Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Save the Outrage. And the Tibetans. Or Something Like That.

Here is the comment I posted on the great logo scandal.

Oh, c’mon.

The larger circle is the outer atmosphere and it contains our planet (and that would be the negative space on the inside). The big red swoosh is symbolic of hitting threats over the horizon.

It’s more contemporary than the old logo and it’s more visually interesting. I think someone should have noticed that it could be mistaken for something else and should have asked for redesign.

But that doesn’t mean it’s part of some larger plot.

Save the outrage for something real.

Don’t know what the great logo scandal is? Check it out here.

Look, I love me some Andrew Breitbart, but Frank Gaffney has put something on Breitbart’s Big Government site that looks pretty looney to me. Don’t let the site go down the Ron Paul road to craziness.

In other words, don’t let the crazy be the enemy of the good.

There is precisely no reason to jump on this particular bandwagon. Questionable design choices do not equal plots to spread Islamic symbols to America through obscure military logos.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

24 Obama Dingbats

Which, maybe not quite what you’re expecting…

Check it out.

H/T to Death by Kerning. Which, if you’re a design geek, should be on your RSS reader.

None of which changes the fact that Harry Reid is an idiot. Or that the story will still be how much more intelligent, well-informed, and worldly Obama believers are in comparison to their (assumed to be) backwards, redneck, gun-toting, racist fellow citizens. No matter the facts.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Parallels, Ubuntu, and Pixelmator (And I Still Didn’t Get Where I Was Going)

Here’s the sequence of events: First, six months ago I bought the MacHeist Bundle II which included Pixelmator. A week or so ago, I bought the MacUpdate Bundle which included Parallels. A few days ago, a freelance client of mine sent a pair of .rdp files to give me access to their servers for a little work that I’m doing for them. All these things came together to create this post.

Which caused a problem.

Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Client for Mac OS X isn’t a particularly good product, as far as I’m concerned, but I couldn’t find another client that might actually open one of those .rdp files. So, last night I tried to find a way to get those things open while doing all of the work on my MacBook--and I’m sure that you geeks can see where this is going.

The MacHeist and MacUpdate bundles proved a fairly cheap way for me to try new software--and I like the idea of supporting shareware developers who put together good software. I bought the MU bundle without ever intending to use the flagship product, Parallels, because I didn’t imagine that I needed to run Windows inside my MacBook--besides which, I have no idea where my Win XP system disk is and I’m afraid it’s somewhere in a big box o’ abandoned technology in the storage unit. Which isn’t particularly helpful at 1:30 in the morning. But the more I struggled to find a Macintosh based solution, the more I started to think that there might be a Linux based solution to my problem.

Hence the quick installation of Parallels last night and a nearly as quick download of NimbleX, a tiny, fast Linux distribution that ran beautifully in Parallels after I spent a good three minutes setting up the virtual machine. What I couldn’t do was figure out how to install NimbleX (which was designed to be run from a USB device or CD) on the virtual hard drive that I had created. For that matter, it wouldn’t even recognize the existence of that virtual drive, wouldn’t save downloaded files, and was clunky to get around when it came to trying to figure out how to install and use its .mo module files in hopes of getting a terminal services client that would open the .rdp files. NimbleX, which ran quick as hell and impressed me with its small footprint, didn’t get me where I wanted to go.

On older computers, I’m betting that something like NimbleX would be appreciated, though.

A much longer download (about 700 megs to NimbleX’s 200 megs) got me the latest Ubuntu distribution. Ubuntu also required about a 3 gig virtual drive compared to the 500 megs I gave to NimbleX. Ubuntu, though, installed like a dream and gave me a much happier path to full screen virtual computing in Parallels than NimbleX had managed. Although it isn’t as polished as I had expected, it’s also much easier to get around and familiarize with than the smaller distro. Even better, it’s build-in Terminal Services Client offered to open up my .rdp files (with just a little nudge).

But it didn’t bring in the encrypted password. Damnit. So it opens with all of the details filled out (and looks, for all the world, like a really nice client), but I don’t have the super secret password to actually get in and do my work. As I said: damnit.

So in the end, I decided to write a post and take a screen cap of the entire thing running inside my Macintosh. So, hitting the command for a screen cap (Command-Shift-3), up popped Snapz Pro X (a brilliant title from one of my favorite small developers, Ambrosia Software, that came in the MacUpdate bundle) to give me a variety of options for the screen cap that I wanted to take to illustrate the post. Nifty. I set the options and took the picture. Once the picture was done, I decided that I wanted to edit out the IP address and other information from the Terminal Services Client to protect the security of my client.

