Monday, 23 November 2009

Timely boost

Since my last journal entry, I’ve being getting stuck into A10. A10 is quite a weird assignment with the respect that we are designing ‘blind’. We have no idea what product our surface designs will be used for.

It’s incredibly difficult to be creative with no clear starting points. I usually find creativity quite easy to come by, but this assignment is proving a frustrating one thus far.

As a result of my lack of vision I’m finding it hard to put the hours in at home, and with a deadline approaching for sketchbook work this is quite daunting. I need to make a monumental effort over the week’s self-study. This will give me the best possible chance of creating something suitable for when the product we will be designing for is revealed. Will it be the fabled Coke bottle yet again?

If I’m honest I’d say my enthusiasm over the last few weeks for the course in general as waned I’m feeling a little frustrated and demoralised with how little spare time I actually have. Setting myself such high standards and putting myself under pressure to do the best I can for each assignment as perhaps made me feel a little ‘burnt out’.

But with this hard work and commitment comes the rewards and I was extremely pleased to receive a distinction for my A9 website. This is a timely boost indeed, just what I needed to re-invigorate my enthusiasm and give me the right kind of motivation to not let my standards drop with A10.

With Christmas nearly upon us now might be the a good time to start finally preparing my online portfolio, this will be crucial to getting a job in the industry some time in the new year.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Web Design job, potential interview questions

Following on from my previous blog entry, I've come up with some likely questions you may be asked when attending an interview for a role as a web designer.

1. Can you hand code XHTML and CSS?

This will help determine if the applicant can create websites from start to finish without the use of Dreamweaver. Giving the web designer more freedom and control of the sites they create.

2. Do you work best in a team or as an individual?

This is a very important question, as the applicant could be expected to work in solitary or as part of a team. The ability to work in a team and get on with others could be crucial to your company. It will also establish if they aren’t too reliant on working with others and do have the ability when needed to get on with the job alone. If you prefer working alone is that because the potential employee doesn’t get on with others?

3. What do you do in your spare time?

This question is linked with the previous one as it is accessing the potential employee as a person and how well they would fit into the team dynamic. Similar interests could help integrate the individual more quickly. All these points could help you decide whether or not this is a person you and your staff would like to work with.

4. What are your Strengths and weaknesses?

This question will help access how honest the applicant is whilst also accessing the potential flaws in their skills. You may have a very specific role in mind for the applicant. Such as one particular language you wish for them to specialise in. This could help establish if they would be suitable for the role you have in mind.

5. Do you work well under pressure?

In all aspects of design you can be expected to work to tight deadlines. This question will help gage how the potential employee works under pressure and what experiences they have had of working under pressure in the past. Those experiences may be helpful in deciding if their previous experience of pressure is comparable to amount you will be putting them under. It is also a useful question to find out how well they might cope.

6. Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

A common interview questions but perhaps one of the most important. This question can help establish if the applicant see’s his or her long term future at your company. This could be important to establish if you are investing in their training and are trying to make your business expand and grow.

7. What web design magazines and blogs do you regularly read?

This will help establish how up to date with current design trends, techniques and languages they are. A hunger to never stop learning and keep on top of an ever changing industry could be an important attribute for an employee.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Assessing my suitability for employment in Web Design

With the first assignment of the second year coming to an end, now is a good time assess my suitability for employment in the industry.

The job ad I will be using for the basis of my assessment:

Junior / Middleweight web designer - Hull
Category: Digital Duration: Permanent
Location: Hull
Salary: Negotiable

My client is a leading design and marketing agency, with a reputation for delivering advanced web design and development solutions to companies of all sizes. Highly customer focused, their client’s needs are the heart of their business which means they produce results that always exceed client expectations. They have an opportunity for a junior to middleweight web designer to join their team ASAP. You will be a Web Designer with good XHTML and CSS skills creating websites from start to finish.

You will be joining a well established, technical and growing team that is amongst the best in the business. Whilst you will learn a lot and be developed throughout your career, they need someone who can hit the ground running and be able to work autonomously.

