Display Text Typography Projects

Continuing with my ongoing education in design, I focused recently on typography and layout. And I went through two Lynda.com courses to do it.

Those courses are called Learning to Set Display Type and Learning Graphic Design: Set Perfect Text. They are both taught by John McWade.

The classes John McWade teaches are exceptional because he is such an excellent instructor and quite good at explaining the concepts he is trying to get across. I recommend both of the classes I mentioned above, as well as other classes in the Lynda library by this instructor. Here are previews of these two courses.


Neither of these classes include exercise files. But after watching both of these courses I was inspired and motivated to try my own type projects, to put his advice into use.

Type Rules I Learned

It sounds basic, but I wasn’t aware that some fonts have additional glyphs that can be used instead of the regular font. Bookmania is an example of a font with tons of extra options for letters.
I also learned about justifying text, using hyphenation and spacing to help words fit. I also learned about using hair-spaces and thin-spaces, and using drop-caps.
Actually, the class doesn’t go into how exactly one would create a dropcap. So, I turned to YouTube – or as I like to call it, the second internet – to find another tutorial.
And I found one. This one is actually by another Lynda instructor, Anne-Marie Concepcion. She makes it look so easy.

 As soon as I learned how to do this, I wanted to try it right away. Voila!

Type Stuff I Made

dropcaps

Now we’re getting to the fun part. First is the dropcap I made after watching the YouTube video.
Drop cap and Display type
Used Bookmania and a Lynda tutorial to create a dropcap.

In this one, I was able to move the text corners so that the text flowed around the dropcap R. Looks cool.

I was inspired to use the extra glyphs in Bookmania to create my own name. I used the smallcap version of the letter ‘A’ in the word, “alliwalk”.

Projects with Images

I like to collect stock photos – I know, it’s a bad habit – because I think that someday I’ll use one for a project. So, I end up with many stock photos that I don’t use. (Sometimes I use them here on my blog.) Well, I was finally able to put a few to good use.

All Dressed Up

The first is this nice “Man in a suit putting on a tie”. I wasn’t sure what I was going for. Maybe a book cover or magazine spread. But, I think what I have is some sort of flyer concept.

This image uses Bickham Script Pro and Didot.

This image uses Bickham Script Pro, which has tons of fancy glyphs, and Didot. Didot has a certain fashionable sense to it, and I think it works. I wanted this to have a bespoke aura about it, yet still masculine. The italicized Dido, and the extra swirls from Bickham Script Pro help to get that across.

New rules of computer technology

BarryW90-Black, BarryW90-Thin, Futura Medium, and Minion Pro

In this case I wanted to use justified type, as John McWade had shown in his course. I stuck with Minion Pro, because it was easier to work with. And I added in a few random elements – a few numbers, some quotes, some pronouns – just to incorporate some of the lessons from the course. One thing I wasn’t able to replicate was keeping the subsequent letters from the word in the dropcap closer than the other words on lines 2 and 3. InDesign just wasn’t cooperating for me.

But I did enjoy this project. BarryW90-Black and Thin are highly stylized, very technical-looking fonts. I was inspired to find a new stock photo for them. Something computer-oriented.

 

Next time…

In my next post, I’ll talk about a few more projects in InDesign, and another type/logo(!) project I made for a fake company I invented called Apex Travel.

Pixar Storytelling in a Box (cont)

Continuing on from my previous post about my experience with the Khan Academy course, Pixar in a Box: The Art of Storytelling, the next lessons are ‘What if?’ and ‘World and Character’.

Lesson 3: What If?

Video 3 and Activity 3 are all about What if? Coming up with a story scenario, by asking “What if?”, the Pixar story tellers do a great job of putting popular movies into What if statements. For instance, what if our toys were sentient and could come alive? This is Toy Story.

Part A. What would the What if statements be for my favorite films?

  • What if unicorns still existed and could only be seen by a few people?
  • What if a couple accidentally adopted a girl, instead of a boy?
  • What if the King of England lost his mind?
  • What if the new Emperor of China was just a little boy?

The exercise is a little hard with true stories, but I guess they still work.

Part B: Come up with 3-5 What if stories

I have to admit something embarrassing. I created a list of about 30 what ifs about a week before I wrote this – but somehow, I lost them all! So I had to come up with new ones. I needed some inspiration.

