Unguibus et Rostro

Throwback to the ancient history of UI customization, part two: circa 2005, my so-called career as a designer received a huge boost when Phill Ryu asked me to participate in the Shapeshifter theme contest, organized to celebrate the re-opening of MacThemes forum. If you joined the party after 2008, most likely none of these things mean anything to you. A quick history lesson then:

  • Shapeshifter was a badass OS X theming engine, developed by the even more badass Jason Harris. See here for a few examples of the amazing stuff that was possible back then, and if you're anything like me, weep for the lost times.
  • MacThemes was the mecca of Mac UI customization, a forum gathering the most exquisite UI design talent back then. Nothing like the fancy-pants-always-nice dribbble club, it was a place for real men with real pixels.
  • Phill Ryu was a wonderfully talented douche man. Everyone kind of hated him but nobody could deny his marketing and product intuition. Where are you now, Phill?

Anyway, where was I… Phil pulled me out of my Aqua-Soft den and asked to produce an entry for the contest. At the time I was reading Jacek Dukaj's Perfekcyjna Niedoskonałość (eng. The Perfect Imperfection): an utterly insane, super heavy sci-fi cyberpunk novel about a post-gender and post-human world. Think Ghost In The Shell: Innocence, all philosophical aspects of it extracted and amplified ten-fold. Plus a million other incredible ideas. If you know Polish and know how to read, Dukaj is a must. Otherwise check out this detailed summary, so at least you know what you're missing out on.

But I digress again…this book's cover became the foundation of my concept. Unguibus et Rostro is latin for "with talons and beak", one of main character's family credo. I thought it was odd enough to be fitting through juxtaposition. Book cover, created by the amazing Tomasz Bagiński, became the color palette of my theme. And finally the story, themes, tropes and overall atmosphere inspired the look I went for: futuristic, minimalist, dark and glowy. That was my idea of ultra-futuristic cyberpunk back in 2005 anyway.

Here's what it looked like originally:

Can you see that sexy iDisk icon?? A train of nostalgia hit me recently, and so I decided to recreate the concept in Sketch, with some visual refinements and according to the current OS X UI metrics. Here's the effect:

Click to see the whole theme in full resolution:

I think it came out pretty well: it looks sort of contemporary, albeit with an ever so delicate aftertaste of gaudiness. If you either agree or disagree, hit the big pink thing below to grab the source file for Unguibus et Rostro. It's gluten free!

This is the story then. I like to remember my design origins, and it's fun to step back into the world where touch screen smart phones did not exist. Ha, speaking of which: check me out spreading rumors about the first iPhone back in 2007. Hard to believe it was nine years ago.

I trust there's a small circle of people who will shed a tear of warm nostalgia along with me. I dedicate this trip to you, freaks from Aqua-Soft and MacThemes: Timan, wizard, Seph, Unbeliever, Ji Eun, Stefanka, AndreasV, bh2, gnomexp, herd, nightcrawler1089, flyakite, jef, judge, Phil Li of course…and dozens of others whose names I can't remember anymore. Good times!

As usual, feel free to hit me up if you have any questions or comments.

I made a thing.

Having spent the majority of my pubescent years desperately trying to mimic OS X interface in various incarnations of Windows, I have special warm feels to UI tinkering of all kinds. The relatively recent release of Übersicht brought back the faith in rejuvenating the otherwise stale landscape of OS X customization. The app is free, maintained by the very kind and talented Felix Hageloh, and it happens to be architected in a way approachable enough for my poor, engineering-resistant brain. To be clear — I still believe CSS is a mess that should be nuked and re-thought from ground up, rather than refactored and Coffeescript feels like putting supermodel make-up on Frank's Pretty Woman.

However, the flexibility and freedom of Übersicht somehow pushed me to overcome these issues (which essentially are my own limitations, let's be honest) and build some stuff. So much fun. I encourage you to give it a shot if you miss the days of playing with Avedesk, Samurize, Rainmeter, or even Geektool.

I've recently released a group of widgets that I've been building, polishing and playing with over the past few months. The set contains the following:

  1. Playbox with iTunes and Spotify support (hides dynamically)
  2. Battery monitor
  3. Weather
  4. Time elapsed from an event counter
  5. 2x world clock
  6. Time until next calendar event (uses icalbuddy, hides dynamically)
  7. Calendar

They all support the spiffy-yet-absurd flexbox, come with free background blur and sport a somewhat understated and hopefully elegant look. You're welcome to check them out, if that's the kind of thing you are into.

You can also take a peek at the source code on Github or look at my other widgets. Also remember to grab Übersicht first. For your health!

Hit me up on Twatter if you have any questions or comments.