May Day, May Day

Every year or two a fresh crop of internet blowhards decides design doesn’t matter. Indeed, they proclaim that bad design is good. Not merely is it good, it is the secret to internet wealth and success, they tell us. Whereas, they assure us, user-friendly, brand-appropriate, professional graphic design — or even mere competence — is the royal road to Failureville.

I don’t understand the siren song of this demonstrably idiotic claim. I don’t know why it seduces a new crop of assh*les each year. I only know it does. And then, just as predictably, all the year’s hot young new media designers get in a huff defending design against the fools who attacked it.

Seems to me it might be better to let the anti-design dummies rant themselves out and roll along their happy ignorant path in search of new things to attack. Such as air. Or babies.

Maybe I am jaded. Or maybe it’s hard to get exercised over inanity you’ve seen recur so many times. The assertion that “bad design is good internet” has been made by one set of dorks after another since at least 1995. One prominent consultant aside, nobody can remember who these blowhards were. They charged full bore into obscurity, as dolts generally do.

So to this year’s hot (under the collar) web designers, remember: next year, you will still be designing beautiful websites. And the people who claim that bad design is good? If they’re lucky, they will be selling apples on the street corner.

In other news

  • It’s May Day. Immigrants protest, and rightfully so.
  • It’s May Day. And that means a reboot.
  • It’s May Day. And that means a reboot.
  • It’s May Day. A day that honors worker’s rights. So it is only fitting that May Day was also the day of the Canadian Union of Public Employees website reboot. Happy May Day! Happy workers! Happy Canadians! Happy Cog redesigned this site.

In other, other news

Registration is now open for An Event Apart NYC.

In other, other, other news

An Event Apart Chicago has sold out. Whee.

Heartwarming

Baseball weather has come to NYC. And a baseball stadium is where we’ll hold An Event Apart Atlanta in just a few days’ time. If global warming worked the other way — if the winters were getting colder each year — the world’s governments would have already worked together to reverse global warming. But when winter grows milder and spring arrives sooner, it feels so good it’s hard to realize how bad it is. But I digress.

We’re busy prepping for Atlanta, so here are some links:

Minolta quits camera biz
A former ad client, at one time the 3rd largest camera maker in the world, can’t compete against digital.
“Would you write your life story in pencil?” was an ad I tried to sell them for their Maxxum line of high quality, 35mm point-and-shoot SLRs. (Instead they bought “More Maxxum Magic!”, a line I did not write for them.) Even so, it’s sad to see them go.
Monochrom Brandmarker
An attempt to evaluate the power of brands by making Austrian people draw twelve logos from memory, 25 people per brand. Via Coudal.com.
Magnolia Blossom
Mac OS X dashboard widget embeds social networking in your desktop: “Watch websites scroll across as they are bookmarked by ma.gnolia.com members. Spend less time scrolling through pages of text and find those eye-catching sites now!”
Gapers Block
Clean, good-looking, well written Chicago blog.
In Progress: Logo Design (A)
Cameron Moll on the National Gazette identity he and Jason Santa Maria are designing.
In Progress: Logo Design (B)
Jason Santa Maria on the National Gazette identity he and Cameron Moll are designing.
Top 15 Skylines in the World v. 3.0
An urban planner picks his Top 15 skylines. Via Gapers Block.
Dieter Steffmann typefaces
Immense archive of Dieter Steffmann fonts. “Acorn Initials” is typical Steffmann work. Re-blogged from March 2004.
CNN.com redesigns
1024 wide. Looks great. Pity about non-validating table layout. Via Hivelogic.com.
coComment
In one central place, track comments you’ve left on blogs all over the place.
My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
“…total access to original tracks with remix and sampling… Download all the multitracks on two of the songs. Through … Creative Commons licenses, you are free to edit, remix, sample and mutilate these tracks however you like. Add them to your own song or create a new one. Visitors are welcome to post their mixes or songs that incorporate these audio files on the site for others to hear and rate.”
Drupal
Open source content management platform that cares about accessibility and standards.
Airbag – Styrofoam
Adventures in food management.
Designers must write
“As my ability to shape both written and oral communication improves, I am better equipped to direct the work of others.” (Via Cameron Moll.)
In Search of a Comprehensive Type Design Theory
“Type designers might be convinced that our profession is vital to society, but we wouldn’t risk going on strike.”
Ironic Sans – Pre-pixelated clothes
“Stop worrying about whether or not the producer of that Reality TV show you’re on will pixelate your carefully chosen t-shirt. Beat them to the punch with pre-pixelated products!” (Via K10k.net.)
Thank You for Smoking – main titles
Beautiful! via Stan.
America’s Technology Future at Risk
A new study released by the Economic Strategy Institute explains why U.S. companies can’t compete in key new business sectors, and offers a variety of regulatory and investment prescriptions (via Thomas L. Friedman).
Teaching at Risk: Progress and Potholes
The Final Report of the Teaching Commission (via Thomas L. Friedman).
It’s a great time to start a business
Six reasons to start a business today (by 37signals’s David Heinemeier Hansson).
IE7 Improvements and Bug Tracking
Eric Meyer weighs in.
W3C: Failed Commitments?
Much ado about nothing. Forest. Trees.
Happy Doomsday to You!
“Washington was about one horseman short of an apocalypse yesterday.”

