Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Knockin on heavens door

Or at least that's how I felt last week! The day our amended A2 assignments were due in and I could barely stand! I managed to make it in to college to hand in my assignment before the 9am deadline, unfortunately I didn't last longer than the time it took for me to hand it in to Steve. I didn't surface from bed for 2 days and when I did I was concerned at how far I'd potentially fallen behind.

I was even more concerned when I found out that one of the self study tasks was to give a presentation on PARC (Proximity, Alignment, Repetition and Contrast) first thing on Monday morning. Ordinarily I enjoy giving presentations but seeing as I'd missed the PARC lecture I started to panic. Luckily for me we were giving the presentations in our seminar groups and Brad was on hand to pop round and together we thrashed out a presentation with added contributions from Pete and Dominic.

The presentation itself went well. I think content wise we'd put together a good presentation but in terms of delivery, I feel we would've benefited from having a trial run so that we were all sure of the flow of the presentation. Apart from that though I think it went fine and I enjoyed the other group's presentations as they gave me a better understanding of the concepts of PARC.

This week also saw the group receive our final grades for A2, which I'm pleased to say I've (finally) passed. This is a welcome boost to my confidence and has reassured me that I can produce the standard of work required to pass the course.

The Christmas break next week is a welcome chance to recharge my batteries and do some housekeeping to ensure everything is shipshape and Bristol fashion so that I can hit the ground running when we return.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Under pressure...

It has been a bit stressful over the last few weeks. A clerical error at work resulted in me being overpaid by nearly a full week’s wages. As I cannot afford to simply give them the money back, I have to work additional hours to repay the money.

With having 3 assignments running simultaneously as well, I’m finding it a bit of struggle to get the balance right between my time at work, self study time and just general “me” time.

Being referred on assignment A2 hasn’t helped either, which has resulted in even more work to do. I felt a mixture of emotions when given my grade and feedback. On one hand I was happy that the reasons for my referral were more for formatting mistakes than errors with the content of my report. On the flipside I was equally annoyed and frustrated with myself for not spotting these errors prior to handing in the assignment. I guess the moral of the story is to ensure that I leave more time for proofreading assignments prior to deadline day to (hopefully) avoid another referral in future.

On the plus side, I am enjoying the new assignments A3 and A4. The lectures we’ve had on how grids are used in design and the lectures on Typography have proven both informative and interesting. I must admit though I’m not looking forward to the tests on typography terminology and font identification as I tend to panic and forget everything in exams / tests.

I’ve also found the example exercises on designing page layouts using InDesign invaluable too. I really struggled to get my head around InDesign when we were inputting assignment A2 onto the assignment template as I’d never used it before. Admittedly these exercises are completely different to merely entering information into a template, but I feel that I now have a much better working knowledge of this extremely versatile programme.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Fear, tragedy, are all that lie ahead?

Well you could be forgiven for thinking that after the presentation by Dave and Craig of the Design Mechanics . They painted a grim picture of the reality of being in the design industry. From stories of difficult client’s complaining about the design of padlock hasps to personal heartache and near bankruptcy, it almost made me think twice about my chosen career path.

I was also a little taken a back to discover that designs are expected to be produced within hours of receiving the briefs and that several projects can be on the go at any one time. I expected a relatively quick turn around in the design process, but was thinking more in days and weeks not hours.

I’ve never been the quickest worker, preferring to mull over design briefs / assignments for some time before actually getting stuck in. Clearly this is an area I will need to improve upon if I am to make it as designer, though at least I’ve discovered this now whilst we are training rather than find myself out of my depth within a professional studio.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom however as Craig and Dave both provided several amusing anecdotes of life in the design industry as well as some great advice which echoed what we’ve already been taught. The key message that I took from the talk was that in order to be a success you need to be strong willed, business minded, focused and flexible with a good work ethic not just creative. It was also reassuring to see someone like Craig who confessed to having no previous background in design proving that with hard work and focus, you can achieve your goals.

All in all I found the visit very interesting and informative and would hope that there will be more opportunities to interact with industry insiders in the future.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

An Introduction To The Mistral Font

The Mistral font family1 was designed by the French graphic artist Roger Excoffon for the Fonderie Olive type foundry (later taken over by Linotype) in 1953, with the Amsterdam Type Foundry also releasing a version in 1955. It is a casual script with long descenders which increase the sense of motion and the lower case letters have been carefully designed to connect on a line.

The Mistral Font
Excoffon’s vision2 when designing Mistral was to create the “handwriting of the man of the twentieth century”, “A modern handwriting perfectly free, uncodified, and spirited” which would bring a greater vivacity into French typography. To achieve his vision, Excoffen based the Mistral Font Family3 on his own handwriting style and named it4 after the strong, cold winds on Southern France.

However technological limitations at the time meant that the Font has a “heavy” look which looks like it has been written with a brush and paint rather than pen and ink.

The International Typeface Corporation (ITC) rectified this by releasing a reinterpretation of Mistral5 as Mistral Light as well reinterpretations of Excoffen's Choc and Banco font families. Designed by5 the late Phill Grimshaw, Mistral Light sees the weight of the font uniformly reduced with the weight of the thinner strokes then increased so that they didn’t disappear when reproduced at smaller sizes.

Comparisson of the Original and the redesigned Mistral font
As you can see in the above comparative image, the result is much closer to Excoffon’s vision. In redesigning Mistral, Grimshaw overcame another obstacle. Being a script typeface, Mistral cannot have an italic which is often used to show emphasis. To counter this Grimshaw designed a new set of small caps in the same weight to be used for emphasis though the original, heavier font could also be used.

