7th June, 2005

Black Convoy rolls outta the garage

Quick news. As the official BC mechanic, I think I can say that we have just launched the Black Convoy website, beginning with a “yellow” June 2005 issue featuring themed responses from the thirteen convoyers.

black convoy

For those that don’t know, Black Convoy is a UK based illustration and art collective formed to facilitate collaboration with artists and designers, and to stage collaborative events in numerous global cities.

Founded by Pixelsurgeon genius Richard May and the madly-talented McFaul, BC is gathering momentum in the States, Asia and the UK as huge sponsors and galleries start hitching a ride.

For the website, I have stuck very closely to Richard, Mark and Steve’s original layouts, which demanded a very simple, unflashy interface where the work stood out. A few tricky elements (DHTML scrollers - queue alt CSS for crap browsers) and other bits and pieces mean that it’s perhaps not as accessible as it should be, but do give us time to let it all bed in first.

The Garage

Whilst all the convoyers are super-talented, thay’re not all web savvy, so it was decided (by me) that I would build them their own customized admin interface, called The Garage. This strips out all the extraneous CMS faff, and puts the process in context. If it isn’t necessary, it isn’t in the garage.


Convoyers can upload images, chat privately, collaborate on images and “book out” files, add and edit their own submissions, view all their forthcoming events and much more. What’s more, it all looks nice and friendly, and everything is safely muzzled.


The file lists mirror whatever is placed in the relevant image directories on the server, using some nifty PHP scripting. So, the moment a convoyer uploads a new image, it appears in the file list and becomes available. The Garage solves all the problems of regular CMS usage, and should keep the Black Convoy on the road. Amazing what can be done with a little Expression.

Each month it’s a new issue and new theme

All regular items (menus, tabs, logos, text etc) are black and white, and will remain so, whilst the temporary items (images and thumbnails) will be a colour and/or theme set by BC. Running up to the first of each month, the administrator will upload the PSD templates for the forthcoming month into the Garage, detailing the theme and idea for that issue. As you will see, the first issue (June 2005) is a yellow illustration kinda thang. Check the site again on the 1st of July to see what the theme will be that month. Eventually the site will build into an archive of monthly issues.

Sufferin’ Suckerfish

I’ve bastardised Patrick’s Suckerfish dropdowns here, owing to limited space and the need to control look and feel of all page tools (hence I dropped the select menus I previewed earlier this month).



This should do the trick for now (doesn’t work on IE5 Mac, so for now an alternative style sheet is served up removing the menu entirely), and more will be added as the monthly issues build up. If you want a breakdown of how these tricky menus were done, just ask.

Control of the scroll

So, DHTML scrollbars. Yes, I feel bad. Yes, I have beaten myself about the face with a fish. Look, it had to be done. The convoyers wanted control of the scroll, so no overflow:auto and definitely no frames. If only it worked on all browsers - sadly the alternative stylesheet is used here again to convert things to overflow:auto on IE Mac. I’m also working on the JavaScript replacement here, so don’t flog me yet.


There’s very little extra waffle on the site. There is some basic info in the FAQ section, and info about projects will build up, but the BC team were very keen to keep things simple, and let the images take precedence. I’m happy with that.

Let me know what you think about it. It’s a little light on content at the moment, but imagine what it’ll be like once the issues build up, and it’s jam-packed with illustrations, photos, movies and animations. Yum-yum! Keep on trucking, convoyers.

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