Announcing The 18TWO Website

It doesn’t feel like it’s been just over 3 months since I announced my move to self employment. The time has flown by pretty quickly and I’m happy to say that I’m managing to pay the bills & eat so I must doing something right (right?).

As with every small business client work takes focus to personal work, so whilst most of you were enjoying Christmas holidays I took the break from client work as an opportunity to get my new site finished. If any business, especially a design one, is going to survive it needs somewhere to showcase it’s work which is the main focus of the new 18TWO website. At the moment there is a small selection of some of the work I’ve done in the last 3 months and I’ll be working to add some older stuff in the coming weeks along with making the site responsive for those of us with iPhones/smart phones.

Please jump over to the new site, have a look, poke around and (a cheeky one this) share with your friends, colleagues and family. Of course if you like what you see and would like to work with me please do get in touch.

Do you like to shave?

I like to shave.

Ask most men my age, their late twenties, that question and its usually met with a snort. An upturned lip. A look that says “are you serious?” without words passing their lips.

In fact if you asked me that question a few years ago I would’ve responded in much the same way.

So what changed I hear you say? My approach changed. When I moved into a flat to live on my own for the first time I became much more aware of how I spent my money, every penny suddenly counted much more than it ever had. Spending several pounds on a can of shaving gel had to stop. So I bought a cheap shaving brush and a puck of soap that I knew would last far longer than the shaving gel ever had.

That small change began something. Since it took me a bit longer to have a shave I started to relax, to take my time with it. I began to see shaving as a time to pamper myself and relax. I started to enjoy it.

Fast forward a couple of years, and although I’ve had an electric razor for quick shaves during the week, I’ve always enjoyed my Saturday morning wet shave. Once again an awareness of how I spend my money has prompted another change in my shaving set up. I ran out of cartridges for my Mach 3 and on going to buy some new ones, the cost floored me. I can’t spend £13 on 8 razor heads which will last me only a couple of months before threatening to pull the skin off my face.

I took to Amazon to find out if they were cheaper, they weren’t, but one of their handy suggestions based on other peoples purchasing habits was. I’m not talking slightly either, I’m talking £9 for 100 blades. A grand total of 9p per blade and according to the internet (means it’s true right?), each blade should last me 5 or 6 shaves. That’s about 2p per shave. So I took the next step in my shaving career and bought a double edged safety razor for £20. That means in just over 6 months I’ll be saving money and in 2 years time I’ll still be using the same pack of blades. Brilliant.

But do you know what’s even more brilliant?

I enjoy shaving even more now. I have to take even more time with it, making two or three passes over my face. I’ve had to relearn how to make a lather, turns out I was doing it wrong but the Mach 3 didn’t show it up. In fact I’ve had to relearn how to shave entirely, but it hasn’t been a chore. I now shave 3 times a week, using similar tools to my Granddad who I remember getting up early to shave in the kitchen sink. He used to take his time, I never understood why.

I do now.

Shaving isn’t a chore. It’s a relaxing, soothing treat, and a great way to start the day, or finish it if you’ve had particularly stressful one. In fact it’s more than that. It’s a pause, a moment in time where I’m not thinking about anything else (I tried it once; blood everywhere), it’s an opportunity to give my mind a rest and just enjoy the moment.

Oopsie… Things?

A few months ago I started to use an ingenious AppleScript created by Shawn Blanc which he nicely titled OopsieFocus. It’s purpose? To make sure that when I hit the keyboard shortcut I use for the OmniFocus quick entry window, I was never left hanging without it opening.

Whilst most of the time when I’m at my Mac I had OmniFocus open, occasionally I didn’t and It was those occasions this little script helped me out. By setting Alfred to run this AppleScript on the same keyboard trigger I set in OmniFocus, it checked whether the app was running and if it wasn’t it launched OmniFocus followed by the quick entry window. Genius!

So at the start of September when I felt OmniFocus was more than I needed to manage my tasks, I made the move back to Things and adapted Shawn’s script to work with my new app of choice.

Being a generous chap, I thought just in case any of you folk out there could make use of my altered script, I’d post it here (with Shawn’s permission) for you to download.

Once you’ve downloaded the script I suggest you set it up to run with an app like Alfred (with Powerpack), FastScripts, or Keyboard Maestro to be triggered when you use the same Quick Entry keyboard shortcut you have set in Things.

