Lets create new stuff!

For some reason I start out each post with “Its been a while since…” which means I don’t write enough. I’ve always wanted to write more about what was on my mind but I typically only wrote when I was being considered for some freelance work. Who wants to see a dead blog when they go to their go to person for design work? Nobody! I even look at my own portfolio and shake my head. I’ve done some fucking FANTASTIC things but I just can’t show them yet or show them at all. I’ve become THAT guy. You know, the one that has an old portfolio but SWEARS he still does cool stuff but can’t show it. I usually rolled my eyes and thought, ya right why don’t you create stuff now and put it up? I now see where those people are coming from because I’m in the same boat. What does that mean? It means I’ll be creating stuff. What kind of stuff? Stuff.

I’m cleaning my office as we speak and using this blog post an excuse to sit. My minds also wondering into recording things. I’ve been getting the 1upbox and lootcrate and I thought it’d be sweet to do an unboxing with a spin. If you’re curious what a subscription box is and you want one yourself, you can check it out here:

1up box: https://1upbox.com/?utm_source=Rb0ChQBF00TFdZ6Le5IHD2rM8xeA5TXtawKXyIAYMCd3kBOhq8
loot crate: http://looted.by/clsfP

Yes both are referral links that are guaranteed to save you money off your first box. Help me out and help yourself out at the same time. If it all goes well, I can check out more boxes and make it a thing.

Once my office is set up, I plan on doing a video walk through. It won’t be as badass as the one Barnacules Nerdgasm’s room “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wwST7leB0Sc” but I have some pride in it.

Wait Cliff. Hold up. You’re a designer, why are you showing random things not related to design? Well to answer that its always been “Inside a Designers World” which technically means what’s in my world as a designer. Designers don’t hit the books and pretend to be a super know it all. If they are, they are lame. I like to do a whole bunch of things that makes me multi versatile when it comes to a variety of subjects. Who knows maybe I’ll look up proper ways to write so you don’t bang your head against your keyboard when reading my posts because I’m not the greatest writer.

As for now, I’m off to create stuff! Stay tuned for more stuff.

What time? Full time!

The title is a bit on the misleading side, however I am excited to let the world know that my contract is in the process of going into a full time position. As many of you know, for the past year and change I’ve been working as a contract UI/UX designer for a company. Talks were had, papers were signed, and background check pending, and more commas and bad grammar errors in this sentence, and I’m officially a health insurance swinging UI/UX Designer! I’ve made it facebook official, but have yet to make it “linkedin” official. Once I start on August 1st I’ll make that announcement and the sea of recruiters MIGHT stop hounding me. Naw, they’re cool. I’ve gotten a few side projects from recruiters wanting me for full time gigs. Sometimes its panned out, other times I wish I would just stack those mails in the depths of linkedin inbox hell.

Now that I’m making that permanent transition, people have been asking me “What now?”. A few clients are worried I might be ditching them for the big time. This couldn’t be further from the truth! I’ve been working 40 hours a week as a contractor and now I’ll be working 40 hours as a full time employee. Nothing will change! I’m still designing. I’m still developing. I’m STILL doing what I’ve been doing on the side. Do I make a discount event? Free consultation? Free sit down? No need. I’ll give anybody 15 minutes on the phone.

I am however starting to get back to recreate my portfolio page to further promote my freelance business. I spent to much time dancing around my branding trying to make things perfect that I way overshot my timeline AND have nothing useful to show for it. For sake of timing, I plan on putting up a simple WordPress portfolio site promoting everything.

Learning CSS Animations

I’ve always been interested in learning animation using CSS. It stems back to always wanting to be an animator or a video game designer as a kid. I’ve played around the idea with Flash and was always impress with what I could do with the program. Over the past week at work I’ve been learning CSS animations to use for a project at work with the book Learning CSS3 Animations and Transitions: A Hands-on Guide to Animating in CSS3 with Transforms, Transitions, Keyframes, and JavaScript. I’m using it primarily for micro interactions within everything, but I have a few more ideas up my sleeve that would be badass to try and implement.

So far the learning curve is pretty low and the only downside I’m having is having to type out all the browser prefixes. On the plus side, since Opera started using the webkit shortly after the books publication, I can stop using the -o- prefix. Small victory but it cuts down on a lot of the tutorial typing. I’m early in the book at Chapter 4, but so far I’ve done transitions, transforms, scales, rotates, skews and other things that end in the letter S because it sounds fun to say things with an S on the end. I hope to show some experiments up here sometime soon as well to put this knowledge into practice.

Custom Design vs WordPress Template Portfolio

I have that age old dilemma of customize it, or put it into a template. As I’m working along on this rebrand, that nagging feeling keeps coming up as to how I build my portfolio site. Do I custom build it to show off my talents? Or do I do with a quick template and build something custom down the road? I’ve spent more time trying to work with my WordPress blog and started to look into ways I can mold the blog and portfolio into one single entity. My WordPress skills aren’t strong enough to just whip up a site from scratch that I feel would be awesome enough.

