AMMAL.IO — Digital Design Workshop

Taken by Catherine Bridgeman.

The Digital Design workshop was the second workshop organised by ammal.io I attended. As a new Chayn volunteer, this workshop seemed like a great opportunity to gain skills to help out with the different projects, and even if they might never be useful to me, I can still teach them to someone else for whom they might make a difference. My interest came from the fact that, at the beginning of the day, I knew ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about digital design. It seemed like a great challenge. If you had asked me what digital design is, I would not even be able to give a basic definition. Sure, I may have said it is something to do with banners, posters, and computers but good luck trying to get more out of me!

The first Ammal workshop I attended in January (‘How to Get Hired?’) made me realise how many crucial digital skills I was lacking. Of course, in my daily job, I don’t need digital design. I might not ever need it in my field and might always be able to find someone to do it for me.

But why not learn the basics, and teach myself the rest?

Ammal.io

Ammal.io focuses on female empowerment and attempts to mend gender inequalities in the workplace. As Jessica (@jessicamorley) said during the workshop, some young women tend to have a ‘mean girls’ attitude when it comes to other women, in the workplace and in life in general. This may be because expectations and competition are so high for women in the labour market, and the workplace tends to be tougher toward women. We have a tendency to compete and fight each other instead of supporting one another. Ammal.io aims at empowering young women through knowledge sharing and network support.

Through those workshops, the team of ammal.io aims at teaching young women practical skills that not only helps you develop your own career but also give you tools to get involved with volunteer-run social enterprises and charities like Chayn. Those skills would also allow you to contribute to female empowerment by teaching your newly acquired skills to other young women.

I come from a literature, language and humanities background, so my digital skills, in general, are limited to what I needed for my degree. Word. Powerpoint. Excel. Nothing very creative or advanced there. But I am a creative person, not too bad with words and I pay a lot of attention to details. Those are some basic skills I could develop in that workshop, things I can turn into a strength.

I set myself a silly little challenge: by the end of the day, I should be able to create a banner for my dance society’s alumni group.

Before the workshop, I had been involved in the design of posters and logos for different campaigns organised by UNICEF on Campus, but knowing my non-existent digital design skills, my involvement never got further than the brainstorming side. All I could do to help was to come up with ideas, but I did not have the skills to put those ideas into practice. I wanted to learn how to help with creating posters, logos and banners for organisations, and perhaps, develop some basic photo editing skills.

So what is digital design? This was the first thing we learned during the workshop. Design is communication, in a visual way. You are trying to convey an idea, information, through visual means. It is a mix of art and technology. But the most important word here is ‘communication’. This is the main lesson from that workshop: Like written and oral communication, in digital design you need to make sure that the audience gets the information you are trying to share. And that they get it right. It is a play on size and hierarchy, balance, symmetry and asymmetry, space and how you fill it, on different feelings triggered by colours and a play on words.

We went through general rules of digital design including basic vocabulary, but above all, we got to familiarise ourselves with free tools. This is probably one of the most important aspects of that workshop: giving us information and access to tools we did not know about such as colour palettes generators and colour pickers. Sure, you can figure out how to use them on your own, but for that, you need to know that they exist.

One of the main themes of the workshop was designing for social media. Social media is a great way to share content because it is where everybody is talking, reading and sharing. The main problem is that as everybody is there, content has to be flawless, fun and shareable. People will want to interact with your content, to share it, to ‘like’ it, to comment on it. Therefore, one of the first aspect we needed to think about was how can we share our idea / image /vision, and how to adapt it to the short attention span of the social media audience. Here’s a design I made for Chayn Pakistan that can be used on facebook as an information graphic.

Social Media exercise : a post for Chayn Pakistan

Our final task was to build logos. We worked on a fictional ‘the cupcake shop’ logo which was a great exercise to figure out how to use the tools we had learned about earlier during the day. It also taught us to apply the rules of digital design and how to break them.

Logo exercise : ‘The Cupcake Shop’

As a final task, those who wanted to stay could start working on ideas for a logo for EmpowerHack, a volunteer-run organisation that aims at empowering women refugees through technology. I was surprised to find out that I could actually create a basic logo, keeping in mind the empowerment and technological focus of the organisation, identifying the exact shade of pink used by the original logo and reaching a decently balanced result. Here are a couple of logos I made for Empower Hack.

Logo exercise: Finding a logo for EmpoweHack

By the end of the day, I was playing around logo-making and getting a bit annoyed because I could not perfectly align some text or balance the size of my images. That attention to detail did turn out to be an asset after all! I left the workshop feeling like I had learned a lot, and above all like I had developed a new set of skills from scratch. This workshop gave me basic yet strong skills and tools to keep teaching myself more, and above all, gave me the confidence to keep trying. It also made me able to share that basic knowledge of digital design with others. It gave me something to work and improve on, where there was absolutely nothing at the beginning of the day.

Funny enough, the first thing I did when I got home was to create a rather basic, yet quite pretty banner for my dance society’s alumni facebook group using Canva and some colour detector to find the perfect shade of blue the society uses on its timetable. It is far from being the greatest piece of digital art there is, but it is simple, pretty enough, well balanced and most importantly: I would not have been able to do at the beginning of the day.

My personal goal.