While working hard in the classroom is super important and necessary, I think spending time outside of the classroom networking is equally as important. This semester, I have tried to make an effort to get out of my comfort zone and attend events networking-based. There were many nights I had a lot of school work and Raleigh seemed very far away, but after leaving the event with business cards in my pocket and new connections made, I was grateful I made the trek.
This past week, after the launch of Twin Stripe, the online magazine Katie and I worked on this semester, we attended the Merry Mingle, a Christmas-themed charity and networking event held at Spy in Raleigh. This networking event was really fun, just in the fact that we caught up with some folks that we met at the last networking event we attended in Raleigh. It was fun to already know some people there. We talked with a couple of past iMedia students that now work in Raleigh as well as a couple higher ups in design firms around the area. Talking with the people at these events has been extremely valuable. Next semester I hope to continue going to events and hopefully do some informational meetings with the people I’ve already met.
After learning how to create a basic website using HTML, CSS and jquery, the time had come to delve into PHP and CMS. I have to say my first experience with Drupal left a little to be desired. While it is a powerful tool, the interface is hard to understand.
For an assignment, I had to create a Drupal site, employ a new theme, change the theme using the CSS, add three modules, add more navigation items and setup at contact form. Doing all these tasks proved to be a challenge because the system is not intuitive. Adding modules and the contact form were the most difficult tasks. The contact form errors I got seemed to be some fluke and I only was able to make it work by uninstalling a theme I was using and then reinstalling it. The modules are the least intuitive. To make some of the modules work, other modules needed to be downloaded. If other modules are needed, then they should download with the original module. You can see how this easily becomes a mess!
While the exercise was frustrating, I am glad to have some experience with Drupal. CMS is the easiest way to set up a site for someone else that is in charge of the content later. I am looking forward to using WordPress on the fly-in to see how the systems compare.
Last week I went to Motorco in Durham to see Miss Representation, a documentary on women and girls in the media. It was really great time, including delicious food truck tacos and duck fat tater tots. The documentary, by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, is a powerful film that brings light to the issue that young girls are being taught that their value lies in their youth, beauty and sexuality. As a woman that’s grown up in this culture, it really struck me and made the think about how the media has affected my self worth. In addition to addressing a topical issue, I thought the documentary was really well done stylistically. There were many jaw-dropping statistics that were displayed through eye catching motion graphics and title screens. The whole documentary felt cohesive, which allowed the viewer to stay engaged in the storytelling. The Miss Representation campaign also has an informative and well designed website. They also employ the use of social media to spread the word.
The documentary and the large number of people that showed up gave me great inspiration for my capstone project. I hope to form a more concrete idea and talk with some local agencies over the Christmas break.
Today in Professor Xu’s class we skyped with Sampada Marathe Joshi from GE Healthcare IT. She is a user experience researcher and gave us some insight on her role at GE and her day-to-day activities. She also gave us some insight on her the roles of designers at her company, which I was particularly interested in.
There are two different designer positions at GE – visual designer and interaction designer. Visual designers work on making things pretty but also, more importantly, ways to interpret data through design. Talked about GE’s healthcare software as an example. Doctors and nurses have to look at a lot of information at once. Visual designers’ challenge is to figure out a way to display that data that makes the most sense and is the most concise.
Interaction designers’ job is to design how to do the job. They focus on what icons to click on, how to navigate the system and how to do the job with the least amount of steps. Their job is to design the interface for the software GE creates.
The discussion with Sampada was really helpful and will definitely help me in my job search in the Spring.
This past Friday during our normal workshop time, Josh Janicek, from McKinney spoke to the iMedia students about jobs in ad agencies. McKinney is an extremely successful advertising agency in Durham, NC. Some of their biggest clients include Nationwide, Travelocity and Sherwin Williams. Josh gave some great advice about how to get started in the advertising industry. However, what I found most helpful was his descriptions of job titles and the structure of how ad agencies work. When starting my search for jobs, I found that there isn’t really one job title to look for. There are so many, it’s hard to keep them straight, and also hard to know what skills they’re really looking for. At McKinney, the positions that would fit iMedia students’ skill set include jobs like Production Artists, Interaction Designers, Broadcast Coordinators and Creative Technologists. Josh believes the industry’s most wanted quality is the ability to be a “hybrid designer.” Thankfully we’re learning not only design, but also development and theory at Elon.
Josh also made the point that at McKinney, Flash is not dying. They use Flash in almost all their clients’ campaigns. He said that Flash is a quick and easy way to get their point across. It’s used mostly in promo sites and banner ads. Because more phones are becoming compatible with Flash, he predicts that it will be used even more widely.
“Journalism in the age of data” is a documentary about data visualization. It really made me think about some of my choices during the infographic project. I think I was so caught up in functionality –which isn’t a negative, it’s just part of learning Flash, that I forgot about aesthetics. I believe my infographic had simple design and good color choices, but I think I could have delved a little deeper. There has to be a good balance between functionality/comprehension and aesthetics. The documentary had an example of a flowing infographic that featured box office trends that was stunning, but hard to understand and read. I think this example will really stick with me as I create more infographics as a good guide to balancing these concepts.
They mentioned in the documentary that most interactive infographics on news sites are still built with Flash. They make a template that can be adapted to different information. They use the template and then plug in the data. I thought this was really interesting and I am curious about their code. I wonder if you can just attach an excel document and it’s automatically updated or if the data is something that’s manually entered. Another interesting thing that’s happening is the introduction of websites that build data visualization for you. Programs like Google Charts, Swivle, Widgenie, and Woordle use the data you plug in to create visualizations in a matter of seconds. I wonder how this will change the production of infographics and data visualization.
There seems to be a love/hate mentality when it comes to Flash. I have seen people create incredible projects, websites, games, etc. with Flash. I am just not one of those people…yet.
There’s also a lot of discussion on whether Flash is a dying breed. It’s just been announced that Windows Internet Explorer 10 will not support the Flash plug-in. This happened similarly when Mac barred Flash from iOS, iPad, and iPhone. Adobe has responded by saying it’s had to adapt in the past and they’ll continue adapting.
All in all, Flash is still relevant for now. Every job I’ve looked at and been interested in has required Flash experience. So for now, I will keep tweening.