All Posts in The Design Mechanism

June 20, 2012 - Comments Off on Below The Surface: The Linked Mechanism

Below The Surface: The Linked Mechanism

Last Monday Microsoft introduced a tablet, called Surface, to directly compete with the iPad. Here is what the press had to say about it, from the pre-event invite trying to muster Apple like secrecy, to the presentation and hands on review.

My initial reaction was to think it was interesting how they took elements from Apple and Google and incorporated them into the tablet. Upon further thought it occurred to me that the majority of people that I see using an iPad, on trains, at home on the couch, on the go, seldom have a flat surface, no pun intended, to put the tablet on to use the built-in cover keyboard. So while it looks like it is somewhat clever I question its usability.


A mid-week treat of assorted links. 

June 18, 2012 - Comments Off on Maniacal Motors

Maniacal Motors

Life is defined by movement. I remember being struck by how beautifully a molecule and solar system mimic each other in their respective orbital ballets. Yet whether fast or slow, large or small, movement, or lack thereof, can be incredibly inspiring. A large part of many artistic works is attempting to successfully capture a feeling of speed or lethargy which goes to show: movement is inspiring.


Still mediums have always been the most interesting to me due to their static limitations. The successful illusion of motion within a single frame is astounding. Even such effects in moving mediums can be difficult to properly capture and impart.  Yet somehow Kyle Thompson not only accomplishes this trick but further twists it to a beautiful and surreal extreme.

Websites in motion are the new thing apparently if you look at any recent design-centric site (see last week's website for example). The magic of HTML5 animation and video have made cross browser, flash-free, motion graphics on sites a stunning reality. The homepage for Impero based in London and Sydney is a striking example of this hot trend. Complimented by a stellar design, the site's bright colors undoubtedly leave a lasting memory in this visitor's mind.

But it's not just the web that is seeing captivating technological advances when it comes to motion. The rise of digital film and the subsequent falling cost of the equipment involved has helped fuel one of the most popular genres of web clip: slow motion. Granted, such cameras are still thousands of dollars, yet there's something infinitely interesting about seeing the invisible world of speedy things that's constantly happening all around us. The production company Marmalade lives for this world and leverages our fascination with it to create unique brand images for some big corporate players. The following behind the scenes and demo-reel  video shows off the level of talent involved in producing such work which looks so perfect I have, up to now, assumed it was computer generated.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin during our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Published by: benchirlin in The Design Mechanism
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June 4, 2012 - Comments Off on Megapixels of Metroid

Megapixels of Metroid

Today we are surrounded by grids. Our homes are laid out in grids as are our city streets. As technology has taken over our lives, they have even made a successful invasion of every aspect of our personal lives in the form of spreadsheets. Being spatial animals, regimented columns and rows are as intuitive to us as chewing and swallowing. The irony is that the same technology that helped solidify this victory sees in only one-dimension; a string of ones and zeros. The only reason computers appear to prefer grids is because it facilitates communication with their monkey overlords. A compromise, if you will, between our third and their one-dimensional outlook.

First try at pixel art...zoom out to appreciate?

Many artists recognize the power of the grid, incorporating it directly into their artwork (see the entire Cubist and Pointillist movements). Modern artists have been experimenting with more modern, technological forms, of matrices in works both digital and classical since the creation of digital media. Yet works like those of Brett Freund remind us where we can find such geometry most readily though it is often the last place to come to mind: nature (or more specifically, crystals).

Long Foot 2Cups

As a web designer, grids become second nature. They serve as indispensable methods for everything from storing data to laying out designs. Yet the website for Citytime, a retail and distribution company, embraces the values of squares in an intimate way while recalling pixel art. Besides the gorgeous design, the captivating and original hover states combine with fluid animations to create a unique effect for what is ostensibly a simple portfolio. Best of all, the layout leads intuitively to a brilliant mobile adaptive version (narrow your browser window!).


