Camino Planet is the central location for blogs from the Camino community. These posts are uncensored and unabashed. Enjoy with caution.
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 16, 2014 01:00 AM
Gorgeous Apple Juice packaging from Norway, featuring an apple tree illustration by Peter-John de Villiers of byHands.
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 16, 2014 12:41 AM
They are road signs for your daily rituals — the instantly recognized symbols and icons you press, click and ogle countless times a day when you interact with your computer. But how much do you know about their origins?
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 09, 2014 02:10 PM
Do you fancy trying a new OS X Vector Illustration app? An upstart called Affinity Designer is out and even though it’s a first version beta, it already looks like a good competitor to Adobe Illustrator. From when you first launch Affinity Designer and create a new document you can tell that they’re going after Adobe Creative Cloud with their trio of apps aimed replacing Illustrator, Photoshop (Affinity Photo) and InDesign (Affinity Publisher).
Therein, for me, lies the conflict. Sometimes Affinity goes so far in following Illustrator’s path that I can’t help feel its missing an opportunity to take a fresh approach like Bohemian Coding did with Sketch. The Sketch interface is native, bright and yet neutral, whereas Affinity goes for the more contrasting ‘Dark UI’ of Adobe and Apple Pro apps. The advantage with Affinity’s approach though is that there is less to relearn, and you can start ‘feeling at home’ early on. As someone who has spent a long time getting used to Sketch, I would say its well worth the learning curve.
Opening a new Sketch document is a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t constrict you into choosing a document size, or output resolution, its just an infinite blank canvas. You can start working straight away without any confines. If you’re designing a website, the document size dialog restricts your thinking before you’ve even started.
As I do a lot of icon work, one of my first tests in any vector app is whether I can keep all the icon set in one file, and output each one to SVG easily with exactly the filename I desire. Its not ideal to work on icons in isolation, when they’re together you judge balance and consistency at a glance.
Illustrator performs very poorly at this test – it removed the ability to output slices to SVG in CS5.5, leaving only the option to export artboards to SVG. Trouble is, it only allows 100 artboards, a limit that can be easily reached with iconsets like Spotify with three different sizes per icon. Therefore iconsets have to split over several documents. Exporting SVG from artboards also adds the main document name to the filename, when all I want is the artboard name. I’m currently testing a new version of Tom Byrne’s Multi Exporter script, (coming out soon) which makes this process a lot better, and allows layers to output to SVG with exactly the filename you want. If only Adobe hadn’t removed the slice to SVG functionality. Weirdos.
Affinity Designer only currently supports saving the whole document as SVG, and doesn’t have artboards – just slices. However, slices can easily be created with either the slice tool, or by exporting a particular layer, and SVG output is on their roadmap. So that’s good news! Filename is taken from the slice name so you have full control over that. Once SVG output is added, it will overtake Illustrator in this test.
Sketch is the King when it comes to export options however. Export Artboards, Slices or Layers to multiple file formats and folder locations at once. It couldn’t be more flexible. In my day to day work, the balance is tipping between Illustrator and Sketch. The drawing tools in Illustrator are more mature (although still prone to having WTF moments), but Sketch is progressing fast and unencumbered by legacy UI, like having to tick a checkbox in order to just preview an effect. Its 2014 now Adobe, I’m sure my computer can handle it.
My preference is now for working mostly in Sketch. I’ll definitely keep an eye on Affinity Designer though, and more competition for the subscription-based Adobe Creative Cloud can only be a good thing for all of us.
Posted by Jon Hicks at July 08, 2014 01:51 AM
For the rest of 2014, I shall be taking my talk “The Icon Design Process” to America, UK and Germany before I retire it and move on! ;)
Icons are more than just pretty decorative graphics for sites and applications, they are little miracle workers. They summarise and explain actions, provide direction, offer feedback and even break through language barriers. Whether you design icons yourself or just need to be able to work with them, this session will take you through the whole process of designing and deploying resolution independent icons—from the initial brief, to choosing format or method to deploy them. On the way it will cover choosing the right metaphor, achieving visual balance, and using techniques such as icon fonts and SVG for scalable and lightweight distribution
You can hear this talk at the following conferences:
If you’re coming to one of these events, please come and say Hi!
Posted by Smokey at June 13, 2014 03:00 AM
Long after nearly all web standards people had adopted Firefox or Safari, the great CSS guru Eric Meyer was (still) a Camino user. In that capacity, I interacted with him a few times in my role as a member of the Camino team. Today I join with the global community of those who knew or were influenced by the Meyers in presenting a #663399Becca border on افكار و احلام (and background on the main ardisson.org landing page) as a mark of remembrance for their young daughter who tragically passed away last Saturday. I have no more words.
(Via Jon Hicks)
Posted by Jon Hicks at June 12, 2014 02:48 AM
For today, as a mark of remembrance for Eric and Kat Meyers daughter Rebecca who tragically died on the 7th June, this site is showing purple border – #663399. It was an idea put forward by Matt Robin that sites use Rebecca’s favourite colour on the day of her funeral.
It’s so easy to do, there’s no reason not to. Go to Twitter on 12 June and post the hashtag #663399Becca along with any additional words or pictures you feel moved to share. Or just share the hashtag. It will not be enough. Nothing will ever be enough. But it will be something.
June 05, 2014 07:19 PM
This gorgeous piece of Hyrulian art was made by Ryan McKanna with a suggestion from his lovely wife, Jennifer Putzier - two of my dear friends who have an ongoing project called 52 Lasers. This project was started as an effort to branch out with innovative uses for their laser cutter featuring a new project for each week of the year, the least of which is this breathtaking mirror due to inhabit my home and compliment my limited edition Link to the Past 3DS and the Wind Waker Wii U. I am beyond words at how gorgeous this is - I donated it to him as a test project a few years ago and we never quite decided what to do with it. Jen had the brilliant idea to work with a Legend of Zelda inlay and I was just surprised with this out of the blue.
Please check out their work! I am humbled by my amazingly talented friends!
"Hylian", tho. runs away
Posted by Jon Hicks at June 04, 2014 02:03 PM
When Apple announced that the next version of OS X, Yosemite was to use Helvetica Neue instead of Lucida Grande, I was disappointed, but not surprised. The inevitable harmonising of OS X and iOS has meant the former taking design cues from the latter more recent system.
Helvetica looks nice in lighter and heavy weights shown large, but for small menus like this I detest it. Lucida Grande may have been missing an italic version, and looked clunky in bold above 14px, but it works well as an interface font. It also had some character, without being in your face. In a small text context, Helvetica is the absence of character, a bland ‘default’. A nothing.
Fast Company interviewed Tobias Frere-Jones, who identifies the problem with Helvetica succinctly:
Despite its grand reputation, Helvetica can’t do everything. It works well in big sizes, but it can be really weak in small sizes. Shapes like ‘C’ and ‘S’ curl back into themselves, leaving tight “apertures”—the channels of white between a letter’s interior and exterior. So each shape halts the eye again and again, rather than ushering it along the line. The lowercase ‘e,’ the most common letter in English and many other languages, takes an especially unobliging form. These and other letters can be a pixel away from being some other letter, and we’re left to deal with flickers of doubt as we read.
Posted by Jon Hicks at May 19, 2014 03:00 AM
On a ride this weekend I finally got to see one of the fabled Phone Box Libraries. Classic, but now obsolete, red phone boxes are being converted into small independent libraries for communities lacking in a such a facility. In this case of this one in Gawcott, Buckinghamshire, it’s a book swap.
From Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm, you can bring a book and and swap it for another. The cynic in me expected it to be trashed, but it’s obvious the locals respect and use it. I love how it keeps these beautiful pieces of iron architecture in use!
Posted by Jon Hicks at May 16, 2014 01:39 AM
Last Autumn I was contacted by Andreas Holmström, Lead Communications Designer at Spotify, to see if I’d be interested in working on a new icon set to accompany the major redesign that was underway in-house. As a music fanatic, and a keen user of Spotify for about 6 years, I jumped at the chance! It’s fair to say I’ve discovered more new music with Spotify than any other medium, and I use it as much as a way of previewing albums I’m thinking of buying.
A month ago the full redesign was unveiled, and I’ve finally had a chance to write up some of the process and decisions that were made…
I always start a large icon project with what I call a ‘discovery phase’, where we select a few icons to look at first, and consider different approaches, metaphors and styles. It also helps ensure we get the size, format and file naming correct before cracking on with the rest. Working with Andreas, Stanley, Daniel and Sebastian from the Spotify design team, we set about defining the new icon set. The brief was to create an icon style that would be simple, rounded, friendly and intuitive (without being childish or cute), while considering existing brand elements such as the Spotify logo, Spotify Connect icon, and the Proxima Nova typeface that was being used for the redesign.
We started with Album, Artist, Collection (which became Your Music), Discover, Playlist, Profile and Radio:
One of the challenges was representing something that doesn’t have physical form. There are of course existing metaphors for parts such as the audio player controls, but how do represent the actual music? Spotify’s music library is immense, and yet doesn’t have any appearance as such.
An early idea was to use an iconic album cover – in this case, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon:
In this case however, both Vinyl and CDs have a similar appearance – two circles within a square. We decided this much simpler design would work best. In particular, (my personal favourite) the Browse icon is intended to extend this, and hark back to the days of nimbly flipping through racks upon racks of albums. Nostalgia? Certainly, but it hasn’t done ‘envelope for email’ any harm.
We also tried out other music metaphors, such as a band’s setlist, or a cassette mixtape for Playlist, and a backstage pass for Profile. While mixtapes are decidedly ‘old school’ they are a unique and memorable symbol in their own right, but the simpler musical note is an established convention.
Iterating on these we developed a set of rules to design the rest of the iconset:
- There are 4 main sizes for each icon – 16,24,32 and 64px. As the size increases, the stroke widths are scaled to a lesser extent to avoid icons looking too ‘chunky’ when shown large. So a 1px stroke at 16px doesn’t actually mean a 4px stroke at 64px (below right), rather a 2px stroke (below left).
- Opt for the simplest metaphor possible in each case. For example, we decided the Your Music icon could work without the suggestion of the shelf at the bottom.
- All corners are rounded off, except where an element exists beyond the boundary – such as the microphone stand in Artist. The radius is on average 1.5px at the 16px size, but it varies depending on the object.
The next stage was to tackle the much larger ‘Genre’ icons that you can see in Browse. Unlike the main interface icons, there was more room for exploration and a little detail.
One fun idea I explored, but rejected early on were ‘busts’ (busticons if you will)
Redfoo was used for the “Party* icon (Party Rocking?) but we decided it could all be too obscure. It’s also harder to portray categories like Mood this way.
The direction we decided was this: for specific genres of music, convey it with an instrument that is representative of the genre. Particularly for rock and its sub-genres, there were several guitars that were ideal for each. Gibson Les Paul for Classic Rock, Flying V for Hard Rock, Fender Jaguar for Alternative and so on (these sub-genres aren’t visible in the app yet, but hopefully will be in the future):
I looked at showing the instruments in perspective, to allow them to be shown as a whole, but the result wasn’t as effective, or consistent with the rest of the set:
The other type were mood/atmosphere based which we represented with non-musical objects, such as the egg chair for Chill (right).
The project is still ongoing, and in particular there will be more Genre icons to add to the set!
Posted by Jon Hicks at May 09, 2014 09:56 PM
I’ve just discovered a new game you can play on Strava – Top Trumps! View Marianne Vos’s profile on Strava and you can do the same! It’s fair to say I’m one of the ‘dud cards’ in the pack!
May 07, 2014 09:38 PM
My fake aunt, dapper as fuck.
May 07, 2014 09:06 PM
High Contrast — Spectrum Analyser
Posted by Jon Hicks at April 07, 2014 06:57 PM
Cyclists, ‘people who ride bikes’, whatever you like to call yourselves, I’ve launched a little low-key side-project-blog-thing called Ride Stories.
Rides create lasting memories, whether it’s an around the world challenge or your favourite quick local spin, but often all we have to share is the Strava data. The sights, smells and emotions can’t be recorded as easily as miles, cadence and heart rate, but writing the story can enthuse and entertain others.
Maybe you have a ride story to share ?
Posted by Jon Hicks at April 03, 2014 01:49 AM
I’m very excited that the new Spotify redesign is finally live and public today! I’ve been living with this new UI for a few months now, as I’ve been working with Spotify to create a new iconset to accompany this design. Its been a fantastic project to work on, and need to some spare time to write a more detailed blog post about the process. In the meantime, this article on Wired UK will do nicely, and I was particularly to chuffed to read this tweet this morning…
Still drooling over the new Spotify UI. Those icons.— Chris Braniff (@chrisbraniff) April 2, 2014
Posted by Jon Hicks at March 22, 2014 02:47 AM
It was my great pleasure to speak at Smashing Conference Oxford this week, in the guise of ‘The Mystery Speaker’. If you follow me on Twitter, this will explain my behaviour that week:
Currently in Albania. Definitely not at #smashingconf— Jon Hicks (@Hicksdesign) March 18, 2014
My talk was ‘The Icon Design Process’, a tour through creating your own iconsets, from starting brief to choosing the right deployment method – iconfonts or SVGs. So much has changed the last few months in regards to deployment methods, and I fully expect the techniques to go out of date in another few months time! Such is the way of the web.
I will be writing a longer, more comprehensive blog post soon, going into the various options for using SVG, and providing fallbacks as there are many useful methods. While I couldn’t go through all of them in my talk, I highlighted the one that I prefer at the moment, Grumpicon. Until then, please download the slides which includes notes and links!
Posted by Jon Hicks at March 21, 2014 04:46 PM
When the Icon Handbook was first released, back in 2012, it coincided with some rather more important life priorities and as such I didn’t market it as well as I might. In particular, the website was left half-finished, lacking a mobile view, SVG icons and a icon size reference chart that was rapidly going out of date. I’ve since not found the motivation to go back to it…until now. Smashing Conference in Oxford this week (more on that next) gave me a kick
I still have more plans for the site, but at least for now I’m not so embarrassed about the stylesheets, or outdated information. ALL the icon reference charts have been updated to reflect the missing new changes (Android xxhdpi and xxxhdpi, iOS7, Blackberry 10, Windows 8), and charts for Symbian, Meego and Ubuntu have been removed. Ubuntu will be back as soon as they send me the new info! I’ve also updated the Favicons page to add new sizes like Windows 8 Pinned Tiles, and remove things like Opera Speed Dial images that are no longer applicable.
If you haven’t bought a copy yet it’s on sale until the end of March, so now is a good time!
Posted by Jon Hicks at March 11, 2014 05:44 PM
I recently chatted with Jamillah Knowles of the BBC Radio 5Live show Outriders about icons, and the episode ‘Symbols and Signs’, is now available on the BBC Podcasts and Downloads page, or download directly as an mp3.
