The People's Bureau for Consumer Information
February 15, 2002 1:07 AM   Subscribe

The People's Bureau for Consumer Information has been a long time coming (The Designer's Republic have been trailing it to those in the know for over 2 years). Yesterday, it finally went live. tDR's work may or may not be your bag (I'm about 50/50) but the way they have set this site up is amazing - everything even the secure purchasing is done with a very uniquely styled Flash frontend.. It's worth going just to play with it.
posted by jackiemcghee (34 comments total)
Stupid site. Ugly and badly designed. I deeply dislike. Very trendy, but useless for actually navigating. Give me simplicity and better layout. Under-kerned font's went out of style almost four years ago. No Copying? No Thank You.
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 1:42 AM on February 15, 2002

Ok, but their actual content is really pretty.
posted by Hypnerotomachia at 1:43 AM on February 15, 2002

yeh, I'm not feeling the squished fonts either. And the posters, OK. DR is a little pretencious, IMO, and in some cases I think they step over the line from stylistic to simply bland.
posted by delmoi at 2:12 AM on February 15, 2002

Man, that's an ugly site. Took forever to load the front page on dial-up. I don't have the patience to wait for a link to load at the snail-like pace this site requires. OK, I'll try the posters. [waiting] Nothing's loading at the bottom, even though the middle bar displays "loading" for minutes at a time. Wait, there are some teeny little squares in the middle. Must be links. [click] [wait] Oh, thumbnails. Not clickable. Oops. Shouldn't I be able to see what they're selling?

Two thumbs down from a dial-up perspective. I'll check it next week at work when I can have a T-3 all to myself, I promise.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:17 AM on February 15, 2002

It's cute, but I wouldn't call it uniquely styled by any stretch. They've been working this style for a very long time now, and just about everybody has ripped it off at some point or another. The "tiny squares of mystery meat" navigation is just damn annoying, and is a designer trend that needs to stop NOW.
And yeah, it is slow, even on DSL.
posted by Su at 2:58 AM on February 15, 2002

By the power of Jakob you shall not pass this bridge. guideline to find them and under darkness bind them
posted by AsiaInsider at 3:08 AM on February 15, 2002

I feel like there's Nothing new to see with DR anymore - oh! you've thrown a load of fat letters on a page and divided it up into 2 sections that are proportional to the page size and to each other..... it's still the same old "stir-fry" design. Also - I really dislike guesswork websites. maybe I'm getting too old and impatient but give me a nice functional self explanitory menu system any time.
posted by Spoon at 3:09 AM on February 15, 2002

Ugly and really unreadable. Check out some of the t-shirts in the 'unisex fasion' zone though - some of them are quite cool in a minimalistic kinda way. At least, they would be cool, if they weren't all sold out!
posted by jzed at 3:28 AM on February 15, 2002

More and more, design is becoming the antithesis of what it should be: beautiful yet functional.

ALA has had the best opinion piece on that so far, in my opinion, when Adam Greenfield wrote on the difference between Designers and Stylists.

For some reason, ever since then, I've backed off a bit in my criticism of sites like the People's Bureau. I guess sometimes that sacrifice of navigation and understanding is worth more to the... artist.

(Damn, it's 6AM.)
posted by dequinix at 3:29 AM on February 15, 2002

the fact that DR is now gleefully ripping themselves off (after fifteen years of energetic media criticism)...something no other studio has ever been able to do...counts for nothing? the fact that every wanna-be design stud jockeying for design superstar status rips off DR before any other studio means nothing?

you guys are crotchety like my grandma never could be.
posted by patricking at 3:43 AM on February 15, 2002

I'd much rather spend my money on DiK's Permanent.
posted by riffola at 3:51 AM on February 15, 2002

Was there actual content there? I could only find a shop selling T-shirts.
posted by kerplunk at 4:07 AM on February 15, 2002

yuck! blaugh! ptooey!
posted by bliss322 at 4:24 AM on February 15, 2002

This consumer is shut out by companies that have Flash-only sites - to which bureau do I report this sad example ?
posted by godidog at 4:53 AM on February 15, 2002

While I didn't expect everyone to like it (like I said in the post) I am surprised by so much strong negativity. Heaven forfend that someone might do something that doesn't conform to the latest missive from NNGroup or wherever is trendy this month.

