A Better Boarding Pass
January 13, 2010 7:41 AM   Subscribe

Boarding Pass/Fail, "I was heading back from New York where I had met up with fellow designer Dustin Curtis. If you are not aware of Dustin's take on American Airlines, go read this. Anyway, I was inspired by Dustin and his attitude towards shittily designed things, to say the least. I was bored so I started rummaging through my stuff trying to find something to read when I grabbed my boarding pass. So I stared at it for a while. Rubbed my eyes, then stared at it some more. "
posted by geoff. (252 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

 
Pretty as hell but why would an airline care about anything resembling good design?
posted by blucevalo at 7:46 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope he never looks at his reciepts when he visits the grocery store, I think his heart would give out.
posted by Artw at 7:47 AM on January 13, 2010 [24 favorites]


Thanks - I always enjoy exercises like this. A few of those designs are great, but a several of them are just as cluttered and unfocused as the original. The current Air New Zealand would be my favorite if the flight number stood out more.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:48 AM on January 13, 2010


Previously on the wet behind the ears photoshopper who thinks all it takes to make a successful website for a huge corporation is just to show them a mockup.
posted by cavalier at 7:48 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Boy, I *wish* boarding pass design were the worst problem the airline industry had.
posted by DU at 7:49 AM on January 13, 2010 [26 favorites]


"It's a nightmare."
Oh the horror of bad design!
posted by MtDewd at 7:49 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's a good idea but then they'd have to replace all the dot matrix printers at the gates.
posted by carter at 7:50 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is lovely except he is assuming they want to burn through printer ink which as we all know is more expensive than human blood.
posted by srboisvert at 7:52 AM on January 13, 2010 [26 favorites]


much ado about boarding
posted by 2bucksplus at 7:52 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


If something needed to be color codes I would say it should be the boarding groups. For some reason that still seems to cause a lot of confusion. I always see people trying to sneak a peak at other people's boarding group numbers to make sure that they're not missing something. Plus it would be even easier to spot the people that try to jump ahead a group or two or just block the line waiting for their group to be called. I like to know exactly who I'm supposed to give the "shame on you" dirty look to.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 7:52 AM on January 13, 2010


Yes, he makes perfect sense, but then I read this:

So I took out my Moleskine and started sketching.

and I immediately wanted him to get kicked by a mule.
posted by bondcliff at 7:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [75 favorites]


I also did something with the time I think might help, when it was a P.M. time, it was white text on a black box and when it was A.M. it was black text on a white box.

what
posted by Perplexity at 7:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


dot matrix printers

They use thermal printers for the boarding passes, I think, which don't use ink.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2010


I think that's more down to "was that muffled noise my group being called?" than an inability to read the pass.
posted by Artw at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


This is lovely except he is assuming they want to burn through printer ink

This is actually addressed:
A great point was brought up by Samuel about the fact that boarding passes are printed with thermal printers. This would, in effect, ruin the colored designs, although you can print one other color besides black via thermal printers, most commonly red. Here is some more info on thermal printers.
JJ at Graphicology designed one with the limitations in mind.
posted by geoff. at 7:56 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really liked the last mockup, the one with full sentences. The politely written sentences seem like they would be calming and reassuring in the stressful environment of an airport. It gives the flight details a kind of tangibility that "GATE: 18 DEPARTURE: 6:30PM" lacks. Sort of a 'Don't Panic' for travelers.
posted by jedicus at 7:59 AM on January 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


I always see people trying to sneak a peak at other people's boarding group numbers to make sure that they're not missing something.

That's because the design of the whole boarding process/experience is broken. Problems include boarding passes, but also: varied procedures amongst airlines, poor intercoms at the gates, poorly trained gate staff, poorly enunciating gate staff, boarding not starting when it says, gate switches, random queuing/discrete shoving (most terminals do not have designed queuing spaces at the gate, so people just make it up and often queue into the main walking areas), random/gouging baggage policies (now surcharges make people carry more carryon, and so they are even more interested in rushing on the plane), and many other factors. It's a mess, of which the passes are one small component.

It needs to be redesigned from the ground up (e.g. Southwest). I'm not saying SW is a good solution, but it's what a different solution looks like.
posted by carter at 8:00 AM on January 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


They use thermal printers for the boarding passes...

Yep.
posted by ericb at 8:00 AM on January 13, 2010


If anything, the article shows that it's always easy to re-design something to suit your design sensibilities, and something else entirely to design within the existing limitations.

Yes, he makes perfect sense, but then I read this:
So I took out my Moleskine and started sketching.
and I immediately wanted him to get kicked by a mule.


Yeah, that's pretty much the point where my eyes rolled into the back of my head, and my brain started blinking "wanker".
posted by Thorzdad at 8:04 AM on January 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


They use thermal printers for the boarding passes, I think, which don't use ink.

Well okay they'd have to replace their antique thermal ink printers ... but the point really is that they probably won't for as long as possible, as it would cause chaos. New printers connected to existing networks, new drivers, etc., at every gate.

The examples in geoff.'s link are interesting.
posted by carter at 8:04 AM on January 13, 2010


Also - thermal printers run out of paper, but never ink. So I guess there's a practical reason for them too.
posted by carter at 8:05 AM on January 13, 2010


TBH I was there once he started having an attack of the vapours because his pass didn't look like it was designed on a mac. "I can't possibly read it! The important bits are merely large, and not in some silly elongated font! It's like being kicked in the face" - no, really, it's not. Calm down. Have your emergency zanax and try not to write anything weird on comments cards.
posted by Artw at 8:06 AM on January 13, 2010 [19 favorites]


I really liked the last mockup, the one with full sentences.

Agreed. Many of the others are pretty, but not necessarily better designed. Why show airport codes but not city names? "YYZ -> MCO" might be easier to layout, but "Toronto -> Orlando" is what the traveler needs to see.
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 8:07 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


I really like the redesigns, they do make the ticket easier to read, but they would use a lot of ink, which is a problem. The ones that take the printing limitations into account do turn out nice.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:08 AM on January 13, 2010


Flying home from winter vacation, I witnessed a group of elderly ladies who missed their flight because they confused their departure time with their boarding time. Furthermore, the gate agent badly mangled the name of their party over the intercom.

Of all the redesigns at that link, I like the verbose boarding pass best of all. Don't make me guess which one is my gate and which one is my seat. Just tell me.
posted by muddgirl at 8:12 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only thing missing from all these that really gets me is the lack of timezone next to the times. For whatever reason, when I'm traveling between timezones I always get confused and a simple "EST" or "CST" would help me remember what local time they're talking about. Not a huge deal but for whatever reason it always confuses me and I have to spend a couple minutes trying to remember what time zone I'm in and what time zone I will be in, how many hours I'll gain or lose, etc.
posted by geoff. at 8:13 AM on January 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


I prefer the original to the author's redesigns. The redesigns are prettier, perhaps, but certainly not more functional. Using airport codes instead of full names will be confusing to everyone except the most frequent fliers. Is 5:10PM the time the flight leaves, the time I'm supposed to board, or the time I bought the ticket? It's not labeled, so it could be anything. How's he planning to deal with aligning strings of unknown length? Sure, that last one looks nice, but as soon as you change his name, gate number, class, departure time, etc., it's going to look like ass.

Some of the redesigns by other contributors are a bit better.
posted by echo target at 8:18 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The Air New Zealand example seemed pretty good, and that's already in use. Then again, they're a forward-thinking company with a cheeky nudist safety video, so you know their great ideas won't be adopted in America for another 10-to-never years.
posted by explosion at 8:18 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


People still get BPs at airports?

That said, I'd rather they be able to look at and scan my iPhone so I don't have to print out any paper.
posted by SirOmega at 8:19 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


what the hell is he on about? I clicked the link, looked at the scan and knew immediately what time, what airport, what gate and what destination he was dealing with. Is he blind? Are there millions of people missing flights, getting on the wrong planes, etc? No. So what is the friggin problem?
posted by spicynuts at 8:20 AM on January 13, 2010 [12 favorites]


Is it weird that I like the original better? It puts a big box around the information you need: where you're supposed to sit. In all this guy's designs, the seat number is just another set of digits, the same size as the stuff you don't need your boarding pass to remind you.
posted by escabeche at 8:24 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes. Amen. Those failfarks at the Airlines must be fail as crap. Damn! Just looking at my ticket usually makes me puke, and also fart, while praying for a monkey to come stab me in the throat with a railroad spike. Lol, but not really. But really: UGLY ass tickets. I have to look at that ticket for, what, almost 25 minutes before I can throw it away as I get on the plane? And they fill it with DISGUSTING typefaces and INSANE use of whitespace? Why can't they hire some REAL 22-year-olds to Helvetica it up? Hmm dum de dum I'm a sheep american consumer going to the airport to fly to some other crap location in this idiot country, let me just look down at my ticket to see where I have to goBUHHHH????????? No Colors????????? Zuhhhhhh????? Is This The 1950s?????????? Am I lapsing into a coma because I cannot understand the insane gibberish that our techno future lives have shat into my hands???? That's what it's like, Airlines. That's what these normal people experience Every. Farking. Time. And Def. Racist Undertones Comeing From Insistent (Fascist) Use Of Only Black + White. One word, Airlines: EPOCH-PHAIL.

I had a similar experience the other day. I was at Wal-Mart (do NOT get me started on those idiots. Just. DON'T.) when I realized that the miserable NEANDERTHAL at the register had clearly made a few mistakes -- I had purchased two hairdryers (I have extremely long hair deal with it) and yet they were NOT in my bag. So I took out my receipt and scanned it for inconsistencies:

What I saw made me FLIP. THE. FARK. OUT.

I was seriously shakeing with anger. I cannot believe -- cannot believe -- that a company as large as Wal-Mart could get away with just awful design. Postponing my hairdrying for yet another day, I rushed out of the car and back to my Tesla. I was home in no time, and I fired up several instances of every version of photoshop that I have. It took 17 hours, but this is what I came up with:

Wal-Mart? This one is on the house. Try to learn a little something.

First of all - color. Make it pop, yes? NEW typeface (Futura, good for everything). And did I feel constrained by the so-called "size" of the receipt? Also, simplified the information - you don't need all that crap about coupons and taxes and whatever. Simple numbers, clean, DONE. Function follows form, natch. Lastly, a little bit for the consumer to think about. Is that so hard? Thinking? Have we really fallen so low that we can't reflect on Eastern Folk religion just because we're at a big box store? Bringhurst must be spinning in his grave.
posted by Damn That Television at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2010 [333 favorites]


I've flown Delta over 200 times over the last three years, and have held a boarding pass just like that one in my hand each time. Despite the bleatings of this design weenie, never once have I held that boarding pass in my hand and wondered what I was supposed to do with it, nor have I been even remotely lost due to the shortcomings of the information or presentation on that boarding pass.

This is just some design weenie pissing and moaning because a perfectly functional object doesn't live up to his refined aesthetic sensibilities, and engaging in a totally masturbatory "redesign" process to make it not offend his eyes.

In fact, in one important way, his redesign is inferior to the original: I would love to hear how NYC - Kennedy, which is how it reads on the original boarding pass, is less clear than the three-letter code JFK, which is used in the redesign. Some airports have three-letter codes that are less than clear, for example - Newark is EWR, Washington-Dulles is IAD, Houston Intercontinental is IAH - if I saw IAD-IAH on a pass and weren't a frequent traveler familiar with those codes I would have no fucking idea whether my flight was going to the correct city. Don't even get me started on international airports, especially those in Canada - YOH, YYZ, YUL would make no sense whatsosever to someone expecting to see Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal-Dorval on their ticket.

