Today I visited the Tate Britain, and unless I am totally forgetting something, that about rounds out my visits to the major art museums in London.
Having been to so many museums in the past few months (this is number THIRTEEN, guys!), I'm a lot more impatient about things that I don't find to be user-friendly, and a lot more appreciative of museums that are.
No fuss, no muss, the Tate Britain was simply a museum done really well. The galleries were spacious, well lit with plenty of natural light, and the art was neither over crowded nor too sparsely hung.
Beyond the special exhibitions or rotating galleries, there was a really nice display layout of a timeline of British art arranged in chronological order, with the galleries flowing seamlessly from one to the next, all clearly marked on the floor so you could follow along.
I like when art is arranged by time period rather than by style- it is interesting to see how the same events (for example, WWI or the invention of photography) start affecting art in different ways. When art is arranged solely by style, it is easy to forget the context in which it was made and that there were other styles of art being made at the same time.
While the Tate Britain may have had a smaller collection on display than some of the other big name British museums I've been too, I spent longer going through it than most of the others because I enjoyed the art, the way it was displayed, and the lack of overwhelming crowds so much.
-FREE museum with a good scope of British art spanning the 1500s to present day, as well as a huge collection of JMW Turner paintings
-Well organized collection is easy to navigate and gives an excellent timeline if the history of British art
-I know this sounds silly, but they have my favorite museum map that I have encountered- small enough to pocket (WHY don't more places do this??), visually appealing, and user friendly. It was a little thing that made a big impact on my enjoyment
-Not overly crowded, and plenty of padded seating if your feet needed a break
-Security guards were not overly jumpy- I didn't get yelled at if I wanted to take a closer look at the brushstrokes on a painting
-Bathrooms were a bit out of the way, but other than that I have no complaints. Well done, Tate Britain!
This is an easy recommend for me- as I said before, it was just a really well put together museum. When something is done well it looks easy and that's kind of how I feel about this review- I don't have much else to say because as far as museums go, it ticked all my boxes. If you like British art, check it out.
Oooooookay, guys. for those of you that AREN'T redesigning a blog/site, thanks for bearing with me, for those of you that ARE redesigning, we're almost done!
To recap first we gathered inspiration, then we used that inspiration to come up with a concept, and finally we talked a bit about the process of going from sketches to computer graphics. Now it's on to-
Stage 4- Coding and Installing
Once you've made all of the components and design decisions, all you have to do is reformat and/or code the new page. NBD, right? Hah. Because this is the area that I have the lest technical knowledge I relied pretty heavily on tutorials and online classes, so I will share the resources I used and give you some pointers about the actual installation process.
Codecademy- This is a user friendly free website that is a great introduction to coding- even for those with literally zero knowledge of the subject. Even if you don't have a burning desire to become great at coding, it is good to learn a bit about how tags work and the structure of HTML and CSS so if you encounter issues later on you at least know what you're looking at.
Pugly Pixel- This is one of my favorite blogs- she has a great sense of color and style and makes beautiful layouts, but better than that is she is incredibly generous with information about font selections, layouts, and coding and design tips and tricks. I used her CSS Pretty Class as a jumping off point for the design of my blog redesign. It was the first coding tutorial/class I have done that really helped solidify the knowledge- before I was learning rules or tags but didn't really know how to work with them. With this class, it's like the difference between being just able to understand or being actually able speak a language. Now I just need to work on becoming fluent :)
Blog (Design) Love- Brought to you by Elsie of A Beautiful Mess and graphic designer Elise Blaha Cripe, this is an intensive course that will hold your hand through every step of the process from inspiration to branding to HTML for specific features and installation tips on the three major blogging platforms- Blogger, Wordpress and Typepad. They break it down suuuuuper simple for you while still going very deep into the process- this is a great option is you want to change how your blog looks/functions without having to learn a lot about HTML or CSS because they provide it for you.
Because I only have working knowledge of Blogger, my experience doesn't go very deep with installing a new blog layout but here are some tips I can share-
1. Be sure you back up the current template! In Blogger you would go to "Template" and there should be a "Backup/Restore" button in the upper right corner. Back up your current template in case something goes terribly wrong on installation.
