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Website Design

From Croatia, with Love (and Inspiration): The Design Blog

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 18, 2014

Croatian designer Ena Baćanović  (aka Ruby Soho) made a splash when her “If I Wanted to Work for Free…” poster went viral in the summer of 2012. Few realized then that she is also the founder and curator of The Design Blog, a collection of inspirations and resources from around the globe. The Design Blog seeks to live up to its mantra, “Don’t Just Be a Designer  – Be a Good One” by featuring beautiful work and resources. The homepage features selected projects, elaborated upon with text and photographs from the creators.

The site also has recurring sections, which showcase work and projects across a range of disciplines on selected days of the week, such as Designer of the Week, Web Design Wednesdays, UI/UX of the Week, Featured Video, and Friday Freebies. (The moniker “of the Week” is a bit ambitious. Although posts for each section are frequent, they don’t seem to appear on a weekly basis – hardly surprising considering the breadth of disciplines which are covered.) An extensive list of resources lists typography resources and inspirational blogs.

The Design Blog is all the more impressive when one considers that Baćanović is only 23 years old. She’s both energetic and multi-faceted. In addition to running The Design Blog and working on her own projects, she’s the drummer in the female band Punchke.

Images @ Ena Baćanović. Used with permission.

GIgapixel ArtZoom: Focusing on the Seattle Art Scene

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 11, 2014

In October 2013, Microsoft teamed up with Seattle artists to create Gigapixel ArtZoom, an online panorama that shows off Seattle’s stunning vistas and vibrant art scene. Gigapixel ArtZoom was built on technology first demonstrated in 2006, when Johannes Kopf, Matt Uyttendaele, Oliver Deussen, and Michael Cohen at Microsoft Research improved upon existing gigapixel imaging. They figured out how to capture images of billions of pixels, and developed smoother panning and zooming technology that would permit viewers to properly explore the images.

The original image was beautiful, but stark in that the cityscape appeared to be sparsely populated. So in 2013, the team developed the Gigapixel ArtZoom, working with prominent people in the local Seattle artist scene. A plan was developed to create the panoramic shot of Seattle, and populate it with painters, fashion and costume designers, performance artists, dancers, and acrobats. On a beautiful day in October, from the top of a condominium tower in downtown Seattle, a team of photographers shot two panoramas using a Canon digital SLR camera, a professional 400 mm lens, and a Gigapan robotic tripod head. Since no single spot on the roof could yield a full panorama of Seattle, two shots were required and were later stitched together using Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor software.

During the next two weeks, the artists were posed in situ, photographed from the rooftop, and composited into the final image. Video crews also photographed and filmed the artists. The result is a stunning vista of Seattle, which viewers can pan and zoom in on from any computer or mobile device. The experience is a wonderful “Where’s Waldo” adventure; as an artist is centered in the screen, a pop-up window provides information and links to a video. The range depicts the diversity of Seattle’s art scene. Participants include landscape painter Tamara Stephas, filmmaker Wes Hurley, diva Sari Breznau, and the Kelly Lyles Art Cars, participants in the uniquely Seattle Art Car Blowout.

Gigiapixel Art is also memorable for the poignant scenes of everyday Seattle life that have been captured in the panorama. Panning across the image reveals a skateboarder mid-air, a father strolling with his infant, couples nestling by the river, and the crumpled sheets of an unmade bed, spied through a sunlit window.

Top right – GigaPixel artists from top left (going clockwise): landscape painter Tamara Stephas, actors in filmaker Wes Hurley's performance piece, opera diva Sari Breznau, and Kelly Lyles Art Cars.

Photos © Microsoft.
 

Web Design Trends for 2014

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 26, 2014

It’s the first month of the year, and all our favorite web gurus and resources have been issuing their predictions for 2014. The opinions range, of course. An expert in responsive design, for example, is going to identify different innovative trends than a developer working on creating a new content management system. While reading through the slew of advice, certain predictions kept cropping up. Below are the most frequently mentioned trends taken from an informal survey of webdesign blogs:

Flat design: 
Microsoft’s Windows 8 and Apple’s iOS7 dropped skeumorphism, and the design world celebrated. Almost every blog predicts that flat design will continue to be popular in web design, permitting the focus to be on the website text, with fewer and less distracting images. Web designer Joseph Howard of Pencil Scoop speculates that flat design will evolve into layered design as a way of creating more textured, distinctive layouts. Envato’s CEO Collis Ta’eed sees an upswing on trends such as long shadows, and also predicts layering and gradients applied subtly so as not to detract from the flat sensibility.

Video and motion:
Almost every web design trend article predicted an upsurge in the use of video.  Chris Lake, Director of Content of Econsultancy, and Matt Hall of Web Ascender see video backgrounds becoming more prevalent as newer browsers and faster page load speed enables their use. (For a beautiful example, Lake points to The Guardian’s online article, “The Firestorm.”)  Amber Leigh Turner on The Next Web predicts video will be utilized more often as a hero graphic in lieu of a banner image or slide show, while Howard sees room for video use to grow in blogging, Google hangouts, and news services. While parallax effects (slideshows and scrolling) have been around for a while, both Howard and Webascender predict their usage will continue to grow and become more mainstream in the websites of more prominent, established companies. Front-end designer Jonathan Cutrell on Webdesign Tuts+ sees a rise in animated and responsive icons, creating a new trend in user experience.

