Restaurant Wine List on an iPad, Good Idea or Bad?

I was pretty surprised when the bartender handed me the wine list menu and upon opening the book-looking thing, I saw an iPad inside it. It felt like a normal menu, but was crafted to house the iPad right in there, so clever. At first I felt like it was a bit too innovative for the normal bar experience where you want to easily view  some drink options, but the app was pretty intuitive and quickly got me to my wine selection.

I have to say this is a great idea (outside the normal pessimistic stuff like running out of power and bugs) just by having a dynamic means to update your menu and have promos and richer media. It was easy to see each section within the app to get all the drink options, and the app did have some nice brand imagery and even though I didn’t notice any, I wouldn’t of minded getting some promos for some event or special at the restaurant or casino.  I wonder when the actual dinner menus will start to be on tablets or touch displays now … I’m surprisingly open to it now.

New ESPN Studio with Big Digital Media Wins

ESPN created a new studio set and did it right with some innovative digital experiences. It really seems they wanted to push the limit with the environment and have multiple areas where associated branding, graphics and color could be shown. I absolutely love it, and don’t think its distracting (which would be my worry if planning it). Even though the new host desk seems a little Star Trek-ish, I’m ok with it because the overall feel isn’t too futuristic … which is ironic since Star Trek came out in the 60’s.

espn new studio big video wall

One of the signature areas is the large media wall that is the backdrop for one of their main discussion and interview areas. It seems to be around 10 displays wide and 7 displays tall, and have them jutting out at inconsistent levels from each other. At first glance, it seems like a hard idea to swallow with all the extra dimensions, but then I realized that the sides of the displays seem to show (or mirror) the content from that display (or the display next to it). And even though it might just be mirroring some of the content, it still gives the impression of a seamless piece of content and comes across really nice. I will work on getting a tour and seeing this bad boy up close.

Icon Hunting Between Sets and Styles is Taking over My Life

Every project can use them. Every client wants them. Every one is completely unique in its own way, even if its an extremely slight difference. I’m talking about graphical icons here people. I have folders on folders on folders of downloaded icon sets to choose from, and it only builds onto the icon madness.

Each project, or client style almost calls for a unique icon style or content set (if its technology, devices, weather, etc). There are round corners, pixel-styled, bulky, sketch-y, iPhone-y, and any other artistic take on creating your own icon set and putting it on the internet for all these creative download sites to give away as a “freebee”.

Every time I have to start my ‘icon hunt’ through my folders gives me a sharp shock of anxiety. I have my go-to folders but then have to preview the set to see if it has the type of icon I want. I will say that started an initiative to build a library of various icons and expose a widget that allows you to search by tags. I would vote this as one of the more helpful design initiatives over the last decade, and they let you download eps versions of any of the icons … booyah. But that brings up licensing, and we all know each set has its own and I’m dreading that day when someone really takes legal action on some random icon I used this one time. That will be a different and very fun blog posting.

Jay-z, Beyonce, and Me … Checking out the Digital Signage

I’m pretty sure that I was the only patron at the Jay-z concert who was analyzing the video wall backgrounds on stage. I was pretty impressed with the various executions of style that appeared on the side media walls and background wall. The digital media element was slightly overshadowed by the San Fran background of the bay bridge, water and palm trees but it definitely dominated when it got darker out.

jayz concert detail

I think the point that made me specially snap a pic was when I noticed they had the camera footage of Jay-z in black and white, just for the affect. It gave off an edgy, ghetto, possibly hip vibe … that I can’t argue that you need since you’re touring with your wifey.  It was pretty dramatically different from the girly tones that Beyonce had going (like pink-ish backgrounds).


Digital Menu Boards Present Huge Opportunities if Done Right

As soon as a restaurant moves their menu boards into the digital realm, which does have a big initial cost, they can start to take advantage of real time updates and eye-catching visuals and movement. From fast food, corporate cafeterias, to displays behind the bar at fine dining restaurants, these digital endpoints allow for the company to promote their products or experience in innovative ways that can be very eye-catching.

It seems like a big win just to have the menu items and prices with associated images of the product that can be quickly updated through a content management system, across any and all restaurants with the push of a button. But the advertising opportunities to promote new products and specials make these digital menu boards start to get fun.

Now, here is where I think people have gone wrong. When you’re trying to read the menu and the background graphics or images behind the text are animating and paralax-ing, it gets a little crazy. I was at Wendy’s and the backgrounds were slightly moving different directions which is a cool affect on the web but while I was standing there trying to read, I started to feel a little sea-sick. It just seems like the distraction element of this has to be taken into account, and maybe keep the cool motion affects for a separate screen or just during a complete transition of the screen’s content.

