Tip: Rent recording gear (no cost!)

Rent professional Zoom recorders and other gear from Academic Media Services! Photo courtesy Ruth Gregory
Rent professional Zoom recorders and other gear for free. Photos by Ruth Gregory/WSU

Not so impressed with the quality of audio recorded with your smartphone? On-campus students in Pullman can rent media equipment from Academic Media Services for free. The rental desk is located in Holland 150.

  • No cost if you’re using equipment for coursework, so make sure to mention COM210!
  • 24-hour checkouts, or all weekend (get it Friday and return on Monday)
  • Zoom audio recorders are professional quality, acquired for upper-division communication courses but available to anyone
  • Camcorders, smartphone tripods and other gear will be useful for Unit 4
  • They’re always getting new and cutting-edge gear, so it’s always worth it to see what’s available.

Week 10: Crafting your Audio Story

After learning basic techniques for audio editing in the tutorials, it’s now time to start the third unit project in this course: your Audio Story. Students often find the editing tools for audio easier than the first two units, but this means it’s all the more important to plan your project carefully and gather high-quality audio to work with.

Here are answers to some questions that commonly come up about the Audio Story:

What counts as a “story,” and what formats are recommended? There’s a lot of freedom over the format of your audio story, but whatever format you choose should sound planned and deliberate. To count as a story, it should have a clear beginning, middle and end. This doesn’t mean it needs to be a “once upon a time” sort of story, but that you should guide your listener through the content and consider using narrative elements like anecdotes and a concluding moment of reflection (as described in the audio chapters).

Does it need to include an interview? There’s no requirement about interviewing someone for your Audio Story, but you should record and use a variety of voices and sounds to construct your story. If you narrate most of it yourself, think about what other sounds — ambient sound, sound effects, music, etc. — will help tell your story effectively.

What if I can’t get all my interviews/material this week? As long as you submit a draft that shows reasonable progress, you can continue adding material until the final version is due. However, mention any incomplete aspects in your blog post so you can still get helpful feedback.

How much should the story relate to my course topic? Like all portfolio projects, the audio story should have a clear connection to your course topic. However, it does not need to encapsulate everything about your topic. Specific stories are often more successful than broad ones that try to cover too much.

Week 10 Checklist

❑ Read the Week 10 materials listed on the Course Schedule
❑ Post and submit the Raw Audio Footage assignment by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday
❑ Post and submit your Draft Audio Story by 11:59 p.m. on Friday
❑ Take the Unit 3 Quiz in Blackboard by 11:59 p.m. on Friday

Week 9: Starting Unit 3 and Audio Storytelling

After finishing up Unit 2 last week, we’re now halfway through the course and ready to begin Unit 3: Audio Editing and Adobe Audition. This is a big shift from the visual design we focused on during the first half of the semester — many students find audio storytelling to be more fun, but if you’re a visual learner (like me!) be prepared for a challenge.

Compared to the previous two units, there are fewer tools and techniques to learn in Audition. But that means it’s that much more important to collect high-quality audio and think about how to structure a story, and this week’s chapters provide important concepts, tips and examples. Take time this week to listen through some of the podcasts and radio segments recommended in the Introduction to Audio Storytelling chapter, and you’ll have much stronger ideas for your own audio project.

For this week’s assignment, note that for the third tutorial you’ll need to record several very brief interviews. I’d recommend reading the instructions right away so you can plan ahead for that part even if you don’t start the tutorials until later.

Week 9 Checklist

❑ Complete the Audition Tutorials assignment by Friday
❑ Read the Week 9 materials listed on the Course Schedule

Examples: How to improve a logo

The weekly post for Week 8 includes some common issues with students’ logo drafts. But let’s take a look at a couple of before-and-after examples:

Example 1

logo-makeover-ex1

In the version on the left, there are a few problems: The text is difficult to read, the three stars are not evenly spaced, and the overall boxy shape looks more like a label than a logo. The designer’s intention was to use team colors of yellow and blue, but the yellow looks greenish because of the gradient.

