My Final Semester has Begun

 

This is more of a little update post than anything, since I haven’t written anything here in a while and find myself in the mood for a bit of blog writing this evening!

With the final term of my last year at University well underway, I figured I’d write a little bit about a few of my final projects I’ve been working on and some thoughts about what’s to come.

For my main design module I’m currently working on a pixel-style animation project to do with female characters in video games. Not to give too much away since I don’t have any of the finished product to show yet, but I’ve been designing characters and putting them into After Effects to animate.

If you’d said to me back in my second year that for one of my final year projects I’d be doing animation and illustration, I would have laughed so hard! I was never confident with After Effects until my placement year, and even then I was nowhere near a pro! And illustration is something I’ve always felt weak at, so trying my hand at this pixel art style was new and exciting. It’s taking me a while to complete, simply because I have less experience in both fields, but I’m really enjoying it and somewhat regretting not experimenting with different mediums and styles sooner.

For my final project for my Information Design module, I’ve chosen to represent one of my favourite novels, The Great Gatsby, through information. Again I have no final pieces to show yet as it’s still in development, but the picture above shows what I’ve been working on. It’ll be a accordion book with a page for each chapter including a timeline and icons for each key event. Also when held up to the novel key quotes will appear to help students find them quicker. I’m looking forward to refining the design of this now that the logistics are sorted out!

Also just a quick note that I gave my website a bit of love and care last week. I’m now featuring six projects that I feel represent my work better, please check out my portfolio if it interests you over at emilybirdsey.com.

Life is pretty similar each day at the moment. I’m working most of the time on my projects for uni, which I am enjoying but at the same time it’ll be a sigh of relief once everything is completed and handed in! I find it a little surreal that I’ll be graduating in July. For the first time I won’t have a clear set path to follow, a natural progression. I’m not really sure what I want to do once university is over. I want to keep learning and challenging myself but I’m not quite sure in what subject or way. No time to think about that just yet though, I have a degree to finish!

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Daily UI: Sign Up

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Today I signed up to the Daily UI challenge. For 100 days the challenge emails you UI prompts to design from. I’m not sure if I’ll do this every single day, but I did enjoy the short time I spent making this as an outlet outside my university work just to design something quick and standalone.

The prompt for today was ‘sign up’. I haven’t really designed anything pink before so I thought I’d experiment with a colour scheme I wouldn’t usually go for. This sign up page could be used for lots of things, but I think perhaps a social media or dating app would be most appropriate.

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Looking Back on 2016

2016 was a big year for me. I finished my first design internship, lived in London, lived and worked in the United States, spent two months at the happiest place on Earth, travelled West coast USA, came back to University for my final year of study, and met many wonderful people along the way.

I thought it would be a great way to get back into writing blog posts by recapping some of the things I enjoyed and am proud of from 2016, so without further ado lets launch into it month-by-month.


January

I entered 2016 halfway through my internship at The Walt Disney Company. I was living in London, which I loved, and had gotten to the point where I felt very comfortable with my job and the wonderful people I was working with.

In December I’d been lucky enough to work on some of the online promotions for Star Wars The Force Awakens. In January, when my Mum came down to visit me in London, we went to Madame Tussauds where they had the special Star Wars waxworks. Needless to say we had a great time pretending to be in the scenes!


February

In February I was lucky enough to be able to go back to Walt Disney World with my family, a destination which has a special place in our hearts. Our last trip here had been back in 2011, so this was the first time we’d been since my brother and I were kids. I strongly believe however that it is a holiday for everyone, no matter your age, and the four of us had a fantastic ten days out there.

This month I also went to the Warner Brothers’ Studio Tour in Watford. Living in London had some fantastic perks, mostly being able to get to some well known and fun places rather quickly! I had been to the studio tour once before with my family a few years before, but it was so fun to see the new additions.


March

March was a relatively quiet month. Work-wise, I got to work on my biggest campaign so far for Aladdin the Musical. This included leasing with the design agency on the visuals, distributing assets across the site including tracking links, and writing and designing a quiz for Disney Inspired. This extra content helped to engage users with the show as well as showcase some of the incredible photos of it in action.


