Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

How Design is not Art

Design in many fields is a process of creating something functional within an aesthetic guideline.

Art, on the other hand, is the path of taking a creative means to an aesthetic and evocative end.

Both certainly use aesthetics as heavy influences in their end goal, but on a practical level the two are quite different.

A design should be objectively judged against its function. A piece of art should be subjectively judged against one's aesthetic values. In a proper design course in school, one is given hard criteria against which your project is defined for a grade. In a proper art class, you are graded mainly on effort and applied techniques, not on the subjective judgement of the aesthetics of the finished works.

Better put perhaps is to give an example: A beautiful fountain is designed, a classical sculpture is art. If the fountain does not allow water to flow, the fountain ceases to be a fountain. All parameters in creating the fountain must take into account that the end goal is that the fountain shall allow water to flow and all aesthetic considerations must account for the end function of the fountain. A sculpture has no such boundaries, and the only end use is aesthetics alone. Note I have to set aside mechanical and functional sculptures -- these are design not art ;)

You can have an artist create a logo, but it may not, in the end, function as a logo. It may be a very beautiful illustration, but if it does not meet the functional parameters of a logo, it will be an illustration -- a work of art -- and not something identifying a corporate brand.

It is a generally accepted thought that art can be liked or disliked, but is not WRONG. It may be considered skilled, unskilled, "pretty" or "ugly," but it is not judged against a defined set of functional criteria. I don't hold my designs against the criteria of "art". My designs can be wrong, if their form does not facilitate their function. If their form does not facilitate their function, they're unfinished, or need to be re-thought-out.

If you purchase a finished painting, it is bad form to request correction or changes. The art is "done". Design should not be fully purchased until it is done. And for it to be done it must fulfill its functional parameters.

When you purchase a web design or a logo design from Eclectic Tech, you're not purchasing art -- I'm an occasionally inspired artist, but I'm not an exceptionally skilled or talented artist. You're purchasing a design, and I have inspiration, talent and skill in design -- in seeing the functional parameters and applying inspiration towards aesthetics while always testing the overall function against the parameters required.


Monday, February 5, 2007

New Service: Project Planning

It seems that many customers who come to me have not planned their website or print project. My normal flat-fee prices don't include this time-intensive service. I would really have to get into the company in question, to almost become a temporary staff member, to plan out their website for them from soup-to-nuts.

I'm now offering project planning services, both for website design, content and feature planning, and for print design campaigns and marketing strategies. My usual services require design briefs, copy (content), assets (photos, logos, multimedia, and all other materials) and a list of features provided up-front. I will provide only cursory project planning assistance, guidance, or advice during project intake. I will not write for you, research for you, draw up diagrams, etc.

What my project planning services will provide will depend on each company's needs and budget. Prices will start at $100 for something relatively simple like site diagramming and navigation planning, and from there the sky's the limit; you tell me your budget, and I'll come up with a list of what services your budget allows for, or you give me a list of the services you're looking for, and I'll come up with a price. Or we can do hourly rates, I'll come on-site, and I'll become a member of the project team.

Services may include:

  • Serving in the capacity of a knowledgable aide in the process of project planning

  • Company profiling

  • Supplying principles or relevant persons with questionnaires for the project

  • Corporate history review

  • Mission statement assistance

  • Research into your competitors marketing materials or website

  • Market research for design related to your specific industry

  • Review of your current marketing strategy, advertising, materials, website, etc.

  • Business marketing development

  • Content planning

  • Feature planning

  • Step-by-step planning of a website or printing campaign

  • Website navigation and hierarchy planning

  • Guiding your representatives through the creation of an RFP or design brief

  • Suggestions for assets or copy to be included in the project

  • Composition of a creative brief on your behalf

  • Storyboards, mockups, thumbnails, or sketches

  • Composition of custom color schemes for the project

  • Stock photography, font, or clip art research

  • Copy editing, and review or copy writing

  • Acquiring permissions or releases for included materials

  • Supplying lists of materials to submit to Eclectic Tech or other contractors

If you choose to use another vendor to complete the project outlined, I can offer:
  • Overseeing project progress and resolution, quality control, communication with vendors

  • Vendor research (printers, programmers, designers, etc.)

  • Supply vendors with materials for the project

These services don't alleviate the principles of your organization from their responsibilities in project planning: I will need to interview them, acquire lists of materials, names to get releases for photography, a company history, supply of old marketing materials, and more. What this does is add another member to your web design team who is knowledgeable, insightful, and entirely dedicated to the one project, which allows your principles to concentrate on other projects with the assurance that if something is needed from them, it will be brought to their attention.

[tags]planning,education,information,news,print design,time,web applications, web standards,writing[/tags]

Friday, February 2, 2007

Why I always carry a pen

Today I ran to the bank to sign some official papers. I had my pen-in-hand and I was ready to sign when the bank officer offered me a pen, and my business associate said "She's always prepared."

Aside from the "Time is my one finite commodity" email signature, my comments in my blog about time, and the sermon I gave at Toastmasters about time, I always carry a pen. Having my pen in my hand and ready was the efficiency borne of my awareness of time and not wanting to waste it for anyone. Why I had a pen with me is another story, aside from knowing I was going to the bank specifically to sign something.

I started writing poems and stories when I was 11 years old. While my muse has been blissfully quiet lately, I spent about 15 years under the constant demands of Erato, the harsh mistress of writing. Poems came to me at all times of the day, and on some occasions woke me from deep slumbers to make me press pen to paper in the darkest hours of the night. If my hand cramped and my eyes teared, it was nothing next to the torment of the poems, lyrics, inspirations, that came to me when I had nothing to record them with. Slave to this strict mistress, I obediently began to carry something -- anything -- with which I could write. She had no patience for ink blots, pens that skipped, cluttered paper, or any other excuses. When she demanded, I would write.

While under her thrall I learned to choose better pens, to choose better notebooks, to keep these instruments handy. I have a book and pen next to my bed, so that if something should take hold of me in those chilling wee hours, I wouldn't have to shiver at my desk.

One of my inspirations literally came to me in those dark hours -- lyrics for a song (perhaps her cohort Euterpe had decided to borrow me?) -- and I sat in my kitchen singing, humming, laboring and pouring out a piece inspired by the tale of Beauty and the Beast and neo-pagan symbolisms. Thankfully I haven't tried recording the song :)

Regardless, you'll notice that whenever I'm without a pen I get a haunted look of fear on my face, and perhaps I seem distracted. That's me praying earnestly to the Lady that she not strike me with inspiration at that moment.


Thursday, February 1, 2007

Speak Out sale - add a blog

I've changed my prices on everything except my hourly rates, as promised.

Now I've gone and put a sale on blog additions to the Easy-to-Edit website package.

Whatever it is that you have to speak about, I've got the software to help you say it!

Watch the sale page each month for specials. Most specials apply to the Easy-to-Edit package, so get the base package before the price goes up hire -- all my prices will slowly be escalating for the next several months, and proposal expiration dates will be strictly adhered to.

[tags]blog,open source,easy-to-edit,prices,programming,sale,web applications,writing[/tags]