Bloomfield Sandwich Shop

Late last year I had the opportunity to redesign the menu for The Bloomfield Sandwich Shop. I love menu projects because I can take a lot of information and get really personal with the typography. This redesign was no different because I offered to do the project after Ros (or better known as Momma Ros) exclaimed that she couldn’t read the prices on the previous menu. My brother Carl claims that I took on the menu because I eat there all the time and wanted to look at a menu with proper (or my own) design. All are really true.

I’m really pleased with how it came out and I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from Ros and other employees. Despite what it looks like there is a lot of information and I was really worried that I would have to compromise my initial objective of making the prices clearly readable. Normally in a menu design I de-emphasize the price. We were also adding all the pancake information to this menu design. Fortunately I was able to start from scratch and Ros wasn’t attached to any of the old photos or design elements on the previous menu. The only restraints were the size and shape of the paper.

Design Process

When I started to organize the typography I wasn’t sure if I wanted to bring the character of the diner into the menu or keep them separate. As I worked through a few options I generally liked the clean san serf feel better that everything else. Initially I thought I would use a serif to help with the legibility of the prices. I think the design itself took on a diner feeling of it’s own. Adding the boxes around different features helped to pull it all together and keep it well organized.

The Woodstock inspired graphic was the very last element to come together and honesty didn’t come to me until I was designing the name. I didn’t know how much room I would have left for the name and I thought I would use a photo of the building or something. I was browsing online lookingĀ  for some inspiration and I think just came to me. I’m glad it worked out because I think that image is a great representation of the vibe in the diner and connects the modern menu design to the decor of the dining room.

So if you haven’t had a chance to visit the diner please go – best pancakes, waffles, french toast in Pittsburgh.

Inspiration

Tonight I watched a film Art & Copy. It hit me in an unexpected way.

Why

This movie is about emotion. It explains why and how some of these old timers do what they do. The people featured in the film make statements that explain why I am who I am (sort of). Seriously it was a fresh view into this mindset that I didn’t know I occupied. I haven’t felt this fresh and raw about what I do in a long time.

Probably

My life has gone through an intense amount of change in the last year, and the dust is still settling. Zoom to – I’m excited about my future, especially at iTwixie. The other reason for this post is this video. Which captures the mission, the feeling, the emotion of why it is important to empower children and drive self-esteem. I’m not saying buy Nike but they get it here.

 

Wedding Invitation Design

Last month I had the pleasure of designing my sister’s wedding invitation. There were roughly three options I made and this is the design she chose and we printed.

My sister, Lucille, wanted a card that was formal and straightforward. She didn’t want the m to be expensive or feel expensive. She also wanted them to be in the colors of her wedding party. So other than that I have a lot of creative freedom with the design.

This is the primary invitation. The vector art is stock and the fonts are Poetica and Mrs. Eves.


This card is front and back with travel information. The card on the right is one of my favorite parts of the invitation because I’m really pleased how the typography came together.


The RSVP card. I wish she would have let me setup the website as well so the url isn’t a mile long.


Finally the front of the thank you cards.


Just for fun here is one of the other options that wasn’t selected.

WordPress 3.2 Brings A Backend Refresh

Codenamed “Gershwin” this update is a major release and it feels like one with the dashboard redesign. As I type this post (the first in the new editor) I’ve got to say there are major and subtle changes that really make composing a better experience. To see the big picture updates watch the video from WordPress below.

In the Details

My illustrator friend Jake Thomas always reminds me that great work is in the details. Keeping an eye on the subtle design adjustments to the dashboard mark this as a great release. The adjustments to the size of text in the dashboard makes reading easier.

See how the title of the post is the largest element. The title and current page you are working on are clear and easy to read at a glance. The name of your blog isn’t information that you need to see big and bold. See what it used to look like, taking up more space and not directing your eye what to read first.

Another little feature I like is the change in typeface when you switch between visual and html editors. Making it clear what mode you are in.

The Workspace

Next lets take a quick look at the side bar. This change makes viewing the screen easier and helps you to focus on writing content. Look at the example, the gray palate is more subtle than the more contrasty 3.0 design. Each box in the previous version is calling for your attention. The revision is smother, has fewer colors, and improved typographic implementation.

So what do I mean by smoother? In the previous design, the sidebar and main editor share a similar color style. Dark gray area above a white content box. In 3.2 the editor has a darker gray than the headers in the sidebar, and the sidebar doesn’t put a white box below each header. Giving the content area it’s own look, softer color scheme and helping you focus easier on the content.

A quick note – the full screen composer is very cool as it gives you a feeling as though you are working in a word processing program.

Room for Improvement

While I think this is a great refresh I do think there is some room for improvement in the general settings tab. Reading and viewing settings seems to have lost some readability in 3.2. While I haven’t spent a lot of time in the settings yet I feel that the leading is too tight in between options and in some instances the columns are too spaced out.

