Windows 8

It’s nothing new, of course. I’m sure most of you readers have been following this since last June when Microsoft decided they should blog about things in an effort to seem more open.

And I could write entire essays about the various things, from the recent logo debate to the timing of the recent beta release, but I really want to prod about the superficiality of the whole thing.

I don’t like it.

They wanted to make things youthful and fun and I feel like it’s tripped over itself on it’s way there. The tiles idea, from a cross-device cross-media platform view is brilliant. The OS is fundamentally similar between the desktop and phone versions because the tile underpinnings are so fluid and scalable. I like that problem solving. There are other, even better ways for the power user, but I think it’s a good thing what they’ve done trying out this format. I’m also glad that they seem to be running with this. I watched the first look demo from last summer and wondered how much of this would be taken out for the final production, much like concept cars get boring-ized before actually available. Okay, so these are nice things.

But the aesthetics. The raw, easy to change bits like tile colour. Where did they come from? I wanted to compare it to a local kids amusement place thing that we had growing up but it seems like they never had a web presence. Shame. It was garish. I remember thinking that even as a kid when we went there.

I was really excited to see screenshots like these:

Where there is unity and boldness and youth and vibrancy and that useful starkness that works so well for phones. Icons that has to be powerful to minimize language usage. But then they took that and stirred everything all together and made this soup of mismatched colour and style and I feel like the desktop OS end result is worse off for it. It’s just muddled.

The good news is that it should be very customizable (at least, we’ll find a way to force it, if not native) and the changes needed to streamline it aren’t that big of a deal. Icons. That’s easy, given everything else that went into the system.

I hate to say it, but the Vista Ultimate style would actually work perfect here. A nice unobtrusive background with those famous blues and greens popping as tiles? That’d be fun and elegant, bold and restrained. It’d be fresh and young without being childish.

Did I just write all of that to say that they should think about changing a few colours? So it seems. Twitter’s taught brevity might be a valuable thing to learn after all.

TL;DR Just wait and change the tile colours in the options because the default ones are rubbish.

Scrapbook 29 :: Tumblr Edition

I’ve written that I have a love / hate relationship with Tumblr and it’s still true, but I find myself growing in the third direction: apathy. Who really cares about the platform and the demographics? There is good and bad, sure, but take both and make something out of it. I’ve had a few revelations in design philosophy over the past few months and I’ll write better about them when I can work out exactly what it all means, but suffice to say: I’m a lot easier going as of late.

There are lots of awesome Tumblrs out there, most of which I haven’t even found yet. A few that I do know of and like include:

The Black Workshop
brave cadet
Jon Wong is, of course, the ever talented graphic artist of ISO50 fame
Uncrate of whom you should already be familiar.
Stiknord I like because it’s more obscure things.
Anchor Division for those leaning on the hipster side of fashion.

…and of course the official Acrylo Tumblr which is just shameless reposts of the above with the occasional injection from my own massive catalogue of inspiration.

Tiny Tutorial: Proper Photo Vignette

I’ve seen this problem a number of times and it’s a subtle difference that can improve your photo editing infinitely: using ‘overlay’ instead of ‘normal’ when adding a vignette layer over your photo in Photoshop.

So the above is a photo I took last summer and here’s what I’ve seen people do:

Notice how the corners are all grey and gross looking? Even the sun, which in real life optics and natural vignettes would be it’s proper lightness is obscured by our vignette layer. These sorts of fake effects are particularly noticeable when they cover over light sources because we know that shouldn’t happen, even subconsciously. When we look at real vignettes we see that they fade to dark, not to black, which is a distinct difference.

By the way, if you don’t know how to make these it’s basically just new layer -> paint fill black or dark brown and then big soft eraser the middle as desired.

Here’s the exact same everything except the vignette layer is set to ‘overlay’ instead of the default. Notice how the corners fade to dark but don’t cover over the brightness of the sun, but we still get that nice popping gradient towards the middle. Much better, and such an easy fix.


Nero ‘This Must be the Feeling’

Dripping of Drive’s style, they [the Drive movie people] could have cut out the entire “plot” bits and just made a Daft Punk Electroma-esque super long music video. The soundtrack is already perfect. I would have been happier, anyway. It wasn’t terrible I’m just not really into the slice of crime life neo noir type movies, personally. I felt like his character was really bizarrely portrayed and came across not as stoic but mentally slow. I dunno. The intro part was so good (really, it’s much like the above Nero video) and then they go in this completely other direction.


That car is the Pantera, by the same makers as the Mangusta I posted a while back: De Tomaso. It’s a brilliant successor to it’s older brother, aesthetically speaking. They still had terrible mechanical issues and shoddy bodywork, but they’re gorgeous and that’s what 70’s Italian cars were all about.

The bikes are just modified version of the kind you see every day, fitted with a longer bar and the cylinder from a steam roller affixed to the back. The ridiculousness works with the sci fi future they’ve created and I think stylistically it works. I wouldn’t ever own one, but I think it’s a cool thing to have stick out and be different here.

Shipping Container Homes

You know the ones I mean. The houses made from those super strong, hurricane proof, zombie proof, floating water tight shipping containers that turn out looking like this:

Well, you can buy them shipping included for about $7000 (40′ long, 8.5′ wide, 8.5′ tall) and less for the 20′ long variety. All things considered, that’s pretty cheap.

So I designed one for myself.

So, my model is really rough (and my sketch ever worse) but here’s the main idea.

Main floor is a 40′ with a small living room / dining area in front of the kitchen. At the back the bathroom and a spiral stair up to the second floor, where you’ll find my closet / bed area and my home office desk / work area.

