Examining Design

I have been practicing digital design for over 20 years. From web to print to UX to UI to development to server administration, I have been involved in all parts of design. I even supervise designers and developers. The only part of design I haven’t done is examining design patent. I have learned that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has a design department. I was so tempting to give it a try. I hesitated because I live with a patent examiner and witness all the stress she endures. She works at nights and on weekends to meet her productions. I don’t think I can handle that level of stress. In addition, I don’t want to give up the creating part of what I do. I still love crafting webpages using HTML & CSS. I still love blogging. I still love typesetting. I still love playing around with web technologies. Examining design is not for me.

Kỷ niệm 20 năm iLoveNgocLan.com

Hôm nay kỷ niệm 20 năm ngày thành lập trang iLoveNgocLan. Thời gian trôi qua nhanh quá. Cũng không ngờ rằng, tôi đã chăm sóc ngôi nhà này suốt một chặng đường dài đến bây giờ.

Để tưởng nhớ một dấu mốc, tôi cũng không biết làm gì ngoài việc đổi nét chữ mới với một chút chữ viết tay và chữ dễ đọc. Giờ đây trang nhà không còn tiếng qua lại như xưa nữa. Năm ngoái tôi cố gắng viết thường xuyên hơn nhưng vẫn không thấy động tĩnh gì cả. Những người vẫn hâm mộ Ngọc Lan đã chuyển sang Facebook và những trang mạng khác.

Năm ngoái tôi ngồi đọc lại một số bài cũ và những lời bình luận. Thì ra đã có xảy ra những lời bàn cãi mà lúc đó tôi đã không có thời gian giải quyết. Kết quả là chắc các bạn hâm mộ tiếng hát Ngọc Lan cũng đã không quay trở lại. Đành phải chịu thôi. Biết làm sao bao giờ. Cuối cùng iLoveNgocLan vẫn chỉ là một trang nhà tưởng nhớ tiếng hát vẫn luôn tồn tại trong tim những người yêu Ngọc Lan.

Tuy giờ đây trang nhà không còn sinh hoạt gì nữa, tôi vẫn giữ gìn cho đến lúc tôi không còn điều kiện gì nữa.

Scalia Law Website’s XML, Templates & Layout Patterns


Layout Patterns

  • We are using a grid-based system more than templates to give us flexible layout patterns.


Events Templates

Intranet Templates

WordPress Forms

Commission Work for Vietnamese Pop-Up Menu

A few months ago, I received an inquiry from a Vietnamese fellow to design a menu. He wrote:

Hi Donny –

Recently I’ve been more interested in my Vietnamese roots learning more about the language, food, and culture and I came across your Vietnamese Typography book. I’m a huge fan of typography and love what you’ve done here.

I’m a chef and am planning out my first pop-up and am wondering if you would be interested in designing a simple menu and/or business card for me.

I really love some of the fonts in your type recommendations here and would like to incorporate one of the fonts.

I want something relatively simple. Can talk more about it if this is something you’re interested in doing.

Please let me know!


It sounded like a fun little project. I replied:

Hello A,

Thanks for reading my book and reaching out to me. Sure, I can design a menu and a business card for you. Since I have collected a handful of typefaces Vietnamese support, I might as well put them to good use.

Do you have a logo already? Once you gather all the content for the menu and/or business card, let me know.


A responded:


I don’t have a logo yet so this is something I would like as well. I’m more interested in the menu for now and I can gather all the content for you in a week or so.

In regards to pricing—I want to get a good idea of what to expect. For something of around the same complexity as the menu I showed you in my prior email + creating a logo for me—what should I expect for this to cost (rough estimate is fine)?


I gave a few options. The prices were fair, but he said they were too expensive. I asked him for the budget:

Hi A,

How much do you want to spend? If you don’t mind letting me know, we can work within your budget. We can focus on the menu and not spend too much on the logo, but I will come up with a word mark for you to use. If you would like it you can keep it or if you would like to revisit the branding later, we can do so.

Donny Truong

A responded:


Because I am doing this as a first pop-up event and donating some of the profits—I am not looking to spend over $100 for menu creation. I envision this is something I would be more willing to spend in the future though.

I think your work is really great and you should be compensated for the value of your work, so I don’t want to undermine your work by offering such a low price.

But if you are still interested, that would be great for me. Otherwise, I can circle back to you in the future.


$100? Of course, I took the job:

Hi A,

Thanks for letting me know and the budget is understandable. Yes, do circle back when you are ready in the future.

I wish you all the best with your first pop-up event.

Donny Truong

Just kidding! Of course, I didn’t take it.

