Posts tagged ‘design’


Switching Lucire’s home page over to the new template

07.10.2021



Lucire’s online edition home page: out with the old (top), in with the new (above).

I switched over Lucire’s home page to the new template today. I’m going to miss the old one, since it had the effect of a bled page, something that’s de rigueur for a fashion magazine.
   As outlined in my previous post, it’s just something we had to do to move with the times, and to make life easier for those browsing on mobile devices. I recognize the irony here, as someone who doesn’t tend to use cellphones having to design for that very medium, but then I’m also a realist.
   Once I get a bit more confidence hacking the theme from HTML Codex, the bled effect might return.
   I made some calls on what to include this time round. The social links are gone—recent events have just made them too discouraging. (The Facebook ones disappeared years ago.) The top image has been replaced by a slider with three images. The little graphic featuring the latest issue of Lucire has also been removed, only because we couldn’t figure out where it would go in the new template, but it might make a return sooner rather than later. In terms of appearance, there are fewer lines, though this is more down to convenience and working with someone else’s CSS; again, they might make a return at some point. The dotted line separating the footer from the body has also gone for now.
   As every web publisher knows, no template is set in stone and there’s ongoing evolution.
   It’s partly a shame to bring to an impending close a template entirely programmed by me. Since Lucire started, it was built on my code, the first issue done on Notepad. But HTML Codex has done a good job with its stylesheet, it would be foolish to reinvent the wheel. Many of the old pages with my code will still exist (since, other than one article, we don’t redo old HTML pages), and it’ll take months before we shift all section indices and the news pages over. I am looking forward to the changes, and that’s always a good sign.


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After eight years, a new template for Lucire’s online edition

04.10.2021

Those were two pretty intensive days but Lucire’s web edition now has a new template. Before you head over there excitedly expecting all change, it only exists on two pages so far, and they are of the same article but in different languages.
   The look itself is not that different, either: we wanted to stick fairly close to what we had, but updated for the 2020s to handle mobile traffic.
   Surprisingly, the outgoing template was created in 2013 with some concessions to mobile devices, and was partially responsive, but as those of you who surfed to Lucire on mobile knew, it did not cater that well to them. One big issue was the use of HTML tables (the old-fashioned ones), which would play havoc on cellphone browsers unable to grasp at just what size type should be displayed at.
   I kept hoping there would be technology that would straighten all of this out—there was in the 2000s with Bitstream having devised a solution to show reduced pages—but the pace of change isn’t as fast as you might think when it comes to web stuff. Of course not, when companies with monopoly powers dominate in the US, and affect a lot of the world.
   That old template was tweaked briefly in 2015 (shifting the subsidiary column from the left to the right) and it is remarkable that something that old managed to keep us going all this time.
   Over the weekend I began developing a cellphone-friendly template with a single-column layout. The trouble was that when I finished, I noticed it was utterly devoid of character. That was the trouble: I was designing more for the cellphone than the web, and the smaller medium doesn’t lend itself well to creativity.
   For the first time in Lucire’s history, I opted to get an open-source template from HTML Codex as a starting-point rather than create it myself. The result is quite a departure from theirs, but the underlying code and stylesheet are theirs, and, rightly, their credit appears in the footer.
   This first story also marks the second time a Lucire article has appeared in French online. It has been taken from the second French issue of Lucire KSA.
   There are both up and down sides. The obvious up side is that the template works remarkably well on a desktop screen and on a phone, but not without some substantial tweaking (hence the hours put in). Unlike my single-column layout from the weekend, it still has character. For better or for worse, the result is based on one of my designs.
   The big down side is that the stylesheet file is 180 kbyte in size, versus 17 kbyte with mine. Some of my CSS specs wound up in the big one. It also has to call a bunch of Javascripts, including one Jquery and a Bootstrap bundle. I will put parts of the page template into virtual files for the server-side includes to summon, but for now, with the hard coding, it’s about 10 kbyte larger than my effort.
   Kudos to the original template developers, whose efforts have saved us a lot of time, and I look forward to tweaking things further as this new look becomes the norm.


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Title design in 1970: big geometric type rules

11.08.2021

There is something quite elegant about title typography from the turn of the decade as the 1960s become the 1970s.
   There is 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever by Maurice Binder, which apparently is one of Steven Spielberg’s favourites, but I’m thinking of slightly humbler fare from the year before.
   I got thinking about it when watching Kevin Billington’s The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer, which has Futura Demi tightly set (it is the 1970s) but arranged in an orderly, modernist fashion, aligned to the left on a grid. Nothing centred here; this is all about a sense of modernity as we entered a new decade.


