FdA Web Design

This report outlines my learning experiences through college and work and other activities. It examines my strengths and weaknesses throughout the course. It also shows the soft and transferable skills that could be developed and improved in terms of future career prospects.

In summary, the first year taught me how to code from scratch using strict HTML1.0 and CSS2. I also learnt the difference between variations. An example would be from Web Development 1, where I created a website which had curved corners for its design and only CSS3 could do this.

I also learnt about the variations in software skills using typography. Before starting the course, I used to design in InDesign and when designing in Photoshop, I realised there were different behaviour patterns when resizing or moving text. Photoshop uses pixels and when resizing text it acts like an image, causing pixilation when scaling larger. The only way to resize typography in Photoshop was to highlight the text and then resize rather then dragging a corner of the text box. It was like a manual method compared to InDesign. In InDesign, the text acts like a vector and can be scalable like in Illustrator. Throughout the second year of the course my Photoshop skills have improved and continue to develop as I have become more familiar in working with software on a regular basis.

At the beginning of the second year, in Work Related Learning 3, I was surprised how we were given a task to create a business plan, which was something I had never considered in relation to college. Nevertheless, it taught me a few things along the way such as how a business works and organises its infrastructure, the paperwork involved with Sales & Marketing, the key personnel needed in Operations and the work involved with financial forecasts.

Part of the business plan made me realise that Operations has a vital role and I was currently putting this into practise outside of college during the Christmas period selling products though Amazon. I had to consider the sheer scale and time management during this process. I was able to transfer this knowledge when creating the operations plan for a digital company; I had to think like a digital agency and their issues of running the business as a profitable company.

For Web Development 2 I had to create a responsive website for the Guardian newspaper. As I created the website with two different design layouts, complications occurred during website development such as having to name each element semantically and make them work in three different sizes for devices. At this point I realised I had overcomplicated the task and I wanted to do my best to solve this problem. However this meant that my presentation suffered extremely in this module, as I had no time to practice my delivery.

I have noticed through my working patterns that I always think a step ahead and over complicate tasks when they really don’t have to be. I really want to push the boundaries as much as possible to find what my limits are and what I can possibly achieve. Consequently, I think that this has been a very good learning experience and one that I will be able to transfer into employment.

It has also been valuable, as I was able to recognise the amount of content to be included on the website and the time constraints involved. I also did this while completing another work intensive module. This made me aware that time management was a crucial part of any job and the importance of having some work experience or a freelance job during this course.

I also had to develop my organisational skills because I worked over the Christmas period in Leeds and this involved quite a long commute to work by train. This added to my workload as I experienced the frustrations of train delays and traffic jams! I completed this work alongside other commitments such as hobbies and completing my assignments. There were also times I had to help my parents in their shop. By working in the shop I was able to allow them to have a break during their long working hours of 5:30 am – 9:00 pm. Although I feel I have to support them, it has taught me the importance of being professional and meeting customer needs. I have been able to use some of these skills when meeting client requirements for the Project Management module.

Completing each module has shown me that I need to learn about new trending technologies. This will help when applying for professional vacancies, as knowledge of these techniques is important. Professionals will be looking for people who know how to create a website from scratch with the ability to be able to accurately and effectively name coding tags, as well as being able to understand new trending topics as they develop. They will also be looking at this from a point of view of what I could bring to the company. This also means that I will need to be able to show that I can follow web trends and that I am aware of the most up to date technology.

In Design for Print there were three tasks set for this brief. The first was to listen to a set of untitled soundtracks and draw what you could hear or imagine. This made me realise the task needed to be imaginative and be creative with different mediums when sketching such as pastels, chalks, inks, charcoals, coloured pencils and oil pastels. These were then presented in my sketchbook work. For the second task I had to research the soundtrack album and draw designs from the title of each track on the album. This made me aware of the limitations in relying on imagination to create visuals.

I then had to choose one of the design ideas from my sketchbook and develop it further on the design software Illustrator. From previous experience I knew how to use certain applications for design related work, but I had difficulty remembering this one as I haven’t used it for two years since graduating from Teesside University. This was another task that made me realise it was easy to forget a skill or technique when it isn’t used regularly. I had to familiarise myself with this again by practising tutorials on Illustrator to bring me back up to speed.

I also realised when submitting this coursework according to strict deadlines is that it is difficult to remember the small objectives I set myself which meant that I sometimes forgot to do them in the short amount of time. I found this a valuable experience and I need to improve this to make sure it does not happen again. One way to do this is to keep a notepad for small tasks so that I have a list of reminders that I check and tick as I complete tasks.

In Personal & Professional Development 3, I had to create a learning contract for myself. This was something quite familiar from past experiences at university where I had to create a design brief for one of my final projects or find a subject matter that was appealing to debate about. I found this relatively straightforward and enjoyable.

The learning contract identified some key skills and may have developed my ability to use these skills for future job prospects. The skills involved included researching and identifying subject matter in a range of mediums. I also had to make comprehensive notes that pinpointed important issues to address in the work and also the understanding of the subject matter in depth. I learnt that the need to credit the source from where information is used is very important and to also protect from copyright infringement. This is something I also knew about from previous studies and also from work placements.

Corporate Identity & Branding was a frustrating brief as a lot of problems arose when working through the project. The name of the client’s company is called ‘Thrown In Stone’. They are a ceramics company that produce various handmade ceramic wares such as vases, bowls and mugs.

