Can I be a Web Design Speaker?

sepia tone image of sketches of a web design talked about in this post can i be a web design speaker

Last night I spoke at a local WordPress event that begged the question, “Can I be a Web Design Speaker?”. The group was called the West Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup and the topic was “Show and Tell”. The subject revolved around showing off what you’ve been working on lately. It was hosted by Deborah Edwards-Onoro of Lireo Designs. It was a nice small gathering that took place at the Grand Traverse Pie Company. I went to speak about my experience having a design published in .net magazine for their monthly “Design Challenge” article. Speaking has always made me nervous as an introvert. However, location seemed like a relaxed place and I was pleased to have only a small group to speak too. The larger the group, the more nervous I get about speaking so I was in my comfort zone there.

If you know me, then you probably have already heard me talk on and on about this thing, but believe it or not there are people who haven’t heard about it yet! I’ve told the story so many times, that it feels like I’m telling it for the first time, every time for someone who hasn’t listened yet. Even though it was only for about 20 minutes with lots of good questions, it felt like I was good at being a web design speaker. The back and forth question they asked were easy knowing I took the consideration for a lot of things in my design. The design choices, font choices, layout choices, overall user experience; I answered them all without hesitation. Why? Because I took thought into every aspect of my design knowing it was going out internationally.

What made me think I could even be a web design speaker?

Earlier that day, I saw a post about a call for speakers at WordCamp Detroit. I shared my interest with the group that I was looking to come up with a topic for it. Could I be a web design speaker? I love web design and I sure had a fun time talking about my experience and sharing it with the group. The group came up with some good ideas based on what I talked about that night. That idea is first and foremost, but I wonder if there is anything else I could talk about.

All day today I though about potential ideas that focused around web design. I have been to a few WordCamps in the past, so I know there is a lack of design tracks. As a web designer, it always bummed me out not seeing a good topic that is both design AND related to WordPress. I’ll be coming up with a few topics and I’m building up the confidence to speak at WordCamp Detroit.


Cliff Nowicki is a Web Designer that has a YouTube Channel to share his knowledge and provide value to other designers. Cliff also takes on freelance work, so make sure to contact him if you have a project in mind.

I’m into my YouTube Web Design Channel Now

Youtube Channel cover art for Over The Cliff Design Talk
I’ve been talking about it a lot on Instagram in short videos on a semi-daily basis about creating a web design focused channel on YouTube. The idea behind creating it was from the perspective of a guy who wants to show the process of everything and thoughts of an everyday web designer that’s been in the industry for a while. The overall goal is to produce value to a designer that is curious what another designers process is when he’s creating.

To make things perfect, I would have to delay the channel and push it out further when something wasn’t perfect. Then I realized the whole idea of the channel was about the process and how I thought about web design. It actually sounded counter productive to delay it, so last week I launched. The first video is about the design I did for .net magazine’s “Design Challenge” article that was in their February 2019 issue 315.

I’m  planning on releasing videos every Monday and potentially every Wednesday as well. I know I’m not the greatest at creating videos for YouTube, but I plan on just producing content.

You can check out the link to the channel here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWJRYlh4Qi3e6Q7SSGlQjLQ

Give it a quick look and see if you like it. Feel free to give feedback so I’ll know what I can do to make my videos and my channels even better!

 


Want to contact me about some freelance web design work? Then head over to my Contact Page and get in touch now!

I’ve been published in my favorite magazine!

I’ve been waiting since the end of November when I got the first initial contact to tell everybody about this news. Back in late November, I was asked if I would be interested in taking part in a .net magazine design challenge. For those who don’t know, .net magazine is an industry magazine for web designers and developers. The magazine has a section called “Design Challenge” in which 3 designers are given a brief and must create a home page layout / mobile layout version that coincides with that brief. Back to me, I was chosen to see if I’d be willing to take part, as I’ve showed interest in the past on twitter.

I got the brief and with only 3-4 days to complete it for editorial proofing and what have you, I got to work. I got a single brief that read “This month we would like you to design a Secret City Guide. The focus will be on the lesser known attractions, restaurants and areas of the city that the typical tourist doesn’t get to see. Think how the user may search the site and the information they will want“. It was a real fun time coming up with ideas of what it could be and I spent the following nights after the kids went to bed to come up with what I thought would be a great site.