I could open it in Photoshop since I have a legal copy running on this machine, but it seemed a bit much to open up the big app for such a little job. Enter Pixelmator.

Pixelmator is missing many of the features that I need as a guy who deals with preparing press files on a daily basis. It doesn’t have all of the features that I need especially in terms of its color handling. But for something like this, it loads so much faster and does have a wide variety of great tools that it’s worth having on my hard drive just for the small jobs.

All of which got me here (see below), but didn’t get me where I wanted to go.

Click above to make it bigger.

All of which thrills me.  I don’t mind paying for software, but I love having so many reasonably priced (and often free) options for some of the things that I do. Not every job requires the huge titles that sell for hundreds of dollars--and, in fact, some of them get done better with leaner, more focused tools.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Marketing Advice: On Making it Bigger

This comes up regularly in my professional life--often at the office, sometimes in the freelance work that I do on the side, but often enough that I wish people would invest a little more time in understanding their own marketing goals.

See, in advertising, logos are a little like cars: you certainly want a nice one that makes a good impression, but it shouldn’t overwhelm your marketing message. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is in believing that making the logo bigger is the main ingredient to your branding efforts. Make the logo big enough and people will remember your company and think of it whenever they want to buy whatever widget it is that you sell.

Except that’s not quite right. An oversized logo says nothing about your product, your services, the way you treat customers, or why they should buy your solution over some other company’s. You don’t want a logo to be completely unnoticeable, of course, but if logos are a little like cars then the giant logo is a little like that ultra-flash, ultra-expensive sports car with wings, ports, and vanity plates that read some variation on the “Look at Me” theme: sure, some people will like it, but everyone else will just think you’re overcompensating. If all you want is for people to notice the logo, you may as well put a giant, flaming, and slowly spinning animated GIF on the front page of your site and call it a day.

Don’t be that guy. Realize that if your logo doesn’t communicate its message at a reasonable size, it won’t communicate it at a Brobdingnagian size, either.

Instead of making the logo bigger, ensure that your identity is well-placed and strong, but expand your branding effort to include the message, the imagery, the colors, the fonts, and the tone of your marketing efforts. Come up with good graphics guidelines that define your branding efforts and remember that your branding effort starts with the message but continues all the way through the delivery of the product or service, on to how well your product fulfills its promise, and into customer service after the sale.

Apple understands this better than most companies, although it wasn’t always so. Once upon a time, Apple charged a premium for its products, but delivered them pretty much like any other company (only a little bit prettier). Now, everything about Apple’s products is designed to extend the brand--premium, fun, easy-to-use, high quality, and stylish electronics, computers, and software--throughout the product’s life. From the consistency of the ad messages, to the exquisitely designed packaging, to well architected user interfaces, to the (sometimes irritatingly minimalist) documentation that comes with their products, Apple does everything it can to make you feel good about the money that you spent on their product.

Some people think that’s all it is--a feeling--but Apple also delivers products that work well in their intended role. The reason that iPhones have seen higher satisfaction rates than any other smart phone on the market isn’t just because the branding was good, it’s because the entire user experience has been positive. Of course, this requires a commitment to a certain level of quality and a truly honest understanding of the company. If your brand makes promises that your products can’t keep, then it isn’t going to help in the long run.

Your branding efforts shouldn’t focus on the size of your logo. Your branding efforts should be something that carries consistently through every aspect of your business’s interaction with the end user. That’s how to create a successful, positive image for your company.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Mr. Answer Doesn’t Really Dig the Question. Just Sayin’.

The question (which wasn’t asked of the resident know-it-all):

Isn’t it about time that the swastika’s 12 year association with fascism was demoted to a temporary glitch and its far greater and more traditional symbolic meanings, such as eternality, universal order, harmony and the balance of opposites, were once again given priority? Even the word swastika originates from a Sanskrit word meaning ‘well-being’.

I’m sticking with “no.” Until neo-fascists stop using the symbol as a sign of racial hatred and until we can manage to disassociate it with the murder of millions and one of the bloodiest wars in the history of the planet, using it in graphic design seems a bit out of bounds.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Creative Technology

I’m all for catching bad guys, and this story from Foxnews.com could well lead to the capture of a child abuser. Which is nice. But, I have to admit, it’s the thought of what technique they are using to help identify the guy that is really intriguing to me.

