Friday, 12 October 2012

Word Press: A Royal Pain In The....

.....As you may have guessed this post is about Word Press. Recently I was forcefully introduced to Word Press when I took over the building and development of a website for one of my clients. Usually in these kind of situations I would log onto the server where the files and scripting is stored, link those files to my Dreamweaver software and begin the editing. Unfortunately in this case I was shocked to discover the last 'developer' had been using Word Press. This kind of annoyed me a little as I do believe it gives web designers a bad name when people in the industry use these tools to create websites and call themselves 'Web Designer'. What also annoyed me was this particular so called Web Designer did a really piss poor job of it! Leaving me to attempt to pick up the pieces.

Now don't get me wrong, I am very much all for simple web based site development software. I think it's a great way for small businesses to get online and somewhere for say a student to set up their online portfolio or blog. Some of my peers within the industry would disagree with this as they believe it is killing our industry by providing a cheap and easy platform that makes people believe that anyone can be a web designer. I don't think this is the case at all. Everyone needs a starting point and maybe don't have the funds to hire a web designer at that time. Plus, when their company does become a big success  and they do need to expand, it will be from them saving money on overheads such as using site builder software and not creating overheads by hiring a high cost web designer to build a simple six page site for them. When the time comes and that business is ready they will then hire a web designer to put together a much more complex and higher standard of website. 

But this is something that does bother me. Word Press is supposed to be one of these simple to use web creation tools. But in my opinion I think it is probably one of the more difficult tools. If you are a web designer then you will understand this next part a lot easier than a complete novice.

When I come to build a website from scratch I tend to use Dreamweaver software. The reason for this is because as a web designer you need to be able to completely visualise the website in your mind just from the code you are writing. Dreamweaver takes this element away by displaying what content you have created so far within a design window. This is also great for novices just starting out and work very much on trial and error (thats pretty much how I taught myself web design). What you also do when creating your own website is label everything to your own understanding. While writing simple html you understand which elements you are creating and so makes it easier to give them features in your CSS document (I think this section is where I may loose some people). This is where Word Press begins to get very complex and if you did get lost at any point during that, then you too would find it near impossible to edit a Word Press site. Because Word Press runs on themes there are certain rules you have to follow and certain sections can only be edited to the pre-sets of that theme. However, some elements can be changed if you have some understanding of CSS in the styles sheet editor. But, because the styles sheet is not of your own creation it is like trying to use a foreign cash machine. You know that one of the buttons will give you cash, but you may have to press 3 or 4 before you find the right one. This is also made more difficult by the fact that there is no preview to any of the changes you are making. Which means with every change you are forced to save and update the file, then go to your site, refresh the page, and see what, if anything, has changed. 

As you can see this is an absolute nightmare! Even if you just stick to the simple builder provided as part of the theme it is still guess work as there isn't much opportunity to preview the changes you are making. For anyone out there that is wanting a quick and simple way to build a site without any previous knowledge of web design I would advice you to download something such as iWeb or other simple site building softwares. Dreamweaver is also a fantastic piece of software but you need to take time to teach yourself the very basics of web design before you would be able to use the software successfully. The best website to use for this is This is the site I used when I was first starting out as a web designer. 

Finally I would like to say one good thing about Word Press. If you do eventually work out how the site works, how to add pages, how to edit pages, and learn how to use the foreign cash machine, you can actually use it to create a good looking website. But it is limited and you probably won't get everything you want. I did the best I could with the software and managed to get the site looking to a decent enough standard considering the limitations. You can check out my work at:

As I say, small site builders like this do eventually lead on to bigger projects. I am now already in discussions with this client about building a bigger and better website from scratch (and it probably won't take as long either!)

Thanks for reading & keep being creative!


Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Grizzly Joe's Apparel Photo Shoot

Below is a photo shoot I recently did for my good friends over at Grizzly Joe's Apparel. Grizzly Joe's is an independent clothing and accessories company that was set up by my good friend Alex Lowth and over the past couple of months the business has been booming! It was great fun going out and doing this shoot for his first product launch and I am happy to see that his hard work is paying off!

Hopefully I will be working on some more projects with GJ's in the future as the company goes from strength to strength and his product range slowly grows. With halloween round the corner I know that Alex himself is already working on something big for the end-of-October drop so be sure to go over and check out all their products.

Thats it for now, Keep being creative!


Also, make sure to go over and check out Grizzly Joe's Apparel for yourself!

