The Kickoff

Hello, I am Chris Ringham, and I’m currently a senior at the University of Mary Washington where I study Computer Science and Digital Studies. I hope these studies serve me well as I try to make my way as a Junior Web Developer.

When I’m not studying or working on campus at the Digital Knowledge Center, I use a lot of the digital tools I’ve learned about in my Digital Studies to support my hobbies: music production, photography, and image editing. That being said, I’ve completed several digital projects. Some were successful, some less-than, and some in-between. One I completed with a small team last semester was this website, which I would say this is an “in-betweener.” We made this website from scratch (HTML5, CSS, PHP, MySQL, and JS) as a final project for our Applications of Databases course. I count the overall design, color scheme, and navigability as part of the successful features. The sign-in and sign-up functionality works, but I’m not proud of how the main functionality performs. As a user, you should be able to create a list of vacations, each having a list of cities within that you want to hit on your excursion. The visual design of the user’s “Vacation List” table is shoddy, you cannot delete vacations properly, and the list is more of a city list than a vacation list. We basically ran out of time due to poor time estimation for certain parts. If I were to redo this project, I would invest more time at the beginning of the project getting to know my team members and their programming/design strengths. We could have understood how to divide the project up better and how much time we should have allotted for learning.

A project I completed with a small team in Fall 2018.

That is just one of the many projects I’ve tackled over my years as an undergraduate. Take this very website for example – this is a project, and it serves as a gateway to many of my other projects. I believe the broad array of projects I’ve completed has prepared me for the Digital Design Workshop course I am taking this semester. In this class, the students will be working cooperatively with local nonprofit organizations to produce deliverable digital projects. This Digital Design Journal will serve as a way to log my progress.

The Digital Plan: Reflection

Here’s a book the class will be referencing throughout the semester. If you’d like to follow, I purchased a copy on Amazon during the time of my writing this journal.

The Digital Plan by Brad Schenck.

How have you approached brainstorming in the past when working on creative projects?

When I’m flying solo on a project, brainstorming usually happens from the moment I receive the project assignment or conceive the project (if I’m doing it for fun). The project is in the back of my head, and some ideas come out in a sort of automatic process. If I like them, I note it in my phone. After a day or two of this, I sit down and allot time to think about different paths to complete the project – usually this spawns two or three more ideas. This is an informal process, and I try not to dismiss any ideas immediately because most of my projects end up being a combination of several ideas. I do think it’s important to sit down and think critically about a project – having the ideas “strike you” isn’t quite enough and may lead to weaker projects or weaker understanding of your project and the paths you choose over others.

For any group project I’ve been a part of, we always have a group brainstorming session. I still follow the above strategy in the days prior to meeting with the group so I have material to discuss when we meet. The group meeting consists of an informal-type discussion. We blurt out ideas, and in most groups we’ve written down every single idea in a Google doc before sorting through them. There’s never been any sort of explicitly stated set of rules or any process we’ve needed to follow during brainstorming. It’s very dynamic and there is usually a good amount of socializing. This method produces a lot of ideas, but it usually takes a huge amount of time as people aren’t entirely focused on the project goals.

Every “idea” in the brainstorming phase basically represents a project path. This essentially states a medium for the project (web, video, image, etc) and the creative concept that will fuel the narrative and thematic content within it.

Honestly, I’ve never focused on explicitly defining goals within a project, and I believe this is a big shortcoming.

What’s been your approach in the past to project planning? Does it excite you, bore you, overwhelm you, something else?

Once a “project path,” or several, has been selected, the planning happens fairly formally. Usually I am the one voicing the topics we need to cover, such as future meeting times, deadlines, delegation of tasks, and everybody’s agency over certain parts of the project. For me, it’s usually apparent what obstacles stand between us and achieving the end of our project, so I enjoy the project planning phase.

What kind of impact do you want to be able to make with the digital work in this class?

It’s hard to know what specific impact I will be making without knowing project specifics. Overall, I’d like to help assigned chosen organization achieve their donation and volunteer signup goals. I also hope to impact myself by seeing the project through. This is a great chance to practice communication skills and project planning.

A New Design: Chrispresso

Design, draw, write something and share it with us. Tell us about your creation.

Here’s the creation: a faux coffee company logo with my name in it.

I just wanted to make something quick. The idea came easily to me because I like coffee, and I’ve always liked the thought of owning a coffee shop. From there I just pulled together various resources like Canva for the template and coffee logo as well as pngtree for the coffee bean border. From there, I used Photoshop to shape the image into a circle because Canva exported it as a square image with a solid background. I didn’t envision what the logo would look like, but I knew I wanted the sign to convey a modern and artisan vibe. The tan and pastel colors do this. To add some flare, I added the coffee bean border – the idea “struck” me, and then I actively searched for it. It all happened pretty quickly, and I didn’t take time to consider my audience or the rest of my business, but I’m happy with the general aesthetic of the logo. The visual message could be refined if I established an actual company concept.

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