Blog #10: Master of One Trade or Jack of All Trades?

OK, so I’m a little late with this blog post, and I have no excuse other than I simply forgot in this whirlwind of finishing the class and working my two jobs. I have found in life that the more dishes you add to a dinner, the less each one will be eaten, unless there are Italians at that dinner (and I am Italian, so I can make that joke).  Now, what does all of this have to do with the article we needed to read? What does my inability to juggle several obligations of equal priority have to do with anything? Well, this sums up my thoughts on the article.

I am not at all saying that designers should not be well-rounded, because we should. We should DEFINITELY learn all kinds of different styles, media, techniques, etc. so that we can be flexible for our employers. That flexibility allows us to think outside of the box and explore all angles of our creativity, without assigning boundaries. Something I try to do in my portfolio is to have different kinds of work and different styles to show a wide range of my skills, so that regardless of the type of employer I am meeting, I will have something to display that I can do what they need me to do. (A good idea is to have interchangeable pieces so that you can tailor your portfolio to a specific employer.) Of course, that’s difficult to do when all you do is sign work, so that’s why I’m going to try to assign myself non-sign projects from time to time once this class is over.

However, there is the saying that you can either be a master of one trade, or a jack of all trades. Which one is better? Personally I think it’s best to be a jack of all, and a semi-master at a few, if that makes sense. Unfortunately, just like I’ve recently dropped a few balls in my personal life due to feeling that I’m spread too thin, that can easily happen as a designer as well. If you spend too much time doing a little web design, a little print design, a little video, etc., then it may be difficult to really get good at those things because you may not be devoting the focus you want to them. At my last job in particular, in another sign shop, I made a lot of mistakes because I was constantly running back and forth between the two printers, my computer, the front desk, AND the phone. I wasn’t focused on any of it because I didn’t have time to focus on it. It is the same principle with design — while you should try to learn as MUCH as you can about it, because you can never learn enough about anything, you want to make sure you are not overwhelming yourself either. You should ideally pick a few things you excel at (for me, it’s illustration and color theory), then be proficient at everything else.

Personally, I’m not loving the blurred lines of the industry. When I was unemployed, there were employers asking for graphic designers who could also do video production, and while I have done that, it’s not something I’m strong at. I really am not a technical person at all, so coding, Flash, Lightwave, etc. are more difficult for me. I’m very visual and do better with the still image than a moving one, so the fact that the industry is beginning to require designers to be creative AND technical terrifies me. I remember doing a tour of WHRO a few years ago for film class, and they had TWO designers: one specialized in print, and the other in multimedia (web, video, etc.) I’m sure those two jobs have condensed into one. I think some of the reason the lines are blurring is because of the economy: why pay two people to do related jobs when you can pay one to do both?

As for this class, I honestly feel like we didn’t delve into CSS/HTML and Flash as much as we needed to, but that was because we lost too much time to the snow. (This is also only ID1, and the first class is usually just an introductory class to the second.) I don’t feel adequately prepared for the design field with just this one class under my belt, and sadly, ID2 isn’t offered at night next semester. However, at least I have a basic foundation for web and media design, which will be helpful if I decide to teach myself via internet and YouTube tutorials to further my skills so that I am prepared.

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Blog #9: A Funeral for Flash?

I found it a little bit difficult to understand some of the technical jargon in the two articles about Flash dying out (I am VERY artistic, so technical aspects confuse me), but the gist I got from them is that HTML5 is replacing Flash, and that Apple is playing a hand in it, since Flash is not supported on their mobile devices.

I can definitely say I agree about how crappy it is that Apple is making it so only certain programs and elements are compatible with their products. I like the Mac operating system better than Windows, but I am starting to find myself disenchanted with the company, who seems to be going out of their way to keep control of the technological universe, as well as to keep their consumers only buying Apple products. They changed the port of their chargers since there were too many off-brands creating the same one. A lot of programs are not cross-compatible, so if a Windows user wants to load their Adobe Creative Suite onto their new Mac, they have to re-buy the software. And now, they’re pushing HTML5 over Flash (if I understood the article correctly). Plus, those of you who I’ve ranted to know how upset I am that the latest operating system (Yosemite) screwed up the retina display on my laptop and now my Adobe programs look fuzzy (though the Apple Store “genius” swore up and down that this specific model would run the programs well).

Personally, I have done web design before this class, and I find HTML and CSS by themselves very limiting. I do like a few bells and whistles on my designs, because they make the site more interesting. I am personally not a fan of animating (I love Disney movies and cartoons, yet hate doing animation… how ironic), because again, I am not very technical and the programs just give me a huge headache. I would rather hand-draw animation in the old-fashioned Walt Disney way than deal with these aggravating, complicated computer programs.

