Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Introducing – I Once …

Long before I started writing about communication and web type things, I wrote articles about my travels, and I could be as descriptive and creative as I wished. This is something I have neglected of late so I am introducing a new series of blog posts called: ‘I Once …’

As human beings, stories are integral to our lives, we hear them from birth and tell our own until death. So as narrator of my own life, the ‘I Once …’ articles will allow me to share some of my stories with you, adding a more personal dimension to this blog which is my own storytelling platform.

I hope you enjoy them!

COMING SOON: I Once … got massaged by a female convict in a Thai prison.

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Designing the Invisible: The birth of a book

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No idea is a bad idea. Well that’s not true, tons of ideas are awful and you only need to watch Dragon’s Den to find that out. But some ideas start as a simple, rough around the edges thought, that can be honed and polished into a winning concept. That is exactly how Designing the Invisible came to life.

I remember the moment well. It wasn’t a eureka type event, more of a ‘I’m going to email Mark (Boulton) with a book idea and expect to be laughed at’ moment. Hours later I was onboard as a Five Simple Steps author. I’m getting ahead of myself here though, let’s go back to the root …

‘Mark, I’ve got an idea …

I was working at Mark Boulton Design as a Project Manager and I was heavily involved in the work for Five Simple Steps, this is the publishing company headed by Mark and Emma Boulton. As a team we were in the latter stages of getting Mark’s first book released but were already thinking beyond that, including future titles and authors.

I had written for several travel publications previously, but it was media studies and the web that really ticked my boxes, so those passions coupled with my year working at BBC Wales in Audience Research led me to email Mark a book idea which has since been polished to what is now Designing the Invisible.

A dirty diamond.

In its original form, the book was more focused on audiences and was going to discuss topics such as audience research, analytics, and personas.  It was given a title (which I won’t reveal in case Five Simple Steps want to use it at a later date) and the ball was rolling.

When Mark and I met about the book for a progress report, we both had the same reservations about some of the subject matter. Mark felt that the chapters that were centred on communication and semiotics were the more interesting, as did I, and so we agreed that they would become the focus of the book.

I went away, did my research, revised my table of contents and sent it to Mark. That makes it sound easy but it was a time consuming and at times, tough process. The whole time I had to focus on what made this book different to others, what was the unique selling point? So whilst it may seem that I have dismissed several weeks work in one sentence that isn’t the case. Honing the idea was hard.

That said, it went through a couple of revisions over a few weeks and it was a relatively fast and pain free process compared to many publishing stories I have heard. Before long, it was signed off.

The aim for any book published under the Five Simple Steps brand is for it to arm the reader with practical advice for working in that subject area – eg web design. It should also be written in an easy to read, friendly style and the design of the book/packaging should be beautiful, simple and clean. We had the content pinned down in keeping with the brand, but we needed a title to represent the broad range of topics and content to be included. Because it was part of the Five Simple Steps brand the title was most likely (though it didn’t have to) start with A Practical Guide to …

The naming ceremony.

Thinking of titles and headlines is my downfall. I struggled. Then one day Mark came into the studio and said ‘Designing the Invisible, I think we should call your book Designing the Invisible’. At first I felt it was a bit of an enigma, people wouldn’t ‘get it’ and connect to the book but it does represent the content so well and it grew on me. I said yes and then I probably made him a cup of tea or something.

Never judge a book by its cover …

…but if you do then you will judge the Five Simple Steps books in a positive way. With the nitty gritty details agreed we continued working on Mark’s book, Designing for the Web. As we reached April 2009 when the print version was released we included two postcards, one for Mark’s second book, Designing Grid Systems, and one for my own, Designing the Invisible. These postcards featured the covers, designed by Nick Boulton, and a synopsis of each book.

Soon, but not yet.

Since April lots has been going on behind the scenes regarding legalities and contracts but I won’t bore you with that or it will be a future blog post. The book was originally due to be released on December 1st but such masterpieces cannot be rushed so it has been pushed back for a short while. We have a tentative date and should be able to confirm this publicly in the coming weeks.

Stop talking and start writing.

I have been beavering away researching, writing, panicking, worrying, but above all, getting excited. I am in a position now where I can start to reveal the process and content of the book and this will be happening here on my blog, via the Designing the Invisible Twitter stream and on the Designing the Invisible website.

There will be more blog posts to follow documenting the whole process. We are hoping to show you a behind the scenes, warts and all account of self publishing.

It’s worth asking.

I had part of an idea and within weeks I was confirmed as an author. I urge you, even if it is just a small idea, to share it. You never know what it might grow into after a few creative discussions, brainstorms and some research. It is better to try and be told no, than always wonder what if (bit soppy there sorry). You can even contact Five Simple Steps with your idea.

For now though, thanks for coming along for the ride. It’s going to be bumpy but I’m strapped in.

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First photo taken by Felipe

Creative Processes

Our lives are dominated and controlled by processes. Registering on a website, signing in and out of websites, filling out forms for endless life laundry tasks, if we stop to consider all the formulaic behaviour we have to endure then it is clear how often we find ourselves moving through a process of some sort.

