SMICK.NET | Website of Mike Smick Graphics and Web Developer

Sketching Fashionable

Yet another terrific gem from over at the Internet archives (

Check out “Costume Design and Illustration” from 1918. Like many others of the fantastic collection of public domain texts, you can read online or download in all possible formats.

I also just discovered tonight that the online reader app works really well on the iPad.


March 8, 2013 at 1:38 am | books, design, general, graphics, learning | No comment

Books for gaining superpowers

This kind of “hivemind” posting happens regularly on sites like metafilter and reddit, but this one worked because the request was so poignant.  What books have you read that gave you superpowers? Instead of people posting their favorites, they really thought about ones that changed them profoundly in ways they were even surprised by. I wanted to share the list.

And a lot more at Ask Metafilter!

I also wanted to share the best 2012 books from Vice and BrainPickings.


December 30, 2012 at 10:28 am | books, inspiration, learning | No comment

Recommended Books October 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and overall self improvement. I ran across an article the other day that mentioned a few books that can really help a programmer in that regard. But none of the books mentioned really needed to be confined to programming. Since I’ve read these  I felt like I could share some favorites.

How to Win Friends and Influence People

It’s a book about being a good person, caring about people so they care about you and knowing when to speak your mind and when it won’t matter one bit. It’s intuitive but a good read. It’s an old book so I’d be VERY surprised if you haven’t heard of it.  I’ve always found it pretty easy to make friends because I am interested in people.  So this book is an arrangement of ideas that I think people can benefit a lot from.

Contemplating Reality – A Practitioner’s Guide to the View in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

This book is about self-awareness and meditation. Normally I’m turned off by a lot of “old wisdom” that is a nice way of saying bunk. But a lot of the knowledge of Buddhism and Tibet is I think sadly a lost treasure. If nothing else, this and other books like it I hope will convince people that meditation is worth their time. Not in some strange pretentious pseudo-spiritual way but really grounded in the reality of the hyper-present moment. Because our brains aren’t perfect, we are subject to what seems to be randomness, uncertainty, often negative self-talk.  What if there were a way to quiet and control your mind so you could feel a little more stable as you navigate everything in your world.  Turns out there is, but people in the west haven’t really had a history with it to even have it in their tool kit.

Keys to Drawing  or alternatively Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

It’s really important to learn to draw in my opinion. I use the computer so often sometimes my dexterity with my hands holding  a pencil suffers to the extent where I realize something might be going wrong with me. I encourage everyone to draw and learn to see things flat in your mind, to translate colors and shades into a 2D image.

The Design of Everyday Things

Start thinking about the process of how man-made things in our world are actually made. In some sense, it’s easy to construct something that is simple and functional, but not always. And competing interests in things like electronics makes it all the more difficult to retain something comfortable, usable, understandable and memorable.

Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty

Long ago, I saw networking as this contrived thing where you are pretending and everyone is trying to sell to you while you want to sell back to them. It seems so disingenuous. But I learned over time that humans need a few things that networking sort of solves. Humans occasionally need something to do outside the routine. So instead of the normal work days, mix it up once a month attending an event where new people are expected to be. And of course networking takes out beyond your small pool of friends and neighbors so you can discover opportunities that new people need you and you them. That’s not contrived at all. And if you don’t like the whole suit and tie thing, don’t worry you can dress however you want when you control the events that you go to. Most people would rather be themselves and would very much like to meet a real you.  Because it’s not so much of what people can offer each other, it’s about knowing what’s out there from different people who do different things from you.

October 22, 2012 at 12:01 pm | books, friends, learning | No comment

A clever visual mystery for a Facebook promotion

WOWIO books is an online ebook marketplace.  I stumbled across their site today as one often does in this world. What I encountered was so simple and clever it has to be shared.

One of their home feature banners offers a free Ebook, but you don’t know what it is, just that it’s a graphic novel. Of course you want to click to find out, they grab you with the mystery and the FREE, which is a real whammy.

Next you are transported to their facebook page. Actually they tell you this will happen, but you didn’t read that because you were too busy imagining the free awesomeness of a mystery revealed.

Then very clear instructions. You know you want the ebook, just press Like, as in become a Facebook fan.

Then a nice satisfying landing page to download the ebook. All within the WOWIO Facebook page in a customer “Offer” tab.

Fun, clever and a great use of visuals for a simple promotion.  The power of ebooks is that they are both flexible and attractive like that. They serve as a great free gift, because they have an emotional value to them. I feel bad ruining the mystery of this offer, but it’s worth it to point out what you can do with just a few images.

Nice job WOWIO. I’m your newest Facebook fan or “Likeee” or whatever you might call it.

