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glange65

BLOCKHEAD
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The Blockhead Logo

6 min read
One of the most interesting projects that any graphics designer or artist can work on is designing a logo.  It can be overwhelming and stressful...you have to consider the company's brand, mission and values, history, the goal; all on top of the principles of good design.  Don't forget your aesthetics and the whims of a company and leadership team.  If you can balance all the objectives and opinions, with talent, skill and tact you can achieve a successful logo....and that is extremely rewarding.

Through the years I've worked with corporate branding, logos and helped companies define themselves.  With this experience I have a decent working knowledge of what a "brand" or "branding" is and how to discover and create successful elements. The biggest lesson I learned about logo design is that a company logo doesn't stand alone nor is it created in a vacuum but is part of the larger concept of "the brand".  Check out this article for an easy explanation of branding and logos.

 Branding, Identity and Logo Design by Jacob Cass

That is where the story and history of my Blockhead logo began.  I knew that I needed to start defining who I was, what was important and my professional promises and goals...along with sketches and notes full of ideas for the logo artwork.  The process was deeply personal, resulting in a logo that truly represents ME at the core.  I sure I've broken a few design or logo "rules" but I am incredibly proud of the work I've done defining and building this image for my business. I won't spend a lot of time on all the "whys", processes, tests and decisions, but will explain the basic concept.

I already knew I would name my business "Blockhead".  As you may have guessed, it comes from the "Peanuts" comic strip, written by Charles Shultz.  From childhood I have identified with Charlie Brown in life experiences, appearance (round head, little hair) and for other reasons that will become clear later.  Then Microsoft developed and published support material for it's new user interface, then called Metro.  I loved the simplicity; being "authentically digital" and the look of the start tiles in Windows Phone 7 and ultimately Windows 8.  From there the idea of using four stacked "blocks", each representing a passion, direction or promise was formed.  Although it may appear to be a duplication of the Microsoft logo, it was created independently and before Microsoft changed their logo.

Logo.CB by glange65
The first block is fairly obvious given my affiliation with Charlie Brown, but the comic character and this block hold deeper meanings.  It stands for persistence and tenacity, traits that I strive for.  He attempts to kick the football every time Lucy asks and eventually yanks it away, tries to fly his kite when the "kite-eating" tree always snag it and leads his baseball team loss after loss.  He fails but he never fails to try.  Other character traits that admire include an honest self awareness, loyalty and sees the value and potential in others (that little Christmas tree just needed some love).

Logo.Android by glange65
Next is a very simple representation of the Android "droid" from Google.  It was with my first Android phone that my interest in iconography and UI design took hold as I rooted, hacked and replaced the entire operating system and eventually all the graphics files, creating my own UI.  While Android is not my only  interest in the tech world and I've moved on to other things; to me it still represents the importance of embracing new technologies and innovation.  Yet also understanding that technology and the "newest, latest and greatest" isn't always the answer and it's time to stop managing our tech and devices.  All this technology should help people manage our lives.

Logo.Lego by glange65
You may recognize the next one...a LEGO block. Again remembering my childhood and if I'm honest, last week as well.  I still own a few large bins of LEGO bricks and occasionally let myself have some playtime.  LEGO has always meant being creative, finding solutions and building whatever can be imagined. Here's some additional thoughts from a LEGO fan website:

Traits of a Lego Block.  Each block...
  • Knows the role it plays and does its part
  • Knows every piece is important, from the base to the top
  • Can be utilized in many different roles
  • Interconnects with others and gains strength with every new connection
  • Displays the diversity of types and talents that provide more opportunities

Logo.frame by glange65
The last block started out as chocolate, something I consider to be one of the important food groups. An even earlier version had this block looking like the Adobe Illustrator logo since that is my tool of choice.  I knew I wanted something that could communicate the role of artwork, both in my profession and personally.  Thus the final block is a picture frame; representing art, graphics and the power of visual media.  

There you have it.  So far the logo has been adapted to various visual styles with relative ease and is still identifiable. My current favorite "look" is based on Google's Material Design guidelines. As you can also see above, the blocks can be re-ordered and positioned differently depending on what it's being used for. 

But above all this...it's who I am and want to be and I love it.  Just sayin' what I'm sayin.

Logo.Whole by glange65

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Disgusted with the Tech Media and Industry

6 min read
One lawsuit after another.  Story after story in tech-centered media about;
"This company copied this",
"Look how iPhone-like that phone is", or
"Look at this company (usually based outside  the US like China or other Asian countries) try to be just like (Apple, Microsoft, Google, etc)". 

