2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship

Recently, a few friends and I took a road trip to Eau Claire, Wis. for the 2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship. For those of you unfamiliar with the game of kubb, I recommend checking out the Wikipedia page and the video below.

Basically, kubb is a yard game that involves tossing wooden batons at wooden blocks, called kubbs. My friends and I have played for nearly two years now (but probably playing by the real rules for closer to a year).

The team

My friend Jesse started researching the game and came across a number of tournaments and groups in the United States. The biggest tournament being the national championship in Eau Claire. Jesse made the decision that he was going to check it out, even if that meant going by himself and just observing. Being the great friends we are, Joey, Al and myself decided to tag along and together we formed The Settlers of Baton.

Once our team name was picked (combining both one of our favorite board games with one of our favorite yard games), it was time for a logo and shirts. I took major inspiration from The Settlers of Caton. I replaced the horizontal rule in their logo with a baton you would toss in kubb. For the back of the shirt I did a sunset, which is repeated in various Settlers materials. I then added our team motto, “Wood for wood?” This is a play on the common “Wood for sheep?” question associated with the board game. Since kubb is pretty much trading blocks of wood back and forth, it seemed to really work well.

A mockup of The Settlers of Baton t-shirts.

The shirts and team name were a big hit. We received many compliments and “oh I love that game!” shout outs all weekend long.

After about a seven and a half hour drive from Kalamazoo, Mich. we finally arrived in Eau Claire, Wis. We checked into our motel and headed over to the soccer fields where the tournament was to be held the following morning. There was a decent crowd of people who brought their own kubb sets to get a bit of last-minute practice. We set up a set of our own and joined in on the fun.

On Saturday morning, we woke up early, downed a few waffles and headed back to the soccer fields. It was finally here, the big day. We set our expectations low, vowing to have a great time no matter what the outcome.

Group play

We started our group play with Team Norway. It was a best of three match, and despite some good competition, we took it in two games. Team Norway were a great bunch and we had a wonderful time playing them.

A photo of The Settlers of Baton with Team Norway at the 2014 U.S. National Kubb Championship.

Group play continued with La Kubba Nostra, a match that went to three games and actually was called for time. We didn’t finish that third game and the tie-breaker was remaining kubbs on the back line. We ended up losing that, and therefore the match. The last group match was against Kubbarb Pie. That match took three games, but we pulled off a win. That meant we tied for first in our group with La Kubba Nostra. Since they had won our earlier match tie-breaker, they also won the group tie-breaker. This left us a number two seed in the tournament bracket.

Championship bracket

Our first match-up was against the Barrakubbas. This team was made up of people from the Virginia and Washington D.C. area. They made our seven and a half hour journey seem rather short. They were again a friendly team and a pleasure to play with. We took the match 2-0.

As with most brackets, each level increases the level of competition, and our next round was no different. We took the first game, but struggled in the second. The third game looked like we were cooked, but we made a nice comeback and stayed with it to the end, finally defeating them 2-1.

Now we hit the round of 32 and were matched with Kubb’d. This was a team we had read about and seen online. It was a cool feeling to play a team like that. Kubb’d wouldn’t make this easy. We held our own and brought them to a third game. We had knocked down all the field kubbs and only had one back-row kubb and the king remaining. Joey had two batons in hand. He tossed one at the back row and it made contact… but wobbled… and didn’t go down. He throws the next one and it falls. We lost our shot at ending the game, but by now we’ve drawn a bit of a crowd. Our game had all 10 kubbs in play.


In the end, Kubb’d and their spectacular grouping finally defeated us. It was an epic match and despite losing, we felt like winners. We truly felt that last game could go either way.


After that, we became spectators. We watched the last round of the day and then were ready to watch the finals on Sunday.


Sunday started with the quarter-finals. There was a great turn-out crowded around the four kubb pitches. After some hard-fought battles the field narrowed to four. We intently watched these matches, trying to take away any tips and tricks we could.

By the time the championship match got underway, you could really tell you were watching the cream of the crop. Kubbsicles and Knockerheads were doing almost everything right. They were inspirational to watch and put on a great show for the crowd. It was a really exciting match, all the way to the end when the Kockerheads last shot made contact with the king and it didn’t look as if it was going to fall for a moment. I caught it on video.

