department wizards to build a remarkable architectural vision. The Park house was constructed entirely on a film lot. Here’s some of the initial renderings and concept models:

    Compare some of those concept renderings with some actual stills from the film:

    Incredible attention to detail and commitment to getting the right shot. There are more photos and insights from Bong and Lee in the interview piece at IndieWire. Bong Joon Ho’s stories and films are heavily steeped in symbolism. They’re dense and delicious like a strong sun tea that’s been sitting outside for hours in the hot sun. They’re chock full of complex metaphors and reference cultural deep-cut films such as Akira Kurosawa’s, High and Low.

    Bong’s intelligent cuts, tedious blocking, and deliberate recycling of shots are a delicious recipe for a fun film. Here’s some of his own words (from the IndieWire piece) on why they chose the structure of the house and the film:

    Cinephiles may be reminded of Akira Kurosawa’s “High and Low.” In that case, the structure is simpler and stronger. The Japanese title is “Heaven and Hell.” On the top of the hill is a rich guy and in the bottom, there is the criminal kind of structure. It’s basically the same in “Parasite,” but with more layers.

    Because the story is about the rich and poor, that’s obviously the approach we had to take in terms of designing the sound and lighting. The poorer you are, the less sunlight you have access to, and that’s just how it is in real life as well: You have a limited access to windows. For example, in “Snowpiercer,” the tail cars didn’t have any windows and with semi-basement homes, you have a very limited of sunlight you get during the day — maybe 15 or 30 minutes — and that’s where the film opens.

    We actually used natural lighting for those scenes in “Parasite.” All of our sets, the rich house and the poor house, were built on outdoor lots.

    Lee Ha-Jun, a seasoned production designer says the the living room should act as a stand-in for TV. I believe he means that literally for Mr. and Mrs. Park, initially. But, offering an appreciative and wide view of the garden, the large window becomes a living portal to the backyard green space. A gateway of vast symbolic significance within Bong’s plot. The window occupies an intentional 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which is culturally symbolic to film, but more importantly feels spacious on screen. It has its production merits too, inviting light and warmth during the day on set. Lee has a terse explanation, but it is pretty clear that almost everything on set was thoughtfully produced for the sake of blocking:

    The front yard was a key reason why he had to build Mr. Park’s house. Director Bong already had the actors’ blocking in mind.

    Even all of the furniture was custom-made for Bong’s film:

    The semi-basement neighborhood was built to flood:

    Photo: ⓒ 2019 CJ ENM Corporation, Barunson E&A All Rights Reserved.
    A still from the film, using the same fabricated production set.

    I wasn’t joking when I said it was full of metaphors. Here’s a few examples I fell in love with that caught my eyes. Ample repetition reinforces significance. As a resolution begins to unravel, the same shot cedes itself to darkness as something sinister emerges only moments later.

    Reflections and oppositions are important. Light and warmth. Opaque and transparent. Cloudy and clear. Clean and dirty. Level and angled. Rich and poor. Survival and oppression. High and low.

    What I find to be the most striking, is these temples of film production are all temporary. They’re built on film lots, hundreds of works laboring to build these realistic places, used for shots, deconstructed, and the cycle repeats for the next big movie. It’s like they’re emulating the Himalayan practice of creating Tibetan Sand Mandalas. For more photos and concept images from the film, check out Architectural Digest.

  • Syd Mead, designer and artist of future worlds, dies at 86

  • Neil Genzlinger reporting for The New York Times:

    Syd Mead, a designer whose wide-ranging work included envisioning vehicles of the future as well as helping to shape the look of environments in movies like “Blade Runner,” “Tron” and “Aliens,” died on Monday at his home in Pasadena, Calif. He was 86.

    His spouse, Roger Servick, said the cause was lymphoma.

    Mr. Mead started out in the car business, designing for Ford. By 1970 he had founded his own firm, Syd Mead Inc., and had a wide range of clients, working on architectural interiors and exteriors, restaurants, catalogs and more.

    I never knew he began his career at Ford. That’s pretty rad, and it shows. His depictions (or visions?) of vehicles and transport are honest and divine.

    Aliens and Blade Runner’s sterile living environments, dank off-world Weyland-Yutani industrial complexes, and the jagged colonial spacescapes gripped my young imagination like a face-hugger. I doubt any of Ridley Scott’s motion pictures would be the same without Mead’s futuristic conceptual input. I mean look at this stuff:

    Syd Mead is a very well respected conceptual designer and artist, whose work has influenced multiple generations of sci-fi creators and artists for decades. Tendrils of his work can be found alive and well in the far-away worlds in Hollywood. Obviously his most notable breakout was Blade Runner. Just look anywhere beyond off-world. Moon, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Star Wars franchise, Interstellar and even Pixar films such as WALL·E are a few notable areas where Hollywood really latched onto Mead’s futuristic visions: floating colonies, shiny white airlocks, moody AI, light-cycles, damp neon-lit cities, levitating transports and of course Cyber Trucks.

    Godspeed Syd. You’ll be missed.

