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Entries from March 1, 2007 - March 31, 2007


Learning Good Value from My Local Garage

Tires by Duff SudsToday I was pondering why customers hire me to help solve their design challenges.

I believe it comes down to one simple thing: providing good value.

What's good value?
It's demonstrated by my local garage, Gordy's Service on 84th and Bluemound in Milwaukee.

Why? Because the guys there treat me well, tell me when fixes are truly critical and try hard keep my costs reasonable, as long as it doesn't jeopardize our family's safety or our car's well-being.

They open early and stay open late. They're up the street from Stone Creek Coffee, so I can do a little work while I wait for my cars to be serviced. Their guys are friendly and quick and they tell me the truth.

When it was time to buy new tires last year, I went to Gordy's. Turns out they weren't much more than the big retailer at the Mall. I know if I have questions, Gordy's guys are there to help. In fact, I think they were a better value, because I knew the same guy who installed them would be there if I had a question.

What happens when Gordy's gives me a good value? I tell other people about them, and faithfully get my work done there, even if I have to schedule an appointment because they're busy.

This is what I strive for daily in my own business dealings with clients. To be honest and clear, helpful and understanding. To help solve challenges for a reasonable price. To be fast, good and to tell the truth.

To provide a good value to my clients.

What's your definition of good value?

Photo by Michael Bowman (Duff Suds)


Leihu Sketch Challenge: Hot Tea Feet

Just at the end of my lunch break today, James Mathias, a fellow 9rules member designer and blogger, IM'ed a request: “What should I draw today?”

tea-feet-sm.jpgAfter a few moments pondering James' request, here's what suddenly popped out of my head:

"Hmmm... someone drinking a blazing hot cup of tea with their feet."

I have no idea where this came from — the tea part relates to having tea at my desk — but the part about someone in the sketch, drinking it with their feet (and their inevitably uncomfortable position for tea-drinking) came from who-knows-where.

I was inspired by my own weird thought, so I asked James if I could sketch the same concept and see how similar or different mine would be from his. James thought this was a good idea, so off we went. My sketch is shown here.

I decided to fully embrace the complete discomfort of someone balancing a cup, saucer and teapot of blazing hot tea on their bare feet. Why not imagine a poor guy with legs aloft, scalding tea spilling everywhere as he attempts to drink it? :-)

The drawing was done in about 5 minutes using a Faber-Castell thick-leaded pencil in a Moleskine sketchbook. I enjoyed the sense of serendipity and my self-imposed 5 minute limit, to help keep it loose.

Check out James' sketch, "The Great Tea Fiasco" on his Leihu blog, to see how very differently we interpreted the same concept.


Journler Mini Review & Icon Design

Journler Icon DesignI've been using Journler a great Mac OS X journaling, tidbit-capturing, swiss army knife application for the past several months, and it's high time I share it here on the weblog.

On Thursday, Journler 2.5 was released, a major milestone for the app, including many new features, a new look and feel and an icon I designed with the developer, Phil Dow.

I love this multi-purpose capture tool, as I can store all sorts of useful information in one place. I can keep track of logo projects here, standard templates for emails, references to recipes and even links to external files.

I feel like I'm barely scratching the surface of Journler's capabilities. It integrates to iLife, I can capture images, video and audio, it uses of the 'Services" menu to capture information from other applications, and has a 'Journler Drop Box' folder for an easy way of importing or linking files to Journler.

Like NetNewsWire (another favorite app), Journler features a built-in webkit-based web browser, so I don't need to leave Journler to check out a weblink.

Here's a screenshot of how I have Journler setup:


Phil has a nice approach to purchasing Journler, with a donation option for personal use, and a $24.95 if you use Journler for business purposes. Not bad.

If you're a Mac OS X user, interested in finding a tool to capture the snippets of your life, a place to write journal entries, and more, check out Journler.

It's highly recommend, even if I'm a little biased about the icon design. :-)


Embrace the Creative Process

Mike Rohde's Sketch Kit (Open)I've noticed a recurring theme emerging in the logo, icon and web design work I've been doing the past year — the importance of loving the creative process and embracing design iterations, rather than fighting them.

Sometimes design iterations can feel like barriers to finishing a project. However, I find that by flowing with iterations and the process of design, I end up with better work in the end. Design is all about iteration, and exploring crazy, spur of the moment ideas.

I think this quote sums it up nicely:

"Keep in touch with your soul by developing your technique. There are no mistakes, so... just work. The more you work the more you'll figure out if that's your bliss."
— Fernando Araujo

Embrace the process. iterations are a chance to push yourself to the next level. When you embrace and enjoy the process, you'll see your joy reflected in your work.


HoudahGeo Icon Design

houdahgeo-icon.pngJust this week I've completed the application icon for one of my MakaluMedia clients, Pierre Bernard of Houdah Software, on his latest beta application HoudahGeo. In June 2006, I designed the icon for Pierre's first OS X application, HoudahSpot.

HoudahGeo allows you to geocode photos with latitude, longitude and altitude information. Take your photos, "pin" their locations on the earth, then export information to EXIF tags or Google Earth KML files, letting you can see the images in Google Earth.

Pierre and I started working with pencil sketches, using a globe with photos stuck to the surface, and a satellite in orbit around it, as you can see below:


1. In my first sketches, I focused on a single satellite, beaming information to/from photos on the surface of the globe. At this stage I hadn't worked out continents or exact placement of the photos, but knew I liked this general idea.

2. Here I played around with the idea of both a satellite and a camera orbiting the earth, and had by this round, started exploring continents and image locations a bit more. In the end, we discussed the camera+satellite option and felt the camera was redundant and not necessary to get the message across.

Production Icons
Next I went to production, using Fireworks to create the vector-based artwork. After a rough first draft, Pierre had an idea to try a pushpin in place of a satellite, though in the end, we felt the satellite just worked better.

With each successive revision, the earth was refined, satellite tweaked, highlights, glows and adjustments made. Here I've placed the first 4 revisions together to give you an idea how the process generally works:


The final adjustments and tweaks happened on icon v5, including a size up of the earth about 5-6%, lightening of the satellite's pulse glow and a few adjustments to photo locations on the earth itself.

Fireworks as Tool of Choice
The construction if icons using vectors in Fireworks, greatly assists in these kind of subtle tweaks. Because all of the elements are created as vector items, they can be easily sized up and down with no degradation of image quality, or moved around without worrying about re-applying masks or filters.

For comparison purposes, here is the final, winning HoudahGeo icon v5:


Thanks Pierre for choosing to work with me and MakaluMedia on your latest Mac application! I had a great time working with you on another fun icon project. :-)