Negronis and Side Projects

Posted: July 14, 2014, filed under: Projects

One thing that may not be evident from my web presence is that I'm into cocktails. I had the best Negroni of my life at Gin Palace the other night, and when I needed an idea for a project, naturally that Negroni came to mind. Enter the Negroni Awareness Coalition (the NAC). Quickie screenshot:

Screen Shot 2014-07-14 at 11.27.51 AM
A Negroni is a delicious gin and Campari drink, by the way.

Some back story: I'm a newly minted facilitator for the company Decoded and, as my training, I participated in the Code in a Day workshop (which I'll be facilitating). The premise of the workshop is a 'web app in a day'. It's so nice to have an excuse to just sit down and make something, blank canvas style. Decoded is doing super cool stuff, maybe a future post on that.

At the moment, the above just a snarky site that tells you how far you are from the Gin Palace, but I think it might be fun to continue working on it. Plus I showed it to the lovely bartender there ... maybe it will become a bigger thing! A Negroni tracking system or something.

On side projects

I've had a rocky relationship with side projects. On one hand, of course I should have one (or three)! On the other hand, I spend so much time on the computer I really want to add a bunch of unpaid work to my plate? At least I keep this blog relatively up to date, though I've definitely semi-abandoned some promising side projects in past.

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I made a Codepen

Posted: July 7, 2014, filed under: Links, Projects

See the Pen prIFw by Lara Schenck (@laras126) on CodePen.

A realign is officially underway (didn’t I just do one?). Don’t expect anything too soon, but the above is a little preview. Plus I’ve been listening to Codepen Radio lately and, well, time to make a pen!

In addition to typography and gridding, I’ve been learning to do more with SVG and JS animations. I recently discovered Velocity.js – so awesome. There’s a great tutorial about the UI kit on Smashing Magazine, and a nice walk through on CSS-Tricks. I’m still learning, so don’t judge the above too harshly!

SVG-wise, the Pen above just uses images but I used SVG sprites with Grunt on a recent WP development project for Greenpoint Pictures (with PNG fallbacks to boot!), and will certainly be using them in the realign.

New Workshop! Portfolio Site in a Day-ish

Posted: June 10, 2014, filed under: Projects, Updates

Calling all website-less visual artists!

You’ve been putting your website off for a while now, right? Come to this two session workshop and leave with a fully functioning portfolio site. We will create websites using WordPress and the theme WPFolio.


The workshop will be limited to 4 people to ensure everyone gets the most out of the experience. Dates and agenda are:

Day 1: Thursday, July 17, 2-4pm

This will be a crash course in WordPress. Learn about WordPress’s structure and various features, why we are using it, and best practices along the way. These couple hours will be mostly a lecture format, so be sure to take notes. Though I will have some available online.

Day 2: Friday, July 18, 2-6pm

For the first couple of hours, we will learn to add and manage content on our websites, as well as explore the WPFolio theme and talk about some basic content strategy. Then we will have 2 hours of lab time so you can get started. Then let’s go for happy hour!

Location: New Work City, 412 Broadway #2, New York, NY 10013


Feel free to be in touch with any questions, and send this around to anyone who might be interested.

And for you special people who made it the whole way down here: offer code “salmon” will get you 25% off. Do it!

How I do Inbox 0 in Gmail

Posted: June 8, 2014, filed under: Miscellaneous, Tutorials+Tips

Update 9/25/14: I now use's great, and is way more Inbox 0 than what I describe here. But read on!

I kind of roll my eyes at productivity posts, and yes, this is another productivity post. But, I'm really good at Inbox 0 and have been complimented a few times on my Gmail set up, so...time to share!

In short, my process is like this: open Gmail and see 15 unread messages, process them very quickly by either just marking them read, or by quickly reading then starring to address later. After you address a starred item, un-star it. This is the most important part. The starred section should only be current action items.

The Inbox

It's all about the Gmail settings - I'm surprised how many people aren't so familiar with it (also surprised it is taking Google so long to redesign that section). So, first things first:

Navigate to Settings, then Inbox:


Make sure "Priority Inbox" is selected to get rid of those (stupid) tabs. Note that you'll have to do some more work to mark junk mail read instead of it automatically going into a tab, but I haven't found that a big deal.

