VISUALGUI

Friday Finds

I want to get back to finding design inspirations, particularly websites with strong typography.

Let’s kick off with my own portfolio site. I made some realignments. I dropped the grid to make the layout simpler. I am still using Roslindale and Bild, designed by David Jonathan Ross for his Font of the Month Club. I made the text much bigger.

Also setting in Roslindale, Jason Pamental redesigned his site using Roslindale’s variable font. I dig the resource section. Thanks for including my websites.

Yesterday, I noticed Vassar has a new design. Congratulations to the talented web team. Under the new director, they appear to be unifying the look and feel rather than letting it loose like when I was still there over a decade ago.

I came across twin soul studio. Very nice use of big types, colors, illustrations, and subtle motions.

The Intercept is definitely not new, but I like the typographic treatment. The infinite scrolling, however, drives me nuts. TechCrunch isn’t new either, but I like the grid layout on the homepage.

I took a recent issue of the Magnolia Journal at my brother-in-law’s house because I was impressed with the typesetting. I am feeling the itch to redesign this blog a bit. I want to make the text bigger, but also keep it readable. Will see.

No Free Ads for Car Dealers

After 15 years together, my poor 2003 Acura TL is in devastating condition. Its transmission is failing and it is spreading to other parts like cancer. I am still driving it, but I am afraid it will just die on me one of these days.

My wife and I have been shopping around for a while and we decided on another Toyota Sienna because it has the most room for our growing family. Our forth boy is coming out soon so just want to be done with the car situation.

Late Wednesday night, my wife and I went adopted a brand new 2018 Toyota Sienna SE. It’s a beautiful minivan and it just cost me a big fortune. I need to just let it go about the money issue. I hate making a big decision like this, but it is now a done deal. Just get over it.

The next morning I discovered a decal of Priority logo glued below the left rear headlight. The sales guy also attached its logo on the front and rear of my license plates. The plates I can easily take off, but I am not going to scrape off the decal and leave scratch marks.

I am not going to advertise for the dealer for free after it had charged me a huge amount of money. I wrote to Priority and asked for a small fee to have its logo displayed on my minivan as well as the front and rear license plates for the lifetime of the car. Of course, I did not get any response.

After work, I drove back to the dealer to have the decal remove. The sales guy was shocked that I wanted that done. He asked me if I was sure I wanted it to remove. Of course, I said yes. I don’t want to display the dealer’s logo on my car. I guess except for designers, most people don’t care.

It is ridiculous how much money the dealers have made with the car sales and they also want the buyers to advertise for them for free. We need to demand discounts or remove the logos. We can’t let them take advantage of us.

The Economics of Web-based Books is Not Viable

After PayPal fees, I made exactly $9.99 on the second edition of Vietnamese Typography. I had put tremendous amount of effort into the revision, but it is not paid off. My only hope left is that the book still provides the value for anyone who is interested in the Vietnamese language and that I will get some advising work with type designers.

As for me, I have learned an invaluable lesson on publishing web-based books. When I first read Practical Typography, I was intrigued by Matthew Butterick’s experimentation. His writing on “The Economics of a Web-based Book” inspired me to take this route. I am glad it worked out for him. I am not a business savvy. Putting up the entire book for free is a terrible marketing strategy; therefore, I do not recommend this approach. The web is a great place for sharing information, but it is still not a good platform for getting paid for the knowledge you shared.

With that said, I still feel good about my small contribution to the web design community (Professional Web Typography) and type design community (Vietnamese Typography). I want to thank those who have read and supported my effort.

Job Title Matters

When I was promoted to Director of Design and Web Services, I did not think much of it. I had a raise and a part-time web developer/editor reporting to me, but not a whole lot changed.

Recently I was invited to be on the hiring committee for the position of Director of Communications. My role was to make sure the candidate have sufficient technology to do basic tasks including putting together a monthly email newsletter, writing a blog post, and, of course, using social media.

After all the interviews, the committee discussed the best candidate to make the recommend to the Dean. We all came up with the same candidate, however, I was concerned about the lack of technical skills from a potential candidate. When I voiced my concern, one of the committee members suggested that I should be reporting to the new Director of Communications. I was shocked, but my reply was, “You can’t direct a director. I am the Director of Design and Web Services.” The committee member didn’t say anything.

Digital Longevity

Zach Leatherman:

Digital content longevity will continue to be highly variable, depending only in part on the file format used. HTML has existed for about 27 years and I wouldn’t venture a guess to say how much longer it’ll go. I can say that a reduction in ceremony around opening and reading a file is better for that file’s longevity. Relatedly, the ubiquity of software necessary to read a file lends to its future proofing as well. And what software has been historically and continues to be more ubiquitous than the lowly web browser? I’m not sure such software exists.

