Ben Crowder

Archive: Design, Page 3

Square peg, round hole

Jeff Croft writes about personal content management:

[A CMS] ought to make your content more useful simply by virtue of the content being in the system. But more often than not, it doesn’t. Most of time, you actually make your data (read: content) as dumb as possible by way of entering it into a CMS. Seriously.

He’s got a good point — with most content management systems, we flatten out the structure (or square-peg a round hole, as he puts it) and lose important information. Rolling your own is sounding better and better every day. I’ve been meaning to do that for Riverglen Press, and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to extend it to Blank Slate either (once I figure out what on earth I want Blank Slate to be — at the moment it’s just a neglected child, most of the time forgotten while its siblings bask in the spotlight, but ironically it gets more traffic than the others).

At any rate, I’m itching to make these sites more my own, and writing a custom CMS is a great way to do that. (I also really need to revamp the graphic design…) The main thing is to decide what I need this CMS to do. Most features I don’t really need, really, and my tastes have sharply turned to lightweight lately.

More to come later, once I have more time. :)

Blackletter Bible

[Cross-posted from BenjaminCrowder.com for somewhat obvious reasons.]

For my Middle English class today we visited Special Collections. I’ve been there several times before (we went there five or six times for my History of the Book class last winter semester, and I’d been there a couple of times before that), but seeing 500-year-old books is always a treat. :)

Just before class, I’d been proofing Phantastes, and was thus in a bookmaking mood. It will come as no surprise, then, that as soon as class got out I ran to my computer at work and made this:

Blackletter Bible

It has many flaws, of course (primarily the fact that it’s actually legible, hang it all! ;)), but it’s a start. I’m tempted to make a Riverglen Press blackletter Bible (or at least New Testament or the Psalms or something). Very tempted.

The bit in the screenshot is Isaiah 2 and 3, which I chose because (go figure) Isaiah 2:2 says “in vertice montium.” It shouldn’t be hard to guess which blog of mine was named after that. :)

Apple of my eye

Ho, hum, what shall I write about today? I want to write about Douglas Callister’s devotional address yesterday, but I’m tired and won’t be able to do it justice. (It was amazing, though. Stay tuned.)

Ah, yes, I know: earlier today I read Who Is Jonathan Ive?, a Business Week article on “the man behind Apple’s design magic.” Quite inspiring, at least for me. Apple really does have style and taste and a refined sense of aesthetics, which is in stark contrast to pretty much the rest of the manufacturers out there. Being a bit of a designer myself, it’s a standard I feel good rallying under. In fact, as I look back on my computer history (with PCs running DOS, Windows, and Linux), I shudder. I could never, ever, ever go back to a non-Mac. Ever. Period. The Mac has everything good I’ve needed from computers, and very little of the not-so-good (like viruses, etc.). It has a beautiful interface, it’s built on Unix and thus gives me all the under-the-hood power I need as a geek, and there’s that whole sense of community to boot.

Speaking of Apple, there’s a really good article over on Daring Fireball about iPod pricing. (And speaking of iPods, I’ll probably be buying a new 30gb one soon — my old 20gb died four or five months ago, and I miss having music at home. I would’ve bought one about twenty minutes ago, but apparently they’re not in stock yet.)

Anyway, getting back to the Ive article, I’m thinking that industrial design is something I want to start looking into — not as a career, of course, but as a side hobby. :)

Lab rules and Sixteen Stones

Lately I haven’t done as much design as I’d like, but here are a couple of the things I’ve worked on. First, the lab rules for the Center for Family History and Genealogy (where I work):

Lab Rules

This next one is a work-in-progress (I started it less than an hour ago) and for now is called “Sixteen Stones”:

Sixteen Stones

I don’t have too much to say about it, other than that the reason I’m posting it is mainly just to show what a WIP is like. Kind of. :) Oh, and I’m still proofreading Phantastes

A question of aesthetics

I was reading my Penguin Classics edition of War and Peace the other day and noticed, to my astonishment, widows and orphans all over the place. And quite often there were lines at the end of a paragraph with less than five characters. Picking up my copy of Fellowship of the Ring, I found the same thing. Isn’t that against the rules of copyfitting?

Having said that, I’ve noticed in copyfitting Phantastes that it’s rather hard to copyfit fiction nicely. Dialogue’s the main culprit, I think. Regardless, though, the question now in my mind is this: does it matter? Are these rules there for a reason, or are they just tradition without much basis in aesthetic value? Are widows and orphans really that hard on the eyes? Are “rivers of white” after paragraphs a bad thing?

I’m not sure. The main question is whether these get in the way of reading, since readability is the main function of typography. I think the answer is clearly no. There are a few exceptions (if the small word is at the end of a page, it could easily get skipped as the reader moves on to the next page), but generally speaking they don’t get in the way.

Aesthetically? Possibly. But maybe not. I’m thinking about recopyfitting Phantastes. We’ll see. Maybe I’ll wait till the next book to try out these theories. :)

A will and a way

This morning after I left the temple, an idea came into my head. It looked roughly like this:

FHLC

And now, eleven hours later (with an hour taken out for lunch), I’ve got most of it done. This screenshot is real — it’s not a mockup. There are still a few things to add (like the rest of the title details), but you can search for localities and navigate around and such. It’s pretty nice. :) The one caveat is that it takes a while to load the page if there are a lot of microfilms in the list, because it has to ping the UVRFHC’s server for each one. I’m going to talk to the people who coded the Perl file and see if I can send them multiple IDs at once and get a list back. That’d make it faster. As for the rest of it, it’s decently fast, especially considering that it’s screen-scraping everything. Hurray for regular expressions and Ruby! :) (It’s coded in Ruby on Rails, by the way.)

