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Articles from 2009

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Skimming goes live

An interesting take on skimming and browsing behaviours online, the Times Skimmer is now live on the main New York Times website. In the final release they’ve added the typeface Cheltenham—familiar to readers of their print edition—to the app using Typekit along with sponsorship from Blackberry, adding the commercial aspect noticeably absent in the test version I wrote about earlier. It’s a polished evolution of the idea, very well executed.

Serious, not solemn

Great design is serious (not solemn),” says Paula Scher, a New York based partner at design firm Pentagram. She argues that you do your best work when you’re having fun, exploring and not pressured by expectations.

I find the key is finding somewhere in between: creative work needs a combination of space and freedom but also a clear problem to solve.

Need more Paula Scher? Hillman Curtis has a video discussing type as image that’s also worth watching.

CNN redesigns

Read a deconstruction of the relaunched CNN site. The new site sports new index pages, story pages and a strong focus on ‘popularity’ with the News Pulse section.

The future of documentaries?

This amazing project on Cali produced by the newspaper El Pais, contains video, galleries, maps and infographics. While a great immersive experience for the user, this won’t be the future for all online news as the production cost and time would never make it viable.

Sweating the details

For those who missed Wired magazine creative director Scott Dadich’s inspiring presentation at Semi-Permanent Sydney earlier this year, he gave a similar talk to design company IDEO covering everything from photo shoots to commissioning typefaces. There’s more follow-up reading with plenty of pictures at a photo editor and eye blog.

Below the fold

Design agency CX Partners leans on 6 years of user testing to declare that “the fold” is dead: users don’t mind scrolling. More than anything else, this highlights the importance of getting the first ‘fold’ worth of your pages, especially as more users land on pages from search results and make snap judgements of whether to read a page at all, or simply click back to their search results.

Visualising the developing world

This TED talk by Hans Rosling is an excellent example of how powerful data and good story telling can explain more in 20 minutes than words, photos, multimedia or video could ever hope too. Hans uses data with the Gapminder system in a presentation to burst myths about the developing world and prove that the developing world is not who you think it is.

Quick turnaround publishing

What’s really remarkable about Strange Light — Derek Powazek’s magazine featuring photography of the Sydney dust storms — is that it was conceived, produced and made available for purchase by one person within two days of the events it documents. Tapping into flickr’s social reach and Magcloud’s on-demand printing and distribution, this is a glimpse into one possible low-cost and community-focused future of magazines.

Told in first person

Documentaries are no longer passive experiences that viewers sit back and watch from start to finish. New approaches are making the user an active a participant and using alternate forms of navigation to add more context to stories.

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Design hacks

Design magazine Core77 have a new feature, Hack 2 Work, offering real-world advice from a bunch of great designers. Some highlights include Pentagram’s Michael Bierut on making the logo bigger and dealing with businesses right through to ergonomics when working with laptops.

The data and the journalist

How is the role of traditional journalism changing as more easy to use raw data sets become available for free online, allowing a greater range of users to data mine the content? 10,000 Words have a good introduction to some of the changes and implications.

Snow Leopard’s gamma shift

Apple have quietly switched the default gamma setting in Snow Leopard from 1.8 — their default for the last 25 years and originally set to match their first laser printer — to the slightly darker gamma of 2.2, which is the default in Windows. John Nack at Adobe has a good write-up on gamma and what’s changing.

Google News lifts the curtain

Google are playing good PR with big news publishers by offering up some detail to explain the crawlers and algorithms that drive their Google News offering, including a 15 minute video. Their tips are mostly existing best practice, but it’ll be interesting to see if this shapes story page layouts in a future where search referrals will play a large part in attracting users.

Creating a week in pictures

MSNBC have published a behind the scenes video of the history and process behind their Week in Pictures gallery, a weekly wrap-up of the best in photojournalism. It’s well worth watching to get a sense of the the amount of editing work involved in producing the galleries. There’s also a brief cameo from Tom Kennedy, multimedia editor at

Principles of perception

Over the past 9 months Andy Rutledge has been composing a series of articles on the Gestalt Principles of Perception. Andy’s articles are well written, easy to read and demonstrate the principles clearly with good examples on how they relate to web design. These are the principles that many designers use, even if they are not aware of it; they are well worth the time to read if you are new to design or just looking for a refresher (also see part 2, 3, 4 and 5).

Wolfram Alpha to offer API

Finding reliable data is often one of the hardest parts of large visualisation projects, so news that “computational knowledge engine” Wolfram Alpha are to open up their datasets through an API is a welcome development. Wolfram Alpha disappeared from the news as it became clear they’re not a rival to Google (in either’s current form at least) but offering an open API should bring a new range of mashups and visualisations by other developers tapping into the range of structured data available, such as astronomy, weather and finance.

Charting the music

When a news story is centred around a list, it’s hard to make your coverage stand out. That’s the problem we faced when Triple J ran their Hottest 100 of All Time earlier this year. Given everyone had the same list of one hundred songs, how do you add your own angle?

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The real thing

After the comparison of logo evolutions of Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Businessweek’s profile on Coke’s ‘Creative Excellence’ department makes interesting reading, particularly where it covers the internal battles of their startlingly simple packaging redesign. They seem to be sticking with the simple packaging too: witness their summer-themed cans.

Worth a thousand words

Photography plays such an important role in storytelling. Sometimes all you need is a great photo; this list of 20 Photojournalists’ fantastic portfolios proves the point beautifully. Make sure you check out Mustafah Abdulaziz, John Schreiber and Benjamin Lowy from the list.

Good morning

CreativeMornings‘ is a monthly morning gathering of creative types in New York. Each event includes a 10 minute lecture, followed by a 20 minute group discussion. The New York Times’ Khoi Vinh recently spoke about his early life as a designer and the lessons that he learnt.

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