What now? (part 2)

It’s been a while since the last entry, and apparently there are still people who find this blog and read old entries – welcome, people! :)

But I would like to announce that this blog goes on hiatus for now. Not that difficult to figure out given last entry was in March, and both that one and previous one were pretty personal about the hardships I experienced. And I do not want to have this blog as an outlet for my inner thoughts, since it’s more for useful information. So I didn’t want to leave it at that.

Currently I’m still in Umeå, recovering from that last half a year at UID, but it’s a very slow process.

About UID, and IDI vs. IxD

UID is a very competitive environment. Which at first I really appreciated, seeing all those passionate people, as opposed to all the lazy student I studied with in my previous education. The good thing is that it’s competitive externally rather than internally. People work hard and encourage each other to work hard so that they leave the school as competent designers who are ready to make a change in the world. Sounds great, right?

Here comes the butbut it’s still a very high-stress environment. If you find yourself short of that epic motivation to  change the world, you just like designing, but it’s not your only reason to breathe and you don’t sketch every free 5 minutes you have you might eventually end up feeling… unfitting. Everyone will encourage you to do your best, to make an epic portfolio (emphasizing that you shouldn’t stress too much that it has to be epic) to land the best internship you always dreamed of. But if you just casually enjoy designing and thing it would be cool to work with it this hard-working environment and amount of encouragement might be overwhelming.

An ex-IDI student once told us that “IDI is the kindergarten of UID“, and it really stuck to me, because eventually I noticed it too. IDI was supportive, but relaxing, there was A LOT of socializing going on. We would do our work, and do it well, but we invested so much time just chilling on the couch and talking to each other.

IxD involved a decent amount of couch chill time too, but the theme of competitions, awards, doing extra stuff for the projects just to learn thing was prevalent. The constant “we’re here to learn” was very visible.

IDI was the entrance to the design world with “oooooh, so this is how things work here!“, IxD was “I have to do X, Y, Z to change the world through design“.

When I was in IDI I experienced the support of others and the family feeling (lots of social time, like I said), but that feeling was barely visible when I was in IxD. And I’m not the only one noticing it. The place which grew to it’s current fame and reputation started with that honest support and togetherness that motivated people and made them excel, slowly turns into a factory for designers where everyone will blurt out generic words of encouragement passing you on the way to their 15-hours desk-shift. Maybe I’m over-dramatizing here, but that’s how it started feeling to me. We talked about family feeling and support, but it became more of a verbal concept, a principle rather than something that you feel truly exists. But it could be a lot worse. UID is still friendliest and most personal place of education I’ve been to.

Also, the bonus is that you spend your 6-times-a-week 15-hours shift by a desk with regulated height (each student gets one of those!). So you can’t really complain :)


 

With that I would like to part my ways with this blog for the time being. Maybe one day I’ll come back here with an occasional update on my studies when I resume them next year. But for now thank you to whoever read it and found it useful :) You can still contact me on my email or facebook if you have any urgent questions, but I can’t promise quick responses, as this blog and matters around it are no longer my priority.

See you!

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Post-IDI Reflections

Since we have concluded our year as IDI, I thought it would be nice to write some final reflections about the whole year, what I gained from it and how was it in correlation to my expectations. I should have written it earlier, as that was my plan, but oh well, summer.

At the beginning of the year our course responsible made us write our expectations down, and we gave it back on one of the last days. (I’ll post a picture of it once I find the paper….) Writing this list I kind of had an idea of what we will be doing, from briefly talking to previous year IDI students and having one course at the school before. In the end most points got realized, not all, but also a few ones that I haven’t expected.

First, my big big expectation was to learn to sketch. I still remember the first week which I think was probably one of the hardest weeks of the entire year. And that was the sketching week. We weren’t given any clear rules about how things work, just told to practice. As a person with no prior experience with sketching/drawing or any sort of experience with art I was completely lost. I wanted guidelines with would help me kickstart what otherwise I knew would be weeks or months of practice, because there must be some of those, right? I was very frustrated and lost, and it seemed like I was the only one, and that thought for sure didn’t help. Most people had some sort of art/design background or liked to draw or paint as a hobby, so for them being told to practice wasn’t as horrible of a task. I did try to practice, but it never really become a pleasant thing, and I wasn’t seeing any results, which of course didn’t motivate me further. So in the end I did not learn to sketch. I know the blame is on me, but the amount of time and effort I would have to put in that discouraged me too much.

