Monday, February 21, 2011

An electrical website for my dad

A recent quick challenge involved creating a website for an a Hot Springs electrical service. My dad has been an electrician for decades now. It didn't take long to configure a new site and get everything set up.

If you're looking for an electrician in Hot Springs, Arkansas, he's your guy.
Hot Springs Electrical Service - Stephens Electrical

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

On constraints. On Failing Quickly

Quotes from a Business Week article by Marissa Ann Mayer, vice-president for search products and user experience at Google.

"Have you ever wondered how a product so lame got to market, a movie so bad actually got released, a government policy so misguided got passed?

In cases like these, the people working on it have spent so much time and are so personally invested that it's too painful to walk away. They often know the project is misguided, yet they see the effort through to the painful, unsuccessful end. That's why it's important to discover failure fast and abandon it quickly."

"Paul reflected that he also found it easier to paint on a canvas that had a mark on it than to start with a canvas that was entirely clean and white. This resonated with me. It's often easier to direct your energy when you start with constrained challenges (a sculpture that must be a clock) or constrained possibilities (a canvas that is marked). These constraints fuel passion and imagination. They generate creativity."

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

stumbling around .htaccess

The way to enable your site to allow server side includes without having to use "shtml" extensions on all your pages can be done by having an ".htaccess" file in your root directory that looks like this:

Options +Includes
AddHandler server-parsed .shtml .html .htm

Of course, the struggle was that once you try and name a file locally with a period as the first letter of the filename, you can't work with it. Some ftp browsers won't even see it.

The trick then, and this is one of those little things you wish somebody just came and told you, is to name the file differently to start out with, ..soemthing like htaccess.txt, upload it, and then rename it to .htaccess with your ftp browser.

File under: Things you'll need again but will have forgotten

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Why Your Camera Does Not Matter

"The advantage of modern equipment is convenience, NOT image quality."

The article seems to ramble on and on, but interesting none the less. Alot of people spend way too much time worrying about, talking about, stumbling over,, be it cameras or software - instead of focusing on the original task they set out to do.

Khoi Vinh

"..the chance to help shape the design language at what remains, for all its imperfections, the most well-respected news organization in the world… that’s not something that falls into one’s lap with anything close to regularity."

What a job.

Monday, December 19, 2005

In-House vs. Agency: Pros and Cons

Agency work isn't something I've had a great deal of experience with. Most of my time after college has been instead, spent with in-house design teams.

If you're experience has been the opposite, and you're coming from the ad agency or design firm world and considering migrating to single-organization corporate work, I recommend you read this exchange. You won't find a better article than this one. It lays out all the positives, and all the negatives.

Some of the highlights:

"Having so many clients can make it hard for an agency designer to drill down their core competencies and find the essence of what they really have to offer. You also deal with a lot of different personalities and objectives that sometimes seem blurry. Working in-house means that we already know our brand and product. We know the objective of our client. "

"Attitude and understanding of the business. You have to check the ego at the door. Most commercial design will not be about creating the next masterpiece. It is about selling and positioning people, companies, products and services. Oftentimes, it is the most effective approach -- not the most artistic -- that will be the right choice. The challenge, then, is to be artistically effective."

"It is quite common for employers to start an in-house venture with the best of intentions. They hire their own 'experts' for very good fiscal and operational reasons only to devalue that expertise over time and view the in-house team as inferior to outside 'experts.' The in-house team often must work harder to prove its worth.

"The second challenge is unlimited revisions. This problem is inherent in in-house shops. The client or boss often will make a seemingly absurd number of revisions right up until -- and sometimes even after -- the project goes to print. When clients pay an agency for work and they are billed for excessive revisions, they tend to be a little more deliberate and selective about changes."

In-house teams are usually afforded an ability to tweak beyond what would be allowed for a strictly budgeted agency project. I also would add having a sense of self-investment in the success of the company. Another benefit is avoiding the less pleasant attributes of agency life, such as always pitching for new business, losing clients for a good reason or no reason at all, and being constrained by inadequate budgets. However, the single biggest perk is not having to keep track of billable hours and timesheet codes."

When you have multiple clients, the workflow is feast or famine. Working in-house means there's a constant check and balance between capacity and demand, and when something is unclear, your client is in the office down the hall."

