Toolbox Blog: resources, tips, tricks & info for creative professionals

Posts Tagged ‘design’

August 25th, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Brands on Twitter

Most people use various apps to interact with Twitter, but there are still those that visit the profile pages. Now, admittedly, Twitter doesn’t offer a lot in the way of design on a profile page, but for companies using Twitter their profile page represents their brand. Some do it well, while others aren’t quite there leading us to the good, the bad and the ugly of brands’ Twitter profiles…

The Good

Marvel – Spidey, Iron Man and it looks cool. A+

Quicken Loans – A modern, fun design that fits in perfect with Twitter.

Revision 3 – A clearly well-thought out design as it integrates well with the Twitter interface and looks great.

Firefox – Looks great, easy to read and easy to use.

M & Ms – Ms. Green dishes out the latest M&Ms news.

A Few Others
JetBlue – Not the greatest since I had no idea what the HJ meant, but its still a lot better than most.
Detroit Pistons – Not a company, but its our home town team and dang it looks so good.
MC HammerPlease Hammer Don’t Tweet ‘Em. Ok also not a company, but we couldn’t resist plus the profile page looks good.
FastCompany – A great example of how easy it can be to brand your Twitter design. All companies listed below, give Fast Company a peek…

The Bad

Companies who for some reason chose not to put in all 15-30 minutes of the time it would take to customize their Twitter page a bit more than just adding a logo. This list could be huge, here’s just a few of the names that we’re surprised chose to be so plain…

Web 2.0 – A web 2.0 company should be sharp enough to brand their involvement on another 2.0 site.

Consumer Brands
British Airways – Plain and only 4 tweets in 5 months?
Wine Enthusiast – Pleeeease change that profile logo.
Blackberry – Could use a new (not blurry) profile logo.

Wall Street Journal – White on white, plus a pixelated logo. Come on WSJ…
The Onion -Witty enough people to do something smart with their Twitter account.
Fox News – Their Twitter profile might be the only thing that Fox tones down.

A Few Others
NASA – Just put a nice hi-res picture of outer space on there…instant improvement.
Monster – At a minimum, change the color scheme.
NPR – Same as Monster.

Note to all “bad” profiles: A plain Twitter page is much, much better than an ugly one… (see examples below)

The Ugly

HP – Wait…so you chose the standard HP wallpaper delivered on all of your PCs, made it smaller and then thought that would be a good background on Twitter?

Travel Channel – A stock map tiled as the background? Off all the hi-res images available to the Travel Channel, they picked this?

Popeye’s Chicken – First of all, I can’t believe Popeye’s is on Twitter, secondly I can’t believe that they like the way this looks.

BBC – Not certain, but the background image looks like a screen grab from a BBC TV show. Adding insult to injury, the image is even tiled poorly.

American Cancer Society – Great cause, bad Twitter profile. Logos all over the place and a black on blue sidebar?

Luxor Hotel – Not the worst out there, the logo looks ok but the pic is pretty low-res and completely hidden by the updates. Also, what’s up with the random bikini girl profile logo?

Forrester Research – That crappy looking background image might be really interesting, but we can’t see it without Right-Click, View Background so it might be time to scrap it and clean the page up.

SouthWest Airlines – Not horrible but the background image is gigantic…as in, unless you’ve got a freakishly high resolution you never even see the Southwest plane in the bottom right corner.

Carnival Cruises – Same problem as SouthWest, the picture is too big and speaking of the picture where’s the cruise ship? A couple walking on the beach with a sailboat in the background doesn’t exactly scream (or even whisper) cruise.

A Few Others

Zappos – They use Twitter well, but the design of the page is just weird. – Weird blurry background of something.
San Diego Chargers – If their team is run anything like their Twitter account is designed then its gonna be a tough year.

Know of any other companies that should fit in the Good, Bad and Ugly? Let us know in the comments.

Special thanks to FluentSimplicity for making finding companies using Twitter a bit easier.

August 22nd, 2008

Dashboard Updates For the Week of 8/18

All in all another exciting week for our Web Design Dashboard!

