Saturday, July 31, 2010

Inspiration Series #1: BHoff, Dribble and Website Design

I've been meaning to create a portfolio website for years now. Every summer and winter break during grad school, I would think, yeah, I'll finally get my site done! And sure enough weeks would go by, and it just wouldn't happen. But during the final semester of my grad program--on top of all the other work I had to do to finish--I thought, okay I am going to do it. And after a night's worth of work, I designed my site.

And it was hideous! It was boring, it had obnoxious web 2.0 trends, it was disjointed, and more importantly, it didn't reflect me or my aesthetic. And the only way I came to this realization was through a little inspiration from Brian Hoff's redesign of his blog, The Design Cubicle.

Mr. Hoff (I don't know him, so I just can't call him Brian) posted some of his Dribbble snapshots of his site redesign on Twitter.

[NOTE:Dribbble is an invite-only showcase website for designers to show off their current works in 400x300 px squares. I've yet to receive my invite, ahem, so I've been hanging out and sharing my design snapshots at Forrst instead.]

And I loved them. The color palette was unique and fantastic. The fine details along the content margin.The textures and layers. Every detail was clearly a conscious choice. And I felt like I got a sense of this guy from this design. These tiny snippets made me excited not only for rest of his site, but also about design in general. Here's a guy who thought about the design and the usability, and not once or twice, but so many times until every piece fell into place. And you can see the finished result here: The Design Cubicle And yes, this site looks so good, I want to have sex with it. It is just so spot on.

As a writer, I'm used to rewriting a single sentence ten times to find the perfect word, the perfect rhythm. But I haven't quite taken that same editing mentality to my designs - especially my own branding, and I know I need to.

So I tossed out my old design and started again. I had to address the real crux of my problem: What is my design aesthetic? What do I want my website to say about me? What do I like about design?

Here are some of the things I wrote down:
1. I like type solutions (but need to learn more about typography)
2. I like taking photos (but don't have a voice yet)
3. I like clean, minimal and modern
4. I like fancy, complicated prints (but haven't done any myself)
5. I like writing and editing and critiquing
6. I like things to be thoughtful

And after contemplating what I had written for a while, it started to come together. I wanted something authoritative (#1, #2, #4). I don't know everything yet (and I'm still learning), but I want people to feel confident that I do. I wanted people to land on my website, and think oh, this is put together (#6). And I realized that perhaps a photo solution would be a good solution for me (#2).

I don't want to give away all the surprise about my new site (which should be up soon!), but here's a brief idea of what went into it: Taking photos, editing photos, working them into the site, type choices, type changes, layout choices, layout changes, choosing color palette, reworking the photos, choosing portfolio pieces, finding stock photos, editing stock photos, figuring out hovers, making social media icons, redoing the footer, etc. etc. (Then repeat for the blog design.)

And I know some of you might be rolling your eyes going, sheesh this is what you should be doing for every design concept Heather. And yeah, I know, thanks. But "should" doen't mean I always do, and I doubt you do all the time either. Especially, when it comes to our own work. When it comes to our own branding and identities, some of us get blinded by our own egos, and others throw themselves into client work just to avoid it. Either way, designing for ourselves gets treated differently. And differently shouldn't mean poorly.

For those of you who prefer a visual representation, here's a few Dribbble-esque 400 x 300 px snapshots of my own:

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