Open House Chicago’s Location-Based Desktop and Mobile Websites

Summary: The Chicago Architecture Foundation (CAF) needed to develop a website for its OpenHouseChicago (OHC) 2011 program, a free public event that provided people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests with access to many of Chicago’s greatest architectural spaces and places that are normally open “by invitation only.” The website needed to convey a celebration of Chicago’s rich architecture, history, and culture found in the city’s vibrant network of neighborhoods.

We built on the community and mapping platform of PhilaPlace to design and develop the OHC desktop and mobile optimized websites. Through the integration of two open source solutions – Google Maps and the CollectiveAccess collections management system – PhilaPlace supports a rich feature set that presents a mosaic of historical and contemporary records about sites within a particular area.

Designing over top a preexisting PhilaPlace framework, most functionality and UI restrictions needed to be understood and followed, along with a strong brand inherited from the Chicago Architectural Foundation. The result is a website that through the desktop and mobile devices conveys the richness of the content as well as its place within the larger organization and brand.

Tech: Illustrator, Photoshop, HTML, CSS
Role: Lead Designer
Link: myitinerary.openhousechicago.org

How far Right have we moved?

I was doing some reading for work the other day, and saw an original handbill for the 1963 March on Washington event. And it had some details in it that sparked my curiosity, so I went googling for a higher resolution (i.e. more readable) version of the document, and found this website with a longer and more detailed version, described as the event’s program.

March On Washington, 1963 Handbill

March On Washington, 1963, Event Program's Demands

First, I had no idea it was originally called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” … Jobs and Freedom? Jobs? I had no idea at all that jobs were even part of the March on Washington? I mean, I was never a huge fan of American history class as a youngster, so I can’t completely blame the school system, but I think I would have remembered something that significantly different than all the focus on the “I have a Dream” part of the March? When do you think the “Jobs” part of the March disappeared from the discussion?

Anyway, there’s a “WHAT WE DEMAND” section, with a numbered list of “DEMANDS”. And I was struck by #7 in the list: “A massive federal program to train and place all unemployed workers – Negro and white – on meaningful and dignified jobs at decent wages.

Wow. Lets set aside for a second, the whole concept of people wanting their government to train all of it’s workers, (What a crazy concept huh? We’ve got private trade schools and private colleges to fund with our private money for that! Why would we expect our government to fund that for us? That would be communism to make job training publicly paid, you pinko fascist socialist commi! :-) but look at how it’s phrased, right at the beginning: “A massive federal program”! Right there in black-and-white! Can you imagine any public officials rallying around demands phrased like that now-a-days?

More importantly, I often wonder how far to the Right this country has moved in the last 50-60 years… and then I see something like this and it comes into clear contrast for me. I’m not saying that all of our country’s problems should be solved with “massive federal program”s, but it’s such a contrast to today’s environment of slash-and-burn everything but “3rd rail” issues… and even those “you won’t get re-elected” issues are becoming vulnerable to attack because of their “socialistic” implications. Just look at the Presidents bi-partisan debt panel. (nothing in that name about the fact that it was stacked with pro-big-business types… not a labor representative or academic-type looking out for small business or social concerns in the house) They’ve come back recommending, among other things, raising the retirement age and having “less generous” annual cost-of-living adjustments for Social Security! My grandmother, were she still with us, would be quite unhappy with these prospects, that’s for sure… and she was no socialist.

It just makes me sad that so many people believe things that are, and vote directly, against their own interests. Government isn’t good for everything, but it sure works in that gap between individual self-interest and Corporate self-interest. People need to remember that they are not indistinguishable from Corporate interest. It’s good to have a healthy economy, but it’s also good to have a reasonable level of protection as individuals, against being trampled by Corporate interests. We need to remember that we, as American citizens, can ask for our government to do a wee bit more for us than just “getting out of the way” of Corporations and Industry. We as Americans, deserve more than being left to fall with nothing to catch us but a safety net shredded by Corporate interests to make more and more, by giving out less and less. I would have hoped we’d be past begging simply for Jobs and Freedom over 45 years later, but I guess that was just a dream after all.

My very first SlideShare presentation!

Looky here! My first ever SlideShare.net presentation! It’s a little ditty I created to help our traditional media buying folks transition over to the brave new world of online banner ads and all the specs they have to understand and bring into their Work Orders. It’s pretty basic, and it assumes I’ll be talking through some of the details, but it’s hopefully still somewhat informative… and maybe a little entertaining.

AIGA Philadelphia Chapter – Site Rebuild

Summary: Redesign and re-architect the static HTML and Coldfusion AIGA Philadelphia website into a full content managed Drupal website. The AIGA Philadelphia board wanted the new site to still visually tie in with the previous site’s color scheme, but were open to all other changes in content presentation and user interaction. The new site tries to bring consistency and user expectations into the forefront, while opening the back-end up to the board for more frequent and manageable updates. This new site is scheduled to be live by the end of the summer, 2010.