Then came some training projects, we spent A LOT of time in the workshop making, sanding, drilling our models. Two months later I hated that. We barely had weekends at that point. I was usually taking a Saturday off and back in school on Sunday, with most of the classmates actually. Working with foam models was pretty fun in the beginning, it was a bit frustrating, but not as frustrating as sketching, because the progress there was so much more visible and overall it was much more satisfying. Still, not having weekends and working with the same thing all the time became tiring, and eventually I got to dislike it.

However, what I learned from that is those initial weeks was that I can make things with my own hands. It sounds obvious, but I never really did much of that. And right now, even though I still can’t sketch, I became MUCH more confident in just doodling some idea rather than trying to describe it with words. That absolutely wasn’t a thing I expected to learn that year.

During the year we went through a number of various software and creativity methods. We learned some 3D modelling with Rhino, but a little bit late in the year and at that point it couldn’t be used that much for our upcoming projects. It was fun and definitely great to learn that, but I never got enough motivation to develop the skills.

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At this point I also started realizing that what I know is somewhat enough, my knowledge from before I started IDI would allow me to finish most project at a quite good level, without overworking myself and ending up too frustrated at things I don’t know. When the previous year IDI students told me you’re allowed to choose how you work I didn’t really understand that very well. But in the end it was exactly that. I came to IDI with quite big knowledge of Adobe Photoshop, webdesign, and some Illustrator. And that’s what I mostly relied on. I “cheated” my way through sketching projects by correcting the bad sketches in Photoshop, tracing photographs instead of drawing by hand or modelling in 3D software. Photoshop was my main tool, because I knew it, I was comfortable with it, and it was going fast. And what’s important – no one told me it’s wrong. Teachers just emphasized working in the most effective ways for oneself.

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But not to say I haven’t learned anything. I learned a lot of InDesign through making the school magazine Wozzop at least once a month. I never knew InDesign before, I wanted to learn it but there was never enough opportunity. I always liked editorial graphic design, so I invested a lot of effort in that, even though it wasn’t part of the curriculum. I got a glimpse of 3D software and movie-making so that next time at least I won’t be afraid of having to learn a completely new thing.

I was also invested in the student union. I organized a game jam and a library lecture on web design. And like I said I was working regularly on the school magazine. I was doing a lot of additional things, and that not necessarily taught me to organize my time better, but it showed me that I really can cope with managing several things at the same time, having quite hectic, but also satisfying life. I never had my priorities on commonly-expected so-called more-important-things. It’s like in games, I prefer the side quests rather than the main quest, but those side quests turned out to be so much more fun, surprisingly rewarding, and definitely keeping me in better mental health, despite the work load. In the end it is really about having the freedom of  doing what you’re most comfortable with.

My plan, apart from learning to sketch and make stuff was definitely about getting the credits to classify for Interaction Design Masters Program. Which in the end happened. I was quite confident in my previous educational background, so I knew I don’t have to work all that much, and I really did focus more on the developing skills and projects which were more profiled towards interaction design, while disregarding others. Not fully right approach, but I was never punished for it. In the end I did get into Interact Design Masters, I didn’t overwork myself in IDI, I still did learn some things, and overall my grand masterplan worked out pretty well.

The thing I expected the least from that year though was the amount of social interaction I had. Never in my life, in previous schools have I had such great classmates. We were from 15 different countries, but that never really mattered to me. We were just a group of friends, I got to meet some great great people, which definitely helped to survive that otherwise very tiring year full of hard work. Our WhatsApp group is still bustling with new messages, even though we finished the studies 3 months ago. Some people retreated to their life, I think me included, but I think everyone still has the feeling they are part of the group and they contact any of the classmates if they want to.

