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Category Archives: My Musings

27 January 9
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20 this and 10 that … 5 best of this and top 100 of that!

Under - Design, Miscellaneous, My Musings, Resources

Sorry, didn’t have anything to write today so I thought of a cliché post title. I don’t know who exactly started this trend but I started noticing it on MSN few years back on their homepage and Yahoo followed soon after. This kind of articles appeared after logging out from email accounts such as Hotmail and Yahoo when you are automatically redirected to MSN or Yahoo homepages with some attention-grabbing top stories.

Those everyday articles used to be interesting, catchy and somewhat spicy. I bet they helped cutting down bounce rate and increased visitor retention on those sites but, the practice of such an approach within online creative community has now gone beyond acceptable. Smashing Magazine could be called trend setter within the creative industry and sort of sole responsible for the influx of such a nonsense that we have to deal with on everyday bases.

Just look at the article/post titles below that I accumulated from just one design resource:

  • 130+ Awesome Photoshop Tutorials
  • 7 Online Form Creation Solutions
  • 14 Great Posts on jQuery Plugins
  • 75+ Top jQuery Plugins to improve Your HTML Forms
  • 22 Stunning Free Download E-Commerce Icon Sets
  • 10 Amazing Avatar movie Photoshop Tutorials
  • 23 sites where to download free icons
  • Top 31 Most Creative and Interesting Movie Websites Designs
  • 20 Amazing Creature Illustrations by Imaginism
  • 35 Amazing Fantasy Art 3D Wallpapers
  • 10 Tips to Create a Motivating Working Environment at Home
  • 10 Beautiful Video Blogging WordPress Themes
  • 50+ Amazing Creatiive & Original Logos
  • 30 Cutting Edge Examples Of CSS Navigation
  • 60 Extremely Creative Movie Posters
  • 50+ Essential Techniques and Tools for Visualizing your Data
  • 40 Mind Blowing Surreal Photo Manipulations
  • 111 Best Online Web Design Tools
  • 27 hilarious stuff you wish, were Photoshopped
  • 27 Outstanding Car HDR Photos
  • 40 best photoshop tutorials for web layouts

Is there any number or combination of mind boggling words left? There were indeed hundreds of such posts/articles on that particular resource but I only picked a few to give an example here. The good thing about Smashing Magazine articles was that they were original, but the SEO orientated minds soon picked up the hidden benefit in such content and the rest is history now.

The type of material seen these days on lots of design/creative resources is meaningless. Although some of such posts provide valuable information (a tiny fraction may be) but most of the time their content is nowhere near to whatever claimed in their titles. Such posts are mostly used as fillers. It is also disrespectful and derogatory to senior designers, artists and creative people when their work is labelled and reviewed under 150 websites with beautiful background or something.

Having such content is supposedly one of the easiest ways to grab user attention and to generate content without much effort – and perhaps earning big plus from SEO point of view. I can generate at least five new articles, or may be more, out of the list above just by shuffling their content but is this what we really want to give to our audience or is this what people really want to see all the time?

28 December 2
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Bonnier and BERG – redefining reading experience for our time

Under - Industrial Design, Media, My Musings, Technology

Mag+

It is interesting to see how quickly technology and our needs are converging into new products and concepts – refining or redefining our habits and experiences. I’ve been quite happily reading digital magazines such as Bak, FF3300, Destructed and Proteus on my computer monitor for quite some time now. Issue took online publishing to another level by providing a platform to deliver exceptional reading experiences. All of this is enough to indicate where things are heading in near future.

Mag+

Mag+

Amazon’s Kindle, Sony Reader, and Fujitsu’s FLEPia have already added new dimension to this. Earlier this year Amzon brought Kindle to mobile platform, extending its reach but at the same time pushing competition into a new direction … I’m not talking about business here rather prospects of combining advance interaction, normally seen on advance mobile phone devices such as iPhone, HTC HD2, Palm Pre, Else Intuition etc with conventional reading experience. In other words, refining and redefining reading experience on handheld digital devices.

Bonnier and BERG collaborated to illustrate such a concept in Mag+, aiming to capture the essence of magazine reading, they compiled a video demo of a digital magazine on a touch tablet. The video demos how magazines like Bonnier’s Popular Science can be adopted for a handheld multi-touch screen device with gesture based browsing and non-obtrusive interface that you only see when you actually want to.

With publishers collaborating and preparing for digital future and technology advancements, any such product is not a dream anymore. I can hope to see it alive within a year or two.

