Wednesday, May 30, 2007
At the D: All Things Digital conference Wednesday, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer will unveil Microsoft Surface, the first in a new category of surface computing products from Microsoft that will “break down traditional barriers between people and technology”.
A Surface computer is able to recognize physical objects from a paintbrush to a cell phone and allows hands-on, direct control of content such as photos, music and maps. Surface turns an ordinary tabletop into a dynamic surface that provides interaction with all forms of digital content through natural gestures, touch and physical objects.
The new product is aimed directly at hotels, retail establishments, restaurants and public entertainment venues and should be commercially available towards the end of the year.
It’s an interesting product in that it’s completely out of left field. Microsoft gives examples of ordering a beverage during a meal with just the tap of a finger and quickly browsing through music and dragging favorite songs onto a personal playlist by moving a finger across the screen. Build this into a bar and you’d get one-touch beer service although I’m not sure if they’ve found a way to work out when your beer glass is empty so replenishment becomes automatic, maybe in a later version.
The practical uses for Surface at the point of sale are broad. This is touch screen point of sale technology at a new level.
Initial launch partners include Harrah’s Entertainment, Starwood Hotels and T-Mobile. Coverage at CrunchGear here.
Few notable things about Microsoft Surface:
- Music - You put your music player on the table, and your credit card. Both are recognized, then you drag songs to the player. Zune is obvious first device, but potential other partner in the works. One demo used a nano. Could partner really be Apple? Let’s not get carried away… yet…
- Virtual Concierge - A fairly self explanatory guide program, complete with mapping programs.
- Food & Drink - Not just interactive menus, but glass (and presumably plate and maybe even silverware) recognition. Like Music program, it reads credit cards just by placing them on table.
- Photo - A simple photo editor reminiscent of iPhoto.
- Puzzle - A game where you assemble actual pieces of glass on top of the table, each with a sliver of live video playing.
- Water - A water screensaver that you can touch to make ripples.
- Paint - Simple painting program that reads pressure sensitivity by judging the size of your fingerprint.
There's another way to avoid Google's IP filter though:
Add &gl=us at the end of the URL !
And for all you non-believers, here's a screenshot of me walking around in New York City while I am actually sitting in Germany writing this post:
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
15 square kilometer of rain forest disappears every minute.
Advertising Agency: Uncle Grey, Denmark
Art Directors: Rasmus Gottliebsen, Jesper Hansen, Rasmus Dunvad
Creative Director: Per Pedersen
Copywriter: Michael Paterson
Published: April 2007
Friday, May 25, 2007
Thursday, May 24, 2007
I won’t lie to you - while I am a moderately successful blogger (hey, you’re reading my blog right now, aren’t you?), a soon-to-be-published author (my book goes on sale in about a month and a half) and a washed-up freelance / stock photographer who decided that I could only do photography as a hobby, because doing it for the money was soul-destroying - I have never actually judged a competition before. While the guys at Crestock were quite helpful in offering guidelines and ideas as to what I should be looking for, it got me a-thinking: What can you, as a photographer, do to maximise your chances in the battle of shutter times and lighting, against the rest of the pack?
A quick disclaimer: I’m writing this before I’ve seen who the winners are of round 1, and as such, some of the ideas and thoughts below might be completely contradicting the people who actually won. On the other hand, there are 13 judges, each with 10+1 vote, so in theory, 143 votes could be cast. On my own, I have very little (well, a thirteenth, or about 7.7%) influence on the final decision.
It’s also worth noting that everything in this posts are merely my own opinions, and for all I know I might be the rank outsider: All the other photo judges in the world might very well disagree with me.
1 - Stick to the topic
First off, you would be amazed how many people submit photos that don’t actually fall within the area of the competition. To use a concrete example: In the 1st round of the Crestock competition, the title of the photo was to be ‘The Meaning of Life’. Now, I’m all for having a wide array of possibilities and interpretations, but there’s something to be said for at least tenuously staying on target.
