Sunday, April 11, 2010

Don't Say Usable if You Don't Mean It

I'm pretty sure Helveticards, a deck of playing cards with a trendy sort of functional Swiss design, is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but one phrase in their description made me clench a bit:
Helveticards are the beautiful, usable alternative to the traditional deck of cards...
That, it must be said, is a bold assertion, as if it's a wonder anyone can get through a game of solitaire with the woefully unusable traditional pack.

Dudes, the usability of the playing card has, due to the economics involved, been refined for centuries and has been pretty well standardized since the 19th century or so.  Check the comparison with a card from a generic China Airlines pack:

HelveticardChina Airlines playing card

Okay, the Helveticard admittedly looks cooler, but more usable?

While the Helveticard has a tasteful small indication of number and suit surrounded by artful whitespace in the corner, the standard card packs it large and clear all the way into the corner -- suit below number so you can see exactly what you have with minimum fanning.  The Helveticard at least keeps the upper-left/lower-right symmetry, but if you happen to flip it upside-down, the card indicator is color-inverted for chrissakes.  In fact the Helveticard shows a disturbing lack of commitment to symmetry, with the big 5 and suit indicators off to the side with a definite opinion on "up".  I'm imagining a group of designers picking up their hands, fastidiously rotating their cards to be right-way-up.

Also, do we really need a textual "Five of Clubs"?  It's not currency, it's a playing card;  half the games played with it were probably invented by illiterate people.

Trendy styling, poor design.  Vignelli and Brunson would be displeased.

A Logical Conclusion of Abbreviation

Attention internet users:  I am about to improve your life by up to 33%.  I understand the need for brevity in your communication;  why type the awkward "laughing out loud" when a simple LOL will suffice?  But why stop there?

In that spirit, I am now announcing the deprecation of LOL in favor of LA, which I shall use exclusively henceforth.  When next your chat buddy amuses you, Laugh Aloud with confidence that not a moment of your time has been wasted thereby.

You're welcome.