StudiVZ Locks

StudiVZ Lock

German student community StudiVZ definitely is not known to be a safe service. Several times security issues have been reported (for example on Welt Online). User data has been manipulated and read out, for example by students from Merz Akademie Michael Russ, Bernd and TobiX.

Nevertheless StudiVZ claims to be safe. At least they put a lot of pictures of locks on their site. As it seems, normal locks with a metal body wouldn’t have done. Maybe this is why the designers there decided to use the StudiVZ logotype as the lock’s body. What seems to be a meaningful self-reference of a corporate-centered design approach at first glance, actually undergoes a funny shift of meaning.

As said, in general perception StudiVZ as a service does not stand for safeness at all. So the basis for the adapted lock metaphor is corrupted and the visual promise for security is even more meaningless than it would have been with a normal lock.

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No PC is as Safe as a Castle

Fortress

With the current issue of SFT (I bought it because “Short Circuit” was included) came a small booklet. In corporation with Focus Money and Chip, it was informing its readers how chip cards from ReinerSCT make online banking, surfing and shopping more secure by the use of chip cards. On page 8 I found the obligatory picture of a castle! Next to it is written: “No PC system is as safe as a castle.” Truth were one might not expect it.

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Security Most Essential

Windows Firewall Icon
At first they erected the Firewalls. Their bricks were so perfectly rounded and their surface was so perfectly repetitive that one never could be sure if those walls really were constructed of 14 brick stones or if they were prefabricated in one piece. Each of the Firewalls came with a vibrant globe attached to its back. This globe was made of the glossiest material one could imagine. It showed the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean and was never turning elsewhere.

And with the walls and the globes came the phenomena. The weird thing with the Firewalls was, that one never could see the opposite side of the wall. And incomprehensibly it was impossible to reach the globe.

Windoes Defender Icon

Then they built the Defender Walls. Again the surface looked so repetitive and the bricks were so perfectly shaped that it was not sure if those walls were made of 12 bricks (and three battlements on top) or if they again only were imitations. But with the battlements and the granite-like grayish color they looked very medieval.

And again it was not possible to see the other side of the walls.

For “Security Essentials” they are expanding the walls to small castles now. The castles are four shaped, very compact and have battlements on the top. Compared to the former walls the stones are much more even. On each side of the castle on the very bottom there is a small window with a rounded top. The windows are equipped with shiny safety glass. A blue banner is waving in the wind.

Security Essentials
And again, there is another strange phenomenon. The castles do not have any entrance. This time we cannot enter at all.

(Above you can see a screenshot from microsoft.com dated November 20th. Other imagery regarding “Security Essentials” can be found in the image collection.)

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Norton’s Fading

On “Idioms—Suggestions on how to talk in the 21st century” Dragan Espenschied names the software “Norton AntiVirus” among other striking examples to have added computer analogies to our contemporary language today. The problem with the software of Peter Norton was and is that you cannot be protected by Norton AntiVirus and work at normal speed simultaneously. If you say “It is a Norton thing”, you express this ambivalence and the two-sidedness of an issue in general.

Dragan: “Norton, once the synonym for really enhancing the computing experience, became the icon of the schizophrenic software business logic that once you really solve a problem you destroyed your own job.”

Norton AntiVirus Packs 2004, 2007 and 2008
As it seems, Mr. Norton’s icon is fading with every new update of his famous software. This is interesting, because in this process the cover design of Norton AntiVirus was changed regularly and the method to depict security was under constant development.

In 2009 the depiction of safety is entirely achieved by typography: the package shows a graphic grid filtering the good from the evil. Chats, Documents and Photos are written in (good) white type and may pass; the words Virus, Rootkit and Spyware are written in (bad) black and are blocked.

In 2008 there were shown happy users, holding their well protected laptops in their hands. Smiling and proud. This is an alteration of the 2007 motif, where only hands stroking the same laptops were shown on the package. In 2004 there is a stethoscope, Doc Nortons former implement and as it seems his legacy.

