Adobe's Typekit has just launched a new site dedicated to honing typographic skills, via a series of lessons and resources, under the name Typekit Practice...
"Typekit Practice is a collection of resources and a place to try things, hone your skills, and stay sharp," runs the site's introduction. "Everyone can practice typography."
On offer are featured lessons, including one on using shades for "eye-catching emphasis", a list of useful online references (blogs, articles, talks etc), and a reading list of books on typography. Of course, there are also links to Typekit's own fonts and its accompanying blog.
Aimed at both the type novice and expert, Typekit Practice is certainly informative – the lesson on shades offers some good pointers as to the various shading techniques available – from 'drop' and 'close' shades to 'offset' and 'printer's' iterations – while the site itself is clearly laid out and nicely written.
As Brown writes on the TK blog, " Lessons stand on a foundation of references to articles, blog posts, books, websites, talks, and other solid resources."
It looks like Typekit Practice could evolve into a useful collection of hints and tips for those starting to play with typographic technique, and for others looking for some well-researched information on the discipline.
"We have lots of ideas for Typekit Practice," writes Brown, "plus an extraordinary group of authors and teachers helping us think up valuable lessons and make good references. Come practice with us."
Harvey Nichols has launched a new magazine-style website optimised for use on smartphones and tablets. It's an interesting approach to content marketing, but the site's design seems to have divided opinion...
The new website was designed in-house and built by agency Ampersand Commerce. It aims to offer a better and simpler user experience and new features include a 'MyHN' section where users can create a profile and shopping shortlists; a 'fashion emergency' button which takes them to a live chat with a stylist and a 'click and try' service, which orders products to store for a one-on-one appointment with an adviser.
The most noticeable change, however, is the emphasis placed on content. Users can still use drop down menus to browse products by department and category but the homepage is now a mix of editorial features and social content. Articles are grouped into six categories, including trends, editor's picks, inspiration and brand focus.
Features are identified by icons and hashtags and include a mix of full-screen photoshoots, scrapbook-style grids and more traditional product lists and written content. Colour coding and symbols are also used to group products, sections and services.
The site took around a year to build and five months was spent planning design and user experience. Harvey Nichols' multichannel director Sandrine Deveaux says designers were given a fairly open brief, but asked to "make products look stunning, ensure people find what they are looking for as quickly as possible and fuse content with product as seamlessly as possible."
The new site is the brand's first designed with smartphone and tablet users in mind, and Deveaux says the re-design was driven by a change in consumer behaviour. "We have heavy usage on tablet and mobile, and the move away from desktop looks inexorable,” she says.
"[This] creates its own unique challenges, especially given that the vast majority of our customers are iPhone users, where the screen size is significantly smaller than most android devices," she says. "One of the most striking changes is the shift from traditional left hand category navigation to persistent top level. We've been heavily influenced by tablet usage where long scrolls are the norm, and felt that left hand navigation isn't fit for purpose anymore," she adds.
Harvey Nichols isn't the first brand to adopt this kind of content marketing approach - Net-a-Porter, ASOS, Topshop and Urban Outfitters' websites all feature style guides and editorial features - but these are usually confined to a particular section of the site. Harvey Nichols' takes the idea a step further, putting equal emphasis on content and product.
This does encourage longer browsing and may lead to customers stumbling on new collections, but it won't be to everyone's tastes. While the magazine format has proved successful for high street brands, there's a careful balance to be struck by upmarket shops who want to offer more content and interaction while retaining a sense of luxury.
The response to Harvey Nichols' new site was largely positive on Twitter but on retail and marketing blogs, it has divided opinion. Some likened the layout to low-cost templates, while others felt the focus on content was distracting.
But perhaps some of this criticism is a little unfair. There is still a widespread expectation that luxury brand sites should focus on white space and full-screen photos, but Harvey Nichols aim is to do more than showcase products. As Deveaux points out, Harvey Nichols is a brand that's known for its cheeky sense of humour, and the new website clearly reflects this.
