You must plan these operations, right? I mean, it’s not like you just randomly seize private property on a whim. This is a failure of project management. You can’t just bring in a designer at the last minute and expect them to polish your design turd. This is your chance to shine. Go wild. Animation, maybe a Matrix-style flow of numbers in the background. Ominous type. Here are some ideas:
One of the most valuable contributions a person can make to an emerging field is to help build its vocabulary. It can be neologism (as in cyberspace) or it can be reappropriated language (as in stock and flow) or it can simply be strong words used with care—as in the following example.
- Formless: ePub, Mobi, HTML
- Definite: PDF, EPUB3 (HTML5/CSS3)
- Interactive: iOS / Android, EPUB3 (HTML5/CSS3)
And he explains:
Formless refers to content that has no inherent visual structure, and for which the meaning doesn’t change as the words reflow. Think: paperback novels.
Definite refers to content for which the structure of the page—the juxtaposition of elements—is intertwined with the meaning of the text. Think: textbooks.
Interactive is, of course, for works that necessitate some interactive component: video, non-linear storytelling, etc.
Formless and definite in particular (also discussed in an earlier piece from Craig) are the terms that best articulate the tension I feel today with the Kindle. On one hand: I love it. On the other hand: the uniform typeface… the arbitrary pagination… books aren’t just strings of characters!!, I want to scream. And yet, sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re formless. Aha. I get it now.
Here’s the true test of new lingo: does it stick in your head and present itself, again and again, in the face of fresh experience? So far, the answer for me with Craig’s trifecta is yes. These are the words I use to organize my own experience of the (crazy new publishing) world, and just as importantly, these are the words I use to scheme about its future. (P.S. I’m totally on Team Definite.)
I’m generally a sucker for The New X, where X can be Liberal Arts, Aesthetic, Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, whatever—but this is actually quite good. More descriptively, it’s probably the sensor aesthetic, or maybe the digital backwash aesthetic. Either way, I think it really is something distinct, something you can sort of get your arms around—not just, you know, a bunch of cool-looking stuff. I’m subscribed.
Remember when I said Gawker Media ought to invest in bespoke, quick-turn design and illustration to transform posts into more than just blobs of text?
Well, they totally did!
To be clear, I am not taking any credit for this. All hail Sam Spratt, Wendy MacNaughton, and the rest of the crew that’s done great (fast!) work on Gawker blogs lately. Also hail Nieman Lab’s Greg T. Spielberg, who, in usual Lab style, took something the rest of us sort of half-noticed in our web peripheral vision and brought it into crisp useful focus.
I will however take credit when, in the year 2014, Gizmodo merges with Amazon to form GIZMODOZON.
Not a lot of time to wax poetic here, but there’s a constellation coming together and I want to make sure I point it out. Things got really interesting for the future of designed content just now:
- Flipboard Pages has the glimmerings of something great. Michael Sippey calls it “a content rendering engine optimized for beauty.”
- Laura Brunow Miner launched a new ad model at Pictory—“big, beautiful photo-based ads with the designer and photographer of the ad credited.” See it in action here. This bodes well.
- Rupert Murdoch has a lil’ launch of his own coming, too: a daily publication built specifically for tablets. I’m excited about The Daily because it’s going to be able to take design risks and learn from them every day, not every month. And we’re all, by extension, going to learn a lot just by watching.
Oh, and guess what? Google still doesn’t “index design,” per se—but it does now bring design directly into search results. Sorta. It’s a start.
Here’s my prediction: 2011 is going to be an annus mirabilis for designed content. The vigor we’re seeing from projects like Pictory and Flipboard, plus the imminent tablet-splosion, sets us up for some really exciting stuff in the next twelve months. Now’s the time to get into the pool. Jump, jump!