. . . you can more or less be assured he's an arsehole. Here's a bit via Josh Marshall about a lobbying firm that sent mail to congressfolk purporting to originate from the NAACP and Latino interest groups. The stuff was fiction, forged by the lobbying firm. Nasty. But look at the lobbying firm's logo: it's 100% nutz and no finesse: a speed line and a starburst in ultimate letter of the founder's name. (Jack Bonner, we might add, looks like a cross between Freddie Mercury and Skeletor, and yes, you're welcome). This is arseholery in design: no competent designer would have proposed such a solution to a proper client; and no client worth its salt would have approved it. Graphic design is shorthand for a whole range of human experience: if you understand it, it can serve you (viz. Our President). If you can't be bothered to give a shite about it (viz. McCain), well: it may not lose you the election, but it won't help.
It's about time. We've been remiss in posting the weekly Twitter Roundup for the very reason we asked you whether @Pinch_Bespoke should continue in its current form: client work is again at a steady pace and we needed to know whether the effort was worth it. Apparently, it is. In the week that passed, we shared some work, checked in on Design Victoria's excellent "Why Design? series and took our "hetero" temperature with Stockholm Pride's ingenious gaymometer (we learned that we're exactly 1% hetero). We lauded Mucca Design's packaging for Brooklyn Fare, joined in the Typekit/Typecon 2009 Web fonts discussion, gleaned a bit from the advertising industry about promotion and storytelling, and revisited both: Smith magazine and Christopher Alexander's classic architectural guide, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction.
Note: The other night, I ran into Friend of Pinch Jennifer Yocom at one of the many high-stepping social events I attend. I had just gotten a snootful of Dave Selden's excellent first blast on the City of Portland's plans to crowdsource at least part of the upcoming redesign of its Web site, and I'm afraid I buttonholed poor Ms. Yocom and subjected her to a Cabernet-scented blast of my own on the subject. At any rate, the next day (that would be today) I received an e-mail from the Mayor's Communications Director, Mr. Roy Kauffman. (Mr. Kaufmann published the text of that letter in the comment stream following Mr. Selden's post above, so I assume others received it as well and I will not trouble to reprint it here.) What follows is my response.
Many thanks for your note. I do appreciate hearing directly from Mayor Adams' office about this; I supported Sam as a councilman and as a mayoral candidate; moreover, I continue to support him as mayor, this little hiccup aside.
I have of course reviewed the contest rules and FAQ, and as a fellow who has earned his bread as a brand and Web development practitioner for over a decade, I must tell you in all candor that the City's solution to the problem of redeveloping PortlandOnline is troublesome at best.
Breaking the process of developing an important (and as of now, inadequate) Web entity such as PortlandOnline into four discrete RFPs to be serviced by four discrete suppliers -- even if the user interface design was not additionally parted out to a contest -- reveals the cumbersome nature of the City's purchasing process in relation to creative (for the purposes of this note, I'll use "creative" to mean the generative side of Web development, which includes but is not limited to accessibility, information architecture, CMS consulting, messaging and user interface design).
The City, of course, tries to be as objective as it can in determining suppliers, grading proposals on an ostensibly objective numerical scale with respect to many laudable aspects of doing business.
But creative is not objective. It is not a manufacturing or simple procurement process. And parting it out like the City has done in this case, with the "fun" or "artistic" part tossed off to an open contest with no compensation, shows that the City has no earthly idea how important an integrated approach to delivering information to its citizens is.
Crowdsourcing may be superficially democratic. But it is bad business. Asking a developer (or layman) to come up with a good or even workable solution based upon a thin brief, a FAQ and no contact with research or the parties involved in the project is naïve. You'll get something that looks like a Web site, certainly. You may even get something looks better than what you have. But you won't have a solution to your problem.
User interface is among the last steps in a successful Web development project, not the first. How the site looks should be a function of how it works. And right now, PortlandOnline doesn't work very well. Oh, you can pay your water bill, and now you can pay your parking tickets and that's fine. But doing it is a pain. Finding the proper phone number to call the police takes ten minutes of clicking around. The URL structure is inaccessible and contains ten-year-old scripting cruft.