They wanted a logo that could be used loosely on various applications, such as on pottery to vehicles and signage for craft fairs. This meant an icon logo as the size of 10mm and a word mark that can be used on larger scale. The client specifically requested the logo to be modern and traditional, but not old fashioned. This made me aware that the logo needed to be fresh and unique from their competitors branding.  When researching, I found myself looking at a lot of pots as logos and a few clever thinking logos, which I thought would be great for this design task. Consequently, I generated design ideas purposely without the pots in mind and came up with something abstract. After having a group discussion, I realised the whole idea of this branding is to sell ceramic ware and I had to come up with a design logo that could represent all the ceramic wares they make in a small icon. Eventually I came up with a logo icon using a plate, bowl and vase.

The icon itself was due to clever thinking and I had to make the word mark the same. After experimenting with the word mark in scale and position, I found a clever way to brand the whole idea by using a tag line within the word mark. This was by taking the logo ‘Thrown in Stone’ and developing to include the phrase ‘Own One!’ as a bold statement within the original logo. The only problem I had here was to show this expression in its word mark. I used the exclamation mark and shaped the top half as an upside down vase and a bowl for the dot. This made sense when looking at it loosely from the icon and with the icon and at the same time shows some expression.

Overall this module has taught me some valuable lessons: always evaluate the brief first and its purpose, find the right solution to apply to the problem and finally always get opinions from others, as I am always used to looking from a design point of view and not from a clients or consumers point of view. I think this is a common mistake many designers make in their work and this has been highlighted in my coursework. Now that I have recognised this process, I will be thinking of this technique for future client work.

Project Management was the biggest experience I have had in all of the modules, well in fact in all of my education. It was an eye opener and has highlighted several areas of development while keeping a track record of what client projects were being created and what stages they were at in terms of testing and being ready for client deadlines.

Working in groups also made me realise I had to be calm and collected while others were working. I noticed that each of us had different skill sets and different methods of working and I had to adapt to other people’s techniques. I have never worked with groups of people with real client proposals; this made me feel quite nervous, as I had to rely on another colleague rather than my self-motivation.

There were times I had to change tasks instantly and do some design related and admin work. I had expected something like this to happen because in the professional world with smaller businesses it is like this. You would have to do a bit of everything to earn your keep and also keep the business running.

I also found a new client in my own time for our group proposal work, but the client’s requirements were more than expected especially in terms of the short deadline we had. But this has made me realise I can approach a client, or in this case a committee, for work. I appreciated that the committee consisted of older people and I had to explain technical vocabulary with examples using the iPad I had with me. Nevertheless, this work resulted in a freelance job after I finish college and also freelance work with other clients.

I think it was the fear of doing something that could possibly not turn out as planned that makes me reluctant to do work like this. This fear has now disappeared, as I have got more confident at completing this type of work.

The major skill set I am improving is time management to balance all projects and not just focus on one. I am so used to focussing on one project at a time in freelance work that I have realised the impact of this throughout other modules. To develop this I had to keep on top of time management for the Project Management unit and I was also concerned about not letting others down in the team and clients. It would be highly embarrassing if I did lose track of time!

From a group perspective, there were individual and management mistakes that have been highlighted and have improved during the process. When giving individual feedback we all noticed that this was a time consuming process and we should have given feedback as a group on the first day of every week, rather than via e-mails and the forum board, allowing us to make the amendments after. It has also been shown that a looming deadline has made us all aware that we needed to work even closer together by communicating during and after college hours. This was also something that I learnt in the first year of the course and I have embraced as part of the module. We did use the forums as a communication tool and listed all feedback by assigning projects to people and their own threads to reply to, but this was not until deadlines were upon us. In essence I have learned that feedback should be given as a group, rather than individually because it allows everyone in the group to know what each individual is working on and will also produce better results, as each member knows their exact role.

It would be more beneficial for the group to meet outside of college hours and work more closely. This could have a greater impact on producing more work as more clients could be recruited for proposals.

In terms of testing, I could have been more involved in testing the designs before creating websites. This meant that I would have had to complete further research into WordPress, but I realise I could have asked a team member who learnt this as part of their learning contract to help me. They could have this by sending me their findings for me to learn. This would have saved time during research.

I learnt that testing is an on-going process and shouldn’t be finished in a day or week. Bugs had to be fixed before re-testing to get accurate results and I had to rely on someone else to do this. I found myself delegating tasks over the weekend in a short amount of time and realised the impact that this had on other people’s work. The alternative would be to delegate work before leaving college so that they could complete it during the week. I have learnt the importance of forward planning tasks so everyone involved is clear about the work required.

During the final week we had to narrow our focus and respond to feedback as clearly as possible. The only option I found useful to document my concerns was to print screen every problem that occurred. This was easy to understand for others and they were able to fix the problem as quickly as possible in the time remaining. It worked well and influenced others to follow the same process. I also learnt from another group member to provide a solution to problems for those who were struggling to fix the bug. This was great teamwork and helped us to complete tasks efficiently and effectively.

I can take leadership responsibility, follow sets of instructions and accept feedback by others while changing or adding new challenges in the mix. It’s helped me to improve and push those boundaries that I have previously feared or left unexplored. I did make mistakes and have learned from these. I have made significant professional developments that will improve my future job prospects as a Designer, Developer or Front End Development. I also have more possibilities to do freelance work or follow another career path if necessary due to the soft skills and transferable skills I have developed and that can be developed even further.

I am currently applying for vacancies as a Front End Developer in larger companies that deal with specific tasks, as this will make my skills much more professionally refined. These skills can also be taken to other smaller companies who would benefit from these skills to improve their business.

I was brought up in the business sector and can use this as an advantage during interviews and explain how I understand how a business works. I will be able to explain that time and accuracy is the most crucial aspect of any business. There needs to be a fine balance between both in order for the company to be profitable and be run efficiently.

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