Visual Research

While Fiona and I are still figuring out the messaging and target market for our project, we wanted to keep in mind some styles which could influence our outputs.

A few things that stand out so far:

  • Bold contrasting colours and character based illustrations always catch the eye, and comes across as a playful way to share a message.
  • Short animations can tell a story effectively and fast; even in a few seconds, an animation can communicate a complicated message.
  • It’s really important to have clear messaging if we’re trying to gain viewers attention; we don’t want to make them search for what we’re trying to say.

As we work through our first and second hand research, we hope to build on our bank of visual ideas to inspire the direction of the project. While the goal of this brief is to solve a problem, 10% of our marks will come from the “little bit of magic” that we bring to the table. We plan to keep visual and technical research up so that by the time we begin our prototypes, we’ll have a range of original and exciting ideas that can fit cohesively into our body of work.

View my complete moodboard:

View my video collection:

SCRUM: How might we introduce efficient production processes into our team projects?

Day one of first year introduced us to design thinking; a process that taught us to think outside the box, say yes to the crazy ideas, fear boring, love risk, organise to our heart’s content and build community amongst the year. It set the stage for how we approach projects. Three years on and we’re refining that approach, reminding ourselves of what an agile production line looks like. Today Steve Stopps, Director of Lumo Developments came over to Belfast to teach the agile framework of Scrum.


What’s Scrum?

Scrum is a framework that applies an iterative approach to projects to manage tasks and control risk. It consists of multiple short sprints which flow back to back, with review and refinement upon completion.

The basic rules of the Agile Manifesto:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan


Application of Scrum

To get our heads around the process Steve walked us through the production line, using scrum to lead our group collaboration on building the world’s best LEGO beach resort. The first couple of sprints saw a number of mistakes being made in each team, but as each sprint came to a close we were getting better and better. At the end of every sprint we reviewed and improved our sprint strategy before the next one began. By the final sprint we had the hang of it, coming up with some pretty ingenious sculptures(although we say so ourselves) and buildings for our LEGO world. Personal favourites were the Pandas serving cocktails, the Total Wipeout course and the little easter eggs like characters floating around in their rubber tubes in the water.

One of the best parts of the day was the fact that everyone was buying into the process. Nearly everyone was there and we were all having the craic as we built something together. For this process to work in our projects, it’s really important that that the teams all engage with the framework like we did today. I’m hopeful that we have it in us this year, and excited to see the projects unfold over the next few months.

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m a procrastidesigner.

Love this. Debbie Millman’s visual essay not only looks great, but fills me with a little bit of confidence that I’m not the only procrastidesigner out there.

Getting started can be a tough slog at times. I want to say that the reasoning behind why I’m not always messing around with art and design is because of time – being busy. Of course that’s a factor, but one thing that Debbie Millman points out is that the lack of experimentation can often be about a fear of failure- “fail safe”. She writes, “security and stability came before artistic creative freedom”, and I know that this can be the case for me at times. Where dreams remain as dreams, without allowing myself to consider the possibility that they could move into reality. (Anyone that knows me would laugh to read that, as I am a ridiculous dreamer, and openly and regularly share “the dream” to anyone who will listen). I try to pinch myself out of this frame of mind.

Another side to the fear of failure is the fact that what you may try could be rubbish. I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the last few weeks and I’ve come to realise that it’s pretty common, even for the pros, to feel this way. The thing that makes the difference is the action that follows the fear. Millman writes, “start now. Not in 30 years. Not in 20 years. Not in 3days. Now.” Entering 2015, these are the words that I’ve been trying to keep in mind. Even if failure is a possibility, I want to make the effort to start anyway.

Understanding the Problem

I’ve been working on a project with Atto Partners that is causing me to think a lot about user experience. I have to reach out to a set group of people to fulfill a brief, and it’s important to understand the issue before I begin.

One piece of advice that really stuck with me, was to do with the questions I ask. Instead of looking at personas and personal profiles, look at the situation, motivation and expected outcome. With personas, there are many assumptions that get left out, and we can often miss the real issue. This has come to be known as the Jobs To Be Done philosophy, applied through Job Stories.

Understanding a product’s actual job makes improving the product easier.
Clayton Christensen, professor at Harvard Business School talks about the job to be done…

Empathetic Designers…

I came across this illustrative short animated by Katy Davis (AKA Gobblynne), from Dr Brené Brown’s talk, ‘The Power of Vulnerability’.

The message of empathy is something that resounds not just in a personal scenario but also in a professional environment. As designers, in order to satisfy the end user, we need to understand them. This spans through many aspects of design, from animation, to product to interaction. At a recent talk by Brain McMahon from Segment international, he highlighted the importance of design research from the seed stage of an idea. It is important to use research to inform the design not test it when it’s too late. This could involve going and interviewing users, observing behaviours on and off guard; interacting with a user, getting to their level to understand the real problems.

