Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Dead Pixel Society

In 1996, it was a simpler time in technology.

  • The first games of the Pokémon series hit the shelves in Japan, ultimately selling over 10 million copies, paving the way for the crazy successful multi-billion dollar series.
  • Walking into an electronics store yielded no trace of any Apple product or peripheral whatsoever, making the decision of purchasing a horrible PC equivalent an easy one.
  • Desktop icons on a Mac (8-bit, 256-color) were hand crafted, pixel-by-pixel in a 32 x 32 grid, via resource editing app ResEdit.

Conversely, in many ways, things were far more complex.

  ...Desktop icons for Mac (8-bit, 256-color) were hand crafted, pixel-by-pixel in a 32 x 32 grid, via resource editing app ResEdit.

Simplicity came with challenges. Challenges icon designers of the time embraced. Archaic tools were pushed beyond their limits, yielding creativity and detail that seemed to exceed their bounds.

Icon designers in the mid 90’s fueled each other to see what could be created with such finite constraints; mini mosaics of pure pixellated perfection. From system-level icons, to household objects, to movie characters, to original creations, the varied community of creators crafted downloadable icons which millions of users the world over enjoyed and customized their Macs’ desktops with. We defied those boundaries and challenged each other at our craft, as a global community. With time, nostalgia and grey hairs increase in tandem. To the former, I had a thought: get the band back together.

The Dead Pixel Society logo
Enter The Dead Pixel Society, a gathering of desktop icon designers from the mid-to-late ’90’s, reunited, designing under the constraints of that time...but toward modern subject matter. More than a "gallery of submissions", the site needed to document the creative process. Sketches. Concepts. Iterations. And, ultimately, the finished pieces:


As the group's founder, site creator, copywriter, and icon design contributor, I'd been talking with Jeffrey Zeldman over the past few months about the concept. Being a fellow desktop icon designer of the time, it was a creative medium near and dear. Pixel-based creation at that level, under ridiculous confinements and the foundation of today's desktop interface design, was a craft and movement that was not even on the radar of today's UI enthusiasts. As such, he’s asked me to be on The Big Web Show, his award-winning radio show dubbed “Everything web that matters”. Previous guests have included Jason Fried (37 Signals), Anthony Casalena (Squarespace founder and CEO), Evan Williams (co-founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium), and the speakers of An Event Apart.

With the show to air a couple weeks from now, stay tuned via http://5by5.tv/bigwebshow for the broadcast and downloadable .mp3!

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