Monthly Archives: March 2008

What Sites Do You Pay For?

Q&A; via swissmiss.

  • Flickr: $24.95 a year. (I should use this more often.)
  • GoDaddy: $~50 a year.
  • PayPal: on certain transactions.

That’s all I could think of. I try not to pay for anything if I don’t need to. Haha. I know I don’t have that many web services where I pay for a membership, but I figured it’s nice for myself to see how much I spend on web things.


Expertise on Coffees, Teas, and Typefaces

A week ago, I took my first “Tea class,” where I learned about the basics of teas and the types of teas that Peet’s offers. I drink tea more often than coffee, so it’s no surprise that I couldn’t taste the difference between different types of coffees on my first shift other than “This taste like coffee, and bitter.” With tea, there’s a wider range in flavor for me, and I could better distinguish one type of teas from another.

In the Tea class, I realized that I am opposite from my manager (the teacher) and a fellow “student” (from some other Peet’s) in that they have a better sense in distinguishing coffees than teas, whereas I’m better at teas than coffees.

Then it occurred to me. This ability to tell the difference among a class of similar items happens everywhere with everyone, e.g. designers with typefaces. A lot of my design friends know that I enjoy looking at type and blurting out the typefaces they’re set in, without even them asking me in the first place. That might annoy them, but I feel a sense of pride for being able to identify typefaces; it gives me a sense of expertise and validity in the design field, just as my manager at Peet’s would feel for being able to tell the difference between decaf coffee beans and regular coffee beans by smell alone.

It’s this type of expertise that excites each of us, giving us motivation to continue to pursue our interests, and become even more knowledgeable. Then we share that knowledge with the rest of the world, in sort of a large-scale collaborative learning pool. It’s an open-source community, and through it, everyone can learn not only about coffees, teas, and typefaces, but also about everything else, allowing us to become experts in everything if we choose to.


Stefan Bucher’s Advice For Students

“Work your ass off, but do it for something you care about.” —Stefan Bucher

This was his advice for students (and probably to designers and people in general) on the Reflex Blue Show Episode 2.


Preliminary Transparency Mockup

Screen shot of Transparency Layout Mockup

So after writing the latest What Am I Doing? post, I figured I should keep my word and continue working on the website and portfolio. I did a really rough mockup (though the position of the image won’t change much) of my Transparency in the Sky concept for my home page.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about it. I like that it’s a different style than the typical streamline web design that sticks to standards as much as possible, but at the same time, I don’t know how practical it can be. My main concern here is still function and usability, and not so much aesthetics, although that’d be nice.

In the final version in my vision, this would not include the text box at the bottom nor the feedback box. If you want to see how it looks like without those boxes, roll over the edges of the “screen” box above the text box. (Don’t roll over the Flash slideshow, but the edges around it.)

With the links, I plan on shifting the tape and the transparency that holds “IVANWLAM.COM” up and down as the mouse rolls over the navigation items. I’ve actually taken individual photographs of each position, so it’s just a matter of changing the image upon cursor movement. Right now, it’s just one static image, but you may access the Experiments section in the progress report.

I think my main concerns with this concept are that 1) the image quality isn’t that good, 2) the image load time may not be practical, and 3) it’s not really accessible unless I do extra coding, though I don’t mind in the spirit of learning. At the same time, I do like how the background image accommodates to screen resolutions up to 2500px wide without leaving the image.

So this is one of those designs that I really need feedback on. Comment on this post or use the feedback box. (Notice I added a small “human verification” feature because I started getting robot spam through that form.)


What Am I Doing? (Mar 08)

A slight, temporary change of direction this past month. I had been working on my web site still, though at a slower rate than before. I took on a small, short freelance project recoding a website that is easier to manage and a lot more standards-compliant. But mainly, my time has been split into two parts: one for my website, and one for a part-time job.

Long story short, and in a way that I’ve been describing to my friends and such, I am now working part-time at Peet’s Coffee and Tea as a barista while I’m finishing my portfolio and web site.

I’m still training at Peet’s, so I don’t really considered myself a barista, yet. Nonetheless, this move was a result of a readjustment of priorities, the most urgent of which is financially based.

The Strategy

But I didn’t take this job just because it’s available. I’ve thought about this for a long time and have developed a flexible strategy that will work to my advantage in my career as a designer. By working here, I will be able to, first and foremost, have a front-row look at a retail environment and corporate branding strategies, which will give me some background in retail customer experience.

I’m sure a lot of established designers today had part-time retail jobs in high school and college or in the early years of their career, and that experience most likely gave them a slight edge at understanding how it all works.

Because sometimes, I feel that a lot of designers produce things based on what they think looks cool and lack sufficient research in what the client and customers need and want, or that they receive the research from the marketing department and base their designs on words on paper and not direct, personal experience.

For example, I had only worked at Peet’s for a couple shifts, but I’ve already noticed the amount of branding that the company implements onto the sales floor, ranging from the packaging to the interior design to the employee dress code. The company also has a few service-based qualities that are consistently reasserted, especially in the training material.

Room for Improvement

At the same time, I constantly think about the certain methods and ways of saying something that can be improved to increase productivity as well as customer satisfaction and enthusiasm. Occasionally, I tried to picture how and why Peet’s design team chooses a particular approach in their branding and promotion strategies and thought about little things from a retail employee point of view that they could change or add to make both the employees and customers happier.

There are also other reasons for working at Peet’s that will help me in my career in design, but I won’t list them here. But all in all, I am enjoying the experience and will take as many lessons as I could from this and apply them to my future design jobs.