April

In April, the much awaited Captain America Civil War came out, and although I didn’t work on any of the promotion directly it was super fun to be in an environment of other people getting as excited as me about it.

I also did some more London exploring this month, including a trip to a few more of the museums including the Victoria and Albert Museum and Natural History Museum. Tsum Tsum mania also continued, with my collection growing more each month. In my defence – I wasn’t the only one in the office with a collection of this size!


May

May the Fourth be with you! Again this month it was so exciting to be working with people who got as excited about Star Wars as myself. As this was the last full month of my internship, I was able to work on a project I proposed and managed myself. This was a redesign of the Disney Holidays portal, including a new page design utilising photography of the park, and to make it a full portal which pulls in holiday-related content from all across the site. You can see the page live here.

My Mum came down to London again this month, and we went for a lovely afternoon tea at the OXO Tower by Embankment. I also did a bit more (goodbye) London exploring this month, including taking photos of lots of the monuments, and a trip with my fellow Interns to Sketch.


June

June was an absolute whirlwind of a month. The first week was sad as I left my year long internship at The Walt Disney Company. I absolutely loved my year, I learned so much and had the privilege of working with such wonderful mentors and friends. I had a lovely final week training the new intern Megan, and going for a farewell lunch with my team.

And then on 20th June I jetted off to sunny Orlando! Not for a holiday though (although there were days off that definitely felt like it!), but to take part in Disney’s Cultural Exchange Programme. I spent the next two months working at Epcot on three attractions: Journey Into Imagination with Figment, The Pixar Short Film Festival, and the Mickey and Friends Meet and Greet.

The end of June was spent meeting new friends, completing my work training, and learning more and more about Walt Disney World; and it was only just beginning…


July

On my days off I got to go into the Disney parks for free, including trips to the water parks. I also bought a Universal annual pass and got to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter which was absolutely magical.

The job was fun but challenging, there were definitely ups and downs. I’m tempted to write some more blog posts about my experiences because there’s just so much I could say! I was faced with a fairly difficult situation on the job in July where we Mickey wasn’t able to meet with guests for half of one of the days. My co-ordinated presented me with a Four Keys Card the day afterwards for helping guests and dealing with the situation well, which was something I’m pretty proud of.


August

I really could talk about this incredible summer forever. It’s surreal to look back on, that I was able to go to the parks every single day I was out there. Our last day was just amazing. We went to Magic Kingdom early to see the opening show, said goodbye to our favourite characters, had lunch at Chef Mickey’s at the Contemporary hotel, watched Wishes, and ended up staying in the park until around 2am! What an incredible way to end such a fantastic programme with my new friends.

I finished my programme on 20th August, but it wasn’t time to go home just yet! I travelled to Washington DC, Chicago and New York, spending five days in each place. Again, I could dedicate whole blog posts to each of these locations. Each was so different from the other, but all were a lot of fun and I’d love to go back sometime.

Washington DC was beautiful. We spent out first full day walking between all of the monuments from The White House to Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. The Smithsonian took most of the rest of our time, especially the National Zoo, Natural History Museum, Air and Space Museum, American Indian Museum, and the Sculpture Garden. Even having been to all of those, there’s still so much left to do if I ever went again!

Chicago might actually have been my favourite of the three places we visited. I didn’t know all that much about the city before going here, so I didn’t really have any expectations of what it would be like. We started by taking a fantastic architecture tour by boat, where we were told all about the history and design of the buildings throughout the city. Other things we enjoy were eating at one of the best places I’ve ever been to called The Purple Pig, and going to the very top of the Willis Tower. I mustered up the courage to sit on the glass ceiling at the Skydeck, although looking down to get up might not have been the best idea!

I had been to New York once before on a graphic design trip in March 2014. This trip I got to do some of the things I didn’t have time to the first time I visited, like see the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

We also went to see a Broadway show, something that was high on my list and I’d like to do again! We went to see Matilda, which was just incredible. The music and the cast were just excellent. We were sat on the very back row of the very back tear, about as far away from the stage as you could get! It didn’t have a negative impact on our view of the show at all though, we enjoyed it immensely.

I also got to go to the Nintendo Store this trip, which was gamer heaven! I may have succumbed to purchasing a few Eevie plushes, but with the hype of Pokemon Go last summer who can blame me?