“Harvey Nichols positions itself as...being exclusive but accessible. One of the joys of the brand is that it differentiates itself with humour and wit. Our challenge is to ensure that the core values are communicated to the existing customer base at the same time as offering an online customer experience that appeals to the next generation of customers," she explains.
It's almost a year since Bangladesh's Rana Plaza clothing factory collapsed, killing more than 1,000 people. To mark the event, the Guardian has released a powerful interactive exploring life in Dhaka's factories and the journeys our clothes make from factories to shop floors.
The interactive is divided into six sections: it opens with a video showing the frantic pace of daily life in Dhaka and goes on to introduce three factory workers who survived the collapse. Editorial and infographics also explain the growing demand for cheap labour that has led to hundreds of factories being built illegally or without planning permission and the daily pressures factory workers face.
Full-screen video footage of the collapse includes some harrowing scenes of bodies being pulled from the wreckage, interspersed with survivors' accounts of searching for their friends and family. At each stage of the feature, viewers are reminded how little a factory worker has earned, and how much retailers have made, in the time they have been reading.
The piece ends with a look at the aftermath of the collapse and international reactions to it, as well as how survivors' lives have changed since. Readers are also invited to comment on issues raised on the Guardian's website, or share photos of their clothes and details of where they were made on its user generated content platform, Witness.
Thirteen staff have been working on the interactive since October. Footage was shot by director Lindsay Poulton and director of photography David Levene, who travelled to Dhaka in November.
Francesca Panetta, executive producer and special projects editor at the Guardian, says: "As well as being a major news event, this story seemed to fit the interactive treatment very well - it's complex and there's a lot of detail, but it's also very visual.
"Covering it in this way allowed us to add some historical context and a look at where we are now, as well as some more nuanced details. Of course, there are a lot of challenges with this format...as you need a large team with very different skills and it uses new technology that has to be tested and refined," she adds.
The responsive platform is the same one used by the Guardian to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's I Have a Dream speech last August, and the interactive was designed by Daan Louter. The muted colours and simple graphics reflect the feature's sombre tone, without distracting from Levene and Poulton's photography.
Panetta says it was also important to ensure the design is intuitive and that viewers are aware of their progress throughout. "It had to be clear so people didn't feel lost and knew where they were in the story and how long [it] was going to take," she says.
At 20 minutes, it's a long piece and one that demands undivided attention, but the mix of content and varied narrative structure ensures it doesn't lose pace. "With any kind of narrative, you need to think about the momentum of the piece and whether you should be using writing, film or sound," explains Panetta.
"It's important not to lose that linear continuity or tension, so you have to really think about where to switch from text to video. We also used cinematic techniques with sound and music to provide some added continuity," she says. Music composed for the piece is based on location recordings made in Dhaka, and Poulton says it is designed to grow from the sounds of the city.
It's a moving interactive, and one of the Guardian's best to date. The mix of audio, video and written copy is much more immersive than any of these mediums could be alone, and the layered narrative provides a look at the clothing industry and its impact on Bangladesh's economy, as well as an insight into factory life.
Iain Sinclair, American Smoke. Cover by Nathan Burton
Penguin Books has launched a partnership with WeTransfer where selected book covers for new titles will be showcased via the full screen backgrounds to the file transfer website...
The first series to be shown via the website is for the publisher's Street Art Series of novels which feature covers by artists: ROA, gray318, Nathan Burton, Sickboy and 45rpm. The series actually launched last year – details on the ten participating artists are here – but today's launch will pilot what looks to be an ongoing collaboration between the publisher and WeTransfer.
Zadie Smith, Embassy of Cambodia. Cover by gray318
For the Street Art series the covers are photographed as still lives, surrounded by objects which reflect the subject of the books. If users click on the image they are taken to Penguin's online store.
While the project isn't launching with an entire set of brand new cover designs (three from this series were released in June last year), the tie-up is an interesting way of promoting forthcoming editions. WeTransfer has 20m monthly users so the cover artwork – and the book, of course – has the potential to reach a wide audience. The next series of covers will be premiered on WeTransfer later this summer.
