enableCache("db", "mysql://scottsiteadmin:uuyt65dhd93er@localhost/notebook_flickr"); $i = 0; $username = "scottboms"; $person = $f->people_findByUsername($username); $photos_url = $f->urls_getUserPhotos($person['id']); // Get 8 photos per page $photos = $f->people_getPublicPhotos($person['id'], NULL, NULL, 8); if(count($photos['photos']['photo']) > 8) { // no matches to query (this should never happen unless the account is deleted somehow) $result = "

Sorry, the Flickr API doesn’t seem to be responding at the moment.

"; } else { // matches! // Loop through the photos and output the html $result = ""; $result .= ""; } ?> Our Wishingline Back Catalogue …On A Long Piece Of String

Skip to navigation [a]

Wishingline Archives

April 26, 2010

Gone Baby Gone //

It’s been a little over a year since I decided Wishingline, the little company I started had gone in one direction and I was moving in another. It was headed east and I was moving west. I’m only sort of being facetious in saying that.

Since then I’ve hummed and hawed about what to do about the website — the one that became a true testament to the state of the shoes of the cobbler’s children.

Wishingline homepage
The Wishingline homepage just before taking the site offline

Until recently it was still getting a fair amount of organic search engine traffic as well as new and repeat referrals, but this whole time it’s pretty much been left out in the cold.

Despite neglecting it, there were a few parts of the ‘ol site that felt important and I’ve had tasks in Things since last year to do something about them. As it would happen though, I either haven’t had time or enough interest to actually do anything about it. Until last night at least.

Late last night I decided that traffic, and more importantly (to me at least) my interest had dropped off enough to just redirect the domain entirely and be done with it. And so after a couple minutes of changing DNS settings and updating a virtual host configuration, wishingline.com was essentially gone.

I’d say there’s a tear in my beer but that was long ago. I’m much older than that now.

May 1, 2009

Slate //

After a few weeks of soul searching I’ve made the decision to permanently close Wishingline. I hinted at this being a real possibility in a couple previous entries, though my original intenion was to simply put the company on ice in the short term because I needed some distance and clarity to make an informed decision about what to do.

I’ve had a bit of time now and simply, for me, the right thing to do is completely wipe the slate clean.

Illustration by Hugh MacLeod at gapingvoid
Illustration by Hugh MacLeod (gapingvoid)

Over the years Wishingline’s become more than just me and as I hinted at, I don’t entirely recognize it anymore. Simply — circumstances change and people change. As a result companies change and adapt too.

As I suspect is true of most companies who’ve got a few years under their belt, they’ve had their fair share of great successes, a few crushing defeats and a handful of fits and starts, but looking back, and dispite some mistakes made along the way, I feel proud of what I’ve accomplished and for taking some big risks. I don’t feel like I’ve failed by any means — or I at least need to keep reminding myself of that.

It was a risk when I left a stable job and struck out on my own. It was a risk when I decided it was time to grow the company and move into the office space the company occupied until last week. It was a risk when I brought in not just one new fulltime employee, but two, especially over a fairly short time period. And of course (for various reasons) it’s a risk I’m taking now closing the door on Wishingline.

When all’s said and done though, it’s the right thing for me to do.

Uncertain Weather

What the future holds for me is still very much uncertain. I have a good idea what I don’t want to do, it’s now a question of what I do want to do. I haven’t eliminated the possibility of freelancing or something similar, but if so, the circumstances under which that happens will be very different based on everything I’ve experienced and learned. And if so, it’d be under a different banner; but who knows. I might not return to the freelance/small agency world at all.

If I haven’t been particularly active here, on Twitter or Flickr of late, it’s because I’ve been working on tying up loose ends and exploring possibilities, including what exactly to do with this site. Honestly I’ve been feeling like a bit like a lost puppy and still have some important questions to answer before I make the next big decision.

As much as I’m still pretty emotional about everything that’s happened this year, and though I’m closing one door, I’m opening another. This is an opportunity. I don’t think it’s too pie in the sky to say, but life is just too short to spend stuck in a rut, doing something that doesn’t make you truly happy or leaves you feeling like you’re not living up to your full potential. Carpe diem, as they say.

Change, Change, Change

Over the next little while I’ll be starting to dismantle the business side of the Wishingline site. I’m debating what to do about this notebook though and whether I should keep it up as-is, do some fancy redirects to move it up to the top of the domain, move it to an entirely new domain or… I don’t know. I haven’t sorted out what all the possible implications are of doing any of the above but whatever I end up deciding, I’ll do what I can to not break the internets.

April 12, 2009

Spring //

It’s spring or at least that’s what the calendar says and that means it’s time for some spring cleaning. As a result of the changes ‘round these parts I now have a handful of software licenses that are no longer being used along with one shiny, good as new 24” iMac computer that’s for sale (the other ones are already accounted for).

Software

Hardware

At this point I don’t have much need to keep a second iMac around in the office since there’s already two other Macs and a PC at my disposal. The iMac is one of the current aluminum models (though prior to the last hardware minor update a few weeks back), approximately 6 months old and includes the obligatory AppleCare extended warranty.

Detailed Hardware Specifications
  • 24” glossy TFT widescreen active-matrix LCD display
  • 2.8GHz Intel Core2 Duo processor
  • 4MB shared L2 cache at full processor speed
  • 800MHz frontside bus
  • 4GB (two 2GB SO-DIMMs) of 166MHz DDR SDRAM
  • 500GB 7200 RPM internal Serial ATA hard drive
  • Apple slot-loading SuperDrive (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
  • AirPort Extreme Wi-Fi wireless networking (802.11n)
  • Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
  • Built-in 10/100/1000BASE-T Gigabit networking
  • Built-in stereo speakers, microphone and iSight video camera
  • Apple Keyboard and Mighty Mouse
  • Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard + iLife 08 software bundles

$1,800SOLD

If you’re interested or have a question about any of the above items, get in touch by sending an email to springcleaning {at} wishingline.com. Everything is first-come first-serve and once something is gone it’s gone. Shipping is not included and will be determined on a per-item basis as required.

March 27, 2009

Powers //

With everything that’s been going on lately, my third trip down to Austin for SXSW couldn’t have come at a better time. I definitely needed a break and some time to decompress.

In every sense: mission accomplished.

Mark Bixby and Joshua Lane at the Hampton Inn
Mark Bixby and Joshua Lane at the Hampton Inn

I was largely offline while in Austin. I didn’t bring my MacBook and it was often challenging to get connected on my iPhone since roaming data rates are insane (thanks again Rogers and AT&T). The often spotty wifi access didn’t help either. Despite that, being somewhat disconnected much of the time was refreshing — I think we’d all benefit from doing it more often.

Bigger, yes. Better?

Although I didn’t expect it to be bigger this year given the current economic climate, SXSW Interactive indeed was. Whether the conference itself was better than previous years though is still largely up for debate. Reports seem to indicate some good, a little bit of awesome and a whole lot of “meh” which isn’t really any different from previous years.

I honestly spent more time connecting with friends, both old and new than I did going to panels. I can count the number of panels I attended on one hand, but the ones I did were all enjoyable. Not mind blowing but enjoyable nonetheless.

It’s Made of People

SXSW has definitely become much more important to me (and many others) for the things that happen outside the conference sessions than in them. So much so for some that they didn’t bother to even get a conference pass this year, something that I would hazzard a guess will increase a bit more next year.

Luke Dorny, Brian Warren and Mr. President outside the Obama Store in Austin
Luke Dorny, Brian Warren and Mr. President outside the Obama Store in Austin

As this was my third year attending, having time to reaquaint with old friends I may not have seen for a year or more was great and getting the opportunity to meet so many more again proved to be well worth the cost of spending a week in Austin. Still, there were many faces missing this year and people I didn’t have a chance to find or chat with.

Now that the 2010 dates have been announced (March 12th—16th), if you’re thinking of attending, you mind want to consider skipping the conference pass and just hang out in the hallways or at Halcyon or Gingerman. I know I am. That’s where you’ll likely find a lot of us anyway.

Veerle and Geert on the patio at the Hampton Inn
Veerle and Geert on the patio at the Hampton Inn

More photographic evidence of my time in Austin at SXSW is available for your viewing pleasure at Flickr. On a side note — if you didn’t get a chance to see Gary Hustwit’s new film Objectified, do yourself a favour and make a point to.

Now that I’ve been back for about a week, caught up on work, the big iPhone OS 3.0 announcement and everything else going on in the web/design world, I’ve started to dedicate some time to reconnecting with a few of the things I’ve had sitting on the backburner or that will help me build up the momentum I need in planning what’s next.

First up: writing more and getting back on my book reading bandwagon. Two blog entries this week alone so I think I’m off to a good start.

March 26, 2009

More //

Never far from my thoughts since making the big announcement official last week and after reading through Snook’s announcement from a couple days ago, I realized I still have a bit more to say about why I made the decision to shake things up. If nothing else, to clarify how this all came about.

Identity Crisis

A while back we received a RFP for a project that would have lasted six months to a year if not longer. It was complicated and well beyond my comfort zone. Ultimately we declined to respond but while reviewing the project specs I realized something that I felt had been staring me in the face for some time, something I just hadn’t seen until then — Wishingline had a major identity problem.

Although recognized primarily as designers by other designers (and developers), to the outside world, Wishingline (and me by extension) were developers or some sort of hybrid. Not what I had in mind. That project RFP and the resulting conversation with the client confirmed it.

Insert panic attack here.

After walking home that night and mulling over the situation I had a pretty good idea where that perception problem came from. It turned out to be partially, if not entirely my own doing. Looking back through some of the more technically minded entries in the notebook and our previous enterprise application work made it abundantly clear.

I’m a designer first and foremost but I like to tinker. I’m innately curious and have always liked to know how things work but I’m not a developer. Building or fixing things comes naturally and I’ve always found that characteristic allowed me to be sympathetic to developers, resulting in better decisions and ultimately better sites or applications.

