Tagged : Creativity

Sketch to illustration

Zaanse Schans, Kiozk Amsterdam

Can an illustration ever get more Dutch than this? A few days ago I asked the same question on Facebook and as it turns out… Yes it can. The replies I got varied from adding tulips, a bike, perhaps some wooden shoes and yes, even weed to the illustration.

Of course the question was rhetorical, but still… we could add all these things to the illustration above, since we created the windmill-illustration ourselves.

Recently we wanted to refresh our newsletter style. After a little brainstorm we decided, amongst other things, to include a big illustration which covers the subject of the email. Last week we used this image, which obviously referred to our launch in Amsterdam. This week it’s the windmills, which refer to this organiser we added to Kiozk.

I didn’t create the windmill illustration myself. In fact, I can only dream of creating an something like this. Luckily we’re a team! The thing that amazes me most is that the windmill-illustration started with this simple sketch:

sketch-to-illustration-Kiozk-windmill

This makes me look forward to our next newsletter. Let’s see if you’re able to guess the subject based on this sketch (and perhaps learn a little Dutch along the way):

sketch-to-easter

Skeuomorphism

These days, everyone seems to talk about skeuomorphism, not in the last place because of Jony Ive’s design revolution at Apple. I follow this discussion closely because this discussion also applies to Kiozk.com, a company I co-founded. More on skeuomorphism later, first a little introduction on Kiozk.

When you visit Kiozk.com and set the location to Groningen (a Dutch city), you’ll see a long list with activities based on your time and location. The activity at the top of the list is about to start, the more you scroll down, the later the activity takes place. Essentially, this is all you need to know about Kiozk, although there’s much more to it.

screenshot Kiozk Groningen

Kiozk, a modern kiosk

We see Kiozk as the modern equivalent of a kiosk. No need to collect dozens of flyers or search the Internet to find something to do. Instead, use Kiozk and you’ll immediately see activities taking place nearby. This led to an important design-question. If we see ourselves as a modern day kiosk, shouldn’t we look like a kiosk as well?

Skeuomorphism

We quickly learned this is called skeuomorphism… Skeu-what!? In short, it means that a digital object closely emulates objects in the real world. Check these examples: 12 and 3. In other words, a digital button looks like a real-world button, so our digital Kiozk should resemble a real-world kiosk as well.

To Skeu or Not to Skeu

Last year, there were many arguments in favor of skeuomorphism. After all, Scott Forstall still worked for Apple and iOS was filled with real-life objects, materials and shapes. Since many people were (and still are) used to this skeuomorphic design, it made sense to apply the same design philosophy to Kiozk as well. So we did (well, only during our mock-up phase).

We tried wooden textures…
kiozk skeuomorphism - wood
Made the activity-feed resemble paper…
kiozk skeuomorphism - paper
We even used leather stitching at some point (yes I know, it looks terrible).
kiozk skeuomorphism - leather stitching

We literally tried hundreds of designs for the Kiozk homepage. Some were skeuomorphic and some used the so called flat design. In the end, we choose the modern and more minimalist look and ditched skeuomorphism. In hindsight, this is the best decision we could’ve made. After all, with the current design revolution at Apple, skeuomorphism is now officially outdated.

kiozk skeuomorphism - current flat designThis is the current activity-feed.
We hope to perfect the design within several weeks.

The color of luck

My summer holiday of 2012 was a 3000 mile road trip in the United States. It was one of my best holidays ever. So, how come I never wrote about it here? The answer is simple. Since I arrived back in the Netherlands, I’ve been quite busy creating something (more on that in the future). Surprisingly, I finally found some time to write about the USA trip… Today, it’s time for part seven; “The color of luck”.

In Las Vegas, I met Dave. He told me everything in Vegas is done for a reason. For example, the Chinese color of luck is red, which is something you should remember in case you ever want to start your own casino.

Dave works at the Encore casino in Las Vegas. Together with the adjacent Wynn, which is owned by the same organization, this is one of the most luxurious hotels and casino’s in the world (with a combined price tag of about five billion dollars). One day, I strolled around the casino floor, where almost no people were present. Actually, the ratio of staff to customers was about 3 – 1, which means there’re way more staffers than customers. This was also true for the game Dave was responsible for.

He supervises a game – of which I don’t know the name of – but it involves a long table, some dice, five staffers and by the time I walked by, just a single customer. The supervisor wasn’t too busy supervising, since the other four employees needed something to do as well. This allowed me to ask him the one obvious question: “Why are there so many employees present at this table?” The supervisor, Dave, told me it’s a money issue. Over a million dollars was present on the table… sigh.

