Let's get to know you first. Tell us about yourself.

Well, I’m a designer from Manchester, UK. I’ve called myself a writer for a while, but have started to accept that there’s much more to being a “writer” than writing.

I recently moved to San Francisco to join Dropbox as a design intern, which has been fantastic so far. I’ve fallen in love with the city, and Dropbox is a great place to work. Before that, I was studying in Nottingham back in the UK, while working on a few side projects. The projects I was working on were pretty simple ideas, so they’re happily running on autopilot while I settle in to my new environment.

Going back to the writing thing, I love writing about design. Specifically, about fonts. I could spend hours just staring at fonts and writing about them. So much so that I’m counting on that as my retirement hobby. It might be a bit early for me to think about that, but who cares?

Cool, so what's the story behind your website and its design?

My website has evolved a lot over the years. It’s been a sandbox for my design education since I first started it back in 2009. Back then, it was a place for me to show off my “work” (by which I mean Photoshop mockups for imaginary music albums), but as my interest in the web grew, it became a place for me to write about the things I was learning about HTML and CSS.

In between then and now, there must have been about 10 different major designs. I have a tendancy to publish a design I’m happy with, then immediately begin a redesign. The latest iteration is one I’m really proud of, and it’s lasted me longer than most of the prior designs.

What part of your website is your favourite, and why?

Probably the typography. I’m a type nerd, so that’s not a surprising answer. The fonts in use are H&FJ’s Mercury and Whitney. When it came to designing this iteration of the site, I wanted to try something new – previously, I’d gone for a “classical design” angle, with established old-style serif fonts such as Garamond Pro, but this time I wanted a more modern, editorial feel.

Mercury was a tough choice for me, since I was pretty locked in to old style fonts, but I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Mercury is highly readable and downright gorgeous. Whitney offers a strong supporting typeface for image captions and tertiary headings.

Technologies, languages, frameworks, or libraries?

Here we go! I love getting nerdy about the tech behind my site, too. So, Jekyll is the main thing powering my site. I used to use WordPress, but it became too bloated and restrictive for my needs. Switching to Jekyll wasn’t an easy task, but it was well worth it.

Beyond Jekyll, the list of technologies behind my site is pretty extensive. I use Sass to help me write my CSS, as well as autoprefixer to help with prefixing CSS rules. All that is running on Grunt, which watches my files for changes and compiles everything automatically.

Next up, GitHub is helping me update my website without ever having to open an FTP client. Once my files are ready, I push to GitHub, and GitHub tells my server to pull everything over to my server.

Once everything is on my server, I’m using CloudFlare to help deliver my content quickly on their CDN, and an Adaptive Images script to optimise and shrink images.

Basically, I take my workflow and site speed very seriously. You can actually see the full source for my site on GitHub and take a deeper look.

Any upcoming changes we should look out for?

I’m always making subtle design changes – usually at least once a week I’ll change something slightly. Beyond that, just expect more content, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m redesigning the whole thing before the end of the year!

Interview date: 07 Dec 2013Permalink