7 December Share your
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Enough has been said on climate change, it’s time to act

Under - Miscellaneous, My Musings, Nature

I know there has been some controversy around this lately. And, some think about it otherwise. But, with a brain and a set of eyes I can see what’s happening around me. I do not need convincing figures, pie charts or stats to believe it. Every year our weather and climate is becoming more intense and unpredictable. We humans and our life style are genuinely affecting this planet. Just imagine since the start of the industrial revolution how much we have contributed in piling up masses of greenhouse gasses, industrial waste, ecosystem’s destruction, razing forests and eliminating many forms of life (animals and species) from this planet. How could one think that all this affected nothing? How could one think that this planet is still business as usual? I remember that in my school days we were taught that sea can provide food to humans for centuries but now even seas are running out of it let alone the land! Can we just spend few minutes to understand how severe food and water shortage is going to be within next 10 years due to our immediate past and present? Who is going to pay the price for the mega economies that were and are being created on this planet?

Enough has been said on climate change, it’s time to act:

‘Fourteen days to seal history’s judgment on this generation’
Today 56 newspapers in 45 countries take the unprecedented step of speaking with one voice through a common editorial. We do so because humanity faces a profound emergency.

Unless we combine to take decisive action, climate change will ravage our planet, and with it our prosperity and security. The dangers have been becoming apparent for a generation. Now the facts have started to speak: 11 of the past 14 years have been the warmest on record, the Arctic ice-cap is melting and last year’s inflamed oil and food prices provide a foretaste of future havoc. In scientific journals the question is no longer whether humans are to blame, but how little time we have got left to limit the damage. Yet so far the world’s response has been feeble and half-hearted … read it all

16 August Share your
thoughts

Grids, grids and more grids

Under - Design, My Musings, Resources

A while ago I mentioned Grid Designer for web page layouts that I used as Photoshop overlay. I just discovered two more apps that can do the same with some advance features.

Gridmaker

Developed by Paul Holliday, Gridmaker is a free plugin to create grid layers within Photoshop CS4. Gridmaker offers almost the same functionalities as Grid Designer apart from grid export to CSS. With real-time grid formation (online only) and export to a PNG, this utility is quite handy for web layouts.

Gridmaker by Paul Holliday

Gridmaker by Paul Holliday

In my tests the online version appears to be more flexible as Photoshop plugin simply adds a new layer every time you update grid and render it. The best way to work with this tool is to layout grid online and exports it as PNG to use in Photoshop.

Boks

This visual grid editor based on blueprint CSS appears to be the most advance grid solution yet. Built by Quentin T with Adobe Air, the application has a very simple interface to layout grid with PNG and CSS export. You can in fact create a basic HTML structure in Boks and it generates the script for you.

It handles grid configuration, baseline rhythm pimpin’, CSS (with or without compression) and grid.png export, HTML layout and much more goodie-goodie!

Boks by Quentin T

Boks by Quentin T

Learning from an Institution

Under - Design, My Musings, Usability

After my graduation from NCA in 1998 in Graphic Design, I decided to build my career around interactive media rather than following the mainstream. Having decided that, I found it quite difficult to find inspirational and motivational work within ‘New Media’ locally and/or regionally. At that time things within digital media space were taking shape and the industry itself was without a clear identity. I had done my very first website design project a year earlier in 1997 for a Lahore based IT firm called Techlogix, this was my entry point into interactive media design. My relationship with computer graphics actually started in 1992 with Harvard Graphics, Corel Draw (that I still prefer to use over Illustrator), layer-less Photoshop (that I initially didn’t like) and when we used to run Windows 3.1 from DOS to be able to run all those graphic applications!

Back then in Pakistan the IT industry itself was very small and scattered, and was mostly around hard-core software development than anything else. Pursuing my interest abroad wasn’t an option back then so what I left with was – Internet.

Oregon TimeWeb  by Second Story, © Second Story

Oregon TimeWeb - Second Story

Things changed around the time when dot com bubble burst but, by that time, I was on solid grounds within digital media and that’s where I owe a ‘thank you’ note to two design studios – ‘Second Story’ and ‘Terra Incognita’. Their work inspired me to keep going within interactive media when I felt creatively trapped. Both studios specialise in online storytelling and building engaging user experience within a carefully chosen segment of digital marketplace, where I hardly find any mainstream digital agency’s presence. That might be because you need to have a kind of technical and design intellectual edge over others to be able to churn out the kind of projects these studios specialise in. I indeed learnt from their online projects, half a world away, that what a ‘user experience’ is actually like – when most of the design studios at that time were busy building fancy Flash intros.

