Year: 2013

2013 In Review

This has been an interesting year to say the least.  A lot of stuff has happened, but my life seems to have fallen into a typical mid-series pattern.  Here we are at the end of the year and things are pretty much status quo.

The good:

  • Completely relaunched Info-Tech with a very streamlined, clean, and awesome visual refresh
  • My team’s last minute entry came in 2nd place in the annual “Case Competition” at Info-Tech for a business plan and proof of concept
  • My Innovation team won my first Innovation Day award for the PerformIT business plan and proof of concept
  • I was awarded a seat on the “President’s Club” trip to Le Blanc in Cancun Mexico
  • I travelled more in 2013 than any other year (New York, Vegas, Chicago, Cancun Mexico)
  • Did four speaking engagements (New York and Chicago Exchange events, as well as NXNE and a local PMP group)
  • Officially co-founded Socks Off Ventures
  • The Socks Off Team launched the all new BalanceReDo
  • Pitched BalanceDo to the Funding Roadshow in Toronto
  • I learned a lot about marketing this year
  • Taught myself a whole ton of new skills (server management, Ruby on Rails, CSS3)
  • Did a lot more freelance in 2013 than I did in 2012
  • I lost 30lbs from April to September

The bad:

  • BalanceDo isn’t done, and in my opinion still has a long way to go, but the team seems to have lost a lot of momentum.
  • I learned a lot about pitching (which means our pitches weren’t terribly successful).
  • I’ve regained about 5lbs since the end of September
  • Not in nearly as good shape as I should be due to some back issues
  • Failed on my 52 posts in 52 days pledge (and haven’t posted since October 31st)

The “meh”:

  • Pretty much in the same role at Info-Tech day-to-day despite my recognized contributions
  • Work on All New Comics has stagnated
  • I’ve become a bit too dependant on others
  • I’m not doing as much “hands on” work as I used to
  • Not drawing as much as I would like
  • I should spend more time doing fun things with my kids
  • Still working for “the man”

I’m going to do some things to fix some of these things, which is why for the first time in two years I’m going to bring back the old “New Year’s Revolution” post.  It’s time to treat my own life the same way that I treat my work life.  Put dates, times, and actionable plans around everything I want to accomplish this year.  Make some “S.M.A.R.T.” goals and follow through on them.

2013 was a perfectly fine rebuilding year.  A great middle season in the life of a sit-com.  2014 needs to be the year with a bunch of big plot twists and large scale shake ups.

It’s time for me to do something I tell my team to do every single day.  “Let’s make some magic people.”

Comics that Scared Me – Swamp Thing #25

Swamp Thing #25I can’t tell you much about what my life was like as a 12 year old.  I have snippets of things from back then, a fun vacation to Niagara Falls, some trips to Ipperwash and Grand Bend, some great birthdays, lots of terrific times at my grandparents farm…but I can vividly tell you exactly what I did and what I had for lunch the second Saturday in May, 1984.

It was a beautiful warm day, super sunny, with just a hint of spring chill still in the air.  I rode my bike to Les’ Variety in Old Wortley Villiage.  The comics were at the back of the store on a low shelf.  Les had a ton of comics, probably consistently the biggest haul of anyone around, and his was the shop I would go to when I was looking for something in particular.

I picked up three comics that day.  Batman Special #1, featuring a new character called “The Wraith” who was basically the bad guy version of Batman (his parents were killed in front of him as a child by police officers in a very Bonnie and Clyde reminiscent scene).  Blue Beetle #1, featuring a brand new super-hero who was really a stuntman who gets trapped inside of his special effects costume.

The third comic was Saga of the Swamp Thing #25.  I bought it because the cover was striking, it had an image of the swamp monster crawling out of the muck and grabbing a white haired girl by the leg.  The title was formed out of the negative space in the vegetation, and the design of everything really appealed to me.  Of course 12 year old me just thought it looked cool.  The interior art was really creepy and awesome too.

I didn’t know it at the time, but 12 year old me was about to be introduced to both Alan Moore and John Totleben.  Names that years later would mean a lot more to me as I got to learn more about the British invasion of comics, and Miracleman in particular.

I went a couple of doors down to the Wortley Road Diner and ordered a plate of french fries with gravy and a Coke.  I sat down and started reading Swamp Thing #25.  Here’s the brief description from ComicVine.

Paul’s parents, Chris and Jenny have accidentally released the Monkey King using a ouija board, they both get killed by him and his son is taken to Elysium Lawns, a center for autistic children, the Monkey King has adopted Paul as his master and is using him and the rest of the kids in the center to feed.