Sunday, 7 October 2012

New Old Skool

Just a very quick post today as it is Sunday. I did a little project last week to create a couple of posters for a local company to target the student population in our local city. I decided after a little bit of research I wanted to have a go at creating an old skool comic book effect for the posters. I've really liked the style for a while and thought it would be the perfect time to try out some design work of that effect for myself.

I found that when creating something that needs to have an old skool print effect that you need to use pastel colours to match the printing quality of that time. Creating the perfect colour pallet before you start makes the process of designing much easier. I took some time to research a few old style print on the internet and then used those images in Photoshop to find the colour codes of the colours on the images. Once I had the codes I was able to open illustrator and create my colour pallet for my design.

The next thing you need to get right when creating this style of design is the text. Finding the right text for your designs is always important. It is common practise for designers to not use the standard texts that are in-built into your computer system. Although, sometimes companies may have a corporate text they use for all their publications. It's only in these cases I tend to use in-built fonts. The text I used for this particular project was a comic styled font known as SF Comic Script. The font is really effective and saves time using a standard font and trying to add effects to make it look more comic like. Sometimes for projects it is more effective to use a self created font but for this particular projects a comic standard is good enough for the overall aesthetic feel.

Once these two steps were completed it was all about creating some cool visuals to sell the product.

I'm currently working on another project which I will share with you in a couple of weeks. I'll probably have some more posts before then and I am hoping to eventually get some tutorials posted on here to take you through step by step of some of the projects I work on.

Until next time, keep being creative!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

It Starts With An Idea.....

Some of you may have had one, but most will have not, that eureka moment when you come up with an idea so good that it's going to change your life. If you haven't had one yet then definitely do not be down hearted! If you feel that your on the edges of something then you have the right mind set and it will happen for you one day. To come up with a good idea can either be the way you think, look at the world, or could be something you stumble on completely by accident.

For this post I want to specifically talk about an individual who made a massive success just from having the idea to recreate something from their past. This person is Julie Dean and she is the owner of The Cambridge Satchel Company.

If many of you have watched a fair bit of TV lately you have most likely seen the advert for Google featuring Julie and her satchels and the journey taken from idea to million pound company and the satchel craze. If you haven't then here is a quick reminder.....

Now this advert was the first I'd even seen this story. My girlfriend however is a fashion graduate so of course knew about the success before the advert. I do jokingly nudge her every time the advert comes on and say 'Come on then, wheres your big idea to make us millions?'. But without that Eureka moment or that start of a great idea any attempt on this scale would be pointless. If you go looking for an idea then you my not enjoy the journey. The successes of people like Julie Dean is that she had passion in what she was doing and was able to channel that passion and enjoyment into her eventual success.

Not all of it will ever be smooth sailing though. Times do get very hard when you are trying to develop and build your idea. The Cambridge Satchel Company although very popular did go through a rough time with bad press for been 'unreliable' but this wasn't actually anything to do with the company been in any way deceiving or lazy. The actual problem was that the satchel craze became so popular so quickly that they couldn't keep up with orders. Now any business person will tell you that this situation is completely catch 22. You may end up with massive orders for your fantastic product, but you may not yet have the resources to complete all those orders. This was a similar situation. The Cambridge Satchel Company until a short while ago outsourced the production of their satchels and if that company had other orders in the pipeline then the satchels had to be put on hold.

Now, of course that problem has been solved with the development of their own factory. The idea developed further and more problems over come to establish the idea on a much larger scale.

So what can you take from this story? Well, I think its a good example of how a good idea can take you a long way. But even if your idea is concrete do not expect it to be plain sailing. Every new business venture is a challenge and there will always be bumps in the road. But as long as your willing to give it your all and work harder than you have on anything else then you will succeed! Be passionate about your work, make sure its something you enjoy, and the rewards will be that much more satisfying. As the old saying goes: A person who does what they love for their job will never work a day in their life ever again!

Keep being creative!


Want your own satchel? Get one here!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

An Obituary To The Photo Album

It's become some what of a tradition that whenever I go round to my grandma's house she always likes to get an old photo album out to show us pictures of the family from years gone by. She especially likes to get the albums out of me when I was younger to show my girlfriend! The picture of me in very tight black and red trunks will haunt me forever thanks to that photo album!

