Reilly Brennan lives in San Francisco but will always be a Detroiter at heart. He is the Executive Director of the Revs Automotive Research Program at Stanford and teaches a class on heroes and Dale Earnhardt at the Stanford d.school. He created a car photo thingy called Carmagnum.
I have started to see a lot more functional / useful gifs lately, a heady upgrade from the usual internet astrofluff you see and experience. Particularly of note is the way that Seems Books does their page layouts, where they feature a big image of the book but then inset on the page is a gif of the book opened and flipped through. It’s shot directly from the point of view of the reader/flipper, so it feels like you’re doing it. Even with a dozen or so frames you can really get the sense of the book’s size, heft, colors and feel. I wish there were more useful gifs like this in product descriptions around the internet and now that I have a mental model of this I might use it for an upcoming project. Below take a stroll through a number of books from Seems:
New for 2013 and beyond: I’ve started asking friends of mine to weigh in on topics near and dear to their heart on this humble little space. I call this ‘comrades’ and just let them have the mic. In this edition we bring forward Nick Parish, North American editor of Contagious and one of our closest advisors and friends. Nick recently sat in on a Mario Garcia brain dump and took copious notes, some of which really hit home. Here he is:
A newspaper design consultant might be the most interesting job in the world today. There are not only a handful of eager, scared-shitless clients out there trying to climb out of the muck, but each client arrives with their own baggage, their own unique needs and their own idea on how to solve the problem. As it turns out, these clients keep trying new stuff over and over again as the platform evolves.
The one thing that remains as the tip of the spear? Design.
The phrase ‘newspaper designer’ might sound quaint, but the best of them are creating real change, with the remarkable ability to communicate what’s going on and what’s working with incredible lucidity. I’ve just been in the presence of one of the greats, Mario Garcia, seen above.
Last week my company, Contagious, executed the third in a series of collaborative events with Monotype, the legendary type foundry. In each, we’ve looked at different product categories to try and elaborate what their next few years might look like, based on leading-edge stuff happening now.
A night before the main event, we were part of an evening event, focusing on publication design and I found the discussion really revelatory. Even though we look at a lot of different industries for a lot of different clients, we’re in a similar predicament to many businesses: we often have a hard time applying the lessons we pass along to ourselves. The tariff we take on great ideas is very low.
But I quickly found myself taking a ton of notes as the keynote presenter, Mario Garcia, laid out his experience. I’m a little embarrassed to admit here that I’d never heard of Mario before, but he’s been very intimately involved with publishing design for years, having had a hand in almost 500 papers’ look. He redesigned The Wall Street Journal, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Die Zeit and The Charlotte Observer among many others.
When I shared some of my notes with Reilly, as publications and design are to our chats as wine is to The View, he asked me to put them into coherent shape to share as a Comrades post.
So, here we go, lessons learned from Mario, take one. Stick around to the end and I’ll give you something valuable for free.
Think in the quartet
There are a different kinds of screens. Mobile and desktop are the “lean forward,” and tablet and print are the “lean back.” A tablet experience, for example, is more like a book, or a documentary film. Mario would bet on the smartphone to be the Ultimate Warrior among these, the one that’ll eventually pummel them into submission, but only when people get used to reading longer stuff on it.
Communicate the full quartet
It’s important that any communication of your publishing brand includes showing all these things together, ie a mag next to a tablet next to a phone next to the site. That makes people’s intuitive relationship with media seem like a shared aspiration with your publication. As readers, “we travel through these platforms unconsciously,” but as publishers we retain artifacts from the earlier ones in how we present and publish on them. Mario’s example was a throwback from “radio days” which saw early TV weatherman reading the weather from behind the desk rather than standing up and demonstrating where the clouds were with their whole bodies. I took a look afterwards, and it was five years before the BBC switched from a static image with a narrator reading the weather offscreen to George Cowling himself appearing on the screen, motioning around hand-drawn weather maps.
