Apple

Old Apples Never Die, They Just Get Recycled Creatively

Some time ago I wrote about the need for things to change, notably IE6 which needed to die. Since then one of the sources of traffic to this site is people looking for images of Apple G3′s.

Recently I’ve moved and in my garage there are two old macs a Blue and White and a Digital Audio. The B&W lacks a processor, I can’t remember where I put it, but the DA works. Sadly when I moved the old Pismo laptop passed away, I suspect the Yo-Yo has gone to heaven and may check this out. I’ve also got a colossal Mitsubishi 21″ CRT monitor out there which still works although like me lacks a bit of focus.

The towers were a truly great design, they looked different but more important allowed near instant access to the memory and drives. They were really quite well made and the architecture meant that most of these Macs could have their lives extended by simple plug in upgrades. But, their time has passed.

In my old flat I used to use the case of an old angle-poise iMac as a lampshade. The computer had been damaged beyond repair so I broke it for parts. But, Macs aren’t simple boxes, they are designed with great thought as I have recently highlighted. You may or may not get this, I do and I struggle to throw such wonderfully designed objects away. Yes, I know I should but…

Well as it goes I am clearly not alone, there’s loads of people out there recycling the things. So now the only question is what shall I turn them into?

Part two here>

Dieter Rams: Braun

One of the more self indulgent lessons that I have taught is where I presented a PowerPoint (ugh) of ‘designs wot I like.’ This is a mix of about 50 items including E Types, Minis, 911′s, Trangia cookers, and Thunderbird 2. It is an unashamedly subjective list. The lesson was intended to generated thought and discussion about design in its wider context. I had many of the items to show: Belstaff, Trangia, Thunderbird 2, sadly though neither the 911 nor the E Type.

And one of the items, the Braun travel alarm clock has been with me for years. This small item shows how affordable, and accessible well designed items can be.

Yes I unashamedly enjoy it.

I was impressed by Braun well before I even started to think overtly about design. I had a Braun flashgun that came with a camera I once bought, it just seemed right, considered and somehow more complete.

More recently of course I have become aware of the originator of many of the Braun designs, Dieter Rams. Few (including Dieter himself) could fail to acknowledge the influence that his designs have had on Apple, he applauds this, graciously.

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Brown Fox, Crazy Dogs, Full Stop

Aldus Darwin

Aldus Darwin

I haven’t always been a designer or a photographer: I was once even the milkman of human kindness. Well I was a milkman anyway.

A Full Stop, Literally

My first encounter with the world of digital design and Macs was as a courier in West Yorkshire in the early ’90s. At that time Apple was moving in on the old world of typesetters who used to output galleys of text via steam driven phototypesetters to waiting grubby couriers (AKA me). This was the cutting edge era when whole evenings could be wasted by the technologically bewildered trying in vain to get the final full-stop to output onto the sheet. I think on one ‘full stop’ occasion I dared to ask “hasn’t anyone got a suitable Rotring?” The suggestion was not well received.

These were dangerous times too, the grubby courier (AKA me) would fly off through the rain sodden streets of Yorkshire to the waiting printer, and, at the doorstep would release the sheet of type into the evening rain. The type of course then revealing it’s Darwinian lineage with buttered toast would land face down in the mud. The grubby courier (AKA me) would do the only reasonable thing, wipe the sheet, get the signature, and fly.

He flew like only text unfettered by punctuation could fly.

Hail Pagemaker

The Darwinian fittest survive and fit for purpose in the ’90s meant willingness to move on from phototypesetting machines to the world of the Mac.

Quadra and Centris were the hallowed names, along with Aldus. No not the15th-century Venetian printer Aldus Manutius, we are talking about Aldus PageMaker the Desk Top Publishing package, which along with Adobe’s Illustrator and Photoshop packages meant that design, and publishing were ready to move fully from the artboard on to the computer and the computer of choice was the mac. Let’s not forget Quark, introduced in 1987 and rising to a 90% market share in the ’90s ultimately to be met head on by InDesign. I don’t like Quark but long may it survive, the competition is what has made InDesign such a really good programme.

(I overheard someone mention DTP recently, I thought ‘how quaint?’)

