Friday, 3 April 2009

Into the Home Straight

As the college breaks for Easter we have now completed two-thirds of the HND interactive-media first year. Results from the two winter assignments were very much welcomed when it was confirmed I had passed which was particularly pleasing as this also incorporated my first web-page design which had proved especially challenging.

The final assignment of the year draws on all the experience we have culminated so far with the brief to translate somewhat obscure electronic music to appeal to a wider audience through the design of new CD artwork; an advertisement for a trade magazine; revised logo for the publishing company and an all-encompassing web-page. In addition we are also required to use an agreed form of promotional printed material to showcase our work which means working to 'real' deadlines.

Hopefully my experience in the publishing world will stand me in good stead for the task which, once again, will prove most daunting with regards to the web-page development. Although I may have passed the relevant module I am aware that much work is required to bring my coding and implementation skills up to the required level for industry and that constant site building practice will be necessary throughout the summer recess in order to make sure I hit the second and final year running.

The latest re-branding challenge is for a little-known German music label Raster-Noton who specialise in a very unusual genre of electronic music from a stable of similar artists. Initial thoughts of most people listening to their offerings for the first time are often of confusion and bewilderment as they struggle to come to terms with the unusual soundtracks and digitised music. More frequent playing though leads to a better understanding of this niche market which, in time, can become more relaxing the more familiar the listener becomes with the unique style.

Throughout the assignment we are being asked to take greater responsibility for our learning outcomes and, as such, have formed seminar groups for mutual design development feedback, whilst our tutor has taken on the role as a real-time client which is giving the project a more industrial feel. I am comfortable with all the design requirements although, like many of the tasks, find it difficult to provide a wide range of sketchbook work to show the design development process.

This is really down to my industry background where experience has taught me how to recognise what looks ostensibly right and many options will be dismissed during the thought process as unworkable thus negating the need to record them at all. Whilst this is understood by tutors with similar industry insight, it am aware I need to raise my level of development work as the sketchbook itself becomes an assessable unit at the end of Year One.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Xerrox Vol.2 by Alva Noto

Those old enough to recall Mike Oldfield's iconic Tubular Bells album from the 1970s will feel immediately on familiar ground with Xerrox Vol.2 by Alva Noto as the style of gradually building on the musical offering which takes listeners on an ever increasing journey into time and space is one which is well executed in this manipulation xerrox.

The Raster-Noton collection begins with a lengthy opener Phaser Acat of some 12 minutes duration. A constant drone which gradually increases in volume almost like overhead bombers on a wartime mission gradually wanes into a reverberation interjected with a high pitched tone.

This continues for a third of the track before giving way to a more melodic orchestrated sound of an electronic string section accompanied by a resonating bass. This conjures up images of waves breaking gently over a shingle beach before once again returning to the aeronautical theme with the sound of propulsion concluding the introduction.

In sharp contrast the second track Rin lasts a mere 51 seconds and largely suggests the sound of high frequency static as an electronic piece of equipment is turned on and left to run. Orchestrated sound again returns on Soma and the slow tuning up often heard in the pits will be familiar to listeners.

Interspersed notes resembling bell ringing can be heard in the background as the track progresses through the static theme once again - the crackling static appearing like distant thunder.

More reverberations can be discerned in the seamless transition to Meta Phaser and the static interference builds on that in the previous piece before more jumbled electronic pulses battle to take control of the track.

Electronic orchestrations in differing keys open the melodic Sora and once more gadgetry is used to mimic the sound of breaking waves as shorter electronic pulses ride over the monotonic background only to be interspersed with a drum-like quality that follows an electronic pattern.

A gradual cacophony of held notes, static and the drum character of Monophaser 1 leads the listener into droplets of sound appearing in a regular pattern suggesting they are overlaid on the constant background almost enticing the listener into a trance-like state as its hypnotic qualities induce a sense of calm.

Not unsurprisingly Monophaser 2 deviates little from the opening bars of previous offerings while static comes and goes hinting at a spacial theme of cosmic proportions. The relaxing theme places the listener in a pod-like experience embarking on a trip across a musical galaxy - an experience many drug-induced fans of Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon may wish they could remember.

A rhythmic, gentle electronic pulse followed by the static interference used effectively in the collection previously sets the scene for Telon which has a more purposeful quality - the steady and increasingly louder beats establish an order and structure to the track which continues throughout.

There is an expectation that the concluding Monophaser track may build upon the themes and project them in an explosion of electronic sound. However, as the title suggests the reality is a mere continuation of all that has gone before meshing the experiences of the foundations laid down into a finale of static build-up that fades almost anti-climatically into the distance.

Word Count: 542

Monday, 2 February 2009

It's Snow Joke For Students!

The second semester has stuttered into life at Wakefield College following a week-long self study period when, truth be told, I failed to achieve all the tasks I set myself for satellite working from home.

Back in the classroom HND students have begun two new assignments which take me into unfamiliar territory. Whilst I have some experience of image manipulation in the industry standard Photoshop package this is limited and various upgrades mean the software has moved on significantly since I last used the basic elements.

And, the introduction to XHTML has confirmed my fears that getting to grips with the fundamental language writing is going to prove a massive challenge. I am helped, however, by the fact that the new seminar groups place me with two competent colleagues who have XHTML experience and are already showing a degree of patience in expanding upon the mind-boggling code writing we have encountered in our introductory tutorial.

After getting to grips with some of the basic elements and having reached a point where I was beginning to understand their relationship to web site construction, it was unfortunate that some of the most severe snow to fall in almost 20 years brought an abrupt halt to our learning in college.