I ordinarily would have posted this only on Outside the Box, or Beyond, but I’m dead tired and so I’m just going to post it here for now as a work-in-progress. Oh, the UVRFHC is the family history center here at BYU. And the whole reason I did this is that ordinarily you can’t tell what films are in the family history center unless you go to the FHC’s site and pull up a little pop-up and type the film number in. This automates it all for you.

Project Cumorah now available

I got the proof copy of Project Cumorah yesterday at 5:15. It’s beautiful! Thick and hefty, to be sure, but it’s lovely. And you can now download the PDF or order the hard copy through Lulu by going to Riverglen Press. Here’s what the page looks like:

Project Cumorah Launch

Oh, the sidebar on Riverglen Press apparently has some issues in Internet Explorer, so I recommend using Firefox. (You won’t regret it. :))

(This is cross-posted from BenjaminCrowder.com.)

A portfolio preview

In preparation for putting together my portfolio on here, I’ve rummaged around through my archives and came up with this tentative listing. There’ll be more, of course, but this’ll do for now. (And I’m posting it on here as a reminder of what to put into the portfolio.)

First, the BYU Unix Users Group logo:

UUG Logo

There was a contest back in the day to see who could come up with a logo for the group, and mine somehow won. On the current website it’s called the “Classic” UUG theme. :) (That makes me feel old, almost.)

Next, Top of the Mountains:

Top of the Mountains

Not much to say here. It’s my main blog, and the look has evolved over the past year or so. My other websites are mostly in a similar vein. I’m not including Riverglen Press because I posted about it yesterday. :)

Moving into the stuff I’ve done for work, here’s the logo I created for the Immigrant Ancestors Project:

IAP Logo

And the Immigrant Ancestors Project website:

Immigrant Ancestors Project

It’s a work-in-progress, as are the next two sites. Here’s the Irish Mormon History site:

Irish Mormon History

And the Bridger Valley, Wyoming Local History Project:

Bridger Valley

A while ago we needed a map of the various emigration routes coming out of Spain, so I put this together:

Spanish Emigration Routes

Later on I modified it into a map of Spanish provinces:

Spanish Provinces

And from there it was easy enough to transform it into a map of Spanish archives:

Spanish Archives

Being the Center for Family History and Genealogy, we’re all about supporting research in whatever way we can. Here’s one of a series of extraction forms that help when reading through old civil/church registers:

Spanish Birth Form

And finally, a chart of the Spanish royalty, mostly for historical context:

Spanish Royalty

Phew! :)

Beauty and the beast

For my library job interview later today, they asked me to bring a class schedule. Here’s what the schedule looks like online:

Schedule (Before)

Now, being the rabid must-redesign-everythinger I am, I spent half an hour in InDesign and cooked up this beauty:

Schedule (After)

Mmm, graphic design is fun. :)

Somewhere in time

Last night I watched The Inheritance, a Feature Films for Families movie based on the book by Louisa May Alcott. I liked it a lot. Sure, it’s not perfect, but it’s wholesome and I left feeling good. That’s what it really comes down to.

While walking down the hill afterwards, a realization came to me: I was born in the wrong century.

It hit me like an avalanche. I really should’ve been born in the mid-1800s — I long for that era, feel so much more at home there than I do here, and pine for what I’ve lost whenever I read or watch anything that reminds me of it. The proverbial light bulb also clicked on above my head and explained why I dress the way I do: it’s the closest I can get to 19th-century attire while staying within social norms. :) (If I wore my suit every day, that’s over the top. But a colored shirt and dress pants are merely classy.) This has been subconscious until now, but it makes a lot of sense. The maddening thing is that I’m stuck here in the 21st century and have no way to get back home.

My tongue is halfway in my cheek.

Speaking of the nineteenth century, I bought Persuasion from the bookstore yesterday. Lovely book, Oxford World Classics edition. As I browsed the shelves, I began to notice that in the last few months I’ve become very particular about the typography of the books I buy. Books I would have bought without a second thought last year are now denied even a longer glance once I see the typeface or lack of margins. I also learned that not all Penguin Classics are made equal; my War and Peace and Jane Eyre seem to be anomalies, not the rule. I suspect that I’d need to find older editions to go back to that lovely Garamond (it’s close to Garamond Premier Pro, I think).

Partly because of that, I’ve decided to use Garamond Premier Pro for Project Cumorah (the reader’s edition of the Book of Mormon I’m typesetting). It’s looking good. I’m going to try to finish both it and the Thai romanized hymnbooks I’m setting within two weeks.

Two drops in a river

Two quickies for now: first, BenjaminCrowder.com got a minor facelift this morning. It looks a lot better (I think :)).

Second, when you do check it out, you may want to check out the latest post (“A voice from the dust”). It’s a PDF of 1 Nephi from the new reader’s edition of the Book of Mormon. I won’t post much about it here because that’s what BenCrowder.com is for, though. :)

Line upon line

Today I came across Alexander Cheek’s beautiful genealogical history chart. Wow. ~drool~

Here’s an overview:

Genealogical History Overview

And here’s a close-up:

Genealogical History Clip

He did it in Illustrator CS2 for Mac. Now, this sort of thing really interests me — information display (the sort of thing Tufte writes about) is one of the most intriguing aspects of design. Charts and maps give me goosebumps. :)

A chart like this is a mammoth undertaking. I’m guessing Alexander had to sketch it all out first, to get the spacing right; otherwise he’d have to keep moving things around as the chart grew. Or maybe he went from right to left.

