Category Archives: Work

A new job

Early 2010 my boss started talking to me about the need to make some changes in the way our designers worked and were organized.

I helped out and got involved in the discussion at its early stages, taking the chance to jot down some long-held ideas about how things could be improved.

Around June, ideas began to crystallize and roles be defined. As it seemed more and more likely two teams would be formed, I was asked to head the smaller, senior team. It was, evidently, something I could not refuse.

I was given freedom to pick my team and did so trying to assemble a group of highly experienced professionals which were also heterogeneous enough to provide a versatile team.

Internally, we are the Innovation & Design Team, although the corporation sees us as the Normalization Team, which is OK, since we do have that role as well.

The second, larger team – the Web and Media Design Team, or, not by accident, the WMD Team – deals with most of the creative and technical Design jobs that are at the core of the day to day business at sapo.

I’ve barely even started at my new position but challenges abound. Not only do the four Designers working with me on the I&D team have brought their ongoing projects with them, but we were almost immediately offered the challenge of designing all communication and graphic materials for this year’s Codebits, hands down the most important event sapo organizes yearly.

During the whole process of forming the teams, defining their parts and responsibilities, planning out future work and starting to learn about management, I was myself put ‘under new management‘ with a big internal reshuffling of the deck. For the (much) better, I believe.

2010 has been, undoubtedly, an interesting year. I bought an apartment, had it remodeled, moved, got promoted with a chance to learn a new job and see things from a new perspective, got a new boss and, as interesting as all that is, nothing can come close to the truly remarkable event this year has brought me: my daughter was born.

So, as we approach the end of this agitated year, I feel as if the roller-coaster wagon is just reaching the very top of the highest peak in the track. Hold on, folks.

The trouble with icons

SAPO Messenger box iconIn my work I do a lot of icons. Not counting the countless emoticons I’ve created over the past two years, I’ve made about 160 different icons for an instant messaging application.

The application is SAPO Messenger, an XMPP client developed by a loyal team of a few dedicated people.

As we move on towards version 5.0 (and, hopefully, an English version), I am completely redesigning the user interface. Not only in what pertains to interaction logic and interface usability, but also at the graphic level. Colors are being revised, window styles redrawn, buttons improved. And then there are the icons.

I’ve been battling myself over which icon style to go for, and the fight is between an illustrative-style, strong stroked, linuxey, kind of thing or a cleaner, more realistic, stroke-less Mac-style thing.

The box above is a clear example of how good these mainly value based images look. But drawing without the help of a clear defined outline isn’t easy, and you really have to get the value changes down, in order for the forms to read well.

But with icons there’s always an extra obstacle: readability at small sizes. As with this box, most icons become unrecognizable at 16×16 pixels, and if it’s already a work of patience, attention and detail, to get the big icon to work, it becomes even more so, when you go so small.

And, of course, 16×16 is the most widely used size in the interface, due to its space-saving.

Several options are available to me right now: I can redesign the icon completely, so it reads at a small size; I can make a different version, that echoes the larger size, but is readable at smaller sizes; I can also study a way of integrating at least 24×24 pixel icons into the interface, thus eliminating the smallest size, which is really hard to draw for.

I love doing illustration, and that’s why creating icons is so much fun: you get to do a clearly defined illustration of one object, that has to convey a message. It’s illustration at its most concentrated form; just pour some cultural references and mix 😉