Download as:

A Change To The Feed

For as long as I can remember I’ve been using Feedburner to publish the RSS feed for this site. It’s provided a few stats to satisfy my inner geek. Feedburner has been playing up a lot recently and Google who own it have shown little interest in moving the service forward, in fact, they even let the Japanese domain expire killing all the feeds which used the service without warning. Not wanting that to happen to you guys I’ve turned Feedburner off and am just serving the normal WordPress supplied RSS feed.

If you’re reading this in an RSS Reader or site like Google Reader, chances are you’re all ok, but please check the feed you’re subscribed to is http://philbowell.com/feed/

Thanks!

The One Where I Announce I’m Now Self Employed

There are some posts you dream about writing, posts you’d love to write but never think you actually will. This is one of those posts.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about change. Changing the way I approached something has lead to exciting guidance and a big change in my career.

It started with a conversation with two very good friends of mine. One asked how work was, then followed it up with a query about what I really wanted to do. The other laughed, asked me a question, set me a challenge and then held me to it. That question lead me to writing the last post about a change of approach, a change which, thanks to Gods guidance is leading to a leap of faith.

What’s the leap?

On Friday 3rd August I worked my last day in full time employment and spent my last day living in sunny (!?) Slough. The following day I moved to Cheltenham, again. A place I attended university and a place that I love being in.

With that move came a change of employment. I am no longer a rat running a race, but instead a man working as a business owner. I’ve finally taken the leap into self employment. Relying on the Lord to supply me with enough work to put food in my stomach and to pay the bills.

For a long time it’s been my ambition to work for myself, even while I was studying at Uni I knew ultimately I wanted to have my own design studio. It nearly happened straight after Uni after a little encouragement from my tutor, but I knew it wasn’t really the right time. There was a lot I still had to learn, well let’s face it there still is. I’ve now been in full time employment for 5 years. I’ve grown a lot, I’ve changed a lot and I’ve learnt a lot. I’ve experienced working for a small company and I’ve experienced working for a larger company. Both were good experiences that taught me many different things, but underneath there was always this desire to have my own company bubbling away.

I’m delighted to say that has now happened. I’ve had a little holiday, moved to a new (old) place and am at the end of my first week of self employment. It’s exciting, a little daunting but feels like the best decision I’ve made. Except that I didn’t make it, God showed me the door and I pushed it. Now I’ve got to continue pushing doors, keep faithful to Him, and work as hard as I can.

In the next couple of weeks I’ll be able to introduce you to a new name and a new website. Of course this place will still exist and I hope to increase the level of writing, and hopefully build on some friendships that I’ve established through my blog over the years. It’s an exciting adventure, I hope you’ll join me on it!

Change

For the last few years I’ve been praying about something. I’m sure many of you have as well, but this particular thing has occupied my prayers for several years. I’ve been praying about it in the same way for pretty much the entire time, asking for guidance and direction in relation to the thing. During that time the urge to do that thing has grown. One could say its developed into something close to a permanent longing, something that left me unsettled because I’m not doing it and I’ve never really known why.

A recent conversation with a very good friend left me feeling challenged. He asked me a question and laughed at my response because it’s been the same response I’ve given him for the last few years.

My response of course was to question why he was laughing at me, I guess feeling like he wasn’t taking me serious. His response was one which caught me off guard. Instead of answering why he was laughing, he simply asked me how I had been praying about this thing. I told him and after a moments pause he responded with a challenge. Why don’t you pray about it in a different way?

He commented how that as I have been praying for guidance this thing had grown in to a passion and longing, that is to say something more than momentary desire, then maybe I’d had that guidance and it was time to challenge it.

So for the last month I’ve been praying more earnestly and in a different manner. Instead of requesting guidance about the thing, I’ve been praying: Lord, I think you want me to do this, please show me if I’m wrong.

The results have been breath taking, surprising and exciting all at once. A change of events has begun that, I believe, God is using to lead me into doing this thing I’ve been praying about for the last few years. I’m a little apprehensive, but the over riding feeling is one of excitement. This post is not an announcement, yet, but maybe more of a watch this space…

AirFoil’s Menu Bar Access

I seem to have this strange affinity for the menu bar. Well really it’s for little icons in the menu bar. If an app can run in it in someway, chances are it is doing so on my Mac.

