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Notes on design: A 50/50 chance

In 1923, a young organization called the American Institute of Graphic Arts mounted its first annual “Fifty Books of the Year” exhibition. In its early years, the show featured examples of fine design, typesetting, and production on books by authors like H. G. Wells, Rockwell Kent, and Sherwood Anderson. Over time, with publishers increasingly using eye-catching covers as essential components of their overall marketing strategies, star designers like Alvin Lustig and Paul Rand were recognized for their pioneering work, and in the ’90s, recognizing the now near complete divide between the disciplines of interior and cover design,  the competition was relaunched as “50 Books/50 Covers.” These days, selection for 50/50 is considered the highest form of recognition a book designer can receive, and the show has become the central forum for the book design community.

But this nearly 90-year legacy was thrown into jeopardy last month when the AIGA quietly decided to bring 50/50 to an end. When the usual entry deadline came and went without any notice or announcement from the AIGA, the community grew suspicious, until finally it became clear: the show would not go on. Catherine Casalino, an art director for Grand Central Publishing, and Christopher Sergio, an independent book designer, decided to organize a campaign to reverse the AIGA’s decision, and a week later, the Save 50/50 petition was live. Word spread quickly, and by the end of the first day more than 500 signatures had been collected, including designers from every major publisher and many small presses, as well as some more surprising names, like Francine Prose, whose book A Changed Man was recognized in 2004 for its design by Roberto de Vicq de Cumptich, and Dave Eggers, who’s been awarded many times as a designer, editor, author, and publisher. (Melville House has been recognized as well, for books like The Blindfold Test designed by Kelly Blair and the Art of the Novella series designed by David Konopka.) The plea was simple: now, more than ever, books deserve to be celebrated.

The plan worked: after five days and amid a growing clamor from designers, editors, authors, publishers, booksellers, librarians, students, teachers, and readers, the AIGA’s executive director, Richard Grefé, released this statement announcing the return of 50/50, including a vision for its future:

We have listened to these passionate voices in the design community, and we have reinstated “50 Books/50 Covers” as a distinct competition…. This year “50 Books/50 Covers” will look much like it did last year, although we are working to adapt the system to include e-books. Moving forward, we will continue to strive to balance proving design’s effectiveness with celebrating the craft and tradition of design in all its forms. We look forward to a continuing discussion on recognizing design excellence through competitions, both with those who expressed an opinion through this process and with our members and chapter leaders.

The success of the campaign is thanks not only to the efforts of its organizers, but to the AIGA’s directors as well, who are to be commended for their open and thoughtful response. It just goes to show that book lovers (and book makers) are a passionate bunch.


Barnes and Noble settles Spring Design Lawsuit

spring design alex and nook

Its been going on for over a year and finally the lawsuit brought against Barnes and Noble by Spring Design for patent and intellectual property violations has been settled once and for all! Barnes and Noble is now non-exclusively licensing and paying Spring Design for the technology used in the Nook 3G and the Nook WI-FI.

Spring Design initiated the lawsuit in 2009 when they had met with Barnes and Noble to discuss jointly creating an e-reader. The meeting went nowhere, but months later Barnes and Noble released the Nook 3G which is much akin to the Spring Design Alex e-Reader. Spring design took them to court saying you guys copied our design. While the Nook went on to be a huge success, the Alex e-Reader ended up not selling very well and now their model is discontinued.

Although exact terms of the licensing and royalty fees were not disclosed, it was enough to salvage the company. Recently we reported on Spring Design having money problems and their main investor pulling out. This made the Alex discontinued on their website and through their supply chain. Hopefully with a huge influx of money Spring Design might work on the next gen of e-readers.

Check out the Press Release

New York, NY – March 2, 2011 – Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, today announced that it has settled a lawsuit brought against the Company by Spring Design, Inc. Spring Design initiated legal action against Barnes & Noble in November 2009, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, in connection with Spring Design’s Alex eReader.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Spring Design will grant Barnes & Noble a non-exclusive, paid-up royalty free license for the entire portfolio of Spring Design patents and patent applications. The terms of the settlement are otherwise confidential. The settlement agreement announced today resolves all claims brought by Spring Design, which will be dismissed with prejudice.

