Aleen Mean


People make jokes when we’re introduced for the first time. I’ll often hear, “So you’re name’s like ‘a lean, mean fighting machine’?” or the humming of Come on Eileen’s chorus.1

At some point I decided to make a joke of one of the jokes and create a website called Aleen Mean. It was going to be my digital home on the Internet, with subdomains for each of my interests and a custom header for each subdomain. I decided that I wanted to have a bit of fun and incorporate a cute monster into each header. Maybe the photography section would have a cyclops squinting through a digital camera, the writing section a furry creature carrying a fountain pen and notebook, and so on.

The trouble with that idea was twofold: first, I am not The Pioneer Woman. I don’t make money off of my website and I have a J-O-B job (as Casey Liss says) that demands a lot of my time and energy. There’s no payoff for me to spend a lot of time juggling subdomains and headers and trying to organize this place like it’s an empire. Second, I don’t have a lot of artistic ability, so drawing things myself is off the table.

Around this time last year, Justin and I made our way to Columbus, Georgia for Creative South. Among the veritable drove of people we met was Kyle Adams, an icon designer who was handing out my favorite sticker of all time. We chatted for a bit and I knew that I’d found the guy to make some iteration of my monsters come to life.

To be honest, I probably wasn’t Kyle’s ideal client. The only direction I had for him was that I wanted to associate an icon with each tag I’d been using on my blog, and that I wanted the appropriate icon to appear by my posts. Oh, and “Cute monsters, please.” I didn’t have a color palette in mind and I’d been using an out-of-the-box Jekyll theme, so there was no existing branding for him to use as a guide.

Working with Kyle was every bit as wonderful as I anticipated it would be. If, at any point, he was frustrated by my lack of direction or “it’s totally up to you” attitude, he never let on. He was communicative, positive, and I think the final results speak for themselves.

Six New Icons for Six Aleen Mean Tags

He even wrote a case study about the icon creation process with some neat sketches that didn’t make the cut. Needless to say, I’m in love with what he came up with. I’m kind of hoping that I start writing about new things in the future so I can ask him to add to the collection.

It’s been a while since Kyle completed the project, but we2 finally incorporated the icons into a custom theme for the site. You might notice that Rachael’s site was a strong influence, but there are definitely some unique tricks thrown into the mix.3

It’s been about a week since the changes went live, and I’m still absolutely delighted. I hope you visit the site from time to time and smile as much as I have been!

  1. It’s been nearly 15 years since I graduated from high school, when I was taunted with this song, and those four notes still irritate me. 

  2. Originally, this was going to be a project through which I would start to relearn more complex HTML and CSS in addition to Ruby. In the end, Justin was kind enough to take on the project for me, and it’s much better for him doing so. 

  3. I’d encourage you to visit the site on a computer and resize your web browser, for one!