Category Archives: Design Concept/Ideas

A few years ago, after one too many ‘things’ related to my work as a designer got under my skin and frustrated me, I resolved to find the common theme and discover how to overcome this frustration I was experiencing. The common theme was that people who aren’t designers don’t understand design, designers and the design industry. This makes sense, right? I don’t understand medicine, doctors, and the medical world. I don’t understand accounting, accountants and the financial industry. I could say the same for every other industry and career that isn’t mine. However, these frustrations were also coming from those in positions that should understand design, designers and the design industry, maybe even sometimes those with the title of designer. I would often hear statements regarding designers that range from discounting what designers do to just plain misconceptions about what we do. Many of the things I was hearing would be so opposite from my creative compass and guiding principles.

Never going away

After much reflection, I realized that this problem will not be going away as I move through my career and I need to find a way to deal with these ‘design myths’. Not being an angsty high school kid, I couldn’t revert to posting passive aggressive tweets and Facebook posts (although I might still do that on occasion). I also didn’t think contributing to something that calls itself ‘clients from hell’ was good enough. I needed a better solution to deal with these ‘design myths’. One that allowed me to fully explore my own principles and creative compass in regards to these design myths.

Two years in the making

Two years ago, I began writing about a few design myths and sketching some ideas for a website. I also started brainstorming a name for the website. I kept putting the project off because I was too busy with other projects and too scared to actually publish this thing and get it out there. Then over this last Christmas break, I created the website within a week – but still didn’t launch it. Until this week. The result is designmyth.com – A place where I can write about one design myth at a time and sort of debunk them – or at least provide some clear thoughts/opinions about why we should think about things differently. For me, the process of researching, critically thinking about and writing each essay helps to solidify my opinions and further hone my creative compass. Am I the only one who can’t clearly define their opinions/thoughts without first writing them out?

[sidenote]

I’ve been using the #clientsfromhell hashtag when I tweet about designmyth.com. This is mostly because the #clientsfromhell tweets are design myths in a way. The difference? Hopefully designmyth.com does a bit better than someone posting a snarky/passive aggressive post about how, ‘the client just doesn’t understand’. If they don’t understand, come alongside and educate them, but leave the snark at the door. That’s what designmyth.com tries to do.

DesignMyth.com

 

$5 logo from Von Glitschka

Once upon a time, this very popular illustrator/designer named Von Glitschka created a website to sell logos for $5. The kicker is that he would only spend 5 minutes on each one and there would be no revisions allowed. It was done out of frustration from what he calls ‘cheap a** clients’.

However, for fans of his, this is a great way to have a cheap piece of ‘art’ from the man himself. After some conversations about his $5 logo website with Jamie Carroll, we came to the conclusion that it was pretty genius.

And.. what do you know? I got one for my birthday, from Jamie.

For an undetermined amount of time, this $5 logo has replaced my prior logo on my personal website/blog (desktop version of the website/blog only).

swag

At An Event Apart – Austin 2013, Samantha Warren shared about her new idea: Style Tiles. Here are my take-aways:

  • Design is art without clients – and in-house designers still have clients
  • Creating 3 fixed-width pixel-perfect Photoshop comps encourages ‘Frankencomps’ – where client will request pieces of each to be put together to make a new comp.
    • There is a better way to go about this, and it is ‘Style Tiles’
  • Mood boards are too vague for clients to understand, although they are good for certain parts of the process
  • Style Tiles
    • Gives client an essence or feel for the website – fonts/colors/etc
    • Allows for designing a system, not pages
    • Separates style from substance (content)
    • Are device width agnostic
    • Will facilitate a conversation around responsive design projects
    • Should come before a more refined mockup of pages
    • Allow for quicker iteration
    • Sets you up for creating a full component library – full of all possible design components on website
  • Design Process:
    • Listen
      • Ask questions, get answers then setup kickoff meeting to get alignment on answers from all people on client end
      • Ask what their 3 user goals are and 3 business goals are
      • Ask ‘Why?” throughout
      • Ask metaphor questions like, “If your brand were a ____, it would be a _________ and why?
      • Ask degree questions like, “on scale of 1-5 how strongly do you feel your website should be______ (illustrative/etc)”.
    • Interpret
      • Identify common themes
      • Get agreement on adjectives
      • Begin pairing adjectives with design principles of line, shape, color, texture, space and form
    • Define Visual Language
    • Iterate
      • Easier to do with style tiles
    • Deliver a System
      • System would include the style tile, component library (how all possible aspects of website will look, like, headings, lists, links, etc), and full comps
  • When someone says that designers JUST make things look pretty, a kitten dies!
  • Design a better process!

 

An Event Apart

I was lucky enough to attend my very first web design conference this week. It was amazingly inspiring and gave me a lot of things to think about – mostly a lot of things I need to do better at in my work. It was great to be in a room full of 400-500 other folks with the same mindset, skill set and goals as me. It was also great to hear talks by some of the people I’ve been learning from for many years – through their blogs and books.

I’ll be sharing my take-aways from each of the speakers. One blog post at a time. First Up – Jeffrey Zeldman.

At An Event Apart – Austin 2013, The Godfather of Web Design – Jeffrey Zeldman – shared his 10 commandments of web design. Below I’ve shared them and how I interpret each.

Thou shalt entertain

My interpretation: Stop focusing on ‘techy’ details and make your websites fun and playful – through conversational content.

