Function Follows Microsoft who Follows Form, er Something

I’m always amused by the attempts every year to ‘dethrone’ the iPod. Actually I’m amused at anyone who talks a big game and then doesn’t deliver. It’s not that I don’t think it’s possible to beat the iPod, it’s the fact that these companies and CEO’s talk all this smack, and copy Apple – but only on the surface.
Just because you approximate the layout of the iPod (vertical orientation, screen on top, pseudo-click wheel area below) has nothing to do with that player being a success. In fact, I would say that companies might have better luck with a completely different mp3 player design. Apple invented the ‘wheel’ (no pun intended) in the mp3 player world, don’t reinvent it.
If that wasn’t enough amusement, then I read that Microsoft is trying to push some design methodology on PC makers to compliment their perpetually delayed Vista operating system.
From BusinessWeek Online (Found via MacNN):

A How-To kit for the ideal PC has been making the rounds of leading design shops. It calls for “accelerated curves” and “purposeful contrast.” The preferred colors include a shade of black called Obsidian and a translucent white dubbed Ice. “We want people to fall in love with their PCs, not to simply use them to be productive and successful,” reads the enclosed booklet. “We want PCs to be objects of pure desire.”

On one hand I somewhat appreciate Microsoft’s attempt to emphasize the importance of good design, but it just smells so fake for me. Apple’s philosophy on design and function is engrained into the daily operations of its company and it applies to everything from iPods to their operating system to packaging to writing to store architecture…. I could go on, but you get the point. Microsoft is just telling all PC makers to use this pallet of colors.
That’s brilliant – have all the PC makers look alike. So smart. That will be great for competition and it’ll distinguish them all from each other. Again Microsoft, it works for Apple because Apple is a brand.
I’m going to stop trying to understand what they’re trying to do. I’d rather just watch the train wreck happen.
*fun reading on Microsoft’s Zune can be found at Daring Fireball

Where There’s Will There’s Away… Messages

I’m proud to announce that my brother Mark has published his first book at the old age of 23. To say that the book is a collection of clever away messages wouldn’t be giving it justice. When Mark sent me a copy of book I thought it was hilarious, but then later he sent me the introduction and the conclusion and it made me realize that he really went beyond publishing a collection of things. Anyone can collect a bunch of stuff – He has a methodology behind his away messages and he empowers the reader to do the same.


Where There’s A Will, There’s Away… Messages:<br/ > A 21st Century Guide to the Art of Absence From the back cover:

Book Description What do Canadian Evangelicals, stupid pelicans, and the Associated Press have in common? All are all mercilessly lampooned for the sake of comedy in Where There’s a Will, There’s Away. Messages: A 21st Century Guide to the Art of Absence, a book that explores the limits of the Away Message as a vehicle for shameless amusement. Each page features a different Message, gathered into curious subcategories such as, “Fun with Advertising,” “It’s A Thinker,” and “Religious Shmreligious.” Prefaced by an analysis of the creative process and the author’s personal writing philosophy, this collection irreverently undermines the purpose of Away Messages while surveying the extent of the instant messaging phenomenon. Perfect for the college student and business executive alike, Where There’s A Will, There’s Away. Messages is THE book with a finger on the pulse of digital pop-culture. About the Author Mark Mulvey is a native of Long Valley, New Jersey and a graduate of Rutgers University where he earned his B.A. in Music and cultivated an affinity for satire and writing. This led to an outpouring of daily posts over the Internet. He currently lives and works in New York City.

Good Plugins for Movable Type

I’ve only been blogging for about a month now, and I’m trying to make a concerted effort to do at least an entry a day. Why? I feel like so much of my time is spent reading and interacting with other sites – I need to start moving the information in the other direction.
I’m on the computer a lot as an interactive art director and like all jobs, the key to successful work is efficiency and they key to efficiency is having the right tools. So far, here are a few tools that make blogging easier for me:

  • EnhancedEntryEditing – this is a WYSIWYG editor letting you add formatting (bold, italic etc.) and URL’s to blog entries. I don’t understand why this functionality isn’t built into MT
  • Sidebar Manager – a drag-n-drop interface that lets you switch up the order of sections in your sidebar
  • FormatList – select the text you want to make into a list – boom! done. (like this list)
  • BigPAPI – not really a utility, but it needs to be installed for Sidebar Manager and EnhancedEntryEditing to work on your server
  • Adding Flickr photos to your Blog – let’s you, and anyone else you want, add a blog entry with a photo right from flickr. I love the integration available on the web these days. Hotness.

