Saturday, December 23, 2006

The deadline runs smoothly!!!

This week was deadline week and although I was quite panicky about this a few weeks ago I am very pleased with how everything went. Because of the amount of time I had been putting in during my self study in recent weeks I was able to just turn up at college at 11.30 and hand the assignment in without any real pressure. I think that this was really beneficial as when I handed in the last assignment I came in at the normal time and needed to work on a few things before I handed it in. I think that because of this the quality of my work would not have been as high as I believe it is this time. However, you only learn from previous experiences so I feel that this time I feel that my approach was much better and I will certainly try to do this again for future assignments.

After completing my first semester I can honestly say that the course has far exceeded my expectations. If somebody would have said to me that I would be writing 4500 words 6 months ago I would have not believed them at all! The real problem I have found is trying to cut down on my words and not trying to write them so this shows just how much my attitude has changed since starting the semester.

Another surprising element about the course is the amount of work that I am getting through and the new programs that I am learning, as we are only a few months into the course I would not have thought that I would have got through almost 2 sketchbooks and be working in programs such as PageMaker and Photoshop this early on. I am beginning to feel much more comfortable with these programs which can only benefit me in the future.

I am also pleased with the group as a whole because before I started the course I did not know anybody at all. I think that it is a good group to work in and there is not anybody in the group that I do not get on with. This creates a good atmosphere within the class and I feel that this helps whenever you have any problems. All of this culminates in everybody’s work benefiting from being in such a good group.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Everything falling into place!!!

Even though our assignments need to be handed in this time next week I feel that this week has been quite relaxed. I think that this is due to the fact that last week I realised just how close we are to the deadline and spent quite a lot of time on both assignments in my self study. This was extremely beneficial as it allowed me to just gather everything together so that everything was in order and ready for our group discussion on Thursday. I feel that because of this I then received better feedback which will enable me to improve on both assignments. I believe that the next time I am in this situation it will be a good approach to take and I will certainly try to do this again.

Thursday’s group feedback meeting was also the last time that our current group will be together. I think that it is quite a shame that this group is being broken up because I feel that we have worked quite well together and I think that the fact that we have been so well organised and seem to have everything in order is down to being in such a close knit group. I am however looking forward to working with other people in the group who I have not really interacted with as much.

I finally finished the image restoration work on Thursday afternoon and this is a real relief as this time last week I thought I would never be able to complete it. With the guidance I got from Steve in last week’s feedback meeting I had a much clearer understanding of what I should be trying to achieve and I am quite happy with the end product (Images of original and finished image at bottom of entry). Because of this I am now much more confident in Photoshop and if I were to do this again I am sure that I would be able to do it more effectively and quicker.

So this week is really going to be focused on tying up a few loose ends so that I am ready to hand everything in next Thursday. Hopefully this time I will be able to get everything completed to the required standard so that when we start next semester I will be able to focus solely on our new assignments.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The end is near!!!

As our assignments have to be as complete as they possibly can be by this time next week the pressure is now certainly on. It hadn’t really struck me just how much work there was to be done until the latter part of last week so this week has been pretty manic to say the least!

On Wednesday as normal we were working on our back to basics assignment. Before the lesson started I was quite comfortable with this and most of my anxiety had been aimed toward the other assignment. However this all changed as I started to put my screen designs into Pagemaker.

I decided to design the text on the website to be quite wide so that there would be no scrolling on the site. By doing this I totally forgot about the principals that I learnt about in the previous assignment about how wide text should be to keep users interest. As I had spent the majority of the afternoon doing the design it was quite demoralising to be told that I would have to drastically alter it but I feel that once this is out of the way I have will have the majority of the work done and will be able focus more on the other assignment which I find much more challenging. If I were to do this again I will definitely remember about text width on websites so that I will be able to design the website better and save myself a lot of time.

On Thursday Steve wanted to see our image restoration task to decide if we had done a good enough job or if we had to do it again. I was not confident in my image at all as I felt that I had adjusted the levels of image incorrectly which meant that certain parts could not be distinguished.

