The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton


– August 31st, 2009 –

On A List Apart

Saving the Spark: Developing Creative Ideas
For most of us, ideas have to be squeezed out of us every day. To stand up to this challenge, you need to arm yourself with some good tools.
Sometimes, as in web design, it’s difficult to add whitespace because of content requirements. Newspapers often deal with this by setting their body content in a light typeface with plenty of whitespace within and around the characters.

On Vitamin

Looking At Type
Have you ever been somewhere where you couldn’t speak the local language? Surrounded by signage, newspapers, shop fronts - everywhere you look there are letters, but you don’t understand what they mean. It’s even worse if they’re not Roman characters.A couple of years ago, on my honeymoon in Thailand, I was astounded by the myriad of typographic design styles. Not only was it a language I didn’t understand, the letterforms, to my eye, were little more than squiggles. Yet somehow I was often able to understand the meaning of some signs. How? Good typography, that’s how.
Designers, Engage Your Brain
Many designers don’t think about the code behind the sites they design. This is a huge problem because it slows web projects down, which costs money. The good news is designers don’t need to learn code; they just need to change the way they think.

On Web 2.0 Journal

Designing for Web 2.0: “It Will Be About People”

Print media CSS: The Guardian example

{title}Print media stylesheets are rarely used by text-heavy websites to present their content in the best possible way for when users press the print button.

This example of The Guardian uses a rebuilt web standards template to present the existing design for the screen. The print media stylesheet however presents the content more inline with the Guardian newspaper rather than the website.

View the example or see the related article in the Journal.

Five Simple Steps to designing grid systems

This series of articles covers grid system design from easy two column grids for print publications to complex, ratio based, adaptive grid systems for modern web browsers.

  1. Subdividing ratios
  2. Ratios and complex grid systems
  3. Grid systems for web design: Part 1
  4. Grid systems for web design: Part 2 Fixed
  5. Grid systems for web design: Part 3 Fluid

Five Simple Steps to better typography

The first ‘Simple Steps’ series covering five simple ways to improve your typography.

  1. Measure the measure
  2. Hanging punctuation
  3. Ligatures
  4. Typographic Hierarchy - size
  5. Typographic Hierarchy - weight

Feeling your way around grids

Making sense of the Golden Section when designing grid systems. Originally published in Design in Flight (April 2005)

For centuries there has been a link between art and mathematics, but how can you quantify beauty? How can you create a formula for aesthetic appeal? Philosophers, mathematicians, architects and artists have tried to answer these questions for thousands of years.

During art college I was subjected to a lecture on the Golden Section (who remembers that lecture, come on hands up?), that ambiguous set of rectangles that is requisite art school discussion. During this lecture I was shown slide after slide of seemingly tenuous links between paintings and sculptures, and this set of rectangles. My lecturer at the time seemed as equally uninterested, droning along in self-imposed boredom. What he failed to convey at the time, has taken me over 15 years to even begin to understand. So what is the importance of these boring rectangles and how do they relate to design?

Design and the Divine Proportion

Many designers, whether traditionally schooled or not, have trouble with composition. I’ve sat with plenty of designers who simply moves things around until they feel ‘right’.

Design is, in essence, communication (I know, I know, I rant about this enough, but this isn’t one of them) but the vehicle for communication is the design. One of the key components in the vehicle of communication is composition, and in design schooling it is something that is taught as something you should feel rather than create logically. This has always bothered me.

Card Sorting - Part 1

Card Sorting is a user testing method for organising data into structure. There’s a lot of information about on what they are, how to conduct them. Problem is, they’re all over the place and mostly they’re written by scientists so tend to be a little difficult to grasp and bogged down in analysis (which can take over your life if you let it!) I’ve decided to document my understanding of how to plan, conduct and analyse a card sort, from a practitioners point of view.

Card sorting. Part 2 - Facilitation

Following on from part 1, you should now have everything ready to conduct your card sorts - cards, users, observers and most importantly a clear objective of what you want to achieve.

Card sorting. Part 3 - Analysis and reporting

In the final part of the article I talk about perhaps the most important part of the procedure - Analysis. This is the part in which you can get the most bogged down. You must be thorough, ruthless and accurate.

Why use a grid?

Grid design is a fundamental skill of any designer. Understanding proportional relationships, white space and composition are all vital in constructing a grid for any delivery platform - web, print & real 3d environments.

The One 2 One story

Originally in the archives of this site. This article represents a body of development for the redesign of One 2 One’s web presence in 2001. The redesign revolved around multiple access from multiple platforms as well as integration of new mobile services.