October 25, 2010 at 9:43 pm | books, games, graphics, inspiration, interesting, media, publishing, webdev | 1 comment

Great little bookstore

I’m giving a little promotional shout-out to a cute little store in Webster Groves, St. Louis.  If you are in the neighborhood, stop into Pudd’nhead Bookstore.  The reasons I appreciate this store and want to give the owner Nikki compliments is because they are doing a great job picking out a very enthralling collection for retail.  It makes browsing fun, and where many small book stores bore me, she seems to be able to sync with people’s characters. Also she’s very excited about the best books and hopes others will get the enjoyment too. That’s love.  These days you can get almost anything online, so it’s important that when a local store inventory is smaller that a store can still put a smile on your face. The books really need to grab you.  And you can’t just stock the popular books that are at the grocery store, you have to take risks.

Pudd'nhead books logo

Noteworthy items on the shelf, The Anarchist’s Cookbook, which probably frightens off some, but it reminds me that it takes strength to not censor yourself and face danger and reality head on. Books can be powerful and dangerous and still we shouldn’t hide knowledge from people even when it seems like a book has little redeeming value. A design book by Ellen Lupton was another gem. My favorite by far was the entire section called “Economic Meltdown.” That is class my friends.

Visit Pudd’nhead Books on the web and I hope you can appreciate them as much as I did. Sometimes places are best when you discover them yourself.  So forget I said anything and next time you’re in Webster, go where the wind takes you. Maybe get a coffee there while you’re at it.

December 11, 2008 at 3:45 am | books, interesting, publishing | 1 comment

Called into a Radio Station – NPR Walt Bodine Show

Overly thrilled with the sound of my own voice, I wanted to share my call in to the KC local NPR station  The Walt Bodine show featured a few experts the other day called the “Book Doctors” who talked about favorite fiction.  I decided I wanted to rant on the book I was reading at the time.  My main thought while on hold, “Ok, Mike when you get on the radio, don’t bore them, take too long or sound like a wacko.”

Things turned out just fine.  I really like NPR, which I never would have imagined 10 years ago.  I like how you can listen to it and it differs so much from most radio stations. Say what you want about XM, Sirius satellite radio, I still think it’s important to be surprised by subjects too. Anyway, if you want to have a listen, I just clipped my two-minute part in .mp3 audio below.

The books they recommended to me were:
Galatea 2.2: A Novel (Paperback)
Ratner’s Star

If you like books, you can listen to the whole show here online at the Walt Bodine Archives

March 26, 2008 at 6:17 pm | books | No comment

Here’s how you write an online book

Here’s how online books usually go. A book is published online, or happens to be in the Public Domain and resides as a text file (.txt) or a collection of HTML files loosely coupled with a table of contents. If you are me, you find the book, but are immediately depressed because of the dreadful way the page is built, the annoyance of reading on a computer monitor, or somehow the book design is offensive to your tastes.

Most books published do NOT have an online counterpart. It is believed that doing so will hurt sales. Plus it’s doubling effort if you do it incorrectly. Both of these reasons may be true for certain books and bad methods. But you still will find some writers and publishers that have made the jump and offered both. Some even offer the online version for free and still make plenty of cash for the printed version. Books are tactile, they are fun to own.

Just today, I encountered a book that in my opinion is the best possible form of online release. This book is about a website development framework called Django. But you know what, that’s not important. What’s important is the way their online book has been made.

Django book online

Here’s where they got it so so right:

  1. The web address was made just for the book.
  2. It’s designed with a darkened background and a content reading area that looks like a page.
  3. Released under a free license that allows copying. I can share it, I will brag about it, everybody wins
  4. Simple ‘About’ page, explains the reasoning, who wrote it, why it matters etc. I like this better than a regular book because after reading hundreds of “Acknowledgement” pages I’m ready to skip them. (side note, if you ever write your own book, do us a favor and dump the “acknowledgements” to the back of the book, unless it’s just a one line ‘For Tracey’ or something.) I’ll mention their Eratta page too, which identifies corrections from the dead tree version.
  5. Each chapter points to a single HTML page. You don’t enter a chapter and then have to jump through 20 sub pages. It gets to be overwhelming having subpages in online books because you’re not able to grasp the whole, like you can a paper copy. You’re worried how long it will take to get through this thing and how you’ll remember where you left off.
  6. The best comments feature ever conceived by man or machine. There is a thin sidebar next to the content area. When you hover over it, there are bubble popups that will either let you leave a contextual comment yourself, OR read comments from others. A reader can express a clarification which will help a later book version, or maybe offer a related example to go with the text. These would be great to use while the book was in earlier writing stages to get opinions and make edits. Comments in blogs are one thing, but if they can line up with the text?! Bitchin dude.
  7. Simple “Buy” link at the top. Shows you how to buy the book on Amazon, because they know some of us will get fed up with the screen version. We want the printed book to mark up, to fold over, to give away to somebody. Some of us even do it to support people financially we appreciate. So take THAT economists!
  8. Very tasteful and appropriate content layout. They have many code examples in this book. In a lovely way, they share them in a special code box that has a proper font. I’m actually pretty happy they didn’t do syntax highlighting either. There’s really no need. If you wanted to go overboard you could offer a hover – highlight for the panel. I’d also like to express my love for their note boxes. Lovely icon identifier. These changes or breaks within the text help with reading enjoyment. They give you momentum in a way. Help remind you that you are cranking away making progress. Black on white text files do NOT offer this. Real books are already motivating because you can see how many pages you have traversed.
  9. Beautiful diagrams that match the side. Really love this
  10. Faded navigation. In small ways they keep things not hidden, but subtle until you roll over them. They used nice clean “next” links at the bottom right for navigating through chapters. Perhaps I wouldn’t be so excited over this if I haven’t seen so many hideous arrow navigation for LEFT, RIGHT and confusingly DOWN.