  • 2019

  • Donald Judd’s Furniture

  • Donald Judd, was a truly wonderful artist. He was a Texan, a self-proclaimed minimalist (many attribute the term’s ubiquity and elevated definition to his contributions). He was a pioneer in fabrication methods, a prolific furniture designer, and finally an architect.

    Judd once purchased a beautiful cast-iron, five-story building at 101 Spring Street, in New York City and it still stands today. It’s where his foundation is currently headquartered in New York. His work, (such as the one pictured below) is transcendent, stimulating ephemeral works. Often bold, they create little spaces and jettison outward from walls or floors with sharpness and arresting hues:

    Untitled, 1991. Donald Judd. Photo via David Zwirner.

    While Judd died in 1994, tragically from lymphoma (fuck cancer), the Judd Foundation lives on. It is a non-profit, dedicated to preserving and maintaining the life and works of Donald Judd. The foundation also happens to offer scholastic programs and internships to practicing artists. They even have some of Judd’s furniture design fully fabricated for sale. Sales benefit the foundation’s mission and helps keep the lights on. Some pieces in particular are quite striking:

    I don’t know about you, but most of these are just completely divine. I highly recommend visiting the shop here, and check out the rest of the catalog.

  • David Harbour’s Cozy Reconstructed New York Loft

  • Juliet Izon for Architectural Digest writes:

    Then, after about three years of searching, he came across a space in the Nolita neighborhood that he describes as an uncut gem. “It didn’t look like much,” he says of the building, which was once a wagon wheel factory. “The floors were uneven, there was crappy drywall. There were two bathroomstephen.newsd right next to each other that served no purpose other than to make it a two-bathroom. It was just a crazy space that clearly hadn’t been touched since the ’70s.” And, since it made a pretty terrible first impression, the price was right. Harbour also knew he would be shooting in Atlanta for nearly a year, which meant he had the time to complete a “soup to nuts” renovation and didn’t need to worry about where he would live in the interim.

    This is a proper way to reconstruct a home. You go out, and buy a some under-appreciated piece of property, give it some love, and before you know it, you have your self a lovely cozy little next you can call home.

    Kyle O’Donnell, of Gramercy Design was hired by Harbour (at the referral of his business manager it appears), and it does not disappoint. It’s stunningly beautiful. I highly recommend watching the video the magazine produces for the piece on David Harbour. It’s lovely, charming and the vintage NYC loft isn’t over-the-top. It’s simple, utilitarian, filled with greenery, cozy corners and candelabras (but they’re not always there):

    And it has four taps. Everybody who always comes in here is always like, four taps? Why four taps? It’s like why not four taps? I don’t understand why everyone gets so — but you can, you know, turn them all on and it fills up very quickly. I love this bathroom. I think it’s great.

    And I don’t want to throw Kyle under the bus, my architect designer, who’s fantastic and who designed this thing. I love him. We knew you guys were coming today. It was a lie when I pretended like I didn’t know that you were coming. We knew you were coming and so we art directed a little bit of the apartment, one of which is Kyle likes these candelabras. And we put these big candelabras [into the bathroom]. I don’t want you to think that I’m a big candelabra bathtub type guy.

    Photography by Max Burkhalter for Architectural Digest.

    Visit Architectural Digest for the rest of the photography and video.

  • Interfaces, People and Machines: Good Design Goes Beyond Just Good Looks

  • Interface: people, machines, design, is a new show exhibiting at the Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences in New South Wales, Australia. From the exhibition’s description:

    Interface: people, machines, design explores how design has been applied to information technology products; about how a handful of companies made complicated technology appealing and easy to use. What they did effectively was, look at what you do, think about what you need and create what you want. Interface is about the visionaries who started some of the great consumer product companies of the 20th century, including Olivetti, Braun and Apple, and how the designers and engineers they hired found a means of imparting their ideals into the products they designed.

    I’m a huge fan of user-centric design. We often forget that everything is designed. While most items are not thoughtfully designed, the most successful are (and therefor, plenty of products are emulations or forked from original products without permission, such as mass-market SEM watches). The Conversation has an excellent summary of the exhibit core-focus on human-centric engineering and design:

    While we nowadays associate interfaces with digital computing, this show suggests we should think otherwise. Tactile buttons, knobs, dials and machined surfaces abound.


    Featuring the work of well-known designers such as Dieter RamsJonathan IveEttore SottsassSusan Kare and Peter Behrens, the show does more than acknowledge the genius of the “superstar”. It also presents an “archaeology” of how material, function and form morph across time.

    More than this, Interface underscores the importance and continuity of what we now call “user-centered design”. It shows this across a range of practices – and not just modern information design.

    2+7 Telephone. Designed by Marcello Nizzoli, made by SAFNAT, Italy, 1958. Powerhouse Museum
    Divisumma 18 portable calculator, designed by Mario Bellini, made by Olivetti, Italy, 1973. Photo: Powerhouse Museum. Powerhouse Museum

  • PlayStation Turns 25

  • The single largest innovator in the video gaming space just turned 25 year old today. Before the PlayStation came around, controllers were bulky, console felt like outcasts in your entertainment center. Joysticks felt clumsy, games were mainly sold in cartridges. Sony brought a whole new edge to the at-home entertainment system market. From The Verge:

    There’s plenty of credit to award when it comes to video game controller design. Nintendo pioneered the core button layout with the SNES (D-pad on one side, face buttons on the other), and both Nintendo and Sega beat Sony to shipping an analog thumbstick for their consoles. But ultimately, it’s Sony’s innovations and ideas that would go on to become the elemental base of what we think of as a “video game controller.”