The episode looks at how Unicode works, emoticons and the power symbol, while I talk about the difference between Logos and Icons, and the challenges of icon metaphors with localisation.
Posted by Jon Hicks at March 07, 2014 08:50 PM
Winter! Your bike gets clogged up with destructive gritty paste off the roads and it feels like the drivetrain needs cleaning every few days to keep it running smoothly. However I recently picked up a tip that has made a big difference, and you may already know it:
Before you do anything, spray the cleaner on the bike first.
I normally try and rinse of the bike first, and get rid of any big clods of muck, and then I use Muc-Off Bike Cleaner, for which you can buy concentrated refill bags to dilute and top up. Even that directs you to rinse with water first, but doing so means the degreaser is diluted on contact and therefore less effective.
I now spray the degreaser first, let it soak in, and then attack it with one of these Park Tools brushes:
You only get them in a pack of several types, but this is the only one I find I need to use (apart from occasionally the one for cleaning between your cogs). It gets into all the nooks and crannies!
Posted by Jon Hicks at February 15, 2014 05:23 AM
I’m loving SoundCloud right now, as there are some real gems out there. This is a live recording of A Winged Victory For the Sullen (AWVFTS) with the ACME string ensemble at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Sculpture in Pittsburgh on November 2nd 2011. I’ve raved about AWVFTS on here before, but they are a collaboration between composer Dustin O’Halloran and Stars of the Lid member Adam Wiltzie. Think ‘Classical Ambient’ to get an idea of the sound.
And that sound is just beautiful – perfect late night music!
Posted by Jon Hicks at February 13, 2014 09:00 PM
I change my bikes more often than I change my trousers, and I’m embarrassed about both those facts. The trouble is, you need more than a single test ride to know if a bike is right for you or not, and I’ve given the Boardman CX over four months now, and decided I needed to change it.
Backpedalling at bit to last September: With winter approaching, I’d been thinking about assembling my ideal commuting/winter/all round bike. Something practical and versatile, that would not only be suitable on roads, but capable of a bit of off-road too. My direct commute is only a mile, and while I normally add a bit more, there are some longer routes that I can do that involve potholey/rocky towpaths. They can be done on a road bike, but can be a little nerve-wracking.
So, I wrote a list of what I wanted for a go-anywhere, do-anything bike, but still with drop bars:
- Clearance for large tyres, for more comfort and grip.
- Ability to fit proper mudguards, not matter how much I hate the sight of them. On the commute they make all the difference, and anyone riding behind me (unlikely, but might happen) can get the benefit of no spray in their face. The previous winter I used my Canyon AL with Crud Road Racer clip on mudguards, but they drove me insane. I couldn’t use a tyre larger than 23mm, and they constantly rubbed and bent. I burnt them in a ritual sacrifice as soon as Spring looked likely, along with all the other clip-on style mudguards I’d tried. I’ve bought SKS Bluemels in Matt Black which at least makes them a little less distracting.
- Disc Brakes. Even with decent quality rim brakes they took a while to stop in the wet, so I wanted to give mechanical disk brakes a go.
- Didn’t have to be steel, and as I would be carrying my bike upstairs at the office, aluminium would mean a lighter bike.
- It also had to be something I’d want to ride. If it was overly heavy and ugly, I would just ride something else.
That list meant a Cyclocross (CX) bike, and after a lot of research, there was one that really fitted the bill, the Boardman CX. Unlike ‘pure’ cyclocross bikes it still had things like bottle cage mounts. To top it off, the colour scheme (subtle dark metallic grey and yellow) and graphics looks fantastic. So, I kept an eye on ebay, and before long a brand new frameset turned up! This gave me the opportunity to build it up with own components.
It worked OK for a while, but the more I used it, I realised it wasn’t the best decision…
- Mechanical Disc brakes were a pain in the bum from day one. Mainly the loud ‘honk’ like screech it made, especially in the wet. I tried everything to stop the noise, but I only succeeded in making it slightly quieter for a while. Changing to hydraulics would’ve been an answer but by this point I’d had enough! I’m sure disc brakes will be the future, but I’m not a fan at this point.
- I didn’t enjoy off-road as much as on-road. It was slower and required more bike handling skills, and I felt a big difference going back to road – it was such a big relief to be able to speed up again. I’m not disregarding off-road completely, as the lack of traffic is very appealing, I just think next time I’ll do it on a Mountain Bike instead.
- I wasn’t aware of the differences of a CX frame, like the higher bottom bracket for mud clearance. In general, the geometry/fit just wasn’t as comfortable as my Colnago.
- It was still fairly heavy. Now winter bikes are supposed to be heavy, but I need all the help I can get up hills, and couldn’t help thinking of the penalty I was paying for a CX bike with disc brakes.
Back to now…That’s all a very long-winded way of explaining that I’ve changed the frame and wheels for a Genesis Equilibrium. I’ve been eyeing these up ever since I started cycling, and love their mix of modern and classic/retro steel looks. Plus they fit the bill with geometry and mudguard clearance, and are available to buy as just a frameset. So I’ve taken the plunge and had one built up (by PushPedal again) using components from the Boardman build and my singlespeed project. While I would’ve preferred black (and almost went with a Kinesis T2 for that reason) but I liked the cream (with black groupset and brown saddle/tape) for a change. It will show up mud more, but unlike my water-collecting internal-cabled Colnago, I can at least hose it down easily.
So far the ride has the lovely ‘springiness’ that the steel frame is famed for, and the geometry feels spot on. Will report back!
Posted by Jon Hicks at February 12, 2014 03:30 AM
What a cool surprise! Courtesy of my old Opera colleague Knut-Jørgen Rishaug and his mum, the most fantastic hand knitted TARDIS socks!
Thanks Knut – I still miss working with you!
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 28, 2014 03:40 AM
I’m approaching three years of being on a road bike, and I’ve finally had a proper bike fit. I’ve always known I needed one, but have ‘got by’, doing my own fettling. Two things motivated me to get it sorted:
Firstly, there hasn’t been anywhere locally to get one done, but as of four months ago, Witney finally has a decent bike shop in the shape of Mickey Cranks (not, as it sounds, a cockney gangster) offering Retul Bike Fits.
Secondly, while the position on the Colnago wasn’t perfect, riding the Boardman CX has actually felt painful – in the feet, knees and calves. The last time I was out I muttered “I’m. Going. To. Get. A. Bloody. Bike. Fit!” all the way.
So… how far out was I?
The main difference was in my cleat position which was way out, the cause of the knee/foot pains I was having. They also compensated for the higher Q factor of the Boardman so that I could use the same shoes/cleat setup on both bikes. Then both saddles went up a few mm, and forward a fair bit (10-16mm). Combined with the new cleat position, this placed me correctly over the pedals.
The final change was to the handlebars, which went lower, especially on the Colnago. I’d been getting problems with very hands and had thought this has meant that the bars weren’t high enough, but the opposite was true. Which is fine by me, as lower bars/stem are more aesthetically pleasing ;)
It also confirmed that the Fizik Aliante was the right saddle choice for me – someone with low back flexibility who rotates their pelvis forward more to compensate. While it’s not quite as sleek-looking as the Arione or Antares, the Aliante is a jolly comfy fit, and I love the ICS (Integrated Clip System) saddlebags that clip into the back of Fizik saddles. It makes it very easy to swap it between bikes, and there’s no velcro, which I find never lasts very long.
I now have a proper cleat and bike setup, as well as a definitive set of measurements for setting up other bikes. While I’m still not 100% sure the Boardman Cyclocross Frame and disc brakes were the right choice for my winter/commuter bike, it’s not painful to ride anymore. I wish I’d done this from the start!
