New Brennanletkeman.com

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.

Onward

Acrylo Redesign :: Begin

The semester is officially over which means I’m devoting my time to Starcraft II and recoding this blog / my portfolio.

Since I hate static “page maintenance” redirect sites, I’m going to keep everything live as I change it which means you could literally sit and refresh the page every so often over this weekend to watch things break and move.

I mean, if you didn’t have anything better to do…

It also means I won’t be posting much here for the next few days, but definitely keep track of the Google+ wall.

 

Thanks for your patience,

-Brennan

Acrylo Evaluation

Tomorrow is my last day of semester 3 which is relieving and sort of disappointing; I feel like I’m just now getting warmed up and into the swing of things.

But, it means that Christmas break is just a handful of exams away and that means it’s time for some web redesign. Specifically, my portfolio and this blog.

So, I turn to you, dear readers, to ask a few questions.

How often (if ever) do you:

  1. Use the ‘Archives’ list in the right sidebar
  2. Use the ‘Search’ function
  3. Use the ‘Categories’
  4. Read / follow my posts on Google+
  5. Read / follow my Twitter feed
  6. Read / follow the Acrylo Inspiration Tumblr
  7. Feel the want / need to comment but can’t

And in general, what sorts of posts do you like / dislike? If you could suggest another topic you’d like me to explore…? If you could take out a topic entirely…?

Readability: I’ve always felt the black on grey was a little hard but black on white slightly blinding. Thoughts?

Feel free to email me directly or send me messages on the above mentioned social networks.

As always,

Kiitos. Danke. Thank you.

iOS 5, and Apple’s UI evolution in general

I’ve been playing with iOS 5 since yesterday and I just wanted to bring to light something fantastic: the new music app UI.

Now, previously I was complaining on Twitter that I wasn’t a fan of the stitched UI that Apple has been adding to more and more apps lately, both on iOS and into Lion itself, because I didn’t think it added anything. It was unnecessary detail, and Information Architects have it right – it is pretty kitsch.

There were some good conversations that came out of that, though, and I wanted to both clarify and slightly revise my position. It’s not that I want everything to be stainless steel, since contextualism can definitely go into play, but I am slightly against useless trinkets clouding up my UI. Can there be details and subtle things? Sure. Awesome. Should they take up any space that could be used for something useful? Not so much.

The new music app is a perfect example. It’s not stainless steel, it brings together the sort of grass-roots vibe Apple’s slowly transforming into with the wood sides. Which, by the way, have got to be based on the old Braun / Dieter Rams Snow White’s Coffin record players:

So it presents itself as Braun’s design does from the late 1950’s – it’s clean and unobtrusive, yet personal; warm. The best part is, it still fits into the iPad hardware itself. The white could be metal (as the SK4 is) and when we’re holding the aluminum-backed tablet, it feels natural to be seeing these things and feeling the machine. It’s harmonious, and that’s the key.

Which becomes the problem with the other apps (calendar, notes, etc.) with their digital faux-leather, they’re trying to be warm and rich but ultimately can’t achieve it because in the end, the iPad / iPhone is made of glass and aluminum. There’s a contradiction of senses there.

In the end, design your UI to be fitting and natural. Be comfortable, sure, not everyone wants razor sharp UI made of brushed steel, but be conscientious of how it flows within the hardware.

All photo credits found linked through.

Concept Art – Artur Sadlos

Awesome digital mattes by Artur Sadlos.

I would suggest that Flash gallery is a huge deterrent for people trying to share your work, though, for future reference. Not only will it not work as Flash gets phased out soon enough, it’s just a pain. The people who are looking to steal work are able to get around it easily, so you’re really only hurting the people who genuinely want to help you.

Via

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.

Fluid Apps

iPad fluid app layout concept from Moritz Haarmann on Vimeo.

I’m a firm believer in the fluid. It sounds so useless on paper but seriously, it is such an improvement on the interface between human and machine. Really, that’s what ergonomics is, although we don’t think about it like that. Traditionally we didn’t have a digital interface; there was only a physical one. We need to expand that definition in our designs, as they become increasingly non-physical.

