At Home With: Achaz Reuss

We are in Hamburg and at home with type designer and creative director Achaz Reuss for the latest instalment of our ‘At Home With’ series. He is one design half (alongside Albert-Jan Pool) behind our bestseller FF DIN and is also responsible for one of our recent Über FontFontsFF QType.

In green-scape surrounds, this classic modernist home takes on a quiet elegance and understated design sensibility. The beauty is in the finer details and the arrangement of the space and everything within it. Much like his typefaces, it also encompasses a new kind of traditional – an effortless and royal modern kind.

See more on Behance and Flickr. Photography by Max Zerrahn.

At Home With Achaz ReussAt Home With Achaz ReussAt Home With Achaz ReussAt Home With Achaz ReussAt Home With Achaz ReussAt Home With Achaz Reuss

FontFonts by Achaz Reuss:

FF DIN (co-designed with Albert-Jan Pool)

FF DIN

FF QType

FF QType 

 

 

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Last-minute gift ideas

For Type Lovers

With the holidays fast approaching, I’m sure you have it all under control. You’re smart, you planned well in advance and have already purchased your gifts, so that you’ll avoid being trampled by hordes of panicked last-minute shoppers. But just in case you haven’t, here are a few ideas:

Tattly

Designed for everyone. Fun, easy to apply, and no painful laser surgery required should you have regrets.

tattly

Daring Fireball

One of these lovely tees — a collaboration between Messrs Gruber and Contino.

contino-est2002-976

Hische

A letterpress print from Jessica Hische.

u

Ugmonk

Punctuation coasters from Ugmonk.

coastes_new_1024x1024

Analog = Heavy

My favorite Able Parris Collage now available as a print.

able-parris-yellow-bird-collage

The Anatomy of Type: A Graphic Guide to 100 Typefaces

A wonderful book detailing the finer points of type.

geometry-of-type

(photo courtesy of typeanatomy.com)

House Industries

Twelve Neutraface Slab alphabet blocks.

house

Apple Bear Cart

Illustrated by the magnificent Cyrus Highsmith and available from Occupant Press.

applebearcat_spreads_cat_detail

Linotype — The Film

Buy the DVD.

Scrabble Typography

A limited edition Scrabble set with lovely letters.

scrabble-typography

Missed something? Tell me in the comments below.



Sponsored by H&FJ.

Last-minute gift ideas

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This Week in Fonts

A whimsical serif by FontFont, a Dutch inspired family from Bold Monday, a scribble inspired face by Letters From Sweden, a rounded sans from 205, a contemporary display by Alex Trochut, a mellow sans by S-Core, playful icons from Symbolset, and an elegant sans by Rene Bieder.

FontFont: FF Quixo

Designed by Frank Grießhammer

FF Quixo feels at home whenever a touch of personality, whim, and some symbols are required.

Bold Monday: Oskar

Designed by Paul van der Laan

Oskar is inspired by Dutch architectural and advertising lettering from the early 20th century.

Letters From Sweden: Line

Designed by Stefania Malmsten & Göran Söderström

Inspired by beauty, handwriting, graffiti tags and scribble.

205: Maax Rounded

Designed by Damien Gautier & Quentin Margat

The rounded version of the well known font Maax designed in 2012 by Damien Gautier and Quentin Margat.

Alex Trochut: Trojan

Designed by Alex Trochut

A very sophisticated set of glyphs which in turn give this font a classic contemporary appearance.

S-Core: Core Mellow

Designed by Hyun-Seung Lee, Dae-Hoon Hahm & Min-Joo Ham

A condensed geometric sans-serif — mild, minimal, simple, and clean in appearance.

Symbolset: SS Air

Designed by Jory Raphael

A collection of elegant and playful icons — gentle and inviting, dynamic yet balanced.

Rene Bieder: Canaro

Designed by Rene Bieder

Sharp and elegant thinner cuts, sporty and athletic heavy weights.

Don’t forget to check out the new 1001 pt. Prints available soon.



Sponsored by H&FJ.

This Week in Fonts

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This Week in Fonts

A whimsical serif by FontFont, a Dutch inspired family from Bold Monday, a scribble inspired face by Letters From Sweden, a rounded sans from 205, a contemporary display by Alex Trochut, a mellow sans by S-Core, playful icons from Symbolset, and an elegant sans by Rene Bieder.

FontFont: FF Quixo

Designed by Frank Grießhammer

FF Quixo feels at home whenever a touch of personality, whim, and some symbols are required.