Jason Blood, The Demon, gets to Baton Rouge, where he has tracked the demon, to haunt and destroy him; he and The Swamp Thing have felt trouble ahead. Meanwhile, Abby has gotten a new job at Elysium Lawns, as she is shown the place she knows Paul, who seems to be very disturbed by the thing that has happened to him and his family. The Monkey King is ready to attack again and he’s getting stronger.

I had read some Demon stuff from Jack Kirby.  The character was kind of goofy, with primary reds and yellows, and a cute little rhyming gimmick.  I had seen some Swamp Thing stuff before by Bernie Wrightson.  What I had never experienced before though was Alan Moore’s storytelling.

It starts with Jason Blood telling a travelling salesman that at 5:32pm the salesman would be impaled by a swordfish, and ends with that story coming true.

The final scene is of the Monkey King cuddling up to the little boy in the story, its muzzle wet and warm with blood.

I was both terrified…and hooked.  I really enjoyed comics before then, but that day, with a fresh out of the fryer plate of brown gravy topped fries and a Coca Cola, I fell in love with the medium of comics.

For some reason, the Monkey King reminded me of a Work Sock Monkey, and from that day on I was terrified of them.

Top 50 Comic Book Runs 5-1

Here we are in the final 5. Remembering my initial rules, it’s easy to see why this last five was the hardest.

My number one choice has been number one since I read it in 1984, and to me will always be my favourite comic story of all time.

Once again – The Rules
The rules were simple, they had to be comics I was incredibly excited when they came out. I had to have bought them off the shelf when they were released (so Watchmen, Camelot 3000, Dark Knight Returns, Captain Britain, and a few others were disqualified). One shots didn’t count, so that left out Killing Joke (which is one of my favourite stories comics or otherwise of all time), and original graphic novels were out too. This list was about anticipation, and these are the comics that I went absolutely nuts waiting for 30 days to go by so I could find out what happened next.

Without further ado…the finale of my top 50 comic runs of all time.

Continue Reading

Top 50 Comic Runs 10 – 6

The Top 50 Comics 10-6

Okay, seriously…what is wrong with me?  I’ve had this damn list finished for going on three months, but I haven’t posted the last two parts.

Time to rectify that!

First…the rules.

The rules were simple, they had to be comics I was incredibly excited when they came out. I had to have bought them off the shelf when they were released. This list was about anticipation, and these are the comics that I went absolutely nuts waiting for 30 days to go by so I could find out what happened next.

Second, the previous list (the kids call this “deep linking”).

And now, for the very dramatic penultimate listing of the top 50 comic runs that I collected as they came out in stores.

Continue Reading

Why I Love Kickstarter

One of the sources of frustration for my lovely wife Charlene and a source of great amusement for my friends and co-workers is my seeming obsession and addiction to Kickstarter.

For those of you who don’t know, Kickstarter is an online crowdfunding tool that allows artists, entrepreneurs, and makers to get their ideas funded before they are produced.

To date I have backed 17 different projects, some big, some small.  I have backed projects for as little as $3.00, and as much as $500.

I have backed real, physical things, and virtual goods as well.

So why do I do it?  There’s a few different reasons, and they speak to different parts of my nature. Continue Reading

Top 50 Comic Runs 20-11

Best ComicsMy first three entries in this series tell a much different story.

From here on in there are no easy choices, and honestly other than the top five…any of these from 20-5 are pretty much interchangeable depending on my mood.

Previous entries in the Top 50 Comic Runs are:

I’ve got a little bit of work to get 10-6 out, but 5-1 is completely written…so look for them both later this week.

A quick recap of the rules:

The rules were simple, they had to be comics I was incredibly excited when they came out. I had to have bought them off the shelf when they were released. This list was about anticipation, and these are the comics that I went absolutely nuts waiting for 30 days to go by so I could find out what happened next.

Continue Reading

Top 50 Comic Book Runs 50-41

Way back in September of 2009, I thought I’d put out a list of the top 40 comic book runs. This was the list of comics that I return to again and again. Something happened though…I kind of fell off the wagon a little bit. I have the entire list, all chunked out in three more posts (20-11, 10-6, and 5-1), but nearly four years has gone by!

A lot can change in four years, namely there has been four years of awesome comics! So I’ve amended the Top 40 to actually be a “Top 50”, and I’m adding, retroactively, #50-41 right here.

I hope to get the next segment (20-11) out a little quicker.

For those of you interested, the recently renamed Top 50 Comic Runs are available here:

Continue Reading

Designing Fun

Waaay back in May, my team and I designed a new T-Shirt for our most recent Info-Tech co-op class. I usually help brainstorm these, but this time I had a solid concept in my head that I really wanted to do myself – and how often do I get to use my super-power as part of my job?