Eugene V. DeFelice, Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary of Barnes & Noble, Inc., said, “We are pleased to put this matter behind us. NOOK Color™ and NOOK™, together with Spring Design’s patents and patent applications, have become two of our most innovative and highly-sought after devices. Barnes & Noble is pleased to add Spring Design’s patents and patent applications as a complementary addition to our rapidly growing digital portfolio.”


This press release contains certain forward-looking statements (within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, as amended, and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as amended) and information relating to Barnes & Noble that are based on the beliefs of the management of Barnes & Noble as well as assumptions made by and information currently available to the management of Barnes & Noble. When used in this communication, the words “anticipate,” “believe,” “estimate,” “expect,” “intend,” “plan,” “will” and similar expressions, as they relate to Barnes & Noble or the management of Barnes & Noble, identify forward-looking statements. Such statements reflect the current views of Barnes & Noble with respect to future events, the outcome of which is subject to certain risks, including, among others, the general economic environment and consumer spending patterns, decreased consumer demand for Barnes & Noble’s products, low growth or declining sales and net income due to various factors, possible disruptions in Barnes & Noble’s computer systems, telephone systems or supply chain, possible risks associated with data privacy, information security and intellectual property, the risk whether any patent application will issue and if issued whether or not it will be valid and/or enforceable, possible work stoppages or increases in labor costs, possible increases in shipping rates or interruptions in shipping service, effects of competition, potential effects of a bankruptcy filing by one of Barnes & Noble’s largest competitors and actions taken by that competitor during bankruptcy, including store closures, sales of inventory at discounted prices and elimination of liabilities, higher-than-anticipated store closing or relocation costs, higher interest rates, the performance of Barnes & Noble’s online, digital and other initiatives, the performance and successful integration of acquired businesses, the success of Barnes & Noble’s strategic investments, unanticipated increases in merchandise, component or occupancy costs, unanticipated adverse litigation results or effects, the results or effects of any governmental review of Barnes & Noble’s stock option practices, product and component shortages, the outcome of Barnes & Noble’s evaluation of strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of Barnes & Noble, as announced on August 3, 2010, and other factors which may be outside of Barnes & Noble’s control, including those factors discussed in detail in Item 1A, “Risk Factors,” in Barnes & Noble’s Annual Report on Form 10-K, filed with the SEC on June 30, 2010, and in Barnes & Noble’s other filings made hereafter from time to time with the SEC. Should one or more of these risks or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results or outcomes may vary materially from those described as anticipated, believed, estimated, expected, intended or planned. Subsequent written and oral forward-looking statements attributable to Barnes & Noble or persons acting on its behalf are expressly qualified in their entirety by the cautionary statements in this paragraph. Barnes & Noble undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise after the date of this communication.

About Barnes & Noble, Inc.

Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE:BKS), the world’s largest bookseller and a Fortune 500 company, operates 705 bookstores in 50 states. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Barnes & Noble, also operates 636 college bookstores serving nearly 4 million students and faculty members at colleges and universities across the United States. Barnes & Noble is the nation’s top bookseller brand for the seventh year in a row, as determined by a combination of the brand’s performance on familiarity, quality, and purchase intent; the top bookseller in quality for the second year in a row and the number two retailer in trust, according to the EquiTrend® Brand Study by Harris Interactive®. Barnes & Noble conducts its online business through Barnes & Noble.com (www.bn.com), one of the Web’s largest e-commerce sites, which also features more than two million titles in its NOOK Bookstore™ (www.bn.com/ebooks). Through Barnes & Noble’s NOOK™ eReading product offering, customers can buy and read eBooks on the widest range of platforms, including NOOK eBook Readers, devices from partner companies, and hundreds of the most popular mobile and computing devices using free NOOK software.

General information on Barnes & Noble, Inc. can be obtained via the Internet by visiting the company’s corporate website: www.barnesandnobleinc.com.

NOOK™, NOOK Color™, NOOK Books™, NOOK Newsstand™, NOOK Books en español™, VividView™, NOOK Friends™, AliveTouch™, LendMe™, ArticleView™, Daily Shelf™, NOOK Kids™, NOOK Study™, NOOK Developer™, ReadAloud™, NOOK Book Personal Shopping™, Read In Store™, More In Store™, Free Friday™, PubIt! ™, Lifetime Library™, Read What You Love. Anywhere You Like™ and Touch the Future of Reading™ are trademarks of Barnes & Noble, Inc. Other trademarks referenced in this release are the property of their respective owners.

