Issue 42: The cost of wrapping up the Pope

Overview of trends in corporate illustration; YouTube channel with various tips for working in Figma; Overview of 32 Figma updates and much more!

Issue 42: The cost of wrapping up the Pope

Hello, dear readers! 👋

In this issue, among other things:

  • Why is it more difficult to maintain product quality in large companies
  • Overview of trends in corporate illustration
  • Why do people blindly follow cliches in various aspects of culture and design
  • How can the interaction between the designer and the developer be smoothed out
  • Overview of 32 Figma updates
  • How sound works at the physical level
  • A large detailed guide on industrial engineering for language models
  • 44 GB of free sound effects
  • YouTube channel with various tips for working in Figma
  • Quotes from "Good Strategy, Bad Strategy" book by Richard P. Rumelt

Enjoy reading!

📚 Book quotes

Today I want to remind you about Richard P. Rumelt's book "Good Strategy, Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters". Read the quotes and decide if it will be useful to you:

The kernel of a strategy contains three elements: a diagnosis, a guiding policy, and coherent action.

Good strategy works by focusing energy and resources on one, or a very few, pivotal objectives whose accomplishment will lead to a cascade of favorable outcomes.

It is hard to show your skill as a sailor when there is no wind.

A leader’s most important job is creating and constantly adjusting this strategic bridge between goals and objectives.

A strategy coordinates action to address a specific challenge.

A strategy is like a lever that magnifies force.

Strategy is visible as coordinated action imposed on a system. When I say strategy is “imposed,” I mean just that. It is an exercise in centralized power, used to overcome the natural workings of a system. This coordination is unnatural in the sense that it would not occur.

Bad strategy is long on goals and short on policy or action. It assumes that goals are all you need. It puts forward strategic objectives that are incoherent and, sometimes, totally impracticable. It uses high-sounding words and phrases to hide these failings.

The discipline of analysis is to not stop there, but to test that first insight against the evidence.

A hallmark of true expertise and insight is making a complex subject understandable. A hallmark of mediocrity and bad strategy is unnecessary complexity—a flurry of fluff masking an absence of substance.

The first step of making strategy real is figuring out the big ‘aha’ to gain sustainable competitive advantage—in other words, a significant, meaningful insight about how to win.

The most basic idea of strategy is the application of strength against weakness. Or, if you prefer, strength applied to the most promising opportunity.

A good strategy includes a set of coherent actions. They are not “implementation” details; they are the punch in the strategy. A strategy that fails to define a variety of plausible and feasible immediate actions is missing a critical component.

Good Strategy Bad Strategy by Richard Rumelt | Penguin Random House Canada
Combines the readability and interest level of books like Switch and Made to Stick with the groundbreaking ideas of books such as Execution and Good to Great.

🗞 News and articles

JW Illustration Trend Report 2023

Overview of trends in corporate illustration with links to authors working in these styles.

Trends from the report:

  • Pseudo-vintage 2D characters in packaging design
  • Psychedelic illustrations stylized as an airbrush drawing
  • Combined techniques with a combination of several styles
  • Maximalistic compositions overloaded with details
  • Dramatic and atmospheric illustrations
  • Stylization of images created with the help of a risograph
  • Nostalgic illustrations in Vaporwave style
  • Illustrations created using neural networks
  • Folk and Mysticism
  • Aesthetics of the noughties
  • Inclusiveness and representativeness

The age of average

Alex Murrell talks about how in various aspects of our culture, from cinema and fashion to automotive design, people blindly follow established cliches and blur their own identity. As examples, he cites trends in architecture, interior design, photography, logo design, and other areas, and also tries to understand the reasons for such uniformity.

The age of average — Alex Murrell
In the early 1990s, two Russian artists named Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid hired a market research firm to survey the public on what they wanted in a work of art. Across 11 countries they then set about painting a piece that reflected the results. Each piece was intended to be a unique a colla

The Best Handoff Is No Handoff

Vitaly Friedman spoke about how to smooth out the interaction between the designer and the developer using the no-handoff method, which involves rejecting the strict separation of the process into design and development. He suggests iteratively and jointly creating a prototype that both designers and developers will work on at the same time, and which will eventually serve as a living specification of the project.

