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Yahoo Ads Delivered Malware as Hackers Leverage Flash Security Flaw

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 20, 2015

Yahoo logoVisitors to Yahoo’s main website during the last week in July may have been exposed to malware. On August 3rd, security software company Malwarebytes reported on their blog that they had notified Yahoo as soon as they discovered the security flaw, and that Yahoo immediately took steps to remove the threat. According to Malwarebytes, “malvertising” is particularly insidious because it doesn’t require user interaction; merely browsing the website can cause the computer to be infected. After being redirected through two websites hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, users’ computers downloaded the malware.

According to The New York Times’ Bits technology blog, the hackers exploited out-of-date versions of Flash Player. Adobe recommends that users keep their version of Flash up-to-date, and has a sniffer on their Flash download page that tells visitors what version of Flash they’re running. However, in light of repeated security breaches, there are mounting concerns with Flash. In mid-July, Alex Stamos, Chief Security Officer at Facebook, tweeted a call for Adobe to announce a retirement date for Flash. In a subsequent Twitter exchange, he pointed out that newer browsers no longer require Flash for video streaming. Since January, YouTube has used HTML5 by default in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8.

Designers and animators creating media content will need to include HTML5 in their arsenal of professional skills. However, should Flash be retired in favor of HTML5, chances are security issues won’t be solved. As reported in InfoWorld, although it’s an improvement over Flash, HTML5 brings its own set of complex security flaws.

Typetester Online Tool Permits Comparison of 2,000+ Webfonts

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 09, 2015

For the past decade, Typetester has been an online resource for website designers. Users could compare up to three fonts at a time, and customize size, line height, alignment, color, and spacing. As versatile as the tool was, the limited number of fonts available made it of limited value; only websafe, Windows default, Mac default, and Google fonts were selectable. That changed earlier this year, when Typetester partnered with Adobe Typekit. The result is a robust library of over 2,200 fonts, including Typekit and Adobe Edge fonts.

Typetester also debuted Inspritation Gallery, a selection of staff picked web typography. Both the sampled fonts on Typetester’s homepage and the Inspiration Gallery examples are linked to the font’s webpage, permitting the user to easily purchase and/or download the font.

Typetester was first developed by the Croatian design firm Creative Nights, which built the site in HTML 5, with heavy-duty CSS and JavaScript. (Note that the site will not run properly if JavaScript has been disabled.) The firm has plans to develop TypeTester further, and invites users to subscribe to subscribe to their newsletter to be eligible to preview and provide feedback on upcoming features.

Below: Typestester's interface permits users to compare up to three different webfonts from Google fonts, Adobe Edge, and Typekit.

Typetester screenshot

Bring your Blood Pressure Up: Spec Work Documented on Social Media

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 25, 2015

@forexposure Twitter streamIf you’ve been advised to keep your heart rate steady, you should probably avoid @forexposure_txt on Twitter and shitspecwork on Tumblr. @forexposure provides a steady stream of outrageous requests for free labor. Some of the requests are from businesses one could safely assume have a budget: “You will be doing interviews for a real media outlet. Our prices are affordable and way cheaper than classes.” Some make it clear that the projects have no funding: “In the past contributors have been expected to buy a few copies of the book to help with funding.” Almost all promise some sort of payoff in exposure: “In exchange you get exposure on my account when I tag you in my Instagram pictures.

The Twitter account is maintained by comic artist Ryan Estrada. The posts are often breathtaking in their audacity and general cluelessness: “We do have a budget for professional services, BUT WE DON'T WANT TO SPEND IT.” While the Twitter stream is so comical it’s hard to believe, Estrada assures us “These are real quotes from real people who want you to work for exposure.”

Until recently, 3-D illustrator Timothy Reynolds published the Tumblr spec work blog shitspecwork. The blog featured submissions of requests for free work from large companies, such as HBO, Audi and Coca Cola, to music bands looking for free poster design, to posts by individuals trolling for free labor. Some of the posts cover headline-generating campaigns, such as the Canadian government’s student contest for a logo for the 150-year anniversary of the country’s confederation. 

Unfortunately, Reynolds has ceased to post to shitspecwork. Last December, he sent out a request for anyone willing to take over the blog. Earlier this month, he posted that “I gave up on http://shitspecwork.tumblr.com last year because it took a lot of negative energy to run it. But if anyone wants to take over, lmk.” Interested parties can contact Reynolds via his Twitter account. No doubt there will be a wealth of material for anyone interested in documenting requests for free labor.

Right: @forexposure's Twitter stream.

Free Range Fonts: The Google Web Typographic Project

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 29, 2015

Any web designer scouring through the Google Web fonts library knows how stultifying it can be to find the right combination of faces. After peering at the third (or tenth) waterfall of characters, serifs and weights start to blur into a typographic mess. Self-described tech-tinkerer, Femmebot (Phoebe E.), has come up with a  solution to show web fonts in their natural environment: Google Web Fonts Typographic Project.

The project sets Aesop’s Fables, from the Project Gutenberg translation, in Google web fonts. A minimum of two web fonts are paired, and are set in elegant layouts which combine the faces with background images, illustrations, and simple shapes. The result is a scrolling cheat-sheet of sometimes surprising, often pleasing, typeface combinations. Better yet, the selected fonts are listed on each layout and are hyperlinked to their page on Google Fonts. In most examples, the page designer is credited and linked as well. Google Fonts Typography continues to be a collaborative project, and Femmebot is accepting submissions through her Github account.

The project is the first in Femmebot’s larger initiative: 25x52, or 25 projects in 52 weeks. While the 25x52 seems to be a bit behind schedule – only seven projects have been completed since last summer — the projects have yielded interesting discussion and collaboration. In her end-of-year retrospective, Femmebot shares a thoughtful analysis of what the initiative has taught her about work and the perception of achievement.

Below: screenshot from Google Web Fonts Typographic Project. Used with permission.

Screenshot from Google Web Fonts Typographic Project

Making Brands (or at Least Their Logos) Responsive

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 22, 2015

Last fall, UK designer Joe Harrison unveiled his exploration of scalable logos. The result was Responsive Logos, a simplistic website featuring the logos of major brands such as Coca Cola, Walt Disney, and Kodak. As the viewer resizes the browser window, the logos respond, becoming both smaller, and stripping away elements. At the window’s smallest size, the smallest recognizable feature remains: Chanel’s interlocking Cs, the Guiness harp, Nike’s swoosh. As Harrison wrote on his website, “The concept aims to move branding away from fixed, rigid guidelines into a more flexible and contextual system.”

The logo project follows his earlier Responsive Icons project, in which a detailed graphic of a house resizes and sheds gables, windows, the chimney, and the door as the screen resizes. At the screen’s smallest size, only a simple house shape is left. Harrison started the project to explore “the perfect balance of simplicity in relation to screen size.”

Both projects utilize SVG files, deployed as image sprites. The sprites are packaged with CSS rules and media queries into an encapsulated SVG file. Smashing Magazine analyzed Harrison’s Responsive Icon project, and published a detailed how-to. They conclude that scalable SVG icons satisfy some key needs, for responsive ads, logos, and application icons. With Responsive Logos, Harrison elegantly illustrates their application in branding.

Logos from screenshot of Responsive Logos. Used with permission.

Responsive Logos screenshot

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