Beloved Monsters


Happy end of February!

This past weekend I got to see the Eels in concert up in Columbus. Saw a good concert with a good friend, and they even played one of my all-time favorite songs – My Beloved Monster. Which got me thinking about doodle monsters (so I doodled), and real-life monsters. Monsters can be furry, or scary, or have three heads. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the three-headed monster that is the interwebs.

As a print designer, my experience with web is still growing (mainly building this site, and professionally managing content & updating work-related websites on Drupal and WordPress). But I do know one thing: When Adobe launched Muse a little more than a year ago, I was excited and then immediately let down.

My problem with Adobe Muse is this: all it does is perpetuate print design standards in a web world, where they aren’t necessary. Muse is literally telling us “pay no attention to the code behind the curtain”. I have a belief that as designers, its our job to understand how things work, then we take that knowledge and apply it to our projects. Why would Adobe want to pacify us? Keeping us in a print mentality is dangerous, and encourages the idea that web is big and scary and impossible to learn. But it’s not, it’s the exact opposite. I love working within perimeters and rules, and that’s exactly what web is. We should want to learn. We shouldn’t want to live on false hope just to make our lives easier. Muse is an internet band-aid for designers, and band-aids always get super mega gross and fall off, even the super cool Batman band-aids.

Web is like learning a totally different language, but it’s not impossible to bridge the gap. HTML & CSS open up entire universes. They challenge your imagination, and make you think hard. While there is no user interface, short cut, or plug-in in the world that will help you remember how you got that code working at 3am the night before, there are moments of epiphany and brilliance that can only come from understanding the native tongue. Learning it fluently is a challenge, but not the impossible mountain I had made it out to be when I graduated college.

We shouldn’t be seeing it as a dreaded inevitability. It’s a way of creating awesome things in different ways. Understanding how the web, browsers and search engines work together is extremely important, even if you personally never build a single site. You might have to work with a developer one day, either via a freelance project or as a design studio cubicle-comrade, and understanding the language is invaluable, saves time and avoids horribly messy miscommunications. Plus, in smaller companies design and website management (or even marketing and web management–or design, marketing and web management, which is what I do for a local non-profit) are being rolled into one. So whereas the website might already exist, it could be as easy as updating your old LiveJournal (like a simple WordPress CMS) or it could be a little more complicated. Understanding CMS limits are also very important, because they are not all created equally.

I’ve taught myself enough (with guidance from friends) to tide me over for now, but I’m going to start messing with my site again in my free time (of which I have, but I schedule horribly: there’s this show on Netflix called the West Wing, perhaps you’ve heard of it?). I don’t know how long the redesign will take me, or what I want it to look like, but I know I want it to be more awesome. It want it to be all of the awesomes. And while I doubt that I’ll ever be worthy enough to upgrade myself to “web designer/front end developer” and know my brain isn’t quite suited for the role of “backend developer”, its no excuse to not be competent enough to interact with a real one when I need to.

-Hearts and farts, Katie

I’ve had this entire post sitting on my desktop as a stickynote (virtual, not post-it) for quite awhile. I’ve noticed that’s become a habit of mine – writing fully fleshed-out blog entries and then never posting them. I know, totally silly. I am an internet-wussy. 

For more well-known opinionated opinions, the uber-talented Jessica Hische spilled her brain recently about web design and as always, good things came out.



The Dayton/Denver Debacle

I submitted my first letter to the editor ever today. I’m positing it here because it’s relevant to the design community here in Dayton, and if it doesn’t get printed I hope other people get to see it. Enjoy.


On Friday, April 20th, the Dayton Daily News ran a story announcing that the city of Dayton’s Economic Development Department had chosen a design firm based in Denver, Colorado to create a website. The main purpose of which is draw new businesses into Dayton. This firm from Denver had beat out 15 other firms, including 5 quotes that came from local companies.

Later that morning, every self-respecting web developer and designer in the city of Dayton did a spit take in disbelief. Heads were slammed against desks, my twitter feed was a fuming lava-pit of frustration, and we were all left with the same question: “Why?”. And who was this company from Denver, Atlas Advertising? They’ve built the same sites for other cities, such as Indianapolis and San Francisco. Sites that they claim have perfected driving new businesses into their respective cities. However, watching our tax money fly off to a design firm in the mile-high city frustrated me the more and more I thought about it.

You could make the case that none of the local design firms have the specific “experience” in creating an online economic development hub. Ironically, Dayton is pretty good at doing things that haven’t been done before, and we brag about it every chance we get (do the Wright Brothers ring a bell?). And it’s not like Dayton firms haven’t handled massive projects before. The client lists from our larger design studios in the area is quite impressive (Babies ‘R Us, Kmart, Target… I could go on, but you get the point). From traditional marketing campaigns to viral videos, e-commerce and every kind of web development under the sun, we’ve pretty much got a myriad of talented design firms of all sizes for any of these endeavors.

Money could be a factor. It’s possible it would have been more expensive for the City of Dayton to use it’s own local businesses. But that doesn’t seem like a good argument for the city to make. “It’s too costly to invest in our own local companies, so please, come build your business here in Dayton so we can have more talent we don’t utilize!”.

To me, it seems like a bigger problem than money, or experience. It boils down to the idea that the people leading Dayton don’t believe in Dayton. They don’t see the talent that’s right outside the front door. I’ve seen that talent, and I want to invest in it and be a part of it. That is why I have chosen to live here. It’s almost as if they’ve never met Dayton. So, they invited another group of people who have also never met Dayton to make decisions for Dayton.

I ventured over to the Indianapolis and San Francisco sites that Atlas has built. There really isn’t anything that distinguishes them from each other, save for the fact they’re in different locations. So this means that Dayton will have a site that looks just like everyone else’s. We’ll be paying $45,000 of our tax dollars plus monthly fees to blend in. But Dayton shouldn’t blend in. The whole point of attracting economic development is to show our city has resources that can’t be found elsewhere. What does Dayton have that no one else has?

Dayton has us. And sooner or later I hope for our sake, it realizes that.

The article I’m referring to can be found here.