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 28, 2014 02:16 AM
I like it! Simple and classy, mixing sombre dark blue with the red coat lining, and Doc Martens. Its like Jon Pertwee’s costume with less frills, and the very antithesis of Colin Baker’s. Colin has always said in interviews that he hated what producer Jon-Nathan-Turner had made him wear, I bet he wanted something like this!
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 25, 2014 06:32 PM
It’s rare for me to enjoy a conference so much, but Milton Keynes Geek Night All-Dayer was tremendous! I enjoyed every single talk and took something away from each. Big round of applause then to David Hughes and Richard Wiggins for organising it, and to all the many folks that helped it run smoothly. I’ve come away with some new enthusiasm, and hope that the motivation sticks.
I was talking about the importance of having a Shed, a metaphor for saving some time for experiments and creative challenges. Not long time consuming side-projects necessarily, but short things – perhaps even as little as a couple of minutes. I’ve uploaded a PDF of my talk here – such as it is without the audio to make it understandable. As far as I know the sessions were all recorded, so that missing part may well appear!
Links mentioned in the talk
- Banana Drawings
- Stefan G Buchers Daily Monster
- Lunch Bag Art
- Daniels Daily Monsters
- Lavatory Self-Portraits in the Flemish Style by Nina Katchadourian
- ooOOOoooh! by me
- Doged version of the Firefox Logo (not by me)
- Brendan Dawes the King of Sheds
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 25, 2014 06:20 PM
I’m filing these under ‘too good to wear’ and ‘yes please’!
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 25, 2014 04:46 PM
So, Squarespace launched it’s Logo Designer this week, and as expected, there was a lot of vitriol and scoffing on the Twitters. However, while I had a chuckle creating the above logo, I stated at the time:
For the record, I don’t see anything wrong with the Squarespace Logo Generator. It is what it is, and for some people its all they need.— Jon Hicks (@Hicksdesign) January 23, 2014
Tom Actman writing for Creative Review sums it up nicely:
The issue for many it seems is that this new service cheapens their own offering, or somewhat undermines their own skills. Neither are the case. McDonald’s can comfortably exist alongside Michelin starred restaurant The Fat Duck. They both offer a culinary solution, but they’re not in competition with each other, or importantly, trying to be.
In fact, I think the Squarespace generator is a superb way for someone to get started with some sort attractive identifying mark, without the reliance on shitty clip art or standard MS Office fonts. As Tom goes on to say “The market gets saturated with bland and familiar logos, driving good clients towards great designers for better stand out”. Exactly!
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 17, 2014 04:36 PM
I’ve now completed a few icon projects for clients where the deployment method has been a font. It’s a fairly painful process, but a great way of providing resolution independent graphics to all sorts of browsers, including as far back as IE4. The alternative has been SVG sprites, which work, and allow multiple colours, but to me have been even more of a pain to implement.
Something I hadn’t considered a problem until recently, was
font-face support on mobile, which of course iconfonts rely on. Ian Feather (Front End Developer at Lonely Planet) wrote about this in Ten reasons we switched from an icon font to SVG.
The Filament Group have done a lot of work on this, and their research showed that the top 5 browsers without font-face support have a user base that can’t be ignored:
|Opera Mini||261 million|
|Nokia XPress browser||70 million|
|Blackberry 4 & 5 – stock browser||20 million|
|Android 2.1 – stock browser||10 million|
|Windows Phone 7 – 7.8||10-15 million|
These user numbers are estimates, but the total number of devices that don’t support
font-face is around 370 million. This may or not affect your project – at least one of my clients uses the iconfont within an self-contained application, and it will never be viewed in any browser. Thankfully, the Filament Group also provide two solutions:
Bulletproof Icon Fonts – if you have to use icon fonts, here’s a way to implement them with fallbacks.
Grunticon – takes a folder of SVG/PNG files, and outputs them to CSS in 3 formats: svg data urls, png data urls, and a third fallback CSS file with references to regular png images, which are also automatically generated. So you can avoid the hassle of working out sprite positions and still get each icon setup with a class name, just as you would with an iconfont tool like IcoMoon. I haven’t had a play with this yet, but it looks very promising indeed!
Finally, a very useful tool if you’re exporting SVG from something like Illustrator, is svgo ui, an easy drag and drop front end to the svgo command tool for optimising file sizes. I find I save on average about 30% on my icon files!
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 07, 2014 11:23 PM
There’s a popular equation with cyclists, that the ideal number of bikes to own is n+1. However many you have, you always want another one. Given unlimited funds and garage space it would be great to have a bike every occasion, such as a Surly Moonlander for when it snows, a cargo bike for doing the shopping and so on. It’s not to be, and I do try and keep my number bikes down, and enforce my own ‘one in, one out’ policy.
That doesn’t mean I don’t try a lot of bikes though, and I’m always fettling or trying something else. In my current stable are:
Colnago CLX 3.0
A lovely carbon road bike that is a joy to ride. Comfortable, ‘chuckable’ and as fast as I can make it. It doesn’t hold me back, I hold it back. It is perhaps too nice to ride through winter/commuting and all its gritty muck however, especially with its lack of mudguard clearance. Which is why I put together…
Boardman CX Custom build
I wanted a versatile, ‘do anything, go anywhere’ bike for winter rides/commuting with the ability to run larger tyres and mudguards at the same time, with possibly disk brakes for better stopping power in the winter. This criteria usually means a cyclocross bike, and I found a Boardman CX aluminium frame + carbon fork on ebay that fitted the bill perfectly, and was built up by local bike guru Darren Kiley at PushPedal. To top it off, the subtle dark metallic grey and bright yellow colour scheme really appeals to me. I currently run it with 28mm tyres, but can go up to about 38mm (Photo shows it with 35mm Sammy Slicks). Tempted to try snow and ice tyres on it when the time comes!
And then up until a week ago, I had these two as well:
Singlespeed, Guvnor Style
Its been two guises before this, as my first road bike, a Charge Plug inspired singlespeed, and now as a ‘Pashley Guvnor’ style ride. It kind of worked, but not well enough. The racing frame didn’t really sit well with the inverted North Road Handlebars, as it doesn’t have the correct ‘slack’ geometry of the Guvnor.
Canyon Ultimate AL
Before my Colnago was the Canyon, a brand new frameset that I had built up with parts from my then-current bike, a Specialized Allez. It was fantastic bike, lightweight and stiff but with some comfort too. I had intended to sell it when a got the Colnago, but couldn’t get a decent price for it, and decided it was worth more to me to keep.
These two are no more however, as I finally found a buyer the Canyon, and I’ve disassembled the singlespeed to sell for parts, all to make room for the latest addition…
Handmade in Stratford-Upon-Avon as a homage to the ‘Path Racers’ of the 1930’s. Bought second-hand via a well timed advert in Gumtree, but in fantastic condition. As I may have mentioned a few times, I’ve been hankering after one of these for ages, and selling the Canyon made it possible.
The ride is an absolute joy, and yes, hills are a bit more work than usual. Its not as heavy as I’d remembered it though, and I can lift it up the stairs at the office easily without inducing a hernia. I’m looking forward to riding it further afield than the commute to my office, and hopefully joining the Guvnors Assembly on one of their jollies! The problem with a bike like this is that none of my existing gear and accessories (Helmet, Clothes, Water Bottles, Lights etc) suits such a gorgeous machine!
