Seven Shades of Gray

by james mathias / 2017 / personal

Around sixteen years ago I was sitting around trying to figure out a name for my secret online “identity”.

I needed something that could encapsulate who I was,  and who I wanted to be. It also needed to be something I would be proud to hide behind, always.

I needed this name to build my first personal website around. A place to experiment, and grow. A place free from client demands, and headaches.

A place I could run back to when the rest of the web felt too heavy.

leihu.com was born in February of 2001. The first version was a disaster. A Flash site with tiger eyes, and badly rendered tiger paw buttons. It had sound effects, color changes, and career ending copy. It was literally every color. leihu 1.0 was a mess, by all accounts, it was everything that was wrong with the Internet, it was clearly someone’s first site.

I loved it.

I loved every single minute spent crafting leihu. Learning Flash, Photoshop, and Dreamweaver. Learning. I was learning. And that is what I loved love about the web. I could learn something new every day. And I could wake up the next day and learn some more, there wasn’t a cap, and there still isn’t, I learned something this morning. The industry is moving so fast, and I worry about not being able to keep up, I worry about that a lot. Then I sit down, crank up some tunes and start learning something new.

Over the last sixteen years I’ve repeated that learning process 64 times.

Sixty-four designs. Sixty-four projects. Sixty-four do-overs.

leihu has been dressed in every human-perceivable color of the rainbow. It has lived on flat files, a custom CMS, WordPress, Drupal, and now ExpressionEngine. It has housed blogs, portfolios, forums, splash pages, and much more. One time, leihu was a skateboarding site. Once Ieihu was a full blown community. But, it’s always been my place, a place to learn, and grow, and experiment.

I participated in the May 1st Reboot every year. Some of my best versions were reboots. So, when it came back this year, even though I had just launched version sixty-three in January I knew I had to throw my hat into the ring and try something new.

Today, I present a version of leihu that I never thought I could love. A version devoid of color—well, screenshots, and photographs are in color, and they POP, to steal a popular client-esque vernacular—but, the design is just black, seven shades of gray, and white.

It might be my favorite version. It may be the scariest version to share, or one of the most exciting versions. Then again, you might find it boring.

I still love it. Every. Second. Spent.

I must Create a System, or be enslav’d by another Man’s. I will not Reason & Compare; my business is to Create.

William Blake circa 1820