Anyway, my work on Beyond has had me thinking for quite some time now about the display of genealogical information. It’s a fascinating domain, and I suspect there’s room for a lot of innovation.

I can’t help but wonder if there are ways to make the creation of a chart like this easier — automate the placement, or perhaps generate an outline which one can then work from in Illustrator/InDesign (in EPS or whatever). There’s got to be some way so that it doesn’t have to all be done by hand…

A blog post a day…

Crunch time is upon me here at work, which means working each evening for as long as I can. (I usually go till 7:30 or 8, so that I have enough time to get home and read for an hour to recover. :P) But I’ll keep blogging, never fear. One a day seems like a good goal (at least for me).

Item 1: LibraryThing now has groups:

My LibraryThing Profile

Very cool. I haven’t yet gotten really into LT (I’ve only written one review, for example, nor have I left many comments on others’ profiles), but I expect to do that before too long. I changed my picture and joined a ton of groups. If you have an LT account, let me know!

Item 2: I bought a fern plant for $3.99 at Smith’s a couple of days ago. This morning I realized that the yellowish-brown color on the tips of one of the stalks probably means it’s dying. Oh. Just when I was getting emotionally attached… ~sigh~ ;)

Item 3: I’ve been reading A Return to Modesty and want to blog about it right now, but I’ll restrain myself until I finish the book. Lots of good stuff. Go check it out.

Item 4: Lulu.com — cheap, on-demand publishing for the masses. I’ll write more about it after I submit Adventures in Thailand and see how the printing quality is, but I’m really, really, really excited about this.

Item 5: Have I mentioned that I’m working on a reader’s edition of the Book of Mormon? I’m taking the Project Gutenberg text and getting rid of the verse numbers, then reformatting it to be more like the first edition (though I’ll be making my own paragraphs). I’m also adding quote marks in for dialogue. It’ll be pretty nice when done. You can catch a glimpse of what it’ll kind of look like over at BenCrowder.com.

Item 6: While you’re there, check out the third pic on today’s post (wedding invitations). Blender is cool. :) Granted, it’s nothing too exciting (the 3D part, that is), but it’s nice to be able to throw together shaded mockups like this when working on projects that’ll be printed and folded.

Item 7: If you’re not using an aggregator, go to Bloglines.com or Newshutch.com. Now. You won’t regret it. (Saved time = happiness.)

Item 8: Breads and crackers and Wheat Thins and frozen burritos seem to have wedged their way into my diet in an unhealthy proportion. I look at my dinner plate each night and it’s all dead food. Nothing green, no fruit, nothing. This is bad. I do have an apple each morning, but it’s not enough. The only problem is, I usually forget to eat fruit. I’ve got a bag of grapes in my fridge right now that I’ve meant to eat for a while, but it keeps slipping my mind. I’ve got to change this — fruit is so delicious and good for you (um, me) that it’s insane not to eat it.

Item 9: Things are going well at work. I’ve found that attacking little projects — bite-size chunks — is making quite a difference. There’s still a mammoth-sized mountain of work left to finish by the end of the summer, but these small successes are building momentum for the big whammy.

Item 10: I’m still reading Grimm, of course, and it’s great.

Ten’s a good number to stop at. The End. For now, at least. Off I go to check out Rachel and Leah, go grocery shopping, and recover from 8.5 hours of coding…

Three latest projects

Lately I’ve been working on a number of projects (some of which I’ve already talked about on Top of the Mountains), so here’s the scoop.

I’ve taken the Plan of Salvation look and applied it to bookmarks. I’ll hopefully have a PDF up soon on Riverglen Press:

Plan of Salvation bookmarks

Next we have the Thai script card I re-did from scratch (in InDesign):

Thai Script Card

And finally, the wedding invitations I made for my roommate. I used InDesign for the invitations themselves and Blender to make this mockup of what they’ll look like. (They’re printing them in Las Vegas, so I haven’t actually seen the real thing yet. :))

3D Invitations

Other than that, I’m going to be trying to finish up my revision of Adventures in Thailand so I can submit it to Lulu and see what the printed copy looks like. (From one of the screenshots on Lulu.com, I think I’ll be happy with it.) I’m mostly concerned about what kind of paper they use. Completely white paper is hard on the eyes, so I prefer off-white — hopefully that’s what they use. :)

Librarythings

What shall I write about today? Well, for starters, the bookstore’s bargain sale ended 45 minutes ago, so I stopped by again earlier today and got four more books (Wendy Shalit’s A Return to Modesty, Elizabeth George Speare’s The Bronze Bow, Finding God at BYU, and Ross King’s Brunelleschi’s Dome). So that was fun. :)

I’ve also been meeting with various librarians here at BYU (three so far), chatting for 15-30 minutes about what it’s like. Lots of new and interesting information has popped up — I learned, for example, that they expect you to make “creative efforts,” basically doing your own research. That’s awesome. :) I really, really, really can’t wait. Finding information for people is something I’ve been doing for years now (I often get requests via e-mail, either from my websites or from people I know), so it fits in perfectly.

