Category Archives: Web Design

Wintry Remix


What’s up, ya’ll? I was feeling bored and listless, so I rebuilt the desktop wallpaper gallery over at Brainside Out. The new version pulls from a database and generates thumbnails and other nefarious stuff like that, but the most important thing for you guys is actually three most important things:

  1. All of the backgrounds are now available at 1600×1200 resolution, so you can cram your filthy maw with more pixels than ever imaginable.
  2. No longer are the backgrounds tainted with a logo or watermark or anything of that sort. No Copperplate, no nothing. What you get now is pure, unadulterated photography, which may be illegal in some states.
  3. Best of all, after two years in stasis I’ve added new backgrounds! They’re all snowy and cold and wintry, seeing as how that’s the season we’re bounding headlong into, and they effectively double the number of backgrounds available.

So what are you waiting for? Go nuts!


I work from home. Sometimes in the middle of the day people swing by to hand me pamphlets decrying false religion and immoral sex and just about everything else in the world that could be considered fun. These pamphlets also predict the end of the world, in some vaguely backwards attempt to motivate me not to participate in false religion or immoral sex or Las Vegas, which isn’t a city so much as a glowing physical manifestation of the first two.

Think of Vegas as a crystalline form, a precipitate of sorts, that coalesced out of the sultry, boiling solution that is modern human life. Ayn Rand may have believed that Hollywood was mankind’s greatest invention, but I think the unabashed purity of Vegas definitely puts it in the running. Vegas exists for one thing, and one thing only. Well okay, maybe two things. But we’ve discussed those already.

So what does this have to do with work? Well, everything. Nothing. Sometimes people ask me how the business is going. It’s been a year, or over a year, or less than a year if you count my sabbatical in the wilderness, since I started Brainside Out.

All in all, things are going really well. I have clients who I really enjoy working with, I’ve designed and built some nice stuff that I’m proud of, and I’ve started collaborating with some people in the industry who do stuff better than I can.

That last one is the kicker for me. I did the one-man army thing for the first year of Brainside Out, which let me throw every lever, flip every switch, and pretty much get dirty in every aspect of building websites, from start to finish. In so doing I got a broad familiarity with my industry, from design to development, project management to information architecture, user experience to usability. That being said, I’ve since realized that I’m not the best person for every job in all matters web design.

In my most recent projects, then, I’ve been zeroing in on what I do exceptionally well, and collaborating with other designers to fill in for my weaknesses. And this, this feels right. If I can be confident of one thing, I’m confident that this shall be the direction of Brainside Out. There are so many opportunities out there for building kick-ass websites, and it would be a shame to keep all the fun to myself. As I’m looking at my workload over the next few months, I’m not sure I could handle all this work on my own, even if I wanted to. This is both frightening and delicious.

As far as everything else, though, I really have no idea. Honestly, I don’t even know what kind of work I’ll continue to do here at Brainside Out. I have a couple ongoing projects that will be, well, ongoing, but as far as what cog I will play in which infernal machine, I don’t know.

Given my strengths I’ve recently been leaning away from design (pixel-pushin’) and more towards development (code-slingin’). Currently my front-end development skills are rock-solid, and I can slice up designs and throw down the XHTML/CSS like nobody’s business. I’ve played with enough javascript that I can get down and dirty with the DOM, and I’ve been experimenting with frameworks in that regard. I know enough about scripting and databases to be dangerous, and in my lifetime I’ve managed to rebuild an e-commerce engine or two (or one).

More recently, I’ve spent a lot of time researching web application frameworks and learning their ins and outs. I’ve built stuff in CakePHP and Django and Ruby on Rails, and I think I’m finally wrapping my head around their shared MVC architectures. That said, I’ve had the most success in figuring out Ruby on Rails, and I think that’s the one I’m going to grab and run with.

