Tuesday, 9 December 2008

CARPing on...

Probably a poor play on words- the title refers to our first presentations which were based on examples of the PARC (or CARP) rules (Proximity, Alignment, Repetition and Contrast) for Page Layouts, and apply to everything from business cards to websites.

My seminar group was the first to be called up for the presentations. There was an element of anxiety in the class which seemed to spread around, as I was feeling fine about it until we were about to be called up. As I went to the front I suddenly felt a bit panicky about remembering my lines and going 'blank', but the adrenalin kicked in and once I started I was on a roll. It was a very short presentation on proximity and when it was over I felt relaxed and enjoyed watching the other groups going through the same process.

On the whole, the presentations were well arranged and planned out, although there were a few technical hitches which I have to admit I found rather amusing, as people struggled to muddle through with some impressive ad-libbing.

With the A4 Mini-Assignments we are starting to be involved in more 'hands-on' practical design work and it feels a lot more like learning for the 'real world'. Whilst being more enjoyable it does contain a level of intensity which can turn into stress when time starts running out. Its an effective way of learning InDesign as a little bit of pressure is a good motivator.

The year is coming to a close and the first term of the course is almost over. We've learnt a lot of the basics and will soon be learning how to put websites together and scratching our heads over XHTLM code.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Ramping it up.

As promised, the workload is starting to ramp up, and also the responsibility of us students to make sure that we are heading in the right direction with our assignments and managing our workload effectively. I am currently feeling a bit concerned with the research needed for the A3 Website plan and how to present it, as there is a total word count of only 1000 words. I intend to make a table of aims for the competitive analysis and the website goals and have a tick-list in order to save words.

The Christmas e-card design project has been an interesting sideline to the assignment work and I have really enjoyed getting to understand the way in which Photoshop uses layers, and how these can interact. I had a fair amount of advice from other students but quickly learnt that their are several ways to achieve the same affect. I spent quite a lot of time on it considering how much other assignment work needs doing. I had some trouble uploading the finished work onto my website but found it to be a useful exercise in itself as it was the first time I have used File Transfer Protocol (FTP).

The A4 assignment is also well under way, and there will be a font test next week which will include all aspects of layout and elements of a font, as well as the ability to distinguish certain fonts. This will require quite a lot of revision and will probably add a certain amount of stress to the assignment, but I'm sure it will encourage people to read up on the subject!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Industrial Visit Review

David Pannell and Craig Burgess delivered a presentation about their work in the Design Mechanics, which also included a question and answer session. This journal entry is a summary of this presentation.

Dave Pannell is the company director of the Design Mechanics. After initially working for other companies in advertising, he set up his own advertising agency in Huddersfield, called D.P. Design and Marketing, and worked for large companies such as McVities, but realised he enjoyed being more involved with smaller companies.

He then set up the Design Mechanics with a business partner with a web design background. Initially the company set-up was too large to manage and this led to complications, so the company was stripped down to just three people, which included Craig Burgess as a web and graphic designer. Craig is a former student on this course. After his first year on the course he worked part time as a designer for a vehicle renting company, which he said was a steep learning curve.

With this three-man team, the company then started off small as originally advised. Currently, the company claims to have around 800 clients.

One key feature of this company is its marketing strategy. This includes a price list in the brochure, which appeals to smaller companies as it shows transparency and reduces the mystique of design agency work. They also combine both web and print in their products as the design agency companies that are struggling are the ones that are too specialised; and a good logo or design will work across both web and print media types.

The company asks for a twenty five percent deposit from a client before work starts, to cover against the client pulling out. Another technique to discern seriously interested clients is to ask them to visit the Design Mechanics offices.

The Design Mechanics set out to offer value for money but still provide good quality and exciting design work.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

VAG Rounded.

Also known as VAG Rundschrift (Rundschrift is German for round writing). This font or typeface was designed in 1979 for the automotive manufacturers Volkswagen AG. A distinguishing feature of this typeface is the rounded end-stroke.1

VAG Rounded is based on earlier grotesque sans-serif typeface designs 2 which became influential in the 1920’s largely due to developments with the German Bauhaus movement, where it was adapted to express simplicity of form.

Sans serif is French for ‘without serifs’, serifs being the small features at the end of strokes. The term grotesque came about from the controversy surrounding these early sans serif typefaces.3

The demand for the new font arose in the early 1970’s when Volkswagen required a new brand identity to encompass all of their commercial activities, which by then also included Audi, the related car dealerships and financial services.

The design agency GGK Duesseldorf was awarded the design contract. Part of the brief was to develop a typeface which would replace the Futura typeface being used by Volkswagen and the Times typeface used by Audi.

