In The News – Ruby/Rails Programming for Beginners

prog blog pic

Hello everyone. I wanted to give you a brief update on what I have been up to for the past few months. I found this great free course given at Coursera by the University of Mexico – Web Application Architectures. The course gave a basic overview on how databases play a major role in Rails applications and how to start a blog in Rails. The course touched on HTML, CSS, Javascript, Jquery and Ajax as well so that you could get an idea of how these tools all work together as a whole in creating your project. I have also been learning Ruby (Learn Ruby the Hard Way) and Javascript  by myself as well.

What I realized going through the course was that backend programming is not as hard as I thought it would be. With a little patience and free time you can have yourself set up and creating small programs in a few weeks. I’ve also joined a few Meetup groups which gave me the support and mentoring I needed to keep going and learning along the way. Coursera will also offer a free programming course from the University of Michigan..check it out here.

As always…happy designing!

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Fun on The Fly with Pixlr Editor

I came across a great article the other day called The Best Chrome Apps You’re Probably Not Using and  I was intrigued because I like to think that I know pretty much whats out there as far work tools go. Well, I decided to take a look anyway and of course Pixlr Editor caught my eye because I like to take pictures on the fly with my camera phone and we all know those aren’t the greatest quality. So I decided to give it a try and see what I came up with. It works right in the Chrome browser which is a plus right off the bat. Now I normally just try things right on launch without reading anything because I figure if I cant get it work in a few minutes I’m probably not going to really go any further anyway. I think most people are like that actually (tell me if i’m wrong 😉 ..i can accept that). Well anyway so I just opened it up and went for it.

I had a pic that I had taken at a recent art festival that I went to. I had already edited it in Firefox. This is what I came up with just playing around with the filters in Pixlr Editor.

beautiful bird

Original Photo

beautiful bird art poster

Using Vignette at 50 percent, Sepia and Hope Filters

beautiful bird hope

Using Art Poster at 80 percent, Color level at 38

beautiful bird vignette sepia

Using Pastel filter at 1 percent

Okay, looks good. I was impressed with the simplicity of it. It had all the normal editing tools – crop, burn, paint, stamp, etc and it looks just like Firefox and Photoshop in appearance so I wasn’t intimidated at all. But the real test was going to be making those tiny grainy cell pics look like something interesting. I opened a pic that I had taken a few days ago and just started playing around to see what I could come with. I have to say I was really impressed at what I could do in about 10 mins with the editor. Of course your not going to get as good as Photoshop but this was definitely good enough for quick editing and sharing on Facebook .

grape edit

Original Photo

grape edit done

Edited using Auto color levels, Sharpen, Burn, Spot heat, and Vignette

Good deal. This niffy little tool will definitely make me use Chrome a lot more than I have been. WeeVideo looked interesting too. But I’ll save that for another time.

If you have used Pixlr Editor please let me know. Happy Designing!

Happy New Year!…Let’s Start Designing

info pic

“Image courtesy of Staurt Miles /www. FreeDigitalPhotos.net”



Let me first take a minute to wish everyone…. Happy Holidays!
I hope your holiday was filled with family, friends and good times. Of course this time of the year is always a reflection of what we have accomplished and what we are looking forward to achieving with the new year. On that note I wanted to fill you in on some of the great online learning sites that can definitely help you on your way with your New Years resolutions if they involve coding and design.

I have been learning Ruby at Code Academy for the last few months. They have many other great free hands-on courses like CSS, Javascript, and Jquery. I like the fact that they keep in touch with you, ask you about your progress and offer help. That makes me feel like they really want me to succeed. They even give out badges along the way so you can see your progress and keep yourself motivated. I recently joined a Meetup in my city with other Ruby friends so we can learn together. I have found other great Meetup groups that get together monthly which make learning code fun as well as informative. Check for groups in your city.

If databases are your thing, Code School has a great Try R introductory course that can get you started learning this new language right away. But if your not really sure what interests you right now and want to try something new, give Udemy a look. They have courses on just about everything: Photography, Coding, Excel, and Adobe just to name a few.

I also wanted to mention a few design conferences starting in the New Year in case you can make one of them.

Mobile and Web Devicon San Francisco – Jan 29-31, 2013  http://www.mobilewebdevconference.com/

Style Frames NYC – Feb 7-8th, 2013  http://www.styleframes.tv/newyork/

An Event Apart Atlanta – Feb 18-20, 2013  http://aneventapart.com/event/atlanta-2013?/2013/atlanta/

SXSW Interactive Austin TX – March 8-12, 2013  http://sxsw.com/interactive


Please share any design conferences in your area as well.
Ok..so let’s get those creative juices flowing!..Happy New Year!

Looking for Design Inspiration? It’s All around You

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
— Confucius




Every wonder where good design inspiration comes from? It’s all around you if you just take the time to look. There are many ways to get new ideas for your projects but these are the ones that I use the most because they never let me down.