This meant even more self-study time at home which was disappointing given that both tutors and students were willing to stay for the upcoming lectures. Regrettably though the college decided to close and we are currently in limbo wondering whether or not another classroom week may be lost at this crucial stage in our schedule as the forthcoming half-term break will only add to the stop-start learning process.

Hopefully the weather will pass and we will return to the classroom but, if we find ourselves presented with even more individual self study time, then I fear I may be ruing the elements come submission time.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Onwards and Upwards

With the first semester drawing to a close so soon into the start of a New Year it seems an awkward time to look back at what has been achieved over the past few months especially when I've previously posted reflective thoughts at the year end.

However, the end of the first semester signals the conclusion of three assessable assignments as part of our two-year HND InterActive Media course. I come from a generation where the academic year was broken into traditional terms which tended to follow the seasons. As a result I find the reference to a semester a bit scholastic as it's origins lie in the American college and German University systems.

Technically semester refers to a half-year in the the academic cycle so, by definition, we are now one quarter of the way through our studies. Considering some 25 per cent of the course has now been completed I wonder if the pace of learning will accelerate as we progress to our first year end in May.

On the one hand we appear to have learnt much to do with the basic understanding of web design terminology and the technology required to produce web sites. This has been accompanied by grasping basic design skills and, once again, the terminology used in typography and graphic design on a day-to-day basis. Similarly we have progressed these new skills to produce a web plan design which will be implemented later in the year.

Slowly we are building on the core skills required to design and construct our own sites but I sometimes feel we should be a little further ahead if we are to be fully competent by the end of the course.

With a great deal of competition in the real business world it is imperative that all students complete the course able to build more than basic sites and I would hope that as we move into detailed areas that these skills, too, will also be acquired.

Out latest briefs will cover the use of images and photography within web site development and this, coupled with the elementary coding we will also be instructed on, should finally prepare us for the moment most have been waiting for when we are able to build upon the foundations thus far laid down.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Looking Ahead With Confidence

The Christmas break came as a welcome relief to all on the Interactive Media course as the end of the first semester meant students could take a well earned break - as well as taking stock of just how far we had come from first entering the classroom three months earlier.

The start of a new year is a time for reflection and, looking back, there are mixed feelings as to just how much has been achieved. On the one hand many new skills have been acquired; information gleaned and confidence enhanced. On the down side though the pace of learning has not always measured up to expectation with the feeling that the latest assignments could have been completed prior to the festive season.

That said though I, along with many colleagues, welcomed the additional time afforded by the college curriculum and intended making most of the break to complete submissions. In reality this never happened and there now ensues a race against time to ensure work is submitted in line with the deadlines.

I didn’t help matters personally though by volunteering to take part in a competition to design additional Type Trumps cards. I had enjoyed designing other cards as a typography mini-task and was pleased with my submission given that there was little scope to work with the font I was allocated.

With HND students completing two assignments at the same time, there is a need to stay focused on meeting the exacting standards of submission to avoid basic errors which may lead to a referral.

Once these have been achieved we can look forward to tackling the imaging side of web presentation and perhaps keeping those new year resolutions to spread the workload more evenly.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Counting Down to Christmas

As we move closer to the Christmas break there has been the stark realisation that we have now completed around twenty per cent of our HND iMedia course.

Coping with two assignments at the same time is now proving a little easier as the web plan design begins to fall into place thanks to the latest tutorials, while the mini-assignment design briefs are a challenging diversion to the typographic recognition tests which have tested our understanding and memory.

The recent results received from our first assignment referrals brought relief as it was confirmed I had gained a pass and can now move onto the ‘Sounds Like A Plan’ submission with greater confidence. Both this, and further tests on typography design and usage will be due once we return in the New Year and I hope to use the time up to the festive season to ensure the project is available to be proofed.

After my earlier presentation to the group as a whole I found myself once more in front of class with seminar colleagues as we made a mini-presentation based on ‘Contrast’ which is one of the four elements of PARC - Proximity, Alignment, Repetition and Contrast – that aid good design.

Unfortunately a software glitch meant part of my presentation was unable to be viewed [see image above] which was frustrating as it highlighted the contrast in negative space to good use.

With just one week before our break we are now looking forward to the impromptu Christmas lunch which all students - and tutor – are participating in.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Surfing the Highs and Lows of iMedia Wave

The past 2-3 weeks since the previous journal entry have brought a mixture of emotion and anticipation as the HND Interactive Media course has moved on from completion of the first assignment to the crossover into the second and third projects which are running concurrently.

There was initial despair following the posting of first assignment results when only two students gained a direct pass. I, along with the remainder of my colleagues, received a referral which, considering the effort which was put into the submission, was personally disappointing.

However, when it transpired most errors were due to minor technical oversights it was a relief to know that I had been able to convey the technological terminology satisfactorily.

The workload and pace are now beginning to increase significantly with a greater designer influence being determined through our website planning tasks which dovetail neatly with the study of typography and grid systems. These have a strong newspaper influence – an area in which I have felt very much at home.

Running alongside the introductory lectures to the two new assignments has been the production of an electronic Christmas greetings card which proved challenging as I was unfamiliar with the appropriate design programmes.

A little help from others via a quick tutorial enabled me to put in a basic entry but viewing the offerings from colleagues has made me realise I will need to practice on design applications much more than others who are more familiar with the programmes being used.

As we moved more into newspaper and magazine based design I made an hour-long presentation using my past experience as an editor and publisher of my former magazine which illustrated many of the terms and techniques we are now encountering and was pleased with the complimentary feedback I received.