Interview With Crazleaf Design Blog

By Toon Creffield →
As a follow up to my post about the Estetica Blog Interviews, here is the full interview with the Crazyleaf Design Blog.

Crazyleaf Design Blog

1. I've been a fan of your blog for some time now and I would like to know a little about how it started, what got you blogging, can you remember your first post and when it was?

First of all thank you for your appreciation. I first started blogging in 2006 as a mean of offering design news for people visiting my porfolio website. Using Wordpress for this was a lot easier than editing HTML files every week to post news. I remember my first post was about the launch of Quark Interactive Designer, an alternative to Flash. Soon after (in 2 months time) CrazyLeaf Design was born. By that time I was captivated with blogging and the whole blogosphere thing, so I continued in December 2006 my blogging experience with CrazyLeaf Design Blog. At first I wanted to offer the full package, lifestyle, comedy, travel & other general topics besides web development resources. I soon realized this isn't going to work, because it's too mixed up, so I started to focus on web design and development articles, although I do post software / hardware / lifestyle posts from time to time.

2. What sort of blog posts seem to boost the popularity of the Crazyleaf blog?

Generally list articles and posts regarding innovative technologies seem to be really appreciated. My best post in terms of traffic was about a cool new (at that time) photo technology from Microsoft, called Photosynth. It had about 200.000 page views until now. Also articles including resource lists seem to be loved by readers. For example one of my recent articles regarding a list of cool and innovative business card designs had about 30K page views in the first 10 days since it was published.

3. You are also the owner of the Crazyleaf Design Forum, could you share with us some of your experiences of starting up and running a design forum?

When I first started designing, about 8 years ago, with Photoshop 5 and Dreamweaver 3 there weren't that many tutorials, and places where you could learn. So whenever I didn't knew to do something I used to start calling and emailing experienced designers and programmers I knew, for advice. Much to my surprise not many of them were eager to help me. So, I started to learn for myself so I wouldn't have to ask for advice from people who didn't really wanted to help. That's why I started the CrazyLeaf Design Forum ... to help in any way that I can people who are less experienced as I am and need help with something. I choose YaBB as my forum platform, simply because it seemed different than other forums, configured it and launched it. I will never forget the beginnings of the forum. I remember you were my first member. Still grateful for that, you know :) . It grew a bit and I realized that I wanted more than YaBB could offer, so I wanted to go with vBulletin, but my associate was really impressed with phpBB3. We discussed it and decided to go with phpBB3. It was a bold decision giving up on an established forum to start a new one, but we don't regret it for a minute. Running and promoting the forum is really hard work, and lately we've been neglecting it a bit because of the other projects we've been starting.

4. You design your sites to very strict XHTML and current web standards, there is an argument that using CSS for layouts has limited designers and alot of sites are starting to look the same, what are your feelings about this?

I've recently started a CSS web gallery website, as a new addition to the CLD Group and I studied quite a few pure CSS websites. I found a great variety of website designs so I don't think this limits designers in any way. The limitation comes from the fact that most designers have started to design in certain trends. We all know about the "web 2.0" trend in design, and the "glossy" revolution. What most don't realize is that Web 2.0 doesn't impose any rules in design, like glossy, reflective logos, or bright, contrasting colours. Web 2.0 is about Wikipedia, and Flickr, and Google Adsense, and blogging, and syndication, and Digg, it's about social networking and information sharing and interaction between users. It's not about new graphic concepts or design bling-bling if you like. That's what's really limiting creativity these days. That's why sites are beginning to look similar, because many misunderstood the web 2.0 concept.

5. I know you are an active member of sites like Digg, what other social bookmarking tools do you use and which do you prefer over others?

