My Friends Make Art is a blog initiative featuring my friends’ creative works and interviews about their individual explorations. Whether they be visual artists, writers, musicians, designers, dancers, etc., here, we will explore their work, processes, and inspirations.
"Unless internet users unite in defense of net neutrality, we could be seeing those dreaded ‘loading’ wheels a lot more often on some of our favorite websites, while monopolistic companies get to decide which content gets seen by the most people." Don’t know what Net Neutrality is? John Oliver can explain
I’m getting ready to do the Bike MS: City to Shore Ride this September and you can help!
Multiple sclerosis affects millions of people, including our loved ones, families, friends and co-workers. That’s why I’ve registered for Bike MS. Bike MS is a ride (not a race) that brings us together to make a difference and each mile we ride brings us closer to a world free of MS.
Your gift today will help support MS research, programs and services, and more. Please make your tax-deductible donation below.
I’ll be posting my progress as well as any milestones with this hashtag: #BikeMS.
With rain clouds threatening overhead, we ventured from our apartments, homes, and condos donning the mandatory white apparel, while toting food, chairs, tables — everything we would need for this years Diner en blanc.
Having done this the year before, I thought I knew what to expect, but it was so much better this year. Located on one of the prettiest and most well-known streets of Philadelphia (Broad St.) during one of the mildest summers on-record, we set up our table, chairs, and charcuterie.
Many people ask me what’s the point - ‘you pay to bring your own table, chairs, and food and then you sit there and eat it. You can do that at home.’ Well what you’re paying for is the closure of the area in which the event happens. You pay for the music, the security, etc. I mean - when are you ever going to eat a fancy dinner under a street light on one of the busiest streets in your city?!
You’re paying for a chance to celebrate your city in a flash-mob of your fellow city-lovers. If you’ve never done it before, I recommend finding a friend who has to bring you next year. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get the DEB-fever.
In the end, it was a fabulous night with friends on a gorgeous summer night in one of the most picturesque parts of Philly.
For those who don’t know, An Event Apart is a design/development web conference for professionals working to improve user experience, web standards as well as raise the level of and redefine the standards of web design aesthetic.
My coworker and I were sent to the most recent AEA in DC this July. While I expected the majority of people there to be developers and designers, there were also some copywriters and project managers. The most impressive aspect of this conference is how universally accessible the knowledge is to those who attend.
The sheer amount of information from this conference could fill an entire book, but instead I’ve picked my top three takeaways to share with you.
First up, Chris Coyier’s presentation on SVGs was beyond enlightening. SVGs are vector based images that don’t pixelate or degrade when resized, and are usually much smaller file weights compared to the JPGs and PNGs that are used more commonly nowadays.
(photo: Chris Coyier’s SVG is for Everybody)
SVGs can have multiple colors, the developer can target different elements of an SVG in the code (for color, animation, etc.). One of the coolest things was seeing him take the file in Illustrator copy and paste it into the code editor. Voila! SVG’d.
In the end, Chris inspired me to use SVGs by showing me how easy and helpful their usage can be.
“It’s becoming the new buzzword,” Jaimee Newberry claims about the word ‘empathy’ in her presentation, Designing Engagement, ”but we don’t have to let it.” She’s right, too. We’re starting to overuse the term empathy and with every misuse, the word loses it’s original meaning and intent. It’s our job to not let “empathy” become the new “literally.”
(photos: left - Jeffrey Zeldman’s Understanding Web Design, right - Jonathan Hoefler’s Putting the Fonts into Web Fonts)
If you’re empathetic you’re able not to just relate to someone, but more accurately put yourself in their place, because you’ve been in their place before. What does this have to do with designing and development, you may ask?
With all the new technology, shared methods of design and optimized standards flowing around, it’s easy to get swept up in what’s new and cutting edge and fun. But as Jeffrey Zeldman put it, “we don’t design for browsers, or displays - we design for people.”
One of the most useful tools in any designer/developers arsenal is the ability to create a great user experience. This can only be done if the user is the end-goal, not the cool new effects we can create using CSS3/jQuery, etc.
