Category Archives: Design

Design in general, of any type

Moonlighters Website

I sing with a small swing, jazz choir in Tempsford on a weekly basis for over a year now, after moving from Bedford Choral Society in search of a challenge. The Moonlighters sing mostly without accompaniment, and the smaller number of members requires everyone to hold their own.

As one of the members was emigrating, the existing website had to be replaced and moved elsewhere. So after some thought I volunteered to set up a new site (the existing code and content was wrapped up in a third-party CMS which was not easily accessible) with WordPress and on TSO Host, my preferred hosting company.

The website – Moonlighters.org now is a source of new members and enquiries to hire, and we have plans – new photography, some recordings, even a mailing list.

Online Forum Documentation Project

For a little over a year now, I’ve been a curator.

cu·ra·tor
/ˈkyo͝orātər/
Noun
A keeper or custodian of a museum or other collection.
Synonyms
custodian – keeper – trustee – guardian – conservator

It is an administrative role at a friendly online forum, with posts monthly from between 50 and 60 engaged members from around the world.  Historically several hundred have been members at some point, and it has been going longer than the three years I have been part of the community.

It has a challenge of conveying the rules of a collaborative writing game, everything from how a member conducts themselves in a chatbox to the boundaries of science in the game have been painstakingly discussed over the years, debated, disagreed, resolved and reworked by the members and their curators.

The curator team has changed regularly over time, adapting to a larger group of members, more activity, hundreds of questions and the considerations of making final decisions on some of these discussions.  All in all, it can be a mammoth task, especially when collaboration is entirely done through forum posts, instant messages and the odd Skype call when timezones allow.  Some days it can feel a thankless task, other days it is synonymous with an online pub where topics fall to cooking and discussing the differences in culture and daily life between us.

Last year, shortly after I made the ranks of curator, the team went through a period of ‘redux’ where the forum’s documentation had become sprawling and inaccessible to many, with contradictions and other matters.  The forum had a wiki, but it was generally only for the interested or involved, and the decision was made to keep the core documentation on forum pages, but reduce the number and simplify matters.  But where to start proved tricky, and without being able to be in the same room to draw it out or debate it, it was hard to visualise.

Then stepped up a beautiful piece of software I’d acquired for the Mac – MindNode, a tool to map out thoughts and ideas in a spider-diagram.

We were able to turn this:
ao-original-docs

Into this:

ao-revised-docs

From there we could revise each piece of documentation in turn, rewrite it, edit it, tweak it, normalise the language and terminology between them so we used consistent names and formatting. Suddenly from a mass of text, here came the visualisation.

The short story being, that visualising things ended up working perfectly for us. What seemed an insurmountable task was now tackled by people who had never met in person, and benefitted many (albeit a hobby pursuit).

It’s a technique I will follow whether with pen and paper, or on here, to map out everything from content for a site, to a plan for a fictional character or environment. Ideas link – they flow from one to the next in logical steps, and from one idea can link many. Using this technique I am able to create far more detailed, reasoned and rounded ideas and executions, in almost any reasoning.

Bitter Ruin AR

I am a long-time fan of band Bitter Ruin. Georgia Train and Ben Richards are fantastic, creative musicians. Described as “AH-mazing” by Tim Minchin, and having toured with Amanda Palmer, they are selling out performances.

Looking at good examples of how onvert Augmented Reality might be used, I put together a quick sample and filmed it as a piece of fan art.

As such, you can sample their album, Hung, Drawn and Quartered and see them in 3D with your album cover and your phone. Download onvert viewer and visit the onvert on site to do what you see in the video above.

Be delightfully Ruined.

Photography used on site and to put together the Augmented Reality was taken by Scott Chalmers, as seen on the official website

Little Book Valentine

Not so long ago at Harmony, we made the Pocket Book of Creativity

From the Harmony website in 2012 about the project:

It began as a creative exercise turned into a beautiful piece of marketing that can be enjoyed by all. Sometimes creativity strikes when you least expect it, and at other times it appears to be beyond grasp.

Creativity is the cornerstone of Harmony’s work – it is where our clever, innovative solutions for all manner of requirements and challenges shine. We dare to be bold and create solutions for our customers to give them a unique edge in their markets.

We wanted to share our love and investment in creativity – to inspire our clients, potential customers and friends to make today different, and try something new, so the Pocket Book of Creativity was born – a guide to making sure today is different.

The process was simple – as a team we discussed how creative ideas were born, how great inventors found solutions to problems and how ideas could be dashed. The ideas tumbled onto paper to create our vision on why creativity is important.

