Author Archives: admin

About admin

Designer by day, designer by night.
  1. On Showing Your Work

    Leave a Comment

    I very rarely show work in progress, especially work I’m not happy with. This is because it’s hard. In fact I find it excruciating. It’s something I need to get better at, so in the spirit of showing your work I’m listing below designs I’ve been working on as part of a personal project. These designs need refining but they represent where I’m currently at with the project, warts and all.

    I’ve set up a page where you can view these designs at their actual size. Hopefully someone might find some value in them.

    Before I get back to working on them I want to explain why I’m not happy. Overall the design feels very weak. A minimal design which served the content was one of my goals but I’m really not comfortable with the resulting aesthetic. It’s too bland. I want the design to be subtle, something you’d notice on a second look — once you’ve taken in the photography of course. I’m also not very happy with the logo. I’ve detailed my process and I thought I had something but it’s just not there yet. A camera as an extension of the eye was the concept but I’m not sure I’ve communicated that clearly.

    To hold my self accountable I’m listing out my next steps. It’ll also be nice to refer back to this list and see if I actually shipped.

    1. Refine the logo so as it better communicates a camera as being an extension of the human eye. If you are interested you can read all about where this concept came from.
    2. Organise the homepage by series name. Indicate what the hover state will look like.
    3. Use current homepage layout as the photo series landing page
    4. Experiment with adding an accent colour to lift the design and add interest.
    5. Forget about the timeline design. This is going no where.
    6. Add about information as a slide out panel.

    Now onwards.

  2. One thing from Offset 2014

    Leave a Comment

    Bord Gais Energy Theatre

    Offset 2014 is over. Another year done and dusted and another year I leave with my head buzzing with enthusiasm. It really is insane how these events get the creative energy flowing.

    Offset is a 3 day event with talks running each day from 10am to 7pm. That may sound like a lot to take in but time flies! That’s quite impressive really when 24 talks just whizz by with rarely a dip in quality.

    This year I went with the goal to take one thing from each presentation I sat in on. If I heard something I thought was interesting I whipped out my iPhone and took a quick note (If you were sitting beside me sorry about that).

    Although the talks were varied in content there were emergent themes that revealed themselves throughout the 3 days. The two over-riding feelings I picked up on were: play is an important aspect to your work and personal projects are where you get the most opportunity to grow and improve as a designer.

    Below I’ve listed out the things I took note of during the conference. I’m sure if you sat in on these talks you would have picked up on something else; everyone attends a different conference really and you take away what resonates with you. That’s my view anyway.


    Invest in your progress. When you have free time make sure you are working on passion projects that allow you to grow as a designer. Doing this will improve your skills and strengthen your portfolio whereas client work wont. Clients only tend to hire you for what you have done in the past not on what you can possibly do or will do someday.


    Embrace chaos. Exciting, beautiful and engaging work can happen if you don’t religiously stick to process and rules.


    You need to sell the shit out of your work. Your work alone won’t do this.

    Balance the work you have to do with the work you want to do; try to find that sweet-spot.


    Embrace the exploration phase of a project. Make sure to allocate time to simply explore ideas. Unexpected and interesting results can happen which often are more interesting than the final client accepted piece of work.


    Pay attention to the work you do when nobody is paying you. Embrace this work, as it’s where you will likely find most success.

    Creativity thrives on constraints and restrictions. If a project has no constraints you need to set them.

    Bjorn Rune

    Personal work is important in developing new skills. Have fun with it and try things you don’t get to do on client projects. To help separate the two try using a second space for personal work. This will help with the mental switch between client work and personal work. You need time to experiment with no deadlines.


    Play is the most important part of the creative process.


    Be playful with the language of colour. Colour can be used as an active element in storytelling.


    Try to find a unique way of working that becomes your differential. For Richard it was using an obsolete military surveillance technology called Kodak Aerochrome. This technique gave his work a unique style.


    Graphic designers make invisible ideas tangible.

    Passion is at the core of all successful creatives.

    Make something that’s remembered.


    If you can’t be really good be different.


    Inspiration is all around us if we look for it. Example: Marian Bantjes takes photos of interesting compositions she spots in her surroundings then uses these as layouts for her graphic design work.


    Side projects are where you learn and build confidence.


    Sketchbooks are for training and play don’t be precious with them.

  3. A logo design process

    Leave a Comment

    This is the second instalment of a series of posts which describe the design process I’m working through for a personal project. This post details the work I’ve been doing in developing the brand, specifically a logo for a photographer.

    I thought It would be an interesting exercise to share the steps I went through in creating the logo. Although It’s a personal project I’m approaching it as I would any client project. I’ve a brief to answer and goals to achieve through design.

    Before starting I set a few basic requirements for the logo:

    • It must work in a single colour
    • “Henri Cartier-Bresson”, “Henri” or the initials “HCB” must be part of the logo
    • It’s structure should be simple and preferably consist of geometric forms.

