Stefan Hayden

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Archive for the 'design' Category

It’s always nice when your work is recognized and just recently I was (sort of) recognized for my work on the Malden Public Library website. The site won The 18th Biennial Public Relations Awards from the Massachusetts Library Association.

There are still a lot more changes to be made to the site but even with what we have already updated it seems to be making a difference in the community.

Photoshop CS3 will have filters that are non linear and act much more like the layer styles.

Last.FM add new events section based on music preferences and updates design yet again!

The frequency of their design changes continues to amaze me. This time they remove the icons in the top menu and mad the words bigger. Many have argued that icons are really not as helpful as the words themselves.

Removing the help menu option seems to have also been a good idea as help really should not be such a large focus of a site.

They also made their logo a lot smaller. This is odd choice but it does seem to fit in to the header’s new layout with the white divider.

last.fm design update

Dairy Queen ruins their perfectly good logo.

There are a lot of things wrong with SXSW and a lot of reason why. SXSW used to be a tiny design and technology conference amidst a giant music festival. Today SXSW is as twice as large as the year before and show no sign of slowing down.

In the early days of SXSW the fight for standards based design was just starting and there was a lot of headway to make. People needed to be taught and great panels grew out of the people’s need to learn.

Today the web standards war has been won. With most web designers having a grasp on css it was finally the time for SXSW to turn design away from the technical and back to design principles, but that is not what happened.

The old standaristas are not prepared to teach design. But instead of moving on they continue to come back at put on fluff panels wit little substance. SXSW continues to allow it cause the internet famous panelists are who bring in the attendants.

I could pick on many panels but the worst of the bunch was: Design Workflows at Work: How Top Designers Work Their Magic. It’s interesting to read about the panels talk about how they really did not prepare for the panel. The description was:

Have you ever wondered how the top designers work their magic? What is their workflow? What tools and techniques work best for them as they create compelling and inspiring designs. Find out the workflows that work best in today’s fast paced environments. Get tips and best practices as true ‘Design Superheroes’ share their craft.

Right of the bat the description does not sound that great. Though all of the panelists are excilent designers any one who actually works on the web can’t possibly believe that the “top designers” have some sort of magic workflow.

Never the less this panel got such a large response that SXSW put the panel in on of the largest rooms. Since these same top designers made SXSW famous they have such a large following that it almost does not matter what panel they would want to put on.

The panel turn out to be four panelists talking about how they like to think in the shower or how much they love basecamp. Endless talks about what time they wake up and go to sleep. The panel ran as an impromptu talk between four friends with people stepping on each other’s words and little direction. The entire panel was a train wreck.

Anything worthwhile that came out of the panel was by complete accident and was definitely not by design. But while the panel had no substance it had a lot of glamor with beautifully designed slides (though with no information on them) and an entire site to go along with their panel. The site has more info then the panel but that’s not an accomplishment of any sort.

While all the panelists are not only accomplished designers but time proven bloggers they need to all stop joining panels. If this panel is any proof they have nothing interesting or helpful to say and are only trumping other less known designers who might have something to teach.

This is not the only panel to waste people’s time. At least they tried to warn people that Bullet Tooth Web Design: Plan Your Web Site like Pulling off a Robbery was a complete waste of time.

Last year I bashed How to be a web design superhero and Andy Budd bashed me back. I still argue that people come to conferences and go to panels to learn. Learning is what companies are paying for. SXSW is also popular for the parties afterwards and I know I would feel better about parting if I felt like my brain was so full of new information that only an open bar can fix it.

Christian Watson does his own review of the presidential candidates websites. Good to see more people taking interest in suck a narrow topic. I agree on some points and disagree on others. The fact that he does not like McCains site makes me sad.

Bill Richardson

The Freakonomics blog linked to a NYTimes article (Times Select, those bastards) about New Mexico governor Bill Richardson and how he might be able to rise above the Clinton/Obama punch out and take the Presidency. He seems to have tons of experience and holds up very well against the Republicans.

What does his website look like? Very very red, white and blue. Painfully so. He didn’t starting adding random colors like John Edwards but his design team committed to the presidential colors a little to strongly.

In general his design is all over the place. The layout is clean but the colors overpower it. The entire header is poorly done. The gradient on the red bar just seems cheezy and amature.

Oddly enough farther down the page it improves. His icon for Donate is one of the best designed things on the site and the stars next to the titles below are also a tasteful touch.

His Logo font is a standard democratic serif font with very soft, rounded serifs. Why so many Democrats use this kind of font continues to baffle me. A rounded serif just feels indecisive, as if they couldn’t chose serif or san-serif. Republicans always do better with their hard serifs.

The website will not keep him from winning but it would definitely be a loss for future presidential websites.

A website can not get you elected but it definitely can help. With the 08 election coming up and campaign websites poping up all over the place it’s time to get out the red pen and help the candidates build the best website they can. I know little about who is running but here are the best designed websites so far.

1
John McCain’s site is stunning in it’s starkness. No other candidate could do with their site what McCain is doing. McCain is very much down to business and this site reflects that personality by getting rid of the red, white and blue color scheme presidents are forced in to.

But visual starkness does not keep it from being interactive. The Rollover videos on the bottom are an amazing touch and really bring the site alive.

McCain has a great logo (pictured). The font is a great middle ground between serif and san-serif. In a presidential race an angular san-serif looks strong but dumb and a soft serif looks intelligent but weak. With America in such a state of “terror” it’s better to err on the side of strength. McCain displays strength with just a hint of intelligence with a soft san-serif which I think is a good stance to take.

The small star only helps with the strength as is call on his military past with out screaming about it. It really is a perfect addition to this font and creates a very strong mark to hopefully be used everywhere.