Also, as others have pointed out, his redesign is completely impractical in the real world, due to the thermal paper issue.

Oh, and people who insist on using the brand name of their overpriced notebook to show off how cool they are? Total douchebags.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:25 AM on January 13, 2010 [14 favorites]


Why all the Moleskine hate? I don't use one or even know anyone who does, I'm just wondering.
posted by Daddy-O at 8:28 AM on January 13, 2010


No one hates the actual Moleskine. They hate the doucheknockers who insist on telling everyone that they are using one. I mean, what if I told you what kind of pen I was using every time I wrote a note?
posted by spicynuts at 8:32 AM on January 13, 2010 [19 favorites]


The new design is a failure in a number of ways, mostly because this designer failed to gather any customer requirements before just forging ahead and making something pretty, yet less useful. He also totally fails to consider that the boarding pass has two classes of users, the passenger, and the gate agents. When a gate agent actually has to read the information on the boarding pass, rather than just scan it in, they are probably in some situation where time is money, possibly with a hundred people standing behind in line. Making the gate agent's job harder is something no passenger should want, because it will delay the passenger.

Some people have noted specific problems with the new boarding pass. Here are a few more:The boarding pass was already designed, but Tyler didn't take the time to understand the principles or reason for that design.

The boarding pass is also one of the bits of airline user experience that needs the least work.
There are many parts that need a lot of work, but when did you last hear a comedian complain about airline boarding pass design? It will result in some of the smallest returns on investment for design effort. Few people are going to pay even a single extra dollar to fly your airline because you have prettier boarding passes. Focus that design effort on making a snazzy and easy-to-use web site, a much more interesting and harder problem.

In short: fail.
posted by grouse at 8:33 AM on January 13, 2010 [97 favorites]


printer ink ... as we all know is more expensive than human blood.

One pint of human blood: $35

One pint of printer ink: $25

Frighteningly-close-to-accurate hyperbole on Metafilter: Priceless
posted by jock@law at 8:35 AM on January 13, 2010 [15 favorites]


They are interesting designs that offer ideas for how to better convey the information on boarding cards, but I HATE this, "Get a load of this epic fial boarding pass designed by a blind parakeet. See how easy it is to design good looking boarding passes?"

He doesn't know what the requirements are, imposed by regulation, convention, the scanning systems, the printing software, etc., all of which needs to handle cases he hasn't thought about:
posted by justkevin at 8:35 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Moleskines are RFID tags for hipsters. If they didn't exist, we'd settle on something else.
posted by gimonca at 8:36 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one who found the original boarding pass easiest to read?
posted by davejay at 8:37 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


When I clicked on the link and started reading, I wondered to myself "where's the original nightmare boarding pass that inspired this?" I hadn't read the subheading on the first boarding pass on the page, and at a glance, I had no idea that the first boarding pass was a "nightmare." All of the important elements are highlighted or easy to find. The fonts are legible. If I were handed that Delta boarding pass at an airport, I'd have no question about what to do, and I have difficulty believing that the design of that boarding pass is problematic.

Now, I'm no stranger to design issues. I too was shocked when Ikea switched to Verdana. I identify and make fun of kerning issues in signs and badly-done logos. I appreciate good design, really I do. But most of these designs hamper the usability of the boarding pass, not enhance.

Case in point: most of the "designer" boarding passes just use airport codes (ie, JFK -> SEA). All of the real airlines, on the other hand, include the actual destination cities. Why is this? Because many cities have confusing airport codes. If you fly into Chicago, you're probably flying into ORD or MDY, but if you're flying to Orlando, you're probably flying into MCO. Quick, designers, figure out your boarding passes where you find you're taking a flight from GEG -> ORD and then ORD -> MCO. I'll bet, if they actually used their designs, they'd wish it said Spokane -> Chicago O'Hare, and Chicago O'Hare -> Orlando.

Charles Kidd did something like this with an Amtrak ticket in McSweeney's recent Panorama issue. In his defense, the Amtrak ticket he worked on really was a nightmare, a confusing glob of too much information. But his solution? To just eliminate information that may well be necessary to have on the ticket. His design didn't take into account flexible tickets that could be used between dates. He left off the reservation number. He left off fare rules that would be valuable for the holder to know. And, as has been mentioned above, he seemed unconcerned that Amtrak would have to engage in an absurd desgree of database/printer upgrades to get to that design.

Good design takes into account usability and practicality in addition to style. I'm all in favor of new boarding pass designs, but not at the expense of reducing ease of use. When facilitating something as stressful and complex as travel can be, design shouldn't just be pretty.
posted by eschatfische at 8:38 AM on January 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


All suggestions on improvement of any kind of boarding pass are just stopgap measures until retinal/remote DNA scanning equipment is rolled out at all transit departure points.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:38 AM on January 13, 2010


(That should have been MDW, not MDY.)
posted by eschatfische at 8:40 AM on January 13, 2010


I've thumbed through Eats, Shoots & Leaves quite a few times in my day (I will be 19 in April) and here are the changes I'd make to Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. First things first: Moar. Semicolons. For. Teh. Epic. Wins.
posted by Damn That Television at 8:40 AM on January 13, 2010 [16 favorites]


Oh yes. Let's us start bitching about how ugly the major airlines' boarding passes are so that they can spend millions on focus groups and redesign projects to spiffy up that piece of paper that's just going to go in the trash anyway. And oh look by the way your airfare just went up by $112.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:41 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really liked the last mockup, the one with full sentences.

The paragraph format is warmer but which language to use? In Switzerland they'd be required to have this in French, German and Italian.
posted by Dragonness at 8:42 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Some of those "suggestions" are awe-inspiring in their stupidity. Including a phonetic pronunciation of your name on the boarding pass? How the hell is that information going to be entered in the system and what harried gate agent is going to have the time to process that information correctly? Including estimated flight time (as on John Doe's "My Boarding Pass") isn't a bad idea, unless you represent an hour as 1:00mins. Zuh?

I think that's more down to "was that muffled noise my group being called?" than an inability to read the pass.

The problem is also sometimes people being astoundingly dense, not asking for clarification, or not listening when it's given. I was waiting for a flight last week when another traveler came up and asked, "Hey, have they called Group 4 yet?"

"No," I said, "they're still in preboarding."

Fifteen seconds later, after hearing him ask someone else and getting the same answer, I happened to turn around and catch him being shooed out of the boarding line by an attendant pointing at his pass and saying, "Sir, we're still. in. preboarding."
posted by kittyprecious at 8:47 AM on January 13, 2010


I don't want to read prose when I look at a boarding pass. I want the gate and the dep. time to be easy to find and IN THE SAME PLACE THEY WERE THE LAST TIME.
posted by Mister_A at 8:47 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Why show airport codes but not city names? "YYZ -> MCO" might be easier to layout, but "Toronto -> Orlando" is what the traveler needs to see.

Many cities have multiple airports (DCA/IAD, JFK/LGA, CYUL/CYMX, EGLL/EGKK/EGLC) whose long names are not easily and quickly parsed (Montreal Pierre Elliot Trudeau International, New York John F Kennedy, Houston George Bush Intercontinental). Not that the boarding pass shouldn't ALSO include the long names... but for many uses the short names are faster and more specific.

Also, it's important to note that passengers are not the only ones reading boarding passes! The terminal, gate, and flight personnel also have to be able to quickly scan the pass for the specific information relevant to them. It's a completely different use case for the same artifact, with very different requirements due to the different information required, as well time and volume constraints. Consistent placement of data points, speed of comprehension, and appropriate level of specificity all become more important in this context.
posted by joshwa at 8:48 AM on January 13, 2010


If something needed to be color codes I would say it should be the boarding groups.

Bad idea, unless it's also backed up on the pass itself with very legible text in a color that is highly contrasted against its background. Up to 10% of the US population is colorblind to some degree. Considering the range of colors affected by the various types of colorblindness, a color code would be bound to pose difficulties for a percentage of passengers.
posted by zarq at 8:52 AM on January 13, 2010


This reminds me of the redesign suggested for national security bulletins that are given to the President. We had a discussion about that on MetaFilter a few years ago, when it became known that Bush had largely ignored warnings prior to 9/11. The assumption was that the information wasn't laid out properly on the page, or of course 9/11 wouldn't have happened.

It seemed then, like it does now, like a case of designers thinking they could use a particularly flimsy hammer to hit a largely irrelevant nail.
posted by chrillsicka at 8:54 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


My only redesign idea is to change it so that the "boarding group" bit says "BOARDING GROUP: GROUP THREE. GROUP THREE — YOU UNDERSTAND? THAT MEANS THAT YOU DON'T TRY TO GET ON THE PLANE BEFORE THEY CALL GROUP THREE. OK? And don't do that lingering-just-before-the-entrance-to-the-jetway thing either. Go and sit down."
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 8:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


It's amazing what being bored in an airport can make one do.

And what's with all of the black dots as the page background? Is it just me seeing them? Anyone who would use that as a website background definitely has a mule living with them inside their house...
posted by Solomon at 8:56 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The paragraph format is warmer but which language to use? In Switzerland they'd be required to have this in French, German and Italian.

Well, with a little work you could probably accommodate all three on the same boarding pass, especially if you used the back. That said, boarding passes are (basically) never printed without the customer present (e.g., they're either pre-printed by the customer or they're printed when the customer shows up to check-in), so why not let the customer specify the language? That way, it could be printed in any language at all, not just the national languages of the country the airport was in.

I don't want to read prose when I look at a boarding pass. I want the gate and the dep. time to be easy to find and IN THE SAME PLACE THEY WERE THE LAST TIME.

Well, maybe the prose-style boarding pass could be optional. For example, it'd probably be great for minors of reading age who are flying alone. Also, there's no reason that the relevant information (e.g. the gate and departure time) wouldn't always be in the same physical location on the boarding pass. It's not like the prose is going to change every time you fly.
posted by jedicus at 8:57 AM on January 13, 2010


Great. Now I have Rush instrumentals stuck in my head.
posted by slogger at 9:00 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I got confused near the very beginning when he writes:

There was nothing given size or color importance over anything else, it was a mess.

And yet the seat number (the only thing I really need to look at again once I make it to the gate) is bigger than anything else and placed in a box, along with the zone assignment. I know design is his thing, and I think it's kind of fun to play around with different ideas, but you could do all that and still be honest about what you had to start with.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:01 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Pretty as hell but why would an airline care about anything resembling good design?

When your only tool is typography, everything is a template to be perfected.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:05 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Damn That Television, your comment is the best comment on the intarwubs today.
posted by General Malaise at 9:05 AM on January 13, 2010


The fail started for me when I looked at the page and thought that the dot-grid background was dust on my monitor.
posted by fatbird at 9:07 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Overhead behind the scenes at American Airlines:

BOB: Jim, here's that boarding pass re-design thing that internet guy sent us. I think there's actually some pretty good ideas here.

JIM: Hmmm? What's this about moleskin?

BOB: Moleskin?

JIM: FUCKING MOLESKIN!!!!!!!! Fucking fucking fucking moleskin!!!! How dare you present this to me? How dare you even think to THINK that I could read the word Moleskin without firing your sorry ass. You're fired, Bob!
posted by philip-random at 9:08 AM on January 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


What's with the design hate going on here?