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There is no fold.

Posted: June 5, 2014, filed under: Research


…the amount of time in view steadily rises as we move downpage to a peak between about 1200 pixels down. This portion of the page is viewed for nearly three times as long as the top of the page.

Amen to that – awesome reference point for clients stuck in the ’00s.

Via this tweet.

Look how cute!

Posted: May 21, 2014, filed under: Miscellaneous


I’m about to launch a WordPress workshop…stay tuned! In line with the fishing metaphor, this would be you after you take it.

Freelancer is a dirty word.

Posted: May 16, 2014, filed under: Thoughts

First of all, I am very proud to be a freelancer, and certainly identify as one. But…I hesitate. I kind of loathe the term. I feel like the word itself implies someone taking whatever work they can get, aimless and uncommitted, or in-between jobs with no other option to make ends meet. Of course this may be the case for some, but not for most of us!

Freelancing is NOT this.

Freelancers are business owners and, like any business, seek the work they want, turn down work they don’t want, and (if all goes swimmingly) are not scrapping for cash. But what else to call myself?

Contractor doesn’t quite fit, that generally implies longer term, potentially full time and on-site work – quite the opposite of how I function.

Web designer doesn’t work either – that usually begs the question “oh, where do you work?” to which I reply “for myself, I’m a freelancer.” So, yeah, there’s it is again.

I could say consultant, but that feels like a cop out.

“Self employed”…sure, but that doesn’t indicate my industry nor that I am for hire.

I could say “I run a web design business” but that sounds like I have employees, which I don’t (yet).

Seriously though, how do I describe what I do with out saying freelancer? Or should I stop whining and just own it? This is bugging me.

Podcasts are Amazing + Recommendations

Posted: May 7, 2014, filed under: Inspiration


Before getting into a few, relatively web design-centric favorites, let's compare podcasts to the written word.

The Written Word is Problematic

By "written word" I mean articles, blogs, and the like. What you sift through on Feedly or links found on Twitter, anything you'd save to Pocket. So yeah, this post qualifies. Oh the irony!

Reading vs "reading"

First of all, I don't read. I "read" (and I don't think this is limited to me!). When I "read" an article, I note the title, the first sentence-ish, and maybe the first sentences of a few subsequent paragraphs. Sometimes I'll go back to the top and read the whole thing, but to be honest, it's a rarity.

At the end of the day, I'm lucky if I remember enough to say "Oh, I read something about that!" in a later conversation. Then I search through Pocket and Google for 20 mins trying to find it. Sometimes I do.

Feeding the impostor syndrome...

Secondly, let's mention the impostor syndrome. This has been somewhat of a hot topic lately. Of course, the one article I am thinking of I can't find (doh!), but here's another good one. Few things bring up the impostor feelings more than excellent writing on a flawlessly designed site (but more importantly, there are few things as inspiring).

Enter Podcasts

To summarize above, the two main shortcomings with online written media (IMHO) are that 1. I don't entirely read them, and 2. I sometimes idealize authors in a non-productive way. Podcasts, on the other hand, are awesome because:

Listening trumps "reading"

No way can I listen to a podcast while I'm at work. For one, I wouldn't internalize anything, and two, listening for five minutes during a break (when you would usually "read" something) doesn't get you anywhere.

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Enable FTP Server on Mac [Snippet]

Posted: April 26, 2014, filed under: Tutorials+Tips

Type this into the command line:

sudo -s launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ftp.plist

thanks to iGerry

WP dev tools I’m stoked about

Posted: April 22, 2014, filed under: Tutorials+Tips, WordPress

I’m constantly reading about workflows and new tools, and don’t really get a chance to use them until something fresh comes around (or if I make an extra 5 hrs to try them out). Anyhow, I’ve got some WordPress in the works and wanted to share these excellent finds.

WP-CLI: A command line interface for WordPress

Screen Shot 2014-04-22 at 2.48.43 PM

I’m pretty comfortable with the command line. Not, like, Rails shell savvy, but I can git push and grunt watch fairly competently. Wouldn’t it be awesome to manage WordPress stuff in there too? To update WordPress I’ve been going to whole way to to download it then update manually. How tasking!

