An overview of the last year on pixelyzed.com
Now that 2008 is just about to start, I thought it would be a good idea to write a pixelyzed.com style year end review.
There’s been a lot of activity in our little world last year as well as in other areas of the software industry. Throughout 2007, I discussed products and technologies that can help our work flows and processes in new ways and my own process has evolved significantly. Now I’ll try to summarize some of it and share some of my best finds of the year in several categories. There are some new things in here I didn’t discuss before so enjoy!
pixelyzed is growing
Although I still am not a very prolific blogger, Pixelyzed has grown in readership last year and I have made an effort to share my more interesting discoveries as they apply to Web designers and creative professionals. I have also tried to write about more varied topics and I will keep doing so in the new year.
2007 has been a year of growth and change for my career as well. I have tackled a couple of large Web design projects and have started doing sub-contracting work again.
Behind the scenes, I have been working on a new version of my professional site webfocusdesign.com and started marketing locally more aggressively. Once the new version of that site goes up sometime in the next few months, I will intensify these marketing efforts.
Another project I’ve been working on is my wife’s portfolio site as she is a gifted artist- painter. I’ve gone through a few design iterations and we finally decided to go with a very simplified and uncluttered look. I’ve looked at dozens of painters and photographers’ Web sites and realized that the better ones really put the emphasis on the artist’s work and everything else recedes. We also decided to go Flash all the way which means I’ll have to re-acquaint myself with it and give myself a quick crash course. If anyone has good advice on good Flash books, I’m all ears. I don’t want books that go through the basics but books that teach solid techniques for real world projects and functionality.
The year in software
This is a really quick overview as I will write a separate post dedicated to the year in software to be published later. I must say that 2007 has been a very exciting year for me. Here are a few of the standout products I’ve been using last year which have been helping me get my job done more efficiently.
The major new software suite release from Adobe… and the first iteration of the integration of existing Adobe products and former Macromedia ones. There was a lot to get excited about here as most products received serious upgrades. Standouts for me include Illustrator and InDesign.
In spite of all our speculation, Fireworks is still alive and got better under Adobe’s care. After the extreme disappointment that Fireworks 8 was, Fireworks CS3 was an encouraging release. But Adobe still has a lot of work to do to fulfill Fireworks’ early promise as key areas of the application have been neglected for years and still have got no love in CS3. Looking forward to CS4, there are several key areas I’d like to see improve. More in my next post…
Creative Suite 3 is the release that finally and officially marked the death of FreeHand and the official word from Adobe is that FreeHand users should now migrate to Illustrator. This decision leaves a lot of long time FreeHand users who feel that Illustrator is not an adequate replacement in the cold and I feel for them. Removing competition is never good for any industry and this is no exception. More later…
MindManager is my best software find of 2007. It’s the application that had the biggest impact on my process and work flow. It is a fantastic knowledge and information management tool that is flexible enough to help through all phases of a Web design projects. I would really encourage every creative professional to at least try it. I will keep sharing tips and ideas on how I use MindManager in my own work through the new year so stay tuned!
The perfect companion to MindManager, JCVGantt can both be use as a standalone application and as an add-in for MindManager. Planning and scheduling projects has always been a hard and tedious task for me. JCVGantt Pro makes it a lot easier and integrates seamlessly with MindManager. It is extremely flexible in how it lets users set resources parameters like working and non-working times and days, hourly and fixed costs and more. It updates the Gantt charts, total costs and the MindManager maps it is tied to in real time as you make changes to resources or tasks. A great discovery for me.
The other piece in my project management and administration puzzle. I’ve been using Studiometry since mid 2006 to track and keep client and project information, track communications but also as a timer for billable time and then for invoicing. Studiometry does a lot more than that and it got a major upgrade to version 5.0 in 2007. Check it out!
Control information overload and get the latest info from all your favourite Web sites in one place. I’ve been using FeedDemon to subscribe and read RSS feeds for a while now (since it first came out) and I couldn’t live without it. It this age of information overload, it’s the main “hub” through which I get industry news and more. It has too many features to go into here but if you use Windows, this is the only feed reader you need to consider…
Vista got a bad rap last year for a variety of reasons but I love it myself. Moving to Vista has brought me little trouble and a real boost in enjoyment and productivity. It’S true that my new computer has the powerful hardware to support it so Vista for me is fast and extremely stable. Much more so in fact than XP ever was for me. A great surprise for me and I can’t wait to see the improvements SP1 brings.
The year in music
Many of you know I’m a musician and a music fanatic in general. 2007 was a great year in music for me as well. I’ll also post a separate entry on my musical finds of the last year but here’s a little taste of my 3 best musical discoveries of 2007. More later…
2007 is the year I discovered satellite radio and more specifically, XM Radio. It is where I discovered several of the artists who’s music I fell in love with in 2007. XM Radio has more varied playlists than Sirius and more interesting channels. I carry my radio from the home to my car and the office and I re-discovered the joy of listening to music for hours. I discovered many new talents on XM and I bought more CDs in the last year alone than in the prior 5 because of it. Couldn’t live without it now…
My biggest musical crush of the year… on more levels than one ;-). If you never heard of Grace Potter & The Nocturnals, you have to visit their site and listen to some of the samples.
They play great music lead by a phenomenal voice with amazing raw emotional intensity. And Grace is adorable to boot… ;- ) Just give them a listen if you like rootsy but intense rock music based on well above average songwriting. Current stand out songs for me include “Apologies” and “Loose Some Time” (next week it may be two other songs…) both of which are slower numbers but the band also excels at the more intense rockers that fill out the rest of the album and fuel their live shows.
