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Fake it until you make it as a designer

Fake it until you make it is a great piece of advice for designers. Or a slightly more accurate piece of advice that doesn’t scan quite as well, is Fake it until you become it. Act like you believe in yourself, act like you are a serious professional, act like this meeting or whatever is an every day occurrence, and eventually it will be. It also gives you something to concentrate on (the acting) rather than dealing with nerves or stress.

 

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And once you have made it, sit back and watch everyone else faking it…

Here is a fascinating Ted Talk on the same subject. www.blog.ted.com/2013/12/13/fake-it-til-you-become-it-amy-cuddys-power-poses-visualized/

Adding plugins in WordPress

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Plug from The Beano, who is copyright D.C. Thomsen, and just holding this space until I get an illustration drawn…

Adding plugins

There are some great plugins that can improve your site. Here is how to add one to your WordPress site.

In the back end > plugins > add new, put the plugin you are looking for into the search box, install and activate it. Easy. Some work immediately on activation, some need certain aspects set up on their set up page. Somewhere in the backend left hand sidebar, will be the set up page for the plugin. Look under ‘Settings’ if you can’t see it.

A word of warning on plugins. They can cause problems on your site. Don’t bring in too many (I’d ay about 5 max, less is better). Check to see if a plugin is popular by downloads, or has lots of complaints in their forum before bringing it in.

Dealing with plugin issues

If something goes wrong with your site in WordPress it is almost always a plugin that is responsible. Not necessarily a bad plugin, it can be two plugins are conflicting with each other, or with your theme. If something goes wrong with your site, start by de-activating your plugins one by one, and checking if the problem is resolved. If that doesn’t solve it, deactivate them all together. If that doesn’t solve it, change your theme to one of the default WordPress themes you got with the install. Between those steps, almost all issues will be solves. You should be able to isolate, what will almost always be a problem plugin, and then delete it.

Update your plugin

Whenever the red symbol appears that a plugin needs updating, update it. This also goes for WordPress, keep it updated, and your theme.

Recommended WordPress plugin

I recommend you  should have WordPress SEO by Yoast. Adds a box below each article in the back end of your site for you to fill out for SEO. It teaches you how to SEO each article or page through choosing a key phrase for that page or article, then adding it to the Title, description and in the content. It effectively teaches you to write better SEO content.

I also recommend Disqus plugin for comments. At the bottom of this article you can see my comments section is with Disqus. It allows visitors to log in with social media, or Disqus itself, and can interact with other blogs. You occasionally meet it on large scale sites such as The Daily Telegraph.

You may also like:

My WordPress portfolio page.

Inspiration for writing your blog

Whether your blog is part of your business or you are blogging for fun, getting going with writing content is often the hardest part of the process.

There is a very inspirational video interview on the WP Elevation site with professional blogger Bill Belew. www.wpelevation.com/2014/02/episode-19-bill-belew/

Watching this will give you some good tips, and should leave you feeling energised. The two main points I took from the video (and there are lots) is ‘you haven’t really started until you have written a hundred articles’, and ‘just press publish!’. Bill is also a fascinating character, and Troy at WP Elevation is a great interviewer on all things WordPress.

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If you are still struggling to get going with writing for your blog, advice from Morten Rand-Hendriksen of lynda.com is to set aside thirty minutes once a week at the same time. What ever is written after 30 minutes, just publish. This way content will build steadily, and deadlines concentrate the mind.

From my experience the regular addition of content also makes me more alert for other possible subjects for blog articles.

It is important to understand it is unlikely you will know how your writing will be until you get going. It will evolve over time. You can always delete or edit old articles if you become uncomfortable with old content.

 

 

Working on The Dental Trauma Guide website

A number of years ago I had the privilege to work for The Odontologist Videncenter (Department of Rare Oral Diseases), a research department within Rigshospital (University Hospital), Copenhagen’s main hospital.

