Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Evaluation of second half semester

The second half semester has been quite hectic, we have been continuing with our A11 On the Job assignment along with working on our other assignment A12 Culture Vulture.

For the first part of the Culture Vulture assignment we had the task of performing a five minute presentation on a 20th/21st century design icon, I chose the London Underground Map. I was quite looking forward to this because I felt that it would be a good experience in preparation for our final presentation at the end of the course. After making sure that I had rehearsed and prepared for the presentation I made sure that I arrived 10 minutes early so that I didn’t miss my slot. Unfortunately instead of knocking on the door I waited outside the room for 20 minutes thinking that somebody was still inside. This resulted in me missing my slot and having to come back at the end. I did eventually perform the presentation and I was quite pleased that this ran pretty smoothly and I managed to get all of my main points across. If I were to do this exercise again I would definitely knock on the door straight away as missing my slot highlighted to me just how important punctuality is.

The remainder of the Culture Vulture assignment specified that we had to undertake the design process in reverse. I was quite nervous about this as it was the most creative task we have done so far on the course. Due to the fact that the design process was in reverse we did not know what we were designing for so our ideas were not influenced in any way. I found this quite difficult to get my head round at first and I struggled to come up with a variety of “diverse” ideas. In order to achieve more variety in my designs I decided to look at graphic design books and magazines for some inspiration. I feel that this was really beneficial because I ended up exploring ideas and themes that I would not have considered otherwise.

After I had created a sufficient number of designs we were given our product to apply a design to, this was the M5 Coca Cola bottle
. I was quite eager to get started with this as there was very little time left before the deadline. I wanted to choose an appropriate design as soon as possible as I felt that creating the digital artwork was going to be the hardest part of the assignment. After spending quite a lot of time on this in my self study I began to feel much more confident that I had made the right choice with my rock star idea. I feel that creating the digital artwork has been a really beneficial exercise for me because I now feel much more capable in vector drawing applications such as Freehand. If I were to do this task again however I would definitely try to use another application such as Adobe Illustrator as it is an application I have never used before.

The other assignment we have been working on is On the Job which has been going since the beginning of the second year. This has proved to be quite a frustrating assignment at times in terms of communicating with clients, arranging meetings, getting content etc. I do feel that it has been a great experience though because this is the sort of thing we are going to have to do after the course so being able to deal with clients effectively is a key skill to have. I also feel that the two clients we have dealt with have been completely different. I feel this was advantageous because we learnt that you cannot expect every client to be the same and they all have separate demands and expectations.

I think that we have worked quite well as a team for the On the Job assignment and both clients seem to be happy with the end product. The assignment has seemed to drag on quite a bit over the last few months but I feel that the experience gained in dealing with clients will be invaluable for the future.

Overall I feel that this has been a really productive half semester. I have been forced to move out of my comfort zone by undertaking a design process in reverse and worked on two professional projects. I am looking forward to seeing what awaits after Christmas in what I find hard to believe will be the final quarter of the course!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

BTEC/Skillset or both?

BTEC are an examination board who fall under the
Edexcel brand. Edexcel are a learning organisation who offer many vocational and general qualifications. The BTEC syllabus for Interactive Media is quite a vast document containing the required outcomes and content for each unit of study. They also provide advice on how to deliver each skill and give further guidance such as helpful websites and further reading exercises.

Skillset on the other hand are a Skills Council for the Audio Visual Industry. They are jointly funded by both the industry and the government and aim to make sure the industry has the right people with the right skills. From my point of view as a student they provide a helpful set of National Occupational Standards which state what skills you will need to work in the industry. This is quite wide ranging from Core Skills that are needed in each sector of the industry through to more specific areas such as “Manage Intellectual Property Rights” and “Design Electronic Games”.

The obvious difference between the two is that BTEC is an educational authority whereas Skillset is directly linked to the industry. This means that they both have quite different aims which both need to be taken into consideration by students leaning Interactive Media. The main aim of BTEC is to educate and train students to enable them to pass the course by meeting a selection of learning outcomes. The main aim for Skillset however as stated previously is to make sure the industry contains the right people with the right skills.

The BTEC syllabus contains learning outcomes for each unit with the aim of providing students with certain skills. The outcomes are quite broad however so can be interpreted in a number of ways. A good example of this is in Unit 22: New Technologies in Interactive Media. One of the learning outcomes for this unit was “Using new technology, produce a proposal for an interactive media product”.

The Skillset Standards are much more focused however. A good example of this is on Unit IM7: Code Scripts To Provide Functionality For Interactive Media Products. This section states “Some industry-standard languages you might use are Flash ActionScript, JavaScript, VBScript, Lingo for Director, Perl and PHP”. BTEC do attempt to do this by stating “At the time of publication, the following programming languages would be suggested for use CH, JAVA, Visual Basic, JAVA Script”. This is not a must however and the new technology learnt depends on the discretion of the course leader.

Another main difference between the two is that unlike BTEC the Skillset Standards do not state how you would learn skills or provide additional support. The BTEC syllabus provides instructions on how each unit would be passed and provides support materials such as helpful books. One problem with this however is that the BTEC syllabus has not been updated since March 2005. This may mean that the support materials given are no longer appropriate. Due to the fast moving nature of the Interactive Media industry I feel that more regular updates are essential in order to maintain relevance with the industry.

I feel that relevance with the industry is a key concept when comparing BTEC with Skillset. The main aim of BTEC is to give students the appropriate qualifications to gain employment. The main aim of Skillset however is to make sure the industry remains competitive by containing people with the right skills. I think that they both compliment each other very well and both need to be taken into consideration by Interactive Media Students.