Learning the Adobe Suite

Knowing the Adobe Suite is imperative for so many careers these days. When I was prepping for my internship interviews, a common skill that employers were searching for was knowledge of Adobe software. To prepare, I enrolled in the Intro to Design Tools class at Drexel University. The course allowed me to improve my skills with Illustrator, Photoshop, and In-Design, and become confident that I had the basic skills employers we looking for.

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The First Assignment

I remember thinking back in the beginning of the fall quarter when I was learning Illustrator that I couldn’t believe that this was actually a class I could take. As a college senior, having a homework assignment to create a “cute dinosaur” was a very welcomed change of pace.

My roommate and I sat at our dining room table and began our homework assignments, our typical routine. The difference on this day in particular was that my assignment was making me laugh, and I was genuinely enjoying the project that I was given. My roommate, a grad student in Drexel’s Physician Assistant program, was certainly not as amused by her work as I was with mine.

Ultimately, the dino assignment confirmed it: I was going to love this class.

Fun with Photoshop

As the class collectively began to become masters at Illustrator, we moved on to Photoshop. Photoshop did not come as naturally to me as Illustrator did. I struggled with bringing Rosie to the 21st century (editing a well worn photo) and colorizing a black and white image. As you’ll see below, the results were honestly quite terrifying. However, the more I learned, the simpler the software became and I was able to create beautiful and visually stimulating images.

Creating Dramatic Black and White Images

dramaticbw_ashleyflear-copy-2 Liberty Place from the Comcast Center, floor 43

Everyone can think of a photo they’ve seen where the photo in its entirety is black and white with the exception of a colored focal point. By taking this Into to Design Tools course, I was able to learn how to create those precise images. The best part: it is incredibly simple! With the help of using layers and masks, anyone can create these glamorous photos and the creative possibilities are essentially limitless. The section that I choose to keep with color is not necessarily the same part a classmate or fellow designer would chose.

An Intro to InDesign

Of the three Adobe products that we learned over the course of the quarter, I became particularly fond of InDesign. InDesign allows for the creation of magazine spreads, flyers, and everything else that you could possibly want to be print-ready.

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One of my favorite features about InDesign is the fact that you have full creative reign over the typography of the document that you create. The flyer to the left, for example, uses simple and basic design graphics with the two grey rectangular boxes, but the image is still interesting because of the various typography used. It was fun to experiment with the content that we were required to use and create a visually appealing yet informational flyer.

The Magazine Spread

Designing a magazine spread was one of my favorite assignments over the quarter, but the four page spread was certainly a daunting task at first. The assignment required a strategy, and it was not a project you could dive right into without any planning done beforehand.

Since I was creating my magazine spread for a blog, Thrive215 (now ashleyflear.com), I had to be sure to follow the same theme that I follow for the blog. Thrive215 is its own brand in a sense, so it was essential to maintain the same aesthetic. I wanted to create a simplistic yet intriguing spread. My personal favorite part was that I was able to create the Philadelphia skyline in Illustrator and place the vector image into InDesign. That outline alone captures the spirit of my blog and I was able to use it on both pages of my spread in unique ways.

 

The Fail Files

Despite my best efforts, some assignments in the class were admittedly beyond my skill level and resulted in some funny failures. I love Photoshop, but it is certainly a program that requires significant training and practice.

As I previously mentioned, taking an old, black and white photo and turning it into a colored image was apparently not something I was ever going to be successful at. A weeks worth of efforts resulted in this tragedy:

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Even though I struggled through some parts of Photoshop it really only inspired me to keep practicing and strive to improve my skill level. The internship I landed allows me to use the Adobe Suite quite regularly, so I am thankful to have taken this course to prepare. These programs are fascinating, and if you’ve ever wanted to learn, this is your sign to go for it!

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New City, New Eats: A Review of Max Brenner

Along with everything else that comes with moving to a new city, one of the most important tasks is finding new places to dine.

When I moved to the Philadelphia area, I was on a mission to find a casual go-to restaurant, and a quick Google search led me to Max Brenner. My sister had come down for a Saturday girls night out, so it seemed appropriate to pay Max a visit and see what he had to offer us.

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Willy Wonka Takes on Philly With Help from the Bald Man

The verdict is in: Willy Wonka has been reincarnated as Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man. Situated in a prime center city location on 15th and Walnut, Max Brenner can attract a casual passerby easily as much as the devoted chocoholic. Even before a hungry patron enters this modern day chocolate factory, one can smell the sweet, inviting aromas of the food within from the sidewalk outside.

Upon arriving to the venue, we quickly learned that Max Brenner is half restaurant, half chocolate shop, and wholly wonderful. My sister and I were encouraged to browse the shop, but neglected to do so thanks to the quick table seating service we received. The hostess sat us at a small, quaint table for two along the window lined wall of the restaurant. A burning tea light candle created a comforting ambiance and a 10% off coupon for the gift shop was given to us — a post dining incentive.

