The Morgue?

I received a great new book today: The Principles of Beautiful Web Design by Jason Beaird. It’s from SitePoint, so it came as no surprise that it was top-notch. It’s definitely on my “Must Read” list for anyone who does design work but didn’t go to design school.

While I haven’t read it for retention yet, I haven’t had time since I’m working on a book myself for MS Press (Expression Web Step by Step) and big surprise: it’s HARD to write a book, I did scan it and came across a term I’d never seen or heard before: Morgue File.

Apparently Morgue File is a fairly common term in the graphic arts community and print industry. There’s even a site by that name. It refers to a file of samples or pieces of old work, often used for inspiration or graphics research for new projects.

Jason was making the point of the importance of keeping one to assist Web designers in coming up with new ideas by looking at old stuff they’d done and references to sites they’d seen and liked, etc.

I think we all probably do this in an informal way, maybe with bookmarks, maybe a folder full of shortcuts like my friend Thomas Rowe does. Whatever the method, Jason’s suggestion got me thinking: How could a designer/developer (designoper) keep the best kind of morgue file? I didn’t have to think about it long and the answer was glaringly obvious: OneNote.

You may have read my previous article here about OneNote 2003, which was a darned good program, but OneNote 2007 leaves it in the dust with enhancements of what was great about its predecessor and new features that almost seem too futuristic to be real, things like the ability to search text in scanned in business cards and search for words in audio notes. That’s right: when you search for a word in OneNote 2007 it’ll actually look for the word(s) in PICTURES and AUDIO, not to mention handwriting!

For a morgue file these items might be of limited use, but what’s great is the ability to create a whole notebook dedicated to your “morgue” then divide it up into tabs, then add pages under those tabs. You’ve got a perfect environment to logically organize your morgue file.

Here’s how I see the work flow: when you’re on a Web page that interests or impresses you all you do is hit the windows key and the letter S on your keyboard to draw a screen clipping box over whatever you want to save, this will automatically save a picture of the item of interest on a fresh page in OneNote and insert a date/ time/ original location reference for you. Just type some text about the details that interested you and drag the page under the appropriate tab in your morgue file notebook and you’re set. When the time comes that you need something it’ll most assuredly be found quickly by a OneNote search. This is great for Web pages you happen across, templates you see when searching for inspiration, or pages clients like or want to emulate to some degree.

You can do the same thing with local image files too, but you’d probably be better off using a DAM (Digital Asset Management) program Like Expression Media (formerly iView) or any of the other DAMs out there.

Personally the whole morgue file situation with Web pages and designs is more important to me than cataloging every image file I’ve got. As long as I can find the page that gave me some pang of inspiration some time in the past, coming up with a new set of graphics is something I’d have to do anyway.

So there you have it: the coolest thing I thought of today. Shhhh… don’t tell my editor.

[tags]onenote, expression media, morgue file[/tags]