Similarly, with clients, we need to get to the heart of their story or brand to be able to produce and most suitable and most effective product. Sometimes this could mean redefining the issue. Design thinking has a strong part to play with this in our course, encouraging ambiguity and looking at ideas from a multitude of perspectives. As Brian said,

“Go outside the brief. The solution often comes from a tangent. Go wider.”

Project TreeTop – Update

The last few weeks my posts have been mostly through the Project Tree Top blog; the collaboration project that a group of us are working on with BlackNorth.

We started the project learning SoftImage; it’s been really interesting ‘learning by doing’, and it hasn’t come without its challenges. We’ve been developing our modelling skills, and brushing up on what SoftImage can do. I’m learning the importance of applying what’s been taught to my own situation/scenes, straight after a lesson is taught. It’s the best way for the skills to stick while the new knowledge is fresh in the mind.

One of the biggest challenges was the UV texture mapping and learning how to unfold organic objects. I had modelled a twisty tree, and had to learn how to unwrap and add ambient occlusion within the day. The shapes of the tree and the fact that I couldn’t eliminate the backs of the branches (because of the story) made it quite difficult. After a couple of tutorials, I figured out how to separate the branches from the main body and then unwrap from there. I may run into errors when I have to add texture, but I’ll deal with that when I come to it!

Another challenge is the fact that we’re working out of uni, away from Blacknorth. The communication between parties has been a bit staggered, but after feed back I’m realising that we need to email our questions instead of waiting for feedback on the blog. This should make things a lot clearer from now on, and should speed up the process.

The feedback session today was great; it was really helpful to have Kris and Aisling talk through each scene and highlight their issues, and things that worked. They’ve outlined what they’d like to see next, so we’ve got some clear targets and now we just need to get busy!

Ask for Forgiveness, Not Permission

I’ve taken a bit of creative license and decided to do something a bit different for my cover letter. I want to turn heads, not disappear into a stack of standard issue cover letters and CV’s. There is a place for this type of application, but to grab the attention of big companies I figured that I needed to go the extra mile to get noticed.

Along with my written letter, I attached this video, expressing who I am, my interests, my design process… I wanted to demonstrate my capabilities-as a storyteller, as a communicator, as a filmmaker, not just write them on my CV. More than all of this, I wanted to demonstrate my passion- for the company, for the sort of work I want to get into, and for life in general! One thing that I know my potential future employers will be looking for, will be my ability to fit within the company-to be a good “cultural fit”. Hopefully this video demonstrates a few of these things, and will be enough to get a few people asking questions. My next step is figuring out how to get them to see the application…

Preparation for Interview Experience

This week we had a big deadline for Creative Enterprise module. We had an interview with Mike, Conann and Patricia Flanagan where we had to bring along a  CV, Cover Letter, Showreel, Website…the works!

In preparation through the last few weeks I’ve been cleaning up and re-doing my website and blog. I wanted my work to be easy for an outsider to read and navigate, and to work through a number of browsers and devices. I first started to take away some of the previous tabs from my blog last year. After watching people use my website, I noticed them getting confused by what the module tabs meant. This was fine when the site was purely for university purposes, but now that I’m opening it to the public it needed changed. My website now stands with one purpose, separate to my blog. The website links to the blog, but is no longer a page within it.

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Another change I made was to my WordPress blog; I grouped the written blog into one section, moving the category navigation to the side. Similar to the user problems of the website, I wanted to clean up the layout, making it clean and concise. From here I added an “about me” section, CV and Showreel.

The rest of my work went into my written statements. I spent a lot of time putting together a CV-I wanted it to be clear, easy to skim down, and highlighting my achievements…I guess that’s what any CV aims to do?! It wasn’t an easy task but I gave it to a number of different people to receive feedback and make changes. In the end the final version did what I set out to and am happy to present it to the world on my blog!

Writing my Story

I used the creative process to write a script for my cover letter. It was important to create an authentic narrative, that would show both my personality and my creative skills. I wanted it to be fun and light hearted, to reflect my work ethic and the type of work that I enjoy.

As this cover letter was to introduce myself to a variety of companies, I had to make sure that I aimed it at them. To land the ‘dream job’, it’s important to know what that job actually is! There are a few people out there who I’d love to work for, and I’ve done a lot of research into different company cultures. This was something that was at the forefront of my mine when I was writing my script.

Project TreeTop

We have been presented with an exciting collaboration project with Kris Kelly and the team from Blacknorth. 10 of us are going to be working on Finn in The Forest, an indie game about a young boy’s adventure through the forest, and his challenges along the way. Using SoftImage (RIP), we are to create a number of 3D models for the environments of different scenes in the game.