Sure, the kid may be naiive about the practicalities of redesigning a boarding pass, but more importantly here is the process that's displayed. There's a fair bit of back and forth between commenters on the blog, with accompanying design examples.

There's nothing wrong with performing an exercise in redesigning something -- that's what designers -- especially graphic designers -- like to do sometimes. It keeps skills sharp and generates ideas for when you really have a paying client. Redesigning something that normally isn't or "shouldn't" be considered for an aesthetic overhaul adds to the challenge.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 9:11 AM on January 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Yeah I balked at the Moleskin mention as well. And actually I thought his 'redesigns' were actually less readable. The elongated font was pretty but not as readable. Sure, you could read it but you couldn't just glance at it, you had to take a second and look at it more closely.

I like the one that's textual, though. But obviously it would need a little work so that gate agents could read it quickly. Maybe text on the right, and a table on the left. Or something like that.
posted by delmoi at 9:11 AM on January 13, 2010


Also: in the US, there is an electronic boarding pass pilot program which enables passengers to download their boarding pass on their cell phones or PDAs. TSA's website lists 30 airports and 5 airlines piloting this technology. According to this Wired article, "the TSA likes the new system because the two-dimensional bar codes are tougher to copy than the older one dimensional variety."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:12 AM on January 13, 2010


This reminds me of the redesign suggested for national security bulletins that are given to the President. We had a discussion about that on MetaFilter a few years ago, when it became known that Bush had largely ignored warnings prior to 9/11. The assumption was that the information wasn't laid out properly on the page, or of course 9/11 wouldn't have happened.

Of course not. The damned thing only had a headline of "Bin Laden Determined To Strike In US" in big, bold letters across the top. Pretty colors would have made all the difference.
posted by zarq at 9:14 AM on January 13, 2010


The paragraph format is warmer but which language to use? In Switzerland they'd be required to have this in French, German and Italian.

Oh, it occurs to me you might have meant this not only from the passenger's point of view but also the airline worker's. Three points: the first is that all of the relevant details could be reprinted in a terse but standard format along the long edges of the boarding pass. The second is that normally all of the details can also be pulled up from scanning the barcode. The third is that, so long as the sentences are kept in the same order in every language and some effort is made to put the actual information in roughly the same place on the ticket in each translated version, it should be easy enough to ignore the prose and pick out the details. For example:

Hello, TYLER N. THOMPSON.
This is your boarding pass for American Airlines flight #AA1025 from New York JFK to Orlando.

vs Google-translated Japanese:

こんにちは、TYLER N. THOMPSON
この American Airlines フライトの搭乗券の OrlandoNew York JFK 空港から #AA1025 です。

Google's translation swapped the left-right order of JFK and MCO, but presumably that could be standardized even if it sounded a bit awkward in right-to-left languages.
posted by jedicus at 9:19 AM on January 13, 2010


Hey, jock@law, HP black printer ink costs 70 cents per Ml, whereas human blood costs about 38 cents per Ml, as per this story:

http://consumerist.com/2009/12/hp-ink-costs-more-than-human-blood.html

What was that about hyperbole again?

Or let's go to http://www.cockeyed.com/science/gallon/liquid.html which shows human blood, with the processing fee, to go for $1,514.79 a gallon, whereas black in from a printer cartridge (brand unspecified) to go for $2,701.52 a gallon.
posted by mephron at 9:20 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's a BOARDING PASS.

So far no one has explained why the layout and printing on a boarding is important.
posted by Zambrano at 9:20 AM on January 13, 2010


pass
posted by Zambrano at 9:20 AM on January 13, 2010



No one hates the actual Moleskine. They hate the doucheknockers who insist on telling everyone that they are using one. I mean, what if I told you what kind of pen I was using every time I wrote a note?


This is only tangentially related, but I am a Quaker, and all the affluent liberal Quakers in my circle are deeply embracing the localvore/CSA/sustainable agriculture/farmers market movement thing. Recently I was at an all-day meeting, and as we sat down to get started people who had brought snacks mentioned what they'd brought, and instead of being like this:

"I brought some coffee and brewed a pot; it should be ready in a minute."

"I brought some apples."

It was like this:

"I brought some organic free-trade coffee and brewed a pot."

"I brought some organic locally-grown heirloom apples I got at the farmer's market yesterday morning."

And I a) rolled my eyes, and b) wished I'd brought a Jell-o and Cool Whip salad.
posted by not that girl at 9:23 AM on January 13, 2010 [20 favorites]


Dude having to put up with these boarding passes is torture. More like WATER-BOARDING PASS amirite?
posted by Mister_A at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


May I suggest a new category for Metafilter: DesignerWank!
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2010


Aren't moleskins all boring and black? Why doesn't he zazz them up a little whilst he's at it?
posted by ob at 9:25 AM on January 13, 2010


Also dudes I have a Mac and a clicky Bic pen.
posted by Mister_A at 9:25 AM on January 13, 2010


To write on the Mac with.
posted by Mister_A at 9:25 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Someone should start a tumblr called Design Wank, where they call out designers who act like this. [and remind me of this]
posted by sciurus at 9:27 AM on January 13, 2010


Holy shit, is it everyone be crabby day today and y'all forgot to tell me. I fly alot. Boarding passes are a disaster. Sheesh, the guy has a few good ideas to make things easier for people, how dare he? And esp. by putting his ideas in a Moleskine.
posted by Keith Talent at 9:27 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or let's go to http://www.cockeyed.com/science/gallon/liquid.html which shows human blood, with the processing fee, to go for $1,514.79 a gallon, whereas black in from a printer cartridge (brand unspecified) to go for $2,701.52 a gallon.

I'm pretty sure that blood-stained boarding passes won't quite convey the safe, reliable, accident-free image that the airlines try so very, very hard to put forward.

WELCOME ABOARD. HERE'S YOUR BOARDING PASS. IT'S WRITTEN IN HUMAN BLOOD. BUT DON'T WORRY, WE PROMISE THIS WILL BE A SAFE, ENJOYABLE EXPERIENCE FOR YOU AND YOUR FAMILY. NOW STEP RIGHT OVER FOR YOUR COMPLIMENTARY CAVITY SEARCH FROM OUR FRIENDS WITH THE TSA. WOULD YOU CARE TO DONATE A PINT OF BLOOD WHILE YOU'RE AT IT?
posted by zarq at 9:28 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I like the design, but really the biggest boarding pass fail that I've experienced is flying internationally with connecting flights and the staunch refusal of the gate agents in the US to give the second boarding pass. Well, trans-Atlantic flights are usually overnight and arrive in Europe first thing in the morning. First thing when airports such as Madrid and Rome haven't yet woken up their gate attendants and there is NO WAY to obtain the second boarding pass. Which means you can't get through security to get to the gate to get ON the plane before it leaves.

THAT is boarding pass fail.

Air France doesn't do this, there's one boarding pass with a big fat barcode and that is your pass for ALL flights. The only way that particular system could be improved is if they just went ahead and stamped the barcode on my head so I couldn't lose the piece of paper it's on.

Really, the boarding pass design is the least of my complaints about air travel. I do like things to be aesthetically pleasing, but I've got my priorities and they include spending the $5 it would cost to make a better boarding pass on spacing the seats apart by one more fucking inch. These designs were nice to look at, but I'm too jaded to get excited about them.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:28 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Heh, suburbanbeatnik.
posted by sciurus at 9:28 AM on January 13, 2010


So I took out my Moleskine and started sketching.
and I immediately wanted him to get kicked by a mule.


You want someone to experience violent consequences because they like carrying a notebook and sketching in it?

Your problem, not his.
posted by weston at 9:29 AM on January 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


Lots of defensive designers and/or Moleskine users around here.
posted by yhbc at 9:32 AM on January 13, 2010


I don't fly more than a few times a year, but of all the tortures associated with flying, figuring out a boarding pass isn't high on the list.
posted by digsrus at 9:33 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


So far no one has explained why the layout and printing on a boarding is important.
posted by Zambrano at 9:20 AM on January 13


As Americans who do not understand fine fashion, free love, and transcendental meditation as exhibited by Continentals, boarding passes are the one thing that gives meaning to our empty lives.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:33 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Europe is my favorite country.
posted by Damn That Television at 9:36 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Also dudes I have a Mac and a clicky Bic pen.

Yes, but do you have a curated fixed gear bike in a custom colorway?

Maybe instead of a top-down overhaul, redesigning the boarding pass will herald the arrival of the bottom-up approach. First we get the gum off the floor, then we redesign the boarding pass, eventually we'll figure out the security stuff.
posted by fixedgear at 9:39 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Every single one of those re-design options (including the ones other people made) is worse than the original in some significant way.

The original is ugly, sure, but to claim that it's confusing and hard to read is just disingenuous.
posted by straight at 9:40 AM on January 13, 2010


If I had the time, I would create a fake pretentious-designer blog in which I gnash my teeth about all sorts of common things that aren't artily designed but work just fine, and then fancy them up with big fields of color and whatever font is the new hotness this season, Purpootica Tall Extra Grande Narrow Black Half-Serif or some shit, and make them all confusing and impractical and hard to read but gee so pretty.

And I'd come up with a really clever blog title and spend five weeks getting the title logoed up just right and of course the title has to be REALLY big and bold and take up the top third of your browser window so when you read it at work and the boss is about twenty feet away she can read it too and totally tell you're not doing work. seriously web designers can you please stop doing that? also while I'm in complainy mode can everybody stop wearing leggings as pants?
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:42 AM on January 13, 2010 [14 favorites]


I like the design, but really the biggest boarding pass fail that I've experienced is flying internationally with connecting flights and the staunch refusal of the gate agents in the US to give the second boarding pass

Depends on the connection. They may simply not be able to do anything more that ticket you. If you stay on the same carrier, or on that carrier's full alliance partners, they can issue boarding passes all the way through. If you're flying to LHR on Delta and then elsewhere on BA, DL can only give you a ticket, you'll need to talk to BA to get a boarding pass, because Delta can't issue valid boarding passes.

This is why when you're walked to another airline, you only get a ticket, and you have to get a boarding pass from that airline -- except in the very rare cases where they walk you to a partner.
posted by eriko at 9:44 AM on January 13, 2010


Moleskines are awesome on-the-go blank books.

"Casually" pointing out that your blank book is a Moleskine for the indy cred is lame.
posted by Babblesort at 9:46 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


eriko: Yeah, I know. Which is why I'm only ever flying Air France to Europe. This really, honestly, wouldn't be half the problem that it is if the secondary ticket counters were actually staffed when the first flight arrives at 6AM local time.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:46 AM on January 13, 2010


If you do that, Metroid Baby, I promise I will visit it every day!
posted by Jinkeez at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2010


Don't even get me started on international airports, especially those in Canada - YOH, YYZ, YUL would make no sense whatsosever to someone expecting to see Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal-Dorval on their ticket.

Particularly if I were expecting to fly home to Ottawa (YOW) and found myself being routed to Oxford House (YOH), an airstrip on a native reserve in northern Manitoba.

/frequent flyer, pedant
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Lots of defensive designers and/or Moleskine users around here.

Well, there are a lot of real, down to earth people here on MeFi talking about things that are all big city complicated, like pretty pictures and ideas that have nothing to do with putting food on the table or a roof over their heads.

The kid's a young designer and is into what he does. This is something that all designers do -- redesign something for the exercise. I'm sure some of you practice playing an instrument and do a pretty shitty rendition of a perfectly good piece.

