AlphaDog is awesome

From the makers of BigDog, the bee-powered, creepily fantastic walking robot (which I’m pretty sure is just two humans in black leggings) comes a newer, faster, better robot that might just have what it takes to take over the humans. Still, I think the BigDog video is more impressive. Seems more refined.

So, in the event of some sentient computer reading this, please allow me to design you sweet robot stuff / spare my life. Please and thank you!

More details via.

OFFF 2011 (Russian Panel)

OFFF 2011: RUSSIAN DESIGN PANEL from MRfrukta! on Vimeo.

Loving that texture. The twitchy geometry in the background is perfect.

Via

Forever Drive

I read this preview and was really excited for this game. Like Trackmania, it allows you to build your own tracks and place scenery and such which is something I will gladly spend hours doing. Add a Tron styled world and the promise of gameplay that isn’t about the goal ending as much as the journey itself? Awesome.

Then I watched the video.

Maybe it’s a personal preference, but I was hoping for the Trackmania / Wipeout / F-Zero style gameplay where you are literally hanging half off the edge of the road trying to control your vehicle with twitchy skill that only comes from hundreds of previous failures and ever self-promised “Alright, just one more try!” that keeps you up late into the night. Although, in writing that very sentence I figured out why they aren’t going that route: mass appeal. As we know, iOS isn’t exactly the market for the hardcore gamer (not that I am by any means).

But maybe make multiple difficulty levels?

It seems like a good start, but with some tweaking it could go from a meh game into a really addicting one.

Free Range Chicken Theory

I would repost the entire thing if I could. Just go over and read it, seriously.

It applies to you as a person, be it in design or wherever. It applies as to the products you make or sell. It will make you more popular to everyone around you and they will crown you with “Mr. / Mrs. Popularity” for that entire year. So again, read it now.

Some quotes:

PERSONALITY MAKE PRODUCT FRIEND. YOU HELP FRIEND. YOU FORGIVE WHEN FRIEND NOT PERFECT. YOU WANT FRIEND WIN.

BORING STRANGER?… YOU NOT.

Products are very much like this. If you’ve had something for a long time and it’s become a part of your identity you do tend to forgive it’s shortcomings more readily. Likewise, when it becomes broken or slightly off, you feel somewhat sad, slightly sympathetic, like you would if you found out your friend was really sick.

HAVE PERSONALITY EASY. ANSWER THREE QUESTIONS:

1. HOW YOU CHANGE CUSTOMER’S LIFE?

2. WHAT YOU STAND FOR?

3. WHO OR WHAT YOU HATE?

NOW HAVE MISSION, VALUES, ENEMY. THAT ENOUGH FOR MINIMUM VIABLE PERSONALITY.

Again, I would attribute some of Apple’s success simply because it was the anti-Microsoft. People saw it (because they advertised it as such) as this scrappy underdog who valiantly fought against this stale, monolithic corporation. People automatically saw flaws in Windows and thought “Hey, I’ll bet Mac doesn’t do that.” even if it weren’t true (there are lots of flaws both share) which is how the advertising stuck – they made enemies. “You’re frustrated with Windows? So are we. Come join us.” is what the honest slogan would be. And it’s incredibly, incredibly effective.

Do this, you’ll win.

Making a toaster from scratch – Thomas Thwaites

Super interesting. Just recently I posted the Daft Punk helmet video and mentioned how much I like processes. This is an example of an honest stab at something almost forgotten today. The prop makers over at Volpin just went to the store to buy their clay, and their fiberglass and the paints and sprays and electronics and of course this is all fine and good, but where does that stuff come from?

Thomas Thwaites wanted to do it the old fashioned way. He wanted iron so he found a mine and dug it out of the ground and figured out how to smelt it. He made plastics from the starches in potatoes. His negative is made not with nice resin but carved out of a tree.

The end result of his toaster is laughable:

And I say that with all the respect in the world because I know exactly how it is. I’ve worked with many materials throughout design school now that I’ve never used before and my results too were incredibly lame. Laughably pathetic. Misshapen and lopsided, but loved. I put, like I assume Thomas did, so much love into such projects. The time and effort and sheer curiosity that drives these things forward is the part that I love, and the part that I watch and appreciate.

So is the Daft Punk helmet shiny and well done and cool? Yes.

Which do I have more respect for? I’m going with the toaster. It’s not the end result, it’s the process. The learning. The journey. He set out with a goal and talked to old timey miners and professors.

