Stairs to nowhere are everywhere these days. Where are they taking us?
> We love to look down on other people, and we love it even more when they look up at us. The architect Morris Lapidus understood this when he designed the grand staircase of the Fontainebleau Hotel in Miami. He called it the “Stairs to Nowhere” because they led only to a coat closet, where the beautiful people could leave their jackets and then swan down the stairs, catching the eye of everyone below.
> Sixty-five years later, the new stairs-to-nowhere are “stepped seating” — though it may look like the thing in high school you called “bleachers” — and it’s become one of the most Instagrammable and possibly the most overused architectural features of the decade.
Relearn CSS layout
> If you find yourself wrestling with CSS layout, it’s likely you’re making decisions for browsers they should be making themselves. Through a series of simple, composable layouts, Every Layout will teach you how to better harness the built-in algorithms that power browsers and CSS.
Some free, some pay.
The (Mostly) True Story of Helvetica and the New York City Subway
> There is a commonly held belief that Helvetica is the signage typeface of the New York City subway system, a belief reinforced by Helvetica, Gary Hustwit’s popular 2007 documentary about the typeface. But it is not true—or rather, it is only somewhat true. Helvetica is the official typeface of the MTA today, but it was not the typeface specified by Unimark International when it created a new signage system at the end of the 1960s. Why was Helvetica not chosen originally? What was chosen in its place? Why is Helvetica used now, and when did the changeover occur? To answer those questions this essay explores several important histories: of the New York City subway system, transportation signage in the 1960s, Unimark International and, of course, Helvetica. These four strands are woven together, over nine pages, to tell a story that ultimately transcends the simple issue of Helvetica and the subway.
Lots of articles and links about design of shared urban spaces and their affect on behavior.
How to Design Interruptions
> We’re alerted hundreds of times per day. Some are useful and non-invasive, like an oven burner turning orange when it’s hot. Some are needed, like a critical security update, while others are just generally helpful, like a feature suggesting something new. But when they appear at inopportune moments, even the most useful notifications often have detrimental results like anxiety, frustration, and reduced productivity. While a pop-up might be nearly invisible to one person, to another it might stop a critical task completely for hours. We must examine when our communications are helpful vs. harmful.
“Building Meaningfully”: Burroughs Wellcome Corporate Headquarters, 1972
> In 1969, pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome commissioned renowned modernist architect Paul Rudolph to design its new corporate headquarters and research facility in Durham, North Carolina. The result was a visionary modular complex whose geometries created a futuristic melding of spaces and forms.
Basic Custom Control Requirements
> If you are working on a custom control, a complex widget, or a novel interface element to integrate into a project, library, or framework, there are some core features you need to build.
> These represent not just what works for users across the most contexts and preferences, but also what usability, accessibility, and internationalization practitioners (among many others) review to evaluate whether a solution can be used (purchased, integrated, discarded).
Engagement Is the Enemy of Serendipity
> Whenever I’m grumpy about an update to a technology I use, I try to perform a self-audit examining why I’m unhappy about this change. It’s a helpful exercise since we are all by nature resistant to even minor alterations to the technologies we use every day (which is why website redesign is now a synonym for bare-knuckle boxing), and this feeling only increases with age. Sometimes the grumpiness is justified, since one of your tools has become duller or less useful in a way you can clearly articulate; other times, well, welcome to middle age.
> The New York Times recently changed their iPad app to emphasize three main tabs, Top Stories, For You, and Sections.
The AI of GoldenEye 007
> GoldenEye 007: one of the most influential games of all time. A title that defined a generation of console gaming and paved the way forward for first-person shooters in the console market. In this article I’m winding the clock back over 20 years to learn the secrets of how one of the Nintendo 64’s most beloved titles built friendly and enemy AI that is still held in high regard today.
The Mutable Web
> This is my question: why do we put up with websites that we don’t like looking at? I think most people would answer that question with another question: What choice do we have?
The Marvelous Mississippi River Meander Maps
> Fisk’s maps represent the memory of a mighty river, with thousands of years of course changes compressed into a single image by a clever mapmaker with an artistic eye. Looking at them, you’re invited to imagine the Mississippi as it was during the European exploration of the Americas in the 1500s, during the Cahokia civilization in the 1200s (when this city’s population matched London’s), when the first humans came upon the river more than 12,000 years ago, and even back to before humans, when mammoths, camels, dire wolves, and giant beavers roamed the land and gazed upon the river.
The Persistence of Chaos
> Airgapped Samsung NC10-14GB 10.2-Inch Blue Netbook (2008), Windows XP SP3, 6 pieces of malware, power cord, restart script, malware
> (minimum bid: $1,200,750 - reserve met)
Mirrored Ceilings and Criss-Crossed Stairwells Give a Chinese Bookstore the Feeling of an M.C. Escher Woodcut
> Zhongshuge bookstores, designed by Shangai-based architecture firm X+Living, feature incredible rooms coveted by book and illusion lovers alike. Each location in this chain of Chinese bookstores has uniquely designed spaces with reflective elements that immerse guests in parallel environments. In the Chongqing branch, criss-crossing staircases and a mirrored ceiling double the room for an effect that seems straight out of an M.C. Escher woodcut or an infinite Indian stepwell.
Mistakes, we’ve drawn a few
> At The Economist, we take data visualisation seriously. Every week we publish around 40 charts across print, the website and our apps. With every single one, we try our best to visualise the numbers accurately and in a way that best supports the story. But sometimes we get it wrong. We can do better in future if we learn from our mistakes — and other people may be able to learn from them, too.
A great gallery of good and bad graphs.
All you need to know about hyphenation in CSS
> There are two steps required to turn on automatic hyphenation.
Plus an additional 101 not fully supported prefixed properties.
A Huge Collection of Apollo 11 Press Kits
> When Apollo 11 landed two men on the Moon and returned them safely to Earth, thousands of people at NASA were joined in the effort by dozens of companies that did everything from building the spacecraft to providing the cameras for the mission. Each of those companies was understandably proud of their involvement and wanted to use the mission to drum up interest in their products and services. Marketing strategist David Meerman Scott has been collecting the press kits produced by the Apollo contractors and has made them available online for free download in PDF format.
Main link: https://www.apollopresskits.com
Redesigning Github repository page
> Today we’ll take one interface—repository page—and look what UI problems it has and if we can fix them.
Less filler, more killer.
GNOME Usability Study Report
> Sun’s GNOME usability staff in Menlo Park, California, conducted a baseline usability study of the GNOME desktop during the week of March 13-16, 2001. We recruited a dozen adult participants, each with several years of experience using computers in their work - but specifically not with backgrounds in computer science, software development or programming - to use GNOME 1.2.2 on Linux with Nautilus installed.
Kinda old, but still relevant in many ways.
How white space killed an enterprise app (and why data density matters)
> The new design simplified every screen. It broke apart huge pages into smaller, more focused ones. It used progressive disclosure to hide presumably insignificant information. And since today’s users don’t mind scrolling (ahem), the design incorporated white space in all of the usual places—around headers, content blocks, and in table rows. The breathing room was glorious.
> Users absolutely hated the new system. Sure, the old system was ugly, but it had everything they needed, right at their fingertips! Their jobs were incredibly fast paced—they worked in a tech support call center and were rated on productivity metrics. They didn’t have time to click or scroll to find information while the clock was literally ticking.