I’m Chanpory, and this is my site on how to live and work better as a designer.

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For more, check out the archives.

I’m fed up with Photoshop and its one billion rarely-used features.

How about a simple photo-editor that’s quick, easy, and doesn’t cost a thousand dollars. Fortunately, there’re tons of web-based photos editors popping up. Most are crap, but some are promising. Check out these free web-based Photoshop alternatives:

1. Picnik


Arguably, Picnik is the most popular web-based photo editor. Why? Because it’s now integrated with Flickr.

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From Erik

When designing anything to accomodate names”such as a business card, an address book, or a project management app”don’t forget about Wolfgang Wienerschnitzelhaus.


Because he’s a got really really long name.

And he won’t be the only one.

So while everyone else cozies up to the boring John Does of this world, make sure you’re best friends with the intriguingly complicated, Wolfgang Wienerschnitzelhaus

Photo by thegloaming

Kyle Meyer of Astheria has an excellent post on why online portfolios just plain suck. He must be reading my mind, because I was just about to write about my intense hatred for online portfolios. Thankfully, Kyle’s saved me the trouble.

He’s combed 200 online portfolios to find these 7 common mistakes:

  1. Bad navigation
  2. Zoomed and cropped thumbnails
  3. “Mystery meat” squares
  4. No phone number
  5. No email
  6. No contact info of any kind
  7. Background music

Amen, brother. I’d also add three more to Kyle’s list:

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Sleep Like A Baby

I've been up to the wee hours designing, coding, and writing. The result? Two weeks of terrible, awful sleep. So if you're in the same boat, this week's roundup for you. Here's 10 tips to help you sleep like a baby:

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I was just browsing iTunes for poignant Morrissey covers when I discovered nearly a thousand free language courses on iTunes. 926 courses to be exact. Holy Moleskine, Batman!

The extensive library of courses span over 35 languages, from Arabic to Yiddish. Each course comes as a convenient podcast which you can subscribe and put on your iPod or iPhone.

To get the entire list of language learning podcasts, hit the browse button on the lower-right corner of your iTunes window–it’s the icon that looks like an eye. Then browse to the Podcasts/Education/Language Courses directory.

Or you can simply do a search for the language you’re interested in.

Here’s a sample list of available languages (with links to iTunes):

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For everyone who’s been picked last for kickball and first for lab, your time has come. I just went to my first Maker Faire in San Mateo last Saturday and was totally blown away. I’m declaring it the most exciting event for geeks in the world.

The vast array of geekerie included everything from laser harps to tesla coils to computer-driven embroidery to finger puppets to robots that fight to the death. There were tons of hands-on workshops for all ages and, of course, the usual high-calorie foods. I even got a sick eating a banana split funnel cake.

All this took place in 10 expo areas, each with it’s own theme. It’s impossible to see everything, because you could spend all day in just one area.

If you missed this last weekend’s Maker Faire, check out the next one in Austin, Texas on Oct 18th and 19th.

I’m still exhausted, and since pictures are worth a thousand words, here are some photos:

Maker Faire 2008

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This week’s roundup is about screenshots, screenshots, and screenshots:

6 Screenshot Utilities You Should Know About
“I use different screen capture utilities depending on the type of screen I’m trying to grab. Some are great for a quick and dirty capture of a page I want to send someone. Others are good for annotating an interface I want to post to a web page. And still others are best for archival screen capture or for interfaces with video.”

Mac OS X Screenshot Secrets
“Since 2003, though, new developments have made capturing the Mac screen easier and more flexible. In this article, I’ll look at several free programs that will pump up any screenshooter’s utility belt. I’ll also share a hack I developed for capturing OS X windows with custom shadows.”

“Paparazzi! is a small utility for Mac OS X that makes screenshots of webpages.”

“Browsershots makes screenshots of your web design in different browsers. It is a free open-source online service created by Johann C. Rocholl. When you submit your web address, it will be added to the job queue. A number of distributed computers will open your website in their browser. Then they will make screenshots and upload them to the central server here.”

“IE NetRenderer allows you to check how a website is rendered by Internet Explorer 7, 6 or 5.5, as seen from a high speed datacenter located in Germany. Just type in a URL in the field above and try it out – it’s free!”

Screen Capture Utilities for Windows
“Windows tools and utilities for making screen shots and capturing portions of the desktop and application windows. Most of these screen capture tools offer extended features beyond the standard print screen key capture built in to Windows and many include image editing and batch processing tools for modifying the screen shots after they have been taken.”

