PPD3 Learning Contract – The Beginning

November 26, 2011

As part of my PPD [Personal and Professional Development] 3 module for this year, I am to undergo a self-managed learning contract, The main purpose of the contract is for me to negotiate, devise and individually carry out my learning of a new skill/technology that will further enhance my current set of skills whilst increasing my prospects for employability.

It would be fair to surmise that I would be somewhat limited as to which job roles within the web industry I could currently seek out and perform based on my existing skills and I that I can only firmly place myself into the category of a Junior web designer. With my studies nearing an end, this contract presents an excellent opportunity for me to vastly open up other available job paths out there, so therefore I see this as the most pivotal part of the course and it may equally be the most challenging experience I will encounter in my learning.

My chosen skill/technology I aim to focus on and develop through the discipline of the contract is PHP [Hypertext Preprocessor] I easily came to this decision for many logical reasons. PHP is a free open source software with widespread usage, it is primarily used to create dynamic web pages, where it requires interaction between user and content. It is used in amongst many things; Content Management Systems [CMS], web blogs/forums, email communications and can even be used to create desktop applications. With so many extensive capabilities, having a knowledge of PHP, even at a basic level would be advantageous skill to acquire. I also feel that it is the next most natural step in my progression as a web individual.

Essentially I began with some research into why it would be beneficial to gain a working  knowledge of this server side language. As an informative guide I have taken into account the Sector Skills Council for Creative Media website, current job vacancies, as well as recommendations advised by industry professionals.

PHP is widely regarded as a ‘must have’ by the many testimonies given by creative professionals I have had the pleasure of communicating with on my journey thus far. This requisition is echoed by the information provided on the Skillset website, where they identify PHP as one of the many industry standard scripting languages.

When implemented alongside mark-up languages by web developers it is used to “contribute to the product’s functionality”,  it also specifies in the list of required knowledge and understanding that developers have the ability to “write efficient code that is easy to debug and maintain”. From the entry-level job role vacancies I have looked at in relation to me attaining this skill, it is apparent that having a good working knowledge and understanding of PHP will make me a more employable asset, as it is a skill often sought by employers, no more so than in the role of a Junior Web Developer.

Although PHP has high acclaim from the web community, I thought it would be appropriate to identify its advantages as well as its disadvantages.

Advantages

  • PHP is accessible.
  • It’s available for free [Open Source].
  • It’s available with documentation in many languages.
  • There are many support groups, forums, and teams supporting PHP.
  • Wealth of online information regarding PHP.
  • A basic PHP script can be created without a firm understanding of programming principals, compilation, and other currently important programming concepts.
  • PHP is loosely typed, which makes basic scripts much faster to develop with less attention to design.
  • Programmers of Java, PERL, BASIC, and other popular languages can find many parallels to ease transition to PHP.
  • PHP is flexible. Use Object Orientated Programming or not. Use naming convention(s) or not.
  • It runs on many different operating systems.
  • It can be optimized, even “compiled” for performance closer to that of more established compiled languages.
  • Lots of hosting services have it ready to use, no special configuration [except if you have special security needs].
  • Interfaces very easily with Apache web server and relational database management systems such as My Structured Query Language [MySQL] which I will using for the purposes of this module.

Disadvantages

  • PHP is loosely typed. For developers of all skill levels, this allows room for unexpected behaviour due to programmer error that many other languages might not permit.
  • Is open to security flaws due to unimplemented or unknown vulnerabilities, takes a bit more caution.

With the forthcoming Web Development 3 [WD3] module, soon to commence I will be having my first taste of creating CMS using WordPress in which PHP is a integral component. We thought as a group it would be appropriately useful to seek professional advice in advance, from our module tutor Craig Burgess to identify what level of theory basis would be required to help in our preparation. He suggested the following:

  • PHP syntax – how to construct PHP.
  • Variables – what on is, and how to use them, how to echo them into a web page.
  • Functions – what they are and how to use them. Functions play a big part of WordPress.
  • Conditional statements – IF statements, ELSE IF statements. These are used extensively in WordPress.
  • Loops – WHERE and FOREACH statements, loops play a big part of WordPress.