Yes it's self referencial - maybe even self consuming but I think that is kind of the point. No, negatively kerned text is nothing new, but tDR were the ones who brought it to the fore in it's recent turn of the wheel. Like patricking said, they are ripping themselves off. Did anyone notice that The People's Bureau is for sale at The People's Bureau?

tDR will eat itself?
posted by jackiemcghee at 5:39 AM on February 15, 2002

Maybe, but having a few new ideas wouldn't hurt them.
posted by Spoon at 5:47 AM on February 15, 2002

i also didn't like the site. an electronic shop designed only in flash always sucks. one should use flash when making an animation or something as interactive as multimedia, not some e-commerce site; the navigation is not intuitive and the most annoying is the damn sound which is always buzzing until an image has been loaded… DR should have made something more simple.
posted by trismegisto at 5:54 AM on February 15, 2002

As someone unfamiliar with them, what exactly is in their design style that any sane designer would want to rip off?
posted by bclark at 6:30 AM on February 15, 2002

I have no idea who Design Republic is, but I certainly wouldn't expect a website this bad to come from someone who has been around for 15 years. Maybe it would look good on paper. I really don't think so, though.

Could someone please tell me why they used Flash? The site is fairly simple (though it is by no means easy to understand). From a web design point of view, I don't think that the use of Flash on this site is necessary.
posted by jeffvc at 6:38 AM on February 15, 2002

Who is this for?
posted by normy at 6:52 AM on February 15, 2002

Jeffvc: Because Flash is cool. Duh. End sarcasm.
But you're right, the Flash was almost totally unnecessary, and I'm actually willing to guess that the site would have been much easier/faster to develop/maintain using plain old HTML. Including the sounds, if they just HAD to have them. But the Flash is there for, well...flash.
I think that Flash is becoming a designer crutch for when they absolutely demand total control over every single little aspect of their web site, because the person is just that inflexible, or crazed with the possibilities of moving stuff around. It's a step up from the tendency to open a new window(with no size/menu controls) upon entry, and then for every single link thereafter.

As for DiK, I generally go there so I have something to sneer at every day. Is nobody else getting really tired of the "random 3D polygons in front of a blinding light source" motif? I sometimes find a neat link there, which is great, but for the most part, it's one huge wankfest, and not much more than a blog anymore. Bunches of daily links to overwrought Flash with annoying background music you turn off, and their articles/profiles/etc sections have been stagnant for longer than I can remember.
posted by Su at 7:47 AM on February 15, 2002

"I generally go there so I have something to sneer at every day"

Lovely. Why go out of your way to be annoyed?

To me the site isn't just a shop it's another piece of work which carries on the style which, though it has been copied many times, they did originate. That's the difference. When the fad was over all the little kiddies moved to something else, they stayed with their style and let it evolve.

And let's not forget wanking is fun and some people like to watch.
posted by jackiemcghee at 8:24 AM on February 15, 2002

Even art catalogues aren't designed by the artists themselves, jackiemcghee.

Artists should not be too much in charge of webpages, methinks, especially when you think about the fact that out of a group of users, many of them are seeing different things. The 'artist' has no idea how the user is actually seeing his 'art.'

The interface buttons are tiny and typically Flash annoying on my 1152x864 resolution screen.

