Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Life and Times of a baby Graphic Designer

Part one/introduction of my new series: the Life and Times of a baby Graphic Designer.

As many of you may know, I am a second year graphic design student. However, my journey as a graphic designer started a while ago...
OH! I love telling this story, I never get to share this part.
My designing started years ago with MySpace. Collective gasp. I know, rest in peace to the once great social network that is so desperately trying to come back to life. However, back in the golden age of MySpace, I was a wee baby (well more of a preteen) trying to find my niche in the big wide realm of the internet. I made my first MySpace while I was still in middle school and my parents shut down that popsicle stand as soon as they found out. However, after a long hiatus from the internet (more popularly known as being grounded), I was back on and a lot more secretive about it. I would spend hours talking to my friends, making new friends, and listening to music. My love of indie music started during this time too. In retrospect, this was a great epoch of change in my life. 

Thank you Photobucket for storing all of things
I would like to pretend never happened. I was so kewl
back then.
Anyway, during this time, I also found myself being deeply interested in the world of MySpace layout sites. This other world inside of MySpace consisted of graphic designers and bloggers who designed the layouts and codes that people were quick to slap onto their pages to make their MySpaces the best looking. I loved how you could literally start a MySpace with some knowledge of Photoshop, some HTML and CSS, and egregious amounts of time and become an internet sensation. I was familiar with HTML and CSS because my dad encouraged my sister and me in our knowledge of how the internet worked. After looking at the base codes for some layouts, I realized that I could make my own layouts, but I didn't think I would be very good at it. Here were these people who were dedicated to spitting out layouts, codes, and cute gifs every week and I was still trying to find my footing in school. I tried to be a site model instead. A site model was a legitimate excuse to sit in your bathroom or in front of your camera for several hours a day for the perfect selfie. Why? Because then a layout site would contact you and use your photos to promote their pages. Of course this was a different time, before Instagram and the term "camera whore" became the social norm. However, the site model life was not the life for me. I am not going to throw myself a pity party, but I just wasn't the kind of girl they were looking for. Plus, even I can admit that I was a gawky preteen and not very appealing. Hahah. So I gave up site modeling and just focused on making my MySpace attractive. I spent hours pouring over layouts and backgrounds. Finding HTML codes to make my page the most perfect one around. 

My first layout was born out of frustration. There came a time when no one was making the kind of layout I wanted. I knew it was possible. I knew it was codeable. I just couldn't find it. So I sat down one day and coded one. I used someone else's base code (it was open source... I was wary of poaching even then...) and I made my layout. I was so proud of it and even though it took like seven hours to make it perfect, it was mine and I loved it. I announced it on MySpace and people were posting "Oh my gosh, there is no way you made this" or "This is perfect!" and that's when it began.

My layout site was named Euphoria Layouts. I made myself a Gmail account and made my layout site a MySpace. I used a variation of my original layout code to make the layout for the page. At this point, I realized that there was more to a layout site than just making layouts. The first thing I noticed was that I needed original site model images. For the time being, I joined a layout site train (basically a community of other site owners and various site models) and used one of the random images floating around. I had never used Photoshop before this point. I signed up on Adobe for a free trial and I read up on tutorials and made my first site model image. At the same time, I made myself a banner to add on the page as well. I was starting to look like a real site and then, looking at other site pages I realized that I had no website. Every major layout site had a website. Website coding was an entirely different story from a website. But at this time, I was gaining interest in the MySpace community and so I buckled down and dove into website design.

I don't think many people realize that website coding is a test in the fifth circle of hell. Well, I exaggerate a little, but I can not imagine something that is so frustrating yet rewarding at the same time. Finding a host wasn't a problem. I did some research and found a girl who was hosting layout sites for free as subdomains. I applied and was accepted. My first host was lovely, I wish I remembered her name, but she definitely left a lasting impact on how I expect hosts to work with new site owners. She didn't hold my hand through the process but she made sure I was comfortable with the software and so forth. Cutenews was not my friend (we still aren't friends actually...) , but I made it work for my first few months. I got my site up and running and it was uphill from there.

One of my first site model images
Within three months, I was running a functional, relatively known MySpace layout site with over one hundred visitors a day. I had made friends with other layout site owners, and with site models. I had original contacts, affiliates and a following. Everything was great until I changed computers. The best thing about my house is that we are a techie family (minus my mom and grandma.. I mean my mother tries..) and we were always getting new computers and software. However, getting a new computer was bad for me in this case. I couldn't move over my contraband copy of Photoshop ( I had made friends in the right places that when my trial was over, they got me a serial number for free.99 ). How was I supposed to run a site with no Photoshop? Panicked, I put the site on a brief hiatus and went to find a new serial number. I was no match for Adobe's heightened security and I was not familiar with P2P stuff . I thought the site was doomed until someone suggested Gimp.

Gimp is my angel. Gimp, is an angelic piece of open source software. It took me a month to learn because the controls are different from Photoshop, but it was a free and functional piece of software and I could continue the site. Did it take more time and work to get back up to the quality of work that I was churning out on Photoshop? Hell yes, but it was worth it... Because now I can't imagine a life without it. Don't get me wrong, I love Adobe Creative Suite, but it is overpriced and a pain for a  college student to procure legally, forget a pre-adolescent girl running a MySpace layout site unbeknownst to her parents.  So yes, Gimp forever. I recommend it to anyone who can't get Photoshop for any reason.  Gimp saved the website, and it was running for sometime and then it happened.

School and running a site were competing for attention in my life. However, more often than not, I chose the site over school. This led to dire consequences and my internet access was taken away until my grades improved. I was distraught. In the fast paced world of the internet, every day that I was not attending to the site was another day of it becoming irrelevant.  I lost my internet for 5 months, which was like years for technology world. I logged onto the site immediately and found it to be a desolate wasteland. I hadn't had a visitor in two months and I had lost affiliates. People wrote me off and they had moved on to other things. I was behind on the trends and my followers left for other sites. Euphoria layouts was dead.

At that point, I thought that HTML and Photoshop would just become nifty skills I'd have. I wanted to be a journalist at this time and neither of those skills seemed useful in my field ( little did I know...). I thought my designing days were over... until I fell in love with something else.

Iron-on T-Shirts

But that's another story for another installment. (; Until then, I wish you all peace, love and creativity.

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