Food for thought‘[...] do not think that good design can make a poor product good, whether the product be a machine, a building, a promotional brochure or a business man. But [...] good design can materially help make a good product reach its full potential. In short, [...] good design is good business.’
Thomas J. Watson Jr., IBM CEO

One Plain, One Fancy

December 5, 2011, 8:39 PM

The nice fellows at MatDolphin are running a simple but fun project called One Plain, One Fancy — the title is quite explanatory, but the submissions are often surprising. Here’s my take on it:

I took the photos on Cavendish and Regent’s Street in London, using Instagram on an iPhone 4. The second one was quite a surprise, as it’s just a 5-min-walk away from the first one.

You can see more of my photos on Instagram (Statigram, actually, as Instagram doesn’t have a web interface — *hint, guys!*). You can also follow me on Twitter, as you can follow 1Plain1Fancy for updates.

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Changing light metering on the iPhone with Camera+

January 14, 2011, 11:53 PM

Long before every school kid had a photo-taking phone, or even before point & shoot cameras were cheap as dirt, photography was something you had to make sacrifices for. As a student, I could only afford shooting, developing and printing two films per month at most. Each shot meant taking a really good look, carefully setting the aperture and the speed and waiting for the right moment. After that, I would jot down on a small paper the film’s position and the used settings — the only way to learn how everything worked, days or weeks later, after I’ve finished the film and see the the printed photos.

But enough about the good ol’ days. Digital photography is king, and today Flickr’s most used camera is Apple’s planetary-successful iPhone (Nokia still don’t know what hit them). The iPhone4 has a superb 5 MP camera, with a very interesting HDR ability. Like always with Apple, it’s not about the specs — I bet the 5 MP iPhone photos look a lot better than most 6 or even 8 MP other phone-taken photos, but you can call me biased. Still, typical for Apple, you can’t manually set anything except the flash (my old Nokia N73 had quite a lot of manual settings, including 8-steps exposure compensation). Light is mostly spot-metered around the focus area, which doesn’t help much, since you can’t even lock the setting in any way. So, almost each time I took a photo, I wished I had my old Canon Eos 33 with it’s trust-worthy exposure compensation dial.

In comes Camera+ 2.0.

This handy app had quite its quarrels with Apple, being pulled off the App store a few times for making use of the iPhone’s volume buttons to snap the photos — a smart idea, which says quite a lot about the developers, but Apple didn’t fell for it, considering it an illegal use of the device. The 2.0 version got approved though (minus the nifty volume trick), and comes with a lot useful features, but most of all, with a simple way of controlling the metering.

… but add a second finger on the screen and—boom!—magic happens.

It’s all done very easily: the camera focuses just as the default one, when you touch it; but add a second finger and in comes the touch exposure control. You can play around with it on the screen and see how metering the light in different areas provide quite different results, from dark under-exposed photos to bright, over-exposed ones. Here’s an example, first metering the light in the brightest area, the clouds:

A beautiful sun-setting sky: the light is metered on the brightest spot, the clouds.

then metering the light in one of the dark spots, the shadowed house:

An eerie, washed-out sky: the light is metered in one of the dark areas of the frame.

Now, some will say that’s no big deal, as the iPhone’s standard camera can do pretty much the same thing. But what will you do when you’d like to set lens focus in one area of the frame, but measure the light in another? Take this case, for example:

Different focus areas, with similar metering — also, different White Balance settings.

In the first case, the focus is almost macro-like, very close. The metering is in the same area as the focus. In the second image however, the focus shifts towards the back of the picture — but the metering remains in the same area as before. There is however something else changed now: the white balance. Enter the White-Balance-lock button, the second reason why this app is great. In the second picture, the white balance is measured on the screen, locked, then the “touch exposure ring” is moved back to the same area as in the first picture.

These two features are the things that convinced me to buy yet another photo app for my iPhone. It has plenty more, like editing (cropping, rotating, flipping), scene modes and some crappy borders (heh, must give something to the muggles as well, right?).

So, Camera+ is probably the closest thing you’ll get to a manual settings camera feeling on your iPhone. And, for just £1.19, I’d say it’s a steal :) But just in case you’re still not convinced, you can also read the Camera+ 2.0 review on TUAW.


