Why You Should Never, Ever Put Two Spaces After A Period

“When I pointed out that they were doing it wrong—that, in fact, the correct way to end a sentence is with a period followed by a single, proud, beautiful space—the table balked. “Who says two spaces is wrong?” they wanted to know.”

Double spacing. A workaround for improving readability of monospaced type on typewriters that became a legacy typographic convention driving professionals insane. To reflect on reality of ignorance make sure to also see the comment section.

Read the full article

On Sustainable Growth

Inspiring approach to leveraging sustainable growth through empathic product design. From a former product lead for growth and relevance at Twitter.

“We dug in and tried to learn what the “aha” moment was for a new user and then rebuilt our entire new user experience to engineer that more quickly. It turned out that if you manually selected and followed at least 5-10 Twitter accounts in your first day on Twitter, you were much more likely to become a long term user, since you had chosen things that interested you. And if we helped someone you know follow you back, then even better. As we kept tweaking the features to focus on helping users achieve these things, our retention dramatically rose.”

From “What is “Growth Hacking” really?” by Josh Elman

Bruce Sterling on Atemporality

People ask where did the future go? Where are these glamorous versions of the future? […] We’re moving into a situation with Generation-Xers in power, in a Depression. A Depression where people are afraid of the sky. That’s what the next decade actually looks like. And you’re going to live there.

bruce-sterling-on-atemporality

One of my favourite interlocutors on design and technology recently introduced me to Bruce Sterling and his closing talk at Reboot — Life in the next decade. He takes you on a hysterically dark, but comical journey through four strategic forecasting quadrants (“crisis capitalism for aging baby boomers”, “B.R.I.C., Brazil, Russia, India, China” and top and low end of the “Reboot in power”) and illustrates a vision of what it’s going to feel like to live through the next ten years that only a futurist novelist can deliver. If nothing else it will enrich your vocabulary with amusing terms like “Dark Euphoria“, “Gothic High-Tech” and “Favela Chic”.

“It does not feel like progress. However, it does not feel like conservatism either. There’s neither progress nor conservatism, because there’s nothing left to conserve and no direction in which to progress. So what you get is transition. Transition to Nowhere, as they would call it in the Eastern Bloc.”

All this to tell you: “Stop acting dead.”

And if you really get sucked into this, I strongly recommend further geeking out on “How to Live Without Irony” and The New Aesthetic and The Framework of Culture for additional contemplation on contemporary culture.

Interview with France Rode, Silicon Valley 50 years later

“You need to have courage. Without courage there’s nothing. And hard work. I think today — at least I see it — people don’t have the right interest.”

France Rode

(image source: Val 202)

France Rode, born November 20, 1934 in Nožice, Slovenia, is an engineer and inventor best known for his work on the HP-35 pocket calculator. He was one of the four lead engineers at Hewlett-Packard assigned to the project. Rode also invented and created the first workable RFID products: workplace entry cards, for which he holds several patents. (source: Wikipedia)

on benefits of working for HP:

“What has been a benefit for people like me at HP: the whole warehouse was always open. You could go in and take what you needed. And you could work for yourself which was also nice. As long as you worked.”

The interview, performed by Kristjan Pecanac of Hekovnik Startup School, which was filmed at BoundBreaker’s 4th generation launch is bursting with brilliant remarks and intimate insight into his professional life, achievements, overview of the industry, relationship to his home country and his many experiences living in Silicon Valley. The video is unfortunately available only in Slovene, but hopefully the Hekovnik team will be able to provide English subtitles in the near future. Until then I’ve taken the liberty of translating some of my favorite gems which are too good not to be shared with the rest of the non-Slovene speaking world.

on advice to others on how to build an Eastern Europe version of Sillicon Valley

“I would say they should come in terms with some kind of self-confidence or an idea, that by helping someone you also benefit from it. Because with every such relation, if someone fails it’s not good. And if I return to what you’ve just said — politicians, the university, scientists and entrepreneurs — some sort of symbiosis needs to form between them. Otherwise this can’t go anywhere. And it is very important what kind of policies they write. What kind of restrictions are imposed on you in order to do something. That is why there needs to be a synthesis between these people. There’s no other way of doing that. I think.”

on importance of research:

“You can’t do anything without research. You just can’t. Tell me what can you do, without proving something can be done for the first time? You can’t just go tinkering something!”

