Final Project Report

June 3, 2010

The final week of the quarter has been much less busy than previous weeks, as we’ve pretty much wrapped up the two projects I’ve worked on – social media and invoicing. All that’s left to do is present to the client, which will happen tonight. I think Andy will be very pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish in a short amount of time with City Farm’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, and hopefully he is ready to take the reins (or hand them off to whoever will be responsible).

What I have been working on this week is putting together thoughts on our process for the social media portion of the project, which we’ll be submitting to Sarah for use in the final group portfolio. More specifically, I’m trying to explain why we chose Facebook and Twitter as suitable solutions for City Farm, and then describing what exactly we did to flesh out the Facebook page (Nicole is taking care of the Twitter part).

Overall, I am happy with this project, and certainly learned a lot about my strengths, weaknesses and interests. While I may not have done as much design work as I’d anticipated in this class, I definitely felt like I contributed a lot to the client and gained some valuable experience that will be useful in pursuing new media consulting opportunities in the future.

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Project Report, Week 9

May 27, 2010

After finishing up the invoice report at the end of last week (and submitting it to the client — haven’t gotten much response yet), my focus this week was on making sure our social media project was in order. Since Andy will likely be coming to class on Thursday, we want to be able to show him a finished product and give him the instruction he needs to take the reins from us. To that end, I’ve created a draft of a how-to document for updating the Facebook page, from the basics of adding links to the more complex process of adding and editing tabs. I’m waiting for feedback from the rest of the group, but I think it offers a good tutorial for both new and experienced Facebook users. With this and the Twitter how-to that Nicole is creating, we should have some solid material to give to Andy.

For the next week, it’s all about documenting the work we’ve done for the portfolio. That’ll likely include a case study for the social media project, and something explaining the process of the Invoice project.

Project Report, Week Eight

May 20, 2010

My main priority for this week was to finalize the recommendation report for the invoicing system, and we’ve managed to get pretty far with that (all that remains is to review the draft I created, which we’ll hopefully do in class tonight). I did hear from Andy this weekend, asking me specifically about iPhone applications, so I’m glad we included a couple in our report.

In terms of social media, I think we’ve finally (fingers crossed!) completed our flyers for the Facebook tabs. Next steps with the social media project will be to assign and execute the how-to documents for Facebook and Twitter, and to work on the case study that Nicole suggested last week, which I think will be a very valuable piece to add to our portfolio (outlining why social media was a good solution for City Farm, why we chose the methods we did, how we implemented them and some of the early outcomes).

Beyond those main projects, I plan to be a floater and help out where needed with video and signage.

As a recap, my specific contributions this week:

* Created invoice report and did two of the four application writeups

* Edited Facebook tab flyer using approved fonts, and critiqued others’ work

* Added content to City Farm Twitter/Facebook feed as needed

Project Report, Week Seven

May 13, 2010

This week was mostly about following up on previous projects and making sure things were staying on track.

Invoicing

After researching the content and format of typical feasibility/recommendation documents, I got to work on creating one for City Farm invoicing solutions. My draft includes an explanation of the problem to be solved, the criteria to consider when evaluating solutions and any technological issues or other concerns to keep in mind. I then evaluated the features of one of the three options we’d selected. The plan from here is to have the other two invoice team members help with the other options and with document design (chart graphics, etc.) I’ve been in touch with Aaron from Resource Center about our progress, and feel confident that we can provide him with something within the next week or so.

Social Media

A few of us on the team have been working on flyer-type designs we can add to the City Farm Facebook page under special tabs, to promote programs like the CSA and Green Boxes, and to attract new volunteers and restaurant buyers. We created these last week, and have done some critique of each other’s design. The next step is to make sure all our designs mesh with one another (using the same font, for example) and then adding them to the page. Once that is done (hopefully within the next few days), we will be able to pretty much wrap up the creation part of the social media project (while still adding more content to the Twitter feed and Facebook page as appropriate). Piush had a good suggestion of creating a how-to document that we could then pass off to the people at City Farm for use after the term is over, so that’s what we’ll be working on next.

I haven’t been able to contribute much to the video yet as planned, but am hoping to help with the editing process once we get to that point. I assume I will learn more about the schedule for this during class.

Project Report, Week Six

May 4, 2010

It’s all coming together now…

Last week, I definitely had some concerns about how the projects I was going to work on for City Farm would fit into my interests and portfolio needs. After our team meeting, however, I felt a lot better about things, having joined the social media team (mostly expanding and updating the Facebook page), contributing to the video discussion and – tentatively – pursuing the invoicing project (more on this in a second). I felt like I was doing enough to contribute to the team while not ignoring the aspects of the project that most interested me professionally.

Since then, things have been going smoothly. Though I was unable to attend the field trip to the site with the video team, I did complete a draft of an informational flyer that we can post on the Facebook page for prospective restaurant partners (Nicole has been very helpful in determining how to create and format these tabs, as well as taking over the Twitter page for now). Hopefully, we can finalize these during our next team meeting and be able to have something new to show to the client. In addition, I had a productive conference call with Andy (City Farm), Aaron and David (Resource Center) on Monday regarding the invoicing project. Though we agreed that there would not be enough time to implement a solution during this quarter, I came away from the discussion with a better understanding of their needs and with an assignment — to deliver a report on the best 3-4 options that might work for them. If time permits, we may discuss how they might take the next step in the process, as well. I think this will be a valuable experience for me (and any other team members who want to help out) both in terms of communicating with clients and creating technically minded reports (with an image element, of course).