Note:
Some might ask why would anyone bother with SLR-like settings on a phone camera. I’ll just say this: the best camera is the one you have. Hope that’s enough to shoo the trolls :)

Further reading:
• If you want to see some real old-school film photography, check out Kit’s blog — Two words: Leica Noctilux.
Stanley Kubrick’s perfectionism leading to some special Zeiss lenses /via Gizmodo.

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Happy New Year and a great 2011!

December 30, 2010, 12:23 AM

Thank you all for reading this year as well, in spite of the less frequent writings — it’s been quite a ride, especially moving to London this fall. Hopefully, things will get back to normal in 2011, as I really miss writing regularly (spider webs have begun to show up here and there inside my head already). I have two new projects (actually two new sub-sections of the website) that will start in January and I hope I’ll be able to get the Design Challenge team back together as well (again, to avoid the spiders getting too comfy).

May we all have a Happy New Year and a great 2011!


Colophon:
The text on the card is written with an Italic Fountain Pentel 1.3 (thanks Kit!) on a 140g Ryman A4 Notebook, photographed with an iPhone 4 using Hipstamatic (Lens: John S, film: Blanko, flash: Dreampop). The candy is from M&S — not a great taste, but good enough for decorative purposes :)

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"Browse less & draw more"

October 3, 2009, 7:42 PM

This is probably the best piece of advice I could ever give to a fellow designer. And I’m very very sure Mr. Milton Glaser would agree, as you can read in this interview, with Chip Kidd.

I made an iPhone wallpaper out of it, to keep it in mind as much as possible—maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to actually take this advice myself. Feel free to use it. Let me know if you like it. Thanks :)

Browse less & draw more

Browse less & draw more

And yes, nothing beats Futura. Ever.
(small hint to IKEA :P)

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The real Steve Jobs and why design wins

September 14, 2007, 3:17 AM

Great portrayal of Steve Jobs’ by Robert X. Cringely.
(via Subtraction)

I was suprised by the iPhone’s price drop, but even more surprised by the open letter to all iPhone customers. The tone was polite, honest and direct, but I had the feeling it left no doubt about who’s in charge. It was obvious long time ago that Apple designs with arrogance (Clay Shirky beautifully writes on this topic in this “A Brief Message” post). But Mr Cringely manages to strip down Mr Jobs entirely, exposing his marketing genius, leaving no doubt about the recent price drop and it’s purpose. You almost get the feeling, as you read in awe, that Steve Jobs is the new Palpatine, soon to take over the entire universe in his white&minimalistic iDeath Star :))

Joke aside, this useful insight which proves Apple can and does do anything it wants with it’s customers only underlines the true power of design (no, not the dark side :P). The whole Apple strategy is dead simple, make the best looking and coolest designed stuff people need (or we think they’d need, since we, designers, know better, right ?) and the cash starts flooding in. Why ?
Because we still have little real, good, efficient design around us. We think we do, but we don’t actually. This is why a well thought product manages to sweep the market so easily: because it has (almost) no real competition.

The only problem is when the unchallenged leader begins to slow down, overconfident with its size and power. Or when it becomes so engulfed by it’s arrogance that it begins to lose contact with the end of the chain, the buyer. All great empires have fallen, as history unkindly has proven (well, capitalism seems to be the most succesful so far, but I don’t want to imagine what would replace it, should it fall). But for now, Steve Jobs still wants to show everybody he’s won. So the show will still go on, with, maybe, the best to come. And in the end, it’s all good for us, users.

(via Subtraction)

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Wasn’t gonna talk about it…

July 7, 2007, 12:30 PM

…but surfing through Flickr I came to see this, fotos from the Apple store on the day the iPhone was launched. I know Apple has some of the most fanatic adepts, it can probably compete islamism when it comes to it’s followers’ dedication :P

Here is the first guy who bought the gadget. How can an object inspire so much joy, excitement? Even kids are less enthusiastic sometimes. Beeing sort of a tech geek myself, I know that getting some new aparatus will have its highs, but this seems just way out of normality. Or something like that. It reminds me of the Mr. Bean gag when he comes in the morning and pops the balloons he used to give the impression he was sleeping first in line at a new store :)
iPhone Frenzy

It’s sad when things get to own us, instead of the other way around. It would be nice if we had a Tyler Durden to burn our material chains from time to time and wake us up to reality :) Just let go?…
Fight for your freedom!

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