01 "Ghosts in the Machine"
by Maddy Myers / Medium
A short story about gaming, and ultimately about life — about playing, killing & being killed, cheating, love, ambitions, passion, oblivion.
02 "Do as Little as Possible"
What we actually talk about when we talk about "the mobile web" and how to work with it. An appeal for simplicity and elegance, beautifully put by Lyza Danger Gardner.
03 "Why Designers Need to Craft Words Not Pixels"
Jeffrey Zeldman, interviewed by William Channer for DRT
Jeffrey Zeldman might be the only person in the world who could rightfully name himself something like "web guru". In this delightful interview about writing, content, copy, frames, and naturally the web, he does what he does best: communicate.
An open source project that shows you what parallax is up to these days, which is an awful lot. Get blown away.
by Sigur Rós
Iceland is a place for stories, and Sigur Rós know how to tell them beautifully. For their song "Stormur", they made an ever-changing, interactive music video with instagram videos shot by their fans.
(Thanks, Jo Chapman, for pointing this out to us.)
06 Upload Preview jquery plugin
by Max Boll / Opoloo
Our very own Max Boll made a jQuery plugin to easily preview your uploads — live — before they're actually uploaded to the server. Open source, of course.
The 2nd issue of our Hook Series.
01 "The Bomb in the Garden"
Last week, we introduced the great Practical Typography book to you. The author, Matthew Butterick, gave a talk at TYPO Conference this year about what is wrong with the web, its standards, why we still cherish hideous design, and what we can do about it. He voices strong opinions and we'd love to hear yours.
If you read only one thing this weekend, make it this one.
by Tim Holman
If you've tried Medium, the thing you're likely to find most awesome about it is the text editor. Tim Holman has created a "minimal editor for the modern man". It's an open source project. Check out his other great projects, too. It's ridiculous what this guy has created.
03 "Do Things the Long, Hard, Stupid Way"
by Frank Chimero / Do Lectures
"Whenever we make things [...] there's a value in them, that lives completely outside of commerce."
The author of The Shape of Design gives an inspiring talk on how we make things and the side benefits of this process that are sometimes hard to see, but that make it valuable. He endorses a new culture of giving that is right down our alley.
04 "The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better than You Normally Do"
Writing is the most efficient way to express your thoughts. It's as simple as that. In order to do that well, you have to practice. There's no way around it. Colin Nissan gives you some good advice on how to get there.
05 "Failure is an Option"
by Hannah Bloch / National Geographic
A whole cult of an advocation of failure has evolved, going hand in hand with a whole heap of pretensions and complacency. Hannah Bloch turns the dial back and reduces failure to something much more essential and existential.
06 "Dear People Who Like Neapolitan Ice Cream: You Like Horrible Things"
He picks a subject and leaves no stone unturned. This guy is terribly harsh in his judgement, but also dead funny.
See this beautiful blog right before you? Notice the appealing header graphics, the intricate headline styles, the typography that makes reading such a pleasure? If you find this pretty nice, you haven't yet seen the clear, consistent frontend with the beautifully slim editor that lets you just splurge your ideas.
Look at your blog. Now back at this. Now back at your blog. Now back at this. Sadly, your blog isn't this blog. But if you stopped using your theme-crazy, feature-overblown framework, you could well use this blog, because we just set it free.
Enough already with self-adulation.
As promised, we made an open source project out of it. We call this baby: LINES.
It's a blog platform that we offer especially for you awesome Ruby on Rails developers (and other tech-savvies).
We wanted to give you a solid editing system and an effective, responsive viewer, so you can share your knowledge with the world, saving you the hassle of having to program it from scratch or making a rotten compromise with existing blog platforms. Enjoy freedom and control with full OSS access.
And yes, the code is superclean, so you'll have no trouble adapting it to your needs and preferences.
If that sounds like it was made just for you — it was. Head over to LINES and take a look.
One more thing: this platform is still young and although we gave it a lot of brains and effort, a little love won't hurt it. So we heartily invite you to fork it on GitHub and develop it further.