So I’m now back down to a more manageable three, at least until I the next one…
Posted by Jon Hicks at December 31, 2013 10:51 PM
Before the year ends, I’ve just got time to publish my favourite tunes of 2013!
As this is a Spotify Playlist, it lacks a few artists, namely Atoms for Peace, Burial, Bill Callahan and the latest self-titled EP from Phantogram (the latter of which is still bizarrely not available in this country!). Without doubt, this was the year that I discovered The Besnard Lakes and fell in love with them!
Also, usual rule applies: most on the list was released this year, but not all.
To sum up, my top ten favourite albums this year were:
- The Besnard Lakes: “Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO”
- The Besnard Lakes: “The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night”
- Christina Vantzou: “No 1”
- Steve Mason: “Monkey Minds in the Devils Time”
- Atoms for Peace: “AMOK”
- Phantogram: “Phantogram EP”
- Midlake: “Antiphon”
- Teen Daze: “The Inner Mansions”
- Hammock: “Oblivion Hymns”
- Anna Calvi: “One Breath”
Strangely, albums by SPC ECO and The National don’t appear this year – there were good songs on both new albums, but the album as a whole didn’t grab me.
Finally, it was sad to see to news today that Benjamin Curtis of School of Seven Bells (a regular on my end of year lists) has died after a year long battle against cancer. He was only 35.
Posted by Jon Hicks at November 04, 2013 05:58 PM
The Rissington Podcast may be no more, but I’d always intended its site to stay as an archive of the episodes that John and I did manage to record. However when my old web host did a server upgrade, the Textpattern database was corrupted. I was told it was easy for them to fix, but after a year of nagging them I gave up.
This was it’s fate, the CSS would no longer load, and various Textpattern errors were spat out…
I couldn’t even access via FTP anymore. Did I have a backup of the database? No. What an eejit. Lesson learned.
So, using what files I still had locally (which wasn’t much, whoops), and the Wayback Machine, I’ve restored the site, and moved it to its new host at Engine Hosting. All the URLs now work, and all past episodes can be heard and/or downloaded, should you want to!
<audio> tag instead.
So, The Rissington Podcast is back, even if there isn’t anything new to listen to…
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 26, 2013 02:35 PM
A brilliant summary of all the reasons for cycling by the excellent Bikeyface!
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 17, 2013 12:05 AM
Last Friday I was invited onto Malarkey’s Unfinished Business podcast while Anna Debenham was away. We had a lovely chat but sadly I seem to have a habit of saying “y’know…” every other word, and giggling like a schoolboy at the double entendres. Despite that we talk about new and old iPhones, Doctor Who, Rissington Podcast and the businessy side of things.
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 11, 2013 07:16 PM
Finally – the BBC has started marketing the 50th Anniversary Special for Doctor Who! It was getting a bit close the date, but at least the ball seems to be rolling now, with this rather splendid poster artwork. A closer look at the bits around John Hurt show that the ‘Bad Wolf’ story arc is making a reappearance…
…which will be interesting :)
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 06, 2013 09:13 PM
When I first got into cycling back in 2010, I blogged about how the Pashley Guvnor ‘epitomised everything I wanted aesthetically in a bicycle’. At the time, I wasn’t interested in modern bikes and wanted something with vintage feel. The Guvnor stood out amongst a sea of gaudy and overdone colour schemes on one side, and twee retro on the other.
I didn’t want to spend too much on a bike though, in case it became another one of my ‘temporary hobbies’. The Guvnor felt too expensive at the time, so I went for the Globe Daily at half the price. However, over the last two years I’ve gone from Globe Daily, Steel Peugeot (off ebay, which became my singlespeed), Specialized Allez, Canyon Ultimate AL and Colnago CLX 3 (the last two are my current steeds). My eyes were quickly to the beauty of modern bikes with companies like Canyon that make bikes with restraint in the graphics, and a high quality of finishing to boot. I really appreciate my carbon Colnago when it comes to hills.
Even so, I can’t get the Guvnor out of my head almost three years later. This probably isn’t helped by the fact I’ve been following the weekend jollies held by The Guvnors Assembly. I’ve always had a niggling thought in the back of my head (particularly in autumn strangely) – “Yes it’s heavy, but what is it actually like to ride?”.
So, when the family went to Stratford-upon-Avon last weekend, I couldn’t help but pop along to the Traditional Cycle Shop for a wee test ride! Yes, it was as heavy as a battleship (but probably not as heavy as other Pashley models like the Roadster), but my first feeling on mounting it was one of comfort. The Brooks B17 saddle was a revelation – I could really feel the ‘hammock’ effect. The swept-back hand position was odd for the first second or so (maybe as I was expecting the bars to be flatter), but this went quickly, and I realised it was a similar to my normal hand position on my road bikes.
When I rode it, it was like being on an elegant steamroller. It took very slightly longer than my road bike to get it up to speed, but once it was going, it just seemed to cruise over rough ground with ease. Very comfortable and an utter joy to ride. The only time the weight will be an issue is when I carry my bike up and down the stairs to my office (only twice a day every week – hey ho!).
Despite that practical consideration I just want one more now that I’ve tried it. I want to put on my tweed flat cap and take an autumnal ride through the streets of Oxford where the low sun makes the old colleges look golden. Ahhhh, bliss.
In the meantime, I’m going to go back and alter my singlespeed project to adopt some the Guvnor aesthetic. It won’t have the correct slack Path Racer geometry, but it will tide me over until I can get one. Which is going to be difficult, because I’m also hankering after a cyclocross bike, but that’s another story…
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 05, 2013 06:07 PM
In a break from the normal waffle about Dr Who, Bikes and Icons, I thought I would let UK readers with a love for the handmade know about LifeCraft.
Run by friends Layla, Leigh (that’s Mrs Hicks!) and Georgia in Oxford, Witney and Marlow, they offer contemporary creative workshops and short courses.
We believed we could make a difference to people’s lives through craft. It is, after all, good for the soul.
LifeCraft only launched last year, but they’re growing fast, and one of the many new courses on offer are special workshops at the Cath Kidston shop in Marlow, Buckinghamshire. Workshops start next week, and you can learn Lampshade Making (with fabric from the Cath Kidston shop) and Decorative Plate art.
Workshops cost a mere £20 to book (+ £10 on the day for Lampshade fabric) – see the LifeCraft website for full details. Please pass word around!
Posted by Jon Hicks at September 04, 2013 01:59 AM
The latest version of iOS, the ‘kinda funny lookin’ iOS7 is almost upon us, and if you haven’t already started working on it, here’s an overview of the changes…
First of all, the Application Icons are now slightly larger:
- iPhone: 120px (retina)
- iPad: 76px (iPad 2/iPad Mini) and 152px (iPad 3)
As iOS7 only works on retina iPhones, you don’t need to supply a 60px version, just a 57px one for apps that will also run on iOS6 or earlier.
The corner radius has changed too – where previously it was based on the original iPhone non-retina icon (10px on the 57px icon) its now a mystery. Mani have a really in-depth investigation to discover the formula for the new radius, but my personal advice is not to worry about it. Make sure you don’t have any design element around the edge, such as a border, that relies on it. Just place a mask on a layer above to give you the rough idea, and carry on supplying your icons with square corners.
Style, or the lack of it
There’s been a lot of talk about Grids and Golden Ratios – my advice is to not to worry about these too. By all means use the grid as a starting point, but don’t feel bound by it.
Apple’s new iconset is inconsistent, and ranges from the basic (Calendar) to shockingly immature (Game Center). I didn’t pass any comment when iOS7 was first announced as I believed that the designs would take evolve and mature. They haven’t though. When I compare it to my Windows 8 phone, with its clear, bold and consistent icon style, I just sigh.