I am using lots of social bookmarking websites. I would like to mention first of all, Graphic Design Links as it feels a lot more personal to me than other similar websites. Other social bookmarking sites I use are Design Float, StumbleUpon, Digg, del.ico.us, Magnolia, Reddit, zaBox News, Furl, Mixx, Diigo, Spurl, Propeller, Ximmy, Fark & a few others. As I mentioned my favorite is Graphic Design Links, because of its niche oriented content, making it really easy to find great design content. Besides Graphic Design Links my favorite website of this kind is StumbleUpon, judging purely by traffic reasons. StumbleUpon gave CrazyLeaf Design blog about 300.000 pageviews until now.

6. You are a member of the zaBox business network, have you found sites like this are good for expanding you business contacts and do you use any similar sites?

Actually I am one of the 4 owners of zaBox Business Network. It's been in beta testing for about 6 months now. When it comes out it will be a platform for promoting members' businesses and establishing business contacts between users. I can't say I use business networks for establishing business contacts. I recently created a profile on LinkedIn at the recommendation of my associate. I have to say I was impressed. It's quite a good website for expanding your business contacts.

7. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take 3 fonts with you (you heard me correctly 3 fonts) which fonts would you have and why?

That's a really interesting question. It's pretty hard to narrow to just 3. I would want to have Helvetica, Century Gothic and Myriad Pro.

8. The crazyleaf brand is a well known on the internet, you use it in various colors to differentiate the different sections of web network, can you tell us a little bit about how you designed it? Choice of font? Concept and Shape etc?

Well CrazyLeaf Design started actually at a game of pool, between me and my associate. That's when we decided to create a web development company. There's a good principle in architecture which says that a great design can be sketched in 3 lines. So we took a paper napkin, asked the bartender for a pen, and drew a shape with 3 lines. It looked like a leaf. We liked the idea and that's when we decided the name and identity should relate to "leaf". After a 2 day brainstorming session the name was there ... CrazyLeaf Design. It was fresh, original, could be differentiated easily, we loved it and still do. We choose the font after trying about 50 others. We just liked the way it looked out of all the other versions. We recently started a brand redesign. The new logo concept started by the same principle : less is more. I sketched it on paper, scanned it, and got it into Photoshop. Played around a bit with the gradient colors, added a bit of Inner Glow and choose a font I liked. The new logo is more bold, fresher. We can use it, as you mentioned in a variety of colours, from red-pink on the blog to green-blue on the web gallery. The font we're using now is SF New Republika. We choose it because it's one of my favorite typefaces.


9. Away from the computer and business what sorts of things do you like to in your spare time?

I enjoy sports a lot. I play regularly soccer, tennis, ping-pong, snooker and pool. Apart from sports I like to travel, see different places, historical places in particular. I also enjoy spending time with my friends, just hanging out, or having a brew at a sports pub, watching a soccer game or going on weekends in a mountain resort.

10. As you have such a wide range of sites from the blog to your own directory I wanted to leave the last answer as a chance for you to tell the readers about the entire network you are owner of?

The entire network I own ... Well, I own CLD Group, which features our portfolio website, a design Blog with an average of 40k uniques / month, a web and graphic design forum based on phpBB3 that's beginning to pick up, a web directory with about 27.000 listed websites and the new additions : a web gallery based on a modified Wordpress theme and a web development and programming tutorials website.

Apart from CLD Group I own zaBox Network, which is a business network for promoting members' websites. We started it because we know how hard it is to promote a website. The zaBox Network includes : the main website which is basicaly structured as a social network with events, classifieds, entertainment and such; another quite successful directory (15k listed websites in 5 months), a Digg-style website for promoting our members' news, an online games website for entertainment, a website based on Gpix for promoting our members' websites with 16x16px icons with links, and a video website with interesting videos from popular video-sharing websites, also for entertainment.
Apart from that we run a localized (not in english) design blog I mentioned earlier and a localized portfolio website.
To these we'll add in the very near future a motorcycle enthusiasts social network and a car sharing service.

The Crazyleaf blog also interviewed the Creative Curio Blog read the great interview here and I will keep you updated with all the other interviews that are taking place.
Toon Creffield

Graphic and Digital Designer from Sheffield England and owner of the Estetica Design Forum.