When evaluating the visibility of a logo design, most designers consider how it will look in all kinds of situations — printed on advertisements, cast in metal, embossed on letterhead, foil-stamped on packaging, blown up to a mega-size for environmental signage, etc. Logos for apps, however, are different. The most important test is how the mark will look at less than a quarter-inch high when viewed on a smartphone or laptop screen. Here’s a quiz to see if you can name these app brands, shown here larger than they are normally seen.
To celebrate the holidays, AKQA, the San Francisco/London-based digital creative agency, teamed up with members of the Pacific Chamber Symphony and Music Director Laurence Kohl to produce an interactive arrangement of “Carol of the Bells.” They are assisted by “shadow orchestra members” led by a “shadow conductor” who coordinates the performance by linking to Mobile Orchestra.com via wi-fi to get a unique web address. From there, up to 12 people may sync their smartphones, each choosing an instrument played by one of the real musicians. Once the “conductor” sees that all the mobile instruments are ready, he/she presses a key to let the music begin.
IKEA is redefining retail catalogs by making theirs come alive. On July 31, the Swedish ready-to-assemble home furnishings giant will begin sending their 2013 edition, so keep your smartphone handy. Interspersed throughout the catalog are augmented reality codes that you can access by downloading a free IKEA catalog app onto your Android or iPhone. Look for the smartphone icons on the page and hold your phone about eight inches above the image to activate the digital layer.
Created by McCann agency with Metaio technology, the app-friendly catalog takes you beyond the printed page and launches interactive content – three-dimensional products, video stories about the product designers, an x-ray look behind a cabinet door, etc. It’s a digital magazine and shopping advisor that piggybacks on paper. For IKEA, the largest portion of their marketing budget goes toward the catalog, of which they print 211 million copies translated into some 20 languages. Enabling access to digital content is like expanding the number of pages without adding pages. Unlike websites where you have to find a way to make consumers visit your site first, the printed catalog puts the marketing piece in the consumers’ hands and then encourages them to linger longer, read deeper and return to the catalog repeatedly to discover what else is there.
If this thermostat looks like something that Apple would have designed had it been interested in home heating, there’s a reason. Tony Fadell, who conceived of the iPod and then went on to work on the iPhone while at Apple (he left in 2008), came up with this household device through his own company, Nest Labs. The clean Apple aesthetic and intuitive ease-of-use are evident in the Nest Learning Thermostat. The temperature is displayed in bright, clear numerals, and the rim ring acts as the dial. The LCD-lit center turns red if you are raising the temperature and shows blue if you are lowering it. A green leaf appears under the number to indicate a setting for optimal energy savings. Not only that, the Nest programs itself, using software to analyze and track your usage patterns over time. Once it learns your preferences, it adjusts itself automatically, and even turns itself down to the “Away” mode, if it doesn’t sense any movement in the house. The Nest also comes with a mobile app that lets you change the temperature and schedule remotely by laptop, smartphone or pad.
Programmable thermostats, even ones that can be controlled remotely, are not new to the marketplace. What makes Nest exceptional is that it is designed for the user. You don’t have to squint to read the temperature gauge or gnash your teeth when trying to figure out the instructions to get it to do all the things that the ads promise it can do. It doesn’t try to impress consumers by displaying the complex engineering of the product. That’s more intimidating than impressive. What good design does best is create an interface with the user that makes the complex simple. Given the large number of consumers (including me) who don’t know how to program their existing thermostats, a device that is pleasing to view and as easy to use as an iPod is a welcome advance.
Elegant. Simple. Intuitive. Graphic. These are descriptions not applied to technology until Steve Jobs dazzled the world with the Macintosh, the iMac, the iPod, iPhone, iPad and more. He understood the purpose of design on a visceral level and not only transformed the way designers work, but elevated public awareness that design is not merely an aesthetic marketing device, but the heartbeat of innovation. Thank you, Steve. Well done. Rest in peace.
