The London BridgeI’ve been in London a little over a week and I was wondering just what the noise I kept hearing was. I now realize that it is, indeed, noises of consternation and impatience coming from across the pond at my delinquency in apprising everyone of my goings on in London. Well! Fear no more – I shall enlighten you below. (Being this close to Jane Austen’s home, and contemplating a visit to it, has affected my writing somewhat. Please, do be patient with me.) ;D

After a rather harrowing coach tour of downtown London on Saturday, July 7, (air conditioning works differently here, that’s all I’m saying), a group of us walked along the banks of the Thames from the London Eye to the London Bridge.  There are festivals and events all over London and along our route we saw so many different buskers – some fascinating, some creepy – that it was difficult walking and not running into them or other passersby because of all the gawping. My favorite busker was the guy playing the fire-shooting tuba. Music and fire – what’s not to love? (It’s best viewed at full screen since I shot it vertical rather than horizontal.)

Diverging from the Thames at London Bridge, we walked south of the river and eventually found the Borough Market. I love this market! I’ve never seen so many different food stuffs in one concentrated area. It’s food carts, restaurants, farmers, cheese mongers, butchers, candy purveyors, flower stalls, patisseries, goat’s milk ice cream makers, and more. I need to go back several times (and I’m oh-so-happy to do so) just to take it all in. The goat’s milk ice cream is, hand’s down, the most amazing ice cream I’ve ever had. Since I’m an admitted chocolate fiend, I chose black forest (chocolate and cherries) which was so smooth and creamy I had to stop and take a personal moment to enjoy it before I could continue walking through the market. It was well worth the £2.50 per small cup. More on pricing in a little bit.

Gamston Wood Farms SignCamel BurgersKangaroo BurgersLlama BurgerI also found an exotic meat vendor offering some unusual fare. Here’s pictures of kangaroo meatballs, camel burgers, and llama burgers. They, of course, had ostrich meat and eggs, but these are raised in the states, as well, so I wasn’t as surprised to see that. I’ve only seen llamas in the states raised for harvesting fiber and wasn’t aware that some people raise them for meat, too. I love llamas and don’t think I could eat one. To me, it’d be like eating a horse or a dog.

What I have discovered about changing money is it takes some getting used to, but not in the sense everyone thinks it does. London prices oftentimes seem comparable to Chattanooga prices (except for mobile phone plans – they’re much cheaper) because once here you start thinking in pounds. Unfortunately, if you’re getting paid in dollars and not pounds, everything is much more expensive, but it’s easy to forget that crucial point. For instance, I went to a pub and bought a pint of Guinness, which I can get in Chattanooga for $5 at Nightfall. My pub Guinness was £4 and I tipped £1 because that’s all I had left. I ended up spending $8.25 (based on $1.65/£ when I bought money) for what I would normally pay $5 for in Chattanooga. Then I have to remember that items at Poundland or the 99P store are really $1.65 and not $1. Were I paid in pounds, the prices would seem much more reasonable.

British CoinsOne of the things that’s hard to remember is I usually have enough in coins to pay for anything under £5 because £1 and £2 coins have replaced the paper bills. I keep reaching for my wallet when I need to be looking in my pocket. This pile of coins, which I removed from my pocket last night,  is actually £9.54. If I had that in change in my pocket at home I’d be listing to one side, I’m sure.

Look for more posts almost immediately. I’ve got several posts to catch up on in the next couple of days, so check back often. Or better yet, subscribe and let the system tell you when there’s newness to read. 🙂


Riveted brass an copper earrings

Last summer I took an amazing class for one of my art electives: Metalsmithing and Jewelry Making. As a designer, we’re drilled in proficiency in print and web design, however, in class discussions we frequently talk about Design as a concept applied to more than just print or web. When the opportunity to apply my Design training in a new-to-me medium arose, I jumped at it.

The class focused on metal sheet and wire forming techniques and we learned only cold connections. Cold connections, those not requiring any heat (hence the name) often become design elements in a piece. For instance, the brass and copper earrings shown here are riveted together. The copper rivet contrasts with the brass on the front strip, showing how the connection’s made, but also becoming integral to the design.

If you’re remembering all those old cartoons showing construction workers with buckets of hot rivets and wondering why my rivet doesn’t look like those on the girders, a rivet in jewelry making is simply a short bit of wire inserted into a small hole and hammered into place with a riveting hammer. Using proper technique, the wire mushrooms out creating what in profile would look like a capital I, holding the two (or more) pieces of metal fast. I’ve sanded these so they look nearly flush.