Fr.oz.en en.tre.es

Ma.gnolia’s linkroll feature rules, but, like a list of “last 10 blog posts,” it is forever sending interesting content into the offscreen past. So here, frozen in time, and in some cases with expanded blurbage, are some of the latest bookmarks to appear in—and soon disappear from—the zeldman.com sidebar:

Microsoft iPod
A parody that says a lot about how design processes go wrong.
Google Code: Web Authoring Statistics
Which HTML ids and classes are most common? How many sites validate?
Eyebrow Antics
Illustrator Brian Tapley uses Flickr as a portfolio delivery system.
Publish and Prosper: Blogging for Your Business

What do Boeing, General Motors, and a small bag-clip company have in common? They are all blogging about their business. It’s time for a practical book about business blogging: a book that offers concrete advice, no-nonsense research, warnings about common pitfalls, and real-world examples of business-blog successes and failures. A conversation with your market is stronger and more meaningful with a blog. When you’re ready to bridge the gap between blogging theory and business reality, this book will get you talking, easily and professionally.

So runs the pitch for Peachpit’s upcoming Publish and Prosper: Blogging for Your Business, by DL Byron and Steve Broback (ISBN: 0321395387), now in presale mode. To save 35% and get free shipping, enter this code when you checkout: PP-234P-LKMS. (Journalists and teachers may request free evaluation copies.)
Netdiver’s Best
Long-running, always great design ’zine Netdiver.net publishes its Best Site Designs of 2005.
S5 1.2a2
Eric Meyer’s CSS-based slideshow hits 1.2 alpha 2 version.
Open Letter to AOL
The Open Letter to America Online is a vehicle for the entire internet community to express its “serious concern [about] AOL’s adoption of Goodmail’s CertifiedEmail, which is a threat to the free and open Internet.” The group explains:

In February 2006, AOL announced that it would accept payment for incoming emails. For these certified emails, it would skip its usual anti-spam filters and guarantee delivery for cash. Our coalition believes that the free passage of email between Internet users is a vital part of what makes the Internet work. When ISPs demand a cut of “pay-to-send” email, they’re raising tollbooths on the open Net, interfering with the passage of data by demanding protection money at the gates of their customers’ computers.

ourcommon.com
The design portfolio of Peter Reid.
Fl.ower
Greg Storey blogs the creative process behind Ma.gnolia’s user interface design.
Beggr 2.0 beta
A one-way ticket to easy street.
Images, Tables, & Mysterious Gaps
It lives! Eric Meyer’s classic on CSS layout as intepreted by Gecko—core of Firefox, Mozilla, Camino, and Netscape—finds a new (and hopefully permanent) home at developer.mozilla.org. Rumor has it all the old Meyer writings are or will be available here.
Linkology: How the Most-Linked Blogs Relate
New York Magazine discovers blogs. I usually ignore this kind of coverage by this kind of source, but I’m linking because this is actually a good article of its kind—and of course because it includes A List Apart in its coverage (albeit with blurbage that suggests that the author doesn’t really know what he thinks he knows).

P.S. Mark in Ma.gnolia or del.icio.us or digg this page.

