Thoughts

A collection of thoughts on design, business and branding by Brett Yancy Collins

The boredom of Facebook and bad design

It was in the mid 1990’s, I was working at a digital design studio, the web was relatively small and I recall in a search for the next cool web thing, I landed on an intriguing landing page. It was terribly designed, (awful in fact) clearly designed by a developer, and had very little information about what it actually was.

Just the phone please

Yesterday Apple announced it’s new bigger iPhones. The Xs, Xs Max and the Xr. In a move that continues their trend away from smaller tech, Apple just makes everything bigger.

Designing an album for a Reggae Guitar Legend

Here is a story about how I met a reggae guitar legend, took some guitar lessons from him, and then finagled my way to design his reggae album.

Clients are from Venus and Agencies are from Mars

A few insights into how clients and agencies can understand each other a little better, so that the process can improve and the end result is that much better.

What is a brand?

You have used the word brand. You know what it means. Right?

Everyone is a designer.

I recently read an article “Everyone is a designer. Get over it. ” and it got me thinking. The statement is true, but only in part. In the same way these statements are true.

Web design never existed, so it can’t die.

How do I know? Because I was there in the beginning of the digital design era. I grew up on the so called “wave” of innovation-I created the new digital design era and built websites seen by millions of people.

A digital design workaholic

“Yes, so what? So am I.” What I mean when I say “I am a workaholic” is that I am all consumed by my profession of design. My thoughts about my work run 24 hours a day through my head. I even dream solutions to work problems while I sleep. It is hard to separate myself from my work. It oozes from my thoughts all the time.

Observation and user interaction

User interaction experts will tell you that you have to ensure that everything is at the end fingertips of the user. That certain content should be placed in a certain place otherwise the user will never find it. For me, this has always felt like dumbing down interaction rather than elevating it. Don’t get me wrong I am all about not reinventing the wheel, but it is important to constantly test and re-test our stayed theories.

Mobile devices and terrible usability

Mobile phones, specifically smart phones, have revolutionized modern day life. They allow people to perform endless tasks from anywhere. Few people can dispute this. But…  as objects that are intended to be used by humans, they break the rules of good usability. I have been immersed in multimedia since I purchased my first computer in […]

Why Google’s Algorithm Update Matters to Your Business

As Neil Patel pointed out on Search Engine Land, “Google considers mobile to be so significant that they are working to dominate nearly all of it’s manifestations.” Android is the world’s largest mobile platform provider, Google is the world’s largest search provider and has the largest mobile app store. For marketers, the mobile phone number […]

Counterspace in 2014

We hope you all had a great holiday season and an awesome New Year! Here is a look back on some highlight projects in 2014. We look forward to continued work in digital strategy, design and innovation in 2015. Redesign The localization of a Holocaust memorial site, The Memory Project, was redesigned to capture the creative energy […]

The Yahoo logo redesign or the perception of design

So much has already been said about the quality of the new Yahoo logo. It’s bad. Really bad. In fact there are some seriously in depth articles and posts all over the world discussing the typeface and the pro’s and cons of the new logo. In most cases I think these articles took longer to write than the actual design of the logo. One of these articles (well written) is by Oliver Reichenstein of iA is probably the best I have read on the matter.

We speak two languages

For generations designers, all types of designers, complain that their client’s do not understand the work they do. I recently read this article posted on Smashing Magazine. The article displays a series of posters designed by designers visualizing their ‘favorite’ client feedback.

Code Agnosticism

Code is the lifeline of a website. It is what enables your browser to display your website correctly and how websites, or networks, communicate with each other. Most people never see the code of a website and when they do, the code often appears to look like a foreign language. In fact, it is a language. A computer language.

Why do you want a website?

Websites have evolved so much in the last 10 years. In fact, no other form of communication has grown this fast in known history. Every month technology improves, users become more informed and increased bandwidth and storage has made all things possible.

Project and Account managers watering down your design?

You put out your RFP. You interview and you sort through all of the proposals. You spend hours researching and figuring which agency is going to be the best fit for you business. After months of work, meetings, phone calls and arguments your new brand rolls out.

Designing mindset

I have designed some great websites over the years. I have designed some bad websites over the years. But what stays the same is the mindset at the beginning of each project. To do the best that I can within the parameters that I am given.

As a designer I look and think about things differently. I was taught it was called problem solving. Over the years i am not sure that it quite captures the essence of what i do on each project. My mind is compartmentalized into various categories. I can almost rearrange them like a site map. I can access this set of tasks, singular or plural and engage the process that is connected to each one.

Design ruining the web? Come on Mr. Naughton

I recently read an article by John Naughton (Article) – Which claims that graphic designers are ruining the web.

There are so many issues with this blanket statement that at first I thought it was a joke. Clearly Mr. Naughton was poking fun at something else or trying purposefully to raise the amount of people who would read his article. (Job well done Mr. Naughton). I then began to rethink this initial thought and believe that Mr. Naughton actually believes this notion. He really believes that designers are ruining the web.

