2018: my retrospective

Contrary to what many people say, I feel like this year went quite slowly, mainly because so much has been happening and I think I did quite a lot, personally and professionally. And now it’s finally nearly 2019!

I mostly had a pretty good year; it was definitely a year of learning quite a lot, growing out of a lot of things, and just generally being more comfortable being more confident with my own point of view. I felt burnt out a number of times this year, and it wasn’t just because of work. I guess it’s the nature of the creative industry, and the multitude of thoughts and opinions within it, as well as wrestling with my own personal goals for the future and what I want to achieve next.

It’s been pretty hard for me to blog on here for years, to be quite honest. I used to blog almost weekly, but I stopped mainly because I didn’t have anything to say, and I didn’t really have much I wanted to show either. I was learning and progressing, and honestly, it’s hard to blog about being an amateur/newbie and not knowing much in the creative industry when people I know read my blog to keep up with what I’m doing and what I know. That’s the hardest part of all in having a blog or website in the first place- knowing that people you know actually want to keep up with your personal career and life.

To put it simply. I’ve “changed” as people do with time, and I have to admit I have kinda lost interest in creating art for art’s sake. That’s not to say I don’t not like creating art…in fact illustration is still a big hobby of mine and if I have an idea that needs to be expressed, I’ll get some pens out…however I want my art to mean something, or to be for something that means something.

It’s the same reason why I’ve come to realise I perhaps don’t have as strong an interest in branding or advertising as I thought. These are things which I personally do not find much satisfaction in for my own personal reasons (ask me about it, I’ll talk about it for hours), and it’s made me realise even more producing content for the sake of content is really not what I want to be doing either. I mean, I love a good brand, and I definitely appreciate a successful campaign and application, but the ability to do a satisfying and complete rebrand with a small team is likely also a factor for me in having a preference for swaying more towards digital design. It’s more tangible to me, satisfying in the sense that problems have solutions that aren’t completely abstract, and you get something you can interact with at the end.

That said, I do still want to create art for myself more often, to make more tangible things as well. It’s just the medium might be slightly different in the future, because I need the variety. I need to be learning something and evolving my process and point of view. Being stuck in the same perspective isn’t good for creativity or personal development in my opinion, and being obsessive about comparing yourself to other people’s work or progress isn’t helpful for anyone either.

The thing about the creative industry is, everyone thinks their opinion is the source of truth. Going online and being lambasted by opinions left and right is commonplace, especially if you’re talking about the web industry. Getting caught up and taking sides in a technical discussion is easy. Deciding what to actually put into practice is something else. Something I think a lot of people miss in these discussions are the constraints and people you have to work around. Not only that, I’m often at the intersection between the designer and developer, and I can see so much room for improvement in this area on both sides.

As the dev hand-off person in a lot of projects, I am often interpreting a lot of design and more often than not, designing with code on the fly. Particularly with mobile designs, where it is 99% of the time not even designed. I’m sure many people have opinions on whether this good/bad, I don’t think its’ necessarily bad, however it means I have to fill in gaps and assume things which the designer hasn’t even considered. The web is in the midst of an interesting era, and having done a few websites now based off another person/s design, if you’re designing for the web, I feel like it is more important now that you really should know about basic code, semantics, best practice.

I think more than anything, 2018 made me realise everyone has their point of view and opinions, but your own perspective and capability is what matters the most in dealing with problems and finding solutions. Everyone’s winging it at some point, and only you can know what the best solution is for the creative problem you are about to tackle. Of course there may be better solutions out there, but for now in the present, know that a website is just a constantly evolving thing that can always be updated at a later date.

So what have I actually been doing this year?

In terms of projects I did last year, there were more than a few. The biggest, most recent project I did was for the Blue Room Theatre, which launched recently this month. I coded the site based on a design by several designers, and it was designed with a lot of print thinking in mind, meaning I had to fill in a lot of gaps to make it accessible and user-friendly. I am pretty happy with how it all turned out in the end, although it was definitely one of the longest projects I’ve worked on due to a number of factors and constraints. There is another site I worked on that is launching soon too which I managed to finish around the same time, and also took an immense amount of time to get ready. It didn’t make it live before Christmas though, because it was basically a modernised version of an old unresponsive site made back in the day and needed updated content. It was an interesting build and took a lot longer than I thought it would due to each page being specifically designed…fun times!

I refactored a lot of old code this year, and made more than a few improvements to some old sites which was fun and tedious. It’s interesting seeing different concepts and solutions from back in the day, and in fact a lot of them are very applicable to modern standards if they were done right. I even worked on a number of old sites like this one I worked on back in the day, and it was pretty easy to see how much I’ve learned since then and all the things I can do better.

I designed and developed this site for an interior decorator, and it is notable because apart from the constraints I had to work around, I am super happy with how the logo effect came out on this site. It’s subtle and looks dead simple, in fact it’s so simple it might even be unnoticeable, but it did take a bit of head scratching for me to work out. I always need a good time to think about these things because positioning on pages is hard for me to get my head around when it involves scrolling as well.

I also designed and developed a lot of hospitality sites with art direction from my boss, like Hadiqa, Goody Twos, and Pax & Co. We did the Big Bopper and Meat Candy sites too, but that didn’t last long. I did a fair few number of alcohol related sites in collaboration with other designers too, such as the one for alby beer, and another wine store. I even have a boilerplate age gate for WordPress now.

I’ve basically thrown out all CSS frameworks and grid systems, and am now exclusively using flex and grid. It is awesome. I really need to clean up my boilerplate theme and CSS though, which is something I aim to do in the new year.

I’ve had to do a number of YouTube hacks this year because a lot of people seem to want video backgrounds on their page, so I understand aspect ratio and Youtube’s confusing API a lot better now. Talking about API’s I also had to wrestle with Google’s dev console a fair few times this year and I have to say, I am not impressed with their UI/UX at all.

And as a sidenote, I helped with the rebranding for Halford, although a lot of it was for print, not web. I also did some app designs for a theatre company, but that’s a work in progress.

I did way more sites this past year, and each of them have their own story of constraints and technicalities, but for now, these are my parting thoughts for 2018.

I’m excited to see what 2019 brings, and there is so much I want to achieve and learn. I definitely want to continue making websites and exploring options to make cleaner, simpler, and easily manageable websites for everyday people to use.

I want to flex my UI/UX muscles more because I know I feel like I excel in this area of design, and I want to explore fun and unique solutions, push the envelope in digital design and take things further, basically ask why? more.

I want to figure out how to customise a gutenberg block, I want to blog more and be less afraid to put my work out there, I want to set aside more time to work on the many projects I’ve started but not finished. I want to work with my hands more, and I want to up my technical game with more accessible, semantic HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and PHP.

And I want to stop worrying about other people’s opinions of what and how I do things. I’ve come this far with skills I’ve worked on for years, but there have been so many things that I’ve come to realise have been holding me back. I want to trust my gut more and I want to design and make things that are helpful, accessible, fun, and easy to use. Sounds simple enough right?

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