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A Few Tips for Designing Icons

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icons

Since we design and illustrate a lot of icons for interfaces and infographics, I thought I’d share some tips I picked up along the way for you to consider as you dive into your next icon project. As you probably know, good icons can add visual appeal and structure to a layout, as well as help in navigating a website or communicating a message quickly. However, I’ve also seen my fair share of poor icon design and misuse that can easily ruin a design or hinder a website’s usability. So if you do decide to use icons, make sure you do your research first! As you work on creating new icons, strive to make them easy to recognize and memorize. Remember to: read on

Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year is an Emoji

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94806c4ee47107380399210e7e374685

Yep, it’s true. The Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year is not a word at all. To be more specific, it is the “face with tears of joy,” which is the world’s most used emoji. While a great number of people are outraged, I am intrigued. What makes this so interesting is the fact that symbols are beginning to replace words, making emojis modern day hieroglyphs. We’re reverting back to an ancient form that uses symbols to represent words.

What is most interesting to me is that this particular emoji has such a specific name, but it —like others—is used to convey a range of emotions, thus expanding the intended definition. As a self-proclaimed “Emoji Enthusiast,” I spend time carefully selecting the perfect emojis to insert into conversations, or to replace words or emotions that I’m feeling. But, when we use these symbols, we are leaving them open for interpretation. Does this gap between sender and receiver affect the way we communicate? And, how will this trend of reverting back to symbols for communication progress?

I have so many questions, but what I’ve come to conclude so far is that there are two levels of understanding emojis: the universal interpretation and the personal meaning.

Technology as a Time Machine

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What if before you sat down at a restaurant, you knew which table had the friendliest waiter? Or, if before leaving the house, you knew you would get stuck behind a school bus on your usual route to work? Thanks to Google Maps, Yelp, and other location-based apps, we can get to wherever we want to go. But, what about our experience when we’re there? Or the experience of getting there? We can’t predict if our waiter had a bad day, or if the car in front of us is going to drive 25 MPH under the speed limit. Or can we?

When I was on the NYC subway the other day, I opened my CityMapper app (my favorite app for navigating big cities) and discovered a new feature that reaches beyond the typical GPS functionality. The app now informs you which section of the train is ideal to board, based on your ultimate destination. For instance, I had to transfer trains during my journey, so CityMapper let me know that if I ride in the middle section, I can make an easier and faster transition. Previously, these bits of knowledge could only be acquired through habit, over a long period of time.

This very small detail speaks loudly about what’s ahead in technology and I’m excited to see how it’s going to launch us forward in time, and improve the quality of our experiences.

Two Types of Typefaces

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commercialtype

What would an orchestra be without tuned instruments? A meal without quality ingredients? A building without sturdy bricks? A good composition is nothing without the fundamental elements that make it whole. Like anything that is built from individual parts, graphic design falls flat without great typography. While graphic designers are typically interested in putting pieces together, typeface designers are more interested in building the pieces themselves, as Christian Schwartz pointed out at an AIGA lecture last Wednesday at Parsons School of Design in New York City. Paul Barnes and Christian Schwartz of Commercial Type Foundry spent the evening sharing some of the painstaking process of typeface design as well as the beauty of experimentation.

What stood out the most was when Schwartz mentioned that there are two kinds of typefaces: ones that do whatever you want them to do, and ones that do all of the work. For instance, the typeface they designed for Bloomberg Businessweek, Neue Haas Grotesk, works with the various images featured on the covers. It gives the designers flexibility when designing with a range of images. Dala Floda, on the other hand, is a typeface they designed, whose intricate features let it stand alone. As you can see in the image above on the right, the forms themselves are so complex and unique that they actually become the image and the message.

As designers, it’s our job to work with what we are given, and when the materials are crafted with such attention to detail and enthusiasm, the end result is that much better.

Could you live without technology for a month?

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Yurt in NY.

Photo credit: Airbnb

One man did just that. E.J. Támara went for a full month without technology. He spent the month on the Saint James Way, which is an ancient pilgrimage route in Spain. He wrote about the difficulties he faced and the challenges of not being “connected” as well as the positive impact it had on him.

His story was interesting and made me think back to times when I’ve been without my phone, the anxiety it creates, along with the fear of being totally lost. This always seems irrational since I grew up without most of the technology we have today and did just fine. The idea of not being able to cope without it is a worrying one. We should be able to find time to disconnect and relax, be that with a nice book, camping for the weekend or simply spending time with friends and family.

I just recently adopted a puppy and at times when I’m playing with her, I find I’m dangling a toy from one hand and have my phone in the other reading something online. I always consciously realize I’m doing this, and put the phone down with the thought that “this puppy knows I’m not giving her 100% of my attention because she can’t see my face behind the phone.”

With that in mind, my husband and I have planned a trip to stay in a yurt in a remote part of New York state for Thanksgiving with our new puppy, and we plan on being disconnected! Hopefully we can make it through the trip without frantically driving to the nearest WiFi spot to get “re-connected!”

Read E.J. Támara’s story here.