The fifth member, that which will make the quintet, is radio, and Mario pointed out Monocle’s radio show as an example. The fact that many of our devices have audio as a native function will do more to drive its use.
The big connector here is typography, according to Mario. It’s the first visual connection between the person and the publisher, and it’s essential it is unified thematically across ALL platforms and representations of brand. Mario cited examples like 360, from the Netherlands, which uses Fedra across platforms.
Mario’s words: “In print the last thing you want to do is remind people the information is old.” The way you stay away from this, he says, is to use headlines that look to the future, and are active and promising, and employ capsule and summary items to remind people of things they may already know that’s relevant to a specific discussion area.
I asked him later how the aesthetic of the web fed back into print design, and vice versa. His biggest point of excitement was a reinvention of white space. There’s a lot more of it, and a greater potential to use that in both types of canvas to “guide the fringes,” mostly informed by web design. Additionally, Mario was fired up about full-width images, and was insistent they make an appearance in web work. Lastly, where to look for inspiration in publication design? Scandinavia. They’re over five years ahead, he says, marrying platforms visually very effectively. One example — not mentioned by Mario specifically — is Politiken. Note the hand-drawn front-page when they announced their redesign.
For me, this was really eye-opening, as I thought a lot about how we’re translating our design, which is really good in print, to other platforms, where it isn’t as sharp.
I’d like to pass along some of that inspiration to you, too, so I’ve sequestered five copies of our Brand Perfect Adventures in Publishing Report. You can register and download it here, or give me a shout at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll put a printed copy in the mail for you.
What’s remarkable about this coffee cup with a lid? Not much on its own, but when the nice Southwest flight attendant served it to me last week, I marveled at it like a rare gemstone. It was quite a special experience — my first coffee with a lid on an airplane. I wondered what took them so long.
Then again, I wondered why I never thought about lids on airplane coffee / tea before. I suppose it’s just that zombie-like state we get in when we suffer through an experience over and over again, growing a mental scab. It’s as if whenever I got on an airplane I forgot lids even existed!
The opposite of the zombie state is taking an active role in making these problems less of a problem. Some people do this on their own using everyday objects, just simple little ways to make things less annoying; one of my favorite books on this topic is called “Thoughtless Acts” by IDEO’s Jane Fulton Suri; there is also an interesting open Flickr group. I really like this coaster / warmer that takes advantage of the notoriously warm Apple power units.
I never laid eyes on an airplane yolk until a summer job in high school had me cleaning the greased underbelly of a Beechcraft Bonanza at the Oakland Troy Airport. I worked for Robert F. Byrne, an unbelievably cool guy for his 75 or so years, with an absolute crackshot mind and a love of women that pervaded all of his conversations like that of a 12 year old boy. A V-tail Bonanza was his commuter plane for all his various adventures and mischief to Florida, the Bahamas or wherever he pointed his yoke.
There was something special about the yoke in the Bonanza that I never forgot. It was white plastic and done in an elegant, spare way. In the last twenty or so years I’ve had eBay fantasies about hoarding a few hundred of them in a secret room somewhere. What I find fascinating about airplane yokes is the sheer diversity of interfaces and control shapes given the uniformity of the task. While some of the images you see here introduce more electronic controls into the experience, all the yokes are controlling the ailerons similarly but they look radically different. Compare these to automobile steering wheels, which are almost 99% the same shape.
Below, a smattering of some recent finds, from the rugged to the sophisticated. Enjoy. (Above is a Grumman S-2).
Cessna 336 Skymaster:
Beechcraft Bonanza Straight 35:
Avion — front and back because it’s so fruitshaped and wonderful:
I am starting to think I am more interested in the ephemera around sports than the sports themselves. So be it. Below, a collection of some of my favorite pre-photographic football card wrappers. When laser printing and vacuum sealing weren’t even an option, and all the better for it. <1950s-era kid riding his bicycle voice> Open ‘em up!