Recently the excellent AirFoil from Rogue Amoeba was upgraded to version 4.7. It brought with it the ability to run an icon in the menu bar instead of the dock. Instantly I turned it on, AirFoil is always running and it bugs me to have too many icons in the dock of my MBP1. It’s a brilliant idea and one which, in my opinion, should’ve been available much earlier than it has been. A simple click shows me what song is playing in either iTunes or Spotify, which speaker I’m streaming too and the ability to add more should I wish. It’s almost like the universal AirPlay icon in the multitasking tray on iOS.

That’s all great, except, it feels kinda half finished.

The greatest thing about AirFoil is that I can stream from any source on my Mac. I mainly use it for Spotify or iTunes, but occasionally I play something in Safari like the a live 5by5 podcast. It baffles me that I can’t select what source AirFoil is transmitting from the menu bar. Logic, at least to me, dictated that this would be the chief function.

Imagine the scene. I’m sat working away, I realise via Twitter, that the B&B Podcast is about to start live on 5by5.tv. I click the link in the tweet I just read and I’m switched to Safari. Since I already have music playing from iTunes, using Alfred I can pause it instantly and then I’m free to start the live stream. The only thing is I have to click show AirFoil, then find the window and click the drop down. Then I have to select my source, and then I can close the window. It all seems kinda long winded and like I should be able to switch source on the fly from the menu item. A ‘source’ menu below or above my speakers containing only the apps I have open and available to be used as my source would be fantastic. It’d reduce the clicking and thus the friction in changing a source for my AirFoil broadcast. Hopefully they will add this ability soon, it would complete the app as far as I’m concerned.

  1. I’m a dock on the side guy (left bottom) and so vertical space is limited.

I Miss My Cave

man cave
noun Informal .
a room or other area in a home that is primarily a male sanctuary, designed and furnished to accommodate the man’s recreational activities, hobbies, etc.

Dictionery.com

During my latter years at school while studying my GCSEs and A Levels I began to understand the need for a cave. Of course still being at school and living at home I had a ready made one – my bedroom.

As a teenager in the early days of developing an interest in design, that cave allowed me to create the atmosphere I needed to work. I had a drawing table set up where I would work on creative pieces and study for my exams. It had a light that bent over me shining a focused beam on my work space and plunging the rest of the room into darkness. I had some of my most productive evenings at that table. In fact I have long standing memories of working on my graphics coursework close to a deadline with the masters snooker on my little tv and that light beaming a zone of creativity onto my table.

Moving to uni I again had my own ready made cave. The room in my halls of residence quickly became the place for all my creative work. Angle poise shining on my desk, laptop on, a dark room and momentum building music on late in to the night. Then the bedroom in my shared house in the final two years at uni and the first year in employment had a similar feel, but replacing my laptop with my iMac.

I miss those caves.

Since I’ve been living on my own I’ve not really had a cave. A flat with a living room, kitchen, bathroom and bedroom doesn’t really lend itself to creating one. The living room is a place for relaxing, eating and hosting visitors. The bedroom is for sleeping and relaxing, I need it to be purely for that else I’ll never shut down properly to sleep.

The quest for a cave

Since I’ve no space for a desk and no closet I could convert into a cave I’ve been exploring ways to create an environment that can be quickly and easily set up, then easily removed when I have visitors.

I’ve always tried to zone my living room so that I have a lounge area and a dining area. The dining area is the only bit of my flat that I can sit down and do work at and so it’s become the centre of my quest for a cave.

The table lamp which used to sit on my dining table has been removed and replaced with my angle poise. My laptop now has a home on the table and my wired Apple keyboard and Logitech mouse have come out of storage. All of them can be quickly packed away when visitors are around and for the first time in a few years I’ve been able to begin creating that cave like atmosphere as I work by the light of my angle poise. I can even do it with my iPad instead of the laptop should I wish.

Whilst it’s not quite the same as a permanent cave, it’s a step in the right direction until I’m able to afford a place with room for a permanent cave. Most importantly it’s already having an impact on the way I’m working in the evenings on my own projects as well as on personal freelance clients.