Friday, December 16, 2005

In Switzerland, money has a special status. It is a numbered, signed piece of graphic art.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Not all dvd-r 's are created equal

So I've gone round and round with importing video from various tape media, and then went through the nightmare of burning projects to dvd with faulty dvd-r's. Note to whoever: If you want to use imovie or idvd to burn dvds, don't buy offbrand or store brand dvd-r's. If you do, half of the time you'll just burn coasters.

An interesting read is here

And more good dvd advice can be found here.

Of course, my dvd-r's were the last thing I thought of, after wasting a solid 2 days of scratching and banging my head, thinking I was doing something else wrong.

Lesson learned.
I finally went back to the store and purchased some Apple branded dvd-r media, which I hear is pretty reliable.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

8mm ; Hi8 ; Digital 8; Analog to Digital Answers

I've been going round and round trying to figure out how to get some of our old 8mm tapes imported into Imovie. They were recorded with a Sony HandyCam CCD TRV67 model. Hi 8 doesn't mean digital. Remember that.

Finally I found multiple answers to multiple questions here

Nobody would want to buy a new Digital 8, I didn't think, because MiniDV is the way to go. But I needed to buy one in this case simply to read all the old 8mm and Hi8 tapes, in order to import them digitally. Imovie needs digital you see; it needs ye old firewire or "Ilink" connection. 6 pin to 4 pin connection. Useless knowledge, ..I've got it.

So I go buy a Sony DCR-TRV280, and I also buy an external hard drive to store all my imported video.

Come to find out though, ..and this is important: Not All Digital8 Camcorders will read your old 8mm and Hi 8 tapes. Stop here. Read that sentence again. It will keep you from having to go back to the store to return your useless camcorder, ...that you were going to have to return anyway after you got done importing your video because you wouldn't need it anymore, right?

Anyway, this is a good post that helped me out. I thought I might pass it along.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Good Advice

I think I would make a good video editing guy. However my technical knowledge is lacking. Here is a great post that answers many common questions.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Make it, Ship it, Sell it

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Flickr Targets Photos, Continues Rocking My World

Yes, today is the day that has been on the minds of many a web photo person - the day that Flickr busts open the get prints option. Ten years from now this day will be some kind of National nerd holiday. October 26th. The day of prints.

Really though, Flickr is great because people want to share and comment and do ONLINE with photos. All the other big sites like Ophoto and Shutterfly and whoever else, ..just didn't get that. Flickr did. Yeah, you can get prints now, but it still won't ever be Flickr's bread and butter.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Joyent seems to Rock

Joyent. Watch this company. It could get very popular very quick. Small ad agencies and small teams in general could use a break from complicated, expensive, and dull Microsoft products like Sharepoint and Project.

Joyent sells a server called the Joyent Connector. "It’s a simple box that you install in your office or home. Just plug in the power and plug in a broadband internet connection. That’s it — your Joyent Connector can now be accessed from anywhere in the world."

They have a wonderful product tour.

"Jill is sure she could figure out how to configure a complicated server operating system on a complicated server machine, but why try? And while she could hire a computer consultant to do this for her, she’s wary of the cost. Jill doesn’t want to spend money to pay for basic set up or ongoing server support. When Jill spends her technology budget, she wants it spent on activities that save her money or increase revenues. Jill wants her technology spending to increase her bottom line not decrease it."

I'm also hearing good things from people who are using Basecamp in conjuction with Strongspace, a place to gather, store, back-up and share any type of files, especially for group use.

The hard thing of course is switching over - changing how you do things - managing the limbo time in between your old system and the new one. That seems to be key. In the end though, these kind of tools save small busy teams SO VERY MUCH TIME.

These kinds of tools are built for great freelance teams and development guys who like to work at home in their underwear. ..Not that I would know anything about that at all.


You're wasting your time reading my entries. Go to Drawn. Great stuff there. Hours upon hours upons days of links and resources.

I found it on blogshares. The top graphic design blogs apparently. I'm guessing some made it into the list through unscrupulous means, but some are very good, that I'd never heard of before.

Monday, October 10, 2005


Via Design Observer:
No two people see exactly the same thing. When viewing a piece of work, clients see one thing, designers another. In his 1943 book The Art of Seeing Aldous Huxley called this “the mental side of seeing”. Huxley observed that if a naturalist walks through a forest, they would see things that no layperson would see. It’s the same with design: as soon as we become professional designers we lose the ability to look at our work in an untutored way. We see it “differently”, which causes much of the frustration and antagonism that exists between clients and designers.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

2500 Polaroids

Spectacular method. This video is grand, simple, and inspiring.