As the hostess turned away, Rebecca and I instantly began teasing our appetites by devouring the menu. We noticed the average meal price was around $14.00, but we were adamant about letting the descriptions of the meals guide our choices, not their prices. Our waitress arrived at our table, greeted us, and served us fresh ice water. We quickly ordered their Classic Chocolate Martini after noticing that most of the diners in the restaurant were sipping from the chocolately beverage.

A few minutes later, our waitress returned with our martinis in hand. It seemed as though we fast-forwarded through our meal and went straight to dessert. The chocolate martini was practically a meal on its own. The glass was covered in a sweet chocolate swirl and 13694719_1644891995827920_70633367_nfilled to the brim with the vodka and creme de cacao mixture. The martini was topped with a chocolate covered strawberry. At this point, I thought if the drinks were this good, we were in for a treat.

The menu has a small selection of options from “The Brenner Burgers” to paninis, pizzas, and a variety of pasta dishes, including the “Really-Cheesy Really Crunchy Mac & Cheese.” We were pleasantly overwhelmed by the options we had to choose from for dinner. My sister and I both ordered from the “With a Knife and Fork” portion of the menu. She went with the Pan-Toasted penne Alfredo with oven-roasted tomatoes and garlic, and I settled on the Sunday Mood Pasta, a pasta dish with fresh tomatoes, spinach, ricotta cheese, and tomato pesto. Both dishes were priced around $16.

As we waited for our food, Rebecca and I took the time to soak in the setting around us. The restaurant was certainly bustling for a Saturday night and was filled with a variety of diners from families, couples, to fellow girls-night-outters. Anywhere we looked, we noticed that the theme of chocolate was eminent but it was done without being tacky.

Moments later, our food arrived with steam still coming off the dishes. We were immediately pleased to see that the plates were filled with pasta, the first justification of the price. We gushed over the dishes and Rebecca instantly began to “snap” our dishes but I had already began eating, ultimately ruining the photo op. She quickly joined me and we got to work on devouring our meals together. The pesto dish in front of me was immensely flavorful and unlike any pasta dish I’ve ever had from a restaurant before. We both sampled each others meals and learned that both plates were appropriately portioned, accompanied by garlic bread, and robust in flavor. Max Brenner is certainly a winner.

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It may be known as Chocolate by the Bald Man, but don’t be fooled. Max Brenner has so much more to offer than dessert. Max Brenner left such a great taste in our mouths that it has become a tradition to be our go-to choice of restaurant each time my sister visits the city of Philadelphia.

The City of Brotherly Love: Fairmount Edition

Emily, creator of and long time blogger for HerPhilly, recently published an article sharing stories about 11 individuals and why they love their neighborhoods at which they reside in Philly. From Rittenhouse to Fishtown, these 11 ladies share something else in addition to their area code: they love Philadelphia.

Emily’s article is a tremendous resource for anyone who is considering moving to the City of Brotherly Love or relocating within it.

I’m slowly approaching the one year anniversary of signing my lease in the 215. Aside from the haphazard distribution of tickets from my friends at the Philadelphia Parking Authority, I have fallen in love with the city that has only been 75 miles away from me my entire life. Following Emily’s article, here’s why Fairmount has stolen my heart:

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How long you’ve lived there: 11 months and counting!

Why you originally choose it: My roommate and I are both students at Drexel University. I attend the main campus in University City while hers is in Center City. Since we both rely on walking as our main source of transportation, we actively looked to find an apartment that would house us at an even split between the two campuses. We love our decision with Fairmount and the apartment building we live in!

A few words describing your neighbors: Quiet, welcoming, and considerate.

Favorite thing about your neighborhood: Fairmount is a beautiful neighborhood that has a small town vibe but big city views! The area is quiet and safe, and there are an abundance of local places to walk to that make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a history book. My next door neighbor is the Art Museum, so my roof deck allows for some pretty tremendous panoramic sights. I love that Center City is only a quick ten minute walk away, but when I don’t feel like making that hike, Fairmount has it’s own plethora of dining and bar options to choose from!

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Our roof-deck view!

What you would change about your neighborhood: My building is centralized between the museums and the Penitentiary. With that said, finding parking can sometimes be a task and a half. I’d love to see more (affordable) parking options for residents!

Shoutout to Emily at HerPhilly for the inspiration for this post, and thank you for continuing to keep us city gals up to speed with all things Philly!

First Day of School: A Saga

As you learned in my last post, I am not the average undergrad. I had hoped that transferring to Drexel University as a full time student would somehow allow me to fulfill my dream of being the “regular student,” but I was sadly mistaken.

It was a cool spring day in March of 2016. I woke up earlier than usual, unable to sleep from restless anticipation of what the day was going to bring.

It was my first day of school.

I’m a junior in college, so I’ve had other first days, sure. But this one was different. This was my first day as a student who was going to sit in classrooms from ten in the morning until five in the evening. For the first time ever, I didn’t have to worry about going to work, rushing around, and making it to class in the nick of time.

It was my first real day of school.

