Wear and tear

I’ve always been fascinated by how the things I use are changed by use, by time. Ever pull a pair of old favorite shoes out of the closet and wonder how you wore them that last time given the hideous condition they are in? They changed over time, becoming at once more fitted to us and less the pristine object we were allured to. Or the collected newspaper from momentous events, continually distancing itself from today’s as it yellows and curls.

On the other hand, the screen conceptually gives us eternal perfection by default.

I once tried to evoke the age of blog posts by dulling the white background and fading the text. Sure that is pastiche but it is honest to the object’s nature; the thought in text or memory captured in picture or link are distant and less clear until dug up, dusted off, and seen through contemporary eyes. So yeah, I had it go to normal display on hover.

Accidentally, every day, we are creating archival objects that may be dug up by ancestors and computers for a long time to come. If they are perpetually pulled into the new version, the new new theme, a different service, will we be seen as ageless contemporaries? Do our digital objects need some dust or should they be forever young?


Hats off to Kottke

I was sad when Jason Kottke posted post Sandy

The situation in New York and New Jersey is still dire** so posting stupid crap seems frivolous and posting about the Sandy aftermath seems exploitive. Information is not what people need right now; people need flashlights, candles, drinking water, safety, food, access to emergency medical care, a warm place to sleep, etc.

via kottke.org

In fact what we needed then was information. Where to send batteries and blankets? How do we connect to people that need what we have?

Yesterday Mr. Kottke showed us how his hyperlinking skills can—as it often doesexpand beyond ‘stupid crap’ and into meaningful, useful, pertinent information. He found information both old and new to help us make sense of what happened yesterday and inform the discussions that we were all having. He posted the seventeen randomly inserted links in one day from a huge range of sources and each serving a different purpose.

And he did it at the speed of the internet. 

Thanks, Jason, for the service. 

Follow all of the kottke: kottke.org, @jkottke, @kottke, kottke on facebookkottke on tumblr


Waiting on the 3D pixel

I’ve long held the fantasy that pixels would animate on the Z axis. Pop up to come meet our finger, depress based on resistive properties granted as part of their styling. Buttons that look soft and rounded might depress with a bit of squish while those with hard edges might pop down as depressed.

Photographs might allow for a spacial reading (maybe my dog could see herself better than she does in photographs, or identify my wife). Maybe relief maps of cities aren’t topographically colored but instead topographically simulated.

The image I dreamt that got me going on this (not exactly what I’m describing here).


Maybe one day we will touch a screen, rather than tap.

Update: The internet answers. Via @marianek, MIT’s already on the job. http://tangible.media.mit.edu/project/recompose/



Manipulating things you’re not in contact with is magic.

We’re resigned to the fact that we have to touch something to change it and when we realize air can extend our reach, it feels like a superpower.

The joy of a remote control car or, even better, airplane (if you can ever be in control); feeling the can pop after launching a rock with a slingshot; seeing tinsel dance after blowing at the tree from across the room.

Air is a medium we have an intimate relationship with yet it surprises and amazes us. It has latent properties that allow us to harness it in new, magical ways with high, low, or even no technology.

Few things on the internet are built to allow that magic because latent properties are bugs and manipulating them is hacking.


Companies are people…ish

The Facebook timeline is great for people, sure. But what about older, more complicated entities? It turns out the timeline is the perfect frame for telling a company’s story, from the founding myth to major historical incidences. As compared to a wiki page, the timeline allows a much more engaging way to explore and consume the stories around a brand.

New York TimesFord, and Coke are good examples of using the medium to associate a company with culture and events, even with the rosy glow of nostalgia and selective memory.

For instance, Coke has a great postcard labelled as ‘inspiration’ which requests exclusive Coke franchise rights to the moon upon the occasion of Kennedy’s space race speech. 

This is not for deep study but imagine the fun it would be to stumble through the history of legendary jazz clubs, visually browse a nation’s history, or peruse art history.



The AIGA/NY Linotype event last night was fantastic. Much like the Linotype machine it was elusive, having to get to the Brooklyn Navy Yards and all, and required patience, only a few could see the machine at a time, and it paid off huge. Seeing the movie was fantastic and being able to immediately getting to hear for ourselves the music and witness the magic was unreal.

During the film there was a theme that caught my attention. When a Linotype operator flubbed something they would have to kill that slug of type and would flag it by running their fingers down the two first rows of keys. Not unlike QWERTY home row flubs like asdfasdf, the Lino era had ETAOIN SHRDLU, due to its clever keyboard configuration. The filmmakers were told of this strangely pronounceable and affectionate term and learned it actually made it into print on occasion. They cleverly searched some internet newspaper archives and lo and behold, it’s out there! I thought I’d be more clever and use Google Ngram to see the rise and fall of the Linotype but alas, the results were not very decisive.

The film is so wonderfully executed, giving life and character to a machine, investing viewers in its story and revealing the community of devotees from all walks, it’s a must-see for type-, history-, news-, and documentary buffs.

Big thanks to Doug Wilson & Jess Heugel for making and sharing such a great film, Davin Kuntze and Woodtype press for sharing their Linotype machine, lead, and incredible letterpress studio with us.


The most important thing about…

While at Re:Design conf last year I incidentally said something like “That’s the important thing about teaching, you have to reflect on your work in order to share it with others.” 

Someone pointed out that that phrase, “The important thing about” is a game he plays with his kids. The example was: The important things bout chairs is that you can sit on them. That struck me as great way to get minds, young and old, to distill complex elements into their fundamentals and prioritize from there.

I like this game—it’s Mobile First for kids.


Of Coursekit!

The rumors are true. I’m the Creative Director at Coursekit and we’re going to change education. Expect more from me on this and all the topics surrounding it soon. That, however, can wait.

What can’t wait is this: our already impressive team needs more of the very best design and engineering talent around. It will be the most fun you’ve ever had disrupting a major industry, I’d wager. Spread the word, share this link.


Elegance is a synonym for beauty that has come to acquire the additional connotations of unusual effectiveness and simplicity.


Totally knee-jerk reaction to i(Text)Books

  • This is awesome for education AND publishing
  • TGADGS (Thank God Apple Doesn’t Get Social)
  • When will Amazon release theirs?
  • What web/app company will rise up and topple the textbook giants?
  • iBooks Author looks like a super powerful Keynote (hope it has flame transitions)
  • What about fonts?
  • I can’t wait to make a book…