On the whole I like this update. A very modern design that is constantly getting better.

(un)Affiliated Agent: MrDirby

The Scoop

Recently I have been recruited by Secret Agent L to assist with a little behind the scenes web work. As an unaffiliated agent it was easy for me to jump in and provide this act of kindness to Miss Kindness herself.

Andy Quayle and I helped Laura make some simple decisions about why it’s a good idea to move out of a Blogger blog and into a self hosted solution. Aside from some usability frustrations, self hosting your site gives you complete control over your content. The simple example is, should Blogger one day disappear all your content goes with it. So a project that is getting as large as Secret Agent L deserves to protect and own it’s own content outright.

The Process

We spent a few weeks planning and preparing for the move. What took most of the time was finding the right theme. Laura wanted something sleek and secret agent like. We looked at a number of very modern design styles and features.

Ultimately we turned our thinking to a theme that had a more hand craft feeling. I suggested the current theme as most missions completed have a home made feel to them. Agents all over the world putting their personal touch on each act of kindness. We settled on this direction for that reason as well as the nice focus on the most recent missions with out too much clutter to the design.

So I hope everyone enjoys the new look to the Secret Agent L project.

Pushing your Envelope with WordPress

Note: Originally Published on PodCamp Pittsburgh

Using the Modern Web

As the mainstream move to accept Web 2.0 (without being conscious of it) the tools for sharing have gotten more and more sophisticated. The lines between a website, blog, and social network are becoming blurred. Websites like Linkedin and Facebook are incorporating Twitter “like” functions. We have seen this for a long time in the realm of photo sharing and video sharing is not far behind. Sharing and creating content online is an expected aspect of “surfing” the web today.

The modern web provides us with excellent tools to create, share and build communities. From complex social networks to quick and dirty blog sites. These tools strive to giving users access to dynamic sharing with as few clicks as possible. I even have my mom using a blog, now that is progress. But my point is that sharing is now very simple and these simple sites are actually very powerful tools.

Recently I had a discussion with a colleague about using Tumblr as their main site for content. Now to be clear I don’t have anything against Tumblr, nor do I want to discourage people from using these tools. However in this situation I was surprised at how few hits the site was getting. Especially, because she is starting to attract advertisers and how often there is new content on the Tumblr.

When You Hit the Ceiling

Some Monsters Are Too Large To Fit

Flickr Photo by CarbonNYC

The more I thought about the situation the more I realized that the site probably started as a fun little hobby and has grown into a popular page. Applying basic SEO think to the situation I thought there had to be a reason the Tumblr isn’t getting more traffic. How can you maximize keywords, does creating keyword links help, naming photos, meta data, generating links to your site, etc are all questions that came to mind.

So my bigger question is when do you hit the ceiling with free web services? Even WordPress.com and Blogger have their limitations. The answer to that question ultimately lies in your goals and reason for publishing content in the first place. Perhaps your goal has changed or grown, maybe you see new potential, you are ready to monetize, or, perhaps, you are just so awesome you need more control over your content. Each site will have it’s own set of circumstances.

What WordPress.org Can Do For You

When you realize you have hit the proverbial ceiling you will know it. My content manager of choice is WordPress.org and I encourage everyone to give it a serious look. In WordPress 3.0 you have more options that ever before in how you can post, organize, and direct traffic on your site. Creating multiple blogs on one domain is a new dynamic tool that is still being realized by bloggers.

Currently I’m using WordPress 3.0 for a familiy blog where each family member can have their own site and pull content into one main feed. I’m also using it to power an online store to sell Magic: the Gathering cards. At AiP we are considering it to give the school unlimited sub domain sites for one off projects by faculty and students.

With a little tinkering, you’ll find that your basic functions are available on WordPress and then begin to realize how the sky is the limit.

PodCamp Pittsburgh 5

With that said this is why you need to come to PodCamp Pittsburgh. To learn more about what these tools can do for you. At PodCamp you will:

  • learn about how to use these tools, including WordPress
  • meet people who can help you
  • take your blog/podcast/Tumblr to the next level

Finally Not only is WordPress free, but so is PodCamp Pittsburgh! Technology is making our lives better.

Special Annoucement: AiP Seal

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the official seal I’m working on for The Art Institute. Truthfully, the seal has been done for close to two months and we have been waiting for the right moment to lift the curtain. So without further adieu here she is.

What you are looking at is the final rendering completed by fellow AiP alum Mike Kuzin. I’ve worked with Mike in the past and it is always a pleasure to work with other talented artists. My contribution to the seal was to gather information from the President and Deans office then define the visual elements and arrangement. In the end, my overall goal was to find a careful balance between the history of The Art Institute that captured a sense of tradition and education.

In the future I’ll publish some of my initial designs and sketches and outline the process a little more clearly. In the mean time you can visit AiP’s news blog for the official annoucement. Also below is a finished medallion that is the centerpiece of our Presidential Chain of Office, fancy.