Carry A Notebook
notebook

I started doing this a few years ago and it has helped me immensely. It helps me gather my thoughts at the moment so that I can look at them later. I also jot down places I visit and draw simple sketches of the things I see even if I don’t have any specific concept formed yet about what I’m looking at. I also do this with things that I see on the web. Sometimes just a random image can spark an idea at another time for a great project.


Look for A Change of Scenery
pond

I get bored very easy so I’m always looking for new stimulus to get me motivated. Sometimes just going to a mall or taking a walk in a new area brings a new outlook on things. I found a beautiful little pond in someone’s backyard one day just walking in a nearby neighborhood. That gave me an idea for a new website interface for a friend that owns an aquarium shop.



Go To A Bookstore
Books

Of course we all know that books are a great tool for the mind. I love going to book festivals as well because you find some great books on architecture, typography and illustrations for your future projects – usually at a decent price. I find that the children’s books also help me with my drawing and sketching.


Visit A Museum
museum

I love going to any type of museum because it gives you instant perspective on creativity through another person’s eyes. Normally I try to later research a particular artist and their life. Usually they give great insight and perceptions about the world around them and how it affects their work. This is a great way to help you think outside the box in your own projects.

So the next time you find yourself getting stuck in a creative rut just look around you – You’ll be surprised at what you can come up with.

What I learn from my Clients without Asking them

What I learn From My Clients without even Asking

Recently I took an online design course that discussed different ways of determining what your clients want and need from a website or interface. Of course we all know the basics when it comes to colors, pages and logos, but as I found out there is a much more important and critical stage of the process that will overall make or break the success of the site itself. It’s something so simple but often overlooked.

Basically just “ask” them to actually use the site themselves.

Do they know what they are looking at? Is it easy for them to navigate? Would they be comfortable using the site themselves without looking at the help page first? Does it say what they are trying to project as a company? Before you start adding a lot of bells and whistles make sure that your going in the right direction.

While this might seem obvious, when you are designing a website, this is probably the one thing that gets overlooked the most – observation. Ask others to take a look too. If you actually ask 10 people to look at a website and tell you their thoughts while they are using it, most likely you will get at least 3 different types of feedback from each of the participants. I actually did this experiment with a prototype that I was working on and I was surprised at how the participants responded to certain things. This let me know that although I thought certain things were self explanatory the user did not. Photos that I thought were relevant where not as clearly embraced as I thought they would be and some data was completely useless to the user.

This made me realize that this important step in the design process should not be overlooked or taken lightly. You might have a bruised ego but you have to have this input in order to make successful changes to meet the ultimate goal of the site. You should definitely test your site with as many users as possible so that you can get an unbiased indication as to what your ultimate users are looking for when they land on the clients webpage.

Looking for An Upcoming Design Online Class or Conference?

Computer Image

Free images from FreeDigitalPhotos.net


I’d like to tell you about a great online course that I am taking through Stanford University. The course is called Human-Computer Interaction and is taught by Associate Professor Scott Klemmer. The course explains the process of how projects are developed using prototyping, surveys and user experiments all the way through to completion and implementation by the final end user.

This course is offered for free online https://www.coursera.org/course/hci and there are many other courses available as well: https://www.coursera.org/courses.



Here are some Design Conferences coming up in the next few months:

The Front-End Design Conference
“The Front-End Design Conference is an annual event dedicated to content, presentation and behavior. The speakers and attendees are made up of awesome people from the web design and development community.”
When: June 8, 2012
Where: St. Petersburg, FL, USA at the Palladium Theater



NXNEi Interactive
“With over 80 presentations, NXNEi bridges the gap between creators of all kinds and interactivity. Whether you’re a musician, film producer, marketer, public relations pro or community manager, NXNE Interactive programming has you covered. Join us for three days of tech and social media exploration to learn how to boost ingenuity while enhancing your marketing and business efforts.”
When: June 11-17, 2012
Where: Toronto, Canada



Reasons to Be Creative
Reasons to be Creative is a festival for creative artists, designers and coders. The festival brings together some of the most respected and brilliant minds from the worlds of art, code, design and education to share their passion, knowledge, insights and work. Expect two days packed with talks, networking, inspiration and learning.”
When: June 14-15, 2012
Where: New York, USA



The Rich Internet Application Conference
“The Rich Internet Application Conference: Where architects and developers of all levels gather to share and learn about creating the next generation of web and mobile based applications. At RIACon you’ll get to network with fellow industry professionals and community leaders while being exposed to the most up to date skills needed for building great applications leveraging the best technologies available today.”
When: August 6-7, 2012
Where: Washington, DC, USA



An Event Apart
“An Event Apart is an intensely educational two-day conference for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design. If you care about code as well as content, usability as well as design, An Event Apart is the conference you’ve been waiting for.”
When: August 6-8, 2012
Where: Washington, DC, USA at the Westin Alexandria



UX Australia
“UX Australia 2012 is a 4-day user experience design conference, with two days of workshops and two days of presentations about designing great experiences for people.”
When: August 28-31, 2012
Where: Brisbane, Australia at Sofitel Brisbane Central

Full list here: http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2012/02/10/upcoming-web-design-and-development-conferences-for-2012/#jun

Getting Started With jQuery

Recently, I got an invite to learn jQuery in 30 days. Now, I’m not a programmer by definition but it’s always a good idea to add to your skill set and I love to learn new things so I was definitely curious. First off, I wasn’t really sure what jQuery was and why I would need it.

