A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Grading the New Mashable

Many, many years ago Christmas morning was a chaotic riot of laughter, terrific screams, minor injuries and general twitchiness. As amazing a sight and experience as the pile of toys was, there was the overriding stoic presence of my father checking his watch, waiting to put the hammer down and march us all off to church. The experience was as unnerving as it was exciting but with some planning (midnight Mass?) could have been so much better for me. It wouldn’t occur to me for years that my parents worked it this way to get a breather from my high-pitched squeals of panicky joy.


Mashable’s recent redesign presents all the content they offer in a way that gives me that same uneasy feeling. For me, there’s just too much thrown at the user. There is no top story, only The New Stuff, The Next Big Thing and What’s Hot all given equal importance on the page. Putting aside that fact that all three category headings are promoting the same thing basically, my eye bounces right off the page. Users will get used to this and I will as well, but I question a design that forces you to refocus every time you hit this main page. It’s a small, quickly resolved snag but it’s one that diminishes the otherwise pleasing user experience.

The infinite scroll and myriad social networking opportunities throughout are meant to be fun. I know fun. This isn’t fun. Besides those social media options attached to every article, the new Mashable Velocity graph is a clever widget that (once I learned its purpose) I skipped over with a vengeance. It measures the speed of sharing. I can’t believe I typed that. The sub levels are where this redesign works better for me. Big photography, logical layout and plenty of white space makes for an easy quick read. I don’t think many users will take advantage of the infinite scroll that is unfortunately included on the subs, however.

Homepage screenshot

The contact and other admin pages haven’t really been designed at all, but I’m sure they will be at some stage to match the new look. I don’t feel this redesign was rushed at all, and third tier pages get pushed to the bottom of the list frequently on bigger launches.

As far as basic usability goes, the site does a yeoman’s job for me. The navigation is where I need it and the design of the elements is very clean and easy to find. So the fonts are fine, the palette is good and the code is clean, but that infinite scroll and the lack of a visual bulls-eye is going to bug me. I’m wondering for how long the bottomless pit of content will be a web trend.

Mashable’s mobile app for the Android hasn’t been redesigned/updated yet and is surprisingly clumsy considering how much care had gone into the web design.
The new Mashable site is fully responsive, creating unique experiences for tablet and smartphone users accessing via the web.  The mobile web version of the redesign is tight and pretty easy to get through. The abbreviated navigation is a bit cryptic, and reads like a Pizza Hut promo (NEW, RISING, HOT) for me, but it’s fine and I’m likely being picky here. Also, thanks to coding limitations, I suspect, the infinite scroll is absent.

Overall grade is a B for me. I’m a Mashable fan and will continue to be as I fight the urge to sound like an old bag shaking my fist at design choices that rub me the wrong way. I don’t want to turn into this guy


This is the End: Last Call for the Obama and Romney Campaigns

You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

We’re finally in the home stretch of the 2012 Presidential election and like a Chili’s at last call, it’s all about some action now. The lights are on and Smilin’ Joe Biden is looking less debonair than he was a few hours and drinks ago, but it’s time to fish or cut bait. The two candidates’ sites are similarly stacked with opportunities at this late stage to pitch in and help with the final push (while seeming to give the appropriate amount of real estate to the Hurricane Sandy relief effort). I haven’t taken a fresh look at the Obama and Romney efforts in a while because I feel like I’ve perhaps been getting just enough of their giant heads on tv lately. That changes today as I bravely pull screen grabs of the sites and make comments on the successes, failures and oddities (Biden inexplicably wearing someone’s shades for the glamour shot/ Ryan nowhere to be found).

To state the obvious, the numbers on the site screenshots correspond to the comments below.



