Sample Blog Post

Writing

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

This is a sample blog post for use as a guide when writing your Research Articles for the Digital Media & Multimedia Design course.  Here, I will lay out the general rules and guidelines you need to make sure that your articles will receive a full grade.  If you are trying to figure out how to actually use WordPress then you should start with some WordPress Essential Training videos.

Don’t limit your word count, but don’t be skimpy either.

All articles should be between 400-600 words, but don’t let that stop you if you have more to talk about. If you have something to say, say it. Readers (and search engines) prefer to get meatier pieces to make clicking through worth their time. This doesn’t mean you can’t feature shorter pieces or that you should ramble on just to meet a word count, but don’t be afraid to break down antiquated perceptions that blogs need to be short. When the time is right, go long.

WordCount

YAY! It does the counting for me!

There is a word counter in the bottom right of your WordPress writing window. Keep an eye on that if you want to know where you are in your article…

Don’t be negative. Ever.

Firstly, these articles are PUBLIC. Not only should these articles be professional and polite, but it’s always a bad idea to talk about personal grievances publicly. Your future employers or clients will be able to find and read these articles, so you’ll go a lot further by being positive, inspirational and supportive to the community that you’re writing to. Secondly, the Instructor, Advisers and Directors at McFatter all can read these articles. Keep all articles appropriate.

Grammar mistakes count.

Not only will articles be graded down for grammatical errors, but it makes you seem much less employable in our field. Good writing is a cornerstone to communication, and at the end of the day that is what we designers do… we communicate ideas, information or messaging through the use of visual art, good typography and yes, the ability to write intelligent sentences. This website will represent your portfolio, and it deserves to have a professional quality.

Include a good Featured Image.

Use sites like Unsplash to use high quality free images for your blogs. Again, the professional touch to your websites matter… a LOT. If you can, always use your own imagery instead of stock stuff, but don’t hesitate to use royalty free images to your benefit.  If you do use another artists freebies… you absolutely MUST give them credit with a link (or a fancy Credit Badge if the site you use offers it). Put the image credit at the top of your blog, just like this one.  If you want to get some idea where to get images like this, I wrote another article about it titled GREAT SITES FOR ROYALTY FREE PHOTOS. where I list a bunch of good resources that is worth a look.

 

Have links to important stuff.

Whether you are linking to other blogs or websites that contain great information or linking to past posts on your own site, do it whenever you can. This will help not only increase your clicks but also help with your blog’s search engine rankings.  You should always link out to any sources you use, and be sure to embed the link inside the writing like the link above, don’t do a stack of links at the end.

OpenInNewTab

This is an option… and you should almost always use it.

Also, be sure to check the “Open Link in New Tab” option when linking out, you don’t want your visitors to completely leave your site… right?

Categories, Tags, Titles… these all matter.

Your website will eventually have TONS of articles and blogs.  Things like Categories and Tags can help organize your content for your readers, who may only be interested in certain topics and don’t want to slog through hundreds of articles to find the four or five that have to do with Photoshop or Animation. Every article for this class needs at LEAST one category and a few specific tags. Use this as a standard for all articles and blogs in the future. Also, be sure to un-check the UNCATEGORIEZED category. That just doesn’t make sense.

tagsandstuff

Categories and Tags are found under the Settings pullout on the right.  Get used to making sure you are all set there!

 

Do NOT copy other sites. Ever. Just don’t do it. Nope, not even then.

Not only will copy/pasting content from other sites warrant you a ZERO on the article, but eventually your site will be down-ranked from Google, hurting your chances of showing up in the search engine when people search for you or your portfolio.

Great Slide Deck & Presentation Sites

Presentations

We do a fair amount of presentations in the Digital Media & Multimedia Design class here at McFatter Technical College. For us, the design of the presentation is of paramount importance, and we want to make sure that our designs are modern, eye catching and most of all effective.

With that in mind I have created a list of sites that have examples of great (as well as some examples of what NOT to do in a presentation) designs, modern trends and inspirational ideas for your next slide deck.  Enjoy.

Note & Point: This site has a gallery of Keynote and PowerPoint presentation designs, as well as an approval processes for any submissions. This means that not every presentation makes it into the websites showcase, since the designs are not always up to date or well done. I use this site consistently to get inspired.

 

Slideshare: This is a site I have used many times in the past for either inspiration or even as a source of teaching myself various things. A word of warning… not all the presentations here are “designed well” so use your own judgement. Make sure you filter or search the term “design” to make sure you are filtering out more of the more unattractive decks.

 

Prezi: This website really attracts some great designs, but using it does require a paid account (after a free trial). However, there is also a EDU Standard edition for FREE if you are a student or teacher. Looking around in the gallery shows some pretty amazing designs, and furthermore they have some really interactive and fun to learn transitions that can make a REALLY killer deck.