The car park is a 20′ and will house one car (glass garage door not shown) and tools and small workshop at the back. The natural shelter made by the two support areas could be a second car park or a courtyard garden area / pond / pool or something.

40′ x 8′ x 2 = 640 sqft which I think would be the perfect size for me. I’m at about 800 right now and a lot of it goes unused.

If you designed the windows right (the ones I slotted in aren’t final design) and angled it well I think you could really incorporate good passive heating / cooling between seasons. Typically these sorts of structures are crazy well insulated and then heated via piped concrete floors. It doesn’t have to be much to heat the relatively small space.

And, keep in mind that’s spending ~$20 000 for boxes. The house featured above was complete and finished for about 40K. How many other 40K houses would you like to live in?


So it’s more or less ready. I’ll still be adding more items to the gallery and probably rewriting the about / process sections, but functionally speaking the framework is up and installed.

Better yet, I didn’t take out Acrylo when I removed the WP install of BL since they were foolishly put on the same server (I admit, by me, years ago). That mess has been cleaned up and things are pretty neat, which is a good feeling. Even outside of the site itself, it just feels better to know that my previous and rampant Frankenstein code has been replaced with something more robust. Not perfect, it’s still my cobbled together handiwork, but being simpler there’s less moving parts, so to speak.

It’s also one of the few unobscured, colour photos that exist of me this side of Facebook, which is sort of a change. So, now you have a face for the disembodied voice that is this column.

Jukebox Print called the other day to ask if they could use my cards in their promotional material because they liked my design and I agreed.

It’s sort of weird because they’re being printed in Vancouver and I haven’t actually received my shipment yet, so this is the first I’ve seen of them. It’s so hard to tell how the colour will turn out even now because there’s so many variables in the photography itself. I’ll just have to remain patient. They won’t be the same blue as the site, I realize, because of the brown and I tried to compensate as much as possible but in the end it is what it is and I’m more than happy. I’m excited to feel the texture and thickness.


Morning Playlist

I’ll be in my chair all day coding up the portfolio, thought you might enjoy some of the same tunes.


Here’s the deal, lots of media people are talking about the “wasted potential” time because people are playing games like Farmville. The thing people forget when doing the math for hours wasted playing these games is that the people who play these games aren’t typically the people capable of curing cancer. That’s why they’re playing Facebook games. So, is X million hours really “wasted”? Still probably, but it’s certainly not fair to say that we’ve lost X million cancer-curing hours.

Problem 2:

These exploits arguably fall into line with something Van Cleave had said about how people can be heavy gamers and still find balance. “I know plenty of people with other activities and interests, their health, family, friends, and work, and who game 10 to 25 hours a week. And on top of that, they’re good parents, they have a good job. That sounds pretty healthy to me,” he said.

Uh… 10-25 hours a week? At just over an hour a day I’m willing to bet they’d be right at home next to most families’ TV watching schedule. When did average TV watcher become “heavy” gamer?

I’ve probably made this argument before, but I’ll say it again: video games can’t be any worse for you than passively watching tellie. Hand eye coordination, problem solving, reflex twitching, teamwork, Mountain Dew drinking. You know, all those wholesome things. All those things you don’t do just sitting there spineless on the sofa.

So play on! You could be doing a lot worse.

Or, for extra awesome points, actually do something awesome like cure cancer or develop a cultish religion based on this blog.

Business Cards

First try, just a haphazard spewing of elements over the page. It’s busy and visually annoying. Simplify:

The new portfolio should be unveiled sometime around the end of the week and you’ll notice a very strong branding similarity between these last two cards and the site itself. Since I’m designing both simultaneously, it’s interesting to see how they draw off each other; I just thought of something while doing these cards that might end up looking really cool on the site.

So, not the final product. Just experimenting and playing. There’s a sale on the cool recycled brown pulp cards which would give it a nice texture. I’m not sure exactly how the ink colours will interact with the brown, but they’re cheap enough to experiment.

I’m definitely drawing inspiration laughs from this guy:

But although his result is ridiculous I do agree with the underlying statement. It’s not about who you are (CEO, grunt worker, etc) but what it is you can do for whoever you hand that card to. Draw crowds? Design things? Awesome. Say that instead.

My cards are sort of different, and this is where I’m skirting the lines of the new media. What is a business card in the days of simple Google searching? I’m fortunate to have a unique name in that SEO-wise I’m sort of automatically there, my problem is that it’s an awkward word to remember. If nothing else my card should have “Letkeman” on it. From there you can find everything else about me. I’ll make it one step easier: a URL.

Contact information I’m debating. For all intents and purposes I don’t have a phone number. Fax machines were outdated before I was born. That leaves email and snail mail. I don’t really have a practical fixed address being a student and no one mails anything anymore anyway. Email. There’s a contact form on the website. Do I include one on the card anyway? I wonder if there’s something psychological about sending an email from their preferred client instead of trusting the internet and it’s forms to send the message for them. Something more personal to have that ‘direct line’ either real or perceived. It’s also a subtle call to action. There’s a card with one option: go to the address. From there the CTA path is learning more then hiring Brennan. But we can bypass all of that with the direct email. Communicate with me, it says.

So, that’s part of what I’m up to this week. It’s a holiday; I’m excited to use all my free time to work and get things knocked off the list.

Ladies and Gents, Justin Mezzell

Simply fantastic work. The above were taken from Justin’s official gallery but personally I like the snippets found in the Dribbble.

I love that vaguely Fallout future retro whimsy with references to the rockets and plasma weapons next to cantilevers and Eames lounges next to art deco style backdrops. It’s so mismatched and comes together brilliantly.

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