Made by Collider

Friday, September 30, 2005

Grand Theft Price is Right

The Price is Right and Grand Theft Auto have something in strangely in common. And I can honestly say that I came upon this realization all by myself.

The font is called "Pricedown" is available here for download.

Tennis in Dubai

3.00 / gallon has to be going somewhere. Andre Agassi and Roger Federer playing as guests at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. Wow.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Did I mention Typetester was Great?

Typetester is the best tool out there for quickly comparing web typefaces and styles. It even spits out css. Great. Great. Great.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Imagery Not Included; Not Required

You don't necessarily need splashy or intriguing photography to communicate your ideas on a website. This "website for one of the most prestigious law firms in the world," designed by the people at Pentagram proves this point rather convincingly.

Your Best Work

Via Kottke, via AIGA
Michael Bierut listed 20 courses he did not take in design school, but got to learn about extensively because he was involved with the subjects as a designer:

Contemporary Performance Art
Traffic Engineering
The Changing Global Financial Marketplace
Urban planning
Sex Education
Early Childhood Development
Economics of Commerical Aviation
Biography as History
Introduction to Horticulture
Sports Marketing in Modern Media
Modern Architecture
The 1960s: Culture and Conflict
20th Century American Theater
Philanthropy and Social Progress
Fashion Merchandising
Studies in Popular Culture
Building Systems Engineering
Geopolitics, Military Conflict, and the Cultural Divide
Political Science: Electoral Politics and the Crisis of Democracy

Kottke said: "His point was that design is just one part of the job. In order to do great work, you need to know what your client does. How do you design for new moms if you don't know anything about raising children? Not very well, that's how. When I was a designer, my approach was to treat the client's knowledge of their business as my biggest asset...the more I could get them to tell me about what their product or service did and the people it served (and then talk to those people, etc.), the better it was for the finished product. Clients who didn't have time to talk, weren't genuinely engaged in their company's business, or who I couldn't get to open up usually didn't get my best work.

Bierut's other main point is, wow, look at all this cool stuff you get to learn about as a designer. If you're a curious person, you could do worse than to choose design as a profession."

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Window Or No Window?

On the issue of whether or not to display a web mockup inside a browser window when presenting it to a client:

Yes, the window takes up room, and yes, you'll have to size down the mockup a little bit more so it'll fit nicely on your godforsaken PowerPoint page. But when we're building site layouts, we design them inside a make believe browser window. Why? We take into consideration how everything looks inside it. Contrast, color, etc. Sometimes a good design loses 35% of its appeal when you kidnap it from its environment or take it out of its container.

Than again, what do I know. The Interactive Annual I got last week in the mail displays winning designs and, ..nope, no browser windows.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the perils of PowerPoint

Microsoft "presentation software" has twice been singled out for special criticism by task forces reviewing the space shuttle disaster.

Exhibit A in Tufte's analysis is a PowerPoint slide presented to NASA senior managers in January 2003, while the space shuttle Columbia was in the air and the agency was weighing the risk posed by tile damage on the shuttle wings. Key information was so buried and condensed in the rigid PowerPoint format as to be useless.

"It is easy to understand how a senior manager might read this PowerPoint slide and not realize that it addresses a life-threatening situation," the Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded, citing Tufte's work. The board devoted a full page of its 2003 report to the issue, criticizing a space agency culture in which, it said, "the endemic use of PowerPoint" substituted for rigorous technical analysis.

"The deeper problem with the PowerPointing of America -- the PowerPointing of the planet, actually -- is that the program tends to flatten the most complex, subtle, even beautiful, ideas into tedious, bullet-pointed bureaucratese."

"the program encourages "faux-analytical" thinking that favors the slickly produced "sales pitch" over the sober exchange of information."

Saturday, August 13, 2005

One of us is smarter than all of us

So many times I've worked on great projects that in the end, were ruined by commitee, some kind of groupthink democratic design decision making process wherein everybody has a say, and everybody feels they have to change something, if not just to dignify being in the room, being asked in the first place. If you're lucky, your work might still retain some spark, but odds are it ends up being all things safe, predictable, and without soul.

This article on the benefits and/or dangers of group-think is really, really compelling.

"More ant interaction equals more sophisticated behavior. It's similar to flocking behavior, of course, where birds follow very simple rules but complex behavior emerges.