Sorry, this isn’t meant to be a rant! Safe to say, I’m “not a fan”.
Finally, ‘prerendered’ no longer exists as an option – iOS7 has removed the gloss overlay for all icons, so if this was something you wanted in your design, you will need to add it to your artwork.
- iOS7 Design Cheat Sheet - a very comprehensive reference of all new sizes (I haven’t had time to update The Icon Handbook reference yet!)
- New Metrics for iOS7 App Icons - Great tips on App Name length which is more of an issue in iOS7
- Marc Edwards PSD Templates
- Sketchmine Sketch.app Templates
- iOS6 and 7 visual comparison
Posted by Jon Hicks at July 04, 2013 04:15 PM
With Windows 8.1, Microsoft’s operating system now also supports color emoji. But they did it in a very different way than Apple and Google. Instead of using PNG images, they introduced a support for layered vector glyphs!
Ralf Herrmann explains how Microsoft support colour emoji in the upcoming Windows 8.1 update. This is a big improvement over the Apple and Google method which uses PNGs, and opens up more possibilities.
Posted by Jon Hicks at June 03, 2013 01:56 PM
It’s bittersweet to see the official announcement, but the Camino Browser project is finally coming to an end.
I first discovered Camino shortly after the first public beta of Safari. Until then, I hadn’t been aware of alternatives, but Camino soon became my default browser. I loved it for its nimble feel and Mozilla features, but with a native Mac UI. It was through my messing around with Camino icons that I got asked to work on the Firefox logo, and the rest is history.
Over the years I helped out on the graphics when Jasper Hauser left to work on MadebySofa (and now Facebook), created the first Camino website, as well as set up PimpmyCamino.com. Sadly, when my host upgraded their server (two years ago now), PimpmyCamino (and The Rissington Podcast) databases were corrupted, and despite constant requests to restore from backups, Segpub never did, and the site died. Lesson learnt about about keeping regular backups of your own :(
Camino was always a volunteer project, and the browser landscape has changed dramatically in the last 10 years. While the end was inevitable, I’m grateful to everyone who spent time on the project. I enjoyed working on it and using it, and learned a lot in the process.
Posted by ss at May 30, 2013 09:46 PM
Today we updated Camino’s website to note that the browser is no longer under development and has thus reached the end of its life. We’re encouraging all of our users to switch to Chrome, Firefox, or Safari.
Of course, anyone observing Camino will note that it’s not a surprising change given we last released an update in March 2012. Our previous attempts to breathe life into the project and switch to Webkit didn’t succeed.
It was back in February 2005 that I first started helping the Camino project, first setting up a domain, then working to get their new website published. Camino got me involved in the Mozilla community, which eventually got me my job at Mozilla.
It’s sad to think this browser that gave me so much is finally being laid to rest. But here we are, more than a decade after it was first created, saying goodbye.
Goodbye old friend, rest in digital peace.
Posted by Stuart Morgan at May 30, 2013 09:35 PM
After a decade-long run, Camino is no longer being developed, and we encourage all users to upgrade to a more modern browser. Camino is increasingly lagging behind the fast pace of changes on the web, and more importantly it is not receiving security updates, making it increasingly unsafe to use.
Fortunately, Mac users have many more browsers to choose from than they did when Camino started ten years ago. Former Camino developers have helped build the three most popular – Chrome, Firefox, and Safari – so while this is the end of Camino itself, the community that helped build it is still making the web better for Mac users.
Thank you to all our loyal users, and to everyone who contributed in countless ways over the years to make Camino what it was.
Posted by Jon Hicks at May 30, 2013 06:33 PM
I’m sure most of feel that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything we want to.
In particular, next month I’m due to ride 100 miles (and about 6500ft of climbing) in the Circuit of the Cotswolds. This target is within my grasp, but I have to be able to put the hours in the saddle to give myself the best day. Back in March, I took part in the Lionheart Sportive in Longleat, and harsh weather aside, I was wholly unprepared for the difficult climbing involved.
I started looking at Cycling Magazines with their ’12 week training plans’ (or at this stage ‘4 week training plans’!) and fretting about getting the time in. These involve 3-4 rides a week, some of more than two hours – I just don’t have that kind of free time!
Besides, I don’t want to do ‘training’ – thats not what I got into cycling for. I started riding because I loved being outside, propelling myself forward through beautiful countryside and villages and clearing my head of worries. The weight loss and fitness were great side-benefits, rather than the main drive. (I’ll be honest, I also got in cycling for the geekery of bike parts!).
There’s so many important areas where my time needs to be spent; my family, my business, and in particular my Dad. He’s had Parkinsons for 10 years now, and lost his wife and full-time carer when mum died last year. I don’t mention this for any other reason than to try and explain why I’ve turned down offers for speaking at conferences, or generally go a bit quiet. I’m keeping extra commitments to a minimum where I can.
So I try not feel frustrated and ashamed about my lack of riding time, or envious of those who seem to have spare time to ride in abundance. I’ll continue to ride as much as I can, for as long my body lets me, just without any self-imposed pressure. Even if that means I don’t do any more sportives.
(Photo by Al Power)
Posted by Jon Hicks at May 22, 2013 08:48 PM
When I started freelancing eleven years ago, 80% of my work was print design, and I needed to equip myself with the right software. Quark XPress was still the daddy as far as desktop publishing was concerned, so it was a necessary purchase. It cost the princely sum of £995. A single application just shy of a grand!
In contrast, I also bought an Adobe bundle of Photoshop 5, InDesign 2, Illustrator 10 and Acrobat for £680. Back then, Adobe was the good guy, the saviour, bringing a Quark alternative that was better and didn’t need a mortgage to buy it.
That view of Adobe has deteriorated over the years however. It’s felt more and more like paying for bug fixes and unnecessary features. To minimise this I always skip a major release of Creative Suite and I’m currently on CS5. Illustrator is my most-used tool, but I get frustrated on a daily basis at stupid bugs like stray or ghost pixels. I haven’t upgraded to CS6 yet as an important feature has been removed from Ai – exporting to SVG in the Save for Web dialog. If I set up an Iconset with slices, I want to be able to export both PNG and SVG, so this is crucial.
Now, Adobe have decided to stop selling Creative Suite as either a download or physical disk and move to a subscription-based service, ‘Creative Cloud’. You can see the attraction for Adobe, as it makes them more money and presumably makes it harder to pirate.
I mentioned on Twitter that this is making me rant. Here’s why…
- At £46.88 a month this costs £562.56 a year, roughly what I was paying for an upgrade every three years. My normal strategy of upgrading every other major release isn’t going to work anymore.
- Apps are available individually for around £15 a month, but this isn’t cost-effective for 2-3 apps. Likewise, the standard monthly cost feels like paying for a lot of apps I will never use.
- If I stop paying my monthly ‘rent’, I can no longer open files created in those apps.
- I’m not interested in all the add-on features like the cloud storage, after all that’s what I have Dropbox for.
In my opinion, this move hurts people like freelance print designers more than me. While I have other options to Illustrator and Photoshop, there are none for InDesign. Unless you count Quark Xpress – the best price for which is £858. Still putting Adobe’s costs into perspective.
