design

200910111000.jpg

200910110922.jpg

One of the things that's been on my bucket list for a while is to start a t-shirt company. I'm surrounded by people with great artistic talents and keen senses of humor, and it seems a shame to let those ideas languish among such a small group, so what better way to spread them than by sporting them around all day on your upper body? CafePress is one of several services that let's you get started selling printed products without a serious outlay in funds. If you're designs take off, you can always take your designs to your own site. I also also ordered a shirt from Zazzle.com so I could compare and contrast. In case you're thinking about ordering some custom shirts, here's a couple of differences between the two services:

  1. CafePress is a significantly cheaper. It cost me around $20 for each shirt, and shipping was free. Zazzle cost $25 plus $4 shipping, making it a $29 shirt. I don't remember ever spending that on a t-shirt before.
  2. Zazzle has bigger printing area by 68 square inches. CafePress is 10x10, Zazzle is 12x14 and you can have it horizontal or vertical.
  3. Zazzle has a nice tool for seeing your shirt on a variety of models of different shapes and sizes. CafePress just has the shirt, no model.
  4. The process of designing the CafePress shirt went more smoothly and had a few more options.

I decided to start real simple and created a t-shirt around a misspoken phrase I heard the other day which gave me a nice laugh. It's a little obscure, but the project was designed to get me started with the creative process and test out the quality of printing over at CafePress. I also ordered a shirt to advertise one of my recent ventures at geeky events. I purposefully chose a single color, and did a light-on-dark and a dark-on-light to see the differences. Both came out pretty nice, with crisp edges and bold ink. I put them through a wash, and they didn't shrink or flake. The white ink is raised up like a typically silk screen shirt, and the black is more like a dye without any raising. The neck is a little tight, but the shirt (I ordered large, fitted American Apparel shirts) is soft and long - a feature severely lacking in a lot of men's t-shirts.

Once I get my Zazzle order I'll post a bit more contrasting the quality of the printing and shirts.



I've been on a T-shirt designing kick lately, and put together a simple design for an upcoming talk I might be doing at the next Ignite Boise on Extreme Productivity. In the process of designing the shirt, I wasn't able to find a GPL / Creative Commons licensed flow chart of a GTD-inspired process, so I downloaded OmniGraffle and put together my first flow chart ever! I've packaged up the files (black and white and color versions, both OmniGraffle and a transparent high-resolution PNGs) which you can download below, licensed as Creative Commons.

200910080939.jpg 200910080945.jpg


At DrupalCamp Colorado, Stephanie Pakrul and Jay Wolf spoke about the new module Skinr and how it relates to Panels for theming, and I left the session with a few pleasant goosebumps. For the uninitiated - as I was - Skinr is a module sponsored by Gravitek Labs which allows themes to expose style presets to blocks. The upshot is that once you create a nice style, you can allow users to apply the styles to virtually any area of a page with a couple clicks. This effectively incorporates several principles that have up until this point been applicable mostly to modules, like reuse of code, config-based changes and ... well ... general modularity. I could immediately see that this was an idea with really big potential. Even in its infancy, the Skinr module can do some pretty neat stuff.

Along these lines, Top Notch Themes did a pre-release of their new Fusion theme which incorporates Skinr functionality. The folks at TNT have really been quite genius with their positioning of the Fusion theme, and I think they have really wrapped their minds around where theming is headed over the next couple of years. Their base message is that Fusion is the only theme you'll ever need - a tall order for any one theme, and an interesting proposition. The theme is grid-based and comes in fluid or fixed 960 variety, and a plethora of styles are made available through Skinr for layout and look and feel.

The main purpose of the Fusion base theme, however, is not to provide a look and feel, but rather to supply a solid foundation for sub-themes and - get this - pluggable, extensible style packs (my term). So, instead of having to cut and paste stylesheets and images from one theme to another, instead you paste these style packs in. I really like this idea. Fusion will ship - I believe - with an example sub-theme that looks pretty decent out of the box. Fusion also exposes some nice configuration options you don't see in a lot of themes, like font settings and setting the default text in several areas of the site.

Fusion will be released into Drupal contrib, and then TNT will be selling sub-themes on their site. The fact that they will be moving their themes to Fusion says something really important about Skinr and Fusion. If a leading Drupal company that needs the support of the community to survive is throwing their weight behind these technologies, it's a good indication that it's something to watch very carefully.

I think the move to create a one-size-fits-all, highly modular theme is inevitable, and comes at an excellent time considering how important it is to the Drupal community to attract more designers and themers. I also think it's a daunting task that can be accelerated if there is a model to drive the development commercially, alongside community development, so I appreciate TNT's and Gravitek's roles in this venture. The ability to create 'style packs' (again, my term), is another way that themers can contribute, and Fusion / Skinr will allow designers to do an awful lot of design without worrying about theming. That's pretty powerful stuff.

I'm really looking forward to seeing how this moves forward. TNT and Gravitek have their work cut out for them, but I hope that quickly it will become a minor movement to change the way we look at theming from here on out.



Skip to the video

To celebrate by recent release from employment, I spent several days busting my butt to put the sexy back in administration. Namely, I updated the Drupal Navigate module to include some new features, and to fix some long-standing bugs that had been making administrators feel less than sexy for the last several months.

navigate.jpg

For the uninitiated, Navigate is an administration module that works a little like Administration Menu. It loads a sidebar with widgets which allow users to search the menu, nodes or users, construct favorite lists, and load up expandable / collapsable menus. It works really well for clients who aren't used to Drupal. The newest release allows admins to set default widget sets, and adjust user sets. You can also theme it (a funky lemon theme is included as an example).