[Not a Moleskin user.]
posted by Extopalopaketle at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2010


It seems obvious that his major beef isn't really with the structure or layout of the original pass but with the aesthetic: it's too bureaucratic, too stale, too old, too fixed-width. To me that look signifies robustness, transparency, economy, stability, trustworthiness, airportness — whereas Tyler's designs connote the web, uptown-ness, coolness, surface shininess, Star Trek — I think most of all they signifiy design. His redesign seems to embody the same kind of ridiculous class conflict that the "I'm a Mac / I'm a PC" play on, and as such it would probably just subtly alienate most of the intended audience.
posted by mbrock at 9:48 AM on January 13, 2010 [8 favorites]


I know I'm not the only one who has miraculously managed to read a piece of cardboard with labeled information on it consistently enough to board my sky-transport reliably. We could really start elsewhere with the logical design revolution.

Moleskines: I hate the whole thing. The Moleskine itself is useless. A hard-bound spine with a floppy leather cover? Weird size? The only reason to use one is so you can be pretentious and feel like a beatnik or whatever image these guys are trying to project. For writing, I dunno, I guess it'd be serviceable, but for drawing, no one whose goal is to actually draw would use the stupid things.
posted by cmoj at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


> I've flown Delta over 200 times over the last three years

I travel by plane once every three to five years, and I had no clue what the boarding pass means. It's too cryptic for people who are not veteran travelers. A good redesign that communicates the necessary information in a useful way doesn't inconvenience any travelers, veteran or otherwise.

If I was issued the example Delta boarding pass, I'd be one of those people you curse because they're standing in the middle of the hall, staring at their boarding pass, while you're trying to work your way around them. So a better boarding pass helps get the clueless newbies out of your way, improving your life a litte.

That said, most of the proposed designs are prettier, but not more useful.
posted by ardgedee at 9:50 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


(But having no experience of US airport culture, I can't say whether "airportness" is something desirable — maybe the whole mythology of bureaucratic stability is fatally compromised?)
posted by mbrock at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2010


I ran into an interesting related problem on a Cathay Pacific flight out of Hong Kong last year. The boarding pass had the boarding end time on it, rather than the board start time like every other boarding pass ever. Here's an example. Even though it says "please be there before this time, otherwise you may not be accepted for travel", I barely even read that and just saw the time. Then when I showed up at the gate at that time, it was actually final call and I almost missed the flight.
posted by smackfu at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2010


I find the layout of every single redesign easier to read, and easier for finding important information.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:51 AM on January 13, 2010


What makes this guy an idiot isn't that the pass could be improved, but that he expresses total willful ignorance and contempt for the process by which it was created. It couldn't possibly be that the pass needs to be understood by a world full of airline employees, many of whom do not speak a word of english. Couldn't possibly be because the pass must stay compatible with computer systems that are so safety and security critical that they are only updated when there is no choice. Couldn't possibly be because these documents have to conform to a mountain of regulatory requirements hammered out by international committees. No, it's obvious to this self-important jerk that they deliberately made something ugly to express their contempt for people like him. There is no hint anywhere in his rant that he understands there might, just possibly, be any other reason.

When he gets out in the real world he is going to find out his education hasn't even begun.
posted by localroger at 9:52 AM on January 13, 2010 [15 favorites]


Sure, the kid may be naiive about the practicalities of redesigning a boarding pass, but more importantly here is the process that's displayed. There's a fair bit of back and forth between commenters on the blog, with accompanying design examples.

That sounds like a wonderful and positive learning experience that any reasonable person would find informative and inspiring if the prose were left out. As it stands it seems that most people here are reacting badly to the tone (arrogant) and the main conceit (that boarding pass design matters). The tone is frustrating and the conceit is wrong. It's almost invariably easier to get the information you need from one of many large display screens you can find all over any airport, and it would still be easier to do it that way even if boarding passes were redesigned.

It's hard not to get annoyed when someone goes into histrionics over an invented problem.

also he takes dustin curtis seriously LOL
posted by invitapriore at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't see much difference between any of them.

The one on top looks just fine to me, though it should have the departure time on it (though I'm guessing it wasn't available when he printed it out.)

"Casually" pointing out that your blank book is a Moleskine for the indy cred is lame.

I think this rule applies to almost any brand reference for no good reason. Gonna "jump in my Porsche and hit the 7/11"? Gonna "start my Macbook to check the sports scores"? Gonna "fire up the Volcano"? Lame.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Le vrai moleskine n'est plus hip.
posted by infinitewindow at 9:56 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's our name, the seat number, the flight number, the date, the gate, and a handy big barcode so the flight attendant knows what part to swipe over the scanner.

Hmm.. What did we leave out that a literate twelve year old couldn't find on this ticket or a nearby departure monitor?

Oh right. Absolutely nothing.
posted by clarknova at 9:57 AM on January 13, 2010


I have a moleskin. I call it a notebook.
posted by ob at 10:00 AM on January 13, 2010


How about a space for Terrorist/Non-Terrorist?

Umm, it says here, Mr. Johnson, that you are a terrorist, is that correct? Did you realize there is a $25 surcharge for each carry-on for our terrorist passengers? Oh, and would you like the vegan/kosher/hallal meal or will you be fasting with us today?
posted by Pollomacho at 10:01 AM on January 13, 2010


This entire thread could be made so much better by replacing every instance of the word "mule" with the phrase "angry-ass mule".
posted by Aquaman at 10:02 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


You know what I would actually like on the boarding pass stub? The landing time of the flight.
posted by smackfu at 10:03 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


The landing time is one of those things that's really up in the air.


HAHAHAHA

See what I did there?
posted by Mister_A at 10:06 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What's with the design hate going on here?

The negative comments here pale in comparison to the scorn Tyler reserved for the faceless designer of the original boarding pass:
It was like someone put on a blindfold, drank a fifth of whiskey, spun around 100 times, got kicked in the face by a mule (the person who designed this definitely has a mule living with them inside their house) and then just started puking numbers and letters onto the boarding pass at random (yes, I realize that a human didn't lay this out, if a human had, judging by the train-wreck of design, they would have surely used papyrus).
No, the existing boarding pass was actually designed by a human, a human who did a better job than Tyler did. That Delta logo didn't just plop itself down in the upper left hand corner of the page by itself.
posted by grouse at 10:06 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


I was just grateful that he didn't suggest a little psychological test to get your boarding pass font.

Much fascinating info on this thread about why boarding passes look the way they do, BTW.
posted by bearwife at 10:11 AM on January 13, 2010


I have to agree with Extopalopaketle here, I don't see what all the hate/pile-on is about. It's not like he works for an airport authority and has any power to implement any of these changes, or it's not like he said his way was the only way - it was a fun exercise and a fun topic to post. He even acknowledged the contributions of other commenters.

Sure maybe he could have been a little less cruel in his opening paragraphs, and could have done away with the Moleskine comment, but I'm thinking it's his way of being edgy. Maybe he's proud of the Moleskine. Maybe he got it as a Christmas present or something.

So while these boarding passes may or may not have any practicality, it's just a good exercise and fun to look at and analyze.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:12 AM on January 13, 2010


or, what invitapriore said.
posted by bitteroldman at 10:14 AM on January 13, 2010


YOH, YYZ, YUL would make no sense whatsosever to someone expecting to see Ottawa, Toronto, or Montreal-Dorval on their ticket.

Particularly if I were expecting to fly home to Ottawa (YOW) and found myself being routed to Oxford House (YOH), an airstrip on a native reserve in northern Manitoba.



It's funny - although I did screw that up, it actually served the purpose of illustrating my point - if I can't remember that YOW is Ottawa's airport code after having been there three times, using that three letter code without the city name on a ticket is COMPLETELY inappropriate.
posted by deadmessenger at 10:14 AM on January 13, 2010


You want someone to experience violent consequences because they like carrying a notebook and sketching in it?

Of course not. I want someone to experience violent consequences* because they felt the need to mention the brand of notebook they like carrying and sketching in. I nearly pooped in my size 36 Fruit Of The Loom® Regular Cut Boxers when I read that.

Especially the guy who felt the need to insult mules and mule owners just because he was bored and noticed a few flaws in a mostly useless, disposable piece of paper.

*Not really. I was using a literary device known as "exaggeration", which is commonly used on The Internet.
posted by bondcliff at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


For me, the worst part of a boarding pass design is the paper it's printed on. I know you can print it out at home, but then it's on a 8x11 piece of paper (or A4, I guess, if you're European), which is rather large for a boarding pass. I guess I could cut it, but the picture of the boarding pass is usually some sort of weird square shape, and really, most people are printing out their passes in the heat of the moment and don't have time to cut.

The paper at the airports is this super thin stuff that I almost always tear in some way. You have to keep it in your hand while undressing and eviscerating your luggage at the security checkpoint, and then you have to sort of keep track of it (esp. if you check a bag) until your destination. Also, most airlines have done away with those paper envelopes you could put them in which used to protect the pass, so now mine ends up wrinkled and torn and barely readable. The passes used to be sturdier, but I guess those were harder to print on or more expensive. But, I'd like to go back to those.

I know, I should just get a smartphone.
posted by bluefly at 10:18 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Invitapriore
Grouse

You're right. I knowingly glossed over Tyler's dramatics in my zeal. I probably just scanned the prose and thought, "bla bla, fresh outta school, let's see what the redesigns look like."
posted by Extopalopaketle at 10:24 AM on January 13, 2010


bluefly: they're just now rolling out smartphone boarding passes, so you're not that far behind the curve.

When I need my passes, and can print in advance, I just fold it up.

The last plane trip I took, I'd had the flying numbers to get a first class ticket, so I guess as a perk I got the envelope, which is good because I way flying Seattle to Newark through DFW.
posted by mephron at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2010


The Virgin one is the best to me. Black text on white bkgd; simple font; left aligned, vertically stacked straightforward information. No unnecessary designing going on. His designs aren't bad, per se, just really superfluous, as the Virgin one indicates.
posted by milarepa at 10:25 AM on January 13, 2010


I don't see what all the hate/pile-on is about.

Speaking only for myself, it's because my life has been made more difficult any number of times by designers and architects who put their personal idiosyncratic sense of aesthetics above making something that will be useful for the users. When I saw the blurb here on the blue my first thought was "oh, that sounds interesting, I bet there is a lot of room for improvement." And then I saw the results.
posted by grouse at 10:27 AM on January 13, 2010


Metafilter: Going into histrionics over an invented problem.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2010


I don't care what he does to the boarding pass as long as it maintains its professional-looking white background.
posted by olinerd at 10:28 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Damn That Television, your comment is the best comment on the intarwubs today.

Yeah, I have to say, I've read DTT's comment twice now and can't stop laughing.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:31 AM on January 13, 2010


It seems obvious that his major beef isn't really with the structure or layout of the original pass

Um, no. Layout and structure are a huge consideration in the first redesign he shows, and he does a good job working with them to make it considerably easier to scan for essential information (flight, gate, time, seat, boarding group). In fact, other than type, in that example he almost doesn't do anything else but change structure and layout.

That's not an aesthetic design-for-the-sake-of-coolness concern, that's a completely practical concern, and he nailed a solution.

If anything, the article shows that it's always easy to re-design something to suit your design sensibilities, and something else entirely to design within the existing limitations.

You know, I was thinking that way myself, but then I saw this farther down his page.

That's apparently a current Air New Zealand boarding pass. So, apparently running an airline where they think about the design of their boarding passes isn't completely impractical.

