Month: March 2016

Disney and Pixar Present the Shining

What the Shining taught me about teamwork

Disney & Pixar present The Shining. I’ll bet that’s a phrase you never expected to hear. Well my friend, teamwork can bring out the unexpected. It can result in something one person couldn’t make.

In this case, it was an assignment: mash up 2+ movies into a title sequence. My partner loved Pixar and I wanted to add something classic. We started with the title sequence from “Monsters Inc.”

As we talked about it, we realized there were a lot of ties between the two movies. The monsters in “The Shining” were less obvious, but no one can say “Here’s Johnny!” without a slight shiver. The doors in the hotel also paralleled the doors in Monsters Inc. We decided to keep the theme as light hearted as any Pixar film.

It was definitely fun to work on this project, but I also got to learn a lot about teamwork in the process. Since you want the motion graphic to look like one piece of art, you really have to work well together. The main takeaways I got from this experience are:

Teamwork is pretty amazing when everyone involved is excited about the final product.

The cool thing about the Journalism school is that most everyone in it is as excited to be there as you are. Everyone cares about what they produce. This is the ideal situation in the professional world as well. If you can join a team who really cares about what they are doing, everything is going to be more fun. Extra hours don’t seem to be a problem if it means the end product is going to be awesome!

You have to come to a joint vision and then put aside your ideas that don’t contribute to that vision.

Honestly, Pixar movies aren’t my thing. I’m more into Wes Anderson, Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock. Being part of a team means that you’ll get to work with people with different interests that will push you out of your comfort zone into something you wouldn’t think to create otherwise. This does mean though that sometimes you have to push back against your own tendencies if they don’t match the vision of the overall group.

Everyone will have a strength to add to the team, use it to your advantage.

In this project, I didn’t mind doing the detail work of the faces and my partner took the time to figure out how to imitate the iconic blood scene. We divided up the work so that one of us wouldn’t waste our time struggling through a section the other person felt comfortable taking care of. It doesn’t mean you should avoid trying new things, but it does require you to put the needs of the client before your own.
It’s funny to think about what a different movie “The Shining” would be if Disney and Pixar had teamed up with Stephen King to make it, but you can check out a little preview with our title sequence.


It’s time to take a break

For a long time, I thought that creativity had to be something innate within you. I was fairly convinced that only special people had creativity and those lucky few didn’t have to worry about losing it.

But I have realized that creativity is absolutely something you have to cultivate in yourself. As Twyla Thorp, the world class choreographer points out in her book The Creative Habit, there are a lot of ways to help yourself remain creative. A lot of them are interestingly enough, inversely related.

Developing a routine can help, finding a consistent place for creative work, a time of day or type of music that can signal to your brain that it’s time to think creatively. On the flip side, trying something new can also spur new ways of thinking.

Other tips include getting inspiration from other pieces, idea dumping, idea mapping, journaling for moments of inspiration and more.

Today though, I want to talk about taking a break from design. Sometimes this can be the most powerful tool for creativity. From walking around the office for a few minutes in between assignments to a week of vacation, breaks can reinvigorate your work.

For me, I have been burning the candle at both ends a bit too frequently this semester. With a job, internship and three time consuming classes, finding time to do everything has been tricky. Sometimes it takes a toll on my creativity. So for spring break, I didn’t design a thing. I didn’t even open my laptop and it was GREAT.

What I learned is that for me to be at my best, I have to take some time to rest. Right now that means being sure to take hours away from my computer and do things like taking a bike ride as a break during a long day.

As backwards as it may seem, when there’s too much to do, taking a strategic break can be the best thing to do.


The hidden art in every museum

Walking through a museum, there is a hidden piece of artwork you need to keep your eye out for. It’s massive really. I don’t know how so many people miss it.

What is this piece? It is the design of the museum itself. The design is so immensely important yet must feel so natural that it’s barely notable. The way the artwork is exhibited can completely change the mood and story of an exhibit.