The Best Handoff Is No Handoff — Smashing Magazine
Design handoffs are inefficient and painful. They cause frustration, friction and a lot of back and forth. Can we avoid them altogether? Of course we can! Let’s see how to do just that.

The Cost of Craft

George Kedenburg talks about why it is difficult to maintain the quality of production in digital products as the size of the company increases. He explains what is the advantage of small teams over large ones and why it is easier to hire a good specialist in small teams, why small products inevitably expand, how large companies fall into the trap of chasing metrics rather than improving the product, and why this leads to a conflict of interests of teams within one company.

George's tips for improving product quality and team synchronization:

  • Identify common values that can be referenced when discussing new ideas
  • Build closer and more trusting relationships between teams
  • As a measure of success, use not only metrics, but also the quality of the product
  • Allocate time not only to create new features, but also to improve what has already been created
  • Establish a strong connection between local and central teams
  • Allow local teams to make decisions that will benefit the entire system**
The Cost of Craft
Why is it so hard to do great work at scale?

⚡️ Briefly

Midjourney suspended free access to the neural network due to a large number of deepfakes, including those with well-known politicians. Now you will need to pay from $10 per month for access.

AI image generator Midjourney stops free trials but says influx of new users to blame
Midjourney says an influx of new users prompted the pause.

Figma has made a visual guide for 32 minor updates that were released in the first quarter of 2023. Among them there is support for luma masks, improved search for files and components, "sticky" scrolling in prototypes and much more.

Little Big Updates H1′23 | Figma Community
Figma Community file - Description: Throughout the year, Figma releases little updates that make a big impact on the way you design and work. Check out our H1′23 batch of 30+ updates that include some pretty major improvements such as on-canvas previewing, sticky scrolling prototype, and much more.

New technologies

Could we make the web more immersive using a simple optical illusion? A technical article on how to achieve a VR effect using a conventional webcam and how this potential can be used to create interactive web applications.

The idea is based on the development of engineer Johnny Lee, which he presented back in 2007. His technology made it possible to track the position of the eyes using an infrared camera and change the picture on the screen so that when the viewer moves, the effect of volumetric parallax appears. After Johnny presented his development, he was invited to work on the Kinetic device from Microsoft and the Tango platform from Google, but, contrary to expectations, these projects never became massive.

The authors of the article managed to repeat Johnny Lee's idea using a conventional, rather than an infrared webcam, while the technology works in a browser and can be used on websites. In the article, you can also view recordings of the prototype's work.

Could we make the web more immersive using a simple optical illusion?
In the history of mind-blowing tech demos there is one that stands out, and that is Johnny Lee’s Wii Remote hack to create VR displays:

AI re-creates what people see by reading their brain scans. Japanese researchers have found out that a neural network can read the results of brain scans and recreate images that a person has ever seen. They used the scan data and then generated images from it using Stable Diffusion. Unlike previous attempts to use AI to decipher brain scans that needed to be trained on large datasets, Stable Diffusion was able to get more from less training.

Potentially, this technology can have numerous applications: from studying how different species of animals perceive the world, to recording human dreams and helping people with paralysis communicate.

AI re-creates what people see by reading their brain scans
A new artificial intelligence system can reconstruct images a person saw based on their brain activity

🧘 Inspiration


In honor of the upcoming 125th anniversary, Pepsi conducted the first large-scale rebranding in 15 years. The company presented not only a new logo, but also a whole system of visual communication.

Pepsi Unveils First New Logo and Visual Identity System In 15 Years
In honor of Pepsi’s upcoming 125th anniversary, the brand has an eye toward the future with a whole new look that puts the logo back in the globe.

Stylish rebranding of the eMa rock music school with a variable logo and ascetic modernist layout.

Rebranding, Iconography, Signage & Motion Design
L’École des Musiques Actuelles begins a new life under a new identity.

✍️ Typography, calligraphy and lettering

A large selection of free fonts from students of the EESAB RNNES school, which have been created over the past 4 years. In it you can find both decorative experimental fonts and readable ones with an emphasis on functionality. All fonts are distributed under the SIL OFL open license.

U+270D | Projets
U+270D est la fonderie typographique de l’EESAB-Rennes. Elle publie les caractères conçus collectivement par les étudiant·es en Master de l’atelier de création typographique mené par Benjamin Gomez.

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