I know there’s many more plugins out there and I’ll be adding to this list in the coming months. If you have any recommended plugins not on this list, let me know or post a comment below.

Why I’m In A Good Mood

I’m in a good mood today for a number of reasons:

  • A check cleared from one of my new clients
  • I moved out of Miami and am back in New York
  • My wife and I are going out drinking tonight with friends in the East Village
  • I dig my new job at Deep Focus
  • NECKFACE has his own Wikipedia entry
  • A check cleared from one of my new clients

Did I mention I have money to go out drinking tonight?

National Drop Shadow Day

I’d like to give a shout out to my friend the drop shadow. Without you, my job as an art director wouldn’t be possible.
Look around you right now in cyberspace… they’re all around us. If you didn’t realize they were there, they’re doing their job correctly.
As a thanks to you, drop shadow, I’m declaring July 25th – National Drop Shadow Day.

Dunk the Shark

Each year basketball players seem to get bigger and bigger, and with their size, salaries and endorsement deals seem to grow with them. I watch them dunk like they were reaching for a Nerf hoop on the back of their closet door. All the physical signs are there that b-ball players are getting reallly big, but I’ve noticed the signs have crept into the world of graphic design and branding.
Nike Air Jordan Jumpman Logo
Exhibit A: the Nike Air Jordan “Jumpman” logo. Ideal, perfectly proportioned, like the man himself.
Leonardo Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man
Exhibit B: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man
Call me nostalgic, but growing up and watching Michael Jordan play basketball was watching something amazing. I’m not and never have been a big sports fan, but when I saw him play, I could see the creativity in his moves, the shots, the dunks, all with his crazy tongue sticking out. Then came his brand – Air Jordan, and that logo crystalized his essence. The Air Jordan logo is almost Vitruvian, ideal proportions and body form (ideal if you’re making a dunk from the free-throw line).
Shaq Dunkman Logo
Exibit C: the Dunkman logo for Shaquille O’Neal’s custom shoe line – too oversized to be graceful, like the man himself.
Now let’s fast-forward one or two generations to today with one of the superstars of basketball – Shaquille O’Neal. This dude is huge. And because he’s so enormous, there’s no need for elegance or style in his game. Just get the ball into the basket is his game. Put him near the hoop so he can hop a little and toss it in, or hell, jump up there and grab that rim like it was a kid’s jungle gym. Take a 7 foot 1 inch tall player and add a slightly taller 10 foot hoop and you get the Dunkman logo.
So I ask you and I ask myself, Has basketball jumped the shark?

Stroking Egos

It always drives me nuts when a job interview turns into a chance for the interviewer to explain to the interviewee how wonderful he/she is and how much knowledge they have. This happened to me yesterday when I was on a call with a potential employer. The call started out how a normal phone interview does, where the employer explained his business, what they do, who their clients are and their specialties. Fine. This is good information.
At some point between this guy’s explaination of his company’s services and asking me what I do, the conversation unraveled into a chance for him to go on and on and on and on about all the cool shit he knows. Now I guess part of the reason this guy pissed me off is because I have a big ego as well, but I’m not vocal about it. He was vocal about it.
He knew from seeing my resume that I was an interactive art director, and the job he had posted for was for someone with Actionscripting experience, but yet he felt the need to ask me if I knew all sorts of things outside my skillset. I began to see that each thing he asked me if I knew, he not only knew, but he was an expert at it.
The conversation started to go something like this:

Ok Michael, let me quiz you a bit. Ok, um, let’s say you have a photography with the tops of all the people’s heads in the image cut off. Would you be able to fill in the missing pieces and make it look real?
No, I don’t think so. (What the fuck does that have to do with Actionscripting?)
See, I can do that. In fact, I could do it in Illustrator …Alright, how ’bout this: I have an old photograph will big chunks missing from it, like peoples’ noses. It’s an old photo. Would you be able to fill in the missing areas?
Uh, friggin’ no, son.
See I had to do that for my sister, she had all these old photos that needed retouching.
That’s wonderful for your sister.