I spent a good portion of time recently attempting to set up a portfolio site with various themes I’ve had throughout the years that never made as actual client websites. So the bonus there is that I have a license for some pretty decent looking themes! The latest one I thought would be super easy is the Enfold one. It’s a pretty nice theme that I’ve been working with lately that has some quick design tools to get the job done and not have to spend hours of time coding. I may lean towards a template since I’m trying to rebrand myself more on the visual side of design.

The web has been going on and on about how designers should know how to code. That’s fine, I do know how to code. I also believe that the skill level at which a developer can put something together is FAR faster than a designer could do it. Can I code? It’s obvious I can, but I don’t code for a living. Putting me in full out coding position because you like my visual design talent is a waste of everybodies time. That’s why I’m a visual designer, not a developer. Mad respect to all my developer buddies out there, they are far smarter than I am when it comes to code.

I decided to put off that decision for now and work on stories for the projects I do have and build some more projects. There’s so much that I need to do, the decision between custom vs template will have to wait. Its time I step away from the WordPress debate!

Portfolio project ideas to create

I’ve come up with a list of some portfolio project ideas for my website. If you’ve seen my portfolio section at http://www.cliffnowicki.com/onepage_portfolio.html you’ll notice something. Things are a bit out of date! The latest project I’ve worked on was for Code Michigan 2014 in October with the app called “Kid Karma” and not even that is on the site. Just like a lot of designers, I am working right now on projects that are signed with an NDA and will never really see the light of day as its all internal. I assure you, I’m doing some kickass fun stuff! I just can’t show anybody. Which is why side projects are the way to go to help boost portfolios. My portfolio in particular.

Here’s a few portfolio project ideas that are swimming around in my head that I may or may not work on. I’m just going to throw the ideas out here right now. I’ve written down some and a few others I literally just made up as I was typing. That’s how I roll.

-Sight Words App – Who has kids? I do! I have three boys that are young and learning. A big challenge is getting them to learn new words with what schools refer to as “Sight Words”. Its your common word lists for the pre-k to 2nd/3rd grade to get them used to learning new words. I plan on designing a mobile app, web app or maybe just some nifty flash card designs.

– Website for my 2003 Saturn Ion – Why? Because I can!

– Dinosaurs – A mobile app about a dinosaur. I’m not picky on what dinosaur, but I feel like kids don’t like dinosaurs as much as I did as a kid.

– Retro video game website – I love them.

– Obstacle course app for people in Michigan – I ran the gladiator run last year, and I plan on doing it again this year!

– Debt Snowball app to let you know when you paid off all your debts.

– Simpsons app featuring quotes from Homer Simpson

– Kidrobot something. Because I love Kidrobot, but I may just boil it down to collectible figures

– Lootcrate catalog- I don’t do lootcrate anymore, but if I did, I feel like all its stuff should be cataloged so others know what awesome stuff they missed.

Photoshop tricks/hotkey a day app – Become a master!

Heroes Charge something – It’s the latest game I’ve been playing on my phone. I’d like to do something about the game since I play it everyday.

Those are all the ones that I’ve written down thay just kind of exploded out of my head. I may use one, I may use them all and I may use none of them. The point is that to recreate my new site I’ll be needing some example projects that follow what I enjoy.

Battling WordPress

I believe I’ve battled WordPress a lot more than I’d like lately. I started out by attempting to update WordPress to the latest 4.2.2 which turned into an auto failure. I went online to see how to do it manually since I haven’t done that in years. I always get paranoid when I delete anything in wp-admin, even when WordPress itself tells me too. I went through the process and now that it’s all updated, I’m still unable to upload images. Its not letting me set permissions and after some searching I may have to either call my hosting or wipe everything out.

I’ll have to stop focusing on that so much and continue on with my rebranding. Otherwise I’ll drive myself crazy! Besides, I’ll probably find the solution once I stop looking for it. Isn’t that how things usually work out?

On a positive note, my work had a raffle to give away their used 32″ tv monitors for the price of $2 a ticket. Low and behold, I won one! I’m now typing on it as we speak to replace my old 19″ square that I’ve had since 2003. I’ve been playing with the configurations a bit and it may feel like it’s a wee too big and not able to handle the correct resolutions I was hoping for in a monitor. I may use it as a secondary or put it to the side as a second tv.

The main goals of my rebranding

To start out fresh, I woke up an hour early to get cracking on my rebrand project. The house was nice and quiet to get some thinking done. I began by writing down a list of some of the major areas that I will be looking into during this rebrand. I came up with a list right off the top of my head without thinking too much in depth about it to get started. What would I need to make this rebranding a success? Here’s the quick list I came up with:

  • Create Mobile designs and even other designs to get my creative views out there and have something fresh in my portfolio
  • Potential new logo
  • New Website
  • Physical print objects such as business cards
  • Go back to past projects and give a small case study
  • Social media usage such as Linkedin, G+, Facebook and Twitter
  • Promoting myself

I was just about to upload a scan of the sketch I had, but it looks like WordPress isn’t letting me. It looks like I’ll be playing around with WordPress to see whats wrong. I plan on posting random ideas, sketchs and mocks as I go on to show little bits of progress. That being said, I have an entire weekend to create a more detailed account for what I’m doing. I’m thinking maybe a google docs that’s view only for anybody to look in on what I’m doing. Would that be of interest to anybody?