Through my research I have outlined a list of comprehensive resources I could utilise to gain knowledge in PHP, mainly from books and websites which all have a vast array of tutorials that start out from beginners basics through to intermediate and more advanced level. The first is one of the foremost recommended books for starting out with PHP – Sitepoint’s ‘Build your own database driven web site using PHP and MySQL’. I know from reading some of Sitepoint’s publications before, that they offer a good no-nonsense guide to starting out in the subject area/s, this book has also had good appraisal from past FdA students.
Upon reading the preface of the book, it explains that PHP and MySQL has gone about much change and is now conceived as a far more intricate and powerful language, just as MySQL is a vastly more complex and capable database, from how they both were a decade ago. To keep up with the fast moving competition and the needs of more demanding projects it had to evolve, because of this learning PHP and MySQL opens up a lot more doors that would of remained closed to experts a decade ago. Although this can be seen as great positive, due to the new features and improvements over the years it has made it increasingly more difficult for beginners to Learn. I will use this book primarily for a quick reference guide, but I will also follow the given tutorials.
As a start to the assignment I thought it would be appropriate to undertake the W3C Schools’s PHP quiz at to test my understanding of PHP. I managed to score 13 out of a possible 20 questions. I was dissatisfied with the result, but I aim to achieve a higher score and make a comparison of the results when I retake the quiz as part of my final summerisation of what I have achieved from the learning contract.
I also aim to use the PHP tutorials provided by the W3schools website as well as the video tutorials available on lynda.com. I believe due to my learning style that it would be beneficial to myself to follow the video tutorials, as I seem to absorb more when it is delivered to me in a more guided visual approach. It is hoped that the combination of these resources will set a good foundation to gaining a thorough understanding of how to create basic functionable server side scripts and give me my first steps along the path of developing advanced dynamic websites for the future which I am certain will increase my career prospects.

My First Year

May 14, 2010

A new career path; that was my aim and burning ambition when first starting out on the FdA Web Design course, having waited a long time to have the opportunity to do so. I never really have been a confident individual and I feel that I have never really achieved anything of great significance in my working career prior to my decision to return to education, although many people close to me would disagree with that statement. I was hoping that the course could help restore some faith and self belief in my own ability, which would not only re-build my character, but also lead me on the path to a rewarding career and a more fulfilling and prosperous life than previous.

When handed the first assignment brief I realised that a great deal of discipline, focus and effort was going to be required by myself if I was going to set a good benchmark for myself and keep things sustained for the remainder of the course. The penny dropped when I received my first grade, where I quickly realised, that I needed to adapt sharply to being more organised in my approach for the future if I was ever going to be successful. I set about trying to ring the changes; I knew the biggest area that needed close scrutiny was my self-study, so I set about making a quiet area within my home where I could be free from the chaos and distractions that usually ensued and I made a great effort to sacrifice the sufficient amount of time needed each week to concentrate on my studies.

Self Study
Self-study was an area of my learning that required great discipline during my first year.

One aspect of my learning was having to keep a reflective journal, at first I never really came to consider how important it would be to record my thoughts and feelings to what I was learning until we were lectured about the various reflective cycles. This is where I began to realise it was an essential part of my learning as a student and beyond, as we are lifelong learners. I thought that I would struggle in the writing of the various journal entries, but I found as long as I followed the sequence of the reflective cycle closely it would help bring a coherent structure to what I was trying to express.

It was also intriguing discovering my learning style from the Honey and Mumford questionnaire we had to complete. I was glad that it highlighted the preferences of my learning method, but more importantly I welcomed the steps it provided that I could use to bring forward my under-utilised skills that could help shape me to be a more effective learner.

The dynamic of seminar group time was also beneficial to my learning. It was good to have the time to discuss in more detail any aspects of our assignments so that we could have a clear understanding of what the learning outcomes and deliverables to the task/s would be. I often struggled to get across the most appropriate question needed to get the information I was seeking, so it was helpful having the ability to listen to the thoughts and opinions of others in the group, which usually helped to refresh and stimulate me when this occurred.