As expected Steve did think that I should do this again but this was beneficial as he told me what I could do to stop this happening next time. Even though this is going to be a very time consuming task I feel that it will certainly benefit me in the long run as I will be able to have more experience and become more familiar with the application. If I were to do this exercise again I would definitely keep a closer eye on the image when I am altering certain settings to stop the same thing happening again.

There is an awful lot of work to be done between now and next week, hopefully I will be able to complete it to a decent standard so that any little things that may result in my work being referred can be identified and worked on before it is too late!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Getting to grips with Photoshop!!!

This week has been quite productive and I feel that as we are now past the half way mark of the assignments I am quite happy to see that some aspects are coming together.

The web content section for the back to basics project was finally completed this week and although it was quite a repetitive task and proved to take much longer than I expected it seems to be the last piece of heavy written work for a while. I feel that it was a beneficial exercise as it allowed me to research into things that I would not necessarily have looked at otherwise. To improve on this I could have spent more time researching into a wider range of definitions but this may have taken up too much valuable time. If I were to do this again I feel that I would be much more confident as I now have a wider knowledge of these terms so will not have to do as much research into them.

I had my first real detailed experience with Adobe Photoshop this week as on Thursday we were handed the Image Restoration task. When Steve was going through what we would be doing I was thinking that this would be a nice creative task to do and that it should not be too difficult. This could not have been further form the truth however as I found some aspects of it quite a struggle and it proved to be a very monotonous and quite time consuming task. Steve also stated that some people may have to start this again when he has a look at these next week, this may not be such a bad thing though as hopefully he will be able to give me some advice on how I can improve it and my work should be better as a result.

I feel that as I have never really done anything like this before I was always going to find it difficult but I did not understand just how much time and effort it would take to do this exercise. I am however confident that as I progress through the course I will become much more familiar with the program and if I were to do this task again I would not find it so complicated.

Friday, November 24, 2006

“Orange is red brought nearer to humanity by yellow”

This week involved making my first presentation which up until now was something that I had not given much thought to. When Steve informed us that we had from 10am until 2pm to research, prepare and rehearse a 2-3 minute presentation on any given colour my first thoughts were that this would not be possible. As I had never done anything like this before I was apprehensive about doing this and just wanted to get it out of the way.

When we were put into different groups and each given a separate colour I was quite happy with the outcome. I was placed with Drew and given the colour orange. Because I get on well with Drew I was confident that we would be able to prepare well enough to be able to produce a decent presentation. I was also quite happy with the colour orange as there were several associations that I thought of straight away such as Holland, the mobile phone company Orange and EasyJet.

I enjoyed researching into everything that we would be putting into our visual aid (PowerPoint presentation) as I learnt many interesting things such as the origins of Holland’s relationship with orange. As we had created a list of ideas which seemed to be getting longer by the minute we were quite worried that we may not have enough time to cover them all. We resolved this by splitting the task in half with Drew making the visual aid with me creating the fact sheet and this seemed to work well.

When it got to 1pm it was time to rehearse, we decided to go to the car for this as there would be no distractions. However this proved to build up my nerves even more! The more times I rehearsed the presentation the more mistakes I seemed to be making. I even confused orange with yellow! I did though find that rehearsing with somebody in a quiet place without any distractions was a big help and I feel that if I were to do this again I would certainly use this method.

After sitting in the canteen waiting for my turn for what seemed like an eternity but was more like 2 hours it was my turn to give my talk. By this point I was incredibly nervous. I did feel though that the lecture that we had been given that morning was a huge help as it went through what different emotions we may be feeling and in a way this acted as a tool to calm me down a bit.

The presentation was not perfect but I was pleased that I did not make such a mess as I had thought! I think that we definitely created too much work for ourselves and this resulted in not having much time to cover each section of content we had written about. This was also a hindrance when it came to rehearsing as I seemed to forget some parts. If I were to do this again I would certainly make life easier for myself by making the visual aids shorter and simpler which will allow me to focus on other aspects which I struggled on such as my body language.

So overall I feel that the presentation was a quite a helpful exercise. I think that getting the first one out of the way will remove any fear of the unknown and the whole process will be extremely beneficial to me as I progress through the course and perform other presentations

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The importance of the blog!!!