That doesn't mean, of course, that the current airlines don't have every right to continue printing boarding passes that could almost be confused with a parking receipt in B/W with their thermal printers, but it's possible everybody would yield at least some marginal benefit in operational efficiency and maybe even mood and cheer if they were designed a little better.
posted by weston at 10:44 AM on January 13, 2010


I can live without an aesthetically pleasing boarding pass. I think they should concentrate on handing out free stuff. Like a free blanket and little slippers.
posted by anniecat at 10:47 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I totally enjoyed reading this on my Amiga, once I kicked off my Dr. Scholl's and poured myself a Tab.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:48 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've flown Delta over 200 times over the last three years,

Delta could start printing boarding passes in Klingon, and you'd be able to read them within a month. You're not exactly the primary target for the redesign here.

That said, am I the only person who prints out that nice "itinerary" page I get when booking flights and brings it with me? Most of the information I need is on there, and they can take up as much space as they need to make it clear for me. I figure the itinerary should be designed primarily for ease of use by the passenger, and the boarding pass primarily for ease of use by the airline employees.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:49 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


1) His first design is super easy to understand, and then he (and others) gradually screws it up so it looks as crowded as the original.

2) I find blog posts like this irritating because they're like shooting fish in a barrel. Every self-proclaimed usability/design expert has a blog bitching about various designs they come across everyday. It might have been interesting a few years ago, but now that there's an entire industry devoted to it, it just seems lazy.

3) Boarding passes don't have to be pretty. As deadmessenger points out, the original here, while ugly, isn't that fucking hard to figure out in about .00005 seconds.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:54 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


toodleydoodley, did you base your comment off the text he has in the footer of his actual site?
Hi, if you are coming to this site via Internet Explorer 6, you might not be getting the best experience possible. Honestly, I can't even begin to think about what your entire experience on the internet must be like? (...probably like riding a bike on the highway while cars blow by you on their way to Costco to get gallons of mayonnaise and 60-inch plasma TV's). How will you ever be able to use this website?????? You wont. You're an asshole and your browser is an asshole. So look, I'm going to be honest: I kind of hate you. BUT we c-a-n make this work. Here is what I am going to need you to do: fire up your Toshiba ShitBook© that weighs about 45 pounds, wipe the Cheeto dust off the screen, download Safari, delete Internet Explorer from your computer, punch yourself in the face, and get me a pulled pork sandwich.
posted by sciurus at 10:57 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Moleskeins are a must-have accessory for tools that see being a designer more like cosplay, rather than as an actual job.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:58 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


That said, am I the only person who prints out that nice "itinerary" page I get when booking flights and brings it with me? Most of the information I need is on there, and they can take up as much space as they need to make it clear for me. I figure the itinerary should be designed primarily for ease of use by the passenger, and the boarding pass primarily for ease of use by the airline employees.

OMG one for every leg of my journey, whether I am flying, driving, hitchhiking or crawling in lice-filled rags across the desert. I annotate them with phone numbers and the name of every CSR I spoke with, at which outlet, and the time and date I spoke to them. and then I highlight all the important points and six months after the trip is over I clean them out of the mulch layer of the bottom of my car and shred and then burn them

doesn't everyone? (note only the bolded parts are exaggerated)
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:59 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Delta did redesign their check-in kiosks recently, and made a blog post about it. Clearly they have designers working for them, but their boarding passes aren't that bad, and they've been busy with a few other things lately (like integrating an entire other airline into theirs.)
posted by smackfu at 11:01 AM on January 13, 2010


toodleydoodley, did you base your comment off the text he has in the footer of his actual site?

I wish. because I'm using a mac and I don't love safari, I was actually using firefox. but now I'm going to uninstall it, poke myself in both eyes, download lynx and pour a fresh bag of Cheetos down my pants.

god, what a twat. (artw, do I have that right?)
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:02 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hi, if you are coming to this site via Internet Explorer 6, you might not be getting the best experience possible. Honestly, I can't even begin to think about what your entire experience on the internet must be like? (...probably like riding a bike on the highway while cars blow by you on their way to Costco to get gallons of mayonnaise and 60-inch plasma TV's). How will you ever be able to use this website?????? You wont. You're an asshole and your browser is an asshole. So look, I'm going to be honest: I kind of hate you. BUT we c-a-n make this work. Here is what I am going to need you to do: fire up your Toshiba ShitBook© that weighs about 45 pounds, wipe the Cheeto dust off the screen, download Safari, delete Internet Explorer from your computer, punch yourself in the face, and get me a pulled pork sandwich.

Oh, one of those assholes.

(Also he might as well recommend Firefox while he's being an asshole, since Safari is a peice of shit on any OS that actually has an IE 6. )
posted by Artw at 11:04 AM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


god, what a twat. (artw, do I have that right?)

USAGE CORRECT.
posted by Artw at 11:05 AM on January 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


I love good design, but with something like a boarding pass - form follows function. If the information needed is not clearly visible, I don't like it.

I saw the post as nothing more than a fun exercise for a graphic designer to play around with - not a call to arms to the commercial airline industry to move boarding pass design to the top of the priority list. This wasn't a submission for a client where costs and operational concerns are an issue. This was a guy saying "this is nice, but it could be nicer. What if you...."

The original boarding pass gets the job done - anyone should be able to get onto the right plane at the right time with that pass. But graphic designers notice things like layout and are inclined to come up with an alternative presentation. The current boarding passes work OK, but there's nothing wrong with wanting juice it a little and make the most essential info jump out and maybe even make the whole thing a little more aesthetically pleasing.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 11:06 AM on January 13, 2010


Plus if you delete IE (if that is even possible) you can't run Windows Update.
posted by sciurus at 11:07 AM on January 13, 2010


That's apparently a current Air New Zealand boarding pass. So, apparently running an airline where they think about the design of their boarding passes isn't completely impractical.

That's clearly a boarding pass that someone printed out from their printer at home after checking-in online, which is quite different from a boarding pass printed out from a check-in counter or kiosk. The ones you can print out from home with Delta look very different from the (in my opinion perfectly easy to understand) printed-from-a-quick-check-in-kiosk example our lil' newbie flier took a crack at redesigning, too.

As an example, here is an Air New Zealand boarding pass you would get if you just showed up at the airport and had an Air New Zealand agent print one out for you.
posted by cmonkey at 11:09 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


But you'd be sticking it to the man!
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on January 13, 2010


Plus if you delete IE (if that is even possible) you can't run Windows Update.

If you're running IE 6, running Windows Update probably isn't one of your most pressing priorities.
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


I didn't realize that Safari could even run on anything besides a Mac. I know Chrome has the light-weightness, Opera has the speed, and Firefox has the add-ons, but what's the selling point of Safari?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:13 AM on January 13, 2010


You get it automatically when you download iTunes?
posted by sciurus at 11:16 AM on January 13, 2010


Apple update will bug the living shit out of you until you download it.
posted by Artw at 11:16 AM on January 13, 2010


Tall skinny fonts are hard to read. That is all.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2010


Oh, Dustin Curtis. "Spent four days downloading Jurassic Park. Just sat down, in the mood and ready to watch it, and the audio is in French. Ugh."

We didn't learn from criticizing the AA site, did we? So now we are openly admitting to pirating movies. We are clearly a smart, smart man.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


(Also iTunes and QT needed a UI to point at that was less fitting for Windows)
posted by Artw at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2010


That's apparently a current Air New Zealand boarding pass. So, apparently running an airline where they think about the design of their boarding passes isn't completely impractical.

Wait, so an actual functioning airline chose to represent one hour as "1:00mins."? What's Kiwi for FAIL?
posted by kittyprecious at 11:17 AM on January 13, 2010


For those of you wondering about all the 'hate' thrown at this guy and pointing out that he has a few good ideas, let me just explain the source of the hatred. Unless you have a wildly revolutionary, completely amazing, life-saving, civilization changing idea that makes the vast majority of humans cry with relief that finally a solution has been found to a debilitating problem, you probably shouldn't start off your presentation of a mild adjustment to a completely NOT PAINFUL problem by heaping scorn, sarcasm, snark and downright condescension on the people who are the source of this NON-PROBLEM.

It's one thing to say, hey I had some smart ideas about how you might make a boarding pass nicer because I run a blog on design and was thinking about it while sitting in an airport. It's quite another to slap attitude in big red font on the top of the page that basically says LOOK AT THESE DRUNKEN, RETARDED, NEANDERTHAL, ASSWIPES TRYING TO FUCK YOU OVER WITH THEIR STUPID, CACA-HEAD, POOPY-FACE, NEENER NEENER, GARBAGE DESIGN SKILLS!

Decorum, people.
posted by spicynuts at 11:18 AM on January 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


Mainly it's just that pointing out all the ways that he's a raging asshole is actually more fun than discussing his design work on the pass there, which is quite boring.
posted by Artw at 11:20 AM on January 13, 2010 [5 favorites]


now, I'm not a graphic designer, but I JUST had the problem of trying to find my gate on a Delta boarding pass this past weekend. Not because the info isn't there, but because the way my own particular brain works is that apparently it wants to quickly scan a sheet while I'm walking, talking or doing something else and immediately find the information it needs. and apparently when it doesn't immediately find it, what it wants to do is keep quick-scanning the sheet over and over, going "where the fuck is it?" instead of methodically scanning each discrete quadrant of the piece saying "is the word 'gate' present? yes/no." until the answer is "yes."

I wish I were making this up. It took me minutes to find the thing, and I immediately thought "that should be way more obvious." I don't know what it is. I must have stared at that thing for a long ass time, and really kept getting frustrated at not finding it. and it was annoying because I'd look at it and think "I'm flyer class t? what does that mean? that must be info for the people who might need to look at my pass in the event of something-or-other. either way, that's not my gate. WHERE THE FUCK IS MY GATE?" this is totally some problem with my brain, I think.

but what's funny, is I kept looking at his redesigns and thinking "where the fuck is the gate?" that giant 29 he stuck up there did not register as actual information to me. I immediately dismissed as unimportant graphic nonsense, without meaning to.

so, as the kind of person who could actually benefit from his design implementations: FAIL, designer dude.
posted by shmegegge at 11:21 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know Chrome has the light-weightness, Opera has the speed, and Firefox has the add-ons, but what's the selling point of Safari?

No idea. It used more memory than any other Windows-based browser I had installed, and never played well with Flash.
posted by zarq at 11:22 AM on January 13, 2010


His Gate field doesn't leave any room for TBA on his designs. I
posted by Burhanistan at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2010


Four days to download a 700MB movie? Christ, learn to forward your router ports.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:23 AM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


What is that horrible elongated font? It's really hard to read. I rather liked Grone's design, and she even considered a bunch of the issues people brought up here in the thread.
posted by Karmakaze at 11:36 AM on January 13, 2010


I kind of hope airlines implement one of the very utilitarian designs in Comic Sans after reading that.
posted by benzenedream at 11:41 AM on January 13, 2010


My biggest problem with making the departure gate the centerpiece of your new! improved! boarding pass is that it's fairly common for the airline not to know what the departure gate is going to be (for later flights on a multi-flight itinerary) when they issue your boarding pass. I'd guess that at least half the time I get multiple boarding passes issued at once (at the first airport on a multi-airport itin), the later boarding passes list either no departure gate or an incorrect one. (This is particularly common for connections to overseas flights -- I'm not sure I've ever received a boarding pass for a connecting flight abroad with correct gate info on it.) There's a reason the flight attendants say "gate assignments are subject to change" when they announce gate info for connecting flights.