Related posts:

  1. The Spring Design Alex E-Reader final curtain call
  2. Spring Design Alex Ships Today
  3. Spring Design Alex vs the Asus 950 E-Reader Wars
  4. Barnes and Noble Nook to be sold at Best Buy
  5. Spring Design Alex E-Reader Review
  6. Barnes and Noble releasing 2 new E-Readers

Spring Design, Barnes & Noble settle lawsuit

Just a few days after Spring Design mentioned that it was discontinuing the current generation of Alex dual-screened e-book reader, TechCrunch reports that Spring Design has settled its lawsuit with Barnes & Noble over the Nook’s design similarities to the Alex. And it sounds like B&N pretty much got its way.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Spring Design will grant B&N a “non-exclusive, paid-up royalty free license” for the entire portfolio of the company’s patents and patent applications. Other terms of the settlement were not disclosed.

The suit was dismissed with prejudice, which means it cannot be refiled. Meanwhile, Spring Design is going to discontinue the reader and focus on developing “next generation eReader products and services”.

Probably for the best that Spring Design got out of the kitchen; with prices falling to below 0 and beginning to approach 0, the e-reader market is starting to heat up to the point where smaller, lesser-known companies that can’t keep their own prices down just don’t have a chance.


Notes on design: Barnes and Noble rebrands

Not content to rest on its heels following Borders‘ bankruptcy, Barnes and Noble is embarking on a new branding effort. AdAge reports the retailer has dumped their previous creative agency, SoHo’s Merkley and Partners, and will now tap Boston-based Mullen, whose client roster includes JetBlue, Zappos, and Ask.com, for an expanded marketing campaign, a “new look for stores,” and an overall brand refresh. The investment is worth an estimated million—this after a quarter when profits fell 25% to million (overall sales are up, however).

While Mullen and B&N have declined to comment on the matter, it seems likely the company’s marketing efforts will seek to further emphasize its digital offerings as it continues to invest heavily in the Nook e-reader and tries to win a larger share of the e-book market from Amazon. What will this mean for the company’s design? The current logo (seen above), in a mix of sturdy all-caps fonts, sells B&N as a dependable brick-and-mortar institution, with an elegant ampersand conveying a sense of history—”Est. 1873,” it seems to say. The Nook, on the other hand, is all lowercase, with playful geometric letters which desperately aim to make our electronic future look fun. As Barnes and Noble works to turn its stores into places where customers shop for both printed books and e-books, expect to see a visual reflection of the shift from the retailer’s past to its digital future.


The Spring Design Alex E-Reader final curtain call

spring design alex and nook 3g

The Spring Design Alex e-reader, oh what could have been? The companies main claim to fame was it predated the Barnes and Noble Nook and looked almost identically the same. So much so in fact, that Spring Design sued Barnes and Noble for infringing on its intellectual property for the design.This court case is actually still pending and hurt the small start-up company from promoting its product properly.

Spring Design had the original dual screen e-reader concept where the top half was e-ink and the bottom screen was full color touch screen. They had actually met with Barnes and Noble before either company had begun to develop their e-reader on a collaboration effort in cross marketing this new kind of device. Nothing was signed in writing, but Spring Design was visibly upset about B&N using the tech they talked about.

The Spring Design Alex came onto the market a few months later after the Nook 3G which at the time cost 9 and Alex sold for 9. Although Spring Design did lower its price last year to 9 the price was too much for most people to comfortably afford. The price was the main hurdle for people to choose between both devices, and having a the nations largest bookstore behind you, fostered the Nook’s tremendous growth.

The eBook Reader Blog had mentioned that they stopped by the Spring Design website which had no updates since November 2010. The product also said out of stock. When they had emailed the company and got this response; “Thank you for your interest in Alex. Spring Design is phasing out the current Alex Reader within the next 6 months. We have not announced the product change and introduce any new product yet.”

So either Spring Design is working on a sequel to its e-reader or had the money pulled from their investors. Whatever the case it looks like the current iteration of their e-reader is officially over. If you fancy yourself a laugh, check out the Spring Design Alex duke it out with the Asus DR-950.

