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Gregory Bradley
Graphic designer, photographer, and sometime recovering linguist based in Hornsey, north London.
Graphic designer, photographer, and sometime recovering linguist based in Hornsey, north London.

Gregory's posts

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"Instead of using a specific trend like flat design, skeumorphic or whatever is trending on Dribble, try something different."

My new year's resolution 30-day German language learning experiment

Right then. Well, 2012 is on its way out – it's been a bit of a shower useful spending the last few days reflecting on what to improve on next year, and I go into 2013 with a feeling optimism about what may lie ahead.

It's also a time many of us make resolutions. I don't bother with it much these days – too many past failures to fall into that trap, and (clichéd though it sounds) I'd rather make more of an attempt to focus on the process of doing something and making the journey enjoyable, rather than have a very outcome-orientated approach, bypass the enjoyment, get to the destination and think 'oh... is that it?'. The former approach makes more sense to me.

So, rather than do a resolution (and since there's plenty I want to work on next year, resolving to do everything at once would be a really efficient way to make a dog's breakfast of all of them) I've borrowed personal development blogger Steve Pavlina's idea of doing a 30-day trial instead – short enough to trick myself into thinking 'come on chap, only a month of this', but long enough to make it a habit, should I wish to extend it or do it permanently.

Since I made several fleeting attempts last year to improve my German (for those who don't know, I've long had a desire work in mainland Europe, and German-speaking countries probably offer the best possibility of doing that in my line of work) but didn't get too far with it, I've decided I'm going to spend some time every day for 30 days learning German, starting today (why wait until tomorrow, eh?).

The only rules are:

1 – I do some every day for 15-30 minutes minimum (a small amount, but I'd rather have that target and exceed it than say 2-3 hours a day and set myself up for a fall);
2 – my efforts have to be active and purposeful (coasting by looking up easy vocabulary or phrases is cheating!) as opposed to passive. It should be about trying to push a bit and move things forward, however incrementally.

I reckon that makes it easy enough to answer either 'yes' or 'no' to whether I've succeeded.

Since this is all self-directed and as much about learning how to learn as it is anything else, I won't be taking any lessons at this point. I'm a recovering linguist (six-and-a-half years, but taking it day by day), so although I've never done any language teaching, I feel confident enough to diagnose any obstacles I run into (and ask native/fluent speakers I know for help, of course). I already know conjugating verbs is something that I've always found particularly challenging in my previous language learning attempts, so chowing down on the hard grammar is an area I particularly want to improve, as is my general spoken language confidence (and being OK about making errors).

I should probably say I'm not doing this from scratch – not quite, anyway. I'm what language learning experts might call a 'false beginner'. I did study German for two years at school, but that was almost 15 years (over half a lifetime) ago. I've never spoken it fluently enough to do anything with, which is essentially the point. Obviously with my background I have a strong interest in language and languages, but prior to now I've been something of a dilletante – un po' italiano, un petit peu français, and so on. I've always felt that if I could get past the big grammar block and come out the other side, I'd enjoy it and probably do quite well... so let's see what happens.

So this is just an experiment to see how far I get – that's my only aim. I can't remember the last time I made a conscious effort to do something every day for a month (possibly never!), so I might learn a few interesting things about myself (and my work ethic) along the way.

I'll be updating progress at semi-regular intervals (this is the 'public accountability' bit – no way out now!). In the meantime, happy new year, and wish me luck!

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Nice blog post/review on the Brain Pickings blog of Keri Smith's 'How to Be an Explorer of the World'. It's true that hanging on to that childlike level of curiosity and wonderment is beneficial to the creative process.

Some nice actual spreads of the book, too (which I'm unable/haven't worked how how to link to on here, for now at least).

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"Graphic design has just as much to do with words as it does with pictures."

That, and other sage pieces of advice. Relevant to more than just graphic design students, too.

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Another one from Design Week – this one about the CERN/Comic Sans 'furore'. I agree with the author's sentiments about type/typography and emotion – if it was just 'neutral', then no-one would be outraged by Comic Sans, or think Times New Roman was 'boring', or whatever...

"[T]he public have and continue to relate to typography, even though they maybe don’t realise it. We’ve all had the experience of a certain scent reminding you of a fond memory. The same applies with typography - certain fonts trigger certain emotions and memories."

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One of the things I've always loved about Channel 4's branding is how even though they've tweaked and refreshed their branding over the last 30 years, the original mark largely remains intact. A sensible long-term move to maintain brand equity, rather than rip everything up and start again.

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A great piece on the NYT website on the cult of 'busy' that I'm sure most people in London (or any other metropolis) will identify with. Very thought-provoking, and definitely worth a read.

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You could replace 'write/writing' with 'design/designing' and the same would hold true.

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This week I've been working a lot on improving my copywriting, which has led me explore the idea that the processes behind both design and writing – or at least doing them both effectively – are the same, if not similar. I stumbled across this article by usability expert Don Norman – it's not new (and it is a lengthy read) but it pretty well hits the nail on the head.
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