A closer look at Apple's Lion UI

This week I had my first glance the new OS from Apple (Lion? seriously? how long will the cat names last?).

At first I was happy that the GUI has had an update. The last few iterations of the OS have not really moved the visual layer of OS X on in any significant way, so it's good to see it finally shift. But is it a shift in the right direction?

Initially I noticed how icon driven the new is. Both large glossy icons on the desktop/home screen and within the Finder functions. Having recently come out the other side of a big old icon design project I can tell you that the Finder icons are head and shoulders above anything that has been deployed in the Mac environment to date.

The software design lead is now clearly from the mobile team. Bringing the same folder metaphors from the iPhone to desk/lap top devices.

So far, so good.

The next aspect of the visual design that I noticed was less pleasing. Apple has never been shy of a texture (brush metal, white gloss, aqua) and it's fair to say they are common in web design right now (hey check my background texture). In fact you could argue that the wide spread use of textures has been lead by Apple's design work. But I'm starting to see it slapped on way too much of the interface. Take this straightforward folder image.

Across the board Apple has exercised restrained design ethics and sense of cool reserve. So when flourishes creep in it can be somewhat jarring. The cheesy red bookmark in the address book as an example.

Overall it's good to see the visual design moving forward, but ultimately it has a long way to go before it can be considered on a par with it's hardware design.

Let's hope the new iTunes has been given some attention too.

There are more screengrabs over at Macstories , also on Usability Post and of course on the Apple site itself.


Aston Martin ditches in-house for agency

When I first saw this article in Campaign I thought "ooh that's a juicy account, really nice brand to work on, I wonder who will grab it", then when I got to the third paragraph I realised Aston Martin is going out to pitch instead of continuing with their in-house team.

I have to admit I can't recall any recent Aston Martin ads and their website is looking ropey, but I'm still sad to see a brand moving against the trend for in-house :(


Foursquare - a hat tip

I have to hand it to the design team at Foursquare, they have really done some amazing work over the past year. In the time since I first started using the service until now they have been quietly, but rapidly adding layers of visual delight to every aspect of the UX.

From the main dot com site, to the mobile app, TShirts, infographics, icon designs and much more. Even the copywriting has subtly been getting better (see below).

Foursquare is clearly not a brand standing still. As well as rolling out to a selection of different langueages they are also engaging brands in the service. Offering special badges and discounts to followers of signed up brands. It's working well enough to get Facebook's attention.

I believe foursquare's design work is handled purely by an in-house team lead by Mari Sheibley. So my hat is tipped to you and your team.


Recent work at MORE TH>N

It's hard to describe my role right now. I currently fall somewhere between UX designer, brand designer, campaign manager, social media consultant, art director, mobile advocate and pixel monkey.
Initially I started by tidying up some of the key purchasing pages and now I'm leading full blown redesigns. I get to work closely with a range of talented product managers and everyone is always up for trying something new to improve our customer experience.

So far being in-house has offered me much more diversity than i ever expected and there is tonnes more on the horizon. I'm trying to post more work in progress to Dribbble, but when a project goes live I'll make sure i post here too. Promise.


Raw Magazine - contextual advertising

Lovely bit of thinking behind this promotional insert piece. Inserted in a range of weekend newspapers, it's broadsheet newspaper promoting Raw. What could be easier?!

You can imagine that people reading weekend newspapers are doing it in a leisurely manner, taking time to read various supplements, so dropping this in to that context seemlessly moves readers from news to branding. Nicely done.


On being a Creative Lead

Creative Director's must share the credit, but shoulder the blame.

When you're a Creative Director the buck stops with you. There are no excuses. You can't hide from any backlash as it's your job to face the full force of the blast. When a piece of creative work is very well received, it's the honourable thing to ensure everyone involved gets credit. But when it goes wrong, you stand alone.

During this year's Super Bowl ad frenzy, Groupon aired their new ad. Unsurprisingly the public were offended by a cheap gag made about Tibet's social plight (you knew?!). Of course the CD was strung up, but did everyone who worked on the ad never stop to think it might blow up in their faces? It takes a lot of people to make an ad and I'm quite sure the script went through a number of reviews before it was signed off.

Sorry the ad is gone, so you'll have to make do with this crappy report from the US

This, it seems, is the lot of a Creative Director. You gamble your reputation with each piece of work. The only exception to this rule is when you become an Executive Creative Director. Then silly matters like campaign backlash are simple beneath you.


My Book Project - Reboot

I recently came to a difficult decision on my book project. After more than a year of going back and forth with my publisher I realise two things that made me question the fundamental idea
  1. Book publishing is in a similarly broken state to music publishing. However the music industry is now reforming in new models, where as book publishing has not adapted as quickly. I feel that following the traditional printing/publishing route is no longer the right means to deliver my initial idea.
  2. In trying to make the book more "commercially appealing" I moved it away from it's original concept. I no longer felt excited by the theme of the book and whole exercise became a chore
Having decided not to keep working with a publisher has been a difficult point to reach, but it's made me feel much better about the prospect of writing and I'm starting to get excited about it again. I'm still pulling the book content together and I'm looking at different publishing methods.
  • Perhaps it can still be printed and self funded through Kickstarter?
  • Maybe it should be an iPad app, rich with interactivity?
  • Should it simply be a blog and grow over time?

I don't know yet. But I do know I'm enjoying writing and reading again.


New start

If you've been here before you'll see I've had a bit of a tidy up. Having spent a year focusing my efforts on another project, I've come back to this blog with a renewed interest. I've been writing here for a number of years and frankly it got a bit shabby.

I've stripped away a lot of the unnecessary links and chuff on the right hand side. I've also made the page wider and of course given the whole thing a new visual design.

Hope you like it.