While looking at a article from useit.com about intranet design it was interesting to see some great designs that some developers are doing utilizing sharepoint technology. Normally when you think of Sharepoint solutions you’ll think of the standard template maybe with some color changes and a logo slapped up in the left corner. something along this lines.

But now people are taking that core technology and applying usability and design to it for some interesting results.

What striked me different about this was even though you see much of the same functionality you’d see in those template solutions, there’s some great thought process in regards to how to utilize the sharepoint engine but not letting it dictate the solution to the customer. There’s a real thought process to planning, design and implementation. They’re not relying on the tool to do it for them but are utlizing the tool accomplish usability problems. Branding comes to the forefront as does things line spacing priroity of action for the user, and good page layout. This why templates don’t work. Simply plugging in someone’s logo isn’t addressing you understanding business problems of that organization and if you let the tool do the work for you you’re not offering the customer any real value that they can’t get somewhere else. Tools and prepackaged solutions are a commodity how you can creatively build with them is the real value. I’m excited to see how designers and developers will continue to push these tools for strategic design solutions for their customers.

lately I’ve been encountering a lot of what I’d call creative elitism in the design community both online and around town. I know there’s always been the stereotype of the guy in the black sweater with his goatee and retro glasses ( I like my retro style glasses thank you very much.) But I’m a bit concerned about how some designers feel like they are a cut above everyone else. Don’t you remember those groups in school that looked down on everyone because they were the self appointed cool kids well surprise it apparently has continued on into adulthood just new titles. The idea that a designer is somehow entitled to look down on other people or to look down at their clients or that they have the only answer and won’t listen to others is ridiculous. That’s throwing up walled fences around their little now gated community and the only way to make things better is everyone working together not some sort of trickle down economics of creativity. Putting yourself in a creative elitists class isolates and chips away at that passion of what you loved about design to begin with. Your client or that guy you met working the coffee shop is most likely just as creative as you but in totally different areas of interest just because they can’t pick pantones or fonts doesn’t make them any less of a person that you. We only have a short time on this planet and God gave you a gift to use your brain creatively for visual design or illustration so don’t get arrogant because as soon as you do you’ve stopped growing as a designer and worst of all as a human being.

Rumors are running rampent in regards to what Apple’s iSlate/iPad/iNeed it device is going to have feature wise. Talks of a front facing camera for video conferencing, raised type screen bumps that reach up to meet your fingers like some sort of star trek inspired tech geek’s dream. Man I hope it can blend specialty coffee’s too! Of course there will be the publishing content deals with magazines and books to effectively seek out and destroy Amazon’s Kindle marketshare. But I wasn’t sure this was enough to make it one of those must have devices for me.

I really don’t like reading a magazine or a book on a screen and honestly I’ve yet to see anyone with a Kindle despite Amazon’s claim that everyone owns one at this very moment. I Still prefer old school paper for that…and my laptop suits the rest of my needs fine but I think I know what will seal the deal for me in a tablet. If it included a pressure sensitive stylus. “Gasps” you say “Steve Jobs already said a stylus was lame and must be thrown to the sacrificial fire!” But hear me out. This iPad could be a perfect computer for a illustrator or designer if it had a pressure sensitive stylus!

This would effectively go after Wacom’s market with their digital LCD Cintiq. I would love to no longer have to hook up my Cintiq to my laptop and then reboot plus you’ll be amazed how many cables the Cintiq has and it’s power source brick. Not exaclty what you call pick up and draw device. But a tablet running OS-X with Painter and Magna Studios on it. Now that makes me drool. I could just suddenly start sketching anytime I felt like it…and I love the feature of “Undo” as opposed to an eraser. The Cintiq already costs $999 by it’s self. The supposed price point of the iTablet is around that and you get a whole computer included! Sign me up if that’s the case. Check out a demo here!

