At work, I usually don't get to create the interfaces I really want to create. But at play, which is what this site is all about, I can do anything I want. As a result, each page is a new experiment.

In Cartania, function often follows form instead of the other way around. I begin with an idea for a certain graphic effect and then build a whole page around it.

About This Site serves as an index to every other page in my site. For each page I provide a few design notes and, for all you background hounds, links to many of the backgrounds I have created for this site.

Questions or comments? The best way to contact me is to sign my guestbook.

Cartania - Page One
Darwin and Finch
This central page offers many links to other parts of my site. The two column format creates an easily accessible menu of page links and other picture and text elements in a relatively compact space. In 2003 I updated the original page to create a more lively look. I replaced my photograph with an icon created by DV Graphics, replaced the old canvas background with a more colorful Jagged Background (with bold lines that echo the icon artwork), created a more cartoon-like title, and set all the photo icons at a jaunty angle. Same content, same layout, but these few changes make a dramatic difference. I added the Darwin and Finch satellite page when a visitor asked for more recent photos. Its retro Cat Background was made using a character from the Webdings font.

Tower of Cartania
Grasshoppers vs. Ants
This was my first web page. I wanted to create a huge graphic that would run the length of the page without consuming hours of download time. By taking a picture of nearby Coit Tower, breaking it into pieces, and then stretching one small slice to a height of 4000 pixels using HTML's IMG HEIGHT parameter, I was able to create the "tallest tower in cyberspace." To ensure a seamless blend, I set the background color of the page to the precise shade of blue found in the original picture, 9CADBD. The text is from an essay on PONARVs I wrote back in 1988. One of the goals of this website is popularize this term so that someday it will find its way into the dictionary. My satelite page features a nifty grasshopper background.

20 Strange and Wonderful Books
20 Even Stranger Books
I spent more time fussing with the layout on this one than I did writing the content. I love book covers and wanted to show them, but most of my designs consumed too much bandwidth. I finally decided to use simple thumbnails of the covers and create an extremely spare black and white background so that those covers would stand out. I also experimented with generous use of negative space. This is my first page geared toward wider screen widths, but everything should still fit on a VGA screen. Adding all the internal and external links was a lot of work but makes for what I hope will be a very functional page.

A Journey To Ireland During my two week trip to Ireland I took 140 pictures with my trusty digital camera. The challenge was first to pare that number down to a representative thirty and then to present those as efficiently as possible. Shown at full size they would take forever to download; but thumbnails were too small to enjoy. My compromise was to display them at one quarter size. I set them against a dark green background (#003300) and took extra trouble to frame each one in green and white. Then, in order to weave them into an easily digestible story, I divided the pictures into ten sections and wrote a litte blurb for each section.

Northwest Passage I returned from Alaska with over 200 high resolution digital photos. The challenge here was to present as many of these as possible in a way tolerable to people with small screens, slow modems, or short attention spans. Instead of trying to fit everything on a single page, I tossed 2 of every 3 photos, greatly reduced and compressed the rest, and devised a set of 66 quick-loading micro-pages (small enough to fit on a VGA screen) floating against a labeled teal background designed to look nice at all window sizes. Because we zig-zagged all over the map, the pictures were taken in no coherent order, so to weave a more linear narrative I ordered them by latitude and grouped them into ten small piles. The buttons on each page allow viewers to skip ahead.

My Father My father's memorial service was a celebration of a life well-led. We had many photos, stories from friends and family, and selections of his favorite music, including some Gilbert and Sullivan. The text of this page is the eulogy I delivered that day. I kept the page design very simple and finally settled on web-safe gray background (#CCCCCC) so that the top picture would blend cleanly even on low-res browsers. The top picture shows Dad at my sister's wedding with Idaho's Sawtooth mountains in the background. The lower picture is Dad and me on a car camping trip.

Flying Lesson My goal for this page was to combine an essay on flying I had written in 1994 with a wonderful photograph of the Golden Gate taken while on the flight described in that essay. The trick was to allow the photo to emerge seamlessly from a bank of fog which could provide a neutral background for the text. After much experimentation I finally distilled a very workable fog background. By taking a circular crop of the photo and brushing in the edges with the same fog pattern, I was able to achieve a reasonable blending.

