Meet Colorpeek, a simple way to share and preview colors

When Tim Sears and I were almost done making Lotsa Blocks, we decided it might be fun to change the color of the blocks for seasonal holidays. Christmas blocks would be red and green, halloween blocks black and orange, etc.

Once I finished designing one of these color palettes in Illustrator, I had to send it to Tim. So I did what a lot of designers do: I threw together an image showing the colors and their corresponding hex values.

This worked fine, but the process was tedious for me to create and for Tim to reference (especially when he needed to convert them to RGB notation). I wanted a way to quickly and easily share colors without numerous steps, ongoing maintenance or even account creation.

I found a lot of great color-related apps (COLOURlovers, Palettee,, but none that did exactly what I wanted.

So I made one. It’s called Colorpeek.

Now I can send Tim a link to the colors I want:,dd4e85,4dc45e,6da7e8

And if he needs RGB, it’s as easy as tapping or clicking the cog icon and changing the notation.

 Colorpeek will accept just about any CSS color value, including hex (triplet or shorthand), RGB, RGBA, HSL and HSLA. It will convert color keywords like indigo or lightslategray to hex. It also supports many brand colors as keywords, so you can easily add facebook, android or wordpressorange to your palettes.

This being a 1.0 release, I tried hard to include only features I find to be critical. I hope to add more things from my list of “wants” to future iterations (copy to clipboard, transitions/animations, color picker, color editing, palette export options, to name a few).

If you have ideas for making Colorpeek better while retaining its simplicity, please let me know.

I want to thank Marc Roman for designing the Colorpeek logo, Erik Jung for helping me learn Knockout, my Cloud Four teammates for their support, encouragement and access to the device lab, and everyone who offered feedback or advice for my little side project.

You can follow me and/or @Colorpeek on Twitter for updates.

Creativity and constraints

When Shigeru Miyamoto and his team designed the original Mario Bros. arcade game, memory constraints forced them to use identical designs for the first and second brother. This presented a problem: How do you differentiate between two players if their characters look exactly alike?

Their solution, via Rolling Stone:

‘Well even if we have the same character, we could potentially change the color of the character.’ But again we were limited in the color palettes – we didn’t have much in the way of additional colors that we could use. And so we looked at the turtles in that game. Their heads are sort of skin-toned, their shells are green, so what we could do is we could use the color palette from the turtle on this character. And so from those technical limitations we said ‘Okay. We have these two characters. They look the same, other than the fact that their colors are different. Obviously they must be twins.’

Thirty years later, Luigi’s personality is distinct from his brother’s, even allowing him to star (or at least share billing) in his his own unique games. Quite an achievement for a technical workaround!

Miyamoto-san elaborates:

This ultimately is the role of a designer: How do you take those constraints and create something that’s unique and then layer on a story or some kind of a background that explains why those things exist? Ultimately that’s the reason that Luigi is green, but it’s one of those little development anecdotes that I wanted to share and is to me an important facet of designing: how you use what could be a constraint and use that to develop something new.

The romantic notion of creativity as a product of divine inspiration or artistic serendipity is a farce. Peanuts was designed to be a “filler” strip publishers could rearrange into any available space. Jaws was scary because the malfunctioning shark forced Spielberg to emphasize the “threat of the unseen.” Musical genres are often invented to suit a performer’s surrounding architecture.

Don’t avoid a project’s technical requirements. Embrace them. Enjoy the focus they provide and the ideas they inspire.

Is it just me…

…or does Google Glass give everyone a shiny unibrow?


I get strange looks from anyone who sees me pocket my iPhone 5 so I can break out my iPod classic. Five years since I won the device at a company raffle, it remains my favorite little music player.

It isn’t perfect. The not-so-solid-state drive makes everything a little sluggish. The interface looks pretty dated. There’s no Wi-Fi, so it will always be tethered to a computer with iTunes installed. On rare occasions an album’s tracks will show up out-of-order (cleaning their ID3 data usually fixes it).

But it plays music. All of it. Not most of it through a streaming service. Not whatever I synced to some emaciated SSD, failing to predict what I’ll want in the hours, days or weeks ahead. Every forgotten 60s masterpiece, every underrated indie group, every B-side that could have been a single is playable, immediately, wherever I am.

There’s no touchscreen, so I can play, pause and skip tracks by touch alone. No Wi-Fi means no interruptions… I can listen to Side 2 of Abbey Road without some spammy notification tri-toning its way into “Polythene Pam.”

I love my iPhone. It would probably be my “desert island” device (assuming this hypothetical island has LTE data). It’s pretty great at most of what it does.

My iPod classic is better at music, because that’s the only thing it does. And sometimes that’s okay.

Cloud Four (plus one)

The folks at Cloud Four are awesome. Their responsible mobile experiences make the web a better place. They give illuminating talks and helpful workshops. They wrote the book on this stuff, for crying out loud! And starting Monday, they’ll have one more designer in their ranks.

I’m proud to be joining a team that’s been a consistent source of inspiration for me since 2009. Job titles are tricky… we went back and forth until Lyza suggested “Design Architect.” I hope it hints at visual design, front-end and UX skills while avoiding the more unpleasant connotations of “Web Designer.”

 I’ll be capping off my first day (March 25) with Mobile Portland, 6pm at Urban Airship. If you’re there, you should come say “hi!”

I want to thank the team at WishPop for the opportunity. It was a wild ride, and I learned a ton. I’m looking forward to seeing where they take the app next!