Val Head - Designer, Consultant and Speaker.

Fonts with just a little bit more

Chartwell and Detroit

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that fonts aren’t just a collections of glyphs that just work one way. You might expect to find some fancy alternates or ligatures, but that’s often the extent of our expectations. I’ve come across two this week that reminded me how versatile fonts can be just by changing things up a tiny bit. It’s amazing what clever type designers can come up with!

Detroit is not only really beautiful, the different parts of the font family can be layered up and pieced together. It’s almost like typography lego. Chartwell almost looks like magic the way it makes charts out of ligatures. Both are pretty darn cool!

To see chartwell in action, even on the web, check out this video on CSS-Tricks.

If you know of any similarly system-like fonts, please share!

Intro to creative coding with Processing workshop

The 2009 Feltron Annual Report by Nicholas Felton and Process Compendium by Casey Reas. Two amazing projects made with Processing.

Calling all Pittsburgh design and artist types who want to learn code! The awesome folks at HackPittsburgh are letting me use their space to put on a workshop I’ve been wanting to do for a long time: Intro to creative coding with Processing.

Processing is used by designers and artists alike to create works ranging from algorithmic illustrations and interactive spaces to data visualizations, illustrated magazine spreads and a whole lot more.

This workshop is an introduction to Processing just for creative types! We’re going to spend the day learning the basics of programming by drawing, animating, and making simple interactive sketches with code.

The goal of the class is to give you the Processing foundation you need to start exploring on your own, and to inspire you with Processing work done by other artists and designers. We’ll have fun (and lunch) and there’s no need to have any prior experience writing code. Really, none.

If you’re a local artist or designer I’d love to see you there!

Intro to Creative Coding with Processing
Saturday, Feb 25th, 10am – 4pm
Tickets and more info

We still need punk rock in web design

I came across this short post from Tim Brown today and I had to call it out because he hits on what I think is a very important point:

Diligence and reason are valuable, but “punk, DIY” freedom from measurement is also valuable. Part of our job as designers is to negotiate a balance between the careful and the care-free.

Yes! “punk DIY” is such a perfect way to describe it.

Web designers, don’t forget your DIY punk rock roots! Most of us are self-taught or stumbled into this industry because we thought it was fun. That’s pretty punk rock when you think about it.

Make things because you want to. Make things just to see what happens. Don’t be afraid to break the rules if they aren’t working for you. Hell, feel free to abandon them completely if they’re holding you back. We need that too.

If your design doesn’t follow to any particular ratio, design theory system, or current industry trend, that doesn’t instantly disqualify it as bad or wrong. If it feels right, it could very well be right. And that’s just as ok as design that results from careful bits of math.

The article Tim references in his post, Design, objectivity and the punk spirit, is also a good read on exactly this kind of thing.

2011: The Highlights

2011 was a pretty busy year for me! Now that we’re just getting started with 2012, I thought I’d take a look back and pick out some 2011 highlights.

Some personal project highlights:

The LEDFlower project
This was probably the most fun one of the year. It was an experiment in international yarnbombing fun. I sent secret mission packages to some friends with instructions all over the world. They “planted” them, and then I mapped where each ended up. It was a really fun project to do and share. You really can’t beat yarn bombing with lights, right? The LED flowers also made an appearance at both the Detroit Maker Faire, Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire and a Hack Pittsburgh Friday night talk.

Kinect Plushies
I was really excited to be able to contribute something to Art&&Code this time around, even if it was a little unconventional. I made three kinect plushies that were given away as prizes for the best Art&&Code “speedo” presentations. The plushies were such a hit with the attendees and Golan, I had to make more; with a few improvements of course. So, I made a version 2 of the kinect plush especially for Golan and shared the patterns online as an instructable.
Over the summer I helped Seb get up and running. It’s been really impressive to see all the creative things people are doing with JavaScript lately. Some really exciting stuff! Working on, and writing for, the site has also inspired me to get more into JavaScript and I’ve learned a ton in the last few months alone!

A tiny bit of printing
Well, it was a bit of a slow year as far as printing is concerned. I taught a handful of silkscreening workshops and was in the studio more for those than I actually got to print it seems. I posted a bit about the process behind my happy 2011 card at the beginning of the year, and printed up some skull-cloud notebooks specifically for giving away at the D2W conference in the summer. After doing up my personal cards, I now have a serious crush on overprint gloss.

I did some speaking

I finally made it to SXSW this year. I did a core conversation session, “My Title is Web Designer, Now What?”, with Chris. It was pretty overwhelming to see just about everyone I know online in Austin at one time, but it was great fun.

I also did a talk on some of the finer points of CSS3 at D2W and a talk on animation for the web at Web Design Day. All in all, I got to speak at a really fun bunch of conferences in 2011. I hope 2012 has a lot of the same!

I organized some events

2011 was possibly the year of the workshop if I was going to give it a “year of” name. I organized a whole bunch of them, both in Pittsburgh and other parts of the east coast. We brought two awesome workshops to Pittsburgh: Dan Mall‘s Designing for Interaction and Seb Lee-Delislie‘s Creative JS & HTML workshop. I also organized most of the CreativeJS east coast workshop tour. That’s a lot of organizing things!

We also ran Web Design Day again in 2011 for the 3rd year in a row. Tickets sold out in just a few hours which was amazing!(And by that I mean really really really amazing.) It is so encouraging to see that many people interested in the conference, and to hear from attendees who have gotten so much out of it. I’m looking forward to doing it again this year, though maybe in a slightly bigger venue, or maybe more than once. You never know what we’ve got up our sleeve.

I attended some wonderful conferences

As far as attending conferences go, my highlight was definitely the Eyeo festival in Minneapolis. 2010 was it’s first year and it was such an amazing conference experience. It’s run by Dave Schroeder and other friends. Can’t wait to see what they have in store for this year! Seriously, if you are at all into dava viz, creative coding, design, or making things, it’s a conference you need to get to. Really. I mean it. Just go.

Brooklyn Beta was a close second because it was such a great opportunity to catch up with friends I normally only see on twitter and the like. And I also got to spend time with some pals in New York while I was there for BB. So, really, you can’t beat that.

I went freelance!

It’s true! Though I admit I’ve been pretty quiet about it, mostly because I’ve just been so busy (yay!). For the last five months, I’ve been working independently and have been loving it. Lots of new challenges, and I’m definitely still adjusting, but it’s been great. I’ve been able to work on projects with some awesomely talented friends, and that is exactly what I was hoping to do.

So, 2012, what do you have in store?

It seems so impossible to think an entire year ahead sometimes, especially right now. But I know that the first few months of 2012 are going to be pretty darn busy and really fun for me.

In the first bit of 2012 I’ll be teaching two workshops: An Interlink workshop on animation with CSS and Javascript, and a Intro to creative coding with Processing. (Those might seem unrelated, but there’s more overlap than you might initially think!) I’m really looking forward to both of those. All the prep work for those might be enough to keep me busy until February, but I’m also working on two web site projects that I’m really excited about. And that’s just the first 3 months or so!