You will be working on a varied range of exciting projects, from e-commerce through to e-marketing and creativity will be important. Experience with creative packages such as photoshop / illustrator / Indesign etc. are required.

All applications must include a list of your URLs that you have designed / worked on so that we can pass them onto the client.

Apply now for an outstanding career opportunity with one of the best in the North.

The advert I have chosen is for a junior to middleweight web designer. I feel this would be an ideal starting point for me to get involved in web design professionally. I am still very much learning as a web designer so as things stand could not claim to be anything more than a junior.

The varied client base the company has, would satisfy my need to diversify my portfolio, giving me experience to work in lots of different sectors. This will hopefully improve my design skills and demonstrate my versatility.

The job requiures the applicant will need to have good XHTML and CSS skills, creating websites from start to finish. I confidently feel I can now do this, although I still find the end result taking too much time.

The ad states successful applicant will learn and be developed throughout their career; this is very appealing as I am by no means the finished article. It is very important for me to work for a company who is willing to help develop my skills.

But the respective company also want someone who can hit the ground running. I feel with the skills I’ve learnt already in XHTML and CSS that I could do this. I always find myself achieving better results when I’m “thrown in the deep end”.

Technically as things stand I would be pushing my current skills to the limit. But with regards to meeting the creatively the role requires I feel I am more than capable. Thanks to my current background knowledge of graphic design applications and experience.

Over the final months of college I must strive to become much quicker and have a much more natural approach to coding my XHTML and CSS whilst trying to incorporate other languages, such as PHP and JavaScript.

It will be important for me to use the time to add to my web portfolio. I definitely don’t have enough URLs to demonstrate my skills as a web designer as things stand. The HNC team projects will be vital to improve this.

If I applied for the job tomorrow I feel I would come up short to standards required to even get an interview. This would mainly be due to the lack of published websites I have completed.

I think it is a very realistic aim that by the end of the course I could aim for such a position with confidence if I concentrate on my weaknesses by building more websites much more quickly.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Taking the hard way out!

So here I am, back for the second year of my HNC in Interactive Media. It’s only been two weeks but I’m already halfway through the first assignment. The pace is certainly picking up.

I’ve found the last couple of weeks enjoyable, whilst been quite thought monopolising. I’m becoming a little anxious as I prepare for the build. This is perhaps down to my inability and total lack of motivation throughout the summer to try and keep on top of my XHTML and CSS.

Without making it sound like I’m making excuses I found the 3 months off from college a very stressful and difficult time. With a new mortgage in April I found my self in a position where I was unpaid from April to the end of September. Thankfully there now seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel, as things at work seem to be picking up.

This has sealed just how important it is for me to do well on this course and gain decent employment by the end.
Back to the latest assignment A9; the hand in for my screen designs is tomorrow and I’ve set myself some tricky coding challenges (for me anyway), even implementing some basic PHP. My philosophy for doing this; pushing myself to the limit is the only way I will learn and become a better web developer.

Feel free to leave comments on my home page design. The brief is to design a web site based on a object no more than 100 metres from your house. I chose my sweet pepper plant.

Friday, 15 May 2009

First Year Reflection

Wow…time flies. The first year of the course has certainly kept me occupied. Now we have reached the end of the first year, it gives me chance to reflect and look forward to the second year.

A2: Well this was the least enjoyable and most daunting of all the assignments, even if in task; the most straight forward. It was the one where the ground rules were set. It helped give a broad outline on the languages and software we would be using, but also gave us the opportunity to see how we would have to work throughout the course. The need for near perfection was hammered home several times throughout this assignment. A widespread referral for most of the class showed us all how important accuracy is. When I look back now I‘m glad of having this emphatically expressed to us so early on, as so far it has helped keep me focused.

A3: I found this assignment the most challenging in terms of what we had to do. I was not used to planning my designs out on paper with so much detail. The research into target audiences, web hosts and writing a competitive analysis was something I struggled with initially. Once I completed this it left me with limited time to complete the fun part; the design process. No doubt the heavy writing I went through early on in year 1 as helped with my SPG. The meticulous way the website was planned as also shown me a different way of working, that also helps increase the amount of final design solutions.