My first attempts at design, came when were introduced to the Typography and Interface design modules simultaneously. The Typography module was fascinating and I enjoyed listening to the many lectures on the subject. We also came to learn about the basis of design by learning about the P.A.R.C principles, which on first glance looked like a relatively simple set of guidelines to follow when it comes to design. We had the chance to put all that we had learnt into practice with the module assignments, I believe that my first efforts were very unambitious and uninspiring due to my lack of experience with the software we used, but it would also be fair to say that I never properly applied all that I had learnt when it came to the creation of my designs, which was evident when I received feedback for my first efforts in the Interface Design module. In the second semester I had the chance again to try improving on my previous efforts with the Digital Imaging module tasks. I was satisfied that I managed to be more creative this time round and that my design skills had vastly improved.

JAQK Cellars wine label design
Overall I was happy with how my design skills developed over the year.

I think the most enjoyable experience of my first year was when we learnt the Typography module. It was very absorbing and there was a great element of fun learning the subject, especially when it came to the many class quizzes where we had to distinguish typefaces. The least enjoyable experience of the year was when I had to undertake a 3-minute pitch presentation in the Interface Design module. It was probably one of the most nerve racking experiences I have ever dealt with, but I am glad that I had the opportunity to hone my presentational skill.

The ‘Light bulb moment’ came for me when I received my final grade for PPD1, to find that it was marginally short of distinction level. It was something that I did not anticipate at all, and it came at a time when I was feeling rather negative and was questioning whether I had it in me to last the duration of the course. It helped to restore some much needed self-belief in my ability.
I now see myself making good strides to my goal of being a web designer, but I believe personal circumstances have had an impact, hampering my progress in some areas of my learning. I do not believe I am competent enough with XHTML and CSS to step into industry as of yet, but I am hoping I can rectify this by making up some ground in this area in the very near future. I plan in using the summer break to set myself some small achievable tasks, harnessing the skills I have learnt so far.

Artist Vs Designer

May 8, 2010

I have never contemplated what the differences are between an artist and a designer, so when justifying my position as to which one I consider myself to be, it has intrigued me examining the definitions of both, as I have long considered that they are too closely interlinked to differentiate.

Typically the general definition of a designer is individual/s that exercises a thought out and defined process to meet the requirements and expectations of a client, whilst bringing a creative solution to the design problem. A majority of their work can be bound by limitations from the client so it is important that when limitations occur that they can demonstrate the ability to create the client vision. When there are no limitations then they are free to determine how the end product will be by using their own individual expertise and vision. It is a golden principle that any designer can rationalise and explain their thought process that contributed to the end design.

By definition an artist is not restricted by any set rules or requirements, instead they are bound by their own rules. This enables them to have freedom with their self expression and they master their own vision. They have the ability to convey emotions, thoughts and feelings which can be reflected in their work. Generally they do not ever have to explain how they came up with their ideas as they assert their own individual passion and vision when it comes to their expression.

Amazon-rock typography advertisement
This typical Typographical design was used for advertisement for Amazon, although if it was hung in a gallery it could be easily interpreted as art.

With all that said, it has enlightened me, but has still not made me distinguish clearly my own label. My reason is that I believe that there is a thin veil that separates the two. The method, in which I have learnt everything up to now, is moulding me into the style of a designer. I have often had limitations placed on most of my tasks up to present, to simulate what could I could expect in the working world, so I have been responsible for finding the creative solution/s whilst maintaining the clients vision through the detail of my assignment brief/s. I also have had to explain my thought process and reasoning behind my designs through the annotated ideas generation work that I submit for tasks.

Before I put that tag on myself, I think that as a designer at some point I will endeavour to bring an element of artistry in my approach, especially when limitations don’t exist. This is where the subtle similarities form a shroud round a clear identity. I believe that sometimes I will be required to dig deep within and use my own resource of self expression and convey emotions, feelings etc to generate fresh ideas to my designs and that rules can be bent and sometimes even broken. Also society/culture plays a large role in how the end object is interpreted or widely accepted.

My conclusion is that the differences between the two are based on context, therefore I consider myself both artist and designer.

Word Count: 499

Pleasure And Pain

May 8, 2010

After my belated yet eventual submission of both my Web Development 1 [WD1] and Digital Imaging [DI] assignments, it’s time to evaluate on how they went.

On commencement of the dual modules I was still feeling a tad fatigued from the previous semester, although the Christmas break had offered some respite, it was proving difficult to muster the energy and focus needed in preparation for what we had in store. The DI involved us having to undertake 4 tasks strictly using Photoshop, whereas the WD1 would see us produce a live version of our websites based on the previously created screen designs from the Interface Design module.

