Showing all posts tagged: design
The 2023 Australian Book Design Awards (ABDA) winners
31 May 2023
The Australian Book Design Awards (ABDA) not only judge books by their covers, they celebrate them, and last week the winners of the 2023 awards were announced. Son of Sin written by Omar Sakr, pictured above, won the Best Designed Literary Fiction/Poetry Cover award, with a cover created by Sydney based book designer Amy Daoud.
In other categories, Zeno Sworder, who both wrote, and designed the cover for My Strange Shrinking Parents, won the ABDA Cover of the Year prize, while ABDA’s Book of the Year award went to QUEER: Stories from the NGV Collection, with a cover by Dirk Hiscock and Karina Soraya, who both work at the National Gallery of Victoria.
All of the winning covers can be seen on ABDA’s Instagram page.
Australian literature, books, design, Omar Sakr, Zeno Sworder
ooh.directory a blogroll and web directory in the TikTok age
31 May 2023
My thanks to Phil Gyford for listing disassociated in his web directory ooh.directory. In the early days of the web, before search engines were a thing, website owners often sought to be added to web directories, as promotional opportunities were otherwise limited.
These website lists, or catalogues, were usually broken down by category or subject, so if, say, you were seeking websites focussed on literature, the books or literature page was the place to go. I used to while away many an hour perusing web directories. Site descriptions were often concise, to say the least, and on occasion there was no telling where a link might lead. There was a certain spontaneity that came with directories and blogrolls, something perhaps lacking in today’s web.
ooh.directory is also a blogroll. Once upon a time bloggers used to list their favourite websites and blogs, usually in a sidebar of their blog. Blogrolls were preceded by link pages, which served a similar purpose. They’re not seen so often today, as their use became frowned upon by the search engines. There was a concern some websites included on blogrolls and link pages might have been paid placements, potentially giving the listed blog an unsanctioned leg up in search rankings.
Web directories and blogrolls have been making something of a comeback recently. And in a world chock full of distractions, their return couldn’t be more timely. Elegant tools for a more civilised web. In addition to ooh.directory, there’s also the excellent feedle, the actual Blogroll, and FeedLand.
Blog publishing application WordPress has turned twenty
29 May 2023
When I re-launched disassociated as a blog in 2007, being one of many reboots this website has been subject to since 1997, I migrated to blog publishing application WordPress (WP). Prior to that, all pages here were laboriously hand coded. Hand coding was a hangover from my web design days, and my distaste for WYSIWYG website editors. My beef, at the time, with many of these webpage builders was the way they worked. Best practice, and standards, were an alien concept to them, to say nothing of the extraneous code they generated.
I was sold. By that stage WP had been around for about four years, but was still regarded as being relatively new. It was enough to make me feel as if I were some sort of (sort of) pioneer. But WP frustrated the hell out of some people. Many felt WP’s core capabilities were lacking, necessitating an over dependence on plugins — small apps that add, or extend to, WP’s functionality — to bring about the website, or blog, they desired. Ben Barden, a developer and blogger, once created his own CMS, back in the day, named Injader, for this reason.
But I’ve always strived to keep the backend as simple as the front. My use of plugins is as minimal as the interface design. All I want to do is write and post content. But here we are in 2023. disassociated, still styled (mostly) with a lowercase d, which first came into being in 1997 (not as a blog, the term was yet to be coined), is, despite stops and starts, still publishing. And this week WP is twenty years old. So, happy birthday WordPress, and thanks for being here. I’m looking forward to your thirtieth, which will really be something if disassociated is still doing its thing.
blogs, design, history, technology
How to design 1999-like websites in 2023
23 January 2023
Websites designed in the late 1990’s, especially personal sites, like the in-your-face Geocities pages, might have been inaccessible, difficult to navigate, devoid of standards, and completely lacking in latter day best practice methodology, but they were fun. Bold. Colourful. Non-generic.
Professional web designers of the time may have hated them, but I dare say they loved to hate them. And they might be about to again. British web engineer Sophie Koonin — who built her first Geocities page at age ten — is on a mission to bring the flamboyant and weird back to the web.
This time though without the HTML markup hacks, and proprietary code, of twenty-five years ago:
I’d love to see this spirit return today – the experimental and fun side of the web. My goal is to show you how we can be just as creative today but using modern and accessible methods. Because, as fun as they were, old websites were a nightmare for accessibility. We didn’t really use semantic HTML, we used tables for layouts (instead of, y’know, tabular data), everything was constantly flashing and moving. Luckily for us, the modern web allows us to be just as creative while still considering the user at the other end of the browser.
Talking of websites built during the nineties, I found out the other day that entropy8 (screenshot above), an example of beautiful website design from the era, built by Rome, Italy, based American digital artist and sculptor, Auriea Harvey, is still online. I used to visit entropy8 a bit, back in the day. Websites designed by artists are also what the web needs more of.