Introducing: The Hook Series. This little magazine will from now on provide you with glorious material from the interwebs, on a rolling basis. We'll regularly publish what we think are useful, interesting, or simply beautiful resources that we deliberately sought or stumbled upon in the course of the week. Not simply links, but stuff you may get hooked on, that you'll enjoy for the time being or use as a starting point to greater endeavors.
by Matthew Butterick
This is perhaps the most important resource for learning the essentials of typography for the web and print. In his lucid, comprehensive, down-to-earth style Matthew Butterick explains why typography is important, what it can and should do, and how to effectively work with it. A great guide for beginners, a reference for experts.
by iA / Oliver Reichenstein
iA's blog posts appear rather infrequently, but when they do, there's a substance about them that seeks its equal. In this one, Oliver Reichenstein dissects Yahoo's logo rebranding process, and therefore, necessarily, about logo design, brands, and brand management. And he is diabolically astute.
by Tenth Letter of the Alphabet / Alex Jay
Almost 40 years of logo evolution compressed in a somewhat lengthy, but thoroughly researched post with lots and lots of illustrative material.
by Tympanus / Mary Lou
The sidebar is enjoying considerable popularity, not only in apps, but also in web design. We're not advocating inflationary implementation (see this post), but if a sidebar makes sense, refer to this great CSS library.
by Jason Santa Maria, Mandy Brown, et al.
A couple of weeks ago, I got an invitation for Editorially, a responsive platform for writing and collaboration. After a lot of playing around and testing, I must say that it's pretty damn good. Anyone who has anything to do with writing (which is practically everyone) will savor this tool.
Yes, I'm quite serious. A while ago, I met one of the more prominent Wikipedia organizers, Alex Stinson, and asked him what his favorite article was. Apart from this being very entertaining, it also shows once again how important conducting thorough research is: for your products, your customers, for marketing, and on. Because some things just aren't that obvious.
More than three years ago we created the first Androidicons set out of curiosity: 20 free icons for an undefined, extremely new, mobile operating system. No further intentions.
Since then, Android has grown beyond anybody’s wildest imaginations, and so has our small icon set. Thanks to those little pixel graphics, we’ve worked with amazing developers and companies from all continents, traveled to all kinds of meet-ups, and spoke at events with global impact.
It’s pretty hard to say “Thank You” for all this, but let us try anyway: We just updated the set to version 2.5, including xxhdpi resources, 50 new icons and lots and lots of polish and refinements. This update is free to anybody who supported the set previously. You should receive an email with your new download link in the next couple of days.
So let us try to give you a better idea what’s new. First and probably most important to you cutting edge devs is the addition of xxhdpi assets. Yep: big, glorious, colorful icons for HTC One, Nexus 7 2013 and all the other pixel density escalating devices.
We compiled the previous updates into one big set and added many new ones, raising the icon-count to 250. With 5 sizes and 14 colors, the whole set is now contains whopping 17,500 individual graphics. There are new icons for transportation, typography, social media, and many more — including the classic floppy save icon, which has been requested way too often for my taste.
Android’s visual style has slowly but steadily been improved by Google. The very harsh lines have become much smoother over time, while keeping the clarity and simplicity. We tried to reflect this in the update as well. The new weather icons are a good example of how Android’s 4.x style has evolved.
Polish, polish, polish
We touched up every icon, some more than others. They became crisper, got restyled, scaled and balanced to be more in line with the whole set. Although this was an enormous endeavor for all the 250 icons, we still feel there’s room for improvements. Feel free to let us know if you stumble across an icon that feels a little off, too small, too big or generally out of place.
Despite vigorous pixel-pushing, the previous set still contained a few inconsistencies. This was especially visible in the different arrow heads used on various icon combinations. Some were wider, some were less pointy, some were shaped differently. This is obviously not the best statement to make in a visual language, so we took the opportunity to correct as many as possible.
So, there you go: Thanks a lot for sticking with us and supporting Android and our icon set. If you purchased it in the past, you’ll receive a new download link soon. If you don’t own it yet, there are 250 little reasons to get it now. Including a glorious mustache.
A wise man once said "The medium is the message". Ok, ok, we all know Marshall McLuhan and his famous phrase and I won't bore you any further. Still, that sentence might be more important than ever. We're not living in a world of books, newspapers, radio, and television anymore. The web is mashing together every human output and content in new forms and ways — comprehensively so, but also crazy and chaotic at times.
Working in the field of communications, we are regularly exposed to more than one type of medium we have to channel and deal with. Knowing when to use a particular medium, though, is key to getting your information across. One might be safe just by looking at trends and compare what others are doing. But being aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each medium could make the difference between a good strategy for marketing, advertising or information and a great one. Let's have a quick look.
