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

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!

"To Clarify, Add Detail" – Edward Tufte’s Review of the iPhone

Posted: February 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Edward Tufte, information design master, has released an insightful and educational video review of the iPhone on his website. It’s a large movie shot in clear, Apple style black background with Tufte talking through his observations as he goes. Delivered in calm, soothing tones are such wonderful phrases such as “To clarify, add detail” and “Clutter and overload are not an attribute of information, they are a failure of design”.

Tufte has a high regard for the iPhone’s high resolution (163dpi) screen as well as how Apple have removed “computer administrative debris” to ensure “the information is the interface” with direct interactions by humans on the content, not via buttons – or at least with transparent controls where necessary. Where he’s not so impressed is with the “strong colours and zebra stripes, but not much information” on the stocks page – suggesting that instead of the “cartoon/Excel resolution” Apple could employ their “image level resolution” to let people zoom in and out of complex, informative displays. Similarly for the weather page shown above.

Aside from these few suggestions for information design improvement Tufte seems to like the iPhone – to quote; “If the information is in chaos don’t start throwing out information, instead fix the design – and that is exactly what the iPhone has done.” Go watch the video and learn from a master.

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]

Today’s Design Sites: Dysturb + Atypk

Posted: August 11th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Inspiration | Tags: | No Comments »

Today’s design sites that caught my eye are and Atypyk, both fun spellings with great selections of design related info. Atypyk is more humourous, Dysturb is more informative. Make sure you check out Atypyk’s re-designed ideas such as Coke bottle sugar dispensers or cut up soft toys – clever enough for me to forgive them for using popups in their site design. Ug.