How A Company Gets Away With Stealing Independent Designers' Work

The biggest design scandal of the year was the discovery that a mass marketer of tchotchkes was ripping off the work of countless independent designers, and our report on Cody Foster helped bring the design pirate down.

The Unlikely History Of The @ Symbol

A symbol that has become synonymous with Twitter replies and email addresses has a very surprising history that precedes the Internet by hundreds of years. Here's the @ symbol's unlikely history.

How I Taught Steve Jobs To Put Design First

Old Apple computers were so big and boxy, yet for the past 10 years, Apple has become synonymous with sleek design. We asked Hartmut Esslinger, founder of Frog and creator of Apple's snow white design language, to recount how he taught Steve Jobs to make good design law.

How Ge Branded My Unborn Baby

There's nothing more powerful than the first moment a parent sees his or her child... and the makers of ultrasound equipment are figuring out how to brand that moment, creating positive impressions in parents' mind that could then be indelibly linked to a corporate logo. New father Mark Wilson goes to the bottom of the phenomenon here.

Why Aren't Our Gadgets Still Covered In Wood?

Ever wonder why gadgets aren't slathered in wood paneling anymore? As discovered, there are a couple reasons. The first has to do with wood not being capable of scaling up easily for mass production in Asia, but the other is more interesting: we can't accept a future made of the organic. Read the whole article here.

The Next Big UI Idea: Gadgets That Adapt To Your Skill

The interfaces of the future won't be designed by programmers, but by users. Instead of being static, our gadgets will be smart enough to adapt to our skills and learn from us. Here's how.

How 500 Years Of Weird Condiment History Designed The Heinz Ketchup Bottle

From a 17th-century fish sauce, ketchup evolved into a patent medicine, a carcinogenic health hazard, and eventually, a non-Newtonian fluid. Here's how ketchup's rich history is reflected in the design of a bottle of Heinz.

5 Ideas Apple Gleefully Stole From Google, Twitter And Microsoft

If iOS 7 and OS X Mavericks look a bit familiar, well, there are at least five good reasons for that. Apple lifted many of their features from other innovators, then made them slightly better. Here's the proof.

The Design Studio Behind Xbox Reviews The PlayStation 4

Teague designed Microsoft's original Xbox, so the studio knows its way around a game console. What do designers there think of Sony's PlayStation 4? Teague's John Marby and Roger Jackson tell us what Sony got right, and what it got wrong. Read it here

Why This Vintage He-Man Action Figure Still Smells Bad 30 years Later

There is an old He-Man action figure, an anthropomorphical skunk named Stinkor who smells like patchouli oil. He's something of a joke among toy collectors, but he can tell us a lot about the power of nostalgia, and how design can be used to resist the forces of obsolescence.

The Mystery Behind Chipotle's Secret, 1,500-Calorie Super Burrito

Chipotle, Starbucks, and In-N-Out don't see their "secret menus" as secrets at all, but they represent a sea change in the fast-food industry's philosophy. Nothing better represents this than the 1,500 calorie Chipotle quesarito. Just don't try to order it between noon and 1 p.m.

The Xbox One Has A Wee Dong Problem

The Kinect is one of the most amazing pieces of consumer hardware on the planet. It can recognize the human anatomy with incredible logic and accuracy. With the Xbox One, Microsoft upgraded the Kinect even further, making it capable of 1080p Skype video and improved 3-D fidelity that, using an IR camera, can even make out your body in the dark. With extreme specificity, as it turns out.

The Last Interview Al Hirschfeld Ever Gave Was To My 10-Year-Old Brother

Co.Design's own Carey Dunne relays the touching tale of the time her brother killed Al Hirschfield. Okay, not really, Hirschfield died of natural causes at age 99, but it was after giving her 10-year-old brother his last ever interview about such heady topics as lo mein, cats and more. Read it here.

In 20 Years, We’re All Going To Realize This Apple Ad Is Nuts

Released in July, Apple's "Designed In California" ad inadvertently demonstrated the most fundamental problem of the personal electronics age, and once you see it, you can't unsee it: it thinks products are more important than people. Mark Wilson explains more.

Why Jony Ive Is Flattening iOS 7

Released after an internal struggle within Apple that saw the skeuomorphism-loving former boss of iOS, Scott Forstall, fired, legendary industrial designer Jony Ive took over the reins of iOS 7 and drastically overhauled it. Our own John Pavlus explains why Ive did so.


The 15 Best Design Essays Of 2013

Including a history of the @ symbol, an exposé on design piracy, and more

Some people think design is all pretty flourishes, but it's about a lot more than that: design encompasses not just the visual appearance of a thing, but also the intent behind it, and the experience of being exposed to it. These qualities are what makes design such an important medium through which to thoughtfully explore our world, and that's just what we tried to do in 2013 in many of our best essays examining the year's most important design issues.

In the gallery above, you'll find 15 of our favorite essays that we published this year. Written by staff, freelancers, and designers, these pieces go in-depth on the design that fascinated us this year.

To forewarn you, this list is a little Apple heavy. During a year in which Apple completely changed the look of its popular iOS operating system, it's probably natural that we spent as much time talking about the Cupertino-based company as we did, but we also covered other issues in tech design, such as the dangers of gadgets that can see beneath our clothes and ultrasound machines that brand our unborn babies.

We also ranged farther afield. We helped expose design piracy, traced the history of one of the Internet's most ubiquitous typographical symbols, published the last interview with cartooning legend Al Hirschfield, waxed poetic about the smells emanating from an old 80s action figure, and more.

It's the perfect time to curl up by the fire with some of the best design writing we published this year.

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