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Geeky by Design

In the early, wild-west web days, there were no University degrees in multimedia design, no mail-order certificates in HTML. Most of us who worked in the area — and by “worked” I mean either did stuff for free or levied a hidden HTML tax on their other projects — knew what Yahoo* stood for, visited Matt’s Script Archive regularly, and created pages that looked just like everyone else’s: bold H1 text at the top, a bunch of smaller text on a grey background and maybe a few images or diagrams.

When the newfangled Netscape browser introduced tables, and you could actually control where things went on a page, the actual discipline of web design was born. But most pages still looked pretty crappy. Probably because most pages were still being created by computer geeks like me. There was no Dreamweaver or even HoTMetaL yet. And there were no degrees in web design: if you wanted to learn, you went to VSU — View Source University — and copied the same ugly layouts and arrow buttons everyone else was using.

So any tech person with even a modest sense of style had a definite leg-up, which is how I got to add webwork to my regular routine of database design and application development. One of the coolest things about it I was that while it could be just as frustrating and time-consuming as writing code, the finished product tended to elicit a lot more oohs and aahs than, say, a clever text parsing routine.

As time went on and actual cashmoney started getting spent online, the tools and schools got more sophisticated and before too long people with actual artistic talent got into the game. It’s not that I couldn’t keep doing design, it’s just that I was a lot more valuable keeping the stores open and running, rather than doing the window dressing.

But even though I rarely have to do it for my job, I still enjoy firing up Photoshop to make the occasional icon or logo. Which is why I was so enthusiastic about helping Snarky’s Machine work on redesigning two of her fabulous blogs: Snarky’s Machine and Does This Pen Write? It turned out to be a great partnership: she picked the fonts and colors (and quotations) and roughed out the elements she wanted, and I made some design suggestions and put them all together. After going back and forth a bit, here’s what we came up with.

For Snarky’s Machine, Snarky knew pretty much what she wanted. But I had fun tweaking the apostrophe and the dot on the i, which were ugly and square in Arial Black.

Page header:
Twitter icon / Gravatar:
Navigation buttons:


For Does This Pen Write?, Snarky picked Coolvetica, a typeface that reminded me of The Price Is Right, which is not coincidentally one of her favorite shows.

Page header:
Twitter icon / Gravatar:

Navigation buttons:

*Yet Another Hierarchically Organized Oracle

Categories: Essays Tags: ,
  1. September 5, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    Hey, can I add you to my blogroll?

  2. evmaroon
    September 5, 2010 at 8:57 pm

    Great stuff, Redlami, and Snarky gets a great branded look. Just don’t call design window dressing! The usability maven in me bristles! 😛

    • September 5, 2010 at 9:39 pm

      Thanks for the props. I’m sorry you found my metaphor offensive. I guess that’s why they keep me in the back room.

  3. September 6, 2010 at 10:52 am

    You did a fantastic job, Redlami. i really love collaborating with you on this project. You inspired me to think big!!! 🙂

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