Personally, I wish the web design standards were Dreamweaver and Lightwave. I found those two programs MUCH easier to work with, since they were set up like Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign. They are specifically set up for visual people like me who are not technical at all. Of course, knowing CSS and HTML is very useful in addition to these programs, so that you can go in and code whatever you need to tweak as needed, but mostly set up the site in a WYSIWYG interface. I’m aware that these programs probably have their limits as well, but nothing is perfect. I did my best with them, and I wish they were the industry standard. As for Flash… I personally don’t like it, but that’s just because I am artistic, not technological. I don’t know what should be done with it, all I know is that I want visual, non-technical people who are better with still images to be able to make it in the design world as well.

Assignment 8: The Grid System

It’s pretty self-explanatory how a grid can help you with your designs: they help you figure out where to place things in an aesthetically-pleasing and logical manner. They help you figure out scale and proportion, as well as position, which give you the most important thing in design: hierarchy. There are things that you, as the designer, want the viewer so see first and foremost, and then things that are just quick afterthoughts that need to be there, but aren’t the main focus of the design. A grid can help you plan for that.

As for my website specifically, it could help since the Golden Ratio was heavily used by the ancient Greeks, and I am redesigning a site for a Greek Restaurant. Using a grid, I could probably replicate that Golden Ratio that was very prominent in the architecture and mosaics, thus pushing the theme of Greece even further (if I wanted to get crazy with my design). However, I’m trying to keep it fairly simple because the name of the restaurant is “Yanni’s Casual Greek,” so I want to keep it casual. A grid can help me keep that clean, neat, simple look to the design without making it too boring or making the elements look like they are just floating around.

Assignment #6: The Awwwards

Most of the sites that had won were pretty “meh” for me— they were certainly not bad, by any standards, but they failed to catch my eye. There were a few that I did not enjoy at all — they had WAAAAAY too many Flash features and things jumping out at me anytime I moved my mouse 1/8″ of an inch. I WAS AFRAID FOR MY LIFE! Can’t a girl get online without being Flashed 24/7? (Heh heh… see what I did there?)

See? Buzz understands.
See? Buzz understands.

However, finally, I stumbled upon what seemed like an AMAZING site, featuring haunted hotels for booking.com. It was created by  Resn & Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam, and featured movie-styled posters for classic haunted hotels. I clicked on this amazing site, but even scarier than all of the Flash features jumping out at me on the other sites, was the discovery that IT WAS NO LONGER THERE!

I scoured the internet for traces of the site, but all I could find were the movie poster images. For a Halloween and all-things-creepy-except-for-snakes enthusiast like myself, THEY WERE AWESOME. They conveyed the experience of staying into one of these hotels similar to the way one would experience a horror movie, and they were just extremely well-done. Unfortunately, since the website wasn’t there, I couldn’t look at these wonderful posters in their context. I could only imagine what amazing, blood-curdling effects I would have experienced if the site was still up. But alas, those effects can only exist now… in my imagination.

This is where I would critique the website... IF THERE WAS ONE! DINKLEBURG!!!
This is where I would critique the website… IF THERE WAS ONE!
Seriously, why? WHY? WHY?!?!?!?!?

After hours of gross sobbing and a phone call with my therapist, I finally gathered the strength to get back on the internet and look again. I found a few sites I liked, that appealed to different interests and tastes I have. In fact, I had a really hard time deciding what to critique. My head started to spin and I started tugging on my hair. SO MANY GOOD SITES! WHAT PATH DO I CHOOSE? WHY SHOULD I BE THE ONE TO MAKE THIS DECISION, MAN?

Tweek_Tweak__by_renaixxxx

However, I finally took the plunge and made the life-altering decision to critique the Hotel Bourg Tibourg website, created by Maxemilian Nilsson. It grabbed my eye immediately with its rich, bold red color against a black background. It has this classy, Moulin Rouge feel to it that made me start singing “Paris Holds the Key to Your Heart” from the 1997 movie Anastasia (in my Bernadette Peters voice and all)!

The Hotel Bourg Tibourg website, by Maxemilian Nilsson.
The Hotel Bourg Tibourg website, by Maxemilian Nilsson.