bloatwareI recently posted about how much I like Flux versus Dreamweaver. With it’s emphasis on being intuitive and focused on what to do that a web designer needs. But one thing that I really liked about it too was getting rid of the clutter and un-needed features in an interface and how smaller the application was. Mac applications in general have amazing intuitive interface design. But there’s a couple of app titans out there that are still kicking and screaming into that idea. That’s Adobe and Microsoft. Adobe’s general interfaces really haven’t changed since their most early versions of software. What has changed though is they’ve added more and more bloated features and windows and fucntions to their software. The result a 1000 pound gorilla you’re taking to the horse race. What I’m happy to see is people are actually competing against these monsters of software. You have competition to things like Office with Open Office, iWorks, etc that are either free or substantially at a lower cost point. Acorn and Gimp are taking their shot at the Photoshop juggernaut and if they can get some of the compatibility issues resolved they’ll have something pretty solid. These new apps are a much smaller foot print in file size and often offer the same functionality minus a few of the features only a handful of people ever even think about using so I’ll take my software on a diet thank you very much. It’s also much better on my wallet.

the flux interface

My holy grail has been for a WYSIWYG editor to truly handle CSS layout intuitively and properly. While Dreamweaver is very powerful it’s lasting roots are in traditional table layouts and their CSS preview has a lot to be desired plus it’s an interface that’s quite overwelming and confusing. What I’ve been seeking is a CSS layout program that is designed for designers not coders. Program like Codoa and CSS edit really appeal to hard core developers and not the visual layout designer. It’s never really made sense to me that people work in a text editing view to render something visually it seems archaic and counterintuitive. That’s a big reason I got so excited with the prospects of a program called “Flux” by a company called The Escapers. Their current release 2.47.7 and its quite impressive. I’ve been working for only a short while with the 30 demo and already see the tremendous amount of productivity gains from this app. All your css atributes are presented in intuitive side dialog boxes while you can still edit in a code view I think you’ll find the layout interface a breath of fresh air from the tedium coding. Drag and drop your elements, lists, divs, and tables while still adhering to css standards and simply point and click to make adjustments. it’s the closes I’ve seen yet to bridging the gap of desktop layout to web page layout. Check out this screencast of Flux in action. 1.21 gigawatts not needed. http://www.theescapers.com/screencast/index.html

deck stools

1. DeckStools

made from recycled skatedboards with it’s own weathered look that comes natural from the wear and tear it the pieces went through ($150)

Gig Posters

2. Gig Poster Book

Chronicles many great piece of rock show art from the 21st century. I think some of the most creative and unique artwork is being done on the rock promotion scene these days. Also features easy pull out pages so you can hang them on the wall. ($50)

3.Marqueee Alphabet Lights

Ever want a giant letter over your office desk? Well here’s your chance to make it a big show. Might be a bit expensive to spell out your whole name though so pick your favorite letter carefully. ($178)

4. Zoku Quick Pop Maker

Now you can create your own customized frozen pops, including cream-filled varieties, in as few as seven minutes. The nonstick cast-aluminum molds have a proprietary solution sealed inside their bases to enable rapid, uniform freezing – no electricity required. ($50)


5. Bilk Threadless Wall Graphics

Get some of those sweet Threadless t-shirt designs on your walk with Bilk Wall Graphics. These are giant stickers so peel carefully:)


6. Type Selector

If you’re familiar with the Pantone color guide and can’t imagine working without it at your desk and in presentations and meetings, have you ever wondered why there’s not an equivalent tool for fonts and typefaces? ($35)

7. Photoshop magnets

your fridge is now your biggest workspace screen ever with these unique photoshop interface magnets. ($18.75)

House Book

8. House Ten Year Book

Retro is in baby! House Industries is one of my favorite font foundries who also do some unique merchandise using their font products. Yeah I know they say this book is sold out but get on the list to get one and check out the other books and fonts and goodies they have. (unavailable pricing)


9. Type Coasters

Stylish and hip for that typography lover in your family. serif fonts sans coffee drink. ($45)

500 color pencils

10. 500 color pencils

get 25 new color pencils every month in the mail until you get the full 500 collection with this fun subscription service. Good luck finding a place to put them all but what an amazing collection to have. Seems like they covered the whole pantone collection on these. ($30 a month for 20 months)

