To Learn is to Do

To learn is to do. So what did I learn this week?

As Becca mentioned before, and as’s James Williamson demonstrated with his posterboard sketch with a giant misspelled “outline”, I learned that “step away from the computer” is sound advice, and a necessary first step in web design. I started my assignment this week by slapping my text into an html doc and playing with colors. It didn’t take long to realize that this strategy of design-as-you-go was flawed. Without an overarching theme guiding my design, it could easily become a site highlighting Beth’s favorite colors and fonts, rather than a site showcasing the actual content. Lesson #1 learned: think before you build.

From lesson number one, follows a second lesson: many pieces make up the whole and each design element should work with the other to create a cohesive whole. The text that I used this week is an excerpt from a larger work on New York’s hardening racism at the turn of the century (in response to an increasing urban black population), focusing specifically on the development of the “coon song” in the 1890’s. I selected a slab serif font (museo-slab) to help convey time period and a display font that I thought played on the “theater” reference as coon songs were performance and part of a popular culture that reinforced racism. The header image is intended to reiterate this theme and, again, to convey time period. The color palette plays on this image. I learned then that successful web design relies on cooperation between various pieces, such as font, imagery, and color.

A final lesson: though website-building can be maddeningly frustrating (especially at this beginner stage), thoughtful and cohesive design can/should make our work speak louder in a world of perpetually competing sites. The text that I am using for my type assignment this week is almost identical to that which I posted last semester as part of my final Clio I project, where I used a WordPress template to create a pseudo-website. I was happy with this project then, but, relying on a template and no interjected code, this site rests solely on its content (presented in small and poorly-spaced font.) Certainly, solid content should be the foundation of any site; but in a sea of digital pages and short attention spans, a site needs more. Though it is virtually the same content, the page I created this week has a distinctive look and feel (I hope) created by use of font, color, and imagery. This page just says more, without actually having to say more.

Comment on Kirk’s blog and Ben’s blog

5 responses to “To Learn is to Do

  1. This is great advice that bear repeating, because in the time crunch that a semester imposes and the panicked need to put “something” together, it’s easy to just dive in and start coding willy-nilly.

  2. Pingback: Progress and Progress; i.e., Learning not to look over my shoulder so much | Kirk Johnson's Digital History Blog

  3. Beth – couldn’t agree more with your “lessons” for this week. Design should certainly be the starting place for any digital project. Perhaps even before the content? (that’s a discussion we are having in another class this week).
    However, my challenge was that my skill level failed to match my design! Having begun with (what I thought were) modest goals, I soon found myself just “trying to make things work” in the CSS and HTML. It was a great learning experience (still learning!). As Kirk said, there is nothing that can replace just getting into the code and messing around. Looking forward to class.

  4. Pingback: Type Assignment | Beth's Clio II Blog

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