Weekly Flaws

This week's randomness includes sidewalk tiles for the visually impaired, AI on everything including VWs and bird feeders, a keyboard that makes your iPhone even larger, Adobe Illustrator alternatives, who knows what's happening in your TV this year, and street art murals in France.

A Volkswagen Golf with purple camo paint at sunset.
via Volkswagen

This week's edition of randomness includes sidewalk tiles to help the visually impaired, AI on everything including VWs and bird feeders, a Blackberry-esque keyboard that makes your iPhone even larger, Adobe Illustrator alternatives, who knows what's happening in your TV this year, and street art murals in France.

Got a topic you'd like to see covered? Hit me up at flawed@designflaw.media.

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Sidewalk Tiles Help the Visually Impaired in Peru

Promo video for Sightwalks

Peruvian concrete company Cemento Sol teamed up with Circus Grey Peru to develop Sightwalks, which are sidewalk tiles that indicate to visually impaired folks the kind of business they are in front of (e.g., grocery, bank). While Cemento Sol seems to have patented the design, they are making it available copyright-free, which (I hope) means that these become more widely used. Per the video above, they have already installed 75,000 square meters of the tiles in Lima's Miraflores district. You can get all the details in this project PDF at Cemento Sol's website. (Also, extra credit for using a How Might We question to kick it off.)

VW is Bringing ChatGPT to Its Cars

Rendering of a Volkswagen car interior displaying ChatGPT on the display screen.
What ChatGPT might look like in your new VW. (via Volkswagen)

This week at CES (the "most powerful tech event in the world," according to CES) Volkswagen announced that it intends to begin incorporating ChatGPT into its infotainment systems. Skoda - which is owned by VW, so kinda-sorta the same thing - will be doing the same.

Given the number of times that poor Siri (bless her heart) is unable to answer basic questions while I'm driving, I can see some value to having generative AI in the car. However, this opens up a whole raft of questions around privacy and security, neither of which are areas in which auto manufacturers excel.

But in spite of some usefulness, this still has a strong feel of "let's just cram AI into everything to increase sales." I know quite a few folks - myself included - who are tiring of the AI hype cycle, and conventional wisdom seems to be that we're near the "peak of inflated expectations" and heading for the AI trough of disillusionment.

There are undeniably countless great uses for generative AI, aside from making journalists unemployed and churning out misinformation. But I'm also not convinced that an AI barista, AI dog bowl, AI chair, AI bird feeder, or AI shoes are solving any actual problems.

Do You Miss Your Blackberry Keyboard? Now There's a Solution

You've probably already seen this, as it's been all over the tech news over the past couple of weeks, but as a former (but not quite fully recovered) Blackberry user I figured I should comment. A company called Clicks has introduced a keyboard for iPhone users. I personally hate on-screen keyboards, so I can certainly see the appeal. However, iPhones are not small and adding a bolt-on keyboard may mean some difficulty stashing your phone.

Two people with their backs to the camera displaying HUGE phones protruding from their pants pockets.
Yeah, that's not fitting in your pocket. (via Clicks)

Because the fancy typing device uses Apple's external keyboard support, you can use standard keyboard features such as Cmd-Space to open Spotlight. But there's no such thing as a free lunch, and Clicks is no exception. While you can charge your phone with the keyboard connected, you can forget about using other Lightning/USB-C accessories such as headphone adapters, and your MagSafe wallet probably won't work either. And finally, don't drop your phone because it's not really designed as a protective device.

It's a neat idea, but I'm old and will just keep using my computer to type stuff.

Trying to Escape Adobe? Here are Some Illustrator Alternatives

Designers have a love/hate (mostly hate, I think) relationship toward Adobe. Their tools are full-featured, usually work fine, and are the indisputable industry standard. That said, Adobe products are also expensive, glitchy, and thanks to industry consolidation they maintain a virtual monopoly. (Yes, I'm still mad about the Macromedia acquisition.)

Suffice to say it's not easy for professional designers to break free from the Adobe shackles, but there are decent alternatives to most of their tools. Creative Bloq has a pretty expansive list of Illustrator alternatives, beginning with my personal favorite, Affinity Designer. I haven't used most of the tools in their list, and my experience with open-source design tools like Inkscape can be summed up as "exceptionally poor." (I also baffled by their including Sketch as an Illustrator alternative. It's a UX tool and no sane person uses Illustrator for UX design.)

The reality is that you're most likely stuck with Adobe if you're doing client or agency work. But otherwise, there are plenty of viable tools out there for vector work.

Note: I use all of the Affinity tools and recommend them. However, I'm not an affiliate so I don't have any vested interest in whether you purchase them or not, and am not getting any kickbacks if you click that link up there.

I Don't Know What These People are Saying

An old tube TV sitting in front of a green-painted brick wall.
via Adobe Stock

This isn't all that relevant to my usual topics, but I had the misfortune of stumbling across this Adweek article about TV trends for the new year. Being the curious type, I decided to read it, which reinforced my beliefs that 1) I will never be an executive, and 2) I'm glad that I will never be an executive. I'm not entirely sure what any of these people are saying, but I think it comes down to these key points:

  1. They are going to slap the term "AI" on everything, whether it makes sense or not.
  2. Expect more consolidation, which means that...
  3. ...prices will probably keep rising regardless of content quality.

Now might be a good time to turn off the TV and start a new hobby.

Since I'm Off-Topic

Mural of young women athletes flying, painted on the end of an apartment building in France
via Street Art Utopia

But at least this one is art-and-design related: artists at the Dutch Studio Giftig painted this sweet-ass mural for the Street Art Fest Grenoble Alpes (when I tried setting the site language to English, it didn't work and the site remained in French, which so stereotypically French, and I kind of love it tbh.)

You can (and should) check out more of Studio Giftig's work at their website.

Detail shot of the Look Up mural by Studio Giftig
via Street Art Utopia

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