Friday, January 26, 2007

Life on the outside!!!

This week has been really eventful but also quite enjoyable. On Wednesday we were given the day to get on with our A5 assignment and bearing in mind the trip to London next Wednesday I was very happy with this as it allowed me to make significant progress. I am beginning to feel much more confident in using Dreamweaver now and I think this is due to the fact that I dedicated a lot of time in my self study to doing the tutorial. By doing this I have learnt how to use many features and learn some of the shortcuts and easier ways to do things. I feel that I benefited greatly from doing this and I will certainly try to do this again whenever we are introduced to a new piece of software.

Earlier on in the week I was informed by Steve that I would be going to Huddersfield to visit The Design Mechanics with some other students on Thursday afternoon. I was quite apprehensive about this as I did not really now what to expect but I found this to be a really good experience.

One of the biggest challenges of the day was actually getting there as the company is situated immediately after a variety of hills and fields which was quite a surprise. My preconception of the industry was a pressurised environment but I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was not the case. When we arrived it was quite a laid back atmosphere with people quietly getting on with their work and plugged into their iPods! This immediately put me at ease and I was eager to hear what everybody had to say.

We were soon taken into another room to be greeted by Dave who owns the company and Paul who is the lead designer. Then after making sure we were all comfortable with sitting on the floor they started with giving us an introduction into what they actually do. It was interesting to hear that they employ sales people who deal with the customer and go through a questionnaire with them which helps to give a good idea of what the customer is requesting. This is then passed onto a designer to create the designs which means that designers can focus solely on designing and do not have to waste time in liaising with the customer. Because of this approach they are given quite short deadlines to complete work, examples of deadlines were 1 hour for a logo to be completed and half a day for a website to be completed.

I was quite interested to see if the majority of their work was on websites or if it was print based. It soon became apparent that it was actually print based as a typical client who goes to them will request a logo, website, business card, letterhead and much more meaning that websites are only a small part of what they do.

Another part of the visit which I found to be advantageous was when we were all given a designer to sit with for twenty minutes to see what they did and to ask them any questions. I was quite happy with this as I was talking to Oliver who has just left our course last summer and he seemed to be enjoying the experience of working as a designer full time. I also asked him many questions that I had in the back of my mind such as his working patterns, if it was a good place to work and if he found it easy to make the step up from college. One of the most encouraging things was that he along with Dave felt that he just as capable if not more capable than other students who had gone their straight from university.
Overall I found the trip to be a great experience as it gave me a taste of what to expect when I finish the course, if anybody else is offered this opportunity in the future I recommend that they take it as I am sure that they will benefit from it just as much as I have!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Getting back to the old routine!!!

This week has been pretty eventful as we were given our results for our previous assignments and were also given two brand new assignments. After having so much time off and feeling quite relaxed I soon realised that I had to quickly revert back to being focused on the course.

On Wednesday morning we were given our results for the two assignments that we were working on previously. I was quite apprehensive about this because even though I knew I had put a lot of time and effort into each assignment I was aware of how simple things missed can easily lead to a referral. I was however delighted to learn that I had achieved a merit for assignment A3 and a pass for assignment A4. This was a good experience as it gave me renewed confidence for the upcoming assignments as I would not have to revisit anything. I will do my utmost to mirror this in my new assignments because being able to focus totally on them and not having to worry about old assignments is a huge relief.

Wednesday also involved the distribution of the new assignment “A5 Builder”. This involves building the back to basics website that we planned previously. It is going to be made in Dreamweaver and this is a program that I am looking forward to working with as it is the primary piece of software that I am going to be using over the duration of the course. I am however a little anxious about using this as Steve explained just how complex this application is.

Thursday also involved the introduction of a new assignment with “A6 Revert to Type”. This is a typography assignment culminating in a 5 minute presentation and timed piece of work. This is something which I was not really expecting but I think that it will be a good experience as we will be forced to work under more pressurised circumstances. This is eventually the type of situation that we can expect when we gain employment after the course so it should be a beneficial task. Tasks are also given out randomly and not at the beginning which means that time planning for this assignment is much more difficult.

In my self study this week I decided to spend time looking through some of the further reading exercises for assignment “A5 Builder” as this will be my first ever website. I found the World Wide Web Consortium website to be quite interesting as it is something that I have not really looked at in depth before. By looking at this I learnt much more about the use of CSS and where it originated from which helped me to understand the coding a bit better. The original proposal can be found at

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bring on the second semester!!!

As the first semester is now over and we are soon going to be moving on to the next semester it is an appropriate time to evaluate my progress so far in relation to the formative statement I wrote in September.

I am extremely surprised with the amount of work that I have got through in the opening semester. When I applied for the course and found out that I would only be attending two days a week I thought that I would not have covered so much in the first year never mind the first semester! This though is because I had left education for a year straight after college and gained full time employment so I was only basing this expectation on the amount of work I would have done at college. It soon struck me however that this course would be much more challenging and was a pleasant surprise.

Another aspect of the course which has surprised me is the amount of work that I have been doing in my own time. When I researched into the course it was made clear that there would be 16 hours of self study needed each week to supplement the two days at college. This is something which I expected myself to struggle on as when I was at college I always seemed to be easily distracted at home and never managed to get anything done. The nature of the college work however meant that I could do this work on a free period or a break lasting 30 minutes. I soon realised though that I would really have to improve on this aspect if I were to get anywhere in this course.

As I was worried about the self study aspect of the course I was very happy to find out that Steve had created a time planning form to fill in each week. This enabled me to write down what tasks I needed to complete and how long I expected each task to take. This was a huge help in the first half semester as I found it much easier to put the hours in as I knew exactly what I needed to do. In the second semester I supplemented this by an assignment planning form where I had set myself deadlines throughout the assignments for when things needed to be complete. Because of this I could keep on track with the workload which enabled me to feel much more relaxed when it came to the day of the deadlines for the assignments to be complete.

Another big thing for me on embarking on this course was getting to know people. As the majority of my friends had gone off to universities the year before I knew that I would not know anybody on the course. Different group tasks and activities that we did in the early stages of the course really helped as it allowed me to interact with the different members of the course and get to know them. Now after the first semester it seems like we are in quite a close group where everybody gets on with each other creating a good working atmosphere. Different members of the group have different levels of experience in programs and applications which means that there is always somebody around to give you a hand if you are struggling with anything which has been a big help so far.

When starting the course I stated that I would like to go on to a third year and achieve a degree and I am still aiming to do this. As Steve is pressing for a third year at Thornes this would certainly be beneficial and I feel that many members of the group may stay on for the third year that may not have done otherwise.

As the next semester is approaching I am looking forward to the new assignments and learning more new software and applications. As I will be creating my first website I will be using Dreamweaver which is something which will be used throughout the course and into employment so I am eager to familiarise myself with it and use it effectively. I am also keen to find out my results from the previous assignments as I feel that I put a lot of time and effort into them.