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A New World version of an alimentari in Vancouver

Sunday, 17 February, 2019

“Channeling the effortless elegance of historic Italian interiors, and offering an eclectic selection of Italian culinary delights, Caffè La Tana in Vancouver is a revamped, New World version of an Italian alimentari, a small, family-owned grocery shop that you can find in most Italian neighborhoods,” declares Yatzer

La Tana was designed by the Vancouver studio Ste. Marie and the idea is of a “den”, which in Italian is loosely translated as la tana. The den here is that of the cunning fox, la savio volpe, and the cunning fox happens to be the mascot of Ste. Marie’s creative director Craig Stanghetta. (Photo: Ian Lanterman).

La Tana


Saving live with better UI

Friday, 10 July, 2015 0 Comments

Better user interface design can save lives says Harold Thimbleby, a professor of computer science at Swansea University, who is well known for his works on user interface design in the field of human-computer interaction. As Steve Jobs once said, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”


The French lose the currency battle of Waterloo

Wednesday, 10 June, 2015 0 Comments

The great question of 19th century Europe was as follows: Would the continent become a union of states ruled by French laws and language, or would it be an association of states existing in a sphere of security guaranteed by the naval and economic power of Britain? The Battle of Waterloo provided the answer and the 19th century became the British Century. Not surprisingly, the French have not forgotten.

In March, France stopped Belgium from issuing a €2 coin to commemorate the battle. “The circulation of these coins carrying a negative symbol for a section of the European population seems detrimental at a time when eurozone governments are trying to build unity and co-operation under the single currency,” the French government stated in a letter that attempted to disguise chauvinism as concern for market stability. The Belgians retreated then, but they’re back and their Royal Mint has outflanked Paris with a €2.50 brass coin that commemorates the bicentenary of Waterloo. The canny Belgians have made 100,000 and plan to flog them for €6 each. Even better is their trove of 10,000 commemorative €10 silver coins, which can be had for €42 each. To entice French collectors, it has a silhouette of Napoleon on one side, and for British and German investors the other side features a key Waterloo moment: Lieutenant Colonel John Freemantle of the Coldstream Guards telling the Duke of Wellington that the Prussians had arrived on the battlefield.

Waterloo pound Talking of Prussians and Brits, the Royal Mint is issuing a commemorative £5 coin featuring the famous post-battle handshake between Wellington and Field Marshall Blücher, the Prussian commander.

Notes the Mint: “Your purchase is supplied with an absorbing booklet that explores the battle, its great leaders, its legacy on the world — and its impact on Britain’s coinage.” This remains the pound, not the euro, as the French, “trying to build unity and co-operation under the single currency,” have noted, to their chagrin.


The Curse of the jOBS Film

Monday, 18 May, 2015 0 Comments

It’s been two years since the film Jobs, in which Steve Jobs was portrayed by Ashton Kutcher, hit cinema screens. It was not very well received and the unflattering reviews continue to echo: Michael O’Sullivan of The Washington Post wrote, “Although I think I could watch a whole movie called Woz and not grow tired, Jobs eventually begins to suffer from an ailment common to many biopics: milestone fatigue.”

But two years is a long time in Hollywood and the deciders there reckon that the world is ready for for another movie based on the life of Apple’s co-founder. This time round, though, there’s more film/tech cred on offer. The screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin, it’s based on the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson and the director is Danny Boyle. Should be a winner, right? Actually, the omens are everything but propitious.

Sony acquired the rights to Isaacson’s book in 2011, but according to the e-mails found among the gigabytes of data leaked by the Sony Pictures’ hackers late last year, the road has been rocky for all involved in the adaptation. First, the lead star Christian Bale backed out. Then, Sorkin wanted Tom Cruise to play the part and he protested vehemently that he didn’t even know Michael Fassbender when he was cast as Jobs instead. Original director David Fincher dropped out due to financial and creative disagreements with Sony and the deeply troubled project was sold eventually to Universal. Still, Steve Jobs might have more luck than Jobs did. As the blues singer and amateur astrologist Albert King put it: “Born under a bad sign / I been down since I begin to crawl / If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”


Celebrating Brazil with the crowd

Friday, 23 May, 2014 0 Comments

Kieran O’Keeffe describes himself as “A happy Irish designer working and living in London with the super Lynsey Power.” Together, they had the excellent idea of creating a Brazil World Cup wall chart poster that would stand out from the crowd, and with the help of the crowd at Kickstarter, 55 backers pledged £660 to get the job done. Well done!