Rebranding myself

It’s been a while since I’ve made a nice design for my core site. I’ve had my blog at www.cliffnowicki.com and then i’ve linked people to my portfolio section at http://www.cliffnowicki.com/onepage_portfolio.html which showcases the most recent work I’ve done. I stripped my original site and turned it into the 2015 theme from WordPress and just kind of kept it a blog. A simple blog and nothing more, but now I’m in the process of rebranding myself.

Every designer loves to change their brand every once in a while because its just plain out fun! Maybe I’m alone in that? I believe it’s because they’re still looking for their niche in life. Once they find that niche, they want to go head first and explore every nook and cranny of it. Once they have a solid foundation in it the rebranding occurs. That’s where I’m at right now in life. I’ve went on and on about my love for mobile design and you’ve even seen some great projects I’ve done too! The next step in my design life is more than just visual design and mobile design, its about telling stories. I love telling stories! I tell them to my kids at night, I make them up on the fly to entertain others and I even write about them to one day make awesome kids books.

What I plan on doing in this next rebrand is to tell a story. A story about who I am as a visual designer and how my thought process works. A lot of people may consider it bad to talk way to much about one’s self too personally. If you’ve ever met me in person, you’ll know I’m an open book that will tell you everything about my design life as you’d care to listen too. Don’t worry, I have filters!

With all that being said, what does it mean to rebrand myself? Why am I posting and not taking action? The idea is that I want to share each step of the way. How I got to certain conclusions about myself, what I did to come up with what I’d show, how I’d build my website and how I’d market myself to the world. I’ll be an open book in my rebranding and I’m excited to let everybody know about it!

Project of the week: Valentines Day Cards

I’ve always wanted to do something fun in terms of birthday cards or invitations. The idea I’ve had has always been some sort of interactive popup card. When you open the card, a mini-3D landscape appears before your eyes ready to be viewed. Little pull tabs would be there to interact with the cardboard cutout world and see how everything works. This year I’m going to put some solid effort into it with Nintendo themed Valentines Day cards for my wife and kids.

Paper isn’t dead! It still has its place in the world and with days like Valentines Day, paper reminders are what make the world special again. Holding something in your hands means more than an email or another e-card that took you a few mintues to put together. What exactly will it be? I’m toying around with the lastest crazes in my house. Minecraft and Super Mario 3D World are the top two contenders right now. Have Steve fight a creeper for your love? Maybe mario and gang jump on top of the flag poll saying how they’ll jump as high as it take? Lego games have made their way back onto the TV from the toy box. Will they earn a spot on my card? I’m still undecideded at this point, but those are my main ideas.

X-acto knives, cardboard paper and a precise hand are what I plan on having this week. I’ll have to make nice with Kinko for some prototypes since my printer has about hit the end of its road.

Challenge Updates

Here’s some of the latest updates for my challenges this year. I remind everybody that I say challenges because resolutions die off and goals eventually go to the way side as “nice to haves”. That’s why the word challenge has more meaning to me. I like challenges. I have a urge to buy the wordsearch and/or sudoku puzzle books everytime I check out at the grocery store. Something inside me wants to be challenge and take on challenges! So here are the updates!

1.) Create a Udemy Course:
I found my dynamic mic from college where I recorded, mixed and edited audio. It’s a Shure C606 dynamic mic thats ultra durable and has had its share of drops. I tested it out last night with a buddy via Skype. From what I hear it sounds great! The playback for Windows 8 Sound Recorder is awful though. I tried out a free version of Audacity and its better, but still something to behold. Once I come up with a solid idea for what I’ll create, I’ll look into better software

2.) Create a design for a t-shirt website such as shirtpunch.com:
I’ve looked at more t-shirt sites and have been checking out more graphic tees than usual. A developer friend recommended teespring as an alternative. I haven’t looked into what it takes on shirtpunch, but I plan on it soon.

3.) Sell something on the envato marketplace:
I have a set of Auto Icons that I’ve done before that I had intentions of giving away. This may be a nice test to clean up the set and attempt to sell them as an icon/font package.

4.) Create a Startup:
I had something going last year for a design startup and it may or may not happen this year. I’m hoping it will and that will take place as my Startup. If not, I’m hoping to make something with my wife and kids as a side project to help get them involved in the design process.

5.) Speak at a Meetup group:
I’m apart of 2 meetup groups in the Detroit area that I’m sure will have me again. I think it’d be really awesome to speak at an ignite event. The step up is that they already have the time set for you! I’ll get in touch with the hosts later this year to see if I can make something happen. Who knows, maybe I’ll speak at multiple places! I’ll of course let everybody know…. a lot of times… in a short period of time.

6.) Read 20 design books:
I’ve been reading a lot of magazines lately. Computer Arts and .net are the primary suspects. They don’t count as books though, so I’ve done nothing in this challenge.

There you have it! My challenge updates for 2015.