Monthly Archives: March 2014

GravitySketch enables 3D sketching in virtual space

First response: whoa.

Second response: The results here are incredibly low fidelity (compared, say, to what an industrial designer could do with a simple marker & pencil), and I’m reminded of an ancient Apple commercial that depicted a guy sketching the idea for a helicopter-car on a napkin, then scanning it into his Mac. It looked great initially, but was it actually useful? We shall see.

[Vimeo] [Via]

Unnumbered Sparks: A giant collaborative drawing/sculpture

Check out this beautiful piece that runs atop Google Chrome:

Unnumbered Sparks is an interactive net sculpture that spans 745 feet between buildings in Vancouver that passersby can control via their smartphones. According to the project’s technology video, the entire piece is basically “a distributed website on the sculpture,” or a bunch of web browsers working together to manipulate light, sound, and movement. [Via]


“Stick bomb, stick bomb…”: A really unique Subaru commercial

Little did I know that a stick bomb is a “spring-loaded device constructed out of flat sticks woven together under tension,” much less that 30,000 of them + an RC toy Subaru would make for a really unique commercial:

As usual I find the making-of video (capturing three days of work in a Japanese studio) even more interesting than the finished product:

[YouTube 1 & 2] [Via]

Come make some delightful music & visuals—right here, right now.

Turn on your speakers, click the box below, and then press letters on your keyboard:

The Fox Is Black writes,

The project is a collaboration between Jono Brandel, who has a knack for combining design with computer wizardry, and Lullatone, a musical duo based out of Nagoya, Japan. Together they’ve made abeautiful fusion of technology, design, art, and music that I’ve rarely seen achieved.

A giant Photoshop eraser vs. London

Years ago, I told a certain Photoshop engineer that when it came to girls, “Man, you’re so transparent, I can see a little checkerboard right through you!”

Riffing on that same visual idiom, this project by Guus Ter Beek & Tayfun Sarier is brilliantly simple. Designboom writes, “[T]he giant playful labels illustrate the familiar grey and white checkerboard pattern, visible when using the eraser tool in photoshop. Eliminating graffitti from traffic signs, color from mailboxes and portions of billboards, the intervention seemingly reveals a concealed world beneath our own.”


[Via Joe Ault]

Four-color flava

4CP (Four Color Process) is a gorgeous new collection of vintage comic artwork rendered at extreme close-up. In addition to the great images, they’ve posted an interesting manifesto on what they’re doing & why. (“Four-color process delivers surplus, independent information, a kind of visual monosodium glutamate that makes the comic book panel taste deeper.”)



[Via Jason Santa Maria]

The beauty of everyday physics

Not Fountains of Wayne, but fountains of chain: Check out the beautiful kinetic sculpture that comes from ordinary household materials:

The NYT breaks down what’s going on:

And if that floats your boat (yanks your chain?), check out When Water Flows Uphill:

Colossal explains,

The folks over at Science Friday made this fascinating video about the Leidenfrost Effect, where water dropped on an extremely hot surface is capable of floating instead of immediately evaporating. While studying the bizarre effect, physicists at the University of Bath realized that not only does the water float, but under the right conditions and temperatures it can actually climb upward. The playful experiments lead to the creation of an incredible superheated maze.

[YouTube 1, 2, & 3 ] [Via]

Secret & Whisper vs. The Paradox of Choice

tl;dr: In text apps just as in photos & video, limiting choice gets more people across the goal line.

Lately I’ve had text-upon-image apps on the brain. Notegraphy promises “beautifully designed writing;” Pictual offers to “turn your words into visual statements; and Overgram can “add beautiful typography to your Instagram photos.” They’re all nicely done, but how many people have cared?

Compare that to the highly popular Secret (current $40M valuation) and Whisper ($24M in funding). Both share captioned images anonymously. Secret only lets you set text (no control over font or positioning), then use a colored background or image. Whisper looks at your text & offers matching images, then offers a rudimentary set of fonts & the ability to slide a text block.

In both cases the essence is to make something that you’ll want to share, without giving you enough creative options that you’ll get lost en route to doing so. You can’t go too far wrong or be judged for not getting the look “right.” Immediacy whomps visual control. It’s Instagram all over again.

By the way, speaking of fun text/image projects, Nathan Ripperger makes fun art from the weird things his kids say. To help parents do something similar, JibJab has released Kid Quoter, but I haven’t seen it take off. See also Linzie Hunter’s Spam One-Liners, “a gorgeous, colorful set of hand-lettering based on spam email subject lines in Linzie’s inbox.”

A man, a plan, a wall… Garamond

It took me a few years after learning Photoshop to discover Illustrator, but when I did, boy did I go nuts filling shapes with text. Later I was pleased to help get that same capability into Photoshop (see my old but still useful 12 Tips for Photoshop Text). In any case, designer Dave & his wife are making clever use of a triangular wall space, projecting & then hand-painting the text of a Sherlock Holmes story in Adobe Garamond Pro. Check out their story.


How did I miss out on Google Photos until now?