Inspiration: Sanjay’s Super Team

For inspiration, I watched a short video called “Sanjay’s Super Team”. One of the Pixar storytellers mentions the movie. “Sanjay’s Super Team’s” What if question is: What if an Indian father could show his son, who loves action figures, what he sees when he’s praying? It is a pretty impressive video and it’s only about 7 minutes long, so no excuses!

My What ifs?

Sanjay’s Super Team did inspire me. I didn’t come up with as many ideas this time around, but here are a few:

  • What if my cats could be real people?
  • What if pets could give their owners advice about life?
  • What if there was a world where your imagination rule everything?
  • What if my lost What if stories came true?
  • What if there was a land of lost and found, where every lost item lived?
  • What if my search to find my lost stories took me on a quest to an imaginary land, where my cats came along as my companions but were turned into humans?

Turns out, I’ve got cats and lost stories on my mind!

Lesson 4: World and Character

Part A: Identify the main characters and worlds in your three movies.

The Last Unicorn

World: Medieval world of magic. Most action is on the road or the woods, and then in a castle.
Main Characters: Unicorn, Magician, Cook, Evil King
Connection: I definitely connected more with the unicorn, but sometimes with the magician.

Anne of Green Gables

World: Small yet idyllic town in the 1800s.
Main Characters: Anne, Marilla, Matthew, Gilbert, Donna
Connection: Definitely connected with Anne!

Madness of King George

World: England, English palaces, late 1700s.
Main Characters: King George, Dr Willis, Equerry
Secondary: Queen, Lady Pembroke, Prime Minister, Lord Chamberlain
Connection: I connected with the equerry, who’s just trying to do the right thing.

Part B: Mix characters and worlds from a different stories

Combining worlds and characters gives pretty interesting results. The first time I did this exercise, I used The Last Emperor instead of the Madness of King George. So I got Unicorn + Forbidden City combinations. The combinations that make the most sense would be Anne of Green Gables + The Last Unicorn. Helping a unicorn find other unicorns would be Anne Shirley’s life’s dream. I could also see the Evil King thriving in the Forbidden City, or the mad King George doing pretty well in the medieval world of magic.
[pic]

Part C: Pick your favorite What if statement. Imagine a possible world and character.

Going back to my favorite What if statement, I guess the last one is the most obvious. A main character would be someone socially anxious who spends a lot of time living in his head. My cats as people would be about 11 years old. One cat would be an energy-filled girl. Not that different from Anne of Green Gables, Pollyanna, or Pippi Longstocking. The other cat would be a girl that’s a little bit overweight. She would have a pleasant demeanor, but also be easily frightened. Both of them, would at times be absentminded and always ready to take naps. But they would be very loyal and supportive.

Final: Storytelling Advice

The final video in this lesson features Pixar storytellers giving advice to new storytellers. The thing that I connected with in this video, is that getting good takes practice. Even if you think you’re not getting better, what you will see over time is a stack of drawings and papers that show your progress. Sometimes what you think are mistakes are not mistakes. They are signs of the search for the right story.

It’s going to take some time for me to think about Part D of Activity 4: What would my world look like? Until then, I’m going to keep thinking about storytelling inspirations, and remember to keep chipping away at it.


I don’t know when the next section in the Khan Academy course will come out. But, in the meantime, I will post more articles about storytelling.

More artwork from Sanjay Patel, the creator of Sanjay’s Superteam, can be found at Ghee Happy. It’s just cool.

Skillshare Course in iOS Design: Visual Design

Introduction

This is the third and final post in my series of posts about a project I completed as part of a Skillshare class on iOS design. This part of the course was about visual design, via a mood board and final mockups.

Mood Board

The instructor showed several inspirational examples of mood boards, including her own example for the class. I will admit at this point that this was the second time I went through the course. The first time was a quick pass to understand the process. In that first run-through, I wanted to take part in the mood board part of the course. I used my experience on another project to create 3 mood boards. You can find those mood boards on Coroflot. (Guess this I’ll make a blog post about that!) I had a lot of information before starting and it was easy to make different visual styles. So I expected that this part of the project would be exciting.

I knew going in that I was inspired by my friend’s wedding program. But I quickly learned that, aside from that, I did not have enough information about the users or client’s goals to differentiate between one mood board and another.

My first set of mood boards included 6 different color combinations! I felt ambiguous about each one. Here’s an early one where I used a lot of blue, and clips from library websites.

Early mood board
An early mood board that I did not go with!

Returning to Personas?

