Speak to any graphic design tutor and there's lots of talk about how students are blogging and flickring and twittering. One small problem. It's not true.
Which is a shame for many reasons. Not least that your professional life is going to involve you having to understand all of this stuff. And the best way to understand something is to do it.
And as Sian (Graphic Design, University of Wales) put it the other day, "I think that it is important for graphic design students... to enter the world of blogging... It’s great to see what other students and other designers are looking at. It’s all part of the learning process."
And not only that, it's so easy. Easy, and most of this stuff lends itself to a graphic design course. Think of it as some cheap module scores. For example, imagine you're writing an essay about the Rosetta stone (you're all doing that right?). You'd probably start by Googling it. Every decent result you've found, add it to delicious. Even if you did nothing else on that essay you'll very quickly have a small collection of useful stuff.
Imagine if you wrote a sentence about each of those results. Stuck that on a Tumblr blog. Before long, the essay has written itself. See what I mean? It's a gift.
So to help a little bit, I thought I'd write a small guide to being a graphic design student online. It's not definitive and it obviously focuses on services I'm familiar with. But hopefully it makes sense. So, in a very particular order.
If you do nothing else, you must set up a Flickr account. There can be no excuse. If you were on my course, I'd fail you for not having a Flickr account.
Flickr is the most graphic designery of all the social networky stuff. (It's a whole website of images for fucks sake!)
Put your photographs up there. All those photos of signs you take. All the blurry experiments with colour and light. Get them up there. When I has at college we used to have to keep a photo log book, where we'd have to jot down every exposure and setting for each picture we took. Digital cameras do this for you, it's called exif data. So, upload your pictures to Flickr and there's another job done.
Images are such a major part of a graphic design course and everyone now has the ability to take and make images quickly. (You've all got camera phones, I've seen them.)
But more than that. When you're working on a project upload every stage to Flickr. Let others, from around the world, comment on your ideas. Build on them. When you have to hand in your workings, point the lecturers to Flickr.
Stick your best work up there, organise your work into sets and you can use it as an online portfolio when you go for a job. a million times better than a 10mb PDF.
And it's free.
To blog or not to blog? I can't really answer that. You need to make that decision on your own. The one thing I can say, is that you need to give it a go.
If Flickr is about pictures, then blogging is about words. Graphic Design courses involve a lot of words too. You could stick your whole dissertation up there. A little bit at a time. You could just post random notes and thoughts. Quotes you find. You could document projects you're working on, like Katie (Graphic Design, LCC) and Tom (Graphic Design, UWIC) do.
You could use it as a project diary. Once again, do a little, often and the project will finish itself.
Try to avoid Blogger. I use and recommend Typepad, but I understand that Wordpress is easier to customise and has nicer templates.
Tumblr is like blogging but easier. If you're not great with words, then Tumblr is for you. It's a sort of micro blogging service and lends itself to lots, quickly. I don't really like it, but it's a great way to start blogging. And yes, it's free.
Twitter is like a micro version of micro blogging. A way to publish snippets of text that are no more than 144 characters long. So try that if you're even less of a word person than the Tumblr people. Twitter is very hard to describe, probably the easiest way is to say it's like the status updates on Facebook. It's also a really simple way of outputting text and linking the physical and the digital. Take a look at the Tower Bridge twitter stream and the Albion Bakery Fresh Buns alert twitter stream. Seriously.
You're all on Facebook, right? Good. Let's see how you could use that for college and not just just pictures of debauched nights.
Kate Andrews (Queen of Networking) sets up and joins lots of interesting groups of Facebook. For example the Kept group, the Design Observer group and the 2gether09 group. You can join them. You can interact with people. You can meet other students and designers. You can become part of a community.
This kind of stuff may seem frivolous but it will be invaluable when you're looking for a job, or even just popping down to London for the D&AD student awards. And then you can upload all your pictures of that debauched night.
I've already mentioned this above. Delicious is the ultimate Dissertation Building Tool. It's like essay writing for procrastinators. The first thing I do if I'm asked my view on a particular theme, like say tangible digital is look at my relevant delicious tags and instantly I've got lots clever stuff to say and reference. Your dissertation will write itself. Or your money back.
7. RSS Reader
Blogs. You need to read them. Everyone has a blog now. Even Michael C Place has a blog. These day you can follow your design heroes almost daily. That's a wonderful thing for those of us who had to make do with yearly Graphis updates when we were at college.
But following all these blogs is hard. The posts come think and fast. The bookmarks folder gets full up. That's why you need an RSS Reader. All blogs have an RSS feed. An RSS Reader graps the feed and chucks your blogs into one reader, one website basically. Like this:
And so there you go. You have no excuse now.
Oh and let's not forget Ffffound, inspiration on tap.