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The Urban Renovator branding

May 29th, 2014

The Urban Renovator logo with tagline

As I mentioned in my last post, I am working with a few clients right now, one of whom is Frank Hilbrecht, a.k.a. The Urban Renovator. I have completed designs for the logo (above) and business card (below), and am currently working on a website design. Frank has been a carpenter for over 20 years, the majority of which he worked for others. Last year, tired of working for a larger company and watching corners be cut, he decided to branch off on his own, and started The Urban Renovator.

The Urban Renovator business card, enlarged to show texture.

Paperwork and Client Work

May 28th, 2014

In the past week, things have really been coming together for me. I opened a business chequing account at Mennonite Savings and Credit Union last Friday, which means that I can now deposit cheques made out to Elucidation Design, in addition to being able to keep my business and personal finances a little more separate. Yesterday, I talked with a lawyer about revising my contracts to offer more legal protection both to me and to my clients — up to this point, I have been using contracts I wrote myself, which certainly don’t cover everything they should, and also have legal holes in what they do (more or less) cover. Jen, the lawyer I’m working with, agrees that small-business contracts should be written in plain English, so that everyone can understand what they’re signing. Also yesterday, I met with an agent from North Blenheim Mutual to get commercial liability insurance — required by the city for all businesses.

In addition to the legal and paperwork aspects of the business, I have also continued work on logos for both Annie Monaco and The Urban Renovator. I plan to start work on a business card design and website template for The Urban Renovator in the next couple days, and start work on Annie Monaco’s website within the next few weeks.

New projects

May 20th, 2014

After a break from design work for family reasons, I’m excited to be working with two new clients. Annie Monaco, Sue Klassen’s co-trainer for the STAR Training, also runs lots of other trainings, in addition to clincal practice as a social worker. She has found that responding to e-mails about her trainings is eating too much of her time, so she wants a website where she can send people for answers to the most frequent questions. I’m also designing a logo for her, to begin creating a visual identity she can use across a variety of materials. Frank Hilbrecht is a local carpenter who wants a website for his business, The Urban Renovator. We’re meeting for the first time this afternoon, after which I’ll be able to tell you more about his business, and what he wants in a website.

In addition to client projects, I also am working on the legal, paperwork side of the business. While I enjoy this less than the graphic design side, it is a necessary part of working for myself — which I do rather enjoy. As my business grows, I’m finding that I need to be more organized, and I also need to become more aware of the legal aspects of running a business — getting insurance, revising my contracts, and so on.

Fabric art collaboration, and work in progress

April 22nd, 2014

It has been a while since I last updated — and not for lack of things to talk about. Here’s some of what I have done in the past few weeks.

Wall-hanging created in collaboration with Megan McIntosh

As part of my work for Sue Klassen, I collaborated with a fabric artist, Megan McIntosh, to create a wall-hanging. Megan and I spent a wonderfully creative day together — both of us very much enjoyed the chance to collaborate with another creative professional, since we both work primarily alone. The photo above was taken just after we finished our day together, and before the finishing touches (snipping loose threads, cleaning up some smudges, etc.) were done.

Draft quotation poster (one in series of ten)

Also a part of my work for Sue, I am working on a poster series with quotes supplied by Sue, and Creative Commons-licenced images found through Flickr. I have drafted seven out of the series of ten posters; many of them still need some work (and all of them still need to credit the photographers), but I’m quite happy with what I have so far. These are intended to be printed 11×17″ full bleed (that is, the image will go right to the edge of the page).

I enjoyed mentoring at the Ladies Learning Code event at Communitech just over a week ago. It was great getting to meet so many other women who are interested in HTML and CSS. In addition to teaching others some of what I know, it was a nice refresher on what is new in CSS 3 and HTML 5 — the web has changed a lot since I started learning HTML about 10 years ago. I’m looking forward to future Ladies Learning Code events — both those in subjects I know and can mentor, and those that can teach me something new.

Client work and school work

April 4th, 2014

The invitation for Sue Klassen’s presentation

Client projects and school work have been keeping me busy the last few weeks. Yesterday I finished designing a website for Precision Appliance Repair, I’ve nearly completed a redesign of the STAR Training brochure for a training Sue Klassen is doing without her co-trainer, and I’m in the middle of helping Sue prepare for a series of presentations she’ll be giving over the next few months — designing invitations, handouts, and posters, and assisting in creating the slides for the presentation, along with other collatoral.

