Wedding Fever

My wedding dress. Photo by Nicole Cottom.

Confession: I love weddings. And I pretty much had my wedding planned before I ever met my husband. Yes, I am one of those girls who had been dreaming of her wedding since she was 15. So, it should come as no surprise that wedding blogs and magazines are consistently at the top of my daily inspiration list.

Most weddings mean big money and the wedding industry generates much income for our economy. Brides and grooms pay top dollar to have the best and most original items and themes at their weddings, so trends are always emerging from the wedding industry. As a designer, this can be a cue into some fresh ideas and in the very least knowing what trends are coming and going.

When my professional practices class discussed mood/inspiration boards, I was the only one who had used a mood board outside of class…it was for my wedding. I love to follow the inspiration boards on the blog Snippet & Ink. Every bride and groom have different personalities, so every wedding is going to have a different feeling and mood. Check out Snippet & Ink’s recent inspiration boards to compare the feelings of each.

I keep trying to convince my husband we should renew our vows every year so I can plan different receptions every year. But, until I come up with a convincing argument, I will just peruse beautiful weddings online and take a little inspiration for my design work.

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The colors of fall fashion

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I was on the Pantone website today, doing some research for class and came across this Pantone Fall Fashion color report. I love fashion and I love color, so this report of prominent fashion designers discussing their  inspiration for their fall collection and their prominent color palette is just plain yummy! It was really interesting to read the different inspirations each designer had and how they are incorporated those influences into clothing. Several designers named specific artists and/or paintings or specific locations they had visited. Fashion is big business and often sets the trends for many other design-related industries, so be on the lookout for these colors to make it to the mainstream.


Our professional practices class watched Waiting for Superman last week during class. This movie was similar to The Lottery, but for me had a much different reaction to Waiting. When we watched The Lottery, I was sad for the kids in film waiting to hear if they had won their charter school lottery in hopes for a chance at a better education. While viewing Waiting for Superman, I felt more angry. Angry about the statistics given about graduation rates, angry about the low number of poorly performing tenured teachers being fired, and just overall frustration about the education system in our country as a whole.

But then my next thought was how lucky I’ve been that I never became one of those statistics. I attended public school in northern Indiana and went to a district that was considered one of the top in the state. I was involved in extracurricular and co-curricular activities that enriched my high school experience and made me a well-rounded student. My parents pushed me to be the best student I could. Not attending college was not an option. Neither of my parents went to college, so they knew the importance of having a college degree and a career instead of merely having a job. I remember when I was a teenager my mother telling me I needed to get a degree before getting married, and that if I were to get married before graduating, my parents wouldn’t pay for the wedding or the rest of my education. It’s sort of a funny “threat” now, but my parents just wanted me to be educated and independent.

I was blessed to live in a great neighborhood with good schools. I am blessed to be able to attend college and am working on Bachelor’s degree number two now. I am blessed to have parents that stopped at nothing to give me a good education and a good base for being a successful and independent woman. But I know not everyone has had the same fortune as I’ve had. This is where I feel my responsibility lies…to help those who haven’t had the same fortune. I don’t always understand why some people are given the upper hand and others are given the short end of the stick, but my goal is to help level out that uneven playing field.


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Chattanooga has only one option?

“Chattanooga has only one option, and it is private.” This anonymous opinion was referring to good schools in the Tennessee, specifically the Chattanooga area. In doing a little research on public schools in Tennessee, I came across a message board with many opinions that echoed that line of thought…if you want your kids to get into college, the only place to send them in Chattanooga is a private school. I did not grow up or attend public school in TN and didn’t move to the Chattanooga area until about 2 years ago, so I really didn’t know any reputations of school districts or specific schools of the area. But with the recent visit from eduction reformer Geoffrey Canada to UTC and our upcoming class project relating to public education, I wanted to know more.

The more I read from this message board (about TN schools in general, not just Chattanooga), the more angry I became. There was another comment stating as a parent in TN, you should do all you can to send your children to private schools. Let me pose a hypothetical here: what if, instead of focusing energy and finances on sending children to private schools, the energy was focused on bettering public school education for all children in the area? Wouldn’t it be great if not just a handful, but all of the children in your community received a good education? What would the future of that community look like if all of today’s children received a better education than yesterday? Instead of fleeing from the failing public schools, shouldn’t we as a collective city be helping those schools? My hope is that even a few people will say yes.