And that's all great and intuitive... until you get to humans. Humans, he said, demonstrate the opposite principle: more interactions equals dumber behavior. When we come together and interact as a group seeking consensus, we lose sophistication and intelligence. Ants get smarter while we get dumber."

Getting Lucky

Imagery seems to be less of a commodity these days. It's some kind of weird decline of the photographer and equally proportionate rise of the "appropriator". Even more advantaged are people who have photography skills AND composition/layout/production skills. Hard to compete with people who have the total package. I see myself getting there someday, however.

College photography instruction and Black & White darkroom skills, not to mention screen-printing and illustration instruction, ..really helped me get a firm hold on the concepts behind digital photography and editing. Simply understanding and appreciating the old-school vocabulary and concepts that carried through to Photoshop gives you an interesting vantage point.

Kids coming up today without any knowledge of those old techniques will probably have a tougher time grasping even the language of design that your industry veterans still speak. Things changed so quickly. I wasn't really cognizant of it at the time, but while I was in school, everything was changing, or had just changed. And the design job market was shifting too. If it weren't for my interest in technology, I would've just been another drifting Bachelor of Arts graduate, out there waiting tables or going back home to learn a traditional construction trade.

Numerous talented people I went to college with that I can think of offhand - people who could draw, paint, create, ..but just didn't have any interest at all in new design technologies. Those guys still don't have jobs. I'm sure they applied for them. And I'm sure the employers looked over the resumes and remarked, .."Talented kid, but can he use Quark? Is she proficient on a MAC? Moving on.."

Flying Carpet

"Alavi’s latest project is indeed likely to inspire a myriad of ideas from creatives all over the world when they see how he had an aerial view of the Sacramento River woven into a carpet for the floor of a pedestrian bridge connecting the Sacramento International Airport terminal to the parking garage."

"The irony is that at the same time that all these artistic possibilities are opening up, folks are receiving less and less art education in schools..."

"This image represents approximately 50 miles of the Sacramento River starting just outside of Colusa, California and ending about 6 miles south of Chico."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

visit sunny iceland....

visit sunny iceland....
Originally uploaded by _rebekka.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Flickr "Interestingness"

Flickr never ceases to amaze. The new "Interestingness" feature, and particularly how it interacts with the Explore page, words to describe the extent as to which it rocks.

"There are lots of things that make a photo 'interesting' (or not) in the Flickr. Where the clickthroughs are coming from; who comments on it and when; who marks it as a favorite; its tags and many more things which are constantly changing. Interestingness changes over time, as more and more fantastic photos and stories are added to Flickr."

I wondered if any of my photos came close to being "interesting" based on Flickr metrics. The closest I came was for one of my Hawksbill Crag photos ..on page 16 of December 2004.

Project Managers

DesignInFlight is a great online PDF design read. I subscribed last year and have all of them printed out and bound together at work.

The most recent July issue included a great article about web teams. The excerpt about project managers really hit the nail on the head.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Australian Design: OZ GRAPHIX 5

Browsing at Barns & Noble a couple weeks back I picked up OZ GRAPHIX 5. Strictly on an eye candy level, it was really impressive. Yesterday I went back and bought it. It was worth the 24 bucks.

I've been a subscriber to Communication Arts, and on so many levels I find it better than any other design journal. The articles, the ideas, the motivation it gives me to up my game, etc... Other reads like HOW and Print are ok sometimes, but they're disappointing often enough to not warrant laying down money for a yearly subscription. (Just my personal opinion of course)

Every now and then though, I'll go ahead and purchase an individual design publication if if they merit taking up space on the shelf. OZ GRAPHIX 5 definitely fits that category.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

On being

I read a book not long ago about Corporate branding. Ok part of a book. It was well written, emphasizing corporate identity and branding over all else, and it was amazing how little the book spoke of other factors that mattered, much.

A short article I ran across today provides an entirely different viewpoint. One closer to reality:

“The customer doesn’t have to be a design guru or connoisseur, therefore in all likelihood he wants something that he has already seen somewhere: “The N Corporation has a pretty logo, I want you to make something like that for me”. However, to make “something like that”, one needs to know at least why N made it this particular way, what it had in mind in the beginning and what sort of mistakes it had avoided.

