My Web Home

A long time coming, this post should be seen as my way of “celebrating” nicolauswitchger.com. True, not a major overhaul of my wordpress. I could install it natively now, the ease of use is great as is. So, props to the WordPress.com team for making those of us who don’t know CSS comfortable!

In its various iterations, my website has taken MANY turns. This is where I currently am. I realized recently that, in order to have a good, searchable, user-friendly, speedy website, I will probably have to learn XHTML and CSS at the very least. Seeing as how designers are often expected to do web stuff as well, I believe it would be beneficial to my budding career. However, the web, as of late, is something I’ve only looked at, not coded for.

The first (and really last) time I hand coded was back in late Middle School/early High School. I don’t even know if the Web was 1.0 back then. All I had was MS FrontPage (1997?) and Notepad and I preferred Notepad. I took great pride in being able to do by hand what most people needed a WYSIWYG editor to accomplish. And mine looked just as good; bear in mind, this was in the days when websites were TERRIBLE by today’s standards.

I learned coding on my own, by “borrowing” code from websites utilizing the effects I wanted to achieve and modifying said code to suit my desires. I have a feeling this is the way I should try to learn CSS, though there are so many great tutorials out there.

nickorpLater on, when my father was taking Dale Carnegie and web design courses (two separate entities, not Dale + Internet), he’d bring home books on using MS FrontPage. After the “Beatles Imagemap” and the attempt at my “corporate” (nickorp logo featured to the left…yeah)  website, I utilized this for such brilliant sites as “A Tour Of My Room!” Armed with an old Sony Mavica (which saved images to a 3.5″ floppy disk) and FrontPage, this was created. Not brilliant, or even mildly groundberaking, but it kept me entertained and probably helped me to become the troubleshooting whiz I am today (working with Microsoft Software will do that to one). Post 2005, I gave web design a rest for a good ten years or so. Ok, so it was only three, but in WWW years, that is probably about ten, no?

It wasn’t until I graduated from College that the benefits of such knowledge could be an asset. Unfortunately, I was already ten years behind the standard. This, however, escaped my knowledge, and I went ahead with it anyway.

My first attempt at creating a portfolio website was a huge joke.

antislip_stats

I attempted it shortly after taking Dynamic Digital Design at SVSU which was basically a Flash class. Our final project for this class was to create a flash-based website for a start-up company in Saginaw. The goal of the website was strictly informational and meant to get the customer to contact the firm personally so they could give them the pitch in person (or at least over the phone) but they wanted to be “timely” and have a web presence, too. After research into what other anti-slip companies were doing with their sites, I came up with this. I was (and still am) pretty happy with it.

Taking from this experience the idea that flash was the web of the future (hell, Homestar Runner had been doing it successfully for years), I set about making my first personal website in years in Adobe Flash CS3.

Let’s just say, the phrase EPIC FAIL comes to mind almost every time I recall this monstrosity. I don’t know where I got the idea for the layout, but wow. W0W. It wasn’t pretty. And it was SLOW. Flash, man. It can be done well, but I learned from the spiteful rantings of one Gizmodo blog that Flash sites are unsearchable and that is a pain in the ass. SEO or something like that. That, and the fact that even with high-speed internet, a 20MB home page takes quite a while to load.

(Here is a “link” to the home page and portfolio page. I could not find a free web host that allowed 20MB uploads, so I was stuck using MediaFire again. Warning again, they’re unnecessarily large.)

The site was live for a while on the SVSU web server until I delved a bit deeper. Actually, I found the web portfolio (I am reluctant to link to a competitor, to be honest) of a high school classmate who graduated from MSU the same semester the same semester as I and with the same degree to boot. It was simple and nowhere near as flashy (pun intended) as mine. The beauty of its simplicity irked me. So, to stay fresh and competitive, I picked up Dreamweaver again and made this. To be honest, I still don’t hate this. Though I borrowed heavily from my classmate’s idea (with the simple 4 links and horizontal layout), it’s kind of visually appealing to me still. It’s not nearly as informative as it should be, but I suppose it probably would’ve gotten the job done.

I still wasn’t satisfied though. So I set about teaching myself Dreamweaver.

picture-11
CSS Attempt

It wasn’t great, as you can see. I set it up to work ideally on a 1024×768 monitor with complete disregard for (or rather lack of knowledge of) CSS. I used div tags not knowing what they actually did. I essentially tried to set it up as I would have a flash site, but in Dreamweaver.

