I started this blog back in January. My first post, a reflection on 2010. Now, nearly twelve months on, we have come full circle, and it is time for my thoughts on the year gone – 2011.

This is post number 19. I had intended to write once a fortnight. Nearly got there…

The personal account

This year has seen two big events in my personal life:

  • Moving to London.
  • Getting engaged to my girlfriend, Charlotte.

Moving happened in June. Between finding a flat, the move and settling in, it came to dominate a large part of the year. Living in London is something that I had wanted to do for a long time, and am glad to have made the leap. The riots in August demonstrated the worst and best of the city – being a short walk from Clapham Junction left me acutely aware of both the damage inflicted and the positive community spirit in the aftermath. Ironically it was this sequence of events that did more to make me feel comfortable in the area than anything else.

I proposed to Charlotte on the 23 December. And she said yes! There is nothing more to report yet though – it is unlikely to happen until 2013, however I expect the planning to be a big part of the year ahead.

On the wedding theme, September saw Charlotte’s sister get married, and October saw my aunt get married. Both very different, but equally fantastic days!

Being in London has meant easier access to galleries and museums. My highlights include John Martin at Tate Britain, Kenneth Grange at the Design Museum and Postmodernism at the V&A. I also stumbled across an exhibition of Spanish drawings at Somerset House – a nice cultural follow-up on the ice skating.

This year’s long summer holiday was substituted for several shorter breaks. March bought with it a trip to Devon, via Lyme Regis, for a Christening and catch-up with the family.¬†April saw Charlotte and I visit family in Jersey – and a shock realisation that it was our first trip out there for two years… August chalked up another Reading Festival.¬†And in November I returned to Devon for a great weekend away with Charlotte, Dan, Jason, Dave, Mark and Marie. We explored the ‘coombes, visited Exmoor Zoo and then stopped by Chedder Gorge on the way home.

A new commute, time for reading

The move has resulted in a rather lengthy commute on my part – including a solid hour on the train (each way). This means that I get to read. A lot.

As I did last year, I wanted to provide a quick summary of the books that left a lasting impression:

  • Hardboiled Web Design by Andy Clarke provides a great overview of new developments in HTML and CSS, and ideas on how to use them in production now.
  • Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton is the best introduction to Typography that I have read.
  • Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein demonstrate the consequences of influencing (and not influencing) choice.
  • Living With Complexity by Don Norman recognises that simplicity is not always the answer, and looks at how complexity does not need to equate to complicated.

Collectively the following three books helped me to better understand user experience design:

  • The Elements of User Experience by Jesse James Garrett
  • Undercover User Experience Design by Cennydd Bowles and James Box
  • Rocket Surgery Made Easy by Steve Krug

Finally, these last three books, all from the A Book Apart stable, have been real eye-openers in terms of developing practice in the web industry:

  • Responsive Web Design by Ethan Marcotte
  • Designing For Emotion by Aarron Walter
  • Mobile First by Luke Wroblewski

At work

At the other end of the commute is my day job, as Digital Designer for the University of Reading. The highlights this year have been:

  • Branding the interface for the University’s virtual learning environment (VLE), which involved unpicking and rewriting lots of CSS.
  • Identifying and setting up (with help) our first e-newsletter system, including the redevelopment of our HTML email templates.
  • Designing and coding the University’s corporate Facebook page.
  • Being part of the team that created our (responsive) festive website, for which I created the initial wireframes and storyboards, and wrote most of the HTML and CSS.

At play

There are also a few projects that I am working on in my free time:

  • A series of illustrations for a book on braiding (textiles).
  • A website for an actor/musician friend.
  • This blog.

The two web projects are helping me get to grips with WordPress. They are also providing interesting design challenges as, in contrast to my daily work, there are no pre-existing brand guidelines to adhere to.

The illustration project is a nice diversion from all the web work, and an opportunity to get beyond boxes and squiggles with my sketching. For the eagle-eyed, I did mention this last time out – the book has been a long term project of my Grandad’s.

For the New Year

This post has become a bit more rambling than intended, so time to wrap up with a look forward to 2012.

The underlying theme to my resolutions for next year is to ‘do more’.

Two of the three personal projects I mentioned above should be wrapped up in the first few months of the new year, leaving me free to explore new ideas. Watch out for something food-related… and something wedding-themed (invites and alike)…

I also want to get back into the sketching habit.

And onto my aims for this blog… I’ll set myself the goal of writing once a fortnight again. I also intend to keep posts pithier, to write as ideas occur and to write on a broader range of subjects.

To finish – Charlotte and I plan to (finally) visit Barcelona this year!

Happy New Year! See you on the other side…