Category Archive: Articles

  1. Maintaining Momentum

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    This week I pushed the latest version of my website live. I’ve a new landing page and blog with more to come. Like a portfolio and the obligatory “about me” section (how hard are they to write?).

    Although I’m not finished I want to trap my thoughts on how I maintained momentum on this project over the last 2 months.

    If you don’t have the time to read on here’s the rub: break projects in to small specific tasks. Work on these tasks in small time units. Repeat consistently for results.

    I mocked up the initial design over lunch 4 months ago. July 19th to be exact. And then nothing. The psd sat in a folder. On my desktop. Waiting.

    Why? Free time. Here’s what I’m juggling right now: learning to be a father to twins, a full-time job, planing a wedding, freelance work, physical training. All this meant my personal design work ended up last on my list of priorities. And what ends up last ends up not getting done. This left me feeling frustrated. There had to be a better way to managing my time.

    In early October I decided to try a different approach: break my site redesign project into small specific tasks and set one task per day. Then schedule a 25 minute time block to work on that task. If a task was not done in this timeframe it’s scheduled again for the next day. Any day I managed to work on my site I’d log it using streaks. You can see my progress below over the last two months.


    On good days I would manage to work for longer than 1 hour at a time. Which was great. But mostly it was 25 minute sprints. I used a timer called focus booster to track this.

    There were bad days too, when 5-10 minutes is all I could fit in. On those days I would review where I’m at and move the scheduled task to the next task. This was really important as it kept the project fresh in my mind and momentum going.

    So it’s 30 days today. Why is 30 days significant? 30 days is regarded as how long it takes to form a new habit and working consistently on personal design projects is a habit I really want to keep.

    Next up is getting my portfolio back online. I haven’t had one for a few years. Which is really lazy on my part as I’ve lots of work to show.

    I will caveat all this with stating it’s very difficult to do design work this way. If I could I’d love to work on personal projects 3-4 hours at a time. This isn’t going to happen anytime soon though.

  2. Progression

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    Lately I’ve been feeling a bit flat with regards my web design work. I look at it and think “Meh”. This was compounded when a well known Web Designer took one look and said “Sorry, not good enough”.

    To say that comment has been on my mind is an understatement, it’s been like a noose around his neck. The Designer in question is well respected and knows–his–shit. So I’m setting myself a side project. I’m calling this project “Progression”. Obvious I know but that’s not the point.

    The point is I have to improve my skills as a web designer. I am not progressing as I should be. My portfolio of work is not bad but it all feels very safe. That’s not good enough, not today. Just a quick look on Dribbble is all you need to know that competition is fierce, it’s eat or be eaten my friends. Besides I have no other option, I am in this profession for the long haul.

    My plan with this project is to tackle design styles and problems that are outside my comfort zone. The goal: to see what new skills I can learn and to see what new styles I can produce. I’ll be using this Blog, Dribbble and Behance to log my efforts.

    With that in mind all that’s left to say is, “onwards and upwards”.

  3. Plantin: A serif with character

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    Why I gravitate towards classical typefaces I have no idea, but Plantin has grabbed my attention recently.

    Plantin is not that well known and deserves to be used more. It is a true hidden gem that I’ve only just discovered following the redesign of Weightshift. I loved this design, Naz Hamid has serious design skills. I took a look under the hood and discovered Plantin.

    When you begin to use a new typeface it’s good advice to try and understand what it’s unique characteristics are. What follows is my attempt to get a handle on the nuances of Plantin and try to understand why this typeface has grabbed me. But first a little history.

    A little bit of history

    Plantin was designed for the Monotype Corporation in the early 1900s, It is named after the sixteenth-century Antwerp printer Christophe Plantin (that’s him above).

    Although not based directly on his work, the model for Plantin was taken from the huge collection of type Plantin had procured.

    With its serious tone, narrow width, and large x-height, Plantin has definite merit as an alternative to Times New Roman. In fact Plantin was used as a reference during the cutting of that very Typeface.

    That lovely italic

    Plantin is an old-style beautifully designed Typeface. It has more character than most serifs and this is why I like it. It has a certain charm and the italics are really beautiful.

    Another plus: Plantin is exceptionally legible and elicits a classic, elegant tone. The Monocole magazine & website uses Plantin to great effect and it forms an important part of their brand.

    To wrap up

    In my opinion Plantin is a confident, beautiful Font and like Helvetica & Futura before I am all over this Typeface. If you are looking to add a confident, permanent look to your design Plantin is a great choice for your project.

  4. Freelance Web Design Take-Two

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    Big news: My time at Muzu is to end. I’m returning to Freelance.

    I say returning but my first stint lasted a week. Back then I was determined to give it a go but a job offer landed in my lap which I felt I could not turn down. It’s not everyday you get the chance to be part of a full site overhaul. So I took the job — which has now come to an end.

    So I’m back where I was last May but a little wiser and financially better off. I’m determined again to give Freelancing all I’ve got. Excited — Yes. Nervous — ABSOLUTELY! But I need to do this. The worst that can happen, I go back working for the man. That’s not that bad.

    I finish full-time at Muzu before Christmas. The reason I’m putting the word out now is I need to get the message out that I am available for work. I design and build websites. I now need to let people know.

    I haven’t got it all figured out yet and that’s exciting. But if you’re looking for a website designer or front-end developer from January onwards drop me an email.

  5. 24 The Web

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    Last weekend I took part in 24 The Web. A competition to build a website for charity in 24 hours.

    The competition set 3 teams against one another. Each team was paired with a charity and tasked with building a rock solid, fully functioning, CMS driven website which would help them achieve their goals.

    Meet Your Charity

    Our Charity was CD’s Helping Hands, a West of Ireland Childrens’ Cancer Charity.

    We met with Jennifer from CD’s Helping Hands who was fantastic and completely open and supportive of any ideas we had.

    During this initial interview it became apparent they had just re-branded. The name CD’s helping Hands had led to some confusion and a new name and logo was needed.

    A big part of this re-brand was the website. And with childhood cancer being such a serious topic we knew from the get-go we had a huge job on our hands.

    The A-Team

    Luckily, I was part of Team A which was made up of some very smart and driven people. Roll call: Amy Grange as project manager, Stephanie Francis as Front-End developer, Ben Arent as IA/UX, Elaine Larkin as Content writer, Anthony Lindsay as Wild Card and Ian Huet as Developer.

    We have lift off

    My responsibility was website design. This meant the bulk of my work was done during the first half of the day.

    Once I had an agreed list of homepage elements and assigned each a priority relative to the website goals. I had enough to begin paper prototyping.

    I quickly skectched a number of layouts and a simple site architecture to present to the team. One around the table feedback session later and I was off to design a website.

    The End Result

    Somehow by the end of 24 hours we had the website together. It was not perfect and everything did not make the final-cut but what we had was a fully functioning website. And one which was a big improvement over the existing one.

    The way the website came together in the last hour was unbelievable. Hats off to the rest of Team A who had to take what I handed over and breathe life in to the flat designs — true Rockstars. Thank you for being so patient while I got the design together.

    Thank you

    I feel very lucky to have been apart of 24 The Web. The experience was both humbling and enlightening. A special thanks to Stewart and Daragh for organising such an event and who stayed up all night blogging, tweeting and conducting food runs.These guys are modern day web heroes.