    There are two pioneering parts to Sony’s foundation of the modern controller. First is the original PlayStation controller that launched in 1994, which would establish the broad design (elongated palm grips, shoulder buttons, and the D-pad / face button combination). And then there’s the Dual Analog Controller from 1997 (followed by the more well-known DualShock models), which would change 3D games forever by offering a second analog stick: one to control a character and one to look around.

    Check out The Verge’s PlayStation 25th Anniversary Issue here.

  • The Library That Almost Wasn’t, Hunters Point Community Library

  • Libraries, all-too-frequently, are sadly neglected. They serve so many wonderful purposes. They are civil centers, repositories of information, waypoints of knowledge and are doorways to other worlds. What should be celebrated is often left to decay. Libraries for many, are their own personal Room of Requirement. In short, libraries are awesome.

    The Hunter’s Point Branch of the Queens Public Library almost didn’t happen. Classic New York City problems, time and money:

    Over the years, it became a poster child for the perils of public architecture in New York, as if the ambition of its design and not the city’s broken bureaucracy was to blame for the library’s extended timetable and escalating budget.

    From the start, pea counters in the city’s Office of Management and Budget didn’t see why Hunters Point needed a big fancy library, notwithstanding all the new apartment towers going up, bringing in droves of young families. The pea counters held the project up. Delays raised costs.Over the years, it became a poster child for the perils of public architecture in New York, as if the ambition of its design and not the city’s broken bureaucracy was to blame for the library’s extended timetable and escalating budget.

    Behold this stunning, marvelous, and albeit slightly self-indulgent piece of New York architecture.

    Looking upon the library from Manhattan
    The exterior
    The interior is awash in warm sunlight throughout the day and has plenty of cozy corners to curl up into

    The New York Times has some incredible stunning photography of the library. You can view all the photos here.

  • The Motorola RAZR is Back

  • Chaim Gartenberg for The Verge reports:

    The hinge is also a bit stiff so you won’t be able to just whip it open with a flick of a wrist — closing it with one hand also involves some more finger contortions to start the closing action. It’s just more practical to close it with your other hand.

    Even with these caveats, the whole opening and closing mechanism is supremely satisfying to do, with crisp snaps in both directions. Snapping the phone shut to hang up on a call is a particular delight; there really is no better way to end a call than the classic flip phone snap, and it’s excellent to see that Motorola has kept it alive here. The hardware feels great, too, with solid-feeling stainless steel and glass on the outside and a wonderfully textured back that’s nice and grippy, which is essential for not dropping it while flipping it open and shut. (It is a fingerprint magnet, though.)

    A freaking… hinge! Did you hear that?!

    Photo: The Verge

    Pretty wild right? What year is this? Check out The Verge’s review video below. At the 1:20 mark, Chaim makes a fantastic point. All the other foldables seem to have run into the same problem. They all have terrible hinge designs, among other unmemorable product design issues. For other unknown reasons, most of the other devices fold hamburger style instead of hotdog. Perplexing really. Remember the Samsung Galaxy Fold? It was atrocious, and If you recall, it failed spectacularly.

    Sure, the new RAZR isn’t exactly the most beautiful smart device either. It does after all run on Android and will likely employ Google RCS. Nonetheless, it does raise some eyebrows. It brings Motorola back into the fray, and it brings the flip back to smart phones in such a memorable way. One major upside for this design? No more glass screens, which means no more cracked screens for those that fumble (myself included). I think that’s a bright future we can all hope for.

    Overall, I’m not sure if I would love it owning a RAZR (I never owned the original RAZR in the first place, but I did own a Sidekick 3 once upon a time), but it has certainly piqued my interest. I think it’s entirely possible that this foldable mobile-device paradigm just might make a comeback. What do ya’ll think?

  • A Visual History of the iPhone’s Camera Bump

  • Photo by @benjaninja8 via Imgur:

    iPhone camera placement and product design, 2007 – 2019.
  • Meet Mitsubishi Electric’s TO-ST1-T, the $270 Japanese Toaster that Toasts One Slice at a Time

  • I’ve always been intrigued by specialized instruments and devices. Some items that first come to mind are Post Hole Diggers, SoloWheels, Garlic Choppers or even the Ninm It’s OK Bluetooth Cassette Player.

    This one is no different. It serves a very unique purpose. Toasting a single slice of bread to a niche specification preferred by Japanese markets. I’m talking about the Mitsubishi Electric TO-ST1-T.

    Akio Kon/Bloomberg

    Reed Stevenson for Bloomberg:

    There’s nothing more enchanting than the perfect slice of toast, says Kaori Kajita, founder of the Japan Butter Toast Association, which sounds half-baked but actually exists. “You can’t help but be elated.”