We’ve added Cymbolism, a really unique and creative color tool that asks users what color they think of when presented with different words.  The site’s goal is to make it simpler for designers to choose the best colors to use for a desired emotional effect.  Definitely worth a look!

We’ve also got a new web developer toolbar for Firefox and CMS from Scratch, a free solution that allows designers to give their customers a web site they can edit themselves.

Last but not least is Blog Perfume, a WordPress related site with themes, plugins, and great blogging resources.

As always, keep the suggestions coming and we’ll try to post as many as we can!

August 19th, 2008

Can Pink Be Professional? 15 Pink Websites You Have to See

It’s a question the designers have asked for a while now.  Can pink be used in a professional design?  I think the answer is a resounding YES!  Nixing the color pink all together can stifle the creative process. You decide…here are 15 websites utilizing the wonderful color pink

Some uber professional sites: A financial/trading company, an advertising agency, and a large well-respected mobile phone service provider…all using pink!

Even a few professional web design firms…

And even if the pink seems overwhelming, keep in mind the type of company and intended audience.  Character design or a stuffed animal designer for example…

Then again, you don’t want to get too carried away…

August 1st, 2008

Web Design Dashboard Updates

It’s been another great week for suggestions.  So thanks, and be sure to let us know any great resources we’re leaving out!

We’ve got some new HTML resources: Leftlogic, an HTML entity character look-up and an HTML editor for mac called Textmate. was also suggested, its a great showcase of online advertising.  We’ve added another useful content management system (ExpressionEngine) as well as – a site where you can compare price and features of different hosting plans to find the best option for you.

As far as inspiration goes, we’ve added CSS Mania – one of the largest CSS showcases out there!

That’s all for now, but be sure to check back soon, we post new additions to the Dashboard daily.

July 31st, 2008

The Definitive Guide to Web Design Awards

There are scores of web site award programs out there, some more illustrious than others. They can range from full-fledged international competitions, to a showcase style website that takes submissions from everyone.  Picking a contest to enter or to follow as a source of inspiration can be a daunting task.  With that in mind, here is a guide to the more reputable awards programs and websites available.

The Best of the Best

The Webby AwardsTraditionally held in early June and hosted by The International Academy of Arts and Sciences, the awards have over 100 Website, Interactive Advertising, Online Film & Video, and Mobile categories.  There are two awards in each category, the Webby Award and the People’s Voice Award.  Entries are usually taken starting in September through December.
Deadline: Usually in December, check website for specific dates each year
Entry Fee: Yes, there is also an early submission discounted entry fee

The American Advertising Federation ADDY AwardsAnnual award that recognizes all forms of advertising from media of all types.  Entrants from all levels and locations are encouraged to submit through the AAF website over a secure account.  Information on local deadlines and entry fees is available from your local AAF Chapter.
Deadline: See local AAF Chapter
Entry Fee: See local AAF Chapter

Comm Arts Interactive AwardsJudged by a panel of eminent programmers, interface designers and creative directors, these awards allow any interactive project created for digital distribution to enter.  The categories are Advertising, Entertainment, Information Design, Self-Promotion, and Experimental/Virtual.
Deadline: January 16, 2009
Entry Fee: $100 per web site, $125 per disk-based entry

Notable Awards

Web AwardNow in its 12th year, the Web Award recognizes the best web sites in 96 industry categories.  It is given by The Web Marketing Association which is made up of Internet marketing, online advertising, PR, and top web site designer professionals.  Sites entered must be in use for at least a part of the calendar year before the competition.  Judging generally takes place in July and August and winners are announced in September.
Deadline: May 31st, later submissions accepted for a $50 late fee
Entry Fee: $195 per submission, $99 for the non-profit category

Interactive Media AwardsAimed at increasing the standards of excellence on the Internet, the Interactive Media Awards accept entries from individuals and organizations that are involved in “designing, developing, managing, supporting and promoting websites”.  Nominators must be at least 18 years old, and websites hosted on free servers (such as Geocities) are not eligible.  While these are annual awards, they are judged on a quarterly basis.  Categories are segmented over the year, so check the website to see the deadlines for your category of interest.  Winners will get the IMA Digital Award icon to display on their site.
Deadline: Varies by category, check website
Entry Fee: $125 per category entered, $75 for non-profit entries