Take the image shown at the bottom, for example (check out the much bigger version over at Crestock).
On its own, it’s a pretty good photo: It’s okay lit, and from my days of LAN parties, I can totally see how caffeine-laden drinks and computer keyboards can be part of the meaning of life.
What you have to remember, however, is that a lot of the judging that is done is based on people’s own experiences: To most people, the meaning of life will not involve a can of Dr Pepper, and while I imagine it could successfully be argued that it might be the meaning of life to some, that is an ascertation which would fill the viewer with sadness.
The closer you manage to stick to the target, the better. It doesn’t matter if it’s an illustration (a pair of lovers, as in ‘the meaning of life is love’) or a more abstract take on the subject (a beach chair in sunset, as in ‘the meaning of life is to relax’). Making the audience (in this case, the judges) think about what they are looking at is great, but don’t push it too far.
In the photo shown above, for example, with the lady with the red hair (see a bigger version here), initially seems to be way off target: What does a middle-aged woman with bright hair have to do with the meaning of life? But at the same time, the photo sent me into a train of thought: Of course it makes sense. She’s ascending. She’s on a journey. She’s going somewhere. And she doesn’t care about the rest of the world. Hell, that’s as good a meaning of life as I’ve ever heard of…
2 - Know the rules - then break them
Ansel Adams, seen by many as one of the greatest photographers to have ever lived, said something along the lines of ‘there are no rules for great pictures, there are just great pictures’. What he meant by that? Beats me, but it sounds good, no? Okay, just kidding. What I think he meant is that there’s no way to create a set of criteria which guarantee a good photo. Photography is viciously subjective, and ultimately your audience will think what they want. Take the rule of thirds, for example (as discussed here, and in more detail here): It isn’t an iron-fast rule in itself, but people who don’t understand it, break it in ways that are un-pleasing to the eye.
The trick is to do something that works. In my experience, this means that you have to know all the ‘rules’ of photography (Get the exposure right, mind your backgrounds, have a vision, and get it all to work together), so you can choose which ones you want to break for a particular photo. Take the photo up there (I am, right now, pointing in vain at the photo, realising that you can’t see me point. Hmm. I can see this might be a problem. Try here for a bigger version, either way), with the person walking on the train lines. Composition-wise, I would have done this photo very differently indeed. Barefoot might have been better. Throwing the rails off-centre would have helped. And yet, the pale colours, the reflection, and the notion of travelling somewhere by walking on trainlines somehow resounds strongly with me. It’s not the done thing. It breaks with rules and regulations, and it’s awesome. Just like this photo.
3 - Keep it simple
When submitting a photo to a photography competition, it’s tempting to select a photo you’re particularly proud of, or one that shows off a vast amount of different things at once. That’s not necessarily the best strategy. Remember that what you’re trying to do is to a) stand out from the masses of other photos and b) tell a story.
Photography is very much about telling stories, and while you are using a visual medium to do so, you still need to be a good storyteller, and have an eye for what appeals to people.
I guess it says something about me as a person, but here’s yet another of the competition entries below (higher res here) that spoke to me strongly: The simplicity of this image: a couple walking towards the sunset on a road reflecting the light of the golden hour makes this photograph stand out strongly.
4 - Tell a powerful story
As always said in J-school: If it has a human element people can identify with, the story is far stronger. That’s why newspapers after a disaster will tell the story of Mr. and Mrs Smith and their individual tragedy, rather than the much drier factoid that 300 people died: We need to be able to feel that the people involved are related (or at least relevant) to us in one way or another. The best photographs, in my opinion, do the same thing. It doesn’t have to be a tabloid story of murder, deceit, or deception, but if you manage to get an emotion in there somehow, you’re onto something.
There are several levels of involving your audience emotionally. At the most shallow level, there is a recognition of emotion: A photo of a mother looking at a child might invoke this: You might feel that the mother loves the child, but the photo could leave you cold. Another photo would cause you to feel with the mother: Where you understand the feeling at a deeper degree. Finally, an image might be so strong that not only do you recognise and understand the emotion, you might actually feel the same.