To sell is to seduce

“It’s a dangerously clever game of seduction, designed to create intimacy and manufacture feelings which we hold precious.”

sexy packshot

Treating sales as a mere exchange of commodity for money is the same as treating sex only as a mean to an orgasm instead of play of creating and fulfilling a desire. You want to seduce and play. Get the other party excited. Make the banal meaningful. And, as consumers, we love to be seduced. We enjoy giving in to the perverse guilty pleasures of spending our money. We shamelessly enjoy unleashing our voyeurism on sexy pack shots. Gloating over its exposed features. Getting turned on by our fantasies imagine ourselves with the product. Being told everything we want to hear. Until the teasing becomes unbearable and we unleash our wallets. Sure sometimes we go for an impulsive, irrational decision of just doing it. Mostly with what we don’t really treasure, but need at that point. However most of the times we prefer taking our time to enjoy the act in its full extent.

It’s a dangerously clever game of seduction, designed to create intimacy and manufacture feelings that we hold precious. We end up purchasing products we engage with, not merely for the carnal pleasures they promise, but also because we form an emotional bond with them. Through play we embrace their introduction, unknowingly learn a great deal about them and open ourselves for an emotional relationship. This intimacy is not just the most powerful sales catalyst but also the foundation for retention. When we understand the product — its origins, history, characteristics, values etc. — we feel comfortable enough to trust it, rely on it and sometimes even forgive its shortcomings.

The paradox of reading

“As cultivated people know (and, to their misfortune, uncultivated people do not), culture is above all a matter of orientation. Being cultivated is a matter not of having read any book in particular, but of being able to find your bearings within books as a system, which requires you to know that they form a system and to be able to locate each element in relation to the others. The interior of the book is less important than its exterior, or, if you prefer, the interior of the book is its exterior, since what counts in a book is the books alongside it.”

From Pierre Bayard’s “How To Talk About Books You Haven’t Read” on engaging with literature.

Urbanized: Architects’ Perspective on Design

Oscar Niemeyer on problem solving

“But the problem is so beautiful, it is so rich, it allows so many ideas.”

Oscar Niemeyer

Edgar Pieterse on meaning and innovation

“Fundamentaly as a species we need things that can power our imaginations, that can get our passions going, that can give us a sense of meaning. And that is not a brick, it is not a pipe, it is an idea.”

“What we know from history is that you really need a small group of innovators; a small group of people that can demonstrate how to do things diferently. And once that gets mainstreamed the change happens really really quickly.”

Edgar Pieterse

Alejandro Aravena on participatory design

“We asked families what is more important: water heater or the bathtub. There was not enough money for both. Decision makers or politicians or professionals, they normally tend to answer the water heater. And in 100% of the cases, when we asked this the families, they preferred the bathtub over the water heater. You have to understand that they are coming from no water, no sewage. A shower meant to have a can with water in the coridor, so they’re going to have privacy.”

Alejandro Aravena

Jan Gehl on quality and ergonomics

“I think a good city is like a good party. If you ask a guy: ‘Was it a good party on Friday?’ and he says: ‘O my dear, I only was home by 5:30 in the morning.’ If people get involved in social activities they will forget place and time and just enjoy. That’s why I would say do not look how many people are walking in the city, but look how many people have stopped walking to stay and enjoy what is there.”

“Knowing about homo sapiens and a kind of creature he is, has been a very important key to understanding why some places work and some places don’t. Much of it is bound to our senses; how long you can see, how long you can hear, how your eye is horizontal. […] We are really talking about the urban habitat of homosapiens. It’s the same homosapiens all over the world. Cultural circumstances differ, economic circumstances differ, climatic circumstances differ, but basically we are the same little walking animal.”

Jan Gehl

James Corner on design applicability

“As a landscape architect, a question I always ask is what is what will design actually mess up? What through design will you anesthetize? Will you destroy? Because a lot of these sites have a sort of charm to them that really I’m always looking to try to capture and actually amplify.”