Also, I’ve found that I absolutely love talking about Latin. The one I met with today had studied Latin, so we talked about the Vulgate (I’m taking the class in the fall) and Wheelock and a number of other things. Mmm.

Oh, the other day (yesterday? Wednesday? I don’t remember anymore) I revamped the Thai script card. There was an original version that I got in the MTC, and then when I was in the mission office I redid it in Illustrator. This week I tried opening it but the fonts were all messed up and I quickly realized it was of shoddy workmanship, so I started from scratch in InDesign. It went quite smoothly and I was able to make a number of improvements with input from Rikker. Here’s how it looks:

Thai Script Card

The end.

A dilemma

So, I like design (typography, bookmaking, etc.) and textual work (like with An Icelandic Primer). It gives me great joy and satisfaction.

I also like programming. I’ve done it for years.

At the moment, though, I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I’m talking about Beyond.

Coding is fun, and since I’ve been doing it for fifteen-plus years now I can hold my own. But the part I most enjoy, the area I want to spend most of my time, is design. Now, I don’t mean that I try to avoid doing the dirty work of actually building the things I design — to the contrary, I think it’s impossible to be a great designer unless you know how to use the tools and have a lot of experience doing so.

I guess it’s just that I want to be working on other projects, getting good at design, but I’ve got this huge obligation to turn Beyond into a reality. There’s something far more difficult about pulling off a project like this than about typesetting a text. So many different strands, so many possibilities for error, so much to be connected together. And that is cool and challenging and all that good stuff, don’t get me wrong. I don’t know.

Ordinarily I would suspect that this is a momentary, passing mood, but it’s been at the back of my thoughts for a while now. And yet I can’t just give up on Beyond. ~sigh~ Well, “you must do the thing you think you cannot do,” said Eleanor Roosevelt. My plan is to try to have Beyond up and running by the end of August, and then I can hopefully leave it in more capable hands. I don’t want to be attached to a project like that for the long-term when it’s going to require so much maintenance that I can’t work on much else. (And lest you think that I’m a starter who can’t finish things, let me hasten to add that design projects — like books, charts, etc. — usually have a definite completion point, whereas software tends to go on forever.) If my plan were to become a programmer, as a career, then I’d probably think differently, but I’m going to be a librarian, and most of what I see myself doing on the side in the future is design, not coding.

At the same time I don’t want to abandon a project just because it’s hard. Conquering difficult obstacles is how we grow. Hmm. But sometimes it is okay to stop work on a project — after all, there’s only so much time in a man’s life, and he has to spend it on things that really matter. And that’s why this is a dilemma: Beyond does matter, and it’ll help make genealogy easier. ~sigh~

Ilihawswahili

As a follow-up, I did wake up at 5:00 this morning and studied Latin for half an hour. (Since I wasn’t able to get any books on Swahili in time, I decided to just do that.) It was so much fun! Even though it’s been four years since I last studied it, Latin is coming back to me quite easily. Ah, it’s great. :)

This afternoon I made my daily pilgrimage to the library, this time in search of those Swahili books I didn’t have this morning. There were plenty, and I’m now the proud borrower of six or seven of them. I can’t wait! I think I may cheat and study it a little bit tonight instead of waiting till tomorrow morning. :)

Oh, I made Plan of Salvation themed bookmarks:

Plan of Salvation bookmarks

When I went to Cougar Creations to print a few out, the girl said, “80 pound matte, right?” I guess I’m becoming a regular at more places than one. :) (I always print my stuff on 80 pound matte, since the colors turn out better. And because I like seeing my work on paper, I end up going to Cougar Creations quite often.)

Halfpence seven

I just wrote a little Ruby on Rails app that pulls all my Top of the Mountains posts and comments from the database and exports them to HTML. When I figure out how I want From the Top of the Mountains to look, I’ll remove the HTML and replace it with InDesign styles, and then we’ll have a nice PDF version of this blog. (I’ll probably get it printed through Lulu.)

Other than that, I’m working on Beyond a fair amount. It’s coming along very well. And my brain is empty right now, so I’ll leave it at that and go home to eat dinner. And read books. Mmm. :) (I picked up a copy of A Good Man’s Hard to Find, a book of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories.)

A handful of projects

I’ve been working on designing the wedding invitations for my old roommate and mission friend. Development on Beyond is also starting to pick up, which will most likely mean that my artistic output for the rest of the summer will be at a minimum. (But then again, maybe not.) I’m also working on a new edition of the romanized Thai hymnbook for the MTC, and on New Symbols with the Mormon Artists Group. Fun stuff. If only I had more time…

Just around the river bend

So I think I’m going to start another blog. ~gasp, shudder, sigh~ I’m not entirely sure yet, but I think it would be fitting to have a graphic design blog. It would be about graphic design (duh), web design, book design, typography, information design (graphs, charts, sparklines, etc.), Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, PDF, CSS, fonts, etc. At the moment I’m not writing about most of that, and if I do, it’s in here. And here is a tangle. :) I think grafting the art stuff onto its own blog won’t take too much away from Top of the Mountains, and it’ll then be able to blossom and grow the way it ought to. Or something like that. :)

So, I registered BenjaminCrowder.com a while ago (along with BenCrowder.com). Graphic designers often seem to use their names for their sites. Is it mere vanity? I don’t know. I could ostensibly use Blank Slate (but then I don’t know where I’d put the non-art stuff that’s currently there), or Riverglen Press (but for some reason I have some subconscious resistance to that idea, and I don’t know why).