The ideas were organised into stages of decision making, to ideas of how to induce deeper creativity, and then a set of the creative people we admire through history and across many different disciplines.
“Without ideas and creativity, we lose the ability to solve, evolve and inspire. Too often, we let the needs of the moment occupy our creative minds and forget to look beyond today, to step back and to allow the idea machine between our ears to move us forward.”

“If this pocket book does anything for you, let it be to give you time and inspiration for creativity. Enjoy.” – Company Director, Jason Higgins.

The Pocket Book was lovingly designed by Sarah Francis in her freelance capacity as Creatingle. As well as being a dear friend, Sarah is a brilliant and quirky designer and a great person to put together our ideas and text. Her design was inspirational and drew from our work and her interpretation of Harmony. We wanted the project to be different – to not instantly look like Harmony, so this outside input was invaluable.

The book was printed up by UK company Little Book who do different versions of their book layout, and supply many recognisable brands and events. As they send out samples to interested people, we found out that the Pocket Book of Creativity gets a regular outing in their set of samples. (Edit: Sarah went on to design some more for Autism West Midlands)

Little Book were considering their branding and asked for opinions on their old branding using red bubbles. I was surprised to discover that my comment about the bubbles had been selected as a winner of some champagne and bright red balloons on Valentines Day! Subsequently we were featured on the Little Book blog. I don’t remember ever winning a little competition like that, so it was a lovely surprise!

Anatomy of a QR Code User

700-anatomy-of-a-qr-code-user-usa-2011

 

Statistics compiled as part of research for onvert.com – an Augmented Reality platform. I pulled together statistics from two reports, one from Simpson Carpenter, UK and the other from comScore, both in 2011 to put together the statistics. QR code usage in America is slightly behind the UK, who are again behind Japan and neighbouring countries who are earlier adopters of technology.

The most surprising number for me were the numbers of QR codes seen on television – which seems to be a bit of a daft place to put it unless you manage to keep it on screen for an extended length of time. Waitrose did something similar one year, but failed to keep it on screen for very long. Whereas QRs are commonly described as a good method for viewing sites while on the move, 58% were scanned at home, where one might assume a laptop or desktop computer could be found.

Why I love the John Lewis website

Since moving into a new property, I’ve trawled website after website and spent long weekends in furniture shops sorting out appliances and furniture. It turns out I’m just particularly picky, and also as its my first home to furnish (I previously short term rented furnished places due to studying etc) I had a lot to discover and contemplate.

Landing on the John Lewis website was a breath of fresh air amongst other retailers (particularly electrical ones…) with their cluttered websites and confusing product comparisons. So, these are my top 4 reasons:

Clean & Uncluttered

The John Lewis brand has a lovely, clean, elegant look of it. Even in stores there are dividers in just off white with some simple sans serif font. Whitespace appreciation gives breathing space. Everything about the clarity in the JL site makes you feel relaxed. Yes, one could argue it was a bit boring but in honesty, its a lot easier to read and find things when a hundred and two things aren’t blinking at your or crushed together.

The home page has a clear focus on a top panel which showcases some great photography and interesting products. It scrolls at a rate that doesn’t make my head spin, yet commands attention. The space beneath is divided neatly with images and text that fits well in proportion, and beneath that, at least for those signed in, is a recently viewed products and a neat, functional footer.

Menus

I know some people hate them, but I appreciate a well executed drop down menu with large drop downs. With such a vast array of products, its one way to cut down on the number of clicks between your visitor and your products. The menus on the JL site are easily read. I especially liked the Home & Garden menu – I was looking for furniture at the time – as it has been split into rooms, furniture, home furnishing and shop by type.

The women and men menus have a neat little ‘highlights’ column to pick up on trends or ad campaigns, and the gift menu handily splits between type of gift, the gift recipient and the occasion making life a lot easier. Shop by brand is the only one to buck the trend as it leads to an enormous directory of all the brands the shop holds across all lines for the brand lover.

Advice

I can safely say I didn’t know much at all about fridges before attempting to buy one – other than they kept things cool. However, I discovered what frost-free meant and the different energy ratings, sizes and different styles with the advice guide John Lewis provides. This extra info may be missed by quite a few shoppers, but offers valuable advice and tips which I found impartial – rather like the partners in each store.

Product Filtering

The product filtering on John Lewis was severely lacking from most other sites I visited to compare fridge freezers. Each category of product has slightly different filters – the fridge freezers for instance have brand, price, energy rating, fridge freezer type, frost free (freezer), and then the additional filters of type, colour, width refrigeration and rating.

