Journal

Moving In, Moving On

This weekend I will move into a new flat, the first I’ve owned rather than rented. While I’m trying not to see buying a property as an act of settling down, that I’ve bought somewhere in Brighton suggests I’ve found a city I’m happy to call home. This is partly thanks to Clearleft, the design agency I joined in 2009.

Visual Design Explorations

Since Mikey joined us in February, the number of designers working at Clearleft is at an all time high. As the company grows, we want to maintain the same level of knowledge sharing and collaboration that happened more spontaneously with a smaller team.

Andy Higgs: Journey into Africa

Although it’s easy to feel envious of Andy’s travels around the world, his writing is vivid enough to make you believe you had joined him. His latest series of posts, detailing a trip trough Africa, are no different. It sounds like an amazing continent, one that offers the intrepid traveller some incredible sights:

Great rich earthy trails of red, amber and ochre form streaks across huge plains of deep green foliage and scrubland. Huge white outcrops soar up through groves of yellow-pocked acacia trees, chunky bare-trunked baobabs and the fluttering sprouts of the banana plants…

Blade-like roads slice directly through villages where bright white eyes peer out from under the leafy shade of communal trees, and terracotta coloured, tin-roofed houses are lined up like matchboxes to each side of the varying qualities of tarmac – which range from rough to barely present.

Yet this beauty is threatened by a persistent danger, be it from wild game circling your isolated camp, or from fellow humans in a crime-ridden city:

It was repeated to me a few times that you don’t stop at red lights after dark in Johannesburg, nor do you drive with your windows fully up (it stiffens the glass which makes it an easier task to smash with a crowbar at an intersection). Security is a massive concern of daily life, and every brick built house squats in a concrete or iron-fenced compound, and comes with a big board showing which particular company will provide the armed response. It’s quite a strange sight for European eyes.

What an experience.

The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’

Julian Assange reviews Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen’s new book, ‘The New Digital Age’:

Google, which started out as an expression of independent Californian graduate student culture – a decent, humane and playful culture – has, as it encountered the big, bad world, thrown its lot in with traditional Washington power elements, from the State Department to the National Security Agency.

Exhibit A: PRISM.

What I Want from a Web Font

Last month I wrote about Bradshaw’s Guide, a project that brings George Bradshaw’s 1866 descriptive railway handbook to the web. Today I’ll cover some of the typographic decisions I made, and how they lead me to believe that we still lack the necessary tools for web typography.

Don’t Be Evil, and Get Rich Trying

My short break in California has so far included four hour-long trips on Caltrain as I hop between the cities of San Francisco and Palo Alto. These short periods disconnected from the web, have allowed me to catch up on my reading list.

(Re)introducing Bradshaw’s Guide

(Re)introducing Bradshaw's Guide

Based on the 1866 edition of George Bradshaw’s handbook for tourists using Britain’s nascent railway network, my latest project puts his historical insights into the hands of a new generation, many of whom use the same routes he described 150 years ago.

And the Award Goes to…

When awards are given out, they should encourage everyone to be finer practitioners, not louder personalities. Instead of putting people – however deserving – on pedestals out of reach of new talent, when done right, they can promote inclusivity and celebrate our collective achievement.

Front-End Performance for Web Designers and Front-End Developers

Harry Roberts:

It’s hard, if not impossible, to deny that performance is by far one of the most critical aspects of any decent web project, be it a small portfolio site, a mobile-first web app, right through to a full-scale ecommerce project. Studies, articles and personal experience all tell us that fast is best.

If you’re a web developer (or designer) read this. Now.

The Trend Against Skeuomorphic Textures and Effects in User Interface Design

John Gruber:

The trend away from skeuomorphic special effects in UI design is the beginning of the retina-resolution design era. Our designs no longer need to accommodate for crude pixels. Glossy/glassy surfaces, heavy-handed transparency, glaring drop shadows, embossed text, textured material surfaces – these hallmarks of modern UI graphic design style are (almost) never used in good print graphic design. They’re unnecessary in print, and, the higher the quality of the output and more heavy-handed the effect, the sillier such techniques look.

John’s article forms part of a larger discussion about the possible emergence of a truer digital aesthetic. Flat interfaces, such as those seen in Microsoft’s Metro UI and the BBC’s GEL project are certainly fashionable, and thankfully, to my taste. Simpler interfaces are particularly suited to the web; high-fidelity interfaces can require a large number of image assets or many lines of CSS, reducing overall performance.

I’m not sure this trend has much to do with HiDPI displays though. I suspect, like most design movements, it’s just a reaction to what proceeded it. Skeuomorphism is to Art Nouveau what flat design is to minimalism. What goes around, comes around.

Be sure to read Max Rudberg’s counter argument, too.

Looking for older posts? Browse the archive