When Apple unveiled OS X Yosemite at this years WWDC, I was pleasantly surprised with the design changes. They were practical yet refreshing and more inline with iOS 7.

However, after spending some time with Yosemite there is one item that I have yet to warm up to: Helvetica Neue. Changing the system font is a tall order, especially one that has proven itself over its long span.

Well known typeface designer Tobias Frere-Jones claims:

Despite its grand reputation, Helvetica can’t do everything. It works well in big sizes, but it can be really weak in small sizes. Shapes like ‘C’ and ‘S’ curl back into themselves, leaving tight “apertures”–the channels of white between a letter’s interior and exterior. So each shape halts the eye again and again, rather than ushering it along the line. The lowercase ‘e,’ the most common letter in English and many other languages, takes an especially unobliging form. These and other letters can be a pixel away from being some other letter, and we’re left to deal with flickers of doubt as we read.

Lucida Grande presents open apertures, inviting the eye to move along sideways through the text. It has worked really well–for years, and for good reason. For any text, but particularly in interfaces, our eyes need typefaces that cooperate rather than resist. A super-sharp Retina Display might help, but the real issue is the human eye, and I haven’t heard of any upgrades on the way.

Even if Retina Displays help, they are really not common yet for Macs. Let’s take a look at Apple’s current (July 2014) Mac lineup:

July 2014 Mac Lineup

Only one of the above five have an Apple Retina Display. Granted the Macbook Pro w/Retina Display is probably one of the best selling in the lineup. Still, Retina Macs are simply not pervasive. I suppose we could see new Retina Macbook Airs and iMacs, along with a new Retina Thunderbolt display this year and that would cover the whole line up, but that’s hoping for a lot.

It will take time for Helvetica in OS X to sink in and prove itself.

From the Nord Electro 3 product page:

One of our main focuses is to have dedicated knobs and buttons for all vital functions, and keep the interface simple and easy to use during a performance. We don’t believe in submenus, and the only functions in the Electro 3 that only are available through menus are printed on the panel so you don’t need to read the manual.

“Don’t need to read the manual.”

Jonas Downey:

As builders, we like tools and tech because they’re interesting and new, and we enjoy mastering them. But when you think about the people we’re building for, the reality is usually the opposite. They need simple designs, clear writing, less tech, and fewer abstractions.

There are good reasons to use tools when building stuff, they can speed up the process, reduce barriers, and increase enjoyment. I would be the first to admit I enjoy using the latest frameworks and tools for web development, but it’s not always the right thing to do.

Jon Bell:

It’s an immovable law of design physics — adding functionality adds complexity. You can’t get around it. All you can do is try to add functionality that people really want, and do it carefully enough that the increased complexity is worth it. There are no shortcuts or magic bullets.

From The Rise of Nintendo: A Story in 8 Bits:

As Nintendo exploded, there were plenty of opportunities to make a quick buck (hardware upgrades, unnecessary peripherals), exploit the company’s beloved characters (movies, theme parks), or dilute the brand by trying to attract an audience older than Nintendo’s six-to-fourteen-year-olds. But these kinds of things didn’t interest Arakawa. What propelled him was a desire to continually provide Nintendo’s customers with a unique user experience. He set up a toll-free telephone line where Nintendo “Game Counselors” were available all day to help players get through difficult levels, and he initiated the Nintendo Fun Club, which sent a free newsletter to any customer who had sent in a warranty card. Both programs were very costly and could have been offset by charging small fees or obtaining sponsorship, but Arakawa believed that doing so would compromise Nintendo’s mission.

Intense focus like this is always applaudable.

From a Dorm Room Tycoon Podcast:

The less intrusive the design is the better the user can focus on the task. A lot of designers want to wave their flag and say, “Hey, look at my design.” But the truth is the user does not want that. They don’t use your app to admire, they use your app to get things done.

This is some really exciting news:

SanDisk this week announced the industry’s first 4TB enterprise-class SAS solid-state drive (SSD) in its Optimus MAX product based on 19-nanometer process technology.


Along with the new drives, SanDisk confirmed that the company hopes to release 6TB and 8TB Optimus MAX SSDs in a 2.5-in. size next year — surpassing anything previously offered by manufacturers.

The dream is coming true.

Morgan Holzer:

I often equate my job to that of a building architect — just like they need to make sure that the floors are sound and people can walk across without hitting beams, get to an elevator and push a button and when they get off they see what they expected to see, I have to make sure that if a patron is on our website, they can understand our navigational elements and when they get to a page all of the information they need is front and center.

Great way to put it.

Wren Lanier:

For years we’ve thought about the web as a two-dimensional space filled with pages that sit side by side on a flat, infinite plane. But as the devices we design for take on an increasingly diverse array of shapes and sizes, we should embrace new ways of designing up and down. By building interfaces using a system of layers, we solve tricky design problems, flexibly adapt to a variety of screens, and create new patterns that will point the way to future interactions.

In the words of Jim Dalrymple, “Yep.

Apple is the company that I think of when I think of world class user interface design. However, iOS 7.1 took a wild turn with it’s shift key behavior.

Can you tell if shift is currently enabled?


Nope, me either.

Update: Geoff Teehan offers a simple solution

Stephen Fry:

In the early 90s a young British computer scientist, Tim Berners-Lee had been tasked by CERN (Centre Européeen pour la Recherche Nucléaire the now famous large hardon collider that found the Higgs Boson or a tiny thing pretending to be it) to go in and see if he could find a way of getting the Tower of Babel of different computing platforms used by the hundreds of physicists at the plant to talk to each other. He came up with something that made use of metatextual techniques that he called The Information Mine. Being a very very modest man he realised that those initials spelled out his name, TIM, so he changed it at the last minute to the World Wide Web. He wrote a language HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), a set of communication protocols (chiefly htttp — the hypertext transfer protocol) and an application, as we would now say, on which all these could run, which he called a browser.

He planned, devised, programmed and completed this most revolutionary code in Geneva on one of Steve Jobs’s black cube NeXT computers. Hugging his close to him he took the train to Paris where Jobs was going to be present at a NeXT developers’ conference. Clutching the optical disc that contained the most important computer code in history he sat at a desk while Steve marched up and down looking at hopeful programs and applications. As in all of Steve’s judgments they either sucked or were insanely great. Like a Duchess inspecting a flower show he continued along the rows sniffing and frowning until he got two away from the man who had created the code which would change everything, everything in our world. “Sorry Steve, we need to be out of here if we’re going to catch that plane,” whispered an aide into Jobs’s ear. So, with an an encouraging wave Steve left, two footsteps away from being the first man outside CERN to see the World Wide Web. The two men never met and now, since Steve’s death, never can.