The Future of Programming by @worrydream

I recently attended a two track conference (one track design, one track dev) and for the sake of not watching a presentation I'd already seen and for the sake of forcing myself to open my brain beyond design I decided to spend the morning in the Dev track.

It turned out to be a fantastic idea. One of the references during the presentations was this presentations by Bret Victor. Most of the Developer attendees nodded along knowingly, however none of my design friends have heard of it.

Yes it's a presentation about programming, but wait! It's probably one of the most creative presentations you'll see. Bret Victor gave this entire presentation from the perspective of a 1970s Californian computer scientist. The idea of looking at the future, from a historic view is total genius. Bret's attention to detail is wonderful. He dresses as a stereotypical 70s computer operator, complete with pocket pen pouch. He even delivers the slides using an overhead projector.

One of the key messages in this presentation is that technology moves quickly, but people's behaviour takes much longer change. Which brings back the argument that because we know how to do something, does it mean we should do it?

It also nicely frames the notion that in order to really understand where we (the digital industry) are going, we have to fully understand where we've come from.


On @jiggityk Steve Jobs Watch essay

Last week I read Jong-Moon Kim's essay on what he felt could have been better about Tim Cook's product unveiling and how Steve Jobs would have done it better. On reading the essay I initially felt uneasy and morbid, but since then I've been unable to shake off the content.

Whilst I don't deny the essay is an interesting piece of writing and I don't want to take anything away from the creative execution of the concept, I think it's in real danger of overlooking the fact that it's pure fiction. The characters and events in the essay are real enough, but the contents of the essay is total pulp.

I agree that Apple's current product strategy is confusing and I also agree that the product launch left me with mixed feelings. However to suppose that anything is worse for Apple now than before, is a huge leap of imagination. Firstly many people I know at Apple are much more optimisitic under Tim Cook's leadership. Although Jobs will always be recognised as a icon in the tech world, he was not renowned for being a brilliant manager. What we see on the exterior of Apple may not represent the seismic changes that have happened inside. With a product cycle that spans over at least 5 years, the output from Apple today is most likely the matters put in motion whilst Jobs was still at the helm. One thing is for sure; Apple don't make any moves without a forward facing strategy behind it. What seems defensive now, is most likely playing out over a longer timeframe than we can see.

Secondly the crux of this essay assumes that everything Jobs did was positively received. This is simply not the case. During his tenure at Apple Jobs undoubtedly launched some huge products, but the reception was not always warm. Following the iPhone launch journalists and industry observers lined up to point out the limited colours, the restricted networks and high prices. Equally the iPad was derided for its "awkward" size and social value, with many pundits calling it 'a failed attempt to recapture former brand glory'. Assuming it would have been better if Jobs had launched the same products is just revisionist history at its most destructive.

Lastly the idea of this essay turns Steve Jobs in to a fictional character. An icon maybe. But not something for the public to re-animate and fill with their own words. Imagining how Steve Jobs would think, speak an act, then dressing that up as a real event has seriously dark undertones and shows a huge lack of respect to his family, friends and colleagues.

Overall I would say that this essay does far more harm than good and is not contributing our industry in a way I'm at all comfortable with.


Guardian rolls digital design in to print

This article makes me feel happy and hopeful. The guardian is taking the design guides that it developed for its digital editions over in to the printed material.

Regardless of what you think of the design choices in here, the principle has to be admired.

Article via Design Week


Two design observations on the Apple Watch

So the 'big reveal' is done. The speculation can die down for a few months and the crowds of early adopters have at least 5 months to whip themselves in to a rabid frenzy, before they can get their hands on Apple's Watch.

The event itself was a fairly standard Apple affair (excluding some chronic streaming glitches). On reviewing the new product alongside Apple's product line up I was left with two design questions buzzing around my head.

1. Will Apple ever regain a distinct or consistent UI design?

When Apple launched the original iMac, iBook, G3 and OSX they achieved something special. Their hardware and UI design was unlike anything else and consistent. The shiny, bubbly curves backed with a subtle pinstripe was everywhere. Over time their design was copied to hell. It also aged pretty badly. The hardware design went off in a new, cleaner direction. The UI design was draped in skeuomorphism.