Development experience also meant I could bring more to the table when working with clients. What I didn’t realize at the time though was the cost of that knowledge and what it ultimately meant in relation to the type of work that showed up on our doorstep.

My involvement in the development side of the web increased out of interest and necessity but also from the type of work that Wishingline was already involved in — a considerable amount of application design (Rails, Sproutcore, iPhone, embedded web widgets, etc), rarely from the commercial website part of the business.

At this point I have about zero interest in doing any more web app design work. Those are problems I’m just not interested in trying to solve now. It’s too easy to get caught up in the minutia and technical details which can quickly suck the life and momentum out a project.

For now I’m only interested in focusing my time and effort into things I can get behind 100%. To some extent that means getting back to my roots and focusing much more on design rather than mucking about in code or someone else’s app framework.

The Intangible Web

The intangibleness and the seeming repetitiveness of the web is something I’ve struggled with for some time, leaving me feeling like the web is just too much of the “same old, same old” to be really interesting. I know that’s not really true but constantly being handed the same basic problems to solve over and over or being pigeonholed into one design aesthetic hasn’t helped bend my opinion to the other side.

Anna, Ned and I talked about this quite a bit in the office — how we could make the web more interesting (for us at least) by introducing more tangible visual elements and interaction into our work without resorting to Flash. We looked at potentially building actual “set pieces” and working more with real objects that we’d photograph and use as building blocks for site designs. Unfortunately we didn’t get the opportunity to put this into practice, but I’m not done with that idea yet.

I come from a largely traditional design background: paste-up by hand, processing my own film, print (litho, screenprinting, letterpress, flexo) and the like. I’ve used more than my fair share of Letraset and Rubylith.

I’ve always been passionate about typography but being as focused on the web for as long as I have left many of my typographic senses dulled. I’ve been chipping away at that problem for a little while now but I need to step that up, if only for myself. It’s not that I’m sick of Lucida Grande, Verdana or Georgia… Ok, maybe a little.

I also miss working with my hands instead of being glued to a desk and computer screen — whether this means sketching or working with real materials (paper, ink, film, traditional photography, etc) instead of doing everything digitally in Photoshop. Analog is where it’s at. I made a record for crying out loud.

Personal Projects

Like Jon, internal projects at Wishingline have been constantly sidelined. It’s a problem when the client vs internal/personal work division is almost always 100/0, and one which has weighed heavily on my mind for a long, long time.

A perfect example is the main Wishingline site which hasn’t been significantly updated in nearly 5 years and in desperate need of attention. There’s also a big sketchbook of creative project ideas that’s been sitting on my desk untouched for nearly as long. Paying the bills is all well and good but without a striking proper balance between client work and personal projects it can be difficult to stay engaged.

Simply put, a big part of why I started Wishingline in the first place, aside from the flexibility of being choosey about the for-hire projects I would work on, was to be free to work on these “fun” projects; to dedicate a portion of my day to reading, writing and doing whatever would allow me to stay creative, motivated and engaged so that the “work” projects don’t somehow become a burden. That hasn’t worked out quite the way it should have and in the end I’m the only one who can do something about it — and so I am.

Taking Back The Reins

Time is one of the few (only?) finite variables in life and the reality for me was that I didn’t want to look back and feel like I wasted an opportunity by trying to “tough it out” in a situation that wasn’t working. I have a wife and a young daughter and need to consider how what I do for a living affects those relationships too.

I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of projects with some smart people — many I’ve enjoyed for one reason or another, but there’s also been some real duds. There’s been times where I found myself severely overbooked and overwhelmed too. Sometimes it was my fault but other times it was entirely out of my control. Stress is ok in small doses but long-term, relentless stress is really, really bad even if you’re getting paid for the overtime. Trust me.

Perhaps naively, I almost always put client work first. That proved to be wrong. It’s important but only if it’s the right work or if it doesn’t occupy every waking moment of your life, in the office or out. Maybe that sounds selfish but personally I don’t think so. I’m honestly too close to really be objective anyway.

Let’s be totally clear — I’m not saying I’m done with the web or design in general. Far from it, but I need to redefine my place in it by better understanding what I want from it and by hopefully contributing something back to it that I (and others) think is truly interesting, engaging and worthwhile.

More on exactly what that means soon.

March 12, 2009

Watershed //

Somewhere along the way I remember reading something along the lines of “the best strategy is an exit strategy”. Today, more than any day before that holds a lot of meaning for me because I can finally let the cat out of the proverbial bag and announce that not so long ago I had a watershed moment and made a decision that’s ultimately led to the next big change for me personally and Wishingline which is officially on hiatus at least in the sense of accepting new client work for the foreseeable future.

The exact wording I used in trying to explain this to the few people who were told prior to now was “closed”, but more and more in mulling that over I thought “hiatus” would ultimately to be a better choice. “Crazy talk” some have told me so I’ll give you a moment…

Uh, what?

Let’s not have any illusions, it’s hard work running a business and Wishingline for the last 4+ years has been exactly that. It’s hard doing it by yourself as a freelancer and just as hard if not more when employees and other management responsibilities are thrown into the mix. The provincial and national government bodies here in Canada don’t make that any easier either. These things can constantly weigh on your shoulders (they certainly have mine) and deserve as much attention as the clients paying the bills.

Owning and managing a small but successful design agency (I can’t stand that term but it’ll do) can mean wearing a lot of different hats and juggling conflicting responsibilities. That balancing act can be exhausting, especially if many of those frequently conflict with your individual needs.

When it comes to “work”, I’m a designer first and foremost but also happen to have some background in a lot of other areas thanks to a solid and varied university education, previous jobs and generally being exposed to nearly every possible side of “the biz” at one time or another.

Even though I’ve had the opportunity to work on some interesting projects, particularly some of the more recent projects, I haven’t been feeling particularly creatively satisfied or engaged. Unfocused. Remember all those hats I mentioned a moment ago? Yeah, exactly.

Ultimately I think there’s little point in doing something where your passion is wavering, doesn’t provide sufficient purpose or from which you’re not deriving the right level of personal satisfaction. Some people might be able to get away with that but I’m not one of them. It’s not in my DNA.

For the last few months I’ve hummed and hawed over what to do, in part because of the implications to the business, clients, family, and the two talented and exceptionally smart people working with me in the office, but the reality was that, for beter or worse, change was inevitable. Thankfully there’s been no crying and no staplers, chairs or computers thrown in my general direction. At least not yet.

…Next

What that change ends up being is entirely up in the air right now. It might be a small change or it might be something more significant. For now it means that Wishingline is back to being just me while I tie up loose ends on a few projects and sort out what to do with the office, furniture, computers and such. Beyond that I have a few ideas and opportunities to explore though I’m in no hurry to rush into anything. I need to regroup and recalibrate first.

The one thing that’s for sure is that SXSW officially starts tomorrow and I’ll be down in Austin, TX for the next week, celebrating my birthday (today), shaking hands and kissing babies, uh, I mean hanging out with friends and undoubtedly letting off steam. I’ll have some nifty hotdog squiggle buttons with me along with a handful of copies of the new release from George, so please do say “hello”.

Shout outs

Wishingline’s clients deserve a very special thank you for their extreme patience and understanding through the current transition period. Ensuring they are taken care of and projects either wrapped up or in a state where they can be passed on has been, understandably, a huge concern. Thank you also to friends, dotcomrades and family for their unconditional support and encouragement.

February 17, 2009

George //

It’s amazing how long it can take to put out a record. It’s amazing how long it took to get this one out considering it was in the can (to use some old school industry lingo) months ago. We’ve been quietly sitting on it since while artwork was created, manufacturing was sourced, distribution was discussed, small details clarified and the final products finally arrived at our door. Oh, and building a little website to allow the band to sell the darn things too!

George - Life in the Dead of Winter record sleeves
George — Life in the Dead of Winter record sleeves

Did We Mention It’s an Actual Record?

Even if the quality of digital audio is technically better, there’s something magical and innately satisfying about the vinyl medium, particularly 180g (heavy duty) vinyl. The larger canvas for artwork is more impressive and simply more “fun”. Ultimately, The band (of which I happen to also be a member) decided to go the vinyl route for this recording for two main reasons:

  • The characteristics of the medium fit well with the songs themselves. They’re loose, a little raw and were largely recorded live off the floor in the studio
  • It was a challenge — it was a totally different experience than producing a CD

To put it another way and to take a page from Radiohead’s playbook, the band wanted a real artifact despite the recognition that most people would experience the music in a digital format such as on an iPod or their computer. Analog simply has more character than digital in pretty much every respect.

About the Packaging

The sleeve was illustrated by our good friend and exceptionally talented illustrator John Martz under direction from the band and Wishingline. The fine details in John’s illustrations, such as the subtle textures and hand lettering that might otherwise be lost if printed at CD size shine through and are further enhanced by the “reverse board” process suggested by our new friends at Vinyl Record Guru who were fantastic in guiding us through the entire production process.

Tidbits Learned Along the Way

This was a good learning project for us and even if it wasn’t all practical learning, we certainly picked up a few tidbits of vinyl trivia. For example — there are no vinyl pressing plants in Canada anymore. The last one closed down in early 2008. Now everything is handled out of a few locations in the US or Europe.

We also learned that vinyl sales roughly doubled in 2008 over 2007 (1.88 million vs 990,000 units) in Canada whereas CD sales slid a further 20%. Although still a niche market, that tidbit validated the band’s decision to produce the record on vinyl only.

Where Can I Get One?

Limited to a mere 300 copies, you can pick up one direct from the band at ournameisgeorge.com for the low, low price of $20 + shipping. Each copy will be individually numbered and will include a special code that can be used to download a digital version of the record in lossless AAC format. Sorry — no MP3s, but anyone who purchases a copy will of course be free to convert the AAC files to MP3 or any other audio format they want.

So, what are you waiting for — get ‘em while they’re hot!

January 11, 2009

In Your Pocket //

Nearly a year ago I started working on a simple iPhone-optimized version of the notebook. I was tinkering with this for a few days in-between other projects or late at night until I accidentally wiped out the stylesheet. Oops. It wasn’t under version control because, well, I was tinkering.

