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Designing Mobile Applications with App Inventor for Androids

The first step to any new project is to begin an intense research binge about the topic. In my case, I have hurled myself down the “designing your own android app” rabbit hole and have found blogs, forums, tutorials and articles on the subject. First thing is first, I’d like to share some of my initial findings, particularly my findings on the MIT open source, App Inventor for Androids.

About 2 years ago, Google released App Inventor for Androids to select test groups at universities who were overwhelmingly pleased with the capabilities of the application. At that time, you had to request permission to use the App Inventor unless you were one of the faculty or students at selected universities.

The program allows non-developers to build Android apps with an easy-to-use visual interface that plugs into your phone for live testing. The App Inventor includes three important aspects; the design editor, the blocks editor, and the emulator. You can also hook up your android phone and test apps directly, if you have the appropriate drivers.

January of this year, Google and MIT have released App Inventor for Android on an open source basis, under the complete direction of MIT. Now, anyone can go online and download the software to run the application in their browser. The website has lots of tutorials and literature to help make the process easier to learn.

This is a view of the Designer Editor in the Firefox Browser. All visual entities of the app you are designing are edited with this interface.
The is the Blocks Editor – this tool is how you make your components perform actions.
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Writing contracts and Improving Professional Practices for Creatives

Writing contracts is probably one of the least interesting topics of discussion for a designer. However, professional practices and good business strategies require that you have at least some knowledge of writing project statements, design contracts and invoices. More often than not, this small step before leaping into a large project can prevent unwanted communication errors between designers and clients that help everyone understand each other. Contracts are also helpful for making sure everyone is on the same page regarding project deliverables, design ownership and confidentiality, timelines, and costs.

In my experiences, I tend to go through two documents before starting a project (most designers choose to only write the one). The first document is what I call a project statement which outlines the background, client objectives, design needs, deliverables, timelines and cost. This document can be lenthy depending on the project.

This project statement document is primarily a discussion document meant for each party to contribute and agree upon before writing up a formal design contract.

If all parties seem happy with the project statement, I move forward with writing the formal design contract that all parties must sign off on before beginning the project. The design contract is much shorter, typically one page, and outlines the agreed upon terms for the project.

When writing a design contract, adhere to an outline like this:

  1. PROJECT DESCRIPTION including outline of deliverables and expectations of both parties
  2. ESTIMATED COST including labor, consulting, and materials costs (dependent on project)
  3. PAYMENT SCHEDULE & METHOD including timeline and deadlines with either installments or monthly payments specified dependent on client preference and/or nature of project
  4. REPRODUCTION OF WORK including specifications of who retains ownership of work (client or designer) and clauses permitting work to be shown in a portfolio.
  5. REJECTION / CANCELLATION OF WORK including a clause determing if and when clients can terminate a project and if so, costs that clients are responsible for

Some other links that I found helpful regarding this topic.

Good blog with tips and tricks for contract writing: http://www.thedesigncubicle.com/2009/07/what-to-include-in-your-design-contracts/

5 Free freelance design contracts: http://speckyboy.com/2010/08/12/5-free-to-use-freelance-design-contract-templates/

David Airey on design contracts: http://www.davidairey.com/using-freelance-graphic-design-contracts/

Some helpful books on the topic.

Business-Legal-Forms-Graphic-Designers: http://www.amazon.com/Business-Legal-Forms-Graphic-Designers/dp/1581152744/ref=sr_1_fkmr2_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1328633203&sr=1-1-fkmr2

Graphic-Artists-Handbook-Pricing-Guidelines: http://www.amazon.com/Graphic-Artists-Handbook-Pricing-Guidelines/dp/0932102158/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_b

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Design Strategies for Community Driven Art Project

This community-driven art project is focused on the reinvention of abandoned buildings by means of design to improve sustainability of communities and trigger awareness. Inspired by my local neighborhoods in Atlanta, the project is a reaction to the increase of abandoned buildings and lots in the area as the recession continues and the economy struggles.