James Corner

Bruce Katz on user experience

“At the end of the day cities are competing for people, they’re competing for investment. And so how they develop, whether they’re livable, whether they’re sustainable, whether they’re economically focused, whether they’re an easy place to do business in; will affect their prosperity. Now and over time.”

Bruce Katz

Sir Norman Foster on optimism

“Maybe out of these extreme energy pressures the positive aspects of human nature, the quest for innovation, for inquiry, will lead to something which is more exciting and more sustainable. As an architect if you are not an optimist you are not going to be able to survive professionally. So you have a belief in the future.”

Sir Norman Foster

Control + Shift + Create

This is an extended follow up post-mortem article of a workshop about creativity with the web which occurred on 29. March 2012 at Slovenian Advertising Festival.

Creatives being plain ol’ “creative”…

Practically every meeting I had with traditional designers or copywriters about a web project we were working on, they would provide initial sketches—
a juxtaposed composition of metaphorical imagery representing the navigation or content. In exceptional cases the websites we would create would end up looking something along the lines of Lake Nona, in worst I don’t think you want to know.

Even the all mighty Stefan Sagmeister’s website is notoriously controversial. Not too long ago he redesigned (or better realigned) his old highly unusable flash website. The old and almost iconic navigation was preserved but this time it was placed onto the office floor and projected onto the website with the help of ceiling webcam which recorded all the office action. This is a classic example of what traditional designers consider as creative use of (web) technology.

Btw even this is not directly related with the web, I’ve also noticed a mild form of obsession with QR codes among traditional designers. They just can’t seem to wrap their head around the fact you can actually turn every thing into a hyperlink. Their love combined with an unfortunate sense of contextualisation gradually turned into another web meme blog.

Analogue meets digital

Another classic handicap is seeing the web as a free/cheap broadcasting channel for traditional media which a lot of traditional advertisers seem to be suffering from. Fortunately there are studios and agencies who understand things well enough to combine best of both worlds.

Visit Norway uses an interactive video of a wing-suit jump over Norwegian landscape where users can turn around 360-degrees during the flying and enjoy the spectacular landscape. Not exactly the outburst of creativity, but it does surpass the TV broadcasting mentality and makes the experience interactive (which in this case equals better).

One of the studios with a large and quality portfolio of projects bridging these two fields is probably B-reel. They can take something as boring as the laundry powder advertising and turn it into an exciting cyber carnival prize shootout. You can only imagine what they come up when they decide to create an experimental music video featuring Arcade Fire’s single “We Used To Wait”.

Creativity in form of an innovation

But none are more creative with the web than geeks. Designer/engineer hybrids who practice(d) traditional design but also have a strong affinity for technology. The people who understand what makes it tick and know how to manipulate it, are the ones able to innovate on it (even if just a tiny bit) and not merely recycle or recontextualise the same old concepts.

Best place to start your search of creativity online, in my opinion, is Spacelog. What can be more creative than bunch of utterly cool and smart geeks escaping the daily distractions of internet to a 19th century fortress to digitalise space missions? “Right, geeks enjoying normal geeky stuff, but what’s so creative about that,” I hear you ask. Undusting old transcripts which have been lying around on some government server for god knows how long and turn them into an interactive experience which is nothing less than indexed, searchable and navigatable history frozen in time. It’s a time machine that gets you up close and personal with historic figures in a same way your chat logs do it with your friends. No matter how you structure it, turning this content into any other form would always result in a streamlined and subjective interpretation of real events. There is no other medium or form that can at the same time preserve events in their raw and unprocessed state, enable consumption much faster than their real time and semantically index the content to be referred to in part. The fact it feels perfectly familiar and intuitive the first time you encounter it is exactly what makes it phenomenal. But the fact is nobody before this came up with the idea of doing anything like this. And that makes it utterly creative.

But there is much more to interactivity than hyperlink clicks and their hover, pressed, visited and active states. There are triggers such as voice, video, image, location and what not. But if you are creative you can also employ browser size to tell a story.

