by David DeSandro

Netflix Atlas logo

Netflix Atlas

Netflix Atlas colors

From the Netflix Atlas team:

When Netflix doesn’t work, teams go to their Atlas Dashboards to find out why. Atlas supports a robust alerting system, which allows Netflix to notice problems around the world before our users do.

The logo design process started by identifying its key qualities. For Atlas, we landed on reliable, scalable, and powerful.

I took a look at other “Atlas” logo concepts on Dribbble to see how other designers approached this idea.

Dribbble Atlas logos

It was time to start sketching. 100 concepts to need to die in order for one to live :P

Netflix Atlas logo initial sketches

From all those sketches, I put together four concepts to decide which were worth pursuing.

Atlas myth logo concept

The Atlas of Greek myth directly speaks to the core qualities: reliable, powerful, and considering he has the world in his hands, scalable. Using a human figure personifies the brand, and makes it more relatable.

Rockefeller Center Atlas statue

But it’s a hard to concept to pull off. It look like a shrug ¯\_(ツ)_/¯, or it could look like Christ the Redeemer. Other Atlas logo concepts on Dribbble had similar issues.

Atlas circle A concept

Just an A in a circle. But the forms can also be viewed as a figure with his/her hands upward. Like this:

So it’s one of those clever logos. The A is clear, but it has another image. I admit, it was a bit of a stretch, but I think once you see it, it’s easy to spot.

Atlas triangle starburst logo concept

Moving away from figures, this logo is the most abstract. The triangle (trapezoid, actually) represents an “A”, the starburst represents Atlas’s power and capability, as well as appearing like a cardinal coordinate legend on a map — alluding the atlases of maps and way-finding.

Atlas 3D logo A concept

Finally, something more technical and detailed. Netflix Atlas is software after all. This treatment shows Atlas a multifaceted conduit.

We settled on pursuing the myth and Circle-A concepts. I went back to the pencil and paper to iterate and pump out more sketches with these ideas.

Netflix Atlas logo sketches

The figure’s body position is tricky. It has to appear that it’s lifting up a big object, but shouldn’t look overwhelmed. The globe is large, but the figure should be more prominent.

I tried variations of realistic figures versus geometric shapes. Realistic figures may be easier to see at a glance, but geometric shapes feel stronger and more iconic.

I selected a two ideas and brought them into Illustrator.

Netflix Atlas logo process

I produced these two concepts. The figure shapes are simplified, so they feel solid. The globes are large, but they don’t overpower the figure. I mocked-up these logos on t-shirts and in websites to better see them in context.

Netflix Atlas logo mock-ups

The Netflix team decided on the globe-on-shoulders treatment. With that, I finalized the logo in Illustrator. Look at these beautiful vectors. Not a stray node to spare.

Netflix Atlas logo vector

Web Animation using JavaScript: Foreword

I wrote this foreword for Web Animation using JavaScript by Julian Shapiro, released 1 year ago.

It’s a special time when a developer first discovers jQuery’s .animate(). I remember trying to animate any part of the page that wasn’t bolted to the main content. I created accordions, fly-out menus, hover effects, scroll transitions, magical reveals, and parallax sliders. Turning my websites from cold, static documents into moving, visual experiences felt like I was reaching another level as a web designer. But it was just bells and whistles. I realize now that for all the animation I added, I hadn’t actually improved the user experience of my websites.

All the same, it was thrilling. So what makes animation so exciting?

My apartment looks over downtown Brooklyn. I see people walk down the street. Plumes from smokestacks billow up. Pigeons flutter to perch on a ledge. A construction crane raises a section of a building. A single, heart-shaped balloon floats up into the Brooklyn sky (corny, I know, but I literally saw this happen twice). Cars drive over the Williamsburg Bridge. Clouds pass overhead.

The world is in motion.

This is how you expect the universe to work. Things move. Like the movements outside my window, each one is a one-sentence story. Together they tell the larger story of what is happening.

Yet this isn’t how digital interfaces work. Those little stories are missing. When things change, you have to fill in the story for yourself. When you press the Next button at an ATM, the screen suddenly changes. Did it move forward successfully? Was there an error? You have to read the screen again to interpret the results of your action. Utilizing motion removes this leap of understanding between interactions. Motion inherently communicates what has changed. It’s like writing tiny stories between states.

