Here we are at Monday again…

Even though (for me at least) this fine day is almost over, I decided that today I would write about Monday.

I think it’s safe to say that for a lot of people, the “M” word is a loaded one!  For many, Monday means back to the daily grind and that the lovely weekend spent at home is now over.

I suddenly realized that I haven’t felt this way about Mondays in quite some time.  I have been working full-time as a graphic designer for nearly six months now, and it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks that I absolutely love my job!  I don’t dread going to bed on Sunday nights anymore knowing that my butt is back in the office at 8:30 the next morning.  I don’t count down the hours until I am out of the office anymore, and even though I love the time I get to spend at home with my family on the weekend; I don’t live just for Fridays anymore!

This is such a glorious thing and I am so grateful that I can actually enjoy the work that I do.  This is the first time in my life that this has happened!  The journey to this point has been a long one; from graduating with a (seemingly useless) degree having no idea what I want to do for a career, to having three different jobs that I absolutely loathed, to going back to school to gain some experience and knowledge for a career change, the road certainly hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely been well worth it (even though it’s still just the beginning)!

I could talk about this subject for DAYS (as it is something I’m very passionate about), but to sum everything up, I want to share something that really helped me with figuring out what I wanted to do and to formulate a plan to have the career I wanted; I read this book:  Quitter, by Jon Acuff.

Quitter was the first (of a few) of Acuff’s books that I have read, and it really is amazing.  He is a hilarious writer, but he is obviously very passionate about helping people find work that they love.  Life is too short to hate your job, especially since we spend most of our time there!  If you are in a rut with your current job and desire to do something else but don’t really know where to start; start by reading his books!  They have helped me out so much!

BTW, Jon Acuff literally has not paid me anything to say any of these things — the dude is amazing and a great writer and I just love his stuff!  I recommend his books to people whenever I get the chance!  😀 

Dreamweaver: Tips and Tricks!

Over the past couple of weeks, I have spent some time in Adobe’s Dreamweaver crafting my first websites.

It has certainly been a crazy learning experience!  This program can do so much and I am quite sure there is no way that any person could learn everything it can do in a classroom setting — I think it’s all about trial and error and working on your own to truly find out what this program can do.

I have put together a list of some (what I find to be) helpful tips and tricks that I have discovered: whether it be by accident, through my reading of design blogs online, as well as reading of my textbook.

 

  1. This one is simple: make sure that the “view” you are working with is “Live View”.  This window will split the Dreamweaver screen into two parts — one will be the window that you type the code into, and the other screen will show you what your website will look like!  Very cool feature and is a must-use.
  2. Live View’s best friend; Live Code.  This feature will update your code automatically as you click, drag & drop, and interact with the elements in the Live View window.  Love this one!
  3. Just another reason to just bite the bullet and pay the money for Creative Cloud:  all of the typefaces that we have access to with Dreamweaver!  The great thing about this is that there are so many options, and as a member of Creative Cloud, we can use the fonts and not worry about copyright infringement issues if we use those fonts.  (Of course, double check and make sure that there are no restrictions on the font in the way that we can use it, but the options are still pretty great with Creative Cloud).
  4. No matter how much we (as designers) will try to smartly name our files; sometimes it can get confusing when we are dealing with a lot of pictures.  Well, an awesome feature of Dreamweaver is that it will create a pop-up thumbnail for any <img src> attribute.  There is no question what picture you’re working with when you’re only looking at the code.
  5. Naturally, Dreamweaver works wonderfully well with Photoshop.  It is nice to display images on websites in different shapes than just the typical rectangle that we work with in Photoshop.  Instead of using a mask in Photoshop to change the shape of the image — we can do the same thing in Dreamweaver!  Under the insert panel, there is a component that allows us to insert a special class, like ing-circle to the <img> tag.  This is much easier than going back into Photoshop and adjusting the image.

These are just a few things that I have discovered that I like!  This list is (of course) changes each day as I learn more about Dreamweaver.  Good luck and happy designing!

Web Design Trends for 2017

Being that I am a newbie when it comes to web design, I have done some reading to see what is going on in the [very] vast world of web design.  Some of the things that always seem to be discussed concerning graphic design are what the “trends” for the current and upcoming year are.  Web design is certainly not an exception — people in the industry are always anticipating what could be happening next!

The following list are some of the things that I am excited about:

  • Layouts that let content shine:  it is amazing how much technology and web design have changed, even just over the past couple of years.  A shift recently has occurred; causing the focus to not be just having a “pretty” website for consumers to look at, but a website that goes back to what the actual function of a website is:  to consume the information that the website communicates.  The result has become a more minimalist approach to the design (which I rather like), and this allows for the information to really take center stage.
  • Big and Bold type:  along with the concept of letting the content take the spotlight, another concept that is being utilized is using large fonts to communicate the information the website holds.  This is another simple concept but I like that it truly makes a bold statement about what the goal of the website is when the visitor goes to the landing page.
  • More of Bright colors: continuing with the concept of simple design, another trend that we could see more of this year is the use of bright color more often.  Bright colors certainly make a statement, and that is a step that the client should want to take, should this be utilized.  Going even further into this concept; people seem to be losing their minds over the observation that some websites observed are not only utilizing bright colors, they are using lots of gradients to show different shades of bright colors.  Now, I like a good gradient as much as the next guy, but I think that they must be used with discretion.  I think that gradients are like a good spice: just the perfect amount and you’re golden,  but use too much and you’ve ruined the dish.
  • Unique layouts:  another way that web designers see to be finding creative ways to present information to readers is with unique layouts!  Specifically, this is happening with broken grids.  Some ways that designers are utilizing this concept in their designs are through overlapping typographic and graphic elements and [seeming[ to randomly combine text and images.  I really love seeing these things because it breaks the website up visually, and it is aesthetically pleasing because it produces a bit of a surprise for the viewer, but not too much to where it makes the material difficult to read.