Corporate Social Responsibility

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Charter Our Community

Amping up corporate social responsibility programs seems to be a trend among our corporate clients. But with all the pressure to compete in today’s global marketplace, it makes me wonder why they would divert their attention to CSR. Is furthering the social good, beyond the interests of the company, really worth it? Or is CSR merely window-dressing? In an effort to enhance home safety within the communities in which they live and work, our client Charter Communications (currently involved in merger talks with Time Warner) recently launched a corporate social responsibility initiative. We were tasked with creating the Charter our Community (https://charterourcommunity.com/) website, which brings together a network of partners to educate and support customers and the public. Designer Hannah Fichandler and programmer Hannah Wool created a lively site where visitors can watch videos, share stories, volunteer, register, and donate to the cause. It’s had over 100,000 page views and 80,000 unique visits since launch in December 2014. I believe that Charter’s new program is really a win-win scenario. As customers and prospects see Charter’s philanthropic work in their own towns, they will probably want to continue using their services. I also think they’ll have happier employees, and perhaps better employees, who want to give their best for a company that they respect.

Have You Heard? Sitting All Day Will Kill You Slowly. My Solution.

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time-out

There have been many studies coming out in recent years that all indicate one thing: sitting all day will slowly lead to your death. It has been equated to “the next cigarette,” and it affects a huge portion of our population in many countries. If you sit all day at a desk, you are at risk of developing serious health problems later in life, such as type II diabetes. Over 90% more likely than normal to get diabetes to be exact. You may think you are safe if you exercise a few hours after you get home, but that has very little effect if you already sat down for over 8 hours in the office.

All is not lost. You can fight this damage being done to your body if you get up and walk around every hour for 5 minutes. This helps keep your body moving and gets your blood pumping through your previously stationary limbs. Only problem is, it can be hard to remember to do this every hour, on the hour.

I found an app that helps you easily remember to do this. It is a Mac app called “Time Out.” It runs in the background and grays out your screen at set intervals and reminds you to get up and walk around for a few minutes. It prevents you from doing anything on your computer screen until the notification goes away to deter you from remaining seated. Of course, if you are in the middle of something on your computer, you can delay or cancel the break with a button press so you aren’t locked out of your computer completely.

If you happen to be on a Windows computer, there are plenty of break reminder apps for you as well. In particular, the app “Workrave” looks particularly good with similar features to the “Time Out” Mac app.

Mac or PC, give these apps a try today to prevent long term damage to your health!

Creating a Feeling

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WNBA_NBACurrently, I’m enrolled in an evening class at the School of Visual Arts in New York called “The Feeling of Design.” The goal of the course is to analyze and construct specific feelings, notions and genres that design can impose on the viewer. In one of my class sessions, my professor, Sue Walsh of Milton Glaser Inc., juxtaposed the NBA and WNBA logos, which, she emphasized, are vastly different in look and feel.

It is almost comical how overtly “feminine” the women’s league is portrayed compared to the men’s. It would make any female designer want to immediately start the redesign process. Everything from the fluid lines, to the pastel colors, to the reference to glitter and sparkles, to using names like “Dream” and “Mystics,” enforces the once-accepted idea that women are more delicate and reserved than men.

Conversely, the men’s logos suggest speed, athleticism and intimidation, with their use of line, color and animal symbolism.

While it is clear that design has the power to enforce stereotypes, it’s important to remember that it also has the power to change them. As designers, we must constantly reference visual history to achieve a certain feeling that connects to our target audience, but it is in that process of transforming something old into something new that we can begin to adjust how people view the world.

Minimize Me

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frap1-1

Upon seeing the Starbucks Mini Frappuccino for the first time, I was admittedly a bit puzzled by this marketing scheme. How many people are actually going to opt for a smaller product that only saves them a few cents? Starbucks claims this mini frap will only be offered for a limited time, which, in my mind, means they are merely testing the waters of this daring business tactic. The more I think about it, however, the more I believe it just might work.

We now live in a society that condemns anything labelled “super-size” and celebrates the clean-eating, cross-fitting, muscle men and women of the world. In a collective effort to reverse our national stereotype as “Fat Americans,” it seems that everyone has jumped on the health and fitness bandwagon. Everywhere you look, you encounter a piece of fitness-centric advertising, from billboards to Instagram posts and everything in between.

Starbucks has translated this health craze to one simple idea: less is more. With the understanding that marketing reflects reality, they merely reduced the size of their smallest serving. With that one simple move, they have promised customers exactly what they want: health and subsequently, happiness.

And if that doesn’t do it for you, you definitely can’t deny the cuteness of the teeny-tiny cup.

Out And About

Last week, Taylor Design took an afternoon off and headed to the Big Apple. Our destination: The Museum of the City of New York to see EVERYTHING IS DESIGN: THE WORK OF PAUL RAND. Rand was a master of American graphic design. He’s at the top of the list of legendary designers studied, admired, and emulated in art schools around the globe. He brought art movements like Cubism to graphic design. He helped revolutionize the advertising world. He created a number of iconic identities and brands still recognized today. read on

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