Stay tuned to my blog for more posts relating to our upcoming CreatAthon and more on public school education in Tennessee.



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Design meets science

Free image from

After finishing our first website design project from scratch, there were obviously many questions from the class as a whole. There were several common questions and errors within the class, so we broke into groups and were each assigned a topic area. Our group was assigned defining the “cascading” in CSS and what and how that related to inheritance of styles.

In our initial research, each definition we found lead to more terms needing defined. So we began with a term list and set out to define some of those common terms. We also needed to come up with a short exercise for the class to help understand the terms, so we created a few questions of inheritance as it relates to human genes and blue eyes. Of course it related back to web media and we made a funny example of real life situations. A mom and dad both have blue eyes, but want their baby to have brown eyes  and can do so with a little genetic engineering. It’s all very sci-fi.

Agent = browser = god, or leaving your styling up to the browser’s default styling

Aurthor = designer = mom, or creating your own styles

User = website user = science, or someone else implementing their style on your site (mostly for accessibility purposes)

See, those high school science classes really will be useful in real life.

What I really enjoy about group work within our class is that we usually tackle the project or problem as a whole team. In many other classes, group work is usually divided up into sections and each person does his or her own work and then doesn’t meet again until just before the project is due. It’s hardly considered group work. I’m not sure if this is because our class all works well with each other or it’s more of the nature of the projects themselves. I’m guessing it has a little more to do with our great class dynamic.

How are design and public education related?

Tuesday was quite an emotional roller coaster, but it ended on a high note. My professional practices class has a large project planned for later in the semester dealing with local public education. We watched The Lottery in class, and if you haven’t seen this documentary, I highly recommend you add it to your DVD queue. I can say this is the first time I’ve cried in class from watching a documentary (but I wasn’t the only one). The movie chronicles the public education system in Harlem and follows a few families as they await lottery day for several charter schools in their area. The film highlighted what I think is often a myth about lower income families: just because parents don’t have money doesn’t mean they don’t want better for their own children. Almost all of the the parents interviewed in the film said they wanted better experiences for their children than they had. In the end, only 2 of the children highlighted were selected for a charter school. I was so disheartening to see the sad faces of the children, who didn’t quite understand fully what was going on, but knew they hadn’t been picked.

I did say that the day ended on a high note, so now for the more enlightening part of the day. Our class was fortunate enough to hear the very inspiring Geoffrey Canada speak at our school. If you don’t know who Geoffrey Canada is or what he stands for, research him now! He is the founder of the Harlem Children’s Zone, where he promises to increase the graduation rates of children in Harlem, not only from high school, but graduation from college. One of the first things he said in his presentation was that if our nation doesn’t change our education, we will no longer continue to be a super power. He called for less blame on situational circumstances of kids and more accountability from teachers. He noted teachers should hold the same expectations for a child that a parent would hold; after all, they are getting paid to teach.

Conversations about tax dollars can be a hot topic, especially from community members who don’t have children and feel their tax dollars are better spent on areas other than education. Canada said, “Tax dollars are a decision we’ve made about our children.” I thought that was a good question to pose to our community: what are your tax dollars saying about the children in your community? Are you standing up for their future, and the future of your community? A question at the end of his presentation prompted Canada to call for business and community involvement in education. Uneducated children affect an entire community, not just parents and teachers. And this is where I got really excited because I feel this is where design can greatly impact education and community.

You might think college design students are far from a target audience who cares about public education, but most of us will someday have children of our own. What is most exciting to me working to make changes now that will affect our future children. I am beyond thrilled to see what the rest of this semester project has in store for our class, so stay tuned to this blog to follow what we are doing in the Chattanooga community.

