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Entries in Design (96)

Saturday
Apr302005

PocketGoddess Reborn

PocketGoddess.gifOn Friday, my friend and fellow Palm OS User Council member Jen Edwards had a small wish come true — she saw her PocketGoddess website reborn! It was revamped with a new look and a new Movable Type system to make her writing and publishing much easier. I'm most pleased because this refresh will allow Jen to enjoy writing, instead of fighting with a manual, cobbled together system.

I was fortunate to help her out with this transformation, thanks to my good buddy Michael Ashby. He asked me to be involved in developing a logo for Jen and setting direction on the design, so he could focus on the technical stuff of Movable Type and building HTML and CSS templates.

pg-sketch.jpgThe logo started as all of my logo work does, in my Miquelrius sketchbook. I had a chat with Jen about her wants and needs, then began drawing ideas out of her comments and my ideas for her identity. I wanted mainly to provide a more refined look for Pocket Goddess, something that would represent Jen's personality but also have a classic, professional feel.

pg-logo-black.gifThrough the sketching process, we both centered on a simple goddess icon, and I explored type and sharpening up the icon itself. From this process I chose two fonts (Gill Sans & Spring Script). For the final stage, Jen and I discussed color, and I learned she dearly loved blues and greens. So, finding the right blues and greens became the task. I preferred a “leafy” green color, though I did explore a blue green option. In the end, the leafier green won out.

Once the logo was determined, I spoke to Michael Ashby about his structural plans for the site. He was setting up multiple Movable Type weblogs for Jen to use, so she could manage all of the news, reviews and other content of her site in a more effective way than her current mostly-manual system.

pg-comp-sm.jpgMichael simply wanted a main page design comp from which he could spin the rest of the site. So, I provided Mike with a quick layout and some graphics, which he turned into templates and eventually, the entire site. Michael put a much more significant amount of effort into his end of the project, making sure every detail was handled, right down to the sub-categories, font formatting and browser testing. Michael spent many hours getting this site up to his high specifications.

I'm very proud of the look and feel and the teamwork we enjoyed during the project. Jen might say it took too long (she was excited the whole way through and both Michael and I worked on the project on our evening and weekends) but I would bet she'd now say that it was well worth the wait. :-)

My thanks to Jen for the opportunity and for Michael's hard work bringing the PocketGoddess site to life for Jen. You guys rock!

Tuesday
Mar012005

ComputerRepair.com Logo Contest Winner

On Monday evening, was was informed by ComputerRepair.com that I'd been chosen as the winner of their logo design contest. First off, thanks go to Erik J. Barzeski, who told me of the contest.

cr-winner.gif

This is the very same contest I spoke of last week, in my Just Good Business post. In the end, good was served, when the logo entry which used a pre-made logo was disqualified. I'm not sure how this impacted the voting, since I didn't have access to internal voting forums, but I suspect it didn't hurt my chances.

Whatever the case, I felt it would be interesting to show my sketches and final submissions to the contest here, to document my process of logo design for those curious about it. I hope to do more of this documentation of work, because it provides insight into a designer's thought processes to the curious.

Sketches
First, I went to a Miquelrius sketchbook, my normal starting point for capturing ideas. I knew the logo ComputerRepair.com wanted should convey the idea of a network, service providers and clients, so I began playing with various ways of conceptualizing a network.

Here's a scan of the concepts page:

cr-sketches.gif

Final Art
I wanted to keep effort minimal (not knowing if I'd win or not), so I went right from the best concept, to final art. Normally this would be a longer process, involving the client's input on what they liked, and my explanations of why I drew what I did.

The two best concepts are circled on the sketches page, though in the end I preferred the more 'galactic' looking concept for its simplicity and feeling of movement.

At the center of this logo is the client, around which everything revolves. Circling the client dot is the ComputerRepair.com network, which provides clients with service providers to solve their IT needs. The 4 outer dots are the service providers, connected to clients through the ComputerRepair.com network.

Here are the 4 color entries I submitted to the contest:

cr-finals.gif

I wanted something bright (per the contest directions) yet business-like. I began with a blue/green palette (1), a variation with black logotype (2), then adding in warmer colors (3 & 4) to round out my submissions.

Number 4 was my favorite, because the orange 'client' ball at the center felt like a sun, the blue spiral arms of the galaxy representing the network, and green dots for the service providers. I also preferred the weight of black text on the ComputerRepair.com logotype.

I also took a chance by writing a new, simple tagline for the service: 'IT Services Network' which tied in with the galaxy concept. It also simplified and clarified the tagline being used with their current logo: "Manage the Process."

