Gmail gets a facelift

November 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Gmail_New_Old
Today morning finally got the much awaited surprise to use the new Gmail. Well the buzz was already doing the rounds for the past few months with its preview video pitch introduced and the grey theme. Officially today they made it available for public use with all the functions. Honestly in my opinion I was quite delighted to see the transformation.

There can be contradicting views as some people questioned does it actually give it a ‘new’ look? To answer to that we have to understand that the Gmail service was already the most popular one and people embraced it from various platforms like yahoo, rediff, hotmail, etc. in initial days because of the amazing simplicity and to the point approach. So honestly to redefine an already popular thing would not be a very smart move. Moreover I think especially for Google with its Google+ being on the rocks they would definitely not tamper with their successful product to bring about a radical change.

Now from the design point of view i think there are some very interesting changes. The increase of white space and padding has made it appear at first glance neat and simple. There is now a synergy among all its other products like search, documents, google+ etc..

To begin with starting from the advertisement position it is now a separate component. Application of text has been reduced and instead icons have been introduced. The smart part what I liked was it has a nice way of prompting for each icon and button. This is constant throughout the application. The default grey is much more soothing to the eye than their patent tone of bluish violet in the classic mode. The highlighting at the side is done by the change of colour rather than the band of colour running through. This again keeps the white space constant.

The side bar has been made simpler by removing most of the time unused fields like adding people for chat or invites. Instead those are shifted to the bottom with again the use of icons. The compose button has been highlighted differently with a nice reddish button.

The only thing which bothers me and I would have preferred something better are two issues. One, the scroll bar which appears when I hover over the chat list. It is still the same blue bar from the classic look and some how it does not gel with this new look. Second, the manner in which notifications for new mail is shown. Maybe some colour there or some visual element would have made it appear more exciting and fun.

Apart from these like they portray conversations look better and have been made easier to follow. Overall a nice change which I welcomed whole heartedly except for the two issues. For the others, well not much as they don’t really have a choice.

Eventually they have to ‘take it or leave it’.

Books as Decor : A New Dimension

July 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

Order in Chaos (before)

Crisp Order (after)

I think by now it must not be very difficult to guess that how I can be quite obsessed with books. We have often experimented with the bookshelf and made it a design element in our house. But this time I was more fascinated by the book display by the customized book jackets. We have witnessed the impact books can create when we arrange their spines in different styles. Colour coordinating them, the careless display of favourites on a table which is actually well thought of. In short if your a book lover your house will show it.

Coming to the customized book jackets I will give credit to Thatcher Wine of Juniper books who really gave me a lot of inspiration. This style might not impress everyone as some people find solace in the chaotic display which gives the feeling of variety. This style could be more preferred to people who gives priority to order and organization. But when I looked further I found there are many other players and it could be one of the DIY projects just for fun. It gives a total different look to your shelf and can be very interesting how a small area of a spine of a book when stacked together transform the entire display.

Go ahead enjoy the display and be sure to try them out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business cards – Utility or Futility

May 18, 2011 § 2 Comments

Google business card

A few days back I was thinking of designing my own set of personal business cards. Then this thought came across that whom do I distribute it among? Followed by do I really need a business card or whether a website or personal blog reaches out to more than business cards. Honestly with the advent of these new technologies going back to hard copies is proving more and more far stretched.

Now the mobile device is getting more and more equipped to contain every bit of required information. You don’t mind carry it along cause anyways its part of your being now. You might miss your keys or wallet at times but you seldom miss your phone. Call it your life saver or partner for life! The point being even Blackberry is advertising the QR code concept. Things are paving path for a complete change.

Does that mean that the business cards will slowly cease to see light? Well like in my previous post about the Kindle, I cannot vouch for the business cards in a long term scenario. Definitely the feel of the card in your hands, an interesting layout and colour scheme can catch your attention but I think people are getting more and more web savvy and carrying or storing business cards in a folder will only accumulate dust over the years.

Sites like www.about.me has provided brilliant customisation solutions and now for people who still want the card in their hands provides print options too. If I were to choose I would still love to see my name printed on a card and I think that somewhere that self achievement still keeps the business cards alive. I humbly accept the streak of narcissism in me.

The point still remains in the coming years will we see a more advanced version of QR code generators and business cards with customised options for mobile devices. Should people rather be happy in being available at few clicks rather than searching through dusty card holders?

Mobility winning over self satisfaction? Only time can tell.

Metamorphosis II – Print Media to Web Media

April 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

UI design vs Graphic Design

Much has been talked and discussed about this transformation. My journey too faced some interesting challenge from my role as a graphic designer to user interface designer. At the initial phase especially within the boundaries of the institute we mostly concentrated on print media. Starting from the learning about different papers, printing processes and colour fixing techniques.