Another technique I learned involved a different kind of hammering. A couple of them, in fact. Chasing hammers have flat smooth heads that leave extra shiny marks on metal when forming it. Using the chasing hammer allows the metal to have variations in size and texture and gives a piece of wire a deliberateness in the design that it wouldn’t otherwise possess.

Copper Necklace

Copper plate and copper wire necklace

Textured hammers do just what they’re name suggests: impart a texture to metal. There are lots of different textured hammers available for purchase, but it’s also possible to make your own.

I used a textured hammer with long stripes cut into the head to make the texture on the cut ovaloids in the copper necklace and a chasing hammer on the formed wire elements. After piecing this puzzle together to determine the proper length, I took it apart again and dapped each piece for a better fit.

Each element connects to the next with brass jump rings which have been treated with Casey Gun Blue so they blend in with the rest of the necklace.

I’ve got the metalsmithing bug, now, as you’ll hear about in a future post. In fact, because I just took the level two class, I’ve been dreaming an awful lot about metal. Up next? Heat, Beg, Curse, Repeat.

It’s been more than a year since I last wrote a blog post and I’ve been trying to figure out just why that is. I realized I had nothing in particular I wanted to talk about or have time to talk about, but that’s changed now. I’ve completed the course work for the Graphic Design concentration of my BFA, culminating in a senior thesis (more about that in another post), and I have projects I want to talk about along with an amazing upcoming trip that I’m thrilled to share with everyone.

The last year has been a tumultuous concurrence of events that left me brain-drained with little time for writing or, room to even think about writing if it wasn’t required for a class. Starting now, I’ll be catching up on some projects I’m pretty proud of and even throwing in some video and/or audio  blogging of my trip. What’s this about a trip? Check out the link above to a page called  London! What do you mean you’re going to London‽‽‽ That’s where I’ve laid out my plans, asked for help, and even have an idea of how you can “join me in London.”

So, in remembrance of one of my favorite authors:

Let the wild (blogging) rumpus begin!

Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are wild thing

Thank you cards painted by Dalewood Middle School students

Thank you cards painted by Dalewood Middle School students

[Note: Co-posted on]

Last weekend I worked alongside thirty-seven fellow students and over forty professionals staying up around the clock doing good for Dalewood Middle School. The experience was nothing less than thoroughly satisfying and overwhelming.

CreateAthon onCampus enables design students to work side-by-side with professionals– designers, developers, writers, architects, interior designers (you get the idea)– and produce creative proposals for non-profit organizations. This year marked the first of many future collaborations between UTC design students, community organizations, and professionals for the benefit of Chattanooga schools.

The thought of working for twenty-four hours straight filled some of us with a bit of trepidation, I’m sure, not to mention the prospect of working side-by-side with professionals. The results far exceeded the expectations. Knowing we made a difference in the lives of the students feels great, but realizing the creative blitz itself positively influenced each of us who participated is even more remarkable to me.The concentrated energy and constant learning during the event fed each of us and propelled us to the finish, student and mentor alike.

Of course, the finish I just mentioned was the end of the twenty-four hours. For me, and I think for others, as well, I won’t feel we are finished until I get the chance to help implement some of the proposals we made for Dalewood Middle School. The excitement I feel in knowing that the work we did isn’t just pie-in-the-sky what ifs, but actually viable proposals that will start benefiting the school right away fills me with awe and I’ve found I’ve been dreaming about the new gallery and art center space. (More on those in the next post.)

I have heard from mentors and fellow students that they are looking forward to working on CreateAthon onCampus again next year. I know I’m not alone in wanting to continue after I graduate  when participation will no longer be a much anticipated requirement, but an amazing opportunity. In fact, I would equate the CreateAthon onCampus to a weekend crash course in teamwork, project management, application training, writing, people skills, and time management–all at the same time–with the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts because of the collaborative energy expended to benefit a worthy cause. And, that is good for the soul.

Monet, Canal à Zaandam (1871)

Monet, Canal à Zaandam (1871) (taken with an iPod touch)

I’ve been reading a lot about the Impressionists and the Impressionist movement recently. A couple of weeks ago I decided to go to the High Museum in Atlanta to see the Toulouse-Lautrec exhibit and find out if there were any Impressionist paintings in the High’s collection. Happily, there were some and one of them is a Monet. My reaction to seeing the paintings in person was unexpected.

