Monday, August 31, 2009

The Web Design Portfolio Redesign

web design redesign


Yes, yet another redesign of my web design portfolio. Why? Because I can! Actually, this redesign celebrates my return to New York City. While I will miss the Sonoran Desert environs of Phoenix, Arizona and its perpetually sunny days, New York City does offer a few treats to compensate! Two world class botanic gardens, one in Brooklyn and the other in the Bronx awaits!

I had put my flower photography on the back burner for two years because of the lack of blooms in the Arizonan desert. Now, I can shoot flowers to my hearts content! My newly designed web design portfolio home page celebrates this new opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite forms of photography. Although the season of fall approaches, it is spring in my heart!

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Friday, August 28, 2009

100 Great SEO Tips

Just wanted to give a "'shout-out" to all you web designers and and web-site owners who are always looking for great search engine optimization ideas. Ken Knorr is tweeting 100 Great SEO Tips in 100 Days on his Twitter profile. I have found some of his suggestions extremely useful. These are not tricks, but rather, well thought out, common sense techniques for enhancing traffic, "buzz," and incoming links. Good, usable ideas! Follow Ken on Twitter to get a new SEO tip each day!



 

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Vindictive Worker

I consider myself a student of the human condition. For good reason! Far more than money or secular success, it is what we are as people that really matters. The qualities we cultivate have a far greater impact on personal happiness and stable relationships. I found a fascinating article regarding vindictive people and how their attitude plays in the workplace. A recent study on vindictiveness in the workplace draws some interesting conclusions.

"Vindictiveness doesn't pay. This has been demonstrated by a current study at Bonn and Maastricht Universities. According to this study, a person inclined to deal with inequity on a tit-for-tat basis tends to experience more unemployment than other people. Vindictive people also have less friends and are less satisfied with their lives. The study appears in the current edition of the Economic Journal."

Good reasons to avoid vindictiveness! While the article draws some good conclusions, it misapplies the Biblical concept of "an eye for an eye." The Law given to ancient Isreal did not issue this edict as a personal guide, but rather, a judicial one. It was up to the judges in Isreal to determine if the "eye for an eye" rule was to be applied in a criminal matter after hearing a case. It served as a deterrent to crime, not a basis for vigilante justice. In fact, the people were not to take matter into their own hands, nor were they to have a vindictive spirit.  "You must love your fellow as yourself" was the second-greatest commandment in all the Law. (Leviticus 19:18). This is the only legal code in existence that made expressing love for others an obligation under law. Imagine if our modern laws obligated us to love our fellowman!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A New York State of Mind

Paris, My Love - web design

Well, tonight I fly from Phoenix, Arizona to New York City, returning to the place where my career as a web designer began. Much has happened in the ten years since I first started my tiny web design studio in downtown Newark. My first paying client was a small local savings bank in Newark, NJ. One of the bank executives had seen a web site I created as a personal travelogue of a recent visit to Paris, France. My fascination with that city had moved me to create "Paris, My Love" a collection of my photography, travel tips and observations from this glorious city. That website was selected by Netscape.com (which was the Google of that day, the most popular site online) as "Website of the Week" As a result, "Paris, My Love" was getting more than 60,000 visitors per day, generating a ton of email and kudos. The tag line from my site had its 15 minutes of fame: "Can a man love a city the way he loves a woman? I can. I do. My Love, my beautiful Paris!"

People started asking if I build websites professionally. Of course, I said yes! The clients kept coming and Newark1 Web Design Portfolio & Guide was born. "Paris, My Love," and Netscape began a career that has lasted over ten years! You can see the original "Paris, My Love" website here. I am eager to see what the next ten years hold as I step into the next chapter of my career in "The Big Apple!" See you there!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm Moving Back to New York!

Donald Peterson, and Newark1 Web Design are moving back to New York City! This move reflects the realities of a more challenging economy. In order to be closer to many of  my clients (and potential clients), it is necessary to be in the heart of the action. That means one place, and one place only if you're a web designer, New York City!

I also look forward to the visual feast that comes with New York. No other American city offers the intense cultural immersion of "The Big Apple." That is great for creative arts like web design that thrive on visual inspiration and influence. I will still be providing compelling web design for national and international clients. Instead of stunning sunsets and mountain vistas, I'll have the New York skyline and the best pizza in the world sitting next to my laptop and mouse . . . priceless!