Improvements:

  • Ornate script fonts don’t display well in all caps. A different font selection improves the readability.
  • The stars are evenly spaced using the Alignment tools, and arranged more deliberately.
  • The stars and text are changed are changed to white for better contrast against the gradient background color.
  • The gradient is changed to a more subtle transition from blue-green to blue, with a little light blue in the middle to add a bit of shine.
  • The overall shape is changed to a rounded square, which is more pleasing to the eye and trendy, with a white border and drop shadow to lift the logo off the background in a subtle way.

The content of this logo is still not very distinctive. What is it for? What makes it unique? The designer could still improve this logo so it has a clearer purpose.


Example 2

logo-makeover-ex2

The version on the left is more of an illustration than a logo, and the elements are rough and unbalanced. It looks more like it was done in MS Paint than in Illustrator, and the default bright colors look childish and hurried.

Improvements:

  • The first step is having elements that are shapes, so those are created over again using the shape tools and the pen tool. For shapes like the mountains, it’s useful to look at other logos with that element or pictures of actual mountains.
  • The logo is given an encompassing shape with clear edges — in this case, a circle, which is a common but aesthetically pleasing shape. Inner shapes are trimmed into the circle using the Shape Builder tool.
  • The text is curved around the design using the Type On a Path tool.
  • The colors are restrained to just gray and blue, with a subtle gradient for each.
  • The detail elements — sun, trees, path — are done in a simple style that will be scalable.

The new version doesn’t include a person figure, and the visual message still comes through clearly. It could still be worth finding a way to incorporate it if the designer really liked that element, but think critically about whether all elements are really necessary.


Example 3

logo-makeover-ex3

In the version on the left, the outline of a smartphone is clearly created in detail using shapes in Illustrator, so this is an excellent start. However, the thin lines are not scalable since they would quickly disappear at small sizes, and the outline feels insubstantial rather than eye-catching. The text also seems incongruous with the technology theme.

Improvements:

  • The smartphone shapes are inverted so they have a fill color rather than an outline, which makes the overall logo bolder and more distinct.
  • The shapes are also simplified to avoid any issues with scalability. The idea that this represents a “smartphone” still comes through clearly.
  • The text is changed to a more modern sans-serif font to fit the technology theme.
  • The biggest change is that the smartphone screen is now adding to the meaning of the logo by including an eye-catching gradient and a stylized “chat” bubble. In the first version, the phone could be related to anything. In the second version, it’s clear this logo represents some type of communication-related mobile product.

All of these logos could still be improved, especially depending on the purpose and message to be communicated, but these changes improve both the visual and intellectual unity for stronger overall designs.

Week 8: Revising your logo

This week we finish up Unit 2 with peer feedback and the final version of your Logo Project. It’s been great to see your ideas so far! However, there are also some common issues with the logo draft — see if these apply to you:

Not fully scalable. It’s a key characteristic of logos that they can be used very large (think billboards and T-shirts) or very small (think business cards and social media icons). Small text, narrow outlines and borders, and too much complexity all hurt scalability because those details will disappear at small sizes.

Too colorful. Color choice can add meaning to your logo, but too much can look unprofessional and distract from your message. The most iconic logos can be rendered in black-and-white, and this is a good test: Does your logo still make sense without color?

Too timid. Simplicity is a virtue. But stay too safe, and a logo can never be very distinctive. There should still be strength and energy, and make sure to choose elements that uniquely represent you and your topic.

Understanding the Rubric

Final projects in this course are graded to a very high standard, which is balanced by all the other assignments graded for completion. You can find the rubric goals at the end of the assignment, and the full rubric is available in Blackboard. Back in Unit 1 I made an FAQ video explaining the rubric categories, and that still applies now if you want to review.

Week 8 Checklist

❑ Earn your Unit 2 Participation credit if you haven’t already
❑ Complete the Logo Feedback assignment by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday
❑ Submit your blog post for your Final Logo by 11:59 p.m. on Friday