New Blog Site

26 Apr

I don’t use this blog anymore. Check out my new blog here: http://troybowmantoo.tumblr.com/

Times Free Press.

13 Oct

This was an amazing trip. So amazing, I can’t contain myself. Lots of information, less amount of time. Tell you about it soon. Look at these photos until then. TBA.

Allegra.

7 Oct

Yesterday after our speakers from Medium schooled us on web design, my classmates and I piled into our vehicles and drove to Allegra Printing. This was my first time to see a printing press in action.

Todd Oates

Todd Oates

Once we arrived Todd Oates and the rest of the Allegra staff greeted us with open arms. Todd, who is the location manager, told us a little bit about Allegra’s history; for instance, it began as a family business in the 1970s and was Chattanooga, TN’s first digital printing press. After conversing for a bit, we began our tour.

In-house design department

In-house design department

Our visit kicked off in the in-house design department, which receives orders from clients and preps file formats ready for print. As a graphic design student, it was interesting to hear about some of the day-to-day interactions and situational humor that they experience, like heinous photo qualities or missing typefaces. Funny, I see similarities already. Heather, the graphic designer on staff, explained that sometimes she has to jump through design hurdles that she wouldn’t prefer to in order to please the client. I’m not sure how I felt about that but having previously done freelance work myself, I understand that the client’s needs must be met, whether they have impeccable taste or otherwise. As for missing file links…

Bonnie

Bonnie

The next room over housed two giant machines named Bonnie and Clyde. This room is called the Digital Print Center and it’s where…digital prints are made. Chandler, the print operator, was more than hospitable by showing us around and explaining her routine to us. As for Bonnie and Clyde, she says they totally have personalities: when Bonnie jams she screams, when Clyde jams he growls.

Roland

Roland

People, meet the Roland! Obviously, this is what larger print jobs, such as banners, are made from. Talking about some serious paper jams. In awe, I asked Todd how much this baby cost. The answer? Over 30 grand. Yeah, that’s more than the cost of my college tuition…and car…combined. Luckily, Allegra was nice enough to print some things off for us so we could see this machine work. Look at the photo gallery below and take note of its magnificence.

Roland

Roland

Gigantic ink cartridges

Gigantic ink cartridges

Printing in progress

Printing in progress

Printing in progress

Printing in progress

Classmates

Classmates

Classmates

Classmates

Trimmer

Trimmer

This is Andy and what he is doing is trimming the edges of some pamphlets that Chandler printed for us in the Digital Print Center. It looks pretty simple to operate. There’s a back wall to line the documents up against and then you just press a button to activate the blade. Seemingly unimpressive, this paper cutter looks like it could take a couple fingers off with eeease. Luckily for us, there’s a motion sensor that locks the blade when you cross its path. Watch those phalanges, Andy. Watch those phalanges.

Magnified CMYK

Magnified CMYK

This image is the final result of a custom print job, which is more closely regulated. The dots are CYMK indicators that are viewed from a magnifier. This is how the printer can tell if an image is pristine or blurry. If the dots aren’t clear then it’s a misprint. There are two machines at Allegra that produce higher quality prints, which take more effort and measurement. Unlike Bonnie and Clyde, these machines are controlled by the printer instead of a circuit board. Dan is Allegra’s custom printer and he has complete control over the ink and speed of the document being printed on. images below shows details of one of these machines. The gallery below that shows envelops being printed.

Printing press

Printing press

Rollers

Rollers

Paper stack

Paper stack

Printing press

Printing press

Cylinders

Cylinders

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Last but not least, we were shown abbreviated binding and lamentation processes. I learned that when a booklet is saddle-stitched wire is used instead of staples. I also found out what a paddy wagon is (a cart used to adhere glue binding by hand).

Wire stitches

Wire stitches

Lamenation process

Lamenation process

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Paddy wagon

Paddy wagon

Overall, I enjoyed visiting Allegra. It makes a grand difference to see a printing press in action rather than reading about it. You can only read about something you don’t understand so many times before it starts becoming nonsense. This was excellent. I can’t wait to go to the Times Free Press tomorrow to compare a small printing press to a large one. Thank you Allegra for being such great hosts and additional thanks for all the swag.