It took a good solid 8 hours to come up with this, composite it, and put it all together, but in the end I’m really happy with the outcome.  I had some great assists from my team too, with help from Randall, Sean and Aaron with little finishing touches.

Here’s the process.

We started out with a brainstorming session, my kids are pretty obsessed with Adventure Time right now, and I thought that an Adventure Time inspired T-Shirt would be fun, and relatively easy to pull off.

Adventure Time - The Comic

Up next was to figure out a good composition, I threw together a few thumbnails and settled on one I liked.

Adventure Tee Rough

Since I wanted everyone to have decent likenesses, I created a little composite with the actual faces of the people I’d be “Adventuring”.

Info-Tech Time Rough (with photos)

 

Since I knew I was going to assemble it all in Photoshop, and I wanted to work fairly quickly, I did all of the drawing with pen and ink, scanned the composites in, and composed them into one image.

Up first, the composites.

Composite Images

 

While I was working on this, Sean put together an awesome Adventure Time inspired logo.

InfoTech-Time

After that, I put everything together, and I ended up moving people around, added an Ice King for some tension, and gave it more of a comic book cover feel.  When all that was done I passed it over to Randall, who refined it more, and sent it off to Aaron to get it to the printer.

Info-Tech Time Final

 

A pretty fun little project, and an awesome T-Shirt.

 

 

Why you shouldn’t mess with people who have Photoshop SuperPowers

UPDATE – July 5th.  Disclaimer added to top of post.  Two new images added to the bottom of the post.

DISCLAIMER: This blog post features incidents that are based on real events.  All characters appearing in this work are ficticious, and emails have been edited for humour and grammar.  Any resemblence between the incidences and persons in this blog post, real or inferred, are purely coincidental.

We just relaunched our site at work.  The new site is awesome, and has a very cool info-graphic style front page.

So far the response has been great, sales people love it, our internal users love it, and our customers love it.

Of course, someone’s always gotta find something to complain about.  It tends to be the same core group of people who like to see things done differently.

So this time, I decided to play with them.  I know they’re not intentionally being jerks, it’s just their way.  What they fail to realize is my design team and I are ALL equipped with Photoshop.

From: A Sales Person:

Hi Brian,

Just a quick follow up-I liked the new web site very much. I think it has a lot of new and useful features.

On the other hand, I was wondering if there is a way to “Photoshop” the picture for the guy below? If you pay attention to his pants, you will notice they are extremely wrinkled, and since this picture is on the very 1st page of our web site, I think it should look a little better.

Is this possible please? Thanks for your help

Ole Wrinkly Pants

After some Photoshop Magic courtesy of Randall, I emailed the original requester back:

From Brian:
Problem solved! Thanks for the suggestion!

No Pants!
This apparently wasn’t quite what he was looking for.  Luckily he provided some helpful guidance!

LOL

Are his legs going to be put back in with no wrinkles ? It looks funny now , unless you remove the legs of the girl too?

Two floating torsos didn’t seem quite what we were looking for, so I suggested that maybe we should add some legs to the body.

Here’s how Randall won at Photoshop.  (Apologies to Mike B).

New Pants

 

 

Randall then proceeded after I posted this to continue winning at Photoshop, in two more images.Spongebob Battista Pants

 

Hammer Time

I make websites

I make websites. What I do is art and science. I don’t do it with a brush, a calculator, a pen, beakers, a keyboard, or even code anymore, I do it with my brain.

I collaborate with others to realize a fully formed vision. This thing is in my brain, I can spin it, turn it, see how people use it, understand where they will go, how they will flow and why they will do things.

I know these things because I read…a lot. I read about usability, user experiences, how people do things, why they do them, and how they do them. I know these things because I have, for decades, observed what people do on my sites, and I can extrapolate that into the future.

I take the ember of a great experience, I gently blow on it to make it hotter, I feed it to build it bigger, and then I hold it tight to my chest where I keep it secure against the elements, against the forces and people all around it that want to snuff its life.

I consider every detail, I agonize over the big picture and how it all comes together. I sweat the small details, the extra four pixels of line height, and exactly how large the headline is. The whitespace is intentional, that large picture has a purpose, I know to the pixel how much space your eye needs to breathe, I understand innately how through repetition,

I know these things because I have done this for a LONG time. I can explain this to you with words, but my words do not impart upon you my wisdom, I can show you, but you will not “know” simply because I say.

These are the things I do. I don’t know why I know that one thing will work while another won’t any more than I know why my heart pumps blood through my veins. I just do.

I respect that you have opinions, I understand that what I do doesn’t look hard. I know I am not a doctor, a scientist, or even an artist. Nevertheless, I assure you, what I do is hard.

I make websites.