I was enthusiastic about getting my teeth into the DI tasks; the approach we would have to take would differ enormously from what we underwent with the design tasks in our Typography module. Firstly we were given the tasks all at once [case loaded] rather than an “as and when” approach and we were required to plan their execution by arranging an individual production schedule. Immediately I preferred this method as it would give me adequate time to prepare for each task, something which is attributed to my reflective-theorist learning style. We were also asked to be more proactive in the learning of the subject matter, our lectures were few, and so we were being left to our own devices to learn the software as well as the theory essentially needed for a forthcoming exam.

I was already familiar with Photoshop to a small capacity, so it instilled a little confidence in me that I could perform well with the tasks, but I was not going to take it for granted. Early on I began to realise that some of the tasks would require more time than I had anticipated, so I found myself having to deviate away from my schedule to tend to the larger tasks. It was frustrating as I had to sacrifice many more hours of my time, which was already being spread thin due to events in my domestic life.

On reflection, I felt that I maybe paid more particular attention to the ideas generation to the tasks, partly because of the feedback received from the Typography module where I had been found a little wanting in this area. Despite that I was satisfied that the submitted work had significantly improved from previous and that I had made progress by providing detailed annotation that explained my thought process behind my designs. In the future I will try harder to stick with any proposed schedule set as I will have to follow similar schedules and deadlines when I am working in industry.

magic-circle website mock-up
Magic Circle website mock-up created with Adobe Photoshop

For the WD1 module we would take a fresh approach of learning XHTML and CSS by having guidance from Jonny Haynes who has vast expertise and knowledge of the subject matter from his lengthy time as a working professional. In preparation for the module we had agreed to fully read XHTML Dog in the Christmas break, this way we would hit the ground running when we commenced. Although I managed to do this I felt that I had not fully retained my new knowledge, so I was hoping that the practical tuition would help bring it all together.

Patrick Griffith's HTML Dog
From novice to professional, HTML Dog is a very useful guide to XHTML & CSS

To be frank, early on I felt that things were going completely over my head when it came to XHTML and CSS. A lot of the time I was sat despondent in front of the screen trying to make head or tail of what I was learning.  Being a new set of languages, I knew that with any new language a combination of patience, perseverance and practice was needed before I could find any real fluency. I tried to approach my study with this in mind; however progress was moving at snail’s pace which made the days long and tiresome.

Due to my circumstances I lost valuable lesson time on more than one occasion, the realisation of how much it had hampered me was made evident when I returned to the classroom to find I was seemingly light years behind with my understanding compared to my colleagues. I tried desperately to get back on track but often found myself lost in my own frustration when I was struggling to understand things that were trivial, only to find it was relatively simple to everyone else.

On the completion and upload of the website, I never really marvelled at what I had finally created, the sense of achievement was hugely overshadowed by the relief I felt of finally getting it all out of the way. Maybe I have found my Achilles heel with XHTML and CSS? But I can ill afford to let that deter me from getting back in the saddle to gather some lost ground in this area.

Word count: 798

Crossing

May 8, 2010

On our class visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park we were given the task of randomly selecting and analyzing a piece of artwork. Myself and Steph Lee had handpicked a piece by Nigel Hall called “Crossing” [Vertical].

My first initial reaction when I saw the sculpture towering above myself some 100 yards away was one of bafflement yet curious wonder. As I advanced towards it, I tried with difficulty to make out what this monstrosity of metal was supposed to symbolize and the message it was trying to convey. I could only think that it resembled a ‘Designer Radiator’ seeking to give it some kind of association to something seen on a lesser scale, but mostly I couldn’t help thinking that its strikingly tall and industrialised appearance looked odd against its pastured surroundings.

Nigel Hall's Crossing {Vertical}
Nigel Hall’s ‘Crossing’ {Vertical}

The steel structure was a mix of slender curves and sloping angles, with hard geometric lines which I felt gave it both a masculine and feminine feel to its character. It seemed somewhat lifeless and neglected due to its rusty appearance and cold hard texture and the way it had been strategically placed  at the altar of the hill overlooking the valley. The bleak, dull weather only compounded to giving it a sense of seclusion.

