Oregon Trail…

September 17th, 2010

Well it has been a long time since my last update and sooooo much as happened in that time.

I have relocated to Portland, Oregon to teach at Portland State University in the Graphic Design Dept. The interview process, house hunting, packing and driving have consumed a great deal of the summer for me. Thanks to everyone in Chicago for their help and good wishes.

I have lots of new projects to add to the site in the coming weeks…

Two very handy bits…

April 3rd, 2010

Most of us who work on a computer everyday need to establish a flow, an environment and a set of tools that allow us to do our job efficiently and enjoyably. Whether its Photography, Web Design or Game Programming it ends up being the little things, the smaller applications and plugins that fill in these gaps in our process and pleasure.

fmimg758543520887490452Adobe’s Photoshop doesn’t address the fact that when you’re listening to Motorhead dangerously loud you might catch the cord to your headphones on your foot and unplug them, filling your local coffee shop with “Ace of Spades”. It really is rather embarrassing, even if it is also tough as nails. Breakaway is a simple (and free) application that automatically pauses your iTunes when you headphones are disconnected; saving you from publicly releasing the fact that you listen to a terrible band like Yellowcard (no sarcasm here). With various configurations you can easily make it work for you. Like a lot of free software it isn’t without it’s bugs/glitches but so far it has kept me from getting all blushy and shy.

1234546689More often than not we are making quick edits to projects, sometime without our design files. How do we grab that color from the ‘contact page’ header graphic so we can change the body text color to match without an image editing program???

Well, leave it to the Mozilla community, Alex Sirota to be specific, to develop a color sampling tool that lives right in your browser. Colorzilla offers you an ‘eyedropper’ tool that captures Hexadecimal and RGB values for any color in your browser. You cand right click the icon in your status bar and copy that color is a number of differnt formats, paste it into your CSS document and wha-la….done.

Long Overdue…

March 24th, 2010

Updates have been scarce due to a very full schedule of design, developing and teaching. I’m going to be sure to write more updates and posts in the future.

In the mean time I do want to direct your attention to a good friends ‘Sacavenger Hunt’ project. Jon Gitelson is an artist in Chicago who is working on a book publising project and he is looking for your help. Check out his project HERE.

More soon… *ian

WordPress essentials…

December 1st, 2009

pluginsWeb developing with WordPress has become a standard process for some us. Of the last dozen or so web sites I’ve worked on only 2 have not had a WordPress back-end. With regularity comes the need for tools that you can count on and a work flow that is easily maintained.

For me, the key to a good solid WordPress install is establishing a set of commonly used (and reliable) plugins that can be uploaded with your core WP files so that you can install them right away. In a way you are just creating your own default WP installation that suits your work flow and style of developing.

Here is my short list of essential WordPress plugins that make my life a lot easier:

  1. Classy wp_list_pages : Anyone who works with CSS knows that the last and first items in a list are most likely to need special treatment. In WordPress a lot of navigation works off of auto-generated lists of pages and posts hence the need for more control. I wish I had found this plugin a year earlier than I did this is now a must have for my work flow.
  2. HITS-IE6 PNG Fix : A fairly comprehensive plugin that provides you with 5 different PNG fix methods for Internet Explorer 6. As PNGs become more and more popular—as well as being preferred by designers who love gradients and drop shadows—the need for PNG fixing is obvious. Very simple, reliable plugin that will do the work for you.
  3. PHPEnkoder : I’m a big fan of the HIVE Logic Enkoder in both its on-line and desktop (mac only) forms. So when I discovered that someone had developed a plugin based on their Enkoder I knew I’d like it. This plugin takes any ‘mailto:’ link in your posts and scrambles it so that Bots can’t get your email address… which means less spam. (Note: I have seen this plugin conflict with other plugins so make sure you test. Specifically this does not work well with Shopp because it scrambles email addresses that are entered when ordering)
  4. Contact Form 7 : Hands down one of the most powerful and convenient plugins you will find for WordPress. Allows you to create PHP based forms that include validation and send the entry as an email to any address you want.

