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Tuesday, November 4, 2003

Flash Art Project
Another little project ended today for my Computing in Design class. I wrote a little program in Actionscript to make this fun, useless set of moving circles (2k (!) Flash SWF). Fun for the whole family. If the whole family smokes a lot of pot.

posted at 10:28 PM in projects, software | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Saturday, October 11, 2003


If I don't know Flash very well now, I will by the end of this month. My project for Studio is a series of Flash movies. My project for Interface class is a Flash piece. And in Computing in Design, we are starting to get deeper and deeper into Actionscipt, building up to an art project at the end of the month.

It's good for me, I guess. But for now, I wrestle with keyframes, onEnterFrame, and alpha properties.

posted at 04:24 PM in software | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, August 26, 2003

So it begins II

Today I started two more classes: Computing in Design and Interaction and Visual Interface.

Computing in Design used to be Intro to Programming for Designers, where they taught the design students the basics of Java. So many students complained about it that this year instead the focus is on Actionscript, the coding language used by Flash. Of course, the day we start class is the day after Macromedia announces a new version of Flash. Oh well. And I just bought my copy like two months ago too. Grrr...

In any case, the class uses Actionscript as a basis to teach us the basics of object-oriented programming while providing us with a tool we'll actually use in other classes and in professional practice. It's being taught by Ian Hargraves, a second-year interaction design student and TAed by Jeff Howard, one of the first-year ID students.

Chances are, I won't be writing overmuch about this class, since, while useful, probably a good portion of what I'm learning about can be learned elsewhere.

My other class was Interaction and Visual Interface Design, taught by professor Jodi Forlizzi. This class is going to be very project-based, with four longer projects and several one-day ones thrown in as "quizzes."

We talked about three trends in design over the last 50 years: a systematic way of breaking down design problems (human factors and HCI), then having users design (participatory design), and the most recent, a combination of user and a designer's knowledge.

What is interface design? Interfaces are the "skin between the product and the world it exists in." The skin can be a digital image or it can be an environment, like the inside of Starbuck's, or a physical set of controls like the dashboard of a car. Interfaces offer the user a "story of use." That is: here's how to experience/use me.

We then launched right into our first project: Expression and Physical Interaction. We're going to be looking at physical objects (like, say, an egg beater) and create from them a list of rich interactions that could be applied to a digital context. Then we're going to apply them to a simple scheduling application.

First, though, we're creating mood boards made of images based around various words: vision, hearing, touch, place, pose, movement, and facial expression. We'll use these throughout the course as a sort of pallete to refer to.

Homework tonight: working on my Studio and Seminar homeworks for class tomorrow. So it begins. My life isn't my own any more.

posted at 10:26 PM in big ideas, classes, classmates, faculty, interface design, projects, software | comments (1) | trackback (0) | link


Thursday, July 24, 2003


We spent all of class working on perspective, creating on a large sheets of paper 10'x12'x10' rooms in groups of three. If I sound nonplussed, it's because I am. Obviously perspective is important in drawing, but the stated purpose of this week was to enhance our ability to communicate ideas effectively on paper. This type of work isn't achieving that goal for me. I (and I think many of my classmates as well) would probably have preferred to work on basic sketching techniques, effective ways of showing drawings and text. We did a little of that yesterday, making thumbnails, but the thumbnails were so detailed, I had to make thumbnails for my thumbnails.

The saving grace of this week has been learning After Effects. Wow, what a sweet program this is! You're able to do some really cool stuff with very little effort. (My own very little effort (8mb Quicktime movie). I'd love to buy it, but at $299 (even with my student discount), it's just not in the budget right now. But its a cool alternative to Flash for animation (locally, anyway...the file sizes are pretty huge.) The whole "camera effect" of being able to move not the objects on the screen, but the "camera" viewing them, is pure genius.

posted at 08:12 PM in design 101, software, visualization | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Communication v. Design

I'm apparently having the same trouble I had during Photography: emphasizing Design over Communication. In my first assignment (pdf 96k), I spent a lot of time (some 6 hours) playing with the composition of each variation. But what I missed was the communication of the message. Which is pretty stupid considering the first line of the text is, "A great square has no corners." You'd think in six hours of staring at and typing the same message, some of it would have sunk in. Hopefully, my refinement (pdf 30k) is better.

