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
Now we’re getting to the fun part. First is the dropcap I made after watching the YouTube video.
In this one, I was able to move the text corners so that the text flowed around the dropcap R. Looks cool.
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, 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
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.
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.
I was very interested in learning more about the artist after seeing that he uses a combination of video installations, animation, and live action. As seen in clips in the article, he’s also not afraid to explore the difficult history of his country. As MoMA puts it, “Dealing with subjects as sobering as apartheid, colonialism, and totalitarianism, his work is often imbued with dreamy, lyrical undertones or comedic bits of self-deprecation that render his powerful messages both alluring and ambivalent.”
This can be seen in the following video, which is embedded in the text of the article. It’s like a New Orleans marching band, set in a lyrically dystopian world.
When I looked up more about the artist, I was surprised to find that he was not ethnically African, because as the video shows he is using black subjects in the artwork. In my experience, it’s not that common to find an artist using the experience of another ethnicity in their artwork, although it does occur in decorative arts, photography, and performing arts.
I suppose performing artists do this because music, dance, and theater are somewhat universally accessible for all people. Photography is a little different, in that the photographer has to take a documentarian or voyeuristic point of view, as opposed to being part of the art. Wikipedia explains that Kentridge is Jewish, with attorney parents that fought against apartheid. Perhaps he felt like both an outsider, voyeur-documentarian and part of the struggle in South Africa.
What I find revealing is how well Kentridge’s use of African subjects shows his strong empathy and understanding of apartheid and this difficult period of South African history. He says, in Pain & Suffering, shown on art:21, that artists use the pain and suffering of others for their work.
Wikipedia explains one of his animation methods: “in all of his animated works do the concepts of time and change comprise a major theme. He conveys it through his erasure technique, which contrasts with conventional cel-shaded animation, whose seamlessness de-emphasizes the fact that it is actually a succession of hand-drawn images. This he implements by drawing a key frame, erasing certain areas of it, re-drawing them and thus creating the next frame. He is able in this way to create as many frames as he wants based on the original key frame simply by erasing small sections. Traces of what has been erased are still visible to the viewer; as the films unfold, a sense of fading memory or the passing of time and the traces it leaves behind are portrayed.”
The video above doesn’t show one of this animation style very well, but his style can be seen in other clips. He also uses stop-motion.
Aside from animation, he uses live video and different masking and editing effects in his work. Here’s a video of him, from the Danish museum, the Louisiana, interviewing himself:
I won’t be in Copenhagen anytime soon. But if you’re interested in learning more about William Kentridge, there are examples of his work online.
Louisiana Museum of Modern Art
Of course, there is the Louisiana Museum that is currently holding a William Kentridge exhibition. It looks like an interesting exhibit. The site is in Danish, but Google should be able to translate.
Wikipedia also has plenty of information about Kentridge, from his bio, to listing his films and many exhibitions around the world. There are also external links, if you’re interested even more information about this artist.
Following up my earlier posts about online resources that teach the fundamentals of UX, here is a review of a few video courses. There are a lot of good websites and “schools” that specialize in video-based learning. The courses I’m reviewing today are from Lynda and Skillshare.
Lynda offers classes on many creative topics. Topics include web design, graphic design, programming, music composition, and more. It’s a great site to use to get structured overview of a topic. For instance, if you want to learn the basics of After Effects, Lynda would be a good source. It’s been around for a while, but somehow many of their courses still seem relevant. Lynda offers a consistent site experience with high production quality. Sometimes it can seem like their courses are out of date.
Skillshare also offers classes on creative topics. I haven’t checked, but they seem to have a few more lettering courses. The service is new and they don’t have as much content as Lynda. Skillshare emphasizes the teachers over the subjects. Teachers sign up to teach classes; they do their own recording and supply site the content. The result is that the site experience is inconsistent. Some classes are good, but have low production quality. But since it seems like a startup, the content feels more “fresh”.
Lynda is by paid membership only, although you can get a free trial for 10 days. They have paid plans for individual members and organizations, that start at around $25/month. But, many public libraries will let their patrons sign up for free Lynda memberships. Check with your local library to see if they offer this, and if they do you’re all set. If not, you can still sign up with Lynda by getting a library card with another city. Although the rules for out-of-town library cards depends on each library.
Skillshare requires site registration, but it has both free and paid accounts. The paid accounts are “premium” accounts which opens up “premium” classes. I was able to find a 3-month coupon for Skillshare which allowed me to take a few premium classes. I am not confident in recommending a premium account, though. I am not convinced premium classes are “better” than non-premium. Unfortunately, Skillshare is still too inconsistent for me to recommend a premium account.