Finding structure in the chaos.

As a Project Manager I have a daily process or work method that allows me to do my job effectively. As a writer I have a less defined method when I settle down to write something, as creativity can’t be scheduled or predicted, but I often goes through stages of  brainstorming on post it notes, typing more detailed outlines, then writing draft one, two, three and so on. My writing method also includes blood, sweat, tears and an endless supply of coffee. Those last few are guaranteed.

The process of others.

It is with great interest then that I learn about how others work and it fascinates me how a designer, writer, director or other creative soul turns the very early idea into the final polished website/article/film.

I’ve recently been reading The Art of Wall-E by Tim Hauser and Andrew Stanton, a stunning book that chronicles the production of the film Wall-E from conception to release. Here are some pics from the book:

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It makes for an insightful read into how a film, for the most part without dialogue, was put together, discussing visual storytelling techniques and all other strands that are involved in the process.

Illustrating the process.

On his website, illustrator Quentin Blake highlights his creative process by showing his rough sketches through to the polished pages. He also has a slideshow of his workspace and tools, both integral to any creative process. For those who aren’t familiar with his work, he illustrated the Roald Dahl books. An example is below and I urge you to check out his website where you can also see videos of him in action.

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Start to finish (and everything in between).

Thinking back to the web, every design project goes through a creative process and it’s important for peers, prospective clients and for your own record, that these projects are well documented from start to finish. A portfolio is fine for showcasing the visuals but for a real insight into the effort, concepts, ideas and final design there is nothing better than a case study.

Case Studies

Some people loathe them, but presented in an aesthetically pleasing way with well written copy, case studies can and should be a key component of any website for people involved in creating and designing.

One of my favourite websites for how they present their own work is Huge:

Scholastic Case Study - HUGE (20091106)I’m also a big fan of Squared Eye and their case studies, leading the reader through the project step by step and making it clear what services they contributed, the challenges they faced and most importantly, the end result.

Family Life Network - a case study of Squared Eye, the web company with a monstrous appetite for details! (20091106)

Case studies are an opportunity for you to tell your design story and they should be written accordingly. Who are the characters involved in the project, what was the beginning (the brief), the middle (the creative process) and the end (the finished product).

As with all captivating narratives, challenges should be included along with how they were overcome (if they were) and every step of the project should be included.

And finally …

Check out the methods other agencies and people adopt. They won’t necessarily fit your own work ethic or clients but we can learn from others and improve our own creative processes. Just remember to document it and share it with others.

Me, My Words, the Web

It’s Sunday morning, a time when I can get away with being lazy, so this blog post is a little bit lazy too. I’m going to bring together some of my articles that have featured on other websites or in magazines because I thought if you are kind enough to read this then you may be kind enough to read some of my other musings.

Think Vitamin

I recently wrote an article for Think Vitamin called How Colour Communicates Meaning. It is a huge topic and this article just scratches the surface but it led to some very insightful comments and discussion from the readers and had 306 tweets to the link!

This article was also mentioned on Paul Boag’s podcast a couple of weeks ago. You can listen here, if you so wish:

http://boagworld.com/podcast/183

Fuel Your Motionography

I am a guest writer for Fuel Your Motionography. This is a new site that launched a few days ago and it sits under the ‘fuel’ umbrella of sites that include Fuel Your Branding, Fuel Your Writing, and Fuel Your Creativity.

My first article for them is about 3D Films, the good, the bad, the future?

My second is about the Uncanny Valley theory.

Although I am trying to carve a name for myself in the web, my number one passion is films and being able to write about these as a side project is great fun. I will be writing more for Fuel Your Motionography so hopefully these articles will be of interest to you too.

.Net Magazine

When I worked at Mark Boulton Design I was lucky enough to write two articles for .Net Magazine as part of a 6 article series that looked at how to be your own boss and start/run your own design agency.

My first piece was about winning clients and featured in Issue 189. The second piece looked at being organised and that was printed in Issue 191.

Real Travel Magazine

Long before I stepped into the murky world of ‘the web’, I used to dabble with travel writing. I have been printed in two national publications, one of which has now put my article online.

I worked in New Zealand for a year and spent 1 month on a farm, I wrote about my experiences here:

http://www.realtravelmag.com/features/on-the-farm

Huw David Design

This is my new workplace. It is a design agency located on a farm just outside Cardiff. There are exciting times ahead for Huw David Design including a new studio website, a re-brand and our studio is getting a bit of a makeover too. We will be blogging and tweeting more and more as events unfold and it would be great if you came along for the ride.

So if you wish to follow the latest news from the farm on Twitter then you can find us here: @huwdaviddesign

Our blog is where we talk about anything from new projects to beautiful design work we have stumbled upon, branding stories and anything else that gets our attention. I hope to be posting regularly on the company blog and helping HDD get the attention it deserves.

That’s it. A lazy blog post for a lazy Sunday morning. Now I have lots to write so that this list can continue to grow!