Dammit, Apple. You’re Supposed to Be the Ones With Good UI Design.

The grand appeal of using an e-reader is the ability to own a large library of books without adding to the colossal weight of one’s possessions. Ever since I moved away from print books I’ve been able to remove hundreds of pounds of clutter from my apartment and from my life. Storing books digitally has improved my quality of life. That being said, the various e-readers that are out there have an obligation to provide a good user experience, and they do that through design.

In the past I’ve taken Amazon to task for user interface design that I felt was subpar. Since it’s introduction, Kindle for the iPad has gone through numerous updates to its UI, and while still not perfect, it provides a fine balance of text and whitespace. The only reason I don’t use the app regularly is because Kindle doesn’t have continuous scrolling. Enter iBooks, the e-reader app from Apple.

Apple prides itself on the quality of its design. One can see it from the look and feel of Apple’s signature hardware, to the way fonts render in OSX, and everything in between. Which makes this so inexplicable:

ios10ibooks

That is a screenshot of a page in iBooks, with continuous scroll turned on, after an update to iOS 10. The margins to the right and left are too small, leaving the text crowded to the edge of the screen. When using one of the new model iPad Pros, the text is less than an inch from the edge of the device. The width of the text also interferes with the eye’s ability to flow from one line to the next. What happened to all that whitespace that designers value so much? It used to be there. This is a screenshot of the same text taken in iBooks from an iPad running iOS 9:

ios9ibooks

The second screenshot shows a much better use of margins. I know there are charlatans out there who prefer text to be much closer to the edge, but they’re wrong. Luckily, a solution that satisfies most users should not be that difficult for Apple to implement. The Kindle app already has a margin selector in the same menu where a user adjusts fonts and background colors. The settings in iBooks does not. As of right now, the experience in iBooks on the iPad has been degraded by the decision to close the margins. Were Apple to add a margin selector, it would be a vast improvement to the app.

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Blade Runner: Typeface Details & Beyond

Over at Typeset in the Future, Dave Addey has an incredibly detailed analysis of Blade Runner going way beyond the typefaces used:

The subtitle reads WORLD WIDE COMPUTER LINKUP PLANNED, in what looks like Optima Bold. While the idea of a World Wide Computer Linkup might seem passé as we approach 2019, it was still very much unusual in 1982 when Blade Runner was released. Indeed, it wasn’t until March 1982 that the US Department of Defense, creators of pre-Internet network ARPANET, declared TCP/IP as the standard for all military computer networking, pretty much kick-starting what we know as the modern-day Internet of 2016.

Of course, if you’re going to set up business on the moon, you’ll need something a bit smarter than the simple terrestrial Internet we know here on Earth. Indeed, you’ll probably want some kind of Interplanetary Internet. By a strange coincidence, this is exactly what Vint Cerf and NASA have been working on, using delay-tolerant networking to forward bundles of data from spacecraft to spacecraft as and when they come into range. If you’d like to know more, here’s Vint explaining why the speed of light is too slow at a TEDx event in 2011. (We’ll excuse the Comic Sans in his slides, because he did after all invent the thing that’s letting you read this article.)

I’m a huge advocate of watching great movies over and over and over again. You never take everything in on the first watch.

via Daring Fireball

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Typography

Web Fonts of 2015

Typewolf gives us The Ten Most Popular Web Fonts of 2015:

I’m going to make the understatement of the century: geometric sans-serifs are popular at the moment. Out of the ten fonts on this list there was only one serif featured, with the rest being sans-serifs. Although some of the typefaces such as Aperçu and Avenir deviate slightly into humanist territories, pretty much all of these sans-serifs could be described as geometric.

That is quite a lot of geometric san serifs.

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Typography

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Drive Yo Self

Chris Ziegler at the Verge on Tesla’s announcement:

At a press event today, Tesla announced the release tomorrow of version 7.0 of the Model S software, a big, widely anticipated new build that finally enables the car’s self-driving features. Those capabilities were first announced last year and the necessary sensors were added to all Model S cars that have rolled off the assembly line since last September, but Tesla has needed additional time to flesh out the algorithms, which it has been testing this year. The 7.0 release starts in the US on a rolling basis tomorrow, and will proceed to Europe and Asia in the coming weeks pending regulatory approval; the Model X shouldn’t be far behind, since it has the same sensors in place.

Incredible. The technology of tomorrow keeps getting closer faster and faster.

Tesla’s cars wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t control both the hardware and software (they also value software much more than many other car makers).

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Typography, Vehicle

We Operate Not On Reality, But the Appearance of Reality

Over at the AIGA, Liz Stinson on an experience by Errol Morris and Michael Bierut to determine if a font can make us believe something is true:

The toothsome paperback provides an intriguing look into an intuitive but little understood truth: typefaces can have an emotional and psychological impact on us. To appreciators of typography (and Kanye West) this probably sounds like a pretty obvious statement. Of course typography has an impact on our judgement; we’re just not always conscious of its effects. And why shouldn’t it? Typography is but one of countless environmental factors that influence our perception of truth or falsity. Morris, for his part, recently said during an interview: “It’s absurd to think that we would be nudged by one typeface over another, into believing something to be true. Something disturbing about it, I’d go so far to say.”