    It helps that bread in Japan is tailored for toast. Called shoku pan, Japanese-style square bread has been around for years (think of a high-quality version of Wonder Bread). The toaster boom has its origins in the desire to have soft, chewy bread that tastes and feels like it came out of a baker’s oven, Kajita says.

    I can relate. Nothing is better than fresh bread from the baker (well okay, Mr.s Baird’s Bread beats em all but I digress).

    Japan is full of specialties, traditions, and politeness the rest of the world often doesn’t understand. This toaster slots into that cultural framework easily. Let’s face it, toasters (and now, more than even smart ovens) are temperamental and frequently too complicated. I’m not in love with the price tag, but personally, I find the TO-ST1 a refreshingly simple device I can get behind.

  • Poolside.fm

  • It’s pretty rare these sorts of websites exist anymore, but here we are in 2019 and poolside.fm has me completely captivated. In my opinion, the same advice given to athletes, goes for websites, apps and startups too:

    Do one thing, really well.

    Poolside.fm does one thing very well indeed. Emulating a very specific aesthetic. Observe:

    Player detail. I just love this. Reminds me of System 8.

    It just so happens to play the most wonderfully curated playlists this side of the internet. Come for the aesthetic, stay for the jams. Right? Poolside is a labor of love from Marty Bell (@marty). Marty also admins a VIP entrepreneurs chat room called Jacuzzi Club.

    Poolside consists of the classic trappings of a decent music site: a delicious summery mix of jams, dancey tunes, indie tracks, seasonal goodies, lo-fi mixes and rarities that your neighboring college radio station envies — I could easily spend days here myself. It has a fantastic nostalgia too (Majestic Casual anyone?). It’s a good place. In an age where algorithmically generated playlists tend to breed boring, repetitive (and all too frequently predictable) Spotify playlists and Twitter trends, Poolside fills the void with serendipitous sounds that I seemingly never grow tired of.

    I feel like this exactly what the music community needs right now. According to The Verge:

    That’s intentional. Poolside.FM has about 32,000 followers on Instagram, and Bell says that the site has 4,000 monthly listeners. He wants to grow that number this year and continue building up the community. Part of that is welcoming new listeners, but he also wants to encourage other artists and musicians to submit their tracks. It’s a collaborative process.

    Spectacular. Very encouraging.

  • Sculptures of Stuff Crafted From Brightly Colored Paper

  • Okay. This… is just mind-blowingly cool. Just take a peak at this super cute bowl of pasta! The bowl, the fork, the pasta, the veggies… I just can’t. It’s too good. The quality alone has me spellbound, and for whatever reason — reminds me of Katamari Damacy gameplay.

    Love these little vignettes. The pastels and compositions of appliances remind me of the vintages ads General Electric and Amana used to run in the 1960s.

    Still feeling hungry, huh? Take a bite out of this tasty pizza!

    You can see all of her images in this series, here at Colossal. Alternatively, you can visit Lee Ji-Hee’s website here for the entire catalog of her work, or follow her Instagram.

  • Jony Ive Introducing Flat Panel Displays in 1997

  • In 1997 at WWDC’97, Jony gave a presentation regarding the design process at Apple, and even briefly talks about eMate and the Twentieth Anniversary Macintosh. Which, at the time was only released only 3 months prior and featured a relatively new design and integrated LCD panel. Despite the executive finish, and abysmal sales numbers, this computer was closer to modern iMac’s than any Macintosh that came before it.

    Next, Phil Schiller, invites Jony to talk a bit more in-depth, a bit more candidly about something that they’ve been exploring in the Design Labs at Apple. It really goes the extra mile in providing design context for the coming years, as Apple would release the G3 in 1998, the first Mac produced under Steve Jobs since his return to Apple as CEO. It even further provides context for the engineering feat that Apple undertook to produce the remarkable, love-able iMac G4. But, what I really love about this clip, is how Jony basically unveils the long arc of design iterations at Apple — years of iterating, that ultimately led to the creation of the Pro Display XDR.

    I got a real chuckle over the reveal here (timestamp of clip is 37:07–39:03):


    Here’s a transcript of the clip:

    One of the things, that if you take a moment, think about your own personal working or computer environment.

    Think about how you configured your desk, think about the furniture you use. Think about the way that you work, and I will contend that the issues relating to CRTs sort of size and weight that actually dictated a lot of your use. How would it be different if you had a product like this [Jony lifts CRT monitor up to reveal a flat panel display]. So this is uh, obviously a modular flat panel display, it has the equivalent of a 17inch CRT, sort of active area, depth of viewing. Um, one of the uh, one of the obvious things about it is it’s sort of (light?) to see things move around. The actual base, the stand for this thing actually houses a cunningly designed spring loaded mechanism which means the effective weight of the displays is one pound. So you can actually adjust the height of the product and the angle of the product with one finger. You can also plug-in to the display, uh sorry uh, the base — your keyboards speakers and so on.

