The Internet Versus the Library (Infographic)

More people in the United States use libraries than the internet. While the web is commonly referred to as the repository of all human knowledge, most books have yet to be digitized. This infographic seemed like a great follow up to my “Is Print Dead” infographic. Not only do libraries provide access to tons of books that are out of print, hard to find, or out of your price range but they provide internet access to those who couldn’t afford it. They give computer access to students who need to type their papers but don’t have the means.

My local library allows me to browse and reserve books online. Then I can just go to the front desk, show my library card and walk out with a pile of free books. That always seemed pretty neat and convenient. It’s Netflix for books. If they delivered them to my door, that would be better. But that probably wouldn’t be free. Do you think libraries are important? How do you use the library? And what can we do to save them and make them more relevant?

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Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Ugly Open Source Design

Using Audacity this past week has inspired me to talk about the ugly open source programs floating around. Many great open source programs don’t care about design. Searching about Audacity, many developers defend the look of the program as being usable. Usability doesn’t make something well designed, although that is definitely part of the designers considerations.

Audacity
Screenshots of Audacity. Creative Commons License photo credit: webg33k

Scribus, which I had talked about before, is an open source design tool for designers. But it’s not yet looking too good. The interface isn’t as outdated as Audacity, but still feels like something out of the Windows 95 era. It feels much more complicated and less polished than InDesign. Open Office has the throw back look down to a science. It looks very much like an early version of Office despite having many advanced features. (Microsoft has since made the Ribbon interface part of office making it easier to find underutilized features)

Firefox and Thunderbird have a great look because they’re easily skinned. That encourages the design community’s help.

Although I think that too many open source programs have pretty poor UI design (from a mass market perspective), the open media center Elisa has a fairly commercial looking pretty design too. It’s pretty much inspired by Apple, but taken in their own direction.

Design is a huge part of innovation. That seems to be a place where commercial products can beat open source. Despite the criticism, a lot of this is great software in a bad package.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.

Android App Design for Web Developers

Mobile apps are shiny, new and still exciting for users and developers. As it turns out, designers can easily tap into all of this.

Somehow, over the past month or so I’ve dived fully into Android app development.  I’m a print designer normally. I focus on magazines and occassional collateral. I’ve done some infographic design which felt like a natural extension of print.  Sure, I was part of the web page club in high school. A few years ago, I knew table based web design. Then I moved to learning css.  This time, I thought I’d study some Javascript.  When I learned that Phonegap could package a website on to Android phones as apps, it seemed like a great way to learn Javascript. Give myself a simple task of making an app and learn from there.

From Google’s documentation: “There are essentially two ways to deliver an application on Android: as a client-side application (developed using the Android SDK and installed on user devices as an .apk) or as a web application (developed using web standards and accessed through a web browser—there’s nothing to install on user devices).”

Phonegap (Apache Cordova)

Phonegap, soon to be renamed Apache Cordova, is an open-source mobile development framework developed by Adobe Systems. It allows web based development with all of it’s visual and technical advantages and disadvantages. It also allows you to access native featurs such as the camera, gps and accelerometer.

In theory, you can develop cross platform apps with a single codebase. “Build your app once with web-standardsBased on HTML5, PhoneGap leverages web technologies developers already know best… HTML and JavaScript. Wrap it with PhoneGap using the free open source framework or PhoneGap build you can get access to native APIs. Deploy to multiple platforms! PhoneGap uses standards-based web technologies to bridge web applications and mobile devices.” I haven’t fully tested this, but reports are that the differences in various browsers quickly can come into play.

Be sure to try out one of my trivia apps in the Android Market. Let me know what you think I can improve.

Brian E. Young is a graphic designer and artist in Baltimore, MD.