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Welcome to the Coffee Hour

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[Note: Post updated on August 2013 to reflect the club’s close.]

Cornell University’s INFO 2300: Intermediate Web Design course offers as much to students in its class as it does to those outside of the course thanks to the unique nature of the course’s final project. For the final project, students are split into groups of four and then are tasked with helping one of Cornell’s many clubs create a website.

Teamed up with a student interested in databases and one interested in front-end implementation – be began to search for a group to help. In not much time, we stumbled upon a truly important campus group called “Coffee Hour.” This unique club offers students a chance to meet and make new friends over coffee. No pretense. No membership fees. Just coffee!

We fell in love with the idea instantly and were happy to work with this group to create a prototype website for the (now defunct) club.

Once again filling the role of designer and front-end developer, I began work on a more experimental interface. Forgoing the usual navigation bars for a more quirky experience that fit the warmth and non-mainstream traits of the club, I decided on creating a coffee house setting (original, right?) which would “house” the content in a pleasing and simplistic manner.

Using HTML, CSS, PHP, and jQuery we were able to realize my designs rapidly and produce a remarkable prototype. The final site prototype not only fit well the needs of the club, but also impressed our professors – especially given the small time frame within which we worked.

Although the site is now offline due to the club’s closure at the end of the 2012-2013 school year, I have hosted a stripped-down version of the site here:

Cornell Coffee Hour [Limited Version]

Additionally, be sure to check out the following gallery of screenshots from my concept mock-ups that demonstrate the design choices and features of our website:

 

Photo Credit: Pradeep U.N.

In the News: Microsoft Firenze|BXT 2012

As the excitement of the Microsoft Firenze|BXT competition comes to gradual close, I am surprised to see the competition lives on in myriad ways including the competition event video (above featuring yours truly starting around the 1:27 minute mark), a fantastic write up in the Cornell Business Journal regarding my team’s participation in the event, and even news of Bing’s development team creating an enthralling new user experience that incorporates social media in ways not unlike my team’s concept!

Looking forward to trying out the new Bing.com and  keeping in touch with all of the updates on the competition rolling out of Redmond on the official Microsoft Firenze|BXT Facebook page.

Be sure to check out my write-up on the competition here:  My Experiences at Microsoft Firenze|BXT 2012

Live from Redmond!

My Experiences at Microsoft’s Firenze|BXT Competition

Colin_Budd_Firenze
The Cornell Finalist Team

If there is one experience that is undoubtedly the most rewarding and distinctive of being a university student, it is the pure excitement that comes from instantly being plugged into a network of brilliant minds and infinite opportunities. From case studies to hackathons, there seems no end to the amazing team-based competitions on campuses across the nation.

I had the great pleasure during my Spring semester of freshman year at Cornell University to experience a competition that blends design, business, and technology to allow for equal footing among a wide range of talents and majors: Microsoft Firenze|BXT.

Microsoft’s unique team competition has been nothing but a whirlwind of fun, nerves, sleepless nights, and incredible new friends.

From the Bottom…

As a freshman, I was concerned I would only be getting in the way of those who have had more experience in their fields. However, as one of the few design oriented majors there, I grew an appreciation for what I could offer: animation, conceptual rendering skills, and visual communication. However, at the time, I did not realize that I would be contributing an important skill that I had never explored before: User Interface design.

Tasked with reimagining Microsoft’s Bing search engine as being a search engine that heavily incorporated social media, my team and I set out to create an idea that would help us stand out from the six other talented Cornell teams. As the sleepless hours piled up, so did the ideas and drawings. We soon came upon a concept and design that my team and I unanimously loved: A clean redesign of Bing that placed equal emphasis on standard search results and reviews/tips/photos/etc. from “experts.” These so-called experts fell into two categories: those in your social network (such as friends who had posted material related to your search including reviews or photos) and those who are established experts in the related field (such as a well-known travel book author or a highly-regarded tech reviewer).

By compiling all the results into a cohesive search results page, we created a concept of a search engine that did not just serve users but connected them within their circles to provide better and more human results.

1a-hawaii

Delivering the Goods…

To aid our presentation to a panel of Microsoft employees ranging from Creative Directors to actual developers on Bing’s team, I was tasked with creating a conceptual user interface and a product demonstration video. With the help of Adobe Photoshop, Audition, Illustrator, and After Effects, I set out to create within just a day’s time the full video and necessary conceptual UI screens.

I am proud of the results – especially with 18 consecutive hours logged on the animation alone – and am extremely proud that my team and I were able to win a spot in the final round of the competition at Microsoft’s Redmond, Washington, campus.

Let’s Fly Away…

The entire final round of the competition will always seem completely surreal. Microsoft generously flew out the winning teams from the competing schools to Seattle, WA, for a weekend-long final competition. Once there, the finalist teams were created by mixing up the individual students and giving a new competition case: creating a new design for the Microsoft retail stores.

Alongside the best and brightest from schools such as Carnegie Mellon University and Ohio State University, the weekend passed quickly with meet and greets, constructive individual reviews/critiques from Microsoft HR and executive employees, field research at local Microsoft Stores, and a lot of caffeine-aided hard work throughout the night. The following day, each team presented their findings and proposals to a board of select Microsoft employees.

The result was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. Finalists were rewarded not only with the opportunity to participate in such a memorable  competition, but also with an incredible number of awards including Microsoft Firenze|BXT jackets, sleek glass trophies, Xbox 360 consoles, and, for the winning team, Nokia phones and tablets.

To the Top…

Humbled and flattered by the entire experience, I cannot believe that weeks of hard work, nights of little to no sleep, and countless hours logged discussing concepts and ideas with my teams are finally over. I am left with a newfound appreciation of the field of User Interface Design, the important roles of Project and Product Managers – a few of which I had the honor of meeting while on Microsoft’s gorgeous Redmond campus, and the push Microsoft has started to make in recent years to place greater emphasis on design.

A major thanks to everyone at Microsoft who donated their time and resources to host the Firenze|BXT competition and to all the great new friends I made while competing this year.

Here’s to hoping the competition is offered next year!

Note: All Conceptual UI Design and Photos are property of Colin Budd. Duplication and use only allowed with permission.

Update: Be sure to check out my follow-up on the competition here: In the News: Microsoft Firenze|BXT 2012

Map Art

Drawing Project: Urbanization

Map Art

For my second Intro to Drawing project at Cornell University, I was assigned to create a map based on an imaginary location and advance that concept to the greatest extent possible. The result is the following animation:

 

I wanted to capture the transformation and development of an unestablished location from land formation and colonization thru modern civilization. The drawing process closely mimicked the way in which such a location may actually be developed.

 

Using a tripod-mounted camera and light setup, I photographed the multi-staged drawing process and created a stop-motion animation with a linear, chronological progression.In post production, numerous sound effects were added in order to further reinforce  urbanization’s far-reaching effects on natural surroundings.

The next step for this piece is to take the concept even further with an interactive element. My intention is to create an interactive piece in which the level of urbanization represented in the video is directly proportional to the volume level of ambient sound in the piece’s surroundings. Furthermore, a language will be established that translates human sounds into generated sounds within the work. For instance, clapping will translate into the sound of drilling and hammering – not unlike that common on a construction site. Another instance is that footsteps and general murmurs will produce the sound of traffic.

A mixture of Jitter MaxMSP 5 and Adobe Flash should provide the tools needed to create such an interactive piece.

As always, comments and criticisms are more than welcome and I appreciate your interest in my work.