The Personal Disquiet of

Mark Boulton

“It’s only a green stripe at the top”

– March 23rd, 2005 –

After being featured by those lovely people at Stylegala and CSS Vault I thought it might be a an idea to give a bit of a deconstruction of the design here at markboulton.co.uk. This post was also prompted by Narayan over at Etherfarm and his great post, “all this fuss over some measly boxes”

So, what I want to deconstruct is the process I went through to come to this design and hopefully give some sort of answer to the title of this post.

Any blog, in my opinion, is a tricky thing to design. Whilst coupling this with the need for a designer to have an online portfolio presence, you begin to find yourself with quite a task on your hands.

I’d bumbled around, designing, redesigning, redesigning whilst drunk only then looking at it in the morning and trashing it (we’ve all been there right?). This went on, seriously, for about 2 years with no real direction or identity for my site. I then began a blog, mostly as a dumping ground for what i’m thinking so I can look back and go “oh yeah, I thought that once, look how much i’ve grown” - you know, the usual navel gazing.

Then there’s the technical side. I’d used MT for a good 18 months and was happy with it, sort of, until the spam started rolling in. The thing about MT is, it’s great for a blog, but not so great for a portfolio. That’s where EE stepped in. I’m not going to talk about that here though - i’ve talked enough about that already.

What i’d like to talk about is the design.

Defining the audience

In my day job, I like to think I have a User Centred approach to the work I do (although i’m beginning to realise the dogmatic aspects of UCD and i’m kind of formulating another, more agile, methodology which all be writing about soon.)

So, I think about Users all the time (I honestly do, i’m not just saying that). With that in mind I was beginning to think about the audience of my site and they fall into four categories - Existing clients, potential clients, Journal readers and random visitors. Designing a site, knowing that much about your audience, really helps clarify your thinking. With that in mind, I needed a site which appears business like and professional for the client half, but personable and friendly for the journal part.

Not all clients are web savvy

This is really important, especially amongst the extremely savvy Web Standards Brigade. A lot of the time, clients are not the most seasoned internet users. They don’t really care whether or not the site is delivered using CSS, XHTML, blah, blah. They really are all boring acronyms to most people. What i’m saying is, I really had to think about potential clients and the language they speak - a language of profit and loss, sales and budgets, ROI and deliverables.

It’s about Craft

I then approached the design with a clear brief. I know my audience and what i’m trying to say to them, but I need to make sure the design shows what i’m about as a designer. To make sure it embodies my design ethos and displays my application of the craft.

If you’ve read my Biog, you’ll know i’m traditionally schooled in Typographic Design and am a member with of the International Society of Typographic Designers and as such have a self imposed obligation to uphold what the Society stands for. I try to do this will every design I produce.

At the moment I’ve got a thing about Helvetica. Maybe it’s the clean lines, or impersonal perfection which appeals. I don’t know, but I think it’s got the most perfect lower case “e” of any typeface in history, ever. Anyway, I digress. I decided early on that type would be the walls, floor and ceiling of this particular building. Typography will bind the content together, the structure would be comprised of letters and a delicate heirachy of heading, subheading, captions and body copy, rather than coloured shapes and photography.

I was getting tired of the saturated colours and the heavy, intricate graphics which are proliferating in the web standards scene. There’s too much visual noise, way too much. I though “what’s the best way of differentiating yourself in this increasingly noisy space?” well, by being quiet.

btw. If anyone wants me to into more detail regarding the grid and typography, let me know and i’ll work on it.

Colour as an educated, informed choice

Colour bugs me. How many times has a client asked you to make something a particular colour because they like it? I wanted the colour choice for this site to reflect an educated design choice. Green works for me at the moment, it’s not my favourite colour but that’s not to say it won’t change in the future, it might. But at the moment, i’m fine with it.

To conclude

This isn’t a post aimed at people who don’t like the design. That’s fine, you don’t have to. What I hope I addressed was to explain where I was coming from, what my requirements were and what they are likely to be in the future. Designing your own portfolio site as a designer is always incredibly difficult and it takes some willpower to sit on your hands and just live with a design for a good few months - which is just what I intend to do.

Filed in: css, markboulton-co-uk.

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