Horological Tilde

Submission for the Tilde.Club Logo Contest

Horological Tilde, 2014, animated gif digital image, (320 x 320 pixels)

Artist Statement

Horological Tilde is a work about time, timelessness, and the future of horologe in the digital age. It is also the perfect logo for Tilde.Club [0], a bespoke design that would be impossible to use in any other context.

Many have said that time moves faster in the age of technology, but it’s possible this is only said by older people, who also claim time moves faster as you age. The overarching goal of the design is to integrate the past and future of time in the age of the tilde.

When first encountering Horological Tilde a viewer initially notices the striking rotating image. This striking rotation signifies the passage of time — in this case, at a constant rate of 15 frames per second — and references visually the auditory pleasure of hearing a striking chime in a charming grandfather clock from the hallway of a childhood home.

Upon further observation the viewer might notice the rotation is counter-clockwise, or “backwards,” suggesting that everything old is new again, and all that is new is often just a reinterpretation of the old.

But what is it that is rotating? Technologists — the likely audience for the Tilde.Club logo — will quickly recognize it as being an image of the Apple Watch, usually referred to by its WATCH logotype. The image selected is a detail view of an Apple Edition model, with a 38mm 18-karat rose gold case and a rose gray modern buckle [1].

Many technologists became aware of the term “horology” only recently, with the introduction of the WATCH on September 9, 2014. This is particularly apt, as the root “horologe” can refer to both “a servant who called out the hours” as well as “an instrument indicating the time of day; a timepiece of any kind; a watch, clock, or dial” (Webster’s Unabridged 1913).

The WATCH will be both of these things at the same time, and further, it engages critics of the modern technological moment, who frequently take a position that it is we who are servants to our technology, we, who are slaves to the clock, we, who are willing to instrument and quantify our selves, if not our souls.

The rose gold model was selected specifically due to the connotations associated with “rose-colored glasses,” a term often applied to the Big Data brains behind Silicon Valley “innovations” such as burrito delivery services, so-called “currencies” which change their value each minute, and laundry startups.

The WATCH, for all of its modern entrapments, is still expected to keep time, displaying the current time to the wearer whenever necessary. Notably, it is not considered a “watch” by the most devoted horological enthusiasts [2], without even so much as an ironic nod to the NSA and our march to an ordered society in a surveillance state, facilitated and accelerated by wearing a wrist device with a microphone, a speaker, and several physiological sensors.

If that isn’t a “real” watch, I don’t know what is.

Through it all, at the center of rotation and with precise solidity, remains the tilde, the humble tilde, which, some might say, is central to the web and to our sense of time in general. Tilde.Club could not exist were it not for the tilde. Not only because the name would be nonsensical, but because without the tilde it would be impossible for a stock installation of virtually any web server, be it Apache, nginx, or even IIS, to serve web pages from user directories. (Let’s not get into mod_rewrite just now.)

The typeface selected for Horological Tilde is Verdana Bold, in appreciation of the creativity fostered by the constraints of the early web. According to Wikipedia [3], Verdana bears “similarities to humanist sans-serif typefaces such as Frutiger, [and] was designed to be readable at small sizes on a computer screen. The lack of serifs, large x-height, wide proportions, loose letter-spacing, large counters, and emphasized distinctions between similarly-shaped characters are chosen to increase legibility.”

Verdana is a noble choice for Horological Tilde, and for the central association of the Tilde.Club logo. Tilde.Club can be proud of this historical typeface selection.

The tilde is carefully positioned inside the “crown” of the watch, which references the feelings of kinghood experienced by a wearer of the Apple Edition watch, as well as referencing the birth of a new era in horology, as was birthed a new era in human communication enabled by the tilde.

The hard edge of the watch image is an homage to the state of modern software development tools, exemplified by the typical developer experience of everything working fine, and then one day looking up to find a new language, 1,500 new APIs, yet another beta version of the IDE, your old code not working properly in the new SDK, a supposed “GM” release that is more buggy than the last beta, an end-user release recalled in hours, an update for a shell exploit dormant since the ‘90s, as well as a wide variety of application interaction WTF, all marching toward a ship schedule so disconnected from quality, stability, and reliability it’s like walking off a cliff.

In contrast, the smooth edge of the watch strap connecting to the main body is an obvious reference to the comfort and stability of developing the early web using ssh, vim — and emacs, once acclimated — and the sane layout and minimal abstractions of the Unix filesystem, all of which Tilde.Club utilizes to the fullest.

Horological Tilde is constructed of 36 individually hand-crafted PNG images, tuned using Acorn by Flying Meat Software [4], with the GIF animation constructed using PicGIF by PearlMountain Technology Co., Ltd. [5] from the full-size PNG exports.

The ten degrees of rotation between each image was chosen to honor the upcoming release of Mac OS X 10.10, ready or not.

As a Pure Digital Logo, implemented for submission as a 320 px x 320 px animated gif, the design is mobile-responsive, and works well in most digital delivery mechanisms invented after Netscape Navigator 2.0 (1994). Other sizes are easily delivered should Tilde.Club favor our submission with selection.

Transforming the logo to work in printed media such as business cards or electronic facsimile machines may be problematic, not because of the size reduction or even the limited 256-color palette, but due to the animation sequence itself. For example, a designer might plausibly select a single frame, visually referencing the original sequence… but then, which frame to choose?

Though it would seem to tempt infinity itself to engage such folly, if a printer-friendly version is required, Notio will be happy to lead a multi-day workshop, open to all Tilde.Club members, to consider the implications and resolve any complications.

Contact Notio via Twitter: @notio

Horological Tilde, 2014, animated gif digital image, (320 x 320 pixels)

[0] No link, to avoid crashing the tiny server. Use Google if you must.

[1] Photo credit: http://www.apple.com/watch/apple-watch-edition/

[2] http://www.hodinkee.com/blog/hodinkee-apple-watch-review

[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verdana

[4] http://flyingmeat.com/acorn/

[5] http://www.pearlmountainsoft.com/picgif/index.html