There are quite a number of brands, so JL have shown the popular ones and then provided a handy expansion to see all the rest of the brands if you want to narrow it down. Handily they provide a number in each category too so you know how far you’re narrowing down your options.

As you interact with the filters the products and thumbnails begin to refresh, and so do the filters below. This saves time on page loading, and allows you to change your mind quickly. Once you have the filters in place, you can reorder and compare up to four side by side which makes comparison shopping a breeze.

What do you like and dislike?

Do you disagree? Do you hate the big menus and find the filters illogical? What have you spotted that you think is neat? I’d love to hear different opinions, so leave me a comment.

The image in the header of this post is CC use of: Westfield Stratford City – John Lewis by EG Focus on Flickr.

UK Smartphone Usage in 2011

UK Smartphone Usage 2011

 

While studying mobile trends to better understand the market for the benefit of ReallyAppy.co.uk – a joint partnership with Harmony.co.uk and Snow Chicken, I compiled a number of statistics about UK smartphone usage for 2011. With a spare moment I decided to turn this information into an easily-digested infographic. Infographics not only break up data into a visual format (which improves the retention) but adds a bit of colour and diversity to a blog which had mostly focused on text-based entries until then.

The information listed is from Ofcom, 2011.

Project Manager @ Harmony Internet

I have worked for Bedfordshire web design company Harmony Internet, first as a trainee web developer and then as a project manager since September 2008.

I am fortunate to have worked with nearly all the clients in the company portfolio, providing support, updates, copywriting, organic search engine optimisation support, email marketing, template building, testing, researching, analysing, quotes, and simpler development tasks.

My role is very broad, as I am neither design nor development specialist, which means I have niche knowledge and fulfil and eclectic and unusual set of requirements between different projects!

Much more information about my employer can be found on our Clever Web People website.

Part of my role is to undertake copywriting requests from clients and internally for our company.

Examples of articles I have written as part of my job include:

For ReallyAppy

For Mobility Pitstop

For F C Dawes & Son

For our company website

 

Poster Design for Girlguiding UK

As a member of Girlguiding UK in Bedfordshire County, I celebrated the Guiding Centenary in 2009 & 2010. During the year there were a lot of events happening locally and nationally which had to be advertised, and I found that some of the publicity was lacking in inspiration to the Guides. To improve the attention the events received, I designed a set of posters for our unit and to be used by division and county if they wished.

Here are the results:

Creative Network

One thing I love about working in web design is the community. From colleagues, to fellow university graduates setting up their own businesses, to contacts from conferences, other companies collaborated with, and chance meetings. Everyone I’m in touch with I admire for their individual talents and achievements within the community, and I’d like to keep this post updated with people I meet and admire, and hope to work with, if I haven’t had the fortune of doing so already.

Go here if you would like to link up with me on LinkedIn.

 

 

DigiPest – Chris Fairey

Chris describes his company:

We specialise in network and website testing for small businesses, we can also provide training if required.

DigiPest – security specialists is run by Chris who as well as reading the same degree from the University of Hull (2008) also went on to complete the EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker qualification. I would recommend Chris to you for any security concerns regarding websites and networks, even if you think you may be safe as houses, he would be able to tell you.

LinkedIn | @digipest | www.digipest.com

 

ArtDeal Designs – Artiatesia

Artiatesia describes herself as:

I’m the Founder and Creative Principal at ArtDeal Designs, a boutique design studio assisting Solopreneurs and Small Businesses with their web & graphic needs.

ArtDeal Designs – US small business design studio is run by Artiatesia who not only has a passion for blogging and all things tech, but creates designs for small businesses and entrepreneurs. With strengths in social media (Facebook, Twitter) design as well as traditional website, blog and print design, ArtDeal is an ideal contact for any freelancer or small business.

LinkedIn | @artdeal | www.artiatesiadeal.com

 

DooBurt – Chris Laythorpe

DooBurt is a web developer, project manager and designer and a former colleague at Harmony Internet. With interests and surprising catacombs of knowledge in a number of obscure subjects including aircraft, air disasters (and building them out of LEGO), and World of Warcraft (I didn’t necessarily mean healthy interests). Chris was also part of the Audiostylists, and a DJ, and is still in his twenties, honest.

LinkedIn | @dooburt | dooburt.squarespace.com

 

Pete Hindle

Pete describes himself as:

I’m just some guy with a site who posts things

Pete Hindle is a creative soul from Biggleswade who blogs and tweets thoughts, writing, photography and insights from the creative community with good humour about Bedfordshire and its quirks. Pete is also an illustrator, juggler, and reads mountains of books.

