September 2009 Archives

Apple innovating within print?

By Michael Mulvey on September 30, 2009 11:22 AM

If they hadn't done it with the iPhone, I might consider this post far-fetched:

Steve Jobs said people don't read any more. But Apple is talks with several media companies rooted in print, negotiating content for a "new device." And they're not just going for e-books and mags. They're aiming to redefine print.

Exciting times we're living in.

Palm is finally thinking smart

By Michael Mulvey on September 30, 2009 9:27 AM

From ReadWriteWeb:

Yesterday, Palm released an update of the Pre software, webOS. While most of the reporting surrounding the new OS involved the important update which brings paid applications to the Pre's App Catalog, another under-reported feature is actually just as (if not more) important. The Pre now lets you download over-the-air from Amazon's MP3 Store.

Let's hope Jon Rubenstein stops acting like a douchebag with the Pre-masquerading-as-an-iPod trickery with iTunes.

A clever man once said, if you don't like the rules of the game, change the game.

While I understand the convenience of being able to sync your Palm Pre with iTunes, the reason the Pre is a great product is for all the ways it's different than the iPhone.

Red Hook

By Michael Mulvey on September 27, 2009 10:42 AM

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This past Sunday I hit Red Hook, Brooklyn with Bryan to shoot some photos. It was a success.

I used my 85mm lenses and Bryan shot with a super wide angle so it's great to see how much our shots differ.

Check out my complete Red Hook set.

the end

By Michael Mulvey on September 24, 2009 10:25 AM

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Prom's Still Life

By Michael Mulvey on September 22, 2009 3:19 PM

Little belated shout out to my friend Promila on her site, Still Life.

She's quite the curator of design and art.

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why not?

By Michael Mulvey on September 20, 2009 7:28 PM

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When I spotted this car I had to look around me and make sure I was indeed on the upper east side of Manhattan and not Collins Ave on South Beach.

Arial, ima let you finish, but...

By Michael Mulvey on September 17, 2009 12:30 PM

I had to do it:

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UPDATE 18.09.2009 - After creating the image above, I went and posted it to my friend Dalematic's Facebook wall. I hadn't anticipated what this action might start, but given Dalematic's arsenal of design chops and knowledge, I should have.

Dalematic's response #1:
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The Combustion Chamber's response #1:
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Dalematic's response #2:
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The Combustion Chamber's response #2:
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Dalematic's response #3:
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The Combustion Chamber's response #3:
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Human Experience for Google and Microsoft

By Michael Mulvey on September 15, 2009 10:43 AM

Do Google and Microsoft understand what Human Experience is?

Sometimes they do and sometimes they don't. They're both companies run by engineers, so that's bound to happen.

Google has launched Fast Flip and Microsoft has launched Visual Search - both of which are search-related tools. Both of which are confusing.

Google Fast Flip

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Google explains Fast Flip on their blog:

Fast Flip also personalizes the experience for you, by taking cues from selections you make to show you more content from sources, topics and journalists that you seem to like. In short, you get fast browsing, natural magazine-style navigation, recommendations from friends and other members of the community and a selection of content that is serendipitous and personalized.

The problem is, Fast Flip doesn't make scanning headlines any easier or enjoyable for me. Just because something is visually rich, doesn't guarantee it's easier to understand. When I want to scan news headlines, I, uh, scan news headlines. I don't need screengrabs of websites to act as training wheels for me. Google News is more than sufficient for me.

I concur with Richard Ziade's thoughts over at Basement.org:

What’s interesting about this tool is that it’s the anti-Readability. Instead of helping us get rid of the junk around what we’re trying to read, Google fossilized the layout - junk and all - in images.

Microsoft Visual Search

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Then we have Microsoft's attempt to make search results engaging by making them pictures. My co-worker Rob calls them 'glorified image galleries'. The novelty of Visual Search wears off quickly and makes me pissed that I bothered to install Silverlight in the first place.

If Visual Search was integrated in some other Microsoft properties, it might add some value and move beyond a one trick pony.

influence, part 3

By Michael Mulvey on September 10, 2009 9:14 AM

Influencer:
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2003 Land Rover Range Rover

Influenced:
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2010 Ford Flex

A24 Design Studio

By Michael Mulvey on September 8, 2009 4:12 PM

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Talk about simplicity with a grid. The website for A24 is absolutely beautiful.

found via Navistd

Exploring Chicago

By Michael Mulvey on September 8, 2009 10:31 AM

I was in Chicago a last month for Roundarch's annual company event. Over the weekend I had no plans so I decided to explore the city. I texted my brother who, like me, lives in New York, but spent the summer in Chicago last year.