These are just some of the things that people are talking about to look out for in web design for 2017.  Of course, these are all just speculation and only time will tell exactly what the popular web design things end up being for this year!

How 3D/Animation Has Changed My Life

The past four weeks have seemed like a whirlwind of information and learning with regards to my most recent class, 3D graphics/animation.

There is truthfully so much that concerns the 3D/animation world and only so much can be covered during a four week span.  However, this class and everything that I have learned has without a doubt left an impact on me!

Even though my animations are simple animations, I have learned how much work really goes into animating figures.

I have always been a huge fan of animated films and now I can begin to understand just how much all the teams of illustrators put into the films that we enjoy.

Recently, my wife and I watched the 2013 Pixar film; Monsters University.  We are like children in the way that we love watching animated films as often as we can!  When I was watching this movie most recently however, it was like my eyes were opened for the very first time.  Even from the very first scene with the scene being set with a row of houses surrounded by trees, and the morning sunlight shining brilliantly through those trees; I was able to see a glimpse of what those animators went through even to make just those few first seconds of the movie!

Animation takes so much patience and so much manpower.  I am even more impressed with everything that is able to be accomplished with todays animated films.  It really isn’t a surprise at all that these movies take years to complete!  All the folks involved in the animation process are superheroes in my book, and I just can’t wait to see what they come up with next!

What IS Rendering?

If you have even just a little bit of experience with or knowledge of video or 3D/animation production, you are familiar with the process of rendering.

I have had some exposure of and experience with rendering recently, but the more I work with After Effects and render out footage the more I wanted to better understand what exactly  is happening when I wait for hours for the footage to fully render.  I did a little bit of research and I what I found certainly helped me to better understand this whole process.

The process of rendering is by far the most technically complex aspect of 3D production, but like many complicated processes, I find it easy to comprehend in the context of an analogy:  just like a [film] photographer must develop and print photos before they can be viewed, graphic designers that work in the 3D realm must also ‘develop’ their footage before it can be viewed.

When a designer works on a 3D scene, the model they are working on is actually a mathematical representation of points and surfaces.  The term rendering refers to the calculations that are performed by a 3D software package’s render engine to translate the scene from a mathematical configuration to a finalized 2D image.  During this entire process, the scene’s spatial, textural, and lighting information are combined to determine the color value of each pixel in the flattened image.

How the computer mathematically does all this work is truthfully beyond the power of my brain to comprehend, but without getting into extreme detail (as well as delving into things I don’t even understand), this is how rendering works!  I find it fascinating that our computers and the programs that we use every day are able to accomplish these complicated tasks.  I also love that I don’t have to fully comprehend everything that goes into making the rendering process work, but I am still able to use and benefit from it!

Animation Studios + 3D Printing

When I discovered 3D printing, my mind was pretty much blown (which I think it is safe to say is the reaction that most people have when they discover the magic behind 3D printing).

An industry that has benefited from the use of 3D printers is the movie industry.  I recently read an article that discussed the animation studio LAIKA that relies on using the software and 3D printing hardware to make its films.  With recent improvements on the technology that the [really good] 3D printers use, LAIKA has the ability to print thousands of precise colors and subtle gradients in plastic, which achieves color accuracy that has not been accomplished with 3D printing before now.

The way in which LAIKA most utilizes the 3D printer for their films is pretty simple in concept:  faces.  LAIKA’s designers produce the puppets’ (they produce stop-motion animated films) faces, and they the 3D printer is used to print literally tens of thousands of slightly different facial expressions for each character that is utilized during filming.

LAIKA actually pioneered this specific technique on their first film Coraline and they have continued to continually change things up with each film that they have produced.

3D technology is amazing and is constantly changing, and it has produced incredible applications to so many industries including film.  I cannot wait to see where this technology goes in just the next few years!

Animation in Disney’s Moana

While I have always been a pretty big fan of animated movies, I am pretty new to to the animation “scene” as far as beginning to understand what actually goes into making one of these masterpieces.

I have been reading a fair amount of articles that discuss Disney’s newest adventure in animation.  Every single review that I have read about the movie says that Moana is not only visually breathtaking; it is one of the best animated films they have ever seen.

From what I have read, the amazement that comes from watching this film comes from a few factors.  I have read that nearly every frame of each scene in the movie was beautifully animated and rendered so well that the textures, hair, fabric, water and lighting make each scene seem all too realistic. Even from the short “bursts” of scenes that I have scene in previews, I can say that this observation is certainly true.

I think that with the deep history that Disney has cultivated with animated films, this is definitely saying something.  Disney has literally defined for generations what an animated film experience should look like.  Because each film that Disney has cranked out has consistently been better than the previous ones, they have set an almost ridiculous bar height for them to soar over.  Audiences go into these animated films just expecting to be blown away, and I have to say that I am in this crowd as well.  I am always blown away by not only the great experiences I have when watching one of Disney’s animated films, but also by how far technology has come even in just the past few years.  Animators have to stay on top of the ever-so-quickly changing technology, and now having nearly completed an introductory class to animation, I can begin to understand what a feat it is for an animated film to be made; especially for it to be a good one!

I can almost not wait to get to the theater and see Disney’s newest gem, Moana.