There's a reason that plain copy is the fundamental pillar of our society and one of the primary ways we have been communicating for centuries: it's very flexible and probably as precise as it gets. With text, we can get almost any information across, even long after an event happened, and then fix it forever. Reading and writing are relatively easy to learn — depending on the source, more that 80% of the world's population can at least handle one language in written words.
On the other hand, communicating with pure text is quite slow. Although our brain is a sophisticated text processor, the consumer has to scan for individual letters, forming words, forming sentences and finally extracting the core information from a chunk of copy. This is a very heavy process for our cognitive capabilities, so be aware that you will sacrifice speed for clarity.
Paintings, photos, icons, or any form of visual communication is fast. Really fast. Our eyes are one of the most evolved sensors and can process a great amount of visual information in milliseconds: dark, gleeful, bright, sinister, colorful, chaotic, or clean and simple ...
Also, our process of remembering improves dramatically by connecting a particular memory to a picture. Maybe a face, maybe a location, maybe a pattern. As soon as this particular visual element appears, you're immediately able to draw connections.
The downside of visual communication is your brain's capability and tendency to interpret things based on your experiences and expectations. An unfamiliar icon can be misleading. A color transports one connotation in a certain culture and a completely different one in another. A picture of a victorious fighter transports joy for a fan and disappointment for the opponent's followers.
If you're striving for fast attention, for quick access or motivating continuation, your first choice of medium should definitely be an image. But always be aware of a certain lack of clarity due to the nature of human interpretation. If you're not perfectly certain that your image gets its message across on its own, you should consider adding in some text.
Auditive signals are an essential part of human perception. Sound helps us determine a sense of location, physical awareness and completion. The clicking sound of a key pushed on your computer's keyboard combined with the pressure at our fingertip is just enough to perfectly understand that you are really writing.
There's also an emotional component to music that we can't ignore. More than any other medium, music and sound helps us to relate to something on a deeper level. I bet all your favorite movies feature a very strong soundtrack — this might not be a coincidence.
While you might not be able to use audio signals to communicate fast and clear, the best usecases might be the ones with a supporting role. This could be a short sound when you get a new message or an error dialog, a calm aural loop in an art gallery, or the pumping metal soundtrack while you're blasting aliens in the latest space shooter.
... and more
There are certainly other, more complex types of media to be explored, but most are based on or combine these three core forms. Once you clearly understand the strengths and weaknesses of each, you will be able to use different mediums much more efficiently, culminating in a perfect combination of all three. You will be able to communicate faster and clearer, build up stronger connections and deeper attachments for you, your clients, and your user base.
Now let's see what happens if we add in video, haptic perception, scent, interaction, gorillas, flying cars, the Milky Way, quantum physics, ...
Prior to my working at Opoloo, I had always resisted technology as best as I could. This has to do (I think) with my kind of upbringing: in my earliest years on the farm of my grandparents who necessarily cherished manual labor, later with a lot of books. I found technology terrifying, but mostly because it was something unfathomable for me. I just didn’t get it and never made an effort to lower the barriers, partly because I’ve always preferred letters to numbers, partly because it was just too abstract for me to grasp. In confrontation with something, feeling like an idiot usually does not foster your attachment to it. True, although I was a late adopter of the internet, I grew to love its merits, but its real possibilities eluded me.
After a thorough education in literature, culture, philosophy, and critical theory I knew I didn’t want to become a high-school teacher. I had the opportunity to start my dissertation and academic work was what I was after. But knowledge, as far as I’ve been able to find out, has less than zero calories and you can’t spread it on your bread.
I needed money. Soon I'd be so broke I wouldn't even have been able to pay attention. I knew I was good with words and organizing things, although I had no idea what that meant.
When Opoloo and I started talking I had a Macbook, but only because I needed something to write and organize my thoughts with (and because a friend of mine worked with Apple). I also had a Samsung phone. One that you could flip open. One that could not do anything but make calls and send messages. Without a camera. Naturally, without apps or web access. My brother calls them mildew phones, because they can’t do anything but go moldy.
After talking back and forth, the guys at Opoloo asked me: “So what do you think about working with us?” I was on my way into town, clean-shaven for the first time in years to have pictures taken (two things I perfectly abhor), in order to apply for jobs. “I’m in”, I said. “You’re not just going to be a writer, though,” they enlightened me, “because that’s way too lame. You’ll be our content strategist. Read this.” They sent me a copy of Erin Kissane’s The Elements of Content Strategy, digitally. I knew PDF, but a digital book? ‘You must be out of your minds’, I thought. I printed it and then devoured it in two sessions. This was what I wanted to do. Finally a perspective, something that made sense, a beginning.