The photo of the lovers in black and white, above, for example, works strongly for me at all levels. I recognise it as passion, I sympathise with the people in the photo, and I empathise strongly, in that this particular photo (not really safe for work, but look at the bigger version if nobody can see your screen anyway!), with the feeling of pure, unbridled love and passion.
Similarly, I am affected by the photo of the young woman above. The image (bigger here) is titled ‘religion’, and while I’m not a religious person in the slightest, I recognise it as a powerful ‘meaning of life’ force driving many people. It helps that the photo has a beautiful girl in it and is cleverly captured. The same photograph could easily have been slanted in the opposite direction, with a mosque towering over the same model as an imposing, powerful overlord. The fact that the lady is much bigger than the spire representing ‘religion’ speaks to me, in that the human element is far more important than religion: Religion is built up of people. This interplay of symbolism, great photographic skill and tangential on-target-ism means that this photo definitely deserved one of my points.
A final example of the same is the photo of big feet / little feet (bigger here). The pure simplicity of using two pairs of feet as a symbol of family, love, and a meaning of life? Sheer brilliance.
5 - Technical perfection in pair with strong vision
As you may have guessed from the name of this website, I love doing photo criticisms. I’m a right opinionated little bastard, in fact, and some times, people disagree. A while back, I had a vicious argument with someone over a photograph which was - objectively - technically superior. His strongest argument was that I should ‘look past the technical imperfections, and see how beautiful the model was’. Love makes blind, but you can’t afford to be blind about photos you are going to submit to photographic competitions: You’ll be up against some brilliant photographers (like SUBA, who captured the intensely likeable photo of the laughing girl to the left - check out the bigger version, too!), and even small slip-ups will cost you enough points to lose you a competitions.
The thing is, creativity and originality can make up for some things, but there’s only so much I’d be willing to forgive. A slight over-exposure on an extremely good, unrepeatable action photo? I can forgive that. Not getting the focus right on a studio shot? Not good enough. Go back, learn from your mistakes, try it again.
As a camera operator, you are a technician. Photography, in many ways, is pure physics. Optics, to be exact, but physics nonetheless. As with everything in optics, everything can be calculated. Exposures, refractive indexes, focal distances: Everything can be described mathematically. With modern cameras, you don’t have to worry about much of it, but nonetheless, you still need to get it right.
The analogy is often drawn as such: A snapper that is technically perfect but lacks vision will never be a great photographer. You can imitate, but not learn true photographic vision. On the other hand, having a great vision of what makes a good photo is not an excuse not to acquire the technical skills you need to express your ideas.
In my opinion, all arts are the same: As an artist, you need a message (ideas, vision, originality, inspiration) and a means to express this message. It doesn’t matter if you use a keyboard (poetry, prose), a paint brush (watercolours, oils) or a photo camera (polaroid, pinhole, SLR): If your means of expressing your message aren’t up to scratch, your art simply isn’t good enough.
When it all comes together, you end up with photos like the person laying down in the hallway, above (bigger here).
6 - The X factor
So, you’ve worked hard, and everything seems to be coming together. You’re on topic, you’ve carefully chosen which rules to break, your photo isn’t over the top, you’ve got a story to tell, and your technical skills are as sharp as they come. What could possibly go wrong?
The final thing you need to keep in mind is that you’re up against hundreds of other photographs. If you submit a photo that is similar to what other photographers have done, you both lose impact, and will probably both not win the competition. The key is originality.
And yet, even if your photo ticks all the boxes and is refreshingly original, you may find yourself struggling without a bit of X-factor: That special, invisible ingredient which will transform your photographs from very, very good to ‘Wow, this is simply amazing’.