The main criteria was the size of the paper and how we presented the layout. Our main concern as a designer was how the colour was printed. This turned out to be a very tricky process and we still strive towards perfection.

Thus when I shifted to work for the web based company I thought the hassles of dealing with the print quality would not bother anymore. Finally I could apply the WYSWIG principle ‘What you see is what you get’. Little did I know that grass on the other side is never actually greener. In the web we were dealing with the intangible virtual world. Here there was no more inches and centimeter everything was measured in pixels and points.

The entire evolution in print industry moves in a much slower pace than compared to the web. In web probably every minute someone somewhere is recreating something path breaking. The initial phase was like a whirlwind romance where I moved with the wind in a completely love- hate relationship. Everyday my list of new words and terms kept growing, it still does. In simple terms it was a complete paradigm shift for me.

I came to terms with magnanimity of the two words which form basis of all – “User Interface” &  “User Experience“. I realized how it was not just layout of websites but creating an entire experience for the user. True in print we too created an experience but as some refer, it is a 2 dimensional experience. We can feel the paper, turn it and hold on to it.

Web on the other hand is 1 dimensional or can cross all barriers to be multi dimensional. The attention span of both media remained constant as it was user dependent. The difference lies on the fact that in print usually its more of selective vision as we guide the user to view things in a particular order through typography and design elements. Its similar in web but what we often overlook is the fact that the Web design functions by letting the hands move the information (by scrolling or clicking). Information relationships are expressed temporally as part of an interaction and user movement.

Our main goal is to make sure the user spends more time on the particular page and trick lies in the fact that they should not be aware of it. Coming to this topic another thing worth mentioning is the fact of keeping your page ‘light’. In print we never bothered what elements we put as long as it visually communicated and appealed. Aesthetics played high on our priorities. In web every small element has to be measured in terms of size and the time taken to load. Like they say size always matters!

In print the final output was a result of the pre press process similarly in web the design created by the visual designer is passed to the developer. Most times it would surprise you the constraints laid out to you based on the web browsers and technical glitches. But like I said the web is developing every minute and the more visual aesthetics come into play the more ways are created to bring the designs as close to the templates given for reference.

Print and web both are two sides of the coin which require clear and effective layout. In both there is use of elements of design (shapes, lines, colors, type, etc) to present content to your audience. So once I let go off my initial inhibitions and preconceived notions, I started enjoying it. We can never write something off judging by its cover. It only grows on you once you spend time with it.

Never judge a book by its cover!

Metamorphosis I – Design School to Design Firm

December 27, 2010 § Leave a comment

“Design is the method of putting form and content together. Design, just as art, has multiple definitions; there is no single definition. Design can be art. Design can be aesthetics. Design is so simple, that’s why it is so complicated.”  – Paul Rand

This quote sums up the entire picture so well. There is a constant evolution around us and design being an integral part is constantly changing. In that case how can we have few definite set of principles summing up the entire process. I think the design school of today faces this as its biggest challenge. Any other subject has its basic principles rock solid. A formula once derived and proved goes down in history and becomes the base of everything. Imagine what would happen without the e = mc². The problem is in design there can seldom be such magic formulas.

The institutions have a defined routine and process which introduces the students to the ‘then’ basic principles of design. But its only a matter of time before the same process might be termed as ‘old school thinking’. Like noted training for the war can only train you of the estimated activities and consequences but it can never prepare you to deal with the real time decisions. Similarly a practice match can never bring the thrill of the real tournament when the whole nations heart is beating with yours.

During college years the student only have to cater to their mentors and guides. In a firm they actually face the real clients and the whole concept of hypothetical projects becomes a fairytale. In that case the clients who are not design trained become the guides. The tricky part is to manoeuvre them along with keeping up the satisfaction of oneself in delivering the needful. To strike a balance sometimes becomes very difficult as what appeals to the client might be defying one’s own design sensibility. This is the most challenging part for a student once they come out of the shelter of the institution and have to present their ideas to the client, a ‘non designer’.

The ideal scenario is when you can blend your requirements into a visually appealing sensible art. This can be mastered only by experience as an idea which was highly praised by the design mentors in college might fall flat with the common public.  Getting mass approval from the target audience can only be learned with time and opportunity to perhaps fail a few times.

To sum it all up the challenges in design is what makes it most interesting. The fast paced profession brings a sense of adrenalin rush as you crack your brains for each challenge trying to outdo yourself each time.  Eventually its the only profession for which you get paid for all the doodles and scribbles you made during class hours. But probably you learn it best only once you are in the soup yourself. Design teaching in college just gives you the recipe. The quality of the dish depends on your culinary skills.

Happy Cooking!

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