There's a video demo below, but here's a quick list of improvements made in this release:

  • Made snappier through quicker transitions and fewer ajax calls
  • Added ability to manage default widget sets for users and user roles (all ajax, btw)
  • Made theming Navigate really easy
  • Fixed compatibility issues with Administration Menu
  • Added keyboard shortcuts
  • Added XHTML compliance
  • Added import / export ability for Favorites and for entire widget sets, so you can quickly deploy a set from one site to another
  • Added 'customize' permission, to keep *certain* users from messing up their own sets
  • Added ability to search users
  • Squashed some bugs
  • Re-factored lots of code to be more Drupal-esque
  • Made some minor layout adjustments

I'm hoping to put in some work to help with the current administration tools in D7, but before that, I needed to grease my wheels a bit with some contrib work to to anchor some jQuery techniques I'd learned, and re-familiarize myself with D6. It feels good getting so much done so fast. You can do that with contrib work, but it's hard to be that productive in core Drupal. Things just move at a different pace there. Now that I've gotten a bit out of my system, I think I can crack down a bit and start seeing what I can do for core.

And here's the demo video to celebrate Issue Queue Zero (at least for the D6 version):




Last weekend I attended DrupalCamp Colorado, and thought I should jot down a few of my personal highlights.

The Hostel

I reserved a dorm bed at a local hostel. Maybe the creepiest place I've ever been. When you register, on the counter is a ventriloquist doll, folded in half with it's legs behind his head. Next to the doll is a communal bowl of chips. Like, potato chips. BBQ flavored. Now, I appreciate the sharing attitude, but would have been far more comfortable plunging my hand into a bowl of individually wrapped candies. After a series of strange events which I hesitate to recount (just in case involved parties are tracking my posts) but which kind of pushed me over the edge of creepiness, a fellow attendee offered to let me stay at his place, and I gratefully accepted. After I presented at one session, someone who actually stayed at the hostel let me know that out of a couple of months of traveling through Europe and Asia, the Denver hostel was the dirtiest he'd seen, and I'd done good by not staying there. The result is a good story with lots of embellishments if you're (un?)fortunate enough to hear the whole tale in person.

The Sessions

I ended up attending a lot of sessions, which I haven't done at previous camps / Drupalcons. I got some good stuff out of the security session with Greg Knaddison, Ezra Gildesgame and Ben Jeavons. Also, got some D6 theming goodness, presented by Stephanie Pakrul and Jay Wolf from Top Notch Themes. The stuff going on with the Skinr module really got me excited, and hearing how TNT improved their conversion rates so drastically using just a few intuitive techniques and very little time was excellent. Ended up sitting in on a few sessions that were a little under my point on the learning curve, but I enjoyed those as well because I was watching for presentation styles, since I gave my first session ever on Sunday.

Good wifi access, fun backchannel discussion, excellent lunch with TNT people and my friend Josh Brauer. There was enough time between sessions to get some socializing done (my favorite part of Drupal events) and meet some Denver folks.

The People

I got a really good vibe from everyone at the Camp. In contrast to Drupalcon (I'm still pretty green when it comes to Drupal events), I enjoyed the atmosphere of a smaller event. Ended up talking to the same people several times, and felt less lost in the crowd. I met a lot of people I'd love to chat with again, and got to put a lot of faces to names I'd only seen in IRC. I came home seriously considering the idea of taking an extended vacation (6 months or a couple years) in the area, just to be around such an active, fun bunch of Drupal folks. The experience anchored my resolution to attend a decent-sized event at least once every couple of months, to keep connected with the really neat people that make up the Drupal community.

Giving a Presentation

I was thankful to have the opportunity to present a session, and that the audience was probably too sedated by the unlimited pizza lunch to judge me too harshly. It went well, at least from my perspective. I kept on time, didn't freak out, and managed to make a few people laugh. The goal of the session was to jumpstart folks who haven't really taken part in community discourse yet, and go over the basics of getting involved. So hopefully, a couple more folks are a little closer to making that leap, or better yet actually took it. I learned that 45 minutes is pitifully short to cover a subject in-depth, and that it would have been nice to have more time for answering questions and getting feedback about what was missing from the presentation so I can make it better next time.

Conclusionary Stuff

I'm looking forward to presenting again, got a little more excited about doing a DrupalCamp in Idaho, am considering taking my wife back to Denver to evaluate an extended vacation there, learned that if you teach something you end up believing it simply through extended exposure, was surprised at my stamina after waking up at 3am, hope to pay some hospitality forward in turn, and am looking forward to hooking up with a lot of the great folks at the camp again. Oh, and if I get back to Denver I'm totally hitting up Chedds. A grilled cheese bistro? Beautiful.



I made a decision a while back to starting working through the established cannon of usability / user interface design books. The first book I picked up was Designing Visual Interfaces by Kevin Mullet and Darrell Sano. In the book, they break down the different aspects and components of design and offer examples both in software interface design as well as other disciplines like poster and map design. Many of the poster examples were (forgive me if I use the name to broadly) fairly modernist. Probably the most remarkable feature of these pieces was the use of restraint and subtle proportioning.

Restraint is an aspect of design (and life) I've wanted to improve the execution of for quite some time. The irony with restraint, however, is that it can be distracting in excess. Remove too much of the cruft people are used to and they start to miss it. The trick - I assume - will always be in the blending the correct pinch of attractive cruft on a highly focused interface.

The theme of this site is a demonstration of restraint. I attempted to imply divisions and containment rather than make them explicit with lines and boxes. I also attempted to remove any elements that didn't serve the primary purpose of the site, which is helping visitors figure out who the heck this bozo Chris Shattuck is. I think it's reasonably attractive, but I know from experience that I think so only because of overexposure. Bad design is like coffee - it's crap at first, but force it down long enough and you actually start to like the stuff.

So, is this design a decent example of restraint, or has it totally missed the mark?



Syndicate content