The Great Linkdump of 2023

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31st December 2023
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8 min read

Howdy.

You'll note I've given myself a couple of weeks off for Christmas. I well and truly deserved it.

To round out the year however, I've done a low-effort linkdump of many of the interesting design and design-adjacent things that I've come across throughout the year. I post a few of these each week in my newsletter, so if you're interested in being in on that, I suggest you subscribe via the footer of this page.

Aside from that, I hope you all have an amazing, and prosperous, 2024.

Lincoln

The Enshittification of Everything

Ok, first off the bat this one isn't strictly design. It is however, something that will continue to subvert our online existence. Fundamentally it is the transfer of value of a platform away from users to shareholders. If you're not familiar with enshittification, I suggest you read through Cory Doctorow's excellent articles. This will extend to the tools we use as designers. It has already happened with Adobe, and will continue to happen to others. Enshittification is very real. As a very real world example, if you search for an app type on Google Play store, you're results will look like this: One result, row of related app ads, row of suggested similar apps, row of suggested unrelated apps, list of unrelated apps, suggested searches, more ads, more unrelated apps. How is this good for the user?

One and Done Running Shoes

This is an interesting proposition. A very expensive shoe that you basically burn through in a single marathon. On the face of it, it sounds absurd. Less shoe for more money is a marketers dream. However if you consider this to be a true racing shoe, then the intent is maximum performance at all costs. After all, top fuel drag cars rebuild the engine after every run. While I'm sure a lot of hype beasts will buy them, I'm interested to see how they perform.

Sustainability Isn't Just About Not Using Dinosaur Juice

It's worth noting this is only one of their oil-free plastic projects. I've included this because part of the design process is to always challenge your assumptions. Just because a material isn't a fossil fuel doesn't make it a better for the environment, and the whole supply chain must be considered. One thing that isn't clear, and often gets overlooked in sustainability is the end-of-life waste. CO2 emissions is only one half of the sustainability equation.

Realtime Website Colour Tweaking

More a UX tool than anything else, this is a very cool resource for testing colour combinations and font variations for websites. This could be useful for those of you setting up portfolio websites or creating mockup UIs for devices with displays.

Mechanical Keyboard, But a Mouse?

Lofree is a budget-oriented mechanical keyboard manufacturer. They've attempted (with questionable amounts of success) to bring the mech keyboard design philosophy across to the other input device. I'm sure there are many keyboard diehards out there that would love to bring their mouse into their chosen aesthetic, but I don't think this is it. There is no doubt room in the market for a modular customisable mouse experience, but I don't think it will follow the keyboard philosophy.

Differences in Eastern and Western Design

John Mauriello of Design Theory on YouTube dropped this great video last week about the difference between Eastern and Western design. It's a great insight into how culture, language, and geography all contributes to shape our perspective. When trying to design for people, this level of empathy will always lead to success in a product.

AdvancedDesign Education

AdvancedDesign is an organisation trying to up-end the current Industrial Design education model. As someone who thinks the current degree-level training for ID is unnecessary and outmoded, AdvancedDesign is an interesting proposition. I'll be keeping an eye on them.

The Ames Guide

Ever wondered why concept sketches have horizontal lines above and below the lettering? While we use it now for stylistic flair, it's actually a throwback to design and architectural hand lettering with an Ames guide. Origin story here.

Sony Access Controller Packaging.

Sony has just released their Access controller for the differently-abled. A highly customisable controller will versatile button styles and layouts. While the controller itself is an amazing achievement of human/machine interface, the packaging itself is also quite the achievement. Effectively using ring-pulls at all contact points, it's something all packaging should adopt.

Archive of Brand Style Guidelines

I have to give credit for this one to Sushant Vohra. More a tool for the graphically inclined, this is a fantastic resource for finding design guides for different brands, and throughout time. You'll need to log in to download them though.

Low-poly Modelling

This is an amazing tool for creating low poly designs and animating them. Pretty fun to mess around with.

Ask Nature

Biomimicry is one of our most powerful sources of inspiration in design. Ask Nature is a pretty nice looking website that describes various biological mechanisms that we can use as inspiration in our own design. The search function isn't very useful, but it's quite fun to browse and think of obscure ways you can incorporate these things.

