Archive for the ‘my stuff’ Category

Recent Launch: Waterville Valley Resort

The recent launch of Waterville Valley’s new website represents the culmination of 5 months of work. Developed with a very customized php-based backend by Max Kloeppel, this site is robust and scaleable. The rich Winter home page theme is just one of 5 different themes along with Summer, FALL (an industry first to our knowledge), Terrain Parks, and Conference Sales.

It was an honor to work with Waterville Valley and we look forward to a long and enjoyable relationship.

Waterville Valley Home Page

Waterville Valley Home Page

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  • Some recent mentions of Infobytes on Twitter

    Well yesterday’s post about the plagiarizing of my design for the Squaw Valley website caused quite a stir. The evidence against Infobytes completely damning. And the ski industry has responded loudly and clearly that this kind of behavior is immoral and will not be tolerated.

    Initially, I decided not to go public until I heard Brighton’s side of the story. As I suspected, they had offered Infobytes several examples of sites they liked, just for direction and inspiration. Infobytes, their digital agency then decided to poorly copy, rather than borrow and improve upon the original. I mean, why bother doing all that work?

    Facebook comments on a re-post by Dave Amirault

    Facebook comments on a re-post by Dave Amirault

    Once I decided to share this experience, the outpouring of support from ski industry and design colleagues was swift and unanimous. I’ve received hundreds of @replies in support of the integrity of design and condemning plagiarism on the web. Meanwhile, the full social media wrath of sympathetic marketers and designers has been brought upon Infobytes. Their website traffic has most likely had a record spike, their inboxes are full of critical emails, and the owners LinkedIn profile was even published via Twitter. I almost feel bad about it. Almost. I  actually had to persuade some savvy users NOT to share and abuse her personal Twitter account. One follower even said he was submitting the story to major news outlets, which may be a bit of a stretch but it’s cool anyway.

    The moral indignation designers and ski industry marketers feel comes from the understanding that we all work very hard with limited resources. People who choose to work in the ski industry live in remote corners of the world, work seven days a week and get paid a fraction of their worth. Why? Because they believe in a lifestyle that offers freedom, self-expression, and accessible rapture.

    The Squaw site was actually turned around in about 2 months, beginning to end. This would not have been possible without the hard work of Nathan Kendall at Squaw Valley, Chris Petty in Park City and myself. Lots of long days and nights went into that site, as with any project. We even offered 4 original concepts initially, each one offering different functionality and inspired by the work of other designers, without copying. So for another designer to sell pass that work off upon an unsuspecting client (a direct competitor no less!) is appalling.

    People who choose to work in the ski industry live in remote corners of the world, work seven days a week and get paid a fraction of their worth. Why? Because they believe in a lifestyle that offers freedom, self-expression, and accessible rapture.

    I think the lesson here is pretty clear. Don’t steal design. Don’t pass off other people’s hard work as your own. And don’t fuck with people who choose to race down frozen mountains and jump of cliffs. Your weaknesses will be exposed.

    Thanks to all my colleagues and friends for their support.

    A tweet by Jeffrey Zeldman

    Affirmation from my web design idol, Jeffrey Zeldman

    Great comment from my accountant!

    Great comment from my accountant!

    Hackjob: My Work Gets Plagiarized!

    My work was recently poached by the good folks at Infobytes in Salt Lake City. That’s the nicest way to say it. Their recent “design” for Brighton Resort is more than inspired by my 2010 design for Squaw Valley USA. It’s a blatant ripoff. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then consider me highly flattered.

    My 2010 design for Squaw Valley's website, next to the recently launched Brighton website.

    My 2010 design for Squaw Valley's website, next to the recently launched Brighton website.

    I’ve spoken to Brighton, and I believe them when they say they were completely unaware of any copying or wrong-doing. It seems they listed Squaw.com along with several other sites they liked to give Infobytes an idea of their tastes and functionality they liked. I ask for the same thing when starting a project, but I try to come back with something unique, and hopefully better. Instead, Infobytes downloaded the site, the CSS, the markup, the graphics and proceded to make small hackish adjustments accordingly. So I think the real victim here is Brighton, who spent their entire summer and lots of money on something that’s plagiarized.

    Before I get into the particulars, let me admit that there are only so many ideas out there, and some overlap is bound to happen. As one friend pointed out to me, my Squaw design looks a lot like Apple.com so maybe I’m to blame as well. But the ski industry is a small, interconnected place where everyone knows each other and takes great pride in competition as well as camaraderie. So it was no surprise when many of my colleagues jumped all over this blatant forgery before I even had seen it. Slopefillers did a great job of documenting the similarities within hours of its launch, in their post Ski Resort Websites: 7 Before & Afters from 2011′s New Designs.