Having gone to the top of the Empire State Building during the day last trip, this time around we opted for the Top of the Rock at night time. The views were incredible. Not only was it amazing to see the bright lights of the big city at night, the view included both Time’s Square and the Empire State Building on one side, and Central Park and Brooklyn Bridge on the other. We spent a good amount of time up there taking pictures, and I think if I went back or was recommending I’d say the top of the Rockefeller building beats the top of the Empire State Building in my books.

Other fun things we got up to in New York were a trip to the Central Park Zoo, where I got to see a grizzly bear for the first time (they’re so huge!) and of course taking many pictures by the landmarks, especially Time’s Square. New York is an amazing city, and even though I’ve been twice now I’d love to go again and again.

This summer was probably the most incredible one for me to date. It feels very surreal that I spent almost three months out in the states. I met people from all different nationalities, lived on another continent from home, worked at the favourite place of my childhood, and travelled to new and exciting cities. I definitely have more of a bug for travelling now, and this summer also taught me that friends are everywhere.


September

September was definitely back to reality! I had two wonderful weeks back at home with my family, catching up with them and sharing stories about our summers. I had a lovely ‘home birthday’ (before my actual birthday as I had to move back to Leeds for term starting), where my Mum made us a homemade afternoon tea!

Then it was back to University for me, to reunite with my friends who had all been doing placement years of their own. It was fun celebrating my birthday with my friends too, as well as living in a house with them.


October

The first week of October was my Dad’s 50th Birthday. He decided he wanted to go on a family weekend away to Portaventura, Spain, so away we flew! We had a lovely family holiday, especially since I’d been away over the summer it was so spend some time all together.

I also went back to Manchester for an event this month called Design Manchester, where artists and designers could display and sell their work, and I got a really cool portrait drawn of me by Emma Reynolds. I also got to sit in a talk by Alan Kitching at the Manchester School of Art, and show my friends around my home city.

Other fun things this month included two fun trips to Harrogate: once with my Mum and Dad who came over in my birthday week, and another when my Mum and I went to Betty’s for Afternoon Tea (there’s a bit of a theme here, we like tea and cake!)


November

November was a month pretty much filled with work. All of my design projects for University were underway, with all of us looking forward to the the Christmas break. During semester one I designed ‘Amicus’, a social bus app designed to make busses a place to meet new people, and ‘Norns: Twist of Fate’, a card game for young adults themed around old Norse mythology. Have a click around on my portfolio to see the projects.

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‘Amicus’ Social Bus App

December

After wishing my housemates a happy Christmas and all of our projects were handed in, I headed home for the holidays. It was so nice to be able to spend a full two weeks at home for Christmas with my family. I had a nice break from my university work, going to Chester Zoo, seeing Rogue One and Moana at the cinema (both amazing!) and enjoying a wonderful Christmas together.

Before Christmas I also headed down to London to reunite with my Disney Intern friends and former colleagues. It was so lovely to see everyone again for so long, and we had a great time at the pub singing Christmas carols and catching up.


2016 was, overall, an incredible year for me. I accomplished more goals than ever before, made new friends and travelled to exciting places. I feel very lucky to have experienced everything I did last year, and am hoping that 2017 will be just as great!

May the Fourth be With You

I am writing this while sat on a train travelling from London to Leeds. I’ve been working on updating my online portfolio throughout the journey, while listening to the Star Wars The Force Awakens album on loop.

This post is probably going to be a bit of a stream of thoughts. Right now I feel very in between. On one hand in four weeks I’m about to leave an internship I have loved and learned a lot from, though I am off to Orlando for two months to spend my summer working at Walt Disney World. I can’t help but think about the future though, and what lies even after this next stage when I have to return to university to face my dissertation and projects.

I’ve loved my internship and working on digital design, but really after having a good think about my experience working for Disney it’s the stories told through the movies themselves that I care about most. I’ve very passionate about storytelling, whether it be through film, television or games I love a story told through media and ideally I think I’d like to start working on helping to create or promote said stories.