@petehindle | www.petehindle.com

 

Creatingle – Sarah Francis

Sarah describes her company:

Imaginative, professional design and creative digital art (with a twist of quirkiness)

Creatingle – simple, beautiful design is Sarah’s freelance website, where she has great talents in print design, while also designing for web and more diverse outlets, including bar designs for big UK music festivals. Sarah is a very thoughtful, intelligent designer who I would recommend without hesitation.

LinkedIn | @creatingle | www.creatingle.co.uk

 

Albofish – Alex Hollyman

Albofish – musings of a clever web developer is Alex’s personal website, where he posts articles and advice from a developer perspective. He is a Harmony Internet’s senior developer, and my colleague. As well as turning his hand to classic ASP and PHP, Alex has a keen interest in jQuery, CSS and HTML and is a fantastic and creative problem solver.

LinkedIn | @albofish | www.albofish.co.uk

 

Diggersworld – Thomas Digby

Tom describes himself as:

I’m a web developer for Blitz Games Studios and have recently moved onto IndieCity.com – the one stop shop for all things indie games.

Tom is a gifted artist, designer and developer. A Flash wizard, he’s also pretty nifty at the guitar too, and is far too humble to agree with me on that. Blitz Games Studios is on the top five independent European developers of video games with titles on the Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP and PC platforms.

LinkedIn | @diggersworld | www.blitzgamesstudios.com | www.indieCity.com

 

Smartdog Digital – Illiya Vejestica

Illiya describes his own company as:

Smartdog digital is a specialist online marketing consultancy & training company helping business to measure their ROI online.

Illiya set up his own business, Smartdog and is a PPC and search engine guru, speaking at events, conferences and keeping up with a wide range of contacts. He blogs, tweets and is always right at the leading edge of what’s going on in the business. Illiya is the first person I look to for advice in online marketing as an expert, and he can provide insight and analysis to save hundreds of pounds from a marketing campaign.

LinkedIn | @illiyav | @smartdogdigital | www.smartdogdigital.com

 

BearOnFire – Sarah Carney

Sarah describes her freelance business as:

BearOnFire is a home for custom illustration and graphic design. Roarin’ good!

Sarah is a designer, illustrator and creative writer living in central Iowa. With a passion for dancing, Sarah juggles creativity in multiple forms along with managing a busy online forum and blogging about it all. Proud creator of a featured deviation on Deviantart, Sarah has been recognised for her contribution to the community and has many happy clients who have commissioned her individual talents.

LinkedIn | @sarahsellaphix | sarahcarneycreative.com | Thrive Art Blog

 

kNOELedge – Noel Gray

Noel describes his freelance business as:

Creative solutions to everyday challenges

Many of us have too much to read, reports, blog post, emails and probably many more. Keeping up can be a nightmare. I help you by showing you how to read faster and more efficiently. And yes, you read every word.

Perhaps you have problems at work that just don’t seem to go away, they pop up again not matter what you try. Costing you time and money and leading to frustration. I use creative thinking to identify the underlying issues and then give you a new perspective to overcome them.

Noel is a clever soul with a passion for problem solving! Not afraid to grace boardrooms and corporate environments, Noel brings his great experience and brings down barriers to progress. A great thinker, academic and listener, Noel’s services have been sought by GlaxoSmithKline and The Chartered Management Institute amongst other high profile names.

LinkedIn | @kNOELedge | kNOELedge.com | kNOELedge.net | Facebook

Poster Design for the Elisabeth Curtis Centre

The Elisabeth Curtis Centre is the Bedfordshire branch of Riding for the Disabled, a national charity in the UK. As the Elisabeth Curtis Centre is its own charity, they run events to raise awareness and funds, the posters for which I have in the past put together for them for significant events on request.

Here are some examples of artwork created for the charity:

Poster Design for Hull University Union

During my degree at the University of Hull, I was the Academic Issues Officer for Scarborough Campus as part of Hull University Union. (I’m now a lifelong honourary member for my work to change the way student academic representation worked.)

Here are some examples of design work I put together, mostly posters.

New Harmony Takes Shape

British Computer Society Membership

I strangely found myself renewing my BCS membership for £48.00 tonight. Its been on my Rememberthemilk list for about a week, as it expired at more or less the same time as my young person’s rail card. However, that cost £26, and I always see it as a valid investment. The BCS, each time they survey me, I wonder if I’m really getting the full value out of them.