The advantage of starting a new site is that it can house my portfolio, so that it won’t get cluttered in with the rest of Blank Slate (and I rarely update Blank Slate anyway).

Wait! I have finals! What am I doing thinking about this right now? :P

Anyway, long story short, I have too many websites. :) And I apparently really like thinking aloud. Oh well.

More cosmetic updates

I’ve made some slight cosmetic changes:

  • Moved the time up to the byline area (it used to be down with the categories)
  • Edited the Simpletags plugin to add the Technorati icon
  • Revised the layout for comments (in comments.php, mainly)
  • No more smilie icons! Hurray! :) (They were a bit obtrusive)
  • Got rid of the small print on the single-article view (single.php)

There are still a handful of things I need to do (like change the lists so the chevrons are replaced with discs, which I much prefer, and get the comments to not be indented in Internet Explorer, and add a blogroll, and get the unwieldy sidebar under control, and add a “recent comments” page with the last 30 or so comments listed, and so on). And I need to fix the comments display in the byline so it doesn’t count trackbacks. ~sigh~

But those changes will have to wait, at least for a few more days. I’m pleased with the new look, though. It’s cleaner.

Minor cosmetic changes

For those of you who come to the blog site itself (rather than reading it via a feed), you may have noticed a few slight hiccups this afternoon with the visual layout. I wasn’t quite satisfied with the way the footer stuff (time posted, categories, comments) was crowded and wasn’t vertically aligned, so I’ve moved the comments up to the top of each post and set it as bold so it stands out more (and I think you’ll agree that it looks a lot better). I’ve also modified the headline font (Myriad Pro if you have it on your system, otherwise Times New Roman). At the moment I’m experimenting with a few other things, but my FTP server got dreadfully slow a couple minutes ago, so it may have to wait till later.

Update: Looks like IE has reverted to its old behavior of putting the content after the sidebar. ~sigh~ I hate IE. Please use Firefox. Anyway, I’ll try to fix it soon. ~bigger sigh~

Second update: Turns out it was because the divider div was <div class="divider" /> instead of <div class="divider"> </div>. Guess that makes a difference. :)

Getting real

Garrett Dimon’s got a good post today, on interface design:

For me, I’ve found that by writing a paragraph or some bullet points, I come up with ideas I wouldn’t have otherwise. It also helps to expose oversights and logic errors. This only takes me about 30 seconds per feature, but it dramatically increases the amount of quality thought I put into its implementation. Any more than 30 seconds or a minute, and it’s a waste of time. Once it’s implemented, chances are you’re going to need to make other changes.

From the comments, I found this 37signals paper, An Introduction to Using Patterns in Web Design:

The biggest challenge for web designers is the unthinkably huge number of possible ways to solve any given problem. We usually don’t think of this because we have our habits and traditions to fall back on, but there are literally billions of possible pixel combinations for each page we make. There is a better way to manage this vast complexity than by making big decisions up front and hoping for the best. To make better sites — sites that are functional, beautiful, and “usable” — we have to break our design problems up into small independent chunks based on the real issues within our requirements. Christopher Alexander, who came up with this stuff, calls these chunks patterns.

And finally, Adobe Design Center has an interview with Jason Fried of 37signals on Getting Real:

Another thing I find interesting is that when big groups really want to get things done, they don’t make the group bigger, they make the group smaller. For example, when Lockheed wanted to design the Stealth [bomber], they didn’t scale up the team, they scaled the team down. When Congress really needs to consider something important, they form committees. When the military needs to conduct an operation with absolute precision, they usually call on the best small team they have. I think there’s a lot corporate America can learn from that.

For me, the main reminder I got was that you have to go to HTML (i.e., real stuff) as soon as possible, not getting caught up in mockups like I’ve done:

Yes, seeing and interacting with the real thing is the key. It’s not about seeing, it’s about using. You can see an Adobe® Photoshop® mockup of a site or application, but you can’t use a Photoshop mockup. That’s the point of Getting Real. To experience the real thing early and often. That’s the best way to improve the real thing. You can improve a Photoshop mockup all day long, but your customers don’t buy products or search or make a to-do list in a Photoshop mockup.

Granted, I’ve been doing HTML mockups as well, but I still think I’ve been spending way too much time on paper and in Photoshop. It’s about time to read Getting Real again…

Design patterns

A while ago I discovered the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library, but I didn’t really look into it (it was one of those put-on-the-shelf-for-future-reference things). Then I found Functioning Form, which is interviewing various interface designers right now. From there I checked the Yahoo library out again, and also found Jenifer Tidwell’s Designing Interfaces book and Martin van Welie’s UI Patterns and Techniques. This is really cool stuff — enough so that I’m going to read through it all as soon as I can, because I can already tell that it’s going to be extremely useful in designing Beyond. (For example, the collapse transition is a good way to keep information accessible but not in the way.) I’m excited. And schoolwork suffers another blow. :)

On a side note, I can’t wait till my library gets a copy of Edward Tufte’s new book, Beautiful Evidence. You can read the chapter on sparklines on his webboard.