I'm not a big fan of most of these companies, although I do admire Xiaomi, the Mi Phone, and their highly customized operating system, MIUI.  In the last two weeks I've read several articles and critiques of Xiaomi, and if you believed half of what these tech writers published, then you'd be convinced that Xiaomi stole or copied EVERYTHING and the MiPhone is just an iPhone clone.  One "news" story even managed to find a photo of a Xiaomi exec. holding up a MiPhone at a launch event and placed it next to a photo of Steve Jobs doing the same...and the central conceit of that article was "see...they're trying to be just like them".  It was laughable.

The other half of my tech news seems to completely circulate around the latest lawsuit or results of previous court cases between the tech giants. Apparently everybody has stolen or copied everything!  I wish the tech industry and tech media would just GET OVER IT!  I'm so tired of the "They copied/stole ______ " bogus crap, either used to get headlines and media "buzz" or as a weapon or tool to get ahead.  It's so easy to get caught up in the hype, but let's give the subject a little perspective.

We're talking about a 5x3 little slab of plastic, components and a glass screen. There simply isn't much that ANY company can do now that isn't almost exactly like someone else, especially when most of the phone makers get many of the parts from a handful of manufacturers. Anyone can show similarities...duh, and I can prove there are also variations enough to differentiate.  Take flat screen TVs for example.  It's a big, flat piece of glass that displays TV/video.  Not much different between the various manufacturers or brands, and you don't see them filing lawsuits at every competitor constantly.  You also don't read many opinion or news stories declaring one brand as copycats or praising the almighty virtues of another. 

I have a Xiaomi phone, okay is resembles an iphone a little, but so do many, many other models for sale today.  When compared to any other smartphone brand or model, some of the specs are different and some identical;  but as I said there isn't much difference between any phone model in specs these days..save the camera. The operating system is a highly modified variant of Android (MIUI) that is very distinctive, although I keep hearing how MIUI is "just like iOS and iPhone like.  True...MIUI has no app drawer and icons the same basic shape (rounded squares)....OH MY GAWD...THEY ARE IDENTICAL!    Horrors! 

ALSO...Looking at what your competitors are doing and at times emulating parts of it are standard business practices in industries all over the world...including the US. Many of our industry leaders do just that regularly. I know as I've taken part in many meetings and projects in companies very highly respected.  They investigate and analyze, determine what they do better, what the competition does better, how can we improve and how can we differentiate?  When a major restaurant chain starts serving potato soup, I guarantee nobody is suing, no one thinks they copied a competitor, and no "news" articles will be written about any of it.   So... companies in all these other industries do it it's "keeping an eye on the competition" or "strategic planning"? and if a tech or smartphone company is even suspected of doing the same it's stealing???

Almost every tech company involved in lawsuits today has integrated design, technology, and ideas into their products that were influenced by another.  No one, not even Apple, has created everything it makes and sells in a vacuum with no impact from the outside (This has been well documented by others...I won't rehash it here).  Talk about double standards....

I know how to solve all of this for me anyway.  No more reading tech-based news, blogs, etc.  I just deleted all my feeds from places like The Verge, Engadget, TechCrunch.  It was hard, but ultimately freeing.  I encourage all to try it. 

Well, that's is my rant for the day.

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STOLEN!

3 min read
Dear friends and fellow artists on Deviantart.

I will be removing some of the icon sets I've posted and shared here on DeviantArt. 

My work has been "stolen" and is being used and SOLD COMMERCIALLY on websites in China, India, and elsewhere.  This is being done without my knowledge or permission, without any acknowledgement or attribution, with no financial benefit to me (not that I needed it), and in violation of the Creative Commons copyright.  I'm aware that some countries don't recognize copyrights and the Creative Commons isn't universally accepted, but I'd hoped the intent and spirit would prevail...lesson learned.

The first time I found my icon sets made available on a large icon warehouse site, I was both irritated and excited.  Irritated that someone would take and distribute my work and leave me without any control over my creations.  I realized this truth... once you post and share work like this online, it's already out of your control.  At least I was acknowledged as the artist, the copyright was posted, and site users were linked back to my DeviantArt profile.  At the same time excited; thrilled that people that work with icons daily thought my work was that good.

If that trend had continued, I wouldn't be bothered by the continued disbursement of those works.  But now with websites and "thieves" selling my work and claiming it as their own, I'm angered.  I have little to no recourse (I researched).  As I continue to work towards a goal of working more professionally in this field, I will be keeping future works private.  Anything of mine that is already "out of my control" I will leave posted and continue to share...damage is done. 

So, I'm disheartened and disillusioned, and have learned another lesson.  If any other amateur or professional artists have stories to share, or experiences with this these art websites; please share them as well as any advice you care to offer. Thank You!