Process and Materials 2009

Process and Materials 2009

This is Medium.

7 Oct

“To make good websites we must be good information architects. We need to learn what motivates people and how they consume content visually. Then we must bake those ideas into our designs.” – Stephen Anderson

This was the opening slide in class yesterday, breaking the ice for another visitation from our friends at Medium. This time around Bekka Reese, graphic designer, and Josiah Roe, president, came to teach us about website taxonomy and information architecture. They broke things down quite nicely for us novices by explaining that working with the web is more complex than piecing together a website. It’s a career hybrid of both design AND psychology.

Josiah explained that the beginning processes of web layout starts with brainstorming. Stage one, otherwise known as the content strategy phase, determines what information is relevant to the site. This is decided by meeting with the client and further studying the target audience: what demographic will be aimed at and who will be most drawn to the webpage. Oftentimes this information isn’t left to the discretion of the designers. There are actually user study groups that perform tests and experiments to see what common mannerisms people exhibit while web browsing: this can range from user paths (what links are most commonly followed) to how the eyes navigate across the screen. All in all, knowing the goals of the website is vital before any design decisions are put to use.

The second component to website design is building the wireframe. This is the site’s blueprint or structural shell. Bekka told us that someday we’ll have a job in which we’ll be faced with varying levels of design complexity (depending on the what the client wants). Her advice: sketches. She also referenced sketching as one of the most important parts of the design process. Although a seemingly grueling task, by doing this, we save time that we could be wasting on “digital sketches.” Plus, this technique should give us a good footing about how we can become most successful with problem solving. Bekka mentioned that she typically starts with site navigation AFTER she makes sure all the information is accounted for.

From here on, the to-do list isn’t as standardized because much depends on what the client is asking for. Josiah told us to be sensitive to user navigation and to design on a grid system. He also said that every piece of information will not fit on a website, so we should be prepared to compromise a bit and be able to think fast on our feet.

I think I can speak for my entire class when I say that Josiah and Bekka exposed us to a lot of useful information about wed design. They’re definitely qualified to do so, check out their clientele base. Thanks guys!

Tubatomicly Medium.

6 Oct

In lieu of having traditional coursework in class today, we had local professionals come and speak to us about the importance of getting familiarized with web development. M.A. Turner of Medium and Alex Ogle and George Bairaktaris of Tubatomic gave us insightful advice into their experiences of working with clients and the web.

“All you need is a Macbook and Google:” the Internet has snowballed into a bottomless well of knowledge with tools that weren’t even available a couple years ago. Students today have a unique opportunity to be flexible and have their efforts become far-reaching due to the rapid growth of technology. Our speakers gave us an example of said power, referencing blogs as one of the most widely used resources on the web. Say someone perfects a craft or develops a trade: the possibility of exposure is virtually infinite through the Internet. All it takes is one viewer to like your work enough to blog about it: one person with a blog could easily attract twelve thousand viewers. That’s just if one person enjoys what they see, imagine if you could attract the attention of hundreds of bloggers. Apparently, some people do.

In addition to personal stories and advice, Mat, Alex and George gave us some encouraging words. Mat repeatedly told us to gain as much knowledge as we could and “put it into our back pockets.” The reasoning? Technology is helping communities become more interconnected, allowing us quicker access to news, media and communication. Decades ago you could easily make one career last a lifetime; whereas in today’s society, specializations have begun to overlap other trades. No knowledge is useless knowledge in a time when information is becoming fair game. As students, as designers, as businessmen and women: the sooner we realize the significance of the web, the broader our professional versatility will become.

In conclusion to this experience, I’d like to extend my appreciation to our guests for taking the time out of there day to come and give my web media class a bit of hindsight. Sadly ironic, it’s not everyday that students get to interact with professionals in their field of study. Thanks again guys.

DIY Summit.

22 Sep

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The DIY Summit
went rather well. I was a bit overwhelmed at first because I didn’t understand what any of the speakers were talking about (mainly pertaining to web layout and code), but once the shift was made from specific web topics to more generalized issues I began to feel more involved.