    As Slopefillers showed you, the dimensions and graphic effects are completely derivative.

    As Slopefillers showed you, the dimensions and graphic effects are completely derivative.

    But to say that they’re similar is an understatement. With the exception of Infobytes’ hackish rendering, they’re cut from the same mould altogether.

    • The hero images are completely the same dimensions, although Infobytes hasn’t cropped them to center the subject within the allotted space. They’re also embedded as background images using the same class names as Squaw.com.
    • The hero images are also served using the same php script which was developed by Chris Petty specifically for Squaw.
    • The ghosted scenic images in the background are treated using the same layer blending modes, the same opacity, and the same gradient masks as mine.
    • The dimensional shadows in the footer are blurred and warped to the exact same specification, creating a lifted corner effect. That’s no accident!
    • The navigation bar has the same height, width, gradient, beveling treatment, dividers and type treatment. IN FACT, if you were to examine the code (at the time of this blog post) you’d even see that the navigation and headers all call for Futura Bold, which we embedded on Squaw.com using @font-face. Brighton doesn’t use Futura, but my code is still there.
    • The navigation menus use the same columnar structure, the same unordered list styling, the same background images dividing navigation from promotional content.
    • The content level pages use the same background image technique with the same fade-out heights and same opacity, the same content overlay design, and the same sidebar design although in reverse.

    I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

    I spoke to the designer responsible for this hack job at Infobytes and she had no idea what to say. I asked if she thought no one would notice. She said, well the client sent me a list of sites they liked and I just “took it from there”. I said I usually get a list of preferred sites from my clients too but I don’t copy them. It’s just to get a sense of their personal taste. By the end of the call, she said she’d change everything right away. I reminded her that that’s not her call and that she should consult with her client and own up to what she’d done. So THAT was a fun conversation.

    Squaw is aware of the situation and they had the same reaction I did. IE: “WOW, that’s blatant!” But with their recent changes, they may have bigger fish to fry at the moment. The bottom line is that Brighton and Squaw will work this out amicably, without a doubt.

    Recent Launch: Sugarloaf USA

    Repeat business is always great. But when it’s a classic, highly regarded brand like Sugarloaf, it’s an honor. After designing their former site in 2006, it was about time to bring Sugarloaf’s site into modern times. I got the call in late June and by August 1 delivered the home page, general content templates, and an overhauled snow report and trails & lifts report along with custom icons and support assets. The production, development and elaborate API wrangling credit goes to Sugarloaf’s Derek Wheeldon, who was a pleasure to work with.

    Sugarloaf USA

    sugarloaf.com

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  • Recent Launch: Stöckli Skis

    I recently had the opportunity to redesign the US website for the Swiss-made ski company, Stöckli through a partnership with JV2. The catch was that the creative needed to delivered and be finalized within two weeks, while I was busy working on several other major projects. So about 6-8 all-nighters later, the project was delivered. The final package included .psds for the home page, product category, product detail, general content template, and athlete profile pages. Working with an international consumer brand like Stöckli was a great opportunity and I hope for more projects like it in the future.

    Stöckli Skis

    http://stockli.com

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  • Just Launched: Freeskier.com

    Freeskier Magazine is a top ski industry magazine, focussed on park, pipe, and powder skiing. Their site is a robust hub of industry information and user-contributed content. It was an honor to contribute the design (over 15 .psds delivered) to this highly regarded site as well as its sister site, Snowboard Magazine. Drupal development was done by One to One in Boston.

    View the site »

    Freeskier Magazine

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  • Sometimes it all comes together. I was very lucky to contribute a design to this year’s Local Lange Girl Contest site, by Freeskier Magazine. For the uninitiated, Lange boots has published a poster for the last 20-some years of a semi-nude woman in Lange ski boots. The posters have become a bit of a ski tradition. Recently, Lange has opened the casting to the general public, and the site will draw up to 4-6 million views in the next two months.

    Visit the site »

    Local Lange Girl Contest Site

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  • Just Launched: Squaw Valley USA

    November saw the launch of  a new design for Squaw Valley USA in North Lake Tahoe California. With an existing Drupal backend, this was more of a theming overhaul. Very pleased with the result, although there’s still a lot to be done.

