- Learn how to speak Spanish.
- Read a book a week.
- Go to the gym at least 3 times a week.
DesignInterest is the North East’s monthly design meet-up – we’ve got a brilliant community of designers in the region and the key aim of the group is to bring everyone together in a more social context, so we can all get to know each other and learn from each other. The previous meetings have followed a format of a design showcase, two or three lightening talks (I did one about A Better User Interface Process) and then finishing up with attendee’s bringing in their work for feedback and critique. At the winter social we brainstormed the idea of doing a more task-based meeting, where we’d be working groups to come up with solutions to a brief.
Myself and James each put together a brief for the two teams. My brief was based around a hypothetical conference, based on forging more physical emotional relationships with design, whilst James’ brief was about helping traditional news outlets to embrace digital publishing. Each brief had three tasks – the tasks for each brief ranged from brainstorming design ideas to solving problems with our existing tools. We wanted to encourage radical thinking and lots of discussion, so no laptops and only paper and pens!
Team ‘Conference’ came up with a concept to host a ‘Design Picnic’, with an informal setup / picnic theme – something that reflect the more emotional relationships people would have with other delegates and speakers by sharing more and sitting openly together, as well as there being some serious chat about tea towels, scones and jam. My favourite task from this brief was to design a meeting space to encourage meaningful conversations between delegates, which sparked a lot of interesting chat about different people’s comfort zones – we were split between wanting to use an app to locate people in your proximity, or simply having a visual indicator (we kept going back to balloons…) on your person to show you were up for a chat
The ‘News’ team came up with some fantastic solutions to their brief. – the tasks were based around creating an alternative online experience for reading and discussing news. I especially loved the task about bringing in a publishing houses’ extensive archive and history into the online browsing experience. The idea was to use the user’s location and allow them to go back in time and discover articles from their local area. As a bit of a history nerd, this idea really struck me as something I’d actively use – so someone, build it! ;)
There were some seriously well-thought out responses and ideas with just 20 minutes per task, so all credit goes to our teams for their brilliant (and sometimes crazy) ideas. I personally loved the format, it was a lot more informative, inspiring and useful to me to bounce ideas off other designers and spend an evening coming up with cool stuff with no real restrictions.
I’d like to thank everyone for coming along, and we’d absolutely love your feedback about the night (good or bad!), as we’re hopefully going to do the same again sometime.
If you missed out, keep an eye on the @DesignInterest twitters for announcements about our next event, or if you have an suggestions about events / talks we should run, please get in touch. We’re all about collaboration so ideas are all very welcome.
2011 has been an amazing year – professionally and personally. I always like to reflect on things I’ve ‘completed’, to see where I went wrong, and what I could do better, whether it’s a personal project or just a day at the office. Here are the highlights of my 2011.
The beginning of this month was spent celebrating my anniversary in Edinburgh with Chris. Such a beautiful city and we can’t wait to go back on a day when the Zoo isn’t closed!
This month was the first New Adventures in Web Design – my first ‘big’ web conference and I was blown away. The speakers and talks were perfectly curated and I left the conference that day feeling incredibly inspired and excited about my craft. It was lovely to put some faces-to-Twitter-names at the after-party too and chat to some people that I really look up to.
In June 2010 I started an internship at Rufus, which turned into a part-time job as a front-end developer, sometimes designer, while I studied my degree. I absolutely loved my time there, learnt so much about working in an agency / with clients and seriously improved my HTML/CSS/jQuery skills. We did a life brief at college with a mobile development agency, hedgehog lab, doing some iPhone UX/UI stuff for one of their products and they were seriously impressed with my work – and offered me a job as a UI designer. It was too good of an opportunity to miss, it was closer to home and gave me the chance to specialise in something I was passionate about.
These months were spent working maniacally on college, work and freelance projects. I don’t think I had time to breathe, but I loved it. The hedgehog lab website redesign went live, which I’m exceptionally proud of, especially with it being my first foray into making a website adaptive for different screen sizes. I designed and built a website for Sailor Girl Ltd, a boutique events management company, using Perch – such a fantastically lightweight CMS that ticked all of the boxes for those little client sites.
This was my final month as a student – all of my work was handed in on Friday the 13th. To mark the end of an era, me and Kat got celebratory ’13′ tattoos. I still look at it every day and smile to myself.
I took a much-needed holiday to Tenerife with two of my best friends. Spent a week in the beautiful sunshine, completely switched off from the Internet and recharged my batteries, ready to jump into full-time agency life.
This month was DIBI, the two-track design and development conference, just over the water from me in Gateshead. I spent the day at the Design track and particularly enjoyed the talks from Jeremy Keith, Jared Spool and Jeffrey Zeldman. Definitely a more practically-geared conference than New Adventures, but inspiring nonetheless.