I found myself having more trouble writing stuff down as I’m awful at grammar, writing and putting my thoughts into words. I’m better at putting them into art, but I tried my hardest so the editors didn’t have to roll their eyes too hard at me. After that, I had to choose a photo. I looked through my stack of .net magazines to kind of see how everybody else looked. Lots of fancy well dressed people with very light backgrounds. How could I compete? I’m just a bald dude with a beard that loves video games and has a closet that is 80% video game / 80’s reference tee’s. I decided to go with an image I took a few months earlier of me holding my favorite Fallout mug with trees in the background. I could of dressed all nice, but that’s just me. I wear what’s comfortable and love video games! Anything else and those who know me would know I was being fake, a poser and a fraud.

After a few back and forth emails,  talking with the editor on text changes, it was done. I was shown what the page will look like in the magazine and I was totally excited! Now I just had to wait…and wait. Did I mention this magazine was based in the UK and we don’t typically get copies in the stores until late in the month or even a month after the original issue?

The day finally came today! I went to Barnes and Noble and I found the issue! Issue 315, February 2019. I’ve been excited all day since I can now put up the artwork on my portfolio! It’s called “Hidden Gems – Detroit Field Guide”. A website where you can search the lesser known places in the city on the go. Here’s the link and I hope you enjoy! https://www.behance.net/cliffnowicki

Keeping up with Design

Who here is a designer that has an up to date portfolio? I don’t see too many hands raised, which is fine because I’m just like most people. I do a bunch of cool stuff at work but rarely post anything up. I even stopped updating my personal website and turned it into a blog not too long ago since all my stuff was 3+ years old.

How did it get this way?

It’s more of a “Life Happens” kind of thing since I have a family. I haven’t done sidework in a long time so I could focus my time more on playing video games with kids and being a content creator for our youtube channel. We were even featured in .net magazine as an article of what we do on the side. It was a nice article and I’ve shown it off to pretty much anybody that made eye contact with me, more than annoying them.

Sometimes I feel that that small things I do or think of aren’t good enough to share. Lately, I’ve been talking with younger more junior designers and they seemed enthralled with those little things. The more I talked and shared what I knew and what I was working on or even planned to work on, got them more excited.

What do I do with that knowledge?

Well I dunno how much knowledge I hold, but I decided to start coming up with some ideas to start my own youtube channel that is focused on design, my thoughts on it and what I’m doing with it. I’ve been talking about it on my daily instagram posts for the past few weeks and I’ve now decided that I’ll start throwing the process here on my blog as well. There’s a lot to do, and I originally hoped to have it done before the end of February. I’ve looked over what I’d need for a halfway decent launch, and I realize I don’t believe I’ll scrap that by then! I’ll do my best to try though.

A Designers New Years Resolution

You’ll hear a million resolutions of “New Year, New Me” posts, blogs, tweets, messages, etc. What’s different about mine? None. The only vague difference is that I’m making them as a designer and a guy who runs a youtube page. There’s nothing special about this blog post that is any different than you’d see anywhere else. The unique flavor is that it’s me. If you know me, want to know what’s happening and what I’m hoping to happen, then keep on reading!

This year was a little more crazy than usual.  I won’t go into detail on the negatives, but here’s are some positive defining moments in 2018 for me:

  • I was published in .net magazine for a a small page about my youtube gaming channel
  • I broke out of my rut at work and just started designing what I wanted, and it worked heavily in my favor
  • I finished a 6k Spartan Obstacle Course Race
  • I completed a design challenge for .net magazine that will be published in 2019
  • I started on the path to learn AR

 

I think it was a pretty decent year, but I have some plans for the new year as well. When I look back on this post a year from now and I see 30% of it completed, I would of considered it a success.

 

Career Goals

Finish up some backlog courses on Udemy

I have dozens of courses I just buy on the cheap and sit on. There’s a ton of cool subjects that I wish I’d jump into, but I never have. The majority of it is development courses, but quite a few are Unity and game dev courses.  This brings me to my next design goals

Launch an AR app

I’ve been learning about it, but I think if I make a goal of launching something, i’ll probably be able to make it happen. I have an idea I’ve been working on, but never came to light due to technical stupidity I guess you’d say.

