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Design A Website 1 Designing A Website Above The Fold
What is the fold and how does it affect your website? There has been much discussion over the years about what should be kept ‘above the fold’ and how much importance it really has. With the rise of mobile internet browsing, the boundaries of the fold are forever changing. While there may not be a definitive answer, we have put together this infographic to help you get a clearer picture of how the fold is affected and points to bear in mind when designing your website.

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For years you have been searching for it. You hear the question being asked in your dreams as you go on an Indiana-Jones-type-crusade to find the answer. When the answer comes to you, you know that the confetti will fall from the ceiling and the band will start playing your favorite song. You might even get a kiss from that special someone. So what is this question?

What is the secret to Web design?

A tough question and one that might not have an answer. In 2006, Oliver Reichenstein wrote Web Design is 95% Typography. Some people loved it, others were not so amused. If Web design was based that much on typography, then what was the point of learning anything else? All you needed to do is understand the elements of typography and you were good to go.

Of course typography doesn’t mean font selection. With the advent of @font-face and services such as Typekit, Webtype, Fontdeck, and Google Web fonts, your skills in typography won’t improve. You can easily create wonderful designs with one font for the rest of your life if you choose to—they had to do it centuries ago and they didn’t have Photoshop sticking things to guides for them. If anything, more font selection will make things worse for you because creativity and beauty become hard to achieves when more options are given to us.

More toys means more fun though, right? If you want to go that route, then by all means go for it. I love to look at the different fonts being used and admire anyone that can successfully pull off using newer fonts for the Web. However, I’ve seen too many times what can happen when development options are given to the masses, and it isn’t pretty (re: Myspace). Instead of having a user agreement it would be cool if Typekit made you read a book on typography before you could begin using a font—the Web would improve tenfold, if that was the case.

I’m not being sarcastic, saying that is all you need to know for a majority of websites. Try going through all of the Web designs that you love, strip out the images and ask yourself “how would that website look with just text and spacing?”. When designers say “text is the interface”, they really do mean it. The iA site is a great example of that.

Information Architects
Information Architects is based around strong typography.

One of my all time favorite designs is A Working Library. The site is a showcase of text being the interface. The spacing is just right and the typography is on point.

A Working Library
A Working Library by Mandy Brown.

Some people find design like this to be dull and boring, they feel that design should have more pop to it. At the end of the day some extra visual flair might be what separates your design from the rest, but you need to get the first 95% down. The website that you are reading this article on now has done a wonderful job of presenting a visual design that isn’t reliant on images to be beautiful.

Well That Isn’t Hard

It’s possible to create a wonderful design without the use of images at all. I know that sounds crazy, but it is possible. I’m not saying it should be done, but if we can create elegance simply with typography and white space, then why shouldn’t we be able to create greatness when we start throwing in images, videos and other effects?

With the use of images I’m not talking about images that are needed to represent something such as icons, but images that are there for flare. Sometimes a picture is worth at least ten better words than any word you could use, so it’s better to go with an image (but you still need to consider using white space with it).

Here are two more examples of beautiful websites that place a heavy emphasis on typography to control the design. The first is Blake Allen Design and the second is The Harriet Series (both use images to represent their typography, but you get the point).

Blake Allen Design
Blake Allen Design uses images, but with great typography.

The Harriet Series
The Harriet Series by OkayType.

What makes the two designs above so interesting to me is that the typography not only guides you along a journey, but it does so with personality. You almost feel as if the typography is an expression of the person that designed it. Blake Allen uses Helvetica which gives the website a Swiss, clean and structured personality. On the opposite side of the spectrum, the Harriet Series website is a bit more playful and experimental—there is beauty in the organized chaos that the typography creates.

For 99% of the designs out there, typography and white space are going to be your underlying foundation. So if you can’t get them right, then the rest of your design has nothing to stand on. Stop worrying about the pop of your design and first worry about how it will stand tall. Once you get that down then you can begin to dress it up.

Clear is a very simple to do list application for iOS devices. While the majority of the excitement around it are the gestures used to control the interface, you will notice that the typography does enough to get out of the way and allow you to enjoy the application. Sure it is nothing more than Helvetica, but what if it was Comic Sans and had bad spacing all around? Great typography doesn’t have to stand out in a good way, but that doesn’t mean it should do enough harm when it stands out in a negative way, either.

Typography In Other Disciplines

Art of the Menu
Art of the Menu is a great website on menu design.

The Art of the Menu does a great job of showing the importance of typography in menu design. While a lot of restaurants like to add images and illustrations to their menus to give them a bit more pizzaz, they fail in providing a decent typographical structure that allows you to easily browse through the menu.

If you are a designer you have no excuse to say you can’t come up with a decent design. When you create a design that lacks a strong foundation, anything else you add to it is just going to make it worse. Too many designers attempt to save their designs with fluff without understanding they are pouring gasoline onto the fire. If a design is not enjoyable to read then it is not an enjoyable experience, no matter how many images, colors or sounds you decide to add to it.

Looking to understand typography a little bit better? Not too long ago Smashing Magazine did a comprehensive overview of some wonderful typography tools and resources.

(jvb)

© Paul Scrivens for Smashing Magazine, 2012.

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Pantone

I just spend the whole morning struggling with how best to color skin tones in a project, so this post caught me… well, too late, I already finished. But I’m saving it in my “desert island” bookmarks folder. Many more colors/skins at the link itself

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The Designer’s Dictionary is a new series of blog posts looking into different aspects of game design, each time focusing on one word. This first post deals with the concept of "cool".

