Tag Archives: beta

What Am I Doing? (September 2009)


Near the end of August, one of my good designer friends from college contacted me about a contract job in the Visual/Signage Team at her workplace at a Pottery Barn corporate office. Not only was it great to see her again, but it was also refreshing to be in a working environment that is different from the one that I have been in.

Without getting too much into the details, I’ll just say that the job is to put together a seasonal guide book for internal use, and it allows the opportunity for me to be asked back and work for future seasons. They also had a bunch of little tasks that need an extra hand with, so I helped the team out with those, too.

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(More (or Less)) of What You May Want to Know About Ivan W. Lam

About section screenshot

The About section is finally live! The reason it took longer than you would expect it to is that I didn’t want to make a boring about page like every other website out there. I wanted to make it more fun and interactive for the viewer at different interest levels. At the same time, I still wanted to strike a balance and still maintain the “about section” quality of a website.

The most basic information that you would expect in an about section is still there, but if visitors want to play, they can uncover extra information. I feel that this aspect of the game reflects my personality and also poses an interesting contrasting relationship with the theme of using transparencies to lay out this site.

The page is still in beta, as is the rest of the site. But at least now all sections are available!


Experiments: Form Section Redesigned

Just finished coding the Form page of the Experiments section. The concept with this one is to move the transparencies around to create new forms. And you can reload the page and generate a new configuration. I don’t make a point to decrease accessibility, but it just happened that way. And when the section fills up, it’ll look more coherent, relatively speaking.


Experiments Layout: Background and Photo Section

As mentioned in the previous post, the Experiments Section now has a background. It’s meant to accommodate the widest available screen (according to Wikipedia), which is 2560 x 2048. I don’t have that large of a monitor, but it’s one of those things where you have to expect as many possible user experience scenarios as you can.

Here’s a screen shot of a part of the background image, but zoom out on the actual page or select the View Background Image function of your browser to see the entire image.

The background image is a composition of the raw photographs I took two years ago at Putah Creek at UC Davis. They were meant to be photomerged into a seamless image, but I thought it would be appropriate to show them this way for the Experiments section to represent the emphasis on the process rather than the result in creative experiments.

I also started working on the Photo page of the Experiments Section. Here’s a cropped screenshot.

The idea with this section’s design is that the only thing you see on the page is images and no text. The text only appears when your cursor hovers over the transparency that has that text in it.

Not sure about the level of accessibility here, but the Experiments section is the only section on my site that is not limited by accessibility concerns, even though I try to accommodate accessibility needs when convenient. The text-less states are controlled by CSS anyway, so if someone visits the site without CSS, it will read it perfectly fine.

The page is also meant to be wider than your browser window. Unless you turn off JavaScript, you’re always going to have a wider page along a horizontal scrollbar. With this being a page about images, the idea is to fit more images on each row with the space that was taken up by the navigation on the left.


Portfolio Page Linked

Index aite with Portfolio link sctive

It’s sort of a milestone. For more than two months, I’ve been working on my portfolio page whenever I could find the time. Design, code, and test. There’s still a lot of testing to do… and coding… and designing. It’s not 100% done and not 100% good yet, but I have enough good stuff to show you what I have so far.

The first screen the visitor sees on page load.

This page may not look that complicated or that impressive (even to designers), but there’s more than enough happening in the backend that I am proud to have come so far in the past two months. In the process, I’ve learned a new programming language that is very powerful and opened a lot of doors for my creative outlet. I look forward to learning more PHP as well as the next step up, whatever that is.

Next entry will be very special. Another milestone. I haven’t decided what to do yet.


What Have I Done? (Anniversary Review 2008)

Today marks the first anniversary of Flush. A year ago, I “soft opened” this blog, and believe it or not, I still haven’t “grand opened” it, although I’m not sure if I really need to anyway.