Misc. other notes:
1) huge thumbs-down for any design that doesn't separately note the boarding time and departure time.

2) perhaps I'm in the minority, but I don't think the city pairs for a given flight need to be emblazoned in 50-point type -- I mean, I can typically remember which cities I'm flying between, so the main purpose of this labeling is to distinguish the boarding passes for different flights on the same itinerary. The boarding pass must also have the flight number prominently displayed, since there are often many different flights between the same two destinations; plus, you typically need the flight number for customs declarations (so please don't put it only on the portion of the boarding pass that gets ripped off at the gate).

3) In general, I think the most striking things on the bp should probably be a) your seat number, b) (if applicable) the "zone" or "boarding area" or whatever and c) the boarding time. Not coincidentally, I note that some airlines' boarding passes appear much more in tune with my priority scheme than some of these proposed redesigns -- I'm glancing at a United boarding pass right now, which has the seat number in some of the largest type on the pass, and which also uses enormous type for your boarding zone (or to say "1K" or "PR EXEC," etc, since those allow you to board before any numbered zone). Your seat number is helpful to you; the zone number is also really helpful to the gate agent, who gets to see at a glance whether you are boarding at the right time.
posted by chalkbored at 11:44 AM on January 13, 2010


This is a good example of a real boarding pass.

Note what the airline did right:
posted by justkevin at 11:47 AM on January 13, 2010 [23 favorites]


I know this is crazy talk, but those tv screens that are all over the airport? No, not the ones with CNN on them. No, not the ones in the lounge with the game on. Yeah, those ones with the numbers and the names of all those places, that one, that one is for you to find your gate, departure time, and flight status. The stub of paper in your hand, that is really not for you.

Also, those people with the poly-blend suits and colorful ascots, they work for the airlines and tend to answer some of the questions posed to them. I know McGruff has trained you well, but it's OK to talk to strangers when they are working in an official capacity.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:47 AM on January 13, 2010 [11 favorites]


Yeah that's more like it, Grone.
posted by Mister_A at 11:47 AM on January 13, 2010


Reminds you, "Do not leave your friend behind."

Sage advice, but the probably should have included some recipes too.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:49 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wow, the hostility here!

Americans are constantly using brand-names - "I was almost hit by some moron in a BWM this morning before I had some Starbucks and went to Kinko's".

I personally don't like it and try to avoid doing it but if I complained every time someone else did I'd never stop.

As someone above points out, design exercises are universal. You might not like his results, but all these threats of violence and anger are surely not warranted?

(And I do actually say things like, "Would you like this delicious organic coffee?" to my friends. I believe the organic coffee tastes significantly better, I'm personally happy that it's fair trade, I spend some effort to make a good cup but the key point is that I believe my friends will enjoy it better when I tell them that it's organic.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:50 AM on January 13, 2010


Whoa! Yeti Airlines frickin rules at designing boarding passes and at picking a cool-ass name for an airline.
posted by Mister_A at 11:50 AM on January 13, 2010


Hi, if you are coming to this site via Internet Explorer 6, you might not be getting the best experience possible. ... You're an asshole and your browser is an asshole.

Aside from being condescending as all fuck, that also seems very stupid.

Couldn't he you sniff for IE6 and only display that message if the user is actually using IE6? Or does he want everyone to know how much he hates IE6 and those who use it? I guess that's it.

I had to listen to an amateur Web designer friend marvel about how he fixed a problem for displaying his site in IE6. My response was "why even bother," but I think I like his approach more than Mr. Thompson's.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:52 AM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Opera has the speed, and Firefox has the add-ons, but what's the selling point of Safari?

well, I sometimes use it for filling in forms pages because unlike firefox, it allows me (on a mac) to tab to every single field, including drop/select fields. for some reason, firefox skips drop/select fields and goes to the next text field, making you use...THE MOUSE (duh duh duhhhhH!)

and as a keyboard shortcut addict I hate that.

sorry, was that TMI?
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2010


Isn't rule one of good design functionality and operating within the constraints that exist? The first thing he'd want to do is figure out what purpose the boarding pass serves. It sure as hell provides information for both the passenger (gate and time, flight number) and the airline employee (passenger's name, ticket number, barcode).

This guy is a talented visual person, no doubt, and I'm sure he'd be able to make almost everything look better, but I get a feeling the experience of using his designs would be as confusing as using the original design. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. And if it's broke, fix it thoughtfully.
posted by wet-raspberry at 11:57 AM on January 13, 2010


I liked some of the designs from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, but from an informational one, the initial ones were failures. There was no hierarchy to the large numeric bits o' info, which is really the only important stuff you need to know at a glance.

Also, I have a moleskine.
posted by maxwelton at 12:07 PM on January 13, 2010


I just finally read the link which makes reading through this comment thread again even weirder:

- what the designer wrote is pretty hyperbolic but at least it's kind of spirited and he's having fun. Most of you people on the other hand sound like you're nursing weird, secret issues and need your medication

- I don't actually like his designs much. Too much black, as others have said, and the font he's using is a needlessly condensed display font that's kind of hard to read

- I don't like Moleskines either which is very important

- the point that the boarding pass doesn't need to be a reference document is a good one

- If you scroll down, however, the updates from other people are pretty cool and look more workable, and that's sort of a nice thing about the internet, getting conversations started, supposing of course you're not the type to go spinning in a incoherent rage when people input certain keywords
posted by furiousthought at 12:08 PM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


"The designer is over-the-top but he's having fun. You people are over-the-top so you're weird."
posted by smackfu at 12:10 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, over-the-top but fun is more enjoyable than over-the-top but enraged. Stay tuned for more obvious truths.
posted by furiousthought at 12:13 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, please, scratch out your eyes.
posted by boo_radley at 12:15 PM on January 13, 2010


Do you know why I carry a Moleskine?

BECAUSE I LOOK GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!
posted by freecellwizard at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2010


I know this is crazy talk, but those tv screens that are all over the airport?...Yeah, those ones with the numbers and the names of all those places, that one, that one is for you to find your gate, departure time, and flight status.

That's why the flight number should be the biggest # on the boarding pass - so you can easily spot the flight number on the pass and then tilt your head upwards to look at the monitors. I know I should be able to remember a three or four digit flight number, but the modern convenience of a boarding pass has trained my brain that I don't need to memorize that info since it's right there in my shirt pocket waiting to referenced in a second's notice. That would also explain why I have to "double check" the flight and boarding times a few times before I actually board.


Also, those people with the poly-blend suits and colorful ascots, they work for the airlines and tend to answer some of the questions posed to them.

It's getting harder and harder to find one of those nice people withou a long line of people in front of them. One of the perks of having some of that info on a piece of paper you can carry with you is that you don't have to stand in line to bother them with a question better answered by a boarding pass and/or monitor.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I fly once a year if I'm lucky (?! I hate flying!) -- the original looked ok enough, not awesome or anything, but hey: flight number and seat always seems to be the maximum info I need in hand. (Everything else is on the jumbotron screens in the airport anyway.)

His redesigns are pretty awful. Tall skinny font legibility fail. A couple of the alternates are nice: oddly enough, all the ones that take into account ye olde fixed-width fonts seem most usable. And Virgin America's existing boarding pass is lovely, looks like it's a little sturdier and more pocket-friendly too.

But honestly, I would rather they put the design time into making the online itineraries more useful, since in the last 4 or 5 years, those printouts (folded into little squares and stuffed into my purse/laptop bag) have been my actual reference tool.

(Also, is it necessary to be a jerk when playing with redesigns of other people's stuff? Is there no civility left in the world?!)
posted by epersonae at 12:18 PM on January 13, 2010


I love the nerditude of this place that a post about boarding pass design can get 170+ comments while the post immediately after it with Sexaholics in the title can only have 10 comments.
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 12:21 PM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


That's why the flight number should be the biggest # on the boarding pass

I know this too is crazy talk, but the things you might want to know before going to the airport are:

1. Your destination.
2. Your airline.
3. The expected departure time of your flight.

If you know that you are on the 3:00 United flight to Chicago, you usually don't need the flight number to find your flight. In fact, looking for the flight number will only slow you down in reading the big board. If you don't know any of the above three, a flight number is not likely going to help you anyway. All that info, including the flight number, is pretty easily readable even on the initial "OMG FAIL" boarding pass.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2010


Metafilter: an incoherent rage when people input certain keywords
posted by Big_B at 12:26 PM on January 13, 2010


I liked some of the designs from a purely aesthetic viewpoint, but from an informational one, the initial ones were failures.

Looking at the page again, it seems like that's just sort of his deal. The first paragraph of text in the article is part of an image with an empty alt attribute.
posted by invitapriore at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


That said, I'd rather they be able to look at and scan my iPhone so I don't have to print out any paper.

AA and Continental already support paperless boarding passes. Just show your phone. (Never tried it--I'm a United man.)
posted by NailsTheCat at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2010


If you know that you are on the 3:00 United flight to Chicago, you usually don't need the flight number to find your flight. In fact, looking for the flight number will only slow you down in reading the big board.

Yeahbut a) schedule changes and b) large airports with more than one flight going to the same destination at nearly the same time – the flight number helps here.

If you don't know your destination and your airline you're going to have a hard time getting the boarding pass in the first place.
posted by furiousthought at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2010


In fact, boarding screens are never organized by flight number. They are either by departure time or destination.
posted by smackfu at 12:43 PM on January 13, 2010


Moleskeins are a must-have accessory for tools that see being a designer more like cosplay, rather than as an actual job.

The person with the unhealthy and overactive relationship between items and the image they project isn't the guy with the moleskine here.
posted by weston at 12:49 PM on January 13, 2010


Not sure if anybody else has mentioned this, but the design of boarding passes is probably less driven by the look and effectiveness of the pass itself, as much as it is driven by the ancient ERP/Database connected to the ticketing system. There is a lot of code that would need to be written with a redesign...an entire system that has to be implemented company-wide to make up for the shitty design that was probably the cheapest and quickest way to get the information from the database onto a piece of paper that the employees of the company can read.

The whole thought process of customer experience is nice and all, but I bet the limitations of their system drive the way these things are printed on the paper. Overhaul the design of the ticket, and you'd have to overhaul how the data gets from the DB to the printer, as well as the hardware that prints it. Not a trivial price tag on that...
posted by Chuffy at 1:11 PM on January 13, 2010


For the record, I do like Moleskines. They're a nice size since they fit into my purse, and I like the weight of the paper, since it takes acrylic paint and watercolor well.

Despite my nick, I don't particularly feel like a beatnik when I carry one.

As for the original article, I agree with whoever said that boarding passes are the least of my troubles when I travel.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:14 PM on January 13, 2010


whomever.

sorry.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:20 PM on January 13, 2010


"I think the phonetics part is important given the rich diversity of most airport travelers."

a) who constructs a sentence like this?
b) am i supposed to book my ticket in IPA? provide a rebus?
posted by wreckingball at 1:20 PM on January 13, 2010


I do actually say things like, "Would you like this delicious organic coffee?"

Me too. And sometimes accessory names are helpful, e.g. "my Blackberry." But unnecessarily mentioning brand names is crass and obnoxious and has been for ages, as Sinclair Lewis pointed out in Babbitt in 1922.