Bold Monday: Oskar

Designed by Paul van der Laan

Oskar is inspired by Dutch architectural and advertising lettering from the early 20th century.

Letters From Sweden: Line

Designed by Stefania Malmsten & Göran Söderström

Inspired by beauty, handwriting, graffiti tags and scribble.

205: Maax Rounded

Designed by Damien Gautier & Quentin Margat

The rounded version of the well known font Maax designed in 2012 by Damien Gautier and Quentin Margat.

Alex Trochut: Trojan

Designed by Alex Trochut

A very sophisticated set of glyphs which in turn give this font a classic contemporary appearance.

S-Core: Core Mellow

Designed by Hyun-Seung Lee, Dae-Hoon Hahm & Min-Joo Ham

A condensed geometric sans-serif — mild, minimal, simple, and clean in appearance.

Symbolset: SS Air

Designed by Jory Raphael

A collection of elegant and playful icons — gentle and inviting, dynamic yet balanced.

Rene Bieder: Canaro

Designed by Rene Bieder

Sharp and elegant thinner cuts, sporty and athletic heavy weights.

Don’t forget to check out the new 1001 pt. Prints available soon.



Sponsored by H&FJ.

This Week in Fonts

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Matt Griffin on How We Work: Let’s Do It! What Are We Doing?

Today is a great day. A new potential client has come knocking on your door, and they’d like to consider you for a project. Thrilling as it may be, your excitement quickly turns to anxiety as you realize that the next thing they want to know is “how much will it cost?”

Here begins the great struggle of web business development. You need to know what you’re building before you can know how much it costs to build it. But accurately mapping out the scope of a project could take weeks of focused effort. That’s probably not something you can give away whenever you get a request for a quote. So what do you do? Make up numbers and hope you’re on target? Undershoot and you may land a job that cripples your business. Overshoot, and you may unnecessarily send that new client packing.

Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be this way. Defining the challenges, solutions, and strategies for the project to come is some of the most valuable work you will do for your client. Not only is that time worth paying for, but the resulting deliverables will be critical to the success of the project, regardless of who they hire to complete the next phase.

Let’s look at how we can structure a pre-project research phase that will ensure that—on completion—everyone’s ready to hit the ground running with design and development. By the end, our new client will know more about their organization and web project than ever before, and you’ll be able to create a much more accurate budget for subsequent work.

Let’s do it! What are we doing?

So there it is. That unread email with the subject line Fancy Organization Request for Proposal.

It’s a website redesign: no surprise there. And, wait—oh miraculous day—they even told you their budget. They have $100,000, which is enough money to do some real stuff. But what stuff do they want? Poring over the pages, you realize quickly that it’s not so clear. Some of the requirements they state, in fact, seem vague, strange, or misguided. As much as these folks are hoping you can take their RFP and give them a precise quote and a plan of action, you know in your bones that you need more clarity—and clarity rarely comes easily.

Smaller is better

So instead of putting together their requested $100,000 proposal, what do I do? I put together a $20,000 one. This, my friends, is unexpected. Gutsy, even! This is not what they’ve asked for. The gall. The nerve. The chutzpah!

Alright, let’s acknowledge this right now: there is risk involved in this approach. If I turn in something that looks entirely different from what the client is requesting, they cannot compare apples to apples with the other proposals. This may not fit into their (potentially rigid) RFP process. Our proposal may get tossed out in the very first round, just for being different.

On the other hand, this may be exactly what makes us stand out. Rob Harr from Sparkbox has a terrific line that I’ve started using myself: “I’m going to embrace the fact that I’ll know more about your project tomorrow than I do today.” For some clients, that may be a refreshing dose of honesty and creative thinking. And I don’t know about you, but those are the clients I really want.

One caveat: though we’re holding off on producing an accurate second phase budget until later, we still need to address the general cost of future work in some way. It’s a good idea to take a stab at a ballpark range for the second phase, with the understanding that it’s a bit of a shot in the dark. That way everyone will at least have a sense of the magnitude of a second phase, and can plan accordingly.

So what are we actually pitching in this smaller project? Well, it’s the first part of the bigger project, naturally. Depending on the nature of the project, it may require different tasks and deliverables. But we’ll likely include things like meetings, interviews, information architecture recommendations, branding analysis, a copywriting style guide, a content audit, wireframes, and style prototypes/style tiles. Whatever we end up doing, we’ll compile all of the research and conclusions we draw in the specification document, which is the central deliverable we provide at the end of the phase.

