Archive for 2005

Jack Murphy Cederholm

JackFor whatever reason, our little guy wanted out 6 weeks earlier than expected. Jack Murphy Cederholm was born Sunday afternoon at Mt. Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He’s a tiny and beautiful 4lbs 8oz. Both Kerry and baby are doing great. The unexpected surprise means spending a few weeks in the hospital before we can go home. But it also means we need to quickly buy Jack a Christmas gift (not to mention all the other last minute preparations we’d planned for after the holidays).

Such a wide range of emotions over the past two days. Fear, joy, anxiety, and those other emotions that you can’t even apply a word to. Right now, we’re just hoping he continues to grow and that we can get home as soon as possible.

Here’s to life’s surprises.

Smart-Ups

While chatting with a friend about the recent influx of smarter web start-ups: “smart-ups!”, I exclaimed, patting myself on the back, and thinking I was the bomb.com. Guess you had to be there.

I know, I know… the last thing we need are more buzzwords (and this one probably already exists elsewhere). But more importantly, starting a web company in 2005 is far different than starting a web company in 1999. People are smarter, hindsight is 20/20. Less money is needed. Less people are needed. I look back with laughter on my days at the failed MyWay.com in 1999: the hierarchy! The salaries! The sheer number of employees working on one, single web site! It’s never been easier to get an idea out the door.

What are you waiting for?

A Tiny, Subtle Shift

As with anything that you do frequently, patterns emerge. Certain choices become comfortable, unrequired of a second thought. Such is the case for me when choosing colors for the web. There have been certain hex values that I’ll gravitate toward: #eee, #ddd, #ccc, #999, in the grey family, for example. I know what each of these will accomplish for me and how they play with each other before a stylesheet is created. I’m sure you have your favorites and old standbys as well. I fall into using and reusing these values because they work like a trusty wrench.

But it’s fun to cast those aside (at least temporarily), changing things by an extremely small measure. At times, it can mean all the difference in devising something fresh, new and different.

This happened while working on a recent project. Instead of combining my usual #eee, #ddd, and #ccc, I instead settled on combining #f5f5f5, #e5e5e5, and #d5d5d5. I know, this sounds completely trivial, doesn’t it? I mean, the difference is so damn subtle, it’s liable to go unnoticed by the average user, not to mention indistinguishable on varying screen types. And on top of that, they’re all far from being web-safe hues. But all that aside, for me at that moment, the slightest change made all the difference in making this particular project stand on its own. A temporary step outside the familiar — even if that step is purely the benefit of me, as the designer.

The main point here being: sometimes a tiny, subtle shift in the way you do things can be all it takes for things to seem new, exciting and right again (perhaps a micro-realignment?). This same philosophy can of course be applied to the non-web world. Just a few hours ago, Kerry and I were tossing around statements like, “we need a new house” or “we need to put on an addition”. Later, we started hypothetically shifting furniture around in our minds, and suddenly there was this renewed excitement in making something old, new again. A tiny adjustment that (for the time being anyway) quenches an urge for broad, sweeping changes.
Next week? I’ll be back to #eee.

Maybe.

Color Trends

It’s been just a few months since Chameleon was released. The response has been fantastic, and I thought it’d be cool to share a sampling of some of the custom colors that people are purchasing.

icon color samples

It’s interesting to see very specific colors being chosen (in general, as opposed to web-safe). To me, that’s a sign that the custom engine thingy was a good idea. It’s also fun to imagine how these specific colors are fitting into their designs. Would love to see examples out in the wild, should anyone want to share.

And for what it’s worth, endless shades of blue seem to be far more popular than any other color. Hooray blue.

Shuffle FM

I rarely listen to commerical radio (usually in the car), but I’ve noticed a new(ish) radio station here in the Boston area, 93.7 Mike FM. Their motto is “we play everything”. This means you’ll hear Loverboy, then Jim Croce, then Ashlee Simpson. I’m guessing the new format has something to do with the rise of shuffling on the iPod and other similar devices (are there other devices?).

I have two reactions to this: a) well, that’s sort of cool. At least they’ve broken out of the commercial radio mold of playing the same 12 songs a day. And b) is this just background sound for people that don’t like music? A sort of “Russian Roulette”, where the station bets on playing something that you’ll like… eventually? What’s the demographic they’re going after?

Another observation is that this particular station has no DJs (from what I gather). Just pre-recorded station bumpers, commercials and random songs. I imagine this keeps the cost of running a station like this to a minimum. Just hit shuffle and go.

I also wonder: are there similar “shuffle style” stations popping up in other parts of the world?

CSS Patches

The term “hack” implies that a legitimate solution to the problem exists. Yet, in order to save time, or perhaps due to lack of knowledge, a sloppy fix is applied to just get the job done. “Let’s hack at it, ’till it works”. But is this the case in terms of CSS hacks? Sure, we call them “hacks”, when in reality they’re really patches. Patches that fix known, documented problems in certain browsers.

I know it’s really just a term, but the problem is this: by using “hack” to describe often necessary code, a negative connotation can be attached, even if what we’re really doing is compensating for a browser’s shortcomings. When you hear someone say: “I avoid all hacks”, you’ve witnessed this negative connotation. Heck, we’d all love to avoid hacks — but we’re also realistic, living in the real world, and designing in 2005.

Now think about the term “patch”. It brings to mind, mending something that’s broken. It’s rip or tear is clearly visible — we know it’s broken, and we know what we need to do to make it look better. We’re not cutting corners, we’re applying a fix.

Perhaps from now on, I’ll refer to fixes for gems like the double float margin bug, or the three-pixel text jog as, well… patches.

New Odeo Stuff

There’s some cool new stuff being rolled out over at Odeo. Firstly, a new audio page, with a streamlined Flash player, space for photo, etc. Also, in the spirit of casual content creation, you can share audio with only your Odeo or email contacts (existing users will want to listen carefully to the end of the aforementioned (or aforelinked?) message for info on other damn cool new features).

The Sound of Elephant

I caught an interesting movie last night on HBO: Gus Van Sant’s “Elephant“. It’s a compelling film, and terribly disturbing, almost mirroring inspired by the high school shootings in Columbine.

What struck me most about the movie was the sound. Lots of ambient room sound — no ADR. It made a world of difference, with the camera often following the untrained actors around a Portland, Oregon high school. You could hear the dialogue just as it would sound if you were actually in the room. It’s as if you’re there, observing things as they happen. The result comes off like one long take of a film.

There’s a sound category for film awards, and instead of explosions and Foley artistry — “Elephant” should win for its sound recording being such a large part of the experience.

Film Critic

Here’s something I view as a serious design flaw. It involves food packaging, so buckle up. There’s a standard for containing goopy, spreadable foods and it usually takes the form of a short, round, plastic tub with a re-sealable lid. Hummus, salsa, and feta cheese are a few products that come to mind that share this type of packaging.

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Bulletproof Logos

There are a few browsers (Firefox, Opera) that treat image alt text as if it were normal text on the page, when the image isn’t present. If the reader turns images off to save bandwidth, we can still visually treat the images by styling the alt text, and this could be especially handy in regards to site logos.

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