Tags filed under ‘texas’
I’m pleased to announce that another of my long-term projects has launched: the latest redesign of the University of Texas School of Law website. This was the first major refactoring of the information architecture, HTML, and user interface of the site since 2003, and is a significant departure from the visual refresh of 2005. (My other major project was the new UT Law Events Calendar, which launched on the same day — it’s been a busy summer!)
The UT Law site holds anywhere between 3500-6000 pages (depending on how you want to define a “page”) spread amongst dozens of departments and organizations, with very little of the content in a CMS of any kind, and it’s accompanied by a dozen or more in-house custom applications written in three or four different programming languages, so this major change to the code was quite an undertaking. After consulting with our stakeholders, conducting some user testing, and evaluating other top-tier sites, I began the redesign with the intention that we’d need a great foundation to build off of, while retaining enough visual familiarity to the old site to not confuse our users needlessly.
Highlights for this project:
- Brand new HTML5-based templates using clean, semantic markup with hooks for a flexible (but optional) grid-based CSS layout system
- Completely redeveloped visual design, color scheme, and branding, with improved typography and layout
- Newly designed universal UT Law header and footer, improving usability while taking up less vertical real estate
- Standardized look-and-feel for internal law school departments and organizations, along with cleaner information architecture (many URLs have been shortened considerably)
- Easier navigation through simplified, consolidated landing pages
- Google Custom Search Engine integration available across the entire site, letting users search without leaving the UT Law site
- Google Analytics’ new asynchronous code now site-wide, including subdomains, with dual tracking to forward stats on to the main campus Development office
- Lighter HTML, smarter handling of cacheable resources, and browser throughput performance tricks give end users much snappier page load times (who loves image spriting? I do!)
- Universal use of UTF-8 for better foreign language and other specialty character encoding support
Much work remains, however: the content across the site is currently being reevaluated as part of this project, and we will be working hand-in-hand with each department to ensure that the offerings are up-to-date, relevant, better organized, and more media-rich (where appropriate). Also, the homepage is a temporary placeholder while we work with our communications office to develop new material and focus this Fall semester.
Many thanks go out to my supervisor Mark Gunn, teammates Austin Kleon, John Croslin, Brian Borowicz, and awesome student worker Laura Davila for helping with the porting and making sure that everything looked as snazzy as possible for the launch date!
As reported already by many other local sources, the Paramount theater will host our latest and greatest mayoral and city council candidates for a public forum to discuss their positions on art and culture in Austin. The event is this Wednesday (April 1), at 7p.m. With politicos slashing budgets left and right to stem the economic crisis (or at least give that appearance) arts funding often gets kicked to the curb, despite the considerable income the creative community generates for the city and state. Robert Faires of the Austin Chronicle says it best:
“But when money gets tight, if anything gets cut faster than library hours, it’s arts and culture. And part of the reason is we don’t show up. Let’s not make that mistake this time. A packed Paramount would send a pretty powerful message to City Hall.”
Might be worth getting to know the folks who are lining up to be Austin’s next mayor (I’ve included their Twitter @name where applicable as it’s hopefully a good way to have a conversation with them directly or at least with their campaign):
- David Buttross (and here too): independent candidate, real estate proprietor, @DavidButtross on Twitter, alternate site
- Josiah James Ingalls: democrat? can’t find an official site but he’s got a Flickr profile… UPDATE: Ingalls talks a bit about public art and his stance on public arts funding in this March 31st Austinist interview UPDATE 2: his official site, @josiah_ingalls
- Lee Leffingwell: democrat, painted by some as an advocate for the status quo and seems a bit cautious on arts funding, but otherwise heavily endorsed, his campaign is @TheLeeTeam on Twitter
- Brewster McCracken: democrat, also heavily endorsed. the only mayoral candidate who has a page dedicated to “creative class” issues on his official site [that I’ve found, at least…please correct me!], but mostly mentions musicians, filmmakers, and ‘digital media specialists’ — where does that leave visual artists? theater? @bmccracken
- Carole Keeton Strayhorn: democrat to republican to independent to ???, former Austin mayor and Texas comptroller, has a long history overseeing the city and state treasuries, @Carole4Austin
and city council candidates:
- Perla Cavazos: democrat, served as bond campaign manager for the Mexican American Cultural Center, responds to questions about public art for the Austinist’s Urban is Core interview, @voteperla
- Sheryl Cole: current Place 6 council member, has served on the City of Austin citizen bond committee, I don’t know her stance on the arts
- Mike Martinez: democrat, current Place 2 council member, @place2mike
- Sam Osemene: libertarian? I don’t know much about him beyond what’s on his site and memories of the contentious place 4 race against Laura Morrison
- Jose Quintero: place 2 candidate — can someone help fill me in on his info? does he have an official site?
