Last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of serving as a judge for the “Harrisburg Beer Week Battle of the Homebrew Clubs” competition as a part of the inaugural Harrisburg Beer Week. My good friend Chelsie, one of the organizers of Harrisburg Beer Week, invited me to judge. I immediately asked how I could possibly be qualified, though I suppose my futile attempts to surpass my friend Tierney on Untappd unique check-ins has exposed me to a decent number of beers. In full disclosure this is was not a BJCP-certified event, and like the rest of the week’s festivities, the proceeds benefited Harrisburg River Rescue.
Before the event, I was style preference to judge, to which I said I wasn’t picky. Clearly, it was a mistake, as I was assigned IPAs, which may just be my least favorite style (and here I thought the popularity of IPAs would have made it some other judge’s first choice).
Confession: I felt like I had no idea what I was doing.
Fellow judges included a beer distributor, a professional brewer, a beer podcaster, and an attorney (who felt as under-qualified as I did, despite specializing in alcohol and the law).
The beers on the judging table were labeled not only with style and name, but (unfortunately) with the brewer’s names. Some of these brewers were friends of mine, and the other judges confessed of similar relationships. I didn’t pay much attention to it (if anything, I felt as if I was more critical to my friends), though we did recommend to organizer Chris Harvey that it be handled anonymously in the future.
Ultimately, I truly believe the judging was unbiased. A second round of judging had us choose the best overall beer from each judge’s final picks. This second round didn’t have brewers names staring back at us (Perhaps a correction from the first round?) and was done regardless of style.
Two things did surprise me: despite appearance being only one criteria, I think this subtle detail proved to be a tell-tale sign of which beers would advance. A concurrent “People’s Choice” series of awards surprisingly didn’t echo our judging results in any way.
Rating beer is hard. It’s not just a matter of drinking and giving a score on a five-point scale. Our grading criteria included aroma, clarity, mouthfeel, and overall perception and loyalty to style. Fellow judge Steph Heffner from Beer Busters gave me the really handy tip of smelling and rating aroma for all the entries prior to tasting. It was definitely helpful, as all those scents can get mixed up with the taste.
The experience actually reminded me of why I often grade on a curve when I teach–I can get a little too critical. I know some of the other judges chose to remain anonymous on their judging sheets, but I didn’t. Nonetheless, I was a little embarrassed that my rudimentary tasting notes and condemnatory scores made it into the hands of the contestants. One beer announced itself as a Heady Topper clone, and taste-wise, it was really close, but I denounced it for its lack of visual clarity. In another case, I found myself practically apologizing to one of my brewer friends for giving him such a low score on his beer. All this despite his being the second highest score I awarded, despite his beer winning an award as one of the best in the competition, and despite me recognizing it as a solid 5/5 on Untappd.
After a two-year hiatus marked by large projects and life in general, I finally (and quietly) re-launched the most challenging project any designer HAS EVER FACED.
One’s own portfolio site.
Many years ago, I was contracted to design and build such a site for an agency. It was a genius move in my opinion, as the internal politics are often set aside with such an approach.
My previous company site was completed in 2012, right around the time that responsive web design was becoming inescapable. It wasn’t long before my site was caught feeling stale, and I quickly moved to redo it.
Then, some large contract jobs pushed my portfolio to the backburner, and my new site went from being 95 percent complete to an afterthought. Nearly two years later, I sought to finish what I’d started, and I found it rather introspective to revisit my own development process.
This site relied exclusively on JQuery to make what was essentially a single-page app. Ultimately, it wasn’t tremendously SEO friendly, and there was no minification going on, so the download wasn’t necessarily heavy, but it was cumbersome.
Yes, I was using a reflection in the design, which only added more wrinkles to the elder face of my non-responsive site.
I truly believe the future of front-end development is one that uses object-oriented programming principles, so I decided to build my site foundation in Angular JS, which was gaining a lot of popularity at the time. My problem was, while Angular was evolving quickly, it was still pretty cutting edge, leading me to some unmarked roads. I started with a pre-1.0 version, and at the time, handling transition animations (now accomplished with ngAnimate) was still in a nightly build and making things search engine-friendly had me looking into headless browsers.
I returned to my working portfolio site which was 95 percent complete, yet settled in Angular 1.2. Thankfully, the time away allowed browsers to catch up, and I am confident that IE9 and below needn’t be supported any longer.
