Monday, February 23, 2015

Weekly Update - Generating Creativity

Music: The Whip - X Marks Destination
Still one of my favourite albums to work out to – X Marks Destination is a genius example of electronic music. I suppose one of the things I really like about electronic music is the buildup of beat, layering different sounds at a good momentum until all of the parts meld together into a delicious mix of dance music.

All 30 interviews are finished! If you haven’t been following along – I’m referring to my thesis project. I have now officially completed all 30 object interviews and their accompanying stories, icons, and visualizations. Now comes the hard part – getting all of it onto the web. I can sense a long day of coding every single page into the framework of the digital version of the catalog. But at least the content is finished!

I want to finish the first SkillShare in Joshua Davis’s series by the next update. It’s going very well, I’ll be writing a summary when I finish it. So far, I’m getting so excited by Hype that I am actually thinking of using my data visualization skills to add a dataset into the code. Instead of randomly generated art, why not have statistical data shape the art? More on that soon. For now, a little preview of what I've been doing:

Random Thought:
Lately, I’ve been taking a lot of screenshots. They’re just handy for so many things! Being a designer, there are so many reasons for needing a low-res little png of my screen. Maybe I want to get the exact size of something for a web project, or maybe I love that colour and want to eyedropper it for a print project I’m working on. I do have one qualm with the way OS X handles screenshots, though. When I press cmnd + shift + 4, I get those little crosshairs and numbers to better shape the size of the screenshot. This is all well and good, but it’s certainly not as precise as it should be. For example, take the magnifying lens used to fix a text on an iPhone. That tool could be very easily implemented when taking a custom-sized screenshot. Talk about pixel-perfect.

I love this little snippet of Processing code by p5art. Chopping up photographs and pasting them in this weird, staggered way is really interesting. Not to mention, more generative art! It kind of reminds me of the dumb little glitch art project I did about a year ago. Check out the one I did with my face!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Skillshare - Aaron Draplin

So I finished my first Skillshare! As you'll know if you've been reading along with the past version of me, you'll know that Skillshare is a wonderful website chok-full of video tutorials for creatives - hosted by industry leaders. I have a free month and I'm trying to squeeze every last drop of creative juice that I can from it.

For baby's first Skillshare, I chose Aaron Draplin's "Logo Design the Draplin Way: Building with Shape, Type, and Color". I simply love his work, and I know he is kind of a comedian. He did not disappoint. Especially having the chance to watch his workflow and check out his Adobe Illustrator workspace was very exciting - I love to check out other people's little preferences and see if mine need a little tune-up.

Here was his final product - a family crest for his upcoming family reunion.

Pretty nice, right? I love the little details like the pierogi (his grandmother made them from scratch all the time).

I took away a few wonderful tips about my workflow:

  1. "Keep it live, vectors are free" Basically, Aaron refers to the way we create vector shapes. Always be aware of where you are in the process and make copies of stuff as you go. That way, you can look back on all the little iterations you made and change your process based on what worked and what didn't. I love that - vectors are free! You can make as many as you want - until stuff falls off the artboard of course. I'm sure I'll be having nightmares about that soon enough. Below are a few variations (and the original image used) of a pierogi icon.

  2. Warping to a circle - this is going to change my life. Object > Envelope Distort > Make with Warp. Basically this will put any shape you give it onto a perfect arc. You don't know how many times I have done this by hand - with messy results. He applied it to his ribbon at the bottom of the crest - which he originally made from three rectangles and two triangles. I am actually crying with joy.
  3. Offsetting a path - another life-changer. Object > Path > Offset Path. This will create a perfect outline as far away from your shape as you want. If you're familiar with Illustrator then you'll know that non-symmetrical shapes such as triangles do not scale up exactly spot-on with their smaller parents. Well, this does the trick. I believe he used it for the track on which Detroit, Mich. sits on.
  4. My favourite tip is one that already resonates with me - choosing colour in weird ways. Aaron mentions that he likes to go 'junking' on Saturdays - this is something I have done with my father since I was five or six. He takes pictures of all the items he finds that have interesting colour palettes, and uses those as reference for future projects. Check out his flickr below:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekly Update - Shuffling Around

Music: The Hidden Cameras - Origin: Orphan
Another dose of weird music for sure. I found this band in 2010, and can still remember listening to them on my old iPod and wondering exactly what was happening to my hearing. Well, the me of five years ago obviosuly had different musical tastes than the one you read before you, so let's get into it.

I think the most jarring thing is the change in musical genre between pretty much every song. There's pop, country-esque, blues, and sometimes even more than one in the same song. I suppose that's what I didn't like before, but I sure like it now. You've got to check out the whole album, but I permit you to start with this doozy:

Accomplishment: Fargo Title Sequence
After all these weeks from conception to refinement to that final upload, I've got a grade-A title sequence for my beloved television series, Fargo. Why not take a wonderful movie and make it into an even better TV show? I say YES. Anyway, enough talk. Here you go.

