Composing Digital Media
Mr. Ben Miller
14 December 2017
This course has taught me so much in so little time about the ways to create impactful pieces of digital media. I must say I was nervous when the class began as I had no experience with any of the software we would be using for the different units. I can say now with confidence that this class has helped me become more confident in using software like Gimp, Audacity, Atom, GitHub, and WordPress. The strengths of my work I have felt most manifest in my visual and my html and css projects.
My unfamiliarity with GIMP held me back at first with my visual project. I had an idea of what I wanted to create with the Notorious Entertainment postcard in my head (and drawn out on paper), but for me to be able to create that on GIMP, it was a slow process. I met up with a mutual friend who introduced me to the amazing concept of layers and things started to click after that. I finally felt like my biggest obstacle was no longer conquering the software, but creating a visually stimulating design for my project. My strengths in this project I felt to be the design elements I employed with a focus on emphasis, contrast, alignment, framing and organization. I went into more detail about these in my reflection for the Visual Project itself but overall I was happy with my ability to use the knowledge I had gained about each of these design elements to design this postcard. I found the use of GitHub to be very key for this project as it helped me keep track of my edits and versions I made to try new things out (branches). While I wasn’t as comfortable with GitHub at the time of this project (with me titling documents with numbers to indicate versions), I felt like my use of it improved throughout the course and with each unit’s project.
In terms of revisions for my Visual Project, I would like to take into account your feedback and add some missing items to my repository on GitHub. These include all my original assets and their licenses. I’ve uploaded the 3 original images used on the front of the postcard of me, my boyfriend and our instrumentalist. I took the pictures of my boyfriend and our instrumentalist and my best friend Amy Cheng (who said I don’t have to cite her on the project) took the picture of me. Additionally, I included the original picture of spotlight used twice on the back of the postcard as well as the Pittsburgh skyline outline also on the back of the postcard. The spotlight image was found on Pixabay here: https://pixabay.com/en/stage-light-spotlight-light-stage-576008/ with a CC0 license. The Pittsburgh skyline outline was found on Flickr here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/47314023@N05/6594014597 with a CC-BY license. I resized the image in my edits as well as changed the color of the outline from a yellow to a light blue. Another suggestion you had made was to maybe adjust the direction of the spotlight away from the title (which I had indicated was my reasoning for having them point in the direction I had them) to the features on each side. However, now that I look back at the positioning of the spotlights, I realize that my intention was to shed the light towards the contact information in the middle of the card, not so much the features on both sides. I did this to redirect viewers’ attention to the main call-to-action of the postcard. I think I miswrote that reasoning in my Visual Project reflection. For this reason, I have chosen to leave my postcard the way I had submitted it for the visual unit.
With the html and css project, I found the tutorial very, very helpful and have recommended it to my boyfriend as well so that we can eventually build our own website instead of going through Squarespace. In this way, I felt that this class was very relevant for me going forward. My visual project allowed me to create an alluring postcard for the company. Although my audio project did not relate to Notorious Entertainment, I can see its potential in create a playlist/mix of our company’s favorite songs or perhaps a future podcast. These would be new ventures for the future that would definitely allow me to continue developing my digital media skills. But back to my particular html and css project, this was completely new to me and I quite enjoyed getting into the tutorial and really learning the basics step-by-step. I learned quickly how important it was to be very accurate, as it only took one letter or lack of punctuation for things to go very wrong. Advice that I kept in mind was to keep all labels in lowercase to avoid having the system misinterpret something. I was happy that I was able to figure out how to add css to my html in time for the pitches. I enjoyed coming up with my idea and making it appealing for other students to want to join me for the final collab project. The most challenging part of building the website was using Flexbox. I tried to utilize it and it worked, just not the right way. Per your feedback, I made the changes you had suggested of using Flexbox around each h3 and description in a div and then wrapping all 4 of these sets in another div. I also got rid of extra classes that were mentioned in my stylesheet but not my html. Using GitHub from Terminal was difficult to grasp, but made sense after you walked through it step-by-step with me using the cafeteria conveyor belt analogy.
I was proud of my audio project as well as I had never used Audacity before. This project gave me confidence as I was able to find nice bytes to accompany my essay and really make it come to life. I thought Audacity was pretty straightforward to use for the most part, and found myself getting into the rhythm much faster than I had with Gimp. For my audio project, I wanted to convey a sense of eeriness mixed with awe and wonder and I believe I was able to convey this through my piece. The main suggestion you had made was to mention my sources at the end of the piece as part of it. I recorded this with a clip of background sound from my main background track. I was also able to make the footsteps a little slower to fit that of children running, as per your suggestion. I created subfolders, with your help, first locally and then committed to GitHub for organization of prior drafts. I'm also glad we were able to get the data folder for the final draft into Github through terminal. You also asked for me to reflect on whether/how my understanding of the text has changed from remediation. I will say that it feels more eerie from the Audio piece than just the written piece. I emphasized this emotion with sound bytes in my Audio piece and I think in turn, the sometimes drone-like background track can make it feel longer at the beginning of the piece.