For the next week, my goal is to finalize my Facebook design (with the help of the other team members), contribute more to the direction on the social media networking strategy and complete at least a partial draft of the invoicing feasibility/recommendation report. If possible, I wouldn’t mind sitting in on a video editing session, but that may be a little ambitious given my schedule.

Project Report, Week Five

April 28, 2010

It’s been a productive week for the City Farm team. Though we’ve had to shift gears a little bit due to some pushback/confusion within the Resource Center organization, I think the team has done a good job of quickly finding other projects to work on that will be useful for the organization and for us as designers/communicators. After meeting with Andy at the site on Friday, we really got a good sense of how much impact we can have through our “beautification” project (big signs, little signs, maps, etc.) and we even got a new video assignment to work on (educating volunteers when they arrive onsite).

So, that’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that we still haven’t had any luck in discussing other projects (or anything, really) with Kevin and Aaron, the higher-ups at the Resource Center. While I think we will have plenty to keep us busy with the beautification and video projects — honestly, our biggest problem may be managing Andy’s enthusiasm, as he has no shortage of ideas — the other proposed work (volunteer communications, invoicing system, website usability analysis) is important to me personally. I’m much more interested in interaction design and online communications projects than in visual design efforts and video production (though I would like to get my hands dirty with some editing programs). I feel these kinds of projects would be more beneficial for my portfolio, which is why I made it a point to follow up with Kevin and Aaron this week about our intentions and the research we’ve done so far.

I do realize that there’s only so much time left in the term, however, and if we don’t hear anything back soon, it may not make sense to pursue these other projects — and certainly not give them precedence over the actual, real projects we have committed to.  I’m certainly willing to do my part to make those successful, including working on the video script/concept. Piush has also proposed including some formal recommendations for volunteer communications/management among our deliverables, and this could be a way to get some further experience without requiring anything from the client, so I’ll keep that in mind in case my main priority does fall through.

Multimodality Part 2: The Visual Response

April 13, 2010

Multimodality: Part 1

April 6, 2010

A disclaimer: I’m something of an anti-theory person, so I approached Gunther Kress’ Multimodality: A Social Semiotic Approach to Contemporary Communication with some suspicion– not least because I’ve read a little bit of his work before (Multimodal Discourse, with Van Leeuwen) and found it to include a lot of what seems, to me, to be overanalysis of mundane topics (which, of course, Kress says are the best places to anchor theory). While I understand the purpose of theory, to create a framework through which to understand the world, the close examination of common communication processes often feels a little too much of theory for theory’s sake – I’d rather spend my time considering how to improve things practically.

That said, I was able to find some key points that resonated with my experience and professional interest.

First is the idea of “authorship,” and how the term has become increasingly complex thanks to new technologies and methods of creation. While in the past, supreme respect was given to the originator of a certain message or product, those notions of authenticity and legitimacy have gone out the window. In the new remix culture, it’s about what you do with raw communication material; where it comes from is ultimately of less concern (hip-hop sampling is one example, but they can also include Photoshop mashups and even news aggregators). As Kress puts it, those who would denigrate remixers as just cutting and pasting content are relying on a “misconceived transfer of old conceptions of authorship to new conditions” (21).

Basically, what this means is that anyone can be a creator – there’s no real audience anymore, or at least not in the way the audience was typically conceived. This was true even before user-generated content became the norm; Kress points out the differences in assumptions between a traditional page of a book and a page on a website. Unlike the traditional page, which is designed with a given order, basically directing the reader how to consume it (e.g. from left to right, top to bottom), a webpage is shaped “with the assumption that engagement takes place in terms of the reader’s interest” (38) The reader (or user) might choose to look at one section of the site and then scroll down to another section – the goal is to make it easy for the user to do what he wants, not necessarily to direct that action. It’s clear that not all websites adhere to this line of thinking, or have done the necessary legwork to determine what users actually want. It’s this area of digital communication that most interests me – figuring out how to engage users on their terms.

As Kress sees it, in order to engage users, you have to figure out which is the right tool to use – the ‘aptness’ of the means for representation. That choice is always complex (particularly online, with choices including  text, image, video, audio, etc.), but it becomes even more so when you consider cultural preferences. While Western societies have long preferred writing to image for areas of formal public communication, that does not necessarily hold true for all forms of communication. A good example of this is the increasing use of images in American textbooks since the 1930s – more important than the fact that there were more pictures was the fact that the mode of images was looked at in a different light. Instead of just acting as a supplement to writing, image has become an equally dominant mode, with each offering specific affordances. Still, while that might apply to American textbooks, it may not apply to a website which is intended for an international audience.. Kress talks about how ‘reach’ and translation across cultures can be difficult, and how there’s no such thing as ‘arbitrariness’ when it comes to selecting text, images or any mode of communication (which can also include color, font, layout, etc – things I never thought of as creating meaning until studying graphic design). The society or market  to which you’re directing the message plays a huge role in defining the choices you make.