Exhibit design is one of the most subtle yet purposeful types of design. The content is always the most important part of the design, but in a museum where visitors are paying to see the content, there really shouldn’t be anything detracting from the value of the art, history or science being displayed.

At the same time, the huge quantity of information have to be interesting enough to keep the viewer engaged. Because of this, cutting edge technology can be used to tell the story. Whether it be through interactive displays or virtual reality, a museum designer has to decide what will best tell the story.

The scope of the design is another thing to consider. The design can be in minute details or expansive wall displays. The materials of the installations can be chosen specifically to further complete the experience.

The wide variety of available mediums for museum design and the unique blend of graphic design, interior design and storytelling makes museum design one of the most interesting types of design around. To see some of my favorite examples of this design, check out my Pinterest board.

Things I wish someone had explained about code, Part II

Yesterday I shared some basic terms that will help you understand a conversation about code and programming. Today I’m going to get into a smorgasbord of terms I definitely had to look up the first time.



Javascript MV* Framework: Model-view-wildcard framework. Examples include AngularJS and Ember, and they are another way to speed up the process of making a web application with Javascript.

Bootstrap: It uses HTML, CSS and Javascript to help with responsive development. The downside is that it also has a very distinct look if you use to built in styles.


Github and Git

Git: saves your code as it is in that present moment. This way if you mess everything up, you can go back to your most recent version.Without using Github this is saved locally.

Github: saves your code online. There is also a great community of programmers who use github to work on projects together. See FOSS.



User experience/ user interface: not code, but very important to a website. The user interface is what the user interacts with on the site. The user experience is how that interface impacts their sense and use of the site.

HCI: Human centered design: This is a principle for UX/UI. The idea is to remember that what you’re creating is meant for people and therefore how they will use it is the most important consideration.


Assorted others:

Sass: A CSS preprocessor. Sass looks a lot like CSS, but has added functionality to speed up and better organize styles like variables, the ability to nest styles, and mixins. A Sass compiler then converts it into CSS that the browser can interpret.

FOSS: free and open source: Open source means that the source code is available for the public to see and edit to their own purposes. This is a big movement in the development community and is great because it encourages collaboration.

RESTful: Representational State Transfer: Basically this is how data in a web application can be retrieved, added, updated and deleted. This works on the line of using Javascript for both client-side and server-side. It is implemented in GET, POST, PUT and DELETE requests.

MVC: Model – view –controller. This is an explanation of how an interactive web application works. The user interacts with the site through the controller which changes the model which updates the view that the user sees.

Things I wish someone had explained to me about code. Part I

Entering the world of code is definitely fun, but also a bit intimidating when you first start. When you start talking to programmers, they jump into a explanations using terms and abbreviations you’ve never heard of or don’t really understand. I still spend a bunch of time researching whenever I’m introduced to a new topic, trying to make sure I understand what it means. So this post is for anyone who’s still figuring out a lot of the basics.

We’ll start out with the basic languages:

HTML: Hypertext markup language, the bones of a web page.

CSS: cascading style sheet, makes the page look pretty

Javascript: The popular programming language used for interaction on the page, can access and change elements of the page via the DOM (see below). Javascript can be used on both the client-side and the server-side.

jQuery: A library of prewritten Javascript functions. Can save you a lot of time so that you don’t have to write all the code yourself.

*DOM: Document Object Model. How the HTML is loaded into the browser and then able to be dynamically changed by Javascript or back-end code. This how a blog is able to input new content into a template without creating a new html page from scratch.


Another very important distinction is between front-end developers and back-end developers.

Front-end: The code for what the user sees on the site. HTML, CSS and Javascript are the languages for this. What this code creates is all client-side.

Back-end: The code used to build the functionality of the site and store all the relevant data that passes through the site. This code can be PHP, Java, SQL, etc. All this work is server-side.

Full-stack developer: This would be a developer who can do both front and back-end coding. There are different stacks, or compatible languages, that a full-stack developer may know. For instance, I work with MEAN: MongoDB, ExpressJS, AngularJS and Node.js. Through these languages I can control a web application on both the client side and the server side. Another popular stack is LAMP: Linux, Apache, MySQL and PHP.