A5: This was a chance to build my website from A3. Early on I struggled with the XHTML and CSS. Nothing was sinking in. I kept on trying, and with some guidance from John before long it did stick. I was pleased with my first attempt at web design. In the future I think I will be much better equipped to complete a web site both faster and more effectively. I found it a more relaxed assignment thanks to the added pressure of lengthy written work been removed. The only thing I had to worry about was making sure the site was valid. This can be quite infuriating when one error in the code can cause countless errors in the validation process.

A7: Now came the reward for all the hard work I’d put in throughout the year. We had to re-design an electronic albums artwork along with the record label logo (Raster-Noton). I had the task of re-imagining Alva Noto’s Xerrox Vol.2…it wasn’t easy. The music made my job a little more difficult than I first thought. It was unique to say the least. Mood boards really helped create some visuals for my minds eye and ideas soon started flowing. In the end I ended up with three different concepts for the finished artwork and dozens for the logo. The client scenario we worked under helped whittle down my choice for both logo and artwork. This is something I’m still struggling to deal with; the choices I must make. I find it hard to let go of certain designs. This is something I can and must improve on in the second year to become a more decisive designer.

A1: This was the one I had worked on all year. Collecting inspiration for my sketchbook, posting on the forum, working on my Online Learning Journal and of course my own ideas generation. This was a nice assignment for me, as I often see things that inspire me. Keeping a visual log helps to keep it fresh in my mind. The annotating side was something I found hard. It’s not always easy to put down in words what you think about a design you have seen or created. The lectures we had from Steve on colour theory, grid design, the PARC principles and logo design helped give me the vocabulary to write about design much more clearly and as a result my annotations both improved and became easier to write.

With year 1 over I can now think about year 2. I’ve learned some valuable lessons about me as person and designer over the last year. I now know much more about design than when I started; something I didn’t expect considering the amount of time I’ve been employed as a graphic designer. If nothing else it has shown me that in this industry you can’t afford to stop learning. I feel slightly ashamed for stagnating and not striving to improve for the last few years prior to the course. This course has helped reinvigorate my love for design and proved that it’s important to keep challenging myself and to take me out of my comfort zone.

I now analyse the designs I create much more to see if it adheres to the core principles I have learnt, rather than it just been a piece of “eye candy”. This is going some way to make me a better designer. In the next year I must carry on with this approach whilst also trying to be more decisive with my choices.

Keeping up on practice throughout the summer break with XHTML and CSS will be crucial to how smoothly I reintegrate into the second year. Building a personal portfolio will be a goal I set myself this summer. This will hopefully help keep me up to speed with XHTML and CSS, whilst helping me to gain new employment. A change of scene will hopefully satisfy my hunger for new skills and challenges in the work place.

I now feel I can move up a gear and really push on to reach the highest standard on the course next year. I know it wont be easy but I need to set myself higher standards to improve and surpass on my first years efforts. Next year I hope to never drop below a merit grade and hopefully with a lot of hard work achieve at least two distinction grades.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Nearly Done...

The last week has been hectic, moving house is not easy. As a result over the last week, I’ve found it real hard to put much time into A7.

Thankfully thanks to the extra hours I put in through the Easter break I‘m in a really good position to finish with time to spare.

A7 has been a really enjoyable assignment, I’ve loved coming up with different concepts for my Digipak design.

This is something I probably wouldn’t have had time to do if it wasn’t for my previous experience with Photoshop. With this in mind I’ve taken satisfaction from helping out some of my class mates.

The client scenario we have worked under for this assignment has also made me realise that no matter how much hard work you put into one design, it’s the client’s opinion that counts.

Initially I wasn’t that sure on the client’s choice of my three designs, has it was the one that had the least amount of time and passion go into it. But considering the music I now feel it’s the right choice.

Over the next week, with things hopefully settling down with the move in, I will refine my design and test out a client suggestion for a new logo colour combination.

Please feel free to leave feedback on my logo and Digipak outer.

Friday, 3 April 2009

So much to do, so little time

Phew! A good result on A5 was a welcome relief, as I’ve found this assignment the most challenging yet. It’s been a very difficult transition from the world of print design to the World Wide Web.

