In part — it’s just that time of year. In part — Mercury Retrograde time — I was thinking and reassessing design goals. Less about “design” and more about where — and how — I want my material to look.
Brief, Mercury Retrograde-inspired, reverie: two paper catalogs come to mind. One was from REI when it was a socialist-inspired co-op housed in an aging and slightly decrepit Seattle warehouse. Long before it was fashionable, the whole catalog, think along the lines of the Whole Earth Catalog, the whole REI catalog was shot by members and staff, and then, I am basically more textual than anything other form, the copy, albeit uneven, was occasionally brilliant in that slightly snarky, honest way. Think: proto-hipsters, young, outdoor-clad, Seattle-natives.
There are elements of that catalog that I still carry forward, even to this day.
Why copy-writing can be so important.
The other catalog, from a narrow window of my life, was a Yvon Chouniard item that was different. The company was then headquartered in Northern Cal., safe guess with zero research, and the catalog itself was on heavy, thick, brown paper, and much narrower than a regular 8X10 print form. Fewer images, more white-space, crisp descriptions. Enlightened, informed, entertained, and, of course, sold product that was, at the time, probably manufactured in the United States.
The long, thin look of that catalog plus its product, the layout, the descriptions, all part of what I was thinking, part of my process, as I liked that paper catalog. I wanted that feeling.
On one of the sites I peruse, as much for ideas as for actual content, there was a brief collection of images to get that “Aged Leather” feel for web pages.
I have an old saddle-bag brief case, more than two decades old, made by a famous saddle-maker’s son, custom piece of work in itself, and perfect, too. I used that briefcase extensively in both my undergraduate career and professionally, until backpacks and messenger bags subsumed its uses.
Over the course of the last few years, I have dragged it out, conditioned the leather, and used that time-worn leather-saddlebag briefcase at shows and for travel.
The one site, gave me pause to think about using a simple image of the grain of the briefcase as a background, or a pattern, or inspiration for design elements to include in an overhaul of the site’s look and feel.
I tried a few digital images of leather, then, as I was writing, I thought about an old, leather-bound book I’ve got, that might work, too.
What I really wanted, though, is the simplified look and feel that the blog currently has running. As of this writing, I’m also pleased with the main site’s current look. There’s an ease that comes with this, many long years of refining an approach, I finally got the content delivery aligned with production so I have as few steps as possible.
The current framework, the backend, the technical specifications are all in place. There’s dynamic delivery of specified elements, a rock-steady framework, and the best price-performance for hosting that I can find, with an extra eye for security.
All I have to do is cast charts and write up analysis. The work I want.
At one point, I was thinking of running a background image, just a small sample, repeated over and over, “tiled,” is the term, of that warm, smooth leather. But personally, especially considering how much web browsing I do on a tablet or phone? I hate the wait for the images to download then splash up in the background. I toyed with it, then tossed the idea. Nice presentation — doesn’t work for me.
I was going to change the color scheme every time the Sun shifted into a new sign, but again, too much trouble, no one noticed, and I prefer simplicity against complex design choices. Automation over hand-coded and elaborate eloquence.
Just easier to let the processor do the heavy lifting. Makes me lazy, in a good way.