If you’re in Central PA and pick up this month’s issue of The Burg you’ll catch my cover artwork.
Ironically, I did most of this on an train and in Brooklyn, but last night I ran out to see what my inspiration looked like (only to discover the lights weren’t on!). The tree hasn’t gone up, either, so I’m hoping it does get lit up this season.
I wasn’t sad to see it go, but I was sad to see folks applaud the death of it. Sure, I don’t think the vulnerabilities or performance issues were really brought to light until after Steve Jobs’s famous Thoughts on Flash got Adobe hustling, but as a designer and instructor, I had an appreciation for the software that few probably did.
When I first started using Macromedia Flash, it set itself apart from the incumbent interactive software, Macromedia Director, in that it was targeted for the web, and its use of vector graphics yielded a smaller file size. It also offered consistent browser rendering and a single outputted SWF file where all of its contents could be embedded.
Besides the analogy of a timeline and symbols in the WYSIWYG, What really piqued my interest as a designer was the ability to write code to create organic patterns and designs. My first real exposure to this was in the book “Flash Math Creativity”. Suddenly I was interested in sine waves and recursion when I hadn’t ever been interested in math, before.
Later in my career, I began working with object oriented programming in ActionScript. I stopped using the timeline and started writing all of my classes exclusively in TextMate. For animation, I used Greensock or MosesSupposes FuseKit. I also attended the Adobe Flash NYC User Group and built a comraderie with other designers and developers. I even tried Flex (enough to never use it, again).
In the classroom, Flash served as a gateway drug to programming and motion. My students were passionate about creating animations, properly integrating sound, and discovering how to do things with code. Granted, I was the first to advocate eliminating Flash from our curriculum while other schools still taught it, yet while it was a part of my class there was a certain magic that it had with students–one that hasn’t been rekindled, since.
Recently, I’ve read about a petition to open source Flash, as well as played with WickEditor (definitely check it out, it’s incredible for what it is). I didn’t think Flash could be open sourced with its MP4 license integration, but regardless, I’m not sure it’s something the world needs. While I do wish there’d be an easy way to view some of my past art projects and old jobs, Flash was built in a time before responsive web design, before SVG on the web, and before HTML animation had adequate browser support. The other issue with successors to this platform is the output format. SVG? Canvas? It seems like animating in non-canvas DOM elements is the popular way to go these days, though Flash’s potential successors seemingly have bloated code that relies on JQuery for animation.
I do believe that with the fallout of Flash that web design got a lot more static. Websites relied upon basic parallax and (gasp!) homepage carousels for animation. It’s only now with broad browser support that motion in websites is starting to re-emerge.
Don’t mourn it
I don’t miss the polyfills of SiFR for custom fonts, nor do I miss having to make a redundant HTML content with SWFObject. Heck, no one misses those silly preloaders, either! If anything, I should be grateful that the death of Flash steered me towards open source tools and how they prove to be stronger to the community.
What I miss (and I realize I’m part of the minority) is the community this software created and the gateway for design students learning to code. These days, I may have students fire up a text editor with a live server to make edits, and while that’s accurate for the modern industry, it’s clearly a lot more intimidating for young designers.
I hope something comes along someday to fill that gap.
The task of my portfolio redesign wasn’t neglected like the last go-around, but it’s never easy. Still, It’s refreshing to finally emerge from my cocoon and reflect on how my technology decisions have changed over the years. I was never fully satisfied with my last iteration, and decided to see if I could rebuild what was my Flash portfolio site in the early 2000s, except this time, responsively and using Web Standards.
Here’s a quick comparison of what’s changed since the last iteration (2013-2015):
Styling: SASS and CSS Grid Layout
In 2013, I was using Bourbon Neat. By 2015, I had moved onto Susy, as I liked its simplicity and didn’t feel I needed Bourbon’s polyfills. I almost started using Susy for my layout, but the release of Susy 3 in June 2017 convinced me that Susy had realized it had reached its end-of-life and that it had become a polyfill for the CSS grid, the new standard.
While I am using CSS grid in some places, it turns out I had to rely far more on absolute-positioned elements. While CSS grid support was rolled out for all the major browsers earlier this year, support for animating properties like grid-template-columns and grid-template-rows have yet to come to fruition.
I have been using GulpJS as a part of my typical workflow, but Vue CLI uses Webpack, so there was no need to complicate things.
Package Management: NPM
For package management, I’ve abandoned the new deprecated Bower in lieu of Yarn, but in this particular project I stuck with good ol’ NPM.
Performance-wise, modern JS frameworks are all fast (see this impressive benchmark table!), but I wanted a popular framework that utilized virtual DOM rather than something that manipulated the DOM. This led me to React and Vue.js.
I’d been fortunate enough to recently work on a large React project, and I was curious to see how Vue.js compared. Frankly, doing any kind of search comparing the two will give you a deluge of first-hand accounts of developers “graduating” to Vue.js over React.
After having worked with both, my conclusion is, I prefer React, but would choose Vue.js.
A funny response, I know. Why, do you ask? What I like about React is its OOP-like class structure, but most of all, the render() method, which requires whatever HTML you’re outputting to be rendered beforehand. You’re not seeing output littered with conditionals and foreign syntax (v-bind:) attributes. You’re also not seeing <template> HTML beside <script> code beside <style> syntax.
React Syntax (perhaps slightly more verbose but clean):
Now, I’m certain that anyone that knows Vue.js will counter with the fact that you can use JSX syntax (along with its ugly htmlFor and className custom attributes) and a render() method with Vue. The thing is, I doubt many people will, and that’s okay. I didn’t switch to such syntax, primarily because Vue’s Essentials documentation led the way.
