The notion of flat, “digitally authentic” design has lately been a popular topic of conversation and controversy, especially with the software design efforts of Apple, Microsoft, and their respective flagship operating systems. Subtle colors, light typography and the other commonalities of modern flat design are components of the design trends many are coming to love (or hate).

Safari icon, before and after

Safari’s current icon on the left versus its flat version. The latter foregoes lighting effects, bevels and other details to create an attractive flat alternative while still retaining the compass metaphor.

While many specifics of the constituent theories that form the concept of flat, digitally authentic design, this design form has evolved as a move away from skeuomorphic, metaphorical design.

Skeuomorphism is the term one applies to a trend where elements of a graphical user interface mimic a physical object. For example, a skeuomorphic note-taking app may resemble a lined yellow legal pad. Skeuomorphism exists in many different industries but in the context of web and software design, designers know skeuomorphism primarily as the technique of using metaphors to induce familiarity.

Many examples of flat design exist. In this post the efforts of Microsoft and Apple wll be examined, due to their collective wide reach. Also, each of these companies are likely candidates to establish significant style guidelines that designers can investigate in order to emulate their interpretation of flat design.

Microsoft opted for one of the most radical and controversial redesigns of recent times with Windows 8. Its creation of the design language formerly known as Metro (now known as the Microsoft Design Language, but with the former term often colloquially applied) was first seen in widespread use with Windows Phone (and also in Zune, the platform’s inaugural design). It was Windows 8’s 2012 release that shined a light on the flat design trend.

Windows 8’s start screen breaks away from its former desktop design, being composed of flat, colorful live tiles, instead of icons. The tiles are not merely a stylistic choice: They allow useful information to be displayed on the start screen in the manner of a dashboard.

While Microsoft and others were making major changes to their design languages, Apple stuck by its skeuomorphic principles through multiple generations of its operating system. That changed with the announcement of iOS 7, taking a drastically different step in the design of the OS. Icons are flatter, typography is lighter and the metaphors are out.

iOS calculator app, before and after

Image courtesy of Smashing Magazine

This is particularly evident with iOS when you compare the current iteration of, say, the calculator app to its iOS 7 counterpart. That particular app has jumped from trying to resemble a physical device with buttons signified by gradient backgrounds to a completely flat design independent of any unnecessary metaphors.

The flat interface style is more than a trend. It is the manifestation of a desire for greater authenticity in design, a desire to curb visual excess and eliminate the fake and the superfluous.

This article excerpted courtesy Connor Turnbull, tutsplus

99 cans of beer

Austin Beerworks' Peacemaker Anytime Ale 99-Pack campaign

A few local shops are getting national attention with their clever marketing and beautiful design for Austin Beerworks’ Peacemaker Anytime Ale 99-Pack campaign. Cheers to Helms Workshop, Austin Beerworks, Beef and Pie Productions, and Source Pixel Foundry.

This article excerpted courtesy AIGA Austin

6 interview questions

6 interview questions that will make any employer want to hire you

It is commonly understood that during an interview, both potential employer and interviewee are imagining a good fit.

While salary ranges, benefits, and schedule flexibility are important details you deserve answers to, hiring managers don’t appreciate questions like those until at least your second interview (or maybe even after they make you an offer).

Here are six questions to ask at the end of your interview that will help you master the twisted tango of getting hired.

01 “If I were to start tomorrow, what would be the top priority on my to-do list?”
The answer to this question will give you more insight into the current state of the position while showing you’re invested in learning how you can start things off with a bang.

The added bonus lies in the Jedi mind trick: You already have your interviewer picturing you as the position holder.

02 “What would you say are the top two personality traits someone needs to perform this job well?”
One can translate “creative” and “intuitive” to mean you will be on your own, while “patient” and “collaborative” could mean the opposite.

Not only will this question point to whether you’ll be a good fit, it will get your interviewer to look past the paper résumé and see you as an individual.

03 “What improvements or changes do you hope the new candidate will bring to this position?”
This answer can cast light on reasons why the last person lost or left the position, as well as tip you off on the path to success. Asking this shows an employer you are eager to be the best candidate to ever fill this position.

04 “I know this company prides itself on X and Y, so what would you say is the most important aspect of your culture?”
This question is sure to impress. It shows you researched the company, and gives you a chance to gain insight into what values the company holds highest.

05 “Do you enjoy working here?”
The interviewer’s answer will be telling: A good sign will be a confident smile and an enthusiastic “yes,” paired with an explanation as to why. Consider it a red flag if he shifts in his seat, looks away, coughs and starts with “Well…”

Employers appreciate the chance to reflect on their own opinions, and it turns the interview process into more of a conversation.

06 “Is there anything that might indicate that I might not be the right fit for this job?”
Asking this question can be scary, but also beneficial. Not only does it give you a chance to redeem any hesitations the employer might have about you, it demonstrates you can accept constructive criticism and are eager to improve. These are valuable qualities in any candidate.