But the lesson that I’ve learnt, in this little exercise is that actually it’s not necessarily about having a physical space, it’s about atmosphere. In order to foster creativity I need the right atmosphere, a permanent place makes that easy to create but the quest for my cave isn’t really for a physical space at the moment. It’s about a way for me to recreate the atmosphere of my early and original caves. It’s about developing a method that allows me to quickly set up at my dining table and focus. Events over the last few weeks have caused me to realise specifically that by my very nature I’m a night owl and not an early bird. Maybe that has something to do with my atmosphere…

Reading Stories, Food for the Imagination

I work as a graphic designer. Like many other folks in my profession I find it hard to turn off. I may not be thinking about projects from work all the time, but I’m always thinking about projects I’d like to do or reviewing the things I see all around me. I see every piece of design and mentally critic it, 99% of the time I’m not even aware I’m doing it, but it’s there, almost like a 6th sense wondering what questions the designer faced.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sat in a restaurant looking at the menu only to realise I’m not looking at what’s on offer but the way it’s been typeset. What font did they use? What does it make me think of the restaurant? Does it make the food I’m reading about sound even tastier or does it make me think I’ll be left wanting more? Does the menu fit the surroundings or does it just feel like a designer somewhere threw it together because he didn’t get a proper brief?

It’s a pretty constant state of affairs. Right now I’m glancing at the empty can of San Miguel thats sitting on the dining table. Does it look like the taste? Does it make me want to lie on a hot beach in Spain? What the heck has a ship got to do with beer? Why did the designer pick gold as the main can colour and break away from the green and white that used to be there?

I can’t turn it off, and many a time I’ve amused good friends as I verbalise my critique.

Unfortunately relaxing is made all the more harder by it. I read to do my relaxing, mostly the blogs of a select few but they’re people who I’ve come to trust. I trust that the links they post are to interesting content, articles that can lead me on a chase around the internet looking at websites, new websites. Websites that start the inner critic on it’s familiar chain of questions. Questions that lead me to find another way of reading.

Books.

Mostly made of paper that smell of ink and aren’t displayed on a screen. However, in this age of constant stream of information that feeds a thirst for knowledge, growth and understanding, I find I need a book that doesn’t make me think too much. There’s no point going to bed to read only to lie in bed for hours thinking about the chapter I just read and the challenges or knowledge it imparts. I need a good story. Something that will make me keep turning the pages, compelling me to read. So it is with great joy in the last year or so that I’ve discovered an author I enjoy, one that draws me to read rather than watch inane tv shows.

It’s not the novels that I write this about though, it’s the impact they have on me. As well as helping me relax, they force me to use my imagination. When reading about the unravelling story I’m forced to imagine the scene, what people look like and where they are. I’m forced to stop asking the questions I ask all day long as I review and work on the various projects I have on the go. That time away from questioning and evaluating can only have one impact as far as I’m concerned, that is, to make my work better. Having time to just imagine frees me from the constraints that are so often put in place when working. They may be imposed on me by the projects, or by the presssures I put on my self, but the more I read and use my imagination in a completely unattached manner. The more creative I feel, the more my imagination is fed the more easily I find work.

In a time when the people around me seem to read more than they ever did, I seem to be the only person among my friends who reads novels. I’d like to encourage you to start. Take a short story and read it. Start small and find something that feeds your imagination, a story which gives it new life and see what impact it has on your work.

Wecloming 2012 and Setting a Few Targets

It’s that time once again when many people are posting reviews of the year just passed. I always enjoy reading these posts, seeing the people I follow who have achieved all that or more than they hoped to whilst hoping those who didn’t are able to in the coming year. I’m always drawn to writing something myself, and whilst my last year contains many highlights – my trip to Israel, a summer in North Wales and a deepening of friendships that have become increasingly valuable – I always feel somewhat hesitant to “review my year”.

I think the heart of that hesitancy lies solely in my feeling of a lack of accomplishment. I never feel I’ve achieved anything worth writing about or highlighting. I call it the curse of the Internet. It’s so easy to spend time looking and comparing what I’ve done to all the people who have achieved a great deal, all the people who’ve had the guts to sit down work hard and put themselves out there. I’m always left reeling at, what feels like, my complete lack of gumption.

I am learning though. Learning to not let that fear of failure or fear of no one noticing be the reason to stop myself from doing the things I want to. Thats why I’m writing this post, to set out three small targets to try and set me on my way this year. I think they are all achievable and am hoping they will set me on my way to accomplish something this year.

In the last year I’ve put weight on. Some people will argue that I needed to, I’ve always been a bit skinny, but in the last year I’ve put on a little too much. I weighed myself over the Christmas holidays and well the number at the start was too high. My first mission is to lose a stone in weight by exercising more regularly and cutting out those little treats which have snuck into my diet.

