Blogless: Blog of Design Less Better.

Posts tagged Wired.

Four Design Links: July 16, 2009

Time to drop the Trends label, I think. Not everything in my Thursday posts is up-to-the-minute, nor is it "trendy". Let's go with Four Links from here on out!

1. Less, But Better

BBH labs has an long article featuring the work of influential industrial designer Dieter Rams that concludes with an interview. It's worth checking out. Rams is certainly a favorite around here!

2. A Solution to Print Relevancy? Solving Wired's Puzzle Issue

A while back I posted a link about the possible demise of the print version of Wired Magazine. May's special puzzle issue, guest edited by J.J Abrams, makes a case for the potential still left in the medium.

Text from Wired Magazine's Puzzle Issue

Lone Shark Games hid 15 puzzles in the magazine whose solutions unlock a final metapuzzle. Fittingly, the final solution (SPOILER) bridges old and new media, as it involves both cutting the magazine and visiting a website. Read about it here.

3. You Should Follow Me on Twitter

An informal study by Dustin Curtis (the infamous blogger) suggests that to gain more Twitter followers, you may wish to choose your language carefully.

Dustin Curtis -- You Should Follow Me on Twitter

4. Collection of Baseball Infographics

Finally, for a little bit of summer, check out Craig Robinson's Flip Flop Fly Ball for some beautifully presented baseball data.

Distance covered by runners in a season, plotted on a US map.
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NickJul 16, 2009

Four Design Trends: June 11, 2009

After the positive response from the last batch, this week we continue with four more links. Catch up on some stories that just might help you with your next design or client meeting.

1. The 50 dollar logo experiment

50 dollar logo experiment -- FAIL

Should professional designers be worried about crowdsourced spec design sites? Jim Walls spent $50 to find out.

His verdict: professionals have nothing to fear.

The "designers" he hired a.) failed to take into account his obvious pun (or perhaps did not speak English), and b.) never finished the job. You get what you pay for, I guess.

2. Pointing fingers at Wired

If for some reason you have not caught wind of this article on the possible demise of Wired magazine, you might want to check it out. The irony is thick: how could a magazine about the future fail to predict or respond to the impact of the Internet on its business?

The comments are the real meat of the piece. Past and present Wired editors, bloggers, print writers, ad buyers, and lookers-on debate what went wrong and what might save the day. Highly recommended if you're interested in the future of journalism and hearing the many, many sides of the story from informed parties.

3. "Apple is creating an ecosystem of the kind of customers I don’t want"

Garrett Murray believes that Apple's long and opaque approval process for iPhone application support hurts both users and developers. The ratings interface makes it difficult for developers to respond directly to complaints through the Apps Store. Furthermore, they have no idea when or if fixes will be approved. Murray says angry users are more likely to rate software than satisfied ones, resulting in lower overall ratings which can hurt sales.

As a user, I have found it hard to shop the Apps Store for this very reason. It's interesting to consider whether Apple's attempts to control quality may have in fact broken the user experience on another level.

4. Changing search trends say: invest in brands

Chas Edwards, chief revenue officer at Digg, offers this analysis of recent marketing data:

What's happening? "Total traffic going to websites via paid search ads is decreasing relative to traffic via unpaid, organic search listings."

The explanation? As users have gained experience searching, queries are getting longer, thus undermining the effectiveness of most ad buys which use only a few words.

What to do? “As we claw our way up from the bottom, expect that the recovery in online advertising will be driven by faster growth in brand-building activities over cost-per-click and other direct-response programs.”

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NickJun 11, 2009

Is Wordle good?

Wordle is beautiful and usable, but is that good enough?

Wordle is a popular visualization that creates "word clouds" from the frequency of words in a given text. Words which are used more frequently appear larger within the cloud. However, unlike a tag cloud, Wordle's organizational principles are more aesthetic than analytical. Instead of arranging words in linear blocks, the applet uses any available whitespace around and within words. The meaning of the results can be difficult to interpret, but the visuals are undeniably beautiful.

This raises a challenging question: "Is Wordle good?"

When I first started writing about Wordle, I was interested in using it on BlogLESS to learn something about our writing.

Wordle word cloud of BlogLESS, Feb. 2009

But the more I dug into the tool, the more I started to wonder what the word cloud actually represents. Jodi Dean examines this idea in her essay, Tag clouds and the decline of symbolic efficiency:

[H]ow can there be an ethics of the address if the words are not part of an address, if they are extracted from their position within speech acts to become artifacts and toys? (emphasis mine)

In other words (no pun intended), frequency doesn't necessarily have any meaning. Or perhaps, not the meaning we think it does. As a visualization, Wordle may not be telling the full story.

Wordle's creator Jonathan Feinberg understands this criticism, but considers the applet to be nothing more than a toy. According to the Many Eyes blog, it is "designed to give pleasure, not to provide reliable analytic insight". And yet, a magazine like Wired uses Wordle to examine political speeches. This is the conundrum.

It's not just a toy because the artist says it is-- not if the audience might think otherwise. Is a toy thermometer harmless when someone uses it to take a sick person's temperature? Can a toy masquerading as a tool really be so benign?

While I commend Feinberg for making visualizations easy to produce and good looking, I wonder if there isn't some ethical component missing? For a public that is generally uneducated about the meaning of data, can we truly say it up to them to interpret the pieces correctly-- that the designer or artist bears no responsibility?

I want to suggest (and don't I think this isn't the first time we've done so) that aesthetics and usability are not good enough. In addition, we ought to consider ethics in everything we make; morality as a component of quality. Good design must truly be good.

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NickFeb 17, 2009