Tagged: what-i-learnt-today

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What I learnt today: solid and process colours

Today a colleague asked me to help her finish a PDF that she needed to send to an online print shop. They specifically asked for a document created with solid colours (instead of process colours), either in Pantone or HKS.

The last time I had to deal with things like this was probably ten years ago, during my photography apprenticeship. Back then, I learnt a lot about colour theory and the printing process.

Today, it took me a couple of minutes, but my memories emerged slowly and steadily and I could answer her question. I guess everthing we learn can be of some use sometimes. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: voicemail

I’ve been trying to ring up a prospective client for the last two days. Although I could have left a voicemail, I didn’t. I’ve never liked leaving voicemail messages because it always feels a little awkward talking to no real person.

Today I finally left a message to ensure that the conversation keeps going and we have a chance to reach one another at some point, but I still don’t like it. I wonder if anybody else resists leaving voicemail. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: framed thinking

Today I came across this tweet from @StarbucksUK:

I really like this clever use of the false frame illusion and I realised, how often I tend to “think” in frames and boxes. I suppose writing CSS and dealing with the box model for a couple of years somehow clouds the view for design delighters like this one. I’ll have to remind myself not to think in boxes and frames all the time. At least that’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: dealing with email

Last week I took a few days off. I spent a generous long weekend hiking through the Palatinate Forest and celebrating my birthday. When I started working again this morning, I had to deal with some email that had piled up during my absence.

For most people, handling email is a very unpleasant task. But ever since I adopted the inbox zero principle, I’m rarely stressed about it. After sorting out the important ones, I move the rest into a separate archive folder or even delete them. Then I assign a task to the remaining items requiring action and move them into the same archive folder.

And that’s all there is to it for me. Over the years I’ve developed a very strict routine and today I realised again, how important such a set of rules can be. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: room planning

After repainting my office, I’m planning to buy new furniture and to re-arrange the space a little bit. Today I thought, I could create a 3D model of the room and plan the whole thing on my computer.

I measured my office, created a plan for the room and then put in some virtual furniture to visualise the new space. But even with this kind of visualisation I had difficulties to determine, wether the new furniture would fit or not. I guess I need to go back to cardboard and scissors. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: approaching names

Today I had lunch with Andi, an old friend of mine who is a Designer and Art Director living and working in Berlin. I’m in the middle of “rebranding” the small web design studio. I’ve been running for the past six years and Andi is helping me with creating a visual identity.

In the last few weeks I’ve been trying to come up with a name for the business and I’m hopelessly stuck. My initial idea was to provide Andi with a name so that he can go on and develop the visual elements for whatever idea I’d come up with. That hasn’t worked out so far.

So today Andi suggested that we start with mood boards instead and focus on a broader kind of design atmosphere first. I really like this approach because visual thinking is something I prefer to abstract concepts and I’m absolutely sure, that this will work out the way we planned. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: ligatures

Today I came across a strange phenomenon on a website where there were multiple icons showing in the middle of words instead of regular characters. I soon noticed that every instance of an icon represented not one but two characters. And then it hit me.

The font used on this particular website provided ligatures which were then replaced by what appeared to be an ASCII icon representation of that single ligature character. Weird. Firing up the dev tools and setting the font-variant-ligatures property to none confirmed my suspicions. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: performance

Today, a colleague and I took the last steps to launch a new website for a client. I always enjoy these last couple of hours before a site goes live because everything gets “ready for production”.

In terms of frontend code, getting production-ready for me basically means “make everything as fast as possible”. And that’s what we did today.

I noticed that I recently developed an obsession with performance. Nothing is ever fast or small enough and I always try and make the code as fast as I possibly can. It’s a very rewarding endeavour, maybe because it’s measurable. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: SVG icons

Today I familiarised myself with the use of SVG icons and SVG sprites and I was amazed by how well it fitted into my workflow. I won’t go into much technical detail just yet, mainly because I want to write a detailed blog post about it.

Up until recently, I was thinking more and more about possible alternatives to over-used icon fonts. When using an icon font, we either accepted the overhead of unused icons or we compiled our own font, which became too much of a hassle.

So far, I’ve been very pleased with SVG sprites and for now, I would consider it the best way of displaying icons. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: app banners

Today I came across this post on Google’s Webmaster Central Blog where Google states that it will no longer consider websites mobile-friendly that show “download our app” banners which hide a lot of content. I agree with Google’s decision and it got me thinking about the necessity of apps in that context in general.

I was wondering, if anyone has ever downloaded an app after clicking on a search result in Google. I certainly haven’t. And I think a lot of users just want to get to the content as quickly as possible, that’s what they came for in the first place.

I don’t know if Google’s decision will convince developers to give up app banners altogether, but I think it’s a start. At least that’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: time tracking

I’m really not the worst person when it comes to tracking my time at work. In fact, I consider it a vital factor in keeping my business profitable and tracking the time on clients’ projects has become an everyday habit.