The name is Pond…LilyPond

Okay, it’s their tacky joke, not mine. :) (See http://lilypond.org/web/switch/) So I was checking out the LilyPond site again today (I’ve been in a typographical mood lately), and it really struck me how untypographical the current site is. ‘Tis a pity. Now, LilyPond is a great piece of software and I’d hate to see it misrepresented like that for much longer, so I’m going to throw together a new look for the site and see if the developers like it and want to adopt it. Rule #1 of web typography: don’t use Times New Roman. :)

Here’s what I’m thinking so far. It needs a strong visual identity, which means a good color scheme (which is easy because of the lily imagery) and a good, solid logo. (I’m debating whether I ought to just trace the lilypad image or come up with something new.) Having the text go all the way across the page makes it too long, so the line length will have to come down quite a bit. And Times New Roman is sooooo 1990s. Lucida Grande is good, as is Verdana. And the headings could be a bit bolder, with some good letterspacing. The layout has to accommodate wide images (like those in the essay on engraving), which will certainly be an issue to work around. The navigation scheme doesn’t look too complex — a handful of main tabs, with subtabs for each (basically). All in all, once the basic CSS is done, I don’t imagine it being too hard to switch over. And that’s one thing that’ll help with getting the developers to approve it — the level of easiness in switching over. So I’ll try to avoid modifying the HTML whenever possible. (But when they’re using tables for a lot of it, that’s definitely going to have to change.)

Hmm, I probably shouldn’t blog about this till after I do it, because I’m under the radar right now. ;) (Not that I really need permission, since I’m not forcing it on them or anything. Just trying to help the work along.)

A voice from the dust

I’ve often wondered what font the scriptures are printed in. Today, unexpectedly, I came across the answer via a comment on Katya’s blog, from #193 on the 100 Hour Board. It’s a modified WTC Goudy. Interesting.

On a side note, here’s a review of the Book of Mormon I wrote on LibraryThing because most of the ones there were quite anti. (You can also see it on my profile by clicking on the reviews link.)

“By their fruits ye shall know them,” said Jesus Christ. The Book of Mormon’s fruits are not bruised and soiled man-made imitations of God’s word — they’re the real thing. It comes from God. If the contents of the book could be described in a single sentence, it would be this: the Book of Mormon is a testimony to the divinity of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Every page testifies that Jesus Christ really was the Son of God and that there is no other way or means whereby we can be saved. Is that evil? Is that un-Christian? I can’t help but wonder if those writing the other reviews have actually read the Book of Mormon. :) On a more personal note, I’ve read it dozens of times now, and each time I’ve learned more about Christ and what it means to be a true disciple. If it were falsified — if Joseph Smith were a fraud — then the stench of dishonesty would permeate the book like rotten food. The facade wouldn’t be able to stand. But the beautiful scent of truth emanates from it with a soul-enriching power that raises men to God, and it stands as a solid, fervent, and sincere witness that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, and that true happiness is only to be found in living by their teachings.

Catchdown

I’ve got a long list of 32 various topics to write about (in this blog alone, not to mention my other blogs), so I’m going to speed through it and hit as many as I can. Not a day goes by where I don’t find something to blog about, really, and if I don’t write about these things, the list will continue to grow and I’ll never catch up. Maybe I should just delete the list. ~devious grin~ Anyway, to appease my subconscious alter ego, here we go on a madcap dash through…through…through the river and over the woods. Er, um, well, never mind. :)

Language acquisition is something that really interests me. I’ve studied Latin and Greek and Old English and Coptic and Egyptian and a few other languages here and there (like Spanish, French, and German), and 1) learning new languages and 2) maintaining them is a fascinating topic. Right now I’m of the opinion that as far as reading goes, it’s good to get a basic feel for the grammar (basic, not detailed) and then jump into a text, taking it in large gulps and working on it as you go. That’s how C.S. Lewis did it (see Surprised by Joy). Next topic.

What’s with everyone wearing earbuds everywhere they go? Wait a second, I’m supposed to be looking for the good. Let’s try that again: I think it’s wonderful to smile when you pass people, to be in tune with nature and your surroundings. For me it’s my meditation time, when most of my ideas come (that and in the shower). Hmm, much better. :) Next topic.

Over the past couple of months I’ve started to realize just how much imagery Isaiah uses, and how much he was a poet. And it tickles me pink. I can’t wait to meet him in heaven. A kindred spirit, to be sure. Selah. Uh, I mean next topic.

There’s so much to learn! The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know. It’s overwhelming and daunting at times, but that’s okay, because the rest of the time I’m delighted that there will always be more, that the well of all this fun and joy (knowledge) will never run dry. Meetup.com looks interesting, too. Next topic.

I’ve been waking up at 5:30 and going to bed between 10 and 10:30 most nights, trying to follow the counsel in D&C 88:124 — “Cease to sleep longer than is needful; retire to thy bed early, that ye may not be weary; arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.” And it’s great! I love it, both the quiet stillness of the morning in which the Spirit can be heard much more easily and the fresh, delicious sunrise air (not to mention the sunrise itself, with the warm rays peeking out from behind the mountains in a friendly glow). Next topic.

Writely is really cool. I like being able to access my documents wherever I am (which is very nice as I’m still laptop-less). Next topic.

I can’t wait till the GDrive comes out. ~drool~ Next topic, quick! :)

Hey, I should’ve written about this in my “Accentuate the positive” post a few minutes ago: Kathy Sierra talks about how Angry/negative people can be bad for your brain. Next topic.

  1. Now that I’m trying to accentuate the positive and look for the good, I don’t know if I can say anything about it at all. ‘Nuff said. :) Next topic.

In Family Home Evening a few weeks ago, one of the girls said that she tries to imagine Jesus standing next to her in all she does, and that it really changes her decisions (for the better). I ought to try that — I can definitely think of a few situations where I would have acted differently had the Savior been standing by my side. Next topic.

