Culture Other

he just doesn’t get it

Creative have launched a competitor to the video-capable iPod. It looks rather like the iPod except clumsier and uglier. But this is the bit I thought was extraordinary:

Creative are touting the Zen as a far more powerful player than Apple’s offering, with additional functions such as FM radio and a built-in mic.

“We are focused on the technology,” he said. “This is still a technology marketplace.”

“This is the key difference between a technology company and a branding company,” he said, taking a side-swipe at Apple’s successful marketing campaign for its iPod.

Firstly – the iPod does what it does very well. What makes Mr Sim think people want additional functions? But more to the point – how many millions of units do Apple have to ship, and what proportion of the market do they have to win, before their competitors come to terms with the fact that all consumer products are brand items, and bought as much because people like them as for what they can do? We’re not talking about coal-fired power stations or aircraft carriers here, we’re talking about something that people are buying for entertainment, that they carry around every day in their pocket. Car companies get it – that people want cars that look nice, have the right associations (yes, Mr Sim, that’s branding) and that they enjoy owning. If that’s true for a £20,000 car, it’s certainly true for a £200 mp3 player. That’s not much more than a pair of trainers. If the chairman of Nike suggested that branding was unimportant, we’d all assume he’d lost his marbles.

Culture Other

blog design

I’ve been thinking about web design recently, specifically as it applies to a possible redesign for this blog. There’s no rush, because the current look is fairly new and I’m pleased with it, but I had set myself a more ambitious target. Inspired by an exchange I had with Will over at Corridor of Uncertainty, I wanted to come up with something which broke away from the standard layout of ‘header and 2 or 3 columns’, which looked genuinely distinctive and sharp.

Obviously you can’t get away from the fact that most of the content you want to present (posts, blogroll, categories) is naturally in a column form. What you can do, hopefully, is break up the boxy visual appearance, both by disguising it – rather as I’ve tried to do with the fading-out of the blue boxes in the current design, which softens their appearance – and by laying them out somewhat differently. And that’s quite apart from all the decisions about typography, visual style, colour-scheme and so on. I would want to get the look stylish without being über-tasteful, modern without trying to present myself as terribly hip (which I’m not), and low-key while still being distinctive. And no Flash or Java, both because they’re completely unnecessary with this kind of site and because I wouldn’t know how to do them anyway – it took me long enough to learn my way around basic HTML and CSS.

I do have a few ideas, but it’s not coming together just yet. In the meantime, I had a (not very thorough) scan through the long poetry blogroll to see what other people have done. Most, sensibly enough, have just used one of the blogger templates. And there are plenty with good, simple designs based primarily on sensible colour and type choices. But here are a few that have managed something a bit more distinctive. In no particular order:

Equanimity (probably my favourite of the lot, though the one-column layout is a bit limiting)
jane dark’s sugarhigh!
Shanna Compton
{lime tree}
Jacob’s Ladder
One Good Bumblebee
Postcards from the Imagination

Note that I’m not talking about anything particularly radical or super-ingenious, just good design.