Disengage

This one is a bit of a mental health article. It encourages us to take interludes from our busy lives as a means to find ourselves and to improve our wellbeing. The modern life demands our attention and demands out productivity. But there's more to life than that if we disengage from it.

The Dumbest Safe

This one is just for fun. The stupidity of this gun safe design just completely boggles my mind. It just goes to show that even if you're not 100% happy with your work, someone is out there manufacturing something worse.

Apple's Anti Repair Practices

Watching this made me really angry. Part of that was because when Apple receives public outrage to one of their anti-repair moves, they wound back the change just enough to appease the masses, and then pushed on making their devices worse for consumers. I don't understand why people keep buying these things.

Calm Tech

This one was an eye-opener for me and something I felt really needed sharing. Calm Tech is a set of guidelines for designing technology to improve the human experience in a far more holistic way than just how we think of it as UX. I imagine this could be set of principals used in conjunction with Dieter Ram's 10 principles to serve as a solid design foundation.

Tear-off Zip Ties

I mean, why hasn't this been thought of before now? There is always space for innovation, even when you think there isn't.

Abyssal Gigantism Eyewear Concept

I remember seeing this concept a long time ago, but just recently come across it again while researching eyewear for another project. I thought it worth sharing. It's such a cubist approach to eyewear, I love it. We don't always have to be serious with out designs.

The Sunbeam Radiant Control Toaster

This toaster is a good reminder of what you can do with some clever mechanisms. A brilliant design by some brilliant people of 1948.

Ḥasan Ibn al-Haytham and Critical Thinking

Truth is sought for itself; and in seeking that which is sought for itself one is only concerned to find it… The seeker after the truth… is not he who studies the writings of the ancients and… puts his trust in them, but rather the one who suspects his faith in them and questions what he gathers from them, the one who submits to argument and demonstration, and not to the sayings of a human being whose nature is fraught with all kinds of imperfection and deficiency.

Away Toothpaste

Most of the single-use plastic we use today is so we can keep water in or keep water out of something. This toothpaste concept is a means of removing water from the equation, and thus, the need for single-use plastics.

Bad Ideas (Lead to Better Ones) Card Game

A clever card game to randomise users, goals, and constraints to help you unlock some creativity. Kind of a physical slot machine for problems to try solving. Link to Kickstarter, though the campaign has ended.

Build What You Deserve

Just stumbled across this channel. Tells an excellent story about creating a single (and very cool looking) lamp. Chock full of 3D printing tips. @ the 2:43 mark he drops a pretty handy tip for making cylindrical parts stronger in the axis perpendicular to the print layers. Run a screw up the middle as a reinforcer.

How Mortal Kombat Pushes Video Game Accessibility Forward

A fantastic piece on how game developers listened to users to level up game accessibility for vision-impaired gamers. There are excellent takeaways in here for all designers.

Solidworks Tutorials

A seriously comprehensive set of tutorials for Solidworks. Even the pros might find some takeaways.

The History of Hoka

A great article discussing the origin of shoe brand Hoka One One. Running shoes just aren't running shoes. Like the Adidas’ Adizero Adios Pro Evo 1 marathon shoes, there are niches in every market where opportunities exist for innovation. The fact most Hoka's are now worn for fashion and not running is beside the point.

How Nostalgia and In-App Purchase Fatigue Are Making the Game Boy Big Again

Straight from the article: "But 16 years after the iPhone launched and changed everything, the clunkiness of microtransactions in apps and games, combined with the overload of notifications and social media, now has us rejecting the do-everything gadget."

Spinning Top Mk.22

One man's pursuit to break the 1-hour mark for a spinning top. This vid gave me a real appreciation of how much science is in everything, especially as we push the envelope of performance. It's also a testament to the beauty in such single-minded designs.

Dyeing Feathers

A vintage foldout describing the process and 'recipes' for achieving 143 different colour shades when dyeing feathers. I would guess a product of the Roaring 20s when fashion was riddled with feathers. And given the Bayer co. branding, I expect the whole affair was produced to sell more of the chemicals used in the dyeing process.

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