After recently receiving an e-mail from Steve regarding the use of my blog entries and what should and should not be included in them I decided to take a look through what I have done so far.

I feel that as I had never even heard of a blog before I started this course I am pretty pleased with what I have been doing so far. If I look back at my early posts and more recent posts I can definitely see an improvement. I feel that this is down to "The Reflective Cycle" [Gibbs 1988] (see image at end of post) which I often use when I am stuck on where to start!

I think that this is also proven with the fact that I only received my first comment on my blog 3 weeks ago and I have had a further 11 since then so I hope that this proves that my entries are improving. However I think that this is also to do with the fact that I have myself started to come out of my shell a bit and started commenting on other people’s blogs. As Steve has stated several times “feedback is an excellent way of accessing higher level grades” so I think you start to pay more attention to it when you hear that!

From now on though I am going to pay much more attention to my blog and make sure that I am using it properly and making sure that I give constructive feedback to my peers.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Photoshop arrives!!!

This week I had my first real experience with Adobe Photoshop and so far it seems to be quite a good and efficient package to use. It is really interesting to see how simply changing a file format and optimising an image makes such an impact on the file size.

As this is the industry standard application and is a program that is going to be used quite a lot throughout this course I am quite apprehensive about using it and hope that I will be able to use it to the required standard. However judging by what I have done on it so far which is more or less limited to this afternoon I am quite confident that I will be able to handle it.

The Image Compression Report was also introduced this week and this has proved to be an extremely time consuming task, bearing in mind the word limit of 500-1000 words it has also proved to be quite a difficult task and one currently that I cannot wait to get out of the way!

In our group feedback sessions this week we talked about where everybody was at and I was quite relieved to see that I seem to be keeping on top of everything. This was one of my key aims when we changed to doing two assignments at the same time. As we are now fast approaching the half way mark of the assignments I am happy that I have been able to juggle the workload efficiently so far and hope that I will be able to do this until the deadline.

As I have planned to complete the dreaded compression report by this time next week I am certainly going to have a lot to do in the coming week.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity!!!

This week has been quite hectic because along with doing the two assignments I also managed to resubmit my A2 assignment. I was quite relieved to get this out of the way so that I could concentrate more on the other two assignments but I just hope that I have got everything to the correct standard. I certainly will be pretty nervous over this next week leading up to receiving my final mark for the project. For these next two assignments I hope that I will be able to hand them in to the required standard first time round so I do not have to worry as much!

On Wednesday morning we had a lecture about CRAP, this was however quite an important lecture and I will have to make sure that I can remember Contrast, Repetition, Alignment and Proximity as these are key principals which I will need to take into consideration as I progress through the course. I think that it will be quite a challenge to start using terms such as these commonly but I feel that it will eventually all sink in and I will be able to be confident in using these terms.

Our group feedback meeting was also beneficial on Thursday as there were quite a few things that I was worrying about and wanted clarification on. It turns out that I have not made such a mess on The Designers Republic essay as I had thought! Steve also seemed impressed that all of us had our time plans and were able to say what we would be doing in any given week. I think that we do work well as a group as we do talk about things together not only in the feedback sessions but also in lesson as well. I feel that we are all helping each other along and this can only be beneficial as we progress through each assignment.

Deadlines are coming thick and fast and with competitive analysis and delivery requirements to be completed by this time next week there is certainly a lot to be getting on with!

Friday, November 03, 2006

Double Trouble!!!

This week has certainly been eventful with the introduction of two new assignments, receiving feedback about my previous assignment and the fact that I fainted and fell on Marc during Thursday morning’s lesson! This was quite worrying at the time as I didn’t have a clue what had just happened when I got up but I am feeling fine again now though.

On Wednesday morning the results for the previous assignment were posted on the wall and I was quite disappointed that although I had passed one of the units I had a referral for the other. When I received feedback from Steve and realised that it was only a small thing that I did not do I was even more disappointed with myself and I will certainly not be making the same mistake twice! I think that the whole experience has brought me back down to earth a little bit after having last week off to relax and will definitely be beneficial for future assignments.