When a slide transition takes you to the next screen, animation helps you better understand what just happened. Wielding this power is what makes animation so thrilling. Like layout, color, and typography, animation helps you shape and direct the user experience. Animation is more than just making things move. It’s designing more effectively, and doing it thoughtfully.

Unfortunately, in the history of web animation, thoughtfulness hasn’t always been the highest priority. As developers, we’ve used Flash, animated GIFs, Java applets, marquee tags, and, more recently, CSS, JavaScript, and SVG to create animation that’s been, at best, a level of polish or, at worst, a gimmick. The idea of creating animation that’s both high-performance and user-friendly is relatively new.

So it’s a good thing you have this book in front of you. Julian Shapiro is one of the principal experts on animation on the web. In creating and supporting Velocity.js, he has developed an intimate knowledge of all the quirks and advantages of using motion on websites. Web Animation using JavaScript will give you not only the technical know-how required to implement animation in your websites, but, more importantly, the insights you’ll need to use animation effectively and craft compelling user experiences.

Animation libraries and technologies have made motion design more accessible than ever. But not every developer abides by best practices. The past couple of years have seen several trendy anti-patterns come and go. Scroll behavior has been hijacked. Mobile navigation has been pushed into menus accessible only via gestures. While adding animation is within the grasp of anyone who stumbles across .animate(), utilizing it to improve the user experience is one of the hallmarks of a dedicated developer. This book will help you become one of them.

David DeSandro

February 2015

Brooklyn, New York

Made in 2015

From Brazil

Last year, I produced a series of halftone portraits for Electric Objects. I used Creative Commons licensed photos on Flickr. I treat these photos as the raw medium, like paint on a palette. But they’re of people. It’s their face, front and center.

David DeSandro Electric Objects portraits

In one of their first public demos, the Electric Objects team displayed one of my portraits in a side room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. It was just for an afternoon.

The woman from the portrait walks into that room.

Electric Objects Met demo

She’s from Brazil. I hadn’t reached out to her or the photographer. She knows the original photo exists, but not my derivative artwork. Imagine traveling across the globe, peaking into a museum room, and seeing your own face.

Hugo mixed2 Breathing halftone portrait

It’s a lovely coincidence. But I’m embarrassed. The internet doesn’t have to be full of strangers. Good neighbors introduce themselves.


In progress

Things are going well, but too many things going. I need to complete a couple.

Contracting with CodePen.

Metafizzy rebrand.

Metafizzy bear iterations

Metafizzy logotype iterations overhaul

imagesLoaded supporting background images. (I wasn’t planning on working on imagesLoaded, but then this dude responded with a snooty remark)

Masonry killer

To top it off, I’d like to overhaul Masonry, Isotope, Packery and Flickity in 2016, removing IE8 & 9 support, using good JavaScript. Then I have this idea for a new drag-and-drop product.

James Murphy's Subway Symphony

James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem has been working on a system of sounds (appropriately) for the NYC Subway.

I love the subway system of my city–one of the most egalitarian, kind and high-functioning miracles in a city known around the world for it’s nearly unforgiving toughness. I also love sound, and music. Unfortunately, the sound of the subway is kind of a drag. Every time you swipe your MetroCard, the turnstile emits a flat, unpleasant “beep”. Each turnstile emits its own beep, all of which are slightly out of tune with one another, creating a dissonant rubbing-styrofoam-on-glass squeak in stations all around New York City. It’s kind of horrible.

What i propose to do is to create a series of 3 to 5 note sequences, all unique, one for each station in the subway system. These sequences will be part of an intersecting larger piece of music, which would run from station to station, and cross one another as, say, the 4, 5, 6 line (one musical piece) intersects with the L, N, R, Q and W (another musical piece) at Union Square. At each turnstile in Union Square, as you tap your new tap and ride card, a pleasant bell tone will sound, in one of a set of possible notes, all related to that station’s note sequence. The effect would be that at the busiest times, like rush hour, what was once cacophony would now be music.

I believe that music makes people happy, and makes them reflective. I think people who are willing to do what it takes to live here and work here–the commutes and the crowds, deserve a small sonic gift on their way home, or to deliver something, or getting to their school in another neighborhood. And i think that in the years to come, if this system is implemented, people who grew up with these sounds will hear a piece of music at an opera, or on an ad, or in the background of a film and feel a nostalgia for their first apartment, or their basketball practices, as they think “this song reminds me of Borough Hall” or “This song reminds me of my school be East Broadway”.