Objectives

  1. Create something that is beautiful, interesting, and engaging that community members and visitors alike can enjoy on a simple, surface level.
  2. Create a public space where community members could gather and interact with the space and potentially each other.
  3. Promote a safe, pedestrian friendly environment where pollution, graffiti and crime are discouraged.
  4. Advocate for community. Work with business owners and residents to design for the people of the neighborhood.

Benefits

  1. Raise awareness among community members and visitors that the property is vacant – Potentially help gain exposure for your building to lease / sell / rent to future business owners.
  2. Reduce crime and graffiti surrounding vacant building. Throughout month duration of project, I will be responsible to set up, maintenance, and break down.
  3. Turn a neglected space into a productive one. Bring activity to the area. Promote public space.

Research Methodology

As vacancies rise in Atlanta neighborhoods, I’ve asked resident and business owners their views on some of the empty and/or abandoned properties that are among them. The opinions are largely of concern and hope for new business in the area. On the other hand, when talking to building owners, I was surprised to hear the lace of concern or even care of the situation in neighborhoods. The intense contrast of views is quite interesting to say the least.

Interviews

How do property owners of vacant areas respond to revitalizing buildings, lots, etc.?

Property owners of vacant buildings have mixed feelings at best regarding the effects of vacancy rates in communities. Most of the property owners that I have spoken with do not live in the area or see the establishments on a normal basis. Because this is the case, I believe that some do not truly understand the detriment associated with vacancy rates, empty lots, over-grown parking lots, and the like. How can one if they are not present to see the issues? A property owner that takes care of his property visits the site about once per month to clean, repaint, pick up trash, and trim landscape. Many of these owners have bought foreclosed properties and take care of many properties around the city. Some property owners like owner of 299 Moreland Avenue, Coin Laundry in Little Five Points refused to answer any questions regarding my efforts to clean up and repurpose vacant areas and instead repeated over and over, “all I care about is money in my pocket.”

How do residents react to vacant places in their community?

Residents, on the other hand, respond much differently to the issue. In general, there is a much larger concern for revitalizing the business communities of their neighborhoods and improve the state of empty storefronts. Citizens have voiced opinions that range from simple improvements like cleaning up trash and increasing lighting at night to more detailed responses like repainting the empty storefronts or encouraging art in the empty spaces.

Feedback for Improvement

  1. A farmers market or community garden would be a great way to use these empty buildings
  2. Paint empty store fronts in new colors
  3. More light at night
  4. More green space
  5. More businesses
  6. More police presence
  7. I’d love to see some diverse restaurants in the neighborhood.
  8. It’s the little things. Like picking up trash
  9. Less empty parking lots

Conceptual Development

Below are some ideas for the project that will re-energize these empty spaces in the neighborhood.

Some artists and designers that are inspirational to my work include Tyree Guyton, Candy Chang, Jenny Holzer, Gordan Matta-Clark,and Christo.Some artists and designers that are inspirational in my work include Tyree Guyton, Candy Chang, Jenny Holzer, Gordan Matta-Clark,and Christo.

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Building Websites with Weebly

Building websites with weebly is easy and fun with its completely customizable platform and user-friendly interface. The service is free to sign up and offers many great features like blogging, search engine tagging, and CSS editing. What makes weebly so special is its ability to edit HTML in addition to the CSS stylesheet as well as its amazing interface… not only for the end-user in managing website content but also the “dreamweaver-like” interface for designing skins.

The content manager is based on a simple “drag and drop” functionality. The top toolbar consists of different elements that can be dropped into content pages as needed. Elements include paragraphs, titles, and images as well as multimedia assets like video, slideshows, and embedded documents. There are also forms included in the elements sections for contact information or surveys as well as games. For the advanced content manager, there is an HTML element for coding directly into the page.