Goal: Delegation
I've just begun my reading week and already I feel sixteen years older. I am trucking along with my workshop, information design and type in motion, not to mention the in-show event is starting to kick me in the butt. I suppose my goal this week is to learn how to do the one thing I've always sucked at - delegating tasks. I'm going to put some of this grad show work into the trusty hands of the people in my group, and see where they take it. Let's see what happens!

Random Thought:
I wonder who thought of song shuffling as a way to listen to music? I am a full-album purist and don't really like to put my iTunes on shuffle unless it happens by accident. One thing I have been doing lately is listening to a specific album, and then letting iTunes trickle down through every album that comes after that. I listened to quite a large portion of all the bands I have that start with the letter H today. And I liked it!

Inspiration: Way To Go

This is the best way to use web, at least that I know of. Way To Go immerses the viewer into a journey through the forest, complete with sights, sounds, and everything else. I loved the music and the ephemeral sound of walking along the dirt path, and even the easter egg of flying when you try to run while floating. And with the collaboration with NFB, you get a delicious assortment of films, both nature and otherwise.

I only made it this far before I worried for the health of my poor laptop. But try it yourself! On a stable computer!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Someone Else's Clothes

With sites like Buzzfeed and Clickhole clogging up my Facebook newsfeed, it's all to easy to become distracted from the important things (like using Facebook as a distraction, of course!). There are a lot of time-wasting online articles out there, and I know you've seen them, too. I refer to articles with the title "Ten Nouns That You Didn't Know Can Verb" and so on. They're usually about cats or cute kids or awkward family photos or celebrities or something nostalgic, the list goes on.

That said, I found an article that I actually found deep and fulfilling. Stop the presses! As a social experiment, a mother decided to let her three-year-old pick her outfits for her for a week. She was trying out a role reversal, as she usually takes on the task of dressing her young son on a daily basis.

Summer and her son, Rockwell

I thought that this was a really enlightened idea. It's a wonderful thing to give children control over little facets of their day-to-day lives because it instills in them a sense of responsibility and shows them that their opinion matters. Not to mention that Summer began the week with the confidence that she likes to mix and match her wardrobe. Let's see how well this worked out for her:

She wasn't too thrilled about this outfit, but I honestly really like it. Playing with patterns and transparency of layers is always an interesting combo. And I didn't even notice until I read it (as I'm sure is the same for you) but she's wearing two different shoes. So what! They look very similar. Job well done, Rockwell!

This one is a little more wacky - Rockwell chose the socks to match the dress because they both sport a flower pattern. Summer mentioned that she felt a little self-conscious going out and about in such a loud outfit, but she actually received a compliment on her socks. How about that.

The nature of this little experiment only serves to remind me (and hopefully you, too) that our outfits are not the only way to understand who we are as people. Clothing can act as something much more meaningful than simply copying trends we may see in a magazine. Not to mention, the silly outfits seem to give us more confidence than one might think. In a way, I think people respect someone who takes a chance, even if it doesn't work out as planned. Why not express yourself in any way possible?

Read the whole article (and more outfits!) here.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Weekly Update - Learnin' n' stuff

Music - Man Man
I have gotten REALLY into Man Man's two latest albums in the past few days. They're a wonderful mix of catchy pop music with stick-to-your-brain lyrics and a crazy sixteen-piece orchestral party. Many of their songs recall folk music of different cultures like waltz rhythms, tribal drums, polka, and even musical shrieking. I would love to see them live (I missed them at TURF last summer) because I hear their fans like to paint their faces white for their shows. But that's only if you're really in the know. Their newest album, On Oni Pond, contains my current favourite song below. Time for the other three albums!

I've got two this week!

1) I finally got something working with D3.JS. Check it out here. Each little node represents an item, and the entire thing is a relationship between the owners of the items. I'm on my way! Not to mention, it works on your phone, too. Try it out!

2) My editorial magazine from last semester made it into the showcase at the York U Design labs! Right in the middle, too. I'm moving up in the world, ever so slightly.

Reading week will be full of stuff I mistakenly thought I would have time to do, so I want to get really focused and make sure everything is well on its way to getting me caught up with life in general.

  • Fave Things
    • finish stories, icons and visualizations
    • input new content into book and get the file ready to print
  • Upfront Mag
    • make sure everything is ready to print
  • Make a test book for binding
  • Update letter and find places to apply for jobs
  • Skillshares:
    • Logo design with Aaron Draplin
    • Data visualization with Nicholas Felton
    • Generative design with Joshua Davis
  • Music infographics (yes, you've seen these here before) :(
  • Info 4
    • find data for project 2, sketch ideas
  • Type in Motion
    • exercise
    • ideas for project 2

Random thought
Douglas Coupland is making waves yet again with a vibrant retrospective on urbanism and technology. In this way, his art is very similar in theme to his novels. The two sites of his art, at the ROM and MOCCA, are colourful works of futuristic pop art that you can really sink your eyes into. I really enjoy these visual commentaries on the state of our being, like the sayings below. Arranged in a colourful grid, it reminds me of weird glitch art happenings (creativity derived of chance). One of my favourite 'sayings' is "You are the last generation that will die". What an interesting thing to think about!