Update My Personal Brand

As a designer, we all say we’ll reinvent ourselves. I don’t plan on reinventing myself at all. I tend to be more consistent throughout my personal brand. This includes my website, portfolio, resume and online social presence. This is primarily to potentially get some freelance work this year.

Obtain 3 Freelance Clients

I’ve been out of the game and working in house for the past few years. I plan on opening my web design experience to helping other people build their business.

Get 1000 Subscribers on my Youtube Channel

I run a gaming channel over at www.youtube.com/thenowgamingzone  It’s a video game channel I run that hasn’t been getting as much love as I’d like it too. With the help of my family, I plan on creating a plan to get to the 1000 sub mark so that I’m able to monetize the channel again.

 

 

i could go on and on, but I figure this should be plenty enough to share with the world. If anybody needs an accountability partner for their design or development needs, then reach out to me on social media

Twitter: https://twitter.com/cliffn

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cliffnowicki/

 

Happy Holidays

While there is no real theme to this post, I just wanted to take time out of my day to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. It’s been quite the road this year, but I’m planning some big changes next year. Who isn’t? I’d love to let all my designer and developer friends know it’s OK to just take a day off if you celebrate and to relax with family, friends or just chill out and close your mind for the day.

Design Challenge Exposure, Coming Soon

I’m excited to have been asked to take part in the .net magazine design challenge. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a monthly challenge where three designers are given a brief description of a site and it’s their job to create a site based on those directions. It’s my favorite web design magazine that does a great job at giving out info for both designers and developers.

I’ve always wanted to do one for years, and I was excited to be asked to take part in it. I’m not sure how it goes though. Three designers get published, but maybe they ask about a dozen and the best three get picked? The fact that they had to at least comb through my portfolio and say “Ya, this guy looks decent enough to not fuck it up entirely” makes me happy. I’m not sure what issue it will be in, or how long it’ll take before it hits this side of the ocean, but I’ll make sure to post it across my social media feeds for  all to see!

Designing a Splash Page in a Few Days

People have side hobbies and that’s pretty cool. My side hobbies include AR, VR, video games and a video game channel on youtube. On occasion I also stream games on mixer with friends or just when I get a new game. One of my favorite series is coming out soon for the Xbox One and that’s Forza Horizon 4. The Horizon series has been my favorite racing games since it’s based around a music festival and you drive in a HUGE open world area over different terrain. I was super stoked about it and even had the Ultimate Edition pre-ordered months ago to make sure I get to play 4 days earlier before it’s official launch.

My excitement didn’t stop there because I knew I was going to stream this game. I just downloaded the free Adobe XD program that I use for work, on my home PC and wanted to practice some site designs. I also wanted to see how our developers used it on a day to day basis after they take it from us designers. So this was my chance to try to design then collect and use XD to develop a site. I decided to create a website splash page announcing that I will be streaming this game and all are welcome to watch! I got started right away with some sketches to see what I wanted and how I wanted it to look. Here are some of the sketches created:

If you were following my on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cliffnow/ you got the sneak peeks of it all!

After I had all the sketching done, I broke open Adobe XD and went to town. I tested some ideas out and realized that due to asset issues of finding what I wanted in a good enough quality, I had to make some changes. I also began to look more into the development side of things and realized that there were a few things I was unsure of, or would take more than a day to put it all together. This was meant to be a quick weekend project, and I didn’t want it getting out of hand. Make it simple stupid!

The final design created was this:

 

The final design isn’t that far off from what I developed! You can view the design on my behance here. Once I was finished, I had to decide how to put this together. I wanted quick and simple, so my two choices were to use a quick pre-made grid framework from Bootstrap or Foundation. Why those two? Those were the two frameworks I’m familiar with and I’m not going to “challenge myself” when I need something done in a day. I went with Bootstrap since I’ve used it the most. Since I only needed the grid, the new Bootstrap 4 had a grid only css file, which worked great to keep load speeds at a minimum.

