Typographic Etiquette

The impact of typography is in front of us every day as we read books, newspapers, posters and computer screens. It’s all around us and through word processors many of us work with type on a regular basis, yet a knowledge of even basic typography is rare.

Smashing Magazine has published an article called, “Mind Your En And Em Dashes: Typographic Etiquette” which illustrates a number of common typographic problems and how to correct them. I’d rate it an intermediate level article but it’s still worth a read if you want to gain insight into the world of typography. At least at the end of it you’ll be able to tell the difference between a hyphen, an en dash and an em dash. Ok, really geeky, but it’ll impress your friends. Maybe.

The Web Perception Trap

We seem to be moving into the age of the apps. Are apps just a passing fad, or is something more substantial afoot?

We have come to think of the Internet itself as being synonymous with the World Wide Web. However, that’s a wrong perception that may have many of us caught in a perception trap making it difficult for us to “get” what is happening.

The Internet itself is a platform on which to run applications, a fact we would do well to remember. In the early days before the Web, there were data moving applications such as Gopher, IRCP, Telnet, etc. along with many others. HTTP just happened to be one of the major protocols that in combination with other protocols gave foundation to the websites we are all now familiar with. The Web itself is not the end of the story, but just a data delivery application.

Though we don’t think of it this way, many websites themselves are really applications.

The apps that seem to be taking over our smartphones and have given rise to tablet computing are more than what they appear to be. Though today the best of these apps seem to be giving concentrated bits and pieces of the full-blown functionality of websites, I believe a larger fundamental trend is going on than we currently realize.

The apps themselves are in the process of evolving into new Internet applications and will ultimately give rise to new services that go beyond computers and browsers. One day in the future, apps may well eclipse the Web as the data delivery applications of choice. Applications follow the form of the devices on which they are executed.

Apps are just now beginning to invade televisions. We are still in the earliest stages, and things are still clunky. Moving beyond the clunky stage, imagine what form these new web-based TV apps might look like in the future. Forget about browsers, and forget about existing web services that run inside them. For example, think in terms of a networked app running just on a connected TV – what could be done with that? Would it be possible to create an app that just delivered a live IPTV network stream (or a bunch of them)? Of course it would, and it would be an advantage over having to scroll through clunky, often near-useless lists and near-worthless descriptions because that’s the way websites running on computers seem to work best.

It could be argued that connected gaming consoles are data delivery apps, delivering specialized services to the end user that go well beyond browser-based or browser-conceived functionality. The Microsoft Kinnect attached to a connected X-Box with end-users using their bodies to interact with the games and ultimately other Kinnect users is moving data back and forth that has nothing to do with the Web.

Ultimately we must begin to think about the Internet as a global data retrieval/delivery system that is independent of computers and browsers. Computers and browsers are just one application of potentially thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions that have yet to be thought of. Therefore, apps must conform to the devices, machines, or appliances they are running on. App designers would do well to forget about computers and browsers and begin thinking outside the computer/browser Web perception trap.

Innovations

For some time now, when it came to desktop and laptop computer hardware, innovation has seemed to be somewhat stagnate. After all, what more can be done with word processing software? How can spreadsheets possibly be improved? How can the browsing experience be made better? Can email be made more effective or efficient?

Form impacts function, but function often defines form. The popular form of the day is the smartphone and the tablet, both popularized thanks to Steve Jobs and his team at Apple. Today’s smartphones have processors that are as powerful as desktop machines were five years ago. However, the smaller capacitive touch input screens as well as always-on Internet connections have ended up making possible convenience, ease-of-use and sheer simplicity paramount features. That new software design/interface aesthetic is now traveling back to it’s larger computer counterparts.

Some time back, I downloaded the App store on my Macs, but gave it no more than an initial cursory look and promptly forgot about its presence. This evening while waiting for some files to upload, I noticed the Mac App Store icon and decided to look it over again now that it’s been around for a while.

I must say, the Mac App Store pleasantly surprises me. I ended up downloading a few free apps. The Mac App Store browsing and download experience replicates the iPod/iPhone app store experience. The process couldn’t be easier. By putting all of these apps together in one coherent place it makes it much more likely I’ll end up finding software that (a) I might never have gone looking for in a search engine and (b) gives me a place to look for specific types of software when I might need it. While it’s by no means a complete list of all possible Mac software, it is a welcome addition that will likely spur additional future software development.

Can desktop/laptop operating systems become more useful? There is always room for improvement. Basic business software – word processing, spreadsheets, etc. likely cannot be improved beyond what they are. On the other hand, other computer functions such as photo editing, video editing, etc. likely still have dramatic gains that can be made, particularly as hardware speed and throughput continue to improve.

Smashing Desktop Wallpapers

Smashing Magazine is a website aimed squarely at graphic and web-site designers but there’s some great resources there for all geeks.

First up, is a series of absolutely gorgeous desktop backgrounds for each month of the year.  October’s were released at the beginning of the month (unsurprisingly) and they’ve taken them a step further with the inclusion of a calendar on the backgrounds.  There’s plenty to choose from in each set – there’s 45-odd in October’s.

Secondly, I know Todd’s a great font fan and there’s an article here with 30 high-quality free fonts (some licensing restrictions apply.  The article in itself is a work of art as it shows you what the fonts look like.  Most of the fonts are text but there are a couple of specialised ones, such as the clothing care symbols.  I look at the fonts and the designs and just want to be creative.

Calling With Style

This week’s unofficial style and design award goes to Native Union and their beautiful Moshi Moshi range of handsets for mobile phones, USB VoIP and Bluetooth.

There’s four in the range, the first three created by designer David Turpin and the last by Michael Young.   They’re a stylish mix of retro and modern and I think they’re reasonably priced for a well-designed item.   I’m tempted to get the Bluetooth handset (MM03) myself.

Two of them have 3.5mm jacks and two are Bluetooth.  A range of adaptors are also available from the web site, including one for converting to USB for Skype, GoogleTalk and so on.

Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite but the website has full photo galleries.

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And if you are wondering what “Moshi Moshi” is, it’s what Japanese people say when they answer the phone.  You can read about the myth behind this phrase over on WikiAnswers.

Coolest Earbuds Ever

Move over Apple, Panasonic has the coolest earbuds ever.  Meet the RP-HJE 130s.

More pictures over at Fubiz.

What a great idea beautifully executed.