It’s taken me until this past weekend to get back to doing something about that though my approach ended up being a bit different this time around.

...On A Long Piece of String iPhone-optimized UI
A preview of the current iOS optimized version of this site

This time instead of using a stylesheet-only approach, I’m employing three simple templates in Movable Type along with a customized stylesheet from Joe Hewitt’s iUi (we’re not using the Javascript bits at least for now).

On the server, mod_rewrite takes care of the magic of automatically redirecting requests to the mobile site — there’s no need to visit a different URL when browsing from either an iPhone or iPod touch. I believe this will also work on an Android device though I don’t have one and have not actually seen one so I can’t confirm that.

To some degree this is a stop-gap solution, particularly since not everything that should be there is available in the mobile site yet (eg. no commenting), but it makes for a good prototype and gives us somewhere to start making improvements.

Elsewhere/Everywhere Else

Recently there’s been some chatter from other folks about amalgamating various bits and pieces of content from other sites such as Twitter, Flickr, delicious, etc into their blogs.

While the idea itself is not entirely new — I think we all like the idea of our own sites being something of a central hub where people can go to get an overview of what we’re up to wherever we happen to be at any particular point in time, this formerly supplementary content has over the last couple years grown to comprise a larger percentage of our content publishing lives.

To that end, a little while ago I quietly updated the less than prominent Elsewhere section to periodically update/cache the latest from our delicious feed along with making the Flickr photo feed refresh automatically instead of us having to manually publish changes.

The long-term plan is to eventually integrate this content into the notebook itself, giving it the same level of prominence; but we’re not there yet. We’ve got other fish to fry first.

January 7, 2009

Bulb //

Tonight during my daily 2.5km uphill walk home from HQ, someone turned on the proverbial light and a critically important question was answered.

This particular business matter has been giving me the evil eye for nearly six months but because everyone here has all been so heads-down in getting things done for other people, no one noticed it standing there until today when I apparently had a moment to pull myself away from the screen and put down my mouse.

This lightbulb moment will ultimately play a crucial role in one of our not-insignificant internal projects which is tentatively scheduled to be put into the blast tubes sometime around SXSW Interactive. We’ll have a lot to say about it at that time or whenever someone hands me the launch codes.

December 22, 2008

An Unforgettable Year //

2008 has been a fantastic year for Wishingline.

Scott took the leap from freelance designer to small business owner, a decision that I’m sure has had it’s nerve-wracking moments along the way. I was thrilled for the chance to join him in March leaving my cushy, but increasingly uninspiring marketing job for the opportunity to learn about a side of the design industry I barely understood (…and learn I have). In the summer, developer extraordinaire Ned Schwartz joined us, bringing his wealth of knowledge in Javascript, AJAX and a ton more acronyms into the fold.

We’ve also been lucky to have had opportunities throughout the year to work with our good friends Brian Warren, Luke Dorny, Neil Lee, James McNally, John Martz and Theresa Neil.

The Wishingline crew -- Anna, Shawn, Scott and Ned
The Wishingline crew — Anna, Shawn, Scott (me), and Ned

The year brought new friends, awesome clients (both long-standing and new), and while we’re not able to talk about most of the projects currently in development (pesky NDAs), we’d like to express our sincere gratitude to everyone who’s helped make this year so special. We’ll tell you about the ones we can shortly.

We’ve got big plans for 2009 which we can’t wait to share including a new wishingline.com (finally!). So until then, on behalf of Scott, Ned, Shawn and myself — we hope you have a Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Kickass Kwanzaa, Splendid Solstice and very happy New Year.

September 7, 2008

A New Server and a New Face //

Our planned move of wishingline.com along with a number of other domains to our lovely new slice at Slicehost didn’t go entirely as planned a couple weeks back due to a significant memory leak discovered when attempting to rebuild the Notebook.

The problem, after a few hours of debugging was found to be a broken version of ImageMagick installed on the slice which resulted in memory usage going through the roof, excess swapping and services crashing. All in all — very bad things.

On Friday night though, after a few additional minor changes and tweaks to the site, we finally flipped the switch and everything is now (we think) running smoothly at Slicehost. Most things should be a bit snappier too as a result of some simple under the hood server optimizations performed in the process.

Here We Grow Again

It’s been a crazy year all around, and although we weren’t planning on expanding Wishingline beyond myself and Anna this year, particularly during the summer, the absolute necessity to do just that made itself abundantly clear. We were slammed, as Greg would say.

Hello!? Recession? What [kitten parade] recession?

And so enter _the new kid: developer, code wiz, dude with the ‘stache, and all around man of the intertubes — theinterned himself — Ned Schwartz!

Ned of the interneds
Introducing the newest Wishingliner — say hello to Ned Schwartz

We first met Ned interned back in June during our Lunch 2.0 event where he obviously made a good impression on us. As it turned out, Ned was the first, and only person we got in touch with when we realized we needed to bring in the big guns.

As the song goes (don’t sue us Huey Lewis) — “Who ya gonna call…?”

Aside from his keen wit and wacky sense of humour, Ned brings truckloads of experience and a sharp, thoughtful mind. Even though he’s only been with us a week so far, he’s been kicking ass and taking names. Frankly, we don’t know what we did without him!

August 14, 2008

Upcoming Downtime //

The Wishingline site and our Notebook may be inaccessible for a short period of time this weekend beginning around 12:00 midnight EST on Friday as we move everything over to our new slice at Slicehost, something we’ve been quietly coordinating for a few weeks now.

Just about everything should already be in place, so we’re hoping that the transition will be more or less seamless and hiccup-free. The big unknown is always “how long will the DNS take to propagate” once we flip the switch…

August 11, 2008

What’s On Your Desk? //

Although not a meme (that I’m aware of), maybe it should be — here’s a look at my workspace at Wishingline HQ. I’m a notorious neat-freak, but I also like gadgets, figures and other trinkets to keep me interested, inspired and hopefully productive.

My desk at Wishingline
A look at my desk in the Wishingline office in sunny Leslieville

On my desk is:

  • iMac 24”
  • Apple iPhone 2g
  • Tim Hortons coffee and chocolate dip donut
  • Powell & Hyde Cable Car candy holder used for business cards
  • Robot pencil sharpener
  • Finger drums
  • Wacom Bamboo tablet with mouse and stylus
  • Stack of in-progress project folders
  • Moleskin notebooks
  • Field Notes notebook from AEA Boston
  • Set of Simpsons miniature figures
  • Simpsons trivia card game
  • Three sets of Tim Burton “Oyster Boy” figures
  • Bills, receipts and other miscellaneous paperwork
  • A copy of “Designers are Wankers” by Lee McCormack
  • Veer’s “I draw pictures all day” sketchbook which is used to house our crazy ideas (just out of frame)

What’s on your desk? Feel free to share if you’re so inclined by posting either a photo or a link in the comments. Photos should be sized to 523px wide by (ideally) a multiple of 9 or 18.

June 20, 2008

An Anniversary //

It almost slipped past without us noticing, but we were reminded this morning by our accountant that yesterday, June 19th, marked the official one year anniversary of Wishingline moving from being a sole proprietorship to its current incorporated form (four years all around), now with employees, a proper office, and a wider outlook on where we are and where we’re headed.

Our sincere thanks to our clients, friends, peers and families for getting us this far. We look forward to many more exciting years ahead!

May 12, 2008

Join Us For Lunch 2.0 //

Join the Wishingline crew (Scott, Anna and Dale) for Toronto’s second Lunch 2.0 event which will be happening on Friday, May 30th, from noon until 1:30 at the still kinda-sort new Wishingline studio in Toronto.

Lunch 2.0 Canada

Come out and meet like-minded people from Toronto’s design and tech communities and help us inaugurate our new studio space, rock out on the finger drums, and check out the comings and goings of our strange neighbours across the street all while enjoying yummy pizza and fizzy or otherwise bubbly beverages.

The event is totally free, but space is extremely limited and once the tickets are gone, they’re gone. Full details including location, time, tickets and anything else you might need to know are available at Eventbrite.

For the scoop on what Lunch 2.0 is all about and who’s behind it in Canada, check the official Lunch 2.0 website. Hope to see you on the 30th!

Get a ticket

April 23, 2008

The Squiggle //

Yesterday afternoon we made it even more official than it already was as the new sign outside the Wishingline office was installed.

The Wishingline squiggle
The new Wishingline “squiggle” has been installed outside our Leslieville office

The sign was produced locally in Toronto by British Metalcraft and was laser-cut from a piece of stainless steel using the vector artwork we had sent to them to illustrate how we wanted the sign to be mounted on the outside of the building. Using the supplied vector art meant that the sign could be cut exactly to the dimensions of the logo and not as an approximation.

Needless to say, we’re thrilled with the end product.

March 4, 2008

Next Stop - SXSW 2008 //

SXSW Interactive 2008 is almost upon us - only a couple days left before a large part of the population of design/web and interactive geeks from around the world descend into Austin for a 4 days of panels, parties, and socializing.

SXSWi 2008 badge

The new (yay!) Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. office will be closed while I’m away for the conference and to spend some time with clients, but I’ll do my best to stay on top of e-mail and voicemail.

And if you happen to be in Austin for SXSW, please do say “hello”. Ask nice and I might have a button or two for you as well.

February 12, 2008

Not Five Choices… Just One //

As I mentioned the other day, the site Wisingline designed for fiveruns.com is a finalist for the SXSW 2008 Web Awards but today they opened up the People’s Choice award voting - you know, the one you get a say in selecting.

I really have no aversion to big prizes, adulation or going home with a nice trophy, so I’d appreciate your vote. You can toss one vote this way every day until March 9th when the awards are handed out. Make my mom proud!

What are you waiting for… get voting!

February 9, 2008

SXSW Web Awards Finalists //

Yesterday, SXSW announced the finalists for their annual Web Awards and guess what? The Wishingline designed and developed site for FiveRuns has made the short list under the CSS category! Needless to say I’m excited and frankly, just honored to be nominated.

