This week in Web Design class, we got started on a couple of long-term projects.

One was to come up with proposed designs for a “My AACC” banner to be stripped across the top of the Anne Arundel Community College web page where students log in. These should have springtime themes, because the college will be replacing a banner with a winter theme, which you can see if you click here and then on “Welcome.”

That long horizontal strip made me think of a couple of things, one of them being a photo of the westward span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, which I took from Sandy Point State Park in Anne Arundel County. When tightly cropped from top and bottom, the photo fit quite well. But the assignment called on us to use only “vector” tools — that is, line-drawing tools as opposed to photos. So I managed to trace the outline of the bridge, then lift it off the photo and place it in the space. As it happened, the lines representing the suspension towers at the center of the span almost fit into the double Ls in “College,” so I moved them enough to do exactly that. I had trouble getting the “pen tool” to lift off the page when I was finished drawing a line, and the bridge ended up clumsily drawn. But you can get the idea, and the use of perspective does add some depth to the page, just as Jason Beaird suggests in the chapter on “texture” in his book, The Principles of Beautiful Web Design. I used bright yellow as the background in the logo, to represent the sun coming up over the Eastern Shore.

There isn’t anything in this banner particularly suggesting springtime, though, so I did that on my second offering. I always associate track meets with spring, so I used some stick figures to represent hurdlers. Maybe that is me flailing away in the rear, while more gifted students dash ahead. After I finished, I learned that AACC doesn’t compete in track — maybe a stick figure hitting a baseball would have been better.

Anybody is welcome to tinker around with either of these ideas if they wish.

The second long-term project is to create a website from start to finish. I think I am going to opt for creating a portfolio website for myself, including professional content such as published writing and photos. A relatively recent example is here. Some of the older stuff will take some digging and polishing. Photocopies of articles I wrote for The Washington Post decades ago are still accessible from the archives, for example, and I may end up just quoting a few excerpts and linking to the originals if anybody wants to go there. These search results are presented in chronological order, starting when I was most callow, so they need to be culled.

Meanwhile, our assignments have included visiting a site called Web Pages That Suck, maintained by Vincent Flanders:
I looked at what he considers the 10 worst web pages of 2008, and some of them are excruciatingly, unbelievably bad — one that looks worse than those printed shoppers that fill up your mailbox and another for a boutique of female fashions that, although based in Florida, inexplicably includes bagpipe music that sounds to me like a dirge (or what the Scots call a Lament).

But I differ on this choice:
“Does anyone think it’s clever? Does anyone not hit the back button?” Flanders asks rhetorically. Well, yes. I thought it was clever and did not hit the back button. I actually kind of like the site in a perverse way. It reminds me of the graphics in old Monty Python episodes, and although the style is doubtless dated rather than trendy, remember that Monty Python episodes live on forever on cable. I like it that when the “lift” door opens, a bloke with a mustache (Mr. Brill?) greets me on one floor as a gruff, shirt-sleeved editor and on another as a fussy, buttoned-up librarian with a finger to his lips. I even thought about buying an “i-am-a-writer” baseball cap at the store on one floor.

Maybe it is a cultural thing. Brill is an Aussie, and my experience with print people from the British Commonwealth is that they tend to take themselves less seriously than Americans, who go to Schools of Journalism (to listen to “failed editors dressed up like professors,” Rupert Murdoch is quoted as saying) and go on to join the Society of Professional Journalists.

And maybe, like Monty Python episodes, Brill’s site may be better enjoyed when stoned.

Rollover Buttons

Bay Bridge theme

Spring track theme
— J.V. Reistrup