    Visit the site »

    Squaw Valley Home Page

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  • Sunday River, Maine

    Sunday River 2010 website

    Sunday River 2010 website

    Among this years ski industry highlights were the redesign of JacksonHole.com, TheCanyons.com, and SundayRiver.com. Sunday River, in Bethel, Maine represented a second round of design; a rare opportunity for repeat business. And for that I’m truly thankful. What’s more, is that Sunday River is the place where I learned to ski. Or rather, Sunday River is also where my wife (a former Sunday River ski instructor) first gave me that all-important, life-altering ultimatum: “Well you can either learn to ski or you can just be lonely all winter…”

    The design is a result of very specific and time-tested insight from the established veterans of Sunday River’s brand manager Nick Lambert, as well as the tenacious work of Sunday River’s tireless developer, Maria Silveira. My thanks go out to Sunday River for their cooperation and commitment to their core principles.

    As always, feel free to hit me up for insider tips on the design and/or css of this site.

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  • The web is an ephemeral medium, subject to trends and whims; art directors and design by committee; browser-based compromise and accessibility assessments. Excellence on the web is subjective, elusive, and fickle. But you’d like to think that you do good work. Every project comes with concessions but your latest project is usually your best. You take screen shots for your portfolio, maybe enter it into some contests or showcases, and you promote it any way you can. But inevitably you have to hand that design off to the client, or a developer, or another designer who may not share your vision. And that’s when the heart-break sets in. Lately I’ve had several sites butchered by the clumsy hands of zealous, would-be designers. It makes me envy my friends in the print design field who’s work is preserved at the peak of its freshness like a beetle in amber.

    Some of my designs stay alive, just as I designed them for many years. Some, just for a few months. Sometimes the designs degrade over time due to client access, improper training, or just a lack of attention. You try to account for that degradation in your design by applying character limits, styling markup elements, or offering style guides. But it’s inevitable. Then some day someone comes along and institutes a sweeping change. You just hope it’s for the better.

    Picture yourself as a parent. You work hard to raise the perfect child and before you know it, they’ve left the house, fallen in with a bad crowd and they’re smoking crack! (Breathe.)

    But what happens when the major change is detrimental to your original design, or to the client’s brand? Picture yourself as a parent. You work hard to raise the perfect child and before you know it, they’ve left the house, fallen in with a bad crowd and they’re smoking crack! (Breathe.) How do you tell people that you had nothing to do with it without sounding like a snob? Or, worse yet, what if the client asks for your opinion? I’m not the type to bash people’s work unless it’s unnecessarily awful. By that I mean, you had a perfectly good site but you trashed it just because you felt like it. (Breathe.) It’s natural to get upset about it. In fact it’s healthy. It shows that you care about your work. But it’s also unprofessional to let it get you down.

    Remember: It’s not your fault

    Don’t forget that people always want to put their mark on things. Even if your design was better that the new one, it doesn’t matter. If someone decides to make a change, you can’t stop them. So have a good cry, keep your chin up, and move on with your career.

    Stay Fresh

    One thing you can do is keep your portfolio fresh. Make sure your portfolio home page always reflects your latest and/or best work. Be proud of your  latest accomplishments and don’t hang on too tightly to previous success. I used to have a creative director who would walk into every pitch with the same 3-5 case studies of projects he had done over 10 years before. This is a bad habit. The work looks dated and it makes you look as though you haven’t done anything good in a while. PURGE! No one’s gonna look through your old work, and if they do, chances are it does not accurately reflect the way your current status as a designer. If you must include old work, perhaps add a conspicuous date to it, or better yet, section it off in a “vintage” or “classic” area where old designs can be put out to pasture.

    Go ahead and tell users that this version is no longer active. But feel free to archive a static version of the site to show.

    Go ahead and tell users that this version is no longer active. But feel free to archive a static version of the site to show.

    Stay Honest

    If you must show out-dated work, don’t beat around the bush. Feel free to tell users when a site has become inactive. I like to show the date of completion for a project and if my design is no longer live, I say so. If it’s a small site or a Flash site, I may even archive my version on my website for display only. However, be careful not to detract from the current site’s SEO by stripping meta data, alt tags, and any live links to the site.

    Put Your Best Foot Forward

    Push your latest work. I find it useful to have a “featured work” area that showcases my latest and/or greatest work over my other work. Items in my general portfolio are listed by vertical market, while most other pages showcase items I feel represent where I am at this moment. And that’s important because people want to quickly understand what distinguishes you from other artists. Make sure you lead with the right impression.

    But the best thing you can do is keep working. Keep doing your best work on each project. You will ultimately be defined by your latest work so make sure that your next design is always your best.

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  • Filed under: my stuff, rants