By the end of the conversation when puke began rising in my throat, I gathered that this dude was an expert at – PHP, XHTML, XML, Flash, Illustrator, Photoshop, high resolution photo retouching, database development, quantam physics and curing AIDS.
Now first off, I don’t know anyone that is an expert at everything and even if he was an expert at all that stuff, I’m not jealous, just try to be a bit more humble, ok?
And if he was a jedi master at all those things, what the fuck does he need me for? Sounds like you have everything under control buddy, I’ll leave you to your top-of-head-retouching work.
I guess if there’s a point to all this it’s:
a) Be humble and if you’re good, don’t speak, let your work speak.
b) Make sure you keep wise-ass thoughts for your internal monologue (or blog) or risk not being hired anywhere, because there are plenty of people in this world that you’ll have to work for that need their egos stroked.

Setting the Hook: Or How Finding a Job is Like Fishing

I was part of a bachelor party a few weeks ago in Key West. Among other activities the 15 of us spent a day deep sea fishing on 3 chartered boats. Charter boats are the opposite of party boats where large groups of people all fish together, bring their kids, puke all over and get lines tangles – we got a little personal attention with only 4 to 6 people fishing per boat.
On each boat we had a captain and a first mate. We were trolling which means that each of our fishing poles was cast out into the water with bait and dragged behind boat and it was the captain’s job to steer us into good fishing waters. The first mate’s job was just as important – he was responsible for keeping an eye on all our poles, and being ready to ‘set’ the hook when a pole got a hit. I found out that setting a hook in a fish is a subtle art. You couldn’t yank the pole too quickly because the bait isn’t always all the way in fish’s mouth and you also couldn’t wait too long because you might give the fish a chance to get the hook out. Some guys jigg the line along as they reel it it and SNAP the pole back real quick, and some guys do a series of small yanks on the line before giving it one big YANK back.
Out of the 15 of us that day, we caught a total of 4 fish – 3 Dolphin fish and 1 Cero Mackerel. A slow day for fishing to say the least. One of our boats didn’t catch anything and those guys were pretty bummed.
As I reflected on the shitty (but relaxing) day of fishing, I realized it paralleled my challenges in finding interactive design work in Miami. So yeah, those previous 2 paragraphs were to help me set the scene of my metaphor for the day – looking for a job is just like deep-sea fishing.
When my wife and I first moved from the East Village to Miami last August, I didn’t have to look for a job since I had worked out a long distance agreement with my company, but 2 months ago I left my company to go freelance and I’ve been having a bitch of a time finding solid work. I’ve linked up with a few recruiting firms down here (my first mates) and despite the fact that I think the bait on my resume is pretty tasty, they’re just not finding me companies that will bite. I’ve been casting my net pretty wide and trolling in employment waters from Ft. Lauderdale to South Miami.
The work I have found is at small shops and not of the caliber that I’m used to. My advice to anyone in the interactive/web design field is don’t move to Miami. Aside from a few great places down here (lift-here, elastic people, CPB), the Miami design scene is non-existent. Period.
The one shark I was able to catch just last month was Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Having that fish on my wall has definitely given my career a much needed boost and given me good leverage as I begin to steer my employment ship back into the waters of NYC.
This also reminds me of my other point about job hunting – you have to go where the work is. Unless you’re a superstar in your field and everyone knows you (which I’m not), or you’re a seasoned veteran (Which I’m not yet), many places will not front the money to relocate you and the other places don’t even know you exist because you’re not even on their radar. This means you have to start fishing in new waters.
Within the day (!!!) of me changing my address on creativehotlist and monster to my brother’s address in NYC I started getting emails and calls from recruiters and companies. I was suddenly back in familiar waters with schools and schools of fish. I haven’t set my hook in any company but its been good fishing.
I’m not suggesting to lie about your location, but it definitely helps to move first (if you have the money) or at least have friends or family in the city you’re targeting.
And once you get a bite from an employer interested in you, don’t immediately YANK BACK and set the hook, you might lose em. It might be a huge fish that can break your line of you decide to try to pull it into your boat – so that means you’ll have to keep em on your line and wear em out. Or it could be a smaller fish that hasn’t taken the whole bait in their mouth yet.
I’m not going to tell you the formula for getting a job, because their isn’t one. Everyone has a different style of fishing. Some use lures, some use live bait, some throw chum in the water and some troll. Each employer is different too, which means you might have to make up a few different resumes that highlight different skillsets depending on the job description so that they bite what’s on your hook.
Fish on everyone.