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Mistakes in Metro and Flat design

5 min read
I've been "stewing" on an issue for several months with the upswing in flat, modern, and "Metro" design efforts I see everywhere.  I noticed the difficulties early, in the large number of poorly designed "Metro" apps for my Windows RT tablet (see earlier journal entries) and later in the official apps built by Microsoft, such as the calendar, mail, or Outlook and the Office 2013 suite.  I simply had difficulty using these products.  I was slower and less productive.  Repeatedly made simple mistakes.  I was becoming increasingly frustrated.

I discovered that an over-simplification or almost total minimalism in the design and UI was the source of my complaints.  "Flat Design", "Modern" and "Metro" (or whatever they call it now) are not Minimalism.  Reduction of the extraneous, yes, but not a total elimination of all shadow, pattern, line, etc.  While some of these elements exist just to enhance the visual "look" or style and are not necessary, many similar elements have a purpose.  To help the user focus on the information and choices presented on the screen.  To visually organize the website or application for better accuracy, work speed, understanding, etc.  In the words of the Borg queen (yes, that's a geek sci-fi reference)..."To bring order to chaos".

The Windows 8 calendar is a good example.  The simple lines that define the day grid in the full month view are either so light, thin, or disguised that I can't see them at all.  With a screen full of day numbers, color bars for full day events, and all the other information presented and no visual grid to put them into order and give the data context, the entire view is a mess that I can't read easily.  Which leaves the question...isn't that the point of a calendar month view?  Quick, easy, fast understanding of your information?
Another example is the new Office 2013 online...the function "ribbons" are much more difficult to use without the dividing lines and color shading that visually "grouped" and organized the options.  Even Microsoft designers seem to have forgotten that the ultimate goal of "Metro" was to focus on the information, which needs line, color, and graphics at times for focus and clarification.

Microsoft isn't the only culprit (just a handy example).  I recently abandoned my three favorite Windows 7 themes.  I loved them, but with the complete elimination of some line and shadows, I found Windows Explorer almost impossible to use, as I couldn't see the different "panels" clearly, especially things like column widths. I kept changing the "details' panel size accidentally when trying to highlight groups of files...couldn't see the panel edge.

Not exactly the same issue, but related enough for my purposes, is the increasing use of smaller and smaller graphics and type.  I may be getting old, but I already have a 25 inch monitor displaying at 125 percent and a strong pair of reading glasses and I still can't read some text presented to me in applications and websites.  Not all users are young with super vision and constantly having to "zoom in" is tiresome and unnecessary.  If you or your client are trying to attract my business on a website...being able to read it easily without modification could make or break it.

I recently discovered an excellent article that takes this issue into much greater detail, which can be found here.   Authentic Design, Smashing Magazine

So, my request to UI designers, app developers and other "Flat", "Modern", and "Metro" creators out there... before just eliminating a shadow, line or other element, ask yourself the question.  "Does this have a purpose?"  If you can't answer that easily, then be careful.  Simplify, reduce, use your creativity to see how you can keep that item yet still maintain the style you are trying to achieve.  Just hitting "delete" is lazy and could have undesired results.

As always, thanks for reading

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Microsoft Surface RT IS A FAIL. Part 6: Done

8 min read
Some may have noticed in my last chapter, that I started referring to the tablet and apps in the past tense, so I shall begin this final installment and my final words with the news that I no longer own a Microsoft Surface RT tablet.  I gave up…something that is very hard for me to do and was unimaginably painful.  I had been waiting and longing for this tablet, in addition to the Windows Phone 8, PC upgrade and most of all, the promise of a connected world in a modern UI environment.
 
What was the final blow?  What issue or problems could not be overcome?  You've read about most of them already, but there were a few additional conundrums and "hair-pulling" moments;

The RT did receive an update a bit before the sale that did solve a few of the mail and calendar issues, but the final update I installed really screwed the user over…the complete removal of any Google account connection or sync.  Now, if you'd been paying attention, you knew of the ongoing battle between Google and Microsoft…something akin to five-year old toddlers fighting over a toy, and that July 2013 was a cut-off point.  Either Microsoft or Google (or others) produced a solution, a negotiated settlement or that the connection was gone.
 
Unfortunately, Microsoft decided to eliminate the account sync early.  What should have really upset every user however, was that we received NO WARNING that this was going to take place.  No emails, No notifications, and since the user doesn't get any update details…it just "happened".  Personally, this screwed with my appointments, my Android connections…a loud CRASH was heard.

To continue screwing with us, Microsoft also eliminated the excellent Android Hotmail app ( that also connected the Hotmail/Outlook.com calendars and contacts and developed by the team of Seven+ and Microsoft) and forced an "update" to the official "Outlook.com" app.  Unfortunately for me, this app doesn't work on my three devices to date and I can't get any help or answers.  The Play Store rating of 1 ½ stars tells you something.  So, basically anything Microsoft based (Outlook, Hotmail) and a Google account (thus your Android phone) can't connect, share data, sync….  You maybe could with extra apps, accounts, multiple steps, but at this point, why bother?  Seems the tech giants keep forgetting us, the actual users in their game of "tug-o-war".



