FontConf happened the other day. I’d been looking forward to it since it had been announced and I was not disappointed by the event. So much is happening right now with type for Type Designers, Graphic Designers, and Web Developers that the I can barely believe I’m around for it.
That sounds a little bizarre doesn’t it?
This is the mentality of a rather cynical Designer and slightly cynical Educator. I have been told and tell my students that everything has been done. We were all born too late to do something new and unique with the rules (or anti-rules), or with tech/tools of Design, or to even join some idealistic movement, so go out there and Design in the hope that you have your own style at the very least.
Here we are looking at a new way of distributing, using, and appreciating typography, and I find myself genuinely excited about this as a paradigm change, as something historic. Now to get my students to be as excited as I am and to be involved and experimenting.
November 19, 2009 at 2:31pm
Designer’s role what with Flash dying and all…
This post will probably be filled with generalities. Just putting that out there; though with that disclaimer I do want to make it clear that this isn’t some sort of fanboyish cry about Flash, more a question about designer’s role in web design as Flash becomes further pigeon-holed into video players and the web moves on to HTML 5, the canvas element, Processing, and further with CSS. So when I say generalities, I mean: what does it mean to wear the title of Web Designer from a Graphic Design standpoint.I know there are circles of Designers and Programmers that don’t mind Actionscript and in turn Flash. That said, I know much larger circles of Developers and Programmers who don’t like either and think the platform could -for the benefit of the internet- disappear. What’s worse, is that their arguments are sound: Flash doesn’t index well if at all (still), it can be a resource hog, it rarely is done well, it can be completely obnoxious, etc. To someone who lives in that kind of world, it’s a particular blight. From the Designer’s perspective, Flash has been a boon to creating unusual, dynamic sites. There was the possibility to add animation, unusual layouts, type that wasn’t as limited to ‘web-safe’ fonts, and for the more ambitious, a programming language for even more interaction. From this standpoint it is the perfect tool to do what designers do best: the unusual. Flash becomes an accessible and deep tool for designers to break out of norms and explore in an effort to innovate.
Up until now Flash has been this increasingly unwieldy program, not quite sure if it’s for programming, web design, or animation. Which actually hurts both Developer, Artist, and Designer. So why not divide it? The Flex (now Flash (in beta)) Builder separates the programming side for those who don’t want/need the graphical side (or need a timeline). Catalyst lets Designers animate, layout, and prototype sites quickly and -mostly- cleanly. Somewhere in the middle for those who need both, still sits Flash. What each does right is to speak to the user’s need and ability, which could also be the problem.
Problem? In dividing the Developer and Designer? Oh yes. Design, if anything, is a means to learn whatever necessary to communicate. If that means knowing how to code, or at the very least some of the concepts of it, means they can communicate with Developers and their audience. The obvious aspect is why would they need to code regardless of that belief? That is what the Programmer is for. True enough. The worry -problem- that crops up is ‘what do Designers know?’ Depending on discipline, quite a bit, but in the case of Catalyst, it seems to reenforce that design is just to make things pretty and with it’s capabilities and removal of coding/scripting, a good flash site from a designer is a rarity (and may become more so with this separation of programs).
While that is a general fear, it does seem to reflect oddly on how Adobe views and groups people who design and develop with Flash. I can’t say that separating Flash into these new programs as the tools that allow users to do the things they want to (and quickly), but it seems like it could inadvertently stymie the curious Designer from learning more about designs limits and possibilities.
November 11, 2009 at 10:26am
Design for a friend’s fantasy football team. Random projects are the best.
November 2, 2009 at 3:58pm
An experiment done with processing.js
Dialects; or how I’m proportionally more Designer than Programmer.
I firmly believe that as a designer I know no bounds. There is nothing that I cannot research, understand, and use for design. Though I will admit, programming can be a struggle in those terms. I can say that I am no more than a novice at such things, and while I live and talk in a language of visual medium, I can still utter phrases in thick accents of classes, conditionals, and variables.
That said, when I discovered Processing.js, I saw everything I ever did with Flash and Actionscript and immediately started to join in with every developer/programmer I know who avoid Flash like the plague. I had played with Processing, so I figured the js version would be an easy transition. I wrote the following experiment twice. Once in the regular Processing environment (so that I could easily test and make sure it worked), and again in the js environment. I quickly discovered what functioned in one, didn’t always transfer. While the same language, there were differences because of the environments. It meant a rewrite and in the end, a web version that was actually simpler than the regular environment.
Design is by no means any less frustrating, though there isn’t the same strict structure. Everything is arbitrary to some degree or another even with our rules (which I suppose is confounding to those who require a lot of order and structure) that when trying to think and organize in any other manner, becomes limiting -less flexible- than just rearranging a composition. This becomes even more frustrating when the rules we get used to then change. Limitations are ultimately what make design interesting. There were and are limits to printing which governs what can be made visually. In that way, some of the physical rules in design are strict in much the same way that Processing is strict in terms of the processes that govern its function, but it can still be used to create compositions that designers would recognize and appreciate.
I believe I drew this in Lincoln.
Focus. Or lack thereof.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I may be spinning my heels a little bit. With that I should immediatly clarify: this spinning sits outside of teaching. I find teaching to be a considerable challenge and joy. The spinning comes from the subject I teach, and it’s been bothering me more and more as I keep trying to remember what I do in design. The thought has compounded into a simple question a friend (a fellow designer and professor as well) the other night: How did you get into design?
It frustrates me to no end that I cannot pinpoint a clear moment that lead me ito the field of design and ultimately of higher learning. While talking with my friend, I really only could recall that I liked art in high school. I know that (at the time) math and science only confounded me (which in hindsight may have been the teaching approach since I thoroughly enjoy the math/logic involved with Flash. Or it may have been a lack of socifistication on my part for not seeing the value.) This enjoyment of art extended itself into college, where not feeling terribly confident in my artistic skills and wanting to eventually be able to make a living, I chose design. Over time, I built a critical mind and grew terribly fond of being aware of what design does to our daily experience.
So there is justification, but here is the frightening part for me: What do I do besides teach? This is an important question because professional research/work is vital to survive my career as an educator. The problem is: what is my focus? Design and media? Articles? Social change? History? Writer? Freelance? I have everywhere to go but cannot make a step in any one direction. Freelance would be simplest, but seems to elude me at times, or will amount to a lot of work for a project that simply evaporates. Media work is interesting as it allows me to work and learn code, though there has been the question about it being design, or just odd toys. Writing feels like an option, but finding a subject has put me in a similar situation of standing at a million crossroads.
I suspect I will find some means to this end, though I can’t help but wonder how others let go of other interests, or at the very least allow them to become secondary. In retrospect, I am waffling over something that just needs to be done, but it has allowed for some very worthwhile reflection on why I’m here in the first place and has been helpful for moving me forward.
Playing with Context Free. Very interesting to see how easy it can be to make generative art.
February 7, 2009 at 11:59pm
My road-trip mix tape
Always funny, not just disembodied voices, and it can be fun to play along.
January 30, 2009 at 12:39am
My first job: DJ (radio variety)
Snagged a job as a DJ while I was in high school at a local radio station. Was quite possibly the best first job I could have had, though it didn’t really last more than a summer.