In my readings about the public’s response to the Impressionist paintings I was surprised by how overwhelmingly negative the response was. I can understand that not everyone would appreciate the new art style as not everyone has the same taste. These new works broke all the conventionally accepted rules for paintings, such as hiding brushwork to create a smooth finish and painting subjects with moral lessons or historical allegories, and that in itself was strange. However, it was the critics’ vehemence against the works that stood out. For example, Albert Wolff actually wrote of the second exhibition, “These so-called artists take canvases, paint, and brushes, fling a few colors here and there and add a signature.” Clearly, Wolff was expressing the modern-day saying “my two-year-old could do that” and didn’t think any time or training was employed in making the works. He even went so far as to accuse the exhibition of inciting abnormal behavior and wrote, “Yesterday a man was arrested on rue Le Peletier for biting passersby after leaving this exhibition.” This sentiment evokes the fear of something new causing madness and corrupting the public, especially the youth. It reminds me of the response people had to rap music or Andy Warhol’s works. In other words, different is bad and must be expunged.

We’ve all seen the most famous of the Impressionist works, such as Monet’s Bridge over a Pool of Water Lilies (1899) or Renoir’s A Girl with a Watering Can (1876), but I would hazard that most everyone familiar with these pictures has only seen printed reproductions. In print, you can’t see the paint built up on the painting; they just look like flat paintings that are a little hazy around the edges.

I knew I was already a little jaded with the Impressionists, so I decided when I got to the High to immerse myself in the Baroque, Rococo, and Romantic paintings on display before viewing the Impressionist ones. I wanted to see the progression of subject and technique over time. I marveled at the nigh-photographic quality of some of them. The fine brushwork resulted in a smooth painting surface that was exquisite.

Monet, Canal à Zaandam (1871) detail 1

Monet, Canal à Zaandam (1871) detail 1

After spending quite some time with these works, I turned a corner to find the Impressionist works and was unprepared for my reaction to them. I was angry! I suddenly understood why the reception of this style was so negative. The paint was pushed around on the canvas as if child had done it and was built up so thick on one of the paintings that the painting was no longer a 2-D representation, but a 3-D work almost like low relief.

Monet, Canal à Zaandam (1871) detail 2

Monet, Canal à Zaandam (1871) detail 2

I studied Monet’s Canal à Zaandam (1871) walking up close and examining the brushwork, stepping fifteen feet away and marveling at the whole. Wash, rinse, repeat. I must have been at that painting for at least a half an hour. The conclusion I came to is Monet was a genius. Although up close the brush work looks like child’s play, from a distance the whole of the work becomes apparent and had Monet tried to hide the brushwork the vivacity would have been lost.

If you haven’t seen an Impressionist painting in person yet, make sure and put it on your bucket list. It’ll change the way you view the world and in a good way. Fortunately, I didn’t end up with the urge to bite someone.

snow and grass

Whence cometh spring?

We’ve had more snow this year than in the last ten combined and I think I’m not alone when I cry out, “Enough already!”

The inch plus of snow that fell Wednesday night lingered all day Thursday in the freezing temperatures that persisted. The only exceptions were areas hit by welcoming, warming sunshine creating many “snow shadows” of buildings and trees.

The patches of snow with such sharp delineations prompted me to think about the boundary between winter and spring. When, exactly, does spring arrive? When the farmer begins work in the fields? When the weather’s warm enough to leave the heavy coat at home? I’ve worked on the farm in March and frozen my tuchus off. I’ve walked around in short sleeves in January and marveled at the day.

Where is that boundary and how do we know?

Copyright symbol

Copyright Symbol

I’ve been reacquainting myself with copyright and trademark law recently. While I knew that the creator of a body of work automatically and instantly owned the copyright without having to register it, I didn’t know there are limitations on what can be copyrighted. Expressing ideas in all ways, ranging from drawing pictures to writing text or computer code, falls in the realm of copyrightable material. What is *not* copyrightable are the ideas themselves. Inventions and processes can be patented, but not copyrighted. And, fortunately for everyone, ideas cannot be patented, either. Can you imagine if you had to pay a fee every time you thought of a pink elephant? We’d all end up bankrupt. (You’re thinking of a pink elephant right now, aren’t you? That’ll be one dollar, please.)