What other questions wow interviewers?

This story, written by Kelly Gregorio, first ran on PR Daily.

Letraset and Mute Records

Letraset user, 1978

Letraset user, 1978

Some products are inextricably infused with nostalgia. Letraset is one of them. Sheets of film that would be rubbed with the end of a pencil to give way to beautifully formed letters—as long as you had a steady hand and the patience of a saint.

Letraset launched its dry-transfer lettering system in 1961, and graphic designers and architects embraced it with gusto. But so did amateur bedroom publishers, where Letraset became de rigueur for music fanzines and school magazines.

Simon Garfield, author of Just My Type: A Book About Fonts and an early adopter of the technology, writes, “The range included all the standard popular fonts, but there was a sort of anarchic freedom to the wilder designs, something indelibly linked to the 1960s and ’70s, and now much used in retro branding.”

Mute Records first release in 1978 by The Normal, T.V.O.D. / Warm Leatherette

Mute Records first release in 1978 by The Normal, T.V.O.D. / Warm Leatherette. Image courtesy Discogs.

With their DIY philosophy, young punk rockers embraced Letraset for their gig posters and record sleeves. One interesting example is the 1978 Mute Records logo, its “walking man” plucked from a Letraset sheet of architectural symbols. Daniel Miller formed Mute Records as a vehicle to release his own single, “T.V.O.D.”/”Warm Leatherette,” under the moniker The Normal. The label, once home to Depeche Mode and Erasure, continues today—with Mr. Miller as its executive chairman—under the EMI banner.

Letraset history courtesy BBC News
Mute Records history courtesy Ibiza Voice

10 color tools

Links, books, and tools for designers

Just about every designer has used color wheels. But today there are many other aids available, from hex code palettes, to books, to infographics. What follows are 10 resources crucial to the designer’s arsenal.

01 Flat UI Colors
Simply click on the desired color displayed by this web app, and it will copy the HTML hex code to your device’s clipboard.

10 color tools for designers
02 ColourLovers
Most loved! An oldie but goodie…

10 color tools for designers
Hover your mouse around to select the color, click and it will save it for you.

10 color tools for designers
A browser of words formed from HTML hex codes—displays colorful words in action.

10 color tools for designers
05 Mudcube Sphere
An interactive color visualizer. Clear as mud!

10 color tools for designers
06 Color Scheme Designer
Another classic color picker.

10 color tools for designers
07 Color Design Workbook
A real-world guide to using color in graphic design, by Terry Lee Stone, Sean Adams, Noreen Morioka

10 color tools for designers
08 Color
A course in mastering the art of mixing colors, by Betty Edwards. Great guide for teaching kids (and grownups) about color theory.

10 color tools for designers
09 Pantone Color Resource
Color: Messages and Meanings, by Leatrice Eiseman. Explains the suggestive meanings behind color.

10 color tools for designers
10 Pantone Guide
Guide to communicating with color, by Leatrice Eiseman. Stylish, modern, and utterly sophisticated, this vibrant calendar celebrates a classic, charismatic, and undeniably inspiring pairing: fabulous color in combination with great design.

10 color tools for designers

Courtesy Gisele Muller, Web Design Ledger

7 type sins

7 typography sinsTypographic Hell. It’s not a pleasant place to be. Some of us are headed there, and we’re making others suffer along the way. But fear not: Redemption is here. In the July Issue of HOW, designer and typography junkie Jim Godfrey tells of 34 Typographic sins (download all now) and how to free yourself from their grip. Preview 7 of these unsightly sins.

01 Two spaces between sentences.
Your keyboarding teacher not only taught you how to type, but also how to sin. Once upon a time, typewriters used a monospaced typeface. Since all of the letters were the same width, it became customary to add an extra space at the end of a sentence to call attention to a new sentence. This was never the practice of professional typesetters, who always used one space. (If you’re a doubting Thomas, go find an old book and see for yourself.) Since most typefaces on our computers vary in width, unsightly gaps appear if two spaces are used. Repent of this sin by using only one space.

02 Failing to align baselines of type in adjacent columns of body text.
Baselines of all columns of text on a page should align. This creates a pleasing margin of pure white space.

03 Failing to tuck periods/commas inside quotes marks.
Admittedly, this is an American convention; Europeans may do it differently, but let’s go on a typographic crusade across the pond. It will keep unsightly negative space from drawing unnecessary attention to the period or comma. By the way, punctuation such as question marks and exclamation points belong either inside the quote if they are part of the quote, or outside the quote if they are not part of it. Semicolons and colons always appear outside quotation marks.

Immoral: “I love type so much”, she confessed.
Chaste: “I love type so much,” she testified.

