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An Illustrated Retrospective

Late in 2001, when CDNOW finally succumbed to the dot com crash and unemployment was imminent, I realized that a personal web site would be a necessity if I was to find another job. Self-promotion can be a tricky thing for any designer, especially a borderline-OCD perfectionist like myself. Personal deadlines tend to be meaningless if I feel my work is not up to snuff, and I am, without question, my own worst critic and client.

In those days, my design process was less than optimal, foregoing preliminary structural planning and sketches in favor of just diving right into layout on the computer. As a result, I had a habit of painting myself into corners, and abandoned comps began piling up fast and thick, poignantly emphasizing the irony that my lazy process actually caused me a lot more work.

What follow are some examples of what this site used to be, as well as what it might have been. I don’t do this without humility, even though some of the stuff I could have shown is considerably more cringe-worthy.

Version 1, Comp 4 (December 2001)

Version 1, Comp 4 Screenshot

The first version of this site was built entirely in Flash, ignoring the concomitant usability issues in favor of, like, totally bitchin’ animated transitions! Actually, I wanted to do more Flash work, and initially, the site’s sole audience was design studios with employment opportunities, so this really wasn’t a terrible idea at the time. But this particular layout quickly became problematic, chiefly because of the illegible title (that gold and orange blob says “Rob Weychert Dot Com”), set in a display face of my own design, inspired by (the apparently inimitable) Chris Ware. The title became even more illegible when relegated to a low-contrast background image with content sitting on top of it.

The portfolio section for this version was completely programmed in Flash before I abandoned the layout.

Version 1, Comp 7 (January 2002)

Version 1, Comp 7 Screenshot

More Chris Ware worship, this time focusing on his exquisite combination of Art Nouveau and Russian Constructivist styles. This one was thrown on the pile because I was dissatisfied with my attempts at homegrown ornamentation. I still really like this color scheme.

Version 1, Comp 9 (March 2002: Final Version)

Version 1, Comp 9 Screenshot

The version that finally made it online salvaged the grid structure and Constructivist typeface I developed for Comp 7, but stripped away the bright colors and ornamentation, favoring a stark, minimalist layout. All textual content (News, About, Resumé) appeared in the box on the left, and portfolio items and other creative projects appeared on the right.

Version 2, Comp 1 (July 2002: Final Version)

Version 2, Comp 1 Screenshot

As my Blogger-powered, K10K-style news box quickly turned into an actual blog, I realized that an HTML-based solution for the site would make a lot more sense. Version 2 was designed and developed in about three weeks, and replaced its three-month-old predecessor in July 2002. I’m not sure how this one happened so quickly, considering the agonizing process behind most of its siblings, but I liked its bold colors and propagandistic attitude.

However, as unemployment gave way to lethargy, personal projects were few and far between, and creating a unique, massive image to promote each one on the left side of the home page demanded more effort than I was willing to put forth. In addition, the text column on the right would stretch pretty far down on archive pages, making for an unbalanced layout and a reading experience that required a lot of scrolling.

Version 3, Comp 1 (October 2002)

Version 3, Comp 1 Screenshot

By far my favorite of the discarded comps, I think I actually like this design better than any of the live versions that preceded Version 4. Its grid is solid and hints at the newspaper look that would come later. Its limited color scheme reflects one of my greatest passions in the print world: opaque white and black ink on brown paper or cardboard. And the mug shot in the top left corner of the page was an animated GIF that would turn to glare at you every two minutes or so.

I don’t quite remember why this one got tossed. I think it was created at a time when I was most fickle about my own work, and I got tired of looking at it. Revisiting it now, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was eventually refined and reborn in some other form…

Version 3, Comp 6 (July 2003: Final Version)

Version 3, Comp 6 Screenshot

This infamous “Lite” version, a restrained Swiss layout, was thrown together in a matter of hours as a stopgap measure to make Version 2 a part of the past. Not intended to be online for more than a couple of months, it reduced the site to a blog, with a handful of links to recent projects and affiliated sites. The subhead copy resonated with foolish optimism, its announcement of the new design’s arrival date changing numerous times before finally settling on “sometime before we’re all dead.” Naturally, this, the only version of the site that was designed to be truly temporary, was the one that lasted the longest. It survived a total of twenty-six months before finally being replaced in late March 2005 by the fully-featured, standards-compliant Version 4, current as of this post’s date.