2
Mitt Romney has an extremely strong site that could really work for any candidate unlike McCain’s site. The graphics are strong and could easily stand up to the graphics of any pro design house. The layout is clean and simple with out trying to overpower the reader.

Mitt Romney has gone with a much subtler logo mark. Simple type with a red line below. He has chosen a serif font and I can hear you calling me a hypocrite already. “You said democrats used serifs!” Well I said they used soft serifs. Mitt has used a super angular serif. These strong angles help create an aura of strength while the contrast and thin lines of the font help to display intelligence.

I say McCain’s is stronger simple by effectively using a non traditional font. Mitt successfully executes a very traditional choice. McCain wins out though since his font is strong enough to work effectively on a placard while Mitt’s font would be much to thin to be seen at a distance.

3
Joe Biden finally steps up to the plate for the democrats. His site is as visually strong as Mitt’s with a high production value look. Biden’s site is not as cleanly laid out as Mitt Romney though as Biden keeps the super busy feel that many political sites fall in to.

Biden uses a standard democrat font. A Serif font with soft rounded serifs and just a little bit of contrast between the thin and thick lines of the font. The font choice is a good one but is not as dramatic as Romney and McCain’s.

What strengthens Biden’s logo is his small star. It’s a subtle mark but a good one. The way the star is slightly askew adds a lot of energy to a other wise dull logo.

4
Hillary Clinton starts the first big down step in candidate websites. It’s not bad design but visually it is not as strongly held together as the last 3 sites. She also has a very busy site and while this is standard for most candidate’s sites McCain and Romney are on top for having very clean sites.

Even though th site does not hold together visually each element on it’s own is well designed from the icons on the right to the section dividers below.

Hillary’s logo is slightly stronger then Biden’s but not good enough to take Biden’s spot. She also choses a font with soft, rounded serifs with very little contrast. While this type of font is standard for democrats I don’t think that type of font is currently right for the country. The country needs a stronger font ala McCain and Romney.

Where her logo shines a little brighter is the flag that double as an underline. It stands as a good reinterpretation of the flag and a good inclusion the flag in the logo which others have not done. An American flag is a good thing.

The waves in the flag are very soft and rounded and like the font I also think America needs a stronger graphic with stronger more militaristic waves in the flag. This seems like a small critisim but so much of a campaign is displaying the correct feeling that it does come across as a slip up.

5
Rudy Giuliani has not officially announced his campaign but he has a starter web site with minimal information. Even with out a full site you can see he has some great designers working for him. With a full site he easily jump over Hillary and if he is luck possibly Joe Biden as well.

His visuals are strong and the layout is clean. Even with this bare bone site he is out doing several other candidates.

Rudy uses a classic san-serif font. It’s a simple clean font on a blue back ground and puts a very strong image across. While it’s solid logo type it’s not doing anything special.

Giuliani makes few mistakes with his site but also does nothing too special.

6
Barack Obama has alot of the same problems as Hillary. The parts are visually pleasing but it does not hold together as a strong visual over all. He also has a very busy site and the layout is not strong at all.

Barak falls behind Hillary with his logo. He uses a very thin font that will not work well on a poster and his serifs are very small and do not add much to the font. It’s not a enough of a serif or a san-serif. It’s almost the opposite choice that McCain made.

But his mistakes do not end there. His American flag in the O is a possibly an interesting idea but has very weak execution. There are just too many fades that keep it from being very iconic. The soft fades also keep the logo from seeming strong and, once again, I think these presidential candidates need to project a very strong image to be seen as a leader.

7
John Edwards is the fist site that starts to seem a bit disappointing. The layout is good but it’s not a visually compelling. The graphics are flat and the photos are good but also not compelling.

The logo is the worst. Why is there a green swoosh for the star? Green is not a presidential color. It does not go with the red, white and blue theme of the president. Perhaps the designer felt trapped in the color theme. Red, white and blue can be very cliche but in a presidential campaign it really the right choice. McCain got away with just using black but it function more as an absence of color as opposed to an additional or different color.

His font choice is horrible. Edwards tries for a classic san-serif font that works well on placards but choses a font that is much to thick and some of the letters are poorly formed. The S makes me want to puke.

All and all John Edwards site is a disappointment for some one with such name recognition.

YouTube gets a bit of a design refresh. Update: Mashable has a bit more on the design update.

Most of the new Revisio3 shows are a bore. Pixel Perfect is the only show that that is interesting. Bert Monroy really comes across as the next Boss Ross as he effortlessly teaches people how to master photoshop.

IE7 has finally been pushed out. Go download it now or wait for you’re auto update to download it for you. It was release about 5pm today and the IE team have already announced they have started working on IE8.

John Resig stopped by Refresh Boston and gave a jQuery demo. It turns out its amazing but it has a flaw.

While it’s super short and easy to use it also has full CSS 3 support which means any CSS selector on this list can be used.

CSS 3 selectors? No browser even does that! I know I’m not supposed to use Javascript to style html elements but the draw of CSS 3 selectors is almost too strong to resist.

I only hope I’m strong enough to resist.

Round 2 of voting for SXSW panels. go get your vote on.

Kevin Airgid’s book Web Designers Success Guide is now a free PDF. Download this while you still can for some of the best practical advice on going freelance without falling on your face. Not an ebook fan? You can still buy the book from Lulu for only $25. I did and I was not sorry. cheers.

John Gruber thinks Google Analytics will kill Mint like Google Calendar killed Kiko.The problem is Calendar/Kiko were both for the masses while Mint was always built for small niche (A niche with high design taste and disposable income). Google Analytics will never win over the people using Mint.