What it comes down to is this: I don’t want to rent the tools I use for work. So while Adobe is going this direction, I’ll be going another. I’ll continue to use the CS5 tools I’ve paid for, but I’ll be using Mac native alternatives even more keenly. Instead of Photoshop, I already use Acorn, and instead of Fireworks and Illustrator I’ll be using Sketch.app more. That’s for another post though…
Posted by Jon Hicks at May 17, 2013 01:37 AM
My copy of Offscreen #5 arrived this week and it looks (and smells!) absolutely gorgeous. As always its a great read and I’m dead chuffed at how well “Al Power’s”: photos have come out. Obviously they couldn’t use all of the shots that Al took, so I’ve put up an Offscreen Photoset on Flickr to show the best of the bunch, most of which weren’t published.
I’ll stop banging on about it now, promise.
I’ll leave you with this delightful gif made from outtakes from the shoot, which I shall simply call ‘Bike Dance‘…
Posted by Jon Hicks at April 29, 2013 02:21 AM
Ever since I got into cycling, I’ve been aware that I’ve enjoyed tinkering and fettling bikes as much as riding them. I’m never satisfied with stock bikes, and love to customise and try out different parts where I can. Like Arthur Weasley, I’m happiest in the shed.
So far, I’ve picked up what I can from manuals, guides on the internet and just trying things, but there are an awful lot of holes in my education. I also want to be able to setup and service my bikes as much as I can, which is where a new co-operative in Oxford called The Broken Spoke comes in.
Setup in 2012 by Cassiope Sydoriak, Elle Smith and Will McCallum, and based in workshops that are part of the Oxford Story Museum , they have laudable aims:
- Teach bicycle maintenance classes that are fairly-priced, convenient, and accessible to everyone
- Bring people together to ride and repair bicycles
- Provide specific activities and training for vulnerable members of our community and those under-represented in cycling
- Create training, volunteer, and employment opportunities for a new generation of bicycle mechanics
- Support the growth of a “fix it, don’t throw it away” mentality within the cycling community
- Do business in a sustainable way that strengthens our community
I’ve now completed two bike workshops there and can highly recommend them! The first course was Wheel Building back in February (Flickr Set here), where we learned how to lace and true a wheel. Topics like dishing and spoke length were also covered, and after spending 2 hours trying to true a wheel, I appreciate the skill involved even more.
It was hard work, but I’ve now been able to true the rear wheel ‘enough’. I went with Cyclox Chairman, James Styring who wrote about the experience for The Oxford Times. Tech geek? I’ll have words…
I then went back for a second course, the two-part External Mechanics Intensive (Wheels, Brakes, Chains and Gears) with chum Matt Hamm. In both courses, the workshop leaders were fantastic, and numbers are kept low so that there is enough one-on-one time. This means you can get specific instructions on your particular bike and its components, rather than just generic instructions. I’ve learnt a lot and keen to go back for more.
As well as the specific bike courses, they run an open workshop every Saturday from 12–6pm. You can come and use their extensive tool collection, and get advice and help from volunteer experts hanging around.
The co-op is a triumph!
Posted by Jon Hicks at April 24, 2013 04:21 PM
I’m very chuffed to say that Issue 5 of the gorgeous Offscreen Magazine is now available to be pre-ordered and it features an interview with me! You can see me in the sample spread above, resplendent in my special ‘webmaster’ lab coat that I wear to work. What’s more, I get to be in the same issue as these fantastic people:
In our fifth issue we speak to Mac-app and iOS-game designer Neven Mrgan, entrepreneur and body-hacker Ryan Carson, mobile photography enthusiast Jessica Zollman, icon design maestro Jon Hicks, the CEO of dorm-room startup Squarespace, Anthony Casalena, and Malaysian-American web designer and avid cyclist Naz Hamid.
All the photographs for my interview were taken in February by my friend Al Power on what was easily the darkest and coldest day of the year. It’s a testament to his skill that that they look so good!
Posted by ss at April 15, 2013 06:16 PM
I’ve been using Forecast since they launched, but I hadn’t “installed” it on my phone until very recently. To say I’m impressed with their mobile web app is an understatement.
There are a few places where you can tell it’s a web app and not a mobile app, but not many. In fact, it’s my favorite weather app barnone. In a recent blog post, the team talks about how it was their goal to design not a mobile app and not a web app and not even a mobile web app, but just an App (with a capital A).
We’ve had conversations like this dozens of times since launching Forecast. They usually comes from people who have an iPhone but aren’t particularly tech savvy, and I’m fairly certain none of them will ever know that Forecast is actually a web app. To them, it’s just an app you install from the web.
Putting the app maker in control of the entire user experience – in-app purchases, advertising, updates to the app, etc – is of course the ideal. But up until recently there hasn’t been a mobile web app that looks and feels like a real app.
If Firefox OS is to survive and flourish – and really this applies to other alternative mobile operating systems – there needs to be more of these slick mobile web apps that feel exactly like a real app. The portability of apps that is a major selling point of Firefox OS is within reach if more companies choose the path that Forecast has and create thought-out, well-done
mobile web apps apps you install from the web.
I highly recommend reading Forecast’s blog post, which includes some of the lessons they learned creating their app.
Posted by Jon Hicks at March 25, 2013 05:03 PM
Hey folks! Can there be anyone who doesn’t have a copy of this valuable tome yet? Well, The Icon Handbook is 20% off until 7th April, so you can fill that icon-shaped space in your bookshelves!
Posted by ss at March 18, 2013 09:47 PM
I was able to handle the 1,500 users who were using the service everyday, but when 50,000 users hit an uncachable and resource intensive backend, unless you’ve done your homework and load tested the living crap out of your entire stack, there’s going to be trouble brewing.
It has also been a dream come true to receive accolades from the many who are trying NewsBlur for the first time and loving it. Since the announcement, NewsBlur has welcomed 5,000 new premium subscribers and 60,000 new users (from 50,000 users originally).
Because it’s open source and because I can actually pay for it (unlike Feedly), Newsblur is my top choice for replacing Google Reader at the moment. And the new design he’s working on is a nice improvement.
Posted by Jon Hicks at March 14, 2013 05:30 PM
I’m a staunch Coda 2 user, but I also like to write CSS in Less (and occasionally SASS), with LiveReload compiling the CSS file for me. The problem here is that Coda doesn’t detect the new file, so doesn’t automatically mark it for publishing. It would be nice to just hit ‘Publish All’ and be done with it.
Simple workaround: Right-click your CSS file choose “Open with…” and then “Coda 2.app”. From now on, Coda will detect the compiled CSS and mark it for publishing. Huzzah!
Posted by ss at March 14, 2013 12:56 AM
The big news in the feeds I follow is that Google Reader is shutting down July 1. Why?
There are two simple reasons for this: usage of Google Reader has declined, and as a company we’re pouring all of our energy into fewer products. We think that kind of focus will make for a better user experience.
Of course, usage has declined because they’ve poured their energy elsewhere, but facts don’t matter here.
So now what? What other web apps exist that can replace Google Reader, especially the backend sync feature? For just a web app, there’s Fever. For a desktop app, Newsfire can still be purchased, but hasn’t been updated in years. Nothing is ideal.
2nd Update: The Old Reader looks much nicer to me, but feeds aren’t updated all that often from what I can tell.
4th Update: Okay okay, I know I left out a few before. Feedly, of course. And NetVibes and Bloglines. But I’m not all that impressed with those, and the idea of an open source feed reader is particularly enticing. Meanwhile, Digg has thrown its hat into the race. And as Robert Kaiser says below, there’s ownCloud News if you don’t mind running your own.
5th Update: Feedbin is another option.
