Notes from a designer

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Oakland’s AXIS Dance Company will be hosting their 2014 Home Season at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts on Alice Street April 11 through 13, and I had the pleasure of designing their promotional materials.

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Choreographer and guest Artistic Director, Marc Brew, with the 12th St. BART poster promoting Home Season.

This year’s season is promising to be particularly special, with the debut of a film by Alex Ketley, a special performance of Yvonne Rainer’s iconic Trio A, and new choreography by guest artistic director, Marc Brew, in his new work, Divide.

Here’s Marc talking a bit about the influence of minimalist artist, Carl Andre, on his choreography.

You can get tickets online here—and feel free to come up and say hello one opening night if you see me.

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I’m running a little book giveaway this week, just for fun.

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design (Workman) by Chip Kidd is a really fun primer for kids and their adults—even seasoned designers will enjoy it. Here’s what the great Milton Glaser had to say about it.

“An excellent introduction to graphic design through [the author’s] own excellent work. Anyone interested in the subject, including most practitioners, will find it delightful.”

Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Site for real estate development firm in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The first part of this year has been busy with styling WordPress themes for a number of The Placemaking Group‘s clients. I’m also eyeball deep in social media management and am really looking forward to sharing best practices at Placemaking Group’s president, Dennis Erokan’s PR class at St. Mary’s next week.

Here are a few samples of our recent WordPress launches.

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The whole gang at The Placemaking Group wish you a happy and prosperous New Year!

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Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers

Over six years since its first publication, this concise little book remains relevant, listing 14 ways to improve your website’s performance that still hold true today.

As a designer, particularly having come from a print design background, I often spend large chunks of web design projects primarily focused on look and feel: color palette, branding and messaging; choice of imagery—photography, illustrations, icons and so on; where the eye lands as it travels across a page and whether that flow is helping folks get to where you want them to land. But my experience as a front end developer has taught me that while there are more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to choosing an approach to building a great looking site, not all of them are equal in terms of performance.

High Performance Web Sites - Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers

High Performance Web Sites: Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers
By Steve Souders; O’Reilly Media.

How a site is built may not be readily apparent to the end user, but it makes all the difference in the world in its relative page load time and by extension, user experience. Who wants to waste time waiting for even a great-looking web page to load these days, after all? With page speed ever-increasingly important for search engine optimization, it behooves developers to plan in advance to create an efficient, speedy web site from the ground up.

Of course, even older sites can benefit from a performance review and improvement plan. One site I managed for a couple years was bestowed upon me complete with bloated code and little regard for accessibility nor page load time; I spent countless hours tinkering under the hood to clean things up, with dramatic results. Having a copy of O’Reilly Media’s High Performance Web Sites, by Steve Souders, on hand would have been super handy.

Over six years since its first publication, this concise little book remains relevant, listing 14 ways to improve your website’s performance that still hold true today. Front-end developers will find tips to speed up page load time by up to 50%, collected by Souders as he optimized sites such as the Yahoo! Front Page.

I found that while I already had a number of these strategies in my arsenal, I learned a few things that I look forward to using in the future. Sounders deftly covers such topics as where to put stylesheets and scripts, avoiding redirects and the use of duplicate scripts, and reducing HTTP requests and DNS lookups, among other best practices.

Students of web engineering should find Souders’ primer essential to their training, while seasoned developers will appreciate it as a refresher on the basics of approaching the construction of a faster-loading, well-optimized web site.

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A month-long Rafflecopter giveaway created by The Placemaking Group for the Kosrae Visitor’s Bureau has wrapped up, and was a great success.

With over 7,000 total entries, the second annual Picture Yourself on Kosrae contest used Rafflecopter’s tools to host a giveaway of a GoPro camera on Facebook. Cross-promotion on the Kosrae Facebook Page, Twitter, Pinterest, and Tumblr, as well as sweepstakes lists on blogs, helped to spread the word. We easily met our objective to get more Facebook fans, Twitter and Pinterest followers, and also to get more subscribers to the Kosrae Visitors Bureau email list.

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The design for promoting the Picture Yourself on Kosrae giveaway, seen in the Rafflecopter widget and on Facebook.