It’s been a love story ever since.
Why am I telling you this? I have a feeling that the humanities deserve a much broader recognition, far from their own core realm. The humanities are perhaps the most encompassing field of study and explicitly focus on the organization and access of a vast spectrum of knowledge about people (which is why they’re called humanities: they analyze and try to find out “what it means to be a fuckin’ human being”). Which is exactly what the web and the technology around it is about: humans, interaction, communication. Any business working in this area can profit from the humanities guys.
People with a background in the humanities have a very different and educated eye for a huge spectrum of businesses. But most of them just don’t know it. Fortunately, at least some large businesses and a few small ones have understood the merits of adding these people to their teams, but we need more of them. And we have to make them understand that they can do awesome, fulfilling work — seemingly far from what they studied, but really close to their actual set of skills.
So don’t be afraid of falling.
Do you remember when teams creating products were led by developers and developers only? Those guys were able to work with code and databases – things nobody else understood – so they must have been the right guys to get the job done. Developers were in charge since they seemed to understand the technology. Later it turned out that those technology driven products seemed to be hardly usable by anybody else than those developers. Bummer.
Then the designers emerged and claimed control. They were able to make beautiful things people liked, so they certainly were the right guys for the job. Interface designers, interaction architects and user experience creators with crazy acronyms worked out beautiful products everybody enjoyed using and playing around with all day. But after a while people got tired of all these overly beautified applications, that - while looking nice - didn't seem to do anything else properly.
Eventually, the marketing guys entered the stage. They were OK with mediocre software and rubbish design, as long as there was an audience they could sell the product to. Social strategies and complex focus groups were created, numbers crunched and at the end of they day it was all about the money, where the marketing guys scored. But this didn't last forever as well.
Turns out that a good product had to reach people, appeal to them, and be usable and stable as well.
Meet the hybrids. Developers with a sense for user experience. Designers, able to code up their own layouts. Marketing guys with great visual skills. Now put two or more of these together, flavor everything with a little character and emotion, and if you're very lucky, eventually they might be able to create a product, people really, really care about.
Here's a joke: A developer, a designer and a marketing guy are sitting at a table. A squirrel walks by and says ...
In the beginning, there was technology. And Opoloo is a hardcore technology company, since there's technology involved in every single thing we do: from code, to design, to photography and visual work, to strategy and architecture.
Technology, however, we don't use for its own sake anymore. That would mean simply running around in a circle, feeding a machine with the same fuel it generates. And to what end? There's no use in technology only serving itself, just like large parts of science and the humanities seem to create and having to justify a demand that is artificially created.
Technology should, however, serve a very definite end. It should operate as a vehicle for the creation of beautiful, useful products — for communicating, touching people's lives with meaningful content. This is the reason that publishing is now one of the focal points of Opoloo, it's why we have a blog, why we use social media, why we try to create visions and products for our clients, not just websites.
At first sight, our publishing of little stories on Medium does not have anything to do with our work, with our focus group, our clients, our community, our company, or our creation of products. Then why do we do it?
It's the human side of technology that we're after, and this has everything to do with us as a company. In everything we do, we noticed, is a story, however small or insignificant. They are the core of memorable, meaningful communication that we try to get across.
This is hard. Writing, communicating, thinking and telling stories is a huge effort, even for the few real masters of this craft. After all, we're still learning, still probing, jabbing and stabbing at the heart of the story, told in different ways, in new media. We're practicing.
Opoloo is fundamentally about people. Medium is fundamentally about telling stories (something our blog could, but does not aim to do). So both — people and stories — come together quite nicely on Medium, which to us is a system of knowledge shared by individuals, a most adequate platform for sharing stories, a new way of being social. This is why we share our non-technological creative output there and tell more personal stories.
After 8 months of darkness and sudden spring in July, summer finally arrived here in Germany. I was on vacation at my parents' house for a few days, so I got my camera and snapped a few great summer photos that make for nice wallpapers. The photos were shot with my Canon macro lens, with 60mm focal length and light intensity 2.8. I really love this lens because of the autofocus speed and sharpness. The closest focusing distance is 2 cm. That works perfectly for me.
I've retouched the photos in Photoshop to get a retro look. I'm already a friend of analog photography anyway and it fits the theme of summer, so I decided in favor of this processing.
Feel free to download & share these 6 retro summer wallpapers.