At this point, I thought back to the persona exercise and I decided to revisit this part of the project. I still believe that personas that are never verified with user or market data are useless for objectively informing user workflows and interactions. However, unverified “characters” can be helpful for putting together mood boards. (Although even then it’s good to have input from the client). Initially I had 2 characters in mind, but I ended up with 3:

  • a working-professional commuter
  • a retiree
  • a skateboarding middle-schooler

Here are the mood boards I put together. These were completed in Illustrator:

 

Visual Design

I selected the retiree character’s mood board to develop. I liked the color combinations best. The instructor suggested using a UI kit from Teehan + Lax. (Looks like their site is down, at the moment!) I thought it was a beautiful UI kit that was ugly to use. My CS5 version of Photoshop may have been to blame, but using the UI kit was more difficult than I expected. I also looked for UI kits on other websites, like Behance and Dribbble. There are many of these types of UI kits for iOS online. For example, here’s a list called “Best IOS8 / Apple Watch / UI / GUI Kits 2015 – Free Downloads“, found on jackrabbitmobile.com. Who doesn’t love free?

Anyway, for the Teehan + Lax UI kit, getting layers from one psd to another felt almost impossible. I ended up finding my own components or cutting out elements I’d made in Illustrator for the mood board. I was able to use the phone background and shadow, thankfully. Maybe they intentionally created a difficult to use psd, to encourage designers from using it. Given that I can’t even get to the UI Kit today, that might be the case.

For the work, I used layer comps to create the different states of the app I was recreating. It was helpful when exporting. I could probably use tips on proper layer naming conventions.

Here are the results:

Remember what it looked like before?

Book detail
Book detail

Final thoughts

The last part of the course was a prototyping section. I decided not to participate. Maybe I will take part in the prototype portion of the course, when I create more screens.

Outcome of the app

I like the final outcome of the app. I’m sure I’d get lots of good feedback from team members on small details here and there, if I had been working with others. With a team, it’s possible would have taken on more work, too. I wanted to get this done in about 1 week so I kept it simple.

Using Photoshop

Ha, well…I didn’t like working with Photoshop. That might be due to my working with CS5, but I almost quit and started using Illustrator. I can see now why Sketch has taken off so much. Photoshop is great for image editing, but it seems pretty clunky for visual design. But, I understand why it’s still used – on a team, it’s helpful to get consensus. I like putting my little web projects together straight from Sublime Text, but on those projects I’m the only critic.

Anyway, it was a fun project. I recommend the course and doing a fun, independent project like this to anyone looking for a creative outlet.

Pixar In A Box: The Art of Storytelling

It seems like every few weeks I see a tweet, essay, or article mention about storytelling. Many of these articles seem to be written with the idea of using the concept of a story to convincing others to trust your business idea.

Storytelling is a very old art form that serves that has also served as a cultural communication tool. I find it somewhat disappointing that “storytelling” has been co-opted for the purpose of selling a business plan. As a kid who got lost in stories but gave verbal book reports that started off strong, but finished off weak, I could actually use some tips at telling a good story. One thing I don’t see from these posts is info about how to tell good stories, or what the components of a good story are. I am cynical that these storytelling articles are really about storytelling.

How to tell a good story

To learn how to able to tell a good story, I should learn from the best, right? Enter Pixar in a Box, The Art of Storytelling, a lesson series by Khan AcademyCan you believe it? One of the best contemporary storytelling companies on the planet is giving free lessons on how to tell a good story.

Available right now is Lesson 1: We are all storytellers. This lesson is broken down into 6 videos and 4 activities. The first few videos explain what story telling is, and then a few people from Pixar talk about their own inspirations and how they got started.

Here’s a breakdown of the videos and activities/exercises:

  • Intro to Storytelling
  • Your Unique Perspective
  • Exercise 1: Expressing memories
  • Your Favorite Stories
  • Exercise 2: Your three favorite films
  • What if?
  • Exercise 3: What if?
  • World and Character
  • Exercise 4: Characters & worlds
  • Storytelling advice

Yes, but will studying how to tell a story actually make me better at storytelling for business?

That is a good question. I don’t know about putting video clips from Finding Nemo into presentations, but I am going to participate in this course. I mean…who doesn’t want to learn from Pixar? This is going to be fun!

Still from Finding Nemo
When you embark on a new educational journey: “Hold on, here we go! Next stop, knowledge!” (From, A Finding Nemo Quote for Every Occasion). You had to know that’s where I was going, right?)

