GO! promo video

29 Mar

GO! promo video from Natalie T on Vimeo.

A promotional video I created for Growing Opportunities International.

TOP TEN THINGS I WISH I’D LEARNED ABOUT PHOTOSHOP AT THE VERY BEGINNING: a tale of embarrassment and strife

2 Feb

I would just like to start by saying that it is not the fault of my schooling so much as the fault of everyone for not specifically handing me a sheet of paper with these things written on it. If there were a contest for who could forget verbal instructions the fastest, I would totally… what were we talking about?

  1. Press F once and the image will float in the middle of a sea of grey, and you can see where things outside the border are going without having to zoom way out. Press F again and the grey becomes black. Press F again and you return to the default. Also, you can right-click the grey to change said grey to a different colour, if for example your image would contrast best against white or fluorescent beige or something.PRESS F ONCE

    PRESS F TWICE

    PRESS F ONCE, RIGHT-CLICK THE BACKGROUND AND GET READY TO HAVE YOUR BRAIN LITERALLY EXPLODE

  2. Layer masks. I missed this when my instructor explained it and wasted SO MUCH TIME for years. Instead of throwing out pieces of your layer, you can make the selection and then click the little vector mask button at the bottom of the layer panel (a circle in a square) and it will crop the layer for you into a mask in the shape of your selection. Okay. Stop laughing at me.(You can apply a layer mask to a group as well! Suddenly it’s almost like you’re using a program that isn’t the worst)
  3. Command+click the layer thumbnail to make a selection around the layer.
  4. Command+delete to fill a selection with your foreground colour. Alt+delete to fill a selection with your background colour. (ultra-newbies: foreground and background refers to the two colours in your toolbar)
  5. HOWEVER, since photoshop hates sunshine, there will likely be an obnoxious little line around the selection that didn’t get covered by your new colour. So if you need your shit to look perfect, Color Overlay in the Layer Properties is the way to go.
  6. Window-Paragraph and Window-Character if you’re working with type. That’s where all the really wonderful type adjustment tools are hiding. But don’t look for tab adjustment tools to make hanging indents or other such FRIVOLITIES, because you’re never going to find them. I know. I’m sorry.
  7. And… this isn’t really Photoshop specific, but I see y’all there on the internet with your text graphics and your complete disregards for typographic standards. ALT-LEFT or ALT-RIGHT between letters so they don’t look l ike th i s . IT MATTERS.
  8. Window-Actions. AND, File-Automate-Batch… It will save your life.
  9. In the end, it’s almost always worth it to take the time to use the pen tool to crop shit out, instead of faking it with the lasso tool or what have you.
  10. Filter-Liquify and Filter-Blur-Surface Blur are good tools for the self-conscious types. Solid colour layers and gradient maps with different blending modes can also give your picture flattering colours. But like… moderation.

That’s all I got. If you actually get something out of this and want clarification, don’t hesitate to ask!

My Personal Social Media Policy

28 Jan

I’ve always felt a little strange about using social media for professional purposes. Like I’m going out to a bar but I’m in a business suit and I’m taking notes on human behavior. But it’s clear that it can work wonderfully, done well, so maybe I just need to take notes a little more charmingly.

[stolen — as requested — from Melanie McBride]

1. Connecting

Hi, Natalie Thiessen here. Since it’s trendy nowadays to keep bios intriguingly minimalistic, I will just say that I am a graphic design student looking to make connections with other creative people. This is my twitter, this is my art tumblr, this is my facebook and here is a link to Myspace’s homepage so you and I can feel a little bit better about ourselves. I have other blogs but I like to live a double life (like a really lame spy) so those aren’t going up on my school blog. An introduction from you would be great, but I hate to pressure. With any luck, I’ll be able to figure out what landed your icon in my follower box through the context clues. But if it’s less than obvious or you really want to get a fire going with this virtual courtship, I invite you to speak up.

2. Friending Policy

To be honest, I think automatic reciprocation is a terrible idea. Who are we kidding with this? Are we really not going to end up skimming past that stranger we added out of policy?

It just doesn’t seem sensible. What if I follow you back without even looking at your page and you’re actually really racist? Then I’m following a racist and I don’t even know. I just have to look out for myself, is all I’m saying.

3. Privacy, boundaries and safety: Just keep me off Google

It’s possible I will never figure out the answer to this question. I guess all I really want is for nothing terrible to come up when you Google my name. I try not to make myself an easy target for internet villains, but it’s hard. These are different times — everything is on the internet. You can’t expect me take a burqa and a fake name every time I leave the house.