The past couple of years has seen my blog fall in to decline, significantly. I’ve always enjoyed writing for my blog, but the past couple of years has seen a lot of things change in my life and it didn’t feel right to be writing about them here. Nor did it seem right to continue writing about things which on reflection are quite trivial when compared to the loss of loved ones. But time is moving on, and I feel that it is time to pick up my pen once again and begin writing for my blog with more regularity. I realise I’ve said this before, and it’s gotten past January, February and into March before I’ve really realised I’ve not done anything I’d hoped to, so I’ve given myself a number to aim for. I’m going to try to write four posts a month. Not four link posts, but four article posts, although I hesitate to call them articles. There’ll be no word count, just original content, content I create because I want to and enjoy it.

The third thing I want to do is a little more open ended and probably something that everyone hopes to do. I’d like to use my time to greater effect.

I’ve always been a night owl, I like staying up late, the quiet cosiness of being up late with a small light on and my book, sketch book or Mac for company feels great. The problem is when you have a nine to five job that kind of behaviour is not really helpful. Hitting the sack in the early hours of the morning and then rising only a few hours later to go to work is a recipe for disaster. Burning the candle at both ends only really has one destination for me, running myself in to the ground and an onslaught of mouth ulcers. So in order to combat this tendency to waste my time, I’m resolving to give my self a bed time and get up earlier. My aim is to be up at six each morning in order to do a half hour of exercises, then spend time reading my bible, praying and whatever is left can be spent writing.

Re-reading that last paragraph makes it feel like a pretty big task, but I think knuckling down and doing it will help me to achieve the other two points. More than that though, having a set time to sit and read my bible without distraction will be the biggest benefit of all.

I’ve always admired those who are able to get up early and spend some time each morning to do this. While I’m away in North Wales for two weeks every year, I spend time leading a children’s holiday club. When I’m there, life is so different to my everyday life that I’m able to easily get up early and spend time each morning reading from the word. I’ve become acutely aware in the last few weeks that it’s all down to a matter of attitude. I’m so aware of how important it is in those two weeks to devote my time in such a manner, that it’s time to change my attitude and devote that time every morning rather than in the evenings when I find it harder to concentrate and often run out of time. It’s something that I enjoy, but often feel a need to do out of duty, yet, when I set time aside I’ve seen the benefits in my life and my relationship with Jesus. I want to do it more and so this attempt to change my sleeping patterns is motivated by that desire.

And so with that, please join me in raising my hot blackcurrent to 2012 and all it has in stall!

In Search Of Flow

Like most of the world, the arrival of an iPad in my life has meant a lot of my established routines and behaviours have changed. I’m no longer setting up camp on my sofa with my MacBook Pro to spend some time reading RSS feeds and going where the links take me, instead this time is being spent using my iPad. I find I’m using my MacBook Pro a lot less than I used too, that’s not necessarily a negative thing though, as the time that I do spend on my MacBook Pro is much more meaningful than it used to be. I’m finding myself going through a shift in mindset as I’m more focused when I sit down with my Mac and don’t find myself drawn to the likes of Twitter and Reeder. My productivity has increased, which can only be a good thing as I gradually pick up more freelancing work. The work that I am doing has become more meaningful, that is with one exception. Here.

The blog. It’s slipped and largely because of my shift in behaviour. Most of my blogging revolved around reading interesting articles and curating them on my site. This then drove me to write longer form content when I wanted and when something attracted me sufficiently. I now find myself both linking less and writing less. Not good.

Reading a Ton More

I follow a lot of very good blogs, most of the things I read are on the internet and since getting my iPad Instapaper has really come in to it’s own. Shawn Blanc nailed it when he wrote

So in short, Instapaper is the best way to read the Internet. And the iPad app … is the best way to read your Instapaper articles.

The trouble is, if a large portion of your reading material comes from the internet, the desire to share increases. It’s so easy in today’s world to share something to Twitter or Facebook, but if you want to add a little commentary to that link and share it on your blog, well it’s a little trickier. On the Mac I can hit Cmd-1 and MarsEdit will fire up with the link pre-populated and any selected text quoted. On the iPad, thats not so easy. Theres no MarsEdit for iPad and well, quite frankly, the iOS WordPress app sucks and copy & pasting back and forth between apps isn’t the easiest or quickest way of doing things. Put quite simply the barrier to entry for posting on the iPad was too high.

