The Designer Perspective Remixed

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I have no problem conceptualizing site designs for my clients, but when it comes to my own sites, I tend to let design take a backseat and just leave them functional. It’s kind of like the cook who cooks all day at work and when they come home want to order takeout because they are sick of cooking. That’s pretty much the way it’s been with my personal websites for a while – ‘takeout’ design.

Of course, the problem with that is that I do great designs for my clients and I realize that I’m not showcasing my abilities on my own business site. My current site doesn’t exactly tell a potential client that I am quite skilled with graphics, nor does it scream that I am decent with creating enhancements on a site with Javascript and DOM in a nice accessible way. It doesn’t even yell out loud that I’m strong with CMS and blogging software, nor does it give a great indication of my ability to use PHP since I never bothered to take my main site code out of SSI. This is what procrastination causes. Anyway, point being – I am trying to put together a nice ‘portfolio’ site. Something that I actually really put some effort in and use all of my skills in some way.

So I had been talking to a artist who was going to take an outside point of view on my site and try to help me conceive an idea for it and design it for me. Well, a few weeks later and that plan has changed. Unfortunately, my artist and myself haven’t been able to find a ‘meet in the middle’ point. My design preference is very minimal, where she is the kind of artist who wants to cover any white space because its ‘being wasted.’ So… it just wasn’t going to work to have her conceive of a design that I could use.

We did, however, realize quickly that she’s great at coming up with unique ideas for -other- designs, just not for my site. So we’ll implement some of those in the future. However, in all that creativity she had, I still was lacking a good design. So, I did the only thing I could do – I cracked open my Adobe Photoshop CS3 and started tinkering with ideas. And tinkering. And scrapping. And tinkering, and tossing. But then! Suddenly, I had the beginnings of an idea.

I knew already that I wanted my colors to stay at least similar to what they were already. In an ideal world, I would keep the exact colors and just use them in different ratios. When you change a site design entirely, it’s rather important for the site to still have some elements that are recognizable so your viewers don’t think they mistyped the url. With that said, I just also didn’t want to suddenly take my rich earthy toned website and make it look like a cotton-candy explosion.

My current color scheme involves the use of a deep burgundy, a rich chocolate color, some soft beige, a little white, and hints of gray. My design now uses the white the most, but right after that is burgundy, beige, then the chocolate and gray. I wasn’t terribly happy with that proportion, because I like the richness of the browns and really wanted to work with them more. I used one particular brown color for my skiplink menu at the top and really love it – so I decided I wanted to try with that color as a background.

Another thing I have been thinking about is my title font and little flower image in my current design.

Little flower and title of old design.

To put it simply – I hate them. I have for a while, but I’ve just been too busy (or maybe too uninspired?) to change it.

I decided that since I hate them so much, I would focus on creating a title and flower design that I really loved. It took me a while to work that out, but I finally nailed the font I loved in Trajan Pro. It’s exactly what I was looking for in a traditional style print. So I’m going along, tinkering with brushes, and I used this great flower brush that really fit what I was going for and took the scale completely to another level from the old little ugly flower.

So I played with the title and flower, and played some more. Suddenly I realized what I was doing. I was having a design ‘moment’ and really creating what I like personally. I decorate at home in heavy traditional styles. Not modern traditional, but traditional as in antique, heavy, inlaid, carved (preferably all of the above) sort of furniture. I like dark, rich colors, with a heavy impact. This new design is definitely heavy. But you know what? It’s perfect for me for it to look like that. It is a personal site and if it’s going to reflect who I am, then it needs to be a heavy design because I’m just not a light and airy person. So… I decided to step out of my minimalism hat for a bit and went for the rich and dark sort of look.

If you want a sneak peek, here’s a look at that header, flower, and rectangle loving design remixed:

New site header.

Before anyone starts thinking.. ew.. ‘I hate dark designs!’ let me say first that I don’t. I love dark designs. It’s also my website, and I want it to reflect what I like. However! Since I am going to use this as a showcase of what I can do, I will be adding in an alternate (at least one) switchable style that is completely and totally different – when I figure it out, that is. I am thinking, currently, of a chocolate, white, and pink deconstructed sort of look, but I’m not entirely certain what the alternative style will end up being. The only thing I do know is that the alternative style will be as light as this design is dark.

I had some great success working on this design today. I’m not going to be implementing it tomorrow. I probably won’t even implement it this next month. The design needs finishing, a few details, and then… I’m going to re-write some content, re-organize some of the pages and how they are laid out, and then I have to take it from being a rather complex Photoshop design to a completely flexible website design. Once it’s actually coded – then I can start creating some enhancement effects with Javascript and toying around with adding nifty features.

So.. it’s been productive. I am glad I decided to attempt getting outside input on it, but in the end, I finally ended up figuring out what I wanted and deciding to simply design for me.