Also, in my MeFi way, I checked out Moleskine's website while perusing this thread and gagged right away at the self-chosen tag line: "Legendary notebooks." That's how most of the site reads. Oh please, get over yourselves.
posted by bearwife at 1:23 PM on January 13, 2010


To quote Spicoli..."GNARLY!"
posted by Chuffy at 1:24 PM on January 13, 2010


I wouldn't know a Moleskine if I saw one, and not to defend brand-standing if that's really what this is, but some people grew up in the era where writing was taught with such brilliant instructions as "Don't just say "Bob got in his car" -- instead, say "Bob got in his Honda/Plymouth/Saab" -- it's so much more descriptive!"

From the same people who brought you: Don't say: "'I'm hungry,' Sally said" -- try "'I'm hungry,' Sally fidgeted/frowned/slouched" -- you can 'say' things with actions!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:31 PM on January 13, 2010


era when. egads.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 1:31 PM on January 13, 2010


Check your MeMail regarding that FF problem you're experiencing toodleydoodley. (Hint: Not actually a FF problem).
posted by sciurus at 1:32 PM on January 13, 2010


Also, in my MeFi way, I checked out Moleskine's website while perusing this thread and gagged right away at the self-chosen tag line: "Legendary notebooks." That's how most of the site reads. Oh please, get over yourselves.

From a marketing perspective, "timeless" would probably be a better word. "Legendary" just sounds pompous.
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on January 13, 2010


Logistical question for paperless boarding passes: in my experience, the TSA agent who waves me through the metal detector wants to see my boarding pass, but the phone would need to go through the x-ray machine. How is that handled?
posted by swerve at 1:33 PM on January 13, 2010


Reminds you, "Do not leave your friend behind."

Sage advice, but the probably should have included some recipes too.


Friend Supreme

You will need:

*A friend
*30g toffee

Preheat the oven to 230.
Slice the toffee.
Rinse the toffee.
Bring the friend to a boil.
Grill the toffee.
Grind the toffee.
Grind the friend.
Discard the friend.
Bake 90 minutes and serve warm.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:34 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Logistical question for paperless boarding passes: in my experience, the TSA agent who waves me through the metal detector wants to see my boarding pass, but the phone would need to go through the x-ray machine. How is that handled?

You hold the phone in one hand while simultaneously holding up your pants, so you don't moon your fellow passengers. You hand your phone to the agent around the side of the detector, then step through the detector without the phone. The agent looks over the boarding pass, then places your phone in a small plastic bowl and runs it through the machine.
posted by zarq at 1:41 PM on January 13, 2010


They're a nice size since they fit into my purse, and I like the weight of the paper, since it takes acrylic paint and watercolor well.

Not possible. You understand, as has clearly been pointed out elsewhere in the thread, that there is no reason to like Moleskine notebooks, other than the pretensions it lets you take on and other image benefits it yields?

Just like the only reason to drive a hybrid is to indulge your feelings of environmental superiority over others, the only reason you'd ever choose an iPhone over <clearlySuperiorOptionB> is as a fashion statement, and the only reason you carry that water bottle around is that you've fallen for a fad.
posted by weston at 1:43 PM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some of those "suggestions" are awe-inspiring in their stupidity. Including a phonetic pronunciation of your name on the boarding pass? How the hell is that information going to be entered in the system and what harried gate agent is going to have the time to process that information correctly?

When I had a long, ethnic last name, I knew my boarding pass was being read aloud by looking at the face of the person reading it as they said my first name, then struggled to figure out what the first syllable was. Good enough for me!
posted by davejay at 1:46 PM on January 13, 2010


cmoj is wrong, of course. There are plenty of good reasons to like a Moleskine notebook. The point is that there's only a few good reasons to ever need to mention that you are specifically using a Moleskine, and one really really terrible reason.

Let's say I'm a writer, and I have a great idea at the airport. When I'm telling this story later, is it necessary for me to say, "...OMG I had the greatest idea! So I pulled out my Office Depot Wirebound College Ruled and got to work!"
posted by muddgirl at 1:48 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just like the only reason to drive a hybrid is to indulge your feelings of environmental superiority over others, the only reason you'd ever choose an iPhone over is as a fashion statement, and the only reason you carry that water bottle around is that you've fallen for a fad.

It's more like when you say "I'm going to call Bill on my iPhone" or "Let me just grab a drink from my Sigg bottle." Whether you intend it or not, you've placed the focus of that sentence on the object you own rather than the action, which is a bit uncouth.

The quote in question is: "So I took out my Moleskine and started sketching." Why mention the brand of notebook?
posted by smackfu at 1:50 PM on January 13, 2010


(Or what muddgirl said.)
posted by smackfu at 1:50 PM on January 13, 2010


muddgirl has it. I own a few Moleskines, and I think they're good notebooks. Well-made and durable. Some are even fun to write in. But the only reason Tyler has to mention the brand here is to inflate his own ego, or as a misguided attempt to imply he has taste and style because he owns one.
posted by zarq at 1:57 PM on January 13, 2010


Let me be clear: I don’t have a problem with Moleskines and I didn’t mean to derail the thread. A few years ago, on a quest to be more organized and before I realized the secret to a more productive life was to stop reading Lifehacker, I even bought a Moleskine. I had heard so much about them I figured I would treat myself to whatever Amazing Notebook Experience they were sure to give me. I was disappointed. To me, it was just a damn notebook, and even worse it reminded me of the little bible my mom used to keep in her purse, mixed in with all the lipstick and spit covered used tissues she’d use to clean my face. Bad memories.

I realize I’m neither an artist nor a writer, so my indifference towards them doesn’t really matter. I’m a lover of great tools and I can appreciate that an artist or writer might value a great notebook the way I might value a Snap-On ratcheting screwdriver or Petzl headlamp. Great tools are great and of course brands matter when one is choosing a tool.

It was just something about the way this guy said it though, mixed in with a lot of other off-putting stuff, that annoyed me. It felt like some sort of pretentious designer namedropping done only to show the world this guy’s advanced sense of aesthetics. He needed to tell us he sketched. That’s important. Why did he need to mention what fucking brand of notebook he sketched on? He didn’t. It didn’t fucking matter one bit.

You better believe that’s a mule-in.
posted by bondcliff at 2:04 PM on January 13, 2010


This guy is a tool. Or rather, this guy is a Craftsman.
posted by WeekendJen at 2:04 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I have to blow my nose. Do you have any Kleenex?"
"Goddamn it is so like you to namedrop that shit! I have a facial tissue but fuck if you're getting it, hipster."
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:06 PM on January 13, 2010 [7 favorites]


The cosplay argument re:moleskins applies even more to "writers" than designers.
posted by Artw at 2:07 PM on January 13, 2010


Pphht. Moleskins are soo suburban. I'm taking notes in my NAVA.

actually, i am a fan of NAVA stationery.
posted by Extopalopaketle at 2:14 PM on January 13, 2010


I know you're trying to be funny, OC, but there's no way "Moleskine" has the same sort of brand positioning as Kleenex or Xerox. There's no way anyone would say, "Hey, got a Moleskine?" and expect me to hand them any old notebook I have lying around.
posted by muddgirl at 2:19 PM on January 13, 2010


Do they do an A6 notebook with a 5mm dot grid?
posted by Artw at 2:19 PM on January 13, 2010


The quote in question is: "So I took out my Moleskine and started sketching." Why mention the brand of notebook?

because he is reading a crapload of airport fiction, because he hangs out in airports. that's a hallmark of pulp trash - that you never say champagne when you can say moet y chandon white star, and you never say boots without first saying ugg.

brand-iness is the hallmark of this kind of writing, and I think it has a lot to do with people who trained in journalism getting into novel writing. who (at a newspaper) has never heard the chestnut about the guy that covered the schoolbus hijacking in miami, who, at the emotional reunion between the rescued children and their parents at shula's steakhouse, remembered his editor's admonition to "get the details, dammit - I want to know what flavor of ice cream they were served!"?

vanilla.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:22 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I know you're trying to be funny, OC, but there's no way "Moleskine" has the same sort of brand positioning as Kleenex or Xerox. There's no way anyone would say, "Hey, got a Moleskine?" and expect me to hand them any old notebook I have lying around.

Yeah, but someone who has a moleskine, who regularly identifies it in their mind as a moleskine, is going to have to do an extra little judge-the-audience mental backflip to say "notebook" instead. If the dude usually thinks of it as his moleskine (possibly to differentiate it from other notebooks he has lying around), then it's more pretentious for him to say, "So I grabbed my [oh shit, these people are going to think of me a certain way if I say moleskine, better adjust my language] notebook [whew! street cred: maintained!]"

I know this sounds like I do protest too much, but I swear I don't have a moleskine. I do, however, have an iPod, which I say on the regular (rather than an mp3 player) and I can't see how this is much different. I think people are just transferring their free-floating hatred of "lifehackers" onto this kid in particular.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:30 PM on January 13, 2010


Hmm, is my notebook a moleskin?

(checks)

OH GOD IT EVEN HAS THE SILENT FINAL E, I FAIL AT LIFE
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 2:33 PM on January 13, 2010


iPod is a bad example. Again with the brand positioning - I call my Creative Zen Media Player W "an iPod" when I'm not thinking, because it's a product that has positioned itself in our minds as the default mp3 player.

Moleskine has probably positioned itself as the default notebook for a particular subculture. Using "moleskine" instead of "notebook" is a signal for that subculture. So yes, using "Moleskine" in place of "notebook" when writing for a more general audience will get someone mocked just as if they said, "I pulled on my Ugg boots" or "I grabbed my Louis Vuitton".
posted by muddgirl at 2:39 PM on January 13, 2010


Who cares how boarding passes are laid out? The more difficult to decipher the better; it gives you something to do while you are waiting in line at security; waiting to be called for boarding; waiting in line on the taxiway; waiting to disembark; waiting for all or most of the preceding for each leg of your flight; and finally while waiting for your luggage that may or may not have arrived on the same plane as you. In fact, they should make them more difficult; perhaps a rebus, soduku, or crossword format would allow them to compare better with the half-filled-out crossword in the back of the in-flight magazine.
posted by TedW at 2:44 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


Moleskines are all very nice, but what is that fancy-pants designer going to do when he's standing in the pouring wet eh? Standing in ankle-deep muck? When the smoke gets too thick to see the page? Or use that micro pen with 1/4" thick butyl rubber gloves (>8hrs before most chemicals penetrate)?

I'll stick with my Rite-in-the-rain ICS edition, thanks.
posted by bonehead at 2:50 PM on January 13, 2010


OH GOD IT EVEN HAS THE SILENT FINAL E, I FAIL AT LIFE

Am I a total douchester for pronouncing it "mol-a-skeen-ay"?
You don't have to answer that.
posted by exogenous at 3:00 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


(Also, if we're being honest, Field Notes are way more pretentious than Moleskines. For instance, the back cover tells you what model of printing press the lines were printed on, and the details of the paper. They make Moleskines seem pedestrian.)
posted by smackfu at 3:04 PM on January 13, 2010


brand-iness is the hallmark of this kind of writing, and I think it has a lot to do with people who trained in journalism getting into novel writing

I think Ian Fleming is widely credited as the originator of brand name dropping. He established Bond's personality through his consumption of aspirational goods.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:06 PM on January 13, 2010


I work with designers. The other day I was in a meeting with one and both of us dropped our (identical) notebooks on the table. At the end of the meeting he pointed: "Is that your Moleskine or mine?" I took unending joy in pointing out that my notebook was the $4.99 one I bought next door at Office Max.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 3:06 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I cam here to say this:

ORFF!
posted by Doublewhiskeycokenoice at 3:07 PM on January 13, 2010


(Also, if we're being honest, Field Notes are way more pretentious than Moleskines. For instance, the back cover tells you what model of printing press the lines were printed on, and the details of the paper. They make Moleskines seem pedestrian.)

