Career Week Kickoff Part 2 : Website Revamp Process

Again in the spirit of “find a job week” here at Neumont I went back and instead of doing photography I revamped my entire website over this weekend and spent about 20-30 hours designing, creating and implementing a completely new look, feel and theme for my site. For those of you who have a vested interest in Graphic / Web design I am going to delve a bit into the design and thought process behind how this entire image has been evolving and try to cover the different aspects that played a part in this particular design.

But first, a trip down memory lane of how this sites theme has evolved:

This is the first WordPress theme I used from March of 2007 until some point in 2008. It was a highly modified version freshy theme including a revamped sidebar and posts area, and I believe a revamped comments section as well (not pictured)
Paul Rohde Photography

A concept page, created as a design in late 2007 but never used or turned into a template.
Paul Rohde - Concept Page

This particular theme was created in June of 2008 to the point that I had an entire working template, all that would have been required was to insert all the PHP that was needed to turn it into a fully working WordPress theme and it would have gone into production on this site. At some point I realized it didn’t really reflect the media centric nature of who I was and the direction I was headed; it defiantly portrayed my technical software side and even the graphic/web site but it didn’t fit with all the photography and work I’ve put into developing my photography into a potential business. Eventually I stopped work on it and focused on other things (University classes among other things).

After finally getting really tired of the Freshy theme I went template hunting on and found a red and black theme that piqued my interest. After playing with it, removing some vines and flowers and replacing them with something a bit more ‘techy’, switching to a fluid width instead of fixed width site, I activated this theme:
Obsidion Tech

An interesting thing to note at this point was that this theme has been setting not only the color and tone, but also began reflecting the entire ‘brand’ I want to portray. After this theme I began transitioning away from the logo I had created when I first began at Neumont and moved towards using just my name as my identity instead of associating a particular set of shapes or a particular symbol to my name as well. Around the end of November 2008 I began to develop this whole concept of image and identity, about who I was, what I wanted to be, what direction I wanted to take myself and where I want to be in the next 3-5 years. That was around the time I began brainstorming identity, font’s, layouts, colors and so on. I wanted to start with the core, the basics of how I was going to display myself and the most simple level and then build out a web and print identity from there. So, I started with my name. I scrapped the logo I had been using for most of my time at Neumont and created about two photoshop scratch sheets full of ideas. The first sheet here is the original starting sheet, the second is taking the favorites and beginning to refine it down more.

(click to expand)

The problem I inevitably run up against is the balance between technology, which is a rigorous logical and mathematical discipline, and art, which is creative, random at times and completely unique depending on the individual creating the art. I needed something that would appeal to both, especially as I knew I was beginning my job search soon. I ended up with a requirements spec in my mind that looked something like this: I needs to be clean, simple, not confusing, it needs to include at least my first and last name, and it to have enough flair to appeal to someone in an art position, models, photographers, other designers, etc… I finally ended with the logo that’s at the top of my site today, black or white text with a red J initial that gets slightly darker as you reach the bottom.

The first step in the design process was creating a watermark, I use it all the time, all over the place and on everything digital. Its also one of the hardest parts to get right and will let you know if the logo and colors you chose can be used effectively on a variety of different backgrounds and situations. It did require some minor tweaking and adjusting to get right, and I suppose the perfectionist in me will never stop changing it, but for now I have a fairly stable brand so to speak.

Finally, the current site. I built it off of the K2 engine I had used on a previous site for Arrowhead Bible Camp, and began with that template as the starting point. I’m a BIG fan of reusing things, modifying them to get what you need. Now, that being said, there are times when you should be creating things all the way from scratch, and I have in the past (the gray and orange template up above and all the logo’s I’ve designed to date for instance) so don’t get me wrong here. Anyways, that aside, I started by creating the backdrop for the site, working through various layout ideas, building a glassy menu bar to add some tech in there and adding feed for twitter right below the menu bar. If you look right now I only have one header image, but one thing that was important was that I could easily change the visual appearance of the site, and k2 allows me to use a folder of images and rotate through them on each page reload, thus my next step is to take a good chunk of my photography and build out several good looking header images with some color in them (I KNOW I don’t want to see myself in the header every time I visit my site).

New site and Theme

I hope you enjoyed my technical reminiscing and will look forward to hearing your comments,

Till next time,

Paul Rohde