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Gradients are everywhere from Facebook to the New York Times - Vox
"Here’s why The Daily, Coachella, and Facebook all use backgrounds that look like a sunset."



"What it is: A digital or print effect where one color fades into another. Typically rendered in soft or pastel tones.

Where it is: Gradients are seemingly everywhere in media and marketing. They are part of a suite of Facebook status backdrops introduced in 2017 and the branding for the New York Times’ popular podcast The Daily, which displays a yellow to blue gradient.

Gradients have taken over Coachella’s app and website (if you watch carefully, the colors shift). Ally’s billboard in A Star Is Born is a full-on gradient, and so was the branding for the Oscars ceremony that recognized Lady Gaga.

On Instagram, they provide a product backdrop for popular Korean beauty brand Glow, and have been embraced by indie magazines Gossamer and Anxy — both designed by Berkeley studio Anagraph.

On the luxury front, Brooklyn wallpaper company Calico has released an entire collection of gradient wallpapers called Aurora. Meanwhile, Spanish fashion house Loewe has introduced a version of their trendy Elephant bag in a spectrum of pink to yellow.

Are gradients drinkable? Heck yes, they are. Seltzer startup Recess has gone all-in on gradients in their branding.

Why you’re seeing it everywhere: Gradients are the confluence of three different trends: Light and Space art, vaporwave, and bisexual lighting.

In the art and design world, Light and Space — developed in the 1960s and ’70s — has been experiencing a revival thanks to its Instagramability. Light and Space pioneer James Turrell has been embraced by celebrities like Beyoncé, Drake, and Kanye West. Drake’s Hotline Bling video was inspired by Turrell’s light-infused rooms called Ganzfelds. The Kardashian-Jenner-West crew posted an Instagram in front of one of Turrell’s works in Los Angeles. (I was yelled at by security for taking a picture there but it’s fine.)

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Most recently, West donated $10 million dollars to the artist.

James Turrell’s works come with a warning because the visitor quickly loses all depth perception. Soft gradients are alluring because they cut through the noise of social media, but they also are disorienting. The Twitter bot soft landscapes operates on a similar principle, but some days the landscape all but disappears.

“It’s nice to see calming things amongst all of the social ramifications of Instagram,” says Rion Harmon of Day Job, the design firm of record for Recess. Harmon compares the Recess branding to a sunset so beautiful you can’t help but stare (or take a picture) however busy you are. Changes to the sky are even more pronounced in Los Angeles, where Harmon’s studio is now based. “The quality of light in LA is something miraculous,” he says. The Light and Space movement was also started in Southern California, and it’s in the DNA of Coachella.

Gradients might be a manifestation of longing for sunshine and surf. But they also belong to the placeless digital citizen. 1980s and ’90s kids may remember messing around in Microsoft Paint and Powerpoint as a child, filling in shapes with these same gradients. It’s no surprise that this design effect is part of the technological nostalgia that fuels the vaporwave movement.

Vaporwave is a musical and aesthetic movement (started in the early 2010s) that spliced ambient music, advertising, and imagery from when the internet started. Gradient artwork shared by the clothing brand Public Space is vaporwave. So is this meme posted by direct-to-consumer health startup Hers.

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When Facebook rolled out gradient status backgrounds in 2017, they knew what they were doing. “They have so much data into how the world works,” says Kerry Flynn, platforms reporter at Digiday. “They had a slow rollout to the color gradients … Obviously they could have pulled the plug anytime.”

Flynn goes on to explain that Facebook realized they had become their own worst enemy. There was so much information on their platform that personal sharing was down and they had to make it novel again. “Facebook wants our personal data, as much as possible. Hence, colorful backgrounds that encourage me to post information about myself and for my friends to ‘Like’ it and comment,” she says.

It’s ironic that in order to do so, Facebook borrowed from a digital texture most millennials associate with a time before Facebook. But it also mimics a current trend in film and television: bisexual lighting.

As Know Your Meme explains, “bisexual lighting is a slang in the queer community for neon lighting with high emphasis on pinks, purples, and blues in film.” These pinks, purples and blues often fade into one another — appearing like a gradient when rendered in two dimensions. Bisexual lighting shows up in the futuristic genre cyberpunk, which imagines an era in which high technology and low technology combine and cities are neon-bathed, landmarkless Gothams. (Overlapping with vaporwave.) Mainstream examples of cyberpunk include Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and Black Mirror (specifically the “San Junipero” episode). Hotline Bling makes the list of examples for bisexual lighting; the gradients come full circle.