To me, in this round, the photo to the right does all that, and more. To try and explain why, let me walk you through the process:
When I think about the meaning of life, I think about many different things. Independence is a strong part of it, as is the idea of travel, of being on a journey through life. Love is important, as is loyalty, passion, and a sense that ‘if you’re happy, you need nothing else’. It was something that struck me when I last visited the Caribbean: Many of the people I met had little except each other, but seemed to be the most relaxed, lovely, and happy people ever.
The photograph of the hobo and his dog (check out the full-size version) is right on the money in all of those things: Homeless? Maybe, but the guy seems happy, he’s got a dog he loves, and he knows that it could be a lot worse than spending a day in the sunshine with his guitar. Compounded by the message, this photo is technically superior: The strong greens and blues of the grass and sky, the heavy shadows on the dog and the man, the way the sun catches his beard - it all comes together perfectly.
And the final tip… Develop your own style
There are a lot of fantastic photos out there, and a myriad of tutorials for how you can recreate them, but that’s only half the story: you have to take something and make it your own. Think of it as cooking a new dish: Do you follow the recipe perfectly, or are you confident enough in the kitchen to use it as a base, and remove some things, and add others? If you’re doing the latter, then you’re probably doing the right thing…
So here's the deal... a few years back we launched the original IconBuffet. At the time we sold stock icons to web designers and other geeky folks all over the world. After a while we figured it would be totally sweet to give away free icons every month to IconBuffet members. Only there's a little twist... not everyone gets the same icons. So you have to swap icons with your friends to get them all. Kinda like baseball cards. Only you can use them on your website.
Then this crazy thing happened... tons of people came to IconBuffet, and this huge IconBuffet community started to grow. Since then we've done a lot of work to make the Buffet better, friendlier, and easier to use. We still do stock icons, but now we're more about our growing community of friends.
Today the Chefs at IconBuffet painstakingly create dozens of new free icons each month which are somewhat randomly delivered to our members according to super-secret schedules. If you're not already a member, you should really sign up. We hope you enjoy the show!
Southlake Town Square
181 Grand Ave, Suite 206
Southlake, TX 76092
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Look ahead for the great city, 1-6 May 2007, Impact Arena
Advertising Agency: Jabjai, Bangkok, Thailand
Creative Directors: Vajarapong Vajaranant, Varaporn Vajaranant
Art Directors: Wasil Vudhiwai, Weerapong Uyen
Copywriter: Varaporn Vajaranant
Retoucher: Paibook Inthasri
Photographer: Sorayut Pumpakdee
Published: April 2007
#Honorable Mention - Smooth Rounded Corners
Amazing Photoshop Magic: Smooth Rounded Corners With No Aliasing - video powered by Metacafe
#5. Remove Wrinkles
Remove Wrinkles With Photoshop - video powered by Metacafe
#4. Fade Images Together
How To Fade Images Together - video powered by Metacafe
#3. Liquid Metal
Create Liquid Metal Chrome Mercury Blobs Using Adobe Photoshop - video powered by Metacafe
#2. Colorize B&W Images
GIVE LIFE TO B/W PHOTOS!! - video powered by Metacafe
#1. Sin City-style Images
Sin City Style Photoshop Tutorial - video powered by Metacafe
New Renault Megane. It's dangerous out there.Advertising Agency: Publicis Conseil, Paris, France
Creative Director: Hervé Plumet
Art Directors: Jorge Carreno, Benoit Blumberger
Copywriter: Eric Hélias
Photographer: Andy Glass
Navigation systems have revolutionized the way we get from A to B -- a huge step up from crusty fold-out maps and a "good sense of direction." It's going to get even better now that Google Maps and BMW have joined forces to streamline the data entry process. Instead of printing out or writing down an address to re-enter in the car, the information is sent directly from your computer to your navigation system. German drivers with Drive Assist-equipped BMWs can send any Google Maps Deutschland business listing straight to their cars, either to contact the business once inside, or to set it as a destination. Honestly, it's about friggin' time online maps and automakers made this connection, and we're glad that Google appears ready and eager to expand this service. Check out the video of how it works after the jump.
