Tuesday, 12 May 2009

First Year Summary

Looking back at my first journal entry I can read the reasons why I started this course, and what my initial expectations where.
I remember how I felt at the time, which was basically worried about a lack of knowledge in even the most basic aspects of web design and the social networking aspects of the internet, such as blogging, using forums and even creating an avatar.

I found the first couple of weeks to be quite a steep learning curve due to such seemingly small tasks as the creation of an avatar in das-forum, setting up this blogger site and adding links to forum and blog posts. These tasks have now become second nature to me, as they are frequent requirements of the course.

I was also apprehensive in returning to college as a mature student, and was hopeful that there would be other students with similar backgrounds and reasons for returning to college.

I found the first assignment quite frustrating, although it was useful in providing us with a basic knowledge of the technologies, equipment and programmes involved in web design and the Internet, there was a distinct lack of creativity involved. There was also an emphasis on precision of the assignment presentation and in particular the referencing which I thought made me more apprehensive and took some of the enjoyment of learning out of the tasks. I realise of course that precision is an important element of graphic and web design so it was a kind o preparation for other tasks and for the industry we will hopefully become professionally involved in.

During this period I also had to set up my email account, which despite having a few teething problems went fairly smoothly. This was relevant to me and I gained some confidence from the experience.

I also had another learning curve using Photoshop for the first time (apart from resizing photographs which I have done in the past.) This was due to creating an entry for the college
Christmas e-card, I think I was more involved in learning techniques in Photoshop (such as layers and masks) than in sticking to the brief, as I managed to create a reindeer theme which was not really the modern look required of the brief.

The A3 'Sounds Like a Plan' assignment was the first taste of web design proper, it required research and development of a minimal one page website, which was plenty enough for me to cope with at the time. I didn't have much confidence in my Photoshop skills in creating a banner, and often felt quite confused as to what was expected from us as a final outcome. I spent a lot of the Christmas break learning Photoshop and In-Design techniques to develop the website plan.

Looking back now I think I could quite easily achieve the same results with much less time and with much more confidence, due largely to having more familiarity with the whole process of presenting a web design plan prior to creating it online. I can also see the wisdom in this approach as a lot of the design process can be resolved at an early stage,saving considerable time in the web development stage.

The A4 assignment was a grounding in layout and graphical presentation, introducing us to basic printing elements such as the use of grids, white space and leading. The assignment was refreshing as it allowed us to get more creative, albeit within tight production specifications. I found that the limited scope for creativity actually helped t develop skills in page layout, and kept us focused on the basics and helped us to produce effective designs.I also enjoyed learning about typesets and fonts, some of which can be linked to certain periods in time and have historical significance.

The A5: Builder assignment was our first real taste of creating websites with XHTML and CSS, and also of using Dreamweaver, which is not everyone's favourite tool for building websites. I certainly preferred hand coding rather than Dreamweaver and will concentrate on learning to build websites this was before I start to use other software. I had a lot of help on this first website-build, but I did at least begin to understand how the two languages work together. I also managed to edit some of the code to make minor alterations.

My sketching skills have been brushed up and put to good use in the development of both A6 and A7. I was hoping to do better in the final part of the A6 Magic Circle website design but the finished artwork lacked the finesse I was hoping to achieve, and so I will have to put it down to a learning experience.

On the positive side I was pleased to receive some very positive feedback for my sketch-book work and initial designs, so with a bit more practice I am hoping to achieve some more effective final designs.Having just handed in the final assignment of the year: A7: Rasterized. I am more confident with the final outcome although have the familiar apprehensions about missing out fine detail...

Looking forward to the next academic year...

My experience of web coding with XHTML strict and CSS has developed skills in coding, and I am please with my progress in this area, as I feel it may be a potential source of future work. I am considering learning Php as the Self-Managed Learning Programme as another facet for future employability, although I also intend to keep improving my skills in Photoshop, Illustrator and possibly Flash. I am also looking for a short course in a relevant area during the summer break. My aspirations for the next year:

Have more confidence and working knowledge in the most commonly used software packages relevant to web design.

  • Develop my coding skills, and also to practice during the summer break.
  • Learn an additional related programme such as PHP.
  • Learn an additional software tool such as Flash.

Friday, 1 May 2009

One Last Hurdle...

Well, the last few weeks of the first year are upon us and the deadline for the last assignment is looming. Fortunately the assignment has been divided up into various stages which has so far gone well for me (I think).

The very first task was to listen to the music and create a review of it in five hundred words, which was quite difficult for me as it involved expressive writing and trying to avoid various cliches about music and art.

The logo design was next, and we had to develop three logos, one of which was selected by the 'client' during a sales pitch. I found it quite difficult trying to sell the designs and try to make them sound special and unique. I also felt under pressure from the rest of the seminar group who were also judging my sales pitch.

I was happy enough with the selected logo, although I had also put a lot of work into trying to design 3-d style logos.All of the logo designs involved learning how to use the pen tools in Freehand and Illustrator, which was a steep learning curve but both enjoyable and useful, as I also used Illustrator to trace an image for the CD packaging artwork.

I have also developed more skills in Photoshop, bringing in vector shapes and rasterizing layers, creating background images, overlays and adding shading and reflections. So far I am quite pleased with the graphical side of this assignment and my supporting sketchbook work.

I am a bit anxious about creating the A7 web page as I am not yet fully confident with the coding side, although I realize coding requires practice and partly learning through trial and error.