Contact information will be updated on the contact page of Newark1.com as the move occurs.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Managing Time

As a self-employed web designer, one of my greatest challenges is using time efficiently. Unless I periodically step back and review my time management (or lack of it) I can easily slip into a pattern of wasting too much valuable time. That is why I like to review articles on time management as a way of assessing my use of time. Scheduling my time each day is essential for good productivity. Here are a simple set of guidelines I saved from an old magazine article. They help me to manage time wisely on a daily basis:

First, list all the things you need to do. Next, follow the principle at Philippians 1:10: “Make sure of the more important things.” Yes, prioritize. What absolutely has to be done? What are some things that can safely be put off for later? Finally, figure out how much time you need to get things done and when you can do them. Be realistic, and avoid scheduling too much in too little time.

Indeed writing this short blog post is a way to remind myself to use time wisely. Gotta' go! Important projects are waiting!

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Friday, August 21, 2009

Mangia! Fresh Web Design!

I'm a fanatic! I have just completed a yet another redesign of my web design portfolio & guide, my fourth in three weeks. This redesign is inspired by a beautiful image of Tuscany, Italy seen while researching stock photos for another project. The warm colors, wine grapes, and sun drenched days drove me to create a redesign that in a simplified way evokes the spirit of that beautiful destination. I purposely designed my site so that a simple upload of a background image will change the look of the home page and content pages.

This web design is organic, earthy, and probably will be changed again in the next couple of weeks!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Great Resume Building Site for Job Seekers!

This tool is a shining example of how web design and development can be employed to benefit the masses! Jobspice is a very easy to use resume building tool that allows users to quickly create great looking resumes that can be printed or saved as e-mailable .pdf files. What set this web tool apart is its ease of use and the way it hand-holds the most inexperienced of resume writers. The instructions are logical and allows anyone to create a  resume that contains all the needed information in a perfectly organized format. Jobspice.com is free (I hope it stays free) and a wonderful resource for job-seekers (who need all the help they can get in this economy).

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Posterous, the New Blog On The Block

Google has long been the king of simplicity in web design appliances. Its search engine and online apps are clean, functional, with no extraneous "bit and pieces." Well, there is a new blog platform that brings simplicity to new heights, posterous.com. This blog is designed to use email as the posting engine of choice for blogs, and has the most elegant sign-up process ever — just email your first post and you're signed up! Check out my new web design blog on posterous.com

In addition to this brilliantly simple sign-up process, they keep it simple with interface design. The blog itself is the model of simplicity, with excellent use of white space and refined font usage. The effect is that you forget about the design and focus on the content. It will be interesting to see if this becomes a major player in the blogosphere!

Maintaining Your Mental Edge

What can help you to stay mentally sharp as you age? As a web designer, I want to sharpen and enhance my creativity and to continue to learn new ideas. Just about every occupation can benefit from keeping our mental powers at their peak. Learning a second language may be the key!

"Being bilingual helps prevent people from losing their 'mental edge' as they age," says the Toronto Star newspaper. York University psychologist Ellen Bialystok tested the cognitive functions of 104 adults aged 30 to 59 and of 50 adults aged 60 to 88, all of whom had similar education and income levels. In each age group, half the participants were bilingual. Each person was asked to complete a simple task with two competing options while his reaction time was measured. "Bilinguals were faster on the test than monolinguals," notes the newspaper. According to Bialystok, bilingual people are always presented with two language options, and their brain must decide the right language to speak in reply. "Over time, these mental gymnastics protect the brain by hindering the natural slowdown of the executive processes that occurs with age." Speaking a second language even enhances physical changes in the brain, pumping up more blood to carry more oxygen.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Small Business Blogs Get 55% More Visitors

small business blog design

Finally, there is hard evidence for something I have encouraged every web design client of mine to do: Start and maintain a blog! A recent report indicates that small business bloggers get 55% more visitors, 97% more inbound links, and 434% more indexed pages. That online traffic is of real value to small business owners who want their website to be a source of business leads. The blog becomes the magnet that leads qualified traffic to their small business web site. It not only provides traffic, it also enhances the perception of the blogger as being passionate about his or her business and highly communicative. Those are two key qualities that can motivate a customer to choose your business!

Some small business owners do not want to take the time to blog. It does require a daily commitment of less than an hour if you are going to be serious about. However, if you put in the time, it reaps benefits that are cumulative and can add customers to your business. Given the increasing importance of online social marketing, and its very low cost, its makes good business sense to master this marketing tool.

