Using warp effects on text

The Graphic Design tutorial I’ve been doing on Udemy has a section about current design trends (2020), and it demonstrates how to create them in Adobe Illustrator. Below is the result of my experimentation with “warp with mesh” on repeated lines of text to create an interesting effect.

Repeated text with a warp effect applied.
Hello, it’s me…I was listening to Todd Rundgren at the time so this is the first sentence I could think of.
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Anyone can draw (apparently)!

I’ve read conflicting reports of whether or not a web designer needs to know how to draw. On the one hand, everything is done with computers these days. On the other, it’s useful to be able to communicate with images. As much as I text and e-mail, sometimes I just need to write things down by hand. Drawing could end up being a similarly-used skill.

But I can’t draw — what now? I read a post by Karen X that advised getting a book called You Can Draw in 30 Days and figured it was worth a shot. I borrowed the eBook through Tennessee Reads (libraries are such a valuable resource), and thought I’d share how it was going.

Sketches of buildings with ramps and windows.
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Why I’m learning design

I’m currently pivoting from web development to web design (though I’ll probably stay more on the development side). It isn’t something that I ever thought I would do, though I’m glad that I am. As promised in an earlier post, here are the reasons behind this decision.

1. I have to study something.

I always need to be learning. I find it interesting to learn new things, but this is pragmatism as well: my web development job is a temporary contract. I’m content in my current position, but I had a few months off already this year due to the pandemic. Leveling up my skills in any area is something I can do to prepare for whatever next year might bring.

2. My brain has changed.

In early 2020 my “leveling-up” quest led me to enroll in Launch School, an online coding school that provides a mastery path to web development and software engineering. I programmed in Ruby, learning a step-by-step approach to problem solving that enabled me to solve difficult coding problems. I also studied networking and databases. I enjoyed it, I was good at it, and I hoped to finish the entire course by the end of 2020.

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Japan-themed color palettes

As the days get shorter and 2020 is drawing to a close, I’ve decided to explore web design. I think that idea deserves a post all to itself. (That will be coming soon.)

In order to get an introduction to design principles, and also to work out if this is something that could be interesting in the long-term, I’ve started The Complete Graphic Design Course For Beginners on Udemy. The first “assignment” is to create color palettes based on photographs, using Canva and the Adobe Color Palette Generator.

Autumn trees with 5 colors from the photo.
Autumn in Kyoto.

Up until now I’ve only really looked at colors once I had already started a project. I like the idea of putting together colors for later inspiration.

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A Bit About Database Keys, Part 2: Primary and Foreign Keys

In Part 1 of this series about database keys, we looked at the difference between natural and surrogate keys, using a table with data about friends.  Here’s that table again:

SELECT * FROM friends;
 first_name | last_name | hair_color | id 
------------+-----------+------------+----
 Monica     | Geller    |            |  1
 Ross       | Geller    |            |  2
 Chandler   | Bing      |            |  3
 Joey       | Tribbiani |            |  4
 Rachel     | Green     |            |  5
 Phoebe     | Buffet    | blonde     |  6
 Monica     | Lewinsky  |            |  7
 Al         | Green     |            |  8
 Joey       | Kangaroo  | orange     |  9
(9 rows)

The table contains columns for data about first name, last name, and hair color, plus an  id column that was created to uniquely identify each row, regardless of whether or not the values in the other columns were unique.

Primary Keys

The  id column of the  friends table is an example of a primary key.  A primary key is used to uniquely identify a row in the same table.  Columns can be explicitly specified as primary keys in PostgreSQL using  PRIMARY KEY , as was done when the column was created in the previous article:

ALTER TABLE friends
ADD COLUMN id serial PRIMARY KEY;

A primary key is usually, though not always, an automatically-incrementing integer.  But no matter the data type, a primary key must be unique, and so surrogate keys make great primary keys.

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A Bit About Database Keys, Part 1: Natural vs. Surrogate Keys

Keys are values that uniquely identify a single row in a database table.  They are necessary because it is highly possible that a table will have two rows that contain identical data but represent two separate entities in the real world.

Let’s say we wanted to create a table in PostgreSQL to store information about our friends.  The schema for this table might be created with the following code:

CREATE TABLE friends(
first_name text,
last_name text
);

This table has two text columns, one for first name and one for last name.  Now let’s populate our table with some data:

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Increasing Text Color Contrast Improves Readability

Recently, I helped a friend with her website.  I had just spent the whole day staring at a computer screen, and my eyes were tired. So the first thing I noticed was the contrast between the body text and the background…or rather, the lack thereof.

The page looked something like this:

An example of low contrast text.
This text isn’t very easy to read, especially if you have a vision impairment.

I have made many similar color decisions myself in the past.  When I first started making websites, choosing the colors was my favorite part. The only criterion I used to decide colors for text and background was, “does it look pretty?”

What I didn’t realize at that point was that color choice can make a website difficult to read, and even exclude users from being able to view a website at all.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

The Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)  has published a set of standards for web content, called the the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG for short). Within this document are standards for just about every aspect of web content, including colors, images, video, text, and documents.

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