The design of jamesrobertwatson.com
This site - emphasizing rational and logical thinking in design and culture - is about the ideas, thoughts, theories, and work of Jim Watson, a designer and educator from North Texas, now living in Oklahoma and New York. Its purpose is to provide insight and explanations to educate, motivate, and inspire readers about design, creativity, and problem solving. This work-in-progress site will never be finished. That is what is so great about weblishing - info can be updated and changed easily. It is interactive: as readers email suggestions and questions, I can respond and clarify by altering the information. The cycle created by the interaction of the reader and the author keeps the site current and dynamic.
That strange title: WensdayDesignCulture
I have long been fascinated with word origins and spellings. Like why do we still spell February with an R that very few people pronounce? And Wednesday. Who says Wed Nes Day? Most of us shorten it to Wens Day (or Wins Day). We have already respelled the original name: Woden's Day. Woden, like some other day names, was a Teutonic God.
We have been altering words since the moment they were created. God be with ye evolved into goodbye. Streamlining spellings is a common and natural step to clarify and ease communication.
So, I had this favorite word, Wensday, and thought this would be a significant way to represent the blog. The unique spelling provides some intrigue to attract the curious browser. Improving the spelling of Wednesday represents my desire to make things better, easier, and more clear. I needed a deadline to provide a structure and motivation to upload new information. But, which day. Hump day, the middle of the week is a nice time to take a break from routine and check out the site.
DesignCulture represents a way of thinking, an attitude that design and culture are so intertwined, they can't be separated. My interest and passion is design, but I am fascinated with how design and design thinking impact our culture.
• Seekers: someone accessing specific information
• Users: someone specifically exploring this site
• Browsers: surfers accidentally hitting site
• Inspire readers about design, creativity, and problem solving.
• Allow search engines to easily find essays (descriptions, keywords).
• Provide resources for people seeking info.
In the sidebar to the left are categories of information. Click on the heading to bring up the file or the menu within that category. Content menus will always be in sidebars on the left of your screen. Scroll through the menu contents by using the arrows or the move bar/button to the right of that frame. The info will open in this window you are now in. Because there are so many files (over 600 essays, stories, critiques, and ideas; with almost 5,000 images), the extensive menus help the reader access info by category heading.
Left foto Right foto
Left Middle Right
At the bottom of each page are links to share the essay, return to the home page, and send an email to Jim.
3 words in my name matched by 3 words in the weblog title. To transition the text type into the page background, each word in the title decreases in darkness and letterstroke width.
Symbols for page tasks
At the bottom of each page on this website, I had some link items spelled out in text: Home, Email Jim Watson, and Filename to share.
But, for years, I had wanted to explore using a set of symbols to replace the text.
I began sketching. The home and email symbols were easy, the icons are so familiar and recognizable. The chimney, door, and window in the home symbol were unnecessary and, therefore, deleted. The mail symbol did not need the lower flap fold lines, the upper flap alone was enough to communicate.
But, the familiar share symbol didn't fit well with the others - it had a solid mass, curved lines, and a tapered tail. I explored an outline arrowhead and an open arrow. The final version uses the circular motion of the rectangular box to convey the share motion.
Further refinement resulted in these 3 symbols, with a line weight that matches the JRW logo at the top of the webpages.
Above right: Each symbol is made of only these 3 elements and all 3 elements are used in each icon.
Lesson: Symbols within a set should share commonalities and consistency to convey that each is part of a larger set.
Evolution of the site design
By the late 1970s, I had developed several products and was seeking a way to market them, to publicize them. I was influenced by U&lc magazine, a catalog of new typefaces from ITC and disguised inside of a magazine that was distributed by free subscription. It was a huge hit among design students while I was in college. Mostly due to it's art director, Herb Lubalin. We students idolized the philosophy and work of Lubalin. I had the idea to produce a catalog that would showcase my products and include essays and articles.
Some notes made in Cleveland in April 1978 (while in Mayfield Heights to open a new TGIFriday's restaurant): Not just a marketing tool, but makes a contribution through ideas, thoughts & suggestions. A powerful tool of persuasion. Retail items are just an excuse to put out a thought-provoking catalog. "Plain Truth".
That catalog notion fermented for decades. With the advent of the internet and www, I realized that was the best medium to achieve my objectives. Below: an early diagram and notes of content made in the fall of 2000. The yellow page was an early home page with contents. It evolved to the contents menu on the left so that the menu would remain open no matter what page one went to.
• Single font, Arial/Helvetica - no serifs (too busy on screen)
• Red graphic elements - power and clarity
• Flush left text and photos - fewer wraparounds of images
• Purity: primary color, sans serif, basic shapes
• MoMA interiors/graphics
• Target ads/graphics
• Apple stores/products
• Before & After magazine and website
• Vignelli purity
• Frank Lloyd Wright's logo
• Tom Peters books and website
• iPhone and Facebook square buttons
Redesign with angled headings 2004, design conference, Chicago:
Redesign with red squares 2010, Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum, NYC:
2004 and 2010 versions side by side:
jrw.com 2.0 Summer 2011
Since January, 2001, this website has been read and referenced quite a bit. I got emails from Europe, Asia, and Argentina and the site has been referenced on other design blogs. The essays on the poor logo at the World Trade Center site, que lines, and the Thunder logo were very popular. As a result, I got several requests for an RSS feed so people could subscribe and be informed when new posts were uploaded. Another feature I had long wanted was a search engine button since the site was growing with so many files and essays.
I set up and tried a WordPress blog. I named it WensdayDesignBlog (see top of this essay for why). I wanted to brand WensdayDesignBlog as a source for design lessons and visually separate WensdayDesignBlog from the culture blog since culture included some controversial essays on politics and religion. But, it was a chore to transfer this jrw.com site to WordPress - this site has over 600 essay files and over 5,000 images. And there were other issues with WordPress, so after a few weeks, I forwarded the wensdaydesignblog.com domain over to jamesrobertwatson.com and returned to just one website. I saw the combined site anew and reordered the contents menus and the home page. I wanted the emphasis to be on logical rational thinking and thoughtfulness. To keep it positive and educational, I included Lessons, Tips, Recommendations, and Suggestions.
• New focus: Thoughtful, Rational, Makes sense, Reason, Logic; in both design and culture
• Added RSS feed (but dropped it a few months later)
• Added Google search feature
• Purged essays
• Grouped essays of Culture, Religion, Politics into one: Culture
• Updated the blog home page on a more regular schedule
• Added red bars between all blog entries to distinguish posts.
• Revised and simplified the Contents menu
• Moved the site details and the search window to the bottom of the content menu, to simplify the home page.
• Put a grey background behind the Contents menu to distinguish it from the home blog and reduce its contrast.
• Designed the site to be clutter-free, as a response to so many busy websites
• Emphasized the content, not the vehicle
Concept to produce a catalog of products, ideas, and essays: 1978
Initial website design and layout: fall and winter, 2000-01
Date jrw.com went online: January, 2001
Angled headings: November 2004, Chicago
Red squares: January 2010, New York City
Red bars and search engine: August 2011
Grey content menus and thin red bars: March 2012
Replaced dateline with "Inspiration from rational thinking": 2013
Replaced text at bottom of page with symbols: July 2013