The Squarespace Brand

I met up with a potential client yesterday and she excited showed me a site for her friend’s business that she really liked. As soon as she pulled up the site, I immediately recognized the Squarespace’s template. What did she like about the site? She loved the big photos, the sliding images and the photo parallax effect.

Even though I am getting tired of hearing Squarespace ads on every podcast as well as the hosts raving about it, I have to give Squarespace the credits for capturing its target audience: small mom and pops shops. My only worry is that all of these small business owners are wanting something like the Squarespace template without realizing that they are losing their own uniqueness. Don’t they want to standout rather than stand-in?

For just $8 a month, they could have a decent site even though it might look like 10 thousand other sites or they can paid designer a much higher price to create a unique experience for thier products and services. The choice is thiers.

Just Enough Research

One of the intriguing challenges of being a designer is that you never know what type of projects come your way. How can you solve the users’ problem if you don’t know anything about the project yourself? This is where Erika Hall’s Just Enough Research comes in handy. From organizational to user to competitive to evaluative to quantitative, Hall has all your researches covered. Read it and apply it because “research can save you and the rest of your team a ton of time and effort.”


Academics & Search Sections

I added two new navigation items to this site. The search item is, well, obvious. The academics section is the place where I document my class projects for Master of Arts in Graphic Design and teaching practices. The new section allows me to separate my class projects from my professional projects. I’ll add more works as I am getting closer to finishing up my MA.

Responsive Design Workflow

When I was an intern many years ago, I asked my mentor if I could watch him work in Photoshop. I was interested in his process. Reading Responsive Design Workflow is like seeing how Stephen Hay goes through his process. It’s fascinating and informative at once. Some of his workflows could definitely be incorporated into my own process, and yours as well.


Foundations of Web Design: Introduction to HTML & CSS

I was searching for an approachable and comprehensive book on HTML & CSS to recommend to students and Thomas Michaud’s Foundations of Web Design fits the bill. The instructions are easy to follow. The illustrations are clear. Most important of all, the contents are up-to-date. I am also glad that Michaud included a chapter on ARIA landmark roles.


Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited

Since part of the course I will be teaching is on usability, I need to find a book for students to read. I spent the past three nights revisiting Steve Krug’s Don’t Make Me Think and it gives me nostalgia. Most usability principles remain the same since 2000 (when the first edition of the book was published), but the third edition is updated with new screenshots and a new chapter devoted to mobile. It’s definitely worth rereading.


The Boys Are Growing

The parenting department has been staled. Life with the boys are challenging but great. Dan is still in his terrible two stage, but he is such a cutie. Yesterday I took him to Flippin’ Pizza, he said “Pizza is delicious. Pizza is good for you. Pizza is good for me.” Last night when I tried to put him to bed, he kept rolling around and kicked my face. I got mad he scolded him, “Go to sleep.” He responded, “I thought you were my friend.” How can you get mad at that?

This year’s family reunion, there were about a dozen of boys and only one girl. Dan got really closed with her even though she is quite older than him. He wanted her to be his friend only and no one else. He would fight others if they tried to get closed to her. Over the weekend, we were at the playground and he came to two Asian girls who were also older than him and started to make friends. He asked them to cook chicken and donuts for him and the girls were gladly played along.

Dao, on the other hand, is growing so fast. At the reunion, he played along with everyone. Our relatives recognized the changes in him from last year. He was very grumpy the previous year, but this year he laughed and played with his cousins. I can’t believe he is starting kindergarden in two weeks. My boys are growing.

Nguyên Khang – Tình Hờ

Trong buổi biểu tình chống Trung Quốc tại Washington DC vài tháng trước, tôi và Nguyên Khang ngồi trò chuyện thì có một bác trai đến hỏi Khang, “Cháu có phải là Đặng Thế Luân không?” Tôi hơi bị đột ngột thì Khang lễ phép trả lời, “Dạ không con là Nguyên Khang.” Khi bác bước đi Khang nói, “Chắc bác này không nghe nhạc Việt Nam.” Tôi mỉm cười đồng ý. Ngoài chiều cao ngang nhau, Nguyên Khang và Đặng Thế Luân không có điểm gì giống nhau cả.

Với album mới Tình Hờ, Khang chứng tỏa vị trí của mình trong làng văn nghệ Việt Nam. Chất giọng Khang càng dày và đậm theo thời gian. Đặc biệt qua “Một Lần” của Dương Phương Linh, Khang hát điêu luyện và nhiều cảm xúc. Qua điệu dương cầm ostinato, Khang hát chậm và đầy niềm tin. Khang trình bài “Trắng” (Trần Quảng Nam) rất có ấn tượng.

Đáng lý ra “Tình Hờ” nghe rất phê nhưng tiếc rằng chỉ được nửa bài. Trong một liên khúc do Diễm Liên và Khang trình diển trong Asia DVD 75, Khang đã cắt ra và cho vào album thay vì thâu lại nguyên bài. Trong khi “Tình Hờ” chỉ có hai phút rưởi còn “Dạ Khúc Cho Tình Nhân” (Lê Uyên Phương) thì hơn bảy phút. Tuy Khang hát rất tới nhưng cách hòa âm không đạt lắm nhất là khi đưa vào tiếng guitar ồn ào. Không hiểu sao Khang lại gồng lên khi hát “Một Ngày Như Mọi Ngày” làm mất đi sự nhẹ nhàng trong lời ca của Trịnh Công Sơn.

Tuy Tình Hờ có một số sơ suất và không có một khái niệm (concept) rõ ràng, nhưng cũng là một album đáng nghe.

Teaching Web Design

Starting next Monday, I will teach a course on web design and usability at the George Mason University’s School of Art. A fellow grad student approached me about the opportunity before I took off for our family reunion. I accepted the challenge last Tuesday when we were flying back to Virginia from Las Vegas. Since then, I only slept from 4:30 in the morning until 8 to prepare for the course. I only have a week and a half to develop a lesson plan, write the syllabus, design projects and create a course site. I am happy but exhausted to report that I almost have everything ready.

For this course, my ambition is to teach students not only the principles of web design and usability, but to learn to code basic but responsive web pages. I want students to have the foundation to make their own web site. I hope I can do it. I am very excited about this new adventure. I have a passion for teaching and have been wanting to give it a shot. Even though the opportunity came in at the very last minute, I couldn’t pass it up. I will be teaching 18 students including three of my grad classmates.

Because I wanted to continue my education and not slowing it down, I proposed using my teaching for a four-credit studio course. Even though I will be doing a whole lot more work as a teacher than a student, I think the experience is worth it. My wife also encouraged me to so. I am so glad to have her support because I can’t do it without her helping out with the kids.

I am also taking a required course on Graphic Design History. The good thing is that I already read the entire book over the summer. Obviously I wouldn’t remember everything, but I will read it again to refresh my memory. Looking forward to the starting school and class.

On Web Typography

Jason Santa Maria thought he could write a brief book on web typography in six months and it took him a few years to finish it. The wait is worthwhile though. Jason’s knowledgable subject matter combined with his approachable writing shows that the process of working with types could be rewarding and engaging. Jason’s passion for typography is also apparent in his compelling explanations. Required reading not just for web designers.