  1. FORxWARD. I’m not sure how long this cutesy tagline edit has been up, but I see what you did there. I’m surprised that this element has been placed as the heading of the site. Healthcare wasn’t a prominent part of any recent discussion or even a highlight of any of the three debates but it gets the star treatment now.
  2. Smartly positioned and localized call to vote early.
  3. Puzzling image of VP Biden looking as if he left his bomber jacket in the limo. It might be me, but Joe looks like a South Park character in this photo.
  4. Donating at this stage seems belated, but these ads need to keep running through Tuesday night, sadly.
  5. Call Voters prompt. She wouldn’t be making that face if she called me.
  6. Under (and part of) the Hurricane Relief banner I am asked to Find An Event, which is intriguing because I’m unclear what kind of a volunteer opportunity to help victims I might be able to…oh. Find a campaign event. Nothing to do with the hurricane. Huh.
  7. Quick Donate! I don’t know this strategy, but I like it. A quick hit 5 dollar donation aimed at young people so they can feel that they are part of the movement. I would like it better ( and it would be funnier) if they placed a comma after Quick.
  8. The old Action Items are now pushed down the page a bit to allow for those same actions to be highlighted in a slightly different and louder way above the fold. This tactic is used by everyone in politics because it always works.
  9. The President shown prior to his victory 4 years ago brings a positive feel to the dull lower half of the homepage.



  1. Where Obama went with Rx in the header as the campaign’s final tagline, Romney’s team pushes more jobs and take-home pay.
  2. The deliberate absence of Paul Ryan is curious here.
  3. Joining the team at this late stage might seem pointless, but emails with more volunteer opportunities will go out immediately.
  4. Mitt is surrounded here like Custer. Action Items everywhere you look. You have to assume (if you’re cynical like me) the placement of the Red Cross banner was agonized over for maximum effect.
  5. Again, some of the original Action Items are repeated directly below the newly designed versions.
  6. To me this looks like a an image reserved for the after party website.
  7. A variation on the Obama positive vibe layout with a choice to load more of this content if that was something I felt was needed. I don’t.
  8. The only mention of Paul Ryan that I can find on this homepage.

I think the most interesting aspect to the stretch runs of these campaign sites is how incredibly similar the strategies are. Down to controlling the order in which your eyes scan these pages, both camps are careful not to swing too far out of what is tried and true. On the plus side (for me, at least) there’s a sweaty, smiling desperation to the sites that even the best photographers and copywriters can’t hide. Except for the delirious and perplexing confidence of Joe Biden’s Top Gun photo, the swagger of the debates is now replaced with focus group tested methodologies and old school panic.

The New USATODAY.com

Re-imagined is a term usually reserved for remakes of curious 1960’s movies and second acts of flamboyantly-colored Dodge automobiles. Re-imagined is a histrionic way of asking us to give something a second pass. Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes was re-imagined with a bewildered Mark Wahlberg in place of Charlton Heston and the result was a very long first date for me that turned out very badly indeed. Dodge re-imagined their Charger as a heavy, brutish road predator that the police now use exclusively, it appears, to harass yours truly for excessive speed (court dates pending).


USATODAY.com has alerted us to their redesign with a slog of banners and videos and social networking efforts containing the buzz-word reimagine, which according to my spell check, isn’t a word. I don’t concern myself with that any more than might I watch a video explaining a website redesign to me. Let’s just dive in, rather, and see what all the ruckus is about.


I have entered the site, moving quickly past the new logo (which may require some discussion as well) in default view (versus cover view) and the initial pass is pretty impressive. I’m used to the big picture/story, top-heavy layout for a news site and I think that style makes sense, but I think this new idea might work out just fine. The big story, in this case Mitt Romney’s head, is high and tight and yet still unobtrusive because I have an additional 10 (and with a click, 20) headlines at eye level as well. There are a lot of choices above the fold and new visitors may find this experience a bit like fighting through a low end diner menu, but I’m willing to put up with stock info, unending layout options and other goofy add-ons to get through the experience (and this required blog post).
You can customize your experience here at USA Today. I get that.


