Category Archives: Design

Dead Pixel Society

Editing icons 1990s style in ResEdit

FANS OF ICON ART and The Big Web Show, listen up. Tomorrow’s Big Web Show guest is Justin Dauer (AKA @pseudoroom) of The Dead Pixel Society. Justin was a web icon artist in the mid-1990s, back when I also dabbled in the art. Indeed, it was talented folks like Justin and my friends at The Iconfactory who made me realize that specializing in icons was probably not going to be a thing for me, as they were so much better at it.

Ah, for the days when a pixel was a pixel!

To celebrate those times and that body of work, Justin has gathered together some of the best of those 1990s icon artists at The Dead Pixel Society. Its mission: to “honor the humble pixel with desktop icon creations we would’ve designed the past 18 years, via 1996 ResEdit-esque constraints.” The site, although it has not yet officially launched, is now available in preview.

I loved those days of the early web, when progressive enhancement meant making sure it worked in 16 colors as well as 216. So I’m quite excited about my upcoming conversation with Justin. You can listen in to the live taping tomorrow, Thursday October 2nd, from 10:00AM–11:100AM EDT on 5by5.tv. The final, edited show will be posted a few hours later at 5by5.tv/bigwebshow; you can also subscribe via iTunes and/or RSS. Here’s looking at you, pixel!

On Design Conferences

A GOOD CONFERENCE is a designed experience. I don’t mean a visually over-designed brandgasm. I mean an educational and emotionally considered narrative.

To me, the ideal conference offers a single track, so that all attendees (and all speakers) share the same intense experience over one or more days. The content of each presentation should be discussed with the organizer far in advance of the show, just as the content of an issue of a magazine gets reviewed with editors long before the issue is published.

Too many conferences focus on the mechanics and skimp on the up-front editorial strategizing, shaping, and planning. It is not enough to simply hire people because they are respected in the industry, or because they are in demand, or because their name sells tickets, or because they are available.

A great conference is like a great playlist or LP; every song should contribute, and the sequence in which they are heard should have an inevitability to it, like the song sequence on your favorite albums. The order in which sessions take place is critical; there should be music to the ebb and flow; related ideas should be presented in blocks that help attendees see connections across sessions and topics.

A trained ape can invite the same speakers who speak everywhere else. Conference planners should constantly seek new talent and new ideas. Even more, they should strive to create an environment in which speakers actually want to sit and listen to other speakers, thus further improving the editorial flow and the conscious interplay of related ideas.

To put together great editorial content requires deep and broad knowledge of your discipline, and of the people who contribute to it. It takes sensitivity and experience to choose just the right speakers, on just the right topics, and to arrange their presentations across time for maximum educational and strategic benefit.

If I do say so myself, cough cough.


With thanks to my friend Louis Rosenfeld, who has asked a number of conference founders to share their thoughts on the subject. Watch this space for links to a polished conglomeration of all they had to say, coming soon.

Thanks also to Jim Heid, who ran Web Design World back in them days. And to Eric, Marci, Toby, and Stephen, eternally.

Netdiver returns

Image from Netdiver Magazine

PIONEERING design ‘zine Netdiver is back, baby!

Founded by my friend and colleague Carole Guevin in 1998, Netdiver was one of the first web ‘zines to seriously explore and promote design and design culture on the web. In its pages, you would discover pretty much everything exciting that was happening in web and digital design, photography, industrial design, and digital filmmaking.

Sites as fine (and as different) as Swissmiss and The Great Discontent can trace more than a strand of their DNA back to Netdiver and its creator.

Like many of the great zines and blogs from the first and second waves of indy web publishing, Netdiver has been quiet over the past few years. It’s a thrill to see it come roaring back to life. Maybe it’s a sign. Maybe a long overdue re-flowering of blogs and independent websites is imminent. A boy can dream.

A List Apart № 393: Inventing & Documenting Design Patterns

A LIST APART Issue №  393

A LIST APART Issue № 393 is about documenting design patterns with a style guide and creating new ones with the z-axis.

Creating Style Guides

by SUSAN ROBERTSON

A style guide, also referred to as a pattern library, is a living document that details the front-end code for all the elements and modules of a website or application. It also documents the site’s visual language, from header styles to color palettes. In short, a proper style guide is a one-stop guide that the entire team can reference when considering site changes and iterations. Susan Robertson shows us how to build and maintain a style guide that helps everyone from product owners and producers to designers and developers keep an ever-changing site on brand and on target.

The Z-Axis: Designing for the Future

by WREN LANIER

For years we’ve seen the web as a two-dimensional space filled with pages that sit side by side on a flat, infinite plane. But as the devices we design for take on an increasingly diverse array of shapes and sizes, we must embrace new ways of designing up and down. Designing on the z-axis means incorporating three-dimensional physics into our interface designs. Wren Lanier explains how, by using the z-axis to place interface elements above or below one another, we can create better design systems that are more flexible and intuitive to use—and create new patterns that point the way to future interactions.


Illustration by Kevin Cornell

Big Web Show № 116: The Difference Between Ideas and Products

Phillip Reyland and Roland Dubois, cofounders of Byte Dept.

IN BIG WEB SHOW № 116 (“Everything Web That Matters”), I chat with Phillip Reyland and Roland Dubois, cofounders of Byte Dept., a NYC agency that designs and builds digital products for brands and agencies, and that created the popular Bike Department app for iOS.

We discuss…

Creating products for clients instead of yourself. Four strategies to apply to every product: experience strategy, platform strategy, mobile strategy, and integration strategy. Rethinking the mobile bike app: using data to predict whether a bike will be there when you get to it. The experience layer versus the visual layer. Finding the right partner. Working with ad agencies. The difference between ideas and products, and how to explain it to your client. The wild world of wearables. And more.

LISTEN to Big Web Show № 116 on Mule Radio.

URLS Mentioned

Sponsored by Typekit

Designing and Developing “The Web at 25” Website

Tim Murtaugh, front-end developer

Mike Pick, designer

IN BIG WEB SHOW № 114 on Mule Radio, designer Mike Pick and front-end developer Tim Murtaugh talk to me about how they created The Web at 25 website for the W3C in just five and a half weeks.

Mike and Tim are the real deal: a great web design and development team from whom we can all learn a lot. They are also funny, humble, and insightful.

We discuss design, approval, and client focus. Working for geniuses. What we’d all be doing if the web didn’t exist. Keeping the web open. What the W3C has in common with IndieWeb. The web today versus the early web: more powerful, more empowering, and more requiring of specialization. The effect of mobile on the digital divide. Stephen Fry naked. And more.

Enjoy Big Web Show № 114.


This episode is sponsored by Hover.