Newark1.com can help small business to develop a low cost strategy for online marketing using blogs!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Art of Rolling Sculpture

When the automobile industry was truly an industry in this country, it rolled out some of the most audacious sculptures in chrome and steel ever made. Swooping curves and generous dollops of chrome were shaped into rolling platforms that did more than transport; they were testimonies to the jet age, the lure of speed, and exuberant visions. The design that made Detroit was uninhibited and thrilling, with style and heft that, well, we can no longer afford to indulge.

We can, however, revisit it with a wonderful blog I discovered named "Chrome Fin." This labor of love celebrates the rolling sculptures of the auto industry's heyday with beautiful photos and informed and entertaining commentary. If you have a yearning for the chrome of yesteryear, make "Chrome Fin" the next blog you visit!

Retro Web Design Graphics

Remember the early days of web design when you had to create graphics that loaded speedily in dial-up connections using a 14K baud modem? One of the tricks used to shrink graphics was to reduce the color palette and use dithering in the converted .gif to simulate the original image. I 'kinda' missed dithering. It often added a fine pattern or noise to images that gave them a retro feel and a bit of texture and dimension. Well, I'm bringing back dither patterns baby! It feels so retro!

In the home page for my web design portfolio I converted the main graphic into a .png file that is reduced to 128 colors, and used a noise pattern to render the image. This closeup image gives you a look at the subtle texture this adds to the photo. The subtle retro feel works perfectly for the '59 Caddy in this photo. Well, as digital makes it possible to create smooth images with perfect color, its nice to step back to the look and feel we had in the days of film. Love that texture!

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Web Design "The King" Would Love!

My web design portfolio has been going through a number of revisions the past few hours as I have sought to create a look that both exudes a bit of my personality and has a wide ranging appeal. After a number of revisions, I think I've found the look I want! It features a classic American icon, the '59 Cadillac. Before there was "bling" there was the '59 Caddy with its outsized chrome bumpers and fins galore. Nevertheless, this enduring design brings a smile to anyone old enough to take to the open road. Anyhow, I think I will stick with this design for a while. Let me know what you think of the redesign! Send a tweet or leave a comment!

Restless Web Design

It is about 4:00 in the early morning as I write this post. Driven by my need for web design excellence, I have done yet another revision on my web design portfolio. This new design is perhaps the boldest use of color you will see in my portfolio. Bold and splashy, it is designed to fire up business in our less than healthy economy. Get your red hot web design here . . . fresh from the oven!

I don't know about you, but I am convinced that the current economic crisis is not a recession but a true depression. Our landscape is littered with so many economic fatalities. Of course, it does not look like a depression because we all appear prosperous. We still drive nice looking cars and live in newly developed neighborhoods funded by massive amounts of personal debt. Even the poor don't look very poor. However, when a government must give massive life-support to all of its largest industries simultaneously, it does not bode well. We are entering a new age of reduced expectations. People will be working harder for less. The illusionary prosperity bubble has burst.

And, it is not just the economy. The very fabric of society, the glue that holds people together is coming apart. A recent article in the New York Times reported on a new trend in many parts of the country where working men and teenagers from "stable" homes are attacking and killing homeless people for sport. So much so, that many states and Congress are considering making attacks on the homeless a hate crime. This chilling trend speaks to the loss of compassion and respect for life in our society. We no longer care about our neighbor. Reality TV shows continually remind us that the bad guy always wins. Many feel that these are truly the "last days" spoken of in the Bible. The evidence around us makes that hard to dispute!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Shrink PNG Web Design File Size

As a web designer, I love the PNG format for its loosless color rendition. 24bit PNG files are the perfect format for graphics that contain both an image and text. JPEG format tends to muddy text somewhat, but PNG keeps it crisp. The downside is that PNG files can be huge, That's still a no-no in web design! If you save PNG 24bit files in Photoshop, it will not give the maximum compression for the smallest possible file size. There is an online tool that will do a very nice job of optimizing your PNG files while still maintaining visual quality: http://www.gracepointafterfive.com/punypng

This free online resource allows you to upload PNG files for automatic optimization.The files I optimized using this serve were generally made 18-24% smaller while still maintaining perfect visual quality. This is a must-have online resource for any web designer!