 

Adobe Spark: Well, I may be a little biased with this but I love Adobe products, and I think that Spark is a great addition to the lineup. You will need a Creative Cloud Account in order to access the working bits and pieces, but this software really does a great job of showcasing the ARTIST behind the design of the presentations. They do a great job of integrating videos, animations and of course, text and images.

Obviously, there are WAY more options out there if you are looking to make a deck or a presentation, but be careful what you look to for inspiration. We (as designers) need to be extra cautious to avoid the death-by-powerpoint effect. Use every tool available to you to keep your presentations clean, modern and attractive, but don’t forget that the entire idea of a presentation is to convey a message or information to the viewers. Keep that in your mind when you create the next great slide deck.

MAC or PC, The Never-ending Debate

computers, MAC, PC

As like most people, you have most likely “heard” that Macs are built better for artists, while PCs are more stable to general office work. Mostly, this is because of very aggressive marketing and advertising campaigns from the mid 2000s. These ads ran from 2006 to 2009 and sported Mac user Justin Long as the “free thinking creative” guy who was portrayed as cooler and more fun while the PC role was filled by the author John Hodgman, portrayed as dull and boring office guy.  While these ads were amusing and very effective at the time, times have changed.  Watch the commercials for yourself if you want.

In truth, there absolutely was a time when Apple and just about snapped up the entire market on graphic design computers and had won over basically all of the actual designers themselves. Even digital typography was first developed on a Mac, not to mention that Photoshop was built specifically for Mac as well.  Pretty big bragging rights.

Mac was essentially the only real choice a graphic designer had for decades, which is why a lot of older designers view it as the only option even today.  It is what they learned on 20+ years ago, and they got really good using the Operating Systems and interfaces that Mac has stuck with for as many years. Since now they have spent so much time learning and developing on that platform, they are not likely to change now.  I can only imagine it was the same when we as an industry transitioned into having digital design tools to begin with. I can’t imagine how immovable office personnel acted when asked to give up typewriters for desktop computers, or further back, asked to use typewriters instead of hand writing notes, memos and reports.

However, today this is nothing more than a bias long since outdated. Most graphic design software runs just as good on OS X as it does Windows 10.  The real differences between the two platforms boils down to real, tangible things like cost. PCs are much more affordable and completely open to customization.  Additionally, with the massive influx of PC Gaming, the components that make your PC super powerful in terms of graphics and processing power keep becoming even more accessible and affordable for everyone.  A good rule of thumb for my students is to imagine you are going to build/purchase a mid to high range gaming desktop, because if it can process today’s gaming demands… it can handle anything Adobe can throw at you without problem.

Another thing worth mentioning is the overall market share of the operating systems themselves. Apple seems to fluctuate between having 7.5% – 12.5% of total desktop systems in the world overall (these numbers rise and fall constantly but seem to remain nowhere near 15% of total market share).  What does this mean to us? Outside of creative industries like design or film production, almost all companies prefer Windows, which means that your OS and your clients OS may not agree all the time. I cannot stress enough how annoying or aggravating it is as a creative director to have to convert or request converted files because one guy refuses to use a PC, or even be comparable with my systems or the systems of the client.

All of these factors considered, the only real question left to ask yourself when choosing a design computer, is what are YOU more comfortable using? Do you prefer the look and feel of a Mac? Are you willing to pay nearly double for a machine that is under-powered by comparison to a PC?  Do you want to do anything else with this computer such as play video games? Depending on your answers and how much money you are willing to spend, choose appropriately.  Macs are always more expensive, and have much less flexibility (cannot change parts out easily, upgrades are wildly overpriced, and more modern things like multiple screens are prohibitively costly when choosing a Mac.

In the end, I urge anyone going through the debate to keep your choices based in real, tangible facts. Don’t buy a computer because you think “that’s what artists use”. Put everything into real measurable perspectives. Cost v.s. Power… look at how much RAM your machine will have (32g is soon to become a minimum for most power designers and game developers)? How fast is the processor? How many cores? How much Hard Drive space? How many USB devices can your computer support? How many Monitors and at what resolutions?

These questions are easily answerable, and an informed buyer gets the best products for the best price.

 

A Great 30 Day Photography Challenge

Photography, Photoshop

When you take your first steps to learn how to take breathtaking or interesting photos, it means you need to understand far more than just how your camera works. Yes, you will obviously need to know how to hold it, where the buttons are, how different functions work… but what about when you are just out in the world trying to take a GOOD photo?  Lastly, photography should be FUN if you are interested in the Multimedia Design field. Photography is a foundation aspect of good design skills, and will easily increase your value as a designer when it comes time to negotiate your salary. Who would you rather hire? A Graphic Designer, or a Graphic Designer who also is an experienced and talented Photographer?  Seems like a no brainer.

When looking for new ways to improve and refresh my own skills, I came across a website that offered a 30 Day Photography Challenge that I was instantly drawn into.  The challenge doesn’t stop at photography either, but walks through lots and lots of introductory and intermediate Photoshop skills as well.