Tati Pastukhova, co-founder of interactive art space ARTECHOUSE, says gradients have become more popular as computer display quality increases. She says the appeal of gradients is “the illusion of dimension, and giving 2-D designs 3-D appeal.” ARTECHOUSE is full of light-based digital installations, but visitors naturally gravitate toward what is most photogenic — including, unexpectedly, the soft lighting the space installed along their staircase for safety reasons.

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Before gradients, neon lettering was the Instagram lighting aesthetic du jour. Gradients are wordless — like saying Live Laugh Love with just colors. “There’s an inherent progression in gradients, you are being taken through something. Like that progression of Live Laugh Love. Of starting at one point and ending at another point. Evoking that visually is something people are very drawn to,” says Taylor Lorenz, a staff writer at the Atlantic who covers internet culture.

Gradients are also boundaryless. In 2016, artist Wolfgang Tillmans used gradients in his anti-Brexit poster campaign. Through gradients, designers have found the perfect metaphor for subjectivity in an era when even the word “fact” is up for debate. “Gradients are a visual manifestation of all of these different spectrums that we live on,” including those of politics, gender, and sexuality, says Lorenz. “Before, I think we lived in a binary world. [Gradients are] a very modern representation of the world.”

At the very least, gradients offer an opportunity to self-soothe.

Calico co-founder Nick Cope says the Aurora collection is often used in meditation rooms. He and his wife have installed it across from their bed at home. “The design was created to immerse viewers in waves and washes of tranquil atmospheric color,” Cope says, adding, “Regardless of the weather, we wake up to a sunrise every morning.”"

[See also:
"Is 'bisexual lighting' a new cinematic phenomenon?"
https://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-43765856 ]
color  gradients  design  socialmedia  jamesturrell  2019  light  space  perception  neon  desig  graphicdesign  ux  ui  wolfgangtillmans  nickcope  meditation  colors  tatipastukhova  artechouse  computing  bisexuallighting  lighting  queer  knowyourmeme  pink  purple  blue  cyberpunk  future  technology  hightechnology  lowtechnology  vaporwave  bladerunner  ghostintheshell  blackmirror  sanjunipero  hotlinebling  kerryflynn  facebook  microsoftpaint  rionharmon  sunsets  california  socal  losangeles  coachella  depthperception  ganzfelds  drake  kanyewest  beyoncé  anagraph  ladygaga  daisyalioto 
march 2019 by robertogreco
The Sixth Stage of Grief is Retro-Computing — The Message — Medium
"Imagine having, in your confused adolescence, the friendship of an older, avuncular man who is into computers, a world-traveling photographer who would occasionally head out to, like, videotape the Dalai Lama for a few weeks, then come back and and listen to every word you said while you sat on his porch. A generous, kind person who spoke openly about love and faith and treated people with respect."



"A year after the Amiga showed up—I was 13—my life started to go backwards. Not forever, just for a while. My dad left, money was tight. My clothes were the ones my dad left behind, old blouse-like Oxfords in the days of Hobie Cat surfwear. I was already big and weird, and now I was something else. I think my slide perplexed my peers; if anything they bullied me less. I heard them murmuring as I wandered down the hall.

I was a ghost and I had haunts: I vanished into the computer. I had that box of BBS floppies. One after another I’d insert them into the computer and examine every file, thousands of files all told. That was how I pieced together the world. Second-hand books and BBS disks and trips to the library. I felt very alone but I’ve since learned that it was a normal American childhood, one millions of people experienced.

Often—how often I don’t remember—I’d go over to Tom’s. I’d share my techniques for rotating text in Deluxe Paint, show him what I’d gleaned from my disks. He always had a few spare computers around for generating title sequences in videos, and later for editing, and he’d let me practice with his videocameras. And he would listen to me.

Like I said: Avuncular. He wasn’t a father figure. Or a mother figure. He was just a kind ear when I needed as many kind ears as I could find. I don’t remember what I said; I just remember being heard. That’s the secret to building a network. People want to be heard. God, life, history, science, books, computers. The regular conversations of anxious kids. His students would show up, impossibly sophisticated 19-year-old men and women, and I’d listen to them talk as the sun went down. For years. A world passed over that porch and I got to watch and participate even though I was still a boy.