Anyone who has ever driven in San Francisco knows how hard it is to find parking, metered or otherwise. San Francisco drivers regularly pray to the “parking gods” and sometimes feel obligated to eat at a certain restaurant — “the food is so-so, but the parking is good” — simply because there’s an open spot nearby. This situation is exacerbated because the hills are so steep that it’s preferable to use a quarter tank of gas looking for parking than having to walk up or down hill. Now the city is trying to guide drivers to open spots by graphically showing them open spaces on their mobile phones. They claim that the parking map is updated every five minutes. Ha! Since when did a parking space stay open for a full five minutes in San Francisco! Many of us are beyond skeptical, but a designer in Kit’s office says that he has tried SFPark and it works.
Clocks have come in analog, digital, sundial, atomic, round face with hands that point to hours and minutes, and numbers that flip forward with each advancing minute. The Qlocktwo Touch, made by German design company Biegert & Funk, is the only clock that I can think of to declare the time typographically in a complete sentence. It’s perfect for dyslexics.
According to industry forecasters, online video ad spend is expected to top $1 billion in 2011 and keep on soaring upwards. Even in the depths of the recession in 2009 when overall online advertising fell, online video spend grew by 41%. For good reason. Some of the most creative and memorable ads today are video ads found on YouTube and Vimeo that get tweeted and fanned virally. They run the gamut from the infomercial-like Blendtec video with the company’s CEO Tom Dickson liquefying an iPhone to JC Penney’s hilarious classic “Beware of the Doghouse,” which won the 2009 World Retail Award for Best Digital Retail Advertising Campaign. With the ads typically running more than a minute to nearly five, there is time to create an engaging storyline and no fear of being forgotten when the real TV program returns. Consumers click on it by choice and stay because it holds their attention. They recall the brand, the message and they like it.
Corporate anthropologists who observe consumer behavior watch out for “workarounds” — solutions that people rig up to overcome shortcomings in the design of a product. These are typically one-off designs that are sometimes ingeniously clever and sometimes humorously strange and barely workable.
In coming up with a Moleskine cover for an Amazon Kindle e-book, Moleskine admits it eavesdropped online when bloggers posted workaround suggestions or wrote wistfully of the satisfaction they got when jotting notes on paper.
“The very idea of this new cover came from ‘notebook hackers,’ who create their own custom-made accessories weaving together paper pages and digital tools,” Moleskine says on its website. “Throughout the web, hundreds of communities and discussions can be found where such Moleskine ‘hackers’ publish their own invention.”
This advertisement for City Harvest was filmed entirely on an iPhone in a single shot. It was created and produced by The Mill NY, in collaboration with Draftcb, a New York City marketing communications agency.
The ad was made to support City Harvest, which collects over 270,000 pounds of excess food from restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers and farms daily and uses it to prepare and deliver over 260,000 meals per week to community food programs in the New York City area. The apples in the video represent the amount of food wasted in New York City every day. City Harvest states that it is the “world’s first food rescue organization.”
Lately it seems that every webinar, workshop, conference and business publication includes advice on optimizing social media marketing, which is why we thought this study on Twitter and Facebook use would be of interest to our readers. Part of the Gadgetology Report produced by Retrevo, a consumer electronics shopping site, the online independent survey sampled 771 respondents from across the United States (so we can’t tell you how the answers compare with people in other countries.) The Retrevo survey also reveals that men are more than twice as likely to use Facebook or Twitter after sex than women, and iPhone users are three times more likely than Blackberry owners (no surprise there). We don’t have any suggestions on how to calculate this into your social media marketing strategy, but some savvy marketers will understand the ramifications.
The days of artists conspicuously sketching and painting on drawing pads or at an easel may be over. All the tools that one needs are available in a palm-sized iPhone; passersby don’t know if the person is text messaging or creating a digital masterpiece.
Artist Jorge Colombo, who used the Brushes app to create the first iPhone-illustrated cover for The New Yorker’s June 1 issue has done it again with the Manhattan skyline at night on its November 16 cover. Although Colombo arguably can be called “the father of iPhone art,” he has owned an iPhone only since February 2009 and started “finger painting” using the Brushes app after that. Thanks to Colombo and a few other pioneers, what just was a cool Internet Café “parlor trick” to amuse geeky friends a few months ago has become a serious art medium. This week’s Huffington Post is even featuring iPhone drawings submitted by readers. The variety of styles, nuances of colors, level of detail and sophistication are amazing to behold.