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Entries in Web Design (23)


John Topley's Weblog Redesign

weblog1_small.jpgWay back in June 2007, while working at MakaluMedia, a client I'd worked on a logo design for, John Topley contacted me about redesigning his personal weblog.

John has been blogging since 2003 (as long as I have) and was ready for a custom design for the blog software he was in the process of creating with Ruby on Rails.

From John's Putting My Blog On Rails post about the redesign:

"Once I'd taken the decision that I was going to create a new blog from scratch, I emailed Mike Rohde at the end of May 2007 and asked if he would be interested in coming up with a new graphic design for the site.

"I chose Mike because way back in 2005 I read Ian Landsman’s post about working with Mike to create a business logo and I'd been impressed with the end result. I'd also worked with Mike before on a as-yet unrealised design project, so I knew that we were a good fit."

After talking with John about his goals and requirements, I began sketching to get direction, then with John's approval, moved on to mockups in Fireworks. Once the mockups were approved, I worked with Corrie Haffly to prepare the Fireworks files for her to cut-up the design in XHTML and CSS.

You can read about the fully detailed process from John's perspective on his latest blog post Putting My Blog On Rails.

Thanks John for choosing to work with me. The blog looks great and I hope you get many, many years of good use from the design!


Maruman Mnemosyne Notebook Video Review

About a month ago I picked up a set of two Maruman Mnemosyne A4 gridded notebooks, curious to see how they worked for wireframing websites.

In the past month I've been impressed with how well the Mnemosyne notebook has performed, so I shot a brief review video of the notebook to share with you:

Maruman Mnemosyne A4 Notebook Video Review from Mike Rohde on Vimeo.

I love the smooth, calendared paper in the book, because it holds pencil so well. Even soft pencil sketches seem to hold in place without smearing like other books that have paper with texture or tooth on them.

The size is also nice, as A4 (210 × 297 mm) provides a little more vertical height than US Letter sized 8.5" x 11" sheets of paper. This gives that little extra on the top and bottom, which works well for site design, which tends to be more vertical.

Lastly, the light gray grid is strong enough to be seen but light enough not to get in the way. The grid is also relatively easy to knock out in Photoshop, convenient for making your wireframe sketches cleaner for presentations.

Maruman Mnemosyne notebooks can be bought at in a set of 2 for $32. They're not the cheapest notebook, but the balance of paper quality, size and grid tonality make them worth the extra cost to me.


An Event Apart Chicago 2008: Official Sketchnoter

Hooray! On Monday, October 13th & Tuesday October 14th I'll be the official Sketchnoter at An Event Apart Chicago 2008! aealogo.gif

What is An Event Apart?

Imagine 2 full days of learning from the greatest minds and hottest talents in web design and development, then add a healthy dose of meeting other like-minded, passionate web designers and developers — that's An Event Apart.

Speakers? How about: Andy Clarke, Curt Cloninger, Jason Fried, Robert Hoekman Jr., Cameron Moll, Sarah Nelson, Derek Powazek, Jeffrey Veen, Rob Weychert, Jason Santa Maria, Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman. Heavy duty.

This event is so good, it's already sold out!

I'm excited about sketchnoting the event. We'll see how my brain and hand hold up with so many great speakers and topics packed into 2 very intense days.

I'll be posting my sketchnotes after the event. If you're curious about sketchnotes, have a look at my Sketchnote Collection on Flickr.

Thank you Mr. Zeldman for the invitation to join the event and provide sketchnote-by-sketchnote coverage. I'm honored!

Say Hello!

I'm staying in Chicago Monday night to meet attendees and speakers, so if you're attending An Event Apart, drop me a line with AEA in the title, or follow @rohdesign on Twitter. I'd love to meet for a coffee and show you my Moleskines!


The New Gig: Art Director at Northwoods Software

NWS-Door-NameSM.jpgLast November, I mentioned in detail Apple contacting me about a job opportunity with the iPhone/OS X design team. After taking time to ponder and reflect on the opportunity, I felt it wasn't the right move for myself or my family.

I loved living and working in Milwaukee, helping independent software developers with branding and design challenges at MakaluMedia.

These were the major reasons I decided to decline the Apple opportunity.

Fast forward to spring 2008.

Following several discussions with leadership team and design/development staff at Northwoods Software, I've been offered an art director position, which I have accepted. I start my new job in mid-May.

After 10 great years at MakaluMedia, I'm taking the next step.

A Tough Decision
This change was a very tough decision. I love the design work I do, the clients I help and the many colleagues I've had the pleasure to collaborate with. I've spent several years building a reputation for doing good design work, solving problems for my clients and being a designer who listens and is easy to work with.

There is nothing wrong with MakaluMedia. I've loved my time at MakaluMedia.

This change in direction is about new opportunities and challenges on multiple levels. This is the next step in my growth as a person, a designer and art director.

10 Years at MakaluMedia: Priceless
Working for MakaluMedia since 1998 has been a wonderful experience. Matt Henderson, the owner of MakaluMedia and I have been through quite a bit together.

office.jpgI was Matt's first employee, leaving a position with Hare Strigenz, a Milwaukee print design firm. I'd developed a passion for the web and wanted to learn the new medium by diving in head first.

I learned HTML from books and building sites in BBEdit. in 2003 I shifted from tabled design to web standards, thanks to Designing with Web Standards.

I was the first MakaluMedia employee to work fully remotely. This was way back in 1998 when it was still a little quirky and unusual. I produced my design work on a Powerbook Wallstreet, with a 19" Sony CRT on a folding table in my apartment.

I experienced a shift from larger design projects with the European Space Agency, to building a network of small, independent clients over several years. The first year was tough, but a long-term, steady approach to doing good work and making clients happy has paid off in many referrals, a backlog of work and profitability.

