Thursday, November 15, 2007

Graphic Design for the Code-Centric Individual

Many developers say they have no design skills. Some say it apologetically, some proudly. You may have no artistic ability (nor do I), but the good news is that you can use the computer to draw the graphics for you.

Whether you are a WPF application developer, an ASP.NET web site developer, or work with any other technology that displays something for a user to interact with, there are some simple rules and guidelines, principles if you will, that you can apply to your presentation layer.

Microsoft is making it easier to separate appearance from behavior. ASP.NET 3.5 in Visual Studio 2008 offers much better handling of Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) files. And WPF controls can be styled to look almost any way you want. Still, the ideal situation of having a dedicated graphic designer on your team may or may not be a reality.

Besides, you may be able to give that designer some ideas that he or she can apply their magic to. After all, you have an understanding of what the user wants to accomplish with your user interface, so offering one or more possible design ideas to the designer on your team can only improve communication.

But I'll bet that there are many small teams that don't have a separate designer job title. If you're in that boat, and your boss is hankering for some of the nifty animation and gradients and rounded rectangles and something-instead-of-boring standard buttons, you might enjoy this series of articles.

Topics to be covered:

Rule #1: No graphic design element or effect should call attention to itself. Design should be invisible.

The next post in the series will be about gradients. I'll give you some tips on how to create them and where to use them.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Professional Organizer

I moved from a 3-bedroom house in Portland to a 1-bedroom apartment in Bellevue WA. From the 1-bedroom, I recently moved to a 2-bedroom.

To facilitate the move, the moving company recommended a professional organizer who they work with. I didn't know there were people who did that as their profession.

So she came out, took photographs of the furniture and office equipment in my old place, met me at my new place and helped me decide where to put things, then taped up the pictures to guide the movers where things should go. That alone saved me enough time and effort to cover her reasonable hourly charge. But there's more.

I have all kinds of Pyrex cookware, pots and pans, glasses and cups, and Rubbermaid storage containers. I never had a good system to be able to put it all away. She suggested I buy some expandable stackable wire shelving that fits inside a cabinet and provides a "second story" for glassware, dishes and cups.

For extra clothes, I bought some under-the-bed storage containers and put a cedar wood square and silica gel packet (to repel insects and absorb moisture) in each container and stashed them under the bed.

Your mileage may vary with a different person, but if you're in the Seattle area and need someone to help you organize a home office or living space or office or are planning a move, contact me and I'll give you Stacey's number.
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