The Web Designer’s Idea Book

The ultimate guide to themes, trends, and styles in website design

By Patrick McNeil
Published by HOW Books
250 pages; $25.00

The catalog of web themes, trends, and styles in The Web Designer’s Idea Book captures the state of web design, circa 2008. Patrick McNeil arranges hundreds of sites by type (blog, forum, e-commerce), by style (retro, minimalist, photographic), by theme (nature, food, clouds), by element (icons, rounded corners, stripes), by structure (tabs, tiny, buckets), and by color. Introduced with a brief essay, each style is illustrated with representative full-color screen grabs, and accompanied by a sample color palette. URLs are included for further exploration. One the one hand, the book is a fascinating visual guide to the infinite variety of web design. On the other, it also spotlights one design cliché after another as designers rely on tried and true themes to communicate, organize their ideas, and attempt to present content in interesting ways. With the exception of the truly adventurous explorations in the section on site design by structure, The Web Designer’s Idea Book may not inspire new ideas, but it will serve as an effective reference for current design thinking on the web. Who knew clouds were a web design theme?


At Wordstrong our clients come first

I had my finger in the zeitgeist; they had their fingers…somewhere else.

One Taste, the people that brought Naked Yoga to the world, and a former client of mine, were featured in the Sunday New York Times. The story was remarkably even-handed and handled the subject of a group of 35 sexual adventurers, revolutionaries, and explorers in a non-judgmental or inflammatory way.

My work for One Taste was strictly limited to branding, consulting, and copywriting. Unfortunately. But as you can imagine, I never missed a client meeting.


Email Blasts Made Simple

More blast for your buck

A new email newsletter and downloadable template from Campaign Monitor makes it easier than ever to reach out to clients with good looking, effective email campaigns.

Designed expressly with graphic designers in mind, Campaign Monitor is a web-based service that makes it simple to send good looking HTML “permission-based” email blasts to thousands) of recipients. For designers who want to promote their studio’s efforts, or offer email campaign services to their clients, Campaign Monitor is indispensable. Simply send in your HTML design, and Campaign Monitor tests your design against more than a dozen popular email clients, runs it through spam filters and firewalls, and even raises response rates by personalizing the emails you send. Subscriber management tools let you build any number of mailing lists for different clients and diverse campaigns, and import a list of contact names from a standard delimited text file. Reporting tools provide at-a-glance statistics revealing who opened your email, linked through to destination pages, unsubscribed, or forwarded the email to a friend. For those who build campaigns for clients, Campaign Monitor can provide access from a client’s website to a list of previous campaigns. Resources include 33 free ready-made templates, a gallery of exemplary newsletter campaigns, and a getting started guide. Pricing is cheap: 5 bucks a blast, plus a penny for each email address you send to.


Pepsi gets a new logo; Arnell Group gets a black eye

Muddying the water so it looks deep.

Look familiar?
The Pepsi logo captures the best thinking of Western Civ. Or not.

Every now and then a piece of marketing hoo-ha comes along that is just so over the top, so full of BS, so arrantly wrongheaded that you have to look at the calendar just to check that it isn’t April 1st.

OK, so I may be the last person in the world to have seen the Pepsi Breathtaking marketing platform put out by the Arnell Group (the people who brought you the failed Tropicana packaging) in support of the new Pepsi logo, but I can’t help but be amazed at the thinking (or lack of it) that went into the preparation of this document. You can’t help but think, somewhere at Arnell a newly minted Brown graduate is pumping his fist and saying to himself, “I knew that Liberal Arts degree would come in handy one day!”

Despite what you think of the logo (I like it just fine, by the way) the strategy document that explains the logo design by invoking the golden mean, the Mona Lisa, Vitruvian Man, the Fibonacci Sequence and the earth’s magnetic field is a mess. I’m still half hoping that someone from Arnell will pop out on April Fools Day and shout “Just kidding!”

In 27 pages a clear thought fails to escape
the gravitational field of this document.

It’s not Breathtaking. It’s jaw-dropping. Or as the good ol’ boys say down south, “It’s too much candy for a nickel.”


Polaroid Technology Lives On

Shake it like a Pola-droid
Polaroid understood instant pictures. But, married to their proprietary film technology, they missed out on the digital camera revolution. Despite their bankruptcy, there is still a way to share the love of instant imaging, the super saturated colors, and the anticipation as you watched your image come to life in the palm of your hand. Thanks to Dominik Fusina (alias Paul Ladroid), Polaroids live on at www.poladroid.net. Simply download the app, drag a jpeg onto the desktop icon of an old Polaroid, and wait, wait, wait for your image to develop. A grabby hand icon lets you shake the image while you wait. A timer alerts you when your image is ready to print in 400 dpi resolution.

So the film is gone: the white bordered instant prints, the incredibly foul smelling fixative you has to squeegee over the film, the Saturday night live parody of the SX -70 Cheese Slicer… all will become dim memories. And yet, the Poladroid site is finding an audience of Polaroid fanatics. According to Paul Ladroid’s own stats, he’s received over 300,000 downloads. The numbers reveal there’s still a deep longing in the photography community for those ghostly images appearing before your eyes and the sense of wonder in never knowing exactly how your picture will turn out.

See what develops...


Technology Made Simple

As simple as possible, but no simpler

Remember the 1993 movie Philadelphia, in which Denzel Washington plays a small time homophobic lawyer who asks a witness to “explain this to me like I'm a six-year-old”? Well that’s exactly what Lee and Sachi LeFever of Common Craft do with high tech concepts for clients including Google, Redfin, and Boeing. Using crude low-tech devices like cut out paper dolls, hand-drawn sketches, and, well, even their own hands, they explain high tech concepts like Twitter, Pod Casting, and Social Networking in an informal voice over so simple even the most fearful technophobic Luddite would get it.

While some agencies demonstrate technology with razzle dazzle special effects, and try to awe their viewers with whizzy Flash techniques while selling sizzle, Common Craft understands they are in the explanation business. No matter how complex the subject Common Craft keeps it simple. You can view their free videos at the Common Craft Show where they explain everything from RSS and Online Photo Sharing to Wikis and the proper use of CFL light bulbs. Corporate influencers who want to get their companies to adopt some of the technologies explained by Common Craft can purchase high resolution downloads of these videos for use in the workplace.