a design break

16 12 2009

so this is the last post of the semester as our first half of the final year draws to a close…as Christmas break fast approaches and deadlines fly by i can’t help but think i’ll be glad for the break. as much as designing has become and huge and important part of my life, when you are forced to take and complete assignments on someone else’s deadline things can get tiring. it leaves me wondering, actually it leaves me certain in the fact that if i were to complete some of these projects on my own timetable i would have a very different result! i realize that this kind of work will always have deadlines, and as such, stress; however, when you work for yourself you take on work when you can and want to complete it – not because you HAVE to.

all in all this first semester has had a pretty steep learning curve for a few of us – especially regarding interface design. we have learned new programs, new tools, new methods, and new ways of doing things. i intend on doing a solid amount of reading over the break, i have already picked up a few design oriented books (one on layout, one on color theory and applications, and one about “design for non-designers” – more helpful than it sounds; find some awesome titles to keep yourself in the design spirit here) to keep me in the design mind and to keep the ideas flowing over the holidays. i’m hoping that next semester i can come back energized and with a mind brimming full of ideas waiting to be thrown down on the page/screen. but for the first couple of days, i’m taking a design break – in fact, i’m taking an everything break! no school, no work, nothing…but this idea begs me to ask…can you really ever completely take a break from design?

i mean, it’s everywhere! and when you know about it you can’t just ignore it…maybe i mean i’m taking a break from creating design, not appreciating it. yes, that’s it. well, anyhow…have a great holiday season and we’ll catch ya after the break!


is blogging even a little bit original?

2 12 2009

so now that we’ve been blogging for a couple of months here and i’m more into the “blogging scene” if you will, i’m starting to think it’s really not that original. now, don’t get me wrong, i’ve changed my opinion about blogging since i’ve actually begun to do it. i once believed it was just a platform for people to share personal things about themselves and i was by no means interested to read about what you ate for breakfast…i just thought there were better things to do with my time.

since blogging i have realized that blogs can be really informative – and they are on topics much broader than breakfast foods! you can find blogs about cooking (secret recipe blog – all those restaurant favorites can be made at home!), movies (filmsy – all you need to know about movies and the people in them!), fashion (the cut – new york mag’s uber up to date news and reviews), and literally a ton about design. these are all really helpful, especially when looking for a new recipe, info on the latest movie and the seasonally appropriate outfit to wear to it, however; when it comes to design blogs they are a dime a dozen! It’s so difficult to know which are credible sources, unless you are familiar with the blogger of course, and as always design is pretty opinion based. My question to you is, are there just too many design blogs out there for any of them to be truly original?

i realize that i have a design blog, i’m not that hypocritical, but i don’t feel at all original in what i’m doing. especially considering that there are twenty-something other people in my class doing the exact same thing, i can’t help but feel slightly apathetic to my own cause…maybe i just need a little more inspiration this week 😉

good design?

25 11 2009

good design is something designers could talk about at nauseum and i’m not going to try to answer all the questions and debates in one blog post but i am going to share with you what i find are the most important points in creating a “good design”. lately i’ve noticed that the internet has become filled with sites dedicated to things like logo disasters, photoshop disasters, etc. besides looking at actual studio or company sites it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find good design. now that statement in itself opens up a whole can’o’worms….what is good design?


in my opinion, good design is something that is thought provoking, something that makes you think, “huh, i wonder how that works?” or “how did they do that?” however, by no means do i think that good design should make you question it’s function – for function is one of the fundamental elements of design. how many times have we heard that “design is the culmination of form and function”? good design should clearly have a purpose and function, but the challenge is to create something new, something exciting, something different…this is also getting harder and harder, and like fashion, design trends from the 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, etc are coming back in.


good design needs a certain structure, some reason for the design decisions that are being made, but of course all of the fun comes in breaking the structure, breaking the rules. for instance when designing a newspaper or magazine layout, even a web page, there’s a certain grid to follow concerning type and image placement. But that gets boring pretty quickly and that’s when we decide to break the grid. when done tastefully and judiciously this can create a very interesting composition.


i’ve touched a little on this topic already in this post, but originality really is key. no one is blown away by something they’ve seen before. people are most exited – obviously – by something new. as a designer it is important to draw on other work for examples and research, but we have to be careful to not emulate it to closely. we have to look for a new way to use something old – we have to let it inspire us, not dictate what we create. it’s a hard line to draw, but we have to do our best to keep working toward something original.