I was nervous as I stepped out of my apartment and onto the streets of Center City, Philadelphia. It was a short walk to the shuttle that would bring me to my classes in University City. At quarter after nine, right on time, the shuttle pulled up to the stop on 15th street. I proudly flashed the driver my freshly printed student ID, found a seat, and off we went.

As we arrived to Drexel’s main campus, the first thing I noticed was the hustle and bustle of the university. Up to this point, I had been so used to seeing barren campuses at night. A student here, a late night library champ there. I was used to the moonlight shining down on the main hall of Muhlenberg College, casting an eerily comforting glow across the quaint campus.

Instead of allowing myself to get flustered, I sipped my coffee and made my way to my first class. After all, the goal was to blend in.

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As the class began, we went around and introduced ourselves as per usual on the first day of anything. I kept my introduction nice and simple.

“Hi, I’m Ashley. I’m a communication student and this is my first quarter here at Drexel.”

That’s all anyone needed to know. But as the intros ended, the classmate next to me called me out.

“You look like a grown ass woman with a credit score,” he said.

I had never been caught so off guard before, but it was for all the right reasons.

That simple yet bold observation changed the way I looked at this entire experience. I was under no obligation to fulfill someone else’s idea of what an undergrad should look like. This is my journey—and mine alone.

After further explanation, the fellow student explained that how I carried myself was just different. He got a “professional” vibe from me. After thinking it through, I realized how proud that made me feel. I had overcome countless obstacles to get to this point in my life, and although I know I haven’t “made it” quite yet, I am confident that I am well on my way—and possibly even five steps ahead of everyone else. After all, I have an established credit score.

So go out there and challenge the status quo. No one ever declared that you must look a certain way or talk a certain way to excel as a student. Find your own niche, run with it, and share your experience in the comments below.

Part-Time Student: Is the Walk Worth the Wait?

We all know the drill: earn your high school diploma, enroll in a four year institution, and graduate with your bachelor’s degree no later than the prime age of 22. Today, it’s practically taboo to approach the situation in any other way. But there are hidden perks to breaking the norm, and here are five of them:

1. Graduate with less student debt
We all know that the country’s student debt situation is a crisis spiraling rapidly out of control. Deciding to pursue your education at a part-time pace can ease the pain of the dreaded tuition bill. In addition, being a part-time student gives you the luxury of time. It is up to you what you want to do with that extra time, but use it wisely and in a way that you can benefit from in the future. Instead of taking a 16-20 credit course load (and paying that price!), opt to get a job to help finance your own education. Take it from me, I balanced a full time job, a part-time job, and a part-time college schedule for the first four years of being an undergrad. I chose the pay-as-you-go route and was able to make it to junior status until being in need of financial aid. Even still, when I finally walk across that stage, I know that my relationship with Sallie-Mae will be short lived.

2. Intimate night classes
If you can get past the idea of spending three hours in a night class once a week, you will see the value in taking one in the first place. The cliche is that undergrads want to go to classes during the day and party the nights away. However, the best part about being enrolled in these classes is that you are surrounded by people who truly want to be there (see reason three!). Even better, the class roster will generally be on the small side. I was once in an accounting night class with only three other people, three! Not only did we all get to know each other fairly well, but we were also able to speak up more freely and without fear.

I find that the overall learning experience at night is simply different. In addition, institutions realize that these classes are not typically as desired. Because of that, universities need to find ways to entice students to enroll in them. What better way is there to do that than with a discounted tuition rate? Often times, night classes are priced at a serious deal. For example, according to their tuition page, a class at the day school at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA costs $3,375 versus a credit at the Wescoe School, Muhlenberg’s night school, which will cost you about half the price at $1,575.

3. Classmates are usually older, went back to school by choice
My favorite part about being a part time night student was having the opportunity to sit in class with several older students. Hear me out: adults who choose to go back to school are clearly dedicated and passionate about learning. While a normal undergrad can certainly contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way, older students who may have worked in the field already can add valuable insights to the conversation. Not only that, but our older classmates are typically there by choice. That seemingly insignificant factor can make all the difference.

4. More time to find your passion
How is an eighteen-year-old supposed to know what they were meant to do for the rest of their life? It was not until my fourth year of undergrad (I had junior status), when I realized that I was born for the communication field. After a lengthy trial and error period, I am more confident than ever in my major of choice. As I approach the end of my B.S. at Drexel, I know with certainty that I am where I was meant to be. I couldn’t say that four years ago, and that means everything.

5. Employers will admire the dedication you have to your education, and your resume will flourish
Not only will being a part-time student allow you to work and finance your education on your own, but potential employers will respect you for your absolute commitment to your education. Working while being student is an admirable and daunting task, and it speaks volumes about your character. You’ll graduate with a resume that’ll have legitimate employment history and a lengthy list of soft skills that can only be taught with life experiences. Your time management abilities will impress any hiring manager, and you’ll be well on your way to landing your dream gig.

I did this. I’m still doing this, and it isn’t easy. But, employers and college advisors alike have both praised me for my dedication, passion, and hard work ethic. I dare you not to enroll full-time. Work a part time job to finance your education and gain connections that you wouldn’t have had otherwise.