4. Signal to noise: I don’t like boring blogs.

All I really want from someone’s twitter is for it not to be boring. I would like to reach the point where checking Twitter doesn’t feel like a chore. I’ll unfollow if you’re a bigot, I’ll unfollow if you have a terrible attitude, but at the end of the day, I just want you to be entertaining.

5. Personal data and sharing: Hey, baby.

I am down for whatever the internet can offer me. Highly involved, meaningful internet friendships are pretty rewarding, but shallow relationships are fun too. Let’s not force this.

6. My networking needs and uses: Do people really use Linkedin?

Facebook is for keeping up with real life, and I keep it locked down because I’m not insane. Twitter is for sweet links, short jokes and stalking celebrities. Tumblr is a giant, nerdy internet sharing circle. Myspace is terrible.

7. Seriously, I hate boring blogs.

I just want people on the internet to try a little harder at being engaging. We don’t need more boring blogs. If you don’t care enough about your internet personality not to phone it in, then why are you here? No one’s getting anything out of this.

Museum blogs – Review

21 Jan

★★★★★★★☆☆☆

museumofvancouver.ca/blog.php

This is the blog for the Museum of Vancouver. It’s attached to the museum’s main website. Here’s how it describes itself:

“This blog explores the living history of Vancouver, examining contemporary concerns in relation to the past.”

PROS

  1. Clean design.
  2. Extremely legible.
  3. Controlled use of colour that works with the rest of the site design.
  4. Very well-organized — each post has its main picture, a cut-off point, and carefully chosen tags.
  5. The link to leave a comment is lovely despite being very simple.
  6. The sidebar is clearer than most blogs; just a simple list detailing the blog’s purpose, the blog’s contributors, month-by-month archive links and tags.
  7. Again, the tagging system is pretty impressive. It’s easy to go overboard — or underboard, if that were a thing — with tags, since you have to add them as you go along. A tagging system that organized often requires for the blog maintainer(s) to go back and actually retag dozens of posts. Either way, kudos to them.

CONS

  1. The site design is a little bland, and maybe a little outdated or oversimple.
  2. I went through some of the posts and they’re all a fairly reasonable length, yet all of them are cut off at a certain point with a “Read More” link. I know this makes the posts look tidier, but it just makes the readers life a little bit more difficult.
  3. I think the blog would look better if the photos were the width of the entire post, instead of shrunken down so that a column of text can fit in next to it. They’ve got a lot of great photos that aren’t being used to their full potential.

OVERALL

A nice blog; extremely legible and well-organized but definitely lacking visual oomph.

★★★★★★★★☆☆

brooklynmuseum.org/community/blogosphere

The Brooklyn Museum blog is the same deal as with MOV, only it has a large number of posters, unlike MOV’s small group of maintainers. It describes itself as:

“Behind-the-scenes blogging at the Brooklyn Museum”

PROS

  1. The design is clean and simple.
  2. The images ares nicely subtitled.
  3. The subscription buttons are very thorough. You can follow this blog through email, Google Reader, Yahoo, MyAOL and RSS. I didn’t even know some of those existed!
  4. The entire sidebar, in fact, has a wealth of things going on. Most recent comments, most recent posts, most active posters, categories and tags, and even a little Google tool to translate the page.

CONS

  1. In some ways, the design is a bit lazy; most noticeably, the header. I don’t know if this is just a personal tick, but it’s bothering me quite a bit that they just seemed to smack the logo behind everything else in a light grey, just so they wouldn’t have to worry about actually placing it properly. It is still kind of neat that it moves around when you refresh; kinda goes with the whole feeling of movement that the logo seems to be trying to express.
  2. Again, here’s a pro that is also sort of a con — more is not always more. What’s the point of having most recent posts in the toolbar? Isn’t that the point of the actual posts? I’m also a little wary of blogs that have both categories and tags. I’m sure there’s more than a few uses for that, but I find it just means that things get a bit hairy.
  3. Plus, the tags use that system where the most popular tags are much bigger. I think it’s a good idea in theory and has plenty of potential, but more often than not just looks cluttered and dated.

OVERALL

Yet another nice museum blog with lots of nice organizational features that could use a bit more sophistication. This one made me want to visit the Brooklyn Museum a lot more than MOV’s blog made me want to visit MOV, though, so that could arguably mean it’s a success.