We did talk a lot about form today in class, about how the overall shape and form of the page prepares the reader for the content therein. Symmetry, as it turns out, is boring. Old skool. Asymmetry is more interesting, more dynamic. Asymmetrical text might be more difficult to comprehend, but it is ok to make the reader work a little bit as long as it isn't too much. You have to know you audience and your content to know which end of the type spectrum you should be working in (pure information (absolute clarity) or expressive work (ambiguity)).

Don't ever just stick something on a page. Everything, every letter, needs to be placed. Do everything knowingly. Things in proximity are seen as related, as a chunk. Every element should be allied to something else on the page.

We talked a little about the design process, how it starts with many explorations. The process is linear, but it is seldom executed in a linear fashion. A tip is to start sketching as early as possible. You can better discuss ideas that are sketched out.

In software bootcamp, our Flash training is coming along swimmingly. We learned tweening animation today, which is a lot of fun to play around with. It's a good introduction before I take the Actionscript class in the fall.

posted at 05:02 PM in design 101, software, techniques, typography | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Linespacing, Stroke Weights, and Horizontal Shifts

We continued our Typographic Hierarchy Exercise from yesterday, the purpose of which (I'm postulating) is to train our eyes to see what slight changes in type characteristics do, how they can change emphasis. Indeed, the trick is to make sure the audience can unconsciously (via visualogic) determine what is the most important. By applying individual or combinations of two characteristics, you can see (or start to see in my case) how each affects the type (and thus the message).

A couple of related notes:

  • Without any linespaces, stroke weight changes look odd.
  • The length of a line and its placement on the page help to determine its emphasis ("loudness").
  • The top of a page determines the bottom. The left usually determines the right.

In software bootcamp, our study continues on InDesign, learning about frames and bounding boxes and how to manipulate the two. I'm starting to feel comfortable with the program, three days in. It helps we're using it in CDF class too.

posted at 06:15 PM in design 101, software, techniques, typography | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Monday, June 30, 2003

First Day of D School

I survived my first day at school! Hooray! My two classes are Communication Design Fundamentals and the accompanying "software bootcamp."

Communication Design Fundamentals is a six-week course designed to teach Design 101. Each week is a different instructor to teach a different aspect of design. This week is Introduction to Display Typography, taught by Karen Moyer.

There's about 13 students in the class, a majority of them from the HCI program. We spent the first day arranging a pile of kitchen utensils and art supplies into a pattern that would make sense. The purpose being not only to show that this is what designers do--make order out of disorder--but also to show the process of design, from familiarization to development to refinement. The key points:

  • Form carries meaning.
  • Space carries meaning--even empty space.
  • Structure carries meaning.
  • Everything has a form, including (especially) typography.
  • Appropriate, engaging, and clear presentation of content: this is the purpose of communication design.
Another key point: let the visual display do what it can do and nothing more. It must be well-thought out, but it cannot do the thinking/processing for the viewer.

The first program we're learning in software bootcamp (taught by second-year second year interaction design grad student Ian Hargraves), is Adobe's InDesign. It's a smaller class (about 8 of us) and for some of us (like me) the beginning of the class was just getting used to the Mac machines as opposed to the PC (what do you mean there's no right mouse click?). Since I've never used InDesign, I'm grateful to have the opportunity to learn it.

In other news, I got the key to the Graduate Design Studio, my new (working) G4 Powerbook, and my summer student ID card. I'm a student again! So strange, but so great, to be back in school. I'm glad this first, awkward day is over though.

posted at 07:35 PM in classes, classmates, design 101, software | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link


Wednesday, June 4, 2003


We've been informed that we should be familiar with the following programs prior to starting school in the fall:

  • Photoshop
  • Illustrator
  • Flash
  • Director
  • InDesign
  • Dreamweaver/HTML Authoring
Well, 2 out of 6 isn't bad, since I know Photoshop and Dreamweaver. (What, no Visio?!?) During summer session in the afternoons, we're supposed to have "software bootcamp," but from all reports, not much is learned during the 90 degree Pittsburgh summer afternoons. I'm going to have to step through the tutorials myself, especially Flash. I ordered with my new laptop Macromedia Studio MX (they are having a great sale right now). I guess I'll try to learn those myself over the summer. But I don't want to cough up the massive cash for the Adobe titles. I'd spend like $2000+ in software.

posted at 12:13 PM in money, software | comments (0) | trackback (0) | link





All straight lines circle sometime. - The Weakerthans