I constantly apologized for being there, for being so young and probably annoying, and people would just laugh at me. But no one put me in my place. People touched me, hugged me, told me about books to read and movies to watch. I was not a ghost.

When I graduated from high school I went by to sit on the porch and Tom gave me a little brown teddy bear. You need to remember, he said, to be a kid. To stay in touch with that part of yourself.

I did not do this."



"Technology is What We Share

Technology is what we share. I don’t mean “we share the experience of technology.” I mean: By my lights, people very often share technologies with each other when they talk. Strategies. Ideas for living our lives. We do it all the time. Parenting email lists share strategies about breastfeeding and bedtime. Quotes from the Dalai Lama. We talk neckties, etiquette, and Minecraft, and tell stories that give us guidance as to how to live. A tremendous part of daily life regards the exchange of technologies. We are good at it. It’s so simple as to be invisible. Can I borrow your scissors? Do you want tickets? I know guacamole is extra. The world of technology isn’t separate from regular life. It’s made to seem that way because of, well…capitalism. Tribal dynamics. Territoriality. Because there is a need to sell technology, to package it, to recoup the terrible investment. So it becomes this thing that is separate from culture. A product.

I went looking for the teddy bear that Tom had given me, the reminder to be a child sometimes, and found it atop a bookshelf. When I pulled it down I was surprised to find that it was in a tiny diaper.

I stood there, ridiculous, a 40-year-old man with a diapered 22-year-old teddy bear in my hand. It stared back at me with root-beer eyes.

This is what I remembered right then: That before my wife got pregnant we had been trying for kids for years without success. We had considered giving up.

That was when I said to my wife: If we do not have children, we will move somewhere where there is a porch. The children who need love will find the porch. They will know how to find it. We will be as much parents as we want to be.

And when she got pregnant with twins we needed the right-sized doll to rehearse diapering. I went and found that bear in an old box.

I was handed that toy, sitting on Tom’s porch, in 1992. A person offering another person a piece of advice. Life passed through that object as well, through the teddy bear as much as through the operating systems of yore.

Now that I have children I can see how tuned they are to the world. Living crystals tuned to all manner of frequencies. And how urgently they need to be heard. They look up and they say, look at me. And I put my phone away.

And when they go to bed, protesting and screaming, I go to mess with my computers, my old weird imaginary emulated computers. System after system. I open up these time capsules and look at the thousands of old applications, millions of dollars of software, but now it can be downloaded in a few minutes and takes up a tiny portion of a hard drive. It’s all comically antiquated.

When you read histories of technology, whether of successes or failures, you sense the yearning of people who want to get back into those rooms for a minute, back to solving the old problems. How should a window open? How should the mouse look? What will people want to do, when we give them these machines? Who wouldn’t want to go back 20 years—to drive again into the office, to sit before the whiteboard in a beanbag chair, in a place of warmth and clarity, and give it another try?

Such a strange way to say goodbye. So here I am. Imaginary disks whirring and screens blinking as I visit my old haunts. Wandering through lost computer worlds for an hour or two, taking screenshots like a tourist. Shutting one virtual machine down with a sigh, then starting up another one. But while these machines run, I am a kid. A boy on a porch, back among his friends."
paulford  memory  memories  childhood  neoteny  play  wonder  sharing  obituaries  technology  history  sqeak  amiga  textcraft  plan9  smalltalk-80  smalltalk  mac  1980s  1990s  1970s  xerox  xeroxalto  texteditors  wordprocessors  software  emulators  emulations  2014  computers  computing  adolescence  listening  parenting  adults  children  mentors  macwrite  howwelearn  relationships  canon  caring  love  amigaworkbench  commodore  aegisanimator  jimkent  vic-20  commodore64  1985  andywarhol  debbieharry  1987  networks  porches  kindness  humility  lisp  windows3.1  microsoft  microsoftpaint  capitalism  next  openstep  1997  1992  stevejobs  objectivec  belllabs  xeroxparc  inria  doom  macos9  interfacebuilder 
november 2014 by robertogreco

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