Flash Review

The past year has been a bumpy ride. I finished my last undergrad class, got sucked into the world of Sim City 3000 and Sims 2 as I prepped for my job search, started my beta site, got a job at Peet’s, went to see Sagmeister speak, skipped out on Alumni Day (I’m sorry!), worked on a freelance project for my aunt’s business, bought a new printer, watched the impressive production of the Beijing Olympics, resumed working on my portfolio and site, and rekindled my passion for web developing.

My attitude on design has changed, and that has helped me narrow down the types of careers that I would like to pursue. And every day, I’m getting closer to that job and that career. Working on my site almost every day excites me and motivates me because 1) I’ve grown to enjoy coding and designing, and 2) I can’t wait to share with the world what I’ve done.

Prediction for the Next Twelve Months

I don’t know.

Nobody does, and I’ve been wrong enough times about where I would be right now to not make any more general predictions. But I will always have hope, I will always have my expectations, and I will always believe in the future.

A year from now, I may or may not be a designer, and I may or may not enjoy coding still/anymore, and I may completely change my mind about this site and start a brand new one, or career. And that’s perfectly okay, as long as I am okay with it and it’s for the better. I may not reach my current desired destination, but that may or may not be as important as the journey to get there. I mean, I totally wish I were rich already and not have to work but become a philanthropist and help starving children in Africa or save the rain forest in South America, but it would probably mean more to me if I actually pay my dues, work my way up, meet interesting people, and learn about the issues to get there.


Lot of Progress with the Portfolio Section

Made a lot of progress in the past week.

I tried to make the portfolio section available to both JavaScript-enabled and disabled browsers. With JS-disabled browsers, visitors will have to refresh the page. But for JS-enabled browsers, visitors can click on different projects and pieces without needing to refresh. Initially, I thought I needed Ajax to make it refresh-less, but it wasn’t as accessible as I would like it. Fortunately, my new friend PHP allows me to solve my problem.

It’s not all done, yet. But once I get the navigation down, I can start to populate it with real images and text.

The path is portfolio/index.php.


What Am I Doing? (Sept 2008)


It is discovered and decided that I will be working at Peet’s for only four more months, through the holiday season. Hopefully, this gives me a sense of having a deadline again and I can get more things done.


I don’t know if I had made it clear a couple of posts ago that I love the Olympics, but I do. Not only did I enjoy racing home from work to watch Olympic history being made, but I was also impressed with the level of detail with which the Beijing team executed the events and their appearance in the world.

The opening and closing ceremonies were the best ever in my opinion, but not only that, it makes me want to take part in performances like those for a living, mainly in the planning and conceptual stage. This goes beyond “graphic design,” but I never said I am interested in graphic design alone. It’s times like this that lift my spirits and believe the best of days is always ahead of us.

Beta Portfolio

I’ve been working on the portfolio section for the past few weeks, and now I’m working on the coding before I pump out the images and make the link available, although you can still access it by manually entering the URI based on the site’s navigation. Constructive feedback is always appreciated.


With a four-month timeframe in place, I now have a sense of what I’m doing in the near future. After that though, I don’t know. I’ve been revisiting the idea of a road trip a lot, and it seems like there’s no better time than the present (or asap, e.g. four months from now). I would have some money saved up, and either get on a train or drive myself across the country, maybe with a friend or two.

I might have a revelation in the four-month period and know for sure which path I want to go on after Peet’s. It might not be far from what I had been planning all along; it could be a regular graphic design job right here in the Bay Area, or it might be somewhere in the East Coast. Or, I could be in Asia, or Africa, or Europe, following some hint of an opportunity that is remotely related to design and more related to the environment or humanitarian work.


Portfolio Section: The Basics

Portfolio section in progress.

So for the past week, between work and the Olympics, I started working on the portfolio section of my beta site. I figured that I could draw inspiration from the Olympics and get a boost in pursuing my goals and all the good stuff.

