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Images that Inspire

Posted on April 15, 2009

Just wanted to share some inspiring photos. Some beautiful, some thought provoking, some just plain weird. Enjoy!



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Creative Inspiration – Part 1

Posted on April 7, 2009

It’s happened to all of us, even the most seasoned design professionals. You sit down at your computer, ready to produce some amazing work for a new project that you are super excited about. You have your mouse in one hand, and some Starbucks in the other. And then?nothing. No ideas. No glimmer of creative brilliance. Now what?

There are many, many different ways to find creative inspiration, and while different things work for different creatives, here are a few things that spark ideas every time. And this is just part one of a two (or more) part series.

Music
For the longest time,
Mike Doughty’s Haughty Melodic could inspire me when nothing else would. I can’t really explain it. There isn’t one specific song, it isn’t because it is a ground-breaking album, he isn’t even one of my top 5 favorite artists. But there’s just something about it that allows me to open my mind, and then the ideas start flowing. I must admit that I haven’t listened to this album for a while, probably at least a year, but I bet that the next time I get stuck and need an idea, I can put on this album, sit back and let the ideas come to me.

Pressure
Believe it or not, I’m most productive, and creative, when there’s pressure. A quick deadline, a new and exciting project, work overload. There’s something about the added pressure that gets my heart racing, my blood boiling, and the ideas flowing. Of course, sometimes this backfires and too much pressure makes my mind lock up tight, no ideas, no confidence, no time left. But then I simply turn on Busting Up a Starbucks (see inspiration #1) and I’m back in business.

New Environment
Sometimes the best thing to do is to just get out. Leave the office or home, sit outside, get some coffee (yes, Starbucks can be an inspiration), window shop, browse through the local unique flower shop. Anything to get your out of your chair, to get your body and mind moving again. Something just a simple change of location can give your mind the spark it needs to start working. But don’t stay away too long, there’s still a lot pressure waiting for you back at the office.

Interior & Fashion Design
That’s right, interior and fashion design and graphic design influence each other. Who knew? Interior and fashion design trends are a great source for beautiful textures and colors interacting together. A funky chair could inspire a logo. A new fabric pattern could inspire a web site. The possibilities really are endless, so don’t feel bad about looking at newest fashions at work! It’s all in the name of inspiration.

Art History
It’s true history repeats itself, but who said that has to be bad thing? Knowing where art and design comes from, what worked and what didn’t, is a great way to find inspiration. While browsing through some old art books something from the Art Deco era will catch your eye, and inspire a new logo. Maybe the red and orange hues in the sunset in Edvard Munch?s The Scream inspire a color palette for an annual report. So browse through those art history books, visit an art museum, paint-by-number, what ever floats your artistic boat.

What Inspires You? Part two (and maybe part three, four, five?) of this post could use some more ideas. What gets you out of your rut and into the creative zone? I’d love to hear your creative inspirations.


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Drop Down Menus

Posted on April 1, 2009

I recently read an article discussing drop down menus and their effectiveness, and it got me thinking. As a designer I never saw drop down menus as a problem before, unless they were poorly executed. But this article got me thinking about how and when drop down menus should be used and what their purpose is. Here are some of my more brilliant thoughts.

The first and most important purpose of a drop down menu is to de-clutter. Some sites have so much content that it just doesn’t make sense to list all of the individual links on the home page. It would be overwhelming, cause confusion, and as a result, drive away traffic. Adding drop down menus can help make a web site look more appealing, cleaner and more professional. It also allows the site to be more user-friendly because visitors don’t have to sift through a ton of information/links to find the one or two links that they are interested in. It makes the visitors? experience more enjoyable and informative, and that is after all the main goal of a web site.

A secondary, but still important purpose, is that drop down menus give the site individuality. There are endless options for drop down menus, and as long as they are executed well, they add a positive note to the visitors experience, making the site more enjoyable and more memorable. By doing something unique and creative with the drop downs, you give visitors something to remember, and that will keep them coming back.

And of course, the obvious (and kind of boring) reason that drop down menus are a good idea: the links are organized by topic. This makes it quick and easy to find a specific subject, then find all of the content on the site that relates to it. Visitors can navigate to the topics they want to learn more about, and avoid those they do not. This way visitors don’t have to read through pages of content before they find what they are looking for. It gives the visitor more control over what they see, and doesn’t waste their time with content that they are not interested in.

But of course, drop down menus can go horribly wrong. If they are not carefully planned, the menus can interfere with the rest of the site, they may not function properly or they make the site more cluttered and difficult to navigate through. All of this creates a bad visitor experience and deters visitors from exploring more of the site, or from visiting it again.

Good Examples of Drop Down Menus
www.jnj.com – fluid motion, doesn’t interfere with the content on the page, helps organize and declutter the home page. This type of drop down is a strong design element on the site, the menus are part of the design, not an afterthought.
www.mediatemple.net – Simple and effective way to organize multiple links.
www.tnvacation.com – Simple drop down menus that don’t interfere with the content on the site.
www.fossil.com – Simple drop downs that are minimized, not really a design element, just a way to organize links
www.flowrestaurant.com – A fun and simple example of drop down menus that reinforces the design on the rest of the site.
www.hopewausau.org – Simple drop down menus that don’t interfere with the design or content.

Drop Down Menus Gone Bad
www.navigantconsulting.com – The menus interfere with the text on the index page, making it difficult to read the links.
www.digg.com – This may be a personal preference, but I expect drop down menus to appear when I hover over the link. I don’t expect to have to click on it to see the rest of the menu. So, while these menus are functional, it would make more sense that they automatically appear when you hover over the link.
www.alienware.com – Menus are difficult to read (black on black)


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