So what’s the big deal? Well, like many people I like to write. I don’t consider myself a writer but one of the reasons I started blogging was to give myself another creative outlet; a place to stretch muscles that don’t necessarily get stretched all that much; a place to, should I need, release a little about topics that don’t necessarily interest my friends.

I miss it.

The trouble is I don’t really know where to begin, and so in my usual manner I began to problem solve. The conclusion I reached? I find it easier to write when I have a reasonably steady flow of things going through the blog. Some momentum. The best and easiest way of creating that momentum, or generating flow, is by curating links and pointing people to other well written and interesting content.

For once my thinking on this subject seemed to coincide with some other folk on the internet. Shawn Blanc and Benjamin Brooks touched on this recently in The B&B Podcast. When they visit a site they want to see articles before they will begin to measure if you are worth following. Something I agree with quite strongly, if there is a good article on a site I visit I will take note, if there are a couple in close succession, chances are you’ll end up in my feed reader. But if there are large gaps between articles and nothing else posted it makes a site feel stagnated, a stagnation I feel has begun to develop here. I want my site to feel alive and the best way to do that is to write regularly, and, because I’m out of practice the best way to break a cycle of not posting is to link to others. It’s not and nor should it be the sole purpose, but an active site is a cared for site and a cared for site usually brings good content.

Beginnings of a Redesign

Seeking out an easier way of building that flow led me down the path to the beginnings of a redesign. I needed an easy way to share links on the blog.

So to help me begin to develop this flow I’ve made a few changes to the site. A slight facelift which aligns to a grid but really is a framework for the future and has allowed me to make a couple of adjustments to the behaviour of my links. For those of you who have noticed the titles of the links now point straight to the site I’m linking too, so rather than including the link in the text as I’ve done in the past I’m now free to just include my thoughts. It leads to a more streamlined way of posting from both the iPad and my Mac.

Thanks to Ben Brooks’ adjusted bookmarklet and the plugins that it requires I can now post more easily to the site. The pace isn’t quite what I’d like it to be but it’s developing and my hope is that I can pay more attention in the long run and begin to write my own articles with a little more regularity than the sporadic posting that I seem to have settled into.

My First Conference (Part Two)

I’ve been trying to work a seemingly random collection of thoughts into a follow up post about New Adventures conference. It’s not really happened so I’ve chosen to just throw them out there to anyone who is interested.

Overall I enjoyed the day, it was fun, informative and pushed me out of my comfort zone, teaching me things about design and myself that are valuable and I am processing in order to improve.

Most enjoyable was Brendan’s talk. He was the most entertaining in delivery and engaged the audience excellently. His passion for design is infectious, but something I felt myself identifying with straight away. I don’t obsess over using the right pencil, but my friends can attest that I do obsess over other seemingly pointless items.

Most disappointing was Veerle Pieter’s talk about inspiration. I really enjoy Veerle’s blog, and so was looking forward to hearing her talk but, for me, it had too much example and not enough insight. I was hoping for some processes which people could adopt or adapt to make their own and use as triggers in the creative process. I know we all work differently, but hearing how someone goes about finding inspiration when all they are hitting is brick wall after brick wall can be inspiring in itself. Veerle also seemed to contradict some of the talks from the morning, with a theme of doing something a certain way because you like it rather than for a particular reason. Whilst design is subjective and sometimes we go with our gut, there’s usually reason for doing it beyond “I like it”.

Most thought provoking was Dan Rubin’s talk on maturing the industry by developing a language that has meaning and that everyone can understand. Having moved to a new job around 3 months ago and having had the opportunity to work on a couple of web jobs, this struck a cord. The things I mean when I refer to something and the things they mean when my new colleagues refer to something are easily confused on these jobs, however, when it comes to a print job everyone knows exactly what the other person means.

Elliot’s talk, Andy Clarke’s, Jon Tan’s and Mark Boulton’s were also some of the most informative, interesting and thought provoking talks that left me feeling inspired and motivated. Good stuff that I have already noticed is informing the way I work.

New Adventures was a really good day, which I thoroughly enjoyed, hopefully I’ll get to a few more in the future and I’m certainly hoping that I can make it to New Adventures 2.