EE, a, ee, aa…aaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

28 10 2009


this past saturday a few of us attended the first ever expression engine meet up in edmonton. for myself personally, it was an opportunity to delve into the whole wide world of web design because, to be frank, i don’t know much about it!

here are a few things i learned about:

a) expression engine is a CMS (content management system) that without needing to know PHP is highly customizable (now i had to look up PHP when i got home because the whole time i was there i was nodding like i knew what she was talking about, but really i had no clue) now, PHP initially stood for “personal home page” but the meaning has been altered to a recursive acronym – PHP Hypertext Preprocessor – which refers to a coding language. phew, good to know!


b) CMSs allow you to make additions and alterations to a web page without having to edit the entire document the site was initially created from. alternately, you or your client can log on administratively and change text, images, links, etc. or even add or remove pages from the site.

c) a lot of great websites (see below) are created on expression engine because designers are able to put the site they have designed into the CMS rather than being forced to fit the design of their site into templates or themes that are difficult to change or sometimes are even unchangeable. expression engine is not only great for programmers, but is really suited to people who think more on the front end of things – like designers!

we learned a lot of new things on saturday and, admittedly, a lot of it was over my head! there happens to be an excessive use amongst web designers and programmers of “ee”, “a”, “aa”, etc. (foxycart, foxee, EE, aMember, eCommerce, the list goes on and on…) which made it hard for some of us to follow along as we had no idea until the visual presentation came up what was really being discussed. we were obviously the “n00bs” as they so kindly tagged us.

overall, it was informative and interesting and it got me out of my little bubble a bit. i am a lot more curious about web design now especially because it seems like expression engine was really created with designers in mind. it doesn’t seem as daunting as other programs and i would like to download and play around with the free program to see what kind of damage i can do. eventually it looks like something i might invest in for myself. who knew?

i’d like to leave you with the following links to some websites that were made from expression engine – it’s amazing how the “grid” can be broken and the websites can take on such different appearances, enjoy:

obama’s campaign site change.gov

my favorite, and the absolutely amazing british car show top gear

the ever famous a list apart

and lastly a really unique site that doesn’t look CMS controlled at all, the fashion institute arnhem

Picture 8

Picture 9

Picture 10

content comes out on top!

14 10 2009

nearly all of our discussion in class is based upon the creation of an easy to navigate, easy to recognize website so i thought i would look into how the average person views a website and why they choose to view certain ones over others. i wanted to know, does navigational design and efficiency truly trump content? Do people visit a site that’s easier to use over a site that provides them with the services or information they really want?

i talked to nine friends, asked them all to tell me what their number one favorite site is to visit and the most important reasons why – 89% gave only the reason that the site had what they were looking for to be entertained or informed, only one person mentioned (along with the importance of content) that layout and ease of use was a factor. That means that 100% of the people polled visit their favorite site for content!

i have to admit that i find this extremely surprising, therefore; i have to wonder whether or not the ease of use and organization is absorbed by most audiences so subconsciously that it doesn’t register with them as a deciding factor. after all, i suppose if any of the sites were too difficult to use they wouldn’t be visited so regularly. one exception has to be noted and that is the “stanford encycopedia of philosophy” (yes this is somebody’s favorite website, hard to believe, i know!) which is obviously,  just looking at it’s name, not there for pleasure and ease of use whatsoever! so content wins once again.