I honestly think every photographer should pick up this challenge, and stick to it. It would make for a great collection to add to your Photography Portfolio. Not only will it help you step up professionally, but it will really fill out a next to empty portfolio. Even if you already know all of the techniques involved, it can’t hurt to knock the dust off some of your lesser used skills to sharpen up and modernize your own shots.

The challenge also has links to various social media groups and communities on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest to see what other photographers are doing, and submit and share your own work.  As always, I suggest your own social media accounts be kept squeaky clean and professional (you never know what future employer or client will look through it, so keep it classy and updated folks).

30day

Five Great Ipsum Generator Sites

Design Resources

I get a LOT of these really weird ipsum lorem generators when students turn in design work with placeholder text. Over the last few years I have bookmarked a few of my favorites and thought I would make sure some of my favorite links are out there.

 

Bacon Ipsum

A meatier lorem ipsum because who doesn’t love bacon? Certain to help grease even the most pig-headed clients. My personal favorite from the stack, and gets really good reactions from clients and coworkers alike.

 

Bob Ross Lipsum

Why continue using basic lorem ipsum in your designs when you can use peaceful, relaxing, and soothing Bob Ross quotes? Some of my students will get the reference to this new favorite generator, as I have spend hours and hours streaming Bob Ross in my classroom.  Enjoy.

 

Zombie Ipsum

NO LIST would be complete without this jewel in my opinion. If your client loves zombie flicks or The Walking Dead, Zombie Ipsum should be in all your mock ups. Now with 50% more brrrraaaiiiins!

 

Hipsum

The most hipster lorem ipsum generator around, though you’ve probably never heard of it. Some of the most entertaining ipsum I have used, and I was into it way before it became cool.

 

Pirate Ipsum

Arrr me hearties! Make traditional Latin walk the plank and opt for pirate lorem ipsum for your next design high seas adventure.  This is more of an honorable mention, since I love the design of the site. It’s gorgeous, but the font used when the ipsum is generated is a little hard on the eyes. Still though… worth a few spins.

Great Sites for Royalty Free Photos

Design Resources, Photography, Royalty Free Images

My students seem to have trouble finding images that they CAN use. We absolutely cannot simply use Google Images in our artwork, what we really need is CC0 Images. In a nutshell, a CC0 images is actually free from copyright, and actually has been given to the community by waving all the rights the work.  You can copy, edit, change, distribute, and use these images (even for PAID COMMERCIAL PROJECTS) without any pesky lawyers chasing you down to slap you in cuffs or sue your pants right off.

Below, I have reviewed and linked five sites that offer you access to these types of images, and I strongly suggest that every designer bookmark them forever. Enjoy nerds.

 

Unsplash

Unsplash offers a large collection of free high-resolution photos and has become one of the best sources for stock images. The Unsplash team combs through new submissions and features the very best photos on their homepage. All photos are released for free under the Unsplash license.  Easily one of my favorite sites, and I frequent it often.  To my students, I suggest you make an account there and try to add content with your own pictures.

 

StockSnap

StockSnap.io has a large selection of beautiful free stock photos and high resolution images. The site also has a very handy search feature making it easy to browse through the thousands of images available. In addition, the site tracks views and downloads so you can find the most popular photos available.  StockSnap adds hundreds of images on a daily basis and all photos are released under creative commons public domain – no attribution required. This site is great for submissions too, for aspiring photographers or photography students *hint hint*.

 

Burst

While not a frequent stop for me when looking for images, Burst is a resource from Shopify that provides free stock photos for entrepreneurs. All photos are licensed under Creative Commons CC0 and can be used as you see fit.  Burst was launched to help entrepreneurs make better products, websites, and marketing campaigns. Most of the pictures are original photos that were taken in-house and are themed around trending business niches.  That being said, it is quite annoying that you need to sign up for their spam emails in order to get high resolution photos. Make up your own mind if it’s worth it to you.

 

Pexels

Pexels provides high quality and completely free stock photos licensed under the Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license. All photos are nicely tagged, searchable and also easy to discover through our discover pages.  When you download, you are gently encouraged to say thanks to the photographer with easy links, which I absolutely love. I am a big fan of giving credit where credit is due, and I strongly suggest that everyone in the industry take the very small amount of time it takes to help promote folks like this.

 

Gratisography

Gratisography offers free high-resolution pictures you can use on your personal and commercial projects. New awesome pictures are added weekly and are free of copyright restrictions. All pictures are captured by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design. While this site does have some interesting images, I find the actual photography to be pretty specific, and not great for everyday use. However, when you do find the right image from this place, it’s usually amazingly accurate. Judge for yourself.

So, obviously there are way… WAAAAY more sites out there that offer this kind of content, and I encourage all of my students to explore and bookmark their favorites. If you find any good ones, let me know.