I worked under the legendary dentist Jens Ove Andreasen, known as the Father of dental traumatology, and also department head Jette Daugaard-Jensen, and Søren Steno Ahrensburg Christensen. Working with other animators, graphic artists, and illustrators, we worked on The Dental Trauma Guide website which is a non-profit website dedicated to optimising worldwide treatment of dental trauma.

Their work in research and treatment of patients was fascinating and incredibly inspiring to see.

 

 

The good the bad and the Facebook

Facebook business page design, the good, the bad, and the Facebook

The good the bad and the Facebook

I am delighted to launch my Facebook page today. It will be an important part of my marketing, and a good chance to experiment with a view to aiding my clients with their pages. Having worked with clients’ Facebook pages in the past while working for design bureaus, it is a great chance to re-acquaint myself with all things Zuckerberg, with my Facebook business page design.

As wonderful a marketing tool as Facebook is, there are always problems. While recent design changes to the look and user experience have improved Facebook immensely, there have been times in the past where I have almost wanted to weep over how such a user unfriendly, visually ugly website could be so successful. It was, to my graphic designer’s eyes, clearly designed by a programmer, and I suspect I know his name.

The Facebook big issue

There is a ‘big picture’ issue with Facebook, Facebook wants to be the internet. The only website you need to visit, ever. With businesses using their Facebook page as their sole online marketing tool. Links out of Facebook to your own site are not prioritised. Recently the Static HTML app, which allows the website to feature prominently in the page tab, stopped external links being added. Now you can have your website ‘planted’ inside Facebook. Which will feature Facebook’s adverts. This annoys me. They are so successful, but they want more. They want everything. The Guardian stopped it’s highly successful Facebook app (with over six million monthly users) to regain control of it’s content. More on the Guardian Facebook app here.

Facebook business page design problems

The main downside to Facebook pages is the branding. Facebook’s blue, and mechanical design structure dominates. Meaning there is little or no visual contrast between Heineken’s Facebook page with over 14 million ‘likes’, and the local flower shop with 7 ‘likes’. Every business should also have it’s own place on the net. As I recommend to all my clients, a blog, events page or diary, posting links to your Facebook page is the best way to use Facebook to bring visitors to your website regularly.

On top of the dominant Facebook branding, despite adding images to the timeline header at exactly Facebook’s pixel dimension, they still crunch the picture to lose image quality. Programmers!

Why huge companies are so Facebook oriented

It makes perfect sense for Heineken or any other major conglomerate to use Facebook. In my opinion there are two types of websites. Visit regularly sites, and visit once sites. Before social media, companies such as Nike, Budweiser, Coca Cola etc. had fantastic expensively created state of the art sites. You’d go in, be ‘blown away’, but have no reason to return.

If you take a look at the most visited websites per country list, you find interesting patterns on which sites are visited regularly. Outside of the usual suspects, Google, Facebook, Wikipedia and Amazon, some news sites are the only regularly visited sites in the top twenty, in pretty much every country. This is why huge companies are so Facebook reliant. They can post regular quality content and advertise their wares to millions.

Smaller companies however have no reason for these numbers. Use it’s power, but use Facebook to attract visitors to your own part of the web. Where your brand rules, and you decide if your visitors will be advertised to.

Reasons to get annoyed with Facebook/ Reasons to get serious about Google Plus

  • The dominant Facebook branding
  • The lack of ‘freedom of the web’ via outside links
  • Inability to see who the people that have ‘liked’ your page are
  • Constant changes in how it works

And what do you do?

My job title is something of an issue/mouthful. Web designer, graphic designer and illustrator. Depending on the context, I’ll generally respond to the question of what I do, as ‘I make websites’. In most situations it is just polite smalltalk and no-one could care less. But as a freelancer, you never know who might be a potential customer.

The Web designer title is a particularly confusing one, as it seems from my experience to imply I’m a developer. A techy. Someone who can help fix computers, set up email accounts, get broken printers to work. Oh no I can’t. I belong to the designer tribe, which buys a mac because a. it looks pretty, and b. I get it home, plug it in, and it pretty much works. How it does this, how much kilobytes of download upload processing capability, I neither care about, nor wish to waste valuable brain RAM understanding.