Digital Elph Photo Gallery
Prius Page
This page provided helpful samples in 2001 when digital cameras were first becoming popular. The hardest part of this design was finding the right balance of quality and bandwidth for both the thumbnails and full-sized photos. I finally opted for high quality JPEG compression, but placed the file size beneath each thumbnail to give modem-bound users fair warning. I wanted a light, airy feel, so made all the graphics float with bare minimum drop shadows against a minimalist graph paper background. I also lightened the text color to #666699, a shade similar to the light blue used in the header graphic. The photo of the Elph camera was created by simply holding it over my flatbed scanner. I retired this page in 2009.

Old Ricoh Photo Gallery Since the whole point of this page was to show off pictures taken by the Ricoh, my first digital camera, I wanted the decorative elements to be taken from such pictures as well. Fortunately, the LCD monitor of my camera was detachable, so I was able to take a picture of the monitor and use that to fashion a frame for all the other photos. Since the four pieces comprising the frame are used repeatedly, they can fill the page but only have to be downloaded once. The picture of the camera itself is a photo I took of a magazine ad. Even the steel background color, 576B77, was derived from a closeup of the monitor. The metal section titles and grooves, however, were made from scratch in Photoshop.

Desktop Images
Desktop Images 2
Fabric Designs
Mad Scientist Desktops
Point Reyes Panorama
My desktop images are all based on my photographs, some taken with the digital elph, and some with a USB microscope. I wanted a simple, clean backdrop to present the thumbnails, so based the layout on some of the automatic web pages Photoshop creates. The fabrics page uses a similar layout but with a different color scheme. My fabric designs are all taken from graphics on the Cartania website; each necktie links to a 3-line html file which simply fills the page with a single GIF. The Scientist background used on the Mad Scientist page incorporates a photo of the animatronic statue of me that my friend Eric Stilan used in his Halloween exhibit.

Essay On Turning 36 I tried to make this essay look as if came out of a typewriter. The suprisingly compact Escher background creates the illusion of eight separate sheets of paper floating above an elegant design in soothing browns. Some careful spacers and table definitions ensure that the words stay on their proper pages despite variations in browser margins and font sizes. Jump buttons to the right of the pages quickly position each page just right even on very small screens.

Mid-Life Crisis My dear friend Jo Anna Wool enjoyed this letter so much she suggested I put it up on my site as an essay. The title graphic includes a selection from the painting Ullyses and the Sirens by J. W. Waterhouse. I cropped it severely and dithered it down to a web-safe pallette. The text is dark blue to match the salutation and suggest blue ink on white paper.

Falling Silent I waited five years before writing this essay about a weekend retreat I took to Big Sur. When the words were finally written I used some of the photos I had taken to decorate the page. I choose my favorite for the title and used its green hills to define the text's background color (95A076). I borrowed some ocean from another to create the silent sea background. The hardest part was choosing only three more for the rest of the page.

Who Do We Dream Against? When I redesigned this page, my goal was to employ surreal imagery. I sprinkled some bizarre 19th century (copyright-free) animal engravings onto a sleepy parchment background and used a dreamy shade of brown for the text (7D4929). I then colorized, cropped, and distorted some of these same animal images beyond recognition to create the colorful side panel. I made it abstract enough to survive stretching so that the second occurance of the panel could grow to fit any type size.

The Museum of Play Maps The museum took years to create and is much bigger than it seems at first. This is intentional; I wanted visitors to feel like cavers who squeeze through an ordinary tunnel and suddenly find themselves in a vast chamber. Each exhibit has a different look and feel, but the museum background defines a common approach with a distinctive left gutter and fixed area for text. The lions are a detail from J. W. Waterhouse's painting, "Miriamne Leaving the Judgement Seat of Herod."

Feudal 3D This is one of the simplest exhibits in the Museum of Play Maps. It was basically built to house a scanned image of a large map I made as a child. The map itself was lost for many years, but was found again by my mother when she cleaned out our house after dad died. I had to scan it in pieces and assemble it all in Photoshop. The feudal background was inspired by the cardboard case that housed the original 3M Feudal board game.

Alexander I went through over 30 iterations before settling on the alexander background for this exhibit. The main text area and right gutter were inspired by one of the posters I did for this project and are supposed to suggest the contrast of land and sea. The left gutter has a grid reminiscent of a board game. The dialog section includes over 170 pages of hand-coded HTML and a near-perfect replica of a HyperCard stack in a separate pop-up window.

Mapping Montana I normally avoid dark backgrounds, but in this case went dark to dramatize the pictures. The raindrop background has a left gutter taken from a photo of raindrops on glass, a dark gray (111111) interior, and a noisy green right gutter to hint at a Pacific Northwest flavor. I sized the pictures to a uniform width and kept the captions short to ensure even spacing. The text and link colors are the same used on some of my other dark pages. Although I spent some time reducing the file size of each image, this page takes still takes a longer time to load than most of my other pages.