My First Conference (Part One)

This week I’m heading to my first design conference in the form of New Adventures in my home town ((Well 25 minutes outside of the city is technically my home town, but I was born in Nottingham so close enough.)). In the past I’ve always looked in on conferences from the outside, so when I heard about naconf I figured it was time to take the leap.

As someone who works primarily in print but has a real fascination with the web I’m hoping to learn a lot and figure out where my layout skills can cross over to the screen. I’ve heard it said many a time that print designers shouldn’t switch to the web, but equally I’ve seen many high profile designers achieve great things in both formats.

I’m most looking forward to hearing some of the best in the business share some valuable insights into the various topics. In particular I’m looking forward to hearing Veerle Pieters share some thoughts on triggering inspiration and how we can break through the block we all suffer from time to time. One of the things I find hardest when I’m designing for the web is inspiration. When you use the web so regularly it’s very easy to let yourself fall in to a pattern of “this goes here, that there…” and before you know it you have a very insipid run of the mill website. I’m hoping I may pick up a few techniques to help me use my experience in designing for print be the inspiration for designing for the web. ((I was going to go on here highlighting all the things I’m looking forward to, but, as I began writing I realised I’d be highlighting all the talks in the schedule. It seems, unsurprisingly, that they all compliment one another nicely.))

Since it’s my first conference I know I won’t be able to soak everything up all in one go, but I’m going armed with a brand new Moleskine and I’m hoping the notes I make will compliment the slides when they are released. The whole day will be a learning experience, but the learning doesn’t just stop once I’ve left the venue. It continues in the follow up and, most importantly, in my efforts to put what’s been said into practise.

Beyond the talks, I’m looking forward to hopefully meeting a few of the people I’ve come across on the web. Be it via blogs, twitter or some other means it’d be great to meet some new faces in the industry. So if you read this, or follow me on Twitter do come and say Hi!

Leaving Tumblr

It’s been just under a year since I began trialling Tumblr as the basis of my blog. At the time I was writing from Electric Weekend but had been struggling thanks to several events that happened at the end of 2009. In an attempt to get back in to the swing of blogging I’d decided to make a clean break from my first blog and start again.

For a while I posted regularly but I soon fell in to a trap of consuming rather than writing. Tumblr makes it very easy to find new blogs to follow, not a bad thing, but I found it all too easy to consume rather than create. However, in the last month or so I’ve begun to feel that desire to create again, to write on a more regular basis. Not only that but I wanted more control, and this is the driving force behind my move back to a WordPress based site.

Control?

One of the things I used to enjoy most about my old site was the ability to change things up should I feel they’ve become stale. I could more easily try out new features should I come across something I liked the look of. But it goes beyond this, I wanted more control of the fundamentals of the site.

One of the things that has frustrated me most, not necessarily with my site, but with the sites of bloggers who use Tumblr, is the poor archives. It’s frustrated me that I’ve not been able to find a link or an article on someone’s site. It’s such a bad experience that I began to think people, or at least some people, will have the same trouble finding things on my site as I’m having here.

It all boils down to the fact that I’d like to design the overall experience people have on my site and the only way I can do that is to move to a self-hosted platform.

Theme?

So having admitted I’d like to have more control over my site, here I am using a default theme. Well the answer to that is simple. I wanted to make the move while I had the desire to write more. I’ve already wasted a month knowing I wanted to leave Tumblr, and so rather than wait until I’d got a fully designed blog I decided to make the move now and begin tailoring my site as I settle in to my new surroundings.

But not everything is running without some customisation. I’ve already begun my design process with the URL’s ((Thanks to a little inspiration from Ian Hines.)) which feature a more friendly sentence like structure that I hope will grow as I develop the site.

You’ll also notice that comments are available on this post. Having not had comments on my site for a long time I’ve begun to feel that on certain posts it might be quite nice to try and foster a bit of conversation, they won’t be on by default but I hope to be able to turn them on from time to time.

I’m also hoping to find a way to bring most of the content from my Tumblr site into this one so that everything from PBcom can be archived here. But whilst all this is going on, I now feel I have a website where I can start to be myself again. Somewhere I’m hopeful I can get back into the flow of blogging regularly, with a mixture of long form articles and links. A place where I’m happy to create is far more important to me than discovering even more content. This year I’m hoping to use my time more wisely, and hopefully this move is the first step in using my online time in a more productive manner.