nluken + media   7

Journal: Annex, by Artek
‘Annex’ is a new magazine from Artek, the legendary Finnish design firm set up nearly 70 years ago by Alvar and Aino Aalto, Maire Gullichsen and Nils-Gustav Hahl. 

A while ago, I mentioned the “prototype”, the 'Manifest' publication commissioned by Artek for World Design Capital Helsinki, to which I contributed a short article on street food and the city. Now, Artek have reworked the concept, taken the publication in-house, and produced something very nice indeed.

It's edited by Artek’s Anna Vartiainen, working with design director Ville Kokkonen, and designed by Mike “032c” Meiré’s outfit, Meiré und Meiré, and with contributions from Bruno Latour, Deyan Sudjic, Caroline Roux ('The Gentlewoman' &c), and me, alongside an interview with Tomás Saraceno, and other delights besides.

Meiré und Meiré’s elegant design is very appealing, somehow balancing a dash of Helsinki/Euro-Now with early 20th century modernism. It's a large format, and won't fit easily in most bags—but although it sounds arch, that perhaps adds to its appeal.

Artek say:

“The monothematic paper designed by Mike Meiré and his team at Meiré und Meiré in Cologne pushes the limits of topics from outside and within the spheres of design, art and architecture to new dimensions and beyond. The design language takes on the pure play that Artek’s geometric shapes are known for. Annex’s first issue "Science and Technology” marks the beginning of a visual dialogue between clean modernism and its elegant editorial character. Annex is available by September 14.”

Anna and Ville kindly asked me to write a piece about nanotechnology and design. Ville and I spent a grey Friday morning at Aalto University’s “Nanotalo”, with scientist Olli Ikkala, to hear about their research into biomimetic nanocomposites and more besides. I found it a profoundly interesting morning, put it that way, and I’ve posted a version of that piece here. Thanks to Anna and Ville for asking, and congrats on the magazine.

Here are some quick shots of 'Annex', and you can see some more carefully framed spreads at Meiré und Meiré. Do try to pick up a copy; it’s out now.

See also: The Garage of Small Things: Nanotechnology, biomimicry and design practice (Annex)
Architecture  Art  Journal  Media  Science  from google
october 2012 by nluken
Sketchbook: Domus magazine on iPad
(This is a slightly unusual entry in the Sketchbook series, as the end products are largely all the hard work of others, as noted below. Still.)

For the last couple of years, I’ve been a strategic advisor to Domus magazine in Milan, principally on their digital aspects, where I’ve also led much of the design work.

Domus is one of the most influential design magazines of all time. That is perhaps arguable, natch, but what isn’t is that it’s also one of my personal favourites. Plus, it happens to be now edited by Joseph Grima, a constant inspiration and the driving force behind Postopolis.

When he took up the reins, Joseph kindly asked me help pull a kind of practical digital strategy together, focused on revamping the website in the first instance. I’ll post about that a little later, when the coded implementation is a little closer to the specifications (it’s not there yet, but despite that the editorial makes it one of the better sources for architecture, art, design and related. Hopefully we’ll get there in the next iteration, and I’ll spend a bit of time unpacking that work here.)

I will show a few early sketches of the website though, as they also form a part of the design story behind the new Domus iPad app launched a few weeks ago, which is what I want to mention here.

And you can download this first monthly edition of the app for free.

Right from the start I’d wanted to design the website to be iPad-ready. This was April 2010, before I had an iPad, actually. But since the thing came out—I wrote about it at the time —it was clear it was going to radically change the way we approached Domus-like material in particular.

So my first sketches for the website were actually no more than stacks of coloured stripes superimposed onto a photo of Joseph’s new iPad (a photo he’d sent me from NYC, of him reading this blog over coffee! You can see the sketches, but here's the original.)

The stripes emerged from an incredibly simple design strategy for all the digital products; an endless stream of editorial, a vertical loop. (This is drawn from a series of influences—the Sinclair ZX Microdrive; Qing Dynasty scrolls; Instapaper; the flick-to-scroll of touchscreens; Bruno Munari; and structurally, working with the grain of HTML rather than against it—which I’ll unpack another day.)

So the endless loops and easy swipes defined the way I sketched the first Domus digital redesigns. Swipe up or down to grab more editorial, ploughing this furrow forwards or backwards. Swipe left for more editorial related to theme but from the past (the archive stretches back to 1929, so…) Swipe right for upcoming material/events around these themes, and so on. These mockups I did for Joseph and the publisher—featuring, as usual, my fictional content (a guilty pleasure)—are not exactly what got built, but it’s close, conceptually—the same horizontal stripes of colour, arranging simple streams of editorial.