With the recent unveiling of iOS8 and Yosemite OS it looked like Apple was making a move to bring things closer together. However the Watch showed another new branch of design thinking and the iPhone 6 has moved against the UI design. On a desktop you've got mixtures of flat UI and 3D elements. On a handheld device we've got squarcle app icons. On the Watch you've got circles and bouncy animations.

The hardware is equally disparate. The MacPro is dark, glassy and curvaceous. The iPad is slim, sleek with sharp edges. The new iPhone curved, matt and available in gold. Throughout the range there are drops of high colour, but in each instance it's a different colour range.

Whilst the new product launch was certainly exciting I felt Apple are still lacking a design language that you could say is "very Apple".

2. Do Apple have the design chops to take on watch designers?

Questioning Apple's hardware design capability seems foolish, but in previous products they've taken on categories known for poor design. Mobile phones, Computers and portable music players were all pretty ugly sights before Apple gave us their view. But watch designers have been making beautiful timepieces for many, many decades. The likes of Omega, Rolex TagHeuer, Cartier and Breitling have been refining their trade for a very long time. Is Apple's Watch good enough to displace a family heirloom? Can it hold its own against fashion brands like Armani or Gucci?

I have no doubt that initially there will be a huge rush for the Watch. For a period it will be seen in all the right places. Perhaps with the likes of Marc Newson and Paul Deneve onboard they can steadily build a presence in the fashion world. But the real test is going to play out over a much longer period.


King & Man - a new side project

I've been working in an in-house design team for more than four years now and like any designer I'm drawn to opportunities to design for different types of brands.

Recently I've become involved in a side project called King & Man. It's essentially an online journal for 'modern gentlemen'. The idea of designing a 'lifestyle' brand was something I didn't want to pass up.

At this stage King & Man is still very much in 'startup mode' running a minimum viable product, but it has a very clear plan for progression. My role has been designing the identity and directing the overall tone. I'm currently working on future app releases and revenue generators.

More King & Man work samples here


Perfectly executing the wrong plan (from Google I/O)

  1. You Didn’t Understand The Problem You Were Solving
  2. You Asked Your Friends What They Thought
  3. You Listened To Users Instead Of Watching Them
  4. You Didn’t Test Your Riskiest Assumption
  5. You Had A "Bob The Builder" Mentality 
Harsh but worthy presentation from Google. Full article available on FastCo


Hey Guevara doesn't like IE

Hey Guevara is a new peer to peer insurance service currently in Beta. Probably not a disrupter, but certainly something that could cut through the overly complicated, bad user experiences of most insurance providers.

Mostly importantly unlike most insurers they don't take themselves too seriously. Check out their browser response page.


Old clip, but still a great presentation. Designing Obama's election campaign, by @simplescott

Not only did this team understand and implement an agile environment, before we turned it in to commonplace, but they also demonstrate the importance of bringing offline and online brand decisions in to one stream.


Tomorrowland music festival wearable faff

Well it's a good try and a broadly speaking it's a good concept, however it falls down in the execution. The finite details of setting it up and how everything has to be so precise sounds like far more work than it's worth to ultimately get emails and some random Facebook suggestions. Ultimately it doesn't do anything more than signing up on a website or getting a standard lanyard. The effort/reward ratio is way off.

Perhaps if the bracelet had unlocked extra access that would be something. Even better if it recorded locations and activities to produce a personalised summation to enjoy after the event. For triple points it could have acted as a payment service or alerted you to your favourite acts starting. Sadly not.

That said the launch vid (above) is really nicely produced. Good animation, charming voiceover and it's pitched just right for the Tomorrowland identity.


Google's Creative Lead joins a bank!

Dan Makoski, one of Google's Creative leads is leaving the search giant and going to work in-house for Capitol One.

For a Designer this seems like a strange story and indeed a strange career move, but according to Dan "here are few spaces as ripe for technology and human-inspired re-imagination as how people relate to their money"

He also goes on to point out that Capitol One has been building a significant internal creative team for some time. Just check out there offices

In my book that's one big hurrah for in-house design.

via FastCo