This is a brief definition of what jQuery is:

“jQuery is a library that makes it quicker and easier to build JavaScript webpages and web apps. Often with jQuery you can write a single line of code to achieve what would have taken 10-20 lines of regular JavaScript code.

jQuery is itself written in JavaScript, and comes in the form of a single .js file that you link to from your webpage. Your JavaScript code then accesses the library by calling various jQuery functions.”


Ok, sounds good, but what does that mean to me? So I go in search of a better explanation:

Huh?? Did you get that?..I sure didn’t. Lets try that again:

Ok..I think I got it. I’m very intrigued now and will see if I can at least wrap my head around the basics in the 30 day tutorial lessons. You can download jQuery and use it for free. There are tutorials available on the site that will get you up to speed fairly quickly. If you use jQuery and have any additional tips  I would love to hear them.

A fun way to develop your creativity

Psykopaint is a great tool for drawing and painting on the web. It allows you to paint from a photo or just freestyle if you’re truly gifted. I’m a budding artist so I use the photo feature which has a lot of brushes as well as spray cans and ribbons which allow you to make some very creative designs. I love the pencil feature too if I just want to freestyle a bit without feeling guilty. This the first painting I made:

Bahamas Original Photo

Origional Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bermuda Psykopainted

My Psykopaint Creation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ok..granted I’m not that good, but I’m working on it. If you like your creations you can save them and come back later. You can also save it you your computer. Of course it also has the basic tools like zoom, capacity, eraser, color picker and text options. You can export your creations for the web for free with a watermark, purchase coins to obtain a full size un-watermarked printable copy or send as postcards to your friends. You can also gain coins for sharing your creations through Facebook and posting on the site gallery. If you’re interested in drawing and painting you should definitely give Psykopaint a try.
Check it out here: Psykopaint

Upcoming conferences featuring web design and social media

With the start of the new year approaching I’m sure were all starting to think about how we can develop ourselves both spiritually and creatively.  With that we also start to think towards fresh and new ideas that we can bring to our projects and to our clients. I found some great events coming in the new year which might help to spark your creativity.

New Adventures Web Design
“We’re working closely with our speakers over the next few months to ensure we bring you engaging, relevant, joined-up themes, and we’ll introduce all eight topics here in late 2011. Note also that our provisional schedule is subject to change.”
When: January 18-19, 2012
Where: Nottingham, UK at the Albert Hall

Web Visions
“WebVisions explores the future of the Web and mobile design, technology, user experience and business strategy and it’s bringing its Indie/DIY/Maker vibe to venues around the world, with awesome workshops, sessions, studio tours and networking events.”
When: January 18-20th in NYC (Visit website for upcoming dates)
Where: New York City, Barcelona, Portland, Chicago and Atlanta

An Event Apart
“An Event Apart is an intensely educational two-day conference for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design. If you care about code as well as content, usability as well as design, An Event Apart is the conference you’ve been waiting for.”
When: February 6-8, 2012
Where: Atlanta, GA, USA at the InterContinental

Handmade Jewelry by Marsha

MarshaI love meeting new people who are as passionate as I am about design. This past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Marsha of Marsha Marsha Marsha! handmade jewelry designs. We had a wonderful discussion about design and the exhilaration that comes from creating something that gives pleasure to others. I am still amazed when I meet people who share my joy of creating. She was so surprised that I had seen and admired her work around town and that she was very inspiring to me as an artist. Her designs are both unique and beautifully hand crafted. You can see the creativity in every piece. She specializes in Turquoise, Czech Glass and Organically shaped Freshwater Pearls that are moderately priced. It was a pleasure to meet such a humble and dedicated designer such as herself.

Turquoise

Turquoise

Pearls

Pearls

Her designs are featured At The Collective, which is located in Inman Park GA. This beautiful shop is owned by Susie Caldwell and Sally B Larsen. The shop also features the work of many wonderful designers so it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re looking for one of a kind crafts, furniture, and clothing.
If you would like to take a look at Marsha’s work please visit her website: marshamarshajewelry
At The Collective – Beautiful handmade jewelry, antique furniture and clothing among other awesomeness