When the Brighton based studio Clearleft announced Silverback—their in-house usability testing application, they launched a temporary website describing the product combined by a sign-up form to receive a release announcement. But soon someone discovered the cool 3D effect (called parallax) which the jungle vines hanging from the top edge of browser viewport made when resizing the browser window. And they tweeted about it. And got retweeted. A lot. But most importantly Clearleft got couple of thousand e-mail subscribers and exposure all over the web in their first week of announcing the product. Also worth mentioning in this category is another cute monkey and a technology powered Easter egg, better described in Aarron Walter’s book Designing for Emotion.

Since then the parallax effect has been reinterpreted and recontextualized quite a lot. But before we get to that, let’s observe a connecting evolutionary step of this concept. To celebrate the release of Internet Explorer 9 which supported WOFF (web fonts format) couple of incredibly talented designers and developers designed a typographic web trilogy. One of which leveraged scrolling in order to tell the story. This probably wasn’t the first instance of this concept but I’m comfortable enough claiming it was probably one of the first widely popularised.

Fast forward couple of months forward when the newcomer Berlin based company Nerd Communications announced a micro website for Ben the Bodyguard; their iPhone app for encryption of sensitive data. By scrolling the website you follow Ben on a walk through a dodgy neighbourhood where he pitches you his services. Similar to Silverback’s case, Ben was instantly skyrocketed among web superstars, featured all over the web and received thousands of e-mails from people interested in the app. Even though the method in use was nothing new the creators of Ben the Bodyguard managed to perfect the technique with an exceptional narrative and optimisation of the whole experience for mobile devices. Go ahead, open the same link on your phone or tablet and touch scroll through the story with your finger. Magnificent, no?

Even though I’m quite certain I’ve seen the next step done before the Wieden+Kennedy (W+K) assembled a team of creatives and coders to create a website for Nike Better World, the latter championed it. While the creators claim the concept came before the technology, the website combines both previously mentioned elements: the parallax effect and scrolling narrative. I’ll skip the success part and provide a couple of examples worth mentioning which put the same technique into use. The rest is history.

Exploiting technology

Back in the day we loved creating websites with Flash, because it allowed richer media experience than native web technologies (video, audio, animation etc.), we were familiar with the workflow from the rest of graphic software, but most importantly because there was no immediate pressure on learning code. We were able to create whole websites with just simple goToAndPlay(); function. Today it’s easier to find albino Scandinavian buddhist monks than web designers who would argue Flash over web standards. Even though the current state of creative affairs on the web is dangerously leaning back towards malicious flashturbation, at least this time it’s not breaking the web. Unfortunately advertisers can’t restrain themselves from taking something good and turn it into download intensive stiff over-planned piece of poo. This is a prime example of the creative mentality working without understanding of technology. It doesn’t matter if it’s made using flash or HTML5. When you need a preloader and 5+ sec of broadband load time to open a URL you’ve failed no matter how spectacular the content on the other side of a hyperlink is.

These newly emerging web experiences are mainly based on the latest generation of browser technologies such as WebGL, HTML5 canvas, native audio & video support, CSS3 animation, perspective transform or epic JavaScript (libraries) which are transforming the web from pages to (collaborative) rich multimedia applications.

Plink and Rumpetroll are spectacular showcases of the power of HTML5 canvas, native audio combined with real-time multi user technologies.

These technologies obviously won’t work on your granny’s old PC running Internet Explorer 6 and as a matter of fact sometimes they won’t even work in your latest version of Firefox. But as long as such limitations are understood, supported with a fallback accessibility systems and the technology is employed where it makes sense, it can be truly powerful. As young and primitive as these technologies are, they have only begun to develop and we’ll be working with it for quite some time. You better recognise, homes.

Acko.net uses CSS 3D transform combined with Three.js JavaScript 3D engine to create a browser native 3D scrolling parallax effect which works only in Webkit browsers. Others will render the website normally and user won’t even notice there’s a small web technological breakthrough missing in what he sees.

But the technology itself isn’t and shouldn’t be replacement of the content. Previous examples are mainly experimental showcases of possibilities new technologies are offering us to empower and unleash our creativity on. Slavery footprint is a simple, but fantastically designed web survey which makes a practical use of more or less sophisticated technologies in order to create memorable experience and a compelling argument about the human exploitation behind every day luxuries western world is accustomed to.