Design for mobile devices / increased scrolling:
It’s not a surprise that web design gurus see design for mobile devices continuing to increase in importance. Craig Butler, Director of OptimalWorks Ltd, predicts that from 2013 to 21014, mobile access will increase from one in five web visits to one in four.  Both Benjie Moss of Wedesigner Depot and Dan Rowinski, Mobile Editor at ReadWrite, predict the long-anticipated death of the mobile web, the development of a secondary website designed to work exclusively on mobile devices. Moss doesn’t see this as an entirely good thing, pointing out that some businesses (such as restaurants) may prefer to direct content differently for desktop versus mobile viewers. The increased viewing on mobile devices has re-familiarized website visitors with scrolling, which is facilitated by swiping. As a result, Hall, Turner, and Lake all see longer scrolling sites becoming acceptable again, and outdated terminology such as “above the fold” being finally dropped.

SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics):
Another prevalent prediction is the increased use of SVG, in part driven by the popularity of icons. As Moss points out, SVG icons have a huge advantage, in that they are more efficient than icon font files, are responsive, and fit with the popular flat design sensibility. Animated SVGs, already popular as icons, will become more prevalent; Howard cites a number of tools and sources which ease their implementation.  (Howard also predicts the death of the raster icon, in part because of the availability of SVG and icon fonts.)   Cutrell highlights a beautiful example of SVG created by fixate.it, and sees the development of accessible tools for the creation of infovis (graphical representations of data).

Other web design trends include the increased use of CSS to generate imagery, the prevalence of larger images, both as hero images (replacing slide shows) and as backgrounds, the integration of more interesting typography, and the use of fixed headers. Check out our list of references below to read the predictions in full:

Fizz or Fame: 10 Design Trend Predictions For 2014, Joseph Howard, Pencil Scoop

2014 Predictions for Web Design, Collis Ta'eed, Envato

18 pivotal web design trends for 2014, Chris Lake, Econsultancy

14 Website Trends for 2014, Matt Hall, Web Ascender

10 Web design trends you can expect to see in 2014, Amber Leigh Turner, The Next Web

Web Design 2014: What to Watch Out For, Jonathon Cutrell, Webdesign Tuts+

10 Web Predictions for 2014, Craig Bulter, sitepoint

7 web design trends you’ll actually see this year (and how to survive them), Benjie Moss, Webdesigner Depot

In 2014, The Mobile Web Will Die—And Other Mobile Predictions, Dan Rowinski, ReadWrite

The Digital Hearth: Yule Log 2.0

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 24, 2013

Yule Log 2.0 logoThe Yule Log, that broadcast of an endless loop of a crackling fire that first played on WPIX-TV in New York City in the 1960s, has become a beloved holiday cliché.  After having been cancelled for a number of years, the parent company of WPIX, Tribune Broadcasting brought back  the broadcast, and numerous knock-offs have been spawned. The most creative is Yule Log 2.0, a collection of short films and animations submitted by both up-and-coming and well-known artists. The collection is curated by animator and illustrator Daniel Savage, a 2012 ADC Young Gun, who has created work for Comedy Central and Google. The Yule Log 2.0 website was created by Wondersauce, a New York based web design studio.

Yule Log 2.0 showcases a lovely range of illustration styles. Both Frank Chimero and Leta Sobierajski created whimsical flames from wiggling fingers. Josh Parker’s stick-figure embers are reminiscent of early cartoons, and Michael Fuchs, Daniel Leyva, and Bianca Meier illustrated a hapless marshmallow who sits too close to the fire. Visitors to the website can either view each video in sequence, or, in true Yule Log spirit, set one animation to play over (and over and over and over).

Yule Log 2.0 offerings include submissions by (clockwise from top left) Michael Fuchs, Daniel Leyva and Bianca Meier; Yussef Cole; Greg Gunn; Matthias Hoegg; Josh Parker; and Frank Chimero. Screenshot courtesy of Yule Log 2.0.

Yule Log 2.0 screenshot

Digital Advent Calendar: The Christmas Experiments

Posted by Rebecca Blake on December 20, 2013

Now in its second year, the Christmas Experiments continues to showcase the quirky, fantastic holiday musings of coders and digital artists.  Christmas Experiments functions as an online calendar, with a new offering revealed every day up through Christmas Eve. The submissions range from fun animations, such as “The Christmas Playlist” by David Donut, to winter landscapes, dancing Santas, interactive games, and a singing moose. Each project is a unique creation showcasing the talents (or providing a canvas for some experimental work) of the coder or artist.

One forewarning: some of the projects do not function well in Firefox or Safari. For the best user experience, we recommend downloading the latest version of Chrome – it’s worth your while.

Below: December 9-12 offerings on the Christmas Experiments website. Image © Christmas Experiments.

Christmas Experiments

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