Although Google Maps might have been called out by name as the best in "Lazy Sunday" (double true), Microsoft's been gaining ground of late by adding lots of trick features to its own mapping site, particularly some nifty simulated 3D views. Well, Google is never one to lie back and take it from the Redmond crew, so it's struck a deal with Stanford to license the sensing technology behind 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge winner Stanley to improve their maps. Stanley, as you probably remember, was a robotic Volkswagen Touareg put together by the Stanford Racing Team that zipped across the Mojave Desert for 10 hours without any human input, winning the Grand Challenge by a hair. Now that same tech will reportedly be used to scan building faces and improve the 3D portions of Google Maps and Google Earth. Details of the deal and how it will be implemented are due to be announced during the Where 2.0 conference on May 29 and 30 -- here's hoping it involves the phrase "army of robotic Google cars."
Well, all Web 2.0 sites have one thing in common … they look the part.
Just like surfers have their baggy jumpers and skateboarders have their Vans trainers, Web 2.0 sites need to have a silly name and trendy logo if they’ve got a hope of becoming the next site to get bought out by Google.
Here’s an 11 step guide to creating the perfect Web 2.0 image.
1. Come up with a silly name .. then take some of the vowels out.
I’m hoping to “flip” (sell) my company to Google, so what about “Flipr”?
2. Realize the name’s already been taken as a .com .. so add another word to the
Damn .. www.flipr.com’s already gone! How about www.meetflipr.com?
3. Choose some bright colours
How about green? Nobody uses green. Yeah .. I think I’ll go for green and blue.
4. Think of a cute mascot
Hmmm .. I don’t want something obvious .. what about a dolphin?
5. Use “Arial Rounded” as the typeface
For that cool .. contemporary look.
6. Add the word “beta”
7. And a starburst
Bet nobody’s ever thought of that before
8. Throw in some “gel” effects
That’s sooooo cool!
9. Add a reflection
After all, you need to stand out from the crowd.
10. Ta da! (list)
Fake Web 2.0 Logo
Isn’t it pretty!
11. Think of something for your website to do
Damn .. I knew there was something I forgot!
And the moral of the story? Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to.
Monday, May 21, 2007
Over 200 Web 2.0 Sites in 41 Categories
Rated, Ranked and Awarded
Our team reviewed hundreds of sites in the Web 2.0 sphere to uncover the best in each of 41 categories. From there, we assembled a team of 25 of the most knowledgeable, well-respected experts in the field to vote on the winners.
Link >> CLICK HERE
Thursday, May 10, 2007
BLUE VERTIGO is a resources aiding tool for worldwide designers, offering useful links, easy and fast access, all this in a single site. In order to find out the best links on the top, the links list is arranged by quantity/quality order and not by alphabetical order.
Wednesday, May 9, 2007
The Helvetica font is celebrating its 50th birthday. You've probably seen it a thousand times today. Why?
At this moment in boardrooms across the globe, captains of industry are leafing through sheet after sheet of typefaces. There are hundreds of choices, but many of these movers and shakers don't take a lot of leafing before plumping for Helvetica.
We live in a world where we are surrounded 24 hours a day by adverts and corporate communications, many in typefaces chosen to subliminally complement the message.
COMPARE MAJOR FONTS
Helvetica and its rivals
Helvetica's message is this: you are going to get to your destination on time; your plane will not crash; your money is safe in our vault; we will not break the package; the paperwork has been filled in; everything is going to be OK.
It is sans serif. There are no wiggly bits at the end of the letters. It has smooth, clean lines, and an unobtrusive geometry that almost suggests it was designed not to stand out.
Lars Mueller is a Helvetica devotee. He has published a book, Helvetica: Homage to a Typeface, and recently donated an original set of lead lettering to a Helvetica exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
"It has a modern attitude which lines up with the aesthetic premises of the 1950s and 60s. Helvetica is a corporate typeface, but on the other hand it's the favourite of hairdressers and kebab shops. It is the butter on the bread."
