A Finland Swede in Bavaria

Monday, 16 March 2009

A digital native (and my first Nokia)

Ola Ahlvarsson, the founder of SIME (a yearly Interactive Media Event in Stockholm) last week came with the best description I've ever heard of a digital native.

We, born before Internet and mobile phones, are digital immigrants. Natives are people, whose first Nokia (ok, I admit, this may be a bit too Finland specific) was not a pair of rubber boots, nor like in my case, an orange swimming ring. They think and talk differently. For example, they just say "camera", not "digital camera". For natives, there are heaps of things that are self evident, that puzzle the immigrants.

The digital native in Ola's true story is a little girl of about 3-4 years (as old as I am in the picture with the swimming ring). The girl has a father who constantly makes tricks and fun. Normally, the girl likes the jokes of the father, but once, in the countryside with Grandma and Grandpa, the father went too far. The girl ran crying to Grandma and explained how Dad had teased her: He had tied the phone into the wall!

My first Nokia, in the summer of 1967. The thing was analog, inflated, orange and taught me how to swim.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Rasmus Snabb and the new logos

Ask experts for help! That was my seventh New Year Resolution, as described in February. And now I've done it. In this instance, "experts" refers to the graphic designer Rasmus Snabb (from my native Finland but now active at Danmarks Designskole in Denmark). The help was about a logotype for my house Furuvik in Finland, for invitations, flags and signs (described closer in a Swedish language blog entry).

The difference is huge. This is what I could come up with, "all by myself":

And this is Rasmus's creation:

It's fairly easy to distinguish the amateur work from that of the professional.

Consequently, Rasmus got an additional assignment. I had created another home made logotype for kaj.arno.fi. If I may say so myself, it was at least a bit better than the one I made for Furuvik:

However,  I wanted to be visually more consistent when it comes to fonts. Consistency (or lack thereof) becomes especially apparent in my blog banners. And as Rasmus was so quick to find the Art Nouveau font Kolo LP, I asked him to suggest a sans serif font with Nordic or Germanic connotations. He had twelve suggestions, from which my daughter Sophia and I picked the font Avenir by Adrian Frutiger, a Swiss graphic designer born 1928 but still professionally active this century.

Rasmus wasn't fond of the red A in my logo. Furthermore, it wasn't compatible with the upcoming diversity of colours in my blog banners (Swedish, German, English etc.). Hence, Rasmus got the task to redesign the logotype, which now looks like this:

The "irritating detail" here is the too small capital K. Colour versions can be easily combined with several blog palettes. "Kaj" is light (above it's white, in colour it's often yellow), "arnö" is black, and the background somewhere in between. And, as graphic designers often insist, there is a large do-not-touch area around the text.

Perhaps logos don't belong to the necessities of life. But at least they are fairly environmentally friendly (at least in their electronic form) and the good ones are very compatible with my ninth New Year Resolution, Aesthetic values are appealing: Surround yourself with beauty, simplicity and order!
If you buy, then only if it’s functional, useful and beautiful.

Thanks, Rasmus!


Wordpress: The "Painter" theme is good but has too many options

I am a fan of WordPress. It's a great blogging tool, and it's open source. It also has a number of add ons, such as "Themes" whereby banners and colours can be adjusted to personal tastes. Fine.

Now, I downloaded and installed the Painter 0.9 theme by the Brasilian web developer Marcelo Mesquita. It enables exactly what I want: The possibility to configure a banner. That banner has a predefined size of 120 px high times 980 px wide, with which I can live just fine. So far, I have designed two banners: one for my Swedish language blog and one for my blog named Furuvik, about an Art Nouveau building I'm renovating in Finland.

Next come the unwanted side effects.

First, Painter 0.9 introduces hard coded English texts. Normally, WordPress enables the adjustment of most texts (with the exception of dates) so that out-of-context foreign (= English) words don't appear in a normal (e.g. Swedish or Portuguese language) blog. Painter 0.9 introduces the uncustomisable word "News" as a unnecessary header. I'd prefer the header to not even exist, but if it has to be there, then the ugly foreign (= English) word should at least be customisable. The same goes for the word "Home" that appears just below the in the sub header: It's unnecessary, and it's not changeable.

Second, finding my way amongst the oodles of customisable colours takes lots and lots of time. There are too many options! Sure, Marcelo says it's "highly customisable". But I don't need to control that many colours. If I wanted to exert more control, then 

  1. I'd like to express dates in languages other than English

  2. I'd like to determine the order of the areas in the sidebar

  3. I'd like to turn on the usual (but here disappeared) option for navigating from one blog entry to the previous/next one (like in WordPress by default)

  4. I'd like to adjust the font used for the contents (and headers)

  5. I'd like to allow other banner proportions than 120x980 (adjusting, if necessary, the column widths)

Instead, I count a whopping 57 colours (fiftyseven!). Using the Furuvik blog as an example, this is what I changed:

  1. The areas around the banner, to the same colour as the banner background (yellow #F3D539): Dater Background, Menu Background

  2. The subheader backgrounds, to a lighter tone of the banner background (#F1E292): Content Session Title Background, Sidebar Session Title Background, Footer Background

  3. The sidebar blog article listing backgrounds, every second (Sidebar background) to white (#FFFFFF), every second (Alternate sidebar background) to a very light yellow (#FFEDC7)

  4. The blockquote etc. box backgrounds (Box border, Box background), to the same very light yellow (#FFEDC7)

  5. The context backgrounds (Content Post background, Content Alternate post background) to white, so as to work well with embedded images

  6. Most bread text to black #000000 (Dater link, Menu link, Post text, Footer text, Footer links)

  7. Some header type text to dark grey #444444 (Content Session Title, Content Post title, Content Box text, Sidebar Session title, Sidebar text, Sidebar links)

Ideally, I would just have changed each of the above seven colours once and not 23 times. Sure, I understand others may want to influence things in more detail. But on the other hand, I left 57-23=34 colours unchanged, and they will likely now pop up when some esoteric combination of events happens, and my colour palette will look ugly. Ideally, also the 34 untouched colours would somehow be derived from the 7 colours I changed. At any rate, from a usability perspective, the colour changing consumes lots of time. And sadly, to some degree the colour changing is mandatory, as the defaults may not fit with the banner.

All in all, I am still quite happy with Painter. I understand there is a Painter 1.0, but I don't know which of my above wishes are taken into account in 1.0 so I don't know whether I should spend the time to upgrade. 

Obrigado, Marcelo!