On a different and unexpected note, I was at a bar in Las Vegas, and there was 2 displays behind the bar; one playing TV and one playing promo content. I was actually entertained by their content, which was more about their specials, events and marketing, but it gave me some nice visual stimulation during commercials on the TV. If the content is done nicely, I think there’s a huge place for this in more establishments if the restaurant can afford and execute on proper branded content. And I’m not talking about your TV commercials, unless its hilariously funny.

Blade Runner’s Futuristic Computer Screen for 2019

So I’m watching Blade Runner for probably the umpteenth time (you know, the classic 1982 movie w/ Harrison Ford) and something struck me for the first time. For all the futuristic elements they portray in this 2019 setting, the computer screens just have a DOS-like black screen with green text. Is that crazy? I mean they have flying cars, holograms, digital screens on the streets all over, but they didn’t see computer screens taking a futuristic leap?

Now maybe this is the first time I’m noticing this because I’m currently watching Halt and Catch Fire which features the evolution of the first personal computers and they were just blown away by someone creating a graphical user interface. But it seems like such an important piece of technology to show off a new vision for in the movie. We all know Minority Report took it to the limit and has become the buzz word for innovative user interface and functionality. Huge miss hollywood, but I guess nobody noticed since every nerd loves this movie.


New 3D Styled Maps and Floor Plans for Interactive Wayfinding

As I was looking into new stylistic approaches to creating floor plan maps, all the 3D modeling stood out as the more innovative and visually interesting approach. The irony here is that I just convinced a client that having walls or features in a standing perspective gets in the way of the viewer clearing seeing walkways and other features behind them. Oh well.

Having a floor plan modeled in a 3D program, not only creates a visual interesting graphic (with shadowing and skewed angles) but also is very efficient in how your create and edit it. You’re not just illustrating it, but you’re creating the floor plan and dimensions and then you have that set to modify with the program doing the hard part of rendering it out at the perspective you want. Thank you Maya.

The first time I leveraged a designer to create our floor plan in Maya (3D) for us, I was thrilled to see him deliver a PSD with separate layers for the floor, walls, shadows, etc. Now, he might have worked some magic, as he’s an experienced badass, but it was ultimately the perfect deliverable for the additional design elements to be set with and then to hand off to development to create the application.

So I guess using Illustrator is going out the window to create floor plans from now on when you can use 3D modeling programs like Maya … if you know 3D or maybe a new media designer or motion graphic designer who knows the right programs.

New ESPN Style and Interface for TV Channel

I had to do a double take at a bar when I glanced up at the TV and saw ESPN’s SportsCenter which had a new look to it. I’ve always wondered when ESPN would do a rebrand, but I fully understood how much work it would be to re-configure all those graphics (static and motion) which are dynamically set per all those various templates and transitional pieces. But for one of the most influential media networks in the world, I think they could have done a better job. It just seems like some elements of it are amateur in executing a semi-flat style that relies heavily on type treatment and simple colors.

I admit, this is one of the more challenging design styles to really do well, but tons of designers and teams are mastering it, and ESPN appears to have some junior designers having trouble with spacial connections and data driven components fitting in seamlessly with the animated interface. There’s just a couple elements, like the current topic on the bottom left with this white outline on the red shape, that just makes me cringe everyone time I see it. I will at least say that their new sets and media walls are great, so at least they have that going for them during this transitional period.

Tablet Apps going with more Side Menu Navigation Bars

While doing some research before starting a new tablet application user experience, I was checking out the local favorites (Behance, Dribble, etc) and was surprised to see the most eye-catching examples were mostly leveraging a side menu bar. They are almost taking the old tab menu of the first Apple app developer guidelines and just flipping it on the side, which automatically gives it an innovative look. But don’t be so shocked as many native apps on the iPad leverage a left-hand navigation of options.

My first pondering … was this anything to do with Facebook’s left-hand menu options that they released a few years back? I was skeptical of it at first when it came out (how would it interact with the back button paradigm of page flows, etc), but then it caught on like wild fire, and rightfully so, when Facebook does something you only have a taught user base of over a billion users.

For my tablet interface design, I chose to proceed with it but then really had to decide if the side nav was ever-present or expanding/collapsing. It sounds like an easy decision, but it actually has pretty big impacts when you start designing the page layout or a grid system and need to figure out if your content can be covered up or not.

But I have to say I was pleasantly surprised when I first emailed some initial mockups to my iPad and viewed them. My left thumb naturally was in place to easily switch between my menu items, which made me extremely glad I made them pretty large with an icon and small label, as it was the perfect size for my thumb to hit with little worry about fat-fingering it.

So I guess this new tablet interface style is now in my repertoire, and we’ll see out it irons out with this app product in design reviews and later in live user testing.

My old wise Chinese design professor said if I didn’t write this shit down it would vanish in thin air. Note taken, here is my daily discoveries of the ever evolving design world around me.