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Farewell to Dragos Liche, our Digital Creative Intern (University of Suffolk)

Today we say goodbye to Dragos Liche, our Digital Creative Intern of the past 6-months. Dragos joined us from the University of Suffolk where he is studying for a BA (Hons) in Computer Games Design. He came to us with a passion for digital media and a specific interest in the development of navigation apps, and brought with him a different but complementary set of skills to our world of digital mapping. It has been great to have a new set of eyes on our design ideas and problem-solving as we worked together on a range of projects including: icon creation; map content development, UI design, and marketing, exhibition and display materials. Meanwhile, we benefited in unexpected ways from the application of his own 3D software. As a company, we appreciate the opportunity both to support and to benefit from the University of Suffolk's internship programme, and we extend to them, as to Dragos, our grateful thanks. Unfortunately our final fortnight together has coincided with the first 2 weeks of Coronavirus lockdown, so we have missed our photo-opportunity with Dragos at SmartNE offices. Instead we have extracted from him a self-isolating self-portrait from his office at home!

We welcome applications from future prospective interns, who may be interested to read more from Dragos on his time with us...


Post Mortem on a SmartNE Internship!

I’ve had a great time at SmartNE, and this experience has helped me develop unexpected skills. For instance, I wasn’t expecting to be using 3ds Max, which is a 3D Software, quite as much as I did. My 3D skills were not ignored, but in fact I was encouraged to use them and managed to get visible results that I can take pride in. I felt satisfaction when I saw my own work come to life on the WAi2Go software and I am glad to have seen first-hand how digital maps are created and edited. It has been my first time working in an office environment and it has been quite a different experience working alongside people who did different things, rather than working with peers who were working on the same assignments as me. I worked longest on an icon design project – the creation of a new suite of environmental, heritage and utilities icons for a community map, which has taught many valuable Photoshop skills, and encouraged me to think about designing for a specific platform, and with a diverse public in mind. Icon design is much harder than I’d previously anticipated, because in my gaming experience, there are very few icons that are linked to a small amount of actions and objects a player could interact with, and they are generally universal in most games. On the other hand, icon design for a tracking app that’s being used by a larger, more diverse demographic needs to convey its meaning very easily for a broad audience or else it might be misunderstood or even considered offensive. A great example of ‘bad’ icon design that I hadn’t previously considered was when I was creating an icon for a care/nursing home. I thought of it from the pragmatic point of view, as you would in a game: it is supposed to depict senior citizens, so the easiest way of doing that is putting them on a sofa, relaxing, with a walking cane or similar object near them, or near a nurse or care assistant. After more careful consideration, we decided that it would be better to depict a happier, healthier couple of residents taking a stroll together. Similarly, it hadn’t crossed my mind that a Place of Worship could be linked to more than the main local religion, so instead of having a church with a big cross on its top, we have opted for a building that suggests a church, but without any specific religious imagery on it. Another thing that I’ve learned is using Splines in Photoshop effectively, as they’re a great way of creating smooth lines and filling them with solid colours easily, while also making them as vectors, thus being easily scalable. Scalability is a very important aspect in icon design, as I’ve learned, because on a tracking app, the icon needs to be as big on its designated space as possible, as it will be very small on the map. Furthermore, each platform has very specific size limits for their icons, as otherwise the file could become too large and hinder its seamless use on gadgets. Starting from a 1024x1024 photoshop document, I’ve created master, high quality icon versions for the purpose of easily scaling and modifying them in the case of feedback requiring that. Unexpectedly, I was able to apply my knowledge of 3ds Max, the main software that I use for 3D Modelling, to the UI task of populating SmartNE maps with trees, which has been a very fun, enjoyable experience, and I’ve learned new things about the software and its tools. Scatter was the main, essential tool that I’ve used for scattering tens of thousands of little tree models onto polygons imported from Adobe Illustrator. Illustrator is very new to me and it was interesting to work out the differences between it and Photoshop, the latter being the one that I was the most familiar with. In 3ds Max, I’ve learned the true use of Orthographic Mode, being able to quickly and accurately draw poly over renders of maps, and using these Orthographic renders to decide what the tree density should be in different areas. The X-Ray tool was also very helpful in this matter, because it helped immensely when I needed to line up portions of the polygons imported from Illustrator to the renders that I’d created from Google Maps and Google Earth Pro. Working on marketing and display materials was also interesting. I was tasked to create some 2D Graphics for a Marketing PDF using Photoshop, as well as finding icons for different subheadings on said document. Again, I was required to think very flexibly in order to get the intended audience to easily associate the icon with the subheading that it was next to. The same applied to the 2D Graphics that I created for the text that would accompany them. For banner design, I had to learn how to use a limited vertical space effectively and how to use Photoshop’s effects, such as embossing and strokes in order to make things pop more and gain more attention from viewers. For the task of developing SmartNE’s exhibition display space, I used 3ds max to create mock-ups for how the different sized (and priced) exhibition spaces would look. I have also used some of my other favourite software: Substance Painter and Unreal Engine 4 to create a more realistic look for the exhibition space. Furthermore, I learned how to conduct market research on different equipment and compiled a list of benefits and drawbacks of each different variant in a spreadsheet. It has been a very educational experience. None of my previous jobs have ever given me so much creative freedom, trust and understanding. Everybody here at SmartNE has always been very kind and helpful, treating me as one of their own rather than just an intern, as I was expecting it to be the case. The people here have treated me like a valued team member, and although I am a student, they gave me the responsibilities and the credit that a regular, non-junior employee would get. I hope to continue collaborating with Smart Networked Environments in the near future!

© 2019 Smart Networked Environments

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