For more information on the distinctions between front-end, back-end and full-stack developers, check out this article.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting the second installment of this with more confusing acronyms like UX/UI, MVC and OOP!


So, my new site is up

Today, my new site is up! I’m pretty pumped about it and you should totally check it out. Some of you may have some questions. I will answer them here.

Q: So, you just created your site a year ago, why are you already changing it?

A: It’s not because I’m indecisive or have too much free time (I promise, I don’t.) I changed my portfolio site primarily because the previous site was built entirely on a WordPress theme. When I created it, using a WordPress theme made sense for simplicity and was appropriate for my coding skill level.

Now however, I know more things and want my portfolio to demonstrate that. It seemed silly to have links to sites and web apps I coded from scratch while having my own portfolio be coded and designed by someone else.


Q: So, what did you do with this new site?

A: That’s a fair question. This time around, I hard-coded the home page, about page, and work pages. The blog is still a WordPress blog, but now I am using the blank theme _tk. I chose this theme because my PHP knowledge is limited, but this way I am completely in charge of the design.

The entire site uses Bootstrap to simplify the responsive grid. I also used a jquery plugin to make the nifty functionality on the work page. But everything else is all me.


Q: So, how did you do this?

A: My process for this has been much the same as with any other project I create. First, I looked high and low for inspiration. My google search history is full of the “best design portfolio sites” variations.

After letting these ideas sit for awhile, I jumped into wireframing. Some people use cool sites or programs, but I stuck with pencil and paper. This helped keep my process agile so I could make quick changes without feeling too stuck in any one idea.

Next, I made design comps in Illustrator. Oops. Then, my boss kindly reminded me that the industry standard is Photoshop. I transitioned my designs into Photoshop which ended up being a great opportunity for me to think more critically about my design. This, in turn, made my design more grid-based and just generally better.

Finally, I started coding. As I coded, I adjusted some parts of my design to be more practical for implementation, but overall it stayed true to my comps and original design intentions.


Q: So, you’re finally done now?

A: Ha. Never. What you’re seeing now is my MVP, minimum viable product. Instead of waiting to post the new site when it’s been perfected like my type-A nature wanted me too, I only waited until it was something I was proud of and suited my needs. Over the next month or so, I’ll be adding a lot of different features like animations, transitions, more styling and any other cool functions I think would add value to the site.
So, please look around. It’s got new content and a whole new look. I’m excited for the progress and hope you enjoy it too!

Why living in a city is better

For the past 3 ½ years, I’ve been living in Chapel Hill, NC. I love Chapel Hill and wouldn’t have wanted my college years to be spent anywhere else.

However, I am graduating and my tiny millennial attention span needs a real city. There are a lot of things that can only be found in a city. These are my top reasons everyone should move to a city:

  1. The diversity of the people living in the city with you. Everyone in the city has different backgrounds, jobs, passions and paths. Getting to know these people make you a better person.
  2. The ability to get anywhere fast. I know public transportation has a bad rap, but I love the accessibility of it. It makes the process of getting from one place to another much less complicated as long as you know the system.
  3. Or better yet, you can WALK lots of places. I love my car, but I would gladly trade it for being able to walk to work. Also, not having to drive means not having to park. Such a win.
  4. The culture in city. If you want to go to an art museum, you can. If you want to try a hip new restaurant, you can. There are few cultural experiences that cannot be found in a city.
  5. The energy in the workforce. Because there are so many unique, intelligent, creative people in a city, inspiration and collaboration are much more possible.
  6. Also with that energy comes progress. Cities get to have the new technologies before they’re sent out to the rest of the world. If you always wanted to play with the new toys first, the city is for you.
  7. Lastly, and very importantly, is the ability to get anything you want at any hour. Need a cup of coffee or a crepe at 4 in the morning? There’s a place for that AND they probably deliver.

BRB, packing up to move to the nearest city right now.