It is extremely easy to navigate, with its navigation bar up top and pull-down menus that let you choose what page you want to visit in each section. Some websites, for example, would only have one page that says “Rooms” and you would have to click that page and sift around to find what TYPE of room you want to book or read more about. However, this site allows you to pick from the pull-down menu whether you want to see a Single Room, Double Classic Room, etc. No matter what page you click on, the navigation bar stays there, and it’s very easy to find where you want to go next or if you want to go back. Some sites on this website just go all over the place, and navigating through them is like navigating through Narnia in the mud, with a blindfold, and Helen Keller serving as your guide.

pull-down screen

The readability is AMAZING, because they use a simple fonts (one serif, one sans-serif, for contrast) and place most of the text on a plain background. Specifically, there is a white box on the side of each page with all of the information that pertains to that page, and a simple image. Unfortunately, there is one flaw, as you can see in the image above — some of the text from the pull-down menus gets lost in the images on the website. However, this is like a tiny squashed bug on a huge, clear, beautiful windshield on a luxury car.

Well, not everything can be perfect...
Well, not everything can be perfect…

The accessibility of the site was great, and the main way to know (for me, at least) is to access it on my family’s cheap, slower-than-my-turtle-in-peanut-butter internet. The site still loaded very quickly, since it’s not bogged down by all these special bells-and-whistles. The design itself is what makes it fancy, not a ton of extra features to slow it down. It also looked great on my iPhone, and when I changed the dimensions of my browser window, all of the elements shifted to fit the new dimensions. This is know as Responsive Web Design, and this designer did a great job of using it.

Responsive Web Design makes me a happy panda.
Responsive Web Design makes me a happy panda.

IMG_3889

As for special features, as I stated before, there aren’t too many of them, because the elegance of the site lies in its simplicity. However, there are some instances of animation, specifically in the rooms pages. On the white box on the left, you see a moving slideshow of images of the room. A few pages (such as the Contact page) have a closed tri-fold booklet, then opens up to show you your three different options.

contact 1 contact 2

Finally, let’s talk about the branding. We’ll state the obvious: the photography. Not only are the images vibrant, with high-contrast and resolution, BUT HAVE I MENTIONED THE SCENERY PORN? Every photo contains a hyper-luxurious room with beautiful models who look like they came from the 1920s, and there is often a window in the background with bright lights on a dark skyline. It just SCREAMS Parisian luxury like you see in a lot of those classic movies, and my god, I want to visit France now just to stay in that hotel. (Guess I should have chosen a more financially-stable field.) It’s just absolutely gorgeous and appeals to my senses in so many ways. The reason that the rest of the branding (the type, the layout, the special features, etc.) is to make the photographs do most of the talking, since they are what draw the viewer in.

scene porn 2 scene porn 3 scenery porn 1

I could go on and on about the beauty of this website. I am finding that it is hard to find words to show how great it is, and I feel like it needs to be experienced to really get my points across. That’s why I posted screen shots, because simply telling you guys about this stunning site is not enough. It’s a simple, yet elegant design and concept, and just makes me want to hop on a plane and go to Paris right now. However, there’s this money thing that I don’t have much of, so I guess I’m staying in and watching Anastasia tonight.

Top 10 Web Designer Job Skills A List of Must- Have Skills for Web Designers and Web Developers

An interesting read!

designswaggs

aaaaWhether you are just starting out as a Web designer or Web developer or are looking to become one, there are skills you need to know to be successful. The following list of technical skills is a list of the skills you need to be a good Web designer. They are listed in importance to getting a job as a Web designer, although some may be in higher demand than others.

The list includes information about the skill, where to learn more about it, training resources, and whether it’s more useful to a Web designer or a Web developer.

1. HTML

HTML is the most important thing a Web designer or Web developer can learn. Even if you plan on using WYSIWYG editors for most of your career, knowing HTML will give you an understanding of how the Web works so that your designs will be more effective.

HTML is…

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Blog #5: Jason Santa Maria’s “On Web Typography”

I quite liked this video, mainly for the light-hearted feel to it with the jokes and memes on the Keynote. I especially liked the opening, because like Jason, I (and my other graphic designer friends) could spend all day ranting about typefaces and their use out in the wild. My ex used to hate me when we went to restaurants and I’d critique the typography of the menus. My friend Jeremy and I ranted about stupid typefaces (Comic Sans, Lucida Handwriting, etc.) the other day. (I HAAAATTTTTTEEEEEEE Lucida Handwriting! If I ever use it, please shoot me because the rabies have affected my brain and I have gone mad!) However, I am a freak who likes Arial, because of its versatility and simplicity — however, when I do higher scale design (versus sign design, which is a little different), I try to use fonts that aren’t so overdone and basic.

Ariel font meme

(Haha, come on, you guys are probably surprised I haven’t posted this sooner!)

