Free SVG Background Patterns

I’ve been a big fan of Subtle Patterns for a long time and use a few other resources once in a while. Thanks to Smashing Magazine‘s newsletter, I’ve discovered a new pattern library called Hero Patterns. Unlike Subtle Patterns, this new library offers patterns in SVG format!

Thanks to the SVG specification, not only can you get cool patterns,, you can adjust the colours and opacity. This is another great resource for designer and developers to bookmark!

Resources for Web Designers

Keeping a list of resources is always a difficult task, but a must-do for any designer or developer. Over the years I’ve discussed a few of them on this blog and some of my favourites, such as Unsplash, Trello and Whatfont, I use every day.

Caroline Reder, Director of Content & Communications at Webydo, put together a list of 75 smart resources for designers. This extensive list covers photos, icons, videos, type, colour, inspiration, tools and more. This fabulous list is a great place to find your next favourite resource and start your own list.

SubtlePatterns Bookmarklet on your Website

I’ve praised the SubtlePatterns site before on this site and I’ve been using it ever since. It’s an incredible resources for designers. Now there’s a new easy way to enjoy this site even more. The SubtlePatterns Bookmarklet lets you preview any background patterns directly on your website very quickly. This makes selecting a background for your website even easier!

Check it out »

Teach your clients about the mysteries of the web

As designers or web developers, we’ve all been there. We create an initial mock up based on the client’s request, they love it but ask for changes, we revise again, add more bells and whistles, they still love it, but now that they see it, they think it needs more of this or that want… next thing you know your design looks like crap.

If you don’t know what I mean, take a look at this comic from the Oatmeal. This is obviously an exaggerated scenario, but sooner or later, as a designer, you will be in the same situation.

So what can we do to avoid this?
One of the best way is to educate ourselves and our clients. Paddy Donnelly & Jack Osborne have gathered a great list of resources just for you. Make sure to bookmark it and then simply send your client to one of their topic pages for a quick intro on the subject. Hopefully that will provide them with the wee nudge that was needed.

Are mobile devices changing the way we read on the Web?

If you’re a hard core fan of Apple products, you’ve no doubt paid attention to yesterday’s announcement about the iPad 2. I must admit, I do own several Mac products, but I’ve never been first in line to get the new iToy. I did purchase an iPad when they first came out and I do enjoy it, but I won’t buy another until this one breaks. As far as I can tell, the iPad is great for playing games, reading e-Books and… that’s about it.

I still like the tactile feel of paper and so prefer my books the old fashion way, but the iPad has changed the way I read online blog posts and articles.

Instapaper makes this tasks wonderfully pleasing

Instapaper is an online tool, which once you’ve set up a Free account, allows you to save articles to read later. During the day, I’ll bookmark several of these using my Read Later bookmarklet and then in the evening will read them  on the iPad. Best of all, Instapaper, strips all of the design, clutter, advertising and displays the article in a large black font making it so much more enjoyable.

I enjoy reading articles this way so much, that I’ve also installed another bookmarklet called Read Now. This bookmarklet also strips all of the clutter and provides you with an easy to read article with large fonts but it displays it in front of you right away instead of saving the article in your account.

What does this mean for typography?

As a designer, you should be aware of the typography limitations on the web. Common browser fonts are still you’re best bet for body text, but much more leeway can be had now with headlines. The Google web fonts api and typekit offers loads of new fonts to play with. These are easy to use and have been tested thoroughly. Typekit’s blog is a great resource to see how others are using various typefaces.

Do keep in mind though, that you no longer have control of your audience. With just a simple click of a button, I can make all of your design disappear and make the fonts bigger. So before spending hundreds of hours researching the right font and debating with your client, do keep in mind that your hard work may not be appreciated.

What about mock-ups?

If you’re concerned about fonts in your mock-ups, Google’s web fonts api allows you to download the font with the added option of contributing a small amount to the font designer. Another great resource for finding web fonts for your mock-ups is at Font Squirrel. All of the fonts are safe to embed in websites.

Just as an aside, if you’re looking for image placeholders, take a look at placekitten. Who will say no to your design mock-ups now?

Is WordPress Killing Web Design?

During the 2010 SXSW Interactive Festival designers debated whether or not WordPress is killing web design. The idea is that WordPress and other CMS are constraining designers to think outside the box and turning them into lazy designers. I was quite pleased to hear that no one on the panel agreed with this statement. Brendan Dawes, one of the panel members pointed out that WordPress is simply a tool that manipulates data. Said in another way, Gina Bolton confirmed what I believe, which is that WordPress is highly customizable and can be made to do whatever you want.

One of my latest project consisted of converting a design provided by Mizu Creative into a WordPress site for Paul Sangha. The site included a photo gallery which required jQuery animation, a few different templates, random background images and flash on the home page. I’m very proud of this work, but more importantly, by the fact that it looks nothing like a WordPress site.

I’ve worked with many graphic designers in the past and when asked about constraints, my only suggestions is to keep the width of the canvas to 960px. This constraint is only there to ensure that the site will look good on most browsers, but even this is debatable and will depend on the target audience.

The Paul Sangha website is a great example which demonstrates that designers should not be constrained by the CMS.

Collaborating with Graphic Designers is very Inspiring

I’ve never called myself a graphic designer. I’ve designed business cards in the past, but I don’t think that any of them would win awards and I only ever did these once the logo was supplied. I curse every time I open illustrator and I’m convinced that I only ever used 20% of the Photoshop features. I consider graphic designer, people who know their Pantone colours from their CMYK and care passionately about paper and print material.

Don’t get me wrong, I love printed material, but I wouldn’t know how one goes about selecting the right paper and ink. As a result of “lacking” this skill, I’ve been very opened to working with other graphic designers. Usually they will approach me in the middle of a project and say something like this:

“We’ve been working with company ABC and did a bunch of printed material for them and now they want a website. Can you help us?”

In the past few years, I’ve been working more and more on other people’s design and have learned a great deal. It’s simply staggering the number of different approaches to web design there are. I must be missing something about Illustrator’s capabilities, because it seems to be the favourite tool amongst graphic designers.

Walk BC icon designed by KubeI recently finished a project for the BCRPA’s Physical Activity Strategy (PAS) initiative. I had the pleasure of working with Dean Kujula from Kube. Dean created the icons for the PAS website and prepared a website design. Once approved, Dean asked me how I would like to receive the files and what version of Photoshop I was using. I was quite impressed with the result. The file contained multiple folders, each carefully labeled and ordered. I don’t think that I’ve ever worked with such well organized material.

I constantly meet newbie web designers who want to do it all; logos, branding, brochures, cms, web design…. I’ve come to the conclusion that working with experts and people who are more talented then you is a much better way to expand your knowledge.