Jeremy Osborn: Designer, Educator, Writer

Jul 15

Quick thoughts on the mobile future

As someone who has spent years talking about, participating in and observing the world of creative media, I recently realized that the “mobile future” I (and others) have been talking about is now the “mobile present”. This is not a particularly astute observation on my part, but I’ve felt this on a more visceral level recently after some recent observations.

  • On a recent business trip I noticed many Amazon Kindles on the airplane, and on a completely anecdotal level I noticed many of them were in the hands of passengers whose hair was decidedly gray. It might sound a bit trite or condescending (it’s not meant to be) but to watch a 70-something browse and purchase e-books wirelessly while our plane was boarding was nothing short of amazing.
  • For years, I have told students who were interested in getting in on the next “big thing” to start designing for mobile devices immediately. I no longer feel the need to say this as I keep coming across former students (originally trained in graphic and web design) gettin’ paid to design for mobile devices. The path for opportunity here is clear.
  • Interestingly, although its cultural impact is a done deal (with 1 million units sold in 1 month), I have yet to see an iPad in the wild. The iPhone/iTouch, on the other hand, is *everywhere*, from the subways of NYC to the swamps of Savannah, I have seen more iPhones this month than I could have imagined.

So what does the mobile future hold in store for us? For hints of this what better place to look than the two innovators in the market: Apple and Google. Much has been written about the increasing competition between these two and it is inevitable that these two companies can only grow further apart. At heart are the similarities and differences in culture. The basic narrative goes like this: Apple’s success in the growing mobile market is largely due to their innovation and focus on the ease of use of their products.  Google also has a well-deserved reputation for creating simple interfaces however and because Google gets “the internet” they might steal Apple’s lead with the Droid.

You need only look at the  parallel moves each company has made in the last 6 months or so to see where we are headed.

  • In December 2009 Apple bought Lala (once my favorite place to stream music online.) In May 2010 Google bought Simplify Media which was once my favorite place to share music with friends. In all likelihood these will form the basis of the upcoming Google Music versus iTunes Live.
  • Also in May Google announces “Google TV” where TV meets the Web. Since May, Apple’s neglected Apple TV system has shown signs of resuscitation with recent news that they may begin streaming services (rather than just downloads) and rumors that the next-generation of Apple TV will share the same operating system as the iPad/iPhone (iOS).

There are other worthy examples of this competition: Apple’s iAd platform being an exceptionally interesting shot across the bow of Google. In the end it helps to keep in mind that although they seem headed on collision course, they have fundamentally different businesses. Google will always look for new ways to get people on the Web, because that’s where the ads are and that’s Google’s bread and butter. Apple is a hardware company that focuses on consumer mobile devices, only 25% of their 2010 revenue came from selling computers. Almost 60% of Apple’s revenue came from the combined sales of the iPhone, iPods and the iPad. Watching how Google and Apple compete over the next few years will be an interesting sideshow, but it is their similarities not their differences that will define what the mobile world will look like in 5 years.

Mar 28

In the mid 70′s and early 80′s I grew up in/around the town of Brattleboro, Vermont. Brattleboro back then (and to a degree still does) owed much of it’s character to a mix of architectural styles (primarily Victorian) and a healthy dose of 1960′s counterculture.

I was thinking recently about how much of this atmosphere I soaked in and assumed as normal, particularly in the downtown area of Main Street. Even the store names were psychedelic, here are some of my favorites:

  • Llama, Toucan and Crow (Health food store)
  • Captain Bullfrogs (Record Store)
  • The Common Ground (Communal restaurant)
  • Mole’s Eye Cafe (Bar)
  • Candle in the Night (Oriental rug store)
  • The Upper Crust (Bakery)

I’m sure there were many more, some lost to time, some lost to my memory. A few still exist I believe.

Dec 28

Copying the Network Path in OS X

This is one of those little issues that has taken me longer to figure out then it should have. I collaborate on a local network quite a bit and often have to tell someone on my team where a certain file is located. Copying and pasting the path directory never seemed intuitive to me, and on OS X (unless I’ve missed something obvious) it wasn’t.