Anyways, Jason’s video mostly talks about the importance of type in general, especially in web design. He talks about why it matters and the standard associations people have with certain typefaces. (For example, Optima and Bodoni are typically associated with high-end, beauty products.) He also discusses the impact that type can have on the readers and whether or not they want to read the content of your design. (Readability doesn’t always mean people will want to read it.) He talks about letter forms in themselves (which I liked because I have always loved interesting letter forms and have used them as illustrations in designs before) and how they can even distract the reader’s eyes. He scientifically explains how our eyes read and transmit the information to our brains without making it too confusing (because art and science don’t always mix, haha).

He also discusses ugly fonts and a study that says you retain information better if your brain has to work harder to decipher what you read. I agree with him that you can do this without resoirting to ugly fonts. But even then, Jason says that it’s not the typeface itself, but how it is used. It’s all about the context of the typeface, and how much quality and contrast there is in the type. However, some typefaces (like Comic Sans and Lucida Handwriting) could never look good. EVER.

At the end, Jason gives us some guidelines on how to choose type for the web. He explains that there are really no rules to typography, just guidelines to go by for what usually works, but nothing workings for everything, all of the time. It’s like the old saying goes: “You have to learn the rules before you can break them.” The methods he lists seem very simple, but they work. He tells us to consider the content we need the type for and the specs (dimensions, special features, prolonged reading, internationalization), because we want to choose a typeface that will satisfy all of those needs, as well as any different ones. He specifically says to look for “workhorse fonts,” which are versatile enough to be used in different contexts.

He also recommends using fonts with distinguishable characters, using Verdana and Gill Sans as an example. An uppercase I, a lowercase L, and the number 1 all look different for Verdana, but all look the same for Gill Sans. That can screw up your reader. He also tells us to avoid ready-made fonts, which are fonts created for one context. (His example is the font “Playground,” which can only be used for playful things. Another example could be “Rosewood Std,” which is a saloon, Wild-West looking font, that can only be used for things of that nature.)

Another thing he recommends is repeatability— pick a palette of fonts that you like and use them often. Get to know them really well, and identify what makes those fonts distinguishable. Once you do that, you can choose other fonts that share those similar features. Of course, from researching this fonts, you can use them to create anachronisms and juxtapositions, which I found fascinating. For example, Doc Brown’s tombstone in “Back to the Future” had a date from the 1800s on it, and a font that was created in the 1900s. Those inconsistencies push the boundaries of design and get people talking, IF they know the history of the fonts.

Finally, he mentioned two methods that I have always done in the past and are invaluable. The first one is to make a list of mental associations with the design and the branding. I always do a word list, where without thinking about it, I just jot down all of the words I associate with whatever the subject of my design is, and you never know where ideas will stem from. You never know what words will lead to what thoughts. The other method is to “try it out.” You have to digital mock ups of the design so that you know where the type will fit on the page. How many times have you drawn out a thumbnail and written the text where you wanted it to go, then typed it up in InDesign or Illustrator and found out it didn’t fit like you needed it to? Hand-drawn thumbnails are a great start, but it’s not until you do a digital rough that you can really establish the real-estate of your design, as well as how the type looks on your page. I have done pages where I had the same word, typed over and over, in many different variations of type, just to see how it would look. Typography is very much a WYSIWYG method, and you can’t get anywhere with it unless you explore your options digitally with the actual type and fonts you plan to use.

Assignment #4

In response to the Wikipedia article about Shepard Fairey (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shepard_Fairey) and the debate over his work, I have to say that this is one of the many issues that shows how blurred the lines can be when it comes to the subject of fair use and appropriation. There is always debate over how much copyrighted material an artist can use (and how much they should change it) in their artwork. According to the Wikipedia pages (though I know Wikipedia isn’t really a credible source for information), fair use pertains to the use of copyrighted material without the permission of the original author for the purpose of education, commentary, criticism, parody, or research. Appropriation is the “use of pre-existing objects or images with little or no transformation applied to them.” The article on appropriation mentions the artist Du Champ, who would take existing objects, take away their functionality, and declare them works of art. (The urinal piece is one of his most famous.)

I think in this case, Fairey’s work is fair use, because even though you can tell from the pose EXACTLY what picture he used, there is enough difference between it and the original photograph to tell them apart. His work was compared to Andy Warhol’s, and it is quite a fair comparison. I remember doing an assignment in Visual Arts Foundation where we had to color an existing photograph like Andy Warhol did – considering schools are big on preventing plagiarism, I don’t think we would have had to do that assignment if it wasn’t OK. But on the other hand, art is often about breaking the rules (but of course, you have to learn them first). Fairey in particular was a street artist and started a studio that focused on “guerrilla marketing.” It seems to me that he wasn’t concerned about the legal aspects of the Hope poster, because he wanted to express what he was going to express, regardless of the consequences.