In my experience with the application thus far, I have personalized a weebly theme to show my website design  for client, Clarity Medical Consulting. The site will go live mid-August.

If you choose to build your website with weebly, share your experiences with me in the comments section below. I’m also very interested in using wordpress for site development and would love to hear stories on that experience as well.

claritymedical

 

Below are some images of the weebly interface.

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Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind introduces the Conceptual Age

Daniel H. Pink’s New York Times and Business Week bestseller, A Whole New Mind, conveys new ideologies of the 21st century worker in a clear and  digestible narrative that is fun and easy to read. Pink argues that man has evolved from an agriculture age (farmers) to the Industrial age (factory workers) to the Information age (knowledge workers) according to an increase in affluence, technology, and globalization. Pink’s major focus lies in the transition from the Information age to what he calls the conceptual age of the 21st century.

The conceptual age focuses on two macro components: high concept and high touch. Pink reveals that drivers like automation, Asia knowledge workers, and over abundance of market demands increase a need for right-brain thinkers that demonstrate skills of empathy and innovation. He articulates these specific skills of success for the conceptual age worker as design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning.

Design: In this section, Pink discusses the importance of design, aesthetic appeal, and emotive qualities of products, experiences, and services in an environment that is over saturated with abundance.

Story: Here, Pink evaluates the importance of context and narrative verse facts. He suggests that memory and personal identification to story is much stronger and long-lasting than statistical information. See my previous blog here about some of my thoughts on storytelling.

Symphony: In this chapter, Pink recognizes the importance of multiple facets that create big picture elements. He mentions the importance of metaphors and talks about cross analyzing solutions to create new innovations. Pink uses drawing, music, and other right brained skills as examples of symphonic activities.

Empathy: Empathy is the capacity to recognize and, to some extent, share feelings (such as sadness or happiness) that are being experienced by another person. Pink encourages caregiver professions in the conceptual age as well as a high-touch approach to client / business relationships.

Play: This means exactly what it implies… play. The conceptual age is no longer composed of serious personalities only, not to say that seriousness has its role in some cases. However, things like sense of humor and laughter are all important components to balance the psyche.

Meaning: In this section, Pink offers a glimpse into the new workers personal goals and motivations. No longer do people solely work to make money and put food on the table, but instead people believe and want to be a part of something that is bigger than they are. People want to work for something that they believe in and people want to work with other people that that have similar values.

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Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming, Review

One of my favorite graphic designers and authors, Ellen Lupton, has a new book coming out this June called Graphic Design Thinking: Beyond Brainstorming. Last week, I was fortunate to have watched an AIGA lecture led by Lupton and some of her graduate students at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). The hour long lecture talked you through her new book and explained some of the design exercises from the book. There was also a question and answer session at the end of the seminar.

In the lecture, Lupton addressed three major components of the design process; Defining the Problem, Getting Ideas, and Creating Form. Her book further demonstrates different methodologies, activities,and exercises that one can do to push the design process. Some of the exercises included brand books, visual research, visual brain dumps, forced connections, action verbs, kit of parts, and sprinting. Overall, the book seems very clear and elegant, and makes for a “must have” in the design arsenal.

Ellen Lupton is the director of the M.F.A. Graphic Design program at MICA and curator of Contemporary Design at Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City. She has also written some other favorite design books of mine including Thinking with Type which I recommend to all my beginner typography students as well as my seasoned design colleagues.

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The Importance of Storytelling in today’s business Environment

Starting a business has been a learning experience to say the least. There are many things to think about in the beginning stages of business planning such as business formations, mission statements, brand positioning, market research, financial planning and so many other elements to consider.  Even with all of this, I believe one of the first things to think about when planning a new business is one’s ability to be a storyteller. I suggest taking some time to think about one’s own story. Where have you been? What are you doing now? What do you want to do in the future (i.e., your new business)? In so doing this, I believe that this will help clear up some confusion when you dig into business plan writing and marketing planning.