Tech: Photoshop, Illustrator, Basecamp, Dropbox
Role: Lead Designer / Information Architect / Project Manager
Link: www.AIGAPhilly.org

Philadelphia Tax Amnesty – Website and Online Media Campaign

Summary: Develop the online components of a full media campaign for the Philadelphia Tax Amnesty program. The website was designed to integrate the already developed brand system and create an engaging & informative web experience to promote program details as well as sign-up users into the program. In addition to the website, online banners were created in 2 waves. The first wave was in released prior to the program launch and provided basics about the program and it’s key beginning and ending dates. The second wave of banners went live on the program’s launch date and had an actionscript countdown clock alerting the user to how many days were remaining in the program. Additionally, for the street-crew promotions staff, a fully animated placard was created with a countdown clock that showed the Days, Hours, Minutes and seconds remaining in the program.

Tech: Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Actionscript
Role: Lead Designer / Flash Designer & Production
Link: www.PhillyTaxAmnesty.com

Saint Clare’s – Site Redesign

Summary: Create a full website redesign to build off of the Saint Clare Health System’s rebranding and refocusing. A new brand was developed, built around a sky blue color scheme and the phrase “Turning Promise into Practice”. The website relied heavily on that sky blue aesthetic, and brought in a triadic color scheme for emphasis elements. The new design had to be clear, professional and a lot more usable than their previous design, and reinforce the new focus of turning promise into practice for their patients.

Tech: Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, Actionscript
Role: Lead Designer / Flash Designer
Link: www.SaintClares.org

South Philly Do-Or-Die.

So I’m just gonna say it. South Philly has a lot of sucky aspects. There are some people down here that are just SO stupid and/or inconsiderate. There’s trash like urban tumbleweed because the city stopped street sweeping and removed corner trash cans. There are drug dealing corner bars that go unchecked for generations. (until recently that is :-) But I’m not really wanting to focus on the negatives. (like parking during, and after a snow storm). What I want to focus on however, are the positives!

And there are some seriously nice positives.

  1. Generally, once you get to know your neighbors, they can really be very sweet and considerate.
  2. There are corner stores peppered everywhere, so if your wife is wanting to cook something and finds she’s missing an ingredient, most likely the Italian corner store on one side of the block, or the Mexican corner store on the other side of the block will have what you’re looking for. (and I say “your wife” in a non-sexist way, because in our house she really enjoys cooking, and I’m more than happy to handle the clean-up, which she HATES… so we see it as a perfect harmony situation).
  3. There are many delicious places to eat out or order in, and they’re mostly within a 10 minute walk!
  4. There are multiple forms of mass transit crisscrossing and zig-zagging through the neighborhoods.
  5. Ah, Hello? HOLIDAY LIGHTS!!!
  6. Valentine’s Day Window DECORATIONS?
  7. Pretty cool row house construction sometimes.
  8. AND… an ever increasing number of cool new residents. Just to name a few of the positives.

But I want to focus on the first two items on my positives list. This Valentine’s Day morning, my lovely wife decided that she wanted to make waffles from scratch, and at about 8am she started to gather the ingredients together. But wait a minute! We don’t have enough butter?! No problem. Let me (as the assistant to the chef) throw on a jacket and some shoes and take a walk to one of the corner stores and buy some butter for my wife and her cooking proclivities.

A picture of a tastie looking plate of South Philly Waffles, with the waffle iron slightly out of focus in the background.

So I tried the Mexican corner store first, because they usually have more regular hours of operation… but 8am on a Sunday seems to be a little too early. Ok, how about the Italian corner store? Sometimes they surprise me. Nope, not this time. Ok, lemme walk half a block east and see if the Indian corner store is open yet. They’ve come through in the past for some milk for my morning cereal. But no. They too are closed this fine slush filled Sunday morning.

So coming up with 3 strikes, you’d think this Philly is out… but then I think, “Who knows, it can’t really hurt to ask.” So on my way back from scoping out the Indian corner store, I step into Varallo Brother’s bakery. Italian bakers use a LOT of butter, right? So maybe they’ll take pity on me and sell me a stick of butter? It can’t hurt to ask, right? So I walk up to the counter and hope that it’s one of the nice ladies that know me. (I’ve been known to stop by on occasion for their award winning cannoli or other tasty treats.) But it’s not my familiar ladies… it’s 2 new faces that I’ve never seen before, but more importantly have never seen ME. And I almost chicken out, but I muster my south philly bravado and just say, “Hi, this is gonna be a strange question, but, you wouldn’t be able to sell me a stick of butter could you?” (I know, I know, it’s not exactly “bravado” but it’s all I could muster! My momma raised me to be polite to strangers.) I get a funny look from both ladies, and I clarify that “My wife is wanting to make waffles, and we don’t have butter, and all the corner stores are closed.” Their skeptical looks give way to a half smile each, and the lady that greeted me says that she’ll go ask, but doesn’t think they have just “sticks” of butter.