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So in the end it was a really good year, I think I learned more about myself, my ways of working, weaknesses and strengths, got cool friends, and definitely became more socially open due to the great classmates, while the actual learning from educational point of view wasn’t really the center point, what I expected. But it’s good, I definitely don’t regret studying IDI. And everything really depends on your own priorities and goals you want to achieve, since you have the freedom to work in whatever way you prefer.

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One of my classmates had the idea to create a blog for the class so that we could upload pictures of what we’re currently working on. We got stuck on the discussions whether to use wordpress or tumblr, and in the end now we’re waiting for a server sponsored by the school so that we can finally start for real.

Meanwhile, I decided to create my own tumblr to upload process pictures of what I’m working on. It’s a bit more personal than the class once, since it’s only me uploading my work. But still the goal is to what what we do at IDI.

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My IDI application (Part 2: Visual Representation)

So finally the next part. School keeps me busy, and as much as I want to write stuff, it’s just never enough time or energy left in me. But here it comes, the description of the tasks. this is also the task that I started with.

Task:

Describe yourself using visual techniques. Try to convey a sense of who you are by creating a visualization that represents your personality, feelings and interests. Mount your visualization on maximum one A4/letter format paper or other material.

 

How I did it:

Honestly, I was extremely confused after having read that. What does it even mean? What am I supposed to do actually?

My first thought obviously went towards photographs – they’re visual all right. But boring. Then I thought about scrapbooking collage – cutting pieces out of newspaper, printing a picture of myself, and just doing a collage of things I like.

Remember, I didn’t have much time (only one week) so I was thinking about quick solutions.

Soon I realized that if would be too difficult. Most of all finding the right material. I didn’t have that many newspapers and magazines, and it’s difficult to find elements of the right size. I also didn’t have a printer that could print pictures in color. And then it occurred to me that the lack of pictures can be easily solved by Dr. Internet and the same way I wanted to do a physical collage I could just easily do it in Photoshop.

The thing was that I felt doing something digitally makes it less personal in a way. I just feel like old-school paper and glue have this nice, cozy, personal feeling to it. But on the other side that was a chance to present my skills in Photoshop. I’ve been working with collages, photomanipulations and small graphics since 2007, and that was a chance to show my proficiency (even though there a bunch of people much more skilled, and I don’t think my skills are particularly high.

Well anyway, I came up with a simple concept of arranging the things I like in thought bubbles and having a “me” in the middle.

Concept with the clouds. I didn't even know what I want to fill them with originally.

Concept with the clouds. I didn’t even know what I want to fill them with originally.

I didn’t have good enough picture of myself that would fit, plus in fact I just didn’t want to use myself, I already attached my picture to the application elsewhere. Since I studied Computer Science before, and I’m interested in electronics I started looking for a picture of a “geek girl” and “nerd girl”. What I found were in fact two pictures, one with a woman in her 30s holding a bunch of tangled wires and looking at them confused/dissatisfied, and an enthusiastic teenage geeky-looking girl with thick-framed glasses and pony tails. I just loved that picture. Both of them in fact. I decided to combine them (I wanted the wires but not the expression of confusion). The geeky girl was watermarked, but I decided since it’s just for an school application, non-commercial stuff, and I really like the picture I’m gonna use it anyway.

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Merged pictures in Photoshop

I think it took me around 20-30 minutes to merge the pictures. What I had to do was cut out and resize the geeky girl head, paint the missing part of the ponytail, change the skin color of the wires lady holding the wires (to match that of the girl) and paint missing part of the elbow. I also decided to change the color of her clothes slightly. Possibly the head is a bit too big, but it looks acceptable.

Then I plunged into filling the thought bubbles.

I estimated the work to take around 3 hours. But it never works like that with graphic design. Photoshop is a terrible time-eater, it’s just so easy to loose track of time shifting images and making them fit each other.