Its always somewhere down my list to do, that I rarely pay high attention to, to the point I somehow maintained my student membership after graduating, and eventually after several letters from them asking if I wanted to upgrade, rolled it up to full MBCS membership.I’m the only one in the office who is, as far as I know. My course was partially accredited by them, which is why we all joined as freshers.

Puzzling Business Card Results

At work, our sets of business cards were printed without any titles or qualifications after them (not that this bothers me). Unfortunately they are too thin, and the spot uv wasn’t great either. For the sake of the few that most of us may give out, we ended up sticking them together to double the thickness. We were each issued a whole box full, which was a surprise.

Taking one over to the folks (look at the shiny thing and my new job title!) the first thing my family remarked on was not the lovely logo, not the thin card, but the fact my degree status and MBCS status wasn’t on there. This made me chuckle over priorities. We’d been typically more preoccupied with presentation, given our industry.

Changing Rooms

Our rebranding is finally reaching the office (we worked from outside to inside).  What with the news that we have some land in Biggleswade (nearest town) which we plan to build an office on from scratch, if all goes well. [Update March 2011, it is going well see: Office space in Biggleswade ] I’m not holding my breath, there’s been enough 80% jokes already (80% being the point a lot of projects in web/software development gets stuck at).

Its brilliant if it does happen. In the existing office, we’ve had more furniture than IKEA stocks arrive in the last three weeks. Lovely cupboards for upstairs so we no longer see a pyramid of archive boxes. Just a bit more light up in our loft, and our designer might be able to stop sitting by the window on a regular basis to stop his creative talent wilting (he’ll get used to it soon enough – the light I mean)

Retrospectively, it would have been more useful to have photographed other areas of the office, but a lot of the more impressive additions are still being settled or rearranged downstairs where clients are received. However, we have all been issued with bright orange chairs.

 

Orange chairs

It will be good to see the meeting area settled. At present, you can see the elements of it like jigsaw pieces, but the puzzle is not completed. Of course, being web people, not DIY or interior designers, we’re not flying along with the changes as quickly as we might otherwise. Here was the upstairs office about two weeks ago:

 

Upstairs Office

Though, its an awfully long way from where it used to be, when half of this room was used for storage.

How to Exterminate Customers

I am toying about putting together content for a comic, yet lessons learnt article. So this is a bullet list of ideas for an article entitled “How to Exterminate Customers”.

Any ideas of what to add are welcomed.

  • Inconsistent site structure.
    Yeah, the home page link was there a minute ago, but its over there now.
  • Broken site
    Broken images, broken links, designed for IE4, huge error messages, crashes your browser
  • Slow to load
    You could have a cup of tea before this loads.
  • Low quality photos
    Images of products that are itty bitty small and really don’t help or detract from the product
  • Excessive adverts
    Google ads plastered left right and center, and worst of all, inline with the content. Particularly bad when you’re in the checkout.
  • Using a tiiiiiiiny font
    Where’s my magnifying glass?
  • Using horrible colours
    Red text on green, or on very stripy background anyone?
  • Out of date, incorrect advice or information
    Bad advice is worse than no advice?
  • Flash loading screens
    Where’s the skip…
  • Breaking content into lots of needless pages
    Just let me read the article, don’t split it into lots of two paragraph pages so I have to keep clicking
  • Only works in one browser
    So I want to book my cinema tickets… in firefox. What do you mean I have to use Internet Explorer?!
  • Using massive forms
    I don’t want to tell you my life story, all I wanted was to register with an email and password.
  • Don’t display contact details
    I want to phone you, where’s your number, where’s your email?!
  • Sending Spam
    I just wanted to use your site, you made me log in to use the forum, now what is all this SPAM you are sending me?!
  • Large blocks of copy
    Paragraphs, quotes, formatting
  • Bad spelling
    American spellings exempt, but if you can’t spell your company name, you fail.

What puts you off from using a site, or shopping on it?

Kinetic Typography

I’m in no way as big a typography buff as some designers I know are. But it doesn’t stop me loving Ronnie Bruce’s Typography.

Typography from Ronnie Bruce on Vimeo.

I’ve noticed typography more and more in advertising lately. I hadn’t really realised that this typography had its on subcategory, with a huge number of videos flooding art video sites, or students at university posting the lines to Fight Club in. So, after a while of being sucked into the “Kinetic Typography” Channel on Vimeo, here are two of my favourites:

The Duke from Lauren Fundora on Vimeo.

Eric Hutchinson “Ok It’s Alright With Me” from Chris Marrs Piliero on Vimeo.