   Similarly the opening title for Alvin Rakoff’s Hoffman, starring Peter Sellers and Sinéad Cusack. For the most part it’s Kabel Light on our screens, optically aligned either left or right. It’s a shame Matt Monro’s name is spelled wrong, but otherwise it’s nice to see type logically set with a consistent hierarchy and at a size that allows us to appreciate its forms. Monro belts out the lyrics to one of my favourite theme songs, ‘If There Ever Is a Next Time’, by Ron Grainer and Don Black, and the title design fits with them nicely.


   It certainly didn’t stay like this—as the decade wore on I can’t think of type being so prominent in title design on the silver screen. Great title design is also something we seem to lack today in film. I helped out in a minor way on the titles for the documentary Rescued from Hell, also using Futura, though I don’t know how much was retained; given the chance it would be nice to revisit the large geometric type of 1970.


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Can a no-name mouse take the place of a Microsoft Intellimouse?

01.08.2021

I’ve occasionally had good luck with ultra-cheap Chinese mice. Years ago, I bought one, with very simple left and right buttons and a scroll wheel, and it proved to be one of the most comfortable I owned. The wheel didn’t run smoothly at first but a quick trim of the plastic, and it’s been fine since.

   This US$3·89 mouse (price at time of writing) was a similar case. I ordered it to see if it might be better than the NZ$75 Asus ROG Strix Evolve mouse, and that was bought to replace my favourite, the Microsoft Intellimouse 1·1. One of those was being used after my Microsoft Laser Mouse 6000 died—like the Intellimouse, these had large bodies that people with bigger hands, like me, can use.
   As those in a similar predicament know, mice have shrunk over the last decade, so finding a replacement takes months as you read the specs and, in some cases, visit the stores to see if they have anything.
   A Tecknet mouse proved too low by a millimetre or two to be comfortable, but when I saw this no-name unit being sold by a place called 7 Elves Store (did they mean dwarves, as in Disney?) on Aliexpress, I decided to take a punt. (The specs suggest the brand name is Centechia, but it’s nowhere to be found on the device or in the heading and description.) And for US$3·89 plus (sorry) my share of carbon emissions from the air freight, it didn’t cost me much to find out.
   It arrived a few weeks ago in damaged condition. The buttons did not work at all, and once again I had to make some simple repairs to get it working. It’s too light. The plastic is of a crappy grade. And the details on the base of the mouse suggest whomever wrote the text had not been in the occident much, if at all. I don’t like the lights because I don’t care if a mouse has pulsing RGB effects since (a) my hand is over it and (b) I’m looking at the screen, not the mouse.
   But here’s the thing: it fits my hand. It’s nowhere nearly as comfortable as those old Microsoft mice, but as a cheapie that I can take in my laptop bag, it does a better job than the Tecknet. It’s not as comfortable as the Asus, but it beats every other mouse, that is, the ones I didn’t buy, that I’ve seen in the shops. On the whole, I can use it more than the Tecknet, and it will do when I’m travelling or out of the office, though I still haven’t found the holy grail of a decent sized Microsoft mouse. (The revived Intellimouse, as I may have mentioned earlier, is asymmetric, and its shape doesn’t work for me.) I’m not sure why this is so hard for mice manufacturers: you’ve all peaked a bit early, and none of the improvements you’ve made have advanced the ideas of user comfort and ergonomics.
   For those who care about this stuff, here’s the Aliexpress link.


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Facelifting the Lucire licensing site after 13 years

30.06.2021

After 13 years, it was time to facelift the Lucire licensing website.
   It’s a very familiar template, similar to what we used for JY&A Consulting a few months back. The home page copy we already had from a flier that we created late last year that Susan Ninan and I worked on; and the ‘About’ page’s text was mostly carried over (though it still needs 13 years of updates).
   I am surprised the old site still netted us enquiries but it was looking extremely dated. The 2008 design was positively archæological in internet terms. However, I’m not sure if the new one is particularly interesting, because the web design convention is to do something very simple at the moment.
   The old one was created with consideration for those who didn’t have mouse wheels, whereas these days it seems to be all right, even fashionable, to scroll away.
   Hopefully everything is more fit for purpose though, and the links are more useful. We’ve kept the code very light.
   And if you do want to license an international fashion magazine with an independent, authentic and engaged firm, you know where to come.



Above: The old and the new Lucire licensing sites—to my eyes, the old appears more creative, even in 2021.