I’m really thrilled to be able to work with Blacknorth on this project, as I’ve been dying to get more involved in interactive tasks. The game is so charming to look at, and it’ll be a great learning experience to have to match existing styles. I hope for it to challenge and push my ability in 3D, as I would love to give modelling better shot. For now, I’l be posting on our Project Treetop blog, where we will be sharing ideas and progress. It’s not exactly top secret, but I couldn’t have my wealth of wordpress followers seeing it.. ha. ha. ha… (well done if any of you made it this far)

Creative Response

I have always been a huge fan of how Sagmeister works. Clients come to him wanting something different, creative and normally pretty damn funky. [At least, the stuff we see published always encompasses one of these adjectives!]

Adobe asked Sagmeister and Walsh to make an interpretive graphic of their logo. They responded with this awesome game show. It’s basically a game of extreme Pictionary, challenging world class designers to recreate logos in a very short time with very random materials. The logos are totally wacky and the challenges are hugely entertaining (I dare you not to watch all 5). I love how they fearlessly embrace a brief and are not afraid to respond in a totally original way. I’m not saying that this is the best piece of work that Sagmeister and Walsh have done, but it has certainly put a smile on my face.

Anamatic: Take Two

After receiving feedback from Bob, we started to edit our anamatic for the client, adding simple movements and sound. We wanted it to be able to be understood without explanation, even though we would go through and present it on the day.

We split up the scenes into digestible amounts, taking note of what assets would need to be shared for overlapping scenes. From here it was all stations go as we completed many tasks from making elephants dance, to making cows fly. We possibly underestimated the time that this would all take, but after one late night, we managed to pull it off in time for the presentation.

It was great to meet the client,  and their feedback was really important. Overall, they were really happy with the whole class, and enjoyed seeing their educational project come to life with creative ideas. With a depth of knowledge in the field of astronomy, we learnt about how some of our points were over emphasised and dramatic, which we would not have realised without them. At this early stage, it was great to get this feedback, where the anamatic is easy to change and tweak.

This will be my last post on Project Little Yellow Star, as I am moving on to work with Kris Kelly and team from Blacknorth on an interactive game. More info to follow…

Anamatic: Take One

Our next step was to match the timing of the visuals to a voiceover that Andrew recorded. As Bob, Greg and the other groups weren’t familiar with the script, we wanted to add sound to aid their understanding of the visuals, as well as inform us of any cuts or scenes that weren’t working. Through this working prototype, we made a few amendments before presenting, and ironed out mistakes or unnecessary scenes.

The presentation was well received and we achieved what we had set out to for the first hand-in to Bob. Some small suggestions were given for our storyboards for next week, so we’re taking them on board and hoping to improve what we have for then. Over and out.


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With a collage and cut out style for our animation, we decided that it would be clearer to present our storyboards in this style rather than hand drawn. It was also the easiest way to divide the work between each member of the team and keep the visuals (fairly) consistent.

We studied our storyboards again and split up the assets, working out which backgrounds would overlap, and what images could be reused for the sake of Thursday’s presentation.

With quite an exhaustive list, we felt that the most efficient way to split up the work was to give each person two full scenes to complete. Being at the same place at the same time helped make this process really smooth; communication was very clear when you’re at the same table, and we were able to easily share assets through the whole day.

Storyboard Planning

After spending the last week researching, we got back together on Monday and shared our findings. We had all completed a storyboard from start to finish, so that we could join the best ideas together to put together a first prototype. We wanted to all think about timing, transitions and bringing across a clear message, so these storyboards were a great step towards a final idea.

We timed each line or paragraph, and split up the script into sections or scenes. During the course of the day, we wrestled with all of the ideas to bring out the best from what we all had brought to the table. This timing guided the drawings, thinking about how long a movement would take, and how much time would need to be left without a voiceover accompanying the animation. This rough story board would guide stage two, the anamatic.

Water on After Effects

There is a reference to an underwater scene in our fact file, so I’ve had a look into different ways of tackling this in after effects. Julia Pott approaches water with multiple layers of different opacity levels, along side some hand drawn animation.

Below, Craig Doig uses a number of flickering chalk pastel images to represent water, again with a low opacity level. These very simple and quick water animations would lend themselves well to our project.

Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible

Deiter Rams: 10 Principles For Good Design

Good Design Is Innovative : The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Good Design Makes a Product Useful : A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product while disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

Good Design Is Aesthetic : The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Good Design Makes A Product Understandable : It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Good Design Is Unobtrusive : Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

Good Design Is Honest : It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept

Good Design Is Long-lasting : It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Good Design Is Thorough Down to the Last Detail : Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Good Design Is Environmentally Friendly : Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Good Design Is as Little Design as Possible : Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

Mosaic Films

I have always followed the work of Mosaic after coming across their striking piece, Seeking Refuge. This style is uses many different textures to create a rough hand made effect, but still maintaining a really clean finish.