But in some ways it always seems a nice thing to look back in these photo albums. It can put a smile on my face remembering happy times from my past. It also serves a great reminder that my Dad at one point was actually stick thin and remarkably had quite a fair bit of hair! (sorry dad). But times seem to be slowly changing and in some ways I really do find it quite upsetting.

The reason I started thinking about this post is because it was my girlfriends birthday this weekend. As usual we made sure to charge the camera ready to capture the antics of the night. Most of the time these photo's would just serve as a reminder the next day of what actually happened the night before followed by the words 'What the hell were we doing!?'. But this time it wasn't just about that. Before we left my girlfriend specifically asked that we try and attempt to get a nice photo that evening as we didn't have a nice one in the house. I quickly realised that we didn't actually have any photo's in our house at all. We managed to hang a stylish picture of some French scenery in our bathroom (we've never even been to France!) but not a single photo of us or the family.
Me and my late Grandad at the beach.

This started to also make me think that to have a picture in the house meant going and getting them printed, something I hadn't actually done since film camera's were replaced by digital. Most of the photo's I had taken had always ended up either sat on my computer or uploaded to a generic social network in there now not so appropriately name 'Albums'. Of course I did do some print work while I was doing photography at University but that was of professional photo shoots and never anything with a personal touch. So I decided on Sunday while I had not much to do I would try and seek out some photo's to print.

Me and my Nan at my Graduation.
I soon realised though that many of the photographs I had taken didn't exist in any original form anymore. Over the years of moving around at University and replacing my equipment a couple of times in the process I had lost most of the original photo's. This meant having to log onto the social network sites to recover the photo's I wanted to print. What I never actually realised was how much your photo's are compressed to fit on the internet. It seems funny this never actually occurred to me before as I have knowledge about reducing pixel sizes in order to place content on the web and for some strange reason this seemed to have slipped my mind when uploading my photo's to the web. This meant that even though I had the photo right in front of me it was absolutely useless for what I actually wanted it for: A physical version to keep in the house.

But what is actually going to happen in the next 10 or 20 years? What happens when me and my girlfriend eventually have kids and then grandkids? Will we all still be logging onto our social networks to show our children photo's? Do not get me wrong, I absolutely love the advancements we are seeing in technology and the progression into the digital age. But in my opinion the sharing of photo's with family members and loved ones should be some what of a personal experience. I want to one day be able to sit down with my grandkids and do the same thing my grandma has done to me for so many years..... Embarrass the hell out of them!!!!

So before it's too late, and the last nail is hammered into the coffin of the traditional photo album, I am going to now make a promise to myself to make more of an effort in preserving my photographs. I will no longer fall into the trap of thinking that our personal memories will always be safe uploaded into digital space when in-fact the moment we press that upload button we have already compromised the quality of our memories. I will preserve the right to embarrass my own children as I was once embarrassed and be able to share my family on the walls of my home. I just hope after reading this post more people will vow to do the same.....

Until next time, Keep being creative!


Friday, 28 September 2012

Not Your Average Pen Drawn Portrait...

This amazing piece of artwork was featured today on the BBC News website. This portrait of Les Misrebles' Cossette is by Britain's Got Talent contestant Nathan Wyburn and was created using nothing but parts from standard ball point pens. The artwork was reported to have taken 23 hours and complete and is made up of 2,436 empty pen barrels, 3,591 lids, 460 clips and 290 pen ends!

This young artist deserves an award just for his patience alone. But personally I think it shows what can be achieved with the right amount of imagination and creative flare.

Keep being creative!


Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Pantry Ghost Documentary

Just a quick post for you today.

I don't know about anyone else but I am a big fan of the Paranormal Activity films. I really like the look and feel of these low budget films and really capture the imagination of the audiences watching the films. I remember when I first saw the original and it freaked me out! Of course it didnt help that my friend wound me up by telling me that it some an actual viral police video that was making the round on the internet. Oh how gullible I was!

However, looking back now I am glad that my friend did this to me as it is very rare these days that a scary film actually remains scary. Once you have studied media for a long time rather than just watching a film you find yourself analysing every little section of the film. It really does get on my girlfriends nerves when I start talking about camera effects and the quality of the direction of photography. But that to me is what a great film is. It's not just about been enjoyed by an audience but it also means that it impresses savvy media professionals such as ourselves.

My love for the Paranormal Activity films hasn't stopped either. It was only the other day when I was online looking at the trailer for Paranormal Activity 4 when I accidentally stumbled upon a fan page dedicated to paranormal films and videos. This straight away got me interested as I am always on the look out for a new film that must just achieve scaring the pants off me!