Examples of the usage of the Mistral font can be found in abundance in shop signage in small cities in France as well as in Montreal as illustrated in Mistral In Montreal.

  1. Mistral (typeface), 08/05/2008,, Accessed on 04/11/08
  2. Soar, 2004, Excoffon's Autograph,, Accessed on 04/11/08
  3. Mistral (typeface), 08/05/2008,, Accessed on 04/11/08
  4. Mistral: About this font, Accessed on 04/11/08
  5. Dreyfus, Roger Excoffen,, Accessed on 04/11/08

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Out Of The Frying Pan (And Into The Fire)

As the first half of the semester draws to a close, its time once again to sit back and reflect on the events of the past six weeks.

Our first assignment is now safely handed in for grading and for once I’m not feeling particularly stressed out on a deadline day.

This is mainly down to the idea of working to a deadline the week BEFORE the deadline. This is an approach I’ve never taken before but I am certainly glad we were encouraged to do so.

By having a first draft ready last week a huge amount of pressure was lifted. In the past I have struggled to meet deadlines and ended up handing in an abandoned rather than completed report. Working in this manner however meant I had a full week to tinker and proof read and hand in hopefully a more “polished” assignment well before the 12pm deadline.

Unfortunately now begins 3 weeks of anxiety whilst we wait for the final grades to be given, which will then result in elation or misery! I feel satisfied with the work I submitted, though there are the usual niggling thoughts in the back of my head. Thoughts such as have I forgotten this? Should I have changed that? At the end of the day though should any additional work be required I shall just have take onboard the feedback and amend accordingly (easier said than done, I know).

Running simultaneously have been weekly “self study” tasks which have proved a welcome distraction from assignment A2. Each week’s tasks have been quite varied and included: gathering inspirational pieces to discuss in our seminar groups, online debates and even setting up our own websites ( I’m looking forward to seeing our websites develop over the next 2 years into our online portfolios and demonstrate how we’ve all grown as designers.

Overall the first six weeks have been immensely enjoyable and I remain convinced that returning to college was the right decision. My main worry about returning to full time education was whether or not I would be able to keep up with the workload. Well so far so good, however with the workload set to double after half term, it will be interesting to see if it really is a case of out of the frying pan and into the fire!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Back to the start….

It can be a little daunting returning to something that you haven’t done for a while or in the case of returning to college, haven’t done for years!

With the first month all done and dusted its time to reflect.

My initial fears that I wouldn’t fit in with the group or be able to keep up with the workload have proven to be unfounded. I feel like I’m settling in nicely helped largely by the ice breaking exercises, mix of ages, backgrounds and general friendliness of the other group members.

As far as the workload goes, I’m glad we received the first assignment as early on as we have done as it’s given me the chance to reassess my style of working early on.

I’ve always taken a kind of hap-hazard approach to assignments, instead of focusing on each section one by one I’ve completed parts of this then moved on and begun to do parts of that without actually completing anything.

I'd forgotten that this approach makes it hard to keep track of how much progress has been made and I will endeavour to work in a more linear way through the forthcoming assignments.

Time management has also been an issue in the past, but I'm keeping an eye on it and trying to ensure I set aside plenty of time for self study work and that I use my time in College in a productive manner also.

All in all I’m pleased with the way the first month has gone, though it wouldn’t hurt to start setting personal targets for my self study time and work in a more organised way.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Where I've come from; where I am now; where I'm going

Where I've come from

With my Dad being in the army, I grew up in a variety of towns, predominantly living in army quarters before my family settled in Braintree, Essex where I lived for the past 10 years and completed my GCSE’s.

After finishing High School I went on to study for an Intermediate GNVQ in Information Technology at Braintree College. Having completed and passed the course, I began the 2 year advanced GNVQ. I quickly became disillusioned with the course which was essentially a course in how to use Word, Excel and Access rather than focusing on the technical side of computing. I left midway through the first year and began to work full time at the local Cineworld Cinema which had recently opened.

During my time with Cineworld I developed an enthusiasm for the marketing side of the business which allowed me to use the creative side of my personality designing film displays as well as creating competition posters and entry forms which were used to promote forthcoming films and resulted in me being promoted to Marketing Supervisor, a position I held for 3 years before being promoted to operations manager at our sister site in Bishop’s Stortford in November 2003.

Over the next 2 years I gained experience in the Concessions, Health and Safety and Marketing aspects of the cinema. Whilst I undeniably enjoyed my role as a manager, I grew increasingly frustrated with the path my life had taken and yearned to find a way to combine my love of computing with the creative side of my personality.

During a weekend visit to friends who were studying in Leeds, I spoke of my frustrations and of my desire to work in an industry which would allow me to use my creativity. About a week later my friends told me about the HND in Interactive Media Design at Wakefield College. I found the course website and after exploring it, decided that the course was exactly what I needed to make my dream career a reality.

Where I am now

After successfully applying for the course I made the move from Essex to Wakefield in January this year. After a shaky first few months, during which time I struggled to find work, I’m pleased to say that I have now fully settled into the area.

I’m living with my 3 best friends and have a wonderful girlfriend, Faye, who I’ve been with for the past 2 months and have been working for HSBC in Leeds since April to help support me through my studies.

Where I'm going

Upon completion of HND, I plan to find myself work within the design industry with a well established company to hone and further develop my knowledge and skills. After building a strong portfolio and learning from industry professionals, I hope to set-up my own design company specialising in Website design and creation.