I asked him, 'What's the equivalent to the East Village in Chicago?"

He said, "Wicker Park"

Coincidentally, my coworker RJ lives in Wicker Park so he gave me a tour. He introduced me to the super awesome bookstore Quimby's (For New York designer-bookstore-junkies, if you dig St. Mark's Books, you would love Quimby's).

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iTunes - inconsistent window behaviors

By Michael Mulvey on September 6, 2009 9:19 PM

I'll definitely survive if they haven't addressed this in Snow Leopard, but it's something that has bothered me for a while now.

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In most applications within OS X, when you click on the green jellybean button in the top left hand side of the window, that window will maximize to the full width and height of your monitor. I spend 97 percent of my computer time on a MacBook Pro, so I value that behavior (the other 3% is on an iPhone).

In iTunes, when you click on the green button, it gives you the MiniPlayer:

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While I've grown used to this behavior, I still think it needs to be fixed. In every other program green means bigger and yellow means minimize-to-Dock. Then you have iTunes who rages against the machine.

Clicking on the green button again in the MiniPlayer brings you back to the full view of iTunes, in the dimensions you left it.

Perhaps iTunes warrants a special MiniPlayer button so that the usually universal behaviors can stay, well universal.

Whatever the right behavior might be, the current implementation ain't it.

UPDATE: I've found a few other rebels in the fight against the green button - Photoshop and Preview. Clicking the green button in Preview does absolutely nothing while Photoshop trims the grey, outside-of-canvas area around your document.

louder and better with practice

By Michael Mulvey on September 6, 2009 6:25 PM

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It seems like every successful person I learn about now fits into the pattern that Malcolm Gladwell highlights in his book, Outliers, which is:

timing + talent + insane amounts of practice = rich & successful

It's like when you buy a car, and then you see that model everywhere you go. I see the outliers pattern everywhere since reading that book.

And so it is after having just watched It Might Get Loud down at the Sunshine Theatre on Houston Street. I know Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White are extremely talented musicians, what I didn't realize (but should have guessed) is that they also all practiced their asses off for years before making it big.

Like the examples Gladwell gives in Outliers, Page, The Edge and White were lucky enough to have gotten an early start to playing guitar. Gladwell talks about the magical 10,000 hours of practice one needs to get order to get to that 'next level' of success in a particular field/trade.

I haven't done the math, but I'd be willing to put money down that these 3 musicians all hit that number early one in their lives.

Practice and book references aside, It Might Get Loud was awesome. I was fairly confident it was going to be. I couldn't picture these 3 giants (ok, Jack White isn't a giant yet, give him a little time) letting me down.

My favorite part in the film was when Jimmy Page starts playing the guitar on Whole Lotta Love (I think?) and the camera turns to White and Edge who both look like little kids seeing their favorite superhero in real life - eyes as big as their head with smiles from ear to ear.

Gave me chills and I wasn't even there.

iPhone owners aren't New Year's resolution gym members

By Michael Mulvey on September 3, 2009 7:32 PM

I caught this story today: Customers Angered as iPhones Overload AT&T

From the article:

More than 20 million other smartphone users are on the AT&T network, but other phones do not drain the network the way the nine million iPhones users do. Indeed, that is why the howls of protest are more numerous in the dense urban areas with higher concentrations of iPhone owners.

Here's how I see it in a nutshell - AT&T was happy to sign up as many iPhone customers as they could. Their mentality was probably very similar to gyms who sign up as many people as they can in January when everyone makes their New Year's Resolution to lose weight. Gyms are packed the first few months after January but then there's a drop-off in attendance, because people tend to slack off, so even though the gym might 'overbook' their spaces, it's only being used by a fraction of the members. The gym wins - few customers to take care of and lots of profits.

This didn't happen with iPhone customers. Unlike average customers with average cellphones that have small screens and poorly designed user interfaces who just use their phones for calls and occasionally check email - iPhone owners users integrate their iPhones into their lives. They surf the web, check their GMail, Yahoo and thanks to Exchange integration, their work email. Not to mention downloading applications, music and videos.

Oops AT&T, you done messed up.

You sold a bunch of Ferarris and didn't think people would drive em.

Well, too bad, you gotta fix it.

Iconography - Where Are We Headed?