Starmaze Unlike the other exhibits in the Museum of Play Maps, the starmaze exhibit is still active so I fully expect to add new pages and revise existing ones. Because my explorations into the maze have taken so many surprising twists and turns over the years, this exhibit is sprawling, multi-faceted, and hard to organize. The starmaze background was designed to harmonize with the dignified, ancient-looking Asian design I devised for the starmaze puzzle patterns. The reeds are a detail from "Egret and Water Plant" by the 18th century Japanese artist Hoitsu.

My Springfield Since this page enshrines the city I made while playing the Simpsons Tapped Out game, it seemed appropriate to create a springfield background taken right from the game itself. I used a section of rocky beach, rotating it to produce a vertical shore. The bulk of the background are light and dark greens (82B77D and 3D7744) used in the game to represent purchased and unpurchased land. The most challenging part of this page was creating a version of my map that would load in both desktop and mobile browsers.

Archipelago At just under 3000 pages, Archipelago is far bigger than the rest of Cartania put together. It took a year of hard work to convert 1980s-era HyperCard stacks into 33 volumes of deeply interlinked HTML pages. The pages are designed to recreate the experience of navigating through the original stacks while adding the look and color of Cartania web pages. To achieve this effect, over 220 graphics were created and placed against a blue-green seagull background based on the original monochromatic startup screen, and each page was then edited by hand. The end result is, I hope, both a time capsule and a cabinet of wonders.

A Table And Four Chairs For this page I spent some time finding just the right shade of blue, and then used it in the title, in background elements on the left and right, and for both line and dot separators throughout the text. I wanted to maintain a comfortable text width of about a dozen words per line, so I created a light (6K) but wide background which provided an interesting margin on either side without repeating even on wide screens. I built my separators out of a single blue dot - a clean look with almost no download time.

Aristippus This essay is essentially a funeral oration, so I chose a black background and a faded, melancholy blue text color in an attempt to create a somber mood. For the title, I used the same shade of blue (637B94). The graphics at the top and bottom were taken from frames of a movie I made of me morphing into Aristippus. I formed the bottom image first and then, while playing, discovered that the inverse of that image transformed Aristippus into a fierce and magical jaguar.

Teaching Tolkien The central challenge with this design was how to present six different discussion threads in a coherent fashion. My solution, color-coded maps and distinct comment boxes, was tricky to hand-code in HTML, but I finally got it to work on both Mac and PC browsers. The inset photos of me and Stuart added a surprising amount of warmth. The manuscript background incorporates the Elvish script from my wedding ring: "John and Betsy".

Gilligan Unbound My friends keep asking to read this story, which I wrote 20 years ago, so I finally put it up on the web. It's fun to play with pop-culture characters; the audiences of ancient Greece enjoyed their plays all the more because they came to the theater already knowing all about the gods and heros they saw on stage. Characters from classic TV shows are the gods and heros of my generation and anyone who went through puberty with Gilligan's Island playing in the background will understand the forces this story grapples with. As for presentation, I used a simple layout and slightly softened text color (333333) on an easy to read parchment background. The title graphic was made using the Sand font with a palm tree from the Webdings font.

What I Do I wanted a page that would help people understand my work, whether it be friends and relatives or potential clients. I started by carefully writing and editing the text. I then thought it might be fun to play with table cell background colors, and settled on a checkerboard layout. I began by picking the (web-safe) colors for the graphic cells. Once these were in place, I realized that I had to show borders around the cells (which I normally hide) and use a neutral gray textured paper background that contrasts well with all five colors. Then all I had to do was find or create graphics and key them to the chosen colors. The final graphic is from a style guide I did for one of my clients.

Work History I suppose a resume should be completely practical, but in keeping with the ponarvian nature of this site, I centered the design of my online work history around a completely superfluous painting of me daydreaming in my cubicle. I used the rather nice tan texture from the picture to form section blocks, sized to fit snugly on a 13 inch display - clicking a block automatically scrolls to the next section. To bring more balance into the design I created a gray textured paper background (based on the tan section blocks) with a subtle stripe on the right.

About This Site Because this page occupies a central position in my site, and grows steadily longer as my site expands, I took special care to make it clean, efficient, and functional. In designing the graphics, I played off the minimalist navigation bars which link to it from every other page, carefully chose a web-safe neutral background color (FFFFCC), designed the page icon bars to be attractive, yet very low bandwidth, and limited the text so that each description will fit on a 13 inch display without scrolling.