Nick Cave, And the Ass Saw the Angel. Cover by ROA
Zoë Heller, The Believers. Cover by Sickboy
Joshua Ferris, Then We Came to the End. Cover by 45RPM
WeTransfer have also recently collaborated with the British Fashion Council, designer Nelly Ben and Where's Wally.
A self-initiated project from creative agency DBLG creates a charming stop motion animation using 50 3D printed model bears
Natalie Greenwood, a producer at DBLG says "We often undertake studio projects as a platform to experiment and above all have fun. Fascinated by 3D printing we embarked on a project to explore the use of stop frame animation using 3D printing technology. Collaborating with our friends at animation studio Blue Zoo we set ourselves the goal of creating a two-second continuous loop using a bear originally designed for our Animal Planet rebrand [which we covered here]. After four weeks of continuous printing we created 50 3D printed bears walking up stairs each making a frame of our animation."
Ireland’s creative community has launched an online archive documenting visual communications in the country. We spoke to designer David Wall about the project...
At this year's Offset conference in Dublin last month, the three-day schedule featured a range of talks from Irish creatives: photographer Richard Mosse discussed his stunning images from Eastern Congo, Chris Judge spoke about his award-winning children's book, The Lonely Beast, and street artist Maser reflected on his colourful and thought provoking public artworks. On smaller stages, studios and educators spoke about their creative heroes, getting commissioned and judging good design - and several mentioned the 100 Archive.
The 100 Archive is a website documenting visual communications in Ireland – from illustration and animation to album covers, packaging, identities, exhibition graphics and logos.
The site is divided into two parts: 100 Future, which acts as a rolling record of contemporary professional work in the country and 100 Past; an archive of the 100 finest projects submitted each year, as well as examples of great graphic design and communications dating back to the 1960s.
The project was initiated by four Dublin studios - Atelier, Conor & David, Detail and Studio AAD. Atelier founder David Smith first suggested the idea at AGI Open in Barcelona in 2011, when he became the first Irish member of AGI, followed by Johnny Kelly a year later.
The archive was officially launched late last year and since then, it has received hundreds of submissions: a curatorial panel are in the process of judging the finest projects from 2010-13 for 100 Past, which launches next month, and they have also trawled archives and personal collections for interesting items from the past five decades.
“Ireland has a rich visual culture and history of visual communication,” says Conor & David co-founder David Wall. “Design competitions have played a vital role in the setting and raising of standards, but they haven’t left us with an extensive record of the work done here. The ultimate goal of the 100 Archive is to establish such a record,” he adds.
To submit work to the 100 Archive, creatives pay a 20 Euro fee and their entry is assessed by a professional panel who decide if it’s suitable. The panel is currently made up of Johnny Kelly, Alastair Keady (Hexhibit), Susan Murphy (Ogilvy & Mather), Gillian Reidy (Penhouse) and Eamon Spelmen (Limerick School of Art & Design).
The criteria for submissions is broad, says Wall, and any work that has been produced in response to a commission and led by an Irish designer or created in Ireland, is eligible.
“If the work can be described as any of the following: good, interesting, different, unexpected, simple, modest, clear, well executed, considered, culturally relevant or noteworthy, it can be added to 100 Future,” he adds. If three out of five judges opt to include a project then it is uploaded, and judges aren't aware of how their peers have voted.
There are local and global awards schemes for Irish creatives who’d like to see their work recognised, of course - some of which are documented online - but Wall says that as a non-competitive scheme, the 100 Archive offers something quite different and is more inclusive.
"As a non-competitive space for showcasing work, the archive offers a celebration of graphic design rather than the exaltation of a small group. Crediting of work is centred around individuals…so as the archive grows, it offers a rich history of the people behind the practice,” he says. “For those at one removed from the day-to-day industry here — whether they’re students or designers based abroad — the Archive [also] provides an overview of ongoing work here,” he adds.
The 100 projects added to 100 Past each year are chosen by an additional curatorial panel, which will change every three years. The current line-up consists of Brenda Dermody, Gerard Fox, Oonagh Young, Linda King and Liam McComish, who have also been responsible for sourcing historical work from archives and personal collections.
