StumbleUpon was once just a browser add-on in Firefox. Then it became internet famous and was bought by eBay – only to be sold back the founders two years later. And today it is humming along with 25 million users and two bold new designs for its website and iOS – iPhone, iPad.
SB Nation is the hidden gem you’ve never heard of. The 3-year old site has 316 blogs – one for every sports team – and is run by rabid fans, not paid writers. The one I follow – with about 200 other crazy UCLA fans – is Bruins Nation and it’s incredible. Calling it a blog isn’t right, it’s more of a website with many features. There are editor articles, fan articles, and fan shots – where you can share pictures, links, video, and quotes.
My two favorite elements of Bruins Nation are the analysis pieces from the editors – weekly grades after the game and a unit-by-unit breakdown of upcoming opponents – and the fan shots where I can find all those random, and awesome, links only true fans would find. A combination of dedicated, but volunteer, writers and fan contributions that make SB Nation a special place.
Today, the site is undergoing a major renovation – called SB Nation United or SB Nation 3.0 – with the goal of creating a common look across the site. New logos were created with the same size and format – though, each has its own team-defining illustration and colors. And a new article and front-page layout that finally brings the site into the modern internet era. The old one was very functional, but cluttered and hard-to-use.
Find your team in the SB Nation Directory, and here is the new look for SB Nation and Bruins Nation, and a few of the new logos.
I think it’s funny and the perfect way to bring back MySpace. The whining tones of missing your girl and wanting to get back together, they help you get over the moment of – I’m so over MySpace. And then you can see the new design for what it is – focused on music and fans, pictures and sharing links.
But can MySpace – with all the brand recognition – get something going?
The market is full of similar social networks with the same features. The only advantage is to serve a niche – like resumes with Linkedin or photos with Pinterest – and music is MySpace’s niche. If they can maintain focus on that, build some momentum, and bring some respect back to the name, then I think they have a chance.
There is a new brand on the street, Republic of Kalifornia, and they are producing some awesome designs. Starting with a re-design of the California flag: the iconic bear, star, and red stripe…with a fuzzy twist.
Last weekend, while attending the Sunset Beach Handplane Demo Day, I met a fascinating surfboard shaper by the name of Jeff Beck. Through his company, Nine Lights, Jeff is performing some incredible experiments that could change the surfing industry. He had many of his boards on-hand to try for free, which is a regular part of the “demo day” ethos.
The first board that I tried, called the Slipper, perfectly represents Jeff’s unique design sense. The board has no stringer and instead uses a thin piece of wood on top (fiberglass bottom). According to Jeff, “when you remove the stringer it opens up all sorts of design possibilities. You can experiment with different shapes and sizes.” He said the wood top provides as much, or more, strength than the stringer would provide.
I took the board out to try him at his word. Now, I’m 6-feet tall and weigh 180+ pounds. I pounded the hell out of that board because it is a modified Alaia, which means no fins, long and real thin (picture below). You have to pop-up quick and immediately start turning. The board never once gave or bent and felt stronger than my classic stringer boards. I definitely think Jeff is on to something, and it was so much fun to ride that it was my favorite of the event.
To give you more insight into Jeff’s innovative thinking I want to tell you about his handplanes made out of aerospace airplane wings. Made from the foam in the wings they are super-strong and amazingly lightweight. When you hold it in your hand all the weight you feel is in the leash. I tried one out and it definitely feels stronger than regular surfboard EPS foam (I kept smacking it because I couldn’t believe how strong it was). An amazing way to recycle old airplanes and turn them into a fun ride.
Overall, I was truly impressed by Jeff’s deep understanding of surfboard design, experimental concepts, and his environmental focus. The next time I’m in the market for a surfboard I will assuredly be checking out Nine Lights Surfboards.
Of all the instances in which graphic communication is necessary to transcend language barriers, the Olympic Games are, if not the most important, probably the most visible. We take the little icons of swimmers and sprinters as a given aspect of Olympic design, but the pictograms were a mid-20th Century invention—first employed, in fact, the last time London hosted the games, in 1948 (some pictographic gestures were made at the 1936 Berlin games, though their mark on international memory has been permitted to fade because of their association with Third Reich ideology).
The 1948 London pictograms were not a system of communication so much as a series of illustrations depicting each of the competitive sports, as well as the arts competition, which existed from 1912 to 1952 and included architecture, literature, music, painting and sculpture. In 1964, the Tokyo games took pictogram design to the next level by creating a complete system of typography, colors and symbols that would be applied across Olympic communications platforms.
In a paper on the history of Olympic design and national history, Jilly Traganou, an associate professor at The New School, writes:
Since Japan had not adopted the principles of the International Traﬃc Signs, introduced at the United Nations Geneva conference in 1949 and accepted by most European countries, the Olympics were regarded by graphic designers as an opportunity to establish a more uniﬁed and internationally legible symbolic language across the country. It was along these lines, searching for universally understood visual languages, that pictograms (ekotoba, in Japanese, a word used prior to the design of pictograms) were for the ﬁrst time designed for the Olympic Games, embodying at the same time [founder of the International Olympic Committee] Baron deCoubertinʼs aspirations of universalism.
A robin’s-egg-blue box never fails to elicit delight – the kind of unparalleled magic Tiffany & Co. has carefully created during the last 175 years. While the company has become synonymous with covetable jewels and memorable moments (who could forget Audrey Hepburn’s morning gnosh in front of the Fifth Avenue flagship in Breakfast at Tiffany’s?), its commitment to constant innovation is equally remarkable.
From Tiffany’s 1880s revamp of the Great Seal of the United States that’s printed on every dollar bill today, to tapping some of the world’s most renowned designers, to creating a new metal (the blue-hued Rubedo unveiled this year), Tiffany’s brand of elegance always seems perfectly suited to the times – with a little extra sparkle, of course.
So what’s next for the legendary jeweler? First, a celebration in the form of a magnificent new setting for the Tiffany Diamond, one of the largest and finest fancy yellow diamonds in the world. And in August, the design house will grace us with Enchant, the latest jewelry collection, inspired by the natural world. Here’s to another 175 years and many, many more blue boxes.