Take a moment to imagine what rebellion usually looks like.
Got it? OK.
How many things are on fire? Is there a swarming crowd? Guillotines, maybe?
Rebellion, by nature, makes a mess: Social messes, political messes, and sometimes bloody messes. Rebellion in the communication space, however, doesn’t have to be that way, according to Cal McAllister, creative director of the Wexley School for Girls, an advertising agency in Seattle. But rebellion in the communication industry can still be scary, says McAllister, to both its masterminds and its audience.
For McAllister, rebellion in communication is about cutting through noise with the truest, most genuine message you know and delivering it in a way that’s disarming and, sometimes, shocking. Maybe it’s a drunk driving message spray painted in the parking lot of a high school the day before prom (a Wexley example). Maybe it’s an international “Buy-Nothing Day.”
Perhaps the best-known example of rebellion in marketing and design goes all the way back to the Volkswagen Beetle print ad that shook the advertising world with its then-unseen use of abundant white space and one, lonely line of headline copy: “Lemon.” The ad was so potent and industry reaction so polarizing that it warranted an entire scene in a very early “Mad Men” episode decades later.
These days, there are plenty of buzzwords for such rebellion in the print world and beyond — “culture-jamming,” and “guerrilla marketing,” to name a couple — but audiences have largely learned to see through what they consider vapid attempts at grabbing attention with messages that have little to do with what’s being sold.
The best form of rebellion, though, according to McAllister? It transcends gimmickry and cheap emotional tricks we’re all so used to and shake’s the audience’s expectations of their interaction with you so profoundly that they can’t help but listen.
“Be the best part of someone’s day,” McAllister said. If you really want to impress and turn expectations on their head, make someone’s day better. Nobody will be expecting that. McAllister’s rebellion doesn’t have to shout to be heard.
That piece of advice can especially influence interaction design, where surprise and delight are pillars of successful digital products. While the average smartphone user has several dozen apps installed, most of them only get opened once and then are forgotten when they fail to impress. When we make the business of everyday life delightful, however, we can build a relationship with users that lasts beyond the time it takes to download the app.
Below are some of the Vectorform Seattle design department’s favorite technologies that rebelled for the sake of user experience.
Chosen by Josh Maldonado
An ex-IDEO designer turned the conventional calendar app on its head. I came across this amazing little app called Peek after a coworker shared it with the team and have continued to be impressed by its simplicity and delightful nature. Most calendar apps are a grid of boxes, most of which are irrelevant because they occur in the past, and yet they take up a majority of the screen real estate. Peek rebels against this traditional paradigm to show you exactly what is necessary to you today and has just enough detail to remind you of your next few engagements.
The navigation is handled by a few different gestures, not to mention introducing a completely new (at least to iOS) shading gesture which shows you the current time by using your hand to cover/shade the top of the device without actually having to touch the screen with your fingers. This gestural interface opposes button-based UI to allow the substance of the app shine.
Who says that your calendar has to only be filled with boring meetings and appointments? Giving the device a little shake adds fun activities to your calendar to make sure you add some fun in your schedule. I’ve never seen an calendar app so delightful and yet extremely useful in keeping your life organized.
Facebook Chat Heads experience for Android
Chosen by Neil Rhoades
I wanted to think of an example of rebelliousness in UI, so I am choosing Facebook’s messenger Chat Heads experience for Android. Not only does it populates on top of the home screen, but it provides functionality without entering the app, follows its own rules, it literally overlaps some of my icons. “What nerve!” I thought at first. This conflict with the typical home screen model immediately felt like an affront to commonsense UX – covering up buttons a user might need and adding steps to the interaction of opening an app.
The little magic circle from the design, however, almost immediately eased my worries, as interacting with it in any way was a delightful experience. I came to understand that it followed its own laws of physics and was easy to manipulate and manage. If it is in my way I can flick it with slightest, quickest gesture to send it pin-balling into a new spot. If I don’t want it open, I can fling it into a black hole at the bottom of the screen with extreme prejudice. Whoever proposed such a UX-rule-breaking concept is definitely a rebel.
“Snow Fall” - The New York Times’ interactive story
Chosen by Alison Atwell
More than a year after Snow Fall — an interactive HTML5-based storytelling piece about skiers killed in one of Washington state’s deadliest avalanches — first hit the web, we still can’t stop talking about it. Not only was the writing itself about such an ugly tragedy so beautiful that it took the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing, but every newspaper editor on the planet had to change their pants when they saw how it was presented. This well-paced, multi-part long read immerses the reader in the small events that added up to tragedy, and its interactive features help put us in the minds of the skiers who made those decisions. As editors reacted with praise, cynicism, and speculation about the project’s cost and scope in the weeks following its release (“We could never pull that off” and “We don’t have the technical skills for that”), Snow Fall also served to expose editors’ fear of technology and close-mindedness toward new ideas that has come to define newspapers. The idea of interactive storytelling wasn’t new by the time Snow Fall debuted, but The New York Times is among the first to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to imagining what news looks like in the digital age. As the Pulitzer committee described it: “The future suddenly, and spectacularly, had arrived.”
Hidden Pineapple is the maker of the popular Rowi Twitter client for Windows Phone. Hidden Pineapple co-owners Nathan Heskew and Erik Porter partnered with Vectorform to design a Windows 8 app that would set them apart from other Twitter clients while staying stay true to the features that earned their Win Phone app a 4.5-star rating and thousands of downloads.Administrator – March 10, 2011
Vectorform created The AP Timeline Reader in collaboration with The Associated Press and Microsoft. Now the HTML5 site is up for a Technical Achievement Award at South by Southwest, which means our project is one of five recognized as “…re-inventing and re-defining the technical parameters of our online experience.”
How do we go about re-inventing and redefining the technical parameters of online experience? HTML5, CSS3, and pure UX magic. Hear master magician Dominic Espinosa talking about the AP Timeline Reader below, or wander over to Renee DeCoskey’s detailed overview at Business 2 Community. News reading reinvented, and it’s got pictures!
Administrator – March 17, 2009
Vectorform took home the prize for Microsoft Germany’s annual client innovation award. We won the User Experience Revolution Award for the BMW Product Navigator, and picked up our trophy at CeBIT’s MSDN Cinema. The BMW Product Navigator was built for the Microsoft Surface platform, and allows users to custom configure a 7 Series using real paint chips, leather, trim and wheel samples.– August 18, 2008
At Vectorform were all about enhancing user experience, and what better way to enhance the Microsoft Surface experience then by placing it in the Vectorform Corporate Sauna. That’s right– sweltering temperatures, cedar walls and multi-touch goodness. After a series of tests we were all shocked at how well the Microsoft Surface performed at over 120 degrees.
Join us next week as our Surface stress tests continue with Surface Skydiving.Vectorform – June 20, 2008
The members of Vectorform Labs newly minted Surface team are starting to get their hands dirty and make some really sweet stuff. Our assembled A-list includes Joe, Dan and Brad, the genius minds driving new technology and interactive development, and Florin, Clemens, Aaron and John, masters in user experience, interface design and motion graphics. Today, the guys are exploring the capabilities of the Microsoft Surface SDK, as well as the applications that came preloaded on our unit, including:
• Data Visualizer
• Controls Box
• Finger Fountain
• Grand Piano
• Scatter Puzzle
• Shopping Cart
• Virtual Concierge
And many more…