What I’m not that good at—or what I often just forget for that matter—is tracking the time I spend on administrative tasks such as doing finances, dealing with tax returns, chasing invoices and so on. Everyday there’s time I can bill a client for and then there’s time that I have to factor into my rates because there’s no client paying for it. Therefore, it’s key to know how much time I actually spend on those non-client work tasks.

Today I reminded myself again to track the time on everything, including my “internal projects”. In addition to recording a lot more working hours today (which was quite satisfying), I hope to gain valuable insights on how my working hours are split between client and non-client work. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: paint supplies

Today I went and bought paint supplies. I’ve been wanting to repaint my office since I got new windows in earlier this year. I recognised that painting is not the cheapest of undertakings but I figured after five years of looking at the same colour, it’s time for a change.

I’m really looking forward to the “new office” now and I think it will bring a lot of new energy with it for sure. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: rabbits and childhood memories

Today was one of the rare occasions where I got to eat roasted rabbit. We were invited to have lunch with my parents and my mother made roasted rabbit, red cabbage and pretzel dumplings.

Delicious as it was, it reminded me of my childhood when my grandmother would make the exact same dish during Easter holidays. Although it must have been nearly 25 years ago, the memories are vividly imprinted in my memory.

It fascinates me how we can memorise things like smells and tastes over the quarter of a century. Our brain is truly unique that way, as there is no other way to preserve memories like this. Sure, we can write things down and try to describe tastes and smells as best as we can. But still, reading about it can never provide the same vibrant and tasty sensation that comes to mind when I think about my grandmothers roasted rabbit. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: working on saturdays

Some might consider working on saturdays as something workaholics would do. But although I agree that one should maintain a healthy life–work balance, I really do like the soothing silence of an empty office on saturdays.

No phone calls, no email and barely a soul that comes into my office to speak to me. I don’t know, maybe it’s an introvert thing, but I often feel a lot more comfortable in the office on weekends.

Being in the office on a saturday like today also seems to have a positive impact on my work. I get things done a lot quicker and especially when I’m doing design work, I’m much more focused. Ultimately it’s really rewarding, at least for me. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: taking a break

I’m sure everyone knows the feeling of getting stuck when doing or thinking about something. Be it a design problem I’m trying to solve or a bit of code that I’m tinkering with, I sometimes get to a point where going any further is just a waste of time and will lead to no outcome whatsoever.

Today I was in such a situation and I decided to take a long break. At first I felt a littly bit guilty about it, after all I should be working, right?. But I went to the gym to clear my head for a bit and then went back to finish what I had started in the morning.

Not only did I finish the piece of design I was working on quicker than I thought, I also found the time to write and to play around with some ideas concerning the rebranding of the small webdesign business that I run. Taking a break is worthwhile even when it doesn’t seem like it. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: pragmatism

Today I had to deal with a problem for which I had two choices of solving it. One solution was very idealistic but would have taken for ages. The other solution was very pragmatic and could be done in a couple of minutes.

I decided to go for the pragmatic solution because it was easy to do and the more idealistic approach could still be built upon it. It reminded me a bit of progressive enhancement and then I knew, that my decision was right.

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What I learnt today: FormData objects

Today I tried to get my head around a problem where a file upload using AJAX didn’t work. That’s when I encountered the FormData object. A FormData object consists of key/value pairs that can be sent using a XMLHttpRequest.

If we want to send files asynchronously, the first thing we need is a <input>-element to hold the file.

<input type="file" name="myfile" id="myupload">

In JavaScript, to prepare the data to be sent, we have to create a new FormData object and append the file the user entered.

var fileInput = document.getElementById("myupload"),
    uploadFile = fileInput.files;

var data = new FormData();
data.append("uploadfile", uploadFile);

We then can use the newly created FormData object and send it using XMLHttpRequest:

var request = new XMLHttpRequest();"POST", "");

If we are using PHP on the server side of things, we can then access the sent file using the $_FILES array.

There’s one thing to consider though: browser support for FormData starts at IE 10. But a fallback solution should be easy to provide as we can just sent the form using a regular HTTP request.

And that’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: writing newsletters

Today I sent out a post-event newsletter for this year’s Createcamp. I thanked the attendees for their time and participation, asked for their feedback and wether or not they would be interested in having another Createcamp in the future.

I really enjoy writing these newsletters. I’ve written three before and one after the event and I have to say, that I really like putting them together.

Instead of addressing the whole group, I always write like if I was talking directly to the person. That way it feels really personal to me and it makes it a lot easier for me to write. That’s what I learnt today.

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What I learnt today: the dirt eraser

Today I was told about an invention called the dirt eraser. Thanks to this little piece of magic I was able to clean my beloved sneakers to almost make them shine as if they were new.

They contain small resin particles that stick to any dirt parts and then take them off. The eraser has to be moisted a little bit, then it’s ready to go. It’s always fascinating what humanity’s engineering yields. That’s what I learnt today.