Copies in plaster of copies in marble of copies in wood

Sunday, 4 May, 2014 0 Comments

“Look, said Roark. The famous flutings on the famous columns — what are they there for? To hide the joints in wood — when columns were made of wood, only these aren’t, they’re marble. The triglyphs, what are they? Wood. Wooden beams, the way they had to be laid when people began to build wooden […]

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The rights and wrongs of Big Data visualization

Tuesday, 1 October, 2013 0 Comments

Let’s start with the wrong way to do it as we have been gifted a perfect example by that fine Canadian newspaper, The Globe and Mail. In an exemplary piece of reporting on the RIM nightmare titled Inside the fall of BlackBerry: How the smartphone inventor failed to adapt, readers are offered a pop-up “INFOGRAPHIC” labeled “The roller-coaster ride of BlackBerry’s shares”. Those who click on the thumbnail image get a smudgy JPG image of a graph so totally lacking in interactivity and imagination that one assumes it was created by the very same RIM engineers who have driven BlackBerry to the edge of its cellular grave.

An example of the right way to do data visualization is provided by Natalia Rojas, a “Creative Technologist”, who was born in Buenos Aires and now lives in Miami. Her “Faces of Facebook” maps the profile photos of the social network’s 1,276,388,529 (and counting) users on one web page and is organized from top left to bottom right by the date each user joined. The result is a fascinating interactive image that rewards pixel clicking with a user’s name and position in the Facebook chronology. For example, face #6,145,640 is that of Stuart Knott.

Faces of Facebook

For those challenged by the visualization of Big Data, there’s hope on the horizon. The Danish Design Center will hold “The Big Data Visualization Seminar” on 24 October in Copenhagen. It’s not just Canadian journalists who would benefit from attending. Meanwhile, Al Boardman shows how to take some data about mountains and turn it into something beautiful.


Avoid Boring Content

Tuesday, 5 February, 2013 0 Comments

“Dull content is the kiss of death if your goal is to keep teens on your site. However, not everything needs to be interactive and fancy. Although teens have a strong appreciation for aesthetics, they detest sites that appear cluttered and contain pointless multimedia.” So writes Jakob Nielsen in his latest Alert Box column, “Teenage Usability: Designing Teen-Targeted Websites.” The advice Nielsen tenders should be read as well by those designing adult-targeted websites because it is sound and sensible. When it comes to “interactive features” that let users express themselves, Nielsen’s on the money:

  • Online quizzes
  • Forms for providing feedback or asking questions
  • Online voting
  • Games
  • Features for sharing pictures or stories
  • Message boards
  • Forums for offering and receiving advice
  • Features for creating a website or otherwise adding content

And because teens don’t like to read a lot on the web, Nielsen urges content creators to write “for impatient users.” Guess we can’t expect lots of teens to start reading Rainy Day, then. Ah, well.


Getting responsive

Monday, 19 November, 2012 1 Comment

As a motto, ABO: Always Be Optimizing doesn’t sound half as compelling as ABC: Always Be Closing, which was immortalized by Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross, but it’s useful and less menacing. If your business involves getting people to read your digital content, ABO is far better than ABC. In this era of devices, […]

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The Information Machine

Wednesday, 21 December, 2011

Charles and Ray Eames made their famous lounge chair as a gift for their friend Billy Wilder, the director of Some Like It Hot and Sunset Blvd. After years of development, the chair was brought to the market in 1956 by the Herman Miller furniture company and the result is design and corporate history. Two […]

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