Hold on, here we go! Next stop, knowledge!

Activity 1: Expressing memories

The first activity is about using written words, drawings, or telling a story to someone to describe a vivid memory. This activity follows a video in which Pixar artists talk about their own experiences as storytellers. They’ve obviously been doing this for a long time.

I chose to draw an emotion.The instructions say to use only lines and shapes to draw the memory. Here is a link to examples of shapes that describe emotions. As you can see, it’s OK to be abstract.

The overall emotion to the memory I chose is sadness. It’s a strong emotion. I chose a very simple sketch. Hopefully the isolation of sadness comes across.

"Sadness"

You may think that the Pixar folks, being animators, stuck with sketches and expanded on this initial start into memory and emotion….

But no! They went on to explore inspiration!


Activity 2: Desert Island stories

Part A: Identify the three films that you would take to a deserted island…. 

Part B: Why do you think you connected with these stories? Come up with at least one reason for each.
Part C: What, if anything, do these three films have in common? How are they different?

 

Gosh, oh gosh, oh gosh!

This was the question after a video with Pixar storytellers talking about stories that made an impression on them as children. What would I pick? Why did I connect with them? Here are some movies that came to my mind and why I think I connected with them:

The Last Unicorn DVD cover
Yes, this is my personal DVD cover for The Last Unicorn.
The Last Unicorn, 1982 (IMDB)

I used to watch this over and over. Given the unique drawing style, I came to realize later that this was the start of my appreciation for anime. It also has great songs by the band America.

Why I connected: I loved the animation and the fantasy setting – and the songs! I like that it’s a story about innocence…or, rather, the loss of innocence. It is a movie about about growing up. The price of knowledge is the loss of joyful ignorance. I like that it rewarded the goodness in the characters, and the creatures, even scary monsters, get justice. In this movie, almost everyone gets what they deserve.

Anne of Green Gables, 1985 (IMDB)

I’m not sure any girl of the 1980s survived without crossing paths with Anne of Green Gables. This was a great story about imagination and youthful spirit. Sometimes when I watched this, I would get so lost in this story that I didn’t notice when my friends actually showed up…and left.

Why I connected: It’s a movie about growing up, about using your imagination and being creative. A big part of the story focuses on Anne trying to fit in, even though she’s different. And, I especially liked that friendship and goodness were so important in this story. (Who can forget Matthew?)

The Madness of King George, 1994 (IMDB)

As an adult, I watch this often. I think it’s a funny story about how the king loses his mind, yet instead of treating him like a true patient, the pressures of court life still require everyone to behave like nothing’s wrong.

Why I connected: This is a movie I return to again and again, when work gets overly hectic. I use it to find the humor in what can be the absurdity of everyday life. It helps me laugh when trying to do what’s expected doesn’t seem to be working, because what’s expected is wrong or absurd. As a fan of history, I appreciate the historical context of this movie, and as an Anglophile, all the great English actors.

The Last Emperor, 1987 (IMDB)

Also based on a true story, I really enjoyed the historical context in the movie. The change of the emperor over time in embracing new ideas and people is both entertaining and tragic.

Why I connected: I again love the historical context, and this movie introduced me to Asia. It came out in 1987. My father took me to a “Son of Heaven” museum exhibit at COSI in Columbus, Ohio, that was all about imperial China. We looked at real artifacts, such as the yellow robes the emperor wore, as well as bells, and other artifacts from China. I even got to buy music – a cassette tape! I also appreciated that so much of the story was about growing up and losing innocence.

Apple with a hole
…Wait! There’s something missing!

I got so caught up in thinking about my childhood that I forgot to write what I thought was the connection between these films. So:

  • 2 of these films were books before they were movies
  • 2 of these films are based on historical events
  • 3 are about growing up
  • All four have a thread about losing innocence
  • They all focus on the importance of friendship and companionship – something that’s so easy to forget.

Having written all that, and having reminisced about my childhood, this gives me something to think about for a while. So this is a good place to pause until jumping back on the story wagon.


The next part of Lesson One on Storytelling is called: “What if?

 

Skillshare Course in iOS Design: User Experience

Introduction

In my last post, I discussed a project I had been completing as part of a Skillshare class. This is the second post in that series.

Sketches

As I left off in my last post, I skipped over the persona portion of the course. I did return, in part, to personas but not until the visual design.

I ended up doing about 3 pages of sketches. My documentation shows how I worked out smaller interaction elements, like navigation elements.