So I finally found the trick in the oft neglected “Services” menu. With any file selected choose Finder > Services > Summarize. This will automatically copy and paste the directory path into the Summary window.

Note: This will also work with some other options in the Services menu, TextEdit for example.

Nov 10

ABC Friday Night Movie intro – The Shining

As a student and practitioner of motion graphics it is hard to separate my sense of nostalgia with the awesomeness of this intro for the ABC Friday Night Movie. This stuff was hard to do without digital tools! The graphics, text, animation, effects, voiceover and music are all perfectly aligned here. It just so happens at the age of 13 I was one of the viewers for this particular showing of The Shining. To set the scene: I watched this with a co-ed group of friends at a late night birthday party for a friend of mine. Much freaking out and screams were heard that night. Good times.

Oct 21

H-mart: bold branding

H-mart, a grocery store chain featuring huge square footage and Korean and East Asian imported foodstuffs has opened a store nearby. Here are some of the designs for past promotional material. I love their use of bold colors and the slightly “in-your-face” composition style. A nice example of visual grammar in action:  you don’t need to understand the language to understand that their brand stands for fresh, clean and healthy food as well as greeters with oversize Micky Mouse gloves.

Oct 20

Inspection Sticker Fail

The Massachusetts DMV has a problem with red ink.( I cannot be the first person to have made this bad joke). See the picture below? On the left is a Massachusetts inspection sticker from January 2009, on the right is another Mass inspection sticker from 6 months later. Looks like someone went with the lowest bid from the printer. Wonder what law enforcement thinks of this? There must be thousands of stickers on the road with colors ranging from white to pink to red.

inspectionstickers

Update: Local Fox News did a report on this several weeks ago. Of all organizations, I can’t believe Fox didn’t go with the “red ink” – “DMV” pun. C’mon people, do I have to do your pandering for you?

Oct 12

Stonyfield Yogurt labeling

Package design, while not my expertise, has always been of interest to me. For example, I followed for days, with fascination, the disaster that was the Tropicana orange juice redesign a few months ago. While nowhere near that level, I did find myself standing in the supermarket aisle the other day scrutinizing this new label from Stonyfield Farms. The type, imagery and colors are all very pleasant, but it took me longer than I would have liked to confirm, that this was indeed yogurt. (The container top was no help either).

Click image to enlarge.

Oct 07

Taillight design in the 21st Century

With few exceptions, the design of most automobiles has hit a dead end for quite a while. I have a theory that the best and brightest designers in the automobile industry have funnelled all of their creativity and passion into designing car taillights. Tracing the design and evolution of these innovative taillights could make a great book or at least a New Yorker article. I’m available for the right price, BTW.

Sep 23

Sinister Sydney

There have been a number of dust storms in the Southern hemisphere that have affected Australia and New Zealand. The city of Sydney has been covered by clouds of red dust that are simultaneously beautiful and sinister. Flickr user Tom Coates has created a gallery of amazing images.

Red Dust gallery on Flickr

Sep 16

Guerrilla DV

Gather around the digital hearth children, here’s a story about a era before Youtube was a glimmer in anyone’s eye. A man ahead of his time, Jason Zada, created a site called WeeklyDv back in 2002. Each week there was a designated theme, anyone could submit a video and they would be put up for critique/comment.

There were a few “rules” to the site that were innovative then (and still would be today). In addition to following a theme, you had to shoot, edit and export the movie in 4 hours or less. I’m a firm believer in the idea of constraints enabling creativity and this was one of the reasons the concept appealed to me.
Over the lifespan of the site I made about a dozen movies, some were better then others, but I always had fun and the WeeklyDv community was a great one.

On a personal note, at this point in my life I was a stay-at-home dad with a 1 year old and the project gave me a much needed structure and creative outlet. In fact, the following clip pretty much sums it all up. Long live Guerrilla Dv!
(P.s. The video starts off severely underexposed but improves shortly!)

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Jeremy Osborn's Blog

This is the weblog of Jeremy Osborn, a designer, educator and writer living in the Boston area. I write here about design, technology and other matters. Subscribe to the jeremyosborn.com RSS feed and follow me on Twitter.

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