Trademarks and, the little known, servicemarks differentiate one company’s product or service from another. They allow us, as consumers, to distinguish between pink elephant kibbles on the market, however, they don’t prevent competition between manufacturers. Trademarks, like copyright, don’t have to be registered, but, obtaining a Federal trademark registration has several advantages, such as having exclusive use of the trademark nation-wide. Once the trademark has been registered, it is solely the responsibility of the trademark owner to ensure infringement of the mark is kept at bay. If exclusive use of the trademark is not constantly policed by the trademark owner, the owner will forfeit the exclusive use of the trademark. In other words, use it, but make sure others don’t use it, or lose it. Sounds like a lot of things in life, doesn’t it?

For complete information about copyright, check the US Copyright Office website. The US Patent and Trademark Office provides complete information on trademarks and patents, as well. Of course, if reading the extensive amount of information on the topics and trying to decide how it relates to your situation has you seeing pink elephants, I suggest you consult a legal expert in the matter.

I’ve been studying about web accessibility lately and have been thinking about how the frustrations I run into on websites I visit would be compounded if I had a disability. By extension,  I’ve renewed my patience with my grandmother when it comes to the web.

I frequently use the keyboard to navigate around pages. If that was the only means of interfacing with the computer I had, there are several websites I wouldn’t be able to use at all because the creators failed to include “focus” as a state when setting the display of links in the CSS. Without the “focus” state specified, keyboard navigation can be difficult or impossible. If you don’t know where you are, there’s no telling where you’ll end up when you press RETURN.

I know someone who has severe sight problems and can basically only see one letter at a time on a large monitor. For him, surfing the web is probably easier using a screen reader. For those who need a screen reader, if the document has no structure, i.e. there are no headings, ordered lists, or tables (for tabular data only, folks!), then the user won’t be able to know what’s most important on the page or that the random items being read are actually in a table.

A relative of mine has hearing loss. It’s not profound, but it is enough that it affects how he uses the web. He’s less likely to listen to a podcast, since the audio on those isn’t always clean. But, more importantly, he then has no access to the content because, more often than not, there is no transcript provided. Fortunately, in my research I came across a website that will provide a free transcript for any podcast submitted. This is a real boon, since most transcription services charge, and quite a bit I might add.

Universal accessibility remains an ideal to which we should aspire, a fitting topic to be thinking about on this MLK day. If web developers make it a priority to ensure their mark-up is validated, that will be a good first step. Beyond that, pledging to adhere to the W3C’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to at least level A conformance will go a long ways to making the web accessible to all.

As promised, I’ve got 6 web sites today looking at good design and bad design. Of course, it’s all relative. I had a hell of a time getting these pictures to look just OK in the previous post and I imagine this one won’t be any easier. That’s the downside of working with a template – it’s not always the right fit. So while this could be construed as the pot calling the kettle black, I do realize my layout leaves a lot to be desired. I’m just not letting that get in the way of getting the post out the door. (I’ve promised myself that any post started *will* get posted.) On to the comparisons, and keep in mind these aren’t the worst or best I’ve ever seen – just the ones I’ve seen today:

Web Sites with Poor Design

  1. Poor Design - online print site Ex 1

    Poor Design - online print site Ex 1

    Online Printing site: At first glance this is not bad. There’s a nice order to the informational images near the top. However, the block of text below those is too dense. The line length is too long to comfortably read, the line height is too close, and the font size is too small. Also, the left column of navigation buttons is almost overwhelming.

  2. Poor Design - online print site Ex 2

    Poor Design - online print site Ex 2

    Another Online Printing site: Obviously, this page isn’t plagued with densely packed text, however the pricing table is almost impossible to read without holding a piece of paper up the screen so your eye can follow the line to a particular data point. Not to mention, the font size will make your eyes cross trying to discern that much information.

  3. Poor Design - online print site Ex 3

    Poor Design - online print site Ex 3

    One more Online Printing site: I’m not saying online printing sites are notorious for poor design, I’m just showing what I’ve found. This is the home page, scrolled down the page just a bit to show the absolutely dense section of text that *no one* will actually read. Add to that the plethora of little boxes all around and I’m not sure where to look first.