What if I told you that you could…

  • Automatically back up all your photos & videos from your iPhone, iPad, and/or Android devices, in the background & for free
  • Automatically back up all your images from your Mac and/or PC hard drive
  • View, manage, edit, and share all these images via the Web and native mobile apps
  • Have automatic & ever-improving enhancements like automatic panorama stitching, collage, & animation creation applied

And you could do it all for free, right now? That would be kinda great, no?

I don’t know quite how I overlooked all this before joining Google. I love having my iPhone shots seamlessly mixed in with my SLR images (including galleries I export from Lightroom right into Drive folders), and I’m finding the little animations fun to share.

Now, a couple of details for my fellow nerds:

  • From your hard drive you can back up an unlimited number of images at 2048×2048 (i.e. 4 megapixel0 resolution. These do not count against your storage quota. You can also back up a full 15GB for free at full res. After that pricing is as low as a penny per gigabyte per month ($10/mo. for 1TB).
  • You can back up your raw files by installing Google Drive, then view, share, and edit them via Google+.
  • You can download Picasa, then let the separate new Auto Backup utility automatically find & upload JPEGs (not raw files at the moment) from your hard drive & memory cards.

What do you think? What else do you need for this to be the most mind-bendingly awesome photo storage & sharing system in the world?

Birds in a photo interpreted as musical notes

So. Friggin’. Great.

Jarbas Agnelli explains,

Reading the newspaper one morning, I saw this picture of birds on the electric wires. I cut out the photo and decided to make a song, using the exact location of the birds as notes. I was just curious to hear what melody the birds were creating.

This work was made over the original photo, un-retouched, published in one of the biggest Brazilian newspapers, “O Estado de São Paulo” on 27/aug/2009, and shot by Paulo Pinto (note: I just erased the birds for effect at the end, but didn’t change their positions at all. What would be the point?). This short video demonstrates my interpretation of the birds as notes.

I hope that somewhere out there, some higher intelligence is playing music made as you & I go about our daily activities.

[YouTube] [Via]

VSCO rolls out scholarships for photographers

Here’s a cool idea from the folks behind VSCO Cam:

The VSCO Artist Initiative is a $100,000 scholarship fund providing artists the resources to pursue their creative vision.  […]

Recipients will document their ideation and creation process on VSCO Grid, with the end result sold via the VSCO Store and physical gallery exhibitions. Profits are divided between the artist and a reinvestment in the Initiative, enabling future projects for other artists.

You can apply via the site.

A half-million-dollar portrait in platinum

I find the creation process far more beautiful than the results, at least in this case:

PetaPixel explains,

Starting at a cool $500K for a 23×32-inch “print,” these portraits are made out of tiny spheres of one of the most expensive metals on Earth: Platinum.

You get a half-hour meeting with the company, after which they will assign a photographer to come shoot you for a couple of hours. From there, the image is digitized, hand assembled with the 13,000 platinum spheres, and you end up with a halftone portrait worth a whopping half million dollars… or so they would like you to believe.


Fantastic new cloud storage for photographers

1,000 gigs for 10 bucks a month. Wow; bring it on!


Check out the new pricing for Google Drive (which integrates with my product, Google Photos):

Storage is shared between Gmail, Drive, and Google+ Photos so you can focus on the content of your messages, files, and photos instead of how much you’re storing and where. Today, we’re making it more affordable for you to keep everything safe and easy to reach on any device, from everywhere.

We’ve lowered the price of our monthly storage plans to $1.99 for 100GB (previously $4.99), $9.99 for 1TB (previously $49.99), and $99.99 for 10TB, with even more storage available if you need it. You can sign up for one of these new storage plans at And of course, 15GB remains free.

In addition you can store an unlimited number of photos at 2048 resolution. To give it a spin, download Google Drive & start dropping in your raw files (or JPEGs, etc). They’ll sync with the cloud & be ready to edit & share via Google+.

What do you think? I’m still quite new to Google, so any & all feedback is welcome!

Nik Collection plug-ins get enhancements

Nik, Nack, ideally no paddywhack. 🙂

I’m pleased to say that version 1.111 of the indispensable Nik Collection of plug-ins for Photoshop, Lightroom, and Aperture is now available:

This update brings more bug fixes and performance improvements and will be installed in the background so long as your host applications (Lightroom, Photoshop, or Aperture) aren’t currently running.

To check which version of the Nik Collection you currently have installed, open up a photo in any of the Collection plug-ins and click on the Nik logo on the top right of the display. That will pop up the product’s About screen with the version listed there.

You can learn more about this update by visiting our Release Notes page.

A bizarre faux gameshow for designers

Cake, yarn, a blindfold… the Adobe logo! Sagmeister & Walsh write,

Adobe came to us to make an interpretive graphic of their logo. We decided to have some fun and turn it into a competition. We designed, produced, and edited this five part gameshow series. Judges: Stefan Bucher, Jessica Hische, Joshua Davis, Noreen Morioka

I have to say, the results here are much cooler than I’d have anticipated:

There’s a whole series of these crazy vignettes on Vimeo.

