Wednesday, September 28, 2005

There are some things better left a mystery. This may seem obvious for such topics as, say, children’s poop, or the age of your favorite murder mystery sleuth by her 15th book. But sometimes you learn something, just an everyday thing, and you’re stuck. Knowing it. Forever.

I should restate. Knowing something is never my problem. Being aware, being constantly aware. That’s what gets old. And right now I am hyper aware every time I look at my computer. Which is to say, a lot of my cognizant time.

It started so innocently, with a request to redesign an application to look more friendly, less techie, something like Windows XP, but you know, not. If a client asks you to design something to look like Windows XP, you understand two things – 1) there is a lot of documentation about how you can do that, and 2) there is a lot of copyright protection out there to keep you from simply copying and pasting. Because you can’t (and nor would you of course want to) just copy and paste, the documentation is key to finding out what exactly defines the style and why it gives clients warm and fuzzy feelings.

After extensive reading and analysis, or at least a lot of Googling, I feel confident in stating that this warm and fuzzy feeling we all get when we open XP is because of the icons. This is old news, but have you every really thought about the change? No more flat icons. Hurrah for the 3D look. Everything is designed on a grid, so that your icon looks poised, ready to zoom out of its window, into the deep interior of Windows. Microsoft has even helpfully defined the drop shadow that nudges it along that 3D path (2 px by 2px and 75% though in my opinion 50% is all most icons can stand). And, okay yes to drop shadow, but no more black outlines. Instead, color. Bold and friendly colors get the thumbs up throughout (I can even send you the palette, just ask). And big, the icons have gotten bigger and they are no longer just your old 8Bit models. They’re 32 now, glad you were wondering.

So now, when I look at my screen, instead of feeling warm happy thoughts about the cute little envelopes in my Outlook window, I think "super concept icons" and consider how they follow their XP style guide, their depth, their color palette. And then I open Yahoo! and I ponder how they have interpreted that look (and is it really okay that they have their envelope tilted but not on a perspective grid?), and I click to Itunes, and to Firefox and consider some more. It's exhausting I tell you. And I worry that my own icons are going to look as derivative yet boring as Yahoo!’s do, but then I think, hell the client isn’t paying us enough to worry about being derivative yet dull. Let’s sweat the big stuff. Like you know, kids' poop. But maybe I’ll save that story for tomorrow.

1 comment:

Ellen said...

But you never did! I was looking for it in the whole stream of things...