Nowadays a complete design studio can be bought for around five grand, (me old china) and I think it’s a bit of a snip. You can pick up an iMac Quad core £1650, Adobe® CS5 £1800 and still have enough for a pretty useful DSLR, in fact you should be able to get a full frame Nikon if you shop well.

Yes I know one can mooch over the details and the list might be longer but this will cover most bases and when I look back to an era where the same amount of money got me a van or a motorbike for the despatch business I think we are getting a lot of stuff for our bucks.

The bottom line though is what we do with it.
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I Need a Website but I Don’t Know Why

Communication is the word, yes communication. It all goes horribly wrong sometimes.

I am a slow speaker, I know I am but once many years ago this was really brought into focus when I was trying to teach a friend how to ride a drop handlebar bicycle. She fell off at the point that I had said “take your hands off the lower part of the handlebars” and never got to hear me say “slowly, one at a time and move them to the top of the bars”. She survived (we didn’t). The point was that the communication clearly failed.

Why Mining

Frequently I hear people say things like “I need a website” or “I need an A4 brochure”. Rather foolishly some might say, I usually engage in a bit of Why-Mining by asking “why?”

To aid communication the emphasis is on the why not the mining. Why-mining is an effective although slightly annoying tool. Quite simply people frequently tend to already hold many of the answers that they seek, they just need someone to stand in front of them and ask them “why?”

“I need a four page A4 brochure”
“Why?”
“Because my competitor has one”
“Why does it need to be A4?”
“Because thats what they always are?
“Why do you need four pages?”
“Dunno”

Eventually you will get to bedrock and even if this bedrock is “I don’t know”, that will be a good place to start.

The bottom line is that what we at DesignCredo are trying to find out is what is the customer’s story, the unique thing that they are trying to communicate to others.

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iPad in Exeter, Cool not Flash?

No Flash

No Flash Here

I know, I think it is some sort of hip ’60s place for cool guys to live in, probably split level and open plan. Maybe Chelsea or possibly off Wardour St. Yes, on occasions an iPad would be a great place to crash out but who needs a home when there is a life to be had?

Well I’ve just been to the Apple shop in Exeter, you know, the place with the impromptu Post Office style queuing area outside? All the more incongruous for it’s lack of waiting people other than the gaggle of previously imprinted pensioners with their paperwork at the ready.

A sudden moment of awkwardness as I attempt to enter the shop, is it invitation only? Oh god, the public shame of not being invited again. From the door, in spite of the “T-shirted One’s” interjection, I could see my quarry, the iPad. There was one free, it was mine to iNvestigate.
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Apple, leaving the past behind?

As a professional user, Adobe products clearly have great strengths but anyone who uses a product on a day-to-day basis will know their weaknesses. Adobe and Apple were very strong partners in the early days of DTP, the PDF format has grown hugely since that time. Recently though, even the PDF print option, once a great strength of Macs has become fragile and unpredictable.

I remember with sadness the demise of Macromedia, there were strong products in the collection: Fireworks (always cranky), Dreamweaver, Freehand and of course Flash.

I have been appalled at the behaviour of Dreamweaver CS4 on a Mac but continue to use it. InDesign is a powerful tool, it has been good to give Quark some competition. However I can’t honestly say that CS4 has impressed.

Below are Steve Jobs’ conclusions about Flash from an extensive letter on the Apple site.

Flash was created during the PC era – for PCs and mice. Flash is a successful business for Adobe, and we can understand why they want to push it beyond PCs. But the mobile era is about low power devices, touch interfaces and open web standards – all areas where Flash falls short.

The avalanche of media outlets offering their content for Apple’s mobile devices demonstrates that Flash is no longer necessary to watch video or consume any kind of web content. And the 200,000 apps on Apple’s App Store proves that Flash isn’t necessary for tens of thousands of developers to create graphically rich applications, including games.

New open standards created in the mobile era, such as HTML5, will win on mobile devices (and PCs too). Perhaps Adobe should focus more on creating great HTML5 tools for the future, and less on criticizing Apple for leaving the past behind.

Steve Jobs
April, 2010