The FiveRuns homepage screenshot
Screenshot of the current FiveRuns homepage

The FiveRuns site (the one nominated) has undergone many changes since it’s inception back in 2006 — from a tiny pre-beta release site developed prior to the launch of FiveRuns’ flagship Manage product to the much more fully realized site that exists now. Of course there’s more to come in 2008.

Even though I don’t really expect to win (that’s the politically correct thing to say right?), I suppose I should write an acceptance speech just in case… :)

The Interactive Web Awards will be handed out by emcee Eugene Mirman on Sunday, March 9th at the Hilton Austin Downtown.

January 26, 2008

And Then There Were Four //

Because starting the year off by moving into a exciting new office space and bringing on one new person wasn’t enough, I decided to shake things up a bit more and have already bumped the Wishingline team from three to four.

What’s that — madness, you say?

Not in the least. Just the start of something great and now that the cat’s out of the bag, I can say a little more about these new peeps.

So Who’s Are These People?

First — Anna McLuhan. Anna, an unbelievable score for Wishingline will be instrumental in helping manage projects along with playing a key role in developing the company beyond my original vision. Aside from being amazing at what she does, Anna brings a fresh perspective, a brilliant mind and great ideas, infectious enthusiasm, and a well-rounded set of skills that will help improve internal processes and enable us to take bigger strides (not just because she’s 6ft 3 either).

I’d continue to extole her virtues but I don’t want to give her too big an ego :)

Next up — Dale Harrison, with whom I’m still finalizing a few details, but who will be coming on board in April as a design intern. Currently finishing up his final year in Durham College’s multimedia design program, Dale has the right level of technical and design skills and a great thirst for knowledge that will let him flourish especially in a small team environment where everyone can really have an impact on the larger whole.

Internships can be hit or miss, particularly depending on the size of the company and the amount of attention given to interns. For students, it’s a great chance to experience the real world; the often challenging reality of creative work. Hopefully it allows them to use skills they’ve been learning and pick up new ones which let them to evolve as designers — not scare them away. An internship is a great way to experiment, learn what you’re good at, what you like to and don’t like to do; to find the things that will make you happy in your working life.

For Wishingline, internships are an opporunity to learn more about what’s being taught to design students in Canadian post-secondary schools such as Durham College, Humber College or OCAD and hopefully have a positive impact on the career of a young, bright designer.

To both Anna and Dale — welcome aboard!

One More Thing

I’ll be in Vancouver next week for Web Directions North between Jan 29 to Feb 1. While I’m not speaking at the conference exactly, I will be introducing my friend Jon Snook who’ll be giving a short talk on Ajax frameworks along with Andre Charland and Walter Smith who will be talking about Adobe AIR and Microsoft’s Silverlight respectively. Expect awful jokes and good-natured ribbing.

Web Directions North 2008

I’m looking forward to catching up with old friends and will hopefully arrive home having made some new ones. If you’re going to be there, please do say “hello”.

January 24, 2008

A New Office and Other Announcements //

2008 is already looking to be a big year for Wishingline. Projects scheduled throughout the year are piling up at a feverish pace, plans are being made and there’s a lot of behind the scenes activity going on.

Our new home at 1402 Queen Street East in Toronto
The new Wishingline office at 1402 Queen Street East

The first item being that, yesterday, I picked up the keys to a new studio space on Queen Street East at Vancouver Street. There’s a bit of minor renovation work, painting, packing and unpacking to do, but the plan is to be in the new space full-time beginning in March. Just in time to disappear briefly for SXSW in Austin, Texas.

And if that weren’t enough, earlier this week I hired a fantastic new account manager who’ll be coming on board sometime in mid-to-late March. A more official announcement with actual details will come later.

The search for designers is still on and I haven’t forgotten about those who have sent in their resum├ęs and portfolio links. The call-back list has been whittled down from the 100+ submissions I’ve received so far and I expect to begin to respond to those selected in the next few days. Thanks for your patience!

January 8, 2008

Clarification //

In the off-chance this wasn’t clear in yesterday’s announcement that Wishingline is hiring (which clearly it was not), you must live in Toronto and be able to work from our office in order to be considered. Unfortunately this position is not open for telecommuting.

There wasn’t an option to indicate a locality for the job on Authentic Jobs which is why it says “Anywhere” and which is why, if you read the description all the way to the end it says:

Candidates are expected to work from our office in Toronto, Canada.

I appreciate everyone who’s sent in their CV from around the world, but the position is only open for local residents. I’ll be contacting those who’ve make the first cut by the end of next week and periodically from then on if anyone else happens to pass muster. A final decision, if there is one will be made in early February.

January 7, 2008

Looking for Designers //

I hinted at this earlier (ok, I came right out and said it), but it’s now official and Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. is looking for a designer to come on board in our Toronto office. Although this position is initially on a contract basis, the right person will have the opportunity to move to full-time.

Good talent is hard to find as Greg so eloquently pointed out which is why our ideal candidate is perhaps a bit younger and looking to gain real, practical experience in both design and across a number of interesting technologies. In finding the right person, my hope is to do a little bit to help pick up the slack where our educational institutions may be going wrong in instructing students, particularly in how to design for the web. And for that design to be inclusive of all people.

You can read the condensed version of the job description and perks at Authentic Jobs.

December 31, 2007

Looking Back at 2007 //

Although I’ve not really done a lot of “looking back” over the last couple of years, 2007 has been notable enough that it seems foolish not to turn the mirror around to see how I got where I am now.

While 2007 has generally been a good year, it’s also been one of the toughest I can remember. The specifics of this will be explained in due time but not necessarily here and now.

Looking back, I can see how the previous few years led me here and how I’ve learned and used many valuable lessons that continue to drive me forward both in my work, at home, and in the rest of my personal life. I can see where I made mistakes or the wrong choices too. Now, currently about three weeks into my month-long sabbatical, I’m starting to revisit those lessons - take stock of what’s working, what’s not, and getting things in order to start 2008 off on the right foot.

So what happened in 2007?

Around the World

While my travel exploits don’t compare to [certain][dkr] [others][haney], and although it’s still tough to be away from my family, I definitely did more travelling than I think I ever have before in a single year.

A few of the places I visited in 2007:

  • Austin, Texas (3 times)
  • London, England
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Portland, Oregon
  • Reston, Virginia

As much as I might not enjoy living out of a suitcase, I got to put faces to names and feel like I made some great new friends, many of whom I expect to see again in January at WDN08 or in March for SXSWi and hopefully later in the year as well. I’ve also got a handful of new people who I’m looking forward to meeting in person in 2008. Social networking sites like Facebook, Virb, and Twitter are one thing, but cannot complete with actually connecting face to face with people.

Unfortunately I’ve not done the same kind of networking in the local Toronto web and technology communities; something which is high on my list of things to remedy in 2008. I’ve already got a good start and have a few opportunities already lined up to help move this along.

Business is Good

This year was one of growth and change for Wishingline. As a business entity, the company changed from a sole proprietorship to a full-fledged corporation with all the extra paperwork, meeting minutes and common shares that involves.

The employee roster also grew (officially) to two with the addition of Shawn Frair, who came on board at the beginning of December to take over the books, because, frankly, I’m not an accountant. Emily did a great job in helping get me through until now, but we’re both relieved to have this in Shawn’s hands now.

Aside from being a great friend, music lover, occasional blogger, and expert balloon animal maker, Shawn is filling an important need and taking charge of a core piece of the business that I really shouldn’t be too actively involved in. It’s a great relief to have the books in such capable hands, especially since it frees me to focus on both the creative and technical sides of the business along with simply growing the company.

Bringing one new person into the mix also meant that I started to put more serious thought into growth - beefing up the client roster, adding new talent, and moving the office. Although running the office out of the house has never been an issue with clients, it feels like the right time to start the search for proper office space especially if I plan on increasing the number of people actually doing the work beyond myself.

In the short term, the office has been reconfigured to add a second desk in preparation for adding employee number three. So, yes, that means officially I’m in hiring mode. This is the first of several self-induced kicks in the pants. More on this soon.

In terms of actual work - this year was a doozy. A couple of weeks ago, prior to starting my sabbatical I took a look back and assembled a near complete list of projects from the last year. It was so long that I nearly fell out of my seat. I had no idea how much I really accomplished; and as much as it kind of frightened me, it was also impressive.

Although my focus has been primarily web projects, I’ve had opportunities to work on print projects, ads, identity design and just about everything in between. Unfortunately, due to being so busy with client work meant that a few more personal projects fell by the wayside and got little, if any attention. Again, something that will be remedied in 2008 based on the planning I’ve been doing during my time off.

Musical Side Projects

In my musical world, 2007 also brought some changes. The Darns unfortunately disolved, but not without a new group rising out of the ashes. We moved out of our permanent rehearsal room in the west-end of the city and still haven’t bothered to come up with a name, but we’ve made great progress in writing new songs and are starting to put together a plan to do some recording in early 2008 with the possibility for an EP release. Might need to get that name thing worked out before that though…

At Home

The biggest adjustment in 2007 continued to be adapting to having a new baby in the house. Thankfully Gillian couldn’t be a better baby. She sleeps well, eats well and is incredibly good natured virtually all the time. We really couldn’t ask for more.

It’s been so much fun to watch her grow (she turned one in October), babble, crawl, laugh, splash around in the tub, chase the cats - it reminds me that even if I have a lousy day at the office, there’ll always be a smiling face waiting at the end of the day. To top her first year off right, we’re really looking forward to Gillian’s debut modelling appearance in the February 2008 issue of Style at Home magazine (page 24 I’m told).

Aside from all the changes revolving around Gillian, this year brought an opportunity to finally come to terms with many other life changes such as moving (twice), two summers of major home renovations and the psychological changes involved with going from being an employee to the boss. It was a nice break this summer not to have to also play the role of construction site foreman at the same time as attempting to work through it.

