Finding Joy in Others

Jealousy. Envy. Defeat. These were the heavy burdens that once ruled my heart when I saw someone’s work that was so much better/different than my own. This happened a lot when I was first starting out in web design. But I think it’s more than just designers that suffer, it’s a human condition. We want to be better than everyone else. But when we only focus on ourselves we miss the bigger picture. There can not be community without unity. No “I” in team. That whole thing. Recently my heart’s been transformed to see and appreciate the gifts other people have. Not just appreciate, but really be happy and excited for them. It’s been a long process happening in me as I’ve become more comfortable with who I am as a person/designer. I like making things that aren’t perfect and I’m okay with that. A lot of my friends are killing the perfect pixel or doing other hand-drawn stuff and I love it.

I’m excited to be a part of the design community. I’m excited to see more people come in to their own and really shine. I’m seeing it happen more and more. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have these heavy burdens lifted and replaced with love and joy for others.

Fireshop or Photoworks

Quite frankly I'm tired of the ongoing debate over whether a designer should use Photoshop or Fireworks. They are only one tool a designer carriers in his/her design toolbox. So why then do we continue to stay in our corners defending the reputation of one app over another? An app is an app is an app. Meaning, if you've got the goods to make the hotness then it shouldn't matter what app you're using to design with. I read an article this morning on a very popular design blog telling us why we should "stick with" Photoshop. I'm sure the author has all the best intentions in the world, but comes across quite naive in my opinion. The sum of the article wasn't even a good one, arguing why we should design with photoshop instead of in the markup. I feel like that's comparing apples with a top sirloin steak. They aren't even in the same food group.

At the end of the day we just have to use what works for us. Design is not about choosing sides in “defense” of one particular app. Design is about making the best visual decisions to help communicate the message of our clients.

What Inspires You?

inspire Where did the greats like Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Rembrandt draw their inspiration from? It's hard for me to imagine being that we live in the age of computers, where there are no limits to what we can find. Especially inside the design community where there is a huge playing field of resources available for all our inspirational needs.

But how much is too much?

Personally, I think we've already crossed that line and are now left to wade through all the muck. All of these inspirational blogs are only hindering us from creating something truly original.

Take a look at Shephard Fairey for example. He started out making "Andre the Giant Has A Posse" flyers and stickers. From there he took the stencil art world by storm. And we all remember his Obama campaign poster that gained him national (even global) attention. But how many rip-offs have we seen of his Obama poster? I'm not saying that it is wrong to be inspired by another artist. But I am saying that we shouldn't set the bar so low as to copy someone else's work and be proud of it.

Dare To Imagine

So is it so hard to imagine that maybe the classic artists, the greats, were able to paint, design and craft magnificent pieces of artwork without having to look at hundreds of others work? Maybe there's something to be learned from a life without computers. Where people actually interacted with one another and had discussions face-to-face instead of on facebook. That's why I love meeting up for a drink with friends to talk shop or finding local meetup groups that share my interest. Or even taking my dogs to the park for that matter. Just getting outside and communicating with other people is so refreshing.

We need to be more creative in the ways we get inspired. I don't want to compare myself to others whose work is amazing and feel like giving up. I'm sure the people behind those great pieces of art/design didn't make it just to make the rest of us jealous. But instead did it from a place of passion and wanting to push the envelope. And I bet if you talked with any of those designers that inspire you they would tell you to do work that is original and that you can be proud of.

I think true inspiration is a gift that's given to us. Some have called it a Muse, others have called it drugs, but I think it's the One who created us that imparts it to us.

Originally posted on on February, 05 2009

Baptized Into Death

Baptized Into Death Tshirt Design for Please vote for my design on

A Little Background

Chris Wallace and I had been talking about doing a t-shirt design competition, and how fun it would be to stir up some trash talking. Originally we planned on having a week to get our designs ready, but we ended up only having a few days.

The rules were simple, design a t-shirt based around a verse out of the book of Romans. Any verse we wanted. Next was to upload the design to and give the people a week to vote. At the end of the week whoever claims the victory will have their shirt printed and sold on RiW, as well as the chance to place something on the losers site for a month.

Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?" - Romans 6:3

This verse stood out amongst all the rest because of the visual appeal it has. The cryptic way it defines our new life in Christ as death. It's saying that while we were alive (in our flesh) when we come to Jesus Christ we must die and then God will raise us back up again. Just look at the next two verses:

"We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection." - Romans 6:4-5

I wanted to design the truth, not the obvious, so by placing the skull on the left it represents our flesh (death) and the face on the right represents the new life we have in Christ.

Redesigning Myself Part 2

part-two As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to save all the mushy design details for this post. I wish to spread the details out over three parts instead of trying to fit everything in to one gigantic post. So let's re-focus our attention on the choices I made that lead to my redesign. Some ideas were better than others, and some were just down right ugly. But nonetheless, I am here to share my experiences with you and hopefully we can learn something together. Let's get started.