    One of the other things we designed, was a different stand, a different base for the product, so you can take the same display and clip it onto this [inaudible], this desktop arm. Now this arm, this arm attaches to the side of your desk or table, and really provides the ultimate in sort of zero footprint, um display [inaudible], you know the ultimate in terms of flexibility. And I think if you went back to your original sort of setup, I sense that this may actually sort of fairly fundamentally, sort of liberate the ways we could work potentially in the future.

    Remarkable. Sound familiar doesn’t it?

    I wish we saw more of Jony before he left Apple. Now, when we fast-forward to 2019 we can see the full progeny of Ive’s design process. It began in 1997, with the rudimentary arm:

    We make a pitstop here at iMac G4, which devolves into the hinge that essentially remains on the iMacs even to this day:

    Finally, we land here, in 2019 with the Pro Display XDR:

  • General Magic – Trailer

  • General Magic was probably the single-most important project of the 20th century. Originally spun out of an internal Apple project. The at-the-time CEO, John Sculley later joined the board of General Magic and despite Apple’s minority stake in General Magic, attempted to cannibalize their research and neuter their products:

    Even though the company folded shortly after the dot-com bust in 2004, the spoils of their research and development gave us Palm’s Pilot, RIM’s BlackBerry, Apple’s iPhone, and countless other products that we now collectively call: the smartphones. Veterans of General Magic are, to say the least, numerous:

    But wait, there’s more:

  • A Catalog of Public Agencies Graphic Design, Public — Archive

  • The publicarchive.studio homepage reads:

    A space dedicated to preserving public agencies use of graphic design throughout the 20th century. 

    I’m a total sucker for this kind of design ephemera. One, it’s deeply nostalgic for me. Secondly, this sort of digital preservation effort is pretty tough to come by these days. So, it deserves attention and gratitude. It’s brilliant seeing these catalogued and organized by country and department. I’m looking forward to seeing this collection grow!

    Give the website a spin, it’s really really rad that Julian Bialowas (@julianbialowas) took the time to catalog these. You can follow the Public Archive Studio (@publicarchivestudio) here on Instagram. Here’s a sampling from the website:

    Brochures and travel guides from Parks Canada.
    A selection from Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks.
    A selection of brochures from Mesa Verde National Park.

    As an aside, if this sort of stuff floats your boat, something tells me you’ll enjoy the Reagan Ray’s blog. Apart from being a one-heck-of-a design hombre over at Paravel, he’s catalogued some interesting stuff like, Airline Logos, 80’s Action Figure Logos, and my personal favorite — Railway Logos.

  • Haruki Murakami’s Epiphany

  • From The Age:

    As a teenager, Murakami had read “all the great authors” – Dostoevsky, Kafka, Flaubert, Dickens, Raymond Chandler. He spent his lunch money on pop and jazz records. He wanted a lifestyle that guaranteed maximum exposure to the warmth of Western books and music, so he opened a jazz club where the music was too loud for conversation and read books at the bar until his customers considered him anti-social.

    And then there was an epiphany. “Yes, epiphany is the word,” he says.

    It is, he says, the only truly weird thing that has ever happened to him. He was watching a baseball game between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp one day in April 1978. A US player called Dave Hilton hit the first ball way out into left field. And at that extraordinary moment, Murakami realised he could write a novel.

    I began reading 1Q84 a little over a year ago (I’m a slow reader, and admittedly horrible at starting books and not finishing them). I don’t have a long-form review of 1Q84 (other than you should go read it), but I think it’s worth picking up. So, I won’t claim to know or fully understand Murakami’s entire catalogue. But they are ensconced in beautiful and complex vistas I crave to visit and know. Parallels, strange events, pregnant mysteries and enigmatic characters that are his hallmarks — and they are fun.

    I just love Murakami’s apocryphal “epiphany.” Not only is it an apt for the author, but it should be more widely known that Japanese Baseball is 100% more badass than the American League.

    PS: this ultra-rare version of 1Q84 produced by the international imprint, Harvill Secker is absolutely stunning:

    1Q84 used to be produced in three volumes, but now it is commonly bound as one. The iconic cover and jacket, was designed by Chip Kidd, the same creative genius who designed the infamous Jurassic Park jacket:

    Photo by @swallace99

  • The 40th Anniversary of the Sony Walkman

  • From Stereogum:

    It’s weird to think that, in the years before the Walkman, there was no way to listen to music privately while out in public. There were ways to bring music with you — on transistor radios, on boom boxes, on car stereos — but they forced you to subject everyone around you to that music, as well. The Walkman freed us up. It allowed us to make music more a part of our lives, to build our own private soundworlds. It was a transformative invention, one of the few that utterly upended the way we listen to music. Soon enough, more and more portable cassette players would hit the market, and the price fortunately dropped. But no matter which company made them, we still used the word “Walkman” to describe them.

    Only looking backward, can we appreciate how far we’ve come. It truly changed how we listened to music. We might not refer to our music players as Walkmans anymore, but in a sense — we still do. A simple progression of design thinking over the years reveals my favorite Bruno Munari’s maxim:

    An arrow can lose its feathers but not its point.