On Deck for 08

I’ve got what I think are notable goals and changes lined up for 2008 and we’ll see how I end up doing by the end of the year but I’m optimistic that the time off I’ve given myself has allowed me the chance to slow down, reflect and really think about the last year and what I want and need to accomplish in 2008. I think it’s only by looking back at our successes, and perhaps more importantly, our mistakes, that we truly learn.

So, cheers to 2007 and hello 2008.

December 8, 2007

A Clean Sweep //

For quite some time I’ve wanted to do something with the notebook since it’s felt like I’ve been seriously neglecting it. For one reason or another that isn’t far from the truth. I haven’t been posting much throughout the last year for various reasons and much of the content was quickly becoming outdated and irrelevant, even to me. So it was time for a clean sweep and a fresh start.

I had a few goals in mind before I started to do anything though.

  1. Get rid of most (or all) of the cruft. This quickly became about focusing more on the actual content than all the other stuff like what I’m listening to, the links feed, etc. The Flickr photos stayed because I think it’s the only way my family knows how to find them ;-) Hi mom! I have to credit Garrett Dimon for being the inspiration for de-cluttering.
  2. Upgrade the notebook to run Movable Type 4.
  3. Finally, finally, finally do away with the popup window comment crap which was a throwback to Movable Type 2.x which was what powered things back when I first started blogging.
  4. Start to get back to my typographic roots which had fallen by the wayside. This manifested itself in sticking to a suitable vertical rhythm for the content and having a bit more fun using type within the entries. The perhaps slightly unusual entry titles being one such example. I also looked at specifying some of those lovely new Office for Windows/Vista fonts throughout as the primary font-family selections but unfortunately discovered that the sans-serif fonts have a really small x-height in comparison to some of the more traditional choices (Lucida Grande, Verdana, etc). But if you do happen to have those fonts installed, you should at least see Constantia being used for the entry titles. This is definitely something I’ll be tinkering more with in the future.
  5. Integrate more Microformats. The notebook is built around hCard, rel-tag and hAtom to name a few.
  6. Be unobtrusive. Aside from a couple bits of Javascript coming from Movable Type itself, any Javascript code used throughout is completely unobtrusive and should degrade properly if Javascript is turned off. For example, turn off JS and click on the “Elsewhere” link in the left sidebar.
  7. Do not break existing feed subscriptions but also reduce the number of feeds being produced. This means being more opinionated and picking one. RSS won in case you were wondering.
  8. Allow room to do things with the notebook “just because”. A perfect example of this might be using the new Script.aculo.us Sound method to add a click sound to the “Elsewhere” overlay window. Totally unnecessary, but was fun to do as an experiment.
  9. Somehow integrate Twitter into the entries. I was able to do this by hacking one of the Twitter plugins for Movable Type so that it would do what I wanted instead of the default behaviour. The plugin which I renamed TwitterSync will now create a new entry with the tweet content but also update my status on Twitter with that same content. I haven’t decided entirely what I’ll use this for yet, but I’m sure that will get sorted out shortly.

I was definitely not shooting for a revolutionary take on weblog design by any stretch with the layout itself. Instead, I wanted simplicity in keeping with my overall dump the cruft and try to focus on the content plan. In some respects, this design is intended as a placeholder for a larger update that’ll be coming for the wishingline.com site sometime in 2008. Nearly three years on the same design is more than long enough.

One thing I know for sure about the notebook redesign - permalinks to entries from the old site are busted and will probably remain so. I just can’t be bothered to write all those htaccess rules right now and hopefully the improved, clean urls will be enough of any apology for breaking them.

If you happen to be exploring and find something that doesn’t work or seems buggy, please leave a note in the comments or contact me directly so I can look into it. Unless something creeped in at the last minute, everything should be hunky dory in Safari, Firefox and IE 6 and 7.

December 7, 2007

Sabbatical //

2007, now coming to a close has been a really good year. It’s also been a tough one on a number of levels and the culmination of many changes that have slowly been creeping up and wearing me down. The European vacation Emily, Gillian and I took back in September was a good start at getting away, taking care of myself, ignoring the business for a brief period and simply regaining the sense of being grounded, despite it since proving not to have been enough.

So, because I need to, and because I can, I’m taking a brief sabbatical through the remainder of December to the second week of January 2008. This means the office is closed. I will not be doing anything resembling client work, probably not answering e-mails (not promptly at least) and instead just doing whatever tickles my fancy at that particular moment.

Thanks to friends, family, clients for your support. Happy holidays to all of you and see you in ‘08!

December 5, 2007

Conference Fever… Catch It! //

Though nearly two months from kickoff, 2008 conference fever is already ramping up with two big ones currently marked on the calendar, tickets purchased and hotels arranged with more surely to be added as the year goes on.

First, one of too few relevant and topical Canadian-based web/design-related conferences — Web Directions North. Unfortunately due to other commitments I missed the inaugural event last year, but after speaking with both Derek Featherstone and Dave Shea during SXSW, which only shortly followed WDN, I realized I couldn’t afford to miss it a second time.

Web Directions North

Given the great lineup of speakers, can you afford to miss it? I’m excited — new faces, old friends, and no dobut spectacularly organized! Plus I haven’t been to Vancouver in over 10 years which is a treat in itself.

SXSW Interactive

And then there’s old reliable — South By Southwest down in lovely Austin, Texas. Last year, oddly my first year attending, was a blast and I’m looking forward to catching up with friends, hopefully generally more interesting talks and panels than last year and just an all-around good time. I’ll be at the Hampton and staying a couple extra days at the end of the Interactive portion of the conference to visit with clients and hopefully putter around Austin a bit with anyone staying for the week of music mayhem that starts when Interactive ends.

Hope to see you there at one or both conferences. Do say “hello” — I promise I don’t bite.

October 4, 2007

Refreshed //

It’s amazing what a break can do for you. Emily, Gillian and I recently got back from a long-overdue and much needed vacation in the United Kingdom to visit friends and family and to just get away from it all for a couple weeks. It was just what the doctor ordered.

Crossing Abbey Road
Crossing Abbey Road in London

The last few months have been very challenging — transitioning the business from a sole proprietorship to a corporation, ongoing projects, new ones starting up — the process of simply finding the motivation and inspiration to get the job done has been a constant struggle; the pressure building up more and more each day.

Although I was able to get away for a couple days here and there, it never left me with a real opportunity to disconnect, so being away never felt like truly being away.

Two weeks in the UK, much of the time without e-mail or internet access was refreshing. I didn’t have to worry about a predictable daily routine or the near-constant beeping of Twitter, e-mail or news feeds which all helped drop my stress level which I could feel building up the last while. I woke up each morning relaxed.

Coming home, despite knowing what was waiting for me, I felt ready to tackle things again. Motivated. Refreshed. Inspired. Hopefully this also means I’ll find the energy to frequently blog again and even start tackling a number of personal projects that have been sitting idle for some time now.

It’s good to be back.

July 17, 2007

Inc. //

While perhaps a few weeks late in making an official announcement, as of June 18th, 2007 Wishingline Design Studios (also commonly referred to as Wishingline) is no longer a going concern, at least in the eyes of the Canadian government.

This doesn’t mean we’re going anywhere though — oh no!, quite the opposite. In its place is the newly formed Wishingline Design Studio, Incorporated — now with all new super-seriousness, renewed vigor and more paperwork than you can shake a stick at.

Wishingline Design Studio Inc

For our clients, this doesn’t mean much aside from us having to make a few minor wording changes to our general business terms and conditions, and updating our stationery, estimates and invoices to reflect the name change. Everything else is business as usual. Same design insight and problem solving. Same creative drive. Same bad jokes. More paperwork.

Taking the leap to go from a sole proprietorship to incorporating the company (still operating as a private enterprise) was a big step and one which will be bringing other changes later this year including bringing on employee no. 2, a clearer, more focused direction and tuning the design services we offer to better differentiate Wishingline among the highly competitive design marketplace.

Incorporating is perhaps just the preface to chapter two of our story.

May 8, 2007

Everyone Likes Schwag //

Everyone likes schwag. We know it. You know it. And now we’ve made it even easier to get your hands on official Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. schwag such as our world-famous coffee mugs and infamous 1” hand-crafted buttons. There’s no limit to how many mugs you can order aside from the fact that we only have a handful left and once they’re gone… that’s it. No more will be produced. Ever.

72 were made. We know at least 2 have been damaged during shipping over the last year or so, leaving 70 or less in existence, so if you want one, you’ll need to act fast. Visit the store now!

We’re planning a few new surprises to be added on a later date. Once we have some time to actually do something about those things, that is…

May 1, 2007

Two Years //

My wife graciously reminded me this morning that today marks the official 2nd anniversary of Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. as a full-fledged, self-propelled and monkey-navigated business entity.

I’m amazed that it’s been two years already consider how much has changed during the last year alone. I’ve got a few more announcements coming that will help push the business forward and hopefully open up new possibilities. But I’m saving those until all the details have been worked out.

My sincerest thanks to clients (past and current), friends, family and interweb peeps who’ve all been a great support mechanism. A tip of the frosty glass and coffee mug to you all!

April 5, 2007

Rename The Podcast Contest //

My good friend, and one heck of a funny guy, Garrett Murray asked if I’d be interested in sponsoring a little contest he’s having to rename his critically-acclaimed comedic podcast, and of course — how could I say no?

First prize
Win an iPod nano, a set of DS Buttons, and more

The rules are simple: send in your ideas on a new name for the podcast (full contest details here). Send as many entries as you like before June 1st to qualify for the chance to win a spiffy new 4GB iPod nano in your choice of colours, a set of DS Buttons and a personalized message from Garrett and his partner in hilarity, Shawn Morrison. There’s even a pair of runner-up prizes which aren’t half bad either.

What are you waiting for? Get on it!

March 31, 2007

Bits //

I’ve been meaning to rework my visual identity over the last little while after talking to a number of friends in the industry who told me the name and logo just didn’t “click” with them. So I took up the challenge the other day and hammered out something new that I think really nails it.

WishingBits logo update
The all new WishingBits logo

I mean really — all those bike racks in cities throughout Canada and the US that look just like the old logo — it just wasn’t good enough! I saw them and they didn’t even make me think “Wishingline”.

