Posts Tagged ‘university of ulster’

Top 10 IMD Portfolios

Friday, March 6th, 2009

In an effort to ‘give back’ [cheesy phrase I know] to the degree that got me to where I am today, I wanted to pass on some words of wisdom to the current year group. Interactive Multimedia Design, a primarily web design focused degree offered at the University of Ulster in Belfast, continues to produce a steady stream of top quality web designers each year.

top10

The students recently had to submit a portfolio site to promote themselves and their skills, so I thought I would display my chosen top 10 out of the 90 strong class to give them some praise and exposure for their work.  I didn’t judge them on any particular aspect but simply on overall quality, design and unique appeal. Hopefully the remarks I make about each will be of use to both the rest of the class and other web designers.

So in reverse order…

#10 - Chris Fearon

fearhsonic

Good

> Interesting design, a break from the norm.
> Chosen typeface and spacing indicates a sense of professionalism.
> Unique name is a selling point.

fearhsonic

Improvements

> The ‘tag cloud’ look for the about text is a bit unusual. Perhaps changing the colours instead of size to pull out the key words would be better.
> Content could be structured more effectively, some links are hidden within the page.

#9 - Brian Burns

brian burns imd

Good

> Clear indication of identity. This site is definitely Brian Burns’. :)
> About text is short and instantly pulled out with the blue background.
> Striking image is attention grabbing.
> Individual projects are nicely sectioned.
> Belfast Banter holding page is fantastic.
> ‘Available’ status is a nice detailed feature.

brian burns imd

Improvements

> Make sure alignment is perfect on every page element. A couple of pixels off can ruin a page’s professional look.
> Could push the Twitter, Virb, Delicious links more instead of just on the footer.

#8 - Shane McAstocker

shane mcastocker

Good

> Refreshing, unique style. It hasn’t got the usual web 2.0 vibe so it stands out from the crowd.
> Small details, like the Adobe icons in watercolour style, are also good ways to subtly push Shane’s style.
> Twitter status’ prominent location will encourage people to follow.

shane mcastocker

Improvements

> The ‘tweet tweet’ image could link to your twitter profile.
> Instead of scribbling out the active page link on the navigation you could circle it so it’s still readable.
> More alignment of the links at the bottom of the page keeps visual consistency.

#7 - Jonny Campbell

jonny campbell

Good

> Clear, professional and clean layout.
> ‘About text’ length and size are perfect. Including a funny remark puts the viewer at ease. Offering more details below the short intro in a much smaller font size does not overwhelm the viewer with text.
> Pushes ‘Gonzo Design’ but does not neglect ‘Jonny Campbell’.
> Including ‘In Under 150 words’ is a nice idea, puts the viewer at ease before starting a long piece of text.

jonny campbell

Improvements

> Strikethrough on visited links is a good idea for lists where you need to see where you’ve been, e.g. list of blog posts. Should not be used on navigation as people will come back to click multiple times.
> Perhaps larger images of your projects in the ‘work’ section, they should really speak for themselves with very little text.

#6 - Ryan Carlin

big panda

Good

> Fun branding with the Panda, memorable.
> Great use of icons to illustrate your key points. Love the Panda ears through the helmet. :)
> Simple colour scheme is a plus.

big panda

Improvements

> Too much text on the homepage. Should limit it to a few choice words with a ‘read more’ link.
> The capitalisation and 3 exclamation marks on the YOU!!! makes it look a little unprofessional along with the rest of the text, which is perfectly worded.
> The ‘check it out’ buttons could be improved visually.

#5 - Paul Wilsdon

paul wilsdon

Good

> One page layout is a nice change among the other portfolios.
> Simply using black and white is refreshing.
> I like the visual style with things like ‘By 2010 Digital Advertising…’. You’re saying a lot by just structuring the text in a creative way.

paul wilsdon

Improvements

> Scrolling could be smoother, would give it a nice finish and not make the viewer uneasy about using a different method of navigation.
> Perhaps the change in typeface is too drastic. Could be a better choice for the section headings.
> Could align up the text fields on the contact form.