Related posts:

  1. Spring Design Alex Ships Today
  2. Spring Design Alex vs the Asus 950 E-Reader Wars
  3. Spring Design Alex E-Reader Review
  4. Alex E-Reader to Ship April 16th
  5. Alex and Entourage Edge E-book Reader
  6. Barnes and Noble releasing 2 new E-Readers

Spring Design phases out Alex Reader

Nathan at The eBook Reader Blog reports learning that manufacturer Spring Design is phasing out its dual-screened Alex e-book reader. Nathan had noticed that the e-book reader was listed as out of stock on the Spring Design website, and that its Twitter and Facebook accounts had not been updated since November. When he emailed the company, he received this response:

Thank you for your interest in Alex. Spring Design is phasing out the current Alex Reader within the next 6 months. We have not announced the product change and introduce any new product yet.

Spring Design was notable for having a similar design philosophy to the Barnes & Noble Nook, and for suing Barnes & Noble over allegedly copying that design after Spring Design shared it with them during a meeting in 2009.

Given the terseness of the response, and the lack of updates from the company, not to mention the high cost of the reader (9 in a world of sub-0 models), it seems unlikely a new model is in the offing. Looks like another e-reader also-ran bites the dust.


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Michael L. Farrell’s Verto Studio 3D combines 3D modeling, lighting and texture mapping with the iPad’s intuitive touch interface.
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Though we're generally not huge fans of DIY/assemble-it-yourself accessories, Heckler Design's @Rest / AtRest for iPad () is genuinely nice enough to merit the modest amount of set-up time that it initially requires. Heckler ships the curved steel base with four hard plastic iPad grips, four clear rubber feet, and two black foam adhesive pads to protect the tablet against scratches. Following ...
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First Looks: Heckler Design @Rest / AtRest for iPad|Lastest Ipad News]

First Looks: Heckler Design @Rest / AtRest for iPad
Though we're generally not huge fans of DIY/assemble-it-yourself accessories, Heckler Design's @Rest / AtRest for iPad () is genuinely nice enough to merit the modest amount of set-up time that it initially requires. Heckler ships the curved steel base with four hard plastic iPad grips, four clear rubber feet, and two black foam adhesive pads to protect the tablet against scratches. Following ...
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Notes on design: Designer libraries, literally

Designers are known for cultivating massive libraries—collections of books we dutifully drag from apartment to apartment, filling shelf after shelf with reference material, visual inspiration, favorite writers, and of course, all those books that caught our eyes at the bookstore and convinced us we couldn’t live without them. Now, a new project aims to document this relationship.

Designers & Books is a new site which asks designers of all stripes—fashion, print, new media, interior, industrial, and urban designers, as well as architects—to list books that have “shaped their values, their worldview, and their ideas about design.” Exploring the site provides a voyeuristic thrill familiar to anyone who’s ever snuck a peek at a new acquaintance’s bookshelves, but it also delivers insight into the minds of the people who help shape the world around us, and it’s interesting to compare the designers’ work with their reading lists.

For example, it’s unsurprising that Paula Scher, whose playful posters for the Public Theater feature dynamically angled typography, would cite books on the dadaist, futurist, and suprematist art movements as most influential to her work.  And Massimo Vignelli, who gave us the rigidly modernist signage of the New York City subway, would of course list books by and about modernist designers like Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, whose visions of urbanism impacted New York’s development in the 1960s and 70s. (He also includes Italo Calvino‘s Invisible Cities.) But you might not expect to find the Renaissance architect Palladio in Michael Graves‘s reading list, considering the often whimsical nature of his buildings.

Others are more interesting for their comments. Of The Great GatsbyMichael Bierut writes, “in what other book does a billboard get to be a main character?” Carin Goldberg, the only book designer represented, makes this introduction to her list:

I spent many years embarrassed by my literary limitations until I became a book jacket designer and had the opportunity to read hundreds and hundreds of manuscripts over the course of 15 years. It was then, albeit late, that I became a reader.

And lest you think George Lois, legendary ad man and former art director of Esquire, uses books for anything other than status symbols, he gets right to the point (as always): “I have almost 7,000 books in four libraries in my (large) Manhattan apartment.”

Finally, in case all of this doesn’t satisfy your urge for literary voyeurism, look inside the late minimalist artist and designer Donald Judd‘s library, which is housed in its own building in his complex in Marfa, Texas, and contains more than 13,000 volumes (take that, Lois). The Judd Foundation’s site allows viewers to browse the library shelf by shelf, with all the books preserved exactly as Judd arranged them himself. Look carefully and you might see some interesting surprises behind the shelves as well.

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