The identity needed a little something extra. That slowly evolved into the decision to change the company name too. And so a new company was born. Long live WishingBits! I’m confident the new logo and wordmark will turn things around and be a solid first step in worldwide brand recognition!

By the way, anyone need a cheap logo? $189 and it’s all yours!

March 17, 2007

SXSWrapped 2007 //

SXSWi 2007 is now over and I’m back home in Toronto. What a week away! I’m sure I’m still a bit out of it after being awake for over 24 hours (8:30 AM Thursday though 9:30 PM Friday) so hopefully I’m somewhat coherent.

My 6AM Friday flight back to Toronto left me feeling particularly paranoid about sleeping through an alarm, so I stayed up chillin’ at my bud Rob Jones’ place in Austin until it was time to leave. I had to gas up the rental car, drop it off and then do all the usual stuff at the airport. Luckily, no problems with my connecting flights and I actually made it home a few minutes earlier than expected.

Back to South By

March 9th through the 16th was a crazy week and I’m flat out exhausted. SXSW was a great time and a nice break from work, allowing me to finally put faces and personalities to the names I mostly knew only online via Flickr, Twitter or other social networking sites.

Garrett Murray and I at the Ze Frank party
Garrett Murray and I at the Ze Frank party in Austin

The web standards/design community has a lot of great people in it; folks I admire and look to for advice, encouragement and inspiration. People from the Canada, the US, UK, Australia and elsewhere - all of whom came together to what is truly an international conference like no other.

Panels

Based on what I heard from numerous people who’ve attended previous South By conferences, this one, in terms of the actual conference panels was a bit of a let-down. The talks were often less interesting, less focused and poorly prepared.

In some ways, looking at the names of panellists, it stuck me as a bit of a changing of the guard in some respects. A lot of names I didn’t know with only a handful that I did. As such, I found myself spending more time socializing with my peers outside the panels, at various restaurants or bars around the 6th Street area rather than actually attending the panels. The handful that I did attend in general were good or at least passable.

Given that this was my first South By I find it hard to judge fairly aside from saying that these panels were generally much less well prepared than those at Apple’s WWDC conference, RailsConf or other conferences I’ve attended in the past. I think some of the panels touched briefly on topics that overall would have been more interesting than what the panellists actually spoke about.

Unfortunately, I think I missed just about all of the really good panels such as Richard Rutter and Mark Boulton’s panel on Web Typography, Khoi Vihn and Mark Boulton’s grid design panel. Luckily there are podcasts to make up for that in the same way Apple provides WWDC attendees video/audio and PDFs of the sessions each year.

THE Social Conference

Aside from the panels, and as I hinted at earlier, SXSW is really a massive social experience, even more so than I expected. Meeting the people and personalities I’ve almost exclusively known online and having them all turn out to be really cool, fun, and down to earth was the icing on the cake. Although I didn’t get to meet everyone I would have liked or had enough time to chat with the ones I did, I can’t complain.

Mike Stickel and D. Keith Robinson
Mike Stickel and D. Keith Robinson

I was fortunate enough to get to meet and/or hang out with folks like Dan and Alex Rubin, the entirely awesome Blue Flavor posse, Tiff Fehr, Matthew Pennell, Derek Featherstone, Veerle and Geert, Andy Budd, Paul Boag, Robert Scales, Mark Bixby, Brian Warren, Steve Smith, Patrick Haney, Jina Bolton, my homie Mike Stickle, Dave Shea, Jason Santa Maria and his lovely wife Liz (your mugs are in transit), Shaun Inman, Jesse Bennett-Chamberlai, Jon Snook, Faruk and his Apple Web Store cohorts, Anton Peck, Greg Storey, Bryan Veloso, Scott Raymond, Garrett Dimon, the Veer gang (Grant, Brock, Aaron, Issa and Yuval), Sean from frogdesign and undoubtedly many more who I’m blanking on right now.

I also finally got to meet the business partner of Theresa Neil with whom I’ve been working on the FiveRuns application for the last year - Rob Jones, a former frogdesign(er) and who’s just the best. Rob rocks, and along with his girlfriend Shara, was kind enough to put me up for my last couple nights in Austin while I was takin’ care of business.

The Year Of The Button

2007 was the year of the button. I’m nearly positive I’m heading home with more 1” buttons than business cards. I can think of a few folks though who I just realized I never snagged a card from and a few who just didn’t have any at all. But the buttons seemed to really be a big hit all around. They’re fun and it’s just something a little different.

Buttons
A big bag of 1 in. Wishingline popsicle buttons

I’m still adamant that the Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. popsicle buttons were the only ones that were hand-made (by my lovely wife). I think they turned out fantastically given the fact they weren’t printed and assembled until just hours before I left to come down to Austin.

There’s still a small handful of those buttons left for anyone who didn’t get one that wants one. Just send me an e-mail or IM me with you deets and I’ll get something in the mail for you.

About SXSW’s Idiotic Registration Process

As I said to Bryan Veloso when we briefly chatted during his and Dan Rubin’s Live from the 101 podcast, my biggest complaint about SXSW, aside from some bad or uninteresting panels and poor scheduling was the absolutely ridiculous registration process and just some generally bad conference structuring problems in terms of the location of things, including the panels.

Assuming you pay $300 to go to the conference, I think there’s a pretty darn good chance you’ll actually go.

Taking that into consideration, badges should have all been pre-printed for registrants like at every other conference in the world so that when you go to register, everything is just waiting for you. Having to wait in line, fill out a card with info they already have, possibly get your photo taken, then wait around for someone to print out your badge and yell out your name before you can actually finally get your badge. That’s just inefficient and stupid if you ask me.

For a conference with as much history as SXSW, that seems like a lesson they perhaps should already have learned. The same goes for putting the registration area right in the middle of a major throughway of people going to and from panels. Apparently much of this was worse last year which is a scary thought.

A Few Fun Moments

Other random fun moments — the Trailer Park Boys wandering around the convention centre, some dude dressed as Superman though with a cellphone and Blackberry case attached to his bright yellow belt, and apparently missing Paul Rudd as we left the trade show area. I’m also still convinced I saw Tarantino a few times on Saturday or Sunday night too when we were all out partying.

In terms of parties, I had a great time at just about all of the ones I made it out to - definitely the Blue Flavor party being my fave and MediaTemple one being possibly the most pretentious and possibly dull (hence my early exit) even though I made it into the “VIP” area.

The fact that Monday’s events were on my birthday made them particularly memorable and the most fun. Thanks to all for the birthday wishes and Twitters and to Mark Bixby and Brian Warren for filling me full of beer and assorted alcohol.

Monday the 12th was also made special by the Veer gang for taking me out for a big birthday steak dinner at Fleming’s. I know everyone loves Veer — but those guys really are the coolest, and if I didn’t enjoy working for myself, I could see having a lot of fun working with them. Right, Grant?

Lunch with Jesse Bennett-Chamberlain, Mark Bixby, Brian Warren, et al on Tuesday at Halcyon was also a real treat. Sure we got a bit wet (damn rain) making our way back to the convention centre for the afternoon but it was more than worth it.

It was nice to get away for a week though I missed Emily and Gillian and was very happy to get home. Talking with them on the phone or via IM just isn’t the same. I’m still filtering through pics to upload to Flickr, but should have the ones I want to post all up soon enough.

Thanks again to all my South By peeps, it was a blast. See you next year!

February 2, 2007

Austin Bound //

Like many others in the design, web, film, music and related industries, in March I’ll be making the trek down to Austin, Texas for SXSW. This will be my first time attending (finally) and I’m looking forward to meeting up with old friends, finally putting some proper faces to names, shaking hands and kissing babies.

Meet Me at SXSW 2007

Seriously though, I’ve heard SXSW is a good time (lots of parties), and it looks like there’s a solid speaker/panel lineup, I just hope I can deal with all the people… WWDC is around 4000 — 4500 which is a lot. SXSW I’m guessing based on hotel availability will be quite a bit more.

And for anyone interested, I’ll probably bring a few mugs and CDs with me.

December 11, 2006

Wishingline 2006 Holiday Cards //

The winter holidays are fast approaching and this year Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. is sending out some fancy holiday cards. They look like this:

Holiday Cards
The 2006 Wishingline holiday cards

If you want one, you’ll need to act quickly as supplies are very limited. Clients and certain other individuals get first dibs, but otherwise, all you need to do is shoot an e-mail over to hohoho at this domain dot com with your postal address and our elves will take care of the rest.

October 12, 2006

And Now a Month Later… //

Oh, how time flies when you’re having fun…

So, what’s new? Glad you asked.

The renovations are done. The new Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. office looks great although we’re still not completely done with it yet. Everything turned out really well and we’re exceedingly happy to finally have an end to the dust, piles of 2×4’s and plastic sheets.

The newest Wishingliner seen here is now less than two weeks away. A big congrats to my buds Luke and Mathew on their latest additions.

On the business front, things have been a bit crazy. Work is good. Too much work all at once is also good, but in a painful kind of way.

Toronto Life teaser
Toronto Life redesign teaser

We recently completed some additional work for Toronto Life although it hasn’t gone live yet. We’ve also been working with some new and some old clients on identity design, web application and site designs and redesigns with more on the way.

Some of this work literally just wrapped so it’s still a bit early to really say much, but when it’s time you’ll hear about it. Until then, here’s a bit of a tease.

Wishingline project teaser
Hivelogic identity concepts

The Darns were nominated for a Toronto Independent Music Award for “Best Alternative Act”, but sadly did not win. Maybe next year. And the band is finally celebrating the release of ‘What It All Turns Into’ on November 18th with a big CD release bash in Toronto. Next up — something that hopefully resembles a tour.

There’s also been a few small changes and tweaks made to the site such as the newish homepage graphic, the little availability info on the homepage (also repeated elsewhere through the site), and an upgrade of Movable Type and the newly released phpFlickr 2.0 scripts which use Flickr’s new serialized API. I only had to modify one line of code to update my scripts to work with the new release which was a nice surprise.