I divided the clouds into categories, starting from the right: my engagement in social media (I included all or most of the services I have account on), my interest in traveling and photography, my persistence in graphic and web design (showing some of my works, and simple representation of software proficiency), my interest in snowboarding and longboarding, and lastly my immense love for video games, gadgets and digital media (and a Ninja Pirate Riding atop a Zombie Unicorn, just because I love that picture).

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Final version of the task

In the end I also added my favorite lines from various songs to complement information about my personality and have the “hey, I also know Japanese!”, ’cause I felt like it. I also wanted to emphasize the fact that I really love music, and it’s of big importance to me.

In total I spent 8-10 hours (constant work, one evening) on the assignment. If I decided to go with a physical collage it wold take significantly less, partially because I would have much less material.

Most of the pictures used were taken from the internet, various stock websites and search on Google Images. Only the photographs belong to me. That is why I added a small copyright disclaimer at the bottom. I got extremely stressed about it. Because what if it will make me look like I just took pictures of others without putting more effort in it myself. I debated leaving it on or taking it away. In the end I left it there, but after submitting the application I agonized about having left it. But it just felt right to acknowledge the facts most pictures did not belong to me. I’m very upset seeing all the art theft going on on the Internet, so that’s the least I could do.

Printed version attached to my application.

Printed version attached to my application.

Conclusion

I don’t know if I did it right or not. But I love the picture. I even put it in my portfolio (removed the lyrics though, for cleaner look). I think it represents me very well – the things I like, the skills I have, and maybe also my approach to design, somewhat minimalistic and simple but with a lot of details.

It couldn’t have been terribly wrong since I got admitted :)

How I look at it now and afterthoughts

I still like it in fact. I’m quite proud of the quality of this thing. It took a righteous amount of time, but it was time well-spent. Probably it could have been done better or more creatively, but I really didn’t have any other idea that fit, or that I knew how to realize.

I’ve seen this part of application from some of my classmates, and they did paintings or drawings of themselves, some did that on paper, using paint or pencils, and some painting in Photoshop with a tablet, creating a portrait of themselves different from what a photograph (e.g. one classmate draw a flaming sword next to him to show his passion for fantasy). I actually need to ask some other people what they did, because I’m extremely curious!

IDI is really intensive

IDI – Industrial Design Intensive – is the course I study right now. And indeed it’s pretty intensive. So far we turned in 2 projects and deadline for the third is on Tuesday.

For the first project we had barely 3 days (in total 2 weeks from start to the end, but without supervision). For the second project we had 1.5 weeks. The second project was the sketching practice where we had to design and sketch a hairdryer in 3 perspectives. Current project concerns designing a handheld blender, and we have 3 weeks for this one.

All projects so far are extremely short,and there’s barely enough time to complete them. Most people stay after classes a couple of hours to continue working. And many complain there isn’t enough time, and that we can’t get quality results in the given time. While I agree with that, I don’t think it’s that bad.

During the first two project I was working on finishing my thesis, so I had to manage time to finish all of them on time. Sacrificing quite a lot of project time for the sake of the thesis. In the end my end result wasn’t standing out looking terrible amongst others.

Because I always work “last moment”, I believe I learned to efficiently cut corners, and achieve an acceptable result in a short period of time. Also, I am aware of what our requirements are and how much I actually need to do. In general, I don’t have a problem with time, but certainly it’s hectic.

Right now I have to do several sketches, a final foam model, re-draw storyboard on a tablet, and prepare presentation material before Monday evening. I assume I’ll spend the entire weekend at school. It’s quite a lot of work, but it’s not unmanageable.

But of course, everyone has different goals, and some people will put in more work and work with different methods. I like to be realistic about time limits though – I know that within given time my result can only reach certain quality with my skills, or that certain quality will be enough. Some people like to stretch and do great looking renders, but I’m lazy, and I know the course’s focus is on the process rather than on the result. I still put a great deal of time into projects. But also so far, we’ve only done product design projects, and it’s not my thing. I’m so much more interested in the cool things a product can do rather than defining how exactly it will look like. I can’t wait for the interaction projects :D