They became things like this:

This was really a quick conceptual scribble, about the simplest form of layout being the most malleable, easy to produce, easy to understand—yet also attractive. You can see I hadn't even really made an active choice about typeface at this point (it would later go through Bodoni on its way to the Meta family.) The current incarnation shares the same approach, as does the next (which will look more like this)—based on these coloured blocks or stripes of "content", simply stacked vertically.

So here are the stripes on Joseph's iPad, for presentation. The stripes could even be themed based on editorial priorities—full colour, black and white, all blues, patriotic Italian issue!

So these mockups were, in a way, based on designing the website in the context of the iPad app, and the app in the context of the web. The original work included a quick sketch of an iPad app based around something other than the magazine material on the iPad, using location in partcular; in situ mode i.e.

But then we had to focus on totally reinventing the website, and Joseph had to also totally reinvent the magazine, and so the idea of an iPad app was firmly shunted to the back burner. And as it happened, when it returned, it would take a different direction.

(The website did indeed take on the endless vertical scroll. Although, again, the current site isn’t quite how it should look/work, but it’s close. It takes on the auto-loading tropes familiar from social media—which was rarely used in editorial brands, when we first implemented it—to keep pulling-back related editorial. It’s a deliberately simple layout to enable maximum flexibility. It also integrates banner advertising rather well, as there is this simple motif of the banner-like stripe for editorial which works well alongside the adverts, yet with their width clearly demarcating one from the other. It also deploys the very large images we wanted, alongside a relatively subtle social media integration (with more going on off-site). It’s a brutally simple layout, actually reinforced in the next version.)

Fast forward to September 2012, and an iPad app for Domus has just been released. The app that we ended up making actually uses the Adobe DPS solution, in those two years, has become close to a de facto standard for magazine-like editorial.

As a result, there are no great innovations here particularly—there is no Mag+ like breakthrough, for instance, although we had several conversations about a more transformative Domus app which might do different things to presenting the magazine material, sitting alongside the mag and the web as an entirely separate product (and that may happen later, based on the design strategy above.)

Yet I suppose the benefit of waiting a couple of years is that the dust begins to settle. While we don’t yet know where magazines are going, we know that the physical product, especially monthly or slower, can retain real value. We also now know that editorial on the tablets like iPads also works well—particularly given “retina” screens—and that the Adobe DPS model has a simplicity that is beginning to work well. We also know that websites work increasingly well on phones and tablets, as well as other computers. So a good iPad version of the magazine might detract from neither print mag nor web, if each format plays to its unique strengths. Each is different (and other apps might be different again.)

Where there is little or no prior knowledge—and I don’t think anyone really knows how magazines will or should perform on tablets—then there is only one way to find out what might work, and that’s to try a few things, to prototype and iterate.

We knew that the Adobe platform offered magazine publishers a tried and tested way to decant magazines into iPads. If we kept the bells-and-whistles under control, and found a language that might share the growing family resemblance between web and mag, we knew it would do the basics very well.

What opened my eyes to it was seeing what the great Berlin-based team at mono.kultur did for ECM. They made an iPad app to accompany the documentary “Sounds and Silence” about Manfred Eicher, who runs the legendary German record label (more here.)

Beautiful mono.kultur app for ECM

I spotted the distinctive Adobe interface, after playing with it for a few seconds, but was utterly seduced by how elegant the application was. Sure, you might argue that ECM’s visual heritage (almost peerless, in my view), combined with mono.kultur’s skill, meant it was the creative equivalent of an open goal, but still, it clearly took great care to actually pull it off (and not to Ronny Rosenthal). But it also meant that you could do something like that with the Adobe platform, which I’d previously associated with editorial bloatware from the likes of Wired and Vanity Fair.

So I suggested to Joseph we throw the ECM app down as a marker, and see what we can do with the Adobe platform for Domus. Marco Ferrari, the creative director at Domus, then took a look and we kicked some salient points around in email a little. I suggested we take the basic navigation, add in a very simple in-article vertical navigation, let the layout breathe as much as possible … 

Marco then did some first quick layouts. These were immediately appealing, though I wondered whether they’d be slightly difficult to pull off in DPS. They’re still good, though, looking back.

So he reworked them into a simpler layout, which I’d suggested would work easily within DPS. It was also immediately appealing. Marco's good like that.

I suggested a few tiny alterations—mainly contextual information, navigation (I lazily pasted the Adobe DPS nav from the ECM app there!), captions, page furniture etc.—and sent back the modified images (some examples of the subtle tweaks below.)