For the collaborative project, I’m happy that students were interested in creating the Pittsburgh College Food Guide. We had a group of 6 which at times was a bit overwhelming at times but I am happy with our final product. Some challenges we faced were staying on schedule towards the end. We took a few extra days to get pictures of 3 restaurants from our assigned neighborhoods. With this said, I want to clarify that we each took our own photos. Delegating during group time in class was also a bit challenging because our group workshop time was spent organizing ourselves, addressing any questions/issues any of us had had, and to figure out what we were going to do for next time. Class time was also spent making design decisions such as picking color palette and logo, the template we wanted to use for our site, what order we wanted to place the info about the restaurants in posts, etc. We were each assigned a neighborhood (I took 2 because I’m from Pittsburgh so I knew a few places off the top of my head. We compiled a set of criteria on all the restaurants in a Google Slides and then transferred it to WordPress in individual restaurant posts. We maintained a consistent style of entry for inputting the information about the restaurants in each neighborhood on WordPress with the same color palette, order of info, and text size and font. We used the categories feature to help organize our posts by neighborhood and special occasion. The latter categorization was decided on to further target our audience which is college students in the Pittsburgh area. Our main goal for this project was to create a site that was easy to navigate and appealing/useful to college students. We wanted to go for a neat and clean appearance so we kept a white background which we create contrast with using maroon and black as our 2 colors for text and as the main colors of the logo. Our logo was also targeted at college students with the graduation cap (https://thenounproject.com/term/college/2402/ by Saman Bemel-Benrud with a CC-BY license) and the silverware on top (https://thenounproject.com/term/fork-and-knife/189500/ by Bradley Simms with a CC-BY license) was created in GIMP. It was placed on our home page as the center image in the header to greet viewers with emphasis on who we are. We created a top menu bar and a side bar menu with a breakdown of the neighborhoods and special occasions for further organization for college students to navigate our site. We also created an About Us page to give students an idea of why we created this page and what its purpose is. Our single portal of delivery is our WordPress site. In terms of aspirational criteria, none of us had been administrators on our own WordPress site. That involved finding a template, asking for certain plug-ins such as the SMUSH for fitting pictures, implementing design skills with additional CSS (used this to change the color of ABOUT US on that page), using GIMP for logo creation, working on organization with category tags and menu, and overall remaining cohesive throughout the website. We hope the website will be used by our classmates, especially the “Special Occasion” tab the next time they need a study break or their parents are in town.
My goals for this course included becoming more comfortable with the different software from each unit, letting myself be a little uncomfortable in order to push myself, and continuing to strive to improve my digital media skills. I believe I have conquered these goals for the most part. I feel more comfortable using the software and actually have used it for other classes when needed. Additionally, I have gotten more comfortable with the idea of not being comfortable, which was probably the hardest one for me considering I'm a perfectionist. To let myself struggle a bit and look for resources to help me, I found more satisfaction when I was able to figure things out and finally finish a composition of digital media. I am excited to see where my skills will be used next and I know this will surprise me.
What surprised me this semester, was how important a positive and optimistic mindset kept the stress and anxiety to a low level. Just having that mindset that yes, I'm going to be able to figure this out because I am not alone in this struggle, really helped get me through the course without feeling too overwhelmed. It was nice to have resources to turn to including you, online resources you pointed us to, and our classmates. It was felt a little reassuring knowing that I wasn't the only one struggling to figure things out and that that was completely okay. What I loved about this course was how personalized it was in terms of growing as individual students. Based on our experience coming in, you wished for us to push ourselves individually and not to the same standard. This was reassuring because of students in our class were more experienced than others.
Advice I would give to revise the course structure, would be to have a little more direction given at the beginning of the semester to help with the Visual Project. I think it was difficult for me to figure out how to use the software, figure out a project idea, and be able to make it come to life all in the time given in that first unit. Maybe giving a little more time to that first project would make it less daunting? Also, for me to figure out Gimp, I had to talk to a mutual friend who sat down and explained things to me. Until then I was lost, I didn’t even know what layers were. I think if there is some sort of instruction given in class, running through the different tools on the side, this would be very beneficial for beginners. This can be based on how many students are beginners in the class, you can maybe pull them aside and run through the basics of the toolbox and such with just them. Audacity I think most of our class felt was easier to use than GIMP, from what I heard people say. The html and css unit was also a challenging one that maybe could be given another week as to give people enough time to get through the tutorial you gave us. I know time can’t just be created out of nowhere, it would have to be taken out of someplace else. Maybe the collaborative project can be more social media/marketing/persuasive campaign focused? So that people aren’t all over the place with their time needs and such. Chances are that students will have had experience doing a project like this before but maybe have not employed digital media design to the extent that this course has taught so this would give them the opportunity to do so. These are just some ideas that could make things a little more approachable for beginners.
The general advice I would give to help one’s thinking about composing digital media would be to let yourself go and it will be ok. Let yourself dive into the experience and expect to learn along the way. Let yourself be open to failure, knowing that it would be a learning process that would be almost more insightful than everything going right the first time around. It can be difficult to place oneself in this mindset, as most of us work with the goal of perfection in mind. To not expect perfection, is to have muddled, below-par goals which can often feel unsettling. However, it is in this discomfort that the most is explored and discovered.
You can find my final visual repository here: https://github.com/jappmann/Visual-Project
You can find my final audio repository here: https://github.com/jappmann/Audio-Project
Final Audio (mp3): https://github.com/jappmann/Audio-Project/blob/master/Structure_Final.mp3
You can find my html and css repository here: https://github.com/jappmann/html-css
Final Website: https://github.com/jappmann/html-css/blob/master/index.html
You can find our Pittsburgh College Food Guide materials here: https://github.com/jappmann/PGH-College-Food-Guide-
Final website: http://wp.majoringinmeta.net/foodguidepgh/