I have recently been busy with re-designing most of my screen / online / internet real-estate. For sometime now, I’ve wanted the aside brand to separate from my person ventures. I wanted to achieve that with the NainaRedhu.com website but never got around to executing the thought. No excuses for the delay, I just didn’t think it was important enough. Till now. As a first step, I have re-designed NainaRedhu.com and the website focuses to informing a visitor more about what it is that I do. The design is personal, yet not over-the-top. I believe that is clearly establishes : creative & entrepreneurial.

This also involved a logo design for my personal brand. I’ve always personally held a fascination for the colors crimson & turquoise & the original glass ball on aside.in was also ‘red and blue’. I decided to use the same colors in the logo for nainaredhu.com to keep the consistency. I toyed with a couple of ideas for the logo before deciding on the current concept. It’s an ‘almost-fractal’ lowercase letter ‘n’ over custom typography for ‘naina redhu’.

The second, more important re-design was the re-design of the aside.in portfolio website. There have been six re-designs since 2005.

before November 2005

after November 2005

For more details and screenshots, see the first blog post that talks about the re-design in November 2005, with screenshots.

November 2006

Branding

The re-design also involved the some changes in branding : the red and blue glass ball. It would be nice to have an EPS version of the same but that’s not strategically important currently. Even for printing t-shirts, the high-resolution Photoshop file is sufficient.
Comparison of the two :

And then there was another iteration with the glass ball.

Re-Design 2008

You can see that it has many hand-drawn elements and a very organic feel. Although it is better than the re-design previous to this – the one in November 2006, in many ways, that design did not fulfill the major goal of actually displaying the logo design portfolio. To view the entire portfolio, the viewer had to either wait for the entire slideshow on top right to play or they had to download a +4MB PDF files, neither of which are convenient. The PDF download is still available now, as a much larger file in fact – but I can splurge on the design and hence the size now because the viewer or potential client does not HAVE to download it to view my work. The work central to my skills, logo design, is directly visible on the home page or the page the viewer would land on first.

Another flaw in the above design was that is did not carry forward the branding of the blue and red glass ball AT ALL.

Re-design of the blog

To brand according to the new website re-design. Read more about the blog re-design here.

Motivations for the re-design

  • I’ve changed work focus from designing “everything” to designing Logos. I wanted that to be obviously visible on the website. The existing design was a half-hearted attempt at a shift from everything to logos. Since I decided to take the plunge and work at being a specialist Logo Designer, I thought it would be prudent to make the change visible so that potential clients did not waste much time asking for quotes on web projects.
  • I also wanted the website to represent my professionalism and aside’s specialization. More as an establishment / an institution than a ‘thrown-together’ website for a freelancer.
  • I wanted to get rid of the client testimonials. While they serve a purpose, I’ve realized it’s better to point people to my professional profile on LinkedIn than to list all client testimonials on the website. aside receives logo design commissions because of word of mouth more than anything else and that recommendation is a million times better than reading the words of a stranger that most visitors might be suspicious of.
  • I did not want the website to have too much JavaScript. With the re-design, I’m using JS only with the PHP Contact form and with the Unitip tooltips. The display of the logo portfolio is purely dependent on CSS, so even if a visitor has JavaScript disabled, they will still be able to see the portfolio.
  • On the older design, the only way to view the portfolio was to download a +4MB PDF file. So not a good choice. I’m not sure what I was thinking when I’d launched that re-design. No wonder it did not last long. Now, on the new design, the logos are up front and center. Nothing extra is required, no clicks, no downloads. I will be adding a downloadable version at a later date.

I’ve had the pleasure of sharing the new design with a few close people and would like to thank @moksh and @Bharat for extremely valuable, useful and functional inputs. Some of the feedback was that the design was too ‘dark’. I was assuming that such feedback would come mostly from women, but it appears that it was most of the men who found it dark.

The feedback has been mixed, which I was expecting. I was initially launching as is, with almost no changes to the design till @moksh got back to me with some very good feedback about the code / layout. I have made some minor changes to the code & to the design. Primarily making space between the two blocks of logo rows. This way, I will also keep adding more logos to the page – hence taking care of the the six-monthly or yearly website update.

Iterations

That was the first design iteration. The second one, slightly changed, looks like the following :

The blog re-design ended up taking more time than I’d anticipated because I ended up changing the theme to a more evolved version with more content showing up on the main page to increase involvement with the visitor. I had initially started with just adding and designing a blog header. After evaluating & installing and re-installing over 50 different WordPress themes, I went back to the original design & tweaked it. It wasn’t just emotional attachment, the layout / format had served reading well earlier. In the process I also learned more about dynamic sidebars and the flickrRSS plugin. Ended up getting a new free Flickr account as well.