You can't eat cereal without milk, you can't fly a kite without string and you sure as hell can't create a website without wireframes. Now of course you could eat cereal with water (I've done it before) or fly a kite with some dental floss, but the taste wouldn't be as good and the resistance to the wind wouldn't be as strong. In the same way, making a website without a wireframe is just asking for trouble. Basically what I'm saying is you can't have one without the other. Where will you turn when you run in to a problem with your design? If you don't have any initial plans laid out ahead of time it will be more difficult to work through those issues when they come up. And believe me, problems will arise.

Here are some of my initial wireframes:







Once I had a good idea of what the basic structure was going to look like I fired up photoshop. And when I start working in photoshop I always like to use the 12-grid template provided by 960 grid system. (If photoshop isn't your preferred method, they also have templates for Fireworks, InDesign, Inkscape, Illustrator, OmniGraffle, Visio and Expression Design.) The template is a good base to start with and helps me align my elements the way I like. Plus since I've been using it for a while now I find it much easier to convert my mockups in to HTML and CSS.

Here are a couple of my initial mockups:



As you can see I was having a major identity crises. My first attempt was safe and predictable. I was trying too hard to appeal to all the inspirations in my head. Either that or I was craving some Andes chocolate mints. The second approach held a little more weight in the personality department, but I still wasn't happy with the layout. However, I like the oversized illustration (courtesy of Brad Colbow) that is prominently displayed in the header. And my name in Archer was close, but no cigar.

I decided to take a break and put things on the back burner.


My biggest problem in the beginning of this new design was trying to find the right font to express who I am. But nothing fit quite right. The idea of doing my identity by hand didn't occur to me until I had exhausted all other possibilities. So I sat down one day and started sketching out some ideas when it clicked that I shouldn't settle for some "off the shelf" font, but create a unique, one-of-a-kind, font that embodies who I am.

Here are some of the preliminary sketches I made:

kyle steed hand-drawn identity

kyle steed hand-drawn identity

kyle steed hand-drawn identity

The personal touch I put on my brand is probably my favorite part of this new design. I have always been a fan of doing things by hand, so hand-drawn type was something that always appealed to me. I love what my friend Josh Hemsley wrote about it:

"The humbleness and transparency in your words can now be identified in your new mark."


Building a theme from scratch is no easy task. But thanks to Ian Stewart, and his wonderful 11-part How To Create a WordPress Theme Tutorial, I was able to get some much needed help. Of course though, tutorials aren't the end-all-be-all solution, and that's when I turned to some of my friends for help. Matt Simo was a huge help to me with all the WordPress custom functionality. Caleb White also lent me a hand with his ninjastic WordPress custom field knowledge. And where would my layout be without the 960 grid system? A huge thanks to Nathan Smith for his contribution to the design community.

The Home Page

With the layout of my custom home page I wanted to focus on keeping my content fresh and up to date. The new portfolio slideshow is a combination of two jquery plugins, the jquery tools scrollable plugin and this sliding boxes and captions plugin over at build internet. The three "most recent posts" section at the bottom is managed by some custom wordpress loops and controlled by the jquery accordion plugin. And instead of pulling in the_excerpt for each post, I chose to use the_content so it would pull in my images and videos from each post.

The Blogroll

I knew I wanted a single column layout for my blog posts. I think it provides a clean and minimal look while allowing the focus to solely be on the content. I thought a lot about the comparison of reading online as opposed to reading a book. Wilson Miner has a great article called "Relative Readability" that talks about why he used a larger font-size in his design. He refers to this original article titled, "The 100% Easy-2-Read Standard", by Information Architects Japan which lists out 5 simple rules for better readability on the web.

  1. Standard font size for long texts
  2. Active white space
  3. Reader friendly line height
  4. Clear color contrast
  5. No text in images

I highly recommend this article for you to read, absorb and regurgitate back in to your own designs.


I'm not going to lie. I copied the comment styles from Thematic. Check my code. Go ahead. I dare you. I love the way they're styled so much that I couldn't find a way to really improve them. The only thing I added to my comments section was the Live Comment Preview plugin that shows you what your comment will look like in real time. I really love the client-side Javascript that shows you your gravatar image once you input your email address.

Get to Gettin

And now it's the time you've all been waiting for. I am pleased to offer my new hand-drawn font, appropriately named "Steed", available free to download in vector format.

Here's a preview of Steed:

steed hand-drawn type

Download Steed

I hope you enjoy the font and please tweet me a link anytime you use it.

Thank you all for all your continued support and encouragement. The feedback I've received so far has been nothing but positive. Please stay tuned for the third and final post in this series. I will explore the depths of my faith that I feel have brought about a change in my life and thus have lead to my need for redesigning myself.