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Learning Language Is Child's Play

Overwhelmingly, recent research has shown that children who are bilingual outperform those who speak only one language. Learning a second language enhances the child's capacity to learn in all subjects.

However, many parents fear that teaching a young child a second language hinders their progress in their first language. Research at the University of Toronto shows that the acquisition of each language is processed in the brain at no expense to any other. "There's neural tissue that you're born with that is ready and in place to learn language," award-winning neuroscientist Laura-Ann Petitto explains of the findings. "And it can handle multiple languages." In fact, she continues, exposure at an early age is one of the three most important factors to helping someone easily acquire a second, third, fourth, or even fifth language. Yet countless education systems around the world ignore the growing evidence supporting this conclusion, often forcing students to wait until later grades to study a second language.

Helping children to become bilingual or polyglot (knowing multiple languages) is one of the best ways to improve their performance in all school subjects. On a more basic level, Petitto says, being fluent in more than one language can also give people the chance to express themselves in ways they couldn't otherwise, which can actually bring us closer to other people. "Human language is the quintessential way in which we harness our inner world – our emotional world," she says. "It's how we share that world with someone else."

Personal note: I've written earlier about my own ongoing efforts to learn Tagalog and Mandarin Chinese. I can testify to the fact that even as an adult learner, learning a second language widens the world you can communicate and interact with considerably!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Book Cover Design Archive

Here is cool website that provides a nice source of inspiration for either web or graphic design; The Book Cover Archive. The sheer diversity of graphic design seen in this eclectic collection of book covers should be a nice source of ideas for designers. One of the novel tools it has is a way to identify the fonts used in the displayed book covers, an extremely useful tool for any designer! It is a rapidly growing archive (currently archives about 1300 book covers) and has links to Amazon which no doubt provides residual income that funds this site. It is well designed and a novel idea as well!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Design Has A New Ultimate Toy!

design's new toy

There are few toys I crave anymore. I'm quite content with the car I drive, even though it would qualify for Obama's "Cash for Clunkers" program. It is comfortable, looks good, and drives well. That's all I want! Even though my hobby is photography, I am more focused on developing my photographic skills than buying the latest and greatest camera. I love the beautiful landscapes I can see through the viewfinder more than the tools I use to capture them. As a web designer, I tend to buy products like the Lenovo Thinkpad, corporate grade notebooks renowned for sturdiness and reliability. The slicker looking hardware never seems to last as long. However, there is a new gadget that occasionally catches my eye, such as the Icon A5!

The Icon A5 is a light aircraft that is truly a design tour-de-force. Sleek beautiful looks and instant cachet as the ultimate toy for the man or woman who has everything. It reflects the design sensibilities of world-class sports-cars. That is not surprising given that designers from top sports car manufacturers, racing cycle designers, and the design studio that created the Nissan 350Z all had a hand in its sleek good looks.

I really don't want to own one nor fly in it (although I would accept a quick test-flight if offered). I simply want to see one up close and admire its design and state-of-craft. I want to see it in action. Then, after satisfying my curiousity, I can drive home content with having peeked at the toys of the rich and famous!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Google Caffeine Is Here!

Google has just released a 'beta" version of its new search engine, code named Caffeine. Aptly named! Web designers and SEO specialists will be drinking plenty of late night coffee seeking to master its ranking methodologies! In its official blog, Google made the following statement regarding its new engine:

"For the last several months, a large team of Googlers has been working on a secret project: a next-generation architecture for Google's web search. It's the first step in a process that will let us push the envelope on size, indexing speed, accuracy, comprehensiveness and other dimensions. The new infrastructure sits "under the hood" of Google's search engine, which means that most users won't notice a difference in search results. But web developers and power searchers might notice a few differences, so we're opening up a web developer preview to collect feedback."

After a brief test of Caffeine vs the current Google, I can sense a refinement in the search results that may be short-circuiting some of the currently popular SEO tactics. That's a good thing. I applaud Google for seeking to improve the engine rather than just a overhaul of the graphics and marketing which for now appears to be Microsoft Bing's strategy.

Will Google's BMW like approach to search continue to prevail over Microsoft's Cadillac Escalade like cushy graphics in Bing? Let's see what the market decides!

Follow this link to try Google Caffeine.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Great Design From Creation?