When putting together a standalone research phase, the trick is to focus on work that will help you more clearly define the project. That way you’ll have a well-formed plan for a second phase, and can provide the client with a much more accurate budget for that subsequent work.

What does everyone get out of this?

In all likelihood, I don’t need to sell you on research. Understanding what we’re going to design and build before we begin means we can create better things, more efficiently. But why, when we have the opportunity to sign a big contract, would we opt to sign a small one? Why, indeed!

It’s good for clients

You know what’s scary? Handing a big wad of money to a stranger. That’s what a big initial contract is like for a potential client. A smaller introductory research project lets a new client wade in ankle-deep before the big plunge.

Not only are they making a smaller commitment of time and money but—by the end of the project—they’ll know if you’re a good fit for them. If everyone decides to part ways at the end of this phase, they’ll still have valuable deliverables to help them jump-start the project with a different team.

It’s good for you, too!

And this goes for you, too. There’s nothing worse than signing on for a year-long project with a new client, and then realizing a month in that it’s a bad match. The pre-project project lets you assess the relationship in a low-risk environment, and decide if it’s worth continuing.

From a business development perspective, this initial research project has a lot of appeal, too. Sure, you’re not landing a big ticket contract just yet, but bear with me on this one.

Proposing is time-consuming

If you’re a small company like ours, you likely don’t have a dedicated sales person. This means that responding to RFPs is costly, and before long you’ll have to start making some hard decisions about which proposals you can afford to write, and which you can’t.

The nice thing about research phase proposals is that they tend to be very similar from project to project. By definition, these proposals don’t include very much about the specifics of the work being done, so a chunk of well-written boilerplate in your proposal gets you a lot more mileage. Investing less time with each proposal means that you can respond to more proposals. Wider net, less effort—without sacrificing quality. Yay!

Your feet, their door

In my experience, when you don’t have a proven track record with a client, selling a $10,000–20,000 project is a lot easier than selling a $100,000–200,000 project. This little research project helps you get a foot in the door with that new client, and prove your worth without resorting to something devaluing like spec work.

A clearer future

As this phase is nearing completion, you’ll be able to create a much more accurate budget for phase two. Because your research has generated a well-informed project definition, there will be much less guesswork, and a far greater understanding of the project’s requirements. In effect, you’re getting paid to write the best proposal ever. And you should be! The insight into the project and organization you’re providing is vital work that ensures that no one will be jumping into the project blindly and simply hoping for the best. That’s because now you’ll have something that every project desperately needs, but surprisingly few actually have. You’ll have a plan.

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Surveying the Big Screen

With over three years of responsive web design in our collective portfolios, we now have a solid set of design patterns for making websites work on small devices. But what about larger screens?

It’s become common for sites to employ a liquid design for smaller breakpoints, which allows the content to expand and contract as necessary to make the most of the available screen width. At the opposite end of the spectrum, however, many of those same sites have a maximum width of 960 pixels or so, which can leave a lot of unused pixels on a contemporary desktop display.

Designing for the big screen can be complicated—negative space, scale, density, and layout devices such as grids, modules, and columns can be factors in managing hierarchy and emphasis.

Large screens are also generally shaped in a wide landscape orientation, a poor fit for the traditional vertically scrolled webpage. As with smaller screens, there are a wide variety of screen sizes and resolutions—but in the case of larger screens, the differences are often magnified, ranging from ultra-light 11-inch laptops to 30-inch desktop monitors.

Given these conditions, it’s not surprising that many desktop layouts (like this one) are designed to suit a 1024×768 resolution. It’s a leftover from an earlier era, when designs were constrained to the screen resolution that was most prevalent amongst users. Today, with the majority of desktop users on screens that are wider than 1024 pixels, a maximized browser window can turn that carefully considered 960-pixel layout into a monolith in a field of whitespace.

More people are accessing the internet with a mobile device every year, and so it makes sense to concentrate budgets and timelines on creating good user experiences for smaller screens. Mobile layouts can be perfectly usable on larger devices, but the same cannot always be said for desktop layouts viewed on small screens.

But by embracing large screens, designers have the opportunity to work within a larger fold, presenting the user with more content simultaneously, lessen scrolling on longer pages, and create a richer, more expansive user experience. And by using the same practices we developed to adapt layouts to smaller screens and identifying some common patterns for large screens, we need not necessarily introduce extra cost or time to our projects.