My first “building a business” lesson:
Be a good storyteller. Empathize with your audience.

It is important to understand what your audience needs (or wants). If all stories have a beginning, a middle, and an end, how can you translate this information into a well-rounded story that resonates with your audience?

Some tips to think about before preparing your story. Consider practicing your storytelling skills outloud and imagine a particular audience. Is your audience a potential client or a networking buddy?

  • Think about a good starting point that each person in the audience can relate to. How does each person in the group know each other and what are some commonalities of the group?
  • Think about a good ending point that each person in the audience can relate to. Why are you here today?
  • Make eye contact and watch body language to read interest (or lack of interest) while speaking.
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Building Wayfinding Solution Presented to GSU: Concept Inspired by NY Subway Systems

Environmental Graphics is the study of how graphics in public and private spaces (i.e., in an environment) inform, educate, and guide users.

Wayfinding is the methodology of arranging indicators to guide people to their destinations. Signs are tools that aid in wayfinding. Architectural indicators such as light, color, materials, and pathways also play a large role in wayfinding. A successful wayfinding program is intuitive and self-navigable, and it protects the overall visual integrity of the site. Wayfinding is specific to its place and visitors.

Specifically, we are proposing new wayfinding solutions for the Arts and Humanities Building at Georgia State University on 10 Peachtree Center Avenue. The building has two wings on each floor and five floors total.

Last week, graduate students presented concepts to the art office that proposed better wayfinding solutions for the GSU Arts and Humanities building. The proposals were received well and steps to move forward with raising funds are underway.

Objectives

  1. Georgia State has requested a wayfinding system to improve user understanding of the Arts & Humanities Building.
  2. Choose a particular entrance to the building. Main entrance is proposed from Peachtree Center Ave by the galleries.
  3. Focus on the interior of the building firstly –Budget request is under 20K.
  4. Create a wayfinding strategy starting at the bank of elevators on the first floor.
  5. Create visual facsimiles of your concepts (photo-shopped photos) and follow it through each of the 5 floors as it relates to the elevator banks and the areas outside the elevators.

Design Intention

The Railway Wayfinding Concept offers a solution for the arts and humanities building that mimics the essence and style of some of the best-designed subways in the world. Specifically, I examined the New York Transit System and The Underground in London. The design employs striped patterns denoting pathways from each level of the building as well as from floor to floor in the stairwell. The uses of circle contained “destinations” denote floor levels. This package also includes a map that would be shown at each elevator landing denoting color scheme and floor level. Along with these design elements, a tile pattern will be adhered to certain surface areas of the building (primarily the main entrance walls of each floor). These could be used as pin-up areas as well.

Materials

Paint
PMS 404
PMS Black
PMS Black 5
PMS 301
PMS 420

Tiles: MDF cut squares
Epoxy and / or adhesive for tiling
Tape
Stencils


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Creative Loafing and Earthshare request custom Newspaper Box for Charity

Creative Loafing and Earth Share have teamed up to create custom designed newspaper boxes inspired by nature for Earth Day this year. Four artists, including myself, have agreed to create these boxes in the spirit of nature, earth, water and air. The boxes will be auctioned off to people and businesses who would like to have the art (and the paper) in front of their buildings at the Earth Share 15th Annual Earth Day Party on April 21. The money raised from these boxes will be distributed to different charities around town such as Park Pride, Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Trees Atlanta, etc.

The element I will be working with is water.

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Designing Professional Presentations to Increase Audience Engagement

When you are designing presentations, make sure you use refined graphics  that complement your work and conversation. It is important to design graphics and language on your presentation slides that support what you are saying without repeating information in a redundant and boring manner. Specifically, you can try to create stimulating graphics that show examples of concepts you are trying to show or include simple buzzwords to spark ideas and brainstorming.