[Vimeo] [Via]

Gorgeous lighting animation from a simple flashlight

This cleverness makes me think of Russell Brown getting frisky with a flashlight & Photoshop Touch. Colossal quotes creator Michael Langan as saying,

There’s no CG in the video, just practical effects. Most of the video is lit by a single flashlight, drawn slowly over the landscape and later “echoed” up to 500 times to create patterns that fill the scene with light. We used a projector mounted to a motorized lazy susan to achieve the “sliver” shots of Nicole.



Helping fans complete a labor of love

Decades before Be Kind, Rewind, a bunch of kids lovingly recreated Raider of the Lost Ark:

“…One of the strangest permutations of ’80’s nostalgia to hit movie screens—the now-notorious Raiders of the Lost Ark: The Adaptation, a 100-minute shot-for-shot amateur-video remake of the 1981 Spielberg-Lucas adventure flick, created over a span of seven years by a group of kids in small-town Reagan-era Mississippi. More talked-about than seen,The Adaptation arrives at Anthology Film Archives this Friday for a rare two-day run. Filled with ingenious contraptions and overweening jerry-rigs,The Adaptation remakes Raiders on less than 1/2,000th of Paramount’s original $20 million budget, conjuring exotic locales out of cardboard sets in parents’ basements, casting tweens in Boy Scout uniforms as Nazi bad guys, and rolling a gigantic hand-crafted boulder through the family garage to create the film’s signature scene. Nothing short of slapdash spectacular.”

Now they’re asking for help to fill in the project’s one missing scene—and they’re just $2,700 from their $50k goal with three days left:


[Via Sean Parent] 

Want Baz Luhrmann to judge your animated GIF?

(No, I’m not kidding!) Check out The Motion Photography Prize, sponsored by Google+ (purveyors of fine automatic GIF creation):

Saatchi Art, the Saatchi Gallery and Google+ will award the inaugural Motion Photography Prize, inviting photographers all over the world to celebrate this new creative art form. Six finalists (one per category) will be chosen by a jury of forward-thinkers, including artists Tracey Emin, Shezad Dawood and Cindy Sherman, as well as filmmaker Baz Luhrmann.

6 finalists receive:

  • A special feature on Saatchi Art, the world’s leading online art gallery
  • Inclusion in a group exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery in London
  • A trip for 2 to London to attend the private viewing at the Saatchi Gallery

1 overall winner receives all of the above, plus:

  • The trip of a life with the photographer/filmmaker of his/her choice

To create your motion photo, you can upload a series of at least 5 frames to Google+, or you can create it on your own. You can then upload one motion photo (in GIF format) for as many of the six prize categories as you’d like, found on the Saatchi Gallery’s Google+ page.

Now get out there and animate some pixels!

Short film: “Putt-Putt Perfection”

Illustrator Mickey Duzyj & friends tell the entirely charming story of an extremely rare thing—a perfect game of putt-putt:

From Grantland:

On April 9, 2011, at a tournament in Richmond, Virginia, an IT manager named Rick Baird notched 18 straight hole-in-one shots to record a perfect putt-putt score. In more than 50 years of sanctioned competition, it was just the third time that anyone had achieved the feat.

Putt-putt is different from miniature golf. It’s played only on official courses; there are no pirate ships, no windmills, and no holes that cannot be conquered with one stroke — if you execute the perfect shot. On that day in 2011, Baird executed the perfect shot 18 times in a row.


“The World’s First Sunset Hyperlapse from an Airplane”

Sunset plane ride + photographer + DSLR = striking imagery. Matthew Vandeputte describes his approach:

A hyperlapse is a special photography technique where you take a series of photos with similar framing while physically moving in between every shot. After stabilizing the footage with special software, you (quite literally in this case) create a flight through time and space. Because you’re shooting at a slower framerate than the usual 24/25/30 frames per second, the rendered video will show the world in fast-forward.

The whole article is worth the quick read.


NYC creative directors: Come work at Google

I met novelist Ben Jones back when we worked at AGENCY.COM NY. (If I remember right, he was beating someone with a bat in some four-man Nintendo brawl.) He’s a great guy who works with agencies to build next-gen experiences, and his team is hiring:

We act as brainstorming partners to help agency teams make bigger, better, more resonant work leveraging all of the technologies and platforms that Google has, or is in the process of developing, or has not yet developed but should.

We are looking for a Creative Director with a portfolio of award-winning, conceptually driven work for major brands who is excited at the prospect of working collaboratively with creatives across the industry.

If that sounds like you, please read on & consider applying.

I’ve yet to visit the NY office, but it looks like a cool space:

From a conference room mimicking a tiny NYC apartment to hallways complete with subway grates and fire hydrants, get a first hand look at how we’ve styled our New York city block.


1 in 10 Americans think HTML is an STD

People are profoundly, if unsurprisingly, ignorant:

  • 11% said they thought HTML — a language that is used to create websites — was a sexually transmitted disease.
  • 27% identified “gigabyte” as an insect commonly found in South America.
  • 15% said they believed “software” is comfortable clothing.
  • 12% said “USB” is the acronym for a European country.

Despite the incorrect answers, 61% of the respondents said it is important to have a good knowledge of technology in this day and age.

Good to bear in mind when designing experiences for a broad audience. [Via Husani Oakley]