Those are just the four essential plugins I use for most web sites I work on. If you are looking for a good calendar I suggest Event Calendar 3 and if you need to embed flash content (as I did on this site) I suggest you check out ph-embed Flash.

Centralize Your Social Media

September 28th, 2009

Over the past 3-4 years social media has taken center stage in our on-line lives. Our on-line identities and lines of communications are more diverse than ever. Remember when it was just mySpace and email? And now? Facebook, Twitter and mySpace (although we all know how passé mySpace has become) are all competing for our attention and ad revenue.

Awhile back I downloaded TweetDeck, one of the various desktop applications developed for Adobe’s AIR platform.

Let me say that after a few new versions and tweaking the features TweetDeck has really come into its own and it is the perfect answer to consolidating various part of your Social Media life. TD now has the capacity to post, comment, “like” and reply via Twitter, Facebook and mySpace. And it works better than it ever. You select which accounts you are posting to or post to all of them and keep them in sync. I recommend checking it out.

Knew Sight

September 15th, 2009

After about 4-5 years I finally set aside some time to rework my portfolio, update some info, drop some old projects and add some new ones to freshen things up. The Info & Contact page has all of my pertenent information if you are into that sort of thing.

Please take a look around. I’m still planning on adding some projects / pieces in the coming weeks but there is plenty here to give you an idea of what I do.

I will also be working on blogging a bit more and sharing techniques and observations when I can. Let me know if anything I post helps or if you think I got something wrong. Email is best.

Cheers! *ian

There’s nothing like good customer support.

September 10th, 2009

This won’t be the first or last time I say this but I’m a big fan of WordPress. The flexibility and ease of use is really second to none from my perspective.

shoppadminWhat makes WP all the more effective and useful are the numerous plug-ins available for all sorts of tasks and additional features. Most plug-ins, however, are FREE and offer good to poor (if any) support. I’m not complaining about this because as a user I’m not paying (but hopefully donating) for the work that those programmers are doing.

On the other hand there are some plug-ins that are starting to emerge that cost money, but offer support and interactivity with the developer. The Shopp plug-in for e-commerce capabilities has really impressed me in what it can do, as well as the service and support behind it.

I am completing my first project using Shopp and not only did I find it very easy to use but any and all problems were addressed, answered and even patched by the development team behind Shopp.

With options to integrate USPS and FedEx accounts as well as various payment services Shopp has far more features than I’ve been able to use. Additionally, it will be much easier to provide clients with e-commerce options as Shopp continues to get better and expand its capabilities.

Across the iPond

September 2nd, 2009

iphone_apps

I recently took a two week vacation to England and Spain, traveling with only my iPhone to help keep me organized and to guide me along the way. I firmly believe that the key to a great vacation is to  leave your laptop at home.

In preparation for this trip I found a great iPhone application for organizing all of my reservations, train ticket codes and other documents. File Lite helped me take all of my information with me in the form of word docs., pdfs and text files. The reason I opted for this over using notes was to have a PDF version of all my receipts and reservation confirmations. File Lite works wirelessly over any network and you can connect to it via an IP address that pops up wherever you are connected. My think was that in a worst case scenario I could pull these files off my phone and print them again. (Of course I had a hard copy that I used as well). Overall this app was incredibly easy to use and it was the 2nd or 3rd I tested before leaving.

The second app I want to mention might seem obvious but I feel the need to restate its benefits. The Skype app for the iPhone is great and making calls with it is unbelievably cheaper than using your international phone rates. I spoke to someone back in the States from Spain for two hours and it cost about $3. (This would have been a $120 call on my normal plan). The weakness of this app is that you have to have a Wireless signal and typically a pretty good one. I did get by at times with a weak signal but you run the risk of dropping the call. The integration is good too, Skype allows you to pull in contacts from your normal address book. One more thing…I used my desktop version Skype to book 100% of my trip before I left.

Last but not least I highly reccomend the Subway and Transit maps developed by Presselite. I installed both the London Underground and Barcelona Subway applications before leaving and they were essential to my not getting lost. These apps do not require any Wireless or Cellular network (but do use them when they are available) and have really helpful trip planner/route finder features. Type Presselite into your iTunes store and see the variety of maps they have.