Saturday, August 26, 2017

Are you cute or severe?




     "Batman" with Adam West debuted on television in 1965. I was in kindergarten and just learning to read. In the show, his youthful ward Dick Grayson, in the role of sidekick, Robin, would frequently utter some kind of faux oath beginning with "Holy..." Someone online has of course tallied them all, counting 367.
    Sometimes the sanctified nouns were common words, "Holy Fog!" But often obscure, "Holy Tintinnabulation!" What I remember is trotting off to the dictionary to look up these words, a practice I've done all my life ("Tintinnabulation" = ringing in your ears, and no, I didn't have to look it up).
      I can't tell you whether other people do the same. My hunch is they shrug the recondite words off and live with the mystery or, more precisely, forget all about it.
Chex box
Microsoft logo
    Not me. When my cousin Harry, a tech guy in Boston, remarked upon my post on the new Chex box, he pointed out its similarity to the Microsoft logo, adding, "I'm overall not a fan of overly-flat design—skeuomorphism is charming in moderation." 
    Before I even responded, I was on Wikipedia, learning about skeumorphism. New to me.
    The term refers to when physical objects mirror design characteristics of the originals they are based on. A rubber baseball that retains stitching sprang immediately to my mind. The stitches serve no function beyond enhancing the baseball effect (sticklers will argue they facilitate grip, and they do, but toymakers could add plain lines for that. These look like lacing). 
     We see this in computer interface design.  The email button on your cell phone looks like an envelope, even though not requiring an envelope is one of the numerous advantages of email. The stopwatch function has a little watch, complete with push buttons upon it. The pictures are tip-offs to what the buttons do.
     Harry contrasted this with "flat design." Digging into that, I find that the icons I consider skeuomorphs—the little phone on my iPhone—are actually considered instances of flat design, because they are so simplified, though there is some overlap. The blue oblong with an "f" on it that calls up Facebook is flat design.
     I'd say its the difference between cute and severe: a little camera with a flash cube is cute, and thus skeumorphic; a more stylized camera is severe, thus flat design.
     Why so many symbols on computers? The big advantage of symbols is obvious if you consider the issue of restrooms. Once upon a time they were labeled "Men" and "Women" which only helps if you speak English. In the 1960s, we started to get those generic "Man" and "Woman" stick figurines, a descendent of the Isotypes first created in Vienna in the 1920s (a selection of Isotypes is pictured atop the blog). 
    I am just old enough to think of these generic figures as being vaguely futuristic.
    I suppose context is important. The flat design man is what we are used to; it would be off-putting to have an actual person represented in faux three-dimensions on restroom doors. I was in a restaurant recently where the restrooms were identified by photographs—James Dean for "Men," Marilyn Monroe for "Women." It was not clever, not a visually pleasing look, but had an improvised, ad hoc quality to it. It looked cheap.
     Where am I going with this? Hell if I know. I just thought it was interesting, at least did when I started out. But now I feel like someone who balled up paper under a camp fire, then watched the paper blaze away and then die down to a smoldering ruin and the fire never caught. Ah well, better than nothing, which might make for a good slogan for the blog. "EGD: Better than Nothing." I don't have a slogan, or didn't up to now. The next step is a logo or symbol for everygoddamnday—something I've never considered before. What might that look like?

         

24 comments:

  1. http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/technology/2012/11/scott_forstall_fired_skeumorphism_the_design_concept_that_s_tearing_apple.html

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  2. I never thought of your blog as a product needing a slogan though" better than nothing" seems to hint at sarcasm, thats fine. logos are tricky , maybe consult a professional . it bugs me that crags list coopted the peace sign. the seams allow you to get even a rubber ball to curve. and does your work always need a point beyond entertainment or information ? I think not

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  3. I enjoy this kind of writing, Neil. Stream of consciousness, or meditative writing. Almost zen-like. But you wrapped it up nicely in the last paragraph by concluding that you had no conclusion.

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    1. Exactly. No ending is an ending too.

      john

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    2. Sometimes you just have to turn on the tap and let it flow. Catch your thoughts in a bucket. At least you got them out where they can be examined.

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    3. Maybe that's your logo, Neil. A faucet running into an overflowing bucket.

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    4. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    5. How about a stream of words flowing into a bucket with holes around the periphery from which streams of words are exiting the bucket? With perhaps a light bulb or two in some, but not all the outgoing streams. Where's Bill Mauldin when we need him?

      john

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    6. Mauldin? Nah. Tony Fitzpatrick is the man.

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  4. I brings to mind what the Swiss painter Paul Klee, a superb draftsman, said about his technique" "I just like to take a line out for a walk."

    Tom

    Tom

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  5. Well, on and on, every goddamn day...how about the infinity symbol (∞) for a logo?

    Also known as the lemniscate, something I just learned.

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    1. Certainly the infinity symbol should be part of Neil's logo, but it's a bit misleading to state that the symbol is "also known as the lemniscate." I looked it up and "lemniscate' refers to the geometry of the figure, not what it represents.

      Sorry for the pedantry, but if today's blog was about anything, it was about the precise meaning of obscure words, which most of us fudge most of the time.

      John

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  6. 1. I remember being in a Vegas restaurant called "Foxy's" in the mid 60s & the toilets were marked "Foxen" & "Vixen". I was maybe 16 & it took a second to figure out which one to use, but since I knew what a vixen was, I knew to go into the "Foxen" one.

    2. I defy anyone to figure out the symbols on clothing for washing, drying & ironing! I printed & laminated a card with them & their translations into English, so I could figure these idiotic things out.

    3. The same for IKEA instructions. My guess is that someone who is totally illiterate would have an easier time with them than someone who is literate, in whatever language they use, as the drawings are often incomprehensible & just a word or two would make them clearly understandable.

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  7. I believe in journalism school one is taught to eschew prolixity and shun showy words. Sometimes good advice, but we can be grateful that Neil doesn't feel bound by it.

    Tom

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    1. When dealing with news, you're correct. Nobody wants to have to suss a bunch of obscure words trying to figure out the latest disaster. But very little I write is news, and learning a new word now and then is part of the fun. "Anatine" was showing off -- I considered "ducklike," but that would be using "duck" twice and besides, I thought people could figure it out from context.

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    2. Oh wait, "anatine" was yesterday.

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    3. I can confirm! Tom, from the one journalism class I took, from Ed Eulenberg, that my use of adjectives and adverbs was considered "flowery," not to speak of the unusual words I was so proud to dress my essays up with.

      John

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    4. One of my editors once told me, "You send me to the dictionary more than any reporter I've ever had. I thought I had a good vocabulary until you came along." It took me a couple of years to realize that wasn't exactly a compliment.

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  8. A symbol for EGD off the top of my head: The top half of an hour-glass, with the sand coming out in the middle forming a sand castle beneath...

    "... trotting off to the dictionary to look up these words... I can't tell you whether other people do the same."

    Hey, both Mr. Evans and I copped to looking up "anatine" just yesterday! : )

    Regardless of whether there's a point or not, and as much as I appreciate your purposeful and well-wrought eviscerations of ole Rumpy and his minions, I think I enjoy EGD posts like this the best.

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  9. The stitching on a baseball makes curves, sliders, etc. possible, so the rubber ball needs the fake stitches to function as a baseball. The spinning stitches create weird air patterns to make breaking balls possible.

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    1. Sorry -- just saw FME said the same thing...

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  10. The nerd in me looks forward to reading EGD and looking up words! I'm glad I'm not alone!

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