Attention on Fire

If you’re an apple drone like me, and have an iPhone, iWould highly highly recommend the design observer app, which is free. Nice interface and navigation, easy to peruse, and now with an expanded roster of regular writers, adding the likes of John Thackara* to the usual line up of Helfand, Beirut, Poyner, Shaughnessy et al, it’s an impressive resource. I’m also intrigued about how the book continues a forceful dialogue with design for devices. Obviously the visualising and linking functions constitute the ‘new’ and add value, but within a design system where one of the main prerogatives is that line length and overall layout needs to be visible in a small portrait rectangle as per small cheap paperbacks etc, the 1024×768 browser window being recinded to pocketbook size**. As noted previously, Wired Magazine are claiming the ‘death of the web’, and see the future in apps — while I’d contest that point, it seems that there maybe is something of the ‘managable’ book collection about a set of apps, as opposed to the free-for-all chaos and information-glut that is the unadulterated web (a “slag heap of information” to quote one of the Country’s leading case-room typographers and technicians)— I still prefer the later but can see the point about the former.

Back to Design Observer, a fascinating post there recently by Rick Poyner discusses Agency or studio? The Dutch graphic design dilemma. There are so many worthy discussion points within the article — functional modernism and misfiring humanism, the fetishising of simplicity, branding, blanding etc etc — that I don’t think I can do them justice here, but if anyone wants to pick up the discussion, let me know…

And speaking of dutch design, I’m going to this conference tomorrow, providing Glasgow Airport is functioning at 5am, and will blog the proceedings in the near future. I may even do a tweet. But that’s enough about my personal arrangements, this is a high-brow educational design blog after all.

Merry Christmas.

* I found out a really interesting new word out from John Thackara recently; “catagenesis“, which sort of means “renewal through reversion to a simpler state — followed by the emergence of a novel form of society.”

**In reality it’s not the book per-se, but the human hand or human pocket that exerts such a powerful influence on interface (GUI) design. Yes, it’s true, until our trousers have pockets the size of a laptop and we evolve spindly 10 inch fingers, the web will be curtailed by our bodily and sartorial limitations.

2 Responses to “Attention on Fire”


  • Maybe the app (and the means to read it) will make Design Observer essential reading again. Maybe it was just me but I used to read it religiously then just stopped right around when it got redesigned a year or two ago.

    Anyway, what I really wanted to say is that pockets are perhaps my most favourite technology. So simple and ingrained in our lives that it’s amazing that they’ve only been around (in the form we know today) for a couple of hundred years*. It’ll be interesting to see how far pockets will evolve in response to our high tech digital things or whether digital devices will be designed more thoughtfully around pockets (their form/the way we use them/what we put in them) as they are just now.

    *http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2/A798159 for a more detailed history of the pocket if you so desire.

  • agree – went off it a bit around about the redesign, i think because it became quite busy, and at the same time, with change observer etc, seemed to be really pushing and trying to foreground all the ‘worthy’ stuff and some of the more obscure (but very interesting) stuff seemed to get sidelined. However, that aside, still for me one of the best design/blog resources on line. thanks for the pocket info, that’s the kind of obscure tangential stuff i’m after…

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