I purposely have not yet made the link available from the home page because I don’t want new visitors to stumble upon my site thinking that the active link to my portfolio leads to a complete collection of my work. You may, however, manually type in the URI and see what’s been done so far. If you don’t know what the URI is, there is a hint on the home page’s navigation.

I haven’t figured out exactly how to lay out the page yet. I’ve designed probably five or six web portfolio sites, always trying to figure out the most efficient and logical way to navigate. My criteria for the layout include:

  • how easy it is for new visitors to understand how to navigate within the portfolio section;
  • how the work is displayed against the rest of the layout;
  • how accessible it is for browsers without/that have turned off style sheets, JavaScript, and other applications;
  • how it would translate onto mobile device displays;
  • and what kind of experience most visitors would get from viewing this site.

I’m trying to avoid laying out boxes (or squares of “transparencies”) into neat little rectangles. I’ve done that before and even I’m getting a little bored. I’m trying to let the function take care of the form.

And it doesn’t look like I’ve done much so far, but I’ve actually fixed the code behind the navigation so that it works in more than one page with the same code, as well as allowing it to work (more or less) in JavaScript-disabled browsers.

Comments on the background image?


What Am I Doing? (Jul 2008)

Little Freelance Gig

For the past month, I’ve been helping my aunt with a light box menu redesign for her Mediterranean fast food shop at the Great Mall food court down in Milpitas. She needed new photos of the dishes and a more attractive design to improve her business. I’m supposedly done with all the designing, and now it’s out of my hands and off to wherever she sends them to have the designs specially printed. When it’s all done, I will post an entry about the entire process.

There have been many challenges with this little freelance gig. I’m not gonna elaborate on the details, nor will I reveal the numerous updates on my private Twitter page, but I’ve learned plenty about being a freelancer as well as a graphic designer in general. There were technical lessons like setting up my first makeshift photo studio at the back of the store (with my trusty light tent!), and then there were client-designer relationship lessons, including overcoming a slight language barrier, understanding a difference in communication medium preference (phone vs. email), and enduring a hearty dose of scope creep.

I guess I will elaborate more in the official post, but two important things I learned from this job: 1) don’t promise you can do things faster than you can actually do them, and 2) get a contract before starting any work, even if it’s a job with your family or friends.

New Printer

Another thing that happened recently is that I finally received my new printer. It’s an Epson Photo R1900. It prints up to 13” in width and 44” in length, has individual color cartridges, and prints on CD/DVD’s! Those were the three main selling points for me. I’d been wanting to get a nice printer to print my portfolio pieces since the beginning of this year. I took about half a month to research decent wide-format individual-cartridge inkjet printers, including the price, reviews, ink costs, functions, etc., and then I hesitated a whole month before finally deciding that it would be a worthwhile investment in my still budding career.

My next purchases now will include backup ink cartridges and Epson photo paper.

The Beta Site

I have not given up on the beta site. I’ve just been busy with everything else. I realize that my last update was April/May, but the site will be built.

In the mean time, take some time off your work and find a way to watch season 1 of Mad Men on AMC. It’s about the advertising agency culture of the 1960s in New York. Lots of cultural references, lots of smoking everywhere, lots of drinking, lots of political incorrectness (compared to now), and lots of good writing. Check out the show’s site and watch the first episode.


A Real Ax to Grind

A few weeks ago, I received an automated e-mail from the feedback form on my beta site home page. It wasn’t from someone I know, nor was it a feedback on my beta site, either. It was from a Mr. Stephen Eskilson. Based on the content of his comment and a little Googling research, I found out that this Mr. Stephen Eskilson was the author of Graphic Design: A New History. It turns out that he had read my Christmas wish list on Flush, where I had crossed off his book from my list because I read in a guest review on Design Observer that the book wasn’t that good.