I truly long for that. It’s love being crafted into an object.

I think that’s what true design should be. A labour of love. When the world fades away, and the money isn’t an object and the test groups and marketing people are silent. When an object is designed by a designer who genuinely loves it and shapes it with that respect, that honesty. THAT, is design.

Read more on the project, and his book, here.

Thoughts on Gmail’s UI

I keep making this mistake, and I admit it’s silly, but I feel like it could be improved.

The buttons to reply to an email look very similar to the button that takes you from looking at an email back to your inbox. An escape button, so to speak.

To compound this effect, it’s sitting left beside the other buttons that relate specifically to the email itself, which creates a sort of proximity association when there shouldn’t be. Ideally, those buttons should be brought down next to the middle row – right side reply button to create a sort of email-specific functions dock. It’s the same space and size and everything, just placement would help things.

So yes, there are two other reply buttons and I should know this, but it still trips me up every now and then.

Trackmania 2: Canyon

I grew up on Trackmania. I own each and every single one, excitedly buying them as soon as they were released. They have a special place in my heart as a gamer, they defined a lot about what I like in games. They taught me that realism and graphics aren’t always the defining factor for a “good” game. They played off my love for Lego, and all that it entails: piecing things together for the experiment of it, imagination, the satisfaction of building something cool.

If you haven’t played any of them before, the above may or may not have made sense. The idea of the games is that they come with a level editor and all the tracks are made of interconnecting pieces. Since everybody can make levels, the online games are virtually infinite. There are several (depending on the game) environments, each with unique characteristics (both the car and the track elements) and so the dynamics of gameplay range a lot from one side to the other.

The sequel isn’t really out yet, but there is the pre-order / beta “Canyon” (one of seven previous environments) that’s been completely redone. It looks gorgeous, first off. The graphics engine seems to have been redone and the bricks themselves are less obviously grid elements, which makes it feel a lot more like the traditional racer, with studio hand made tracks. The cool thing, the exciting thing, is that like always I’ll have the ability to make the tracks as well, using the exact same tools they did.

Here’s the trailer for the most recent one that came out a few years back:

It doesn’t keep track of hours played, but it would be in the hundreds.

I am so excited for the next edition.

‘More Appliances’ Ikea ad makes no sense

So, what they’re saying is “We have so many things, you need to be a professional climber just to use them all.” which, I can see how the board might see this and think “Yeah, that really represents us and our new products.” but as a common person I might think “What rubbish. I want an easy to use kitchen, I’m not an acrobat.”

The ad itself is well done and original and creative and all that, but it isn’t very good. It expresses the goal, yes, but I would question under what light it shows them.

Do those images inspire any sort of lust for those products? Do you look at that and think “Yeah, sign me up for that!”

If it were my ad, I might have a normal kitchen like the one above and every time he goes to use something he can choose to push a button in front of it and it would revolve around into the counter. So the microwave might flip around to be the coffee maker, the stove might flip into a dishwasher and the drawers might have varying contents in the same drawer. The message here would be “Even though there’s a lot of stuff in your kitchen (that we’ll sell you) it’s all easily at your fingertips.” with emphasis on the two goals: the amount of new appliances offered, and the promise that even with more, it’ll still be comfortable and easy to maintain.

I feel like the current ad neglects that last point. They want to showcase the variety in it’s absurdity, but that doesn’t show the consumer how they want it in reality.

Of course, the minimalist in me screams when things are advertising for more stuff, but if you’re going to try and sell it, at least do it properly.

“Don’t try to be original, just try to be good.”

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Daft Punk DeLorean – Volpin Props

On the three horned Venn diagram of things I love this is in the middle: Daft Punk, DeLorean and process videos. Wait. And homemade Arduino projects. So, the rare four-ellipse Venn diagram must be used here. Either way, this is still the epicenter of awesomeness.

We’re learning these sorts of building processes right now and ongoing in school, so it’s really interesting to see how the pros do it. They make it look so easy!

Check out the entire process and more photos over on the Volpin Props site.

??/365 :: Letkeman & Sons Clothiers

The 365 project ball has been majorly dropped here, I’ve been ramping up hard into homework mode lately. It’s all good, but it sort of pushes out personal projects which is a shame.

But! I’ll still spend what little time I can and keep everything running more or less smoothly.

In related news, I’m accepting applicants for co-authors. Think you want a piece of this glamour? Let me know.


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