Social Media Cleansing

I am on my path to stop using social media. Not using LinkedIn has no effect on me. I hardly used LinkedIn anyway, but I still keep my account active. I miss family and friends on Facebook, especially on news such as weddings or funerals. I keep my account active to maybe check in once in a while. I wish I could mass-delete all my content on Facebook. I reactivated Twitter, but not posted anything new. I miss the type community, but I don’t want to move over to Mastodon. My only involvement in the type community is Vietnamese Typography and people can find me on that site.

The biggest issue I have is not following the web community. I need to keep myself up-to-date with the latest web developments. Unfortunately I have been out of the loop for over a decade. CSS grid and web fonts were the latest two skills I picked up. I haven’t used any JavaScript frameworks. I still write my HTML and CSS from scratch. WordPress’s block theming is beyond my knowledge. I am still using the classic editor for my blog. I wonder how long WordPress continues to support the classic editor.

I still have tremendous love for the web. I love the ability to create websites the way I wanted, not having to use someone’s codes, templates, or platforms. I still enjoy creating small websites such as Everlasting Eye Care, Thinkpoint Creative, and Kristin Bair. These sites were designed and developed using HTML, CSS, and a bit of PHP. They will last forever. If I were to develop a blog from scratch, I would not know what software to choose. WordPress has moved beyond a blogging system.

In any rate, I am happy with the changes that I have made, which will allow me to spend more time offline. I am getting tired of all the social media chaos.

A Better Approach to Building Vietnamese Diacritical Marks

In his latest video, Type Designer Stephen Nixon spent 40 minutes sharing his approach for designing Vietnamese diacritics—something I had always wanted to see since I started to do research for my thesis. Even though I don’t know anything about Glyphs and RoboFont, the process looks intriguing. The best part of the video is when Stephen walks through a book called Vietnamese Typography by yours truly. Of course, I am biased.

As Stephen pointed out, designing Vietnamese diacritics seems to be intimidating at first, but with my website as a reference and some practice, you will do just fine. I am always available to review if you need feedback on your Vietnamese diacritical marks. If you’re designing a Latin typeface, you should have no excuse not supporting Vietnamese diacritics. You have all the resources you need at your fingertips; therefore, you should plan to incorporate Vietnamese diacritics early in your process.

Watch Stephen’s video for technical details. Reach out to him if you have any technical questions. Get in touch with me if you need help with your diacritical design. I charge a small fee, but we can also negotiate if your budget is tight.

Vietnamese Sample: The Tale of Kiều

Nguyễn Du’s Truyện Kiều (The Tale of Kiều) is recognized as the masterpiece of national literature. Structured in lục-bát (six-eight) couplets, Truyện Kiều, which consists of 3,254 lines, is not only a literary bible but also a national epic that has inspired political debate, social critique, and revolutionary spirit.

Last Friday, I typeset Truyện Kiều in Portada to showcase Vietnamese Typography. With Portada, ​​Veronika Burian and José Scaglione set out to create a serif family that’s as clear and readable as a sans family in digital environments. Portada is designed specifically for user interfaces as well as long reading online. Portada has extended its support for Vietnamese. In working with Vik and José on Vietnamese diacritics for Portada, I caught a glimpse of how the two talented designers collaborated. They lived up to their foundry’s name: TypeTogether. For the title, I chose Water Brush, designed by Robert Leuschke, which has a hand-drawing vibe, to give the cover a paper quality.

When I published and launched the online version of Vietnamese Typography, I created a few samples just to give type designers how Vietnamese diacritics were being applied to different applications and publications. The samples, however, have turned into small design projects for me to experiment with Vietnamese typography. In addition, they have become my collection of Vietnamese art, culture, and literature. I hope you enjoy glancing at them or reading them if you can read Vietnamese. Take a look at Truyện Kiều.

A Note From Dr. Mỹ An T. Nguyễn

In conducting my research for the redesign of Everlasting Eye Care, I looked around at other optometry websites to see how they are done. What I have found are similar templated designs on their homepage with stock photos of people wearing glasses, a few marketing words, and a big button to schedule an appointment. They all claim to be “personable” and yet they all look and feel generic.

In talking with Dr. Nguyễn, I felt the deep passion she had for her profession and the genuine caring she had for her patients. As a result, I decided to scrap all the marketing materials on the homepage and just put up a personal note from Dr. Nguyễn:

Hi, I am Dr. MyAn T. Nguyen and I have been practicing optometry, specializing in dry eyes and contact lens, since 2007.

I have a passion for vision care because I get to enhance people’s quality of life by improving their eye health. As an optometrist, I enjoy interacting with many different people and learning about their diverse backgrounds.