There is the title Digital designer. However along with Multi-media designer, it’s a bit yeuch. In Danish there is a job title of Webgrafiker. Web graphic designer, effectively. A nice term which explains the job function well.

Illustrator is also a job title I dislike. On being further pressed the conversation often develops to ‘aah you do cartoons!’ with a deeply patronising smile. Cartoonist is an awful job title. Cartoonist illustrator, nope, doesn’t work. Again in Danish, there is a lovely job title for this, Tegner. At tegne is the verb to draw. Tegner, someone who draws. Covers pretty much all fields of illustration, without the pretention implied in Illustrator or heaven forbid, Artist(e).

Graphic designer I have no problems with. Although others in similar fields to me use the term Art director. That to me implies a person who sits around all day in a design agency doing precious little, appearing for the last five minutes of a project to change everything and/or take all the credit/apportion blame.

Potential art director clients. I’m. Just. Kidding.

Developers and designers

Can’t live without them, not allowed to punch them…

Working with Developers is always an enjoyable experience. Our skills overlap, in the sense I have some front-end skills, and they have read Lord of the Rings, several times. I tease them because their new PC they love and adore is an ugly box, and they threaten to give away a million plot spoilers for Game of Thrones, because they’ve read the book. Which was, ‘so much better’.

The church of Apple

Then I’m called a Mac fanboy. Ooh bitches! Just because I think PC’s are ugly, doesn’t make me a Mac fanboy. Plenty things are wrong with Macs. The attitude of the ‘experts’ working in their shops.  The functionality first concept that provides a 27 inch iMac (so clearly space is not an issue for the user) with a tiny minimilist keyboard which is not very good for typing on. Then there’s Flash. We Mac designers loved Flash. A visually stunning animation programme, that made website content unlimited in it’s possibilities. And, was a bugger to learn. And who killed Flash? Apple did. Leaving us with second rate, all too similar jQuery animation to liven up websites. Thanks Apple, thanks a bunch!

Then there’s Apple’s minimalist packaging. It’s always beautiful, and brilliantly designed. So what’s with the Apple stickers that come with every product?!  I’d love them, if I was eight years old. They are a piece of tat!

Of course having a healthy disrespect for the church of Apple may be just a ruse. After all, where would I be without the fantastic guys who solve my problems, make that div do what I want, sort out the PHP, make things work again after I’ve broken them. Just button it about Game of Thrones though, seriously, don’t go there.

Eddie Izzard on printers

A Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Coming to the end of my first year as freelance designer and illustrator in a few years, I’d like to take the opportunity to thank my clients of 2012, and wish them all a very Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

I look forward to working again with them in the future, and to meeting and working with new clients in 2013.

My special thanks to Tue at www.360degree.dk, Bettina at Sterling Tobacco and Jason and Adam at Brand X for their support and advice this year.

While you all know me quite well, you also appreciate this thanks is in lieu of a Christmas card! I’m from Scotland after all…

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Logo Design Love

Logo Design Love is a book written by the designer David Airey. Essential reading for designers as a guide to creating iconic brand identities. It is also a fascinating read for anyone in business.
His blog at www.logodesignlove.com is also well worth visiting.

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Creative reading

One of my favourite magazines is Computer Arts. It’s tagline is ‘The essential read for the modern designer’. Which is exactly what it is. It is filled with inspiration, techniques and fascinating industry features. I also read it’s sister magazine .Net, which keeps me up to date with the latest trends in web design.

While magazines may have suffered in terms of sales due to the internet, the iPad versions of these magazines are fantastic, and will most certainly become the future of publishing. Unlike the web, where there are many restrictions on what can be done with the design, fonts, images etc. the iPad magazine downloads in one, and is the same as the print version, but with added functionality. The film magazine Empire’s front cover for their 2012 Batman edition is animated. The future of magazine design has arrived.