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Rotten sequel ideas, no. 1

01.06.2021

I’m not a comedian by any stretch of the imagination (neither are a lot of the people on comedy programmes here in Aotearoa) but every now and then my mind goes to funny places. Such as this:

Commando II

   Since Coming 2 America was so uniformly awful (the best bits are in the trailer), this was another terrible sequel idea that came to mind today. Non-antipodeans who don’t know of Eric Bana’s past might not think his fictional casting here being terribly funny, but for a lot of us he was a comedic actor before he was the Hulk or the Time Traveler (one l, just this time, for the movie). But I couldn’t think of another funny 40-something Australian who had done some action.
   I always felt the way Vernon Wells played Bennett in the original was campy, as though he could see the conceit behind the whole thing of being in a Schwarzenegger movie in the mid-1980s. He wasn’t above parodying himself when he appeared in Weird Science in a role that recalled Wez in Mad Max 2.
   In case this comes up in a search while a Hollywood exec is looking up Commando II, please be advised that this would be a rotten idea.


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The colourless world

14.02.2021

This is a development proposed for my old street in Rongotai. Since I’ve moved away I haven’t a say in what happens there. I can only make some general remarks. And this post is not written from the Luddite position.
   It’s the price of progress that as cities grow, we need more housing, and if it means bowling for old bungalows from the first decades of the 20th century in favour of 14 townhouses, then that is the reality we must face, no matter our feelings of nostalgia. What a shame the green space will be reduced dramatically.
   But why, oh why, must there be another development devoid of colour with a planned uniformity that smacks of communism? Don’t people deserve to live in colour and in dwellings that have some imagination and individuality from their neighbours’? Come to think of it, people deserve to have cars in shades beyond black, white and grey, but I’m not sure if all dealers have that memorandum.
   I also hope these aren’t airtight mould-traps that harm their future residents.
   The obvious bright side is more people will have homes in a pretty handy part of Wellington. Another bright side I see here is that with the increase of dwellings on the street from 14 to 24, there might be more neighbourhood children enjoying living in a cul-de-sac.
   It’ll be a shock when these developers discover there are more paint colours available than the ones they have chosen. And when certain architects discover there are multiple ways to skin a cat. They might also get a shock to find that bread can come pre-sliced these days. Vive la révolution!


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Facebook fooled us into thinking we were being creative

11.02.2021

My friend Keith has been away from Facebook for six weeks, for work reasons, and hasn’t missed it. And he asked, ‘Was it all really a waste of time?’
   I know you think you know what I’m going to say, but the answer might surprise you a little.
   Fundamentally, it’s yes (this is how you know this blog has not been hijacked), but Keith’s question brought home to me, as well as other work I’ve done this week, the biggest con of Facebook for the creative person.
   It’s not the fact the advertising results are not independently checked, or that there’s evidence that Facebook itself uses bots to boost likes to a page. The con was, certainly when I was a heavy user around the time Timeline was introduced, making us feel like we were doing something creative, satiating that part of our brain, when in fact we were making Zuckerberg rich.
   How we would curate our lives! Show the best side of ourselves! Choose those big pictures to be two-column-wide Timeline posts! We looked at these screens like canvases to be manipulated and we enjoyed what they showed us.
   Before Facebook became ‘the new Digg’ (as I have called it), and a site for misinformation, we were still keeping in touch with friends and having fun, and it seemed to be the cool thing to do as business went quiet in the wake of the GFC.
   And I was conned. I was conned into thinking I was enjoying the photography and writing and editing—at least till I realized that importing my RSS feeds into Facebook gave people zero incentive to come to my sites.
   This week, with redoing a few more pages on our websites, especially ones that dated back many years, I was reminded how that sort of creative endeavour gave me a buzz, and why many parts of our company websites used to look pretty flash.
   The new look to some pages—the photo gallery was the most recent one to go under the knife—is slightly more generic (which is the blunt way to say contemporary), but the old one had dated tremendously and just wasn’t a pleasure to scroll down.
   And while it still uses old-fashioned HTML tables (carried over from the old) it was enjoyable to do the design work.
   There’s still more to do as the current look is rolled out to more pages.
   Maybe it took me a while to realize this, and others had already got there, but most of my time had been spent doing our print magazines lately. But designing web stuff was always fun, and I’m glad I got to find that buzz again, thanks to Amanda’s nudge and concepts for jya.co, the JY&A Consulting site. Forget the attention economy, because charity begins at the home page.



Photo galleries, old and new. The top layout is more creative design-wise than the lower one, but sadly the browsing experience felt dated.


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When fashion magazine websites begin looking the same

08.02.2021


Above: Vogue Korea’s website follows the æsthetic of a big lead image and smaller subsidiary ones.

This started as a blog entry but took a tangent about 500 words in, and it was better as an op–ed in Lucire. Some of the themes will be familiar to regular readers, especially about Big Tech, but here I discuss its influence on web design trends and standardization. The headline says it all: ‘Where have the fun fashion magazine websites gone?’. Browsing in the 1990s was fun, discovering how people coded to overcome the limitations of the medium, and, in my case, bringing in lessons from print that worked. Maybe it’s an age thing, or the fact I don’t surf as much for leisure, but in 2021 the sites I come across tend to look the same, especially the ones that were in Lucire’s ‘Newsstand’ section.
   I do know of great sites—my friend and colleague Charlie Ward has his one, which does everything you would expect from a great designer’s web presence. So many others look like they’ve bought a template. As to those of us in magazines—I’d love to see something that really inspired me again.


