Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Playing with Visuals

Lots of production occurring outside of this blog (hence the silence). One of the non-work items I have been grappling with is creating a format for the food articles I'm writing.

I've got 30 pieces in various stages of unfinished. Since the BeerWineFood.org site is still not fully functional, I have time to polish the articles. Unfortunately, having that much unfinished stuff is taking up more mental space than I would like.

Food writing is an entirely different beast from the stream-of-consciousness free-form blatherings of this blog, the "professionally-designed" deliverables for my job, or the carefully reasoned CYA e-mails I write. I actually care about my semi-colons! (Beau - you warned me about this.)

It's also an interesting exercise in teamwork among friends. As part of the testing for the new site, I published a few articles. The result has been an interesting back-and-forth on features. Two things the Webmaster wants to see:

- A visual of some sort with each post. Makes sense. The site has a LOT of white space.

- A "Read More" header. This means I have to figure out a way to sell an article before they actually read it. Yikes!

I think I have the graphics figured out. Wish I could say the same about the writing.

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The webmaster provided some iStockPhotos (he's got a license) as one option. Not so sure I want iStockPhoto in watermark across my pictures. And they are kinda spartan.

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My second attempt used Bitstrips with some Creative Commons pictures and Photoshop.

Bitstrips is a cool, if limited, comic generator. Playing with this free tool I learned 2 things.

- I will never be a comic strip writer.
- Building one of these things is more time-consuming than I thought.

Here is a graphic I created for Hong Kong Shrimp (essentially sauteed shrimp with a salt, black pepper and szechuan pepper dip). Notice the Hong Kong Skyline in the background.


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I really wanted something that stood out from the standard "picture of my cooking" that many food blogs use. Then I remembered Comic Life - a Mac tool that I've been using to create quick references for some of our applications.

The steps I'm taking to create this graphic:
- Take the picture with my digital camera.
- Upload the picture
- Make any necessary corrections using Photoshop and save as GIF.
- Load the picture into Comic Life and create the caption.
- Save the Comic Life picture as GIF
- Trim the resulting Comic Life picture.

This is a picture of some caramel I made for a cake topping. The background of the site is white, so the image won't look so square in the final article.



Let me know what you think.

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