It’s catch-up day! Over the past few weeks I’ve gotten some interesting email, so I thought I’d share some of them.
Will asks: how do “better living through media” and alcohol go together?
This is referring to the current header image showing the bottles of scotch, and my site’s tagline. The short answer is: “There’s no relation” :-) The longer answer: I try to use original photography as much as possible on this site; I didn’t even launch it until I had written an image plugin for WordPress that would work with the way I wanted to post articles. This picture of various scotches and whiskeys are leftovers from a cousin’s attempt to introduce me to life’s finer vices; I don’t drink or enjoy the idea of getting drunk. Yep, I’m Mr. “I’ll have a diet coke with lime” when I’m at at a bar. I didn’t quite get to enjoy Scotch, though on New Year’s I had a really amazing one that changed my whole take on it. I wish I could remember the name of it. I stuck the post-it note on the photo afterwards as a form of “under construction” notice. I thought that the combination “live site updates” and lots of booze would underscore the dangerous nature of this activity. So whenever you see something screwed up on the site, take it as an object lesson in not drinking and updating! I am wagging my finger at you in admonishment!
Dan asked: How do I hide a file in Mac OS X without having XCode installed?
Dan was making his first hybrid CD-ROM that would work on both a Mac and PC, and was using my guide to create a nice clean one. XCode is the development environment used to write Macintosh programs for Mac OS X. It’s included free with every copy of Mac OS X, but it’s rather large and not installed by default. I referred him to this article about setting the invisible bit on MacFixit and a utility called XRay. Apparently, this did the trick, and there’s one more person in the world who has made their own hybrid CD! That’s awesome!
Carly wrote in to tell me how to avoid killing google indexes when changing categories, as I had done a few days ago.
A quick way to deal with it is to create a Google Sitemap that leads to the new category pages. Go to http://www.google.com/webmasters/sitemap You don’t need to do the fancy XML stuff either. The TXT version works just fine!
Several people have supplied some LazyImageLayout patches too. I have yet to post them on the LZIL page, but they’re in the queue. Feel free to publically post your patches, if you haven’t done so already!
I’ve also been conducting a design knowledge-transfer session through email, with a developer who wants to get more into design. As I’m a designer moving more into development, it seems like an even trade :-) I sent this list of books that influenced my design education:
The first visual book I read was “Sight Sound Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics” by Herbert Zettl. I was in engineering school and for some reason this book caught my eye on a shelf, and it opened my eyes. I was able to think of visuals as ways of expressing ideas; this book became a sort of primer on the grammar of visual communication, told in a very straightforward manner with examples.
After studying design, I realized there’s a certain kind of visual design that I like, personified by a design magazine called Critique. It’s now defunct (another magazine has arisen with the same name, different subject). If you can find issues of Critique in the library, you might like them…I like them a lot more than Communication Arts. They chose THEME WORDS for each issue, like “Wit”, “Humor”, etc.
One book I found through Critique was “A Smile in the Mind”, by Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart. It’s about “witty thinking in graphic design”. What’s witty, what isn’t! Lots of examples. Very insightful. Not everyone’s cup of tea…a lot of designers I know are interested in pretty techniques and “inspiring work” that they can, um, borrow. More power to them…they’re more successful than I by far!
From a design entrepreneur perspective, “Education of a Design Entrepreneur” edited by Steven Heller was very interesting reading. It’s a collection of essays covering a broad range of topics from people who’ve actually done something. Heller has other books in the series for other disciplines…all of them have a high signal-to-noise ratio. I just spotted one on my shelf called “Education of an E-Designer” that I have yet to read…
I like Hillman Curtis’ “MTIV Process Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer”. I just like the way he writes…it’s personal, unassuming, insightful, and practical. It’s quietly inspiring, and I love his work…you can see it on his website.
For nuts and bolts of layout, these three books will give you 2 years of graphic design school in about 4 hours of reading: “The Non Designer’s Design Book” by Robin Williams, “Before and After Page Design” by John McWade, and “Understanding Comics” by Scott McCloud. The first book will review extremely basic but important concepts about page layout and spacing. The second book will flesh out those ideas, and introduce more advanced concepts. The last book will introduce ideas about semiotics in an extremely easy-to-read form. I wish I had a good semiotics book recommendation… that would be an ideal 4th book to tie graphic design to the concepts McCloud outlines.
A good supplement would be Edward Tufte’s series of books, “Visual Explanations”, “The Visual Display of Quantitative Information”, and “Envisioning Information”…personally, I found the books a little dry and academic, but if you can say “Yeah, Tufte” at a design meeting it’s almost worth the cost of the books.
For usability, I like the no-nonsense approach of Steve Krug’s “Don’t Make Me Think”. I haven’t done much reading in this field, otherwise.