See, as a designer, when I’m working on photos, I use layers, adjustment layers, and a variety of other techniques to avoid “destroying” pixels. That is, original images are made up of pixels; when a designer makes changes to those pixels, he or she can destroy the original image. That could be a problem if the changes end up being unacceptable, if the client wants to step back to a more natural look, or for a raft of other reasons. When I first start working on a picture, I’ll make a safety copy of the original and, opening the file in Photoshop, I’ll start working on a copy of the original layer just so that I ensure the integrity of some untainted copy of that first file.

Doing things like blurs and twirls are destructive--they change the pixels so much that the original mapping is gone. Which is still true, but maybe a little less true than I though.

In a first, Interpol appealed Monday for public help to identify a suspected pedophile shown in photos posted on the Internet sexually abusing young boys in Vietnam and Cambodia.

German specialists have produced identifiable images of the man from the original pictures, in which his face had been digitally blurred, the international police organization said. But the man’s identity and nationality remain unknown, prompting Interpol’s worldwide appeal.

Visiting the link, you’ll see a before and after set of pictures--one where the suspect’s face had been twirled, and one where the image specialists had reconstructed the original. While there are still significant artifacts from the image manipulation, the reconstructed image is relatively clear and, I would imagine, could quickly lead to identifying the criminal.

When the original file is twirled, the section of pixels that is changed streaks, bleeds, and bends until all that is left are stretched lines of the original colors. Un-twirling isn’t as simple as just sending the pixels back in the other direction--all that will do is cause new streaks, bleeds, and bends in the opposite direction. It won’t even come close to undoing the damage that the first manipulation caused.

Again, or so I thought. Assumptions can really kick your ass, can’t they?

Below is a set of images. The first image is the original. The second image has had a twirl of 449º applied in Photoshop. The third image has had a twirl of -449º applied to the second image.


As you can see, the image is still distorted--there are streaks and artifacts and detail has been lost--but has become recognizable again. It wouldn’t save me from a needing to step back from a mistake, but it is a much easier process than I had thought. Criminals beware.

You learn something new every day.

Read the rest. And, if you think know the guy, contact the authorities and help put him in jail.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I Don’t Mean to Tell You How to Do Your Job…

...But could you make the logo bigger?

Click - Click - Listen.

Designers will love this song--whether they like the song or not, in fact.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

That Sucks

  1. Ghostrider sucked. I mean, that comes as very little surprise to anyone, but, boy, did it suck. And what happened to Nicolas Cage? I used to like that guy…
  2. Era Vulgaris from Queens of the Stone Age sucked. There are a few good songs, but it’s hardly an engaging album. Their first three albums were brilliant, but Lullabies to Paralyze and the new album are huge disappointments.
  3. The 2012 Summer Olympics logo sucks. Without the sort of tacked on Olympic rings, you would have no idea that it was representing the event, and other than the just as tacked on “london”, you wouldn’t know that it had anything to do with the city. It looks mashed together, poorly considered, and hardly worth the money spent. Confrontational, yes, and definitely aggressive, but lacking anything resembling grace or beauty. The thing is ugly.

    Some supporters are right: it will reproduce well in printing, it is simple, it is certainly not boring. I like all of those things. That doesn’t save it from being ugly.
  4. It definitely sucks that you haven’t yet RSVP’d for the Blogger Bash. What the hell is wrong with you?
  5. Mike Nifong sucks. But you knew that already.
  6. The fact that Stan Lee is developing a Paris Hilton-based animated series for MTV sucks. Stan? What the hell are you thinking?
  7. The concept that a few mean words cut deeper than any knife not only sucks, but it isn’t even true. I’ve been on the receiving end of harsh words and various sharp and pointy objects, and, let me tell you, the pointy bits are the ones to look out for. If you ever have the option of either stabbing me with a sharp, pointy object or saying mean things to me, I’m hoping you’ll choose the latter.

    Advice: grow some skin and get over the mean stuff.