Mr. Eskilson suggested that I check it out from a library and give it a real look myself. Giving him the benefit of the doubt and trying to be fair with everyone’s work, I immediately looked up his book on my local library’s website. There was one available at the library near my work, so I decided to go to work early and check out the book before starting my shift. But after about twenty minutes of looking around the library, including with the help of a library staff, it turns out that the book was missing. Frustrated at my search and at Mr. Eskilson’s comment, I gave up and went to work.

That was seven weeks ago. I haven’t done anything about it since, but I don’t see a real urgency to do so. A little more research revealed that Mr. Eskilson is an associate professor in the Art Department at Eastern Illinois University, specializing in Art History, according to the school’s website. And with a reread of the review, I’ve come to a temporary conclusion that Mr. Eskilson sees graphic design from an art history perspective and may not fully understand the mind and the essence of graphic design.

Now, I may not be as educated in art history and in life as Mr. Eskilson, nor do I know how much graphic design experience Mr. Eskilson has had, but I am more inclined to take the word of a graphic designer than that of an art historian when it comes to the subject of graphic design. Still, Mr. Eskilson deserves a fair review from me before I make my final decision on whether I should have this book in my design library. After all, Mr. Eskilson approached me in a relatively polite manner and closed his letter with “best, Stephen.” And I just discovered yesterday that his book is available again at the library, so I will most likely check it out in the next few weeks or so.

I won’t post what was said in Mr. Eskilson’s comments, although he mentioned that I might find one of the reviewers “had a real ax to grind.” I might risk looking stupid, but I honestly don’t know what that really means. I know it’s not something good, but other than that I’m stumped (semi-pun semi-intended).


What Am I Doing? (Apr 2008)


A month flies by so fast sometimes, especially when you’re working almost every day. Working at Peet’s has been “learningful.” Not only did I learn about coffee and tea in general, I also experienced firsthand the corporate branding trickling all the way down to the sales floor, both in visual design and business management.

Other than the freelance route, I believe that organizational hierarchy and communication are essential to success and growth in any job out there. I am fortunate to work with a group of knowledgeable and experienced people who aren’t afraid to teach others and newbies like me their tricks and provide really useful advice. It’s not as if they were competitive and afraid that I would take their jobs somehow, especially when almost all of us have the same positions. And as “upper management” has shown us, my coworkers and I are a team; we all work together, and we are only as strong as our weakest link and all that good stuff.

I don’t think I’m revealing any company insider secrets here, but I really like the fact that Peet’s places great emphasis on two main things: quality service and quality products. Customers and fresh coffee pretty much sit next to each other at the top of Peet’s list of importance, as they should be. While it’s not possible to guarantee 100% quality on everything all the time, I still do my best everyday to make sure those two goals are achieved, and I feel proud to associate myself with an organization whose ideals are such.

Peet’s and Design Business

That sense of pride is partly due to my background in design (I say “background” like I’ve had decades of experience, haha). The way I see it, from the perspective of a baby designer with little or no “professional” design business experience, the design business is about the client and what you produce for that client. Design is about listening to what the audience and client want, but at the same time, it’s also about what you make to meet their needs and wants.

In the month that I’ve been at Peet’s, I’ve begun to develop relationships with the regulars. Every regular has his/her own unique personality and quirks, and I had to readjust to address each of them differently. Some are real cool, and some are… not so much. I feel that (and I know that) I’m going to encounter clients like that when I do design full-time. Some clients are gonna micromanage, just like some of the Peet’s customers who watch everything you do in preparing their coffee. And some are more carefree and trust you and your knowledge about coffee/design so that they get the best darn product that your skills could produce for them.


Since my last monthly update, I had worked on my home page some more, continuing with the transparency concept. I know that in a real project, I really shouldn’t work on the home page until the end (nor should I take this long to build a web site). But I feel that since this is a beta site, it’s the most seen page, so the design should reflect my concept for the site so that new visitors can immediately get a sense of what’s happening and will come back if they like what they see.