Guest Lounge When I decided to rearrange my old guestbook and visitor pages into a centralized, refurbished visitor's lounge, I was in a retro mood and whipped up the whimsical, 50's era bubbles background in less than 30 seconds. I made the guestbook form as clean and simple as possible. The map, which I update by hand, was taken from the Macintosh Map Control Panel; this colorized version is dramatic, easy to read, and quick to download. I updated all pages to the new look and feel, but nostalgic background hounds are still welcome to use the old notepaper background.

What's New This page performs a simple function and I wanted a simple, clean design, but for some reason it took me ages, and countless permutations, to get the look I wanted. The anchoring image of the little bird is a detail from an ancient Japanese painting. The suggestion of a sun behind the bird is echoed in the new sun background. I purposely left out the usual navigation buttons so that visitors would be encouraged to try a new link.

Family History The distinctive fading faces background used on this page was distilled after many difficult compromises. I started with a 19th century graduation picture of one of my ancestors. After much experimentation I achieved a properly positioned gradient from pure white to an evocative but not overpowering sea of faces, trimmed down to a reasonable bandwith. This design looked spectacular on the Mac, but melted down to garish circus colors on the PC. After dithering to the Netscape palette, the design was only fair on the Mac but did not degrade on the PC.

Our Child
Bat Mitzvah Speech
These pages employ a very simple two column format with consistent title headers. The original "Our Child" page displays diagrams scanned from various pregnancy books; I choose simple drawings and then re-sized and colored them to create a consistent look. The other two pages have a similar layout and color scheme. The our child background is a simple gradient to a warm pattern scanned from one of the pregnancy diagrams with a right gutter exactly matching the parent history page.

Sarah Month by Month
My goal with this design was to convey the element of time, and allow easy navigation through time, without distracting from the photos themselves. I tucked the photos in the upper left corner so they can be seen without scrolling, and saved more space by showing the date vertically. The minimalist calendar blocks show the current point in time and allow quick navigation in a subtle way. Controls and titles are in a quiet gray against gray (333333) background to minimize distraction. I used Hypercard to pre-generate sixteen years worth of pages, so adding new photos each month is a snap.

Genetic History This page was pretty much stolen from the report I received from the National Geographic Genegraphic Project. My layout was a cross between one of my typical pages and their report page, including their 014B96 background color. I trimmed their map and lightly edited their text.

Ancestor Timeline The challenge for this page was providing a four VGA screen tall, million plus pixel diagram without slowing everyone's modem to a crawl. By limiting the palette to four colors (no anti-aliasing) I was able to keep the GIF to only 30K. Each of the thirty male and female lifelines is numbered according to the standard ahnentafel scheme (for each person N, father = 2N, mother = 2N+1).

Cartan Family Tree This photo-laden diagram was originally created as part of a label, printed on fabric, for a magnificent photo quilt my wife made for my grandmother on her 90th birthday. For this web page I presented it unchanged on a simple white background. The colored icon in the upper left corner shows the relationship of this branch to the larger family tree described in my Roger Peter Cartan genealogy.

Descendants of R. P. Cartan For me, the greatest challenge in designing the presentation of this genealogy was finding ways to link the text entries for each member with a graphical representation of the larger structure. In all four pages I used variations of the same color-coded tree diagram drawn to three different scales. The entire tree appears in miniature at the top of each page along with the particular branch drawn at a large scale. A medium scale version of the same branch with a hilighted slice separates each generation.

Dog Tales This curious collection of my father's stories demanded a custom theme suited to its nineteenth century flavor and its obsession with dogs. I created a dog fur background and three headers and illustrations from a collection of copyright-free Victorian animal engravings. The faded (F4EDE1) page background color and brown (330000) text color matches the illustrations and, I hope, lend to the charm.

A Love Letter
The Road to the Cemetary
Civil War Diary
Civil War Reflections
Harold's War
Frederick Owen Cartan
One-Room Schoolhouse
Great Expectations
Scenes From A Wedding
Since I plan to create a number of these family story pages, I wanted a design simple and versatile enough to serve as a general purpose template. I choose a solid color background with subtle trim graphics on the top and bottom. I think the light brown color (FFDEAD) provides a warm, old-fashioned backdrop which still leaves the text easy to read. The faded green trim includes a monogram I plan to incorporate throughout the site.