My original idea was to offset items, but then realized that wasn’t going to work for a mobile version. I was able to find some quick solutions to the problems. The process of using Adobe XD’s design spec helped to a point, but I found myself going back to the original XD file for correct sizing between objects which was kind of a pain, new respect for our teams developers. Batching out the images was super fast and easy and I’m glad that’s a feature! It took some tweaking here and there, but I got the images just right.

The next task was to figure out the countdown timer. I looked around for some simple javascript that I would be easily able to edit the CSS for to make it match up with my design. Could I of done it from scratch? Of course! Again though, timing. I could crack open a book or go through some online tutorials OR I could find a script. Not only did I find a script, but I also found one that perfectly matched what I wanted with great documentation. Win win! You can check out the script I used here. The only down side is that I was only able to go to the launch date, and not the time as of this posting. I’m in the process of asking some developer friends to see if there’s quick fix that my feeble javascript brain didn’t understand…or tried to understand at 2am. Bad combo.

Everything looked great on desktop, now it was time to add some media queries to it looked great on the phone. I didn’t have to spend too much time, which was great as it was a super simple page. After I tested on my Chrome browser, I did some testing on Firefox as well as my Pixel phone. Everything laid out nicely and turned out smoothly. I put it out there on the internet, and now it’s time to wait and see if anybody will watch me play Forza Horizon 4 on September 28th, at 9pm.

View the full complete site here.

It was a nice fun exercise in sketching, designing and developing within a few day span. I feel that the move to using Adobe XD for my full design process was not only a smart move, but a good one that helped my workflow rather than using Photoshop to layout a website.

 

Edit: Update 12:50pm. A good developer friend, Teresa, was able to help me solve my countdown clock Javascript timer issue. Thanks again!

Artificial Intelligence Bots – First Attempts

There’s no blog post today, but instead I’ll give a quick heads up on what’s going on. I’ve been busy with family things and enjoying the last few weeks of summer with my boys before they go back to school.

I have been playing around with wit.ai, a ai bot website, where I intense to create my own bot for an AR app. I’m still working on a course where I will use the bot to be able to voice control my app and tell it to do things. I’m not sure how, as I’m not to the voice part yet. However, I’ve bee teaching it new things and plan to keep it open to the public. Since the app is essentially a car model with interactive pieces, the voice control will let me say “Open the doors” and then then doors will open. It’s been real fun teaching the bot.

The entire time I kept thinking how I could make a Jarvis from the Iron Man movies. Little steps first! My hope is high with AR right now. I plan on look more into other ai bot creators and give a quick overview for other beginners like me.

Cliffs AR/VR Life Recap – August 6th – 12th

Welcome to another quick recap of my AR/VR life, which has been super fun with momento360 and 360 images.

Websites

Momento360
This is an easy upload are to put your 360 images up and check it out online through the browser, or through your phones VR headset. I’ve been playing around at work with this, so I don’t really have anything I can show as of right now, but I’m working on it. Super fast and easy to upload and share.

Flickr VR
I literally came across this site thinking the following plugin “Flexify 2” was called flickr 2 for some reason. Either way, it was a happy mistake. Flickr VR is Flickr, but with only 360 images to view. This helps you check out all the cool stuff on your headset without getting stuck with a normal image. It’s been fun checking out some of the breathtaking images.

Software

Flexify 2 – Photoshop Plugin

This is a plugin I found online for the equirectangular grid that takes that grid, turns it into something manageable, and lets you built a cube VR room from there. What exactly is an equirectangular grid? It’s a grid use to proportionally show align everything in a 360 image. The process is simple. Take a flattened image of your grid, use the plugin to turn it into a “horizontal cross”, insert what you want or hatch together your photographs, and reverse the process. This easily puts it in an image ready to upload to your favorite VR image area.

The only downside is that it’s pretty pricey at $55. Is it worth it? You can check it out for yourselves with a free trial. I tried doing a warp in Photoshop myself, and I seem to do a real hack like job. This plugin makes it super easy to put it all together. If this becomes a thing or I find a niche in it, this plugin will make its way onto my computer.

That’s all I have for this week. Stay tuned as i continue a few more things and post them up to Momento360. I’ll be making sure to put the up on my twitter as well as post here for a more complete version.