That all aside, there’s still a boatload of work piled up and I should probably start in on it now. I’ll try not to let another month slip by…

August 18, 2006

Today on Campfire //

As seen today while logged into Campfire with one of my clients. Posted it only because it made me laugh.

Today on Campfire...
Screenshot from the FiveRuns Campfire chatroom

June 13, 2006

New Projects: remarkr //

Even though I already have more than enough going on to keep me busy, the projects I’ve been handling lately have inspired me to get a little skunkworks project out of my mind and off the ground. So today marks the start of my what little free time I have project, remarkr.

remarkr Logo

remarkr will have nothing to do with blogs, or bookmark management, wine or web-based invoicing but will have everything to do with filling a huge hole in the graphics industry and will hopefully put the competition to shame by providing fewer features, a significantly user experience and more bang for your buck.

I’ll undoubtedly be talking to a few Rails folks at RailsConf in just over a week’s time about this to gauge interest and see if anyone else would like to come on board to lighten the load and share in the fun.

If you’re interested in participating, fire off an e-mail to whatis [at] remarkr [dot] com or sign up for the launch.

April 5, 2006

Toronto Life Redesign //

Toronto Life, a 40-year veteran of magazine racks in Toronto and across Canada launched the latest incarnation of the magazine’s companion site, torontolife.com today featuring both a whole new front-end built upon web standards.

Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. was approached in late February to assist the online team from publisher, St. Joseph Media in pulling together the new site design and implementing it using lean XHTML and CSS. The new design nicely complements the print edition of the magazine and brings a simple modern and appealing esthetic to one of the staples of life in Toronto.

March 2, 2006

Check The Back Cover //

Name on a big sign outside a live music club: check. Project I worked on heavily featured on the back cover of a major design magazine: double check!

Masterfile ad on the back cover of HOW Design magazine
Masterfile ad on the back cover of HOW Design magazine

February 17, 2006

On Hacks and Supporting IE7 //

I definitely feel like I’ve done something right in that I spent very little time on Monday filtering through the site’s stylesheets and found I had only two rules to break out to a separate stylesheet (using Conditional Comments) to fix a couple rendering problems with the latest Internet Explorer 7 beta. Two lowly hacks, nothing more.

Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. browser visits
Browser stats for wishingline.com

I suppose the ease of which supporting a newer browser with improved standards support is mostly due to my decision to give a lower grade of support to older, discontinued browsers such as IE 5 for the Mac and IE 5.5 for Windows which have only accounted for around 1% of the total visits to the site since it’s launch last May.

Had I chosen to enhance the support of those older browsers, it’s likely that the number of hacks required to provide them with the same or a similar grade of support would have also increased… well… beyond two.

On a side note, the design and usability folks at Microsoft should be taken out and smacked upside the head for the bloody awful UI in IE 7. Really.

August 15, 2005

Hollywood Here I Come //

It’s amazing how quickly time has flown by since the last time I posted anything. I took a quick glance this morning before getting into the thick of things and noticed that it’s been nearly two weeks. That seems like a rather long time.

It’s not that I haven’t done any writing for this part of the site, it’s just all sitting in the editing bin waiting to be finished while I tackle ongoing work, new business, rehearsing and trying to find a few precious moments to spend with the incredibly patient and understanding wife first. Having your priorities in place can be a good thing you know.

In the brief moments where I’ve had a chance to breathe (and sleep), my mind still ponders all the things that haven’t had the attention they deserve and the things that haven’t even been started yet.

A scene from Copy Goes Here, a film by Coudal Partners
A scene from Copy Goes Here, a film by Coudal Partners

I did manage to cross one small item off the list today — Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. is now an official Executive Producer of ‘Copy Goes Here’, a new movie being produced by those fun and smart peeps at Coudal Partners.

Film is a great thing — sure I hate being on film or having my picture taken for that matter, but getting a chance to somehow, even indirectly be involved in the making of a movie sounded like a great idea. Considering I didn’t really want to direct (or act) — being a suit seemed like a welcome alternative.

Now, where’s my damn trailer…?

April 15, 2005

Moving The Plan Forward //

To try to keep things relatively sane around here I decided to keep this somewhat under wraps, but now’s a suitable time to spill the beans publicly. I promised something about this about two weeks ago and it’s time to make good on that.

The Scoop

First, the Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. site is on track to launch as part of the May 1st CSS Reboot. This is big since I’ve been struggling for the better part of two years to find the time and energy to do something about it. Still, it’s not just a random occurrence that this is happening now… which leads me to points two and three.

In recent months I’ve been gathering contacts and sourcing out opportunities to strike out on my own in a much larger way than the bits of freelance work I’ve been doing for a number of years now. What this means is that Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. is a full-time gig now(!), and as such the site needs to be done. For real. And it will be.

Stacks of business cards
Stacks of new Wishingline business cards and stationary

…But what about Masterfile you ask? Well, timing is everything really. As I was contemplating this and discussing the ramifications with Emily given that we were about to move to a new house; things were starting to wind down on a few active projects and it just happened to be a good time. There are some fantastically smart people who work at Masterfile and I feel I did good work and helped contribute to what is now a better site than where it was when I started.

From a front-end code perspective, the site is certainly more standards-compliant and (hopefully) leaner than before considering the big features such as SimSearch, weighted search and floating thumbs which were all added in the last year along with a major re-branding (and one colour change with another on the way). For me it’s been a good opportunity to work in a different kind of team environment and to learn things along the way that I can now use to good advantage, and make my own. All the best to the new media department in the massively big upcoming project. I’m sure it will turn out great.

Our Operators Are Standing By

And now for the big plug… If you know of companies in need of web or print design, Mac-focused technical consulting or training services, please drop me a line.

In general, I will be looking for projects in the local Toronto area though I can, and have worked with international clients (big and small). I will be starting to accept new work at the beginning of June 2005.

March 28, 2005

Mapping Out Content //

Content. It’s the thing that gives people a reason to go anywhere beyond the homepage on your site. It’s a big reason why people visit a site in the first place and it’s still amazing the number of clients that do not understand that.

Designing around the content

In starting work on the Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. site and generally any project, my own methodology starts by mapping out preliminary content which allows me to take into consideration site architecture and design elements. Aside from providing structure, and ensuring work is on-strategy, our job as designers is to make content both visually appealing and readable. Not knowing what the content will be greatly affects design decisions. It should at least.

What information does the client want to make available? How should it be organized? What parts are simple, small and fairly static (unchanging) and what parts are likely to grow and expand? Will there be long passages of text, possibly spanning multiple pages (or long individual pages)? Where will images, flash and other multimedia content be used for more than decoration? Will there be content that appears in multiple places on the site?

In organizing site content I like to start using a flat hierarchy; that is, no hierarchy and then start to tie pieces together. Are there things that belong in more than one place? Sticky notes can be a real time-saver here. Low-tech often works best at this point.

Create meaningful primary categories that will become your first level hierarchy and work your way down. Do things need to be separated out further? For example, if you’re maintaining a news archive, does it make sense to organize the archived content by year? By month? Some other way? At all? Some sections may be flat (no sub-categories) and others may result in multiple levels. This is where you should start thinking long-term about maintenance and future redesigns.

When structuring your content, try to keep in mind what the user will have to do to actually find and get to the content. Make it as easy as possible. Complex hierarchies are often a deterrent for less savvy users because it’s easy to get lost. Typically I refer to Microsoft’s site as an example of this. I always get lost myself anytime I need to look for information there.

Determining such things before putting pencil to paper or fingers to keys can save you in the long run. What I mean is, try to avoid writing or designing anything until you know how content will be organized and fit together.

Cut from the same cloth?

In general I’ve found most designer or agency sites follow a fairly common structure in terms of content. There are things that a site must have along with others that could fall under the nice to have banner. There should be information on the business itself — what it does, who is behind the business, philosophies and strategies along with a portfolio of work, or case studies. Exactly what content is needed is up to you, the designer and the client. Thankfully this is easier if you’re your own client ;-)

More and more agencies and freelancers are also adding blogs to their sites to better communicate to clients, peers and attract new potential clients. A blog can also act as a great marketing tool to get your name out into the world. Just look at a high-profile agency such as Coudal Partners who does just that. In my case, I started backwards — starting with the blog and working out, building the informational side of the site second. My mother’s always said I was a little backwards. Hi mom!

Taxonomy

Another often overlooked component of the content process is taxonomy. What are things going to be called? Are you going to use consistent labelling throughout the site? Are labels clear and understandable by the user? For many users it’s unsettling to look at unusual site taxonomies and know what to do.

Unusual labelling can lead to users shaking their heads, getting frustrated and giving up, probably never to return. That’s bad for business. All is not lost though. An unusual taxonomy can be made usable but providing users with additional hints in the HTML using title attributes, alt tags, or rollovers whenever possible. Make icons clear and easily identifiable. Some visual icons are easily recognizable (eg. print — usually a printer icon) while some may be more abstract or difficult to instantly recognize.

As an example — labelling your design portfolio as just that, you’re less likely to confuse a user than if you were to label it “catalogue”. Some users will explore but many do not have the time, patience or willingness to learn your taxonomy and explore. Clarity is often better for the user experience than simply being clever. Generally the idea is not to confuse or confound the user but rather to engage and delight them.

Depending on the needs of your site or a project, creating a taxonomy guide could be a helpful document to ensure consistent and easily identifiable labelling.

Know your audience

When mapping out content it’s also good practice to begin with a reasonable understanding of your target audience. Who are you trying to communicate with? What is important to them? What information do they want and expect from you? What tone should the writing use? Funny? Serious? Playful and creative?

Content is just one of the hooks that gets people coming back to your site, but if the content is boring or not on strategy, you may miss the boat. This means speaking to your audience (and not speaking down to them). It means engaging them and giving them a reason to return.

The most universal hook is humour. Make people laugh or chuckle and they’re more likely to stay interested than if you take the dry and uninteresting corporate-speak route. In many cases that is what is required though; but there are still ways to keep content lively and interesting.