"It also says bland, unadventurous, unambitious"
-Neville Brody, designer
Gap, Orange, Currys, Hoover, Lufthansa, Panasonic, Royal Bank of Scotland, Tupperware, Zanussi. The list of brands that use the Swiss typeface - celebrating its 50th anniversary this year - would fill this page.
"It's durable. It comes from natural design forms. It doesn't have an expression of fashion. It has very clear lines and characters, it looks like a very serious typeface," says Frank Wildenberg, managing director of Linotype, the German firm that owns the font.
The typeface, inspired by the 1896 font Akzidenz Grotesk, was designed by Max Miedinger in 1957 in conjunction with Eduard Hoffmann for the Haas Type Foundry, in Muenchenstein, Switzerland.
As Wildenberg notes, its Swissness is part of the appeal. The land where clocks run meticulously and the streets are spotless carries the kind of cultural resonance that the logo makers and brand masters of the major corporations might like a bit of. For others, its neutrality is a platform for daring design.
The typeface's dominance over the past half-century, cemented by the release of Neue Helvetica in the 1980s, has now inspired a documentary, Helvetica, and exhibitions on both sides of the Atlantic.
But not everyone is a Helvetica lover. Type "I hate Helvetica" into Google and there are forums for people who rage at the mindless "corporate chic" of this dominant font. They see it as a vehicle for social conformity through consumerism, shifting product with a great big steam-roller of neutrality.
Clear and simple
Leading graphic designer and typographer Neville Brody, who sparked a spate of Helvetica use with his design for Arena magazine in the 80s, says the typeface represents a safe choice for businesses.
"When people choose Helvetica they want to fit in and look normal. They use Helvetica because they want to be a member of the efficiency club. They want to be a member of modernism. They want to be a member of no personality. It also says bland, unadventurous, unambitious.
"Typefaces control the message. Choice of font dictates what you think about something before you even read the first word. Imagine Shakespeare in large capital drop shadow. Our response would be quite different towards the content."
It's perhaps understandable that corporations don't want to take any typographic risks, bound as they are by the bottom line. Choose a wacky typeface in your logos or advertising, and turnover may suffer. Helvetica, on the other hand, offers clarity and neutrality. When used in adverts, it is a platform for other parts of the message.
Nadine Chahine, who works in sales and marketing for Linotype, advises companies on what font to use.
"If you take a script typeface [with a handwriting-like appearance] and use it as the logo for a bank, there's a problem. You need something reliable - it's where you keep your money. It is not about a fun, personal message.
"It uses subliminal messages so that you get a feeling. All of these different meanings are implied within typefaces."
Hence the font Frutiger is used for airports and European motorway signs, New Johnston is the choice of London Underground, Cooper Black for Easyjet, and Dunkin Donuts bears the unmistakable Frankfurter font.
But away from the boardroom, many ordinary computer users follow the same path of choosing fonts that say something about themselves when they send an e-mail or write a letter or CV.
You've probably endorsed Helvetica yourself by using one of its digital clones, the Arial typeface, to write e-mails - perhaps because it's easy to read, because it looks reassuring familiar or because it may be the default font on your system.
Others might use a Courier or a Times New Roman to impart their authority, or choose the cartoonish Comic Sans to go with their Mickey Mouse tie.
It speaks of reliability
And just as with the hegemonic Helvetica, these choices arouse strong feelings. There is a "ban Comic Sans" campaign, which has attempted to get legislation enacted in Canada. In Germany, the battle between typefaces ran alongside the country's turbulent history and struggle for national identity in the 19th and 20th Century.
Black letter Gothic typefaces like Fraktur were alternately endorsed and then banned by the Nazis. Now, despite being most associated outside Germany with footballers' tattoos and covers of heavy metal albums, there is still a group dedicated to its return to common usage.
Helvetica may be the most dominant of the fonts, but it has not squashed the opposition in either advertising or the e-mail. And whether you use it, or choose not to, you are sending out a message.
- By Finlo Rohrer
BBC News Magazine