D & ADKnown also as the Yellow Pencils, the D & AD Awards have 30 categories that cover all aspects of creative communications.  The awards, among the most respected and prestigious honors in the design industry, are presented each May at a gala ceremony in London.
Deadline: January with an early deadline for a 10% discount, check the website for specific dates each year
Entry Fee: Vary by category and change yearly, last year it was $399 for an entry in the website category

Horizon Interactive AwardsJudged by a panel of industry professionals, entries are awarded either a Gold, Silver, Bronze or honorable mention distinction.  Only Gold winners are eligible for the Best of Category and Best of Show awards.  Acceptable media forms include websites, CD-Rom, DVD-Rom, DVD Video, Webcast/Streaming Media, Video Games, Kiosk and Video/Short Film.
Deadline: January 31st
Entry Fee: $45 per category submission

Prominent Design Annuals

GraphisEach year the Graphis Gold and Platinum winning advertisements are printed in the Annual.  It represents the best work produced globally in advertising, graphic design, photograph and illustration.  Eligible work must have been completed between October and a month before the deadline for each year.
Deadline: Varies by year, check website for current dates
Entry Fee: $50-$230 depending on category

Black BookMore of a guide than a contest, Black Book provides the creative community with high quality source books to promote top talents and services.  They publish six annuals: Photography, Illustration, Creative Industry Directory, RAW Magazine, AR100 Award & Resource book, Black Book ReMiX and a leading website.  Each of which contain the highest quality images from talent around the world.  Black Book has become an internationally trusted source for creative talent.
Deadline: Varies depending on annual
Entry Fee: Varies depending on annual and available upon request, check the website for contact info (different for each annual)

Creativity AwardsCategories include print, packaging, film/video, political, new media & web design, commercials, green marketing, alternative media and illustrations, photography & typography.  The Creativity Awards Annual book showcases each of the winners from the competition.  it is a great resource to uncover emerging design trends and up-and-comers.
Deadline: Usually mid-July with a $20 extension available till early August, check website for specific dates each year
Entry Fee:$55 for a single unit, $75 for a campaign

HOW Design AwardsThe HOW Interactive Design Award, one of four graphic design competitions HOW magazine sponsors annually, accepts any interactive, interface or motion designs for the web, broadcast or for use on Mac or Windows platforms (i.e. CD-ROMs and DVDs).  The judges ask that you include a description of the objectives of your entry.  This year’s winning entries will be featured in the magazine’s April 2009 Design Annual, plus receive a $100 discount towards their annual conference.  One winner will be a guest at the 2009 HOW Conference with airfare, hotel and registration paid by HOW.
Deadline: July 15th, an extension till August 1st for a $25 late fee
Entry Fee: $75 for regular submissions, $50 for students

Specialized Awards

American Design AwardsSeeks to reward graphic and web designers of all experience levels that support ethical design principles in their work.  The contest provides entrants a global audience to demonstrate their talents to.  There are three contests:  The Monthly Design Contest, the Semi-Annual contest, and the brand new Student Design contest.
Deadline: Summer contest – August 15th (extension available till August 31st), Winter contest – February 15th (extension available till March 1st)
Entry Fee: Semi-Annual contest only – varies from $20-$125

Web Standard AwardsSpecialized in XML/HTML, The Web Standards Awards’ goal is to promote web design that uses W3C standards.  To enter, your web site must be HTML 4.01 or XHTML 1.0 compliant.  They have a W3C validator tool on their website that determines eligibility.  Exceptions may be given for typographical errors and inclusion of rich media (like Flash).  There are both weekly and monthly awards.
Deadline: The Web Standard Awards are no longer accepting entries
Entry Fee: n/a

Showcases – Accept year round submissions with no fees

WebsiteDesignAwards.comA gallery that showcases the most progressive and cutting edge Flash and CSS online projects.  Websites selected demonstrated “strong visual and interaction design, have an innovative interface and a powerful and original creative concept”.  Interested designers should submit their websites through the WDA website

The Best DesignsA website recognizing the best Flash and CSS sites from around the world.  It is a great design resource that has content ranging from personal websites to corporate sites.  The gallery is updated a few times each week with new accepted submissions.  After submitting your site through theirs it usually takes about a week or two to get a response.  That is if you were accepted, due to the high volume of submissions received, they only reply to those who are accepted.