The idea for a rounded typeface is accredited to Wolf Rogosky (Creative Director) and Gerd Hieplar (Art Director). The original font was drawn by hand and refined on a PDP-8 minicomputer. The font was widely in use for desktop publishing by the mid 1980’s.4

The font is believed to have influenced many typeface designs including the General Electric ‘GE Inspira’. Although Volkswagen phased out the use of VAG Rounded during the 1990's it is still widely used today and is under license from Adobe Systems.5

G.E. Inspira Logo 9

VAG Rounded is also arguably influencing a current style of logos in modern Web Design with a soft and friendly appearance.6 The font has been in use as a keyboard typeface by the Apple Inc. company since 1999 for their range of notebook computers. 7

An example of VAG Rounded8


1. VAG Rounded Black, itcfonts.com , 04/11/2008

2. VAG Rounded Std., Adobe.com , 04/11/2008

3. Kirsanov, [02/1998], sans serif history, webreference , 04/11/2008

4. [17/08/2008], VAG Rounded, en.wikipedia.org , 04/11/2008

5. VAG Rounded, absoluteastronomy.com , 04/11/2008

6. Coles [07/03/2006], The Logos of Web 2.0, fontfeed.com, 04/11/2008

7. [17/08/2008], VAG Rounded, en.wikipedia.org , 04/11/208

8. [17/08/2008], Image: VAG Sample.gif en.wikipedia.org, 04/11/208

9. GE Inspira, absoluteastronomy.com, 04/11/2008

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The End of the Beginning.

After having handed my first assignment I experienced mixed feelings about this decision; should I have checked it yet again over Monday night or was I right to ‘draw a line’ under it and start focusing on the next tasks. I felt quite relieved as soon as I passed the folder over at the reception desk yet also a little seed of doubt (had I forgotten something?) but at the end of the day there are only so many times a piece of work can be checked and proof read.

I came into college this morning to participate in a group bonding football session and as I was trying get my breath back afterwards reflected on how well the first year students have managed to get on with each other; I hope it lasts as there is currently a good atmosphere and we are all generally willing to cooperate and help each other.

The first half of the first semester has gone quickly for me, although it has apparently been a gentle introduction in terms of workload. I have a sense of achievement from getting through the initial tasks and getting the first assignment in on time (and hopefully complete), also coping with an initially steep learning curve with setting up and using a website control panel, webmail and email on Outlook Express. I am looking forward to developing my website and uploading my creative efforts into it through FTP.

I feel another sense of achievement about returning to education after such a long time in work, and that I have made a positive move in both my professional and personal development. I am apprehensive about the increasing workload in the next term but am also beginning to feel more confident that I can meet these demands and that I have chosen the right course.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The First Few Steps...

As a mature student – and one of the oldest on the course – I was a bit concerned initially about being in a group with students much younger than me, but as there are people from a wide range of backgrounds, I haven’t felt too out of place. The initial ‘ice-breaking’ exercises, such as ball throwing, helped to introduce everyone and break down barriers, as did forming into small groups for various exercises. The egg-dropping design exercise also introduced some fun and friendly rivalry into the group and was a good way of introducing team-building.

The first four weeks have been a steep learning curve; for instance I have previously used Email and Instant Messenger but am new to setting up Blog sites and posting messages on forums. I am starting to feel more comfortable with posting messages and blogs and am aware that most of the other first year students are in the same position.

The first critique we had (Monday 6th October) focused on our Blogger profiles and our first Online Journal entries. As soon as Steve mentioned he had selected a few students’ posts as examples, I knew that mine would be one of them! I was a bit anxious about how it would appear on the Projector screen, but I had fairly positive feedback about the blog and my profile, although there were a few things to put right. I was impressed with the time and effort some people had put into the appearance of their Blogger sites, but I'm sure I'll soon find it easy to improve my own.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Where I've come from; where I am now; where I'm going.

As a qualified and experienced product designer, I have become increasingly frustrated by the lack of opportunity in my profession. Despite having sufficient qualifications I had difficulty in finding interest from potential employers and in gaining valuable work experience. I have also been disappointed by the limited scope for creativity and conceptual design within these positions.

During the ten years I have spent as a product designer I have worked for three companies, two of which have closed down due to competition from abroad and lack of demand. The third company has closed down its research and development department. I have therefore decided to return to college as a mature student in order to learn new skills which will hopefully open up new opportunities in the digital media industry.

I chose to study Web Design as it combines some of my current skills and strengths and also allows me to draw on previous work experience. It is also one of the few industries in demand in the UK, and potentially offers good career prospects.
I had been planning to move up to the Leeds area for a few months (from Cardiff) for personal reasons and had been looking at a range of courses in the area. The HND Interactive Media course seemed to offer a flexible and realistic approach that is appropriate for mature students. From the website description it seemed well thought out and relevant to industry.

In addition to the skills I will learn on the course I intend to keep up-to-date with new software and programming developments and also to learn new skills such as Flash animation. I may consider further education such as a part time degree, but at the moment I am more interested in finding freelance or permanent work opportunities and in gaining work experience.