After cross-platform testing revealed it only looked good on Firefox and SVSU took away my web privileges, I scrapped the idea.

I don’t know where I got the idea for WordPress, likely one of the numerous design blogs in my RSS feed, but here I am. As of now, it does what I need it to do and I am quite happy with the limited amount of flexibility I am given. Maybe some day I will actually learn to hand code again. Perhaps once I do not spend my non-working hours catching up on blogs and being frustrated with myself that I have not made sufficient to look for a real job. Still trying though.

In short: I’ve tried to have a web presence for quite a while. I did a lot of “research” trying to find on- or off-line copies of lots of my old web work, but only found the above. It should be said that since I couldn’t find a lot of it, it was not mentioned. This was intentional, since I could never remember everything I did and in what chronological order. So here, you have my best attempt to collect it. For my posterity and yours.

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Look, I still Design occasionally for fun!

I keep getting weird inspiration. I LOVE the design of the cd packaging for Panic at the Disco’s Pretty. Odd. The old style with hand drawn lettering and illustration is very in right now, but it looks really cool, I think. About a year ago, I had the same thought and made a font by tracing some cool characters from some fonts with interesting glyphs.

However, Handoodles v1.0 suffered a few fatal flaws:

  1. It was traced with too thick of a Sharpie
  2. The glyphs were created too small
  3. The font was not interesting enough

For v2.0 I fixed this. I worked LARGE, with 3 or four letters per page. I scanned them in at 600 dpi. Also, each letter was hand drawn, freehand. No tracing. Certainly, I borrowed elements from existing fonts and letterforms. I really just made it for my own enjoyment, but I thought it was so cool I wanted to show it off. So it is offered here, along with a few other fonts I designed last year.

Fancy Handoodles v2.0

Who needs skills? We have software

I’ve found more and more that there are tutorial sites that seem to be beneficial, but really, what’s the difference between that and a Paint-By-number book. Sure, you’re still the one painting the image (“creating” the piece of art) but you are not only simply colouring where they said to, you’re displaying NO creativity whatsoever. Even in a colouring book you have the option to colour it what you choose. Tutorials can be a great way to learn how to achieve an effect or use a tool, but replicating a pre-made piece of art should not be the end desire. Learning and growing should.

Just Creative Design – Who needs skills? We have software

Some Wallpaper Designs

So, I’ll say it; I’m a sucker for freebies. There are some incredible, high quality wallpapers and vector illustrations and fonts out there. I’ve downloaded quite a few and even used them in both my artwork and as inspiration.

The latter is what I’m getting at today. Though they are amazing and of incredible quality, I feel guilty using someone else’s work on my desktop or in my projects. After all, I’m and artist too, aren’t I? And as such, I should use my creativity to create something that brings me joy.

So I did.

And now, I share with you. I’ve scaled the original 1920×1200 Widescreen images to the 4 most common desktop monitor resolutions. You, of course, are more than welcome to scale them as you see fit. Just follow that whole Creative Commons thing and don’t sell them. Or, if you do, let me know so I, too, can reap the benefits of the money. We all like money 🙂

There are six so far. I’ll probably add more as I create more.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28721381@N08/sets/72157612918679960/

Oh, the HATS!

As a graphic designer, it is said you have to wear many hats. You must be able, first and foremost, to design. This is obvious. But, really, what comes first is communication. You must be able to communicate with the client to find out what they want. You must be able to communicate with the end consumer through your design so it says what it needs to say. Aside from a knowledge of design and communication, you must know software and troubleshooting should anything go wrong. Being a photographer helps in many cases as well as does being a copywriter and a proofreader if you have someone else writing copy. Also knowing web-design and code is growing more and more essential. And your work will be varied, so you should not focus simply on logo design, typography or flash animation but be good at each and able to adapt to any changing client needs. Then, if you’re a freelancer, you need to be able to handle invoices, pre-press, billing, time-management…

In short, I just wanted to write this post for an excuse to post pictures of my hats. I was cleaning my closet out and realized that very few of them see the light of day anymore. When am I wearing a morning suit so I have occasion to break out the top hat? Easter, maybe. So, once a year. My fedoras? I rarely wear suits out since I work everyday and don’t want to foot the dry cleaning bill for spilling a mocha down the front of my tuxedo (true story). So, in all their glory, here they are.

(Sorry for the shameless lead and the immature show-and-tell nature of this post.)