The introduction of the two new assignments also occurred this week and with the amount of time given to complete them my time management skills are certainly going to be put to the test. As last term was just solely concentrating on one assignment this is certainly going to be a bit of a juggling act but I am quite optimistic that I will be able to cope efficiently with this.

The fact that we will be studying assignments on separate days will undoubtedly lead to less class time on each project than I am used to, bearing this in mind I am going to have to really try hard with my self study but I am however looking forward to the challenge. On Wednesday’s we are now going to be concentrating on “A3 Back to BASICS” which is pretty similar to our previous assignment and on Thursday’s we will be concentrating on “A4 Picture This”, this involves predominantly using Adobe Photoshop which is an application that I have very little experience in. I am however sure that as before with Adobe PageMaker Steve will give us sufficient knowledge about the program so that we can complete the tasks effectively. I am also eager to learn how to use this piece of software as Steve has stated that this is recognised by industry professionals as the tool that is most commonly used.

This week’s group feedback session was also helpful as we are now in new groups. This has allowed me to interact more with different people who I may not have done so if they were not in my group. It also allowed me to see just what is needed to be done in terms of improving my sketchbook and creating a broader planning form encapsulating the whole of the two assignments. I feel that this will be advantageous as I progress through the project as I will be able to see if I am keeping up to date with the workload.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Time to relax!!!

This half-term holiday has allowed me to reflect on the assignment that I recently handed in and I feel that now the first one is out of the way this experience will be valuable for future assignments. Completing this first assignment has allowed me to identify what exactly is required by Steve and to what standard, this should make things much easier for the next two assignments which are due to be issued later this week.

I feel quite pleased with the assignment that I handed in and hopefully the string that I tied it all up with will be strong enough to hold it all together! I felt quite relaxed about deadline day as I had already completed the majority of the assignment so this allowed me to just make minor amendments and then hand it in with time to spare. This was extremely beneficial as I was not rushing to get things done which may have led to mistakes being made. I hope that I will be able to repeat this exercise for the two forthcoming assignments as I will be much more relaxed about the deadlines.

The fact that we will now be doing two assignments throughout the next term instead of the one that has just been completed I am quite anxious about this as the natural thought is that the workload is going to double. Bearing in mind the amount of work that went into the last project this could lead to a lot of work needing to be done. I am sure that this will not be as bad as I expect but I can’t wait to get these projects started!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Deadline day!!!

After spending the majority of today tinkering with the assignment and making several minor changes I am quietly confident about handing in my first project tomorrow.

I’m sure that it will feel like a huge weight is lifted off me when I hand in the assignment as this is the first one. It has however been quite enjoyable and the experience that I have gained during this assignment will hopefully stand me in good stead for the two assignments that are approaching. Factors such as Weekly Planning Forms and working in PageMaker are slowly becoming second nature to me now and that is definitely beneficial for future assignments.

Trying to sort out what I need to include on my CD that I hand in tomorrow has also been quite a challenge. As we only need to include the work that we are handing in on the CD it has really all been about filtering out the work that is not needed. This was quite difficult at times because many of my file names looked pretty similar especially my picture names. To avoid this confusion I could have given them all suitable names the first time I saved them but unfortunately this was not the case. The next time I do this I will certainly put more thought into the names of my files so they are easy to identify when it comes to gathering them on the CD when the assignment deadline approaches.

As tonight is the night before the deadline I am going to spend it amongst other things trying to attach the CD containing all my work to the arch lever folder by any means possible! This is due to the fact that if my folder fails the ‘shake test’ then my CD may be lost and this could result in my work not being marked. I am also going to try to hunt down some string so that I can attach the sketchbook to the folder and keep it all together so all in all it is going to be an eventful night!

Hopefully this time tomorrow I will be relaxing after successfully handing in my first assignment to the desired standard!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The deadline approaches!!!

This week has been pretty hectic as the deadline is fast approaching and there is plenty to be done. I find it hard to believe that all this time has passed and it has certainly gone quickly!

