Graphics Archive

Authentic design

"In its desire for authenticity, the Modern design movement curbed the ornamental excess of the 19th century, making design fit the age of mass production. Today, we're seeing the same desire for authenticity manifest itself in the 'flat' trend, which rejects skeuomorphism and excessive visuals for simpler, cleaner, content-focused design." Fascinating perspective on the whole digital vs. analog design debate by Dmitry Fadeyev.

Modern design at Microsoft

"Though 'flat design' is a popular meme right now, there is something much, much deeper going on here at Microsoft. With my own lifelong passion for design I immersed myself in the community and got a front-row seat on a journey that has its roots as far back as the late '90s with Encarta's bold use of typography and clean interface. But it truly sprang to life in late 2010 with the launch of Windows Phone and in the last few weeks has advanced even further with Windows 8.1 and Xbox One. I started from the very place I bet you are right now - disbelief that Microsoft is leading the way on design." They really are. If Apple really goes all minimalist and digital (I dislike the term 'flat') with iOS, Microsoft will have taken over the baton. Crazy world indeed.

Flat pixels: the battle between flat design and skeuomorphism

"If you're paying attention to what's going on in the design world, you've probably noticed the ongoing debate around skeuomorphism vs. flat design." Good overview of the subject from Sacha Greif. This is a very important point: "But where the main victim of realism is merely good taste, taking minimalism too far can have serious consequences on usability. Users have come to rely on a lot of subtle clues to make their way through an interface: buttons have slight gradients and rounded corners, form fields have a soft inner shadow, and navigation bars 'float' over the rest of the content. Remove all these clues, and you end up with a flat world where every element is suddenly placed at the same level, potentially leading to confusion: Is this a button, or simply a banner? Will anything happen if I tap this?"

On the rise of digital design

Ever since I bought my HTC HD7 way back in October 2010, I have been hooked on Windows Phone. Without even being able to test-drive the new operating system (The Netherlands didn't get Windows Phone 7 until a year later), I imported the HD7 from the US - the minimalist, stark, clean, flat, and textual interface spoke to me, and I just knew I would like it. And like it, I did.

Blit: a multitasking, windowed UNIX GUI from 1982

Sometimes, you wake up in the morning, check your RSS feeds, and you know you just hit the jackpot. From the AT&T archives comes a video and description of Blit, a UNIX graphical user interface from 1982, on a 800x1024 portrait display. It employs a three button mouse, right-click context menus, multiple windows, and lots, lots more. It was developed at Bell Labs, and is yet another case that illustrates how the technology industry doesn't work in a vacuum.

Where Microsoft has ‘more taste’ than Apple

Mike Elgan at Cult of Mac: "It must surely be a sign of the impending apocalypse that Microsoft's operating systems have 'more taste' than Apple's. I'm referring, of course, to Apple's inexplicable use of skeuomorphic design in iOS and OS X apps, and contrasting that with Microsoft's stark avoidance of such cheesy gimmickry in the Windows 8 and Windows Phone user interfaces. A skeuomorphic design in software is one that 'decorates' the interface with fake reality - say, analog knobs or torn paper. The problem is worse than it sounds." Won't come as a surprise to anyone that I wholeheartedly agree with this one. iOS and Mac OS X are ruined by an incredibly high Microsoft BOB factor. I have no idea how - or if - Apple will address this, or if the current downward spiral is going to continue.

Re-designing the classic email client

"We're able to produce absolutely stunning websites and mobile apps with great interaction design. Interfaces that are smooth and fun and let us understand information without even trying. But when it comes to email clients, we get a bit of a boring feeling, like using an old piece of software from 10 years ago. I think we can do better. So let's do that." Great ideas and beautiful design by Tobias van Schneider, but why he would forcefully shoehorn this clearly digital UI into Mac OS X is beyond me. It has no place there. This just screams Metro.

The death of consistency in UI design

It's been one of my major pet peeves on both Android and iOS: the total and utter lack of consistency. Applications - whether first party or third party - all seem to live on islands, doing their own thing, making their own design choices regarding basic UI interactions, developing their own non-standard buttons and controls. Consistency died five years ago, and nobody seems to care but me.

“What the hell does the ‘triple bar’ do, anyway?”

It's just a tiny example, but it illustrates a far bigger problem. Adam Becker: "So what's the problem? It's that this innocuous little guy is now being used for all sorts of disparate purposes, and every time it's used for another action, it loses more and more of its meaning." This is what happens when consistency is thrown out the door, and developers get little to no guidance from operating systems' parent companies. Mobile applications and the web are a UX free-for-all, and as a result, established iconography and concepts are used out of context and in wildly varying ways. Just because you can code a mobile application doesn't mean you know anything about user interface design - this lack of guidance is where both Apple and Google have failed miserably.

Interview with _Meta_: the iPhone artist

One of my recent endeavours involves surreal digital collage, which currently has its own, rejuvanated, underground movement. In my search for inspiration I came across a talented artist, _meta_ ("Kim" in real world). At the time Kim happened to only publish his works for his followers on Instagram, so few people has seen his works. The biggest surprise for me was that Kim's artwork doesn't come to life via Photoshop or The Gimp, but via an iPhone 4s. Modern collage works require quite some cutting precision, so I found this fascinating-enough to ask Kim to walk us through his creation process.

GIMP 2.8 released

It's here: the GIMP 2.8. Its biggest feature is something that many, many people have been requesting for as long as I can remember: single-window mode. No longer do you have to fiddle with a gazillion palette and dialog windows (unless you choose to do so, of course). Great work by the team.

Skeuomorphism: bringing Microsoft Bob back from the dead

Tobias Bjerrome Ahlin, an interface designer at Spotify, is a big believer in skeuomorphism. Whereas Apple is a strong advocate of this design concept, Microsoft is clearly moving in the exact opposite direction, while Android is in the process of moving away from skeuomorphism entirely, to a more digital experience. As a passionate hater of skeuomorphism in UIs, I found Ahlin's examples to be a bit weak.

Adobe Photoshop CS6 hands-on preview

"Adobe has been dropping preview links to its upcoming version of Photoshop CS6 for months now, even hyping it up with a Rainn Wilson cameo at MAX 2011. Photoshop CS6 marks one of the app's most drastic visual changes, with a darker visual redesign and streamlined toolbars, and it has all sorts of changes to cursors, filters, video editing, and more in tow. We got some quick hands on time with the app, so read on for our take on Adobe's next-gen installation of Photoshop."

Why Microsoft developers need a style guide

What your interface communicates to users can be just as important as what your software does, writes Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister in discussing the latest edition of the 'Microsoft Manual of Style,' a style guide aimed at designers and developers who create Microsoft software, as well as those who write about it. 'The gist of much of Microsoft's advice is that a user's relationship with computer software is a unique one, and it's important to craft the language of software UIs accordingly,' McAllister writes. 'Occasionally, Microsoft's recommendations verge on the absurd. For example, you might not think it necessary to admonish developers to "not use slang that may be considered profane or derogatory, such as 'pimp' or 'bitch,'" but apparently it is.'