Tuesday, June 15, 2010

BILB – Part Two

In my last post, I wrote about BILBs (Because It Looks Bad) commonly found in websites. It occurred to me that some of them were painfully obvious (what professional uses tiled graphics in the background of his/her website these days? Well, some of those who use Twitter).

Bad design in print, however, is more ubiquitous – you see it in free newspapers, advertising postcards, low-class magazines, and even the Yellow Pages. The designer in me cringes at rows of glossy tires and poorly kerned prices. But the consumer in me will go, go, go if I need the service and the price is right. I hate to have to say it, but sometimes good design does not matter in the big picture.

The issue gets grayer and grayer as the prestige of the job goes up. When I was in Borders today, I pondered all of the different book covers:

All those fonts. All those pictures and/or drawings. All those colors.
What makes a good book cover? What is it that makes the publisher (I’ve heard authors have little input) say, “Yes, this is the look for this book?”

One of my graphic specialties is book cover design. I know in my heart that I can design a new cover for nearly every book in any bookstore. But can I design one that will earn a publisher’s “yes”? What is BILB for book covers?

I have a sampler of book covers at my design portfolio site. I did my best to avoid BILB in these covers. The question is, are they BILG enough for the marketplace?

As a professional book cover designer (among other things), I have to believe that is so. Perhaps a client may say “no” or want to make changes. The belief that I can, though, must and will not change.

This will be my summer of sisu. If you don't know what that is, ask any Finn. Or read this.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The BILB Factor

For the past month, I’ve been getting my “official” website, www.jenniebrownhakim.com, ready for its Internet closeup. I’ve tweaked the text, checked it twice, created a product page for my e-book, Goody Ideas, and uploaded the HTML files to my web hosting provider (whom I’m quite pleased with so far).

Before I felt comfortable showing the world my site, I needed to make one last change. Paying for the domain name gave me free hosting privileges with my provider. But these privileges were not completely “free” – they came with the cost of having my provider post its ads on the top of all of my pages.

Way back in 2002, I took a website class, and my final exam consisted of creating a website with Tripod (remember that?). Back then, I didn’t mind so much having other companies’ ads on my pages. Now, I do. Very much so.

This site is my business face on the web. This is what people who would pay me their hard-earned money for my writing and graphics services will get as their first impression of me. No other website that I admire has hosting service ads on top. Why? BILB.


Ever heard of the acronym BILC (Because It Looks Cool)? BILB is its opposite – Because It Looks Bad. In our professional and personal lives, we should all try to avoid BILB as much as possible.

What else do I consider BILB?

1. Using Comic Sans or Kristen fonts in e-book text.

2. Unnecessary, illogical capitalization and multiple exclamation points (as in, “This new Freelance Writing site will Knock your Socks Off!!!!!!!”).

3. Goofy cartoon .gifs and flashing buttons.

4. A sudden burst of loud, disruptive music the instant the site comes up.

5. Photographs/logos tiled in the background.

6. Times New Roman Bold on top of a bright color background.

7. Linking to my old Tripod site anywhere on this blog. (Yes, it does break some of these BILB rules.)

BILBs are not just for websites. Here’s a list of some lifestyle BILBs:

1. Dirty dishes left in the sink while company is over.

2. Dirty dishes left on the coffee table when company is over.

3. A bra that is visible in public.

4. A potato chip bag left open overnight.

5. Food residue left on the dining room table.

6. Spongebob Squarepants anything.

7. An unflushed toilet (perhaps the ultimate BILB).

This post is a turning point at Meandering Mouse. With the launch of my new website, I expect to be posting more often, and posting more practical advice. To those who like the blog as is, don’t worry – no matter where my career takes me, I will always make time for meandering, and I will tell you about it here.

As Chris Guillebeau, one of my favorite bloggers/travelers/entrepreneurs, wrote recently,

You’ve been coasting along in the present, then all of a sudden—the future! Is here! There’s no going back, no matter how much you want to. . . . [change] is the constant, and things are going to be different from now on.

Things are going to be different for me from now on, and I hope I’ll be strong enough to live this new working life. What helps is the love of Two Dogs and the knowledge that other people are doing this and are doing great – why not me?