Music Genres Table - Second Story

Music Genres Table - Second Story

Gettysburg Address - Second Story

Gettysburg Address - Second Story

Their contribution to interactive media design is deeper than skin – away from commercial glitter, design nonsense and digital media clichés. They are those who took user interaction design to another level and pioneered online storytelling. It has been over 10 years since I first visited their websites and portfolios, but I still have the same level of respect to their work which even grows when every time I visit their new projects. These two studios formed an inspirational institution for me at a time when I was in a real need to look at something. They are like Bauhaus to me.

Brad Johnson (Second Story) and Bart Marable (Terra Incognita), thank you very much for the wonderful and inspiring work!

Churchill and the Great Republic

Churchill and the Great Republic - Terra Incognita

Watch something different this weekend!

Under - Art, Media, My Musings

If you are planning to watch something different this weekend then I have three movie recommendations for you.

Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

This intense and moving French movie is based on the memoirs of Elle France editor Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke at the age of 43, paralyzing his entire body except his left eye. Being trapped in his body he blinked out his entire experience in a book.

Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

Le scaphandre et le papillon (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)

Excellent photography by Janusz Kaminski would make you feel as being part of Bauby in his experience of life within confinement of his own body. Having watched this movie you would only appreciate and understand simple pleasures in life that we take for granted.

I haven’t seen many French movies but this appears to be an excellent piece of French cinematography to me and one of the best movies in years I watched.

The Story of the Weeping Camel

The very first thing I wanted to know when looked at this movie’s title was what made my wife to recommend this! But, having seen it, I have no problem recommending it to everyone, everyone who wants to appreciate simplicity of life.

The Story of the Weeping Camel

The Story of the Weeping Camel

Gobi desert (Mongolia) is one of the least known places in the world and this documentary drama is around a family of nomadic shepherds who wanted to save life of a rare white camel calf that was rejected by its mother. Better summarised by TNS at IMDb:

A family of nomadic shepherds assists the births of their camel herd. One of the camels has an excruciatingly difficult delivery but, with help from the family, out comes a rare white colt. Despite the efforts of the shepherds, the mother rejects the newborn, refusing it her milk and her motherly love. When any hope for the little one seems to have vanished, the nomads send their two young boys on a journey through the desert, to a backwater town in search of a musician who is their only hope for saving the colt’s life.

The movie tempo is quite slow (so as life in desert) with quite an emotional ending.

Dancer in the dark

I’ve been listening Björk since ‘Play Dead’. Never knew this Icelandic signer is also gifted with acting talent that was truly evident in her only movie (so far) ‘Dancer in the Dark’ wining her several Best Actress awards. The movie might be a bit grim and depressing for some. It is a musical around an East European immigrant to United States in early 1960s, which was going blind with a 12 years old son.

Selma (Björk) is a Czechoslovakian immigrant, a single mother working in a factory in rural America. Her salvation is her passion for music, specifically, the all-singing, all-dancing numbers found in classic Hollywood musicals. Selma harbors a sad secret: she is losing her eyesight and her son Gene stands to suffer the same fate if she can’t put away enough money to secure him an operation. When a desperate neighbor falsely accuses Selma of stealing his savings, the drama of her life escalates to a tragic finale. (Summary from IMDb)

Dancer in the dark

Dancer in the dark

29 May 5
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Magic!

Under - Art, Literature, Media, Music, My Musings, Poetry, Typography

Back in December 1999, I wrote to CC Carpenter II that how fascinated I was with his poetry and requested for his permission to use some of it in one of my projects. I got his reply and permission after three attempts. It has been over 9 years since I had last contact with him – his website, his work is no longer online. I could only dig out 2 emails from that time in my inbox without any contact details, the email address not working anymore – I couldn’t trace him anywhere actually!

To be honest, I don’t remember much about him now – in fact I never knew much about him at the very first place, but his words are still scattered all over in many of my finished / unfinished projects. Back in 1999 I was searching for many answers for one question and somehow found CC Carpenter’s poetry online. It simply clicked. I had done ‘Nut, Bolt & Sparky’ earlier that year and was looking for another substance. His work opened up several windows in my mind. I found a rhythm in his poetry and started to look for a sound that can match it.

It took me over three years to find something that can go with his words. Pakistan produced many great folk singers – remember Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan? He is just one of the legends that the world knows, but, there was another one, Pathaney Khan, who passed away quietly three years after him. Pathaney Khan’s voice added life to CC Carpenter’s poem ‘Magic’ with a melodious tune of Reshman (another folk legend) in the background.

I assembled the whole piece in May 2003 but, I’m only been able to write about it now – after six years to be exact!

I took for granted all the things
You said to me.
And now I see that you’ve taken
It all away from me.

Poetry:
Magic by C. C. Carpenter II

Featuring Voices:
Pathan-e-Khan (Mai wi jana jhok ranjhan)
Reshman (Aksar shab-e-tanhai mein)

View Magic