How do you solve the problem? By taking it seriously. By assembling a team of people who trust one another, and who can work hand-in-glove with one another over the long process of development. For example, accessibility is also a UI problem. Social media is also an architecture problem. All of this has to happen under the rubric of message, for which I notice you are not offering an RFP.
PortlandOnline doesn't serve the citizenry, and wouldn't even if it looked nicer. I don't mean to tell you your business, and I know that the City's purchasing process and this contest are meant to be exercises in democracy, but the mediocrity of the result will not serve the public and will devalue your work as elected officials.
The private sector doesn't crowdsource or balkanize RFPs like this for a reason: the results don't tend to be good. It's hard enough to get a workable result with a coherent, disciplined team. I would suspect that if the City went about redeveloping PortlandOnline without the contest and the clumsy proposal process and presented the public with a simple, well-considered, well-architected site, the public wouldn't notice the absence of this kind of direct-democracy kabuki at all. And I don't think it would care.
You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the value (or lack thereof) that I perceive Mayor Adams' office places on creative. That's because I'm more interested in results. If Mayor Adams doesn't see the true economic (never mind cultural) value of the Portland's creative community, well, then: he's just another politician. John McCain, for example, holds a similar opinion. That also doesn't matter to me so much; I can make a living without dealing with such people.
But as a citizen, I am frankly embarrassed and frustrated by PortlandOnline. And I don't see that the City is taking serious steps to address it.
Apologies for the length of this note; one good outcome of this exercise has been to exercise our community a bit. I'm going to copy my business partner, Eric Hillerns, on this. As vice-president of the local chapter of AIGA (our professional organization), he has taken a leadership role in opening this issue to a broader audience. I hope that we can include the Mayor's office in this dialogue.
We've been at this Twitter thing for a while now and have been amazed at the community, the ideas shared, and the connections made. @Pinch_Bespoke was hatched as a simple concept; six tweets a day on issues related to brand, design, and sustainability. No more and no less.
We engaged with the understanding that the real power of Twitter is in contributing to the conversation. As a small shop, we quickly grasped the commitment involved in responding (in real time) and attending to our billable work. And while only marginally conversational, the monologue model seemed an attractive compromise in that it might provide some value in terms of sharing what we know, what we're reading, what we admire, and what we hear. And that's it. A bit like the Pinch Digest used to be, yet more fluid and perhaps, less timely.
So now we simply ask for your input: How are we doing? What more (or less) would you like to see? Is @Pinch_Bespoke of value to you or is it our own vanity that keeps us posting? What can we do better? And should we continue? Your feedback is important to us and we hope you'll take the time to drop us a comment. In fact, if you do, we'll send you a heartfelt "thank you" (and a @Pinch_Bespoke shout-out).
Most of all, we thank you. We're learning from each of you.
I'd imagine that you're just shaking off the rust from last evening's party at Wieden + Kennedy and what appears to have gone down in room 422. We've received some kind comments from AIGA folks about the insider's guide posted Thursday. While it merely scratches the surface, I'm pleased that you found it helpful. What with this weekend's Rose Festival Grand Floral Parade, and a number of associated events, there is plenty to do. Most of you are tourists, so if you feel so compelled to join in that revelry, so be it. Enjoy.
If you have a break in the schedule, or are just getting your day started, I'd suggest heading over to Portland Farmers Market PSU. My favorite way to begin the day is with a wood-fired bagel from Tastebud or Pine State Biscuits and a hot coffee from Stumptown Coffee. The market runs until 2 p.m. With the weather a bit cloudy, it won't be as busy, but it's still a hub for activity on Saturday mornings. And yes, you can find bacon, if you must.
If you're looking for afternoon spots that are fairly near the hotel, I'd recommend Higgins (opens at 4 p.m.), Clyde Common or Kenny & Zukes (at the Ace Hotel), Typhoon!, or any of the foodcarts in the downtown area. (Check Food Carts Portland for locations.) Portland Food and Drink usually does a pretty good roundup of the week's food news and their review listing is also helpful.