Everything from automobile design to Velcro has benefited from Biomimetics: The study of the structure and function of biological systems as models for the design and engineering of materials and machines. Perhaps web design can in some way benefit from design found first in creation! Take note that I use the word creation instead of nature. I firmly believe that design cannot exist without an intelligent designer. Therefore, does "design" in nature furnish proof of creation?

In a Feb. 17, 2008 symposium at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Boston, Brown University biologist Kenneth Miller argued that science itself, including evolutionary biology, is predicated on the idea of "design" -- the correlation of structure with function that lies at the heart of the molecular nature of life. Yet, I must ask, is the stunningly effective design found in biology the result of evolution or intelligence?

I'll leave you to answer the question for yourself. However, you may find the feature article in National Geographic on Biomimetics both educational and entertaining as it shows that variety of ways that engineers and manufacturers are using design solutions first found in "nature" to improve the functionality of a wide variety of products.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Web Designer Ramblings - Daily Photo - 8/08/09

Web Designer Ramblings - Arizona Sunset

Today's Web Designer Ramblings - Daily Photo shows a rugged Arizona Sunset. Captured in Papapago Park, Phoenix, Arizona, one of the most unusual urban parks you will ever see! This rugged park truly takes you far away from its urban city environs with its desert flora and red rock buttes. To see the original Arizona Sunset photo click here.

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Is Coffee Raising Your Cholesterol Level?

coffee, cholesterol, web designers


You've been working on a challenging web design all morning . . . time for a coffee break . . . mmmm, that's tasty! However, what is it doing to your cholesterol level?

RESEARCHERS at the Wageningen Agricultural University, in the Netherlands, say that drinking unfiltered coffee will raise your cholesterol level. See the MSNBC report on this story here.

The crucial word is “unfiltered.” Why? Research Reports, a newsletter from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research, says that coffee beans contain a cholesterol-raising substance called cafestol. When hot water is poured directly on the ground coffee, the cafestol is extracted. The same is true when finely ground coffee is boiled in water several times, as it is in Turkish coffee, or when a metal filter is used instead of a paper filter, such as in a French press. Without a paper filter, the cafestol ends up in the brew.

One unfiltered cup of coffee, which may contain up to four milligrams of cafestol, can cause the cholesterol level to rise by about 1 percent. Espresso also contains cafestol, since it is made without a paper filter. However, its cholesterol-raising effect is less if you use a demitasse. Less espresso, less cafestol—perhaps as little as one or two milligrams per cup. Research Reports cautions, though, that five small cups of espresso a day can raise the body’s cholesterol level by 2 percent.

The bottom line is that coffee made with a paper filter is cafestol free.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Helping Others Brings Health Benefits

Do Good for Others - Great Health Advice!

I am fortunate that what I do for a living (web design) is something I really enjoy. It is challenging, and allows me to use and develop my creativity. Yet, if I allowed my occupation (or any other secular pursuit) to become the center of my life, it would soon feel empty and unfulfilled. What gives my life true meaning is helping others. I do that in volunteer work in a number of ways. Researchers have discovered that doing good for others is one of the best things we can do for our own health! Note the following:

“Exercise regularly, eat a well-balanced diet and do something nice for someone. That’s the advice you’re apt to get from your doctor in the near future,” states the magazine American Health. Why? Evidence has been mounting that altruists—those who help others—derive definite health benefits from doing so. “The researchers found that doing regular volunteer work, more than any other activity, dramatically increased life expectancy (and probably vitality),” reports the article. “Several studies have shown that people need other people for their health’s sake.” The heart, nervous system, and immune system are all benefited by doing good to others.

On the other hand, hostility—which cuts people off from one another—multiplies the risk of heart disease. “The notion that altruism is good for people could have a profound social effect,” the magazine observed. “Good Samaritans might cease to be a rare breed.”

Web Designer Ramblings - Daily Photo - 8/07/09

Encanto Park - Web Designer Ramblings Photo of the Day

Today's Web Designer Ramblings - Daily Photo shows a scene from one of the most attractive urban parks in America: Encanto Park in Phoenix, Arizona. A Phoenix landmark, this beautifully designed park has been in use since the late 1930's. It is the city of Phoenix's most heavily used park. However, the park maintenance staff deserves high praise for their expert maintenance of this delightful public space. Photo by Donald Peterson, Newark1 Web Design Portfolio

See full sized photo here.

Divorce Bad for the Environment

During my last move, I was told by the owner of the moving company I hired that his largest source of business nowadays are wives leaving the home after separating from their husbands. They will get an apartment or rent another home. A recent item in the news shows that high rates of marital separation and divorce is bad for the environment!

