Written by Nick Heer.

Archive for October 23rd, 2011

The Metaphors Breaking The Future

Jon Gold:

But I’m pretty sure there’s not a thing in my physical living room called a ‘Find My Friends’. The metaphor is empty. It’s not referring to anything. It’s just a leather texture.

Agreed, apart from the “just”. I suppose it’s indirectly referencing a paper and leather address book.

I wholly disagree with Gold’s complaints about newspaper apps on the iPad that mimic real-world dailies:

You like your columns and smudged ink. You don’t want to put any design thought into this newfangled iPad business.

I don’t think it’s out of laziness, but that it’s a metaphor that can work. Where this doesn’t work is, in many cases, not the fault of skeuomorphic ideas, but rather a failure in execution.

Gold’s complaints about Newsstand are simply ridiculous though.

Forcing that content into another outdated metaphor—in this case a wooden shelf of printed media—is wrong.

Why? He says it’s because some apps (like The Guardian) are using new metaphors, and forcing those apps to sit on a virtual shelf is shoehorning them. I disagree, purely because the shelf metaphor works brilliantly here. It’s familiar, it works for periodicals (yes, including The Guardian) and clearly articulates its purpose. You know what Newsstand is for the moment you look at it. Angry Birds doesn’t belong on a shelf, and neither does Instagram. But Wired, GQ and The New York Times are all appropriate for the metaphor.

Of course, if the team at The Guardian felt that their publication was unsuitable for the metaphor, they are welcome not to use it. They will be unable to perform background downloads, but they can still send push notifications when the newest issue is available.

He concludes by saying that it’s imperative for designers to “out-innovate skeuomorphism for [the generation] who will never pick up a printed newspaper or magazine.” It’s a valid opinion, and one that (presumably) the designers of Ice Cream Sandwich share. But I disagree that print metaphors cannot continue to work in the future. The phone app icon on every smartphone looks like the handset of telephones of yore for a reason: some metaphors are less timely than others.

Update: Robert Padbury replied to the linked article via Twitter:

It’s like arguing that serif fonts have no place in type [because] the serifs are unnecessary to communicate the letterform

(via Ben Brooks, via Mike Rundle)

Trust Issues

Paul Collins, writing for Lapham’s Quarterly:

Because thanks to an eccentric New York lawyer in the 1930s, [Hartwick] college in a corner of the Catskills inherited a thousand-year trust that would not mature until the year 2936: a gift whose accumulated compound interest, the New York Times reported in 1961, “could ultimately shatter the nation’s financial structure.”

I promise this is a fascinating essay. Grab a mug of coffee, plop yourself on the couch and spend a while reading.

Ten Years of iPod

Apple Computer introduced a portable music player today and declared that the new gadget, called the iPod, was so much easier to use that it would broaden a nascent market in the way the Macintosh once helped make the personal computer accessible to a more general audience.

The now-famous Slashdot post:

No wireless. Less space than a nomad. Lame.