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Posts Tagged ‘design

“A good snapshot stops a moment from running away”*…


Doug Battenhausen thinks all our advances in cell-phone cameras and photo-sharing technology haven’t made our pictures better, but rather more sterile. We all know how to get the perfect selfie now, with just the right filter — but to him, that’s boring.

What Battenhausen is interested in, and has been collecting since 2010 on his blog “Internet History,” are photos that are beautifully amateurish and capture strange moments.

To find these types of photos, Battenhausen mines the forgotten reaches of the internet, particularly defunct photo accounts on sites like the (now deleted) Webshots, Flickr, or Photobucket…

Read more, and see a selection of Battenhausen’s picks at “A photographer looked through people’s forgotten, dead photo accounts for 5 years — here are the beautiful and eerie pictures he found.”

And see them all at Battenhausen’s blog.

* Eudora Welty


As we reaffirm our commitment to sort through those digital shoe boxes, we might send aggressively-laid-out birthday greetings to David Carson; he was born on this date in 1954.  A successful professional surfer through much of the 80s, he turned to design, working on a series of skateboard and surfing magazines until 1992, when he became design director of Ray Gun, the seminal alternative music/lifestyle magazine.

At Ray Gun Carson used Dingbat, a font containing only symbols, for what he considered a rather dull interview with Bryan Ferry (though the whole text was published in a legible font at the back of the same issue)– one of the moves that earned him the honorific “Father of Grunge Typology.”

When the magazine Graphic Design USA listed the “most influential graphic designers of the [modern] era” Carson was listed as one of the all time 5 most influential designers, with Milton Glaser, Paul Rand, Saul Bass and Massimo Vignelli.



Written by LW

September 8, 2015 at 1:01 am

“You cannot NOT have a user experience”*…


Q: I’ve heard people use UI and UX interchangeably. I thought I knew the difference, but now I’m confused. Can you please clarify this once and for all? 

Of course I can. And I can do it using the Presto Hot Dogger. Obviously.

When I was a kid, my brothers and I talked my mom into buying us a hot dog cooking machine. Don’t laugh. This was the 70s, when instant coffee was considered a miracle. The way the Hot Dogger worked was simple. There was a tray with two rows of spikes on either side that slid into a heating element. You impaled the hot dog into the corresponding spike on each side, completing the electrical circuit, and this “cooked” the hot dog. Cooking is a strong word here, as the hot dogs were actually being electrocuted. (Hot dogs contain an insane amount of metal, by the way.) We were thrilled to make our hot dogs this way.

So, what I just described — the spikes, the heating element, the electrocuting — that’s the user interface. Or UI, for short. And I’m sure that the good folks at Presto tested that user interface many times over until they had it just right. I’m sure they tested the proper width of the tray to fit the majority of hot dogs and wieners being made in the USA at the time. I’m sure they tested the force needed to close the tray, maybe even with a robot arm! They probably even tested the visibility of the smoky transparent plastic that allowed you to see your hot dogs being electrocuted, and how much of it you’d want to see.

Now here’s the thing. When you give three boys an appliance that electrocutes meat in an era before their boredom could be diffused with video games and cable, it immediately becomes the most interesting thing in the house. And they start wanting to have experiences. The hunger to electrocute things far outlasted the hunger for hot dogs. And it wasn’t long before we started looking for other things that fit in the Hot Dogger™.

Here’s an incomplete list of items we tried:

  • bananas (not enough metal)
  • chicken drumsticks (worked, albeit slowly)
  • Steak-umm (turned to liquid)
  • forks (sparks, small fire)
  • a condom we found on the street (the smell lasted for weeks)
  • aluminum foil (yep. Aluminum bridges solved our Steak-umm problem. )

We were having user experiences…

Learn more (including why trash bins are exactly 25 feet from hot dog stands at Disneyland) from Mike Monteiro, Design Director at Mule Design, in “How 70s appliances can explain the difference between UX and UI.”

* Lou Carbone


As we put our appliances through their paces, we might spare a thought for an inventor and designer of an earlier period, Garrett Morgan; he died on this date in 1963.  He patented a traffic signal (which he sold to GE for commercial exploitation).  He also developed (among many other inventions) the gas mask, which he used to rescue miners who were trapped underground in a noxious mine in 1914– though soon after, he was asked to produce gas masks for the US Army.  It was based in part on his 1912 creation, a safety hood and smoke protector for firefighters.



Written by LW

August 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Ninety-nine percent of who you are is invisible and untouchable”*…


Everything looks cooler when you blast it with X-rays. The photography of Roy Livingston makes electromagnetic radiation his muse; in his colorful series, X-Ray Visions, the skins of alarm clocks, toy robots, old Crosley radios, and more bubble away to reveal their candy-colored X-Ray cross-sections.

Based in Louisville, Kentucky, Livingston… didn’t always take such colorful X-ray photographs, but after experimenting with digitally adding color to his work as part of a study called “36 Robots,” “the flood gates opened.” Each of his photos begins on the analogue side by taking an X-ray and developing it. He then scans it into his computer in ultra high-resolution, manually cleaning the image as he goes. After cleaning, he creates hundreds of color variations in Photoshop—”I learned about saving large documents in Photoshop the hard way,” Livingston notes—then, after giving the project a few weeks to simmer, goes back to figure out which color paths he likes best.

