is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
Wow, the response to A Brief Message so far has been terrific. Thanks to everyone who posted comments on the site, on last night’s post, or who wrote in to me with your support — and to everyone who read the site, too! My partner-in-crime Liz Danzico and I worked long and hard to make this happen, and the encouragement has been deeply gratifying.
I just wanted to take the time to write a few additional notes about the site to clarify some points, and also to hash out some technical details.
Fast, Cheap and Under Control
Framework? We don’t need no stinkin’ framework!
Actually, we’re kind of using a framework, even if we’re not calling it that. It’s “The Subtraction.com Framework,” so to speak. That’s right, as many of you pointed out, A Brief Message bears a very strong resemblance to Subtraction.com — mostly because it’s largely the very same code base.
The original idea behind the site was to build something small, and to build it quickly. Rather than start everything over from scratch, I re-used as much as I could from Subtraction.com; the same CSS, the same template code, even the very same grid structure.
It’s not a proper framework in the way that the Blueprint CSS framework is. But I’ve been using it so long, and I’m so familiar with it, that developing with it was pretty fast for me. Besides, with all modesty aside, I think the end product looks pretty nice.
The Move to Movable Type
A Brief Message is being run off my creaky installation of Movable Type 3.33 on my creaky, shared Dreamhost plan. This explains the interminably slow comment processing times (a problem here on Subtraction.com, too). Sorry about that folks. I am working on trying to get someone with considerably more knowledge in this area to help me fix this.
We had originally intended to launch on a brand new server over at Media Temple using Movable Type 4. But we didn’t plan it properly, so the move didn’t happen. Plus, there are some quirky new things about Movable Type 4 that made getting up and running on it immediately a greater challenge than I had anticipated — I would have had to have rebuilt the template code that powers the comments feature almost entirely, which is not something I wanted to do.
Still, after spending a good deal of time in version 4, I have to say that I like it. Which is a surprising turn of events given where I thought the product stood a year ago. This newest version is really nice, and once the kinks get worked out, I will likely upgrade A Brief Message and probably Subtraction.com.
Yes, we’re using Scalable Inman Flash Replacement to render those lovely (to my eyes) headlines and display text in Apex Serif. The latest version is a big improvement over previous versions I’ve used… but it’s still a little bit like doing needlepoint whilst wearing mittens. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for it, because its authors have worked very hard to continue to improve faithfully. Plus, let’s face it, A Brief Message wouldn’t have been possible in its current form without sIFR. That doesn’t stop me from wishing we lived in a more perfect universe where online typography wasn’t so technically convoluted, though…
A Brief Message was incredibly fortunate enough to have early encouragement and commitment from the esteemed Jim Coudal. He’s just been great. One of the comments I’ve gotten a lot is how impressed people are that we had ads from The Deck — the very classy and growing advertising network that Jim runs — on our site right out of the gate. We really owe him a debt of gratitude… very often advertisements are a kind of blight on content, but in a subtle way, I think ads from The Deck actually helped legitimize our debut.
We’ll be publishing every week — unless we publish more. In these early weeks, to help build and sustain momentum, we’re going to try to publish more often. This week it looks like we’re going to pull it off. Tune in on Thursday (hopefully) for a really wonderful Message from Debbie Millman, illustrated by Felix Sockwell. I know I’m the founder of A Brief Message and all, but to me, that’s a bill worth lining up for.+