I’m not a good programmer, but I have a weird intuition for discerning good code from bad code. Even though I know very little about it, I’m a huge fan of the discipline and organization involved in object-oriented programming. Ruby, which is natively object-oriented, is a surprisingly beautiful and clean language, one that I believe is worth my attention.

I’m all for lazy, no doubt, which is why I’m looking at MVC frameworks rather than trying to build web apps from scratch. However, I’m drawn to the aesthetic of working in a language that requires you to write in OOP (Ruby), versus one that only recently grafted some weak-ass OOP functionality onto itself (PHP). Putting myself in a position where I’m unable to cheat will be better for my education and productivity in the long run.

Anywho, that’s the state of things right now. Talk to me tomorrow and it will all be different. Jake and I have discussed starting a printing company, and recently I decided that I want to start a tiki lounge here in Hood River. Plus, Luke will probably need help starting his own brewery since Mark is busy turning algae into gasoline, and what with Kate’s goals of saving the world and all…

Yup. Full plates all around, here.


Update: Well that was a short-lived romance! The client has replaced our gorgeous whirlwind design with a completely different one, with which we had absolutely no involvement. Such is the life of ninjas for hire.

For the record, our website design looked like this. For the sake of inaccuracy and confusion (and a net increase of both) I have left the rest of the text of this post unaltered. Enjoy!

Cynthia Thielsen Screenshot

Oh. My. God.

Today we are proud to announce the launch of, a joint effort brought to you by Brainside Out and Jake Ingman.

As some of you may know, Jake and I went to SXSW last year. We knew each other through a mutual friend from years ago, and happened to reconnect last year on the 37Signals personal ads. One thing led to another and before we knew it, we were snuggling with each other in the same hotel bed, fighting off hangovers and cockroaches together.

Jake Ingman is an incredibly talented designer and a huge usability geek (not to mention an avid mountaineer), and ever since SXSW we’ve talked about working on a project together. Life being as inconvenient as it is, what with brilliant theses to defend in the spring and wilderness to trample in the summer, we’ve never really had an opportunity to smash our heads together. That is, until this little ditty came along.

And what a ditty it was, let me tell you. Cynthia Thielen is running for US senate in Hawaii, and they summoned the great talents of Jake to help them with their website design woes. Jake is a brilliant man when it comes to dishing up design and layout in Illustrator and Photoshop, but he is always saddened when his delicate hands suddenly turn into honeybaked hams when he codes XHTML and CSS. Fortunately, that’s where yours truly comes in. Hand-coding XHTML and CSS is my game, man, and when I’m in the zone I can own that stuff with a capital ‘P’.

Thus armed, Jake with his l33t Illustrator skillz and me with my CSS judo, we banged out this site at a pretty good pace. Jake would cook up some delicious pixelly goodness, fire a copy over to me, and I would hammer away at the code until it worked as a rock-solid, standards-based website. Honestly, I was floored by the rate at which Jake could come up with design hotness. It would take him ten minutes to whip up a layout, where I would have spent two hours honing in on a color palette.

Likewise, Jake was seriously out of his mind about how quickly I could take his revisions and push them to the development site as XHTML/CSS. Our workflow bounced back-and-forth at a dizzying rate, him designing, me coding, him revising, me telling him that his colors were way too vibrant, him revising and pounding out new sections in the process, and me coding. Through the entire process we never traded a single Illustrator or Photoshop file. Jake would just do a screenshot of whatever it was he was working on at the moment, send it over via IM, and I would build it. We were so into Getting Real it was ridiculous.

With us claiming that there were all these mad ninja skills flying back and forth, it’s only a fair question to ask how long it took us to build this website. Well, Jake called me this morning, wondering how my scheduled looked for the rest of the day. I said I felt pretty good about it, so he went ahead and got project confirmation from the client. We both took lunch, and started work on the design at about 1:00 in the afternoon. The site went live at 8:15 tonight, right as Thielen announced her candidacy for US Senate.

Our elapsed time was seven hours, fifteen minutes.