Test everything

My interpretation: Always test your websites as well as testing your basic assumptions about how you create those websites (things like ALT tag usage, etc)

Thou shalt iterate

My interpretation: Never stop tweaking, revising and making your websites better, but always ‘ship’ your ‘minimal viable product’.

Thou shalt ship – “If you can’t delegate at the pixel level, you’ll never ship”

My interpretation: Do your work efficiently and get it out in the public and then go back to #3

Engage thy community

My interpretation: Think about using more ‘social’ features with blog comments, like Disqus, and embeddable comments

Love they user as thy self

My interpretation: Create the website you want to see and use – make it responsive – aka device agnostic – and put the most useful content on top of the website

Remember content and keep it holy

My interpretation: content comes first and navigation is second, use larger text for relaxing experience and remove extraneous design bits.

Thou shalt make magic – not perfection

My interpretation: Make your websites magical, but that doesn’t mean making it perfect. Focus on previous commandments and ship the minimal viable product. Think Instagram, it was ‘magical’ but not perfect at first – because it didn’t allow for sharing, commenting or even have a website presence, only app presence.

Thou shalt prioritize

My interpretation: Do most important thing first (obviously) and think about using Github ‘issues’ feature to help prioritize.

To thine own self be true

My interpretation: Focus on what you are great at.

Question everything generally thought to be obvious

—Dieter Rams

For me, right now, this means – rethink all of my design tendencies. For example: Is Helvetica right for this project too? Does this website need to be centered (margin: 0 auto; for the web nerds)? Do buttons need  rounded corners and a gradient?

In your profession or daily life, what is it that you need to question?

Recently, I came across Dieter Rams’ ten principles of good design. I didn’t even know who Dieter Rams was – but assumed that he was surely a graphic designer, based on his definition of good design (and maybe the glasses).

I was wrong! (which proves good design is transcendent)

Dieter Rams is an industrial designer – mainly working for electronic device manufacturer, Braun. He designed products such as coffee makers, radios, calculators and so on. Basically, if he failed at his job as designer, people would get really frustrated with the devices that fill their daily lives. Talk about a tall task – especially in comparison to myself – a measly website designer.

So here is Dieter Ram’s ten principles of good design:

Good design is innovative.

Good design makes a product useful.

Good design is aesthetic.

Good design makes a product understandable.

Good design is unobtrusive.

Good design is honest.

Good design is long-lasting.

Good design is thorough down to the last detail.

Good design is environmentally friendly.

Good design is as little design as possible.

—Dieter Rams

These photos are a result of a photo exercise I took on. I recently read on a blog that at some point, photographers should try this:

Go to a location, whether it’s indoors or outdoors, and spend 15 minutes there. Spend the first 10 minutes observing your surroundings. Don’t put the camera to your eye or take photos. Look for interesting subject matter, composition, line, shape, etc that can be photographed. Then spend the next 5 minutes shooting photos of what you just observed.

I went to my backyard and tried it. It was amazing the things I saw. I pushed to focus on interesting lines and shapes and their relationships.

This one shows the fence sort of extending on via it’s shadow. I liked how you see all fence, and not shadow. I like that sort of illusion.

This one is all about intersections and line… and of course rule of thirds.

My favorite – where there is a strong relationship between the 3 flower pots and the 3 circles on the concrete.  I love the design aesthetic of the 3 circles in the concrete paired with regular, old flower pots – but yet they relate because the concrete circles were created from the pots.

This is the coolest project I’ve worked on in a while. It’s a poster to advertise the annual Jazz Festival at Mineral Area College, where my Creative Improv counter-part, Michael Goldsmith teaches music and leads the jazz ensemble.

Why did I love this project? I could combine my love for jazz music, art and design and create something that really embodied jazz.

A bit about my design process

I spent hours sketching Delfeayo and coming up with a really loose sketch that could be incorporated into the poster. I was try to re-live this style. After much tweaking, layering and coloring it just didn’t have the right feel. Failure… but that’s OK – because it made me think about other ways to bring the ‘hand-drawn’ feel to the poster. I decided to the make the text and background elements all have a hand-drawn feel and leave the photo pretty much as is.


The above sketches were all drawn with marker on tracing paper, then scanned and layered in Photoshop to create the final, colored illustration.

Inspired by the hand-drawn feel above, I took some of my own watercolor textures and layered them in the background and over the left side of the suit jacket (subtle, eh?). Then I added some hand-drawn typefaces in various angles. I wanted it to have a bit of a haphazard, hand-created, imperfect feel.

For a while now, I’ve wanted to experiment with watercolor and Photoshop work combined into one. So, I broke out the watercolors from my college illustration course and went crazy. This is a gift I gave to my fiancée, Rebecca for Christmas.

The process was to paint a nice background on 9×12 paper with watercolor, scan that into Photoshop. Then I went to work on cutting us out of an engagment photo and placing it over the watercolor – adding various overlay effects to it. The text was added last and is made of the date we met and lyrics to a song we both love and will probably dance to at our wedding.

A few zoomed in sections are below:

overlay effect added to our photo after I utilized the pen tool to cut us out of the original photograph

A few years ago I had a course where we were encouraged to push the limit of what graphic design is and break the rules of design and typography to create something fresh… as fresh as sweet, sweet mountain dew. Here are a few pieces from that time period (which also draw much inspiration from designer, David Carson). I call this my ‘make the professor happy’ era of my design work. 🙂