Mapping and architecture

Mapping out the content may mean putting together a rudimentary sitemap diagram or perhaps a more complex one showing how pages interrelate to each other or by indicating where different types of content fit into page layouts. It can also be useful to indicate where modular code such as “includes” are used by creating page schematics.

Content boxes illustration
Content boxes illustration

Why would you want to map out your site and content? Planning up front will save you time in the end; trust me. If you’ve thought through the problem, the solution will be easier to manage and implement and you’ll be less likely to second-guess yourself. Second-guessing means re-work, and no one likes re-work. Not me anyway.

A good example of this would be writing a contact form more than once if you’re going to potentially re-use the same code in a number of different places. The key here is finding those bits and reusing them as “includes”. Consider how the final pages will be structured. This will allow you to develop code in a way that makes using these include files easy and in a way that can accomodate subtle differences in different contexts throughout a site. Don’t repeat yourself.

A simple, real-world example is the calendar displayed in the sidebar of this site (at is exists today). This is a single index template in Movable Type which is included in other templates where required. The code is not repeated in multiple places. Instead a single line of code adds that external template code into others which makes maintenance and troubleshooting easy.

Wrapping Up

Hopefully by this point you’ve got a few ideas on how to get organized and think about site organization and structure. The key for much of this is to put yourself in the shoes of the user and look at things from their perspective. It’s about the experience. Make it a good one.

March 15, 2005

Designers Secrets Of Colour //

One of the challenges with any design project is selecting an appropriate colour palette. It’s often overlooked; an afterthought for web projects when perhaps it should be one of numerous driving forces.

Colours each have their own meanings or associations, and the options for choosing the right ones to use — past experience and colour knowledge, sampling photographs/illustrations, colour swatches, magazines, visits to local paint stores, going for a walk in the park, or even using one of the myriad of web-based colour tools such as the Behr’s EXPLORE Colour Tool are virtually unlimited. The method of selection isn’t important, but the output is.

Colour choices can be equally as important as the visual aspects of a design itself. Poor colour choices can destroy beautiful designs causing viewers to move on rather than take valuable time to absorb the content or message. In the same vein as using the wrong colours, too much or too little colour may have the same effect.

For example, if you were looking to evoke feelings of calm, serenity and a sense of something being “classic”, you wouldn’t necessarily choose red as your primary colour. Instead you might look at greens, blues and whites since green traditionally symbolizes nature, freshness, harmony and safety. Blue is stability, depth, trust, and wisdom. White is light, goodness, purity and is considered to be the colour of perfection.

Most sites start with primary and secondary colours, often drawn from a company identity or set of visual brand guidelines. Tertiary colours are often used to add complexity to the colour palette — as accents or to draw attention to parts of the site. Well thought out choices can pull viewers in, grab attention and trigger the desired emotional response. Throw in some good typography and you’ll really be on your way.

Choosing colours for the web

In the early days of the web (mid-to-late 90’s) designers were more restricted with regard to colour choices due to limitations in what could be expected on the viewer’s end. Large displays capable of rendering millions of colours was not the norm as they are now. Today the majority of users have more powerful computers with larger, brighter displays capable of moving the industry beyond imagery restricted to the Web colour palette. The internet, like the real world can be a colourful place.

At this point in time, millions of colours and 1024×768 resolution are taken to be the lowest common denominator though there’s still reason to take into account users with smaller, lower resolution display capabilities. It’s safe to export GIF images using the Adaptive colour palette, along with a trend towards using 24 bit PNG images which also support full alpha transparency and improved colour fidelity despite a lack of full support in Internet Explorer 6.

When selecting colours to use, bear in mind the gamma differences between Windows and the Mac. Colours typically look darker on Windows-based computers than they do on the Mac. There’s a option in Photoshop that help you get a better idea of what your images and colour selections will look like on a PC and I highly recommend making use of it.

Complexity By Design

The thing which typically separates small-frys from the bigwigs in terms of colour decisions really comes down to complexity. This means selecting a palette which is both complementary but also offers a degree of contrast and variety. This means not using only blue and orange or red and green — it may mean adding magenta, brown, yellow or some other colour to provide additional visual interest.

A handful of good examples of this in my opinion can be seen on sites such as Terminus 1525, Masterfile, Basecamp and of course Apple, just to name a few. Doug Bowman’s Stopdesign site another great example of the use of colour complexity in design. Doug is consistent in his colour choices but with adds complexity with his use of accent and highlight colours to divide content and provide a sense of navigational space.

Using The Colour Palette

Colours can be used to liven up otherwise stark designs, to call attention to items, or may be the focal point of the design itself. The use of colour is dependent on the needs of the design and the intentions of the designer. Do the colour choices add to or detract from the underlying message? For example, photography sites are often stark in terms of their use of colour because of the affect it can have on the photographs themselves. In such cases, neutral (white, black or shade of gray) is usually better.

Sample Colour Palette
A sample of the Wishingline site colour palette

Web designers need to be concerned about colour for a number of reasons, but one of the more notable ones is that colour can be used to instruct users about how a site is structured or how it works. Link colours are a perfect example. Links can change colours when the user mouses over them, clicks on them or has visited a link. Interactions such as this subtly tell users something about how the site works, sets expectations and aids in learning.

Colour can be used to create logical sections for sites — use red as a primary colour for the ‘news’ section and ‘blue’ for the company info section for example. Wired used to do this on their site but recently removed the feature. See Stopdesign for an example of this in use.

But colour should not be used in a vacuum. Considerations should also be made to accomodate people who are colour blind or who may not be able to see all colours.

Making Intelligent Colour Choices

Although I haven’t talked much about what I’m planning for the Wishingline site throughout this article, but you can infer some ideas based on the colour swatches above (not finalized and may change dramatically). I’m still tinkering with the site’s primary and secondary colours; making sure everything is happy, harmonious and has the right balance of complexity and appeal.

Colour choices can be based on current trends, mood, meaning and on existing branding information, but whatever the case they should complement the design rather than detract from it. This means do not use a red background with blue type on it!

Start by picking one or two colours that complement each other then spread out from there choosing secondary and tertiary colours. Remember not to go overboard though — too many colours is somehow worse than not enough. I tend not to count shades of a base colour as colours in the palette, but whether you do is personal preference.

Serious Colour

If you’re really serious about colour, I can’t more highly recommend getting yourself a set of Pantone Colour Books — it’s one thing to see colours on screen, but it’s another entirely to see them on paper they way they’re often intended. Pantone offers a set which is both affordable and an excellent investment.

As an aside, do yourself a favour and read Dave Shea’s piece on CMYK for RGB designers if you haven’t already. It’s a good primer on CMYK, Spot and RGB colours, their differences and uses.

February 16, 2005

Putting Up The Scaffolding //

After nearly two very long years, I’m finally done and satisfied with the identity work for Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. and although you won’t see it in place here for a while now, it is coming. My big realization out of all of this has been that it’s amazing how so much time can pass before you really have the time, energy and inspiration to buckle-down and get to work when so many other things are beating at your door.

Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. identity mark
Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. identity mark

During the nearly two years I’ve tinkered with this, I hummed and hawed over whether or not to retain a bonsai tree as part of the identity. That was my original intention at least but instead I went in the opposite direction and ended up with something abstract.

While the triple “w” visually resembles a sine wave — indicating movement or “flow”, it also permits a direct connection to the blog title “On A Long Piece Of String” just as it could easily be a piece of string. It’s simple and, at least in my eyes, vastly different from a lot of what else is out there in the general web design world. It’s also kind of fun just to stare at — you’ll go a bit cross-eyed staring at it too long though.

My intention with slipping this out is to begin the process of documenting the design and development of the actual, honest-to-goodness Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. site — design concepts all the way through to the final site launch. I’m not entirely sure to what extent this will happen as it depends on, at least in part, on general interest.

So what do you think of the logo? Smash? Trash?

January 31, 2004

Favicons As Branding //

I was thinking about favicons today while working on a few minor design details for this site. Safari and Internet Explorer on Windows along with a few other browsers support favicons, a simple detail that can be used to help develop a site’s “brand” (I use the term loosely) and identity. They also afford a way to allow sites to stand out among others when browsing bookmarks.

For people like myself who keep extensive, organized and categorized bookmarks sets, the ones that stand out the most are the ones that include favicons. And like logos and other identity marks, they can be beautifully designed and appropriate for the end use or be a complete mess, unrecognizable and otherwise inappropriate for the intended purpose. In the case of favicons, being restricted to only 16 pixels square on average (you can technically create them at larger sizes), the simpler the better.

Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. favicons

For Wishingline I created a set of favicons using variations on a single visual thread — colour. The orange version that will be used on the main Wishingline site, a blue-gray version used for the notebook, and a green version we’re using on our development server. The variations make it easy to identify which server we’re looking at when editing and testing while helping develop brand recognition. That, and it’s a small detail that, when added to the other minor details, goes to make up a great site.

For example, Apple, Adobe, Macromedia, and many other widely recognized companies are using favicons on their sites, just as the independents are. Take a look through your Safari bookmarks and see which ones stand out. I bet you’ll say it’s the ones with favicons. Now that you’re a believer — where’s your site’s favicon?

A Few Rules When Creating Favicons

First, keep it simple. Second, don’t go nuts with colour — stick to standard web colours or things that will display properly across platforms. Third, remember to include the appropriate link tag into the head section of your pages.

Keep in mind you can add as many favicons as you want — just adjust the link tag as needed. For example, different favicons for different site sections, subdomains — use your imagination.

How To Create Favicons

If you want to learn how to create favicons, The Iconfactory has some great resources along with their IconBuilder Pro plugin for Photoshop which can export the necessary .ico files. IconBuilder Pro is available for Mac OS X and Windows.

« Web Development


When you get to the bottom you go back to the top of the slide… or check out our B-sides

It’s all interconnected …On A Long Piece Of String

Flickr Photos // See the rest

Get social and don’t be a lurker

Elsewhere // Click to view
Feeds //

04