One of the options I might actually use is the cover view tab that allows for that top heavy view I’m used to. The photography is outstanding, as expected, and for certain stories the photography would be the draw. Below the fold are Today’s Lead Stories, presented either visually in a grid or as more traditional headlines. Right Now is a rather urgent title of the more frequently updated content that runs the entire sidebar. The bottom of a page is a truest test of a complete web design, I think, and USAToday.com finishes off their effort pretty well. Besides unobtrusive and attractive icons for feedback, applications, staff index, etc., the site index link brings up a full footer that completes the page design beautifully and usefully.


The sub levels are not in any way watered down designs of the home, but content-packed homepages themselves. There is no real hierarchy in the site. Part of what makes this redesign attractive to me is the amount of real content on every page above the fold. Deep vertical scrolling has been acceptable in news sites for a while and will continue to be but having as much new content where I can see it immediately has been done with great care on this site and never overwhelms the user.

USA Today never capitalized on what their paper’s core strengths were, in my opinion, but I feel like they have taken a significant step here. This is a big news site now and a good upgrade for the online news experience. For USA Today, it’s huge and positions them at or near the top of the current crop news site designs.

Logo Design Versus What’s In Our Budget

Last week stocklogos.com posted a listing of popular logos and revealed the cost of each. As I’m sure was the plan, the post successfully elicited the expected sentiments of disbelief. Or mine

That 2012 Olympics thing ran someone 625 grand. That seems perhaps excessive. New Zealand Banking Group at 15 mil? Pinch me I guess.

I have to admit the numbers really mean very little to me. Companies spend what they can. No one was hoodwinked here. Part of what designing a logo entails is justifying the cost. Several of these designers are the best in the business at this lost art form. The document that accompanied Pepsi’s latest logo ($1,000,000) was a laborious, bewildering masterpiece. Ten percent of the justification made sense (it’s a smiling face, basically), the remainder can be described as brilliantly rendered hogwash. I would have bought off on it as well. It’s a very smart logo. Another wildly successful logo is Nike’s mark. The company was brand new, so the logo was designed for 35 bucks in 1975. As a side note, my parents bought my first suit in 1975. It also cost $35 (and weighed 35 pounds).

Even though the costs here are relative, mostly (BP, what the hell?), I thought we could go through the designs and score them for success versus price tag.



Cost: $1,000,000
This is a big winner for me. I love the design, appreciate the insanity, yet curiously have Coke in my refrigerator. I’m sort of old though and fear change. And loud noises.



Cost: $15,000,000
15 million for a bank? If New Zealand’s banks are as angelic as ours, then I assume there were sufficient funds for this weird, healthcare-looking symbol. I’m not a fan of this effort. Congrats to the designers though on getting what I assume was a giant, novelty-sized cardboard check accompanied by balloons and New Zealand’s version of Ed McMahon.


Cost: $100,000,000
I like this logo and would have paid dearly for it. Dearly for me would have been 2 grand though. Landor Associates did the work in 2000, I just now read, and they seem like a pretty substantial group. The price is pretty outrageous though and sometimes the logo looks like a programmer left some html markup in the text.



Cost: $1,800,000
I’m guilty pretty sure I’ve borrowed this idea on more than one occasion, so it would be unfair to bad mouth this logo. It’s one of the most recognizable logos in the world, but to be honest, it’s just a redesign of the old italics logo. Still, well worth the money.



Cost: $211,000,000
This is a very complex and probably brilliant idea, perfectly rendered. It was purchased by a company that does not have a budget. Still, it just makes you shake your head and want to ride a bike to work. Except me, because I live far from work and am older, as I mentioned in the earlier Pepsi briefing up there.


Cost: $33,000
Paul Rand was a graphic design genius and is partly responsible for a lot of what you watched while your parents went out and left you with the “remote control baby-sitter”. Most of his work is absolutely inspired and this Enron logo is in that category. For 33 grand, this was a steal.