Put together our Final Show for college – our small class managed to pull together a great exhibition of our work from the past two years and create a surprisingly dynamic display. Best part of it for me was for my parents to finally ‘get’ what I did for a living! I also found out I would be graduating with a Distinction – the highest classification you could get with my degree.
Went camping with Chris and friends in a beautiful corner of the Lake District, climbed a waterfall and realised the importance of disconnecting once in a while.
I turned 20.
The 11th was Graduation Day, admittedly, a lot less exciting than I’d envisaged. We were capped and gowned and sat for a few hours in a big hall while people clapped, and then handed blank rolls of paper. Regardless, it was a fantastic feeling to have closed a big chapter in my life.
I found out this month that I’d been shortlisted for the .net mag Young Designer of the Year award – I was completely shellshocked by this and amazingly humbled by all of the support and votes that were sent my way.
Spent a weekend in London with my partner in crime, Kat. Spent the whole time eating Hummingbird Bakery cupcakes, watching Harry Potter movies, dancing all night to drum and bass and falling in love with London.
Me and Chris travelled down to Tunbridge Wells for the inaugural Activate, organised by Decode and Elliot Jay Stocks. Had a truly brilliant couple of days with some fellow web geeks – I blogged about it on the Codeworks Connection.
My beautiful niece turned 1 this month. It’s been amazing watching how quickly she’s growing and developing and turning into a real little person.
Moved out of my first flat that had been my home for the past 2 years because my BFF Niamh was going back home to the South. It was quite sad, really – so memories had been created in that little flat, the ridiculous parties, countless conversations and the people that had came and went.
Went to Leeds Festival for the 3rd year in a row and had a pretty miserable time because of the weather – but got to see some of my favourite bands (read, My Chemical Romance) and sit around the camp fire with some of my favourite people.
The first September that I wasn’t starting school or college. Scary.
Spent most of the month head down with work at hedgehog lab, but I was lucky enough for my parents to take me and Chris along with them to the South of France for a road trip. We visited Nice, Cannes, Avignon, Toulon, Aix-en-Provence, Monte Carlo and many little villages in between, ate a lot of good food, drank a lot of good wine and saw some absolutely beautiful places.
Found out I’d made the Top 3 for the Young Designer of the Year award. Freaked out a little. Again, found myself completely overwhelmed with the support and lovely words from friends and family. I’m incredibly lucky.
Made my first foray into speaking, at our local design community event, Design Interest. I spoke about my User Interface Design Process. You can see my slides on SpeakerDeck. I was very nervous, but got some great feedback and it felt good to ‘give back’ to the community that has helped nurture my skills and career from the start.
Went to London for the .net mag awards party. I didn’t get the award, but I was so happy to see it go to Janna Hagan. I was only disappointed in myself that I didn’t have time to update my portfolio and I think I might have let myself down in that department, but, I’d got further than I could ever imagine and I had an incredible few days in London with my friends and family.
An incredibly busy month, work-wise, as well as moonlighting on a few awesome freelance projects that have came my way. Went to a silly amount of Christmas parties, but loved catching up with friends who were usually too busy.
Had a lovely Christmas full of family, food and some lovely gifts being exchanged. Spending a few days at home with your parents is sometimes exactly what you need after a busy month.
It’s a cliché for a web designer to say that they lose sight of their own personal website because they’re so busy with client work, but it always happens. I find myself constantly revisiting this site and updating about how much I’ve neglected my own little site, and here I am again. I put up a very, very lazy ‘re-design’ (if you could even call it that) a few months ago, out of necessity for college but now I am back in action with an actually designed theme, but as always, with umbrellas.
So! The last few months! The biggest thing, I graduated. For the first time I am not a student, and the very idea of that is really, really exciting. Being a student means not having the safety of your student loan arriving in your bank account and mostly, having an excuse for not being a grown up – but I’m already throwing myself into life headfirst. Working at hedgehog lab as a UI designer means I’m getting stuck into some exciting iOS and web design project, learning new stuff daily, and being able to hold some creative reigns amongst a crew of developers is helping me improve my confidence as a designer and I find myself getting better every project.
I’m moving out of my lovely little flat that has been my home for the past two years and moving a whole 15 minute walk down the road, learning how to drive, actually appreciating cooking and I’m stoked to be surrounded by some wonderful, talented people. Things are moving and changing at such a pace I feel like I can hardly keep up sometimes, but I love it this way.
On another exciting note, I’ve been nominated for Young Designer of the Year at the .NET Mag Awards 2011 – completely unexpected, but I feel really privileged to be up there amongst other super talented young designers. Me and some friends attended the Awards last year and it was a really fun night, would never imagine I’d be nominated for an award!