Category Archives: Design

Pretty Ugly

While going through stacks of papers in a friend’s room, I found an article from Architecture Boston entitled Pretty Ugly, a roundtable discussion between architects, art curators and educators on the concept of ugliness, included in AB’s 2006 “Ugly” issue. Two quotes about the variable roles of dissonance & ugliness in Architecture and other art stood out: for one, Architecture is both restrained in how confrontational it can be (due to the time, money and publicity involved), and also the need to utilize a space regardless of its appearance can push concerns of ugliness out of the forefront of people’s minds:

The artist as renegade, especially as renegade genius, is an enduring image in Western art. […] But renegade architecture is somewhat different; for one thing, a building quickly outlives the moment when it’s so confrontational. ~ Robert Campbell, Architecture Critic, Boston Globe

Second, the deliberate pursuit of ugliness can be used to “fast fail” out of unproductive design decisions: Once you have defined a territory which you consider to be unproductive, it is easier to identify whether an idea extends into that territory, and to subsequently abort that train of thought:

I’ve heard that Lebbeus Woods … asked his Harvard students to design something ugly, something undesirable, the idea being that through examining what you wouldn’t want, you eliminate a series of bad decisions and arrive at something more desirable. I don’t think students today aim for ugliness. They aim for the grotesque, meaning exaggeration or distortion of form. ~ Hansy Better, principal of Studio Luz Architects, and member of RISD, BAC and MIT architecture faculty

Regarding the iOS 5.1 Lock Screen

Apple’s iOS 5.1 software update for iPhones makes the camera icon appear persistently on the lock screen. Previously the camera could be launched by tapping on the camera icon; after 5.1, you now have to swipe the icon to launch the app. When you try to tap on the camera icon now, the screen bounces slightly to indicate you must swipe upwards instead.

I know this was to prevent the camera from triggering as you carry the phone around in your pocket, but it’s just not very affordant. On a dark background you can barely see the subtle lines around the camera icon that indicate dragability in iOS, and the screen-bounce seems like a clumsy solution to the problem. Since 5.1 came out I’ve seen people on the street try repeatedly tapping the icon before they understood what they had to do—call me crazy, but maybe it’d have been better to go with a double-tap on the icon instead? I’d willingly take the hit of a few photos of the inside of my pocket in exchange for a button-like icon that actually acts like a button.

OK, </grump>. That concludes this week’s episode of end-of-weekend blues manifesting themselves through UX criticism.

What is Caribou in Arabic?

Work has overwhelmed me the past couple of weeks, both a 9-5 of +9 tedium and various freelance projects, and I am only now getting caught up on the sea of blogs that is my RSS reader. I was very sad to see that PingMag, a favorite design blog of mine from Japan, is taking an indefinite hiatus… curse you, oh pernicious economy.

On a slightly more positive note, earlier today Drawn! brought me a link to a Flickr photostream of Arabic logos for Western brands. Below is Caribou Coffee, the coffeeshop where I spent most of my time and money during highschool. Also featured are Banana Republic, Starbucks, Tide detergent, and many others.

Caribou Coffee Arabic Logo

A friend linked me to a week or so ago, and I am really impressed with the site. Spotlighting interesting packaging design, The Dieline gives recognition to packaging that is innovative, attractive, or even just plain funny.

Pirate Supplies from 826 Valencia

One recent post that caught my eye highlighted the work that the San Francisco-based firm office did for the new product line at the Pirate Supply store at 826 Valencia in San Francisco. 826 Valencia is a nonprofit writing tutoring center in the Mission District that Dave Eggers (of McSweeney’s) founded in 2002. Required by zoning to have a storefront, they opened a Pirate Supply Store as a kind of joke and were surprised to find that it actually started making money. The new packaging is quite piratical, and I hope it brings further success to the store (all proceeds go to support the tutoring center).

TheDieline has showcased a lot of great packaging lately, but this work was particularly notable for me because Dave Eggers gave our Baccalaureate address when I graduated from Brown. I really admire what he has done, both with McSweeney’s and with 826 Valencia and its offshoots. He has given a TED Talk on his initiative, which covers some of the same ground as his Baccalaureate address with only half of the nervousness—check it out!

Election News Coverage Diagram

DesignVerb has a recent link to the site, a website that graphically represents and compares the day-to-day news coverage of Barack Obama and John McCain in their presidential race.