If you're looking for more this evening, I'd suggest you check out Holocene's Anniversary party (1001 SE Morrison) tonight which will host a fine collection of Portland's more interesting bands (Talkdemonic is a personal favorite). Jens Lekman (Wonder Ballroom) and Neko Case (Crystal Ballroom) are also in town. If you haven't already, you might consider popping into Doug Fir for the later (9 p.m.) Handsome Furs and The Cinnamon Band show. The Portland Mercury has more. Julian Chadwick's PDX Pipeline just listed its Twitter-fueled "Best Late Night Food in Portland" and "75+ Portland Weekend Parties and Events", plus bits on the best Indian, Sushi, Thai, and breakfast spots. Hangover or not, you will have Sunday morning to think about.
You might also check Travel Portland's full listing of events as well as Dave Allen's (@pampelmoose) posts on the indie scene. Speaking of our friends at Travel Portland, if you're using Twitter, you might want to check their Twisitor Center or follow @travelportland.
While I'm not attending this year's retreat, the Portland chapter and Twitter is keeping me abreast of at least some of the happenings. Props to AIGA Idaho for keeping us all in the loop and AIGA Atlanta for some of the live feed action. I'll hope to see more of you this evening. Oh, and Phil Hamlett, I believe we have a beer or two on the books for this evening?
Thursday kicked off the 2009 AIGA National Leadership Retreat in our little town of Portland, Oregon. I serve on the local AIGA chapter board and had the good fortune of attending the annual event two years ago in Miami. I found it to be informative and inspirational. Now, I don't use that term much, inspirational, but it fit; it's a well-run gathering and an effective incubator for ideas. The few days of that retreat were jam-packed with programming, but when I stole a couple of hours for myself in Miami, I longed for an insider's perspective of what was happening locally, and where to eat. Away from the confines of the hotel.
For those attendees visiting Portland, we've pulled together a very rough list of our favorite eateries, as well as a run-down of a few of the events happening around town. This list of events comes by way of Leigh Feldman's excellent e-newsletter LifeisaParty. I'd urge you to request it from Leigh by e-mailing: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
So, attendees: we know you're at the Hilton and that's just fine. The New York office of AIGA had to pick a self-contained location cozy enough to host 250. But it's hardly representative of Portland. Not even close. Now, I know that time is limited and I'm not suggesting you pull yourselves from the retreat activities, but for chrissake, live a little. You might be interested why so many designers arrive here in the first place, and then why they end up calling Portland home. And I can tell you that it's not chain hotels, it's not the suburbs, and it's certainly not Macaroni Grill.
Following our call for entries, Pinch and Substance have worked to pare our slate down to seven presenters for this installment of Show and Tell PDX. As we discovered during our previous event, there's no telling what might be said, who will share what, or what we might take from the evening's discussion. What we do know is that it will most definitely inspire and inform. And these folks will do the talking:
Matt Garland of Pet Theory: Flex-based Chat
Natalie Ramsland: Sweetpea Bicycles
Robert Lewis and Todd Greco of Fashionbuddha: Multi-Touch Table from Scratch
Chris Teso: Controlling Interfaces Without Interfaces
Stacy Westbrook of happy, inc.: Homebrewing
Matt Anderson of Struck Creative: How to Create a Global Panic
John Schreiber of Milkmuny: Making Products from Reclaimated Materials
Join Pinch, Substance, our presenters, and a collection of Portland's most talented (and friendly) folks on Friday, May 22nd at 6 p.m. Substance World Headquarters, 1551 SE Poplar Ave, Portland. If you use Twitter, you can track the event at #sntpdx. Please let us know that you'll be attending and RSVP at Upcoming.
We had such a fantastic crowd (and an equally grand time) at our first Show and Tell PDX, we’re going to do it again.
On Friday, 22 May, Pinch and Substance invite you to meet and greet with other like-minded people. There will be plenty of activity in Portland around WebVisions and we wanted to be able to capture and contribute to that energy. So if you are still in town and would like to start your weekend off with some inspiration, we'd love for you to join in.
