Month: November 2012

Pixel Death & Relativistic Design

I have a crush —always had it— for the pixel. This minute source of light. This small, uncompromising, irreverent, opinionated fountain of color. It can’t be reduced any further. It can’t be simplified, summarized or clean up. It is the strongest conceptual icon of this digital day and age. It is the quintessential minimalism made intangible. And it is iconic as an icon can be.


However the reign of the pixel is fading out. The pixel is dying a slow but needed death.

It is the retina displays, yes, but also the various screen sizes and non-standard pixel densities. From tvs to e-ink devices, from cellphones to large screen displays. We can’t keep depending on the pixel. The pixel has been —up until now— the brick for building sites, the common language of developers and designers, the de-facto unit of measure. And that’s, precisely, where the problem lies. We can’t keep measuring websites in pixel units. It just doesn’t make sense anymore.

Verdana 8px

I remember when I started building sites for a living. If we could convince a client to go with a design above 800×600 we considered it a victory. Back then Verdana was a common typeface to use, and 8px its hot size. Seriously. It it was clean, had personality, it spoke of neo-digitalism without being alienating, it was a system font(!) and at 8px it was readable and sexy. This is back when you could see the individual pixels in the screen at an arm’s length. With the current size of our monitors today that typeface is too small to read.

So that’s been outdated for a while. And now that 8-bit is a vintage art, all the rest of the pixel design is fading away.

Relativistic Design

What’s for us to figure out is the next unit of measure. And it’s looking like it will be a relativistic unit, not an absolute one. Which means trouble because we are not used to this. We won’t have such an accessible object to gather around an agree upon like the pixel is (was).

Creative professionals will need to adapt. And this task is not only on creatives’ hands but also in software manufactures who need to provide the appropriate tools for the job. If software such as Photoshop doesn’t upgrade to include a new relativistic unit of measure and instead sticks to points and pixels, it’ll hold back our creative force. Most likely companies such as Adobe won’t make this change happen. The increasing need for such tools will open the doors for a new company, a new kid in the block, to solve a problem that few can pinpoint now.

So what’s the problem, again?

The pixel is dead, so is absolute design, and those who don’t adapt will go the way of Verdana 8px.

Iconic Magazine Cover #7

Iconic Magazine Cover #7 - 9/11/2001, The New Yorker 2001 by omarrr

9/11/2001, The New Yorker. September, 2001

New Yorker Covers Editor Françoise Mouly repositioned Art Spiegelman’s silhouettes, inspired by Ad Reinhardt’s black-on-black paintings, so that the North Tower’s antenna breaks the “W” of the magazine’s logo. Spiegelman wanted to see the emptiness, and find the awful/awe-filled image of all that disappeared on 9/11. The silhouetted Twin Towers were printed in a fifth, black ink, on a field of black made up of the standard four color printing inks. An overprinted clear varnish helps create the ghost images that linger, insisting on their presence through the blackness.~Wikipedia

Side by Side:

Iconic Magazine Cover #6

Iconic Magazine Cover #6 - An American Tragedy, Time 1994 by omarrr

An American Tragedy, Time. June 1994

On June 27, 1994, Time published a cover story “An American Tragedy” with a mugshot image of O. J. Simpson on the cover. […] Time itself then became the object of a media scandal, and it was found it had employed photo manipulation to darken the photo, for the purpose of, as commentators have claimed, making Simpson appear more “menacing.” The publication of the cover photo drew widespread criticism of racist editorializing, and yellow journalism. Time publicly apologized. ~Wikipedia

Side by Side - Iconic Magazine Cover #6 - An American Tragedy, Time 1994 by omarrr

Text Mode for Chrome

There is so much clutter in many of the sites I visit (social plugins, banner ads, and all kinds of visual noise) that it is becoming increasingly hard to concentrate to read articles or even find the text on the page. So, to give me back some peace and zen, I made Text Mode, a little buddy for Chrome.

Text Mode is a Chrome extension that allows users to browse the web without distractions via clean simple text based pages.

Text Mode for Chrome

Text Mode declutters the web by loading all pages in text form (no images, animation or video) so content is easier to scan and read.

This is how the landing page for the International Herald Tribune looks like when Text Mode is enabled. Who needs images of bad news anyways?

Text Mode for Chrome

Here are some key features:

  • View text only pages
  • Images, Video, flash, are never loaded
  • Color-free pages are easier on the eye
  • Reduce pages load
  • One-click easy access
  • Removes 99% of the ads with no extra software

You can install the
Chrome Extension
or fork the
GitHub Repo.

That’s all.

Iconic Magazine Cover #5

Iconic Magazine Cover #5 - More on Moore, Vanity Fair 1991 by omarrr

More on Moore, Vanity Fair. August 1991

More Demi Moore was a controversial nude photograph of the then seven-months pregnant Demi Moore taken by Annie Leibovitz for the August 1991 cover of Vanity Fair. Demi Moore was the first celebrity to appear naked and pregnant on the cover of a magazine. Almost fifteen years after its publication it was listed as the second best magazine cover of the last forty years by the American Society of Magazine Editors. ~Wikipedia

Side by Side - Iconic Magazine Cover #5 - More on Moore, Vanity Fair 1991 by omarrr