    Also if I could use negative space in a clever way that would be a bonus but this was not a requirement.

    Mind Maps

    I started the exploration phase by using a technique called mind mapping. I’ve written about this before. It’s a relatively straightforward process of word association and a great way to consider many different directions at an early stage. Using mind maps it’s easy to identify potentially strong solutions and forget the weaker ones. Here is the mind map I created for this project:


    Reviewing the mind map I had two clear directions I wanted to explore with sketches:

    1. Three geometric rings used to represent an abstract camera
    2. The camera as an extension of the eye concept


    Sketching is not something I generally spend a lot of time doing. I normally sketch a few quick thumbnails which help me visualise an idea then I move to Photoshop and mockup draft designs to test out my thinking.

    For this project however I forced myself to sketch as many options as I could in two time limited sessions. Each session was 25 minutes. The 25 minutes timeframe is based on the pomodoro technique. I use this technique a lot when I want to focus on specific tasks. Here are the sketches I produced for this phase.


    Draft designs

    Next using the sketches as reference I produced a number of draft designs in Photoshop.


    As I was working through this phase I identified a clear winner, number 8. It had everything I was looking for: It was simple in form and would work in a single colour and across different media and applications; It was quiet yet personable using a handwritten font to evoke a feeling of authenticity; It used negative space to suggest a camera as being an extension of the eye – which was a mantra of Henri Cartier-Bresson. I also liked the fact the handwritten font is a throwback to the original HCB logo.


    At this stage I was happy I had something to work with but the logo needed some refinement of form. I also wanted to try out a number of handwritten fonts and see what effect they would have.



    So I’ve a logo I’m happy with, my prep work is done and I’ve mocked up a lo-fi prototype to test out a few UI patterns which I feel will work very well. Next I want to move on to my favorite part of the design process: visual design. I’ll post a write up of that effort when I’m done but expect things to be a little quiet around here while I get busy working.

  4. A new year and a new personal project

    Leave a Comment

    I’ve always been one to have a side project on the go. They’re a great way to experiment with ideas or build new skills. With the new year still fresh there’s no better time to kick one off. So I did. I’ve been chipping away at it now for a few weeks, so it’s a good time to pause and reflect on what I’ve been doing and what my next steps will be.

    The project I’ve set for myself is to design a brand and portfolio website for a photographer. Specifically Henri Cartier-Bresson, who happens to be the father of photojournalism. May as well set the bar high If I can pick anyone right?

    My goal for the project is to improve the experience of navigating through a series of photos on a website. I also want to use this exercise as a chance to design a brand. Branding is work I don’t spend much time doing and It’s a skill I’d very much like to have.

    I started by setting time aside to research the life, personality and work of HCB. This research gave me a better understanding of what feeling the brand and website should evoke. During this research phase I like to build lists of words which I think define the mood I am attempting to create. Here is an example of a list I created for this project:

    • Discreet
    • Careful
    • Considerate
    • Restrained
    • Tactful
    • Modest
    • Unobtrusive
    • Understated
    • Sensitive

    Next I wrote a brief. If you are asking yourself “Why on earth would he write a brief for himself?” well, I find this exercise forces me to set project constraints. With a brief to answer I end up with clear defined project requirements and goals.

    Here’s an example. While answering the brief I described the site’s desired look and feel with the following statements:

    The site design should be subtle and understated and exist to serve the content.

    The design should be minimal but modern and make ample use of white space to evoke a feeling of calm and reassurance.

    Then during the design phase I can refer to these and make sure my design choices make sense and are appropriate.

    Once I had a brief I was happy with my next move was to consider typography. For me, typography is a crucial element in setting the tone of a design.

    From my research I had a clear idea of what I was looking for in a typeface. HCB captured images from raw, real-life situations. He was also a shy man who shunned the spotlight. I felt a humanist sans-serif with restrained features would best evoke this.

    I looked at a lot of typefaces but narrowed it down to three: Serevak, Fedra Sans and Ideal Sans. After setting type with each I settled on Serevak. It’s near invisibility and subtle personality was the perfect fit for the subject matter.

    Another helpful task which I completed as part of this prep phase was competitive analysis. This involves looking at pre-existing ideas.

    For this project I looked at a large number of gallery type websites. I was particularly interested in their navigation and interaction patterns. I looked for UX and usability short comings which I could address through design.

    This ability to study what others have designed for similar problems is a huge advantage. I find an awful lot can be learned by studying their strengths and weaknesses.

    So what’s next? After all this prep work I feel I have enough of an understanding to begin work on a lo-fi prototype which I will mockup in Photoshop. I also want to finalise the brand. I plan on detailing that work in future blog posts but now it’s off to Photoshop I go.