Final project: fan art

This term, I have been taking Introduction to Digital Media Studies; while it is perhaps targeted at a more generalist audience, it has been interesting to look at media in a new way. We have discussed a wide range of topics relating to digital media — net neutrality, internet privacy ethics, transmedia storytelling, and participatory culture, among others — and for my final project, I decided to make a work of “fan-art” for Emma Approved, a YouTube-based webseries adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel Emma. It has been fun to work on a project with so much artistic freedom, and also fun to make fan-art for a series I enjoy.

Tweaking and Debugging

March 20th, 2014

I made a few small changes to the website design today — little things that weren’t working quite right, and things that could be improved. I was talking with one of my clients last night, and she suggested some small changes that could make the redesign even stronger (as well as testing it for me on her iPhone — I don’t have one, but I want to make sure my website works for those who do).

Redesign launched!

February 28th, 2014

I have had a very productive day today working on the website redesign. I was able to fix both of the major bugs in my website today, so I decided to launch early — about a month ahead of schedule, actually. I’m very excited about this, since it means I can move ahead with other projects I had put on hold until the website was done — especially networking and advertising, which will both send people to this site.

Have a look around, and tell me what you think (especially if you find something that looks broken...). I’ve tested the site in all the browsers I have on my computer, but they’re all up-to-date desktop browsers, so I don’t know what it looks like in older browsers, or on mobile devices (I have found some emulators, but they seem to just handle screen-size).

Returning after a break

February 26th, 2014

I’m working on the website redesign again, after having taken a week off. Despite still feeling wintered-out and tired of fighting with the same website bugs, I have made some progress today. I’m quite happy with my redesign of the Rates page; I’m using the JQuery UI library (a free resource with lots of different JavaScript functions) to allow the package descriptions to be hidden while not being read, so that the page is less of an overwhelming wall of text, while still conveying all of the same information if the user is interested.

In spite of the bugs, the frustrations, and the time I just took off, I am still on schedule for when I had hoped to finish the re-design, which is encouraging. When I’m “down in the trenches” working on a project, it’s often easy to lose track of the bigger picture — the goals and timelines that I planned out at the beginning of the year. When I’m feeling frustrated, it can be helpful to step back, review how far I have come, and look at when I was actually hoping to have this project done (in this case, the end of March). While de-bugging is a pain, I still have a month to get it done. And while I am oh-so-eager to launch the site, and would love to do so ahead of schedule, it’s fine that I can’t yet, because that wasn’t the plan anyway.

Website redesign: making progress

February 4th, 2014

I’m still working on that website redesign. I have the full-sized site pretty well done, and I’ve started adding content. Unfortunately, there are still a few bugs that show up when resizing the site from small to large or vice versa. On the bright side, I pretty much know what’s causing the bugs; on the not-so-bright side, I’m much less sure of how to fix them. One is caused by my own code, which probably makes it easier to fix; I just need to figure out how to work with JavaScript a little better. The other is, as far as I can tell, a browser bug (in Chrome, Safari, and Opera, but not in Firefox), which makes it harder to fix — I need to find a work-around. Since I’m revising a lot of content as well as changing the layout, I have been taking a break from fighting with the code to write and format the content. At some point, though, I know I will need to go back and fix the bugs.

Coding is hard

January 29th, 2014

Preview of website redesign through

I’m working on a complete overhaul of this website, as I mentioned in my last post, and I’ve made a handful of mock-up designs for different sized screens. I really like the way my mock-ups look, and the way they function in my mind is just great. Unfortunately, actually getting everything to work (and especially getting it all to work across platforms and browsers) is way harder than making pretty pictures in InDesign. At this point, I have some aspects that look and scale like I want them to but don’t function yet, some aspects (I’m looking at you, search bar) that function like I want them to but don’t look as nice as I’d like, and some (simple) aspects that both look and function like I want them to. The site is also currently only in its small-screen version; I need to figure out how to change what shows up based on screen size (I know it has something to do with @media-queries in CSS, but I need to figure out how those work.) So far, I have avoided actually learning any JavaScript (although I have some snippets that I have stolen from others) or PHP/ASP (I think there’s probably some in that search setup somewhere...). I have certainly deepened my understanding of HTML and CSS, however.

Once I have the site “done” (that is, once everything is working on the devices and browsers to which I have access), I’ll ask all of you to look at it and poke at it on your various devices and browsers. If anything is borked (which I expect it will be in at least one browser, probably either an older version of a mobile browser, or else (most probably) some version of Internet Explorer...), please let me know (and send me a screen-shot if you can so that I can see how it’s borked), and I’ll do my best to fix it — I really do want the new site to provide a good browsing experience on all available devices, whether that be tiny little mobile screens, large monitors, wall-sized touch-screens, TVs with Wii-motes (or whatever they’re called), or touch-screen refrigerators (y’know, not yet, but someday we’ll have them, and I want to be ready).

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