The latest official depiction of Mr. Norton on the software already dates back to the year 2000. Photographed in medium shot he stands on the pack, smiling professionally and leaning his arm on a well-protected computer. Back then he was competence in person—his posing iconic and the deduced (desktop) icon timeless.

Norton's Fading
As it seems, only “It is a Norton thing” is going to remain.

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Tower by Everaldo Coelho

Fortress Icon by Everaldo CoelhoAt Iconfinder I found a nice tower icon by Everaldo Coelho. A real cutie. The tower icon is a masterpiece in simplification and exaggeration of forms at the same time. I will use its universality as browser and iPhone icon for the blog of the Defence Project.

P.S. Thanks Everaldo for making it available with LGPL.

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Stronghold for Safety

Bollwerk
In the same stack of printed materials, I discovered a German advertising leaflet for Windows Vista. It is entitled with „Klarheit. Erleben.“ (“Clarity. Experince.”) It promotes the then new “Aero” interface, the “Flip 3D” window switch and “Windows Defender”. According to this leaflet, with “Windows Defender”, Vista is a stronghold for more safety („Ein Bollwerk für mehr Sicherheit“). The picture shown there certainly is meant to emphasize this. It shows a rocky cliff, most likely a symbol for an operating system as solid as a rock.

And as usual the ambiguity of safety comes in: like walls protect and enclose at the same, an island surrounded by this cliff hardly can be neither accessed nor left. This scenery and ambiguity reminds me of my great misfortune on Desktop Island. I got there only by “accident” and now I also cannot leave.

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Defence in Context

On the lookout for depictions of safety, I discovered a German advertising “magazine” from 2007. It reads as if it was written by Microsoft himself to promote Windows Vista. It is called “Vista Komplett” and for me it was already worth buying, only because of the beautiful glossy double pages of Vista’s wallpapers—but I also discovered something else: on page 64 I was surprised to see my series of big aluminum shields “Defence, Pt. 1” already realized by Microsoft quite similarly back then!

A picture in the magazine’s security section shows a user in intimate togetherness with her laptop. To indicate that both are well protected, an eager intellectual worker from the big company placed one of Vista’s shield icons on top of them.

OptimaleSicherheitSmall

On the picture above you can see the upper part of the article about Windows’ new security “feature” Windows Defender and on the picture below you can see “Defecse” in all its glory at “Universam Art Market” in Moscow in 2009. The proportions are very similar. One might question the gallery as white cube, and yet for Interface Art it is still a nice place to derive meaning from the shift to that context. (Image: ?????? ??????)

DefenceAtUniversamArtMarketMoscow

Posted in Print, Shields and Armory | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Inflatable Castle is Always a Good Start

Bouncing Castle from T-Home

With what was called a bird’s eye view in earlier times but nowadays immediately calls connotations to CCTV and surveillance, the makers of this ad knowingly open up a neatly composed Mise-en-scène. We are supposed to watch from far and not to participate. From above we see a concrete floor, a basketball field. Children are playing, they trundle hoops and throw balls. A celebration. We see a slide, a wheel of fortune. And a gigantic inflatable castle.

A text in the upper left corner reminds us that this perfect idyll was not achieved by the children’s parents but by T-Home, the branch of Deutsche Telekom being responsible for landline communication. The parents, the ones this ad is really made for, are surprisingly not present at all or hidden behind a Gaussian blur making the ad’s text more readable. In this eeriness, the most important carrier of meaning is the colorful castle in the front.

This certainly was sponsored by T-Home to the organizers of the street celebration. And they have their reasons: an inflatable castle is a great symbol for safety and lightness at the same time. A castle of stone can change its connotation very quickly from a positive meaning of security to negative one of imprisonment. A bouncing castle cannot.

This blog deals with the strategies used to achieve a feeling of safety by visual means. Especially on the internet and in the graphical user interface, depictions of (fire-) walls, small castles and cute vaults automatically add this lightness to the depiction of safety and both accompany each other in a mostly unintentionally comic interplay. This interplay is the topic of the Defence Project.

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