On Wednesday morning John came to give us a lecture on blogs and how they should be presented. This was quite helpful and it culminated in me displaying my blog to the class so that any improvements could be identified. The results of this are that several changes are going to have to be made in the near future, this may prove to be challenging as this involves editing the code which I have very little experience of.

Getting all the project work into the template and in the correct order was fairly challenging this week as consistency is paramount for this course and the slightest mistake could lead to me failing the project. Bearing in mind I did not even know what PageMaker was this time last month I am quite happy with how it has turned out. I did however put the references in the document straight away, this turned out to be a bad idea as I ended up editing the document several times and the references ended up in completely the wrong place. The next time I produce a Web Plan I will certainly leave the referencing to last!

The group feedback session was also very helpful this week as it gave me a better insight into what Steve is actually expecting from us and I was quite pleased that I seemingly only have a few minor amendments to make. This was also beneficial as it allowed me to see what other people were doing.

The deadline for the project is next Thursday and I am slightly apprehensive but also quite confident in the work that I have done. As this is the first project I am not expecting to achieve the highest grades but I feel that this has given me a good insight into the course and be valuable experience as I start the two new assignments in several weeks time.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Getting things done!!!

This week was all about getting on top of the workload and making sure that I am on track to have everything completed for this time next week. I had to transfer my sketchbook designs to PageMaker which proved to be a very time consuming but quite an enjoyable task. This enabled me to give an accurate representation of how the site should look if it were to be published to the internet. The design for the site template is at the bottom of this entry.

Thursday’s feedback session was also very productive as it allowed me to show my designs to Steve, Scott and Jamie and receive comments from them on how it could be improved. As a result of this feedback I added images to the design to give a more accurate representation of how the site will look, made the size of the title fonts larger so it stands out more and rearranged the layout of the contents by adding more text and moving the whole layout to the right eliminating the large amount of white space. I felt that this was effective as it gave me a good idea on how a prospective client may react in these circumstances when designing a website for them.

Diane was in the lesson on Wednesday afternoon and she spent quite a lot of time discussing where I was with the project and offering any help she could from her experience of previously doing the course. I found this to be extremely helpful as she was able to show me what she had done and how I could improve on what I am currently doing. I think that it will be useful to have her around in the coming weeks as the deadline approaches and as we start the new assignments.

In my self study this week I am going to have to try and piece everything together and do some slight amendments to the work that I have done so far. As the deadline is approaching fast I am going to dedicate a lot of time to my self study this week so I am in the position of handing it in to Steve next Thursday!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Getting Creative!!!

This week I got started with the more creative side of the course as I was taught how to use Adobe PageMaker 6.5. This is a program that I have never used before but it seems like an effective package to use and this is what the assignment will eventually be presented on.

I produced my first ever set of thumbnail sketches for the design of the website which was quite difficult as I have never done anything like this before. I found it quite challenging to come up with many different designs and the majority of them looked quite similar. To improve on this I could have researched into website design and the different layouts that are used but due to the amount of time I had this was not possible. Next time I do this I could improve by coming up with a set of designs that differ from each other and will give me a wider choice to choose from for my final design.

This Group Feedback session with Steve, Jamie and Scott was also very useful this week and it allowed me to see where I was going wrong and to get their opinions on the work I have done so far. It also allowed me to see if I was up to date with the workload which I feel that I am.

I also produced the final designs for both the sites template and the feedback page. I was quite happy with these and when Jamie was asked in the feedback session if he could go and create the site based on my designs he said he could which was very pleasing to hear. However one big problem that I had was that the sizes I had used were in millimetres and not pixels which are required. Converting this proved to be extremely difficult and I will probably have to create the designs again but with the measurements in pixels, this is something that I will have to do in my self study this week. The next time I do this I will definitely do the designs in pixels first time round so I do not waste time!

I have just produced my weekly planning form for this week and it has proved to me just what I have to get done for next weeks Group Feedback session. I will have to spend a lot of time on the project this week but this should be worth it in the long run and I should not be as pressed as the deadline advances!

As I am progressing with the course I am finding it extremely helpful to visit which contains several portfolio’s of previous students work. This gives me a good idea on what to expect and what I should be aiming for.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Getting to grips with the course!!!