However, from all the years of art I have studied (and all the years of watching satirical shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, and South Park, plus years of listening to Weird Al), I have learned that the line between fair use and plagiarism is often a very fine one, and blurry at best. It’s tough to determine whether it’s OK to use someone’s work in a certain manner, and how much you have to change it to make it your own. There’s also debate like that about fan art in the convention/artists’ alley communities, because many artists are selling pictures they drew, in their own style, copyrighted characters. The general rule of thumb with said art is that as long as it is distinguishable from the original work (in a different style, different layouts, etc.), then it is OK. However, it’s usually up to the original artist — for example, Craig Bartlett (the creator of “Hey Arnold”) loves seeing fan art of his work, and Jim Jenkins (the creator of Nickelodeon’s “Doug”) loved a live-action parody movie that was done on YouTube by a comedy group. On the other hand, Anne Rice (author of “Interview with the Vampire” and its series) takes time out of her day to scrounge Fanfiction.net and Deviant Art to report anything related to her work.

Personally, I think it’s OK what Fairey is doing (as well as Weird Al, fan artists, and satirists), just as long as the work is significantly distinguishable from the original, and that you also credit the original artist. You should ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS credit the original artist.

Blog Assignment #3

In regards to the Newsweek article, “Is the Internet Making Us Crazy?”, I really cannot say I disagree with it. It is not a rare sight to see someone constantly messing with their phone, playing on Facebook or some other app. (I am guilty of it myself.) And not just adults, but young children as well! I do Disney princess parties, and at one of the parties I worked, a SIX-YEAR-OLD got a smartphone for her birthday. You know what I had at age six? A Princess Jasmine doll, a younger sister, and my imagination! Allowing young children excessive internet access just sets them up for that addiction, and honestly, the results are eerie. It was scary to watch my friend’s two-year-old throw a fit because he wanted to play on her iPad.

It’s not any less scary to see the addiction coming from the adults as well. The thought of not going on Tumblr for a week makes me feel uncomfortable, and that thought alone scares me. However, I don’t think internet addiction just causes mental issues, but it’s often a result of them as well. The internet is usually another vice (like drugs) that people use to deal with underlying problems. Most people use it as an escape from their boring, ho-hum lives. (Again, I plead guilty here.) They spend all their time at work, in traffic, school, etc. (and unfortunately, since we are in the digital age, many classes and jobs require us to spend excessive time in front of a computer, thus making the problem even worse), so when they get online and update social media, or role-play as fictional characters online, or play video games, they get to step out of their lives and do/be something/someone else.

Now, I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with that IN MODERATION, but most people take it too far. It is dangerous both mentally and physically to be constantly sitting and staring at a screen all day, and I hope that we as a society are able to turn this trend around before it gets worse.

Assignment #2: Web Design Experience

My web design “experience” began when I was fifteen and began using those free templates to set up my own sites on Tripod.com. (They were SOOO atrocious.) I am currently playing around with Wix.com, which is much better because it gives you creative freedom without having to code (but you can insert coding if you want). I really like it because you can either choose a template, or make up your own design and place anything anywhere on the page. Plus it’s free. 🙂  I have also been on Tumblr for years, but most of my blog is reblogged material and nerdy stuff, haha.

I do have coding experience, since I took the Web Design course at ODU. Unfortunately, there is only one level to that course, so after I finished it, I never used the material again. I also used Dreamweaver and Fireworks in Graphic Design 3, which I much preferred since it was set up like Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, and is easier for visual people like myself. Coding isn’t difficult, but it’s more technical, versus the WYSIWYG programs. However, again, I only used it for the one class and then forgot the material. (Most of the classes I took were focused on print design.) After I received my Bachelor’s from ODU, I worked in a sign shop for about 2 1/2 years and only did print design, so what little web skills I did have got rusty (even though I kept all of my notes)!

Sadly, when I left the sign shop and was looking for a new job, all of the jobs I found required HTML/CSS and Flash skills in addition to the typical graphic design/print skills. Hence why I am in this class – I want to make my degree more marketable and be able to advance my career. It’s always good to broaden your skills and your horizons. I also want to stimulate my creativity, because I didn’t get to showcase all of my skills at my old shop since most of the work was very basic or pre-designed. Without even knowing it, I went into a two-year creative slump, and did not know it until some fellow designers reviewed my portfolio on LinkedIn. I would like to use this class and Interactive Design 2 to return to my design roots and re-spark my creative fire so that I don’t fall into that slump again.