As well as its core staff, the site lists a number of ‘founders’ who have made the site’s launch possible through donations. The team has received hundreds of submissions for inclusion so far and Wall says many have dedicated their own time and resources to sourcing archive material. These objects will be launched on 100 Past later this year, says Wall, and include packaging, album artwork and editorial design.
“One of the things I’m most looking forward to seeing is the evolution of the Tayto pack. Tayto is one of Ireland’s longest established crisp brands — their packaging has passed through the hands of many designers over the years so that will make an interesting case study,” he says.
“Another gem that has come to light is Campaign magazine, which came to us from ICAD. They are the oldest representative body for creatives in Ireland and have been working with us to identify projects and individuals of merit from their extensive archive - Campaign was their magazine in the 1960s and 1970s and some of the cover designs are a joy to behold,” he adds.
More recent examples include the cover of U2’s Boy, designed by Steve Averill, which Wall says is one of his earliest memories of graphic design. “I remember being struck by the image on the cassette cover when I was barely older than the boy pictured on it. Steve’s son Jon is also a practicing designer, and part of the 100 Archive community too."
The 100 Archive is a community project, and Wall says the response to the site has been overwhelming. “At each step, we’ve found more and more people who are willing to help - one of the exciting parts of the process has been to forge new connections with designers whose work I knew but didn’t previously know personally,” he adds. In the future, he hopes there will be an exhibition of featured work from the 100 Archive, too.
It's an interesting model and The 100 Archive provides a great platform for the country's designers to share their achievements, work together and review their practice on a regular basis. The site should also prove a valuable source of inspiration for aspiring creatives, and a useful reference point for designers based abroad.
Images (from top): Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Stamp by The Stone Twins; What Happens Next is a Secret exhibition catalogue by Ciaran OGaora; Insular typeface by Naoise Ó Conchubhair; Le Cool exhibition poster by Rory McCormick and Rossi McAuley; Back to the Start by Johnny Kelly; DIT Masters of Arts programme by Cian McKenna; Ard Bia cookbook by Me&Him&You; David Smith & Oran Day's artwork for Ghost Maps; Wayne Daly's Archizines; a 1963 cover of Campaign magazine; album artwork for U2's Boy; AGI Open identity by Dan Flynn, album art for Dulra by David Donohoe studio and The Lonely Beast ABC app by Chris Judge. For more info on each project see the100archive.com
Above: by Akseli Valmunen of Lahti University of Applied Sciences
As part of its Future Creatives scheme, Nokia is working with students around the world to create wallpaper imagery for its phones
The pictures are pre-loaded onto a variety of Nokia devices as ‘lock-screen' images. Students are paid €500 per image used while the college faculty receives a payment of €2500 to be spent ‘in pursuit of photographic excellence'.
The scheme, which started just over a year ago, is run by Nokia Design's head of visual content David Harrigan and his London-based team. Previously, Harrigan explains, the lock-screen images on the company's phones came from a variety of sources, licenced in a variety of ways, some of which could have been used by the brand's competitors.
By Sanni Siira, Lahti
Commissioning original imagery from students, shot using its phones, Harrigan explains, enables the company to "build up a bespoke range of images that we have complete clarity over" (Nokia buys the rights to the ‘digital entity' of each image to use on all its devices while students retain their copyright and are identified in the file name of each picture). The images are specifically shot to show off the phones' technical abilities and can also be tailored to local demands. So, for example, if a service provider in China would prefer local imagery to be installed on its phones, Harrigan will be able to provide that or, if such imagery doesn't exist as yet, will commission it via the network of university partners his team is building up.
By Sarah Jun, SVA
Nokia piloted the idea with students from Arts University Bournemouth and LCC but has now run the scheme with Lahti University of Applied Sciences in Finland, SVA in New York, China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and, most recently, Michaelis School of Fine Art at the University of Cape Town.