Favourite Website AwardsOrganization that continuously accepts website submissions into their gallery.  They awards a Site of the Day and Site of the Month title, as well as a larger, more carefully judged Site of the Year competition.  They only accept nominations from official site representatives or the design/development team responsible for a site.

DesignFirm AwardsOnly members can submit entries, so be sure to sign up first.  Your website will be judged on creativity & design, programming compatibility and ease of use & effectiveness.  Each category is given a score from 1 to 33, sites must earn 65 points or more to receive the award.

Design LicksA showcase of some of the greatest designs from all around the world.  There are no deadlines or entry fees and no prizes either, just the recognition of being chosen.  Every day one design is chosen as ‘Site of the Day’.

Standout AwardsA site dedicated to serving as a source of inspiration to all hoping to see the best current web work from around the world.  Designers can submit their site through the Standout webpage.  There are no fees or deadlines, and only a few rules:  web sites must be original (no templates/clones), no sites promoting illegal activities or that violates copyright, and no sites containing adult content.  Also, in order to submit an entry you must be the creator/representative of the site.

Did we leave any out?  Let us know!

May 23rd, 2008

5 Essential Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Web Design Agency

If you only ask a prospective web design company five questions, here they are…

1. Can I see some examples of your work completed on a similar budget and scope?
Seeing a designer’s portfolio is usually the first and most obvious method to evaluate their design capabilities. But, take it one step further by asking to see projects with a similar budget and scope of work. This should provide you with a clear expectation of what you’ll get for your money.

If you want to go even further than just looking at the designer’s portfolio, ask for two references that you can contact. Once you have the references in hand, give them a call and ask a few questions about the designer:

  • What goals did you have for your website?
  • To what extent did the designer’s work accommodate those goals?
  • How easy is the designer to work with?
  • Was the project completed on time and within budget?

2. What will be delivered? When can I expect it? What will it cost?
Ideally you want to look for a design company that will turn over the complete design and code upon completion, finish your project on-time and within your budget. Communicate your expectations for each of these and see if the company agrees to meet your expectations.

It is important to determine whether the project has a fixed price or billed hourly. In most cases, a fixed price is preferred because it sets your payment expectation and motivates the design team to complete the job quickly.

3. How will the site be managed?
It’s easy to get caught up in the web design process and forget to address the long-term management of the site. The last thing that you want is for your site to be designed and launched and then not know how to manage or update it. Save yourself the hassle and ask how the site will be managed before signing.

You need to determine if there is any software that you will need to manage the site. Furthermore you may also need the designer to provide some level of training on how to manage and update the site when needed.

4. Can you explain some of the technologies that you plan to use for the web design?
The technologies used for developing a website are important, but even more important than the answer itself is how the agency answers your question.

Did the designer talk in a language that you understand? If they use a large amount of technical jargon that is hard for you to follow, this may predict poor communication throughout your project. Effective communication during the design project is critical to getting a final product that meets or exceeds your expectations. Take care to choose a designer can explain their work in a way that you understand.

5. Do you have any questions for me?
Possibly the most important question that you can ask a web designer is if they have any questions for you. This puts the ball in the designer’s court and allows you to see what their approach to the project is.

Any designer worth hiring should at least ask a few clarifying questions (the more, the better). More specifically, you should expect a designer to have at least a few questions that focus on the business goals for the site, the website requirements and how the success of the site will be measured. Hiring a designer that doesn’t have a solid grasp on your expectations is a recipe for web design disaster. If they don’t know what you want and need then you aren’t going to get it.

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