It was also important to look more closely at the entire Microsoft ecosystem….the devices, systems, applications, etc, to see if patience would be rewarded in the future.  This is hard to judge, but my opinion has changed these last months.  Not just the RT experience, but other, larger issues as well.
*  The disconnected world of mail, calendars, people.  Several different products (Outlook PC with or without Exchange Server, Outlook.com, Office Live mail, the RT apps, the Phone apps) and little data sync or connection between some of these.
*  The new trend towards little to no help information.  The last installation that failed on my PC gave me an "oops, didn't install, try again later" message and no error code.  How do I even begin to solve that?  Even the "Trouble Shooters" didn't catch some of the basic issues
*  Products built without any compatibility with other Microsoft products: My example here…my upgrade to Office 2013 failed over and over for days.  The solution was to turn off my Microsoft Security Firewall.  Huh???  Shouldn't that have been handled by the installation?  Left hand., please meet right hand.

The general public seems to be resisting this new product.  I read many that would blame the METRO (Modern UI), but I disagree.  Yes, if you ask people, that's what they will say is the problem, but anyone in public relations or customer service can tell you:  what people SAY the problem is, and what the problem ACTUALLY is can be very different things.  More likely the issues revolves around:
*  Lack of any substantial tutorials or introduction components by Microsoft.  As a trainer, I could see HUGE gaps a learner was expected to jump over.
*  Support site completely focused on an inexperienced computer user, and very little "real" information of answers for everyone else
*  No automated or step-by-step guides, walking the user through the various set-ups, and data sync options we are looking for (Helps if they existed in the first place)
*  What I hear most often, is there simply isn't a reason for people and companies to upgrade, at least not for a while.  Windows 7 is meeting their needs and the vast majority of software that companies might require hasn't been updated to work on W8, and until then there isn't any point.

So, to summarize why I abandoned the RT:
• Expensive
• Low Productivity or usefulness. Missing features, options, and other operational roadblocks/barriers
• Difficult to work with at times, especially anything in "desktop" mode and that it exists at all
• Hard to connect and sync data (especially from other account types and devices)
• Poor apps in Windows Store and many developers staying away (not hearsay, but said or written to me directly)
• Continued lack of answers, information or any "sense of urgency" on Microsoft's part
• No evidence of a future.  It will be a long time before this particular tablet or the RT platform would be really usable

It wasn't hard to decide that the Surface had to go or that after months (almost a year) of waiting for a really great Windows Phone on Verizon (Nokia 928….sniff), I would scrap any plans for that purchase.  Even now, I am contemplating replacing the PC OS with a Linux version like Ubuntu.


Dear Microsoft…
If you are listening or reading, you're already very late to the game and so far what has been presented is still a few years behind the competition.  You've got a lot of work to do.  
• Somebody take charge, get teams working together and get your products working together.
• Consult actual users and evaluate the entire product, or important user needs for ease, simplicity, functionality, etc.  Balance performance, options (the bells and whistles) and security.
• Make sure everyone is involved when making product decisions and ask yourselves "If we didn't know the product, would this make sense?"  From my experience, the answer would be "NO"!
• The RT is supposed to be your mobile, tablet platform.  Finish mobilizing and "Modern"ing the back-half (Desktop), and stop over-simplifying the front-half.  See what people do with iPads and Android tablets, then work at making those same tasks either easier or more enriched.  It's NOT a PC.

I doubt that this will change anything, or that anyone is reading…and that is just fine with me.  I wrote this for myself; to keep me sane and to alleviate some of the stress, frustration and yes, anger.  And since the source of all that angst is gone, my need to write any more is also on vacation.  Maybe I'll start on my Google version, but I don't think these sites allow swear words!!


Thanks, peace and remember "Time to stop managing our tech expect the tech to help manage our lives."


Postscript:  Couldn't resist this!  Just read an article regarding the upcoming Windows Blue, and that it would solve issues.  I laughed so hard, my chocolate milk came out my nose.  As I recall, Windows 8 was supposed to solve it all.  So was Windows 7……  Vista….  

Fool me once (or twice), shame on you.  Fool me this many times…I'm a sucker!

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Featured

The Blockhead Logo by glange65, journal

Disgusted with the Tech Media and Industry by glange65, journal

STOLEN! by glange65, journal

Mistakes in Metro and Flat design by glange65, journal

Microsoft Surface RT IS A FAIL. Part 6: Done by glange65, journal