Elixr for iPhone
A fun, well-made app for recording and rating what you’re drinking. I’ve been testing it out for a few weeks and I’d love to see something like this take off because the data could be extremely useful at scale (not just for individual drinks, but for bars overall).
We were so busy launching and tuning Elixr that I almost forgot to tell you guys about it! The Mobelux team has been designing and developing Elixr for the past few months and we couldn’t be happier with our 1.0.
I’m thrilled to see that people are not only using Elixr, but really understanding the reason behind it. There were a few decent ways to catalog the drinks that you were having, but nothing comprehensive that was letting you share those experiences. And while sharing is core to Elixr, there’s much more than that under the surface. Every time you post and rate a drink you’re helping to build a world-wide database of the best places to enjoy a drink, whether it’s a hand-crafted Old Fashioned or the newest Ale from Dogfish Head.
Creating The Carousel Icon
I thought I’d wrap up Carousel’s anniversary week with a post about creating the icon. It was definitely one of the highlights of working on Carousel over the past year.
It was important to me that the icon feel at home on the Dock next to icons I appreciated and used every day. At the time there was a string of games that were iOS ports popping up in the Mac App Store. The icons for those games were all pulled right out of the iOS bundle and recycled for their OS X counterpart. The thought of anyone filling their Dock with round rects was petrifying so I was very committed to making the icon for Carousel feel like it belonged on the Mac.
Once the direction was set for the Carousel icon I started working up a few sketches before moving into development on the main form.
Once I had a few decent thumbnails it was time to gather up some photos of authentic samples to work from. My main sources of inspiration were these three Kodak projectors:
I chose later versions of the projector because while wonderful in their own quirky way, Kodak’s early Carousel projectors from the 60’s were a little clunky looking. As time passed the revisions to the projector cleaned up the form quite a bit and leaned closer toward the plasticky aesthetic I was hoping to capture. These photos of the hard-shelled mid-70’s Carousels did the trick. They almost looked like toys which I thought would translate wonderfully to a Mac icon. After getting all the source material together it was time to get to work. The only issue? I’d never made an icon for the Mac before.
Usually I go right from sketches to Photoshop when I work up an iOS icon. This time, however, the forms involved in what I was envisioning were too complicated to whip together out of shape paths. That meant it was time to turn to an old friend. I have quite a bit of experience from a past life modeling in Maya so I was able to build a simple wireframe pretty quick.
Hrm. While proportional to a real-life unit, there were quite a few issues with the first render. It was squat, looked like it was hovering and the materials left quite a bit to be desired. Furthermore, the perspective was off. After a few conversations and a little playing around it became apparent that the solution was to make it look more like a toy. There were a few things that worked. The body color was on the right approach, implying a connection with Instagram’s icon and the purple lens tied in to Apple’s new affinity with space themes in OS X. I ended up removing the bezel frame to reduce visual complexity, made the whole model taller and made the lens, adjustment knobs and handles almost comically large. Another key to getting the model to feel right was adjusting the camera angle of view from the standard 35º to roughly 12º. The net effect was that the model gained a lot of character and stature.
It still lacked depth, though. The color was pale. The lens had no life to it. The slide carousel reflections weren’t strong enough. From here I did a final render boosted to production settings and jumped over to Photoshop. A few blend layer effects really brought out the detail in the slide carousel and it didn’t take much to liven up the body color and the lens. Next up were the fine details, like the casting lines, Carousel embossment (in Futura Bold, of course) and the lens lettering. Finally, a multi-depth shadow lifted the model off the surface and completed the look.
I had a lot of fun making the Carousel icon. The icing on the cake was being asked to have it in The Icon Handbook by Jon Hicks late last year. It was quite a thrill getting to see my icon on its own page opposite the icon for Unison, an icon that I absolutely love. Hopefully I’ll have to opportunity to craft up more Mac app icons in the future.
Starbucks Rolls Out New Identity
There are no surprises with the new identity — actually, I take that back, I like the introduction of the surprising new bright green on the cup holder, it adds a nice touch of vibrancy — and everything falls in place with the idea of evolution. Nothing is a vast departure from the current materials people encounter at Starbucks, but it certainly feels new and re-energized.
It’s always interesting to see what a heavyweight like Starbucks does with an identity shift. Whether you drink their coffee or not (I don’t) you will most likely be affected by their design sensibilities due to their scale in the American consumer landscape. This is almost akin to McDonalds tweaking the Golden Arches.
I quite like the realignment. And I’m very glad Starbucks decided to realign instead of redesign. It takes maturity to recognize great design elements and showcase them instead of wipe the slate clean and start over.
“Where the heck were you when the page was blank?”
Looking at the end product it’s impossible to know the journey that the designer took, to appreciate what went into it. You don’t know about the constraints, the compromises, or external forces that shaped the design before you. Certainly the end user is not going to be privy to those details either, but as a designer critquing the work of another designer you should know there is more to it. No one is trying to make shitty software. They’re doing the best they can with the constraints they’re given and the talent they have. Not everyone is a maestro. Maybe these folks are just beginners. Is that how we welcome them into the fold? The point is, they’re making something. That’s awesome.
Remember, it’s rare to see contempt from a software designer or developer towards users. Most people making software are doing the best they can making something for you to use.
In Australia, we have this thing called “cultural cringe.” I could go on and on for ages about the origins of this phenomena, but that’s why we have Wikipedia. Simply put, it’s when a society thinks pieces of culture (movies, fashion, ideas, art) are inherently better when produced overseas, and locally grown culture develops an inferiority complex. Other countries have it, but we’re much better at it here in Australia — stupid-crazy-good at it.
A few weeks ago, while being advertised to at full volume in a movie theater that I paid to be in, an Outback commercial played across the screen. One of my friends leaned over and said “we’re going to look back at these ads and be appalled at how racist they were”.
He’s right. Well, racist may be the correct term, but you get the idea (culturist?). Blaring didgeridoos. Silhouetted kangaroos. Blown out accents and safari jumpsuits. A flurry of boomerangs.
This is the world image of Australia. Cultural cringe indeed. That’s why I was surprised to see how Brand Australia decided to redesign the country’s overarching identity campaign:
Boomerangs? Really? I mean, it’s definitely clever with the allusion to an Australian map and all, but is this really the way to make a clean break for a country that’s been so completely stereotyped?
Might as well just throw another shrimp on the barbie, mate.
Stunning. I’m tempted to destroy a wall in my new house just to have these.