#4 - Ciaran McGettigan

ciaran mcgettigan

Good

> Love the header, makes your name very memorable which is a big factor in a portfolio site.
> Automatic appearing contact panel is a great idea, saves the user from losing the page they are currently on.
> Cow icon is nice, adds a little bit of fun to the site. :)
> By using few colours and a clean look you allow people to focus on the content.

ciaran mcgettigan

Improvements

> Could perhaps make the navigation stand out a little more, perhaps with subtle rollovers.
> Seems to be nothing in the footer, perhaps you could put in contact details here also.
> You are missing a couple of link images on the right hand side links.

#3 - Caroline Smith

caroline smith

Good

> Fantastic subliminal messaging with the word ‘Beautiful’ in huge type. A great change from typical words usually found to describe web design.
> Striking homepage content, all done with text, subtle colours and gradients and not one screenshot. Well done.
> Portfolio showreel is effective.
> ‘Hire Me’ as a section heading is a great idea, stands out to potential employers.

caroline smith

Improvements

> Maybe make some distinction between the three call to action buttons on the homepage. Tell the user where you want them to go first by highlighting that button in particular otherwise they will always go for the leftmost one if they are all the same.
> The dark brown links and pinkish rollovers are a bit hard to read.

#2 - Suzy Johnston

suzy johnston

Good

> Has to be the simplest site of the top ten. Amazing what you can achieve if you strip it back to the basics. Very effective.
> Fantastic use of space, especially above your name, makes it really stand out well.
> Large but light titles are perfect.
> Great self promotion in your footer.

suzy johnston

Improvements

> A tiny piece of text with each project, even as a transparent rollover on the image would perhaps help out viewers.
> Apart from that it’s perfect. :)

#1 - SkipSkap

I had to choose SkipSkap as the number one portfolio. It’s superbly designed, very memorable and achieves everything it should.

skipskap

Good

> Getting your name out there straight away in the centre of the homepage, will be remembered.
> Great branding with the name and logo, also very memorable, and fun to say. SkipSkap!
> Contact form design is great.
> Ripped up image on homepage is very unique.
> Colour scheme and background textures are really well suited.
> Choice of font and style are very professional.

skipskap

Improvements

> Too much text on the about page. Strip it back to exactly what employers will want to know and pull out key words with colour.

Information to Everyone

Well that took a lot longer than I thought it would, but I think it was great to see what talent there is in IMD. I had it narrowed down to about 20 earlier and then scaled that back to a top 10. It was tough job and there are many other sites in the class that have fantastic features. These top 10 however have a great mixture of everything and deserve the credit in my opinion.

These choices are of course my opinion and everyone else would make different decisions about the best portfolio sites. I tried to make most of the suggested improvements useful for everybody.

Masters

If you want to find out more about the Masters course you can read either my blog post or Lee Munroe’s to find out some of our opinions and thoughts.

Talk to Me

Be sure to follow me on Twitter @PaddyDonnelly and if any of you who weren’t chosen want me to talk about their site then just email me paddy@iampaddy.com. I’ll be more than glad to give my thoughts on how to improve.

Setting Yourself Apart from the Crowd

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009

set apart from crowd

Are you in the final stages of your degree? Wondering what step to take next? Should you go straight into a job or further your studies? I chose the latter and little over a month ago I completed a Masters in Multi-Disciplinary Design at the University of Ulster, Belfast. Hopefully some of my thoughts about it will help you make a decision.

The MA Multidisciplinary Design responds to continuing changes in contemporary design practice and challenges the perceived boundaries between the many and varied recognised art and design disciplines.

The programme seeks to establish an environment where creative, self-motivated practitioners from a diverse array of design backgrounds, with different methodologies, can experience a cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches to the design process.

Web, fashion, print, product and textile designers (along with a variety of other creatives) come together in a challenging environment, allowing a totally original style of working to evolve.  Coming from Interactive Multimedia Design at Jordanstown, we primarily worked in an online design environment, along with around 80 other web designers.  There was little interaction with creatives from other disciplines, which left us in a world of our own.

With competition for jobs pretty high in the web sector at present, I felt it was important to set myself apart from the other IMD graduates.  I also wanted to explore other areas of creativity, while broadening my design skills.  The MA in Multi-Disciplinary Design offered me all of these and therefore seemed like the obvious choice.

masters paddy donnelly

Modules

The course runs for a year and a half (3 semesters). The first two semesters consist of 3 modules and the final semester is devoted to your Masters project. The content within each module varies, ranging from creative entrepreneurship to design thinking, giving you a wide array of topics to tickle your creative muscles.

