This Blog is…
a collection of personal and commercial articles following my education in design. Along with research-based articles, I would like to share some of my work and projects along the way.
Article: The Impact of Joining MocavoMay 16, 2012| boulder design startup techstars
Last May, at the start of Boulder TechStars 2011, I first met Cliff Shaw and Richard Miller. They had just started the Summer program, and were still looking for a design cofounder to join the team.
At the time, I was a freelancer for a number of Boulder startups and agencies. I enjoyed the variety of projects, meeting with different clients, and the custom schedule. While I was very happy with my situation, I still kept an open mind towards new opportunities.
In my first conversation with Cliff, he told me about his vision for Mocavo and what it would mean for the genealogy market. While I was not initially swept away by the idea of a genealogy startup, I was very excited about shaping a new company, being a part of TechStars, and learning how companies are born. Upon joining Mocavo, it wasn’t too long before I began to share and partake in Cliff and Richard’s vision for the company—a massive search engine that makes research a social and collaborative experience for the user. As the three of us went through the program, we kept this direction at the forefront of our product and company.
In the following months, the team grew and the products started to roll out. A search engine with 6 billion names, document and photo publishers, an iPhone app, and automated search tools were just some of the features we released in under a year. It was exhilerating to be around, and I was finding myself at home in the company.
Fast foward eleven months (and countless cups of coffee), Mocavo has grown in nearly every way. Our team has more than quadrupled, we’ve continued to mature our product, and we’ve seen great traction and successes from our users. But, our biggest growth is still yet to come.
Today, Mocavo announces a Series A round of $4 Million from Foundry Group. It is a great milestone in the company, and one that we hope to build off of with the support that Foundry brings to the table.
I am in a far different situation than I was a year ago, and I have the Boulder community and TechStars to thank for it. While I may not have the inherent autonomy of freelancing, I have never felt more creative or excited about work. The first year at Mocavo has been an amazing experience, and I continue to be excited about the future.
At this point, it feels like beating a dead horse when discussing the necessity and usefulness of a grid layout within a website’s creation. As designers, we have discovered, learned, and now effectively used a grid throughout most web apps or sites. But, despite the proliferation of well-designed apps for the iPhone and iPad, the use of the grid on mobile devices has somehow become lost in translation.
Steve Jobs’ shiny toys have become a staple for most designers, right next to their beaten-up Moleskin and a pair of Ray-Bans it seems. There is already a litany of beautifully designed apps (the sheer number of gallery websites for this just astounds me) and even the iPhone’s native elements are still quite useful in their own right. But, when going for the custom route on app design, beauty and organization can sometimes fall in to different categories. Typographic relationships are often haphazard, and screen real estate becomes harder and harder to divide up.
About a year ago, I designed my first iPhone grid for use on personal design projects. I have continued to use it (if loosely) on every app project taken on and it continues to excel. While you will still be spending considerable time on the app’s art direction, the final layouts and “one pixel to the right” questions are minimized. The grid’s relationships were based around the same math that is used on 960.gs, and work beautifully for both native apps and HTML5 mobile apps.
While this does not try to be a set-in-stone layout tool, I do hope that it helps on your future projects. Also, after looking at the grid I have designed, look back at the relationships and layout of Apple’s native iPhone elements. They are very similar in many cases, and make a good showcase that Apple is in the same thought process.
Below, you can download a ZIP file containing two PSDs—one for retina display and one for the original iPhone. I have the various elements separated out in layers, so you can use any or all of the grid. Please use this on any of your projects, personal or commercial, and share freely. Also, if I get enough response for this download, I will be releasing the grid that I use on the iPad.
Where do I start with this one? It is hard to explain how elated I am that the site is finally live. Just over three months and countless restarts in the making, I am happy to have a new place to call “home” during my hours online.
Since jumping headfirst into freelance this February, my portfolio has grown rather rapidly and I hope to feature the new projects—and the processes behind them—in a few upcoming articles. So far, the variety of projects coming through my door (see also: my inbox) have kept me entertained; I’ve been working on everything from Facebook pages for tech startups in Boulder to branding projects for breweries in Portland, OR.
The scope of projects that I have been taking on lately keeps changing, so this site was designed with that continuous growth in mind. You might notice that it is a lot more stripped down than most of my work as of late, and hopefully that is a good thing. I tried a litany of different versions with a lot of illustration and custom design, but it felt forced and really took away from showcasing what was important throughout the site. The current design acts as more of a frame for the articles and portfolio, and allows each of the projects’ art direction to shine through a bit more prominently.
In the creation of this site I learned about some invaluable processes for my design and production flow, which I am happy to employ on a variety of freelance projects right now. First bit to note: the entire website is aligned to a strict baseline grid for both the typography and the imagery throughout the pages—allowing for a semantic flow of information and a reduction of guesswork for where elements should be placed. The baseline grid was developed to work in conjunction with the 960 grid system, and helped to define the typographic relations throughout the site. Also, you may notice the custom type across the site is Skolar, served up via Typekit. I am in love with this typeface, from foundry TypeTogether, and think that it strikes a fine balance between elegance and personality in a contemporary face.
Another important aspect of this site will be the continuation and proliferation of the articles section. I will continue writing on design theory—as I progress in my own education—in the coming weeks and months. For now, I am staying away from allowing comments on the articles, but will see how this plays out over the next few weeks. Mostly, I would like to keep this whole site as simple as possible to really just focus and on the words and pictures. And, if you enjoy any of the articles or downloads, feel free to share them in any manner that you see fit.
Thank you very much for your support. If you would like a few more updates, you can find me on Twitter from time to time.