Manual to the world #1

This is the first in a series of little life lessons, productivity tips and ‘life-hacks’ that I’ll try to post every Friday.  Just before the weekend we all need an excuse to procrastinate a little.  It’s always a good idea to mask procrastination with the excuse of learning something that one day might come in handy.

To start of the series, I’d like to introduce you to Fasten Seat Belts.  This beautifully animated and illustrated website explains local customs to help you avoid awkward situations when traveling abroad.  The sample below explains how in France and Belgium people ‘twist their nose’ to indicate someone is drunk.  As a native from the Kingdom of Belgium, I had never even realized that that is what people do.  It just goes to show how deeply embedded these local habits and customs are and how it will really help you blend in if you are familiar with some of them.

What makes it even more appropriate to open the series with this tip, is that Fasten Seat Belts is produces by 43 Films a non-profit organisation from Brussels, Belgium.  Among 43 Films’ other projects is a documentary about the amazing artist Francis Alÿs. A Belgian artist who lives and works in Mexico City.  Check out his work if you are into artsy stuff!

Without further ado, here’s a little taste.  You’ll have to visit Fasten Seat Belts for more.

http://vimeo.com/moogaloop.swf?clip_id=12941148&server=vimeo.com&show_title=1&show_byline=1&show_portrait=1&color=&fullscreen=1&autoplay=0&loop=0

[via Swiss-Miss]

Advertisements

Design and redesign

Made by Fred has been under construction for a few weeks now. During this time, I’ve been experimenting with the design.  While a few core ideas have remained unchanged, the general look and feel has gone through many iterations already.  I skipped the Photoshop stage and dove right into editing CSS.  The only reference I used were a few sketches in my notebook.
As a big Instapaper fan, I’ve been really focusing on content and clear presentation.  It’s a misconception that the current readability trend is at odds with graphic and web design.  It’s not about less design, it’s about using the design to present the content in the best way possible.  Made by Fred is not entirely there yet, it’s a work in progress and to some extent that will always be the case.

Readability and clear presentation go hand in hand with typography and font rendering.  There is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to web typography.  CSS3 gives us more options but we’re not quite there yet.  My computer screen is nice and bright, but it doesn’t even come close to rendering fonts as well as my e-reader (which is in turn a far cry from a well printed book).  Leaving hardware out of the equation, there’s the issue of font rendering differences between browsers.  I mostly use Firefox, Safari or Chrome on OS X, but some of my time is spent on Firefox or Internet Explorer on Windows 7.  Windows 7 is a solid OS, but the font rendering is downright pathetic.  I hardly ever use Ubuntu, but I love how well it renders fonts!  The trouble is, while fonts might looks great on Mac OS X or Ubuntu, most people still use Windows so you’ll have to pick fonts accordingly.
Typography is just one aspect of design, but it really affects the look and feel of a web site.  While the above mentioned issues can make the process of selecting the right font a little frustrating at times, it’s well worth spending some time on.

Made by Fred is not entirely ready for prime time at this point.  But since I strongly believe that ‘if you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long’, it’s online anyway.  Things will continue to change and hopefully improve, but in the meantime Made by Fred is available for you to enjoy.  Feedback is welcome even if the comments section isn’t entirely finished yet!

I went to Miami

This past weekend, Laura and I went to Miami.  My mom turned 60 last month and my dad had the great idea to treat her to a vacation in Miami, where we had a surprise mini family reunion! It was a lot of fun and we saw some pretty epic halloween costumes. Our visit to the Everglades was definitely a highlight, swimming in the warm Atlantic Ocean water wasn’t too bad either and finally seeing Eclectic Method perform live was awesome!  I’d post some pictures here, but in my attempt to declutter the internet, I’ll just refer to Laura’s blog instead.  Also, the pictures are on the desktop computer at home and I’m at work.

Storm King Art Center

Yesterday, Laura and I went to Storm King Art Center. Only an hour north of New York City this sculpture park is a great place to enjoy fall foliage and escape the city for a few hours.

As big fans of Andy Goldsworthy we especially enjoyed his works. That’s right, works! if you’ve been to Storm King you will remember his famous piece, Storm King Wall (1998).

This year he added another work to the collection, Five Men, Seventeen Days, Fifteen Boulders, One Wall (2010). This work is smaller in scale, but the concept is similar to Storm King Wall, because of the title it forces you to think about the resources that go into creating sculptures of this size.

After seeing the amazing Goldsworthy documentary, Rivers and Tides, I was already really impressed with the scale of his work and the patience he has in creating it.  What I like most about site specific, outdoor sculptures is how they change with the seasons.  This is especially true for Goldsworthy’s work.  How spectacular must the Storm King Wall look when it’s covered in snow, snaking through the forest and disappearing into a frozen pond?  Too bad the park is closed for the winter season…  There’s always Google image search but that’s just a meager substitute for the real experience.

Of course there is much more to enjoy at Storm King than Goldsworthy’s work, even the park itself is so beautifully landscaped it’s worth the trip north.  Visit the Storm King Art Center website and start planning a visit!

For more pictures, check out Laura’s blog.

Another website?

Another website? Is that really necessary? Don’t you have a website already? And don’t people just publish through Facebook, Flickr or Twitter these days? Yes, I have and yes, they do. But I believe there is still room for another website, even if I already have one, or two.
I’ve been using the internet since 1995 and since 1999 I’ve had a few personal web sites. Both the internet and I have changed over the years. My first website was a college project that I maintained for a few years after I graduated. When I met my wife, we shared a website for a while. After she ventured off on her own to create a strong online identity and business, I kept our website up for a while, but it was clear that I was ready for something new myself. For about a year, I was all over the place. Trying to keep a personal website, a business site, one or two blogs and the mandatory facebook and twitter accounts. All this fragmentation really hurt my content, and the choice of what to publish and where became totally overwhelming. Time to reassess! Consolidation and simplifying things is usually a good idea so that’s why I created Made by Fred.
My passion for communication and mass media is the main reason I’m online in the first place, so my online communications studio and my blog are the most important aspects of my web presence. Made by Fred will focus on these two types of content. I’ll use other services like Facebook and Twitter for the specific functions they are good at. But Made by Fred will be the hub that ties my online identities together. Obviously, just aggregating content is not enough to encourage you to come back here from time to time. I’ll write about web design, on-line communication, what I’m up to and what I think is worth reading or checking out. So sign up for the RSS feed or bookmark Made by Fred and share your thoughts, remarks or just say hi in the comments!