Over on Elated, I’ve set out my stall for a next-generation digital design tool which I imagine could one day replace Photoshop. I spend a fair bit of time moaning about Photoshop as regards its use as a design tool, and it seemed important and fair to suggest an alternative approach, and be more constructive.
This week sees the launch of a new bespoke music composition and sound design service from myself and Scott Billings, aka The Wonderland Project. The idea is to tie together all we know about design and branding from our perspectives as a designer and design writer, with our combined passion for music.
From the site:
“Sound affects us. It is instinctive and emotional, yet cerebral and intellectual. Sound influences how people feel about the other things they are experiencing.
We help organisations and brands to harness this power of sound, creating bespoke material composed to suit context, content and audience.”
In a rare moment of productivity, The Wonderland Project have released an actual record. Well, I say record, because that’s the concept my befuddled aged mind can deal with. A long player, certainly. It’s called “Tomato Soup & Ghosts”, and it’s out now.
And in the spirit of helping with the national debt, we’re giving it away for free on the site!
It’s an interesting release from our point of view, underlining what we always felt about the first record – that we’re songwriters first and foremost. Indeed, this new record is almost entirely devoid of the synths, beats and twiddling of “The History of Science”. Instead, it’s mostly acoustic guitar and singing. Almost a folk record without all that tedious vocal flicking and cider.
I always thought that we made folk music anyway to be honest, in the sense that it’s music about folk.
A few thoughts on being a “proper” band.
This lp is not like the first, except that it was made by the same two people. One of those people (not me, obviously) was asking on Twitter this week whether we could be classed as a proper band, since we never actually play on stage. I suggested back that we could, because recording is no less valid than playing live. Essentially, I was getting at the fact that it’s our own preconditioning that makes us feel like we have to play live to be a “proper” band.
On reflection though, I realised that the clue’s in the name. We are The Wonderland Project. It’s a project, more than a band, and one which is for us more than it’s for other people to boot. That means that in turn we can play by our own rules and do whatever we like. We create our own validity.
With that in mind, you’ll likely see a third record at some point in the future; one which will probably be different again. Current discussions revolve around composition more than songwriting, and whether we can get the British Council to sponsor a jaunt abroad to do a lovely A/V show and drink wine.
Hot on the heels of version 1 comes the new Glasnost for iPhone, the enigmatically-named version 2.0. This is really a massive shift in how the mobile Glasnost21 experience works. Where v1 was a toe-in-the-water release, dealing only with Contact Management, the new version adds full Project and Image Management too.
You can add tasks, view documents, check your image galleries and generally work seamlessly when out and about. We’re giving it the marketing push of “Glasnost21 Reinvented”, and it really does feel like that. Take it for a spin today!
After a fairly epic incubation period, the Regent Street Occupiers’ site went live this week. The site is aimed at the businesses working along Regent Street in London, and is the first rollout of the new-look Vicinitee system for business communities.
I’ve been involved in the design of the site, and by and large it has come out pretty well. There are things I’d change, but I think that for the first-time rollout of the new system, we’ve done pretty well. Hopefully there’s lots more to come, including a dedicated mobile version.
This is very exciting news. The first iPhone App I’ve designed is now live on Apple’s iTunes.
It was hard going at times, but the results are nice I think. I hasten to add that I didn’t do the build for this, just the design work. It did make me realise that I wish I could do the build though, since the interaction is so important to how the App feels in your hand. Something tells me I won’t be learning Obj-C anytime soon though.
I’ve written a piece for Elated (note the new sentence-case way of writing that) about the redesign of the site and the new branding elements. In the article, I’ve pretty much bared my soul over the issues we had with the redesign, and also laid bare the design’s version history. The result is a very honest take on how the new look came together.
It was an epic 14 months from start to handover for build, but it was worth it! Matt should be following up with a piece about the build process too, which should be really interesting.
Metropolis, the commercial property leads generation tool, has gone live after an extensive re-tooling. We’ve been looking after Andy King and his Metropolis cohorts for years, so putting this new system live is of massive importance to all of us at Estates Today.
The new system is essentially just one page, pulling all the data from the Metropolis uber-database spanning the last ten years. It was designed from the outset to take advantage of all the interface possibilities of next-gen ajax calls and page elements. It pushes JQuery to the very limit, and is a very fast, slick, elegant system. We hope that all the Metropolis clients will love it!
Indeed it’s hard to escape the feeling that we’re seeing the start of the demise of this once all-powerful organisation. Many of the core products mentioned above seem naturally at odds with the way the world is moving, with online Office-replacements moving centre stage with Google Docs and their ilk.
So here, in my utterly uneducated wisdom, are my top five ways Microsoft can claw back some of that indefinable good feeling for the beleaguered brand.
Make IE9 the best it can be
MS will unleash Internet Explorer 9 sometime next year. You can see where it’s going here:
Some good headline features here, but where’s the commitment to HTML5? Further, how is it possible to brag about an Acid3 score of 32/100? The lack of HTML5 canvas support in particular means that mainstream developers won’t be able to use this most revolutionary of HTML5 tags for years to come.
So, as a list within a list, here’s what needs to happen:
- Proper CSS3 support
- Proper HTML 5 support
- Proper standard @font-face support
Further, testing your site on IE is problematic because you can’t easily install multiple versions of IE side by side. So Microsoft, how about a developer tool that allows side-by-side installs of all the IE browser releases since version 6? Just that one simple thing would bring some very disgruntled web developers back on side, and save us all having to run multiple PCs for testing and indulging in massive hacks to get alternative versions running side by side.
It’s an “infinite journal” with dual screens and what looks like a lovely shiny OS. If they actually got this thing out the door without the Windows team screwing it up it would be a complete win. I would actually buy this so long as it worked, and never purchase another Moleskine as long as I lived. It’s innovative and exciting; just what MS needs.
Win big with Mobile 7
Microsoft’s mobile operating system is in tatters. Mobile 7 has slipped to 2010, and meanwhile, 6.5 has been released as a stopgap measure. With handset makers defecting in droves to Google’s Android platform and the iPhone stealing marketshare like a fox in a henhouse, Microsoft are in real danger of their mobile offering dropping off the cliff.
Windows Mobile 7 has to be spectacular to bring this one back from the edge.
Replace Steve Ballmer
I’m sorry, but the man’s a joke. Even non-techys think so. From the “Developers, developers developers” debacle to his sorry premonitions about what will happen to competing technologies (“There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share“) he has become a byword for what’s wrong with MS.
Get some taste
One of Microsoft’s big issues is very simple: they have no taste. From Windows 7 to Office to IE, MS proves time and again that there’s no-one at the helm with a sense of what makes a product really lovely. Sure, it’s all very shiny these days, but that’s not the same thing at all. Indeed, whilst this surface-level sheen gets them by, the lack of taste shines through.
Whilst the issue is simple, the solution is complex. It requires putting taste at the centre of things. I’ve no idea if MS has an overarching Creative Director or similar, but they could do with one who has the power to stop a product shipping. Sack all the ad agencies who make you a laughing stock and encourage a sense of the aesthetic at every level, including developers.
The Courier mentioned above displays a sense of taste somewhere in the bowels of Redmond. Find those people and promote them.
I have no idea how MS works internally, but from an outsider’s perspective it’s beginning to feel distinctly over the hill. I believe the world is better off with a strong, innovative Microsoft, so come on Redmond, how about a solid kick up the arse?