When it comes to creativity and just making things happen, I’m a bit of a ‘night owl’. That doesn’t mean growing feathers, hooting like an idiot and silently divebombing the local drunkards. But it does explain why we have an owl for the blog‘s mascot. What I really mean is that some of my best ideas, thoughts and plans come to me in the dead of night, when everything is quiet and I’ve got me a space to think.
It was exactly such a night only yesterday that an idea that had brewed around in my mind finally took a concrete form. For a while I have mulled over creating another header for the Half-Eaten Mind, especially once I had confirmed that the Mystique theme that HEM uses could support multiple headers. Now don’t get me wrong, the old header with the dawn sky and tower blocks is good as gold. That image and its reincarnations have been there right from the blog’s start and there is no question of ever letting that go. But now and then I’d like to give the blog a small tweak. Try out new things and move the furniture around a bit.
So last night, I had one of my brainwaves after finding I had a lot of spare time suddenly available on a Friday night, so began sifting through the Images of the Internet looking for the perfect ingredients for that perfect header. As the visual idea of my new project churned around and ran circles in my mind like a ferret on LSD, I was chucking stuff into piZap, the photo-editing software (comes highly recommended by our Woodsy the owl) and then after about thirty minutes….my mind (with loyal assistance from my laptop) gave birth to this….
My theme for this header is London, by the way. To give you an understanding of how this design came about, let’s take each of the individual parts in turn and I’ll explain why I used them.
BACKGROUND IMAGE (THE BRIDGE):
The Half-Eaten Mind is based in London, so in keeping with this, I wanted to use an image that is quintessentially all London, but one that both Londoners and people from beyond the M25 motorway would both understand and relate to. I wanted something that would be attractive and bold, yet not liable to get me slammed down with a copyright infringement notice. I found the image I needed on a free wallpapers site. It depicts the Tower Bridge, one of London’s most iconic bridges, a formidable landmark spanning the great river Thames. The bridge looks especially captivating at dusk and night, lit up with floodlights that accentuate the masonry of the structure’s supports. Here the stony hues of the bridge and its yellowish lighting makes a strong, but not overwhelming, contrast with the sky above. Though often a grey concrete jungle when it feels temperamental, London has the ability to really impress with its crown jewels of amazing architecture, where medieval and Victorian rub shoulders with the latest skyscraper project by the Foster Brothers or Zawa Hadid.
The ideal image setting for the Mystique template used in this blog is 940 x 200 pixels. I used a site named picresize, which calls itself the ‘Internet’s best picture resizing tool’ to achieve this. I just uploaded the picture, entered the dimensions, and once the preview was good, downloaded it again before exporting it to the Flash editor in piZap. I did make one minor miscalculation though. I had set the Tower Bridge picture at a length of 960 pixels, 20 pixels overboard. That meant when the final header was done and I uploaded it to the WordPress customiser, I had to crop it a bit, but thankfully without any detriment to the design.
THE BLOG ROAD SIGN:
Again fitting in with the London theme, I decided against using the text normally supplied with piZap and opted to create a logo for the blog which used something that could be customised and look cool. I decided to base the logo on a road or street sign, but not something clichéd. I first thought about motorway signs, but could not find a suitable site to make them on. I changed my focus to road name signs, of which London has plenty, with each borough using its own format/style. During my Google research, I stumbled across this site ‘MyFunStudio‘ by Marijn Kampf. MyFunStudio comes with a special custom ‘London Street Sign’ maker where you can enter your own details and choose font and border colours and create your own take on the iconic central London road nameplate. The style that the customiser uses is the standard used by the city of Westminster and other parts of central London. These street signs, though relatively minimalist in design, have transcended their original purpose and have become synonymous with olde London Towne for many a visitor. Indeed many of the postcard sellers there market cards that simply feature the road sign, usually of a famous throughfare like Oxford Street or Pall Mall.
Using the site’s pre-existing template, I ditched the road name in favour of my blog’s name. The real-life signs carry a set of numbers and letters which are the postal district where the sign is located. The bottom of each sign also displays the issuing authority, the city of Westminster. I changed all that to make the logo geographically relevant to me. So WC2 became E13, the postal district I reside in, and “CITY OF WESTMINSTER” was transformed into “LONDON BOROUGH OF NEWHAM” the borough (local government urban district) where I live. By the way, the Newham road signs look nothing like the sign above. They also show the postal district and use a similar colour scheme, but feature the Newham borough coat of arms on the left-hand side.
THE FLAG ICONS:
They’re a tad on the small side, but if you look to the right of the header, you’ll see three small flags, equally spaced apart. They are in turn, the Union Flag (Union Jack), the banner of the United Kingdom; then in the middle the flag of Mauritius; and lastly the St. George’s flag that represents England in particular. The Union Flag is of course a nod to both my and my blog’s nationality. Please note though that HEM does have an international focus in news stories and a wide-ranging readership from across the globe, so this isn’t an expression of any nationalistic fervour. The Mauritian flag is a homage to my mother’s country of birth and an important part of my personal cultural identity. The English flag was also chosen for similar reasons – as a marker of both personal and a greater regional identity personally, and as a small acknowledgement of respect for the country of my birth. I was in fact born in the Greater London area (the city itself plus suburbs and annexed bits of surrounding counties).
The new header will run concurrently with the old one. When using the site, you will find that if you click on another page or article that the headers change. A third header with a solely news-related theme is in the pipeline, and may be available as early as next week, time permitting.
THE TWEET THAT DECLARED IT ALL:
I would like to dedicate this article to my brother Azzy, who turns 22 today. A very happy birthday, ‘Hitman’ and wishing you all the best on this special occasion.