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“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ― William Morris

Inspiration – Paul Klee at The Tate Modern

Posted: January 1st, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Graphic Design, Inspiration, Interaction Design | Tags: , | No Comments »

I love the Tate Modern. It’s handy for where I live and work, the annual membership is very reasonable and the members cafe at the top has great views with a decent cappuccino (though perhaps not enough power sockets for long work sessions).

What I love most about having a Tate Membership is that I get to see great shows like Paul Klee over and over again. It’s like having an all you can eat art buffet, though whereas with free chicken wings you sometimes have to stop eating before you explode, great art can be enjoyed over and over again with no ill effects*.

The current Paul Klee exhibition (and indeed to a lesser degree the Mira Schendel) fall into this category of exhibitions that keep on giving. Klee’s canvases are, for the large part, very small, detailed and intricate with amazing colour interactions. His methodology, born out of the Bauhaus, is visible through the huge selection of paintings in the show. Layers of fine watercolour, sometimes solid, sometimes dashed onto the thick card he favoured, combine to create colourscapes that almost shimmer and move as you look at them. Where pencil and line are used, they are so fine as to be almost indiscernible from more than a few feet away. The detail hidden in each picture means you have to come close and almost touch the canvas to see it all. Thankfully with so many works on display you can normally get some quality time with pictures that draw you in closed.

Personally I find the timing of this exhibition to be extremely appropriate with the recent release of iOS 7. The latest Apple mobile OS update thrives on translucency and subtle colour graduations that interact together as they overlay, creating effects that draw us into the interface and make it feel more alive. My initial reaction to the new ‘flat’ iOS layout was that it was very much a clone of Android and Windows Phone. Having used it for a while it is the subtlety of interaction and play that really separates it from its brethren. You can really feel the work that went into the animations, transitions and colours – even if they are sometimes a bit too white and bright for my tastes. Looking at Klee’s watercolours you have the sense that Apple designers may have all been to a Klee exhibition at some point. Or that we should at least get some inspiration from this master’s work to create new apps that feel alive and engaging rather than just flattened. Similarly the Schendel exhibition, with her layers of perspex, rice paper and other materials suspended in mid-air reminded me of the interface depth that Jony Ive refers to in his presentations on the new iOS.

Whatever you take from this the main message is simple – great art is inspirational, and the Klee show is truly great art. So head down before the show ends on 9th March 2014.

* Disclaimer: This is only my opinion. If you have ill effects from overdosing on art then perhaps consider not eating so many paintings. Consult your nearest art professional for formal advice.


Helpful Hints on Designing Websites to Sell Products

Posted: May 9th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Graphic Design, Interaction Design, Internet Marketing | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Smashing Magazine has an interesting article on the key points to consider when designing a website that has to sell a product. The suggestions range from the subliminal – putting pictures of happy people to welcome people in, through the theoretical – such as the Guttenburg principle of how our attention moves across and down a page, to the practical – always provide a next step for users to move to. Definately worth a read.


When Stock Photography Goes Wrong

Posted: August 14th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Graphic Design | Tags: , , , | No Comments »


Birmingham City?

These days many companies use stock photography for their website and print needs rather than spend a small fortune on having their own, unique photos taken by a professional. This can save you a lot of money, and allows graphic designers to be more innovative and creative within their design brief using their skills and knowledge of stock photography resources to create the best solution. Everyone’s happy.

Except, of course, if you use the wrong stock photo. Perhaps your tag line reads “Buy red roses this Valentines” and the photo is of a daisy – a flower for sure, but not a red rose. Or perhaps you made the same mistake as Birmingham City Council, and spent £15,000 sending out a flier to your residents thanking them for their recycling efforts with a picture of the wrong Birmingham skyline. Hmm. It’s an easy mistake to make – do a search in your stock photo resource for ‘birmingham skyline‘, choose your favourite image, then make your flyer. Simple. Except of course if you know Birmingham in England, you’d know it’s not Birmingham, Alabama, USA. Admittedly they are similar, but not that similar.

Even without knowing which company Birmingham Council used to design this flier we can know that it’s not really their fault. It’s an easy mistake to make and surely someone at Birmingham Council should have checked the flier before it went out, perhaps noticing a lack of famous Brum landmarks like the Bullring building.


Birmingham’s distinctive Bullring centre – by Joseph Maestri

So how can we stop this happening? Well two key things; firstly – make sure that whoever is doing the work has a full, descriptive creative brief, perhaps with a few example images that you’ve found yourself to illustrate a concept or idea, and make people aware of pitfalls (perhaps Brum council’s brand guidelines can have a warning that says ‘watch out for Birmingham, Alabama!’. Secondly, review the final product carefully! It’s so easy to make a mistake unwittingly, from a last minute typo to a generic town skyline, so get someone who’s not been involved with the process to do a review as they will have fresh eyes. On that last point, remember that every time you make a change, however small, you have a new product that may have new mistakes in it – if in doubt, review it again.

In this particular case there could have been a third possible saviour – geo-tagging. In this situation if the photo search had been restricted to searches in the greater Birmingham area, UK, then the US skyline should never have shown up in the first place. A good stock photo search will potentially warn you of such ‘duplicates’ – asking you which Birmingham you mean before it presents results. In the case of using cheap stock photo engines you often pay for what you get, cheaper, potentially good photos, with less comprehensive editorial and tagging processes. Buyer beware!


Design Critique of US Presidential Candidate Logos

Posted: January 23rd, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Graphic Design | Tags: , , | No Comments »

The New York Times has a fun cartoon analysing the designs of this year’s slew of Presidential wannabes.

Oh, and a belated Happy New Year to you all. Hope you have a splendid 2008.


Intelligent Image Resizing

Posted: August 30th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Graphic Design, Technology | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Thanks to researchers who recently presented at SIGGRAPH, we may soon have intelligent image resizing in Photoshop to help fit photos into any size and scale area. The technology looks at an image and tries to work out where the important parts are – so that when you re-size the image, it knows which parts can be reduce or expanded with minimal impact to what the image is trying to convey. Very clever indeed. The movie below gives some great examples of this.

And why might this soon be in Photoshop? Well Adobe has hired one of the co-creators to join their team so expect cool stuff like this in the future. Perhaps they’ll even release some kind of image server that lets you define important image areas and then vend right-sized thumbnails or reduced images on the fly without having to go through the manual slog of intelligently cropping it yourself. That would be pretty cool. [From Wired]