Interviewed by John Papageorge.
Story by Kevin Ashburn
Poised on the crest of the digital wave, media executive John B. Evans remains committed to the power of the written word. Well-crafted text, he believes, can bring clarity to complex social and political issues.
"Written language is the crucible that holds Western civilization," Evans says. "People who decide to have an abortion or not to have an abortion or to switch political parties make those decisions often as a result of reading articles in a magazine they trust."
His opinions should come as no surprise. The Welsh-born, English-raised Evans has a rich history in journalism. Publisher of the Village Voice during its so-called "golden age" in the late 1970s, Evans began a fruitful association with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation when it bought the Voice in 1977.
Though he still serves on the board of a former Murdoch offshoot that he formed in 1992, Evans is now an entrepreneur in his own right. His REM Productions, a creative-interface design service, is a mere infant in the media world.
Evans' many years in print have also left an indelible mark on his design philosophy. He believes that the Internet need not sacrifice aesthetics for technology.
"The Web and the Internet are environments that were created by men with tanks," Evans jokes. "From a design point of view it's hostile. From a user point of view, it's unfriendly.
"The world I live in and try to design for is a world of people who don't have a great passion for technology and therefore have no patience for its shortcomings."
Though Evans' immediate task is to forge a path for REM, he has some compelling ideas on how to warm the chill of the online experience.
Specifically, he's interested in the possibilities of "elastic type," or text that can assume the shape of its meaning. Much in the way that a piano's swell pedal conveys musical inflection, Evans envisions creating a pressure-sensitive keyboard that would allow sentences to rise and fall according to a writer's intonations.
"If I were able to make sentences rise and fall in cadence, I'd know whether you were from Scotland or Mississippi -- it would be enormously powerful if we could do this."
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