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Apple's prized product designer Jonathan ("Jony") Ive is a constant source of fascination among the press—doubly so after the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Though Ive appears with relative frequency in news articles and documentaries, interest in his design philosophy has never let up. Perhaps that is because Ive has always spoken in an abstract, philosophical sense about the way he approaches design, which only seems to perpetuate the mystery surrounding one of Apple's core talents. In an extensive two-part interview published in UK newspaper The Telegraph on Wednesday, Ive discussed some of his product approaches as well as his attitudes toward design failures, Apple's performance under newly minted CEO Tim Cook, and more. The interview itself is worth reading, but we took interest in a few highlights from throughout his discussion with The Telegraph. Among them:

  • Contrary to popular belief, Ive says the iPad 2's design was not inspired by the making of a samurai sword. Rumor after the iPad 2's launch in 2011 was that Ive had traveled to Japan to watch the process of creating such a sword, which then translated to the "razor edge" of the iPad 2, but Ive insists this is just lore.
  • Don't like the stitched leather UI on a number of Apple's iOS and Lion applications, like Find My Friends, Maps, and iCal? It seems that Ive doesn't either—The Telegraph claims Ive "winced" when asked about the stitched leather, but gave a diplomatic response: "My focus is very much working with the other teams on the product ideas and then developing the hardware and so that's our focus and that's our responsibility. In terms of those elements you're talking about, I'm not really connected to that."
  • Ive says he thinks the products he's currently working on are the "most important and the best work we've done." This seems to fall along the company line of always hinting at the next big thing, but Ive heavily implies that some of Apple's unreleased products are truly his best work. "[W]hich of course I can't tell you about."
  • Ive acknowledges that not all of his designs are successful, but most of them remain behind closed doors. Still, it's hard for him to part with a product design once the team decides the product just isn't going to work. "[T]here have been times when we've been working on a program and when we are at a very mature stage and we do have solutions and you have that sinking feeling because you're trying to articulate the values to yourself and to others just a little bit too loudly," he said. "And you have that sinking feeling that the fact that you are having to articulate the value and persuade other people is probably indicative of the fact that actually it's not good enough. On a number of occasions we've actually all been honest with ourselves and said 'you know, this isn't good enough, we need to stop'. And that's very difficult."
  • On Tim Cook's potential "failures" as a CEO compared to Steve Jobs, Ive strongly believes that won't happen. "We're developing products in exactly the same way that we were two years ago, five years ago, ten years ago. It's not that there are a few of us working in the same way: there is a large group of us working in the same way," he said.

Ive, who has been knighted before the UK for his various achievements, was knighted once again on Wednesday for his services in design and enterprise.

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luanna is a beautiful new application out of Tokyo-based visual/sound collective Phontwerp_. Amidst a wave of audiovisual iPad toys, luanna is notable for its elegance, connecting swirling flurries of particles with gestures for manipulation. I imagine I’m not alone when I say I have various sample manipulation patches lying around, many in Pd, lacking visualization, and wonder what I might use in place of a knob or fader to manipulate them. In the case of luanna, these developers find one way of “touching” the sound.


As the developers put it:

luanna is an audio-visual application designed for the iPad
that allows you to create and control music through the manipulation of moving images.

The luanna app has been designed to be visually simple and intuitive, whilst retaining a set of rich and comprehensive functions. Through hand gestures you can touch, tap and manipulate the image, as if you were touching the sound. The image changes dynamically with your hand movements, engaging you with the iPad’s environment.

The interface is multi-modal, with gestures activating different modes. This allows you to select samples, play in reverse, swap different playback options, mute, and add a rhythm track or crashing noises. It’s sort of half-instrument, half-generative.

Phontwerp_ themselves are an interesting shop, descibed as a “unit” that will “create tangible/intangible products all related to sound.” Cleverly naming each as chord symbols, ∆7, -7, add9, and +5 handle sound art, merch, music performance / composition / sound design, and code, respectively. That nexus of four dimensions sounds a familiar one for our age.

Sadly, this particular creation is one of a growing number of applications that skips over the first-generation iPad and its lower-powered processor and less-ample RAM. Given Apple can make some hefty apps run on that hardware, though, I hope that if independent developers find success supporting the later models, they back-port some of their apps.

See the tutorial for more (including a reminder that Apple’s multitasking gestures are a no-no).

US$16.99 on the App Store. (Interested to see the higher price, as price points have been low for this sort of app – but I wonder if going higher will eventually be a trend, given that some of the audiovisual stuff we love has a more limited audience!)

Readers request Audio Copy and sample import right away. I think sample import, at least, could easily justify a higher price, by making this a more flexible tool.

Find it on our own directory, CDM Apps:
http://apps.createdigitalmusic.com/apps/luanna

http://phontwerp.jp/luanna/

Very similar in its approach is the wonderful Thicket, well worth considering:
http://apps.createdigitalmusic.com/apps/thicket

See our recent, extensive profile of that application’s development:
Thicket for iOS Thickens; Artists Describe the Growth of an Audiovisual Playground

See also, in a similar vein, Julien Bayle’s recent release US$4.99 Digital Collisions:

http://julienbayle.net/2012/04/07/digital-collisions-1-1-new-features/

http://apps.createdigitalmusic.com/apps/digital-collisions-hd

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