Aha! Never seen these before. It's true - a false "down-homey" vibe that consciously tries to reject pretension is, in itself, a mega form of pretension.
posted by muddgirl at 3:09 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


After reading some descriptions on Moleskine's UK website, they can't even say what sets them apart from any other notebook. Except that Hemingway and Van Gogh had one. The other features - acid-free paper, colored tabs, a calendar you can write on - don't seem to make the at all distinguishable.

Personally, I always thought those "Composition Book" notebooks - the black ones with the white squigglies on them - were infinitely cool. And yellow legal pads. Nothing says either "authority figure" or "crazy" or both quite like a yellow legal pad/
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 3:14 PM on January 13, 2010


Does anyone want my Moleskine? [it's more fun if you say it like MOLE-EH-SKINNY] I never play with it.
posted by jessamyn at 4:11 PM on January 13, 2010


No, exogenous, you're not. I hate the things, but at least I pronounce their name right. See also, specifically the section titled "A Mole by Any Other Name."
posted by limeonaire at 4:23 PM on January 13, 2010


it's more fun if you say it like MOLE-EH-SKINNY

On second thought, I like this better. jessamyn FTW!
posted by limeonaire at 4:24 PM on January 13, 2010


OK so serious question is it worse to buy a moleskine or to get one as a gift because everyone already thinks youre a user experienced design interfacer

i got two of them for xmas so needless to say ive got an identity crisis on my skull here
posted by invitapriore at 4:26 PM on January 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


The composition books are great. They're made by Mead. If you add some final e's they turn into telescopes, which is even cooler.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 5:02 PM on January 13, 2010


I use a little spiral bound 3x5 notebook made by Skilcraft.
posted by fixedgear at 5:18 PM on January 13, 2010


Whew! Lovely thread, bit late to get into it, but I wanted to mention to jock@law that linking to shitty OEM Lexmark "refill" ink as professional printer ink was pretty silly.. mephron gave a better example.
posted by cavalier at 6:32 PM on January 13, 2010


It sure don't take much to get you people all up in a lather.
posted by tkchrist at 6:57 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "YOU PEOPLE!"
posted by tkchrist at 6:57 PM on January 13, 2010


The thing I have the worst time with on airplane tickets is knowing if times stated are local time, relative time, and either way, what time zone I'm looking at.

"I have to meet a connection in Indianapolis. Okay, is it that Indy is the only place in IN that doesn't do daylight savings, or is that the other way around?"

Boarding: 3:55p CEN
Arrival: 5:59p EST

Even as much as I've flown (more than the average person, less than the average business person), that's still the most nerve-wracking part. Gates and departures can be checked throughout the airport, and seats can be validated onboard, at least.
posted by rubah at 7:22 PM on January 13, 2010


Time are always in the time zone you'll be in at that point. I guess it seems imprecise, but it doesn't really matter what time zone it is, as long as it's the right one.
posted by smackfu at 7:27 PM on January 13, 2010


It's true - a false "down-homey" vibe that consciously tries to reject pretension is, in itself, a mega form of pretension.

Where image ends, and sugar water truly begins.
posted by weston at 7:36 PM on January 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


FWIW, I take notes in dollar notebooks from...the dollar store.

Also, about the boarding groups: am I the only one who tries to board the plane last, no matter what grouping I'm in? Get on the plane first and you have to deal with all the people streaming in behind you, which makes it difficult to stow stuff overhead. In the middle, same thing, but you also have to stand in line in that connecting ramp.

I just have a psychological urge to not stay on the plane one minute more than I have to. If for no other reason than the air on a plane is really dry and the seats are cramped. (Why no, I don't fly first class, why do you ask?)

I get on last, and then I can walk to my seat faster (sometimes), and no one comes up behind me when I stow stuff overhead (usually).
posted by zardoz at 8:43 PM on January 13, 2010


Could he please redesign pasta packaging? The only thing I care about is how long to cook it, put that REAL BIG and print everything else in tiny light gray text.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:03 PM on January 13, 2010 [4 favorites]


Could he please redesign MetaFilter? The only thing I care about is how many favorites I have, put that REAL BIG and print everything else in tiny light gray text.
posted by mazola at 10:04 PM on January 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


He could change the site to a professional white background while he's at it.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 10:39 PM on January 13, 2010


I posted this on his blog:

I'm not a designer; I am however a frequent flyer, having travelled on planes since I was a baby.

Asian boarding passes tend to have a standard coloured layout, followed by the details thermally printed. The thermal printing would mess the white-on-black ideas, since those would smudge pretty badly.

What I would like to see on a boarding pass:
* What terminal the gate is in - I've been on so many flights where the terminals change. I wonder if this can be standardised.
* The information about the baggage being printed on the card instead of being on separate tags (is that even possible?)\
* The stub we carry should predominantly have info about our seat (we're already in the plane by the time we get that stub), any meals we order, any special amenities/information they need to know, and information about what class we're in (first, business, economy, etc). If there's a provision for lounge entry that should be on the pass too. Info about inflight services would be handy for budget airlines where you need to pay for each separate thing and the flight attendants check your boarding pass for that info (eg Air Asia, which uses stickers on receipts).
* A symbol to denote special needs (a wheelchair, young person travelling alone, etc)
* A picture of the seat - well, rather, symbols noting whether it's an aisle or window or mid seat, and where in the plane it is. They can change your seat on checkin so it shouldn't be hard to get this info
* Your frequent flyer number, I keep losing this! Also how many miles you earn on this flight
* Contact numbers - yours, the airline's, the airport's
* How long the flight is, and the time differences

The pronunciation thing is useless - a lot of flyers wouldn't know phonics and the people who will say your name aren't going to read them. Not every airport/airline does zone boarding.

I remember dot-matrix-red boarding passes that were multiple pages long, had carbon copies, and told you your rights as a flyer as well as the baggage you couldn't carry. I kinda miss those ones actually, they look a lot more interesting!
posted by divabat at 12:17 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember dot-matrix-red boarding passes that were multiple pages long, had carbon copies, and told you your rights as a flyer as well as the baggage you couldn't carry.

Those were called tickets, they were largely replaced by the boarding pass for general use after digitalization.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:49 AM on January 14, 2010


On my boarding pass I want a picture of a plane with a big YOU ARE HERE indicator. The picture has to reflect the actual make/model of plane I will be flying.

Ideally, this would be represented with a cool sticker that is both holographic and scratch-n-sniff.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:50 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


And the scratch-n-sniff should accurately reflect the current smell conditions of the plane. That probably goes without saying, though.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:50 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


pollomancho: DUH! Of course they are. Nowadays I'm so used to the print-out A4 "tickets" that I'm confusing one long rectangular air-travel-related piece of paper for another.
posted by divabat at 6:14 AM on January 14, 2010


Can it be a 3d scale model of the plane with a miniature version of you included and little blinky lights that tell you when you are getting warmer or colder when heading to the plane?

Even better, how about we just skip the boarding pass and put the passengers and carry ons at check-in into little vacuum tubes that deliver them to their seat passing through a full body scanner on the way.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:18 AM on January 14, 2010


Also, about the boarding groups: am I the only one who tries to board the plane last, no matter what grouping I'm in?

I used to be like this, until I started doing a lot of travelling for work. The problem with getting on last, nowadays, is that there will be no overhead bin space for your checked bag, and the attendants will either try to stuff it into a too-small space or will force you to check it. Also, if I come in at the end, the person in the adjacent seat will already have claimed her share of the arm rest and stolen my copy of sky mall.
posted by muddgirl at 6:18 AM on January 14, 2010 [3 favorites]


What I want to see, instead of a boarding pass, is being handed a tiny plastic box. You open the box, and a life-sized hologram of Ewan MacGregor dressed in a straw hat, candy-striped jacket, white pants, and a bamboo cane suddenly appears before you. He tips his hat, does a little jig, and says, "Hello there, [your name]. I'm Ewan MacGregor, and I'll be your guide to your flight. Follow me!" He then starts walking, leading you to your gate. If you're late, he'll say, "Oh no! We best hurry! Run! Run like the dickens!" and he starts running. If there's still plenty of time, he'll turn around when you get to the gate and say, "Well! Looks like you've got a bit of time before boarding. Say, why not buy a magazine at the shops?" He'll lead you to the shops, and when you get your magazine, he'll say, "Oh, look at that. That'll be a good read!" He leads you back to the waiting area and waits with you as you read. From time to time he'll make comments like, "So, going on holiday? Or is this a business trip?" No matter what you answer, he'll respond with, "Ah, I see. Well I hope you have a marvelous time!" Once it's time to board, he leads you to the gate, and says, "Well, this is where we part ways, you and I. I do hope you have a terrific flight. It's been a pleasure getting to know you. Perhaps we'll meet again. Until then, bid you adieu." He then tips his hat, bows, winks at you, and flickers off.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:39 AM on January 14, 2010 [9 favorites]


Many people who specialize in a field develop a bloated sense of the importance of their work in the continuation of the universe. I'm an audio engineer, so I tend to focus on sonic issues. i've talked to people who care deeply about design and fashion, and they think that what clothing so and so is wearing is important. I couldn't care about that any less without some kind of cybernetic uncaring mechanism installed in my brain. They don't know the difference between reverb and delay. Yet somehow the earth keeps rotating.


also:

Metafilter: a false "down-homey" vibe that consciously tries to reject pretension.
posted by dubold at 7:09 AM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I use my Moleskine daily.

Where do I report for re-education?
posted by normy at 7:39 AM on January 14, 2010


Also, about the boarding groups: am I the only one who tries to board the plane last, no matter what grouping I'm in?

And let someone else grab the DVD/Laptop jack under my seat? Not bloody likely! :)
posted by zarq at 7:51 AM on January 14, 2010


Also, about the boarding groups: am I the only one who tries to board the plane last, no matter what grouping I'm in?

I tend to loiter about in the terminal until last call time. No sense standing in line when I can sit.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:02 AM on January 14, 2010


"unlike firefox, it allows me (on a mac) to tab to every single field, including drop/select fields"

The default behavior for Mac OS is for tab to move between text boxes and lists only, skipping buttons and such. There's an option in the Keyboard Settings preference panel to change this to enable moving between all controls. Or just hit [ctrl]+[F7] to do it on the fly.

On comparison, Firefox skips drop-down lists AND buttons when this is disabled, moving only between text boxes; Safari skips only buttons but does include drop-downs. A bug, perhaps. But not one that is insurmountable, especially if you like being able to tab to buttons and such, otherwise you have to (gasp) use the MOUSE, even in mighty Safari. Just hit [ctrl]+[F7] and get over it.
posted by caution live frogs at 8:04 AM on January 14, 2010


I use my Moleskine daily.

Where do I report for re-education?


It's perfectly OK to use a Moleskine, but there's no reason to announce that you're using a Moleskine. It's seen as pretentious showing off.

There, now you're re-educated.
posted by zardoz at 4:55 PM on January 14, 2010 [2 favorites]


I just hope that when they skin those moles, they kill them humanely. Poor little blind bastards.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:21 PM on January 14, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would imagine that the moleskine reference is just product schlepping. If he gets enough hits and Moleskine Co. or whoever notices, maybe they'll send him products for free.
posted by nushustu at 11:55 AM on January 15, 2010


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