Web Sites with Good Design

  1. Good Design - Ex 1 web design site

    Good Design - Ex 1 web design site

    Web Site about web design: This is one of the definitive sites for reading about good web site design, so, as expected, it has a nice layout. There’s plenty of white space for the eye to rest and the layout is reminiscent of an upscale magazine. (Actually, for good layout, this site is in my top ten favorites.)

  2. Good Design - Ex 2 movie rental site

    Good Design - Ex 2 movie rental site

    Online Movie Rental site: For ease of use, this site is tops. That ease of use springs directly from the layout. If the layout is so dense that it’s hard to find what you’re looking for, then the layout is a FAIL. There’s an immense amount of information on this page, but the layout ensures it’s not overwhelming.

  3. Good Design - Ex 3 blogging site

    Good Design - Ex 3 blogging site

    A Popular Blogging site: Again, lot’s of choices on this page, but they are not so densely packed as to be a turn off. The information is accessible and nicely ordered with enough white space for each element to be independent, yet part of the overall layout.

Well, that’s all I’ve got. Do you agree or disagree with the reasoning behind my choices? What are some sites that stand out for you as particularly good or bad? Let me know in the comments.

Since I began studying design in earnest a year and a half ago, I’ve gotten in the habit of noticing lay-outs of printed matter and comparing that to websites I visit. I’ve looked at website design with a shrewd eye for years, but it’s only recently that I’ve been making the comparisons with print.

Print Matter

Here’s six pictures of different layouts, from magazines to newspapers to ads, showing both good and bad layout. As I said when I was 5 and forced to eat everything on my plate, “Worst for first.” We’ll start by looking at what I consider sub-par design. These are by no means the worst examples of design I’ve seen, just what I came across today.

  1. Example of bad layout design - mailbox flyer for rental store

    Example of bad layout design - mailbox flyer for rental store

    Mailbox flyer for rental store: This piece has way too much going on, there’s not much white space in which to rest your eyes, and it’s difficult to tell what the main focus is. Yes, it’s advertising all the amazing things you can get, but the text is small and I spent all of 5 seconds looking at it before tossing it aside because it required too much energy.

  2. Example of bad layout design - mailbox flyer satellite TV

    Example of bad layout design - mailbox flyer satellite TV

    Mailbox flyer for satellite TV: This isn’t all bad, the main parts of the offer have sufficient padding around them. My big objections are the top where it looks like a salesperson ingested too much company propaganda, got too excited about more than 150 channels, and threw-up up on the page, much to his boss’ dismay. Then there’s the fine print. I always object to fine print because it’s impossible to read, but at least it’s usually at the bottom of the page. This ad includes fine print in the boxes of the main offers. Ugh!

  3. Example of bad layout design - ad page weekly alternative paper

    Example of bad layout design - ad page weekly alternative paper

    Ad page on back of weekly alternative newspaper: This is also not horrible, especially considering the source. I include it here because it’s just not good. There’s too many colors and typefaces, not enough white space. Yes, the ads are competing for attention, but they end up all loosing the fight because it’s too much trouble to look at this page and glean anything from it.

Now on to the good design. Again, these aren’t the best layouts I’ve ever seen, just what I found today.

  1. Good example of design layout - weekly alternative paper

    Good example of design layout - weekly alternative paper

    Weekly alternative newspaper: Considering the type of publication, this is a decent layout. It has a comfortable line-length so reading isn’t too arduous. There’s a nice pull-quote to draw the reader’s attention and there’s enough white space to give some breathing room while not too much to drive up the costs of a small paper. It’s a good compromise.

  2. Example of good layout design - designers magazine

    Example of good layout design - designers magazine

    Magazine for design professionals: This is a magazine I’ve gotten for years and have always enjoyed reading. The layout affords breathing room and the artwork is not crowded. There’s quite a bit of white space on the page, giving the feel of a higher end publication.

  3. Example of good layout design -tutorial magazine

    Example of good layout design -tutorial magazine

    Magazine for digital manipulation of photographs: This magazine caters to artists and designers who want to learn more about the programs they’re using. The layout of the tutorials is clean and organized. It’s easy to follow the steps and see the process from beginning to end.

So, there’s 6 examples of printed matter looking at layouts and paying particular attention to white space – the empty space on the page. Without it information gets lost and reading is too hard.

The next post will look at six examples of web sites and compare the layouts, and the use of white space, to the printed examples.

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