If it hasn’t become obvious yet, I am a Lynda. I prefer the Lynda teaching style, for a few reasons. One reason is that each instructor is very rehearsed before they record their lesson. The result is a smooth lesson with instructors that speak with clarity about their topic. Lessons are well-organized and logical, with the course description listing class topics.
Some Skillshare instructors are well-rehearsed but many others are not. Even having an organized instructor doesn’t always result in a good class. One pet peeve of mine is the poor audio quality for most Skillshare lessons. Lynda classes sound high-end. I suspect they are either recorded in a sound studio or with a good microphone on a set. In comparison, Skillshare instructors sound amateur, recorded at home or with inferior microphones. You may find yourself adjusting the sound level between lessons. The course descriptions are pretty good, but they could be better with a list of the class topics.
Finally, the relevant classes! Remember, the classes I am reviewing fit the pattern of being either a what is UX class or a how to UX class. That’s what I’ll go through next with Lynda and Skillshare.
What is UX
Interaction Design Fundamentals with David Hogue provides an overview of interaction design. What I liked about this class was that it described theory and application. For instance, there was a lesson on tools, and then another lesson on UX principles. Course topics included cognition, neural models, and vision. They even mentioned cognitive load! I definitely recommend this 3-hour class.
How to UX
UX Design Techniques, from instructor Chris Nodder, is all about how to do UX. This is actually a set of 7 videos, that go from user analysis to implementation. Topics include observation and experience mapping. Techniques include as personas, scenarios, storyboards, and paper prototyping. Each lesson builds on the previous one. There’s a UX playlist that only includes 6 courses, so make sure to include this one if you decide to take this course, too.
I enjoyed this class a lot. I became a fan of the method he describes. It seems fun to create paper prototypes. My only hesitation with this method is that it might be difficult for teams of one. It also focused on building a new product. I find that I get involved in many redesigns of existing products.
On Skillshare, there are again two sets classes I want to mention focused on what is UX and how to UX.
What is UX
The What is UX class is UX Design Fundamentals: Everything You Need to Know (and More) by Joe Natoli. The description for this premium class states that it is a comprehensive overview on UX. This is a 12-hour, 8 chapter course. Each video is between 8-15 minutes long.
I’m not against long classes, and 12 hours sounds like you’re getting your money’s worth. Yet…I couldn’t finish the course. Despite this instructor being well-organized, he has a speaking style that is too hard to follow. His style is too loose and casual. He has a tendency to interject rhetorical jokes and questions. And he makes statements that only serve to confirm his own points, such as below:
Paths on the other hand are what users leave to enter and leave. (pause) Ok? Pretty straightforward.
“Ok? Pretty straightforward” may not sound like much. But, it’s pretty noticeable when happens in every other sentence.
I also noticed that the slides don’t always match the voiceover. I felt that I was constantly fighting a cognitive disconnect between what I was seeing and what I was hearing.
To summarize, I do not recommend this class. It’s far too long and his speaking style will drive you nuts. In lieu of a screenshot from the course, I will include this Placekitten.
How to UX
iOS Designby Kara Hoedecker is a good hands-on course in UX design. This is a three-part course on redesigning a mobile app.
She takes the class from planning stages and sketching, through wireframes and visual design. She ends with prototyping and testing. Her class wasn’t perfect: she had some technical issues with her class. For instance, her cat walking into the room where she was recording was pretty cute. Her longest class is almost 2 hours; the shortest is a little over 30 min.
What I liked about this class was how she went through the class. First, she presented the idea and what the final outcome should be. Then she went through the exercise herself, showing how she did the work. This was important for me because when I watched her going over her work, I felt very confident that I could do the work, too. I was so confident, I ended up doing my own project. (I’ll post my work in a separate post since this one has become so long.)
She also emphasized sketching a bit more so than I’ve done in the past. Her course includes visual design, so it expands the definition of UX to a wider range of skills than is typically associated with UX.
If you like video-based learning, Lynda and Skillshare both offer courses on UX theory and techniques. My conclusion is that Lynda is more consistent overall. Skillshare has some good resources, but it’s a little hit or miss without a premium account. As for what I learned, I liked the sense of accomplishment I had completing the Skillshare course. There were a few techniques from each course that I look forward to using soon, such as the sticky-note experience mapping or group ideation sessions from the Lynda course. I also hope to use sketching more than usual, and I will start taking on UI design tasks. A combination the techniques used in each class would be beneficial in any UX practice.