So what do I like about Vue?
It’s approachable. I didn’t need Webpack to get a “Hello World” test up-and-running–I simply included a <script> in my page and witnessed the magic. This tidbit may be trivial for advanced application developers, but the low barrier appeals to beginners. It’s that kind of appeal that helps build a strong community.
Built-in router. No third-party choices to be made, here. I don’t understand why Facebook wouldn’t make such an official package for React.
Web Component format. Vue mimics the structure of a web component, and while I didn’t write any scoped styling in my components, it’s handy to have. I know, I just complained about the structure, but I’ll come kicking and screaming with any open-source standard.
VueX. Like VueRouter, Vue comes with a defacto state management.
I’ve read the Facebook FAQ and heard how even large corporations like Apple continue to use React, but I’m a proponent of open-source software and would feel better about using it if they just changed the license.
I confess that this won’t prevent me from using React, again–as a matter of fact, I will likely move the front-end of this blog to it. Furthermore, the U.S. industry still uses it heavily compared to Vue, and I need to remain marketable.
So, there’s my stance on it. I am paying particular attention to which framework WordPress will choose for its core, but it will definitely be interesting to see where the entire industry goes. I’d encourage others to try these frameworks out, themselves.
Here’s a few shots of Italian Lake I took the other week. I suppose some shots on Instagram inspired me to go out midday.
I forgot just how much fun it is to process infrared. Traditional color correction goes out the window. I basically make sure the RGB curves don’t have any plateaus on the edges, do some lens correction and dehazing, then fiddle with the color mixer.
The other week I took a class in latte art at Little Amps Coffee in downtown Harrisburg. Considering how much coffee I drink, I figured why not learn how it’s done?
The class consisted of roughly 10 students being taught how to execute hearts and tulip-shaped patterns by two experienced baristas. It cost $20, but was well worth it (I went solo, but could see it making for a good date night). In addition to learning, we were permitted to drink our attempts, and each of us left with a small bag of roasted beans.
My feeble attempts documented, below.
Second attempt. At least I have the contrast going for me.
I suppose it’s only appropriate that I get to posting about this on the same night that all of the 400 bottles have been sold, but I was invited and subsequently completed an illustration for Zeroday Brewing’sLyrical Gangster bottle.
After an initial detour, I got my head in the right place and started researching 1980s hip hop. I’ll confess, the rather Snake Eyes-looking face is a bit of an homage to Limp Bizkit’s “Significant Other” album cover.
I struggled with a color palette until one night I was sketching ideas on my iPad at Zeroday and bartender Blue (Jason) reminded me of the blue agave ingredient.
Since this beer was to establish a bottle shape and label, I ended up becoming the guinea pig. As you can see below, I had to redraw this label three times!
Kudos to Theo and Brandalynn for sticking with Harrisburg-based artists to provide the illustrations and for Bart to suggest the metal print.
Oh, and for someone that’s not really into tequila, the beer is excellent.
Following up on my previous post, our trip cross-country took me to Bodie State Historic Park, a ghost town east of the Sierra Nevada. This former gold rush town once boasted of a population of nearly 10,000 people in the 1870s, and now it was humbly this photographer’s subject matter. It proved to be a worthwhile destination once we determined there simply wasn’t enough time to properly experience Yosemite.
Ultimately, what can I say? The pictures speak for themselves. It’s a photographer’s paradise, and well worth the trip.
What do you do when you have to get rid of car? You sell it to your best friend in California and ride shotgun cross-country over the course of a week, naturally!
Here’s a rough map of the trip I took across the continental United States last September.
Besides selling a car, the secondary objective for this trek was to do some tandem photography out west. For me, that included capturing those pretty star trails that are essentially unattainable here in the light-polluted East Coast.
Conveniently, the two days we found ourselves in the deserts of Utah were embraced with thick carpets of clouds, and it wasn’t until we reached California that the overcast subsided.
So, my hopes of recording star trails were dashed, but I still tried to make the best of it. I’ve managed to spam my Instagram feed with pictures, but here’s a few of my favorites (click to view larger).
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Arches National Park
Capital Reef National Park
Capital Reef National Park
Zion National Park
Zion National Park
Zion National Park
My friend Andy and me at the beginning of the trip. He’s a pretty trusting guy, considering he hadn’t seen the car I sold him in seven years.
The world’s largest rocking chair? Right off the exit? That demanded a stop in Casey, IL.
We were definitely on a clock, given I committed myself to being gone only a week (and remembering I’d left a very supportive and pregnant wife with our two boys), but I insisted on seeing the arch in St. Louis.
Self-employment means never really affording myself a day off. While I spent my non-driving shifts working in the car (tethered to my phone with an external battery, no less), I don’t think I’ll ever forget the night I spent on the Vegas strip.
I didn’t do any gambling, but instead spent an all-nighter across from Caesar’s Palace working out of a 24-hour Starbucks. It’s a shame, too, because it was the one time on our trip where we had a nice huge hotel suite!
Then there are the times (like this stretch of highway in Arizona) where one gets no signal in the car and is forced to just appreciate the scenery. I’ll confess I’ve actually traveled along this strip before, but the view still hasn’t gotten old (I wouldn’t mind traveling through Glenwood Canyon, CO again, either).
All said and done, we hit a four national parks (Capitol Reef, Arches, Bryce Canyon, and Zion) and drove over 3600 miles. We skipped Yosemite because of time and settled for the ghost town of Bodie, though I’ll dedicate another post to that, simply because I took so many pictures.
My jerk of a best friend (ahem!) still hasn’t posted any pictures, but for me it was a trip of a lifetime.
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.