Posted by ss at March 08, 2013 05:23 PM
Back when I was working at Mozilla, there was quite a bit of discussion about user choice, specifically how important it is for users to be able to choose their browser. Often, this discussion was tied to the Mozilla Manifesto, point 5:
Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.
Back in February 2010 (a couple months after I left Mozilla), Mozilla launched the “Open to Choice” campaign (since shuttered), which was a great place to send individuals to show them why the ability to choose your own browser is important. The campaign was mostly tied to Microsoft’s settlement with the European Union and its requirement to offer a selection of browsers to choose from during setup. Here’s Mozilla’s then-CEO John Lilly on why browser choice matters:
(Side note: the Open to Choice campaign has been shut down and wasn’t archived, unlike most other Mozilla sites. Going to opentochoice.org leads to a bad https site, and then a 403. I would love to read the letter from John Lilly and Mitchell Baker again.)
As an iPhone user, I’m more-or-less stuck with Safari. Sure, I can find numerous browsers in the App Store, Chrome included. But the browsers in the app store are mostly just embedded version of WebKit – a limited version of WebKit at that. Why can’t I run Firefox on my iPhone? Why can’t I run a real version of Chrome? Apple has locked out browser makers by making specific requirements of the applications in the App Store and making the App Store the only way to distribute apps. Short of jailbreaking my iPhone and hoping Mozilla or Google port their respective browsers to jailbroken iPhones, there’s nothing I can do.
Prior to my iPhone, however, I had a Google Nexus One phone. One of the features of Android is the “open” Android Market and the ability to install applications from any source. Back then, I wasn’t locked in to any specific browser. In fact, I ran Firefox on my Nexus One and was quite happy with it, even back in the days of Firefox being incredibly slow on Android. The situation has gotten even better with Google shipping a version of Chrome for Android. It isn’t hard to imagine another browser running on the platform some time in the future.
Last year, in May 2012, Harvey Anderson, Mozilla’s General Counsel, wrote about the lack of browser choice on Microsoft’s Windows RT, an ARM-specific operating system tailored for tablets. He conclusion is quite clear:
The prospect that the next generation of Windows on ARM devices would limit users to one browser is untenable and represents a first step toward a new platform lock-in.
But the upcoming Firefox OS, built on Mozilla technology (namely Gecko), doesn’t appear to have any browser choice (as John Gruber pointed out a couple days ago). Is this an oversight or are developers working on the ability to allow browsers to run successfully on Firefox OS? And what about Chrome OS – why hasn’t Mozilla publicly asked for browser choice from Google?
Even webOS –
Palm’s HP’s LG’s ill-fated operating system built on Linux and WebKit – had a method for porting browsers. In fact, a Mozilla developer started an experimental Firefox port a while ago. That experiment ended, likely because it isn’t important to port Firefox to a dying platform, but the point remains that it was possible.
I’ll ask again: where is the ability to select a third party browser on Firefox OS? Is this ability being planned in the future? And why has there been no advocacy against Chrome OS for its lack of browser choice? It all feels rather hypocritical to me.
Posted by Jon Hicks at February 16, 2013 12:06 AM
The Icon Handbook has a whole chapter devoted to creating Favicons, and the various options you can provide for different contexts, but with the subsequent release of Microsoft’s new OS, Windows 8, there’s another big one for the list! In Windows 7, websites could be ‘pinned’ to the taskbar (which used a 32px resource in the favicon.ico file) but now they can also be pinned to to the start screen, having a special Windows 8 ‘tile’ of their own.
If you don’t provide your own tile image, the OS will simply use a light grey version of the IE logo (see right).
However, specifying an image is straightforward, and thankfully doesn’t interfere with any other favicons you may have linked to in the
<head> of your page. All you need is a 144×144px transparent PNG, and a background colour for the tile, served via meta tags:
<meta name="msapplication-TileImage" content=“pinned.png”>
<meta name="msapplication-TileColor" content="#ef0303”>
Note that the PNG doesn’t have to be transparent, but it doesn’t cover the whole tile. A square start screen tile is 150×150px, so the 144px square PNG only occupies the top centre area. The best approach is: specify an image for the centre, and background colour in HEX, RGB or CSS named values. If a colour isn’t specified, IE will take the most prominent colour from your site.
IE will take the
<title> attribute for tile label, but if you want to provide a shortened tile-friendly title, you can use a meta tag, for example:
<title>Hicksdesign: Design for Print, New-Fangled Media and other wobbly bits</title>
<meta name="application-name" content=“Hicksdesign”>
Final thing to watch out for: if you fill the entire 144px area, it won’t look vertically centred on the start tile. Sites like BBC News have got around this by leaving the top 56px as whitespace (see right – where the area the PNG covers has been highlighted). The image then looks balanced on the tile!
If you want to delve further into implications of Windows 8 for websites, I can highly recommend this excellent post on the Breaking the Mobile Web Blog. You can also add badge notifications.
Posted by Jon Hicks at February 03, 2013 04:18 AM
Philip Kingsley, Elasticizer.
January 27, 2013 12:01 AM
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 17, 2013 07:03 PM
Portland Design Works have developed a new alloy bottle cage thats a refreshing break from the norm. The Bird Cage is an inspired design where the wings form the arms to keep your bottle secure, and is available in the UK from Charlie the Bikemonger.
Posted by Jon Hicks at January 09, 2013 03:55 PM
I feel it’s a Hickensian tradition to point out new Starflyer 59 releases, and the new album ‘IAMACEO’ is a bit special. It’s their first release not on Tooth and Nail Records – instead it was crowd funded via Kickstarter. Being a big fan, I put my two penneth in, as much for the buzz of getting my name in the liner notes of the CD as helping one of my favourite bands continue to publish music.
The result is one of their best of recent years, topped off with a classic SF59 style cover. It’s available now via iTunes or directly from their Undertow Store
November 18, 2012 08:12 PM
For future reference: Don’t use
public.item to mean “any file type”. Use
Posted by Jon Hicks at November 06, 2012 04:59 AM
Attention Whovians, there is a new book out that you need to buy forthwith! Behind the Sofa is a compilation of celebrity memories of Doctor Who, compiled by Steve Berry in aid of Alzheimer’s Research UK.
I always had a sneaking suspicion that everyone in the world loves Doctor Who. Now I have proof! If I could get all the famous names who contributed to this book into one room, it would be the maddest Doctor Who party ever. Until then, their favourite memories of the programme are preserved for all to see. Plus, everyone who buys a copy will be helping to give hope to the 820,000 people in the UK living with dementia today
You might think a book of ‘celebrity reminiscences’ about Dr Who had the potential to be a fairly dull read but its anything but. The celebrities chosen go beyond just the standard ‘I was scared by the maggots in Green Death’ to give actual insight or funny anecdotes with varied viewpoints. Its a heartwarming trip though the varied ways that fans have experienced Who, and its made with love. All of this is topped off with excellent illustrations from Ben Morris, who can capture classic and ‘New Who’ with equal dexter. I also got a warm glow from having my name in the investors page :)
If you do decide to purchase”, please buy from the publisher (rather than a certain online retailer), so that more money goes to Alzheimer’s Research UK.
Posted by Jon Hicks at October 24, 2012 04:19 PM
As a newly self-employed person, you’ll almost certainly feel compelled to take on every piece of work that presents itself, because you’ll think that for some reason your supply of work might dry up next month. Finding yourself with nothing to do would be bad, but it’s almost certainly not going to happen. Finding yourself with everything to do, because you were afraid to say “no,” can be much worse.
More than just great advice on financial buffers, this paragraph from Malarkey’s latest blog post sums up freelance work in a nutshell.