As i scrolled through the form I was seeing a lot of different low budget films and general YouTube footage. However I did come to a section that intrigued me. The forum was dedicated to a selection of video's on YouTube called the pantry ghost. The video's are said to have been shot by one family over a period of time while living in a house in the U.S.A. I decided to give these videos a quick watch and there was one in particular that really did make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a little bit....

Now as a man of media I was of course very sceptical, as were a lot of other people on the forum, discussing how the video's could have been faked in some way or how CGI could have been used. As I scrolled through a bit more I discovered a link that had been posted quite recently about a documentary that has been created dedicated to the video's posted on YouTube. Curiosity got the better of me and I decided that I would go ahead and purchase The Pantry Ghost Documentary.

I must admit that after watching the documentary there was still a lot of unanswered questions in my mind and if anything it made me further doubt that these video's could be real, and this is why:

If anyone is a fan of these kind of film where it is shot in first person i.e Blair Witch, Cloverfield, Paranormal Activity, then you will know that there is always some sort of internet build up and promotion. Before the films are released and in some cases even created the directors will start an online frenzy by releasing tiny bits of information related to the films out into the public through the use of the internet. In my opinion this documentary isn't any different. I don't think that this was planned on such a large scale as that but I do believe that it may have been started as a little project that eventually grew to be a bit of a internet sensation amongst both viral video and paranormal enthusiasts.

However, I do believe the documentary is note worthy. I think that this is a good example of what can be achieved through the use of media and great promotion. The documentary as well, even though it is low budget, is quite impressive.

If your into this kind of thing or even if you are just intrigued yourself as to whether you think these video's maybe real or not I definitely recommend giving it a watch. I enjoyed watching it from both a paranormal interest point of view and from an analytical media point of view. I think any student of media would also find it useful to watch as an inspiration for any possible documentary work you may do as part of your studies, portfolio, or even just for a bit of fun with friends.

Until next time, keep being creative!


Wednesday, 26 September 2012

The Very Beginning - Student Life!

Ok, not the greatest title of my first blog post, but we all have to start somewhere. This is officially my first blog and so to start out I thought I'd tell you a little about how I got started in media and why it is I've decided to start blogging!

I've been working in and around the Media industry a while now. I've not long finished my degree within Media but have worked within the industry for almost 5 years and I believe that theres nothing that teaches you more about media than actually going out there and learning the trade in a working environment. Gone are the days of 3 month project hand in dates and late night drunken antics, replaced with 12 hour deadlines and a social life that its near non existent. They try to warn you in University that working life within the industry will be tough but nothing really prepares a student who is fresh out of Uni with their degree just what is expected of them within the work place.

This is exactly what happened to me. I hadn't actually finished my degree at this point but I was keen to start gaining some work experience. So me and a friend took on a job creating a video for a club night in the city. Been new at everything we just left everything to chance, we didn't write a story board, nor a production plan, or gained any permissions from any of the venue staff or managers. We just expected to turn up on the night and have everything be ready for us. Oh how wrong we were! The night turned out to be a nightmare. Even getting in the club was hard enough as it took us nearly 30 minutes to get hold of the promoter just to gain access to the club with our camera equipment. Once inside we even had to sit and have a briefing with the management who instantly started asking us for forms and documents we'd never even heard of. Hearing the words 'you guys are new at this aren't you?' was not the greatest line to hear coming from a club manager!

But we managed to turn it around for the most part. We got out into the club and shot our footage. The night turned out to be quite a laugh and after we had finished we even had time to have a couple of drinks ourselves.

The next day was like any other. We got up and wondered into town to get some food and have a look round the shops, arrogantly planning our night ahead as we thought we deserved it seen as we had been working the night before. That was until 4pm came and we received a call from the promoter asking if there would be a viewing available of the footage that evening. Suddenly we had realised our next major mistake, these guys were expecting a very quick turn around, less than a week intact! To a student who's used to 3 month deadlines for a video thats 5 minutes long this seemed alien! how were we going to do it?

In panic Mike said we'd have some kind of edit finished for the next day. At this point I remember almost spiting my afternoon pint all over the table at those deadly words. See, staying up and editing something on a laptop or PC wasn't a problem. However this was our first year at university and we pretty much relied on everything the Uni could provide us. This meant having to rush to the University before they closed the booking office before 4:30 and pray that on some blind luck one of the rooms had not already been booked out by someone else. I didn't like our chances one bit but now we didn't have a choice but to try.