04 Failing to kern display type.
Nothing bellows “I’m an amateur!” quite like display type that hasn’t been properly kerned. Unseemly gaps can impede readability by distracting the reader. The kerning tables of some typefaces are great, but the human eye is divine. Adjust the spacing between letters and assuage your guilt.

05 Indenting a paragraph too far.
The standard indent for a paragraph is 1 em (the point size of the type), not half an inch. Most software has default tabs set for half an inch, creating a big hole in the text. To hide your sins, make penance by adjusting the tabs.

06 Using process colors for body text.
It’s harder to read, but more important, it’s hell to register on press. Instead, use 100% cyan or magenta (yellow? never) or spec a Pantone color. Your pressman will sing praises to your name.

07 Faux italic/oblique, bold and small cap type.
Thanks to word processors everywhere, we see type that’s hypocritical: It kind of looks italic (or bold) but it’s not. Cast out the hypocrites: Select the italic or bold version from the font menu, and if a typeface doesn’t have genuine small caps, don’t use them (the weight of the letterforms will be inconsistent and, consequently, unattractive).

Courtesy Jim Godfrey, HOW Design

Glossary for non-designers

Glossary for non-designers

RGB color schemes for the web and their hex codes

We designers often struggle to communicate with our clients, having to parse technical language in order to be understood clearly. Wouldn’t it be terrific if  clients had an understanding of basic design terminology? I stumbled across this brilliant glossary that would be helpful to any business wanting to work with designers. By no means is this glossary complete—but I’ve found it to contain much of today’s design terminology.

Courtesy Ginny Soskey

Tile Bluetooth device


Reveal Labs launches a crowdfunding campaign for its Tile Bluetooth device to find lost items

The Tile Bluetooth device will help locate missing items Tile is a low energy Bluetooth device that connects to the iPhone to assist users in finding lost items such as keys, wallets, computers and more. The company is offering Tiles for $19 each via a Kickstarter-like crowdfunding process. The company hopes that money raised will help to get the device closer to production.

Co-founded by software and hardware engineers Mike Farley and Nick Evans in 2012, the Tile device has a range of at least 100 to 150 feet away from you. Users can locate items using a complementary iOS app—think of it almost like a “Where’s My Phone?” for everything else.

Evans says, “Tile is changing the world by making lost and misplaced belongings a thing of the past. We are giving people back hours of their lives that were previously wasted searching for missing possessions.”

As of this writing, the Tile has 20,007 backers, with an accumulated total of $1,074,019.

Courtesy The Next Web, Inc.

Arro French Restaurant

Chef behind 24 Diner and Easy Tiger brings French-country restaurant Arro to West Sixth Street

Arro French Restaurant, Austin, logo

The Arro logo takes its inspiration from Bayer’s aspirin tablet (apparently)

Opening July 20, 2013 in Austin, Texas, is a casual French restaurant from the ELM Restaurant Group (24 Diner, Easy Tiger). Chef Drew Curren and his group have had great success with their mash-up bakery/artisan sausage/beer garden Easy Tiger on East Sixth Street downtown, and round-the-clock 24 Diner on Lamar Boulevard next to Waterloo Records.

They enter the world of French bistro food this week with Arro, located in between their two existing restaurants, at 601 West Sixth Street in the old Haddington’s location. The restaurant, which has undergone a transformation to open up the previously compartmentalized space, will open Saturday.

Arro French Restaurant, Austin, Texas

Their Facebook page displays some impressive branding imagery, including hand-brushed calligraphy (seen above) and the elegant script channel letter signage on the building (below).

Arro French Restaurant, Austin, Texas

Courtesy Austin360 and Austin Eater

Arro French Restaurant
601 West Sixth Street, Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 992-2776

Cardboard record player

GGRP Sound resurrects the folding cardboard phonograph

Cardboard record player made by GGRP Sound

Sure, it’s nothing new. Folks who grew up in the 70s have probably seen something of the sort. For the younger bucks, though, this thing is absolutely fresh: a cardboard 45rpm record sleeve that can actually play vinyl. Like magic.

While audio engineering company GGRP Sound obviously can’t claim responsibility for the clever creation, their decision to resurrect it for a marketing material (they sent it to creative directors across North America) is definitely awesome. Even though you’re likely to only play it for the novelty of doing so, it could make for a meaty few minutes of absolute fun.

The Folding Cardboard Phonograph is a sleeve made from corrugated cardboard that houses a complimentary 45rpm record pressed by GGRP. More than a humble sleeve, however, it details instructions on how to use the packaging to play the included record. Once assembled, you can put the record through the attached needle and spin it using a pencil (or any pointed object) punched through a preset hole. The sound vibrations are amplified through the cardboard material.

Just like a real record player, you can spin it slower or faster to alter the resulting tune, perhaps even scratching it for a slightly modern twist. The video below should give you a clearer idea of how it can be played.