Your eyes are precious; therefore, I will take the time to get to know you, to address your concerns, to provide you with the best treatment options, to offer the latest advancements in the vision industry, and to reassure that you are completely comfortable.

I invite you and your family to come to one of my offices for all your eye needs.

–Dr. MyAn T. Nguyen

I just love that she wants to enhance people’s quality of life by improving their eye health. Her message is relatable and a nice photo of her added a personal touch. When you come to one of her offices, you know exactly who will take care of your eye health. If you live around Trappe or Norristown, Pennsylvania and need an optometrist, come see Dr. Nguyễn. I guarantee that you will get the highest quality of services. I have known Dr. Nguyễn since fifth grade.


Đán has been obsessed with Flash. He spends most of his screen time finding ways to install Flash Player on his PC. He explained to me step by step the process of getting Flash to run. He showed me newgrounds.com, which still has Flash games. I haven’t visited that site in 20 years. He even showed me the Flash Browser, which is still in beta. I don’t know if it will ever gain traction.

Even though I repeatedly informed that Flash is dead and unsecured, he kept digging in. I feel bad that he’s just wasting his time, but he feels passionate about it. I don’t want him to end up like I did. I wasted so much time learning Flash in college and I ended up ditching it. All I cared about was making cool Flash animation. I thought I would get paid just creating Flash intros. I was so dead wrong. The reality started sinking in when I could not find a job doing Flash. In addition, I had a Flash burn. I was creating the same thing over and over again and I failed to learn Flash scripting language. I was depressed and thought of quitting web design altogether. I could not do anything else besides Flash, but I also hit the crossroads on my Flash path.

I dropped Flash and hit the reset button. I transitioned over to HTML and focused on web standards. CSS rescued my career. HTML for structure and CSS for presentation made so much sense. They opened up a whole new web design world for me that I didn’t know existed. I was stuck in the Flash bubble for so long. Once I discovered HTML, CSS, and a bit of PHP, I never looked back. They aren’t as sexy and as cool as Flash, but they are accessible and outlived Flash. HTML and CSS are the backbone of the web. Flash came and went. Fancy JavaScript frameworks dominated and faded. HTML and CSS are here to stay.

I still love creating pure HTML and CSS sites because I know they will work for years to come. My fancy Flash creations are completely useless, but my HTML and CSS sites are still usable. If Đán wants to learn about the web, he should learn HTML and CSS. I’ll teach him if he’s willing to learn. In the meantime, I just let him explore on his own. He’s just nine years old. He has plenty of time to learn.

The Web I Love

The other night, I woke up around 3:00 am and couldn’t go back to sleep. I reached for my phone then started browsing. Somehow Greg Tate came to mind. I wanted to reread his essays. I found a handful of his work from the Village Voice and a few from Rollin Stones and Spin. As much as I love Tate’s articulate criticism, particularly on music, I hated reading his essays filled with annoying ads and JavaScripts that not only slowed down the loading to a crawl, but also kept freezing up the page. I wanted to just take all the content and create a book website without ads and JavaScript and with high-quality typography and editorial design. I want to keep his legacy alive. I might be running into the copyright issue even though I won’t make any money off it.

One of the perks of working at the law school is that every once in a while I would receive a bobblehead of a Supreme Court Justice from a generous and creative law professor. In the past ten years, my collection has grown. From Antonin Scalia to Ruth Bader Ginsburg to Sonia Maria Sotomayor, I have a display on my bookcase at work. I heard the rumor that some of these bobbleheads had been sold on eBay for a few grants a pop. They are gifts and priceless to me. I will keep them for as long as I can and I wanted to make a website showcasing them. I also wanted to learn more about them since I still don’t know many of them, especially the Justices from the past.

Just the thought of creating passion projects like these makes me love the web even more. I love to just design a website and share it to the world. All I need is some great content to markup in HTML, style in CSS, and set in flexible typefaces. I don’t need bloated CMS, JavaScripts, and third-party ads. For almost two decades working on the web, I sat out on all the frameworks. Even WordPress has become way too complicated for me to develop a theme. Full-site editing is where WordPress is heading. I have become more of a WordPress user than a developer. For my own blog, I am using about ten percent of WordPress’s capacity. I am still using my own theme, which has an index.php, style.css, and screenshot.png. From the start, I knew I wanted to keep my blog simple and easy to update. I use no photos, no JavaScripts, and no bloated CSS. I am still using the Classic Editor, which I don’t know how long the support would last.

So far, my simple sites with just HTML and CSS still stand the test of time. I hope all of my sites will stay online for as long as I am alive. I don’t want to worry about them after I am gone. My body will return to dusk and my sites will return to nothingness. I have learned to accept the reality of it instead of trying to keep my legacy alive.