I was questioning if I was cut out for web design, due to my slow start with A5, and to be honest lack of enjoyment. All that changed about half way through the assignment when CSS and XHTML started to sink in. This made A5 a lot more enjoyable and I now feel much more confident about taking on my next web site build.

Over the last week or so, I’ve started work on A7. The brief is to design a CD Digipak artwork for our experimental electronic artists. Along with the Artwork we have to design a new logo for Raster-Noton record label.

This should be right up my street, given my background in print design and passion for Photoshop. My experience however creates added pressure, as I will be expected to perform well on this task, not just by my peers and tutor, but myself.

Over the next few weeks I need to really push on and get in front. Right in the middle of this assignment I’m moving house. With this change in location comes all the inconveniences; decorating, removals, cleaning and sorting out broadband providers and phone lines.

The coming weeks could be very busy for me, so I must make the most of the next two weeks before move-in to get a sizable amount of A7 done.

Please leave feedback on my logo designs for A7.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Xerrox Vol. 2 by Alva Noto

Tuesday 12th may sees the re-release of Alva Noto’s Xerrox Vol.2. A beautifully crafted album, of rythmic electronic ambience.

The opening track Xerrox Phaser Acat 1 has deep rumblings hollow and welcoming, building to static surges. It’s an epic track at over twelve minutes long. This length serves its purpose and by the end you are fully engrossed and enslaved to the musical journey Xerrox Vol. 2 wishes to take you on.

Xerrox Rin with its high pitched deep tones act has a buffer between the epic Phaser Acat and the beautifully relaxing but no-less epic Xerrox Soma. Its ambient sounds have a deep resonating beat, with seemingly random static interference.

The rythmic ambience is much less coherent in Xerrox Meta Phaser . This track builds tension with a deep yearning and adds an inkling of fear. After the relaxing sounds of the start of the album you are now engrossed in a much deeper darker place that Xerrox Vol.2 has taken you.

Xerrox Sora lifts you from the depths of despair and the mood created is no less deep but filled with hope with its rhythmic hums. The overlay of electric interference on Sora adds a calming, almost ocean wave like relaxing rhythm.

Mono Phaser 1 is one of the stand-out tracks of the album, with its film soundtrack-like quality, which would serve the most momentous of celluloid moments. Its musical wonderment is interspersed with an electrifying static storm.

The mood deepens again come Monophaser 2, taking you to the deep places of the sub-conscience. The melodic malfunctioning adds an alien like quality to the track. With the occasional gust of digital wind, adding mystery and intrigue to the ambience. You could be forgiven in thinking that this was a soundtrack to a thought provoking sci-fi film-noir.
Alva Noto’s ability to manipulate the listeners’ mood and thought process is demonstrated once again with Xerrox Teion and Teion Acat. The pleasant sounding rythmic qualities are again exchanged for deep rumblings of aggressive static noise and humming.

Xerrox Tek Part 1 continues the themes of Teion but subtly softens the mood by mixing with melodic ambient calm. This subtle change acts to help blend it seamlessly with the final track Xerrox Monophaser 3. This final track serves as the epic climax of the musical journey Xerrox Vol.2 has taken you on.

With Xerrox Vol.2 Alva Noto has managed to create a cocoon for his listeners in which they can close their selves off from the um-drum of reality. The album never once allows the listener to escape from its beauty and scope. Each track acts has a different leg of the electrically charged rhythmic journey, each path taken offering a very different musical landscapes to admire.

With Xerrox Vol. 2, Alva Noto has set a very high standard for electronic music, which will please both fans of the Raster-Noton label and new comers alike.

Monday, 2 February 2009

Working on a dream

Well I received a nice shock last week; I received merits for my A3 assignment. This was very encouraging and has given me a chance to concentrate on our new assignment, A5 (builder) over the last week.

We are just two weeks in and I don't feel I'm anywhere near ready to start coding my web page from A3 yet. The snow cut short our second week lectures on A5. I hope this wont set me back, as I feel the technical side of the course is something I really need to pay special attention too.