The coolest part of the tournament was that while everyone wanted to win, everyone cheered for a great shot or a beautiful grouping. There was always a sense of fun and sportsmanship you don’t find in many competitions these days. I can’t wait for next year. Settlers of Baton is already developing a practice routine so we’ll be in tip-top shape for 2015. Thanks for the wonderful experience, USA Kubb!

If you’re interested, I posted some photos on Facebook from the event. You can also follow The Settlers of Baton and Kalamazoo Kubb on Twitter to keep up with all the kubb happenings in the Zoo.

New Blog Design

jonesin for a blog April Fools logo-02This blog is just over two years old now, so I thought it was time to spruce it up with a new design. What better way to usher in spring than with brighter colors and a more laid-back typography choice? The old design was so white and boring. I tried to capture energy and excitement with this visual update. What do you think?


Obviously, this was an April Fools’ Day joke. I’ve included a screenshot below if you missed it. Hopefully no one actually thought I had completely lost my mind (and design sensibilities).

Screenshot of the April Fools' Day Redesign

Merry Christmas from the Joneses

Abby and Christopher want to wish you a merry Christmas. Check out www.abbyandchristopher.com


I hope everyone is having a wonderful holiday season. My wife and I decided to try a new take on the traditional Christmas card thing. We’ve decided a website card is more our style. Since we still have abbyandchristopher.com from our wedding website, we’re going to update it each year with a year in review and Christmas greeting for friends and family.

For me, it’s a great way to experiment with some Web design techniques. This year’s site uses the “full-page” trend that’s so hot now. It was fun to experiment with and I’m pretty happy with the final product. I was careful to craft something responsive since so many people will be looking at it on various devices. I wasn’t able to test on everything, but from the testing I did do, it works well at any size. I look forward to trying something new next year. I think I’ll archive each year’s site, which will be fun to look back at as time goes progresses.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Happy iOS 7 day!

Screen shots of Apple's iOS 7.The highly anticipated update to iOS is finally here. While initially iOS 7 left me with a few concerns, I’ve found it to be an improvement and for the most part, very satisfying. I’ll go into more detail after I’ve used it day-to-day for a longer period.

So what do you need to do to get updated? I recommend a manual backup of your phone (even if you normally backup through iCloud). It’s easy and doesn’t take to long. Open iTunes, plug-in your phone, select it in the upper right corner and look for the “Back up Now” button. It’ll do it’s thing and in a few minutes you can eject your phone and upgrade to iOS 7 without fear.

So now you’re rocking the fancy new iOS 7, but besides the eye candy, what’s new? Wired wrote a great little article detail many of the changes in iOS 7. It’s worth a read.

iOS 7 is great and all, but the real treat today (and for the next few weeks) will be all the great UI updates to your favorite third-party apps. Wanting to stay relevant and not look out-of-place, many app developers have worked hard on getting their apps to reflect the new style in iOS 7. TapFame set up a page detailing some of the before and after screen shots. I find some of these third-party updates even more exciting than iOS 7 itself.

Have you installed iOS 7 yet? What’s your favorite feature? How about third-party apps, who’s done the best job translating their app into the new iOS 7 design language?

Tips for design school students

I was reading a great little write-up on tips for design school students. It was written by a graduate of the Western Michigan University program (where I also attended). She has some great insight so I thought I’d pass it along. It’s definitely worth a read, even for design school graduates. It’s always good to remember these things after school too.


iOS 7 gets flatter, more transparent

iOS 7 logoUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Apple was overhauling iOS. The rumors had been swirling for months saying that Jonny Ive had led the design team in a new, flatter, minimalistic and all around, exact opposite of the current iOS. Gone would be the leather stitching, cloth textures and strange skeuomorphic experiences.