ComputerRepair chose number 4 for entry into the contest:

cr-winner.gif

I'm very pleased to have won, though there is a chance my logo won't be used by ComputerRepair.com (declared in the rules). It depends on the company, and there may even be some competing work from other designers — I don't know. If things go well, the logo will be used, if not, I have the satisfaction of winning and $750. :-)

More Logo Design Experiences
If this short post on my processes has interested you, I'd suggest reading Creating a Business Logo, a blog article written by Ian Landsman, founder of UserScape software.

Ian and I worked together on his company and product logos. When we finished, he used samples of my work and wrote out his thoughts on the process from a client's point of view. His post was very enlightening, because I learned about his decisions and thoughts thoughts through the entire logo design journey.

Ian's post was informational, but even better, his article has been directly responsible for bringing two new clients to the firm I work for, both in need of logo designs. So, not only did I enjoy the process with Ian, now I'm able to recreate the experiences for two other firms excited about new corporate identities. Blogging does pay off!

I hope this article was informative and interesting. If you have comments or thoughts, feel free to leave them here. If you're in need of a logo for your business, I'd love to speak with you about it — just send me an email.

Saturday
Feb192005

Rohdesign Version 2.0 Goes Live

Well, I did it. As of this writing (11:46 PM Saturday evening) the main page of the new weblog design is live. I hope you all like the new design as much as I do.

You may be asking, why the sudden change of design? Well actually, I've already stepped through most of the redesign process in the summer of 2004, stopping with a final design I liked at the time. A vacation interrupted the process for a week, but when I came back, the design I'd settled on just didn't feel quite right yet. So, rather than push it through, I decided to let the design percolate in my subconscious for a while.

During the course of percolation, I began to have other ideas about how the site should look, and what should be present. I knew for sure the site should be simple, clean, direct and readable, yet also attractive (I am a designer after all).

I began to feel strongly about adding a photo of myself on the site, which had been removed in the earlier redesign process. The more time I spend in web design and blogging, the more I feel that sites which portray a person (or persons) behind them have an edge over sites which do not. To me, they feel cold and impersonal.

An About page became a requirement (which is not yet fully expanded) to provide some background on myself for new visitors and for long-time readers alike.

I kept the Reading block from the most recent redesigns, and will probably add a Listening block (with a fave CD) very soon. I always find other bloggers' reading and music choices quite interesting, so it only made sense to include my own selections. These will be linked to my Amazon Associates account, so if you end up liking a book or CD I'm checking out, using those links is always appreciated. :-)

Part of the key for me was to start with stock Movable Type templates rather than from scratch on the project. Even though I've done a fair amount of editing, it really helped to have a starting point — I'm sure they will continue to be tweaked and adjusted.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the redesign results. I'm certain there will be changes coming, but I've at least stepped through the door now. Now that I'm through, it seems less of a challenge to adapt the remaining templates to the new look.

Finally, if you see issues, errors or freaky reactions in your favorite browser, please leave a comment or contact me with the details.

Update 2005-02-21
Reader Fazal Majid sent along a nice email today, pointing out some of the missing styling on the site. I replied to Fazal, and thought it might be interesting to post some bits of my reply and a few other thoughts related to the redesign.

Unstyled Pages
So, you may have noticed some ugly supporting pages on the blog (permalinks, archives, etc.). Reason: rather than trying to get a perfect design ready and launch all at once, I made a decision to make it a process — the main page first, followed by secondary and supporting pages.

"Life is not a dress rehearsal. Quit practicing what you're going to do, and just do it. In one bold stroke you can transform today." — Marilyn Grey

The unstyled pages for permalinks, comments and archives for a little while, until I'm free to get in and apply the new templates and stylesheets. I've intentionally allowed the un-styling to exist, rather than waiting for every page to be perfect.

By keeping this a process, I can improve the design and function as I go, rather than taking months to build something only to go through the same process later. Besides, I was curious to see what kind of feedback my readers would provide.

"We'd much rather see entrepreneurs build something quickly, get it out there, and let the customers bang on it and evolve it. The entrepreneurs who insist on over engineering their solutions inevitably end up with nothing to show for it." — Fred Wilson

It's been an interesting experience to let go. As long as the site is functional and ugly, I'm Ok with that. Instead of modifying the entire site in an all-nighter, I can make smaller changes when time allows.

Stark Design
Fazal also commented on the starkness of the design. I had a few reasons for such a clean, simple design. Since the primary focus on this site is writing, I wanted the text to receive the focus. I plan to keep the design simple and elegant — maybe a little more stark than I might normally allow.

At lunch today, I resolved most of the issues with the main page — mainly Internet Explorer 6 problems (surprise, surprise!). I've added a new color bar up top, to replace a gradation that was a bit too light.

There are still more changes coming. If you see any weirdness or have suggestions, I'm quite open to your thoughts. Rather than assuming I know what readers want, I'd love to hear it from you directly.