"and it burns burns burns...the ring of fire" - Johnny Cash

"and it burns burns burns...the ring of fire" - Johnny Cash

There’s this assumption sometimes that designers can just crank out design after design like an asembly line. Like there’s some sort of endless fountain of creativity we just tap into whenever needed. “I need a logo could you have that done in a day?” Deadlines and pressures to be insanely productive vs. extremely creative are always present as the mighty dollar speaks volume for business. But a burned out designer is going to be useless to your organization. and if they don’t have understanding or even encouragement of designers stepping away from the computer once in a while you might have a bigger problem on your hands. Recognize the signs of burnout before it takes hold

1. extreme fatigue
2. a general apathy of well pretty much everything
3. Low mood and energy
4. lack of motivation
5. lack of passion
6. decline in quality of work

I know these signs because I struggle with them  I’m definitely a prime candidate to take my own advice ad I’m a workaholic, perfectionist, and insanely self critical. This has left to frequently pushing myself into frequent burnouts. But the good news is I’m taking steps to help myself and  here’s some things I can recommend that not only a designer should do but anyone in the creative business take

1. Step away from the computer. Can’t seem to get any idea out at all. Go away from your computer, take a walk, go to the bookstore, go see a movie, play with the kids, visit an art museum. Just stop trying to rack your brain right now. The answer will come to you when your not thinking about it.

2. Get walking, get exercising!!! There’s a program on my computer called timeout I use that literally fades out my computer screen and forces me to take a 10 minute break ever hour or so (sometimes I have to hit snooze…ok a lot). I try to walk the stairs and take a trip around the parking lot and get that blood flowing. Without oxygen flowing to your brain you certainly aren’t going to get any inspiration.

3. Get talking. chat with others in the office, make a phone call, talk to a friend. Get a bit get their opinion or just talk a bit about what your working on. They could offer a valuable differing view on your problem. Voice to them your concerns about the unrealistic workloads or how you need some help or a break. Hopefully they’ll be understanding if not you maybe in a bad job situation to begin with and that’s a whole other problem. Also find other designers and chat with them. Get involved in community organizations and things that help you gain inspiration from others.

4. Have something else beside design work that you can do as a hobby. Wether writing or music playing or boat building. You need to have something that allows you to change gears and tap that creative parts of your brain in other ways. It stimulates other creative thinking approaches that may help you on future projects or current design problems. It gives your brain a rest. THE TV IS NOT one of these things. Read a book instead.

5. If you need to..then take time off!!! nobody is going to die if your not at work a day or two but you might shorten your own life if you don’t. This is design for goodness sake you’re not an air traffic controller at LAX. in fact those people need even more time off for as stressful and important as their job is. When was the last time you did something fun? Life is too short not to enjoy it. Spend time with your family, friends, go somewhere and do something new.

6. Take big jobs into small tasks and write them out or get them into a task list. Realize that with all that info floating around in your head it seems much bigger than it actually is. Here’s a good example of how something can expand it your mind. imagine a swirling line and try to image in ever ending…you can always make the swirl bigger in your head and continually zoom in. Our brain loves to blow things out of proportion because it’s pretty much endless what our thoughts can imagine things to be. Take some of the low hanging fruit…the simple tasks you can get out of the way easily before jumping into that big creative problem. Your brain may already come up with a solution while working on the small tasks.

7. Find an environment that inspires your creativity. If your surroundings are dull and lifeless then they are they’re going to affect your mood and motivation to one degree or another. change the scenery, put up artwork, surround your desk with fun toys, work from home, work from a coffee shop, work from a parking lot…whatever works to give you a fresh environment.

8. Sleep! Get some more! American’s are significantly sleep deprived. Some people claim get their best creative inspiration late at night. ( I’m definitely one of those.) but that doesn’t mean you have to wrap up that whole project that night. Get your thoughts down and attack it some more in the morning. Or if possible change your work schedule to allow you to have your best creative time and still get adequate sleep and get the job done.

9. What the heck are you eating?! garbage in garbage out. I can testify to the fact that poor eating will result in sluggish thinking. Caffeine might jump start you a few times but for the long haul you need to watch that sugar and fat intact and eat foods that give nutrition to your brain and body.

10. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Creatives have a tendancy to have all sorts of zanny ideas of things they want to try, or design,or produce. There’s no need to try to do them all at the same time. Don’t take on 5 freelance gigs, try to start a business, do your taxes, write a book, and cure cancer all in the same week. You’re not doing any of those projects any service and you’ll just ending hating doing them. Learn to delegate when you can as well to help on them over time.

So that about sums up everything I recommend to fight and avoid Creative burnout. I’m speaking from constantly struggling against the beast so this advice is just as much a checklist for myself as anyone else in the creative field. If you have other suggestions I’d love to hear them of what has worked for you.

Check out some these great t-shirt designs you can buy for your favorite designer.

html t-shirt

with all this corn...he needs more brand.

With all that corn...he's gonna need some more brand in his diet.


You know as a web designer nothing is more disheartening then working on a website that has a truly horrible logo and accompanying outdated marketing materials. Usually it’s a bad hand drawn of artwork or something that looks like it was rushed out by a highschool kid with his first PC. It’s not just that it makes designing so much more difficult to work around that sore spot but you get so frustrated because you know that small business or organization is doing some great things and their visual identity quite frankly says the opposite. Often the client is like “well we’ve had that logo for 30 years, it’s what people know us for, but we want a website that really shows us as leaders” Do you see the disconnect? They want a great website that really reflects their amazing organization but they never looked at a root problem, their brand and more specifically the anchor that is their visual identity. They almost feel personally attached to it and it’s human nature to oppose change even for the better.

Listen, it’s time to let that 70’s disco inspired abstract symbol with the courier font to go to pasture. It’s not what your company is…it may have been what your company was when everyone in your office was in leisure suits smoking cigarettes and drove without seat belts but this isn’t who you are any more nor how you want to be portrayed. Your competition is utilizing social media, is taking fresh approaches in how they market themselves and you continue to trudge along in the trenches not realizing your getting passed by everyone else. It’s time to set yourself apart and take your branding to the next level.

Your brand needs to have a strong visual identity that not only can reach out to your existing customers and potential new customers but your own employees as well. It solidifies your direction and connects the points in the intangibles ways about  describing your business, it’s energy, it’s advantages. It helps create brand loyalty among your customers. Just remember you need a great business/product or the logo is just lying. the new brand has to be truthful and open just like your business has to be.

Since I’ve been doing logo design in tangent with developing an online presence, I’ve seen clients renewed and energized about their business again. They love being involved with the creative process of creating a logo and more importantly clearly laying out what their business is about and how it should be represented. My job as a designer is just to focus that and make it easily communicated visually. I’m not saying every business needs a logo redesign but I think a lot of companies could use a brand makeover. It might not be redesigning their logo but sometimes an evaluation of a business goals and direction can unmask some unforeseen problems in their visual identity that can be tweaked. Even if its font usage, colors or simple thematics around it which can better support their logo both in their print materials and the web. In the end a company or business that is excited about what they’re doing makes the world a little better in my opinion. I’m glad I can try to help in that.



So I read that rupport murdock of the always bias and highly entertaining Fox News and Washington post that he’ll be pulling content from Google so it can no longer be searcheable. His presumption that he’s offering some sort of unique valuable content people are actually willing to pay for? Sooo as usual big business forgets what it’s like to be a customer and they start running in fear from the inevitable monster that is the Internet. News that would have normally come out of the Wallstreet Journal are just regurgitated headlines found across the press release and blogsphere and more importantly the twittersphere. in effect the King has lost it’s clothes and doesn’t even know it. By effectively trying to put up a glass wall around their content and trying to get people to pay for a subscription to their content people will simply seek it out elsewhere for free. They’re not offering anything substantial different or valuable that a 1000 others are who many times are more informed and more intelligent bloggers and have already posted it on twitter up. Sorry Newspapers you will not survive the democraticization of information. The best you can hope for is a small loyal following to your little portal of commentary reporting online but you’ll be at the same level as the rest of us. The playing field has been leveled…may the best blogger win.