Disclaimer

Despite the sarcasm the point here is not to mock but to inspire graphic designers and other enthusiasts to think in the z-space.

There are many other websites I wanted to include in this list. Many of them which unfortunately suffered the inevitable time transition to search engine obscurity or termination beyond my or Wayback Machine’s cache.

Also the original plan of the workshop was to have a very informal dialogue with attendants—some sort of designer’s version of a youtube party where we would exchange relevant links, deconstruct websites and chat about their origins and results. Since I ended a bit disappointed by not gaining anything in return I decided to turn, what should have been a simple list of links, into a full featured article in hope to reach those who care and continue the discussion.

Let me know about the tons of other great and unique web ideas/projects that I’ve left out or merely your thoughts about things written here.

Will Android Design Guideline Bring Order to the Galaxy?

Google recently launched an Android Design Guideline website as guide and educational resource for designers and developers in order to “make exceptional Android apps”. While we sit and wait to see what impact will it have on the Apple vs. Google mobile race we might take the opportunity for some analysis.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich Design Elements

The content

The first thing one has to admit is that Matias Duarte and the rest of the Android team did a fantastic job on doing their homework on the content. It’s insightful, brief and straight to the point. But maybe most importantly also very illustrative.

Its authors obviously understand that this content is not just about providing the facts about Android GUI. It’s about portraying an Android personality; attitude if you will. Moderating the conversation so that the entire community can share a clear vision and find a coherent voice on the market. A framework which should help “brands find the right balance between consistency of their brand’s identity and the Android interface conventions” (13:19). But ultimately it’s about the narrative intended to inspire people to dig deeper and make better apps that will ultimately give greater value to their applications and ultimately the platform itself.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich Metrics and Grids

The design

Probably the most instantly impressive thing is the level of editorial work that went into producing, fabricating and polishing the content. A cunning little trick Apple has been pulling out their sleeves for all these years in battle with Google. And it’s finished off with a delicate touch on the sweet little homepage that will probably tempt even the most hardcore Apple fanboy to sniff around Androidʼs sterile futuristic techno-fetishistic design corner. Of course, apart from this little embarrassing Photoshop free transform fail.

Itʼs not just well articulated and handsome but also very nifty. Itʼs certainly not the first use of combination of a classic navigation menu with the linear narrative experience but it still deserves the credit for a text-book execution. Hopefully there are designers out there reading it chapter by chapter to their little geek prodigies every night as a bedtime story.

By the way, have you notices how your eye naturally flows through content while keeping focus on a single spot? Note a slight mid-gray > light gray > mid-gray background gradient that naturally locks your eye on the lightest part and sits it on a cushion while your brain goes Einstein on the content.

They’ve called it a Four-headed Frankenfont

Despite the fact the Roboto’s birth as the official Android typeface was accompanied with much hostility and general discussion, I think its overall performance as a web font is a good comeback to those critiques. It’s very legible, offers plenty of typographic contrast, communicates in a “Don Draper” persuasive tone and renders much crisper than most of the premium typefaces that foundries charge for these days (tested only on FF, Chrome and Safari on Snow Leopard). Which is especially interesting considering the fact that Roboto is open source and out there for free for everyone to use, modify and build upon. Personally I consider it to be an adolescent version of Apex Sans searching for its identity, but than again the reasons for Android team going after a custom font, instead of licensing an existing one, are pretty obvious.

Roboto Typeface Comparison

“Roboto indeed has a mixed heritage, but that mix doesn’t have anything to do with the gibberish from the press release. Its parents are a Grotesk sans (like a slightly condensed Helvetica) and a Humanist sans (like Frutiger or Myriad) ... When an alphabet has such unrelated glyphs it can taste completely different depending on the word. “Fudge” is casual and contemporary. “Marshmallow” is rigid and classical. This is not a typeface. It’s a tossed salad.
Stephen Coles on October 19, 2011

Speaking of being adopted…

As with everything with Google, apparently, they just can’t seem to roll out something without leaving at least a bit of bad after-taste in your mouth. Ironically, a website teaching others how to create extraordinary mobile experiences can’t be even remotely bothered being optimized for the mobile experience itself. As if owners of the Android tablets, for instance, had absolutely no reason to access and use this website. Especially with all the recent innovations and advancements making these things easier than ever before. It’s a shame that despite all the qualities it fails to foster the very own products it promotes. Although, in Google’s defense, until Apple decides to take a step towards making better mobile experience on their part of the web, it would seem unrealistic to expect Google to innovate on this subject. But then again, this was suppose to be their subject.