For my Language and the Scriptures final a few weeks ago, we had to memorize 16 verses of scripture and then write them down. (We memorized them beforehand, of course.) It was great, with the words of the prophets and of the Lord becoming my friends. I want to fill my life with good things — good words, good music, good art, good everything. Not the fashionable or the glitzy or the expensive, but the good. Next topic.

I haven’t mentioned that I got invited to work on a Mormon art book with the Mormon Artists Group, called New Symbols. Our submissions are due Labor Day, which is nice because I’ll have all summer to work on mine, and the book will be published next year. I’m sure I’ll blog more about it later. Next topic.

Check out MormonWiki.com, a child of the More Good Foundation (which I’m more and more impressed with). Next topic.

If you ever need to typeset music, check out LilyPond. The syntax is a bit like programming, but the power is there. Next topic.

Time.onrails.org is a nice, free way to keep track of time on projects. Next topic.

Actually, that’s enough for now — it’s bedtime.

Favorite font

For a long time Myriad Pro was my favorite font, and I still use it a lot, but Minion Pro has grown on me. Designed by Robert Slimbach of Adobe in 1989, it came with Creative Suite 2. The turning point for me was when I was reading Robert Bringhurt’s The Elements of Typographic Style and saw that it was in 10/12 Minion (10 pt. text with 12 pt. leading). It was beautiful. And then I realized that my Old English text (Peter Baker’s Introduction to Old English) was also set in Minion. So I tried it out on a few bookish projects, still thinking I was going to go back to Garamond. But I was smitten. Still am.

Here’s a sample:

On Riverglen Press I’ll have a Latin edition of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses up before too long, set in Minion. You can follow along with that on Bookland.

Symbol signs

AIGA Symbol Signs

The AIGA (I couldn’t find anywhere on their site that gave the meaning of the acronym, actually, but they’re graphic designers) has released the symbol signs:

The complete set of 50 passenger/pedestrian symbols developed by AIGA is now available on the web, free of charge. Signs are available in EPS and GIF formats. This system of 50 symbol signs was designed for use at the crossroads of modern life: in airports and other transportation hubs and at large international events. Produced through a collaboration between the AIGA and the U.S. Department of Transportation, they are an example of how public-minded designers can address a universal communication need.

This is pretty cool.

In a similar vein

On my walk to school this morning I came up with ideas for unifying all of my websites’ visual appearance (as I’ve started to do with this site and Bookland), and so I redesigned Blank Slate. There are still a few things I need to change on it, but it’s a lot better than the last one (which was becoming painful, incidentally). I’ve renamed Digital Bridge to Get Real, and I’ll have that up pretty soon. And then I just have Beyond and Riverglen Press and I’ll finally be done with this website redesign I’ve been aching to do forever. :)

A new look

If you’re visiting the site itself and not reading it via an RSS aggregator like Bloglines, you’ve probably already noticed the new look. (And if not, go check it out!)

For historical reference, here’s the before-and-after:

ToTM Old Look
ToTM New Look

I’ll be updating the designs for my other sites (Bookland, Digital Bridge, Blank Slate, etc.) over the next little while.

If you’ve been reading the last few posts, you may be wondering how I’m able to finish the site look. Read the next post. :)

A web day

At work today I designed a website for the Basque Family Heritage in the U.S.A. project, and this evening I redesigned TranslatingScripture.com (but neither is live yet — the latter will be up soon, though). Now I just need to make time to redesign these blogs…

Even more about the Plan of Salvations

Coming up with titles for these updates is notoriously hard. ~sigh~ Anyway, I took some time this morning to make the credit-card sized edition of the Plan of Salvation. Because a credit card (8.5x5.4cm, a ratio of 1.57) is narrower than a letter-sized sheet of paper (11x8.5in, a ratio of 1.29), I’ve had to elongate it, but it still looks okay. And because legibility at small size is a prime concern, I’ve enlarged some of the text and removed the glows. Even the Chinese is legible, to my great surprise and relief. :)

The only problems I’m encountering are that 1) the text isn’t as smooth as it could be (this could be because I’m not printing at a high enough DPI, so I’ll look into that), 2) the sun isn’t rendering the way it should (something went wrong with the Gaussian blur when I scaled it down), and 3) the Gaussian blurs are somewhat pixelated (perhaps the DPI thing will fix this).

I also need to either get permission to use the picture in the pre-mortal life sphere (it’s not my art) or replace it with my own design. The latter is ideal but I haven’t yet been able to come up with anything good… Anyway, I’m going to try to make some time within the next few days to throw together some pages for Riverglen Press where I can upload these cards and get them out there.

More CSS designs

I’ve been looking through CSS Zen Garden some more, and here are some of the designs that impress/inspire/motivate me:

The thing I’m really noticing right now is how much of a difference having a photo/drawing can make. Time to start experimenting…

Oh, you can see screenshots of all the designs at MezzoBlue.com. It’s a lot easier than having to cilck on each design.

CSS

Yesterday I discovered CSS Zen Garden and it’s proving to be a fruitful source of inspiration. I realized that the reason I’ve had this designer’s block lately (for websites) is that I haven’t been keeping up with my craft. To really be good at it, you have to keep reading and experimenting. Staying still is death to creativity. So, I’ll be reading up more on CSS and web design from now on. These blogs keep begging me to redesign them, and I think I’ll be doing that soon as well. I’ve also discovered some nice, free stock photography on stock.xchng, which I’ll probably be using in these redesigns.