Read these now

Hungry? Want another bullshit sandwich?
Andy Rutledge in UX Magazine: “Bad design harms business, it does not help it. Websites like Boingboing, Google and eBay are successful in spite of their poorly designed sites, not because of them.”
Blogs versus the NY Times in Google
Jason Kottke at kottke.org: “In 2002, Dave Winer of Scripting News and Martin Nisenholtz of the New York Times made a Long Bet about the authority of weblogs versus that of [The] NY Times in Google…. I decided to see how well each side is doing by checking the results for the top news stories of 2005.”
Metamorphosis
Dan Benjamin in The Hivelogic Narrative: “[W]riting in second person had a negative impact on something critical to the ‘success’ of Hivelogic: it significantly diminished the frequency of posting.”
Airbag: Cheap
Greg Storey in Airbag: “I am loving Google’s new search service based in China. It’s faster and brings up only the most relevant results without having to be some kind of search engine algorithm enthusiast.”

Four things

I blame Mark Simonson.

Four jobs I’ve had
  1. Writer for The Washington Post and City Paper
  2. Laborer in a PVC coating factory
  3. Art director
  4. Keyboardist (Yatz, Spoons, Pop Maru, Insect Surfers)
Four movies I can watch over and over
  1. Rushmore
  2. Swing Time
  3. North By Northwest
  4. Best in Show
Four places I’ve lived
  1. New York City
  2. Washington DC
  3. Bloomington IN
  4. Pittsburgh PA
Four TV shows I love
  1. The Office (Brit.)
  2. Arrested Development
  3. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
  4. The News Hour with Jim Lehrer
Four places I’ve vacationed
  1. Istanbul
  2. Rome
  3. San Francisco
  4. London
Four of my favorite dishes
  1. Madras Rava Masala at Dosa Hut
  2. White Omelette at Penelope
  3. Sag Paneer
  4. Tofu in Spicy Ramen
Four sites I visit daily
  1. Coudal Partners
  2. Daring Fireball
  3. Signal vs. Noise (by 37signals)
  4. A List Apart
Four places I would rather be right now
  1. Anywhere with Carrie, baby, and doggie.
  2. Seriously.
  3. That is my answer.
  4. Home best.
Four bloggers I am tagging
  1. Eric Meyer
  2. Tanya Rabourn
  3. Jason Santa Maria
  4. Greg Storey

Year-end blowout

What makes for a good design book?
Lou Rosenfeld, co-creator of information architecture, is looking for people who like to read. Specifically, he is looking for people who like to read about design and user experience. Are you one of them? Then here is your chance to sound off. What vital topics aren’t being covered (or aren’t being covered well) in the design and user experience books you buy? Where are publishers falling down? What are you dying to read? Let Lou know what you think.
Technorati is hiring
Technorati, a real-time search engine that keeps track of what is going on in the blogosphere, seeks a modern web developer, “proficient in state of the art LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) development, with emphasis on PHP and Apache.” More to the point, says Chief Technology Officer Tantek Çelik, the company is looking for one who has kept up with CSS, semantic markup, microformats, and unobtrusive JavaScript.
Even more to the point, Technorati is looking for a smart web person who is tired of big-company bureaucracy, secrecy, and in-fighting, and seeks greater emotional and professional fulfillment—in other words, Technorati is looking for a web person who wants to make a difference. Yes, they really do write job descriptions that way, and not only in San Francisco, where Technorati is based. (Tags: technorati, jobs, webdevelopment.)
Freight for sale
FREIGHT (available from Phil’s Fonts) is a superbly detailed font family created by Brooklyn type designer Joshua Darden. Optimized for screen display, Freight is ideal for web interface design. You can also use it as a default font for such daily computing tasks as reading and writing email—makes a tasty break from Verdana and Georgia. Recent Darden fonts include Meta Headline (created at the behest of Erik Spiekermann and Christian Schwartz) and lovely, funky Omnes.
Kids with cameras

In Calcutta’s red light district, over 7,000 women and girls work as prostitutes. Only one group has a lower standing: their children. Zana Briski became involved in the lives of these children in 1998 when she first began photographing prostitutes in Calcutta. Living in the brothels for months at a time, she quickly developed a relationship with many of the kids who, often terrorized and abused, were drawn to the rare human companionship she offered.