(Why couldn’t I do it through the WP Dashboard? Didn’t have the FTP server enabled on my computer, which I just figured out how to do. Still, command line is faster since I’m usually there anyway.)

Enter WP-CLI. It has commands for just about everything from updating WP to installing and activating themes and plugins. You can even create your own commands with PHP classes!

In sum, I love you WordPress but local development can be a pain. Deploying especially. I currently use git, but have to manually transfer the database and replace URLs. Is there a better way? Suggestions, plz!

Roots: Starter Theme


Ah starter themes. I’ve been loyal to Bones thus far, but I’ve stumbled upon a new candidate. Roots is a starter theme built on HTML5 Boilerplate, Bootstrap and Grunt. The main version is not Sass ready, but as is the wonderful web community, Roots made a Sass fork.

The documentation is excellent, there is an active community of users, and even a few Roots-specific plugins (holy moly, Roots Rewrite!).

But I’m mainly excited about the theme wrapper, DRY FTW. How friggin annoying is it to have get_header();, et al. in every single template? And if you ever want to adjust your opening wrapper tags, it’s incredibly tedious. Roots has taken care of it with a base.php that injects the appropriate page template between those tags. Templates now can contain code specific to only that template. Fantastic!

Color Pickers of Choice

Posted: April 15, 2014, filed under: Tutorials+Tips

We’ve all got our faves, here are mine!

Adobe Kuler


Kuler is awesome. You can create your own color schemes from a color or an uploaded image, but the best part is the massive amount of color combos created by Kuler users. You can use Kuler directly through Illustrator too, so no need to deal with downloading and adding the swatch set manually. Kuler also has an app where you can pull a color scheme from anything.

Color Peek


Color Peek is way more than just a color picker. It was created by Tyler Sticka to solve the issue of having to type hex values into Illustrator (or whatever you software you use) over and over to simply show a color scheme to someone. Color Peek let’s you easily assemble swatch sets in the browser. There is also a Chrome extension that grabs the color schemes from any site and let’s you easily add them to your collection. It’s really excellent, I need to remember to use this more!



A fun one! Perfect for grabbing a quick HEX while you are mocking something up or just playing around. I love using this one in demos.

Any others you like? Comment away.

Talk on Freelancing at Per Scholas

Posted: April 10, 2014, filed under: Updates

Last week I gave a talk about my experience as a freelancer at the Per Scholas Lunch & Learn, hosted by the New York Tech Council. Per Scholas is a non-profit that provides IT training and job placement for people in low-income communities. Be sure to check out the other talks by my fellow Buspreneurs James Wanga and Salman Ansari.

My slides are here, and a list of resources I referenced throughout the talk:

Startup Bus NYC 2014

Posted: March 9, 2014, filed under: Projects, Updates


Last week I participated in the 2014 Startup Bus from NYC to San Antonio, then to Austin for SXSW. The Startup Bus is a 72hr hackathon where 30 people on a bus form teams and create, develop, and pitch a startup while on the bus. It was quite an experience to say the least! I am so excited to have worked with such talented people and am looking forward to maintaining these new connections. My team, Roll, made it to the semifinals and another NYC team, Smarthost, won the competition. About my team:


Roll is a web application to simplify the standby flight process for airline employees and their friends and family. Not necessarily my area of expertise, but my other teammates, Rachel Blackman, Libby Tuck, and Seye Ojumu are very experienced with the industry. We even got some press. I was responsible for our branding and the front end development of the mobile site. A few screenshots:

My intent behind the branding was to take the stress out of a very stressful process. The UI is stupid simple - search a flight and see results that highlight the relevant information for standby passengers (something not readily available in other flight searches). I'm happy with the turn out considering we only had 72hrs! The logo inspiration comes from old airline logos like Pan Am crossed with a minimal aesthetic like the logo for Simple Bank. A little about the other teams:

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Style tile for Q2L Website

Posted: February 20, 2014, filed under: Projects

Style what?

Style Tiles are a design deliverable consisting of fonts, colors and interface elements that communicate the essence of a visual brand for the web. by Samantha Warren

Here is the first iteration of a style tile for Quest to Learn’s website redesign. The branding and logo design were done by the Velo Group, and I think they look excellent! The site will be my debut with the Genesis framework, and man, child themes are fun.

Gotta love!
More at