Art = Work

A Manual Kerning Method for the Web

a post on Development

In web typography circles you can’t go celebrating all the shiny new features released over recent years without someone lamenting the lack of kerning. Sure, foundries are doing a fantastic job identifying and correcting for kerning pairs in their fonts, and Open-type features are allowing such intriguing new CSS properties as “kerning”, but both fall short of the exacting control we type nerds are used to from not-so-distant days driving Adobe interfaces.

Web Design Power Tools

a post on Process

For years there have been whispers of “The One Web Design App”: a Fireworks/In-Design/Dreamweaver monster that will allow us to work exactly as we think best, with impeccable front-end output. It is a beautiful idea, but I’m not sure such an app would be helpful to anyone. Instead of looking for one app with one reactive approach to an onslaught of problems, we need a continual array of smart, focused tools that can be developed so quick as to almost anticipate the industry’s needs.

Responsive Advertising: A Ranged Solution

a post on Critical Thinking

We need a solution to responsive advertising, or else most of our efforts to promote adaptive layouts to large-scale websites will be squashed by cold, hard business reality. There will likely need to be new tools built, old ones adapted, and thousands to convince. But, by defining how we – the web design community that will have to work with these requirements – think this would best be solved, and getting our ideas in early, we can be influential in bringing about a solution that solves everyone’s needs. Afterall, that’s what we do every day, right?

Contexts Change, Design Must Adapt

a post on Process

The last six months have seemed like two years, or maybe just two weeks. It changes based on my angle of reflection. My wife and I moved from Texas, USA, to Wales, UK, and I have absorbed a morbidly-obese amount of knowledge working with the team at Mark Boulton Design. The entire process has been bittersweet, but mostly sweet, and each new experience has exposed new areas in which to grow.

These lessons-learned have compelled me to a redesign, the focus of which has mainly been typographic proportion: between content styles, between type areas and negative space, and between levels of contrast. I also added areas to highlight my writings for other sites and the series of tools I have been developing to make web designers’ lives a bit easier (MIN and Fount, so far).

Hope you enjoy! – Nathan

Design for a Target Experience First

a post on Process

The construction of a site or app should be dictated by the content and the goals of the operators. Recently, Luke Wroblewski and others have popularised the idea of “Mobile First”, which suggests that the process of designing an experience for mobile screens at the onset is ideal, as it constrains us to focus on only what is important. But designing “Mobile First” is as arbitrary as designing “Desktop First”. While I applaud the spirit of the concept, we may be diving headlong into another catchphrase that will need unlearning later.

Beyond the Generalist: Be Mega

a post on Process

There are many shapes good designers aspire to fill: T-shapes, I-shapes, Ninja Turtles. Rockstars, even. After working at a five person (at most) shop for three years, I have seen how T-Shapes work well, but I know we generalists can push our skill sets further. Ts leave a lot to be desired; there is a lot of missing knowledge and experience on the sides. A generalist can and should be more rounded. To put a metaphor on it: I strive to be Mega Man. For those of you that didn’t misspend your youth on video games, let me explain.

The Tao of Support

a post on Process

Support is the most important feature of any app. When we released Unify nearly two years ago, I was only equipped with customer service skills dulled by the years since my lackluster retail jobs in college, and an all-consuming drive to make sure people got the most satisfaction from our product. In the duration since, I have learned how to support human beings and how to face an onslaught. While I could probably write a all-too-lengthy article on the subject, I found a passage from the Tao Te Ching this weekend that perfectly summarizes my top-level thoughts on Support.

The Form of the Book, Digested

a post on Typography

The Form of the Book, by Jan Tschichold, is the authority on book design and the best book I have ever read on typography (and I’ve read many, mind you). As a web designer this book taught me how to set readable, easy-to-digest blocks of type. As the lead designer on Unit Interactive’s recently launched Curations series, I found new relevance in these pages. The principles of setting type to be read and laying out a harmonious page transcend medium and materials. A solid understanding of the fundamentals detailed in this book will make any designer better. Instantly.

Hair of the Dog

a post on Professional Life

My first true creative love was writing. As early as I can remember, I told stories. I have been focused for while now on growing an app I created named Unify, as well as writing professionally for the Unit Blog and Smashing Mag. All of these experieces have been tremendously rewarding, but none have given me the same satisfaction as pure creative writing – writing to no purpose but my own.

So, I am rededicating this site with a new design and a new purpose. We will still talk about design, development, and the like… but I am warning you: it may get weird.

Sincerely, Nathan Ford

The Case for Logic

a post on Process

Too often, I hear design referred to in terms generally reserved for grade-school art classes. We, as professionals in this industry, are expected to throw out rules, eschew convention, and break down any barriers to our wild creative whims. Armed with this sentiment—their egos checked only by their client’s limited pocket books—many creatives brazenly tromp down the path less traveled, knee high in the formless mirth of their fantasies, with no regard for efficacy or financial return.

The Virtue of Fear

a post on Process

Fear can be a designer’s asset, or instrumental in their own creative impotence. As designers, we need not fear fear itself, only be mindful of how it is focused.

I do not consider myself an overly emotional being, so please note that this article’s indulgence in one particular emotion is not to promote all emotions, all the time. In fact, I am particularly focusing on the ways in which we can control these emotions, specifically: fear, so that they need not override our professional behaviors (yes, I am still talking about creative people here).

What Can We Learn from Pro Wrestling?

a post on Process

Pro-wrestling has long been a pariah of intellectuals. And no industry considers itself smarter than the creative world. I say, though, we should not be so quick to judge a wrestler by his banana hammock. Considering pro-wrestling’s successful tenure, spanning 50 plus years pandering to the lowest common denominators in entertainment, and its ability to continually survive countless attacks volleyed from the trebuchets of polite society, there might yet be a few gems of knowledge that we as marketers, advertisers and creatives can adapt from our more aggressive, muscle-bound, kindred spirits. Such as…