So in short, I’m not going to do much else until this home page is done, as much as it pains me to not have enough time to do anything else in the mean time. But the good news is that I think I’m almost done with the design. The remaining issues are 1) how to place the slideshow “screen” on a faux-transparency while sticking to that grid I had, and 2) a more interesting background, possibly changing based on the time of day.

I believe I will resolve these in the new few weeks, and hopefully, it’ll be sooner than later.

Design Opportunities

Two weeks ago, I saw on HOW’s design blog a fellowship opportunity at Chronicle Books. It seems like a really cool gig and I really want to do this, but seeing how the deadline is at the end of this month, I don’t think I have the time to put together a solid portfolio and application. It’s a six-month fellowship from July to December, and it pays $15,000 total, which converts to a $30,000/yr salary, which is not too bad. Unlike that teamwork mentality that I was talking about earlier, I was being a little competitive here by withholding informing people about this, especially to my graduating design friends who may be interested in this. But seeing how I probably won’t apply, I figure I should share the wealth and hopefully a Davis graduates gets in.

A few days ago, a good good design friend forwarded me about an immediate job opening within her company, and other than the 2–3 years professional experience and QuarkXPress requirement, my commitment at Peet’s is preventing me from doing anything else any time soon. And that made me think about what I will be doing in the next few months.


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.)


Flash Experiments Portal

Flash Portal screenshot, in progress

Worked on the Flash experiments portal today. Making something look like something else proved difficult, but I think that when one is done with it, satisfaction takes over.

I’m not done with it yet, though. I still have to:

  • Code it so the width of the frames on the timeline are determined by the length of the frame label, but still conform to the 8px widths of individual frames.
  • Make it work in IE 7 (grr.)
  • Make the arrows clickable to expand/collapse the folder (which I practiced in the web experiments section), and have the arrow and folder icons change accordingly.
  • Make it have auto horizontal scrolling instead of a defined body width.

At first, I wanted to make the portal Flash-based, but I figured that might be too crazy and not that accessible if people have slow connections or don’t have Flash Player installed. This is a fun alternative, I believe.


A Bit of Beta House Cleaning

I did a bit of site house cleaning today. I know, I don’t have that much on my beta site to clean yet, but I made some messes while creating those pages, like writing messy non-validatable XHTML and illegal characters, as well as inconsistent page titling.

Screen shot of Alternating Background Colors Web Experiment Page

I also began a format for the web experiment pages, which I’m bound to change so they’d go more with the rest of the site, which has yet to be created. I’m starting to see that this entire site is going to some time to build. But I don’t feel defeated at all; I am so excited to see how this site is going to turn out. Anyway, less talk, more walk.


Background Change By Time

Been a few days since posting an update on the web site. Before you make snap judgments on the image below, hear me out. That’s not how the site is going to look, exactly. Think of the idea, the concept behind it. Concept, concept, concept.

The point is that I figured out how to control color using time, as well as brightness and saturation control just like the HSB panel in Photoshop and the like. This might be a sarcastic BFD for geeky programmers, but I’m still proud that I figured this out in one night, part of it without power because of some storm.

Background Change By Time

Three versions of the beta site with a different background color at different time of day.

I may or may not continue applying a time-based background color on the home page. This is actually the same saturation and brightness as the original dull blue background color, but I guess it’s just too bright and saturated-looking in other hues.

Shaun Inman

The idea for this came from Shaun Inman’s site, which I heard about from a (relatively) recent BADG podcast interviewing Shaun Inman. His site has a changing background that repeats every year, and on top of that, his older articles fade to white as a metaphor that writings on web programming and such get outdated very quickly over time, even stuff written in 2002.

I will continue to play around with the background color; I’ll probably make it darker and muted if I was to keep the script on the home page, because frankly, I don’t really have a strong concept and reason like Shaun’s to have the script on the home page.

The process of writing the script is documented under Experiments > Web > JavaScript.