Divorce Bad for the Environment
The surging divorce rate worldwide is hurting the environment, since it results in increased consumption of limited resources. Divorce leads to more households, decreased household size, and higher consumption per head, says a study printed in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Divorced households in the [United States] could have saved more than 38 million rooms, 73 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity, and 627 billion gallons [2,400,000,000,000 l] of water in 2005 alone if their resource-use efficiency had been comparable to married households.” In the year 2000, there were 6.1 million “resource-inefficient” households of this kind in the United States.

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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Do You Have Good Sleep Hygiene?



When sleep is scarce, my web design skills always suffer! A well rested mind helps me to be at my best creatively. Therefore, I appreciated finding the following tips on good sleep hyggiene. Hope you find them useful as well!

How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep
For many centuries it has been known that a good night’s sleep does not happen by chance. Sleeping well depends on a series of factors beyond just controlling anxiety and stress. These are known collectively as sleep hygiene.

Effective sleep hygiene amounts to a way of life. It includes getting regular exercise at the right time of the day. Exercise during the morning or afternoon can help one to be drowsy at bedtime. But working out close to bedtime can interfere with sleep.

Exciting films or engrossing reading material can also have a stimulating effect. Before going to bed, it may be better to read something relaxing, listen to soothing music, or take a warm bath.

Experts say that you can teach your brain to associate bed with sleep by lying down only when you really mean to sleep. People who eat, study, work, watch TV, or play video games in bed may find it harder to fall asleep.

Preparing the body for restful sleep also involves watching your diet. While alcoholic drinks make a person feel drowsy, they can actually impair sleep quality. Coffee, tea, cocoa, chocolate, and cola-based drinks should be avoided at night because they are stimulants. On the other hand, small quantities of mango, sweet potato, banana, persimmon, palm cabbage, rice, bean sprouts, or nuts stimulate the production of serotonin and can thus be sleep-inducing. A word of warning: Eating a heavy meal late at night can be as harmful to sleep as going to bed on an empty stomach.

Just as important as our presleep routine is the environment in which we sleep. A pleasant temperature, a dark and noise-free room, and a comfortable mattress and pillows are an invitation to a good night’s sleep. In fact, with so much comfort, it may be hard to get up the next morning. But remember, staying in bed longer than necessary, even on the weekend, can disturb your sleep pattern and make it harder for you to sleep the following night.

Surely, you would not purposely harm any of your vital organs. Sleep is just as vital, a part of life that should not be neglected or underestimated. After all, a third of our life is spent sleeping. Can you improve your sleeping habits? Why not start tonight!

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Genuine Smiles Are Contagious

web design with a smile

There are two types of smiles, according to Finnish researchers Dr. Jari Hietanen of the University of Tampere and Dr. Veikko Surakka of the Institute of Biomedicine at the University of Helsinki. One smile category is known to experts as social smiles. These are prompted merely by a sense of obligation and involve only the muscles of the cheeks. Genuine smiles, on the other hand, express real feelings of pleasure and activate not only the muscles of the cheeks but also the muscles around the eyes. A recent study from Finland suggests that genuine smiles are contagious. By detecting and recording minute muscle movements, researchers found that the subjects of their experiment were induced to smile merely by looking at a photograph of someone with a genuine smile. This reaction was not observed when the subjects looked at pictures of people displaying social smiles.

Drink Water to Improve Creativity!

drink water for better web design ideas!


Having trouble concentrating? Are the creative juices seemingly running dry? Maybe you need to drink more water! Asiaweek magazine reports that teachers and parents of some Hong Kong schoolchildren were recently advised that drinking plenty of water helps students combat listlessness. The average learner is often dehydrated. This dehydration leads to poor performance. Students drinking a glass of water before each lesson or having water bottles in class also have improved behaviour. Children should drink 8 to 15 glasses of water a day, parents were told. Citing the book The Learning Brain, the report points to studies indicating that dehydration can lead to poor learning. Drinking pure, clean water is better than drinking soft drinks, coffee, tea, or even juices, which may actually stimulate the body to expel fluids, states Asiaweek.