Not sure what that means because I’m unfamiliar with the inner workings, and purchasing patterns of an Italian bakery, I just wait patiently. I figure at the least, I can tell my wife I’ve exhausted every possibility other than walking all the way (4 blocks) to the local Ack-ah-me. But to my complete and total surprise, one of the Varallo brothers comes out from the back, and in his hand… a 4-stick BRICK of butter still wrapped in its wax paper. He tells me it would be less trouble to “just take her out for breakfast”, and I joke back with him that it would require us to actually go “out”. And we chuckle a little. He puts the brick of golden tastiness in a brown bag and simply hands it to me and waves at me to take it, and scoots back to his kitchen before I could even adequately thank him for his wonderfully generous and nice act.

One of the very nice Varallo Sisters giving top notch service to a hungry customer.

WOW?! I mean I’ve always felt that the Varallo family is genuinely nice after you get past the oh-so-thin veil of gruffness that seems to mask all the older Italian shopkeeps in the area… but wow this was something else! I felt that I couldn’t just walk out of there with my free butter brick and not give them ANY money at all. So I asked the now surprised and amused looking ladies behind the counter if I could get a couple tasty looking danish and a couple of these little chocolate topped cookie pastries things that I’d never seen before.

I mean, c’mon, like I said… I couldn’t just walk out of there without giving them ANY of my money, right? It’s the neighborly thing to do! :-)

South Philly, sometimes you truly ROCK.

Google Reader is your friend.

Ok. I just wanted to make this post to let all you people out there in the interwebs know that GOOGLE READER IS YOUR FRIEND. If you have a G-Mail account or any other type of Google account, then you can have a Google Reader account with a few clicks, and no cost!   :-)   Just go to www.google.com/reader. It can really make sifting through your daily internets a much more reasonable endeavor. I think I’ve been using it for about a year or so now, and I just want to outline some pointers. But first, here are a couple intro videos…

First, we have “RSS in Plain English” presented by leelefever of http://commoncraft.com. It’s a fun little run-through of the basic concept of Google Reader and utilizing RSS feeds …and it’s less than 4 minutes:

And next, we have “Google Reader in Plain English” presented by Google. Again, it’s basic and clear. And it’s just a smidge larger than a minute long:

So, basically Google Reader is a relatively easy way of taking advantage of all those RSS feeds out there. And if you don’t know what an RSS feed is, don’t worry about it, just start using Google Reader, and it won’t matter that you do, or do not know what Really-Simple-Syndication means. Just be content that it can bring all your favorite daily interweb perusaling to one central place that’s easy to sift through and consume. But here are couple additional tips from me:

Google Reader Images 1. In your Google Reader page, there is a little text link area at the upper left corner of the actual feed called “Show:” and the choices are “Expanded” and “List”. (Please see image to the right) It’s pretty self-explanitory what these 2 text links toggle between, but I wanted to call them out, because this feature is GREAT!

2. There is a little Google drop-down-button under the blue title bar that has “Mark all as read” as a default selection. (Please see image to the right) Get to know this button. It can be your stress relieving pal when your “All items” is showing 1000 unread blog posts. (maybe it’s me, but I feel like I’m “falling behind” when that number gets up there like that, and just selecting a couple prolific blogs and nuking their “unread” status can do wonders for my ability to TURN THE DAMN COMPUTER OFF at night when I get home… or at least at a reasonable hour.) Don’t worry, the articles are still there if you want to read them… they’re just no longer marked as “Unread”. Also, when you’re getting familiar with this great little tool, get to know the other choices in the drop-down, as they allow you to apply a time range for your nuking.

3. And guess what? There’s a supercool SHARE BUTTON TOO!

Here is a little YouTube diddy that walks you through sharing items and how to add friends and what-not:

What that video didn’t cover, is the fact that you can make your shared items completely open to the public if you’d like! (There’s a small text link at the bottom of your “People you follow” area of your left navigation area, click that, and the first item on that screen is a drop-down that will allow you to set the Public or Protected nature of your sharing.) Setting your shared items to public is essentially like starting personal google blog that requires no blog maintenance! WARNING: Depending on the type of daily interweb perambulations you make and decide to share with your friends, you may not want to share these things with the whole world wide webs… but that is entirely your call… I’m just alerting you to the setting’s existence, which by default is set to NOT make all of your shared items public knowledge… just to the people you follow.)

So in conclusion and review:

1. You can use Google Reader to consolidate your daily web travels into a single, easy-to-browse happy-fun-time.

2. Don’t be afraid to nuke stuff when it all comes flooding into your little Google Reader corner of the webs. Sometimes you just gotta say UNCLE. Do it. It’ll make you feel good in the long run.

3. SHARE! Get your friends to start Google Reader accounts and add them to your “People you follow” list! And if you feel so inclined, open your share up to the public masses… like I did here: http://www.google.com/reader/shared/rizzionet

Enjoy!