I guess my point is grids can be found everywhere and in everything if just look hard enough. All things are made of components which are made of smaller pieces and so on and so forth. Nothing illustrates this more vividly than the following music video for the band, appropriately named, Blockhead.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin during our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Published by: benchirlin in The Design Mechanism
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April 30, 2012 - Comments Off on Mandalas and Mats

Mandalas and Mats

Patterns are the fuel of the human mind. Our pattern recognition ability is a large part of what us makes such smart creatures and remains our most defining trait in the battle for/against artificial intelligence. As such it is only sensible that pattern be one of the core aspects of art, and therefore inspiration, to us all.

The Pattern Mechanism

David Stephenson relies on the power of patterns to create truly marvelous photography in his projects Vaults and Domes. Classical architecture is obsessed with symmetry, pattern, and texture all of which the eye finds very pleasing. Stephenson manages to create loving odes of our forbears' passion with a straight-on modern twist. Meanwhile, his other works find beauty in the chaos of nature and organization of modern man.

Chapter HouseSala de as Dos Hermanas

Of course such intricacy has recently fallen out of fashion in favor of minimalism and simplicity, spearheaded by modern art movements. This aesthetic has now seeped into the commercial sector as well with the design ethos of companies such as Apple. The visual communication agency VOID uses this elegant block and color approach quite wonderfully. The site's stunning color palette is emphasized by the use of square, grid and linear patterns as well as a nicely animated scroll from section to section which grids out the site even further: patterns within patterns. Impress people and transform your place into a stylish and unforgettable space with muraledesign they offers wall murals and wallpapers.  VOID

Lastly, the inspiration for this inspirational post was the following video. Though short, it absolutely mesmerizes the viewer. An intro video for the TEDxSummit, the dancers from the Icouldneverbeadancer studio performed captivating choreography on colored mats shot through a giant kaleidoscope. The music of Yasmine Hamdan helps create an end result that is truly stunning. Enjoy and stay inspired.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin during our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

Published by: benchirlin in The Design Mechanism
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April 23, 2012 - Comments Off on Mario and Multiplayer

Mario and Multiplayer

Vindication. At least that's what I was thinking while visiting the new Art of Video Games exhibit at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. this weekend. It was a small exhibit true; just a handful of interviews with video game legends,  some concept art, five playable games and a room with around two dozen video stations each devoted to a different platform over the past three decades. Yet it's mere existence will stir the heart of any gamer. For while some classics like Myst and Monkey Island sat desolate restricted to trackball and three minute playtime, the crowd thrived around Flower and throughout the exhibit in general. It was inspiring.

Mario Time

The question of course is are video games art? Besides perhaps a handful of indie titles, games exist as products first and foremost. And while company's like Tim Schaffer's Double Fine or thatgamecompany continue to push the artistic merits of games, its still a challenge to find an example of something that is both game and art while not being some strange interactive experiment. The crowd at the exhibit further had me questioning if games were art. After all, it's not often you see such a large and diverse crowd at the Portrait Gallery. And on top of that, the personal reactions we have make them like no other form of "art" out there. When I saw the Mona Lisa, my first thought wasn't "Oh! I remember looking at this painting every day after school as a kid!" yet I heard such sentiments throughout my time at the exhibit.

What is unquestionable however is the number of artists now involved in the games industry. Yoji Shinkawa's art has been an inspiration to me since I first played Metal Gear Solid on my cousin's PC at a young age. His art combines the beauty of Japanese prints and ink wash with an undeniably modern, near electric, flavor.

The Art of Metal Gear Solid IIThe Art of Metal Gear Solid II

Sadly Shinkawa seems to have next to no web presence so I have no comprehensive portfolio to send you to. However from the gallery above, extracted from the series' art books, you can see his outstanding talent. Part of what makes his works so attractive to the eye is how personal an experience they appear to be. Their smoky nature creates an illusion of impermanence; if we look away for even a second, the image may no longer be there, like a mirage in the mist.

