Craft day: Making a new watchface

I was very disappointed when Motorola failed to announce a new Moto 360 last month — I promised myself when the first one came out that I’d wait for version two before buying one — so I decided to buy a cheap non-smart watch and see if I even like wearing them.

The South Pole map was disappointingly low-res.
The South Pole map was disappointingly low-res.

I got one on Etsy that sounded pretty neat — the watchface was a map of the South Pole, it wasn’t massive and it cost only about $15. But when it arrived, I was very disappointed with the quality of the South Pole map. It was a pretty low-res print of a map that was clearly meant to show more features.

So I figured I’d make my own. Instead of sticking with the South Pole, I went with the North Pole, because I live much closer to it and I know a lot more about it.
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It’s been a while.

I haven’t posted in a couple weeks because I have some actual design work at my actual job right now and I haven’t had much time to do other stuff.

PROOF: Here’s a map I whipped up for today’s print edition:

Sockeye Fire map

Designing a flag for Fairbanks

UPDATE: Here’s my “final” design:


Before you read this post, go watch Roman Mars’ TED talk about flag design.

The city I live in, Fairbanks, doesn’t have a city flag. So I thought, I’d take a shot at designing one as an exercise.

In case you didn’t actually watch the TED talk I linked above, here are five vexillological principles from the North American Vexillological Association (taken from a 99% Invisible blog post):

1. Keep it simple

2. Use meaningful symbolism

3. Use two to three basic colors

4. No lettering or seals of any kind.

5. Be distinctive

With those in mind, I tried to think about what is distinctive about Fairbanks that could go on a flag — and the city seal is definitely not going to be part of this design.
Fairbanks City Seal

The first thing I thought of is the winding Chena River. It flows through the center of town and is the site of many Fairbanks activities in both the summer and winter. So I figured that should be heavily incorporated.

I also thought I should include a reference to the dramatic difference between winter and summer and to two natural resources that helped build the city: gold and oil.

So here’s what I came up with:

First draft
First draft

The curve through the center represents the Chena River and the hills that border Fairbanks to the north. The white and black stars represent the gold boom and the oil boom, as well as the long summer days and the long winter nights.

I chose gold and blue because Fairbanks is the Golden Heart of Alaska, so gold had to be prominent. And I liked the image of sky blue over gold hills.

Leave a comment and let me know what you think — it’s the first time I’ve designed a flag and I would love some feedback!

EDIT: I got some great feedback on Twitter and I’ve made some improvements. Here’s version 2:

Second draft
Second draft

• Swapped black and white stars for increased contrast
• Right star no longer inverted so nobody reads into unintentional symbolism
• Darker blue — the colors now mimic the Alaska flag

Working Overtime

The Alaska Legislature is heading into the 132nd day of the 2015 session with a few tasks left to complete, including passing a budget before the government shuts down. But how can they still be in session when Alaska voters in 2006 limited the session to 90 days?

It turns out there are a lot of ways for the Legislature to keep working beyond that 90-day deadline.

The first is that the voter-approved initiative did not amend the state constitution, which still mandates a 120-day session. So the Legislature is constitutionally allowed to remain in session for those extra 30 days. They also have the ability to extend that 120-day session by 10 additional days.

After that, the Legislature and the governor are allowed to call for special sessions up to 30 days long. Sometimes, they meet for two special sessions.


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Northern Lights

CEC, whose data I’ve really been enjoying, has some cool TIFFs of nighttime lights. I reprojected and recolored them to make these two images.

Apologies to Hawaii — I had some projection issues, plus the resolution isn’t high enough to look any good (and the way it shows coastlines looks especially weird for islands).

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