Customers drooling at the BMW logo forms forget that their colors and position allude to the Bavarian flag, while the logo itself symbolizes an airplane propeller for engines that Bayerische Motorenwerke once built. This logo is only good as long as it is attached to good cars.

Good design, a highly recognizable emblem or a logo, an all but perfect corporate organization chart, consumers going ape at the sight of corporate identity elements are all the trappings of a company of good standing supplying quality products and services.

It’s not hard, really, for a company to get there: decades of painstaking work will make its design a worthy model for imitation. Borrowing the paraphernalia of a successful company will have an effect on business just as tangible as the contribution of gnawing at an athletics champion’s ankle to a victory in marathon.”

..In the same boat are organizations bent on gaming their Google ranking through all manner of strategies, hacks, and deceit, instead of simply building a site that people appreciate and want to link to. …The whole reason Google works in the first place.

New Ways to Work

Yesterday we were all amazed at the idea of the Optimus keyboard, a keyboard in which "every key is a customizable stand-alone display showing exactly what it is controlling at this very moment." Imagine how cool that would be / will be - Alt tabbing from Illustrator to Photoshop and all the keys on your keyboard light up with different representational icons.

For Quake:

For Photoshop: (screw remembering all those shortcuts)

And today its the new Tactapad. Demo videos here

I've got a feeling that we'll be sitting around not too long in the future, laughing about using a mouse.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Stylin with CSS

I'm two pages into Charles Wyke-Smith’s Stylin’ With CSS: A Designer’s Guide and I can tell that this book is going to help me out a great deal.

I often sit around mentally arguing back and forth whether or not I need to be so technically savvy or not. Should I try harder to be more of a "developer" AND a better designer? Or should I just focus on design?

The first sentence on page four of the book says: "Like any artist, your ability to achieve your creative vision is governed by your technical abilities."

That is a very powerful idea, and for me it calms down the argument I have against becoming a code jockey. It will be important. I'm going to "get my learn on" with this book.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Jargon is Only the Beginning

On corporate use of the word "leverage"

A meticulously conducted survey taken in my living room shows that 99 percent of all uses of “leverage” stand in support of puffed-up marketing crap that makes its authors look like big dorks. Like “solution,” the word no longer carries any special bonus inflection, and bears the added disadvantage of sounding pretentious.

Solution: Meaningless, Self-Indulgent, Arrogant

A Call to Arms

My Generation

Zeldman talks at length about his experiences judging the May 1st Reboot

"Maybe redesigning for the sake of redesigning is not enough: to communicate visually one must first have something to communicate about. Or maybe too many design schools are teaching students how to imitate successful styles instead of how to communicate visually.

..It wasn’t so much that the designers had contempt for their users as that they seemed never to have been taught to think about users at all. One gets the feeling that the web design curriculum at too many colleges and universities consists of little more than tips on how to use Flash to imitate sites that won awards five years ago."

Thursday, June 16, 2005

On Being a "Decorator"

Working on an internal corporate design team has its own benefits and drawbacks. One all too often drawback would be tight deadlines. VP's usually don't understand the timelines that professional* design projects require, and tend to send over things to "beautify" and or "make pretty". I don't like the idea of being considered a "decorator" but you kind of put yourself in that box sometimes.

The thing about quick turnaround times however, is that sometimes you're on, and sometimes, you're just not - and projects suffer. Sometimes its out of your control. Occasionally you're able to follow through and somehow pull a rabbit out of your hat, providing someone with great work even though they dropped a bomb on you at the last minute. They'll be very pleased, and expect another miracle next time.

The trick is to try and balance your time spent running and gunning ..with a good amount of time looking at things you get inspired from. I think it's all about how you prepare yourself in your downtime.

Sometimes however, you just suck. And the deadline doesn't allow for it. That's when the deadline-setter walks away with mediocre work.

*Making an assumption that I'm a professional. That statement may be premature.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The perfect banner idea if you could afford the photos.
As always, click on the image for a less "jpg'd" version.

Whiplash the cowboy monkey saves the day.
As always, click on the image for a less "jpg'd" version.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Stock art junkie

I love stock photography. But in general, stock photography is evil, for many reasons I won't go into. This girl is destined for antidepressant ad stardom.
As always, click on the image for a less "jpg'd" version.

Liquid Crystal Magic

I always liked this set of shots I made of my alarm clock. 2 or 3 second exposure, ..panning back as it exposed.
As always, click on the image for a less "jpg'd" version.