2. Make a design test blog. Setting up a blog (with Blogger at least) is free, quick, and easy, so there's no reason not to. Set up a blog that is purely to use to work out all the design tweaks so you aren't screwing with the blog that your readers are seeing (Otherwise I picture it being like the dress making scene from Sleeping Beauty. Make it pink! Make it blue!) You can make it private by going to "Settings" and changing "Blog Readers" to "Only Authors".
When the blog looks the way you want, go to "Backup/Restore," and save the template. Go to your real blog and under "Template" click "Edit HTML" and paste the file that you just created into the box. Voila. (You may want to set your main blog to private while you install just in case you need to make any quick tweaks. Just make sure to set it back to public when you're done.)
3. Make all the settings in your test blog and actual blog the same. When I went to install my new template, things didn't look exactly right and I couldn't figure out what was wrong. It turns out that even if you are pasting in the exact code from your test site, if some of the settings regarding date/display/etc. are different, that can override some of the code. So while it is a bit tedious, if things don't look exactly right, go through setting by setting in the "Template" and "Layout" sections and set all the settings in your public blog to being the same as on your test blog and it should take care of those minor issues.
And that'll wrap this series up for the week. If you're thinking about starting a redesign and are feeling grossly unprepared, drop me an email or comment and I'll be happy to give you a peptalk and talk to you a little more in-depthly about any questions you may have. If anyone does get inspired to do an overhaul, let me know, I'd love to see what you come up with! Xo!
So, now that you've gathered your inspiration and sketched out a concept for your blog design, it is time to start working digitally. This is the part of the proces that requires the most technical skill, and one blog post is not enough space to teach digital illustration. So I am going to walk you through a bit about my process and then I'll share my favorite resources to learn from if there are gaps in your technical abilities (like there were in mine.... gapingly huge ones.) Don't worry, everything can be found on the internet, and much of it for free or cheap.
At the end of my sketching process, I had sketches that looked a bit like this. I'm sharing several iterations here just so you can see that A) I didn't get too concerned about making the sketches perfect and B) Even once I had the concept I was making little tweaks to the layout.
I wasn't entirely set in the details, but I had enough information and ideas working that I was ready to start solving the problems digitally. I started by making a very basic outline of what I wanted the blog to look like so as I was designing components I could plug them into the template visually to see how everything worked together.
Then it was time to start work on the logo. I chose to work in Adobe Illustrator because it uses vector graphics which can be scaled way bigger without getting pixellated, and I wanted to make sure the work I was spending so much time on would be fully usable in the future should I need it for other applications. Working in Illustrator is a bit of an adjustment because you are essentially building and layering components from simpler shapes rather than doing something that mimics drawing- I would say it is more like building with 2-D blocks than painting with a paintbrush.
Once I had settled on a logo I was happy with, I was ready to make the badges for the top navigation bar. I didn't want to reinvent the wheel for each one so I made a blank badge and set up the work space and the colors and built off of that each time, reusing components I had already built for previous badges to save time and help things be uniform.
As you can likely tell, I simply reused the same stick of dynamite each time, the clouds and the cupcake icing are the same component used differently, and the explosion and mountain top were made by tweaking the flame from the candle on the cupcake. Further, the social media buttons were made using the same blank badges, I just changed the border. By working off the same frame and color scheme, I was able to work with a lot of bright colors and different designs and still have cohesion so everything looked like it belonged together.
As I said, I needed to supplement all of my skills with web tutorials to make this project happen- here are some of the resources I used-
-To reacquaint myself with Illustrator I took Skillshare classes, specifically this one and this one. Both of them assume a basic knowledge of Illustrator, so if you are starting truly from scratch, this one looks like a good option.
-If you don't have Illustrator you can buy it but it is pretty expensive. You may want to find a student or teacher to buy it for you- they get a really good discount. If you only need it for this one project, you can download a month-long free trial from Adobe.
-I have only used Illustrator, but there are free open source vector graphic programs that you can try- Inkscape seems to have the best reputation.
-If you want to make social media buttons, Brands of the World has vector versions of brand logos that you can download for free
Tomorrow I will talk a little bit about how to install the components you've made and share more resources to help you code and design your blog's layout.
If you're just joining this series today, you can catch up here: