Thursday, November 29, 2007

Natzke = Inspiration & Love

Anyone who doesn't think math or code can be cool hasn't seen Natzke's work. I've been an Eric Natzke fan since my early days creating sites with Macromedia (now Adobe) Flash. Renowned as a Flash God back in the day, Natzke has since evolved into an amazing artist. These code based visualizations, created using Flash, are emotive and beautiful.

Eric Natzke's Site
Create your own flickriver

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Form Design Best Practices

I'm so glad I found this. I've spent more time struggling with designs for interface modals and forms since I started work at Zoto than I care to remember. Form design isn't exactly a sexy topic, but despite it's lack of sex appeal, it's one worth addressing. I'm working on forms for fotofluff at the moment, and seriously, it's a painstaking process. Forms are a big part of usability, especially with 2.0 services like Zoto, and a poorly designed form can come back to haunt you like bad Chinese takeout. Personally, I'd take a job designing a poster over designing a form any day of the week. So to all of you great form designers on the internet, I tip my hat to you.

I just wish I'd seen this slideshow a few years ago. Enjoy.

Scrappy Fonts

Scrapbook-ish and handwritten fonts can add whimsy and warmth to a design. I've zipped up an archive of scrapbook fonts for download. Below is a sample of some of my favorites from this collection. I've also included some links to some free sites where you can download scrapbook fonts and create your own handwritten fonts.


Download: Scrapbook Fonts Zip (5.4 MB)

Free Scrapbook Fonts

Scrap Village
Kevin & Amanda

Create Your Own Handwritten Font

My First Font

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

I'm Listening To This

I'm always rifling through tracks on iTunes (I used to do it on while it was online) to discover new music for my iPod. I thought I'd post a sampling of some new bands/music I'm currently loving.

I couldn't find a service to do this properly so I just pulled some videos from YouTube. I really wish there was an easier way to blog music. I'd love a service that provides music with cover art and would let me post individual tracks, entire albums, or music videos straight to my blog. If it integrated with iTunes and if I was able to blog an entire playlist I had created that would be awesome (especially if it was formatted nicely with cover art). I have accounts at iLike and LastFM but I don't think they provide this functionality (not the way I'm describing). Those sites are overly complicated and community-based (read: not quite what I'm looking for). I signed up for their services but I hardly use them. The only thing I use iLike for is a widget for my MySpace page. LastFM will allows users to post recent music to blogs but I want more than simple music aggregation. What I really want is to be able to put together "mixtape"-type lists and then share them. I want to post them to my blog and to my social networks (like facebook for instance). Seriously, how cool would it be to create a virtual "mixtape" for a friend or for your boyfriend/girlfriend and then be able to post it to them on facebook (complete with your own custom cover art)?

I've done some searching and discovered a service called ProjectPlaylist that seems a little closer to what I have in mind. I don't think it's exactly I'm looking for and the UI is clunky but I will be signing up for an account and checking what they offer. There's also a company called Goodstorm that is actually promoting a "mixtape"- type widget. I'll check 'em both out and blog about them later.

The other problem with current music services is visual presentation. I hate the generic little players that most music services provide. I want something a little more sophisticated and with more of a bloglike visual presentation. It has to look nice and be simple to use. What I'm thinking of is basically something like Tumblr-for-music with a widget that integrates with facebook (so I can post those mix-tapes I mentioned). This service would have to have access to a kickin' music library, upload ability, and cover art for albums. And it would most definitely have to integrate with iTunes and my playlists.

But enough ranting. Here's what I'm loving. Enjoy.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Date With The Night
This band is punky and edgy and fun. I'm really digging them right now.

Blue Foundation
Silence (End of the Day)
Another group whose music I recently discovered. Moody and sexy.

Explosions In The Sky
Greet Death

The Fountain (Sountrack)
Track: Death Is The Road To Awe
This track blows my mind. I love it. I love soundtrack scores and this movie has one of the best.

So how do I find new music? Services like LastFM and iLike are too cumbersome to be helpful. Music recommendations are hit and miss. The best way I've found to search for new music is to browse iTunes (or and find an artist I like and then check out the "Listeners Also Bought" section. I then head straight to their "Top Songs", sample a few tracks, and figure out whether I like them or not. I also like to check out the iMix area on iTunes. So basically I stumble around until I find what I like. That actually gives me another idea for a music service. A StumbleUpon site for music would be a totally amazing way to discover new tunes. Ahh, I wish I had some venture capital lying around (sigh).

Related Linkage:

Flickr Mixtape Cover Art Pool

The Hype Machine - Music Discovery

Goodies For Tuesday

Vector Freebies & Tutorials
All the vector your little heart could desire.

Jared Christensen Portfolio & Blog
This site is hot. And pink. Yummy portfolio site.

Unmatched Style - Design Gallery
Serving up some stylish designs. Nice source for inspiration.

Top 50 Design Blogs
Blogs by designers. Check 'em out, yo.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Web 2.0 Look

I ran across this today. It's a nifty presentation urging designers to change the error of their Web 2.0 (design) ways.

I have a real love/hate thing with the Web 2.0 design style (not to be confused with actual web 2.0). On one hand I think it's very cookie-cutter and template-y looking (read: unoriginal). On the other hand it's fairly simple and straightforward to create a 2.0 design for client - just add gradients, shiny text, fat icons or screenshots, and then stir. So when a client says they want a 2.0 looking design, you know exactly what they mean. Quite frankly, less time trying to read a client's mind and anticipate their design expectations is generally considered a good thing in my book. Less time interfacing with client = more time playing fetch with my dog. That's a win/win if you ask me.

In an ideal world we could create the designs we want (and sometimes we do). But in the real world we have to follow the dictates of our clients (the people who pay us money). Just because designers are sick of the Web 2.0 look doesn't mean our clients will stop requesting it. Let's be honest. A client is more likely to say "Make it look web 2.0" rather than "Make it look amazing and brilliant and original so we can win an award and you can showcase it in your portfolio, oh great design master". And, yes, I'm certain that there are clients who end their sentences with "oh great design master". I just haven't had the good fortune to meet any yet. The reality is that when a client requests a 2.0 design (or any design for that matter) they expect you to deliver.

But what if you hate the Web 2.0 style? Can you create a design you don't hate that fits the visual criteria for the Web 2.0 Look? I'm starting to think so. I've been designing on a new project. My client's very specific and only instruction regarding the design was that it must look very web 2.0. My client isn't some local "mom and pop" from down the road. He's the Zoto CEO and an "evangelist" (read: guy who talks a lot) for a successful company in Silicon Valley. So when this client says 2.0 he means it. The result? A design with a Web 2.0 look that I don't hate. Here's an early peek at the design for the homepage.

This is a fast track project called fotofluff that should be rolling out in January. We're pretty psyched about it. Is this design of the homepage filled with Web 2.0 design clichés (gradients, diagonal lines, shiny text, and *gasp* reflections)? Yes. But I have to admit I like it anyway. And I can't wait for the site to launch. It's gonna rock.

Some 2.0 Design Linkage: (worth the read)

Analysis of Web 2.0 Design & Layout Trends – Part 1: Clean, Colorful and Horizontally Divided

How To Destroy The Web 2.0 Look

The Next Hot Style - Just As Soulless As The Last One

Original Design Gangsta

...just my M A C and me
I'm so design gansta...

Yeah. That's just how I roll.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Blood Runs Red on The Highway (A Grindhouse Movie)

Ha! Love it.
You really need to see Tarantino's Death Proof to fully appreciate this. Speaking of Death I the only one who thought the first half of the movie rocked and the second half sucked balls?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Misc Design Links
You need stripes? You got it.
I love this site. Fantastic for scooping up great color palettes. Save your favorites and download swatches for PS and AI.
Nab css colors from a favorite site.
Free vectors? Who doesn't want free vectors? A treat for download-happy designers like me.
Brushes, brushes, and more brushes. Check out their pattern section while you're there.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Design à la Web - What's Hot. What's Not.

(A design forecast for 2008)

The following is a list of trends that I think we are going to see more of in the next year and a few I hope we don't see again for a long time.

"Ouch, this design is soo SMOKIN' HOT I burned my hand!"
Below is my list of favorite up-and-coming trends.