    When things are said that hurt you, here’s what you do: first, understand whether there is legitimacy to the complaint, second, if it is legitimate, let the critique change your behavior and, if it is not legitimate, ignore the idiots. Life is simpler when you can be honest about these things.
  8. Apparently the new energy bill sucks. Which, maybe I should have been paying more attention.
  9. Anyone who claims to be able to predict with any accuracy, the point of the world’s peak production of oil sucks. And is taking you for a sucker. Why? 1- Because no one knows how much oil is in the ground. 2- Because oil extraction technology improves, which means some of our measured, recoverable reserves increase not because of new finds but because of new methods of extraction. 3- Because higher oil costs mean development of other, more difficult resources (like oil sands) that often aren’t factored into peak oil projections. That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t diversify our energy sources for a number of other reasons, but that the people who project doom and gloom usually have an agenda to push. You know what I say to that? Beware of the penguins.
  10. Knocked Up does not suck. You should go see it. Unless you have issues with pot smoking potty mouths and one quick moment of entirely ‘tuitous nudity.

Kindly linked by the Non-Sucky Kate.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Low and No Cost Stock Photography

Professional photographers don’t like the growing trend of low and no cost stock photography available on the Internet, although this is really just a continuation of the mid-90’s move to relatively inexpensive royalty free stock photography offered in CD collections.

See, photographers who offered their works either on contract photo shoots or through rights managed sources used to see their photos being valued in the thousands of dollars; with low (often just a few dollars for print-quality files) and no cost options available, those rights managed pictures don’t look so attractive. I’m sympathetic to the plight of the photographer, but when a client asks me to source a photo and isn’t comfortable with the rights management limitations and high costs, I’m going to do what I can to make them happy. More often than not that means first perusing a handful of sites to see if there is a good quality image available cheap.

So, if you are looking for images to use in your own projects (whether it’s for your site or for press), these are a few places to look for images that might fit your needs.

  1. Stock.XCHNG.
    The quality of the photos on this site are wildly variable. Some of the stuff isn’t particularly good, some of it is surprisingly useful, and all of it is free. Most of the images are released with no usage restrictions at all, while some have artist notification and/or approval requirements. If your needs are pretty limited, this is a good place to start. The site is often slow--burdened, no doubt, under the weight of thousands of freeloaders.
  2. Dreamstime.com.
    Registered users can download 7 free images per week from a limited selection of donated images. Other downloads are extremely inexpensive and the selection and quality are both very good. Users purchase packages of credits ($20 and up) and then use those credits to purchase photos that cost just a few credits--the actual cost of each credit is a variable dependent on how many credits you pre-purchase. The site also offers various license extensions up to purchasing all rights to a photo (although the cost goes up dramatically for these options).
  3. Fotolia.com.
    One of the best of the bunch, Fotolia.com’s photos cost $1 and up. There is a free section that offers a few images per day, but it is the quality and breadth of the rest of the site that is so impressive. The site is responsive and reasonably well sorted. The site also allows designers to download comp images for presentation to clients before purchase. Nice.
  4. iStockphoto.com.
    The best of the bunch, in my opinion, is iStockphoto. Not only can you purchase reasonably priced, high quality images, but you can also find vector-based illustrations and short movie clips for use in multimedia projects. The prices range from $1 to $15 for images and from $5 to $50 for the movie clips. Every week, a new free photo is offered, but it would be pure luck if that photo happened to be useful in a current project. Still, the photos here are top notch, the lightbox tool is better sorted than Fotolia’s, and the designer spotlight is a place to go for inspiration. The costs, while higher than the others on the list, are still cheap in comparison to purchasing rights managed and the quality is high.

The danger, of course, is that you might see “your” photo on someone else’s ad or Web site. The $1100 rights managed image I used on a recent media kit isn’t something I’m likely to run into again any time in the near future. Like every choice a designer makes, there is a balance between the key points of affordability, quality, and uniqueness. For my smaller clients, of course, it’s always affordability that takes top honors.

A few times, I’ve had people send emails asking where they can get low or no cost images, though, and this is my answer. All of these sites have been useful to me at one time; I’m betting that all of them will come in handy again in the future. Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

For Design Geeks

Sans. Coated. Grey. Nano. InDesign. Photograph. Justified. No. Deboss. CMYK. Of course, all that goes out the window when I’m working in Quark on files that a client sent for a job that cries out for a bold serif embossed on a gray, uncoated stock with an aggressive tooth backed up by an evocative illustration and a rag right text block placed just so on a playfully asymmetric layout.

And, for the record: Beatles (although I like Elvis), Mary Ann (Ginger was a bimbo), The Who (because the Rolling Stones are the ugliest band ever), and soda (because pop is too old-fashioned).

