Monday, March 15, 2010

State Department wades into Internet Information Design

Hillary Clinton's State Department is trying it's hand at the sort of online social networking savvy that served her boss so well during his campaign.

Their new site, Opinion Space, is a sort of left wing/right wing map that visually illustrates "which ideas result in the most discussion and which are judged most insightful by the community of participants," based on 5 "central" issues that Ms. Clinton, it seems, has chosen to focus on.

The software was created by the Berkeley Center for New Media and uses Principal Component Analysis from advanced mathematics to plot your overall opinion as a point (or star) in the constellation of other viewpoints.

"Opinion Space is designed to 'depolarize' discussions by including all participants on a level playing field," says BCNM director Ken Goldberg.

SF Gate's Tech Blog has a more extensive post highlighting the experimental version of about a year ago. One concept that seems missing from this version is the idea of "landmarks" (blue dots) that represent the opinions of public figures… for obvious reasons, given the host.

The largest problem I see with this is the standard limitation with polls - the questions define the debate. I had trouble with the first question, as I think nuclear proliferation is a serious international issue, but that a nuclear armed terrorist is an extremely unlikely occurrence. Remember, the last try involved an underwear bomb. We are not talking rocket scientists here, as yet.

However, the social rating/Ranking aspect is vastly interesting - I am wondering how this map is going to look in a month - mostly to the left is my guess. Unless Fox does a piece on it, of course.

I guess my favorite thing about this is that the State Dept. is leveraging the intellectual property of academic research and development in the real world.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's no iPad... and that's a good thing.

Update: A couple more articles on the Microsoft Courier's current devolution, as Gizmodo calls it. I still think the interface idea is interesting, and is a step towards a more visual and less folder- and file-based use of the 'desktop' metaphor - it also seems to allow more cross-application sharing of data than the iPad. Saving you a click through, Gizmodo's latest article is based on this Engadget post.

Update: A friend said the book metaphor was dated, but I contend that it is not a book, it's two monitors, upping productivity.

Gizmodo has posted pictures and video of Microsoft's new "tablet" - which, it turns out, is more of a 'booklet'. The video is very much worth watching, especially if you are an interaction designer.

I happen to think this is FAR closer to what I had hoped the iPad to be.

Instead we got this:

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

JavaScript Java Sketch

Harmony is a fun and engaging javascript based drawing tool. It is instantly usable and has an uncanny ability to make the most inane doodling look good.

This amazing little web app was built by a web designer and developer named Ricardo Cabello.

This was created by "playing with various drawing algorithms" and the new HTML5 spec's <canvas> tag.

It is loads of fun - I did the little doodle on the left in about 5 minutes. Click on it for the full size version.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Graphic Design of the '70s

The van is just about the coolest movable canvass ever invented. Unfortunately, a certain segment of airbrush 'artists' got their hands on it in the '80s and well, I am sure you have seen the poorly proportioned results.

But those earlier, graphically pure vans live, on the streets of LA, and around the southwest, where rust has yet to claim them.

Joe Stevens has been chronicling both their current social environment and their slow demise (partly blamed on the "cash for clunkers" program).

Not so sure about the horizontal scroll used here - a more up date version of that coming next.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Mobile Design Tools

Ok, so it is just one tool so far.

Back in the day, when you didn't know what a font was, you just slogged through font books for hours. Then email helped us sub this little job out to our network of design friends.

Then, finally, someone got computers to do their job: make our lives easier. enabled you to upload a graphic and get a pretty educated guess as to what font it actually was... with of course the hope that you would then purchase it from your AI font benefactors.

Well, now the internet is in your pocket, and the time when you are most likely to see a cool font you want to use is when you are no-where near a computer.

Ta Da: WhatTheFont for iPhone !

Snap a pic, upload it, get your answer, all from right where you are standing, whether it be in a bookstore or walking down the street.

My tests with it had mixed results. Basically, if your image is not black font on white background you are in trouble and need to clean things up back at the lab with Photoshop - just like the web app. I was however able to shoot some Blue Shield letterhead and get Avant Garde Medium returned as the result... Correct!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mid-Century Digital

A wonderful example of someone who goes deeply down the rabbit hole of popular geekdom and invites us all along for the ride is on display at the Hal Project.

Joe Mackenzie created a simple Hal screensaver back in 1999, and has since grown his obsession in a very clean little site that has various fun downloads, including - my introduction to the concept - a great new screensaver that replicates the screen design of the computer screens seen through out the film, mostly in the background.

Sadly, I dont think the screen saver has an audio component, which seems like it would a naural progression from it's current state.

The screens themselves are decidedly modern - as in contemporary - design, which shows how well basic design principals hold up in the face of the current aesthetic of digital conversion.

h/t Coyote!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Iron Man 3D interface

So this film set off quite the discussion on the iXda list the other day, and led to a lot of very cool links to the sci-fi movie software interface digerati.

It took me a while to find a screen shot to use with this post - it seems there are few images of the bally-hooed interface, but Jason Wong was kind enough to post a movie clip of the scene - shown is where Mr. Downey is about to put his hand into a holographic autocad drawing and test out the fit.

So, we were curious as to who was responsible for the graphics - and it seems that cool movie interface scene is dominated by a very few people, and one in particular: Mark Coleran.

Here are some more links related to Mark:
Here he chimes on a Motion Graphics forum
His Flickr Account

Now, back to the cool interface thread - it lead also to a lot of real world experimental gestural interfaces:
Rendering for an Interactive 360ยบ Light Field Display

Oblong the former MIT kids who worked on the gestural interface for Minority Report - along with Schematic - and also science advised the Iron Man movie.

The other cool interface in Iron Man is Stark's 'heads up display' , built by the ever cooler Pixel Liberation Front

Links to more cool reels (including the Minority Report stuff) can be found on

This guy has figured out how to use a wii-mote to track finger positions and head positions.

Dan Saffer posted this true 3D gesture to 3D model drawing system.

However, Bruce Sterling (an author books that would make cool movies) is the sci-fi interface buzz kill.

cross-platform PNGs

I am about to post a "best viewed in firefox" tag on my website, because I am changing all the gifs I am using to PNGs, and I am too a) lazy and b) busy and c) annoyed to implement the following solution that will allow IE 6.x to properly render my pages.

But, I think that this is a great article, so I am linking to it for all you designers who DO want to take the time to code this up:

PNGs in IE 6.x

tip o' the hat to Jack from the wwwac list