Welcome to my blog, a journal and kernel for design essays, poetry, fiction, images, and the occasional micro-thought.

Half-Half-Half-Baked: A Critique of Microsoft’s Fluent Design System

October 18, 2017

A Windows Logo with Crumbs on It, and a Caption Reading: Dinner is Served

During May 2017’s Microsoft Build conference, Microsoft Corporation beckoned forth its latest user interface design scheme: Fluent Design System. In this case, the term “fluent” has no meaning discernible to ordinary people such as you and me. The company claims Fluent has five foundational elements: light, depth, motion, material, and scale. But most of these promises have come half-half-half-baked from the Redmond Oven. In the paragraphs that follow, I’d like to elucidate their half-half-half-baked-ness, for the benefit of non-designers and designers alike.

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Poor Design in the Wild

February 21, 2017

Old-Fashioned Bicycle with Square Wheels

I call it, “The Ideal Bicycle.”

Purloining a quote from myself, “Have you ever pulled a door only to realize it must be pushed? Or struggled to read squint-worthy text? Or felt repelled by sloppy-looking things? Or wrestled with a timed sink that stops while you are still washing and forces you to rub your soapy hands all over the button that activates it?”

Poor design frustrates.

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Dispelling a “Flat Design” Fiction

November 22, 2016

Flat Earth, with Ships Plunging off the Edge Toward a Waiting Dragon

Illustration source: unknown.

Droves of the internet’s design writers drink from the same metaphorical watering hole. A cursory search of design industry “buzz phrases,” such as “user experience,” “flat design,” “innovation,” and “content is king,” yields much interchangeable rubbish. Today, I feel compelled to debunk one hulking chunk of rubbish that has gone unchallenged for too long: the unsubstantiated claim that “flat design” always represents a better user experience.

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Lemmington Ltd. Re-Brands PEZ, The Home Depot, & eBay

October 18, 2016

Round 2, with Number 2 Made of Company Logos

Lemmington Ltd., the young and disruptive agency, is already at it again: this week, the company presented a second round of major company re-brands.

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Lemmington Ltd. Re-Brands LEGO, Patagonia, & Sun-Maid

October 11, 2016

Box Stuffed with Company Logos

This week, Lemmington Ltd., a year-old agency already known for revolutionizing the industry, has unveiled re-brands of LEGO, Patagonia, and Sun-Maid.

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Subjectivity Counts

September 27, 2016

Line of Faces, One of Which Has a Photo of a Baby’s Face Masked into It

One phrase tramples any discussion in seconds flat: “It’s all subjective.” When designers sidestep subjectivity, A/B tests trump personal taste; “conversions” eclipse common decency; data beats intuition; the ruler rules; designers are not artists.

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The Apple Goes Mushy, Part IV: iOS & Apple’s Razor

September 13, 2016

Everything Should Be Made As Simple As Possible, and Then Even Simpler, etc.

The layperson’s version of Occam’s Razor, a famous maxim, observes that the simplest explanation tends to be the correct one. Another maxim, dubiously attributed to Albert Einstein and saddled with the name “Einstein’s Razor,” goes: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

Today, I coin Apple’s Razor: “Everything should be made as simple as possible, and then even simpler. And then even simpler. And then even simpler.” (Et cetera, ad infinitum et ultra.) Concluding The Apple Goes Mushy, this article will argue three final ways in which Apple has blighted the once-thoughtful, once-human user interface of its linchpin mobile operating system, iOS.

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The Apple Goes Mushy, Part III: iOS’s Interface Peters Out

August 23, 2016

Rotten iOS Icon Dangling from Line-Art Apple Tree

Apple’s OS X (or macOS), which went to the podium in the first two installments of this series, has suffered an interface design decline. But it does not stand alone. Its nine-year-old sibling, iOS, which graces the screens of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, has also mutated from an eminently artful, easy-to-use, and thoughtfully designed operating system into a white slab of low-effort, non-navigable tedium.

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The Apple Goes Mushy, Part II: OS X’s Interface Decline (Conclusion)

July 28, 2016

Healthy Happy Mac, Rotting Sad Mac

In “The Apple Goes Mushy, Part I,” I enumerated six design traits that make computers marvelous to use. I claimed Apple had abandoned all six. Then I covered the first three in detail. Now, please join me as I chronicle the final three ways in which Apple has crippled the graphical user interface of OS X.

