Kaleesha Williams: Author Website, ePub and Printed Book Design

FTB BlogMy partner here at Make-It-Do Farm and Tucker Creek Creative (she is also the creative force behind Daisyblend Organic Creations), Kaleesha, just recently published her first book. In fact, the Kindle and ePub versions have only been out a week and the print copies are due to arrive next week so when I say recently what I really mean is just! It is an understatement to say we are excited about her accomplishment!

I’m happy to have been able to play a supportive role in the effort. Relative to the writing of the book, my tasks were fairly quickly and easily accomplished. In preparation for publishing the book we set-up her Kaleesha Williams author website months in advance to allow time for google and other search engines to find it. We added in book teasers and she actively provided book excerpts and other related content to the blog.

After months of writing and editing she put the final touches on the book and we assembled it first in Apple’s iBooks Author. Strangely there is no easy way to export from Apple’s Pages app directly to iBooks Author so I added the chapters one by one. The final result is very nice but still waiting approval on Apple’s end. Next was publishing from Pages to ePub which is an export option and was fairly easy to do if one pays attention to the details. To get it all right it is essential to use properly named styles. For example, each chapter title should be a Header 1 style which helps to create the Table of Contents. Another important point, block quotes need to be in a style named block quote. It may seem obvious but if you’ve not used Styles with Pages it requires a bit of digging. It is the “proper” way to do long form layout and a real time saver. Using styles allows the designer to make changes throughout the publication in just seconds. Decide you want less of an indent in the block quotes? Just update the style and the changes occur throughout the document. Very similar to using CSS style sheets in html documents.

One hang-up that was not resolved: Kindle formatting. While the ePub translated fairly well into Pages and third party ePub readers such as iBooks and those available as extensions for Google’s Chrome browser, the Kindle platform has become fragmented. While our export was technically correct and works perfectly on most Kindle versions some formatting is lacking depending on the device and app used. It’s not a deal killer but would certainly be nice if the engineers at Amazon would unify the layout on the platform. We persevered and finally got the Kindle version published.

Last and probably the most exciting was laying out the book to be printed at Amazon’s Create Space. The process was fairly straightforward with just one big hiccup. The newest version of Apple’s Pages, 5.1, no longer allows for layout using facing pages which is essential. As a result we exported to the old version of Pages and designed the print version from Pages 09. It required a few tweaks but nothing too difficult. The cover was designed to Create Space specifications using Photoshop. We received the proof copy yesterday and are now awaiting the first shipment of books!

New Website: Castor River Ranch Campground

The folks at Castor River Ranch Campground have a beautiful river-side retreat just 90 minutes south of St. Louis, in the southeast corner of Madison County. The scenery is a picture of comfort and relaxation. The campground is nestled amongst forested hills and open fields, just a stones throw away from the picturesque Castor River. The charming village of Marquand, just minutes away, is home to the Durso Hills Winery, an art gallery, various historical sites and a community performance center which hosts a variety of live entertainment throughout the year.

The CRRC has been built with a quality experience in mind. All of the RV/Campsites are spacious and are furnished with picnic tables, stone fire pits, septic, electric (30 – 50-110 amp) and spring- water. They offer canoe/ kayak/tube out fitting and a shuttle service for float trips.

I enjoyed working with Jon on the web site. He was careful in his direction and provided me with all the materials I needed to get the job done. Most importantly Jon and Mary are great business people that value excellence and doing a job right, values which always make a project worth doing. The end product is a delightfully laid-back website which not only informs potential guests of all that CRRC has to offer but does so with an authentic, rustic style.

The Mac Mini at 10 Years

Mac Mini
Original Mac Mini still being used by the kids for home school!

It’s been 10 years since the Mac Mini was released and Brian Stucki over at Mac Mini Colo has written up a great post/timeline to celebrate. It was released on January 11, 2005 and I remember being pretty excited. I’d recently purchased one of the new G5 iMacs but my sister was in need of a new Mac for her business and the new Mini was my suggestion. She bought one and I set it up with a custom FileMaker Pro database to track her customer billing and iCal for appointments. In the off hours the Mini was used for web browsing, iTunes and photo organizing via iPhoto.

A little over a year later I traded her my iMac for her Mini because she had need for more power (her husband was increasingly interested in using iMovie and iDVD) and I was mostly using my 12“ Powerbook. I wanted the Mini for a power sipping iTunes media server. Today, nearly 10 years later, that Mac Mini is upstairs still being used by the kids for their school work. I retired it from media server duties just a year ago when I moved that task over to my primary work machine, a new Mini (late 2012 model). The kids have used it ever since. Actually, until recently, the eldest, Farra, was using the above mentioned 2003 12” Powerbook (one of my all time favorite Macs!).

Upon seeing that first Mac Mini being presented by Steve I knew it would be a hit. How could it not? A $499 Mac in such a small form factor would, I thought, be what the higher priced G4 Cube (2000–2001) should have been: an affordable yet stylish introduction to the Mac for potential switchers. The Cube was a beautiful bit of design but at $1799
its high price made for an impractical purchase. The Mini did indeed succeed and is still in production. The original form factor was used until 2010 when a beautiful new, unibody aluminum enclosure was introduced. With it came a built in power supply, hdmi port and easy to upgrade memory via a twist off bottom cover. This new Mini was updated again in 2012 and as recently as October 2014 after a 2 year gap between updates.