I'm very busy in my personal life at the moment as I’m in the process of moving out with my girlfriend. We have also been made aware of A7 assignment which sounds just up my street, CD artwork.

I must make sure the grades I received for A3 don't give me an excuse to take my foot off the pedal. I can't afford to get too distracted with my personal life; I must make sure I still allow sufficient self study time.

The promise of a very enjoyable assignment and a chance to show my skills in print design with A7 must not take precedence over A5, although I'm finding it difficult not to start mulling ideas around in my head.

Over the next week I will create a functionality checklist and usability questionnaire for A5. Any other time I have I will dedicate to reading up on XHTML and CSS with the help of HTML Dog.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Semester 1, Steep Learning Curve.

The first semester is gone. Doesn’t seem long ago that I was walking into MF18 for the first time.
There have been plenty of positives to take from the first semester. Apart from the people I have met, over the last four months I’ve learnt more than I could of imagined. I didn’t expect to learn quite so much about design.

I found myself putting the design theory we’ve used into my working life has a graphic designer. The PARC principles (Proximity, alignment, repetition and Contrast), colour harmony and grid systems are things I now use daily. This can only make me a better designer.

A big negative was referring A2. Thankfully I have now passed. The next assignment A3 has been very enjoyable, due to the creativity involved. The one thing about A3 that shocked was the amount of development we must do in our sketchbooks. I am not used to working in this way. Usually at work digital work is quite often started immediately due to massive time constraints .

Besides A2 and A3 I’ve been working on the ongoing assignment (A1). The SketchBlog assignment has proven very beneficial. I have really enjoyed collecting pieces of design and not found it a burden, I know some of my colleagues have. It has proven very inspirational. Since the start of the course I now look at all the different design I see in a very different way thanks to the principles I have learnt.

The hiccup with A2 really knocked my confidence. But I hope turning the experience into a positive will help my work. I am now much more vigilant when it comes to checking my work, especially SPG and referencing.

Time has become very precious to me over the duration of the first semester. Working full time and trying to maintain any sort of a social life as well as keeping on top of assignments has been very difficult.

I now face a nervous time again as anxiety kicks in as I wait for my marks back for A3. Looking back on A3, I feel I need to use my sketchbook much more to show my design development. This is something that doesn’t come naturally to me.

I’m looking forward to turning my screen design from A3 into a working web page. The technical aspects I will no doubt find very challenging. I have already encountered problems with my screen design, in not fully respecting the restrictions and constraints of web design. This is something I must adapt to quickly if I am to be successful in web design.

Time management is something I still need to get a good grasp of, to avoid the amounts of anxiety and stress I have faced. A much more detailed production schedule at the start of each assignment should help.

I now feel I am on the right track. I have chosen the right direction to go in by choosing this course. I feel more motivated now then I did at the start. With the bulk of the written work for year one out of the way, I can now hopefully look forward to implementing more of my creativity.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Hard Pushed

Now Christmas is out of the way, I find myself a quarter of the way through the course, with deadline day looming for A3.

I planned to use the Christmas break to good effect and really get in front on A3, instead I found it hard to motivate myself throughout the festive period. This was not just down to the festivities, but also the fact I've been working full time through out the break too. Going home and switching on the computer to crack on with A3 hasn't always been the easiest of things to do. When I did get engrossed into my screen design I found it very enjoyable. It has given me a chance to be creative.

I thought I was restraining myself from being to graphical and ambitious as I had in mind the global document size (100KB) and technical difficulties I will no doubt face once the build starts with the next assignment.

I wasn’t as restraint as I thought with my design. Steve instantly reminded me I had to actually build the design. A re-think and some tweaking set me back as the final week began.

With just days remaining before hand in I find myself mentally exhausted. But I am confident I will meet the deadline. Some more proof reading time and general tweaking this late on would be beneficial, rather than heavy revisions I find myself doing.

My time management could be better. I used a production schedule, but failed to take into account things that could go wrong later on and as a result should of given myself more time on the actually screen design and written work, rather than spending too much time on development early on.

Here’s my finished design, any comments much appreciated.