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Branding ourselves in the 2020s: a revamp for JY&A Consulting’s website, jya.co

05.02.2021

Last night, I uploaded a revised website for JY&A Consulting (jya.co), which I wrote and coded. Amanda came up with a lot of the good ideas for it—it was important to get her feedback precisely because she isn’t in the industry, and I could then include people who might be looking to start a new venture while working from home among potential clients.
   Publishing and fonts aside, it was branding that I’m formally trained in, other than law, and since we started, I’ve worked with a number of wonderful colleagues from around the world as my “A team” in this sector. When I started redoing the site, and getting a few logos for the home page, I remembered a few of the old clients whose brands I had worked on. There are a select few, too, that I’m never allowed to mention, or even hint at. C’est la vie.
   There are still areas to play with (such as mobile optimization)—no new website is a fait accompli on day one—and things I need to check with colleagues, but by and large what appears there is the look I want for 2021. And here’s the most compelling reason for doing the update: the old site dated from 2012.
   It was just one of those things: if work’s ticking along, then do you need to redo the site? But as we started a new decade, the old site looked like a relic. Twenty twelve was a long time ago: it was the year we were worried that the Mayans were right and their calendar ran out (the biggest doomsday prediction since Y2K?); that some Americans thought that Mitt Romney would be too right-wing for their country as he went up against Barack Obama—who said same-sex marriage should be legal that year—in their presidential election; and Prince Harry, the party animal version, was stripping in Las Vegas.
   It was designed when we still didn’t want to scroll down a web page, when cellphones weren’t the main tool to browse web pages with, and we filled it up with smart information, because we figured the people who’d hire us wanted as much depth as we could reasonably show off on a site. We even had a Javascript slider animation on the home page, images fading into others, showing the work we had done.
   Times have changed. A lot of what we can offer, we could express more succinctly. People seem to want greater simplicity on websites. We can have taller pages because scrolling is normal. As a trend, websites seem to have bigger type to accommodate browsing on smaller devices (having said that, every time we look at doing mobile versions of sites, as we did in the early 2000s, new technology came along to render them obsolete)—all while print magazines seem to have shrunk their body type! And we may as well show off, like so many others, that we’ve appeared in The New York Times and CNN—places where I’ve been quoted as a brand guy and not the publisher of Lucire.
   But, most importantly, we took a market orientation to the website: it wasn’t developed to show off what we thought was important, but what a customer might think is important.
   The old headings—‘Humanistic branding and CSR’, ‘Branding and the law’ (the pages are still there, but unlinked from the main site)—might show why we’re different, but they’re not necessarily the reasons people might come to hire us. They still can—but we do heaps of other stuff, too.
   I might love that photo of me with the Medinge Group at la Sorbonne–CELSA, but I’m betting the majority of customers will ask, ‘Who cares?’ or ‘How does this impact on my work?’
   As consumer requirements change, I’m sure we’ll have pages from today that seem irrelevant, in which case we’ll have to get on to changing them as soon as possible, rather than wait nine years.
   Looking back over the years, the brand consulting site has had quite a few iterations on the web. While I still have all these files offline, it was quicker to look at the Internet Archive, discovering an early incarnation in 1997 that was, looking back now, lacking. But some of our lessons in print were adopted—people once thought our ability to bring in a print æsthetic was one of our skills—and that helped it look reasonably smart in a late 1990s context, especially with some of the limited software we had.

   The next version of the site is from the early 2000s, and at this point, the website’s design was based around our offline collateral, including our customer report documents, which used big blocks of colour. The Archive.org example I took was from 2003, but the look may have débuted in 2001. Note that the screen wouldn’t have been as wide as a modern computer’s, so the text wouldn’t have been in columns as wide as the ones in the illustration. Browsers also had margins built in.

   We really did keep this till 2012, with updates to the news items, as far as I can make out—it looks like 2021 wasn’t the first time I left things untouched for so long. But it got us work. In 2012, I thought I was so smart doing the table in the top menu, and you didn’t need to scroll. And this incarnation probably got us less work.

   There’s still a lot of satisfaction knowing that you’ve coded your own site, and not relied on Wordpress or Wix. Being your own client has its advantages in terms of evolving the site and figuring out where everything goes. It’s not perfect but there’s little errant code here; everything’s used to get that page appearing on the site, and hopefully you all enjoy the browsing experience. At least it’s no longer stuck in the early 2010s and hopefully makes it clearer about what we do. Your feedback, especially around the suitability of our offerings, is very welcome.


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