This would be my favorite thing ever.

Apple live GIFs

Today, I tried live-GIFing the Apple event. It was a hoot!

iPhone 6

View the Tweets in my Apple 9/9/14 GIFs Twitter collection.

View all the GIFs on Imgur.

I love the communal aspect of these events. There’s plenty of people doing gag pics, but I figured there wouldn’t be that many GIFs. I had a shot to do something special.

Here’s how I did it:

  1. Have the event video playing.
  2. Record a Screen Recording with QuickTime Player of the video.
  3. Save the movie.
  4. Import the movie in Photoshop. Do GIF workflow. Make the GIF.

The tricky part is that you can’t predict when there’s going to be a GIF-worthy bit. I would keep a recording going so anything would get captured. Then I’d make a judgement call to stop the recording and make the GIF.

I got to capture a bunch of big reveals.

Focus Pixels

But I also missed out on some smaller bits – like Tim Cook waving his rolled-sleeve arms, brandishing a real Apple Watch.

There’s so much work that goes into these events. And then, it’s all over in two hours. All the little moments can be quickly forgotten as the next unveiling tops what you just saw.

Apple Watch smiley

But, c’mon. I wanted favs and Retweets. And hot damn, did it work. This “Twitter on Apple Watch” Tweet got hundreds of engagements.

GIFs (and GIF-like videos like Vine) work so well for events like these. This moment with Tim Cook and Bono was both cringe-enducing and endearing. I don’t think any kind of live-blog could capture it as well as the GIF.

The Legend of Zelda

I’ve completed playing the original The Legend of Zelda. Re-claiming the Triforce on the NES has long been on my list of shame.

Legend of Zelda intro screen

Zelda is the greatest video game of all time. It was a game-changer. Everything previous to it was precursor. Everything afterward is an imitation. Zelda is the 2001 Space Odyssey of video games. This sounds a bit audacious, but after playing it, I can confirm it’s legitimate.

Recently, the magic of The Legend of Zelda has had a couple great examinations. Saving Zelda by Tevis Thompson reveals what made the original so special, and what the Zelda franchise has lost in its sequels. His essay is so well formed that it became the catalyst of a comic Second Quest which is to be published this fall.

Second Quest

Sequelitis - ZELDA: A Link to the Past vs. Ocarina of Time by Egoraptor is a comprehensive comparison of the NES, SNES, and N64 incarnations. He digs into game mechanics, environment and combat systems, and the trail of tropes the Zeldas have accumulated. It’s about Zelda in particular, but it’s great writing about all video games. It’s hilarious as well.

A puzzle is something you have all the information for. The only thing standing between you and the solution is your ability to put the pieces together in the right way. The satisfaction you obtain from solving a puzzle is from the Aha! moment. When the pieces fit, and you have only yourself to blame for it. …

The satisfaction doesn’t come from the door opening, it comes from the puzzle itself.

Zelda is a great game because it is purely a game. You have a huge world. You can go anywhere you want. There are no directions, no clear objective, no rails to keep you on your path. Whether your succeed or fail, it is you who is responsible. You completely control your experience.

Playing Zelda, I found every little triumph to be rewarding. Finding a new dungeon, bombing to reveal a secret, defeating a boss. I felt clever for having solved the challenges myself.

Zelda is challenging. It took me around 15 hours to complete the quest. That’s a huge amount of gameplay for a game that’s 25 years old. I tried my best to play the game as if it were 1986, a time before the Internet and instant solutions a google away. Finding dungeons required exploration. Beating bosses required experimentation.

When I came upon a new challenge, I had the sense that it was solvable, that I had all the parts necessary to beat it. It was just up to my wits to figure it out and my ability to get it done. But, I did hit a couple walls, relent and turn to google for two tricky spots – finding a pathway in Dungeon 7, and finding the entrance to Dungeon 8. For both solutions, I felt cheap for not figuring it out for myself. The solutions weren’t obvious, but they were certainly reachable if I had held out a bit longer. I cheated myself out of the thrill of Zelda – playing the game for myself.

Zelda is genuine game fun. It has the ultimate element of gamification – the act of playing the game is the reward itself.


There is something magical when I come across a blog or tumblr or site, and it uses Masonry. Before I saw it, I didn’t know the thing existed. But now here it is, and somehow I’m already a small part of it.