As I viewed it from multiple angles I began to realise that it did actually hold a certain harmony with its surroundings. Its rustic colour blended well with the natured landscape around it, even with the YSP building itself and the stencilled path that ran to its doors. Its tall slenderness was replicated in the trees that I could see on the opposing hills and I feel the curved lines and sloping angles of the sculpture held a relationship with the hilly fields and the sloping gradient of the valley.

I proceeded down the hill to view the rest of the sculptures of the park, meeting Aaron Corby as I did. He commented on the piece looking like a ‘sail’, which I never really came to consider myself. As I looked from a far distance at it I could see what he meant, as it closely resembled a sailing mast on the horizon.

I have learned from my observation of 3d art, that something that can be initially difficult to interept or engage with, can take on new form when exploring it from a variety of angles and distances.

Word count: 397

An Identity Lost…

February 7, 2010
Love it or hate it Facebook still remains the ‘Granddaddy’ of social networking sites out there today. I was first introduced to Facebook by a friend who over-eagerly tried to convince me it was the best thing since ‘sliced bread’ and suggested that I should open an account immediately. I was very sceptical of the whole idea, as I believed me and my uneventful life didn’t need to be advertised to the world, until, I began to realise how immensely popular and widespread it was becoming, it seemed its name was everywhere throughout the media and was always the topic of conversation wherever I went.

To avoid being cast out as a social leper between my friends, I bowed into my own curiosity and opened up an account. Thankfully the interface was not a complicated one, which made it less daunting to navigate and immediately set it apart from the disgusting personalised wallpaper schemes common in MySpace. It didn’t take me to long to realise the advantages that could be had by using this networking site, but fast forward to today I realised that they are outweighed by the disadvantages.

I believe Facebook has somewhat lost its identity and credibility, no longer is it viewed as a social networking site, it’s more of virtual playground to be anti-social. There are endless tales of how it has reeked havoc into the lives of some folks, Relationships torn apart, Stalkers, running feuds, intimidation/bullying, not to mention the way it can be used in a ‘big brother’ way for employers or authorities to keep their watchful eye on you.

Facebook Chat
Example of Facebook’s chat system

In addition to this, Facebook could be a better experience all-round if the following was made:-

• Have a better internal chat system that is less prone to crashing.

• Do more to stop the annoying ‘piggy back’ applications that steal profile information.

• Stop potential child exploitation by exercising a stringent age verification system to stop underage minors from gaining access and sharing info.

• Adopt a database system that totally eradicates all traces of your information when your account is deactivated.

• Make less ‘tweaks’ that often bewilder its users when made.

• Better tighten its security against hackers who easily infiltrate user’s accounts.

I assert that the way Facebook is now perceived, it won’t be long until another social networking giant comes and knocks it down from its lofty perch.

Word Count: 400

A New Awakening

January 18, 2010

My first day of the second semester was one that had me feeling somewhat peculiar. I woke early in the morning to find I was very nervous and apprehensive about the day ahead of me, which was strange, as I had been looking forward to getting back to the grindstone during the festivities. For some subconscious reason I felt that it was the most important day of my life.

Our new seminar groups for the semester would see me appointed as the group leader, I usually shy away from any such responsibility as I consider myself to lack leadership qualities, but when our tutor asked that he was looking for someone to volunteer, and suggested that certain someone to possibly be a pillar for others in the group to lean on when needed, I thought that was something that comes naturally to me, so I accepted to take the role.

In accepting this responsibility, I knew that I had to look deep into myself, and change a lot about my character. I had so far lacked self-belief and confidence in myself as a HE student, this was being made more profound because I felt that I was heading ‘upstream without a paddle’ for most of the first semester, and I was struggling to find anything in my learning so far that I was particularly good at, or felt comfortable with. I was convinced that if this was to continue, I may never possibly reach my goal of being an employable designer.

This self evaluation made me cast my mind to the fact that as a student I should be looking to attain as many diverse skills as possible and that leadership is a good attribute that any web professional should aim to have.

This opportunity to challenge myself has already changed my attitude and perspective for the better. I am more positively motivated and disciplined to do well, and I am keen to see if I can transfer that mentality to my team members, so they too can perform to their highest potential.