Also, the levels of abstraction are changing. When the first computers came out they were very confusing to people because they were new and metaphorical. The metaphors were designed to relate to physical things, like the desktop, files, folders etc. and we’ve sort of stuck there ever since. I think it’s a fair assessment to say that our new generation has a firm grasp on this. We don’t need to continue it any longer.

Which is why newspapers and magazines that work identically in both paper and digital formats are severely missing it.

I like the concept proposed above. It’s not from Ikea officially, but the Swedish furniture store’s catalog is the ideal thing to demonstrate – though really, imagine this format applied to everything from news to digital menus in restaurants. It’s essentially a category filter system which we are familiar with; commonly found (and usually poorly implemented) in those car GPS systems. But think about the differences in the examples. One is button based: you have a menu with a list of buttons for categories, you click through them and it brings you to the next list with maybe a cookie trail at the top to tell you were you are in the menu tree. It’s usually a slower (read: dirt cheap) processor that takes a few seconds to click from one menu to the next. It’s really disjointed and an overall poor experience. The opposite is the above video. It’s fluid. I’ll let that speak for itself.

Digital ergonomics are going to be big as people realize that not all computing has to be as dismal as the GPSs we have now, as they realize that there are better ways of using all this stuff. There’s a quote: “If you can see the bandwagon, you’re already too late.”

This is something that no one now can tell you how to do. No amount of study groups will help you create something new here. You need to invent the car when people are looking for a better horse. You need to use these ideas and come up with a solution that when it becomes mainstream people think “How did we ever do it before?”

We’re getting to the point where processing speed is not the limiting factor as much as poor designs haven’t caught up to the current ability. We need to change that.

Acrylo.ca

It’s only halfway done at the moment, the WP permalinks are still dragging it down, but you can use acrylo.ca to get here now.

Also up and running: tumblr.acrylo.ca and contact.acrylo.ca which take you to the inspiration tumblr and my contact form respectively. Easy!

And seriously, I don’t like having comments on the blog itself, but feel free to use that contact form for whatever’s on your mind.

 

Casanova – Floex

Another recommendation from our ever secretive and anonymous Nicky P. Excellent track, though.

Today is my official last day as a professional web designer, next week is back to industrial design school and I’m excited. I’ve learned lots, and I’ll always thank those who taught me these things, but ID is my passion and I intend to bring everything I’ve learned together into an awesome, cohesive end result: Brennan Letkeman, creative polymath.

Be good.

Windows 8, UI, and Design Philosophy

Although no one seems to like Tech Crunch, we still all read it and occasionally they’re even right about something.

That something is this:

The above image is directly from Microsoft’s findings, as posted on their development blog.

TC writes:

Microsoft concluded that the command bar is underused because it’s not robust enough, and upon further investigation found that few of the common actions were even to be found there. They are looking for what they need to add. The solution, obviously, is to pump up the command bar until it becomes equally usable.

Which as we know is the bane of good design.

Apple would have concluded that the command bar is underused because it’s not effective. They are looking for what they need to subtract. Whether the items necessary are in it or not, the user preference towards context menus and keyboard shortcuts seems clear. The solution is to eliminate the command bar altogether and find a way to make the more popular access methods even more accessible.

Which is often restricting.

But it does reflect the fundamental theories of design – both UI and otherwise.

I think a lot of industrial designers add and add and add until they’ve achieved this feature rich thing, but quite often that thing is hard to intuitively use and is usually a complete disaster in the end.

What we should be doing, as designers, is removing the extraneous, the things that the data shows aren’t useful, the things that we know aren’t useful. The outcome is not a design as much as it’s the ideal form for that function. This is the core philosophy behind most of Rams’ work, and can be found in most other great designers (Corbu, Eames, Rohe etc) including, of course, Ive’s own Apple products.

Because really, as a designer, do you ever want a product that looks like the menu system of that first Microsoft UI screenshot? Would you ever put your name on it and say “Yeah, this is the best I could come up with.” No. Of course not. Because it’s rubbish.

Be good.


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