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The Apple Goes Mushy, Part I: OS X’s Interface Decline (Introduction)

July 20, 2016

Rotting Finder Face

Wander into almost any online forum or article comment section about a controversial announcement from Apple Inc. and you will almost certainly hear a variation of this sentence: “Apple has gone downhill since Steve Jobs died.” The sentence slithers around vaguely; it never seems to specify how, or in what ways, Apple has gone downhill. I agree, nonetheless, that it has. Whether or not Steve Jobs’s absence caused the decline (though I suspect it did), I grow frustrated as I watch each software update further erode one pillar of Apple’s formerly astronomical greatness.

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At Bay, Part II: Sign Post

June 10, 2016

Signs (Made of Letters from the Signs in the Article)

I elected to capture some of my San Francisco Bay Area trip this January and February in a photographic survey of (what I believe to be) exceptional signs. I chose signs from businesses, towns, and parks: anything that piqued my interest. I have also included extra goodies.

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George Martin: 1926-2016

March 9, 2016

George Martin & Paul McCartney Smile at Each Other

The Icons of iOS, As Done by Me

January 23, 2016

Complete Collection of Reimagined iOS Icons

Last May, in an attempt to improve my skills with both color and Adobe Illustrator, I designed the first of these reimagined versions of the default icons for Apple’s iOS. After the first few, which for a short time I considered discarding, I gave another thought to my original idea with the icons: to do them as I would have done them around the time iOS 6 gave way to iOS 7, an update that vastly changed iOS’s (and, since then, Apple’s) design aesthetic.

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At Bay

January 21, 2016

1915 Map of San Francisco Bay

A 1915 map of the San Francisco Bay (from zpub.com).

January and February 2016 bring me to Oakland, CA. This trip marks my second visit to California (or the West Coast, in general) and my first to this beautiful part of the state. I have a few morsels of exciting news to share, chiefly about my two ongoing internships, my first ever design conference, and a recent LEGO creation.

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Rabbity (A Poem)

November 12, 2015

“Rabbity,” one of my very small number of poems to date, was born and revised during September and October 2015.

My friend dons a mask made of maggots
Wears a wreath round his buck-toothed face
Hosting a ball in that tiny, hollow place
Where once he would have peered out
From between two jungles of eyelashes
I see only a gleaming cup full of ashes.

I’m hearing a million morsels in the mouths
Of five thousand gluttonous nouns
Which earn that title, as each and every
Bloody drop’s a horn of plenty
For them what seems a single ounce
Is to me three hundred pounds.

A downy antenna stands tall atop the heap
Broadcasting a snowy signal south
Toward what was not so long ago a snout.
And all in one moment I am sure:
The down coat is one my friend once wore,
The heap-shaped rabbit in a death-shaped door.

The Nantucket Way

July 22, 2015

Hello, readers. I am back from the latest in a years-long line of annual family vacations to Nantucket, and every time I visit I spot a small army (mostly the undercover units, not the obvious infantry) of visual differences between the “standard versions” and the “Nantucket versions” of many things. I thought I would chronicle some of these here. Let’s begin with Stop & Shop.

Stop & Shop Sign Comparison

Above is the “usual suspect” Stop & Shop logo, followed by a special version made for their Nantucket store. As far as I know, Stop & Shop does not use a nonstandard version of its logo in any place besides Nantucket (if you find that this is untrue, please let me know: nicholas@nicholaswindsorhoward.com). However, they have not only taken the time to make a wooden sign with a gold-painted, protruding, beveled version of their logo; they have also set their letters in a serif typeface. Specially for Nantucket, they eschew their usual color scheme, choice of sign-making material, and corporate typeface.

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The Age of Quiet

June 16, 2015

I wrote this essay for a Bennington College course called “William Maxwell: Writer and Editor.” The teacher of the course was a friend of Mr. Maxwell and is a person whose opinion I respect greatly, and she commended my essay, so I thought I would share it.

Time Will Darken It, Book CoverThere is a quote, attributed most often to Claude Debussy but at other times to a flock of other composers, that reads, “Music is the silence between the notes.” If we think of every word as having a little brass weight dangling from it, the lightest ones are the closest to a literary “silence.” The more these delicate words congregate in one place, the more substantial the silence. William Maxwell weights his words well in Time Will Darken It. Where there is a sublime wispy passage, there is assuredly a weighty one resting in the other pan of the scales. This prose structure does not exist purely for the harmony, pleasing as that harmony is; it reflects one of the novel’s themes: the presence of a divine delicate state, and then the very human spoiling of it.

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Inaugural Post

June 12, 2015

I have wanted a website for a long while now. Thank you for visiting it in its long-past-wanting-stage incarnation. Somehow, I managed to learn all I needed to know to build (i. e. code) my website in about seven weeks earlier this spring.

Expect more soon from most members of that little family of sidebar links. In the meantime, consider this post the breaking of ground, and visit often as I post revised school papers, short stories, and other “wordstuffs” on this page.

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