    Bruno Munari, Design as Art.
  • Jony Ive and Tim Cook talking about iPhones

    Jony Ive is Leaving Apple

  • From The Verge:

    Apple’s chief design officer Jonathan Ive is departing the company, bringing an end to a tenure spent crafting some of technology’s most influential products, including the iPhone. Ive is leaving his official role at Apple “to form an independent design company which will count Apple among its primary clients.” The company is called LoveFrom, and Ive will be joined by famed designer Marc Newsom on the new venture. Despite stepping down from his executive position, Ive and Apple both claim he will still work “on a range of projects with Apple.”

    Wow. Remarkable.

    So, right out of the gates — I don’t think this is necessarily a bad thing for Apple, nor do I think this is a bad thing for Jony (but that’s a given, more on that later). Basically, the best product design talent on Earth, just spun-off from Apple to do their own thing. Awesome!

    This of course, has happened before with Apple. I suppose there was Esslinger and Frog Design in the beginning. There was TBWA\Chiat\Day after that. Then, there was that one time when Huge founded a wholly controlled subsidiary, called Elephant whose only client was Apple. Ok, so the last one wasn’t exactly an exodus from Apple, but I suppose now, we have LoveFrom to add to the roster.

    I have a feeling that this has something to do with Project Titan, which in of itself, is a fascinating project at Apple. But allow me to elaborate. First off, Jony Ive is special to Apple. He’s not compensated the same as everyone else. His salary is a closely held secret, apparently prior to Steve Jobs passing, he insured Ive would remain incentivized to stay at Apple. So his exit strikes me as odd. Fortune writes:

    According to Apple, Ive is exempt from SEC rules because he’s not what the commission calls a “Section 16” employee. Despite his title—chief design officer—the company does not classify him as a director or officer of the company.

    The only hint I could find about how much Ive might be making comes from Leander Kahney’s 2013 biography Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple’s Greatest Products. Summarizing a couple of British newspaper stories published in early 2011, after Ive had reportedly threatened to quit, Kahney writes:

    “To cement his connection with Apple, the company reportedly paid Jony a $30 million bonus and offered him shares worth a further $25 million. At the time, Jony’s personal fortune was estimated at $130 million.”

    Secondly, Project Titan was/is immense. The pressures are high, the margins are low, the R&D is insane — I’m sure everyone involved on Titan are getting spread pretty thin. The acquisitions have only just begun, and there still isn’t a viable (or marketable) product yet. I’m sure there’s no bad blood between Jony and Apple, mainly because, there’s a press release from Apple. That’s pretty telling. Even more telling is that this news story didn’t leak. At all. But Titan feels like a project that exudes a lot of friction. Jony doesn’t do friction. Which is my guess as to why he’s exiting now, rather than later.

    Moreover, he couldn’t stay at Apple forever. That’s for certain, and he’s not getting any younger — so operating in a consultation capacity has its upsides: flexible goals, focused deadlines, and focused creative work. Oh yeah, not a whole lot of friction if you play your cards right. I will continue to expect nothing short of excellence from Apple in the coming years. But, I have to say I didn’t see this coming (or at least not this soon anyways). I always figured Jony would retire and run a design studio in his later years.

    But overall, I’m glad to see Alan Dye and Evans Hankey are sticking around too (I guess Cook is delegating responsibility to Jeff Williams, I wonder how long that will last, that doesn’t seem very Apple to me either) — At any rate, I would be gravely concerned if Alan left during this departure. He’s also some been around Apple for a while. I’m looking forward to see what Alan brings to this new structure, but it’s weird having a Chief of Design vacancy. So yeah, I’m genuinely excited to see what comes out of LoveFrom. Not just what it produces with Apple.

    As for Apple, I’m sure they’ll keep on spinning without Ive:

  • Pizza Hut Brings Back Its Classic Logo

  • From Nation’s Restaurant News:

    Pizza Hut is introducing the throwback logo next week with a TV ad campaign supporting the limited-time return of Cheesy Bites Pizza. The so-called appetizer-and-pizza-in-one pie, which first debuted three years ago, has a crust made of 28 cheese-filled bites.

    “We get a lot of fervor over it. It’s a nice pizza for sharing,” Radley said.
    She said the popular LTO is the perfect platform for showcasing the return of the cleaner, old-fashioned red-roof logo, which was used in the 1960s and 1970s.

    It moves away from the current “scripted and tilted” logo, which contains an outline of the roof, but it is white, not red.  The red-roof icon with “Pizza Hut” in black font makes the “brand pop,” Radley said.

    Thank god.

    That logo was a thing of nightmares, atrocious and was begging to be euthanized. Reverting back to the old logo is a great move. It was classic, iconic and doesn’t need any introductions. If I could be so bold, it was perfect. In a day and age where Pizza Hut’s chief competitor is doing everything under the sun, it’s refreshing to see The Hut return to its roots:

    The coolest thing about this? The old logo is visible on it’s Santa Cruz-born website, in 1994, where the very first online order took place:

    You could do all of this on PizzaNet, owned and operated by Pizza Hut. PizzaNet was an experiment that launched in the early 90’s, a way for Pizza Hut to test the waters and see if this World Wide Web thing had a real shot at a future. It was proposed by a particularly ambitious Pizza Hut owner in Santa Cruz, and developed by a few folks at a development shop known as Santa Cruz Operation (SCO).