By working remotely and having to build my own network of clients and partners, I've effectively run a small design business. I've enjoyed the entire process: finding clients, winning projects, solving design challenges, selecting and managing partners, producing the solutions, invoicing the work and promoting the work.

These past 10 years have shaped who I am, formalized my iterative design process, provided a better understanding of business, built my knowledge of helping clients, improved my customer service and more. It's been a priceless experience.

Northwoods Opportunities & Challenges
Becoming an art director at Northwoods Software is a step in my process of growth as a designer and a person. I'll be working on larger projects, exercising research, analysis, problem solving and visual thinking skills in new and different ways. I'm looking forward to bringing what I've learned to new projects and users.

I'm very excited about working within a creative group again. Working alone has developed my focus, but I've missed being in an office with a small group of creative people. Over the years I've built a network of design colleagues online, but IM, Twitter and voice chats are just no substitute for having colleagues close at hand.

Sharing with my team will be satisfying part of the position. I'm looking forward to offering up my 20+ years of experience in design practice with colleagues. I hope that all of the joy and pain gained from many years of working on projects with clients will benefit my colleagues at Northwoods.

The company is focusing on new creative areas of expertise, and I'm extremely excited to be part of this. I'm hoping my skills and experiences in building a small design business from scratch will be helpful in this regard.

Finally, the company attracted me with its unique working environment, including a private office with shower and toilet, ping pong tables, popcorn on Thursdays, workout and nap rooms and space outside for frisbee. Northwoods' family first approach and flexibility made a positive impact on me, as I'm coming from a pretty family-friendly and flexible work at home environment.

All in all, I am very excited about this new Northwoods opportunity.

I'm very thankful to Matt Henderson for the opportunity to be a part of MakaluMedia these past 10 years. It's been a great ride, I've learned quite a bit, and I know the team will continue to produce great stuff.

I'm also grateful to the team at Northwoods, for making me a part of their team at this exciting time in the life of the company. I'm looking forward to being a contributor to Northwoods' success and growth.

Northwoods Movies & Photos
Tracy Apps, a friend of mine and my future Northwoods colleague, has grabbed several movie clips and photos of the Northwoods offices on Flickr. I thought would be fun to post several of them here for a little context. :-)

My New Office at Northwoods

Yep, that's my own private office with a window, bathroom, shower and vanity. Northwoods has retrofitted an old hospital space for their offices, so every employee gets an office just like this. Pretty slick.

The Creative Wing Tour

Tracy takes the camera down the hall from my office, and shows the central area where the ping pong tables and other amenities are located.

Brian Artka Scootering in the Creative Wing

A few weeks ago, Northwoods picked up scooters for the team, and of course my friend Brian Artka had to show off his scootering skillz!

Tracy's Extreme On-Board Scootering

Here we have Tracy capturing her thrill-a-minute extreme scooter ride!

Ping Pong Tables
working hard...
And here are several Northwoods team members playing ping pong.


Attending SXSW Interactive 2008!

ia-header.jpgFor the past few years, I've been very intentional about attending thought-provoking conferences and events, to learn, grow and meet new people.

In 2007, I attended BarCampMadison, UX Intensive, SOBCon07, BarCampMilwaukee2 the SEED Conference and excellent monthly Web414 meetings through the year.

For several years I've heard great things about SXSW (South by Southwest) Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Many of the people I admire attend yearly, I've enjoyed podcasts from the event, but it's never worked out for me to attend.

That will change in 2008. On March 7th, I'll be heading down to Austin, with fellow Web414 members Ashe Dryden and David Overbeck. We're all excited to see first-hand, just what all the SXSW buzz is about.

Thanks MakaluMedia!
I've been given the opportunity to attend SXSW as art director and designer from MakaluMedia. I'm very thankful for this opportunity, and I plan to make the most of my time in Austin. I'll attend multiple sessions, take notes and capture sketchnotes similar to the ones I did at the SEED Conference and UX Intensive.

Advise the Newbie
Since this is my first time to SXSW Interactive, I welcome tips and ideas from seasoned veterans. I'm also open to Austin tips and suggestions from any Austin dwellers out there who would like to share. Just leave a comment below. :-)

Contact Me SXSW-Goers
I also want to meet old friends and new people while I'm at at SXSW. If you're attending SXSW Interactive 2008 and would like to meet for a coffee in Austin, drop me a line with the subject SXSW. I'd love to connect before I head down to Austin.

As I prepare for SXSW Interactive, I've compiled a selection of resources to share with other SXSW attendees, and those interested in the event:

SXSW Interactive 2008 — The official site.
SXSW Interactive 2008: Panels (Time) — SXSW Panels, time schedule.
SXSW Interactive 2008: Panels (Day) — SXSW Panels, by day.
SXSW Interactive 2008: Panels (Category) — SXSW Panels, by category.
SXSW Registrant's Guide — Registrant's guide.
SXSW Registrant's Mobile Guide — Mobile registrant's guide.
SXSW '08 Insider's Guide — Information and forums on
SXSW Baby — Un-official Weblog and forums for SXSW.
Ze Frank Explains SXSW Interactive In Under a Minute — Classic Ze Frank humor!
SXSW Core Conversations — Directory for informal conversations.
SXSW Past, Present, and Future — Great podcast interview with Hugh Forrest, Director of Events for SXSW Interactive on the history, culture and future of the event.
SXSW Geeks Love Bowling — Bowling with SXSWers, Sunday, March 9th.
Airbag: Hampton — Greg Storey's Guide to SXSW Newbies.
John Phillips — Beginner's Guide to SXSW.

Have a resource to share? Email me and let me know!