 

We’d used WildFire to run last year’s Picture Yourself on Kosrae contest on Facebook, but with changes to its billing structure following its acquision by Google, we decided to go with Rafflecopter’s affordable giveaway management tools instead this year. Rafflecopter makes setting up and running a giveaway a snap, and has tiered levels of support based on your needs: free accounts with basic tools, a $7.99/month subscription for additional resources for bloggers, and business accounts with analytics, no Rafflecopter branding, automatic email list subscribing and more at $59.99/month.

Easy to use, well designed and very effective

With a compelling graphic designed to use for cross promotion across many channels, one simply plugs in the ways folks can enter to win (i.e., joining a mailing list, liking a Facebook page, tweeting about the contest) using Rafflecopter’s easy-to-use contest management tools, installs the Facebook app that adds a Giveaways tab to your fan page, and you’re good to go. Rafflecopter does the rest.

Their widget design is clean and doesn’t compete with contest promotional graphics, and can also be embedded in blog posts or on a web page, with multiple widgets all feeding into the same contest statistics. When the contest is over, Rafflecopter will choose a random winner for you.

Kosrae’s giveaway attracted over 7000 total entries, all of which required liking their Facebook page (if you didn’t already) and subscribing to Kosrae’s mailing list. Many entrants also opted to help promote the contest by tweeting about it, or became followers of Kosrae’s Twitter or Pinterest pages. Each action was worth at least one entry for a chance to win the grand prize, in this case, a GoPro camera.

This was a very easy and effective tool to use, which made running the contest quite fun. Highly recommended!

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Occasionally at The Placemaking Group, I get to put on my beret and step into the role of videographer to produce video blogs for their Get Famous blog or, even better, for clients’ blogs. This is the latest new video for IT support services company, Clare Computer, expert Jim Bender explains the basic steps of creating an effective business continuity plan, and why it is so important for businesses to do so.

Imagery and bullet points pulled from the brief talk illustrate and highlight key points, with design elements pulled from the Clare Computer website and printed marketing materials supporting their brand.

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This month in heavy rotation are Coffitivity, a white noise app that emulates the gentle murmur of a coffee shop, and Adobe’s Kuler, a color palette generator.

Coffitivity

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Coffitivity is based on the premise (supported by some interesting research) that coffee shop noises enhance creativity. Can’t make it to your favorite local haunt to brainstorm over a latte? Use Coffitivity on your iPhone, iPad or other mobile device, or use it straight from your browser via their website or Mac Desktop app.

Whether your workspace to too quiet or you need to drown out the ceaseless chatter of the IT guys a few cubes down, the gentle hum of coffee shop background noise really seems to help one focus on the task at hand.

Adobe Kuler

Adobe Kuler color picker

Adobe Kuler color picker makes quick work of creating a palette based on a photo.

My other favorite new toy is Adobe’s Kuler color palette generator. Powered by Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Kuler allows users to work in a browser or use their handy iPhone app to share their custom palettes and to explore and save popular themes.

Lose hours noodling with color palettes or whip one up in a jiffy by starting with a photo. It’s quite the enjoyable rabbit hole to jump down, and a powerful tool as well.

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MicroscopeHub.com, an online store for high quality, brand name microscopes, is a recent e-commerce website launch by Placemaking Group. As senior designer on the project, I was involved in its design and website production.

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Microscope Hub homepage design

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Microscope Hub shopping page



From The Placemaking Group’s website:

Microscope Hub is an online store providing high quality, brand name microscopes at fair prices. We structured and designed their website to appeal to and educate buyers in three specific fields: medical device inspection, micro-electronic inspection and education. Comparison charts for each application provide detailed information to guide a customer to the right choice for their needs.

On the administrative (backend) side, a content management system (CMS) was added for easy updates to product descriptions, videos and cost by staff.

The Microscope Hub shopping experience includes a carousel of product images with optional zoom-in, videos demonstrating key features, and an easy-to-use shopping cart for its e-commerce sales.

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Taking a little time to be properly prepared for a video shoot will allow your personality to come across on screen, and your message to feel more authentic and have more impact. In my latest post up on The Placemaking Group’s Get Famous blog, learn a few quick tips for video and having a great presence on camera.

Video is still a really great way to engage with your client base, present yourself and company as leading experts in your field, and gain followers. Looking your best for video will allow your viewers to focus on your message rather than your appearance. If video is part of your online marketing plan, it’s essential that you think about your personal presentation before you start recording.

Check out the full article here »