If you’re interested in presenting, send us your idea by Monday, May 11 and we'll sort through the pitches to curate an interesting evening. The format is simple: you have 10 minutes to share something that that explains “What are you working on?” We invite everyone to submit an idea and hope that everyone will. At our last event we had designers, coders, beverage and bacon entrepreneurs. What will we uncover this time? Send your ideas to: firstname.lastname@example.org and we will start the conversation.
We’re looking forward to you joining us for an informative, enlightening and entertaining evening. If you’re planning to simply attend, we’d appreciate your RSVP via Upcoming. We plan on getting started around 6:00 p.m. with drinks and music. We'll begin the program at about 7:00. The event will be held at Substance World Headquarters, 1551 SE Poplar Ave, Portland.
Do you want to set better type? Are you using Adobe InDesign? Well, then: turn the god-damned Optical Margin Alignment on. Every day I read copy that I know full well has been set using ID, and the mook manning the console did not hang the punctuation. People: it's a check box. Go turn it on now. I'll wait.
Some folk think that hanging punctuation only matters when you're setting a justified text block. Those folk are wrong. It matters all of the freaking time. In range-left setting, using optical margin alignment maintains an even left margin (see above*), and pops punctuation outside the right margin (just as it would in full justification), which makes it easier to set a lively rag. If you happen to be centering something (which you probably shouldn't – who are you, Jan Tschichold?), the setting removes punctuation from play, meaning that the lines of letters are properly centered. In range-right setting – don't use range-right setting. We don't really read punctuation unless it's calling attention to itself, which it will, if you let it.
Optical margin alignment is a luxury. In the old days (QXP 4.11), I had to use positive margins in my text blocks and set up different paragraph styles to accommodate different types of punctuation. Every time I ran into a quote or hyphen, I had to make a hard break and apply the appropriate style to hang the punctuation. The technical term for this is Big Pain In My Ass. Because then there would be copy changes and the flow would go to crap and I'd have to do it all over again.
You may say: "Well, Mr. McIsaac, optical margin alignment is a global setting and if I set it for my text size, it makes my headlines look weird." I'll grant you that. It should work at the paragraph level. But if you care about your craft, it's only a small Pain In My Ass to set the heads separately and deploy them as inline objects.
End of sermonette. Next time, we'll talk about changing the default H&J settings so that your copy doesn't boast wordspacing through which you could slalom an F-650 (Crew Cab with Pro Loader Straight Frame; dooley, standard; Caterpillar C7 Diesel option).
And here we go again; a whole lotta' back-slapping with a side of pure reverence. Seems that Formvermittlung Visuelle Kommunikation has figured out how to construct a proper Flash interface, Seven25 keeps it real, and Henrik Fisker cashes the check. Metropolis asks the age-old question, "what is good design?" and we step back a few years for Ellen Lupton's essay on "new design" in Israel. Hamish Hamilton's Five Dials pleases, Bustbright delivers, and Neoformix plots. We even linked to work by Leon Paternoster, who a few months back, took the time to call us out at minimalsites. No hard feelings, of course. A review is a review. Xavier at Swiss Legacy reminds about The (life) After Neurath project, and as always, we drop a witticism or two, a look at a bit of our work, and comment on the goings-on in the studio.
Whether speculation about the existence of God, a comparative review of Nazi Germany, or a mere exercise in irony, Frost's celebrated sonnet, aptly titled "Design", explores a relationship with scale, the symbolism of color, and the balance of form. Quite honestly, I hadn't thought about it since high school. And I figured it was time to return to his construction, some twenty-plus years later. So what do you think?
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches' broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?—
If design govern in a thing so small.
This is the twelfth and final essay in a collection written by Byron Ferris for the "Design Sense" feature of the Sunday Northwest Magazine insert of The Oregonian during 1984 and 1985. We should point out at the Byron's reference to Will Vinton is timely; Mr. Vinton, who remains a Portland icon, created the studio that later became LAIKA, now owned by Nike's Phil Knight. LAIKA recently produced the excellent animated feature film, "Coraline". And knowing Mr. Ferris' declared admiration for Max Bill, we'll venture to guess that his "Swiss-made, dial-face" watch just might be one of these. The Editors.