After that, our conversation continued for about an hour. Dave allowed me to ask him anything, like what happens when the power goes out (there’s an entire protocol for that), how much money he ever saw someone win on a single day (over 10 million dollars), or lose (over 4 million) and I asked if he ever met a celebrity (he met Ben Affleck just a short while ago). While this was all fun, the most interesting part of the conversation came when I started to ask questions about the architecture and design of the casino. I learned about the bold vision of Steve Wynn (the owner) for the Wynn and Encore casino’s and why casino’s are built the way they’re built. Also, Dave told me about the impact of the economic crisis (the Encore opened in 2008, just a few months after the crisis broke out). Then, our conversion shifted to China.

The Chinese elite continues to have deep pockets, which is why Steve Wynn – the owner of the casino – wants to attract as many people from China as possible. Therefore, Dave pointed out, the Encore casino has lots of ‘little’ details to appeal to the Chinese. Everything inside is done for a reason. For example, the Chinese color of luck is red… so, take a guess which color is most abundant inside the casino (hint: Check out the photos below). This ‘little’ detail is one of the reasons why the Encore is the most popular destination for Chinese gamblers in Las Vegas, which keeps the casino afloat during the economic crisis and gave me a reason to write about it. Thanks Dave!

The Encore is a true red casino. Most notably, it has a red floor and red chandeliers. These chandeliers are extremely expensive, they cost tens of thousands of dollars a piece.

Does this feel Chinese to you? To me, it does.

There’s more of the outdoor inside the Encore than at any other casino in Vegas. For example, check out these beautiful skylights.

My next stop: Chicago

Previous posts

Part 1: Exceeded expectations
Part 2: Google vs. Apple
Part 3: Look left! … No, look right!
Part 4: Johnny Depp
Part 5: Big, bigger, biggest
Part 6: The most beautiful road of the world

Google vs. Apple

My summer holiday of 2012 was a 3000 mile road trip in the United States. It was one of my best holidays ever. So, how come I never wrote about it here? The answer is simple. Since I arrived back in the Netherlands, I’ve been quite busy creating something (more on that in the future). Surprisingly, I finally found some time to write about the USA trip… Today it’s time for part two; “Google vs. Apple”.

Second stop, Silicon Valley, California. It’s the place where companies like Google, Apple, Facebook and thousands of small technology startups have their headquarters. Since I’m interested in technology and use Apple and Google products every day, I decided it would be great to visit these two companies in their real Silicon Valley habitat.

Apple

Apple is well known for its vertically integrated products. It is impossible to (legally) install an app on my iPhone without using the Apple App Store. And their operating system (Mac OSX) only runs on Macbooks and iMacs only. They simply want to be in control of everything. The same applies to their Cupertino headquarters at One Infinite Loop.

Outside, the grass is mown with greatest precision, bushes and flowers are aligned perfectly and the building looks very ‘introvert’. Apple is in full control. Nonetheless, it was possible to go inside and take a quick look at their courtyard.

The same desire for control is apparent here. The courtyard is designed with ‘oversight’ as purpose. There are not trees, no hidden corners, there’s nowhere to ‘hide’ for its employees. But at least they tried to make it look a bit more fun by adding the parasols.

Google

Google’s next. It’s the company who brings us software like Google Search, Gmail, Chrome and Android. Their software, contrary to Apple, can be used by nearly everyone on almost any device. Google believes in an open society, which can be seen in the way they set up their Mountain View headquarters.

There are no fences to stop tourists, they even allowed us to walk among Google staffers in the courtyard at the Googleplex.

There are Google bikes everywhere. These GBikes are used to pedal from one building to another and are free of charge for employees.

Also, Google staffers can use many recreational facilities, like a volleyball court. How cool is that!

And what to think of Stan, the life-sized T-Rex skeleton that lives in the middle of the campus?

But Google definitely won the cool-factor for their headquarters when I saw the driverless Google car which drove around on the parking lot.

It will be interesting to see which of these companies will ultimately win the software battle. Google (open) or Apple (closed). Meantime, based on my visits, Google decisively won the real-world headquarters battle. But how long will their victory last?

Update: In November 2013 I wrote about the new Apple Headquarters. Click here for the article.

My next stop: Highway 1

Read part one of my USA trip here.

What Architecture Can Do

An interesting lecture by Rem Koolhaas, founder of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. He speaks about what architecture can do to the world. This includes topics like architecture, energy independence but also (European) politics.

Interestingly Rem Koolhaas lectures to non-architecture students.