My favorite presentation was Kelly Goto’s, “ WorkFLOW: A better, more effective way to work (& live),” because I could directly relate to the message she was trying to convey. One key topic she covered that resonated with me was how to gauge self-flow. She revealed benchmark thoughts that usually determine when you are at optimum free-flowing efficiency. Some ideas included were, “I have the skills I need in order to do my job,” “I am challenged in a positive way,” and “I feel progress on a regular basis.” Afterwards, she described a short ten-minute exercise in which one can reflect about the past and future twenty-four hours and what has been achieved or has yet to be accomplished. Ultimately, the idea of “knowing where you want to go” in order to get out of a rut, was the most invaluable information I pulled from her discussion.

I found other presentations, such as Lea Alcantara’s “The Art of Self-Branding” and Juliette Melton and Mark Trammell’s “Conducting Effective User Research,” inspirational as well. Lea’s seminar was probably the best suited for my class at the time, but Julie and Mark’s discussion provided a foundation of untapped knowledge and new dialogue. Also, I have unrestricted access to Lea’s PowerPoint presentation online. This way, I can revisit and refresh myself on those key points and possibly share this information with others.

Overall, the summit was stimulating and thought provoking. For my first web conference, things went smoothly. My favorite part of hosting the event from the classroom was being able to move around freely without the concern of disrupting others. I realize now that I have a lot to learn about web media. I’m eager, however, to absorb as much information as possible.

Additionally, I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who made it possible for my classmates and me to take part of the DIY Summit. It was a great experience and we’re thankful for your generosity.

Juliette Melton and Mark Trammell.

22 Sep

The DIY Summit is a conference for freelance designers and web experts providing advice and tips on specialized topics relevant to the Web Media profession. On September 17th, two of my design classes will take a leave of absence from our daily studies to attend the daylong conference from our classroom. This will be my second conference experience, and my first via the web. I don’t exactly know what to expect.

I had the pleasure in researching two speakers, Juliette Melton and Mark Trammell, before the summit began. Their topic of discussion, which they tagged-teamed, was titled “Conducting Effective User Research.” Let me share with you what I learned about the speakers, then I’ll elaborate on what the seminar should involve.

According to the Environments for Humans website, Mark Trammell currently works at a San Francisco-based company titled Digg, leading user research as a User Experience Architect. (Digg is a social media website that shares stories and information through user submissions and commentary). Mark’s Web experience transcends a decade, in which he has coauthored two books on Web standards. He has also tenured with the United States Navy, the University of Florida, PayPal and the Web Standards Project Educational Task Force. Mark describes himself on his website as a, “Cockney bitch. Young ragamuffin from the streets. French duke lying about in hammocks eating soft cheese. Chimney sweep. Man of leisure.” He also tells us that his musical interests range from acts as Bon Iver, Jonny Cash, R.E.M., Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear, Ratatat and the like. Some of his favorite movies include The Breakfast Club, Helvetica, Caddyshack and Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Mark’s passionate about his career, and needless to say, has a great sense of humor.

Juliette Melton, also a citizen of the San Francisco area, works at Lumos Labs as a user experience researcher. (Lumos Labs is “a cognitive neuroscience research and development company that builds software tools for improving brain health and performance”). Julie’s job entails user research to better understand and develop/implement more effective “user preferences and organizational realities.” Her knowledge and experience with building websites began in 1997, while her professional career as a web designer kicked off in 2000. Environments for Humans describes her web experience as far-reaching, including higher education, public health and publishing.

The discussion taking place between Julie and Mark (“Conducting Effective User Research”) is supposed to elaborate on how to improve a website by taking note of website traffic flow. Important points being made are said to include “the benefits of user research, easy ways to get started, traffic and task analysis basics, how to write surveys that work and sharing what you’ve learned.” It’s interesting to note that, again, this is my first online conference, and ironically, Julie posted a blog on September 16th to her website titled “Why webinars are generally bad and how they could be better.” This is comforting to read, as I know what not to expect from her speech now.