Of course, I also have a natural aversion to what passes as modern art, nowadays. Most of it looks like stuff a 15 year old kick with a hacked version of Photoshop could make.
posted by insomnyuk at 8:37 AM on February 15, 2002

Can't read the font, won't surf the site.
posted by rushmc at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2002

I despise flash, but (by tDR) is one of the best php/flash hybrid websites I've ever come across. It uses flash sparingly - where it actually serves a purpose. Check out the Warpmart/Ecommerce section.
posted by afx114 at 9:15 AM on February 15, 2002

I think the People's Bureau is a fantastic site, a great compliment to the Designer's Republic main site. I love the the subversion of conventional interface design, the layout, the audio design, the humor. I'm not a huge DR fan (I've never liked the 45-degree arrows) but this site is just superior.
posted by muta at 9:28 AM on February 15, 2002

i love it. i'm saving up to buy all the limited edition art. i can't believe people are being so cranky about this! the interface is intuitive. the font is beautiful, and instantly recognisable as tDR. the products are superb. it's not the most sensational design, but jeez, it's nothing to get your knickers in a twist over.
posted by nylon at 9:50 AM on February 15, 2002

it didn't twist my knickers...
it hurt my brain. it really hurt. need krispy kreme donut to counter-act the amazing yet stunningly avante garde derived headache bursting into my realm of experience commonly refered to as Life.
posted by th3ph17 at 10:36 AM on February 15, 2002

Okay, I read this on IE Mac 9 - I feel like there must be some reason I'm seeing something different from you guys. That is seriously among the ugliest sites I've ever seen. It reminds me of those home grown design-free wacko sites that put bright green type on red backgrounds etc.
posted by mdn at 10:48 AM on February 15, 2002

I like DR, and was well excited at an opportunity to buy some of their poo. unfortunately; their clothing section leaves a bit to be desired. I clicked over to the t-shirts all excitedly just to find that all of the cool shirts (ie: the ones without stuff on the shirt-tail that looks bad even on the mockup they have) are sold out. bah.

and they would work out to be like 60 bucks after shipping.

time to get out the old inkjet iron-on kit, i guess.
posted by fishfucker at 10:58 AM on February 15, 2002

I ♥ my DR, and I like the People's Bureau.

Truth be told, I'm a design nerd who has been posting on the neo.dr newsgroup since 1999. Heck, even Ian Anderson, the founder of Designers Republic, wrote me an e-mail asking to use a quote of mine in their next book (which has been 6+ years in the making).

Ian Anderson has stated that he hates Web design, and the only reason that the TDR sites are based in Flash is because it is the most effective way to mimic print design online (other than PDF).

So the site is Flash-only—so what? It was purely intnetional. Really, the use of Flash here is rather subtle, compared to the usual Flash debochery on the Web.

I admit that it has plently of flaws—mystery links, wacky nav, no audio toggle, small preview images, etc.—but the layout of the site is brilliant. It executes the Swiss grid-based layout technique masterfully, and the style is consistant throughout.

Actually, they had originally promised to launch this site last year, but it was delayed because someone had leaked the design out to the public, and that the lead designer of the site, Michael Place, had left to start his own design studio. The site was redesigned from scratch.

Frankily, you guys are acting like a bunch of old farts. Open up your mind to new and different experiences.
posted by Down10 at 10:38 PM on February 15, 2002

Frankily, you guys are acting like a bunch of old farts. Open up your mind to new and different experiences

Which is why artistes (versus artists) make poor web design.
posted by owillis at 10:43 PM on February 15, 2002

I call bullshit on:
"the only reason that the TDR sites are based in Flash is because it is the most effective way to mimic print design online (other than PDF)."

Show me the magazine that makes electro farty noises at me when I turn a page, then takes several seconds to show me the page while it moves into position, or draws itself over several passes.
The most effective way to mimic print design is to use static HTML, lots of P tags, images and table-based layout. Since when did Quark handle animation and sound?
Further, it's a web site, not a paper publication. The fact they are are using Flash to get an end result that looks like their print work is really suspicious to me, and anybody who can make the statement quoted above makes me think they have a poor understanding of the medium.
posted by Su at 3:02 AM on February 16, 2002

Open up your mind to new and different experiences.

Sure. As long as we recognize that new and different is not automatically better... *fart*
posted by normy at 8:48 AM on February 16, 2002

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