Engaging layout

The first time i sat and observed a usability test on a CDROM application I designed was back in 1996. I watched while people were asked a series of questions to locate information on the screen.

Brand – what is it?

Much has been written, spoken regarding a companies brand. The term brand came into fashion, almost faded away, and came back. What exactly is a brand? And how do you get one? After 18 years helping companies create, extend and innovate on their brands we have gathered some information that may help you examine your next steps in brand creation.

Sorting through design

There are many books about how to design, how to design websites or how to be creative. The problem with the promise of these books is that design is a discipline, and to do it well you have to immerse yourself into the practice of design daily. To get the best design possible for a problem that requires the application of design, one must first understand the problem from all angles and then use the skill of design order to achieve success.

Linking up Facebook to WordPress

So I have tried a couple of things to allow my Wordpress blog to post directly to My Facebook account for Counterspace.

Happy New Year

Well it’s the time of year to reflect, promise and plan. Everything is achievable if you can organize your mind and navigate the obstacles that are placed in your way.

Good Luck to everyone!

Hire a designer do it yourself

For many years I have encountered designers hired by a firm for their expertise, and during the course of the project the client slowly takes over the designing by telling the designer where to place items on the page.

Put that over there and move that there. Now move that back. Now move it there.

Websites all look the same

Clients all tend to say the same thing… I really like this website, or I like what this site is doing. So I have been asking myself for some time why is it that so many clients copy each other’s website rather than creating a unique experience from their own content.

And the buzz word is… Branding

I have to say after 16 years of talking about, creating, designing and extending clients brands it really is amazing that there is not a more clear definition of what a brand is. The brands we all know Apple, Mini, Gucci are already, well, brands. They are cohesive. We can speak to them, about them, describe them in detail. How they did it, how they got there and where they are going.

PSD Layer File management

Back in the early 90’s designers had to be thoughtful about how to manage the size of their files and images. We had to squeeze large files onto 1.44mb floppy disks, sometimes divide the files across 10 or more disks.

I invented the grid

Over the last few years i have been reading about this new web innovation called a grid. Apparently its an amazing thing. It can make you a better designer. no kidding. Just add a grid and whammo! instant web designer.

Innovation in business? Where?

So for the past couple of years I have been reading and hearing about the innvoation’s in business, in life in general, and so I started to think to myself what is the definition of innovation?

Timeline – finally

After many years I have finally completed a relaunch of the original counterspace timeline. The first timeline used flash and director (Shockwave) and was born out of love with type.

Google Web Fonts

So it didn’t take long for Google to throw their hat in the ring for a Web Font API to compete with the likes of Typekit and Webfonts.com.

App revolution is the CD–ROM revolution revisited

Yes it’s true. I developed a number of CD-ROM titles and experiences in the early nineties for TWEP (Time Warner Electronic Publishing) and Ravensburger AG in Germany. A mixture of games and educational titles that sold terribly due to the ability to sell and promote them. They were great titles and working on the IA and design of them was great fun and an energizing experience.

Mind the GAP

All of the twitters are dying down surrounding the updated logo release for GAP. (www.gap.com) Oh the outrage of it all. Everyone is saying that GAP learned a valuable lesson on crowd sourcing and they should have listened to their faithful brand followers.

10 fonts to start your design career

There are so many typefaces out there today. More than I can conceive. And the reality is that most of these typefaces are either bad knockoffs of well established typefaces, or poorly created typefaces by amateur designers or self proclaimed type designers.

The world of typography truly is a hard place to navigate. And its getting worse, not better.

Changing a companies prospects through design

Spafinder came to counterspace to redesign their website after a costly overhaul by another company. The company had taken them through a very expensive process of audience testing, nomenclature and information architecture development. The process and the end result was a disaster. The website was unusable, confusing and simple ugly.

As a result spafinder was losing business. Quickly.

Websites all look the same

Everywhere I look now I see website designs that look like one another, steal from another and are following a formula that is seemingly stuck in one direction.

The importance of planning budgets

Budget. Budget. Budget.

Every client wants to have the smallest budget possible with the greatest return. So the question is what makes up a budget?

HTML and style sheets

I have been reading all about the latest HTML5 standards that are being introduced. Some are calling these new updates the final nail in the coffin of flash. I’m not sure I would go that far. The lovers of flash vs the lovers of html goes back to the beginning when flash was called future splash. Echos the long rivalry of mac vs pc.

Clients. Clients. Clients.

A friend mentioned to me the other day “You have to have no shame when you self promote.” I smiled and said yeah that is how it is today.

Today counterspace got turned down for a project that we bid on. Not the first time and it won’t be the last. With my friend’s thought in my head I started to think about how shameless we have to be and why clients can’t recognize talent when they see it.

Today counterspace got turned down for a project that we bid on. Not the first time and it won’t be the last. With my friend’s thought in my head I started to think about how shameless we have to be and why clients can’t recognize talent when they see it.

The spread of bad typography

The quality and understanding of how to set type seems to be in a free fall in the last couple of years. This seems in large part to the lack of typographic skills or training amongst designers and the fact that typography is in large part of in the hands of techies.