 


This is the part of the workflow is where the interaction design and user experience start to come together. The instructor chose to update the Southwest app. The visual design looked great and I liked her workflow overall. But there was a piece of this workflow that was missing – and that was competitive research. There was little in the way of looking at related apps to get an idea of what people might experience from something similar.

It’s easier to become efficient with a new interface if it contains familiar elements. This is one reason why I research competitors. I’ve also found that using real life examples helps convince others on the team that the product is actually feasible and can implemented as designed.

I did some looking around on my own, finding screenshots from different library websites. The Audible, the Apple Music and Podcast apps, and SoundCloud were helpful. It may be confirmation bias, but this competitive research was far more useful than the personas I didn’t create.

Wireframes

The difference in the wireframes for this project, and projects I’ve done at work, is how she used a vertical layout to present her work. I thought that was pretty smart. And, though it wasn’t specified in the course, I included annotations because I wanted to include ambiguity. (Normally I’d include more.)

For the actual wireframes, I created 2 layouts. I noticed when reviewing the other apps that there’s often a large image in the center of the screen. I felt that this was unnecessary, especially on the playback screen. My solution was to reduce it and focus on the controls.


Next Post…

The next and final post in this series will be about the visual design work I did for this project.

Skillshare Course in iOS Design: Planning

Introduction

As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently completed a Skillshare class on iOS design. The focus of the course is to take an existing app and update it. Part 1 of the 3-part course is all about UX design. The instructor takes students through planning, personas, user journeys, and wireframes. Here is the work I did for Part 1.

Planning

The app I selected was Axis 360. This is an app that allows people to checkout audiobooks and e-books using their library card. It’s an app that I’ve been using quite a bit and I wanted to focus on improving it if possible.

The first thing I did was take screenshots of the existing app.

 

The course then begins by creating a high level list of activities someone can complete on the app. I focused on listening to an audiobook. The instructor used sticky notes, so I did too.

Scenarios
Scenarios. (You can see sketches on the reverse page.)

 

User Journey

From there, I created a high-level user journey. This includes a screen with a list of checked out books, a book detail screen, and a playback screen.

User Journey
User Journey, for Axis 360

 

Personas

At this point in the course, the instructor introduced personas. In this case, these were proto-personas. I admit that I did not complete this part of the 3-part course.

My philosophy is that personas are only useful if they can be validated by objective data. This includes providing completed personas to a client, or by interviewing potential users. In my case, I had neither a client nor potential users. Unvalidated user needs, demographic data (age, marriage status, gender), and interests (stock-car racing) would be a work of fiction and thus useless in directing the experience. So, I skipped this step, although I came back to it during the visual design phase.

 


Next up…

In the next post, I’ll talk about sketches and wireframes.

UX Design Fundamentals: UXApprentice.com

UXApprentice.com

UX Apprentice is a static website that takes site visitors through a 3-step UX project to teach visitors about the process of UX. The steps the site goes through are Discovery, Strategy, Design. As it states on the first page, each step describes what the step is all about, it provides examples, there’s a very short knowledge quiz, and a list of resources consisting of books, articles/sites, and a who’s-who list of names.

Alphas:

  • Great connection between the description of the information, using the outlines and icons from the top of each page to the bottom.
  • Good use of navigation to prompt site visitors to go from one explanation to another.

Deltas:

  • The website provides a lot of information, but it’s highly biased to be accessible for people who already know a bit about UX. There just isn’t enough information to help someone who is totally new to UX get started.
  • Many of the articles are a few years old, and a few links for the books and articles are broken. For instance, I tried to take a look at the Kevin Cheng book on the Discovery page, and an article on the strategy page called “What is User Experience Strategy, Anyway?” Both links were dead. See update.
  • It’s an advertisement for Balsamiq. While I like the information this site provides, in the end the entire site is essentially an advertisement for the wireframing tool Balsamiq. It doesn’t hit you over the head with it, but it’s the truth.

Final thoughts: I’d still recommend the site to someone as a possible resource, along with other resources, but I’d preface it by saying that there might be a lot of broken links in the reference sections.

 

Update: As you can read in the comments, Jessica from Balsamiq contacted me to let me know that they updated their links. I’ve checked it out and this appears to be the case. Some of the people they’re linking to may have broken links, but that can’t be helped. Checking out their resources, I found a 4-video series of Lean UX Strategy YouTube which I recommend because it won’t take more than 15 minutes to watch.