News had been revolving around Angular 2.0, and I think Google really blindsided their community when they announced Angular 2.0 as being a completely different animal than the current Angular 1.3, one with an entirely different architecture and syntax. Not wanting to be on a sinking ship, I chose Facebook’s React for a similar project and basked in the glow of its simplicity. I definitely wanted to rebuild my portfolio with React, but time won out and I needed something up.
I proceeded to update Angular in my project from 1.2 to 1.3. This Angular migration guide made a world of difference, as controller instantiations are completely different.
For layout, I migrated to Bourbon Neat. Besides having a cooler name (Mmm…bourbon), I liked that it was in SASS and didn’t require so many appended classes on my markup.
I chose the Gulp flavor over Grunt simply because I like the simplicity of the code. While there are several generators for creating projects in Angular, I tested them all out and settled on the vanilla generator-gulp-webapp.
I don’t necessarily like the “magic” that comes with Yeoman’s gulp-load-plugins, as having a ‘$’ in the code to represent all plugins loaded really dumbs down my understanding of which particular plugin is called. That said, I found that, unlike in 2013, the Angulartics module was waiting for me to solve my headless browser/SEO problem. I also discovered that ng-annotate was essential to wiring up with generator-gulp-webapp to get it to publish.
So, as I said, introspective. Is this all too technical for me to be called a designer? I hope not.
Following a brief conversation the other day a designer responded to me with “…so, you’re more a developer.”
While I know the industry pigeonholes folks these days, I think it’s the responsibility of a designer to know how things work and appreciate the design of process and code in the projects they are a part of. With posts like this, I’m just hoping to create more of a dialogue about it, too.
I’m not hiring. I’ve never aspired to hire employees, and always felt that critiquing would mean occupying the space of a potential employer.
I would see my own students’ work, twice. In addition to AIGA’s portfolio review, HACC graphic design students participate in a HACC-only review with local professionals (of which I have participated in for years). To see my own students’ portfolios again would be redundant.
I finally changed my tune this year after realizing that I would get to see the work coming out of other design programs in the Central Pa. area. Teaching in a tight-knit program can be very insular, and I’ve been doing it for over eight consecutive years (I’ll admit, seeing a lot of peers attending as reviewers didn’t hurt my comfort level, either). Central Pa. AIGA president Tim McKenna graciously accommodated my request to not review any of my own students, and I was in.
In all, I reviewed students from York College, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, Susquehanna University, and Millersville University. The average portfolio was the appropriate size of 10 to 12 pieces, and the best ones were those that had print pieces matted (not under glossy covers!) with an accompanying mock-up. One student relied on a laptop (suitable provided their interactive focus), however, the reflection of the sun and the relatively small window for the projects on the webpage detracted from their presentation. A tablet with a simple slide presentation would have hit that home run for them.
Reviewing these 4th year students made me pity my own students, as my pupils had less than two years of design classes at a community college. On the other hand, I knew some members of my class would hold their own. What reassured me was the founder of a local ad agency telling me that design programs shouldn’t segregate by media—no web design versus print design. This division is something I’ve thought about as a means to afford more time towards a particular focus, but the fact that HACC’s graphic design program integrates these disciplines is probably the right approach.
This founder went on to say how he would not consider hiring a print designer without interactive work in their portfolio, and this echoed my overall concern while attending this review—nearly every design portfolio I saw was print-focused, while the industry is clearly moving more towards digital.
I reviewed two students that had inserted a single web design comp at the tail end of their portfolio—clearly out-of-place with the rest of their work. My response: “You don’t want to do web, do you? Okay, then just take this one out”.
The Millersville student was the exception, having a demo reel on YouTube, a website portfolio, and even an iPad app design. Still, I know that my students were unlikely to show off their website designs—despite taking two classes and having worked on multiple projects, I know that most of them do not have the same confidence in their coding abilities as they do with placing text in InDesign or editing in Photoshop.
Overall, the AIGA student portfolio review provided invaluable real-world feedback to students, and I was grateful to take part in it. I’m also glad it’s mandatory for HACC students, and think that all local design programs should require it.
Ultimately, what I gathered from this event is that the lack of balance between interactive and print work is on an epidemic level, and is one that is not exclusive to my college. Representing the interactive realm, I know this is something I will struggle to help balance in my program, but I hope other instructors saw and recognized it, too.
I’ve been asked a number of times for the date of BarCamp Harrisburg 2015 on both Twitter and in-person.
The answer, sadly, is there isn’t one.