With all of the social media and digital anchors to tell everyone who cares to know what we are doing and where we are doing it, Gen Y may truly be the last generation to die. Young as I am (for now), I have a lot of ties to the internet. This blog is definitely one of them (and don't think I missed that burgundy "your blog is futile" up there!). While I gain no legacy from this digital word-spitter, I am certainly easier to find than, say, my mother. Her only online legacy is probably the few times I mention her here. No facebook, no twitter, no instagram, her phone doesn't even have access to the internet! What a way to live. Maybe I should try it and see how long it takes for me to go crazy. Any wagers?

Inspiration: Skillshare
I must be late to this bandwagon, but I only just found out about Skillshare three days ago. Since then, I have become addicted to my one-month-free trial, and I am trying to squeeze everything I can out of it.

Skillshare is basically an online resource of tutorial videos for creatives. There are lots of topics, and not all of them are directly related to design. You've also got your DIY, cooking, writing, business practice, and more. And they're all curated and taught by prominent people in their fields. It's like having the creator of a tool come to your house and show you how to use it. I am in love.

I love learning by example, and when you have such great teachers compounded with the ability to pause and repeat specific things, it's really wonderful. As far as buying into the service goes, I feel like my momentum will probably peter out by the time the month trial does. If not, I may be tempted to fork over some money. I'll be posting some stuff to my blog, if any of this gets me some cool output. Stay tuned!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Weekly Update - Acoustic Electronic

Music: Thieves Like Us - Play Music
I've been digging into the music I collected in my heavy electronica phase (it's good exercise music) and I haven't been let down by the former version of me. I had a few songs by Thieves Like Us, and I decided on a whim to download the rest of the 2009 album. It's very interesting and intellectually made! There's a lot of theme and variation, which I love in all forms of music, and it's got a great beat for dancing, exercising, cooking, clipping your cat's toenails, whatever. Check out the first track below. (Note: I don't own a cat so don't send me any lawsuits if something goes wrong!).

Accomplishment: Using Processing for Data Visualization
Yep, that's right. I was (somewhat) able to make Processing do my virtual design bidding. I was able to make it read my excel document and parse data to visualize according to my original design. It's really not much, but it took a lot of mental fortitude (I felt emotionally tired afterwards!) Here's my favourite part, when I figured out how to change colour based on incoming or outgoing calls in the excel document:

Goal: Figure out my life (in terms of workshop)
Learning D3 isn't going as well as I'd hoped. I had a small realization that everything in D3 is designed to be very simplified and easy so that the visuals don't get in the way of the data. We know that they have to work together harmoniously to make a good piece of data visualization. That's all wonderful news, but I want specific colours for each of the nodes - which match the colour scheme I've been using in the print version of the book. And I don't think D3 is good for this and other, more difficult things I had planned as well. I will keep working at it for about another week, and then I may have to switch to CSS Animations and Javascript. Not ideal, but it will still be animated, interactive, and work in everyone's browser (including mobile, if I can muster the time to make it 100% responsive). So, not all is lost.

Random Thought:
I love electronic music. I felt I had to frame the following instalment of 'random thought' with that sentiment because this is going to sound slightly hateful, and I want to set the record straight. I was listening to a great remix of a song today (oh, hey, it's listed above!) and I really liked the changes made to the drums. Every time I hear a good drum beat I wonder if the sheet music for percussion might be available online. Of course it wouldn't be for this instance, since remixes aren't (usually) made with real drum beats. They could be derived from individual sounds of drums, but I highly doubt the drumming was originally produced for the remix. I hope you follow me so far.

So what if there were a remix band (key - not a DJ) who did great remixes of songs, but everything was done live and with real instruments! Even electronic remixes could be done this way - use real drums and guitar, add a synth in because you're probably gonna need it, and you're done! I don't know a whole lot about the process of making remixes digitally, but I get the feeling that there could be a lot more room for improvisation if someone decided to try this out. Hey, maybe it already exists!

Inspiration: Richard Serra's Shift
Have you ever been to King City, Ontario? It's a little burg about 50 kilometres north of Toronto, and there isn't much to speak of there. Except for one crazy phenomenon: there is a huge installation/sculpture out in a field (now owned by Great Gulf homes), created by the famous Richard Serra. It's called Shift, and you have to trespass to see it in person. If you want to see it not-in-person, all you have to do is scroll down. Pretty easy.

As many people do, I'd like to make my own personal pilgrimage to see it - hopefully some time before the snow melts! But as treacherous as it is during the summer, I would think that it would be even more so with snow and wind and such. Still, very tempting.

The sculpture is made of concrete and it juts out of the ground at seemingly weird angles. It's so long that you can't see one end from the other (assuming you're of normal height). The angles are actually all completely straight, but show off the land's gentle curve of little hills and valleys.

But I really do wonder why Serra would agree to make a sculpture in such a remote place, where viewers are forced to break the law to witness its majesty. (Yes, I said majesty).