We judge people by their the tattoos on their bodies, the clothes they wear, and the cars they drive why not the fonts they use?

Helvetica is the cockroach of Modernism. It just won’t die.

While reviewing the new logo for the University of the Arts London in 2012, Armin Vit tears Helvetica a new asshole:

As it concerns identity design we all recognize Helvetica as a bastion of the rise of the practice of corporate identity in the 1960s, deployed with unrelenting passion by the likes of Massimo Vignelli and Unimark in the U.S. and Total Design in Europe. It helped shed decorative logos and present a unified front for corporations of all sizes in the most serious of manners. It was, in a way, a unifying technology of the era, establishing a specific standard for how logos should look. And that’s my biggest issue with Helvetica: It’s 1960s technology, 1960s aesthetics, 1960s principles. You know what else is technology from the 1960s? Rotary-dial telephones. The BASIC computer language. Things we’ve built on for the past 50 years and stopped using as the new, more functional, more era-appropriate products took hold. Today there are dozens of contemporary sans serif typefaces that improve the performance and aesthetics of Helvetica but yet some designers still hold on to it as if it were the ultimate typeface. It’s not. Just because it’s been glorified in a similar way as the suits and clothing in Mad Men doesn’t mean it’s still the right choice. You don’t see people today dressed like Don Draper or Lane Pryce — the business-person equivalents of a business typeface — because fashion has changed, attitudes have changed, the world has changed. But, like cockroaches, Helvetica seems to be poised to survive time and space, no matter what. When you see someone walking down the street, today, dressed like a 1960s business person, you (or at least I) think “what a douche.” That’s the same thought I have when I see something/someone using Helvetica.
Amen.
I think of Helvetica like an E-Type Jaguar: A classic, but also a car that doesn’t perform anywhere close to what a modern car (at any price range) does. Not to mention an E-Type doesn’t have any of the useful amenities a modern car has: USB outlets, better mileage, climate control, Sat Nav, better overall handling.
When I see a designer using Helvetica, I don’t necessarily think “what a douche” but I do think, “what a lazy bastard.”

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Typography

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ILL-vetica

This post is about the newest version of Apple’s desktop operating system, Yosemite. It’s a short post, because I’m only focusing on one aspect of it: the typography.
In short: Helvetica is a horrible choice for a system-wide, screen font.
I work on a 15-inch Retina MacBook Pro and I connect to a 27-inch, non-Retina display. My comments are equally applicable to both screens.
So what’s the problem with Helvetica as an operating system font?
Helvetica reads poorly at small sizes.
As it does in Finder windows. There’s too much letterspacing, but even if letters were tracked tighter together, it would still be less readable than Apple’s previous system font, Lucida Grande.
Helvetica was designed in 1957.
Yep, 1957. It was designed as a display face, and when it’s used as a display face at large sizes, like on a lock screen of your phone or better yet in signage, it can be beautiful.
I’m sure there have been modifications to Helvetica to make is work better on screen, but that’s like upgrading a ’57 Chevy with satellite navigation, new suspension and a new engine. Sure it’s going to ride better than the original, but a brand new, 2014, entry level Toyota Corolla will still drive better.
I came across a post by Eric Karajaluoto, he has a different opinion:

“What about this change to Helvetica?” you ask. It ties to the only significant point in yesterday’s iMac announcement: Retina displays. Just take a look at Helvetica on any high-fidelity screen, and you see a crisp, economical, and adaptable type system.

Sure, Helvetica looks crummy on your standard resolution screen. But, the people at Apple are OK with this temporary trade-off. You’re living in Apple’s past, and, in time, you’ll move forward. When you do, you’ll find a system that works as intended: because Apple skates to where the puck is going to be.
Deciding to use Helvetica is not designing for the future. I’ve seen the future on my retina display and still looks like shit.
Apple could easily spend a tiny fraction of their billions and commission a custom typeface that works twenty times better than Helvetica.
It’s a missed opportunity.
[Imagine if Apple evolved Helvetica the same was Porsche evolved the 911: modernize the face while maintaining it’s essence, it’s Helvetica-ness]

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Typography

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Tip of the Day: How to Kern

Yesterday I gave away my kerning secret on Twitter and it seemed to resonant with a few people so I thought I’d share it here.
(if you had a proper graphic design education, this isn’t a secret)
How to kern a word:
1) From the beginning of the word, look at the first three letters; cover the remaining letters if needed (as you become a kerning Jedi, you won’t need the blinders)
2) Do these first three letters look evenly spaced from each other? If not, expand or contract the spacing between the letter (s) in question
The controls in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign are very similar:

3) Now move to the next letter to the right and the 2 letters following it. Repeat Step 2.
4) Continue this process until you finish kerning the word
Bonus tip: Round letters like ‘O’ and ‘B’ need the letters next to them more tightly kerned on the side(s) with round edges. This is to compensate for the illusion that letters with rounded edges are farther away than letters with flat/perpendicular edges.

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Typography

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