When it comes to deciding what to X-ray, Livingston says its all about design. “I’m a big fan of all kinds of industrial design whether it’s new or old,” Livingston tells me. “It’s incredible when you see the thinking, craftsmanship and machining that goes into creating some of these objects. They are works of art by themselves.” If there’s anything he’s trying to get across with his work, Livingston says, “it’s that the simplest things can be beautiful.”…

More at “Colorful X-Ray Photos Illuminate The Beauty Of Vintage Industrial Design.”

[Special summertime bonus:  The Best Water Guns of All Time and The History of the Squirt Gun…]

* Buckminster Fuller (the inspiration for the title of Roman Mars’ wonderful design podcast, 99% Invisible)


As we delight in design, we might recall that it was on this date in 1617 that the first one-way streets were established in London. An Act of Common Council was passed to regulate the “disorder and rude behaviour of Carmen, Draymen and others using Cartes,” specifying seventeen narrow and congested lanes running into Thames Street, including Pudding Lane (where the Great Fire of London began in 1667).



Written by LW

August 23, 2015 at 1:01 am

“If you’re lucky, people will get the message”*…


From the early 80s to today, a graphic look at “The History of Icons.”

Special bonus:  browse through the sketchbook of pioneer Susan Kare.

* “If you look at that blank canvas and say, ‘Now I’m going to create a masterpiece’ — that’s just foolhardy. You just have to make the best painting you can, and if you’re lucky, people will get the message.”  – Susan Kare


As we point and click, we might send mercantile birthday greetings to John Vansant Wanamaker; he was born on this date in 1838.  A gifted merchant who helped define the modern consumer era, Wanamaker’s flagship store in Philadelphia– an enterprise that helped define the “department store”– was designed by famed architect Daniel Burnham, featured a pipe organ, an art gallery and a 2,500-pound bronze eagle that became a favored meeting place for Philadelphians.

Wanamaker was a committed innovator:  he was the first to use electric arc lighting in a retail setting (in 1878); and starting in 1910, sensing its potential as an advertising medium, he used his stores as a base for experimentation with radio– starting a radio broadcast station in the store in 1922 to initiate radio receiver sales.

Wanamaker served as Postmaster General in the late 19th century, introducing the first commemorative stamp and laying the groundwork for Rural Free Delivery.  And in the early 20th century, he helped establish Mother’s Day as an observance.

An aggressive advertiser and promoter, Wanamaker is credited with the famous observation, “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”



Written by LW

July 12, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it”*…


email readers click here for video

“Fabulously glamorous puppets model fashions and bewitch men at The Cypress Club in London, 1960”

Part of Vintage Fashion, a subset of the 85,000 historical films available from British Pathé.

* Yves Saint-Laurent


As we canter down the catwalk, we might send elegant birthday greetings to Giorgio Armani; he was born on this date in 1934.  A fashion designer probably best known for his mens line, Armani brought clean, tailored lines, natural fit, and subtle colors to his work.  While he was warmly received from his first collection (in 1975), Armani became a sensation in the 80s when his clothes were worn by Richard Gere in American Gigolo and by the protagonists of Miami Vice.  By the late 80s, his “power suits” had become a symbol of success.  Today, Armani’s brand adorns home goods, books, and hotels in addition to clothing; he’s widely regarded as the most successful Italian designer ever.



Written by LW

July 11, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated”*…


Picnic season is upon us.  One might wonder whither the ubiquitous design, illustrated above, adorning paper cups and plates in parks and backyards across the nation– Solo’s highest-grossing design ever…  In fact, many did wonder, and took to the web to investigate.  The crowd made some headway– they discovered it was created by a designer named “Gina”– but it took an intrepid reporter, Thomas Gounley of the Springfield (MO) News-Leader, to get the whole (and fascinating) story.

Read it at “The Internet is looking for who designed this cup. What does Springfield have to do with it?

* Paul Rand


As we have some more potato salad, we might recall that it was on this date in 1880 that O Canada, the song that would become our northern neighbor’s national anthem (de facto by 1939; officially in 1980) was first performed, in French, at the the Congrès national des Canadiens-Français.  Commissioned by Lieutenant Governor of Quebec Théodore Robitaille for the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day ceremony, Calixa Lavallée composed the music, after which words were written by the poet and judge Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier.  English lyrics were created in 1906; but the second English version, created in 1908 by Robert Stanley Weir, were more popular and became the official English lyrics.


Written by LW

June 24, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Got no checkbooks, got no banks”*…


Trinidad and Tobago, the tiny twin-island nation off the coast of Venezuela, has struck gold. Its newly re-released $50 note (TT) earned top billing in this year’s competition convened by the International Bank Note Society (IBNS).

Designed in partnership with the British banknote manufacturer De La Rue to commemorate the 50th (golden) anniversary of the country’s Central Bank, the $50 note shows familiar takes on its national symbols like its coat of arms, a red hibiscus flower, and a red capped cardinal bird, its wings fanned out like a palm tree. The back of the note depicts a smiling carnival dancer, collaged in front of the 22-story Central Bank and Ministry of Finance twin towers, which are the tallest buildings in the entire country…

Read the whole story and see the runners-up at “The world’s best banknotes of the year.”

* Irving Berlin, “I Got the Sun in the Morning”


As we reach for our wallets, we might recall that it was on this date in 2012 that Facebook went public.  The IPO was the biggest in technology and one of the biggest in Internet history, with a peak market capitalization of over $104 billion.  Some pundits called it a “cultural milestone”; in any case, a great deal of money was “printed.”



Written by LW

May 18, 2015 at 1:01 am


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