I’m not exactly sure how yet. This past May 4th I watched an excellent documentary at work which you can find on the Blu-ray of The Force Awakens. Perhaps that’s the reason I want to listen to the Star Wars soundtrack on loop, but even if that is a side effect of watching ‘Secrets of The Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey’ I definitely highly recommend. I had the same sort of feeling watching this as I had as when I visited the Warner Brothers’ Studio Tour to see The Making of Harry Potter earlier in the year; I love seeing how films are made and just how many people work on bringing these incredible adventures to life.

Whether it be through graphic design or a new skill I learn, storytelling mediums such as games, films and television would be amazing to work on. But I guess the thing I’m trying to get at is that, this is achievable. Potentially if you’d asked me a year or so ago this would have been a complete dream to me, and it sort of still is since I don’t have an advanced enough skill set or contacts to get into the film or game design industry, however I realise now that this is possible.

I’ve worked for Disney, a company I wanted to work at for years, and now it’s time to set some new goals and dreams, and work hard to achieve them.

Two Months Left at Disney

Monday was my 2 months mark of time left working at The Walt Disney Company, and I can’t believe how fast it’s gone. Side note – Perhaps we should start the calling time until we leave somewhere a ‘leavearsary’.. it might add some fun to an otherwise pretty sad situation.

On the positive side, I’ve done a lot of work over the past 10 months! I recently built my website and online portfolio, please feel free to check it out if you’re interested in the work I’ve been doing for Disney. For now though, Here are a few of my personal highlights:


 

Animation Work

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Following on from the Inside Out animations I made for the cinematic release, I’ve worked on quite a few more animated promotions over the past year. This includes the Tangled as Told by Emoji animation to promote this piece of video micro-content, and The Good Dinosaur animation to promote the cinematic release of the film.

Disney Infinity 3.0

Disney Infinity 3.0 launched at the end of August, introducing Star Wars characters and new Marvel and Disney characters to the game. I created various Disney Infinity 3.0 assets for promotion across the UK website, however my work was also distributed across EMEA and used to promote the release of Infinity 3.0 across many other countries’ websites also.

What was challenging about this project was the approval process. The designs took around three weeks to complete as they needed to go through multiple rounds of feedback and sign off to ensure the designs stayed on brand and consistent with the wider Disney Infinity 3.0 promotion. I learned a lot about liaising with various lines of business, and patience on this project! Definitely worth it for the final result, you can see my designs being used regionally over on my portfolio.

Star Wars The Force Awakens

I can’t believe that I got to work for Disney while Star Wars The Force Awakens launched! It was amazing, and not just because we got to watch screenings of the film at work during the lead up to Christmas!

I didn’t get to do that much work on Star Wars, but I did support the launch of the top secret Disney Store merchandise, and designed a promotion that was shared across EMEA. The new products were so top secret that I wasn’t even able to use assets of them on the hero as I couldn’t see them before release! Therefore I used this badass picture of Kylo Wren, which was used regionally as you can see on my portfolio.

Doc’s World Game Assets

Something I never thought I’d be doing at my placement, but perhaps one of the things I’m most proud of (alongside the animation work) because it’s not an area I feel particularly strong at.

I’ve designed a series of assets for both Doc’s World and Sofia’s World over the past year. These are immersive Disney Junior games where players can creative avatars, design their spaces and play games. The examples above are from the Doc’s World Pet Vet expansion where I created a new outfit, wallpaper and items. You can see more examples over on my portfolio.

Gravity Falls Finale

I love Gravity Falls! I’m so sad the show has come to an end, however I did get to design assets to promote the finale and wave a final farewell. This included a homepage promotion, and themed games sliders that appeared on other sections of the site.

Production Campaigns: Disney Life and Aladdin the Musical

Alongside the design work I’ve been getting more involved with the production side of my role, working on two big campaigns. One was the UK launch of DisneyLife across Disney.co.uk, in which I helped to build assets and liaise with the design agency providing advice and feedback.

The other was for the Aladdin the Musical stage show launching in the UK. For this project I wrote the campaign plan and liaised with the Live Events team in order to plan site-wide promotion. I also proposed, wrote and built a Disney Inspired quiz for Aladdin the Musical, which did really well on the site.
These production projects gave me further insight into the company and working across different lines of business.