Django book comments

Oops, I guess I have created a top-ten list. I swear it was unintentional. Please forgive me there. And give those Django book guys some compliments if you agree with me. I’m hoping that I can borrow this method somehow if I have a book of my own to post online.

December 17, 2007 at 4:46 am | books, design | No comment

I have no bookstores in my neighborhood

Waldenbooks Ward Parkway closed downFor whatever reason, the only bookstore in my neighborhood has closed up shop. They were given about fifteen days to shut down right after Christmas. It’s not a sad story of the small business being run out by a big dog, I mean it’s a Waldenbooks, owned by Borders. The store was in a mall that connects to the back of a Target store so surely it was doing enough volume to pay the rent.

How is the closing of a bookstore somehow news or significant? I suppose it’s not, but it’s just economically interesting because my neighborhood has every other shop under the sun, but is strangely devoid of places to buy books. Sure I can go down to the Plaza and hit the four story Barnes and Noble. But I just expect more considering we have about ten drugstores, just as many hair stylists, five grocery stores. I would call my area upscale Kansas City metro area. Am I the only one noticing this gap? Maybe Borders is looking to make a change of direction? They have their large scale stores with the cafe and places to site. Maybe the relaxing larger bookstore is what people have come to expect. Waldenbooks and B.Dalton really don’t have that kind of atmosphere whatsoever.

The closing was a good thing for me in the short term, giving me 40% off two books I had wanted for a while. The sad part being that I had developed a routine with my wife to visit at least once every two weeks or more often to look at the true crime, computer and magazines.

So I am extremely curious when and how the gap will be filled. It just has to be filled right? I really could use some reassurance, somebody or some company that’s going to realize the void and step up. I can imagine a Half-Price books fitting really well close by my house next to the Indian restaurant. I’d really love a family-owned store and cafe. I’ll entertain that my perfect world, within walking distance, I’d love a bookstore / smoothie / crepe dessert place. We don’t have a smoothie shop in town so I think we are ready for that too.

January 25, 2007 at 4:38 am | books, general, nostalgia, rants | No comment

A little sad tonight

A book is never the labor of just one person. In my case our Adobe Creative Suite 2 book was written by several extremely talented people with a wide range of experiences. I appreciate their contributions immensely. The book officially released in September 2005. Sadly though, one of my co-authors named Carla Rose passed away in December 2005 just after being apart of the project. She was 62 and had thirty books under her belt. Her website was and her passion was photography, scrapbooks, writing and family. I am honored that such a great person would inject their energies into the project. It saddens me I didn’t know about all of this sooner than now.

May 28, 2006 at 3:20 am | books, friends, graphics, writing | No comment

Why don’t you ask the pilot?

I have flown so many times on business trips I can’t even remember them anymore. Flying is fun for me because of where I am usually going. I have also always enjoyed the actual flight, for the most part. Some flights have really turned me off. Right now I’m reading the book “Ask the Pilot” by Patrick Smith. I find this book annoyingly good. The reason why it is so annoying is because I had this idea for a book that was just like this.

I am always asking myself these questions on planes. Like functions of the airplane and certain airline processes. I even mapped out how my book would read. I went to the library the other day and looking for airplane books that might help my write my book, here was “My Book” already written, and better than I could have done it I might add. I’m not finished with it yet, but maybe I’ll ask Mr. Smith if I can write with him on his next project, using some ideas he might have missed. I recommend this read if you are the inquisitive type, and if the too technical of answers fly right by you. Patrick knew exactly who he was writing for.

January 17, 2006 at 12:17 pm | books | No comment

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