Jason McDowell is also known as Little Tiny Fish. He is the Creative Director for OnMilwaukee. Occasionally he freelances. Mostly he rides bikes. is not a cohesive blog, but a repository of musings on an assortment of topics, such as design, art, cycling, Milwaukee, and other personal experiences.

Every year since the very first Riverwest 24 in 2008, the team has introduced a new tattoo design that bestows 5 bonus laps onto ride participants. The designs have ranged from cool to tacky and upon first glance they’re almost always questionable. The quality of line varies tremendously, but that’s arguably either the aesthetic or not really the point.

In my eight-year history with the race I’ve been too picky about the designs and have so far only gotten one tattoo, but it’s clear that, taken as a whole, you can’t really wait until “next year” for “the good design;” they’re all going to be bad. Regardless, no matter which one(s) you get, you won’t regret any one of them. Continue reading ›

Viewing app updates in Windows 8 is a pain in the ass. When you see a small number in the corner of your Windows 8 Store tile this means you some apps with new versions. To get started you open the Windows 8 Store and then click the Updates link in the top corner. Good so far, though Microsoft might want to consider making that number indicator on the Store tile into a shortcut in order to save a click. This would mean you’d be able to bypass the store altogether; at this point Windows 8 is pretty antsy for you to wander in and check out their goods once in a while, so this will likely not be the case for a while.

So now you’re in the updates section. Let’s say you’ve got at least two apps that need updating. In Windows 8 both start out selected to make in easy to hit the Install button and install them all in the quickest way possible.

But c’mon, this is a Windows crowd. We want the dirty details. You can’t tell me that an app is updated and NOT tell me what’s been changed. Continue reading ›

Redesigning the new OnMilwaukee may have been among the biggest undertakings I’ve had to embark upon since starting at the media company, but the whole thing started on a whim. I had a little free time and I took a look at a couple of small elements. But the more I pushed the data around, the more I realized we could probably be presenting our information a lot more clearly.

I scrapped the small ideas and started looking at the bigger picture. This was the result.

There are quite a few differences between the old site and the new site. You may instantly see (to the left) that the new site feels much more open and inviting. I wanted to make sure there was a lot more breathing room on the new site. There is significantly less text on the new design but it’s only about 12% shorter. This is because the information that is left in tact has a lot more space to exist.

On top of the extra space I worked to unify the design elements. The red banners help separate the sections. The widgets all have a unified background color. Instead of having three or four different forms of widget navigation I cut it down to one. I also developed a grid pattern to help decide how large certain elements should be and how much space should be allotted between them.

The biggest change, as far as usability goes, is the presentation of information. We discarded the formality of having sections on the home page. Articles are still organized, structurally, within sections that you can access from the navigation bar, but on the front page those sections matter less. What matters more is the newness of information. Initially the redesign asked for a Twitter-style list of new stories, but other staff members wanted a more curated feel. They didn’t want quick blogs to have the same importance as the better composed stories. So we moved the new article list to the top and added a more magazine-like, curated section on the main page. This allows users to a) easily see which articles are new and b) easily see which articles are most important.

The business listing widget was simplified, while the event calendar was given more presence. Our Weekend Preview, an important weekly article, also finds prominence on the front page. In the old design it had a tendency to disappear quiet quickly. Now there is a permanent link right on the homepage.

The logo was updated to move away from the passe Web 2.0 look to the softer gradients that are more pervasive in design today.

Listed here are only the major considerations for the entire redesign. There were countless other smaller calls that added up to one big idea.

You can see full-sized images of the old site and compare it with what the new site has to offer.

OnMilwaukee circa 2011
OnMilwaukee circa 2011
OnMilwaukee circa 2012
OnMilwaukee circa 2012

It looks like I’ve been nominated for Best Album Art (twice!) for Radio Milwaukee’s Fourth Annual Milwaukee Music Awards!

Nomination #1 was for The Scarring Party’s “Losing Teeth”

The Scarring Party's "Loosing Teeth" album cover.
The Scarring Party’s “Loosing Teeth” album cover with illustration by Ray Caesar.

For this album I did the typography, layout design, and back illustration. The main illustration was provided by Ray Caesar.

Nomination #2 was for Pezzettino’s “Lub Dub”


Pezzettino's Lub Dub album cover
Pezzettino’s Lub Dub album cover

On this album I did the whole design, from illustration on up.

I’m not sure if you can only vote for the one category or if you have to select something from each category, so you may need to know something about Milwaukee’s music scene. (However, if you had to cheat, all the info you need to know, really, is in this post.) You can find out more about the individual albums here.

Give it a shot. Show your support and vote!

RANDOM FACT: The 88nine image for this article happens to be the 88th image uploaded to my site.

Archived Comments

These comments were pulled from the archives after a site failure in mid 2014. Though I no longer accept public comments on my site, I’ve included them for posterity. If you’d like to submit a comment, send one to

  1. Congrats, Jason! These are great works and the honor is very well deserved. Count my vote.

    Tim · 2011-01-24 14:15 · #

The Scarring Party has been one of my favorite bands from its inception. Lead singer Daniel Bullock has managed to combine folk, old-timey, and punk ethos into a sound that isn’t duplicated anywhere else. And really, I’m not just saying that. Please let me know if you’ve heard anything remotely similar anywhere else.

There are bands that lean more Waitts-ian, or bands that tilt more accessibly (i.e. weird instruments with a more recognizably modern sound), but The Scarring Party sound like an off-kilter version of something you’d have heard crooning out of a giant radio box in the 30’s, in between episodes of The Shadow and Little Orphan Annie.

Swirling this audio aesthetic together with an accordion, tuba, and other homemade instruments might sound like a gimmick if it weren’t for Bullock’s understanding of music and ability to write a solid pop song that could stand under any genre.

The Scarring Party’s newest album, Losing Teeth, will be released on August 13, 2010. Ray Cesar gave his blessing to use one of his paintings for the cover, while I was responsible for incorporating the logos and track listings, as well as designing the disc face and accompanying lyrics book (images coming soon).

I also worked with Daniel to conceive of this t-shirt design. The Scarring Party has released a few t-shirt designs, but have found that most people will only buy black; any design that works optimally on a colored shirt, no matter how clever it is, will reap approximately an eighth of the sales.

On the other side of the pop coin is a one woman band that goes by the name Pezzettino. She, too, employs an accordion, but to a much different effect, with an indie pop sound. Her latest album, Lub Dub, is a break up album that starts with the sugar high of a fresh relationship and follows through to the inevitable crash.

I had the honor of conceiving and illustrating a candy coated cover for this project. Working with Pezzettino has been a great experience; I have felt confident throwing her several designs, knowing that she would make the best choice regardless.

And for the record, I wasn’t going for the whole Pez Candy to Pezzettino thing. That wasn’t something I had considered until after work on the illustration had begun.

Her album is basically all set to release, digitally speaking, but she wants to see it on vinyl as well. I, too, would love to see my work on a 12” cover, so run over to her Kickstarter fund and toss some cash her way. (Besides feeding my ego, there are more good reasons to support artists through Kickstarter, too.)

Look for Pezzettino’s official release to happen sometime in September of 2010.