Not all pixels are equal


Pixel density is increasing on screens everywhere. The 4 inch displays of the latest smartphones show 1280 x 720 pixels, while Apple’s new Macbook Pros have 2880 x 1800 resolutions. This level of clarity is enabling new services only possible with such pin sharp displays. However, it also creates practical challenges. What happens, for instance, to a web service designed with a 1024 x 768 display in mind when it is shown at such high resolutions. Smashing Magazine has a good technical introduction to the considerations. Separately, this advertising campaign, which asked participants to colour individual pixels on a large billboard to reveal the picture underneath got me thinking about the nature of the pixels which make up digital experiences. Do designers need to understand more about the technical differences between displays, how pixels are formed and why not all pixels are equal if they are to achieve true visual clarity in their work?


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  1. 1
    Stephanie Rieger

    In short, yes.
    But I think this goes beyond understanding pixels and the technical makeup of displays. Too many designers still don’t understand the platforms and devices they are building for.

    This leads to the design of products that are needlessly cluttered–not just visually, but deep down. This kind of clutter causes all sorts of unnecessary latency which (of course) greatly affects user experience. Performance is after all a (highly under appreciated) user experience factor.

    • 2
      Marek Pawlowski

      Sorry Stephanie, missed this last week! Very much in agreement on the necessity for a wider view of performance within UX, this article just focused on one element around Clarity. In fact, the next MEX has a Pathway all about Speed, and how it means more than just mHz and completion times.

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