This went back and forth a bit, mainly via InDesign, email and Skype. Marco did the hard work. Then, for one reason and another, months pass. At one point, we even wondered about dropping it (partly in the wake of that Technology Review article, partly as we all had enough on our plates…)

Ultimately however, Marco and Domus’s new interaction designer Manuel Ehrenfeld pulled it altogether. They took Marco’s year-old layouts and produced the whole thing in a month, essentially. We had several marathon email sessions fine-tuning elements, agreeing on a "weight limit", fixing things, but I think Marco and Manuel did a particularly sterling job in terms of knowing just how many interactive elements to deploy. You can do a fair bit with the Adobe DPS platform, but the trick is knowing what to do and what not to do. For a start, all those interactive features take time, which is how some publishers have racked up big bills for their iPad edition.

It’ll no doubt be iterated from here on in, but Marco and Manuel have already made smart design choices so it works right away. We had a few back-and-forths about better social media … [more]
Architecture  Art  Design_history  Information_Design  Interaction_Design  Media  Sketchbook  from google
october 2012 by nluken
Boneshaker Magazine
For the love of cycling! Quite the fantastic read, Boneshaker Magazine covers all things bicycling, with photos and words gathered from around the world. And the things people do with and around two wheels and pure pedal power: bike treks, bike polo, moving house by bike convoy, bike poetry, short fiction and chain art, music to bike by, and on and on, the variety of tales and locales is surprising, engaging, and definitely inspires the DIY. The layout is cleanly minimal, lavishly illustrated, and printed on refreshingly non-glossy stock. Currently heading into issue #10, a four-issue subscription is £20 (about $31), and many of the back issues are still available. Here in the MR lounge, we LIKE it! MORE! » via: Cool Hunting
Media  cycling  magazines  from google
june 2012 by nluken
Top 10 Tools for Managing and Automating Your Media Downloads [Lifehacker Top 10]
You're handy with BitTorrent, you've learned your way around Usenet, and you have all kinds of files streaming onto your hard drive. Learn how to automatically unpack, rename, convert, and otherwise make your media ready for viewing with these 10 helper apps. More »
Lifehacker_Top_10  Automation  BitTorrent  Conversion  Download_Manager  Download_managers  Feature  Handbrake  iTunes  Media  Media_Center  Movies  Music  Organization  Television  Top  TV  Usenet  Videos  from google
august 2010 by nluken
Jaron Lanier Rants Against The World of Web 2.0
hao3 writes "In his new book, You Are Not A Gadget, former Wired writer Jaron Lanier bemoans what the internet has become. 'It's early in the twenty-first century, and that means that these words will mostly be read by nonpersons,' it begins. The words will be 'minced into anatomized search engine keywords,' then 'copied millions of times by some algorithm somewhere designed to send an advertisement,' and then, in a final insult, 'scanned, rehashed, and misrepresented by crowds of quick and sloppy readers.' Lanier's conclusion: 'Real human eyes will read these words in only a tiny minority of the cases.' He goes on to criticise Google, Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, open-source software and what he calls the 'hive mind.'"
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
media  from google
january 2010 by nluken
Justice: Now on YouTube!
Back when I was in college, one of the weirder things facing a Harvard philosophy major was that by far the university’s most popular course on philosophy, “Justice,” was taught by a professor from the political science department rather than the philosophy department. The course wasn’t even cross-listed! Consequently, I didn’t take it even though it got great reviews. Fortunately, along comes the internet to the rescue, as WGBH and Harvard co-produced a TV series based on the course that now has all its episodes up online. So now I’ll finally get to know what he has to say about this.

Minor point here being that the actual Philosophy Department needs to step up its game or Sandel’s mind-share dominance edge will only grow larger and larger. Let’s put Phil 144 online—the Internet wants to hear about Tarski!

More broadly, during this general period of media gloom and doom, it is worth pointing out that in many ways the media landscape is getting way way better. Over the summer I listened to David Blight’s lectures on the civil war and have been following along with Brad DeLong’s lectures on economic history. Someday soon I’ll catch up on Sandel’s justice class. And over time more-and-more of this kind of material is going to be available to more-and-more people. It’s a huge win for human knowledge and quality of life that’s probably never going to be measured in the national output statistics. Fundamentally, though, this kind of thing is one of the reasons why I’m an optimist about the trajectory of human history. It’s just a small thing—a PBS show based on a college course available on the internet—but it’s part of a big positive change.
uncat  Media  Philosophy  Technology  from google
december 2009 by nluken

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