Cost: $95,000
Yeah, me neither. I had to look up what these games are. Then I got bored too, but I did see the branding statement and it’s a doozey. Sample:
The next ring of the brand identity, in an orange-gold – ‘Triumph Yellow’ from the CGF palette – that echoes the ore of the medals, represents the number of sports. It’s just over three quarters of the full circle.

Do yourself a favor and read the full screed. It’s adorable.



Cost: $0
I’m sure there’s an interesting as hell back story here…hold on…no. No there isn’t according to my second monitor. One of the founders threw it together. So, considering Google is profitable, as far as I know, this was a great buy.


Cost: $0
Another freebie. Frank Mason Robinson, a bookkeeper designed it and named it in the olden days, before branding statements were a thing.


Cost: $625,000
Bad logo. I don’t take joy in disparaging design work, but this one is a straight-up punch in the face. Ordinarily I would admit that I’ve designed worse at this point in the sentence, but no. That’s not happening today. Nothing about this garish pink fiasco makes sense.


Cost: $625,000
Landor Associates again, but this one works so well. I love this logo and in this version, the palette in particular. How Melbourne got this price tag through their Town Hall Meeting or whatever they do down there is a wonder though.


Cost: $100,000
There’s an interesting story behind the negotiations for this Paul Rand logo, but let’s instead focus on how it really sucks. You can’t hit every one out of the park, but deep down I believe Paul Rand might have been having some fun getting away with murder in this case. Evidence of his skills here.


Cost: $35
Another case of the new company getting their first logo for near nothing and never really needing a redesign. Maybe the most recognizable logo out there, it may will never need an update.

Nike Fun Fact: I owned the very first pair of Nikes and carried them around in the box, putting them on for sports, then re-boxing them. I had few friends.


Cost: $ 15
Artist Simon Oxley is an exceptionally gifted illustrator who drew and uploaded this bird to istockphoto. The Twitter nerds grabbed it up for 15 bucks and it became the logo (for a time). As someone who does this for a living, that’s the kind of heart-warming story that drives me to consider shoe sales.

Let There Be an HTML 5 Logo

imageThe branding of HTML 5 is upon us. Logo designer Michael Nieling came up with an html 5 logo that someone inexplicably asked for. It also has its own website. Like your mom’s cat has his own Facebook page. The logo is good and it will work as a mark on any background, scaled as big or as small as you would need and looks great in black and white. The palette used is trendy and why not? HTML 6 is on the way, I suppose in some engineer’s nerd-dreams, nestled between Big Bang Theory Fan-fic and Olivia Munn. I especially like this logo for what it doesn’t try to do. It doesn’t attempt to speak to what html 5 promises for the future, or how it will transform the user experience, or any of that silliness. Just an orange shield with an S on it. I mean a 5. It’s a 5.

As always, what I really like about a big, goofy logo roll out is the marketing gibberish language that is attached to it. I remember Pepsi’s latest logo redesign came with a bewildering 15 page explanation of the process that was at once hilarious and yet totally acceptable. If you spend that amount of time and money, you need to show and tell. So, take a pull on this:

“It stands strong and true, resilient and universal as the markup you write. It shines as bright and as bold as the forward-thinking, dedicated web developers you are. It’s the standard’s standard, a pennant for progress. And it certainly doesn’t use tables for layout.”


I felt like Thor when I read that. Funny though, the developers I know would not be described as “shiny”. Our new developer’s shirt could be described that way, however. Clearly, this is tongue in cheek and whoever wrote it has a pretty good sense of the absurdity of these puffy, cringe-inducing logo mission statements as descriptions. At least I hope so.

The classes’ logos are a little less successful at least for me, but there is a definite cohesive suite here.


So there you have it. One big bold logo perfect for branding and a bunch of odd supporting logos that serve little purpose really. I give the whole set high marks and am a fan. Let us know what you think and feel free to send me a logo shirt (they actually sell for 22 bucks on the site). Ladies medium, thanks.