Zana held weekly photography workshops between 2000 and 2003. There the children learned camera basics, lighting, composition, the development of point-of-view, editing, and sequencing for narrative. To Zana’s delight, equipped with inexpensive point-and-shoot 35mm cameras, the children produced incredible work. Their images are explosions of color: self-portraits, family pictures, street scenes, stunning tableaus of Bengali life.

Ruby on Rails podcasts
Audio interviews with David Heinemeier Hansson, who invented Rails and manages it as an open source movement, plus Ruby on Rails heavyweights and pioneers including Dave Thomas, Chad Fowler, Rick Olson, and A List Apart’s Dan Benjamin.
Fairplay defined
Everything you ever wanted to know about the digital rights management technology built into Apple’s iPod, iTunes, and iTunes Music Store. (Except how to turn it off.)

Roadside link jamboree

WHILE I’M WRAPPING Web Design World Boston, here are some links for your pleasure:

In Search of a Perfect Plug-in Technique
First we had Flash embedding the automated way. It worked in all browsers but it didn’t validate. Then came Flash Satay and UFO, FlashObject and Hixie’s nested objects. Which techniques are most accessible and most reliable? Macromedia accessibility expert and occasional A List Apart author Andrew Kirkpatrick checked them all out and drew conclusions worth reading.
gotomobile: the mobile usability and UX blog
In the U.S. a mobile phone is a cell phone for making phone calls. In the rest of the world it’s a rich two-way media device. Starting a year ago, renowned designer Kelly Goto began travelling the world researching how handhelds are used today and discovering the emerging principles of ubiquitous computing. Kelly, who is here lecturing at Web Design World, maintains this mobile usability and user experience blog, to which she posts from her handheld camera/phone/whatever.
Seed Magazine
This beautiful and well-written periodical explores the changing role of science in our global culture. New York’s own Mike Pick and Tim Murtaugh created the clean, elegant, and playful site design (check out the little colored seedlings at the top left).
DropSend
Got big files to share? Files so big you can’t email them? Files too big even for Basecamp hosting and posting? DropSend has you covered. This fresh-off-the-vine web application by Ryan Carson takes ease of use to a new level, working well and simply as advertised. I use it. Try it, you’ll like it.
Folksonomy is such a lonely word
In this New York Times Magazine feature, Daniel H. Pink explains folksonomies to the non-digerati. As most people reading this page know, “folksonomy” is IA Thomas Vander Wal’s 2004 coinage for the tag-powered, communal taxonomies that are not merely changing how websites and web products are structured but how information is perceived and categorized all over.
Greg Storey portfolio
I’ve always thought Greg Storey was a heck of a designer. Now you can more easily see for yourself just how good he is.
Oh, the Plazes you’ll go!
Plazes (beta) is a spanking new web app offering a “grassroot approach to location-aware interaction, using the local network you are connected to as location reference. Plazes allows you to share you location with the people you know and to discover people and plazes around you. It’s the navigation system for your social life and it’s absolutely free.” I’m using it right now and it is cool.

To Spain! To Spain!

To Spain! To Spain!
Tomorrow his family and your humble narrator fly away for seven days in beautiful Gijón, Asturias, Spain, where it will apparently rain all week and where your present host will address the W3C on the subject of standards-based design.
Wish you were there
The New York Public Library is hosting incredible live events. Last month, we watched John Hope Franklin and William Jefferson Clinton discuss race in America. Last night, in “The Battle Over Books,” Google’s David Drummond and an all-brain cast led by Lawrence Lessig and Allan Adler vigorously debated the Google Print Library Project (or as it was renamed yesterday, Google Book Search). My brain is still on fire. If you live in the New York City area or will visit soon, join the mailing list for your chance to attend one or more of these fascinating public programs.
Dead Can Play
Jon Noring of Sound Preserve writes:

The Department of Special Collections at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Davidson Library recently placed online, with free access, over 5,000 sound recordings as part of its Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. The recordings date from the 1890s to the 1920s and were transferred from Edison cylinders using state-of-the-art equipment. Besides MP3 and streaming audio, the raw transfers are also available for DIYers to try their own hand at audio restoration.

Rebooty Call
Each year May 1st Reboot invites designers around the world to rethink, re-skin, and rekindle their websites. The 2006 Reboot is now accepting sign-ups. As he did last year, creative director Paul A. Szypula is organizing the global digital event. Shake your Rebooty!