Some important things to think about while compiling assets for a visual presentation are photography, typography, vector graphs and charts, animations, slide transitions and narrative. A great first step is to think about the narrative and build photos and type according to an intial storyboard of your presentation. As you refine your presentation, look at how you can include graphs and charts to show more factual and statistical information that support the presentation. As the body of the work comes to fruition, move forward with verbal transitions from ideas to ideas as well as visual transitions from slides. Also, animation can add a great deal of interest in slides that stay up longer as continuous visual changes keep viewers interested and engaged.

In personal experiences preparing presentations for clients like Trend Influence, Adidas and Office Depot, I tried to incorporate a few different design schemes into one presentation, although I follow one general template. This ads more interest from one slide to the next without creating difficult animations. Also, plan to choose a color palette, display typeface and text typeface, and a general template to follow. This will help guide your design decisions as you dig deeper into the project.

I’m currently working on a new presentation for a client interested in earning new business. The presentation has to be captivating, modern, and exciting. We are using lots of photos, animation, and stimulating graphics to enhance the narrative – almost like a video backdrop.

Remember, presentations don’t have to be dull. Try some of these tips in your own work and see how it helps enhance the work and your confidence come presentation time. If you have any tips you would like to share or have some great presentations you want to show, leave a comment below with a link to your work.

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New Opportunities Writing Art Column for Patch.com

This holiday season has brought on great new opportunities my way this year. I’ve started a new project working for Patch.com (owned by AOL) that is a hyper-local news site for communities in cities all over the country.

Specifically, I’m writing an art column called “art haven” for the Atlanta, Brookhaven community located just north of Buckhead by the Druid Hills and Emory area. The column will cover local art in and around Brookhaven related to painting, sculpture, exhibition, performance art, and even arts and crafts and home decor.

The website went live December 23, 2010 and I wrote two articles for the occasion, “Georgia Shakespeare Celebrates 25th Year with Holiday Production” and “Create Fun, Easy Ornaments with Family and Friends.

Look for my next article Thursday, December 30 about local artists at the Atlanta airport.

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Top 10 Learning Experiences from graduate school, GSU [Fall 2010]

GSUAs the fall semester at Georgia State comes to a close, I can’t help but reflect on the months that have past. It always seems like during the semester, you are constantly thinking when will this be over, but the truth is, school is filled with fantastic project work and exciting learning experiences.

Sixteen weeks of high intensity learning and teaching can be pretty intense but overall, it has been a great semester.

Top 10 learning experiences

  1. The library is a great resource for students and teachers. Make friends with your librarian and start your research early.
  2. Thesis writing is challenging. I’m exploring the use of guerrilla advertising in order to promote a cause or message. It continues to evolve.
  3. Teaching is challenging. I taught my first design course at GSU, Intro to Graphic Design. I am continuing to teach next spring.
  4. Digital media design is fun. I struggled through another animation/video project this semester. I had every technical issue in the book… but I made it happen! http://www.vimeo.com/18440011
  5. Learn from your students and keep an open mind. Students ask every question you can think of and are testing your knowledge all the time. They make you accountable for what you say and do… and they should.
  6. Try not to over commit yourself on projects. Sometimes it is OK to say no to a new project if it will distract you from your school commitments.
  7. Working with your hands is very therapeutic. Draw your ideas. Put the computer down.
  8. Try to balance your work load so that you do not get burned out with singular tasks and you work as efficiently as possible. If you prefer writing in the morning, drawing/ conceptualizing in the afternoon and reading at night, split up your course work and jump from task to task. It works better for me.
  9. If you don’t like reading and writing, be weary of going back to school for a graduate degree. The M.F.A. program requires a lot of reading and writing. This semester was particularly intense (more than likely circumstantial) but you never know what courses and professors will align that will require more reading and writing.
  10. Always appreciate the good cry session that happens about 3/4ths into the semester. It’s never as bad as you think and you always feel good after the fact!