What is good for the child's brain is good for the adult brain as well! I have found this to be true in my occupation as a web designer. Living as I now do in the Sonoran Desert (Arizona) drinking water is even more critical to health. Often if I find myself feeling listless or stumped for new creative ideas, it is often due to dehydration! Once I drink enough water, my energy and concentration returns, and I'm ready to tackle fresh creative challenges.

People Skills Lead to Language Skills

I recently met a fellow who manages the local "Dollar Store" (my favorite Toblerone chocolate only .99 cents!) that I found quite interesting. Of Nigerian heritage, he was able to speak fluently not only with English speaking customers, but also Spanish and Portuguese as well. Evidently his language skills made him an ideal candidate for the job he held. Many of the workers he employs are from variety of non-English speaking backgrounds. And, many of his customers here in Phoenix, Arizona are Spanish speaking.

I took the initiative to strike up a conversation with him. I was impressed to learn that this man spoke sixteen languages, with a fluency in six. As my travels in Europe have often reminded me, Americans are generally unique in their ignorance of languages beyond their mother tongue. We do not consider learning a second language a high priority. We expect others to learn English. Sadly, that says much about how we feel about other cultures.

As a web designer, I find it very helpful to study the graphic design influences of other cultures. Doing so makes me a better web designer. However, to really benefit from what other cultures have to offer, I must first respect and value the people of that culture. It is much the same with learning a new language. You must value people to be motivated to learn their language. That was something else I also observed in that Nigerian manager. He had an ease and cheerfulness with people of all sorts. People skills enhance language skills.

I have recently taken the challenge of learning Tagalog, the Phillipino language and, look forward to learning Mandarin Chinese. I admire both cultures and see this as a way to expand friendships and horizons. Life is made so much richer when we widen our hearts to include people of different backgrounds. Making an effort to learn someone's language is a fine expression of hospitality. It shows our interest and respect in their culture and heritage. In turn, such efforts are often warmly rewarded. With the influx of immigrant groups that add so much to the dynamics of our cities, we have a wonderful opportunity to gain friends from far-flung corners of the earth without leaving home!

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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Web Design: Flowers on Film

flowers macros, close-up on film

This web design was created as a personal labor of love for photos of flower macros shot on film at the Rio Grande Botanic Garden in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After spending the day designing web sites, I would spend the last hour of daylight in the Botanic Garden shooting flowers and other flora. What a relaxing time! Also, some of my best photos were captured on film during that period. You can see these photos (most are about five to six years old) at http://www.abqstyle.com/flowers/

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Monday, August 03, 2009

Orange Juice—The Expose!

orange juice - web designer ramblings

That glass of "fresh squeezed" orange juice you're drinking . . . may not be all that it seems to be! There's a new book coming out that uncovers some industry practices in the making of orange juice that may leave you . . . well . . . a bit shocked to say the least. Nice writeup on the new book "Squeeezed, What you don't know about Orange Juice" on the New Yorker.com website. I'll bet you will be surprised at what goes into your favorite brand of orange juice!

Web Design Influence: Paul Rand




As a web designer, I can count on a number of influences that have guided my work. One of my most prominent influences is the graphic designer Paul Rand, whose clean, simple yet witty design has been a major influence on American advertising. The principles behind his work work quite well in web design as well.

Paul Rand was a major force in the development of the Swiss Style of graphic design. Swiss Style emphasized typography and bold uncluttered shapes in layouts that focused on legibility. An excellent website that features his life's work is paul-rand.com.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Who Designed It?

design from creation?


Where is the best place to look for inspiration when designing a sturdier, more energy efficient, and environmentally friendly vehicle? Well, research and development chief chief for Mercedes Benz, Dr Thomas Weber, looked to the clumsy looking boxfish! Why?

Mercedes design using boxfish

The boxfish can swim fast, covering a distance of up to six times its body length each second. Surprisingly, its cubelike shape actually enhances its aerodynamic qualities! In fact, engineers tested a model of the boxfish in a wind tunnel found that its boxy design slips through the air far more efficiently than compact cars do. Also, its shape stabilized the boxfish when encountering turbulence, and contributes to its maneuverability and protection from injury.

Using the boxfish shape as a model, Mercedes was able to design a prototype vehicle that achieves more than 70 miles per gallon with a four cylinder engine. It also can reach 62 miles per hour in 8.2 seconds. In fact, at a steady 55 mph, it achieves an amazing 84 miles per gallon.

The boxfish is a model of energy efficiency, aerodynamics, and stability. Did it come about by chance, or was it designed?

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