Facing Blend… The site. The Experience. My brain.

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Facing Blend was a fun idea that came to my mind one day when learning how to use blend. It has many meanings in the name, so I’d like to paint a picture for you.

I’ve always loved design. In highschool, I took the first class to ever be part of our highschool which was dedicated to programming – HTML.

I know, I know – HTML is markup, not programming. To me, it was the closest that I was going to get with a highschool education back in the late 90s and I was one of the first to sign up for it. The class started out in such a way that gave all who signed up for the class the ability to get on the same track. We started, not in HTML coding, but in good research techniques using the most popular search engines on the net. We’re talking goto.com, altavista.com, webcrawler.com, yahoo.com, search.aol.com, oh, and yes, the baby – google.com. There were a few others, but those were the most popularly used. My favorite? Goto.com. *sigh*

Anyhow, from that class, I got my feet wet into design. I was interested in the art of it all, the complete picture. How you could take separate elements, put them together, and either make something incredible, or absolutely horrid. Most of the people in the class created sites that were overfilled with animations, difficult to navigate… the typical story for people who aren’t necessarily used to layouts and artistic use in usability. Myself, being an artist and having a logical perspective on most things, coupled those together and that is where I started with design.

Now, my stuff back then was absolutely aweful, but at least you could navigate easily, locate the information you were looking for, and it wasn’t over-inundated with animated gifs just for the sake of having animated gifs.

Somewhere along the lines I picked up a few other skills, CSS, basic XML, a little javascript, lots and lots and lots of photoshop work, and I need to mention photoshop again – as that program can do almost anything, short of cook my dinner (though its caused me to miss several meals. Blame the program, not the person. It’s easier that way for all of us.)

So that along with illustrations and a few other things is my “start” in design. I took a few side roads and worked at a photography studio, worked as a sales person and then a computer technician at the local CompUSA, then moved to being an IT Servicedesk Technician, but on the side, I’ve done projects for various organizations, individuals and companies throughout the years designing flyers, logos, paintings, and webpages.

A friend of mine mentioned while assisting him with illustrating the cover of his book, that I should take a look at Microsoft’s Expression Blend. I’m quite familiar with Photoshop, have dabbled with Corel Draw, and 3dsmax, but had never heard of Expression Blend, and quite frankly, was a little… ok, a lot, intimidated by it.

So after watching several videos, I accidentally downloaded a few of the tutorial videos for Expression Design – which acted a whole lot like Photoshop, but with a few things made easier and more specifically, the program seemed more like a tool that web designers would love. So instead of immediately diving into Expression Blend, I tinkered around with Expression Design for a while. In my opinion, I’d like to give a capitol A, Two thumbs up, and 5 gold stars to the people who created the program. It has quite a lot of functionality, and for myself, who specializes in UI that makes sense and web design, this program was easy to pick up and go with a very small learning curve. It’s one of those things that is quick and easy to learn how to use, but would take the right person to master.

I finally got up the courage to dabble with Expression Blend after a weekend with Design – to find that it wasn’t intimidating at all. Yay me for making a mountain out of a mole hill.

During my initial orientation to the program, I became thoroughly frustrated. Blend has a lot to offer and a lot of functionality. Since my specialty has always been driven towards the web, I felt that I should dedicate my time designing within Blend creating Silverlight apps. There are quite a few people who have been familiar and creating in full application based XAML, but not as many who specialize in the silverlight side with all of its limitations. I think I’ll just sit in the pretty Silverlight box and be happy with my walls and restrictions and see just how much I can fit into that box and how well I can use it.

Blend is in beta. Silverlight is… in beta. *sigh* Let’s just say, a lot of things aren’t as they might seem when trying to do what you wish to do. User controls for one thing, integrated, and custom controls – pain in the rear…


So this is me. I enjoy design, completely geek over well-done interface – the things most people overlook when done right, and am starting this blog and site as a way for others to join me on my journey as I learn more about what I can do within Expression Blend, programing, design in general, and more.

What is Facing blend to me? It is me tackling a mountain, to discover a molehill. It is me sitting with tools and the endless possibilities. It is interfacing gone web… inter – facing… get it? It is Facing Blend.

– Ariel Leroux