FacingBlend.com in silverlight!

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FacingBlend’s Silverlight page is LIVE!

Click here to view

Since yesterday, I’ve had several emails asking questions regarding this release, so I thought I’d share a bit.

Most websites that I’ve seen around which had displays of Silverlight use weren’t as artistic as I thought a site could be.  Expression Blend is a very powerful tool, and like most tools, if you really play with it, you can find that you can do almost anything if you just play with it long enough and tailor things to fit what you want, but… I’m not seeing that being done!

So I wanted to create a silverlight website that really pushed hard and heavy on the “pretty” side.  I wanted it to use my favorite color, green ( no relation to the current popularity with “going green” ), but still have a little “windows vista /7” glassy watery look/ feel for the background.  The centerfocus on the site isn’t really the content, its on the background which is done entirely in XAML.

That’s right – the pretty thing that appears to be raster based, is 100% xaml.

Now, I wasn’t really going for a “portfolio” either – this is my personal website.  My play-thing over the web, so I stayed away from the typical “portfolio” feel.  I’m having fun here.  I feel like I’m playing when I’m working in Expression Blend, and I really wanted that to show in the design.  I think my absolute favorite part is a little geeky.  Even the icons are done in Xaml and I think there’s just something awesome about that.

The Toybox itself was what pulled back my timeline a bit.  What to put in there?  What to NOT put in there and how the heck do I want to organize it?

Well, I kept not having time to work on this and it sat on a back burner not  being worked on for months.  I seriously had this nearly done back in December of 08, but I got stuck working on a few other things and having a blast with my family and helping out with a logo for the company, Seovian (which you can find in my galleries here on my blog).

I then was pushed by 2 different projects that I’m working with to upgrade to Silverlight 3 and with that, I forced everything aside, brought Facing Blend in Silverlight back into the forefront and finished the entire Toybox in 3 days(in my spare time).

I still look at this stuff and have to remind myself that I actually did this, all on my own, that I’m not looking at someone else’s work.  I still can’t believe how much I’ve learned in such a short amount of time.  Maybe it’ll sink in a few years from now, but until then, I keep getting deeply involved in design work and when I come “out of it” and look at the whole picture, I am impressing even myself.  2 years ago, I wouldn’t have dreamed that I could do what I just released.  It just blows my mind.

Disorientation between Blend & Photoshop

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I’ve come to the conclusion that this will likely never go away.  The more I work in Expression Blend, the stronger the case of disorientation is when I come back to photoshop to do a quick mockup of something and I figured that there would likely be a time where I would go between the two and seeing as how I know what to do once the application is open based on its UI, that I’d recall the differences w/o issue as though it were all muscle memory.

However, the similarities of controls and manipulation are just so similar that every time I switch between the two, it takes a moment for the change to click.

For instance – shapes – aka vector objects.  Photoshop has vector objects – they’re not as easy to manipulate after they’ve been placed in a layer as they would be if I were in illustrator or blend, but they do have them in photoshop and I use them more than I think any other tool in photoshop.  It helps that I’ve lately been using photoshop to do mockups of things that will translate to Expression Blend… but there-in lies the problem.

So an example: In photoshop, I have a circle, I need place it and its not quite right.  So I scale it… but oh yeah, I need to approve the append in photoshop.  In blend, I make the change and its much more like illustrator.  It just is – its done.  Changed.

Gradients – I’ve come to very VERY much enjoy the flexibility of hand manipulating direction and well.. every characteristic of a gradient.  I’d like to toot my own horn and say that I’ve actually gotten pretty damn good at it.  In photoshop, its all raster based.  So its… seriously different.  Sure – a whole lot more can be done, but I also find limitations to the power of the rastering in photoshop.

So yeah – anyway.  I think I’ve officially determined that I will likely never get over that first 5 minutes of “oh yeah, that’s right, I’m not working in ___”

Oh – and just for the heck of it because I’ve gone a different direction, below is a screenshot of a flower recreated using gradients in blend – next to the example flower which is a photograph of a real flower.

XAML vs of an orange lillie
XAML vs of an orange lillie

Visual State Manager =/= Storyboard?

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Working on a few visual states on a Silverlight 2 page and I want my mouse to hover over an object, have it go through a visual state, then when removing the mouse, have it reverse the animation.

Well, if I’d done these as normal animated storyboards, I’d be able to easily go to my little plus-sign button and create a new one that goes in reverse.  Problem is – I’m working in silverlight and when I created this, I did it through the visual state manager.

What I can’t understand is this: Why would I be given essentially the exact same functionality which is nicely tied into a VSM but not be able to use the same features that make keyframe animating simple and easy?

When I look at my XAML, I see that its starting a storyboard.  So why not give the reverse and duplicate functionality?

Now, I get to create a new visual state, hand copy-paste the previous one in, and then tear it apart so I can reverse each state.  Visually, it looks similar, but there are a lot of different not-connected parts that are moving to make the whole that I have in the initial storyboard.


I guess what I could do is create a storyboard, copy all the xaml from my visual state into the storyboard, then tell the storyboard to reverse, and then copy that back to the new visual state manager bit where I need the reverse to happen…


Look ma'! I made Simon in Silverlight 2!

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If you’re so inclined, you should join me in doing a happy dance!

Its finally ready! 


Simon, in Silverlight 2!

I’ve had this sitting on the front and back burners for the last… few months (has it really been that long?).  Got the design to my buddy David at HackingSilverlight.net about 3 or 4 weeks ago, he gave it brains and sent it back to me a week later… but in silverlight 3.  What the heck?!

I want the world to actually get to PLAY WITH THIS!!  So I rolled it back to silverlight 2… but there was a problem or 2.  The sounds wouldn’t play, we didn’t have all of the sounds anyway, and the font wasn’t playing nice!

Ugh – and then work.  Why the heck does that thing which makes my life actually operate smoothly have to come into the foreground just when I need some time to do my little projects?!  Geez.  What are these people thinking – do they think they pay me or something to do their stuff?  Oh yeah, right.  They do.

Long story short, its DONE! 

Go!  Click on the picture – it’ll take you there.  Have fun!

Oh, and tell me what you think in a happy comment, if you please 😀

2 perspectives on animations

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On one hand, a friend of mine tells me, “Man, don’t even worry about the XAML – just design, use Blend, go crazy. Be artistic.” and on the other hand, I have a different friend who groans at the messy XAML which Blend puts out when using transition Visual state manager Double Spline Animations – he says it reminds him of the splatter which the archaic “MS Front Page” would spew out in HTML format, that there are cleaner ways of doing the same things with far fewer lines of XAML.

I’m SO there with the 2nd guy in relation to MS FrontPage and html. Me being the gal who would create something in photoshop, chop it up, and piece it back together – most of the time without looking up from the HTML, CSS – and all the Divs in between until most of everything was put together to verify that everything was behaving the way that I thought it should with my markup.

That being said – I kind of like the idea of, “Just be creative…” Man… I’d love that. To just… make it happen, and move on. I could get SO many other creations done – OR – spend so much more time on the details of the art! That’s not to say that I don’t already, but what if I had even more time? What greater level of polish could be gained with that additional time?

For all who visit who are in either/or/both worlds – do you have any opinion on this matter? What’s better? Cleaner XAML/Learning the alternative markup which blend 2 doesn’t have in its interface – or – using the VSM and the keyframe animation tools?

Is there a better side?

Anyone have an opinion? Should there be / is there a middle-ground?