To check the design in real-time on my self-hosted WordPress blog, I had to pick a dummy post and either do a “Save Draft” or a “Publish” before the blog would actually show the changes I’d made in the code. To avoid an blog post that would stretch beyond something I would be willing to read myself, I did not take screenshots at every stage of the re-design / re-tweak and re-re-tweak.

on Twitter

Re-design of aside.in’s Twitter page

Original version

Re-designed / re-branded version

My other ventures require re-designs as well :

LogoFAQS.com has been launched and I’m looking to increase the number of questions and answers and create an online resource for all questions related to logo – from the client side and not from the designers’ side.

bootstraplogo.com, since launch, has been running on the same design. It is fairly easy to update but the overall layout does not seem to have any cohesion. I’m planning to use this kind of layout for the same. Bootstraplogo still does not have a logo.

emotionvoid.com is where I will upload my canvas artwork and make it available for sale. This needs to be designed from the ground up. Emotionvoid also needs a logo.

dimcho.com has been launched out of necessity but it doesn’t quite represent Akanksha Redhu’s and my collaborative spirit. Dimcho needs a logo and a website overhaul, with an e-commerce component that will allow us to ship internationally eventually. To start with, I’m not looking at anything more than Magento and CCAvenue.

After the studioaside logo was re-designed, the studioaside website has also been re-designed with a better “coming soon” page.

Changing backgrounds and headers on blogs and websites seasonally – for example, depicting Christmas with snowflakes and Diwali with light glows / stars is something I’m always tempted to do but I’ve never entirely been sure if it ‘helps’ in any way except satiating my desire to design something new. I’ve attempted something with the studioaside blog this time around because I have a Diwali 2009 wallpaper and a new logo to show off. Screen grab below.

It’s not easy maintaining online real estate that stays current and does not languish dependent on the entrepreneur’s or business owner’s personal life. Unfortunately, for most businesses, a static website is all that can be procured and left as a sentinel of the forgotten online space potential. Despite focusing business direction, aside has various online ventures that need to be updated regularly – and of course, there are the clients who keep us running.

I am editing this draft post after a hiatus of approximately ten days [ last edited on 29th September ], which means that I am now working on the internal pages of the website, starting with the About page & the Contact page. Deciding what not to use is sometimes paramount and easier than deciding what to use. I’m talking in terms of code. The existing design uses a JavaScript pop-up form, without opening a new page / tab in the browser. Trying a different approach this time around with a full-fledged Contact page.

Contact Form

The best contact-form PHP script that I found online is the one on the Beast Blog, by Mike Cherim. It’s very customizable with tons of options and it is also free. There were two other decent enough script options for the contact form but I cannot vouch for them because I did not use them – the Russian free one and the paid SevenScript one that everyone seems to be talking about.

This is what the contact page looked like as-is before and after the CSS styling and design :

And then, after a couple of days of contemplation, I’ve decided to do away with the Contact page and the About page altogether. The main page already includes some details about aside – all I have to include is a “contact form”, which can easily be done on page Numero Uno without wasting another click or more load time. I will increase the load time of the home page yes, but that is something I’m willing to live with.

Since the last update on this draft blog post, I’ve also proceeded to add a cool Twitter Favorites widget to my blog’s sidebar.

Final design at launch

And finally, after another seven days of contemplating, designing, re-designing, re-hashing, etc., the website’s complete and launched on the date I’d wanted to launch it. Here’s what it finally looks like :

Everything relevant to my work / business goals is on one page. The only link that has a “Coming Soon” is the one linking to “Other Graphics”. Not immediately relevant because my goal is to be better known as a Logo Designer rather than a Graphic Designer.

The Contact page has also been merged onto the single home page. As has the About page. My only worry is that as the portfolio grows, the home page will become heavy and in which case I will then whittle down the selected logos shown on the home page and have an additional page, which shows ALL the logos.

I’m thinking that this latest re-design will last me another couple of years unless there is a drastic change in my goals for aside.

For this post, technically, I should have started with what inspired me to design the website in this particular visual fashion. But because I have no clue, I haven’t written about it. It could have been lighter, darker, more colorful, monochromatic, etc. For now, this is what it is. One of those things that is intangible and cannot be answered with exact statements. The goals I had, have been fulfilled – functionally as well as visually – it all just ‘fits’.