Archive for July, 2007

Combining Video & Interactivity

The designers of this site do a great job of combining video, interactivity, usability, and creativity. Notice how the video controls are obvious, provide relevant feedback and are easy to use. They even tell the participant where the moment of truth is so they can jump straight to it.

OK, so really, it’s a fun set of videos with some pretty neat controls. Who knew Christmas lights would do that in the microwave?

Thanks to Mike Cohen at Creative COW Blogs for pointing it out.

Scott McCloud World Tour

Over the past few months, I’ve had a few chances to see Scott McCloud on his U.S. tour (which you can still catch through the end of August if you live in the southwest). Scott is one of the leading authorities on comic art and graphic novels. While it may initially seem like an odd pairing, I think Scott’s work is essential reading for anyone involved with visual thinking, game design, graphic design, marketing, and such. Originally referred to me by Mark Oehlert, his book Understanding Comics made my essential reading list, especially Chapter 2 which is the best description of art style I’ve seen.

So on his leg through Detroit, he did a relatively quick stop for a book signing at Green Brain Comics on Free Comic Book Day. Here’s a brief interview with him that day:

I ended up having to go buy another copy of his book for him to sign, because my well-worn version was out on loan. Not much of a chance to talk there, but it turns out he was going to be in Portland the same week I was out there. Very cool. So the first night, we arrive about 10 mintues early to the library only to find out that the room is way over capacity and we can’t get in. Through a series of lucky events, we find out about a secret side door through the children’s library. However, we kind of said that out loud and a whole crowd of people followed us and sat in the floor with us in the children’s library which is apparently also a fire hazzard. As soon as the staff realized what was going on, the gig was up and we were kicked out.

On my last night in town his presentation was sold out! Thankfully, someone had thought ahead and got tickets, so we finally got to see his full presentation. Here’s a clip of the presentation from a different city:

Certainly the content of the clip is good, but also notice it for his use of PowerPoint…an almost exclusive use of images. I was really impressed until he sadly deviated from this style and put in a slide not just with bullets, but numbers too. Not separately. Together. It looked something like the picture to the right. Odd but true.

Not only is Scott an authority on comics and puts together a great PowerPoint, but he has something for just about everybody from storytellers to graphic designers to learning designers. If you get a chance, check out his book or check out the world tour. You’ll come away inspired and full of new ideas regardless of what you’re working on.

Art Immersion

Each year in mid-July, Ann Arbor plays host to the country’s largest art fair. Sure, lots of places say they have the largest art fair, but it’s hard to beat this one with over 1,200 artists in. OK, so, technically, it’s actually 4 fairs (1, 2, 3, 4) at the same time, but it’s still huge, covering most of downtown. While it doesn’t completely fill the space, it’s about 3/4 mile wide by about 1/2 mile tall. While many of the locals take vacation this week, I actually enjoy it. The people watching is the best it could be, and where else is it possible to see that many artists in one place?

Of course, Ann Arbor’s known for a lot more than just Art Fair. The Big House (so named because is the largest stadium in U.S. college football now seating over 107,500 people), seen here at about 3/4 mile away, looks small from the outside with over half of the stadium below ground.

Ann Arbor is also know, or maybe infamous, for both the annual hash bash and the naked mile which happen here in the quad:

We also have a pretty activist oriented community which have a dedicated section at the fair. Regardless of your interest or leaning, you’ll find your group here.

This is one place and time where all of the different ideologies get along. Too bad it can’t always be that way. We’re also gaining attention for our newest resident…Google:

However, this time of year, more cultured minds prevail and art takes over the city. Actually, Ann Arbor has a great cultural scene year round with opportunities to take in a huge variety of art, music, and dance regardless of your particular interest. While this show is predominently about the physical artists such as sculpture, photography, paint, clothing, jewelry, etc, Art Fair also draws a good number of performance artists as well (most of the performance artists are not counted in the numbers above):

Of course, it’s really all about the art, and with this many vendors there’s sure to be something that meets your taste (and budget).

Sometimes the art is functional:

Sometimes, even the frames get into the mix:

I think all art when it works for someone is supposed to come alive, but these artists took that quite literally:

This next artist has been at the fair for as long as I can remember. It always gathers a huge crowd. Clearly, the woman in the middle is a sculpture. The guy on the left is real. The security guard…is not. I’m not sure why somebody would buy something quite so lifelike. It might scare would be robbers for a moment, but it would probably freak me out me out more often than it would the robbers.

Then like American Idol and the other talent-based reality shows, there’s the bizzare moments that really attract attention. Now, I’m sure these are somebody’s taste, somebody’s mother loves them, that all art has a place, and I truly hope that these artists are able to make a living from their work. They’re not for me, but I did have to share:

In that last one it’s more about the clothes than the paintings. And yes, for those of you who are mad at me for picking on a few of the artists, I do buy art at the show. I try to buy at least one piece each year. Here a few of my favorites from the last 4-5 years. The first two are by Chip DuPont from Austin, Texas:

And this one from a different artist. Look closely, it’s done on silk:

But this year’s artist was Glenna Adkins from Cincinnati, Ohio:

My feet are soooo tired and my brain is overloaded, but, as always, it was a great show.
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Yet Another New TiVo Feature

OK, I know, enough already, I love TiVo. I’ve mentioned it before on the blog, and over and over, ad nauseum I’m sure, to my friends.

What’s the new feature? I really nice mash up between Amazon and TiVo. Yes, they’ve had the Unbox going for a few months now…go to, “rent” a movie, and a little while later it magically appears on your TiVo box. In the last few months they’ve increased the available movies to over 1,500 which is no Blockbuster or NetFlix, but they’re certainly making progress. However, none of that is what’s cool. Instead, you can now rent from Amazon directly on TiVo. No going to a separate place to download movies. It works just like the Now Playing list (where you get the recordings you made off live TV). Simply make your choice and the download begins. Movies in the list are automatically updated from Amazon. Now that’s easy. They say it takes between 1 to 5 hours to download a movie depending on available bandwidth at home. So it’s not quite as fast as a drive to Blockbuster, but it’s close.

Of course, with all of these upgrades and enhancements, TiVo’s menu is starting to get a bit crowded (and therefore less simple). I wish they’d add a feature to let me manage my own menu items…turning some off and changing the order of others. Maybe I can’t change the default screen, but can they give me the option to create my own “home page” on my TiVo box. Now that would be cool.

Another free whiteboard tool…

While this one from Thinkature has some of the same features (collaborative space, free form writing, etc) as the one from GE, they’ve clearly focused this one on the PostIt Note set. I couldn’t figure out how to add images and other icons, but apparently it can be done which also makes this a possible tool for mind mapping. I just wish there were a better selection of shapes than the default PostIt note.

Anyway, let me know what you think.

Cool, Free Collaborative Whiteboard

I found this tool today while searching for Visual Thinking stuff (more on that in a few weeks). In the meantime, GE has created this cool little Flash-based, collaborative whiteboard application. No install required. It works pretty well with a couple limitations. I think it only allows 3 people in the same document and there is a limit to the amount of “ink” that can be on the page at one time. However, the page had to be almost 50% color to hit that limit, so I’m not sure it matters much. I don’t understand what they get out of it…no fee, no advertising…just branding I guess.

Anyway, enjoy! Let me know what you think.

Update: I’ve had a few problems with it on one of my machines. I think it’s actually in the Javascript on the page not in the file itself. It may not work with certain versions of Flash.

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