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Found Thoughts

We come across a bunch of stuff while we research design ideas, or stay on top of design trends. When we come across something in print or on the web that we like, we'll try to put it here with a little explanation as to why we like it.

The Words of Charles Bukowski, remixed to make me seem Smarter

by J hogue

I saw this exceprt from "Absence of the Hero: Uncollected Stories and Essays, Vol 2: 1946-1992" and couldn't help inserting the word "designer" when he said "writer":

Being a [designer] is damning and difficult. If you have a talent it can leave you forever while you are sleeping one night. What keeps you going in the game is not easy to answer. Too much success is destructive; no success at all is destructive. A little rejection is good for the soul, but total rejection creates cranks and madmen, rapists, sadists, drunkards and wife-beaters. Just as too much success does.

[... A designer] must keep performing, hitting the high mark or he (she} is down on skid row. And there's no way back up. For after some years of [designing], the soul, the person, the creature becomes useless to operate in any other capacity. [They] are unemployable. [They are] a bird in a land of cats. I'd never advise anyone to become a [designer], only if [designing] is the only thing that keeps you from going insane. Then, perhaps, it's worth it.

Pretentious, yes... but this is how important design feels to me sometimes. If I had another job somewhere in a non-design-related industry, I'd still design at night, in my head, in my spare time. I'd come up with project briefs and constraints and try to work within them. It's just how I've conditioned myself to think... design thinking. I can't do anything else.

A Verbal-spar with Flash-based Websites

cleaned up for a business friendly audience, originally appeared on

Me: (tries to visit a local restaurant’s website via iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, what-have-you...)
Restaurant website: Hi! Sorry, I require Flash. Bye!
Me: I just want to know how late you’re open.
Website: Hah, no. Can't do that.
Me: But I’m on my phone. Don’t you have a little “HTML Version” link up in the corner or something?
Website: Sorry, I require Flash. Bye!
Me: What if I’m on my phone because I’m out, looking for a place to eat? Didn’t that ever occur to you?
Website: Hah, nope. You're out of luck.
Me: (gives up, switches to computer)
Website: Hi! What can I help you with today?
Me: What are your —
Website: Hang on, I’m loading the music.
Me: Really?
Website: You’ll love it. It’s “Girl from Ipanema” arranged for steel drum and keytar.
Me: No, you don’t have to —
Website: Loading…
Me: All I want is —
Website: I SAID "DOT DOT DOT".
Me: (drums fingers on desk)
Website: There we go. Isn’t that nice? It’s… what’s the word. Ethnicky.
Me: What are your hours?
Website: Take a look at our menu! It’s a PDF of a screenshot of a scan of a Word document printed on a dishtowel. With fonts!
Me: I don’t care. What are your hours?
Website: Don’t worry, the menu loads in a new window so the music won’t stop. Can I show you some broken images?
Me: What. Are. Your. Hou. Rs.
Website: I… I don’t know.
Me: (Throws computer out window. Goes to rummage through the kitchen in search of a box of mac-n-cheese and any left over vegetables to make it more "dinner-y".)

Psychology and the Legibility of Design

by J hogue

A great article on the psychological effects of typography. Difficult to read vs. Easy to read is a general topic (what about interesting to read?) but the insights from this article back up personal theories and design thinking in general. Always nice when science can prove common sense. Here is a passage worth thinking about:

When [participants] were presented [with physical exercise instructions] in an easy-to-read print font (Arial), readers assumed that the exercise would take 8.2 minutes to complete; but when they were presented in a difficult-to-read print font, readers assumed it would take nearly twice as long, a full 15.1 minutes. They also thought that the exercise would flow quite naturally when the font was easy to read, but feared that it would drag on when it was difficult to read. Given these impressions, they were more willing to incorporate the exercise into their daily routine when it was presented in an easy-to-read font. Quite clearly, people misread the difficulty of reading the exercise instructions as indicative of the difficulty involved in doing the exercise... Click to Read the Full Article

I hope this doesn't mean that everyone will start using Arial exclusively, though.

During the “Great War”, Government Knew How to Ask for Conservation

By J Hogue

WWII Poster- Conserve These Services at Home While we as a nation seem to be embroiled in perpetual war and the national discourse steers around issues of conservation when it comes to our energy supply, it may be a good time to look back on some of the propaganda from the second World War. During that time, all sorts of government agencies enlisted artists to make posters. Posters with very specific calls to action... Posters that made it each American's patriotic duty to use their ration coupons when buying meat, save their scrap tin, steel and rubber, ensure that they were not being wasteful in their travel, and a slew of other motives. All of the messages basically let Americans know that this was no time for them to be greedy and selfish, that what makes this country great was our ability to set aside our ideological differences for the common good. Somewhere along the line, that phrase "common good" was made to be synonymous to "socialist". Perhaps it was Reaganomics and the "Me" generations doing during the Cold War, but I digress... My point is that the government once took a stand against gluttony and wastefulness, and it seems high time to do it again.

For more great WWII Posters, visit the Northwestern University Online Collection.

The CD is Dead : Long Live Vinyl

by J Hogue

We all heard the cries in the early aughts that the mp3 will kill music. While the ease and "free-ness" of the mp3 hasn't killed music, instead, the wide spread ease of acquiring music has made it even more entrenched in our daily loves. What the mp3 HAS killed is the CD as a means of packaging music.

Lovers of vinyl had it right. The large 12" surface just made it better for designers and artists to ply their trade. Would Warhol have designed a little 5" cover for a Rolling Stones CD? (Well, he might have...) Sound quality aside, there is something so wonderfully retro about vinyl. The act of listening, even, is a huge part of the experience. The act of sitting, listening, then attentively flipping it over. Foldouts, gatefolds, poster inserts... none of these were ever the same in CD packaging.

Before the CD died, there was an interesting trend of CD packaging becoming over-designed and fetish-ized. If someone was going to pay $20 for it, then it better be good. In fact, for anyone to spend money on music, the packaging had to be special. Foil-stamping, embossing, special sleeves, eco-paks and die-cutting became more prevalent. But the dimensions were still the same.

We see the trend continuing, but now vinyl is being produced with digital download codes, and this lets consumers have their cake and eat it, too. They have the ease of the digital mp3 (plus, none of the guilt of pirating it) with this beautiful object on the shelf.

In all industries, print isn't dead, it is merely specialized. Someone will always want a book or album or well-designed product in their hands. Ownership is very important. Our axiom at HCd is:

  • Digital (meaning mp3s or the web) has no inherent value, because the consumer gets it for free
  • Objects (meaning books, packaging, actual things) has meaningful value, monetary as well as romantic, sentimental, or fetishistic (as in, I must collect that)

We hope to see the trend continue, and for more value to be placed on what is produced or designed, and less value placed on objects that are created without a real purpose or value (mass-market, dollar store kitsch).

Dwell Mag: Architect's Websites (excerpt)

by Philip Kennicott

I'm on a deadline, I need a fact, and once again my computer has frozen up, overwhelmed by the high-intensity graphics and animated introduction of yet another gloriously beautiful and utterly useless architecture website. [...] [W]hen you can't find the facts you need, it's often after a maddening tour through the Flash-fired fantasies of a web designer who approaches the presentation of actual information rather like a bloviating after-dinner speaker clearing his throat for 20 minutes.

We love this type of rant, as it is directed at the types of things that drive us crazy on the web, too. Usability is king, and presentations with moving slides of images and text are for Powerpoint or lectures, when the whole point is to sit down and be guided through. Web design is not Powerpoint. Get the users to the info as efficiently as possible, and they'll remember the experience as a useful one.