2023 the year of the RSS reader for email newsletters?
27 December 2022
While I trawl Twitter, Instagram, and other aggregator sites for news and information, I still also use Really Simple Syndication (RSS)… yes, I hear the laughter. If I had my way though, I’d rely solely on RSS, where every channel I peruse could be pulled into a single, convenient, interface. Trust me, reading the whole internet is so much easier when you only have to look at the one screen.
RSS, which, by the way, is really simple once you get the hang of it, allows you to read the content of any website, or social media platform for that matter, offering a RSS feed. But not everyone saw RSS as simple, and consequentially the technology has been out of mainstream favour for some time now. RSS developers were also at loggerheads as to the direction the syndication technology should take, while publishers were uncertain as to how they could monetise content served via RSS.
I’m also subscribed to about half a dozen newsletters, but I struggle to keep up with the many and myriad newsletters presently in circulation. And still some people say we’ve not yet reached “peak newsletter”. Really? I reached peak newsletter at least ten years ago. Having said that, I have vague plans to publish a newsletter here, but I’m not sure I want to inflict yet another newsletter on the world, as there’s surely enough of them already.
Imagine though you could read all your email newsletters by way of a RSS app. But you wouldn’t be seeing a web version of a particular email newsletter, something a provider like Mailchimp makes available. Instead, an email newsletter RSS app would pull the content of all the newsletters from your email in-box, and funnel them into the email RSS app. You’d then see your email subscriptions displayed in the same way as the RSS feeds of any websites you subscribe to are.
An email newsletter RSS reader just might make browsing all those newsletters a little more manageable. And the idea’s not so far-fetched either, says Nikki Usher, writing for NiemanLab, who thinks such an app is possible, various technical issues notwithstanding:
I predict that these people won’t stand for a universe where their email becomes ever more crowded just because of Elon Musk mucking up Twitter. The only way to survive in a world where multiple DC-insider publications are launching multiple newsletters and Twitter is no longer socially acceptable is to use an RSS reader that satisfies the intelligentsia and political elite.
Will we get it? It may well be that the feed from email to robust RSS reader needs an API that isn’t yet possible, given password-protected, your-and-Gmail’s-eyes-only email. RSS readers may need their own ecology of analytics in order to be commercially desirable and worthy of tech investment.
Might then 2023 be the year of RSS? Even if it is for email newsletters? It seems like a big call, but I’m watching this space. Might the current malaise towards the today’s centralised internet see RSS return to favour? Again, a big call, but who knows.
design, social media, technology, trends
A return to blogging RSS and blogrolls for content discovery
6 December 2022
While I’m not one hundred percent sure we’re entering the end-days of social media, some recent talk of a resurgence in blogging, and a return to using RSS for content discovery, is encouraging. It’s kind of the web I know the best. But like anyone else, I can be found on the socials, Twitter and Mastodon, among them. I should add I’m an introvert, so my socials are relatively quiet. And no, the irony of that last sentence is not lost on me.
I first acquired the disassociated domain name, disassociated.com.au, in 1997. disassociated.com, meanwhile, came along in early 2003. But not before someone else, who’d bought the name, tried to sell it to me in the early 2000’s. But way back in the day, a person’s own website was always regarded the central pivot of their online presence. Pages on the early socials, Friendster, MySpace, and later Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, were always seen as “outposts”.
As a web person you had presences there, because everyone else did, but they were not core to your overall online presence. And for good reason. The socials might have been public web-spaces, but they were privately owned. Fall foul of their terms of service, and you stood have your account suspended, or worse, permanently shut down. Sometimes without recourse, because you were in the realm of someone else who was setting the rules.
But no problem, you still had your largely untouchable core online presence, your website, at your own domain, which was self-hosted somewhere. Until we didn’t. The socials became too easy to use. They were free, and no hosting charges needed to be paid. Having a self-hosted website required some degree — no matter how little — of technical competence. Twitter and Instagram offered unlimited server capacity, ease of use, and, through their sprawling memberships, a multitude of potential followers. No more drawn out wrangling with SEO to find eyes to see your stuff, an audience was already present. You simply (sort of) had to make yourself known to them.
But before SEO and the socials came along, audience building was a little trickier. Website owners and bloggers were required to put in a lot more groundwork. In the late 1990’s I was writing blog posts before blogging was a thing. Back then we called these blogs online journals. To make ourselves known to other people then, we might write an online journal post about them, while linking to their website at the same time. Another option was through guestbook comments.
Guestbooks were one of the earliest methods of interacting with a website owner, and were hugely popular in the late 1990’s. There were akin to the comments section of a blog post, although the discussion was confined to a single page on a website, where the guestbook was situated. Another tried and true way of making yourself known to other website owners was by way of a links page. Above is the links page that featured on disassociated in late 1999. I know a lot of those links are gone now, but later on I might click links and see who is still around.