By Michael Mulvey on September 2, 2009 12:03 PM

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A little over a month ago I came across an interesting thread on Brenden Dawes' Twitter stream on the lifespan of iconography that I thought warranted a longer post:

Brenden asks:

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And:

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These are very valid questions.

I think answer to the first question is that we're not so much wed to familiar, analogue objects - they're part of our iconographic DNA. We don't have a say in the matter, we're stuck with our analogue icons until our technology progresses far enough to render them obsolete, killing them off and forcing us to reference these extinct symbols through fossilized JPGs, GIFs and PNGs.

Every generation is inherently transitional. What's different with each successive generation are the specific things that are mutating, evolving, dying and spawning.

Horses to automobiles. Radio to television. Gas lighting to light bulbs. Even now, those previous three examples are could still be used be used as icons (the horse might come across a bit obscure and humorous, but I bet it would still work to convey 'transportation').

When we transition from one technology to another, this doesn't mean the technology being replaced has run it's course. Radio technology was invented in the late 1800's but we still have it to this day (Hell, the Microsoft Zune still come equipped with FM tuners, god knows why). It is the reason the NPR iPhone app can use an old-fashioned radio to indicate their 'radio' programs and a radio tower to indicate their stations. We still understand what these things symbolize.

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bottom row of icons on the NPR iPhone app

The bottom line is, for the time being, our icons of televisions, radios, cars, envelopes, paper pages and hardcover books are more than sufficient to represent their digital counterparts.

Beyond the Digital

Fine. As long as we have our living analogue ancestors around, our iconography can stay in place and mutate when some of them become extinct. We get it.

Let's stretch this out to it's logical conclusion - there is no interface. We become the interface. The interface becomes us.

We'll reach a point in the future where what Mr. Dawes is saying does come to be. People will no longer understand that bell telephone means 'call someone'. Phones will become implants and we'll simply say a person's name to our interfaceless voice recognition system. We have HUDs in jets and cars, is it really a stretch to image an HUD eye implant?

Picture an iPhone without the iPhone.

Ironman without (or with) the special suit.

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Given enough time, I could easily expand this post into a full thesis, but alas, I have to get back to work.

*in addition to Brenden Dawes tweets, I also found great thoughts by Samuel Cotterall here, here and here.

Does Nokia understand user interface design?

By Michael Mulvey on September 2, 2009 10:11 AM

What the hell is going on with that home screen on the N97?

By cramming everything on the screen, they cram nothing on the screen.

It does have an 'analogue' clock and Facebook access, so it must be cool.

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site traffic trends: tuesdays are hot, fridays fade

By Michael Mulvey on September 1, 2009 1:13 PM

Interesting insight by Matt over at 37Signals:

Want something to blow up? Tell the world about it on a Tuesday morning. Avoids the Monday avalanche people face and gives you the rest of the week to get play ...Want something to fade away? Tell the world about it on a Friday afternoon. It’ll fade into the weekend.

This backs up what appears to be the case on Daily Exhaust:

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UPDATE: My brother brought to my attention the unfortunate choice of words Matt at 37Signals decided to use in his post in light of next week's upcoming anniversary. It should have been more obvious to me, considering I was there.

hardware/software observations

By Michael Mulvey on September 1, 2009 9:26 AM

Remember, it's all software, it just depends on when you crystallize it ...People who are really serious about software should make their own hardware.

- Alan Kay, Creative Think (computer industry seminar), 1982

My coworker Victor was telling me about some of his great touch tablet biz dev ideas (top secret) yesterday and it got us into a discussion all about software as service, apps and everything in between.

One of the things I mentioned was how I've been observing the iPhone drying up software-as-service on custom devices. Case in point: TomTom has realized (a little late, but not too late) that it doesn't make sense to create hardware units for their GPS software when the iPhone now has GPS built-in.

Sirius Satellite Radio is another one who's realized they're not competing with FM radio anymore, so much as they're competing with iTunes libraries, last.fm, Pandora and the like. I would say there's still a market for their satellite offering, but it's definitely been cannibalized by internet radio services.

So where is the world's largest software company in this mobile application explosion? Not surprisingly, their strategy is fragmented all over the place. It's interesting that Microsoft has historically been the company to boast their attention to developers, developers, developers, yet Apple has created the #1 mobile computing platform of choice for many developers. Remember, Apple makes their money on their hardware sales - anything software or media they sell is to move people onto their hardware devices.

This fact makes vain attempts like Samsung's all the more humorous.

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