We quickly finished our drinks a ran as quick as we could across to the university building, and as id predicted, not one single editing suit was available. So, we did the only thing we could do.... we snook into one of the rooms after the booking office was closed. We decided that blind ignorance would stand us in good stead. If we just pretended that we had booked the room out then there would be no one to argue with as the booking office was closed. So with that in mind we went and found one the quieter rooms and got to work.

We managed to actually work quite quickly. Before we knew it we had a very good script of the work and a good sound track to go over the top. It was 9pm by this point and so thought it was a good time to export the video. This would also leave us with enough time to get ready and make it to the club by 10. We were proud at what we had done and thought it was time to celebrate.

The next morning I was woken by a very loud banging on my room door. I looked over at the clock to see it was 9am, not a great time for a student, especially one that was hitting the tequila shots very hard the night before! I rolled out of bed and opened by door to be faced with a very panic stricken Mike. 'They want to view the footage in an hour at the club!'. When they said the next day I wasn't expecting this. I got dressed as quick as I could and within about 20 minutes we were heading out the door. As the fresh air hit me I realised that I was still a little tipsy from the night before. This wasn't going to be a good impression left with the people who had hired us to do this work. But there was little we could do and when we arrived at the club we headed inside to try and get through it as quick as possible and get back home to bed.

Again, how wrong we were! We were in the club over an hour going over and over the video that we had created as the management slowly scrutinised the video frame by frame. We felt hurt! In our hearts we had produced this video in just one night, our baby, our best work yet, and it was been torn apart by people who in our opinions knew nothing about media! Looking back now i'd say we also knew nothing about media. The video really was a cut and paste job. But even now, years later when I have perfected my art I still have to go through the same process. Something they don't teach you in university is that the customer is always right.... even when they are wrong! Never try to argue with a customer it ends badly.

Of course we weren't going to argue this time either. 2 timid young students completely out of their depth! After we left the club we felt more destroyed than we did when we had first woken up, and the worst thing was that it had only just begun. no chance were we going back to our beds, we had to get into university and try re-edit the video before we were due back to the club at 3pm for another screening. It was at this point I turned to Mike and told him 'I think we made a mistake here...' and I wasn't just talking about the project. Getting a taste of what my working life might be like I thought I'd chosen the wrong career path! It was a very low morning.

But we powered through! We managed to officially book out a room at the Uni this time, we put our heads down, and again we managed to finish the project in time for the showing. But again, we  were sent away with more editing requests, and again we crawled back to the university.

This actually lasted the full week, right up until the deadline day. It had been exhausting! One week at university completely gone and fully controlled by one project. We decided at that point we'd put our out of Uni work on hold, just for a little while.

So why is this story important? See, the point is is that you need to expect this when you eventually leave university and get a job. Whether its working for yourself or working for a company. No matter how much heart you put into a project you need to always accept that there will in 99% of cases need to be changes. Never get attached to projects. It's a bitter pill to swallow in our industry as we put our own creative flare into everything.

The second thing you need to accept is that no matter how efficient or talented you are at your work you will always be working right up to the deadline. It is an unavoidable fact. I have yet to work on a project where I have not worked right up until the day that the project is expected. My advice is even though it seems crazy to you now, always set yourself short term deadlines. Because after working on a project day in day out for a long time you start to loose sanity and get sick of the site of your own work.

Last of all and probably the most important is planning. Plan everything! Even if its something as simple as a photo shoot. In most cases you will only have an allocated amount of time in one location. It's important to make sure you make the most of this time as it can be near impossible to recreate that situation, especially with ever changing weather conditions. It's also good practise to ensure you never miss anything or forget anything. Paper work can sometimes be vital in this industry and so you need to make sure everything is in order at least the day before your project.

I hope this advice is good for any new media student starting out, and possibly gave a few more experienced people a laugh and a chance to reminisce. This is what my blog posts are going to be about. Help and advice on projects, work, planning, and everything in-between. Sometimes my posts might be short and funny, or they could be long and detailed but I hope that people will find them useful and fun to read.

Keep being creative!



Here's a copy of the finished video I managed to find on YouTube. Looking back its actually not a bad finished product considering we were fresh faced University students, but I'll let you be the judge!