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Some of us in the office are fed up with beautiful, distracting desktop backgrounds. So we’ve changed them to a medium grey:

The solid grey reduces distractions and creates a nice neutral backdrop for design work. But it’s boring. So boring, it makes you want to spend less time mesmerized in front of the computer. That’s a good thing.

For extra geekerie, check out my previous desktop background hack.


Hey everyone, just a quick note: 9rules has invited me to join their community of blogs. So as of today, LifeClever is now an official member of the 9rules network. I’m honored to be in the company of fantabulous blogs including ones I’ve been following regularly:

Don’t forget, to check out all the other 9rules members.

iPhone Commercial RingtoneI love the ringtone at the end of every iPhone television ad. It’s simple, sweet, and unassuming. But strangely, it’s doesn’t come installed on the iPhone. You can’t even buy it from the iTunes Music Store. Fortunately, you can download it here for free:

To install, just download it. Then, use iTunes to put it on your iPhone.

The original source file actually comes with iLife, which ships with all new Macs. You can find it on your computer at this path:

  • /Library/Audio/Apple Loops/Apple/iLife Sound Effects/Work – Home/Cell Phone Ringing.aif

Special thanks goes to Sean for converting the source file into an iPhone ringtone for me.


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When I review a designer’s portfolio, I love to ask: “Which project is your least favorite?”

The answer I loathe to hear is: “Oh, they’re all my favorites and I love them all!”

That’s when my eyes roll.

The answer’s polite. It’s inoffensive. It’s safe. But it’s also the lamest response you can give. I know, you don’t want to trash your work. But saying you love every piece equally is simply a lie.

In any body of work, you’ll always prefer some pieces over others. When was the last time you loved every song equally on an album? And how many of you list the rainbow as your favorite color? Look at it this way. If they’re all your favorites, then none of them are.

I ask designers to explain their least favorite project, because it shows three things:

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Helpful hacks for becoming a Terminal guru
Ben shows you how to get your Mac geek on with Visor, the other app from Blacktree–the folks that make Quicksilver.

Why I love working with family people
“The stereotypical startup dream hire is a 20-something with as little life as possible outside of computers…I should know. I used to be that gullible and even take an odd pride in being up to the job. But it didn’t take long to catch on to the idea that packing a room full of these people was merely a crutch…–

How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off
“When your alarm wakes you up in the morning, is it hard for you to get up right away? Do you find yourself hitting the snooze button and going right back to sleep?”

The window switcher that’s actually useful
“Have you ever wanted to switch back and forth between windows that don’t belong to the same application? If so, Witch is for you. Witch lets you access all of your windows by pressing a shortcut and choosing from a clearly arranged list of window titles.”

The Non-Designer's Design Book

If you’re aching to learn design skills but don’t have the time–or the confidence–then check out Robin William’s The Non-Designer’s Design Book.

The approachable, unassuming, and humorous book explains basic design principles in a way that anyone can grasp–from grandmas in Scranton to art directors in New York City.

So what are these basic design principles? It’s C-R-A-P (Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity). Here’s how Robin explains them in her own words:

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Mark Roudebush at Method recently sent me two ultra-clever Gmail tricks for tracing and preventing spam. Here’s what he wrote:

1. The Plus Hack

You can create alias emails for things like shopping sites, places you know will spam you, or anything you want to track to see who they are sharing your email with. To do this, simply put a “+” after your account name and add words.

For example, I could do “mrmarkymark+onlinepurchases@gmail” or “mrmarkymark+spam@gmail.com”. All of these will come into my inbox, but they can easily be filtered to a folder, to spam or even to the trash.

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Voila! A brand new design for LifeClever is now up. I’ve been toiling on this for the past few months, so I’m very excited to share it with you.

Why just a face lift? I had hoped to do more by migrating to Drupal and adding some cool new features. For example, forums. Unfortunately, Drupal’s way complicated, and I’ve had no luck finding an available Drupal developer who will answer my emails.

If you know an expert developer who can help me move this design to Drupal, please let me know. Otherwise I’ll try tackle it myself, but who knows how long that’ll take. ;-)

Since design doesn’t happen in a vacuum, I’d like to give shout-outs to the folks who’ve helped inspire this design. In no particular order, they are:

As usual, everything on this site is a work in progress, but I hope you enjoy.