If you want to check out my friends’ top rated sites, here they are!

ffffound image bookmarking (“great for design and photographic inspiration” says S)

ninja video (really not visually appealing or well organized at all, but extremely popular! B says “all my favorite tv shows for free, whenever i want to watch them”)

fml (“entertaining, funny, makes me feel good about myself” says S and J says “it’s funny, well organized, easy to read, and gives you a little sneak peek into other people’s lives”)

my life is average (what can i say, it’s a pretty average looking site (hahaha…pun intended) and L says “it can always make me laugh!”)

tsn (N says “good up to date information” is why she visits regularly)

texts from last night (“is a really funny time waster” says L)

oilersnation | the edmonton oilers hockey blog (I says “it’s fun easy to read information that always tells me what i want to know!”)

and last but not least (oh, who am i kidding? i left it to last for a reason!) the stanford encyclopedia of philosophy (C says “it’s [his] favorite because it’s a great research resource and has all the info [he] needs”)


site photos

making memories

28 09 2009


this upcoming thanksgiving weekend two of our very best friends are getting hitched. we have had the pleasure of being a part of all of the festivities and planning for the big day as my bf is one of the groomsmen and i designed all of the invitations, seating charts, table numbers, and dinner menus.

as the focus for class for the past couple of weeks has been investigating the positive and negative aspects of various websites i wanted to take a closer look at a website this couple is using to help plan their upcoming nuptials. it’s called MomentVille and you can find it at http://www.momentville.com/; here you’ll find where to sign up and customize your own wedding website to track rsvp’s, share the menu with your guests, let out-of-towners know where to stay, and advertise your wedding registry and all of your vendors. also, you can post pictures, videos, and updates leading up to your day. in addition, they have an entire directory of photographers, bakers, hairstylists, accessory vendors, dj’s, dance teachers, and anything else you might be looking for. want to know the best part? it’s free! that’s right, free. in this day and age that’s nothing short of amazing!

MomentVille is extremely easy to use with over one hundred different stylish pre-made page templates (check them out here http://www.momentville.com/themes and in the images below), no page limit, and it  never expires so you can start planning well in advance. another great feature is that it allows a couple to significantly reduce the amount of paper used for their wedding as rsvp cards, registry cards, and accommodation information are all supplied digitally. if you are super concerned with the environment you can even send invitations via MomentVille and they match your customized website! along with being carbon neutral, the site allows for a speedier response from guests, and a speedier and budget friendly flow of information to the guests. i can tell you that b+a have found it very useful!

website themes

not only has MomentVille supplied a great medium for our friends to plan and inform with, but because i’m listed as a vendor has also given me some free advertising! (can’t go wrong there!) i would definitely say that overall for a site to work this well, provide an environmentally friendly option for couples, and be even remotely stylish for totally free is success in my books.

the following snap is from our friend’s site – just a little taste of how things can look…

b+a's site

stay tuned for upcoming pics of b+a’s invitations, menu, and more!

the dieline

14 09 2009

since our first interface design class began with an exercise in analyzing blogs, i thought i would make my first entry about my absolute favorite design website/blog. strangely enough it doesn’t particularly pertain to my area of study, but then again, design is design right? as a designer you can’t help but pick it apart, analyze it, wonder how it was created, why and by whom, despite what medium it’s in. so i bring you “the dieline”…(take a look at http://www.thedieline.com/) a package design blog that focuses a lot of time on comparing old and redesigned packaging from various brands and products.

dieline screen cap

i think it’s the entertainment factor of the “before and after” effect that keeps me coming back to this site. i am always excited to log on and find what new wine label or coffee packaging has been revealed this week. another thing that brings me back is the fact that i’m a total foodie and this site focuses mainly on food and beverage products. not only does it give me design to feast on, but also fuels my desire to find new and exciting snacks!

oops wine labels

not only does the site feature uber professional product packaging (like the labels for “oops” seen above) but occasionally has a “student spotlight” from design students around the globe (a beautiful example seen below). this is of particular interest to me because i can learn through the blogging portions how and why the student created it. they also host package design competitions yearly which i have not yet had the courage to participate in…maybe this year?

coffee packaging by kristen mohr

so all in all i think “the dieline” is a great site. i will continue to visit it regularly and i would encourage you to as well. they have had a fairly recent redesign of their own blog that has made it even better than it was before – full of multiple large pictures for each “specimen” of design, credits to the designers, and an often informative explanation of the design, this site is a credible, comprehensive, well designed, and easy to read blog!

did you like “the dieline”? well then, here’s a couple more great package design blogs to take a boo at:

http://lovelypackage.com/ (not as inappropriate as it may sound…)