It’s hard to believe that Harrisburg has had a rendition of BarCamp since 2009, and normally around this time I would be scrambling trying to promote the event and seek sponsors. While 2013 had an incredible turnout, last year’s event saw an unfortunate decline. The lack of 2014 t-shirts aside, I would attribute the lessened attendance to three factors:
A sudden schedule change.
BarCampHbg has traditionally been held in April, however, the event has always been subject to longtime host Harrisburg University’s room availability. Due to scheduling conflicts, the date was pushed to May. With the warmer weather knocking, many people likely had other engagements.
Harrisburg City Parking.
With the city’s leasing of street and garage parking came higher rates and longer hours on Saturday. While I can’t scientifically point towards this change as being a definitive factor, it wouldn’t be a surprise, and I’ve talked to other event organizers that have noticed attendance decline during this time.
General interest waning.
General interest in BarCamps have declined over the years. Just look at the lessening number of camps being held globally on barcamp.org or the stats via Google Trends (below). While BarCamp Philly still has a strong following, I’ve seen BarCampNYC practically evaporate, to the point of once sitting in on a session where attendees asked “Do we even need a bar camp?”.
Ultimately, none of these factors play into the success of an unconference for learning, sharing, and networking. I look back at all of the past camps with an appreciation for everyone I’ve met and what I’ve learned. I’ve had to explain to attendees that each year’s themes have been different thanks to what the attendees brought, and that some of the smaller camps have actually been more fun.
Last year, HU notified me that they would no longer be able to hold the event on a Saturday. While I could search for another venue, frankly, the thought of it exhausted me. I’ve learned the hard way that without a sponsoring venue one has to navigate facility size, room rental fees, and event insurance. I’m not necessarily opposed to doing this, but I think I’ve reached a point where I shouldn’t be doing this, alone.
I’ve reached out to the organizers of Harrisburg Startup Week (many of whom I met at BarCamp Harrisburg) on the possibility of making BarCamp Harrisburg a part of their schedule of events. There’s nothing definitive, yet, but in the meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you. Is BarCamp Harrisburg worth continuing? Does anyone know of a suitable venue that would sponsor space? Should a fee be collected to help rent a venue? Comment below, and if any details do solidify I’ll be sure to post them.
I recently spoke with a web design student from another college who mentioned that their program was taught through Adobe Dreamweaver. As a graphic design instructor and web professional, it’s enough to make one cringe.
While Dreamweaver has a nice search and excels at converting word processor copy to HTML, the “design” view and WYSIWYG (without truly knowing what’s being written for you) has always been a crutch. Furthermore, I can’t say I’ve really seen it used professionally in the last 12 years.
Dreamweaver’s changed so significantly in an attempt to keep up with the industry that, upon opening up CC 2014, I felt like a visitor in a foreign land. Regardless, I take pride in the fact that my program at HACC nearly affords me carte blanche when it comes to curriculum and software, and I’ve exercised that freedom to transition our program from Dreamweaver to Adobe Brackets.
While I personally still lean on Sublime Text 3, Brackets is a great learning tool at the right price for students (free!). Originally the underpinning of Adobe’s Edge Code, the fact that it’s open source leaves no surprise why it left its proprietary sibling in the dust.
It’s not perfect, and I did have to wait for it to become stable prior to introducing it to students, but the extensibility of Brackets is a niece touch. While I wish Brackets’ Extension Manager better resembled NPM, Bower, or WordPress’s Plugins directory (as in, having a solid rating/ranking system and dedicated spot for comments and questions), it still works nicely.
Getting to the meat of the post–here’s a list of extensions I requested installed for my class (In no particular order…I’d love to hear suggestions):
Rather than let Facebook algorithmically botch my pictures (and keep all the credit whilst making me remorseful of this past year), I’m posting outside of the walled garden. Once again, my self-imposed rule applies–a rule where I only unearth candid photos taken this year that haven’t (and normally wouldn’t!) see the light of Web publication.
Celebrating 500+ miles and 24 hours with my BFF (and his nephew).
I finally worked up the courage to attend an Imminent Liquidation.
I made it to http://iidcon.com in Millersville this year.
The aftermath of the annual Turkey Bowl…
One of the pictures from sushi night that somehow didn’t get published. Sour beer in a flute…hardly etiquette.
Art director Mary Blair is my hero.
Counting the Lombardis with Daphyn at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
Brunch with Ed. And Sara. And Andy. And Brandalynn. And Theo. And Dani.
Old and new in Vermont.
The development brain trust of Chris, Chris, and Chris.