- Chris Riley: democrat, place 1 candidate, mentions both art and music in his statement about preserving Austin’s character, talks a bit about public art in his Austinist Urban is Core response, @ChrisForAustin
- Bill Spelman: democrat, unopposed for place 5, PhD in public policy, former council member
That about sums up what I know of the candidates. I’m a bit of a local politics neophyte, so can anyone elaborate for me on what to be looking out for at the forum this Wednesday? For the candidates that already have a local or state-wide history, what do we know about their support for the arts?
(photo via shadowstorm)
Even though the fogged photograph is not in itself pure absence, but rather the eclipsing of an image, we know that what we are seeing is a representation that has been spoilt, a calamity that no technology can ever repair. The image is there, but hidden, ‘fogged’, concealed forever by a curtain of shadow, which no one is capable of raising.
— A Short History of the Shadow by Victor Stoichita, in reference to an 1839 cartoon by Cham (Amédée de Noé) from the book L’Histoire de Monsieur Jobard
Segueing nicely from their book on Gothic literature and art, I’ve been plowing through another great edition from Whitechapel’s Documents of Contemporary Art series: The Cinematic. The editor has assembled critical essays on photography, its relation to cinema and video, to temporality, to narrative, to contemporary art practices — all with a fluid sense of motion conducive to making connections across the gamut of the 20th Century art world. Many of the essays touch on photography’s nature as a perverse mirror capable only of capturing what was, the inherent implications about death and impermanence corresponding to much of the Western catalog of art from the past couple hundred years. Other essays deal with the conflict and interaction between still photography and the re-playable, less-bounded world arising from Sergei Eisenstein and his early modernist contemporaries. In short, it’s right up my alley, and I hope the library here gets more from this series soon.
With these thoughts in mind, I was pleased last weekend to find the theater series of photographs by Hiroshi Sugimoto sitting quietly by themselves on a side wall in the otherwise colorful LEWITT×2 show at the Austin Museum of Art. These photographs, seemingly simple shots of the interiors of old American movie palaces, speak volumes about these issues of time, death, photography, cinema, and reflection. The burning white oblivion central to the frame, created by setting up a large format camera with its shutter open through the duration of a feature film, softly illuminates the space surrounding it, highlighting the emptiness as though time itself has run its course. The blur of human motion on the screen over time adds up to a brilliant nothingness, irretrievable. Somewhere on the boundary between conceptualism and zen meditation, these were easily my favorite pieces in the show.
Photo above: “Canton Palace, Ohio (1980)” by Hiroshi Sugimoto. From the Hirshhorn Museum collection.
Flipping through the New York Times the day after I posted this, I was very surprised to see this photo from Fred R. Conrad’s Geometry series. Spooky!