In this past week I have successfully completed my first 16 hours of self study which made me feel quite triumphant and has put me in the position this week where I do not need to do quite as much. I feel that I have really got on top of everything and following my Feedback Group session with Steve I feel that I am fairly up-to date with where I should be. I think that with a few hours spent improving the work that I have done so far I will be ready to start with the more creative work next Wednesday.

This week I created the Delivery Requirements for this assignment. Even though this was quite a difficult task to do I did enjoy doing it as it involved me thinking into the future and specifying everything that I am going to use in the production of the site through to the maintenance of it. This was beneficial as I feel that it will help with the overall planning process. This was also quite complex at times as I needed to research things such as CGI (Common Gateway Interface) and FTP (File Transfer Protocol).

I also researched how much it costs to create a standard small website. This was interesting as it allowed me to see how much designers are charging currently for this service. I could have improved this by researching more companies and possibly contacting some designers directly for a clearer indication of the costs so I will consider this for next time.

I struggled to find relevant sources to research how much should be charged for the maintenance of a small website and this proved to be quite time consuming. This was mainly down to the fact that the criteria that I was entering into the search engine (Google) was not efficient enough to find the info that I was looking for. After trying several different combinations I eventually got a set of results that were representative of what I was seeking. To help with this I could have contacted a web design company to see how much they were charging but this may have taken quite some time. Next time I will try to refine my search so that it accurately represents what I am searching for and this will hopefully present me with more accurate findings earlier.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Second Week!!!

The first assignment was handed out this week. As this is the first I am sure that I will find this the hardest to complete to the appropriate standard but I think that I have got a good grasp on it so far. I have already picked the Great Briton out of the lists that were handed out. I chose Michael Crawford who is commonly know for his role as Frank Spencer on "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em" it seems like he will be an interesting character to do! This week I feel that I am settling into the course a bit more and the demands that it places on you. Completing the Weekly Planning Form really showed me just how much work will be completed from home so I need to get my time management skills in order! I have just done my first 8 hour stint of my self study today which will be very difficult to get into the hang of but i'm sure I will get used to it soon.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Formative Statement

I left school having completed a GNVQ ICT course in 2003. This resulted in me having a keen interest in computers and I was eager to learn more in this field. The natural progression was then for me to move to NEW College in Pontefract and study AVCE ICT as a Double Award. Along with this I also studied Economics and Business Studies. After completing the first year of all the courses I felt that I needed to dedicate more time to my ICT course, I decided not to continue with the second year of my Economics course gaining a C grade for the first year. I completed my A Levels in May 2005 gaining a BB grade in AVCE ICT and a C grade in Business Studies. Although I enjoyed the course I decided to leave education to gain full time employment as I was put off by the high university fees which I felt would leave me in too much debt.

I soon got a job working as an Administrator for a firm of Solicitors on a temporary basis. A couple of months later I got promoted to a Claims Handler on a permanent basis. After doing this for almost a year I realised that this was not for me so I started actively looking for a new challenge. I visited the UCAS website to find out information on courses and try to identify a course that would suit me. I looked at several different areas and many different courses and eventually learned that Interactive Media was taught at Thornes Park in Wakefield. I thought that this would have been ideal for me as it was fairly local and would allow me to still live at home. Bearing this in mind I decided to contact Steve Smith who teaches the course to find out more information and to see if the course would interest me. After several e-mails and attending a short interview I decided that I would be suited to the course and decided to apply.

I am currently on the first week of the course and am looking forward to getting started with the assignments and building my portfolio. My aims are to complete the course to the best of my ability and gain a good grade.

After completion of the course I would ideally like to go to a local University for one year and hopefully achieve a degree. In order to do this I will need to accomplish high enough grades and an impressive enough portfolio to allow entry to the third year of the degree. Looking ahead into the future this will give me the skills needed to work in the Interactive Media industry when leaving Higher Education. At present I am not sure which area of the industry I would prefer to work in but hopefully when undertaking different aspects of the course I will gain a clearer understanding into the job area I would wish to work in.