(Remember that line in Hamlet, where Polonius is like, “I will be brief.” And then he rambles on for like seven pages? I feel you, Polonius)

James Jean – Review

13 Jan

jamesjean.com

★★★★★★★★★★

Maybe I’m biased because James Jean is one of my favorite artists, but I think this site is nearly perfect. It’s kind of like a much better version of Alex Goblau’s website, which I reviewed earlier. I’ll try to keep my gushing brief:

  • On the front page, you are introduced to James Jean with a large detail shot of his work. Now, not everyone is going to realize this, but if you click James Jean (over in the corner) the artwork changes at random. I think this is a lovely, subtle way to introduce a variety of his work without resorting to obnoxious intro animations. The fact that it’s just detail shots – and, as I said, lots of people probably won’t notice this feature – adds a little intrigue as well.
  • Clicking on the introductory image brings you to his most recent piece, aside from the things going on his blog.
  • He has a blog that he hosts himself and updates frequently, instead of a Livejournal account that was last updated in 2007.
  • You could spend hours at this site going through his pieces. As I mentioned with Goblau’s site, it’s always nice to have large shots of your artwork, as well as detail shots or three-dimensional photos of the work. James Jean has all of these for every piece (although I have to say, I haven’t actually had time to go through every single piece on his site. This is a good sign) and it brings up the quality of his work quite a bit.
  • This site is minimalistic but it definitely does not lack substance. The typography is a subtle mix of classic and modern. Instead of simply having grey text, images and a white background, the site is a pale grey with the images outlined in white, with soft drop shadows around the white as well as the site title (James Jean) to bring a little bit of focus. The active and hover links are also generally red, which is a really nice touch if you’re familiar with his work and the way he uses red.
  • The site is astoundingly easy to navigate. For a site with so much subtlety, there is very little guesswork. And I’m no professional web designer, but I can recognize quality web construction when I see it.
  • I enjoy his biography a little more than necessary. It’s like, I don’t feel like talking about my life, so here’s a picture of a dead bird. Mystique! Plus a tiny reminder at the bottom of how young he is, to make everyone feel just a little bad about themselves.
  • His contact page is also strangely charming:

Screenshot of James Jean's contact page

…So much for brevity. One day I will achieve this! One day.

Alex Goblau Illustration – Review

13 Jan

Animated gif from Alex Goblau's portfolio homepage.

gozblau.com

★★★★★★★☆☆☆

This style of portfolio site has been done to death, and for good reason. A light, clean design is ideal for a site where the focus is on wide variety of different pictures. The pictures retain visual oomph, and there’s no worry of clashing; how can two elements clash when one is virtually invisible?

On the other hand, this style has been done much better. The cleanliness of this site is its strength; the actual design isn’t great. Aside from the animated .gif shown above, the site ranges from forgettable to just plain objectionable. For example:

Navigation page from Alex Goblau's portfolio section.

Of course, there’s personal taste to consider, but these pieces use outdated typography and lazy image/type integration. Fortunately, this is as bad as it gets. Other than this, the site is hyper-simple.

Almost too simple, in fact. There’s a fine line between minimalism and lacking substance, and this site falls somewhere in between. It could just be because the artist doesn’t have a huge catalog of his own work to choose from, but the fact that I’m wondering this is a bad sign. He could have used more alternate shots of his work – detail shots, photos of printed pieces. I guess it depends on what the person going through this site is looking for. If I were a huge fan, I think I’d be a bit disappointed that there are only small pieces. Since I’m doing a research project on this artist, it’s nice that I’m able to make it through his entire portfolio in a short amount of time. There are pros and cons, which is why I didn’t give him a very low score.

But there are two big downfalls to this site that make it clear he hasn’t hired an experienced web designer/developper to put together this site:

  1. None of the text is capable of being highlighted. He made all of the text into images and spliced it together, presumably. I can’t see many reasons I’d need to copy any of the text off the site, and I didn’t have any trouble finding it when I Googled “Alex Goblau”, but it’s very unprofessional. There are plenty of reasons someone would want to be able to control the text, instead of having to deal with the images.
  2. There is link on his “About” page that says “Leave a comment”; it leads to a post on his Livejournal account. There are many better ways to allow users to leave comments, and linking to Livejournal sort of screams, “I’m behind the times!”

But in the end, it’s simple to navigate and moderately easy on the eyes, which I why I give it seven out of ten stars.

On Veer

4 Nov

Last, but definitely not least, in my exploration of stock image sites (I’ve covered flickr and iStock) is Veer.

Veer seems to be the best choice of the three, if you’re willing to pay up for top-notch images. It caters a lot more to creative types; along with images, they sell fonts, merchandise and even ideas.

In my opinion, the best part about this site is that they calculate the cost for you. Maybe it’s just me, but I find usage costs really confusing and time-consuming to calculate, especially if you have to it for image after image after image.

Here’s a couple more nice little features at Veer:

Right there in the sidebar, you can choose all of your advanced search options. You can choose so easily that you need a low-priced, extra-large image. It’s magnificent.

They even have almost creepily specific options for photos of people, which is great for those who need politically correct imagery (this happens often).

Just beautiful. I think I may have to start using Veer.com more often.