Well, the rumors were pretty dead on. iOS 7 will be a completely new beast (visually at least). During the big keynote at the World Wide Developers Conference yesterday, Apple took the wraps off the new iOS. It’s definitely flat, definitely not skeuomorphic and the textures are kept to a minimum. Transparency and sense of depth are design themes. The standard Apple apps have all been rethought. The interface seems to do a much better job of getting out of the way and let you see the content. Safari, for example, has its navigation “chrome” disappear so the Web page you’re viewing can take over your screen.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 10.26.26 AM

Overall, I’m impressed. They’ve gone into a bold new direction. Sure a lot of the ideas are borrowed from jailbreak hacks or other operating systems, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great. Many of the cries for a sleeker interface and easier to use quick functions have been answered. Swiping up from the bottom gives you access to switch on and off wifi, bluetooth, do not disturb, screen brightness, etc. It’s simple, not ground breaking, but it’s what they needed. Notifications, multi-tasking, app switching and much more have all been overhauled. The type alone is worth upgrading. It’s big, beautiful and used to communicate effectively. This truly is a big update for iOS and I cannot wait to install it.


At this point, it’s probably important to note I haven’t used this hands on yet. That said, my biggest criticism right now has to be the icons. I’m all for flatter, less glossy icons. That really works in some cases. In others, I just don’t get it (in the case of Game Center, what are those bubbles for?) or I just feel uneasy about them (I’m looking at you Safari, perhaps it’s the stark white square you sit in?). Maybe in my hand they’ll look better, or at the very least I’ll get used to them.

The second thing that worries me is the transparency. It’s cool in the screnshots they provide but how will it actually react with your own photos as backgrounds? How will it work in the sunlight? I hesitate to critique it too much without using it, so my final judgement on transparency will have to wait.

I won’t ramble on too much more, but I will add you should definitely check out the iOS 7 teaser page at Apple’s site. There is a lot of change coming to an iDevice near you this fall. I, for one, am chomping at the bit to start playing with this new design direction. It might not be perfect, but it’s a step in a new direction and that was much needed. What do you think?

The User is Drunk

User experiences and interfaces are some of my greatest interests. My love of design and technology fuels this, but even in everyday life I am constantly thinking of user experiences. Whether it’s using a self-checkout at a supermarket or driving through a round-about, my mind is always thinking of how it could be better or how clever it is. That’s why I really enjoyed this little video called “The User is Drunk.” It’s a humorous take on user interfaces, but it makes very valid points.

When I’m designing websites and other interfaces, I’m always trying to keep things simple, elegant and most importantly easy to use. The video points out imagining the user as drunk is one way to ensure your end user’s experience is a good one. My personal rule of thumb has always been, “Can my mom use this?” but “the user is drunk” works too. Either way, the point is the same. Interfaces shouldn’t be complicated. A user shouldn’t have to have a computer science degree to fill out your form. In the video, he brings up the point that a good user interface disappears  I couldn’t agree more. The less you notice an interface and just get done whatever you were trying to do, the better.

Enjoy this little video, and pay attention. There are some great points in there, even if the title is a bit funny.

The Red Wings go Duck Hunting

The Detroit Red Wings have extended their stellar playoff record to 22 consecutive seasons and I decided that was worth celebrating. Over the weekend I whipped up a little image that played on the fact the Wings will be facing the Ducks. I took a screen from the classic game “Duck Hunt” and dressed the dog up in Red Wings gear. It was great to create something just for fun. It seems too often I get caught up in work or freelance projects and forget to just make things for myself. Good luck, Red Wings!


Bonus: Can you spot the Easter egg?

BNs for Bruce

Jones-BN-Swatch-FinalOne of my graphic design professors is retiring. After 39 years (not a shabby run), Bruce Naftel is “Beginning New.” Last week we celebrated with a “Big Night” retirement party. Obviously, the theme was Bruce’s initials B and N. Bruce’s former students (including myself), some colleagues and friends all came together to create a special project for Bruce. We each created a composition using the letters B and N. Here a few I came up with.

My paint composition has a particularly special meaning. My first class with Bruce during my very first semester in the graphic design program was “Color for Graphic Design.” During the class we studied color theory. To do so, we often painted little swatches by hand. This particular composition was an ode to those little swatches we painstakingly painted. My version for this project was much less than perfect like we were expected to make back in school. I figured it’d read better as “paint” this way. I’m sure Bruce would have NEVER accepted something like that in real life, but that kind of made it more fun to make.


The last two were just fun explorations. They’re reminiscent of my early typography classes when we’d crop in on type. There’s no deep meaning to them but they were still fun to make.

It was very nice to be a part of Bruce’s retirement. He was a huge part of my design education, and it was great working on one last project for him. It was even better not getting graded this time. 😛