A couple of weeks ago I found a new local arts magazine sitting on the freebie shelf at Flightpath, featuring the William Hundley photo taken in front of the Daniel Johnston “Hi How Are You” frog seen above — surely a cover designed to catch my eye! The newly launched magazine is called Odic Force Magazine, evidently named after the founder poked through his thesaurus and came across the Victorian-era term. At first I was worried that it was going to be another slickly-produced-but-light-on-actual-content local “arts and culture” magazine (I’m looking at you, Tribeza and Rare), but there are some good writers involved (Steve Wilson, Rachel Koper of Gallery Lombardi, et al.) and artists profiled (fun to see the workspaces of folks like ceramacist Ryan McKerley and painter Jennifer Chenoweth). It touches on the local art, music, architecture, writing, and fashion scenes without being too unbalanced or terse. It’s not yet ART LIES but it’s an impressive first issue, and it is attempting to cover far more than just the visual arts.
Odic Force’s first issue is generously available online using one of those crazy sorta-works Flash viewers (I couldn’t get it to spit out the PDF so I could read it offline, your mileage may vary).
PS: On a related note, I’m very glad to report that Cantanker’s website is back from the dead. Their domain lapsed, and I worried that they had succumbed to the fate of most good art magazines. Looking forward to their issue #5!
Today sees a new homepage for the University of Texas School of Law. This iteration is more of a realign than a redesign as the decision was made to keep our interior pages intact while we continue a long-term look at our branding and online presence. The biggest design challenge was creating something cleaner and more useful for our visitors while retaining most of the same content and enough of the previous design to tie it in comfortably with our current site’s look-and-feel.
The new version emphasizes our communication pieces, changing the rotating banner graphic into something more dynamic: the accompanying text is now HTML-based and will link to richer features similar to our Clinical Education stories. Our previous 75×75 pixel highlight buttons (which themselves were reduced from the intricate 200×140 highlight graphics of two years ago) have been folded into our general News list to help simplify the page. The navigational links were dramatically reorganized to make the hierarchy clearer and more contextual. Everything’s still there, it’s just been reshuffled.
Make it pretty
The goal aesthetically was to reduce the homepage’s clutter and to make the information presented more visually balanced. I designed the old homepage, so I’m to blame! To accommodate the larger banner graphic I increased the width of the site to 840 pixels, and then subdivided that width into a five-column layout. The typography is much more consistent, and care was taken to align the text vertically on a baseline grid. The colors are lifted from the previous version but greatly toned down — far less orange, no more crazy orange-stripe-gradient thing, and a nice white background with some subtle color at the top. Still feels like UT, but doesn’t scream it, and the new design continues to match our internal pages.
Behind the scenes
I’ve shifted the site from Transitional to XHTML 1.0 Strict and have made greater use of XML for the maintenance of the feature stories and news items. The layout and typography are all still handled with plain CSS: if you strip away the stylesheet, you’ll find that the homepage is semantic, streamlined, and very navigable with screenreaders or other assistive technologies. Text can be adjusted in the browser to just about any size without breaking the layout. We’re also sporting a bit of hCard markup so that folks can easily scrape our contact and location info into more useful formats.
Hopefully the refresh is just what we need to help carry us along until the sitewide redesign. I think the updated technology and cleaner look will do a lot for us, and it should help increase our visibility as one of the top-ranked law schools. If you have any comments about the design or about site refreshes, I’d love to hear them.
Marsha and I will be in the upcoming show at the Creative Research Lab. The opening reception is on October 13, so come out and enjoy some art + people + wine. More details about our project will be coming soon to a blog post near you.
Marsha and I took a very good life drawing informal class at UT this summer with Melissa Grimes. I think I got some decent drawings in, especially considering that I’m more used to three- or four-hour poses! It felt good to be forced to work so much quicker, and to work in drawing styles that are outside my comfort zone (I’m looking at you, blind contour). The longest poses were around 15–20 minutes, and most were in the 5–10 minute range. If you like, you can see some more of these short poses on my Flickr account.
My calendar runneth over this weekend. Go see the Texas Biennial, Staple, and the Animation Show! More detailed calendar of this hectic month’s upcoming events over at Cantanker.