(photo: Luke Wroblewski’s Screen Time)
Finally, empathy is not just something we use and design for, it’s our ability to work with others and recognize it in others. One of the most surprising presentations at AEA was Whitney Hess’s The Integral Designer: Developing You. In this presentation she talks about your social and emotional intelligence (SEI profile).
Anyone who has worked with web designers and developers knows that communication isn’t always as smooth as you’d like. It’s not because people aren’t communicating at all, it’s more because people communicate in so many ways, consciously and unconsciously that messages get lost in the melee.
Hess tells us the best way to make our work better is to focus on four quadrants as they relate to ourselves: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.
I’m only going to discuss how you relate with others and interact with others on a daily basis. Hess titles it, social awareness, or empathy. Those who struggle with empathy “assume they know how other [people] feel, have a hard time ‘reading’ people, are often surprised by what someone has said or done, wait for their turn to talk - planning their response, and believe everyone thinks like they do.”
The best way to improve on your own social awareness is to listen. Take in the environment around you and focus on how people are interacting with each other. “Understand how others’ perspectives differ from your own.” What are people striving towards? What drives them? Once you’ve ascertained that, then work with others and have your views come from a place they can respect and relate.
Content is King
(photo: Jared Spool’s UX Strategy Means Business)
Content, content, CONTENT! It was the Marsha Brady topic of this conference. In fact, this concept was covered in arguably every single presentation from DC’s An Event Apart.
It was discussed in Jared Spool’s UX Strategy Means Business presentation, where he declares, “content is king, but strategy is key.” In essence, the key to successful design and business is “delightful content” which “adds real value” to the product and the user’s experience.
(photo: left - Jonathan Hoefler’s Putting the Fonts in Webfonts)
And then again in Dan Mall’s Responsive Design is Still Hard/Easy! Be Afraid/Don’t Worry!, where he breaks down his web process by adding a content inventory step. This is where the client and designer figure out the site map and informational structure, helping to design and develop with all the variables known prior to construction.
Content is the name of the game on the web. If you’ve got the user’s attention it may be because it was easy to access or designed well, but if you want to keep their attention? Make sure the content is top notch.
A Whirlwind …
In the end, An Event Apart was an incredibly fun, educational, and useful conference. I recommend it for anyone who works with the web either directly or indirectly.
I also want to thank Squarespace who sponsored an awesome lounge to relax in (barista and free coffee included) and Lynda.com who provided great promos to their site.
And even if you can’t ever make it to an AEA conference, I highly recommend following the speakers from the conference for tips on best practices and conversations about the web and user experience:
I’m currently working on a freelance project. It’s super exciting and I can’t wait to tell you more about that later, but in the process of my work I’ve been using kuler to help develop color schemes.
Some didn’t fit the bill of the project, but as I went through I found there were some I loved, and even some that elicited memories, smells, sights, and sounds as they combined. Here are just a few of my recent favorites. Enjoy!
Music, food, friends, and fun - what more could you want from a Summer Party? I’m sad I didn’t bring my real camera, but I wanted to experience this event, not photograph it so these shots are just what I took on my phone with vscocam.
So many great groups representing Philly were there. First off, I have to give a shout out to my friend and amazing entrepreneur, creator and founder of Hooley Coloring, Alli Blum. Hooley is coloring for grown-ups and they teamed up with Philly Love Notes and had special post-cards at the event where you could color and then write your love note! Super fun. Be sure to keep an eye out for upcoming events with Hooley.
The Spring Art Star Craft Bazaar is an outdoor retail art/craft show that is organized & juried by Philadelphia’s Art Star Gallery & Boutique. Over 100 local & national artists have been selected to set up shop & sell their wares at the Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing. Shoppers can expect high quality handmade goods that reflect the unique & often quirky aesthetic found at Art Star’s popular retail shop. Art Star has carefully curated a diverse collection of artists that create anything & everything, including housewares, paper goods, dolls, prints, ceramics, clothing, accessories, paintings/drawings, sculpture, and many other one-of-a-kind curiosities. All items have been handmade from a variety of mediums that include fabric, clay, glass, wood, paper & much more. The event will also include interactive craft demonstrations / make & takes for the entire family by local artists & art organizations including paper crafts, screen printing, relief sculpture, heat transfers and more! Live music by local Philly bands presented by Philebrity – all day, each day.