My design process involves getting into a mood before tackling a project seriously. It helps add some swagger and character to a design. For Galpin Industries, getting there definitely wasn’t a sudden realization. If you can bear with some storytelling first, I promise there are previews of my early website revisions below. Here we go:
I was on my way back from a family vacation in South Carolina – Hilton Head, to be specific. We were primarily golfing, and I was spending my days in the Southern sun; beating down on me from what felt like all angles. It’s beautiful down there. Some day trips to places like Savannah, Georgia confirmed this. When I go on trips like this I tend to skew my music listening to lean towards a more local flavour. It not only helps me feel the vibes from the place we are in, but also makes the experience that much cooler. In South Carolina I was listening to some old favourites from Neil Young, The Band, The Animals – I could go on forever, but that’s a classic playlist for another time.
“The history here is incredible,” I kept thinking to myself. Steamboats, small antique shops everywhere, and forgotten railcars. I don’t take many photos on trips like these – I like to soak sights in and remember them the way I want to remember them, no matter how inaccurate those mental images may be.
At the end of our week-long trip, we started the long trek back to Ontario. This meant roughly fifteen hours in a vehicle with my family. Not exactly the ideal environment to have fun or enjoy myself. We stopped at a cafe along the highway, and I was able to enjoy a few craft beers.
Dammit, I need to do my friggin’ website already.” A number of failed attempts to start it beforehand were due to my loss of excitement after a couple hours of brainstorming ideas and themes for the site.
Somewhere further along the road winding through West Virginia’s beautiful hills I started to write in a trusty Field Notes notebook. Just writing words and phrases related to the mood I had been in all week in the South. “Hard work, nose to the grindstone, durable, gritty, determination, toil, machine, factory…” to name a few. What I had seen in the South got me thinking about real blue collar workers and putting in a day of hard work. A couple railcars I had seen wasting away in the unforgiving sun were stuck in my head. I started thinking about all the vintage brandmarks I had seen, the Mom and Pop shops I had visited – if I could somehow translate this work ethic and history into my brand, how badass would that be? So many of the portfolios I had seen were all the same “Hi I’m John Doe. I’m an expert designer. You couldn’t pick me out of a lineup of one.” There wasn’t a lot of personality, and too much “shiny.” I hated that.
But where the hell do I start? Do I whip out some mad Photoshop skillz (yo), and hope for the best? Do I sketch it all out in perfect detail, first? Imagine it all in my head before wasting any paper? The answer: none of the above. I’ve learned quickly there is no such thing as wasting paper, as long as you’re creating. I had this big wordmap laid out on a page and just started drawing shapes. First it was a simple rectangle. Then it was snipping off the corners of the box to create a retro-looking shape. Here’s my first take on this website. Brace yourself, she ain’t pretty.
Yep. That is the first version I came up with in Photoshop. There’s nothing more to show, because I didn’t get further than this in that version. I hated how bland it looked, and how little colour there was. Where was the draw? What was my copywriting going to be? Certainly not that piece of crap you see above.
Back to the drawing board.
I decided that the black on grey was too heavy on the eyes, so I went the polar opposite direction and went with a yellow/white combo. (Why did I choose yellow for my brand? Firstly, it’s way less common than the typical palette of blue or green or red. I’m going to go into more detail about my logo shape and brand colours in another post, but for now let’s assume I’ve already decided that if there was one colour to be used, it was yellow). Here is that version, half-mocked up:
It was getting there, but still wasn’t quite right. Unless I’m practically in love with the design and its direction, I’ll always keep tweaking it or take it in a new direction. No matter how hard you try, you can’t polish shit.
After some feedback on Dribbble, I altered the logo a bit and tweaked it towards what it looks like today.
Hey, this is starting to look a little familiar!
The next revision is essentially what you see on the homepage today – minus the orange/red accents (it was black/yellow), it’s pretty identical. From the first revision to the final one I started to build off of was a span of about a day and a half (I didn’t sleep at all). I think it’s important that once you are “in the zone” and in the mood you are looking for in the design, it’s best not to stop until you absolutely have to. If I stop mid-inspiration, I usually lose that spark that made my brain go into hyperdrive and sometimes it will take a while to get back into that headspace.
After a few more weeks of designing each page based off of the homepage, I was able to start converting the CSS/HTML into a WordPress install to create what you see here today. What did I learn?
- Decide what kind of vibe you want the design to give off.
- Do everything you can to get into “that mood” – listen to certain music, watch related videos, look at photographs, anything that gets you inspired.
- Brainstorm words. Seriously. This sounds kind of weird, but it works. Words that describe the mood, words that you might use in the copywriting.
- Sketch. A lot. The constraints of a computer and all the distractions that go along with it are counter-productive to your ideation process.
- Put your design into pixels. Don’t be afraid to move onto another revision/direction if you create a cool element or come up with a random idea. Go with it.
I’ll revise this page as I get out of this 3 AM writing delirium, but I felt I owed everyone a peek into how this site design came to be since I have promised to do so in the past what feels like a million times. If you have any questions (at all) let me know in the comments – I read every single one.