Content challenges

As with any design, the first consideration when approaching larger breakpoints is content. Long- and short-form writing, photography, ecommerce, video, or web applications may benefit from different approaches in different ways.

Photography, search results, and other content presented in grid format are easy candidates for wide screens. Showing as much content as the screen can accommodate allows a user to quickly scan and compare results.

On the other hand, long-form reading is a challenge for wider breakpoints. Long line lengths can make it difficult to follow the text from line to line, while short line lengths can introduce a sense of jumpiness or acceleration, breaking a reader’s rhythm and pacing.

To make reading more comfortable, a designer needs to balance the width of the text column (the measure) against the size and line-height (leading) of each line of text. Classically, an appropriate count for a single column of text is seven to 10 words (Josef Muller-Brockmann) or 45 to 75 characters (Robert Bringhurst). Taken another way, Bringhurst also notes that the measure of a conventional book column is about 30 times that of the type size used, but that this number may also range from 20 to 40 times the size of the type.

Wider columns can use more line-height to make it easier to follow the text from line to line, but too much line-height can cause lines to drift apart, resembling a college research paper. Similarly, as the text size in a column grows larger, the number of lines that can be presented vertically on the screen grows smaller, increasing the need for scrolling and breaking the reader’s immersion. Simply scaling the text for larger breakpoints is a limited solution.

Working with long reads

The Great Discontent demonstrates how a site can use art direction to adapt to larger screens without necessarily filling every single pixel in the browser window. Each article expands its feature art at the top to fill the viewport, resulting in a striking full-bleed effect upon first viewing. The main content of each article is set in a relatively narrow main column, but sidebars, pull quotes, and inline art expand beyond the central column. Breaking the content out of the main column creates an asymmetrical shape which complements the full-width artwork at the top—creating the illusion of a full-window experience without compromising legibility. Large images like these can come at a cost, though, as a balance between image quality and the overall page weight needs to be considered.

The Great Discontent
The Great Discontent uses bold feature art at the top of each article to fill the viewport.
The Roger Ebert site
The Roger Ebert site scales up most page elements, reducing the visible content.

The recently relaunched Roger Ebert site deals with large breakpoints by simply scaling up the maximum width of the page and the page elements proportionately. In theory this might work, but the execution is not entirely successful. Elements such as headers scale up vertically as well as horizontally, meaning the amount of content displayed within the fold is drastically reduced. Inexplicably, main body copy on the more text-heavy pages does not scale up in proportion to the other page elements, so it seems dwarfed in comparison, in addition to being set in a size that is too small for the main column measure.

Medium
Medium places comments contextually, in the extended right margin.

Using the extended margins of larger screens for related or tangential content, such as Medium’s comments layout, is another idea that seems well suited for long-form publishing. When the main content column is maximized on smaller screens, it moves aside to reveal the comments area; on larger screens, the comments are revealed in the available margin space.

I’ve also always liked Grantland’s use of the lower right column for footnotes, which takes advantage of wider screens while maintaining focus on a readable central column. Photographs, figures, asides, quotes, and other related content can be extended out into the margins of wider viewports. This allows a designer to extend the vertical grid outward to create variety while preserving the flow of the main text.

Newer CSS features like columns and regions could be useful tools to enhance long-form reading on wider screens. CSS-based columns are now supported across most new browsers, and could be deployed within sections of an article to maximize screen usage while maintaining a good measure for text readability. If you have a large screen, for example, see my column-based demo of this article.

As a progressive enhancement measure, older browsers that do not support these features could be restricted to a single column of appropriate measure.

Chunking content on large screens

Breaking content into chunks allows users to quickly and efficiently process information on content-heavy pages, and it’s a natural fit for responsive designs, because it allows content to be easily stacked hierarchically or arranged in columns for different breakpoints.

The advantage of this technique for large screens is that each chunk or band of content can use a different layout to optimize for legibility or impact. A good example of this approach is the Manchester City Council site, which uses different groups of modules in restricted widths together with a full-width photography chunk to create impact and emotion. The layout adapts fluidly to different viewports while retaining an appropriate width and layout for the content of each chunk.

Manchester City Council site
Manchester City Council and content chunks.
Juliana Bicycles
Juliana Bicycles treats content chunks more visually.