All in all a very strong work, but it’s still too early to sing praises. However it’s nice to see Google finally building some serious design muscles. Despite the fact that Android is obviously not a premium range product they apparently realized at the right time that the bad user experience which consumers and developers have been criticizing, can potentially be a very big crack in their mobile ship. Itʼs comforting to know that decision makers at Google are willing to invest in and leverage design in order to stay on top of their game. It would definitely be very interesting and exciting to see Google do some serious innovations on the design department in the near future. And the broader effect on the global IT industry this could have. There are some interesting times ahead of us.

Pricing model based on social mechanics of multiplayer games

“The players, realizing it or not, are evangelizing the product among potential users for the sole purpose of being able to play the game themselves.”

Pricing model based on social mechanics of multiplayer games

Although I have much appreciation for addictive games and have always considered myself a gamer I rarely find myself in a situation of comfortably spending time enjoying them. Yesterday Andy took me by surprise in the middle of my testing the Editorial’s website performance on iPad by persuading me into buying an multiplayer iPad game titled Asphalt 6 HD.

The incident sparked a potentially interesting idea for a business model. Even though I almost changed my mind after glancing the $6 price I bought the game because of the following two reasons:

  • not only did it came with a recommendation from one friend but it was introduced as being regularly enjoyed by most people in our social circle
  • being invited by a friend put a certain amount of social pressure on me—not being willing to spend $6 to have fun with a friend could easily be interpreted as being a cheapskate

Either way I found myself in a situation of buying software I was very unlikely to spend my money on. Contemplating about this experience made me realize that in the realm of multiplayer games this is probably a very common situation. Since they depend on the initial player to find a gaming partner there is a social mechanism already embedded in the system. The players, realizing it or not, are evangelizing the product among potential users for the sole purpose of being able to play the game themselves. But the best part of this is that players who get converted are very likely to perpetuate the spread for the same selfish reasons.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush

The gaming industry seems to be playing it safe when it comes to pricing model. There is a fixed price per license with occasional exclusive price drops and other types of sales techniques. Yet considering the social mechanics mentioned above there are numerous alternative models begging to be explored.

On the assumption that the first comers are very likely to influence additional sales it would make sense to award them with the lower initial price. In theory, this should increase the speed of reaching a desired amount of early adopters needed for a viral effect. Assumption that as the audience reach increases the less need there is for players to evangelize the game suggests that the price should rise proportionally to the number of players.

For the sake of argument let’s say the game authors were able to sell only 100 copies of the game for $4 each. Obviously, that translates to $400 of revenue.

Having the same amount of customers we could set the price proportional to the audience reach starting with the initial 5 copies for $2, followed by 10 copies for $3, 15 for $4, 30 for $5 & 40 for $6 with the nice sum of $490.

There is also another potential element of motivation hidden in the equation. Audience reach does not only increase the chances of players being able to play but also the amount of interest for the game. The later the users joins in the greater the more likely is for him to feel he’s missing on something cool and fun. Which I’m sure could be leveraged to motivate the potential user to pay that higher price.

However it does seem quite obvious as well that this model does have a price threshold after which the number of people willing to pay exponentially lowers. This problem could easily be solved by switching to fixed price model after the certain price is reached.

Difference between theory and practice

There is a lot more work to be done before this theory could be put into practice. Decent amount of risk involved would definitely require a proper market research and study of online viral (marketing) in order to get as precise information on setting the price threshold & the number of levels and corresponding prices.

Nevertheless I think there is a decent amount of the potential in this idea and I feel quite tempted to explore it further in the near future.