Monday, November 06, 2006

Funny Office Story of the Day

So, I have ResurrectionSong wallpaper on my Macintosh at work (because, apparently, I’m not very bright) and it’s eye-catching. In fact, it looks damned good, and that might be an understatement. My boss came into my office this morning, saw the wallpaper, and asked, “Resurrection song? Cool! Are they playing Denver soon?”

It was very cute.

The end.

Friday, October 20, 2006

A Little Graphic Complaint

So, this probably won’t interest about 95% of people who come across the front page of ResurrectionSong today, but I still need to get it off my chest.

When exporting a 52-page layout to PDF using QuarkXPress’ built-in export utility, and when that document might contain a decent number of placed images and advertisements, I have noticed one thing:

Damn, this is freakin’ slow. Like I have nothing better to do than wait for spinning beachballs to tell me that the export is complete and I can move on…

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Design Tips for Designers Who Design Stuff, Number 1

Design Tip #1: On Chemically Enhanced Design Techniques

Do not design when drunk or otherwise chemically over stimulated. The designs are uneven, attention to detail stinks, and you run a serious risk of extra chunky bits in your keyboard.

No one like chunky bits on their keyboard.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

No Great Loss

I’m not sayin’ we should break out the bubbly. I’m not sayin’ this is precisely a moment to celebrate. I am sayin’ that he won’t be much missed.

Slobodan Milosevic, the former Yugoslav leader, who was branded “the butcher of the Balkans” and was on trial for war crimes after orchestrating a decade of bloodshed during the breakup of his country, was found dead Saturday in his prison cell. He was 64.
He was accused of orchestrating a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing against non-Serbs during the collapse of the Yugoslav federation in an attempt to link Serbia with Serb-dominated areas of Croatia and Bosnia to create a new Greater Serbia.

Milosevic had spent much of the time granted to him by the U.N. court for his defense dealing with allegations of atrocities in Kosovo that took up just one-third of his indictment. He also faced charges of genocide in Bosnia for allegedly overseeing the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims from the eastern enclave of Srebrenica - the worst massacre on European soil since World War II.

Apparently he died of natural causes; this is one of those times where more, ahem, unnatural causes might have been more appropriate.

Just sayin’.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Designer Complaints

I just wrote, and deleted, two long posts discussing logo design (and the need for simplicity) and system navigation design (and catering to the complaints of the few). I then decided that this was just mindless complaining--a couple posts that wouldn’t do anyone any good.

But damn, I’m feeling frustrated today.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Cool Tool

Via Wheels, I found this exceptionally cool design tool. It lets you play with the various font attributes that can be set using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for Web design. Not only is it a great visual tool for comparing different fonts and attributes, but it also writes the style sheet rules for you so that you can integrate it into your designs.

Yeah, boy.

Go play with Typetester.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Speaking of Cool (Because We Were, You Know)

This is a very cool blog site design (and a blogger after my own heart who has good taste in bad movies).

Seriously, a nice, well-conceived design with great little details that make the thing work beautifully. I love it.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Working on New T-Shirts

It’s about time to think about re-designing the site graphics and with that comes new t-shirts. I thought I’d share some of the concepts with you while I was working through them.

Here’s the first one, the second will probably be coming early next week.


Anyone who wants to belong to a very select group of people (which is to say, not too many people have bought any of these things) can still order the old ResurrectionSong t-shirts.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Mr. Answer is Clueless On This One

Okay, the problem is this:

Create a good, useful layout for the navigation on a system with these traits:

  1. An infinite number of potential layers to the navigation, but the practical reality is that there are four layers with products potentially appearing at every level below the primary level.
  2. Most products don’t appear until after the fourth level.

    Click on a category, click on a department, click on a sub-department, click on a sub-sub department, click on a product, see a product description.
  3. There are, right now, 14 categories in the top level navigation.
  4. There are something near 3,000 standard products to display.
  5. There are two mixed systems of products to display. That is, two databases--one internal filled with books, tests, online courses, and such, the other is a database associated with a product that we use that displays its own online courses, web-based seminars, and the like.
  6. Customers who use that product will use the same catalog, but will have the capacity to add their own categories, sub-categories, and products. So this has to accomodate a ridiculous number of possible arrangements from one product in one category to 10,000 products in twenty main categories with six layers of navigation (chosen as a theoretical upper limit, although there will be no such actual limit on products, categories, or levels of navigation).

This is the task that was handed to me yesterday with the request to have the solution deployed by the end of the week.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Not That You’ll Care…

...but the pre-flight and packaging feature in Indesign CS and CS2 works like a champ.

Love it.


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