Thursday, February 01, 2007


Have you been out font-shopping recently? I must admit I haven't been.

Its not the fear of the overcrowded shelves or the shopfloor, or even the delay at the checkouts. Or spending too much time at your favourite shelf - of sans serifs or those block egyptiennes. Its just that time- slips out of our hands like fine white sands.

But grab a moment and have a look at Font Shop - a great resource, and almost after a year or maybe more, the site looks fresh, relevant and unobtrusive.

The new fonts (typefaces if you will, please) and the most popular fonts are great for the designer 'on the run' - a quick check on where fonts are headed for in a post-Brody, post-Carson, post-post-modernist era. The best feature, though, has to be the type navigator. I have often asked my friends in the past to help me recall a name - trying to draw or detail typefaces in the process. Its a bit like a Pictionary with types - just that in this particular instance even you yourself can't recall the name. And likewise, we have all struggled to put a name to the face or a face to the name. But the the type navigator is a great help in sticky situations like these - it is an intuitive way and promises a few happy accidents on the way.

Choose by form, font or designer - though it has to be the form search option that is appealing to the typographer in us all. The form gives a number of choices - in terms of weight, width, serifs or sans, angle, axis - and voila - at the end of it comes a list of your fonts. Some completely off from what you imagined it to be - but worth a go. I suppose its far more exciting out seeing and shopping for fonts rather than read my essays, jump to the type navigator.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Remember Segregation?

Few websites can claim to have the brevity of a Google's home page - Google's minimalism is packed with performance and high on the popularity list. The Remember Segregation home page beats Google's minimalism - it's home page is home to merely four words - and yet the idea is effective, powerful and potent:

Remember Segregation remembers the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and other illustrous figures from all walks of life who fought to make segregation history — in the US. The textured background, the grayscale images, the Grotesk and serif typefaces - all contribute to give it the look of archived material but not exactly dated. After all segregation didn't exactly end centuries ago.

I remember an Advert from my student days that eloquently put events into historical perspective. The full page advert (I can't remember who designed/wrote it) had the image of Neil Amstrong stepping out into the Lunar landscape - the headline below read: "And a year later black Americans could vote".

The "Remember...' site itself has this sense of serenity - of peaceful 'reconciliation' a term I found being generously used in South Africa - a coming to terms with the past and of moving on.

You may not notice the lack of colour on the site - the shades of black interplay with the tones of white - a hint of sepia in the gallery and the warm grey of the background. The minimal palette does aid a minimal but effective menu system, clearly laid out and demarcated by 3 horizontal lines.

I am reminded of Steve Krug (I had the good fortune of working in the same organisation as him) and his wonderful book - Don't Make Me Think. For those who haven't laid their eyes on the inside pages yet - the book simply demonstrates how clear and highly usable sites can be built with a big dose of commonsense and an simpler principle - let not thy visitor fret or fume or try and make sense of what the site is or where to go and how. In line with Krug's advice, the RS site is clear and it is highly unlikely that you will struggle with the navigational basics.

Although, site may be visually quiet - almost mild mannered and softly spoken - but its message is powerful. It is the that content makes you think. Spelled out loud and clear, lingering on long after you have closed your browser window.

As I write this - in one part of the world Martin Luther King Jr's birthday is being celebrated while in another part, over 20,000 complaints are pouring in on alleged racial discrimination/abuse on a (popular) reality TV show.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Enlightening inspirations

Ikea has a series of inspirators (I have borrowed the word from expedia) online. These are part guide, part illustrations of its product range and part carrot - the idea being to indulge in a little more Ikea stuff (of any sort). My favourites are the lighting guides. Or to be more specific its the the inspirator entitled Furnish with Light (aka Light Up Your Light). The use of Flash gives a very relevant edge to the guide (an equally eloquent print version is virtually impossible) while being quite playful and charming. And there are opportunites to up-sell and cross-sell other products.

Unfortunately its other inspirators (on storage, on bedroom moods through colour, texture etc) fail toprove their leading edge via the online media. Some of there could have looked equally good, and done the job as well, in print. However, my key complaint is the slightly unplanned way in which these can be accessed - a little flashing (not animated) light bulb shows the way to different inspirators scattered around different pages on different country sites. Some countries, unfortunately dont have these on their site. Then the Ikea site (or rather the landing page of the individual stores) itself looks like it could do with a spring clean - a case of information overload. Or redefine its own storage (or layout) logic wrt these inspirators.

Anyway, have a wander and go at switching lights on and off. And while you are looking at the lights you might fancy buying that picture, the vase or even that sofa.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A Brand New Year

The start of another year - time for optimism - time to remember all those positive promises, those brilliant, marvellous, shinning list of things-to-do - hope you manage to tick off a big number off that list - and a happy and healthy 2007 full of great moments...

See you online, this weekend.

PS: All the good folks at
ideasfoundry join me in wishing you a great year ahead!

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