I guess you could say website link pages evolved into the blogrolls that once adorned the main pages, usually a side bar (which I stopped using about ten years ago) of a blog, when blogs per se arrived. The search engines however bought about the demise of the old school blogroll, from around 2007 or 2008. They were concerned many of the inclusions to what were the favourite websites of the blogger, were paid placements. In those earlier days, the search engines were also opposed to the practice of linking to so-called “bad neighbourhoods.”
Bad neighbourhoods were seen as websites having little, or no relevance, to the subject matter of the blog that linked out to them. For instance, it was seen as bad practice for a blog focussed on film production to link to a blog focussed on baking cupcakes. That could only be downright suspicious, couldn’t it? Too bad if the cupcake blogger was the significant other of the film production blogger, interlinking was simply unacceptable, and might earn you a slap down from a search engine.
Hopefully those days are behind us. The web is too vast and diverse a place for anyone to stay in their own lane. But blogrolls have been making a comeback. Not so much on individual blogs, but in the form of a number of aggregator websites, which are focused on content discovery, and the work of outstanding writers and bloggers. Chief among them are feedle, Blogroll, ooh.directory, and FeedLand, which is a feeds repository.
As I wrote on Twitter recently, “search engines are great for finding resources on topics of interest but scrolling through lists of blogs and randomly spotting something compelling is plain fun”. I for one am hopeful of a blogging renaissance, and other ways of discovering content, far from the shadows of the social media giants.
Viva Magenta 18-1750 is the Pantone colour of the year 2023
3 December 2022
When I used to work in the web design shop, the announcement of the Pantone Colour of the Year was always highly anticipated. Mainly because everyone hoped their personal favourite colour would be chosen. It never happened to me, but I wasn’t fazed, there’s seldom a COTY I don’t like.
Anyway the colour (color?) of the year for 2023 is Viva Magenta 18-1750. I like it. The colour. And the name. To me, it sounds like the name of a planet that might feature in a sci-fi space opera movie franchise.
If you’re a designer though, here’s what you need to know to create Viva Magenta 18-1750. And to mark the momentous occasion on the design calendar, the disassociated website logo will be coloured Viva Magenta 18-1750 for the next little while.
Tree Abraham designed the cover of her new book Cyclettes
26 October 2022
Designing the cover of the book they’ve written must be the dream of many an author. But it is far from a simple undertaking, especially in a world where books are judged by their covers, whether they should be or not. Make a hash of it, and your title might sit unmoved on bookshops shelves.
Canadian born, New York based writer, illustrator, and book designer, Tree Abraham had the opportunity to design the cover for her latest book, Cyclettes, and I think it’s obvious the results speak for themselves.
In an article at Spine, Abraham discusses the design process, and the challenges of creating a cover as an author. Contrary to expectations, being too familiar with the subject matter of a book can present numerous, often unforeseen, difficulties:
If I was only the designer and not the author, this cover brief would have seemed easy. There is an abundance of visual and metaphorical imagery within the book to inspire highly graphic directions. But because of my intimacy with said imagery, it also posed the greatest challenge. I was hyper aware of the interior aesthetic: like a xeroxed zine or old textbook with black and white diagrams and scrap photography. I believed for a cohesive experience, the cover needed to align with the illustrative and typographic style inside, without overwhelming it. I wanted the cover to feel like a shell. Additionally, most of the imagery that I would have excitedly leveraged as a designer was quickly negated because, as the author, I knew it didn’t epitomize the core problematique.
Can you imagine a web without GIFs when they are gone?
13 October 2022
Once the mainstay of motion design during the early days of the web, GIFs appear to be on the way out, and may soon be non-existent. I shall miss them. Some of them that is.
GIFs are old and arguably outdated. They’ve been around since the days of CompuServe’s bulletin-board system, and they first thrived during the garish heyday of GeoCities, a moment in history that is preserved by the Internet Archive on a page called, appropriately, GifCities.
Craigslist keeping it simple and the same for twenty-five years
21 September 2022
When I started designing websites back in the day, you were lucky to get a couple of months out of a look. With new web technologies, and design ideas and trends, constantly emerging, it was necessary to redesign almost monthly*. We’re talking personal sites here, but in the late nineties, they were the closest thing an aspiring web designer had to a social media presence, or something like LinkedIn.
I’m certain though there are any number of still active websites that have not changed in the last twenty-five years or so, and American classified adverts site Craigslist is among them. Speaking recently to PCMag writer Emily Dreibelbis, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, says staying the same is the best way to serve their users:
Because that serves people better. I’ve learned that people want stuff that is simple and fast and gets the job done. People don’t need fancy stuff. Sometimes you just want to get through the day.
* or what felt like every month.