I finally got to examine this mitt close-up (in SF).
Wine tasting is a tough job (at Mumm Napa).
Negotiating the safe release of two cats with Lissa.
Sarz’s bathroom, a crow, and me.
My penance for taking the redeye from SF to NYC and having a client meeting shortly after touchdown.
Bucket list #42 checked off!
One of my favorites of Monet, in LEGOS.
Hill Farmstead. Beer Mecca.
Graduating one of my favorite people. Picture by Burnsie’s mom (who knew she taught?! I did.).
I love how every cover is a story (Stockbridge, MA).
Visiting Memorial Stadium (Baltimore) 22 years later.
The boys at Dewey Beach.
Catching the last of the Captain.
Yes, a doll house in Provincetown.
The horizon at Plymouth, MA.
Chuck holding the roundtable at Startup Weekend Harrisburg.
Well, unless you live in Connecticut, are related to me, and happen to be someone I’ve neglected, you should have received this year’s Christmas card. If you didn’t, my apologies–this just so happens to be the first year we’ve actually created a recipient list, so if you want on it for next year (or if I missed you this year), let me know.
All told, this probably took me 20-30 hours from concept to drawing to printing. Daphyn just told me that if we weren’t sending these out, we’d be doing those canned family picture cards. Talk about incentive to never stop…
I also need to add the year on these things. In case you’re wondering, here’s all the previous ones:
I thought it was funny how people would apologize to me that the Orioles didn’t make it past the ALCS. Sure, I was a little bummed, but I got to go to two exciting ALDS games, made my Kansas City friend very happy, got to take some pretty pictures (like the one, above), and made a little money to subsidize my 2015 season, too.
I love baseball, as its pace and the trip down serves as a vehicle for spending time with friends and family. A car trip is the viscosity of intriguing conversation, and the extracurricular side trips to such places as Of Love and Regret, Joe Squared, Dangerously Delicious, and Rye kept things refreshing.
With the Phillies back for a series in 2015, I’m hoping to have a good turnout. If anyone’s interested in hitting a game next year, let me know!
My season started with the tradition of attending the Harrisburg Senators opening day with my son, Grayson.
A rainout led to a two-game sweep of the Pirates.
Hitting a bobblehead game with Terry.
Less than 24 hours later, I found myself solo at AT&T park in San Francisco.
Technically, I didn’t drive to Iowa to see a ballfield surrounded by corner. I’ll give credit to Andrew for that. Wrigley pre-renovation was a must.
Red Privet developer reunion! Okay, so we swapped a Chris for a UX Designer. Lissa’s prettier.
Mandatory Yankees game with Grant and Dave.
My first time at club level (with Anna). I didn’t feel worthy.
Took Anna, Tina, and Rob (and his daughter) to a Boston game. It marked the first time I’d seen Rob in over 15 years.
Catching one of the captain’s final games at Yankee Stadium (with Mo). It marked the first time I visited the Bronx rooting for a team without pinstripes (The O’s won).
ALDS 1: Making good on my promise and taking Terry to his first postseason game since the ’83 World Series.
ALDS 2: Making up to my brother-in-law for taking my sister-in-law to the postseason in 2012.
After a few years of dormancy, I got back on the horse and created two new TorchBearer Sauces labels. The first (above) is a reinterpretation of the original Slaughter label, which was created by the now-defunct Neiman Group. The label really needed to be revised due to the change in bottle sizes several years ago.
The labels have have more recently featured real people, and in this case, local blogger Sara Bozich graces it (sorry Jaime, you’ll get a label, soon!). If you’ve ever sampled Sara’s Slaughter meatball recipe, you’d immediately know why she’s been immortalized, here.
Of course, translating real people into cartoons requires a balance of not defaming them, yet exaggerating them in the askew perspective of the TorchBearer label world. The example above definitely took far more versions than any other, and I was constantly running it by the Sara and the hot sauce brass.
Grant’s label was far easier. It was initially inspired by a picture of Grant as a child on a tricycle, but the horse version (below) ultimately trumped the original sketch.
As with all of the other labels I’ve drawn, everything’s done digitally with Photoshop, Illustrator, and a Wacom Cintiq. They generally take 20-40 hours a each, so I’m looking forward to a break before the next one.
I'm a creative technologist at Hauck Interactive, Inc. and an adjunct instructor at HACC. I live in Harrisburg, Pa. with my wife and two boys. I enjoy good coffee, Trappist beers, Orioles baseball, and good design.