Check out this TED Talks presentation from designer Emily Pilloton and how her designs are making an impact in her community:

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Guilty Sunday Pleasure

As a student, most of my week is consumed with projects, homework, research, thumbnails, revisions…well, you get the point. My feed reader is usually the victim of neglect during the week. So when Sunday comes around, I usually like to reserve a few hours of non-homework time surfing my feed reader. I love fashion and I often find myself dreaming of walking the streets of Manhattan in designer threads, going to fashion shows and chatting up with Anna Wintour. In reality, I must get my fashion fill from one of my favorite photographers/bloggers, Scott Schuman, the man behind The Sartorialist. This week’s posts are especially exciting because it’s New York fashion week. This site is often the source of inspiration and constantly a cue for trendy color combinations for my own designs. The fabric, the makeup, the shoes, I love it all!

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I am not a quitter

Our first project in web media 2 is to create a website related to food. The project is more of an exercise in how to put together a website from scratch and we don’t have real clients. We started from the very beginning with research and personas and have now reached the point of building the site. And cue fear.

I realized over the weekend that much of my fear of writing markup for HTML and CSS stems from my math anxiety (self-diagnosed). I have never been terribly good at math and I think there are many parallels between markup and math. They both require logical and practical thinking and the whole solution can quickly go awry if one small step is missed. But with those frustrations, hang-ups and hiccups, the victory of a proper solution is that much sweeter. I had almost reached my quitting threshold when that sweet victory came during class last week. I was troubleshooting and actually understanding what I was doing and why. I am not terribly comfortable in web media, but it’s when I push myself out of my comfort zone that I learn the most. So I will press on!


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When inspiration goes bad.

There is always a hot topic discussion in the art world between inspiration and plagiarism. Was your work “inspired” by another artist, or did you just flat out rip off their work? Intellectual property can be a little muddy if you don’t know the ins and outs of copyright and trademark and you could find yourself deep in lawsuits. Our Professional Practices class was fortunate enough to hear local attorney, Mattias (Matt) Jannerbo, discuss this very topic. Mr. Jannerbo gave a presentation to a mixture of both students and professionals and there were questions abound. Mr. Jannerbo outlined legal definitions of both copyright and trademark and timelines of each. One thing I learned was that once an artist creates a piece, the copyright is theirs. I always assumed a copyright was something official that had to be filed. Of course, there is an official copyright and it was also discussed when it would benefit from actually filing for a copyright.

One thing that was very evident from Mr. Jannerbo’s presentation is that a clear and upfront contract between designer and client is a must. There were a few questions regarding verbal contracts and email contracts and bottom line is they may not be in your best interest as a designer. Being upfront with your client about who has ownership of the files and property from the beginning can eliminate much headache down the road. I was very glad to learn this information as a student so I am a little better prepared for designing in the “real world.”

Check out this link to Jessica Hische’s hand-drawn diagram on “Inspiration vs. Imitation.” She is hysterical (and knows her stuff)!


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Surfing “blind”

Web Media 2 is delving even further into accessibility by having us practice basic computer and web functions with various obstacles to somewhat simulate disabilities and impairments. My first experience was to explore the web via the voice over function on my laptop. I figured it would be easiest to begin with a few sites I knew well, so my first stop was the Whole Foods blog. Overall it was fairly easy to navigate. [I will stop here and note that I attempted to do this with my eyes closed at first, but quickly realized there is a learning curve with remembering the key commands and had to finish my experiment watching what I was doing.] My first frustration was remembering, and then completing, selecting linked text and various links. I’m sure someone who knows the voice over functions well would laugh at me at this point. I also noticed that a date of January 31st read as “January 31 Street,” which was very confusing, and the point where I opened my eyes. I also very quickly realized how poorly I have memorized my keyboard. I simply take for granted that I can peek down at my fingers as I’m typing along.

My second stop was Facebook. I spent all of 3 minutes on that site with voice over because it read every single element on the page: the time each status update was made, if it was made from a mobile device and which kind. All the stuff you don’t really pay attention to on Facebook suddenly was being read aloud. And each image was read as a series of numbers. Not at all helpful in letting someone who couldn’t really see the image know what it was a picture of. The page is just overloaded with information that actually hearing it all made me realize just how cluttered it is. And this exercise also made me realize just how impatient I really am.


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