The Work

The structure of the MA leaves your choice of research topic wide open.  While there is constant guidance and advice from the lecturers, you are pretty much able to study anything you want, which is refreshing and daunting at the same time. I chose to research viral marketing, social media and Internet culture over the year and a half, in an effort to understand the web better and create a name for myself.

The Big Word Project is one of the projects created by myself and Lee Munroe in an effort to promote ourselves and research each of our chosen subjects. The project allows you to purchase a word from our list for $1 per letter to represent your site. Your site will then represent this word in our list and when people click on it, they will be taken to your site. The site received huge publicity around the net, including being featured in WIRED magazine!

Great Points

The Masters has a ton of advantages for anybody wanting to further their education and get a step up in this economic downturn. Some of these benefits include:

  • Improved presentation skills
  • Networking opportunities
  • Increased self confidence
  • Multi-Discipline environment
  • Enhanced research skills
  • Access to experienced knowledge base
  • Advanced writing practice
  • Entrepreneurial advice
  • Expert guidance
  • Masterclasses

Not so Great Points

There aren’t that many bad things I could say about the Masters, however I should point out a few issues that affected me:

  • It’s not cheap, around £3,200
  • Not having strict guidelines can make you feel lost in the beginning
  • Can be a difficult transition from a multimedia background to a more artistic environment

I got a Job!

And what was the point in all this? To get a job of course! And, well, it worked! I started work as a Creative Strategist for Belgian company Nascom two weeks after the MA ended, and I’m loving it! You can read more about my first week at the Nascom blog.

The MA got me this job in a couple of ways. The first reason was my research into social media, which gave me the skills to join the Nascom ‘Tactics Squad’. The second reason the MA got me the job is because I met Steven Verbruggen as part of The Big Word Project and he in turn got my foot in the door with Nascom. It just shows that you should seize every opportunity and network like crazy! You never know what could happen, you could end up in Belgium!

Want to know more?

For another point of view on the Masters, check out Lee Munroe’s post. You can download some information on the Masters. Any questions you have about the MA, don’t be afraid to email me or Chris Murphy (Course Director).

University of Ulster on Twitter

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Don’t you just love those feedback forms you get on the last day of the semester?  The ones that say ‘Give 5 suggestions on how to improve this module’ and the like?  This year, I am not filling in a single one.  Instead I am handing in a Twitter account from every student at the University of Ulster.

What started off as a bit of fun and a way for Lee Munroe, Kyle Boyd and myself to rant about the University of Ulster’s annoying habits, turned into a proper project where I decided that every UU student should have their voice heard.  What good is a feedback form after 12 weeks when you have forgotten everything that has happened?  What you need is a short sharp method of ranting [or praising] at your fingertips all the time.

This is where ‘Uni of Ulster‘ comes in. [I can't believe uniofulster.com was actually available!]  Students can now rant in 140 characters or less.  And if UU wants to take notice of its students opinions then they can follow the Twitter account and view the students tweeting in real time about their problems. The anonymity aspect to this project is also a big selling point as most people are reluctant to actually say what they feel for fear of repercussions.

Obviously there is going to be a lot of rubbish posted on it too, but hopefully some good stuff will seep through allowing UU to see what their students are really thinking.

For the site I kept it really simple, pushing the actual comments as the focus point.  I recoloured the Twitter bird logo to represent UU’s colours.  Nice, eh?  The latest tweet is top of the pile with the last 5 comments listed below it.  There is a short blurb about the project, a disclaimer and a link to this site in the footer.

The deep red colour is to subtly get across the rage that students sometimes feel with UU’s policies. I should point out that the University of Ulster is a great university and it has worked out great for me over the past few years.  There are however, as with all universities, little problems that I wish could be addressed.  This project is not designed to slam UU but intended to display the student body’s voice in a clearer method and hopefully making a great university a little bit better. :)

Mind Numbing Noise

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Ah, what a delight the University of Ulster threw up for us today.  A mysterious, quite deafening, high pitched noise.  In my personal opinion its the sound of 1000 students screaming internally for ftp access.

What do you think it is?