Juliana Bicycles uses a more visual approach to content chunking, combining horizontal bands with flexible tiles to create a rich and compelling responsive site that also scales to large screen widths. Navigation is recast as a full-window carousel with rich background photographs. Content is presented in modular blocks, and gutters that appear between tiles are removed in tablet and mobile screen sizes. A paper texture background fills in empty tile spaces and also helps fill out the screen at the largest breakpoint. Using image-based modules in this way can be expensive from a bandwidth perspective, but is a great way to get the user to navigate quickly by showing rather than telling.

Tiling modular content

The obvious advantage of a big screen is the ability to see a lot of content at one time.

Google Images
Google Images shows as many images as possible in the viewport.

With collection-based content such as photos, tiling can be an effective way to to fill large screens. We see this every day when searching Google Images—the results spread out to fill the viewport, presenting a large variety to choose from in a single scan.

Pinterest
Pinterest’s tiled pages play to the scrapbooking or collector metaphor.

Pinterest also uses a tiling layout for images, with the addition of text and whitespace to mitigate what could be an overly busy layout. On larger screens the image preview modules seem to tile indefinitely. For a collection site, where the user experience is about quickly collecting and marking favorites, filling the viewport with thumbnails makes it easier to scan and creates a satisfying sense of fullness.

Uniqlo
Uniqlo’s wide view allows shoppers to compare items visually.

Uniqlo uses a wide, tiled-image layout that also looks well-designed and spacious. Items are chunked together with large headers acting as bumpers between sets to add breathing room. Tiling the products across a wide area allows shoppers to quickly compare items visually. At the same time, the whitespace, model photos, and variety in scale add refinement to the overall look and feel and help reinforce the point that design is an important differentiator in Uniqlo’s product line.

Neither Pinterest nor Google Images are responsive or adaptive sites—they both employ a separate site for mobile users. Uniqlo is also only adaptive to larger screens; small screens get the narrowest desktop layout. While these sites may not be complete models for responsive design, we can look at them as examples for expanding this type of content.

Graphic techniques

Another interesting technique for larger screens is based more on classic print design, rather than restructuring or manipulating content to fill the browser.

Institut Choiseul
Elements in the grid extend to edges of the window at Institut Choiseul.

Institut Choiseul confines the content of each page to a structured grid in the center of the window, but effectively stakes out a large screen presence by extending a field of color from the logo and main page content outward toward the left edge of the viewport. The Back to Top link appears in the lower left corner of the viewport when the page is scrolled, a small touch that stakes out the entire window for the page. The strong grid and large fields of color give the site a sober, logical tone that evokes the International Design style of the 1950s and 1960s.

Kanselarij der Nederlandse Orden
Kanselarij der Nederlandse Orden frames a flexible central grid in asymmetrical bands of color.

Kanselarij der Nederlandse Orden has a similar style, with asymmetrical bands of color that provide the background to a centered flexible grid. Because the grid expands as a percentage of the total window width, the content also plays a part in filling the screen, but the boxy color fields add a level of sophistication to what is otherwise a fairly ordinary layout.

Small effects such as a color tone or texture in the background, or removing boxy lines from the edges of a layout, can go a long way toward creating a sense of completeness in the maximized window. Creative use of asymmetry instead of skinny, tower-like layouts can also keep readers from drowning in white margins.

Finally

By simply extending common techniques for adapting content to smaller breakpoints, we can see plenty of opportunities for larger breakpoints as well. Sites that use a strong grid will have an easier time of it, as a well-structured grid should have no problem expanding into a wider space.

Obviously the most important consideration in any design is the content, and so that must be the basis for any effort to expand a design to fill a wide screen. For long reads, it’s more important to create a good rhythm and flow so that the text can be read without distraction. For photographs or graphics, space and scale contribute directly to impact. Government and service-oriented sites must provide easy access to tasks and information. Ecommerce sites need to make it easy for consumers to evaluate and purchase products. A layout’s density should reflect the site’s tone—more density for a more active experience, less for a slower, more thoughtful tone. Much like framing a photograph, filling out the viewport can make a design seem bigger and bolder, just as framing a design in generous whitespace can make it seem more elegant or precious.

It may be true that desktop users have the luxury of resizing the browser window if all that whitespace makes them uncomfortable, unlike users of smaller devices. It may be also be true that not all desktop users browse with large or full-screen windows. But as with mobile, we shouldn’t make assumptions about which devices are used to view our content now, and especially in the future. Large screens, in some cases, can provide both enhanced usability for users and a richer palette for designers. It’s up to us to take advantage of these expanded borders.

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