Thanks again for all of the excellent comments and encouragement!

Monday
Jan242005

Kula 1001 Icon

1001.jpgReceived good news on Sunday night! Adriaan Tijsseling, the author of blogging tool ecto, dropped a line to tell me my new icon for 1001 (a Flickr photo stream management tool) was used on his latest beta. Alright!

I've been a user and fan of ecto since June, so when I learned via Michael Ashby that Adriaan was looking for some icon and design help with ecto, I dropped him a line. As it turns out, Adriaan found help with the ecto project with designer Neil Dixon. However, he was also in need of a new icon for his 1001 app, a tool for viewing and managing your own and others' Flickr streams. I felt honored to be offered the opportunity, so I immediately agreed to take on the project through the company I work for, MakaluMedia.

1001-sketch.gifSo, I began as I usually do, with sketches in my Miquelrius sketchbook. The concepts were scanned and emailed to Adriaan for review. The process went quickly, as one of the concepts in my sketches — an earth with photo streams wrapped round, being viewed by a loupe — resonated with both of us.

From there, I began the icon construction process. At first I tried to sketch the sphere with streams wrapping around it, but soon realized it would be difficult to get right without good reference. The next day I had an idea in the shower — why not wrap strips of paper with black photo blocks printed on them around one of Nathan's kickballs?

1001-photo.jpgSo that's exactly what I did — and it worked perfectly! The strips provided a perfect template for re-drawing in Adobe Illustrator. I then copied the vector art from Illustrator into Fireworks, to add color and paste photos into the stream blocks on the globe.

In fact, if you look very closely at the pics on the streams of the final icon, you can make out shots of Adriaan, his friends and several of my own family. It's always fun to see the icon, because even though the little pixelized photos are obscured, I can still remember the moment when each family photo was taken.

I had a blast working on this icon. It always feels great to see a project like this come together, especially when the process leading up to the final art was so much fun! :-)

Thanks Adriaan!

Monday
Jan102005

Design Stagnation and Renaissance

Tonight's posting has been brewing for several days, but wasn't fully steeped until I came across Design In-Flight Magazine earlier today. Jason Santa Maria's excellent cover story, Fighting off design stagnation was the key to releasing these thoughts.

I found Design In-Flight magazine via Andy Clarke's excellent And All That Malarkey weblog. It was today's post, Fighting off design Stalinism which caught my eye, along with Andy's hearty recommendation of DIF magazine. I decided to buy the yearly subscription for $10 and boy what a great deal! DIF is an excellent magazine.

Jason's article is superb, both for its timing and ideas. Having been in the Shadow of the Valley of Creativity last May, I could immediately relate to Jason's thinking. Here's an excerpt from the opening paragraph:

I’ve only been out of school and working in the industry for a few years now, but I can already feel it. The feeling like my hands are getting tied. Like I am coming up with the same old ideas or dipping into my overused bag of tricks too often. I am left racking my brain for new directions and feeling like the design world will surely leave me behind to make way for today’s new design youth. You might laugh because it’s only been a few years, but this is where it begins.

That was pretty much how I felt in early 2004, feeling in need of a boost of creativity. I didn't doubt my skills as much as I knew I needed to kick-start my creative juices again — often easier said than done.

Lately I've been experiencing a serious creative renaissance, which I can now actually trace back to that very post on May 27th. It was the admission, not only to myself and my wife or friends, but to my weblog and its readers, which set me on this forward path.

I now see clearly that the very first step toward my coming to grips with this situation was admitting where I was. Once the cat was "out of the bag", so to speak, real changes could take place — like the Alcoholics Anonymous meetings I've seen portrayed on TV.

"Hi my name is Mike, and I'm a designer."

Since that May, I've taken several steps toward change. I've intentionally taken the time to sketch regularly, both for work projects and just for fun. I've furiously pursued XHTML & CSS design, becoming more fluent in those two languages in the process.

I've also found myself contemplating design much more often, seeking out good design like well-brewed espresso. Reviewing logos on trucks, in magazines and on websites. I even find myself trying to decipher why designs do or don't work. Design really has become a passion again, and I'm loving it.

There's been another change in these past months, my weight loss of 30 pounds on the South Beach diet. While not directly design related, this physical change has generated much more energy for pursuit of work and play. Feeling good has provided a positive burst, impacting all other parts of my life. Even more though, losing weight has provided proof to myself that I really could change, if I admitted where I was, believed it and did something about it. It was difficult at first, but wow, is it worth it now!

So, if you're finding yourself in a funk at the start of this new year, maybe the first step is to admit to yourself and maybe your family and friends, where you're at. Once you can realistically point out your position on the map, it's much easier to find the way home.