  • The National Park Typeface

  • From nationalparktypeface.com

    From the website:

    I saw those familiar words. Set “National Park Service, United States Department of the Interior” — style. I wondered if it actually was a typeface or “font” that anyone could download and use? Do park rangers have this as a typeface on their computers to set in their word docs, pdfs and power point slides?

    I had a sketchbook with me and took some rubbings of the letterforms and asked my friend Miles Barger, the Visual Information Specialist for Rocky, if he had the typeface. He asked the sign shop. No one has it? Turns out it isn’t a typeface at all but a system of paths, points and curves that a router follows.

    The router’s “bit” follows the path 
    and gives the letters its stroke 
    weight or thickness only when engraving a sign. 

    It doesn’t really exist as a typeface unless a sign is made.

    So my design colleague, Andrea Herstowski, students Chloe Hubler and Jenny O’Grady, NPS Ranger Miles Barger and myself decided to make this router typeface a thing. 

    Our National Parks belong to the people, so this typeface should too.

    It’s kind of mind-blowing that the National Park service doesn’t have it’s own typeface. I love that most of these parks probably made their signage on-site with whatever tools they have on hand. Which, is probably, a drill press table.

    Which, when you think about it, is a gift. A gift of accidental identity. An identity sculpted by cutting costs, and working around year-over-year budget cuts. Anything requiring a tool more complex than a drill press to make an inscription in wood is unthinkable, but remarkably stable and easy to do as-is without fancy adjustments or jigs.

    Jeremy Shellhorn, the lead of this project, runs the Designing Outside Studio whose mission is help design students “think and make more creatively”:

    Our studio loves to be outdoors, out of the classroom and into natural places that challenge us to design, think and make in new ways. We realize the design process is a powerful tool for making things better, visualizing what if, and creating change.

    As our parks and public spaces face threats to their existence and challenges in broadening public support and connecting visitors to memorable and meaningful learning & recreational experiences; we as a studio (students and faculty) look to find ways in which to collaborate with organizations, parks, rangers and fellow outdoors-folk to find ways to connect people with the natural world. 

    Incredible. I love it. We need more of this kind of thinking and teaching. Learn more about the Designing Outside Studio here. Want the typeface? head to the homepage here, or visit designermill.com.

  • A freight-truck driving at dusk, with sensors on it.

    US Postal Service Testing Self-Driving Trucks

  • The Wall Street Journal:

    The U.S. Postal Service is testing self-driving trucks on a more than 1,000-mile mail run between Phoenix and Dallas, the post office’s first use of the technology for long hauls. […]

    The two-week pilot starting Tuesday will use big rigs supplied by autonomous trucking firm TuSimple to haul trailers on five round trips between distribution centers, the company said. The roughly 22-hour trip along three interstate highways is normally serviced by outside trucking companies that use two-driver teams to comply with federal regulations limiting drivers’ hours behind the wheel.

    TuSimple is a Chinese-unicorn, and as far as I know — is beating Lyft and Uber (and Tesla?) to the finish line of freight-transport automation. This is a pretty huge defeat for the homegrown rideshare companies. Convincing a bureaucratically-restrained department like the Postal Service to even test automated freight is wild. If you had told me a decade ago that the USPS would be testing a Chinese-backed unicorn’s software for automating freighted post — I would have laughed. It’s simply unbelievable.

    A freight-truck driving at dusk, with sensors on it.

    But here we are! Living in the future!

    At any rate, the WSJ claims that the USPS has been “losing money for several years” as sending letters via post continues to decline and the rising cost of operation goes up. First off, The Postal Service is profitable, but congress decided to neuter the USPS profits (at least until 2056) in 2006. The bill is insane. It’s pretty wild looking back at bi-partisan sponsors of the bill through the political lens of today too. From Bloomberg:

    Then there is the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006(PAEA), which some have taken to calling “the most insane law” ever passed by Congress. The law requires the Postal Service, which receives no taxpayer subsidies, to prefund its retirees’ health benefits up to the year 2056. This is a $5 billion per year cost; it is a requirement that no other entity, private or public, has to make. If that doesn’t meet the definition of insanity, I don’t know what does. Without this obligation, the Post Office actually turns a profit. Some have called this a “manufactured crisis.” It’s also significant that lots of companies benefit from a burden that makes the USPS less competitive; these same companies might also would benefit from full USPS privatization, a goal that has been pushed by several conservative think tanks for years.

    Lastly, operating costs always change. That’s a given in just about any industry. So needless to say, I’m happy to see the USPS is taking a gamble on exciting tech like this. Just because Amazon is taking gambles on automation, doesn’t mean the government can’t get skin in the game too.

  • The Center for American Politics and Design

  • A selection of various political logos collected (so far).

    From their about page:

    The Center for American Politics and Design (CAPD) is a research group investigating the graphic vernacular of American politics.

