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YouTube // TED
YouTube // TED

The Worst-Designed Thing You've Never Noticed (Spoiler: It's Flags)

YouTube // TED
YouTube // TED

In March 2015, Roman Mars sat down to tell an audience about vexillology, the study of flags. Because he's the host of the excellent 99% Invisible radio show, Mars proceeded to rip into a serious design problem: Most flags are designed like total garbage. (Or in vexillologists' terms, SOBs: "Seals On a Bedsheet.")

Now, you might say, "I don't care about flags," as I did when I first heard about this talk. But you'd likely be wrong, especially when you see the terrible flags in this talk. Indeed, Mars says very early on:

I'm kind of obsessed with flags. Sometimes I bring up the topic of flags, and people are like, "I don't care about flags," and then we start talking about flags, and trust me, 100 percent of people care about flags. There's just something about them that works on our emotions.

Prepare to be surprised, amused, and educated by this 18-minute talk about flag design.

If you'd like to download the talk, use an interactive transcript, or access the 20 subtitle languages, check out the TED Talk page. And if you liked that talk, you'll be interested in 99% Invisible Episode 140: Vexillonaire.

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Live Smarter
Your Gmail Will Soon 'Nudge' You If You Forget to Respond to an Important Email
iStock
iStock

Soon, artificial intelligence will be able to help you keep track of your inbox. Gmail's new redesign will include functions designed to help you keep on top of important emails, according to Fortune.

One of the most useful new additions is a snooze button for your inbox. If you don't want to deal with a particular email immediately, but don't want the haunting specter of an unread message in your inbox, you can simply ask Gmail to resurface the email later, preventing you from forgetting about that important email you totally, definitely meant to respond to.

A GIF shows a user navigating Gmail's new features.
Google

By clicking on the small clock icon that appears at the top of the message (next to the archive and delete buttons), you can snooze an email until later that day, the next day, or a specific date and time of your choosing. You can also pick the mysterious "someday" option, which allows you to hide the email indefinitely, until you choose to unsnooze it. No matter how long you snooze a message for, you can always see the emails you've snoozed and put them back in your inbox by going to the "snoozed" tab in the menu, right under the "inbox" button.

Even if you don't purposefully snooze your emails, Gmail's artificial intelligence will subtly remind you to respond to important messages that are sitting unanswered in your inbox. Next to a message's subject line in your inbox, it will tell you how many days have gone by since you received the email, and ask you if you want to respond. While you're free to ignore it, the contrast of the orange reminder font helps those messages stand out in a cluttered inbox.

A Gmail inbox that highlights the nudge feature
Google

The new design also makes it easier to access apps like Google Calendar from your inbox, and lets you download attachments and images without opening the message itself (useful for long threads). Some of the other new features for Gmail are only available to companies that pay for Google's corporate email service right now, like an option to remove the recipient's ability to forward, copy, or download an email.

To try the updated Gmail interface for yourself, go to the "settings" tab in the right-hand corner of your inbox and click "Try the new Gmail."

[h/t Fortune]

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Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
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architecture
Qatar National Library's Panorama-Style Bookshelves Offer Guests Stunning Views
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The newly opened Qatar National Library in the capital city of Doha contains more than 1 million books, some of which date back to the 15th century. Co.Design reports that the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) designed the building so that the texts under its roof are the star attraction.

When guests walk into the library, they're given an eyeful of its collections. The shelves are arranged stadium-style, making it easy to appreciate the sheer number of volumes in the institution's inventory from any spot in the room. Not only is the design photogenic, it's also practical: The shelves, which were built from the same white marble as the floors, are integrated into the building's infrastructure, providing artificial lighting, ventilation, and a book-return system to visitors. The multi-leveled arrangement also gives guests more space to read, browse, and socialize.

"With Qatar National Library, we wanted to express the vitality of the book by creating a design that brings study, research, collaboration, and interaction within the collection itself," OMA writes on its website. "The library is conceived as a single room which houses both people and books."

While most books are on full display, OMA chose a different route for the institution's Heritage Library, which contains many rare, centuries-old texts on Arab-Islamic history. This collection is housed in a sunken space 20 feet below ground level, with beige stone features that stand out from the white marble used elsewhere. Guests need to use a separate entrance to access it, but they can look down at the collection from the ground floor above.

If Qatar is too far of a trip, there are plenty of libraries in the U.S. that are worth a visit. Check out these panoramas of the most stunning examples.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

Qatar library.

[h/t Co.Design]

All images: Arend Kuester, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

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