Sayings of the Moment

  • “Just do it.” (no affiliation with any athletic company)
  • “You fail if you don’t try.” –“Get Up,” Superch!ck (from my high school days)
  • “Having guts always works out for me.” –Stefan Sagmeister


Sagmeister Lecture—Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far

Sagmeister Lecture - Book Signing Line

So here’s my “review” of the Sagmeister lecture last night.


This was my first AIGA design lecture and my second AIGA event (I went to the 50 Books/50 Covers opening at Chronicle Books last fall), and overall, I’m pleased with the event (good job putting the event together, Amy et al!). The reception was nice with good appetizer things and a fine selection of refreshments. Sagmeister was wonderful, and that’s probably still true sans my huge-fan bias towards his work.

Stefan Sagmeister - Book Signing

The Rest

I should, though, advise those who haven’t gone to a lot of these events to bring at least one friend to these things, especially if you’re shy like me. I was so excited about Sagmeister speaking in SF that I immediately bought a ticket without thinking about bringing someone or asking any of my designer friends to go with me (partly because almost none of my designer friends knew of Stefan Sagmeister and his work, which was sad in and of itself).

While I think Stefan’s work is always brilliant and inspiring, I thought that the presentation was “normal” and expected, but only probably because I’m already familiar with many pieces of his “Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far ” project through the design blogs and a lot of his transcribed and video interviews online. Watching him and his work on stage was almost just like watching those video interviews and reading the blogs, which was why his presentation felt “normal” and “expected,” except for that part in the beginning when he suddenly started smelling urine on stage and assured us that it wasn’t him and said that “I don’t pee in my pants.” That pretty much effectively broke the ice from the start!

In any case, even if I’m not a fan and don’t know much about Sagmeister, I still think I would be fascinated by how extremely creative and outside-the-box this designer is. I mean, the lady who sat next to me and said she didn’t know much about Sagmeister except for the body-cutting mailer was teary after the presentation and said that it was inspiring.

I was confused as to why only the side projectors showed the images but the middle one did not. I figured it might have to do with wanting to show the name of the lecture series since it was being recorded, but the entire middle section (where I was) had to look around the wooden columns to see the images on the screen.

Personally, I wish there was more time for questions after his presentation, but I understand that the presentation had already gone over the allotted time and he still had to sign a long line of books before ending the evening. Speaking of his book, I also wish I had gotten up immediately after the presentation to get his book at the table when he was answering questions so I could get him to sign it afterwards. Maybe I will do that next time, whenever that is, because I know this won’t be the last time I watch him speak in person.

Lecture Review Main Points and Advice:

  • The event was good and enjoyable.
  • Go with friends (at least one) and socialize.
  • Buy the book if you already knew you want it, and then get it signed.


“Not My Type,” The Designer’s Dating Game Show

This is just a random idea, mainly to play on the title. What if there’s a dating game show called Not My Type where a designer picks among three contestants by having them describe their favorite typeface and associate their personalities to the typefaces?

This is totally nerdy and will never make it on TV (unless there’s a TV network for graphic designers), but it could be a mini-skit/improv thing, something similar to Command X, which was a program at last year’s AIGA Design Conference in Denver, except Not My Type would be much less productive and more for entertainment.


Oversaturation in Dubai

I admit that I don’t know much about Dubai, except that it’s somewhere in the Middle East, and that there’s a lot of business development there. A while ago, I heard about this “world islands” plan where they’re gonna have a group of islands that look like a map of the world. And before that, I saw this episode of Build It Bigger on the Discovery Channel where the host took a tour of one of the Dubai buildings under construction, possibly the tallest one ever.

But here’s what I’m thinking. Take a look at this post on designboom. There are so many interesting architecture designs, and it would be awesome to see them come to life. But the problem with these images is that, standard to architecture renderings, those buildings are visually isolated against all other buildings to emphasize certain characteristics and features.

That’s fine for other cities, because most of the time, all the other buildings in those renderings are probably mundane and boring-looking anyway. But in Dubai, there seems to be, or is going to be, an oversaturation of unique building designs that, together, might look more like a freak show, where they’re all special in their own ways but don’t really belong in the “normal” city landscape.

Landmarks are unique because they’re different from everything else around them. But here, the buildings are really different, so different that they’re going to look the same in their weirdness.

Perhaps that’s not the case at all. I don’t know how big Dubai is, so maybe those buildings will be more spread out, then in which case, it would be cool to get on some tour bus and make a dozen stops or something around the city to visit these buildings.

But for now, I can only imagine Dubai as a crowd of funky buildings, one next to the other.


Transparency in the Nicer Sky

Transparency in the Sky Collage

This is only work in progress. I haven’t code it into the home page yet, but I want to share what I have and ask for some feedback.

Since I want the image to fill the page, I had to think about different monitor sizes and accommodate for it. That’s why I took three photographs and Photomerged them together into a wider view. The green boxes show the range of monitor sizes that could be viewed (800×600, 1280×1024, 1920×1080). I’m thinking about the future as more people move into widescreen as well as a larger resolution (because I know I want to.)

Transparency in the Sky Collage - Zoomed In

I printed out the original digital layout and traced it on a transparency, so it’s half digital font, half handwriting. The image here made the type look weird, but that’s because I haven’t actually accurately measured the dimensions; these are only estimates.

One of my problems now is to decide whether I should use the same image for all the other pages with the same layout or have different images in different sections, which I don’t mind doing; it would just take a longer time.