So as I recall the nervousness and apprehension I felt that morning, I think I can rationalise by saying it was more down to wanting to make a good impressionable start to the semester, and the desire to make amends for what I considered to be a first semester stuck in the slow lane.

Word count: 400

Over the first hurdle

January 4, 2010
As a new year and semester begins, it’s time to look back and evaluate my first semester. Our first assignment of Work Related Learning 1 proved to be a baptisms of fire, it was somewhat surprising to me to be given an academic written assignment, rather than a practical one.

The process of compiling the information to be discussed in the appraisal was complex at times, constructing relevant questions for interviewees then transcription of recorded interviews was all new ground and had me at times feeling more like a journalist than a student, with that aside I felt that it was positively preparing me with insight into the web industry as whole ,I was familiarising myself with jargon used in the industry and it was eye-opening to hear the views of the many professionals on a wide range of topics related to their expertise.

I felt the dynamic of working within our seminar groups was invaluable at times, discussing our findings together helped tremendously towards my awareness of the subject matter and how to tackle the deliverables asked. Although I was a little disappointed with my overall assignment mark, I quickly realised that it was down to my own lack of ability to organise myself appropriately and if I were to make improvement for the future this was something I needed to rectify immediately.

The Typography and Interface Design modules I also found rather challenging yet stimulating, I wanted to make amends and apply myself better than previous, and I was made more eager as it involved our own level of creativity to be brought to the table for the first time.

On being briefed of the Typography module I realised that there was going to be no let up in how much I would have to apply myself to what seemed a heavy loaded and arduous task, but not an impossible one. I was captured by the many lectures given even though it was tiresome some days having to absorb so much.

Half way through the duration of the modules I began to realise the enormity of the task ahead, I was struggling to get to grips with juggling the workload I had with the simultaneous assignments and often I was scratching my head with understanding the deliverables and outcomes, I was also getting in a flutter as I felt my profiency with the InDesign software was not up to a level which I required it to be, given that I was having to use it frequently to produce assessable work , frustratingly I found it was somewhat prohibiting my progress.

Adobe InDesign
It was rather tough having to find my way round with the Adobe InDesign software

I failed to fully understand other factors such as the need to write detailed annotation to designs our ideas generation and the iterative process required for the interface design assignment, until it was too late. I felt that all these things contributed to putting me under a dark cloud of negativity that I felt I could not shake off, which was clearly having an effect on my productivity of my work. By the end of the semester I was quite mentally fatigued and welcomed the forthcoming Xmas break as it would give me a chance to recharge my much drained batteries.

Despite me sounding rather negative, there were many positives to be taken from the experience. I was now beginning to conduct myself as a new designer, I had acquired relevant theory and I have began to look at design in a different way, I often scan my eyes over anything from a carrier bag to a vehicle logo to see whether I can identify the font used or how the P.A.R.C principles were applied to the design, It was also good preparation to undergo a 3-minute pitch as it gave good practice to a skill that will be used regularly in my chosen profession.

If there is a lesson to be learnt from the first semester, it is to better prioritize and organise my work, I should not refrain from asking too many questions when I do not understand something, which is something I do, for fear of sounding inadequate. I shall not allow negativity to swamp me and show more perseverance when it does arise.

word count 696

Where I am going

December 1, 2009

It’s closely nearing the end of my first semester, I feel this is a valuable opportunity to evaluate and compile an action plan for the future. It’s clearly evident that greater application and commitment is required to make the steps forward to what I want to eventually achieve at the end of the course.

I am conscious that I am learning something new and making small steps of progress, each time I step into the classroom. I look to my future more with an air of excitement of good things to come, rather than trepidation. Though the rest of the course is sure to gather with both pace and demand, it would be advantageous to create small attainable targets, which would put me on course to my larger goal of being a successful designer in the years to come.

My Self-study and organisation is a part that requires vast improvement for the future. I often find myself deviating away from my proposed study plan, which could prove catastrophic if I continue in this vain, so I aim to attack my assignments more head on, getting a clear understanding of the deliverables and outcomes from the start. I will then strategise to break the more “heavy” work down it into smaller more digestible chunks, by doing this I could vastly improve my general understanding and it would set me on my target to achieve overall assignment grades of 55 and above consistently.