Crafts are big in a major way offline and online. There's no doubt about it. Adding colorful patterns, collage-y graphics, handwritten fonts, and elements that look 'hand drawn' or 'handmade' can be the perfect way to visually offset techy 2.0 designs and bring an eclectic quality to your site.

Some Examples:


From sunbursts to slanty lines, stripes are all the rage right now.

Some Examples:

"Vector Birds"
Call me crazy but I've been seeing a lot of colorful, simple vector bird art. I'm even thinking about incorporating some birdies into my portfolio site.

Some Examples:

"Dark Colors"
"Barbie Pink" and her "Rainbow Bright" friends are (thankfully) on the way out. It would appear that Brown is the new Black. Hey, even Maroon is making a comeback. Web 2.0 has been dominated by ultra bright color schemes but I think we will see shift back to darker, richer palettes in the future.

Some Examples:

"Got Wood?"
Wood panel elements are popping up everywhere. I think it's part of an overall trend to incorporate organic elements into web designs. Like handmade looking elements, it's a trend I predict we will see more of in the future of the web - since it serves as an effective means of humanizing a medium (digital) that be can often be perceived as cold and alienating.

Some Examples:


"This crap is sooo 5 minutes ago."
Say goodbye to design trends that have overstayed their welcome. Here's the list of what's soon to be going...going...gone!


Glossy buttons and text have been the scourge of web 2.0 but even Apple (who inspired this design hurricane) has opted for muted, polished buttons in lieu of the gel-glassy buttons that were once a design staple of their website navigation. has also recently upgraded their popular techy news site with a new 'flat' design (sans beveled logo and buttons). Hopefully this means we are seeing an end to the shiny-glassy-glossy button for good. Everyone stand up and cheer and throw out your 'how to make crap shiny' tutorials!

"Gradients, Gradients, Gradients!"
Someone once told me that a designer uses gradients and drop shadows to disguise a poor design. And while I do think that gradients have their place I also think they should be used sparingly. I believe we will see a design shift away from heavy gradient use in the upcoming year (at least by good designers).


Enough already with the reflections. Like Gradients they should be used sparingly. Hopefully we'll see less of these in the coming months.

"Floral Vines"

Did everyone and their dog buy the same 'vector floral-vine' clipart? You've seen it (or some iteration of it) in a thousand places and the whoever who drew it is a millionaire now. But enough is enough. It's almost 2008 and I'm so over the 'web is a garden' metaphor.

"Stock Photography"

I'm pretty certain that the handful of designers that didn't get the "stock photography is lame." memo when web 2.0 design started dominating the scene must have surely clued in by now. Icons and Cartoony clipart are all the rage (just ask the cool kids). So get with the program, lame-designer-guy. I'm sorry you spent a $100 bucks on a high-res photo of two guys shaking hands. Have a good cry about it. Maybe you can make a poster out of it and mount it on your wall so that it's not a total loss.

Don't worry. Someday stock photos of corporate guys in suits smiling and shaking hands will be back in style. Good thing I have a big stack of (now worthless) stock photo discs I burned onto cds before I left my last job. No, I'm not bitter. Globes and corporate suits are sooo making a comeback... around the same time animated gifs do.

"Our love is here to stay."
These trends are sticking around. And I'm glad.

"BIG Text"

Yes. I love it. I wear glasses so what do you expect? Tiny pixel text be damned.

"BIG Buttons"

I need big buttons. You need big buttons. Everyone knows that usability is all about the BIG button. Well, in theory, anyway. Personally, I just think they are more fun to click.

"Vector Paper Clipart & Illustrated People/Animals"

From photo frames, to notepad paper, to paper with curled edges and paper with torn edges - vector paper clipart is here to stay.

Designs with illustrated elements of people and cutesy animals also seem to be a favorite with designers and won't be going away any time soon. It almost makes me wish I could draw. I'd make a fortune selling stock illustration.

"Bright Blue Hyperlinks"

Flickr and Delicous just wouldn't be the same without them. Jacob Nielson must be so happy (and probably smug) about this one. I just don't think the pesky blue hyperlink is ever going away.

So concludes my list. Now tell me, what are some of your favorite up-and-coming trends?