There exists an extremely strong relationship between video game and web design being the two most important and interactive mediums of our age, possibly our history. The only difference being that the former is a vector for entertainment while the latter is one for information. However both together helped establish the interactive metaphors we now all take for granted: menus, buttons, navigation, etc. The two mediums continue to inform one another's evolution even as they begin to merge via the gamification of everything web (see "badges") and the networking of everything game (see "massively multiplayer online games").

While some sites embrace this relationship in a direct, semi-ironic way, others simply exceed at ingraining the joyful nature of games in their very fabric. The site for SpellTower, an interesting iOS game which just saw a huge swell in sales thanks to an intelligent social marketing push, is a fun romp through minimalist web design at its best.


I love the sites simple long form layout and bright colors. The fun animations that play out as you scroll as well as the news banner give the otherwise static page a sense of life and connectedness.

Of course the medium most affected by video games is video itself. And while there are plenty of amazing cinematics done for every major video game release, these are really just animations set in their respective game's universe and have little to do with games itself beyond said shared setting. However 8BITS is a short animation that succeeds in celebrating the complete history of  gaming while putting a twist on the classic damsel-in-distress scenario so many games rely on. 1UP.

The Sketching Mechanism is a series of weekly posts, published on Mondays, containing the artistic musings of Mobile Designer/Developer Ben Chirlin during our Monday morning meeting at the NY Creative Bunker as well as his inspiring artistic finds of the week.

November 9, 2010 - Comments Off on Working at the Creative Workshop – Magical

Working at the Creative Workshop – Magical

A while back, I worked with a delightfully creative fella named David Sherwin (@changeorder) on his newly released book, Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills. David had the monumental task of presenting a variety of challenges to a gaggle of designers - all meant to be quick and highly creative interpretations of individual challenges - much like a teacher dolling out projects to students at the last minute, curating them, and finally, organizing the copy to support the designs. Well, it turns out that putting a deadline of 90 minutes on a project and taking out the financial rewards that occasionally come with the practice graphic design, actually enables you to develop some fairly exciting stuff, as documented in Mr. Sherwin’s new book from the good folks at HOW Design Press. As far as I can recall, in addition to doing all the heavy lifting involved with writing a book these days, David also was self-tasked with doing some design as well.

I just got a chance to revisit the logo design I created for the Global Magic Society, (one of David's cheeky challenges for the book), by happening upon a blog post at - part of the marketing for Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills. As it turns out, it was an otherwise creatively productive use of 90 minutes of my day.

The proof of my contribution to Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills is documented at this link and on the Print Website for your enjoyment. While you’re reading about my small contribution to this magnificent tome of creative hutzpah, get yourself over to Amazon to order your very own fancy copy, printed on glorious slices of tree.

September 28, 2010 - Comments Off on Dave Fletcher Discusses the Social Media Strategies Behind “Flight of the Conchords”

Dave Fletcher Discusses the Social Media Strategies Behind “Flight of the Conchords”

PRSA 2010 International Conference presenter Dave Fletcher, founder and executive creative director, The Mechanism, speaks with Eric Schwartzman, host of “On the Record…Online,” about the stellar social media strategies behind HBO’s “Flight of the Conchords.” Listeners will gain access to the various tools and applications behind the success of the talented duo’s popular website and will learn tips on building a seamless and highly interactive website. Fletcher will present a session titled, “Compelling Social Media Strategies: Soaring With Flight of the Conchords,” at the PRSA International Conference in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 18.

August 6, 2009 - Comments Off on Liveblogging DelveUI: Jason Santa Maria

Liveblogging DelveUI: Jason Santa Maria

Jason Santa Maria - @jasonsantamaria - One-to-Many Interview conducted by @bobulate

  • Starts designs in the sketchbook - Pretty Sketchy Flickr group
  • Be persistent in finding a better way to do things
  • Know your interactions, functionality, and technology before designing
  • Get client involved in many stages of the design process (depending on the client, of course)
  • When presenting to clients, focus on problems, not solutions
  • Specialization will become more prominent, with less jack-of-all-trades designers/developers
  • Change your scenery to give you a different angle on your creativity