The sense of surprise and delight that kids display as they learn about how the world works seems to escape as they grow and become more blasé. On occasion, however, the gift of wonder can return to big kids, as it did recently from the technical magic of a special-effects movie, a movie that pictured fantasy with such sharp-focus reality that it seemed to be an actual adventure.
The film was "Return to Oz," a Walt Disney production that includes Claymation sequences created by Portland's Will Vinton Productions. The Portland folks sculptured figures in clay, moving them slightly for each of the pictures on a movie film strip. Projected on the theater screen, the figures come to life in smooth movement: a talking moose head, a pumpkin-headed scarecrow and a copper clockwork robot, clockwork because the Oz stories were written in the early 1900s, long before the age of electronics.
When I was very young, the event of the week was a visit to the neighborhood theater, the "RIO," which was a place of dreams, providing once-a-week magic to think about until the next Saturday's shot of dancing pictures on the silver screen. Part of the drama was imagining how great it would be to move to a house built against the wall of the RIO so that I could cut a hole through the wall of my room and watch a movie every night right at home. Of course, I knew that would never happen. But now, when I turn on the television for the evening's shows, I think of my early dreams and wonder at the fantastic changes technology has brought right at home.
Sometimes though, the changes can go too far. When the spring in my venerable wristwatch recently needed replacement, I bought a digital watch as a temporary timepiece. It is a marvelous instrument with large lithium-crystal numbers, a quartz-controlled electronic chip and smaller numbers that pulse the seconds away as though the watch were alive and had a beating heart. Staring in fascination at the seconds changing pulse-to-pulse, I've been wrenched by the realization that my new digital display graphically shows life's moments slipping away into the past. My clock-face watch never frightened me that way its dial always reassured me that more seconds, minutes and hours were coming in the day.
When I explained my unease to a friend who is an electronics engineer, he said of the clock face, "Oh, yes, an analog display." I realized that he was so steeped in his computer craft that the numerical readout of a digital watch was normal and right to him and that, in his mind, the clock-face way of reading time had become merely an analog, or alternate method, to the proper way of showing the information.
I pointed out that a short glance at my clock-face watch gave me more information about the time in relation to the whole day than does the reading of a digital watch, which shows only the moment. My friend just shrugged.
A marvel of mass production and new technology, however, my new digital watch, with all its electronic wizardry, cost only $6.33; my Swiss-made, dial-face watch cost more than $300. Both do the same excellent job of telling the precise time, but the clockface watch is "user-friendly."
Sometimes the magical new products of technology can be superfluous. Recently a friend brought her plug-in air-freshener with her to our beach house for use in the guest bedroom. The little air-scrubber pulls air through itself and collects dust particles on an electronic anode grid. But the air at the coast, coming off the Pacific, is so clean that the little electronic miracle whirred away at an impossibly useless task.
I almost felt sorry for it as it worked away valiantly at its assigned fantasy in this new fantastic world.
We tweeted about Katie Varrati's and Derrick Schultz' (collectively known as Bustbright) Science and Tech Ads Flickr set a few weeks ago, but that tiny mention hardly did the collection justice. After all, this assembly of 300-plus images from the 50s and 60s is just so very current. As young English designers are all aflutter about applying the tight grid, flat color, and sans- and block serifs (as are we), the Americans are totally gay for the mid-century Swiss (guilty as charged). But much like the skinny Motown soul club suits that inspired Brit rock and even punk fashion culture, many of the finest communications design reference points begin and end on the factory floors of the good ole' U S of A. Paul Rand for Westinghouse; Willi K. Baum for aerospace concern, Martin; illustrator Steve Chass, as directed by ad agency Carpenter, Matthews & Stewart for ITT. Take your time and enjoy every frame. And sure, we realize it is essential to note that these guys didn't write the entire book, either. They just left a lending library for designers — of every nation — to pick, lift, crib, and repurpose for years to come.