The music press is simply gushing about them and her and the band apparently gives amazing concerts. Don’t miss them if they come play in your city. If they ever come play in Montreal, I’ll be first in line to see them… In the meantime read this review of one of their recent shows to whet your appetite.
Another young and extremely gifted female songwriter. Higgins is folksier than Potter but just as intense. This Australia native was another XM Radio discovery for me. Not long after hearing her music on XM, my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing her perform on the Australian segment of Live Earth and we were immediately hooked. Great melodies sung with a very noticeable Aussie accent that just adds to the charm of her music. I’m really surprised she does not get more airplay or exposure in North America.
Again, give her music a listen, you’ll be glad you did.
The year in learning
One of the more exciting aspects of working in the Web design industry for me is the need to continually learn new things. I have discovered a few great resources last year that I will now share with you.
Some of those resources or sites that may seem pretty basic to those who’ve been in this business for a while but I like reading about different approaches so I can look at my work from a fresh perspective from time to time. Some of this stuff will be known to you but it may still contain great refreshers.
Less experienced Web designers would be wise to look at some of those resources closely, spend quality time at those sites and absorb some of the wisdom their creators are spreading mostly for free.
Learning keeps your mind young and fresh so, enjoy!
For any designer interested in reading excellent practical articles with great design tips and ideas published on a regular basis, Before & After delivers great value for the money and teaches you how the pros do it and why. Even pros will learn new things and will at the very least be inspired to try new approaches to solve design problems. I know I have.
I’ve actually been a subscriber for a couple years now but it seems the quality of the articles has kept improving throughout the year. If you subscribe you’ll also get access to a number of past issues. Before & After magazine is one of the best of its kind so take a look at the sample PDF’s on the site and you’ll see what a great value it is.
I discovered this e-book through the feed of the “Web Design From Scratch” Web site created by Ben Hunt. Every working Web designer should probably read it as it is shock full of great tips and advice for creating efficient Web sites that succeed at creating great user experiences.
The book is very well written in that it does not just explain the principles behind Hunt’s “Save the Pixel” design philosophy but also provides numerous case studies of Web site re-designs. Each case study shows the original site and explains why it wasn’t exactly successful. Then it shows the redesigned version and explains why it works better and why key design decisions were made.
The book would be an excellent resource even for seasoned Web design pros but it should be required reading for all aspiring and new Web designers but especially wannabes who think that what they do is design when they have no real process and just like to make “pretty things” without forethought, planning or direction. Sadly, there are a lot of people like that in our industry vying for the same projects we’re pitching for. This book demonstrates very well why real design is a lot more than mere decoration and why every pixel counts when your site tries to communicate a brand or message as clearly as possible. Best $30 I spent all year…
Start creating better, more effective designs too. Get “Save The Pixel” through my affiliate link here.
Ben Hunt’s Web site which claims to be “A complete guide to designing web sites that work”.
This site is an extensive resource that contains a lot of free content as well as paid stuff like the “Save the Pixel” book discussed above. One of my great finds of the year.
A site I discovered through another site’s feed in FeedDemon. IdeasonIdeas touches on a wider variety of subjects than pure design talk. One of the recent discussions centered on the pros and cons of Requests For Proposal or RFPs and started the discussion by stating why they thought they were bad for designers and why.
If you’ve ever had to deal with such issues (and what designers hasn’t) then you know what a pain and a waste of time RFPs can be. Commenters brought up other good points and that is what that blog is about. Great discussions on subjects that matter to communications professionals and brand strategists.
Looking forward to 2008
While I don’t like to play the guessing game of predicting the future, we should probably all look ahead to the future now and plan where we’d want this year to take us. Our future is ours to create and imagine so here’s a few things I’m looking forward to in 2008.
I’m planting the seeds of a growing business by re-designing my own professional Web site. We might all benefit from re-visiting our own branding and marketing efforts. As a freelancer it is sometimes more difficult because what we are marketing is our own expertise and our brand is ourselves. I’m looking forward to improving my own marketing skills as this will also benefit my clients.
Waiting for Fireworks CS4
Readers of this blog know how important Fireworks is to my design process. I have been a vocal Fireworks evangelist for years now. As I stated above, I think that Fireworks CS3 was solid transitional release under the new care of Adobe. But Fireworks is not without problems… In my next post which will be about the year 2007 in software, I’ll discuss how I now see Fireworks’ place in mine and a typical Web designer’s arsenal and where I would like it to go next.
2008 on Pixelyzed.com
All in all, 2007 was a great year on many levels for me and for the industry but I feel it was a transitional year. I’m really looking forward to what 2008 brings and hopefully, some of the bigger personal changes I have been planning on for a long time will finally happen. Stay tuned!
Regarding the blog, I don’t like to make promises and break them so I will not claim that I will write more often in 2008. All I can promise is that I’ll keep working on building my “voice”. What I try to share with people here are ideas and resources I feel are worthwhile. What this blog and site will never become is a link whore that simply links to other content with little or no new take on it. If that means I post less often than some other bloggers because I don’t spread the latest “meme” without critical thought or commentary then so be it.
I will keep speaking my mind and try to strike conversations on issues that matter to me and which I believe should matter to other design professionals.
Thank you very much to all who follow this site and blog and those who have commented here or sent me e-mail throughout the year. It’s good to know people appreciate what I try to share and care enough to comment on it. See you all in 2008!