 

Oh yeah, did I forget to mention? I went to Walt Disney World in February! Yep, if working for Disney wasn’t enough, my family took a trip to the happiest place on Earth and had the most amazing time.

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I’ll be going to work in Walt Disney World this summer, and it was really great to see cast members making Disney magic and to see all the new additions to the park since the last time we visited in 2011. It was wonderful to spend a long block of time with my family too, and my excitement levels have definitely raised for my summer programme!

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I’m currently doing quite a bit of planning for the summer. My outgoing flight is booked, all I have left to do is my visa appointment and then I’ll be good to go! My boyfriend Matt is going to come out to Orlando once I finish my Disney programme, and we’ll be visiting Washington DC, Chicago and New York for a two week trip. So although I’m very sad my internship ends in just two months, I know I have a lot to look forward to this summer.

Forward

Hey Internet,

So lately I’ve kind of being having multiple feelings about many things, mostly revolving around trying to work out who I want to be, what I want to do, where I want to go moving forward.

I think these conflicting feelings have sparked from a few different thoughts I’ve had over the past few weeks. Specifically four reoccurring debates I’ve been having in my head: time; creating more things; productivity; and not wanting to be just one thing.

There isn’t enough time in the day. I love being busy and I’m a very organised person, so if I start to get the impression I’m not utilising my time properly I feel there’s something going wrong. Perhaps I have a higher opinion of my organisational skills than is truth, however I think it may lie more with me having an eight hour chunk of my day being spent at my job, leaving me tired and unmotivated to work on other projects in the evening. This is probably something I need to work on personally, I know many people who work later hours than I do and potentially I’m not putting myself in the right mindset for further creativity after my day of work. However, perhaps in future I’d like to work on more projects during my ‘work day’, which could lead to me going freelance for a while after I finish University. Who knows? I have a long time to work this one out.

Having less time work on things has led to me realising that I’m not creating enough. What I mean is, not enough for fulfil my personal expectation of myself – I don’t mean to compare or say that everyone should be making more that they are. However I have definitely realised that I have a backlog of design ideas written in lists that I just haven’t had the time to get round to, or if I have had the time I’ve wanted to relax watching Netflix or YouTube after work rather than continue my productivity to work on them.

And that leads me to productivity. Its a tough one, because I spend my day at work where I’m constantly being productive working on designs for Disney.co.uk and also working on production across the site. I want to be clear that I love my internship and wouldn’t change it for anything, I’m constantly learning, improving my design skills, and working with amazing people. All I mean is that I feel I’ve been less productive this year in terms of personal projects and work I have chosen to do, in comparison to how I would decide on my University briefs last year.

I think my concern that I’m going to be channelled, or even channel myself, into being just one thing started last year while I was at University. It’s great to have a specific sector in your field that you’re good at, and for me currently this is designing for web. However I want to branch out and experiment with different creative fields. Who knows if they’ll be for me, but if I’m labelling myself as one thing I won’t become the Jack-Of-All-Trades that, at this point while I’m still learning, I actually want to be. Sure I can keep my centre focus for work and University grades on one thing, but I need to start being able to dabble into others without fear.

I have talented people around me who make amazing things in their spare time such as games, blog posts and vlogs, and it’s making me question my own online presence and what I want to do going forward. It could be any of these things, or something else entirely. I still want to design and create things but I’m sort of reconsidering of the kind of designs I want to work on and whether I want to start branching into other creative regions.

The conclusion I’ve come to is that I need to make more stuff and not be so afraid of trying more things. I’m afraid of being bad at other creative outlets than the graphic design I know I can do, and that’s currently hindering my self-development. I need to force myself to draw and write in order to improve those skills. I need to stop being so afraid of what people will think and just put my work out into the world. And I need to find the time to be productive in my spare hours in order to create these things.

Four hinderances. Four goals. Forward.

Lumiere London 2016

 

Lumiere London was a festival all throughout the city over the course of four days. I went on both Saturday and Sunday evening to see the colourful lights and installations. The crowds were massive and it was pretty hard to get decent photos of a lot of the works. However the lights were beautiful, and it made me realise how much more I have to see of this beautiful city before I leave in June.