So feel free to keep creating your content in Microsoft Word or in Markdown or using JSX or Mustache templates or in your WordPress database. But if you want the content to live a full and happy life, publish it in HTML on the web.

HTML rocks!

Vietnamese Typography’s Second Edition is in Progress

My goal for the first edition of this book was to expand and enrich the quality of Vietnamese typography. In the last two years since the book published, I am thrilled every time a new typeface released with the Vietnamese language.

Many type designers have used this book to help them understand Vietnamese’s unique typographic features. Even though most of them do not speak or write the language, they have gained insights into subtle details and nuances of the Vietnamese writing system through this book. As a result, they have more confidence in designing diacritics, which play a crucial role in legibility and readability of the Vietnamese language.

They understand that the design of the diacritics is as important as the letters. If the marks are too small, readers will have a difficult time distinguishing each word. If the marks are too large, the flow of text can be interfered. Without clear, proper diacritical marks, the reading experience can be disjointed and disrupted. When the marks are missing, readers have to slow down or stop to guess at words, which can distort, or obscure entirely, the original meaning of the text.

Since the release of this book in 2016, I have been fortunate to play a small role in advising type designers all over the world to make their typefaces appear natural and comfortable for Vietnamese readers. In interacting with them, I have gained more understanding of the issues and the confusions they faced when designing diacritics for Vietnamese. I have nothing but positive and supportive experiences working with type designers. I appreciate the caring and the attention they devoted into crafting Vietnamese diacritics. To show my appreciation to the type community, I have revised this book and expanded the illustrations to showcase new typefaces with the Vietnamese language.

How to Convert OpenType Font to Web Font

I needed to convert OpenType Font (OTF) to Web Font (WOFF2) and Roel Nieskens kindly showed me how using Bram Stein’s Homebrew web font tools. I want to write this down so I can remember how to do it later.

First, I needed to install Homebrew, which I pasted the following command at my Terminal prompt:

/usr/bin/ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL https://raw.githubusercontent.com/Homebrew/install/master/install)"

Then I ran these two commands

brew tap bramstein/webfonttools
brew install woff2

Then convert:

woff2_compress /directory/to/fontfile.otf

Magic!

Centering Text

I am fed up with people telling me to center all the text. No matter how many times I explained to them that centered text is hard to scan and not easy to read, they always came back with “the committee wanted the text centered.” Well, fuck the committee. I don’t design for the committee. I design for the intended audience. If the committee wants to make all the text centered, it should design it itself.

Sometimes I just want to give in and get the damn job over with, but it irritates the fuck out of me. I don’t want to be an asshole, but I hate seeing a piece of crap. There, I just need to get it out of my system.

Be Your Own Boss

I started to listen to WorkLife with Adam Grant last week and the episode on “A World Without Bosses” struck a chore. To be your own boss, you need to work for yourself. With a family to feed and my sans-savvy business skills, working for myself is not an option. Fortunately, I have built a responsible, reliable reputation for myself that I can be my own boss in an institution.

My boss has given me the complete freedom to do my job. I have earned her trust to make my own design and technical decisions. I still run them by her, but she lets me make the call. I work directly with members of the law school community as well as the people outside. The freedom allows me to balance my work and life. I take complete ownership of all my responsibilities. For example, I don’t mind making an update to MODX in the middle of the night when no one is using the system. Likewise, I can take time off when one of my kids got sick.

Flexibility is the key to employee retention. With three kids and one more on the way, flexibility is crucial to me and my family. I cannot work in an environment that lock me in from 9 to 5. I had been there before and I was miserable and depressed. I do not want to go back to that.

Before I was promoted to Director of Design and Web Services, I was interviewed for another position. When I asked about flexibility, the new supervisor told me that she can be very flexible but I have to earn it. That’s fair and I understood her perspective, but I didn’t have a year to build up the trust. One of my kids would probably needed me the second day on the job. How am I going to earn her trust? When she made the offer, the salary was good, the people seemed nice, the job was not bad, but the flexibility had me worried.

I thought about it some more and decided to talk to my current boss. I was honest with her about the whole situation. She understood and valued our working relationship. She not only promoted me, but also matched my new salary with 10 percent more. I decided to stay and turned down the new job. I am glad that I talked to her. My wife and I were pleased that I stayed.

My boss also promised to get me a part-time web developer and she did. He has been helpful in taking care of daily requests, which allows me to focus on bigger projects. I want to get him to the point where I don’t have to send him tasks. I would like him to take ownership of his responsibility just like what my boss has done for me. My goal is to improve our web experience by making pages load faster and more attractive. When requests are low, he can find issues to work on such as cleaning up pages with spaghetti markups or creating new banners. I would also love to see him initiates projects that are beneficial to our sites. We are not quite there yet, but I really appreciate his contribution so far.