A month ago a visiting friend had occassion to be in my office and observed the Mac Mini on my desk. He was surprised that I did all of my design work on something as lowly as a Mini which prompted a bit of a chuckle from me. Not only is the Mini my workhorse but this tiny machine generally handles my projects with plenty to spare. Only the largest Photoshop or Illustrator files ever require that the little beastie break a sweat. Exporting or converting movie files from iMovie or Handbreak also pushes the processor but that’s to be expected. The important measure with such work is of course the time it takes to complete the job and I’ve been nothing but pleased with the speed of the Mini in such tasks. All this with what many consider the bare minimum of memory in 2015, 4 GB.

It’s been a good 10 years.

Why Design

design-blog-postdesign |dəˈzīn| noun

1. a plan or drawing produced to show the look and function or workings of a building, garment, or other object before it is built or made: he has just unveiled his design for the new museum.

  • the art or action of conceiving of and producing a plan or drawing: good design can help the reader understand complicated information | the cloister is of late-twelfth-century design.
  • an arrangement of lines or shapes created to form a pattern or decoration: pottery with a lovely blue and white design.

2.  purpose, planning, or intention that exists or is thought to exist behind an action, fact, or material object: the appearance of design in the universe.

verb [ with obj. ]

decide upon the look and functioning of (a building, garment, or other object), typically by making a detailed drawing of it: a number of architectural students were designing a factory | [ as adj. with submodifier ] (designed) : specially designed buildings.

• do or plan (something) with a specific purpose or intention in mind: [ with obj. and infinitive ] : the tax changes were designed to stimulate economic growth.

Design is something I’ve thought about off and on for at least 20 years. I have no formal training and for many years the best that might be said of my efforts is that they were informal. I dabbled in it to the extent that I was often making flyers, zines and a couple of community newspapers. I also dabbled a good bit in gardening and permaculture and so it might be said that my thoughts on design were not confined to just thinking about page layout but how out-door spaces might be arranged. At some point around 1999 I began playing a bit with relational database design using FileMaker Pro which is design on several levels. An easy to use database must have a logically designed, functional interface which is, preferably, visually attractive. If it is to perform well it should also have a solid design underpinning the use and arrangement of fields, tables and layouts.

In addition to these kinds of dabbling I also began designing websites which was yet another kind of interface design which needed to be both functional, logical and aesthetically pleasing. I’d not planned to focus on website development, no plan to engage with it on a professional level but that’s what happened. I enjoyed it and it seemed to be something which took on a life its own, one which I greatly enjoyed.

In 2008 I leaped into a new realm of of design: Permaculture. I’d dabbled before but this time around I spent a good bit of time familiarizing myself with the principle of Permaculture design and put it to use around my homestead.

“Permaculture is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive systems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of the landscape with people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.” – Graham Bell, ‘The Permaculture Way’

The challenge of Permaculture is that the design, at it’s best, is created at a variety of dimensions: horizontal, vertical, width as well as temporal. The relationships created with Permaculture design are dynamic and must take into account not just beneficial (or antagonistic) plant relationships but also the flow of energy accross a landscape: Water, solar and wind should all be accounted for and not just in the present moment. If I plant a food forest I need to plan for a future change in available sunlight at ground level. A line of trees or hedgrow can alter the wind, providing a future windbreak for plants or trees sensitive to wind damage. The list goes on.

“…design is a connection between things. It is not water, or a chicken or the tree. It is how the water, the chicken and the tree are connected. It’s the opposite of what we are taught in school. Education takes everything and pulls it apart and makes no connections at all. Permaculture makes the connection because as soon as you have the connection you can feed the chicken from the tree.” – Bill Mollison

What I enjoy about design is that it is a process of creation that, when done well, can make our lives better. Counter to this, if it is done carelessly it can cause significant damage at large scale. No doubt, forseeing the long-term consequences of design is not necessarily an easy task. Consider the modern practice of designing towns and cities around the automobile. A great deal of damage has been done the details of which are beyond the scope of this endeavor but many books have been written about the social ecological problems of automobile centered design.

Another example might be the design of modern, large-scale farming. Whether we are talking about the raising of cattle, poultry or food crops, our centralized food production systems have caused a variety of serious environmental and health problems. Scaling down such systems requries entirely different approaches to production with short-term problems but many long-term benefits.

Design is everywhere. From our systems of food production to social spaces to government (which is, after all, a form of political design) to the arrangement of our office work spaces to our devices to the apps that run on them. The last book you read? Your favorite magazine? The operating system on your device? All very carefully designed, some more carefully than others. If design is everywhere, if it has such an important impact on our lives, it’s probably worth considering. The more aware we are of design the more we can appreciate it and even and put it to use. Design is a part of life.

It is my intent to use this space to explore design. From web design to food forests to office space to logos to anything else of interest. My intent is to explore ways in which design can be beautiful, sustainable, resilient, functional and more.  I’m a proud amateur and jack of all trades, master of none so this exploration is not just about sharing what I  know but also what I am learning.  Come along for the ride why don’t ya?