Nokia works with 20 students in each location. "All participate in a week long intensive content creation process. Each student is loaned a Nokia Lumia 1020 for the duration of the project," Harrigan explains. "We provide a creative brief that we share in an initial three hour workshop at the beginning of the project. Each student then has one week to shoot images for us as defined by our brief and references. During the week we have a series of workshops at the University to work ‘one on one' with the students, giving them advice on the direction of the imagery that they have captured and the direction that they are heading. My team is also on hand to advise on the features of the device and answer any technical queries.
By Leng Wen, China Central Academy of Fine Arts
"At the end of the week there is a final large sharing workshop, where we again meet with the students, review their images and then wind up the project. Once the images have been edited back here in the London design studio and all stakeholders have been consulted we then decide upon which images will be selected for use within our Nokia devices.
For each of the images we accept we pay a standard fee of €500 per image with no limit on how many images may be chosen from each individual student. The university receives a donation towards the faculty of €2500 to use as they wish."
By Denis Twerenbold,China Central Academy of Fine Arts
Harrigan is about to run what he calls Chapter Two of the project. In May, three students - one student each from New York, Beijing and Lahti - will come to London for a briefing before flying off to either Iceland, the Western Isles or Barcelona on assignment, armed with the latest Nokia phone. Nokia will be looking to buy €10,000 worth of images in total from the three of them.
Next, the project will extend beyond photography to textile design and animation. The Nokia team is working with students at the RCA to create physical textile designs which will be used as textural backgrounds on the phones. The animation students may either work in partnership with textile students to create moving image pieces together or create something on their own. Again, both students and faculties will be paid for their contributions.
The Design Museum's Designs of the Year show opened last night. As usual, there's an eclectic array of projects, from the worthy to the quirky, but it's difficult to spot a frontrunner for the big prize
If anyone's ever challenged you with the old "what is design?" question, sending them along to the Design Museum show would be a good place to start. Its breadth, from fashion to vehicle design (Sadie Williams dress and VW XL1 car shown above), type to architecture really brings home the multifacted potential of design today.
Model of Makoko Floating School
But this diversity also poses a problem for the judges who convene on Monday March 31 with the unenviable task of choosing a Design of the Year. Comparing projects so different in intent, scale and budget is enormously difficult.
That difficulty has been offset in previous years by the presence of an obvious frontrunner at an early stage – One Laptop Per Child, for example, or last year's winner, Gov.UK. Looking round the show last night, it was hard to think of an equivalently obvious candidate (see our post on the nominees here) but I'd suggest the ABC syringe which changes colour when exposed to air thus alerting users to its pre-use or potential exposure to infection, might fit the bill.
e-Go single-seater aircraft byGiotto Castelli, Tony Bishop, Rob Martin and Malcolm Bird
One thing that does stand out for me this year is the exhibition design. This is a really difficult show to pull together coherently. This year's designers, Hunting & Narud with visual identity and graphic design by OK-RM, have headlined each project with a one-line explanation of its purpose: 'A tactile watch for blind people', for example, or 'An identity built around the letter W'.
This proves to be a simple and highly effective way of drawing in the visitor to the more detailed information on each project which is presented on cards atop long thin stems next to each piece. It also provides a kind of snapshot sense of what the show is all about as you look aroudn the room - great ideas to improve our lives. But which deserves to be Design of the Year?
MEWE car, Musem Jumex model
Hybrid 24 electric bicycle by A2B
Iro Collection by Jo Nagasaka.
Prada SS14 Collection by Miuccia Prada. All above images by Luke Hayes
Grand-Central by Thibault Brevet
Vitamins' Lego Calendar and Anthony Sheret, Edd Harrington and Rupert Dunk's Castledown Primary School Type Family
The last couple of studios we’ve featured on SOTW have been predominantly less digitally focussed so it’s a real pleasure to this week stumble across the new portfolio of Birmingham based Adaptable.
Specialising in digital experiences, Adaptable’s book is full of some really tight online work – and it’s not just in the jpgs. Having a look at the work in detail the studios knocked out some solid dev work on top of some brilliant design.