Design comes second. Maybe third

Recently I have been working with a client to create a better brand image for their online image. I helped them redesign their website which was a hodge podge of design, usability, forms and bad white space into a more sophisticated interface design that displayed their content better and provided them a new palette with which to grow.

Make my logo bigger

Making a client logo bigger is one of the graphic designers oldest jokes. Clients always ask to make their logos bigger. When we hear this feedback we may roll our eyes but eventually this is a change that will happen.

The importance of being a designer

The design world to clients must be a complete mystery. Clients know that they need designers, but they aren’t entirely sure what it is designers actually do. Perhaps that is down to the lack of definition in our industry.

An old love affair

When I left design school I really didn’t have too much experience with many typefaces. But I had been very influenced by the Swiss design movement and as a result utilized the font “univers” designed by adrian frutiger in 1956.

Univers has a distinctive look, and is very versatile. And during my early design career I think I used it for almost every project in some way or another. It actually was years before I forced myself to use other typefaces. Today I still use Univers, it just works, but not as much as I used to. There are many typefaces that imitate Univers, but really why bother? Just use the real thing.

Why do designers dislike each other

Throughout my extensive design career I have worked with many different designers or colleagues from different companies or firms. Designers of all talent, schooling and age. From all of these various interactions I can tell you that to say designer’s distrust each other is a understatement. Designer’s are down right cut throat when it comes to sharing, interacting or having an honest discussion about the project at hand.

In the design mind

Taking a wander through the Cooper hewitt design museum in the city today reminds me of why I love design just a little.

Designing for business

The task of running a design company brings many challenges. Recently I have run into the problem of working with a client through a project, and with the best intentions jumping around a little on the process. Although we have created a solid base with content discovery, site map and wireframe documentation we moved ahead with interface design prior to any sign off.

Getting out of your designer head

In experience terms I am one of the oldest people consistently designing interfaces for online applications, web sites, touch screens, in fact its easier to list things that I haven’t designed for. What I mean is that I have been actively creating and designing my whole career, in the trenches actually pushing pixels.

Are your designers giving you drab design?

Companies that have internal design resources often complain about the quality or creativity of the design that those resources produce. It has been my experience that the root of this problem often lies with the management team and how they interact with the design personnel.

Good typography

It is often said that if a typographer does his job correctly then his work is invisible to the reader. The typographer sets the text and uses grid, typeface, style and all the other tools at their disposal, with the goal of allowing the content to come through. The reader is able to read the text and if the typographer has executed the design well then the reader doesn’t even consider who designed the content. They simply read.

Adobe and Macromedia

After 14 years of using applications developed by Macromedia and Adobe to apply the craft of graphic design finally CS4 has come along. Don’t get me wrong I have always liked the applications that both of these companies developed. Now that they are one company and they made their customers pay for their merger (CS3 quickly followed by CS4) I was concerned about the future of computer tools to perform our craft. But I have been really surprised by the thought and usefulness of all of the CS4 applications. They are better and actually take into consideration process and flow of the graphic design practitioner.

The January Blues, how clients take us for granted

We had a very relaxing two week vacation over the christmas holidays, and when we arrived back in the office in early january we thought that we had a good handle on the projects that were awaiting our return.

The Myth of Web 2.0 design

I am never sure where the latest “terminology” comes from. Who coins it? And then who ensures that it becomes a descriptive part of our vernacular. The phrase Web 2.0 really bugs the designer in me, not to mention how it packages a whole industry into a simple phrase. The phrase Web 2.0 extends back in time and is a renaming of the swiss design movement from the 1920’s. The swiss design movement taught simplicity. Simplicity of design and content.

Two spaces after a full stop!

Another pet peeve… clients who submit their content with two spaces after a full stop or period. The first thing I do when I get a document of copy is to perform a find and replace for all double spaces. Im not going to go into the history of why this convention began and why it persists, but for the love of all things natural I wish it would stop.

Feet and Inches

A huge pet peeve of mine is the use of incorrect typographic marks. The one I see the most if the use of Feet and Inch marks in place of quotation (inverted commas) and apostrophe marks. There are double and single quotation marks and the general rule is that they are shaped in some sort of curve.

The Blame Game

We have worked with some terrible clients from a project standpoint. And although I ensure that the end product is something that I would be proud to show, the client in these cases can make the journey a tough one.

Client Project Mistakes

There are many, many things that clients do incorrectly. Of course we as contractors are not saints either. So this will be a continuing list of items, as i recall them, or as they happen.

It’s all about the type

I have often considered typography as one of my core design strengths. Type is intoxicating, alluring and can lead to the solution of many a design problem. My clients often think they understand the selection of a typeface, you know computers come with typefaces already installed!

Its been fourteen years

While many of my friends, colleagues and fellow designers have spent much of the last 5 years + blogging, reading and interacting online, I have, well, not. Don’t get me wrong I have always toyed with the concept of creating a blog that captures my thoughts about the business of design. Every time I sat down and attempted to create a blog for myself I found myself stuck.

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