    The first of its kind, this collection consists of every campaign logo† from the 2018 election for United States Congress. The archive is a tool to explore trends and typologies that reveal themselves only when viewed in aggregate.

    Founded in 2018, CAPD aims to increase political literacy among designers and to foster a dialogue about the role of design in the American democratic process.

    Our complete dataset is available upon request; we welcome anyone to use this collection to conduct their own analyses.

    This is a cool project. The topography of the political design landscape is so vitally important, and (in my opinion) has not been investigated thoroughly enough. It’s a monstrously large undertaking no doubt. It makes me uncomfortable to think about what horrors we may unearth about ourselves from this project. Personally, when I begin to think about dissecting our collective American graphical political heritage, I begin to think about Paula Scher’s Maps.

    Play around with the filter function on the homepage and compare/contrast regions of the US. For example, compare Rhode Island to Texas. Now look at Nebraska. You can go even further by filtering by Office, or Incumbency.

    Fascinating stuff. I’m going to love revisiting this in a few years.

  • 2018

  • Thoughts on Apple Acquiring Shazam

  • Chris Welch for The Verge:

    In what’s sure to be welcome news for Shazam users, Apple has announced that it will be removing all ads from the app “soon.” And yes, that includes the Android version, which isn’t going anywhere.

    It’s pretty rare these days to see Apple (let alone anyone in Silicon Valley) acquiring a company — whose progeny pre-dates the iPhone. Most of Apple’s acquisitions and hires lately have deep relationships with Siri. It should come as no surprise that Shazam also has serious value within Siri.

    The next step in Apple’s journey with Siri is indexing metadata. You can’t have a successful product (like the HomePod or Siri) without a growing network of queryable resources. This is why Siri has sucked so bad. If Apple were more like Google, they would just take your searches, contacts, iMessages, voice queries, location data and mine it into something searchable, something queryable.

    But Apple doesn’t roll that way. Shazam will help no doubt help grow the valuable index resources that Siri and the HomePod so sorely need.

    Shazam All The Things

    The appeal of Shazam is their voice/content recognition. Way back in 2014, Shazam began experimenting with Shazamable Ads. I think that is most telling about this purchase. While most advertisers and brands have been foaming at the mouth at the prospect for increased ROI on ad-spends, Apple saw this as an opportunity to grow their voice metadata treasure trove.

    Imagine for a moment, sitting on your couch as a commercial comes on: an iPhone logo appears bottom-right. You raise your iPhone to listen to the ad. It unlocks with Face ID, half-way through the ad, your iPhone automagically opens a Safari tab and takes you to a product purchase page… for Tide laundry detergent.


    Apple should be very careful with this kind of ability. This kind of voice/ad tech could ruin Siri or worse, seriously erode the last bit of trust consumers have with tech companies.

    If we ignore the impending privacy apocalypse for a moment, we can appreciate why Shazam is so important for businesses. Shazam is a signal for up-and-coming trending songs that perhaps haven’t hit the charts yet. Or a rising underdog artist who isn’t mainstream enough to get a hashtag movement on Twitter.

    Enter Shazam’s valuable database of musical queries. If you know the locational context, and number of times an artist has been Shazam’d — we can determine what piques peoples musical interests, where, when and possibly even why. Apple is now in possession of what is effectively, the pulse of music. But since Shazam works with all audio-types, not just music:

    Shazam’ing audio, is like submitting a website to Google for indexing.  You can’t search for a website, if Google doesn’t know its their. It’s all about signaling. It’s entirely possible, that Shazam could become a background process on the iPhone one day, constantly indexing audio, questions, snippets of songs, constantly improving Siri’s capabilities.

    Hopefully, one day I can ask, “Hey, Siri…” and it will actually give me useful results or even recommend Siri Shortcuts. Mind you, I have zero evidence to suggest that this is what Apple will use Shazam for, but I do know Siri is dead in the water if they can’t start indexing some audio/commands/actions.

    The Shazam Business Circle

    The other side of the Shazam acquisition is 100% for Apple Music. That much is obvious. An unforeseen benefit of this, is what I call the Shazam Business Circle — the benefit is rather abstract. It’s a sort of unique, self-fulfilling prophecy set in motion by a new song:

    1. A new song is released
    2. It starts being Shazam’d in public, becomes trendy
    3. Large stores that wish to differentiate themselves, want to play trendy songs most, but not popular songs
    4. Said stores pay Shazam (or if you’re Starbucks, you pay Spotify) to play songs are trendy/non-mainstream
    5. Customers Shazam those songs in the store
    6. Customers view the store as trendy
    7. Customers gain a new artist to listen to and follow

    Now, we have four instances that have profited: Shazam, the store, the musician and the customers (for having found a trendy song in a “cool” store).

    Back to Apple, they can use this resource with Apple Music. Subscribers could theoretically see what people are Shazam’ing in their city (or at their local Apple Store, H&M, Hot Topic or at a festival, whatever). All while simultaneously building/amassing a Siri Search index. Not bad at all, not bad.

    I’m pretty intrigued, amused and excited to see how Shazam contributes in the Apple ecosystem.