A date by any other name

I intended to spend the day working on Translating Scripture, but somehow it didn’t happen and I’m still wondering what I actually did today. I did finish the Romanian Plan of Salvation and revise the Greek, and during intermission at the BYU Philharmonic Orchestra concert tonight I scribbled my designs for the Plan of Salvation web page on the program. I’ll create the page as soon as I send Translating Scripture to the press.

Also at the concert, halfway through Mahler’s 1st Symphony (“Titan”), I came up with an idea for a website. Being swamped with other projects, I don’t think I’ll actually have time to do it, so if anyone wants to take it and run with it, godspeed. It would be a Provo/BYU dating idea site (not an online dating site :)) using a wiki (see Wikipedia if you’re unfamiliar with the wiki concept) or something like that, and you’d be able to sort and search by category (entertainment, service, outdoors/sports, etc.), number of people (one-on-one, small group, large group), cost (including ranges), level of zaniness (need I explain? :)), distance (ideally you’d put in your location and say how far away you want to go — this’d help those who don’t have cars and have to walk everywhere), formality level (this is more for the entertainment but would let you know whether it’s formal dress or casual or whatnot), hours (when you can do it), and so on. And the community could add comments to confirm that it’s a good date idea or to point out that it’s really quite lame and ought to be heaved into the nearest garbage truck. Why a site like this? I was trying to think of creative date ideas and wanted to know what kind of service opportunities are around here (making lunches for the homeless shelter, sorting food at the food bank, reading at the hospital, etc.), and I was also wondering which of those are available at night (since the girl who’s stolen my heart is usually only available after 9 p.m.). I don’t know if there’s anything like this — probably not, especially not for the Provo area — but it’d be really handy. (Technical note: if you didn’t go with the wiki idea and instead used something similar to a blog — entries with comments attached — I’d recommend using Ruby on Rails, but that’s just an idea. I don’t know if you can actually search wikis like I’ve described here, by the way.)

State of the whatever-I-am

Aaaaagh, I need more time!!!! So much to do and hardly enough time to do it all. I’ve edited most of the Translating Scripture chapters and will try to finish the rest in the next hour or so. I’ve got four other posts I want to write for this blog, but they’ll have to wait. Oh, I did redesign Blank Slate, but only on the surface. The rest of the redesign will have to wait along with everything else. Other than that, I’m going to start collecting more translations for my Plan of Salvation cards (and I’ll have a page for those pretty soon). I’m not quite satisfied with the current version (some of the text is too small) and so I need to fix the problems before I start mass producing the other translations. Speaking of which, I showed the current cards (English, Laotian, Cambodian, and Vietnamese) to my cousins tonight and they really thought I ought to sell them (a dollar a pop or so). Hmm… We’ll see. I’m still not entirely convinced, and even if I did sell them I’d still have them available for free online. Anyway, I’ll be getting translations in Hungarian, Bulgarian, and Ukrainian pretty soon, with others on their way. But first I must finish Translating Scripture

Irish Mormon History

I’ve been revamping the Irish Mormon History website today. Here’s what the website looked like (I did this design several months ago):

IMH Draft 1

Then we were going to switch to DotNetNuke, and I came up with this design, which I didn’t really like:

IMH Draft 2

And finally today I’ve re-done the whole thing (in whatever portal we’ve been working with — I have no idea what it’s called) and here’s the pretty-much-finished product:

IMH Draft 3

Much better, if I do say so myself. :) This is the sort of facelift I expect to do to all my websites soon.

New looks on their way

This morning I started sketching out some rough drafts of the new themes/looks for my websites. The current looks are acceptable, but the new ones will be ten times better. If only I had more time… Lately school’s been eating up lots of my time (midterms and group projects) and will probably continue to do so for the next week or so, but I’m sure I’ll steal away time to work on the things that really matter to me. (See Paul Graham’s Good and Bad Procrastination essay — I read it yesterday and it really hits the mark.)

Almost-blank slate

Hmm, I don’t seem to be posting as frequently as before. I’ll try to fix that. :) So, last Friday I spent the afternoon at work putting together a chart of the Spanish royal line (starting with the Habsburgs and with Ferdinand and Isabel, and going all the way through the Bourbons down to Juan Carlos I. I’ll get a PDF up here soon. While making it, I realized that I really, really, really like designing things. On Saturday I went up to the library and got a neat little book called Design Basics Index (by the same people as my Color Index). It’s a beautiful book and I can already tell that it’s going to steal some of my homework time this week. :) At any rate, I’ve been thinking about Blank Slate and its content, and what I can do to make it a more useful website. (Basically asking the question, what should be on Blank Slate?) I think I’m going to pare it down a bit (as far as breadth) so that I can produce more quality content more regularly (depth). If it’s spread too thin, on the other hand, then I rarely update it and its value evaporates with the morning sun. So expect some changes soon, though “soon” most definitely does not mean the “immediately” it meant in days of yore, and in all honesty I have no idea what it means because school may chomp up most of my time. Wait! My whole point in that was that the content I think will be useful will probably end up being documents of one sort or another (like my Plan of Salvations, the 1000 Word List in Thai, this Spanish royalty chart, etc.). I don’t want Blank Slate to become just a set of links to other sites; that’s superficial and that’s what del.icio.us is for anyway.