I would also like to increase my proficiency further with related design software that we have been introduced to. I am going to follow some web-based tutorials to brush up in this area; the knowledge gained will inspire me to be more imaginative and ambitious with my designs than as previous.

My typographical and grammar skills are another area needing close inspection. I often struggle with correct punctuation, sentence structure and paragraph chunking. I believe this will develop with time, but it would be useful for me to closely examine other professional works and relative resources. I am also hoping to do a small refresher course in English at night school.

I see myself in 5 years time, being a successful freelance web/graphic designer. I know in order to achieve this; it requires a deep level of self-discipline and mastery of communication and self-management. In time I am hoping I will develop to be a more coherent listener and show confidence and assertiveness in my presentation of work. I have already been considering the prospect of applying for employment [paid or voluntary] for the end of Year 1, to gain some valuable experience and insight, which could serve me well for the future.

To summarise, I would like to:

• Be better disciplined in my self-study and organisation.
• Improve my overall assignment grade to 55>.

• Improve my Typographical and Grammar skills.

• Increased proficiency with design software.

• Be a more coherent listener and show confidence.

and assertiveness in my presentation of work.

Word count: 496

 

Where I am now

November 17, 2009

It only seems like yesterday, that I was walking nervously into the classroom for my first day as a student on the FdA Web-Design course. It’s hard to believe how rapidly these couple of months have passed and even more amazingly how much knowledge I have had to digest in such a short space of time.

My acclimatisation to being in a study environment again, has been one of mixed emotions. I have struggled at times to keep up with the pace of what we have learnt so far and I have found myself often bewildered on how much I have had to absorb. It has been equally tough having to organise and utilise my self-study time effectively, despite this I have enjoyed what I have learnt and experienced so far and I see it as part of my learning curve.

I have been given two new assignments simultaneously: Typography; and Interface Design, I know from experience of the previous assignment that my organisational skills will be further tested to ensure I balance the two together harmoniously. Steve Smith has asked for us to strategise a learning plan for ourselves as this will provide an invaluable tool in organising our study time, as well as tracking and measuring our progress with each assignment. I am confident by adopting this structured approach it will give me more focus and self-discipline to my learning, that will help me throughout the remainder of my time on the course.

Like many of my fellow students in the class, I have been looking forward to these two assignments, as I will have the opportunity to express myself creatively for the first time. I consider myself to be quite infantile with my design skills and knowledge so the module lectures [especially Typography] I have found both stimulating and intriguing.

I have been surprised to learn what constitutes good design from bad is based on the ability to understand, adhere and apply some relevantly simple principles, putting this into practice might not prove so easy at first due to my inexperience, as will familiarising myself with the industry standard software, that so far has taken more time to find fluency than I would like. I am eager to get this to a sufficient level soon, as I see it as an integral part of my output as a new designer.

I undertook the Learning Styles questionnaire devised by Honey and Mumford, I had already made a accurate assumption to what kind of learning style I had, based on some prior reading in the manual, so I was not surprised to find after scoring and comparing my answers that I was a Reflector-Theorist. I feel it can be somewhat burdening having this learning style, mainly because I have a preference to want time to observe, prepare, and think over activities, without the pressure of tight deadlines.

I understand this luxury will not be awarded to me at times as the course progresses and I will taken out of my comfort zone more than I would prefer, so I welcome the useful suggestions the manual provides to help strengthen my under-utilised styles and make me a more effective learner.

We were asked to read an article published by well respected design professional Andy Rutledge entitled The Employable Web Designer. From reading previous articles from his website, I knew he can be quite frank, yet superbly insightful with his views, so once again I was engrossed in reading what he considered to be the prerequisite skills required by new web design professionals to make them employable into today’s world.

I agreed fully with what he suggested were the necessary skills, a lot of which is usually reiterated to us by Steve Smith in class, especially those regarding Personal interaction skills, having effective communication; being able to communicate your design ideas competently is of paramount importance as a web professional. I have also learned this from my experiences of my first assignment when I had to interview a number of different web design professionals who expressed similar views.

There were also some skills mentioned in Rutledge’s expansive list, that were not so apparent to me, or that I had overlooked because I considered they never had a place in Web design. If the truth be known it has opened my eyes and has raised my awareness further, to what I need to achieve on my journey through higher education.

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