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Full Microsoft Office 365 Now Available to All Students

written by Georgia Schumacher 17 June 2015

Microsoft Office 365

As of June 15, 2015, Office 365 is now available at no cost to every enrolled, full- or part-time student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division!

Office 365 provides you with a more robust and easily accessible suite of productivity offerings, ensuring that—as long as you’re a student—you’ll have online and offline access to the latest version of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Outlook online and more.

With Office 365, you will be able to:

  • Install Office 365 software on up to 5 total compatible PCs, Macs and mobile devices
  • Access cloud-based versions of Office applications online
  • Use OneDrive for automatic syncing across all of your devices
  • Easily store class work and project documents– and recall them on any device

Get Office 365 today by clicking on the link on the right hand side of the student portal to access the download.

As of 6/15, student email service has also changed from Google to Microsoft. Most student email addresses have not changed, nor has the way you access your email. When you click on the email link on the portal, you will now see a screen allowing you to choose either Google or Microsoft. Select Microsoft if you want to send or receive e-mail. Select Google if you want to access your old Google data.

Google data is only available for a short time. Access to your Google emails and documents will no longer be available after July 10, 2015. For information on how to save emails and documents from your Google account, see this “How To Export Data From Gmail” guide.

Want more information?

See our FAQ document or contact Technical Support at 877-872-8869 or studentsupport@aii.edu.

Interior Design Tips for a Kid-Friendly, Practical Home

written by Georgia Schumacher 10 June 2015

Kid's room

If you think it’s impossible to raise your kids in a stylish living space, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. You can certainly enjoy the best of both worlds by incorporating some savvy design tips into your home décor. Sure, you’ll need to take a different approach than you did in your pre-kids days, but it’s actually much easier to create a tasteful, family-friendly space than you might imagine.

1. Choose Forgiving Fabrics

Spills are inevitable with kids, so minimize their impact by choosing fabrics in darker shades or in a pattern. For added protection, you can also have your upholstery stain treated. Also, vinyl and leather are great choices because they’re wipeable and cotton can easily be washed.

2. Create Designated Play Areas

Designate certain areas of common rooms for your kids to play, as they’re much less likely to be destructive if they have a space of their own. For example, section off a part of your family room to use as a play area and purchase a child-sized table for the kitchen, where your kids can draw while you cook.

3. Purchase High-Quality Furnishings

It may seem smart to buy cheap furniture if you think your kids are going to destroy it, but that’s actually a very bad idea. High-quality, durable furnishings are a great investment because they’re built to last. You can keep them for years to come and your kids won’t get hurt if flimsy pieces fall apart.

4. Keep Accessories Out of Reach

Having kids doesn’t mean you have to hide your favorite breakables, you just need to put them up high. Keep these pieces out of young children’s hands by putting them at least 45 inches off the ground.

5. Get Rid of Carpet

Make it easy to clean up spills, muddy footprints and other messes by choosing hardwood, laminate or tile flooring. Cover up cold, hard floors with washable area rugs that are comfortable for toddlers to crawl on.

6. Use Outdoor Rugs Inside

Don’t limit yourself to indoor area rugs, as those designed for outdoor spaces can be just as stylish, but more durable and easier to clean. When your kids make a mess, you can just take these floor covering outside, hose them off and let them air dry.

7. Frame Drawings as Artwork

Your kids’ artwork is adorable and deserves to be displayed! Make it look like something out of a museum by putting pieces in a nice frame before hanging them up.

8. Use Wipeable Paint for Walls

Décor wise, there are few things more panic-inducing than walking into a room and realizing that your child has drawn on the walls with markers. Give yourself one less thing to worry about by decking the walls with wipeable paint, so if your little Picasso gets a little too creative, the evidence can be easily removed.

Interested in Interior Design? Excited by the prospect of designing functional, chic spaces? See what programs are available and what you could learn as a student at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division!

7 Ways to Better Market Your Restaurant

written by Georgia Schumacher 29 May 2015

restaurant

Your restaurant is a gem. It has amazing food, a great ambiance, and outstanding service. You know you have something special going on, so it’s baffling that you’re not constantly packed.

If this sounds familiar, it’s time to step up your marketing approach to get your restaurant on the radar of every foodie in your area. Even if you have plans to open a restaurant, but you’re first planning to work your way through a program in the Culinary Management, this post is filled with tips you don’t want to miss!

1. Throw a Party

Create a buzz by throwing a party to debut new menu items or re-introduce old favorites. Invite patrons on your mailing list and encourage them to bring a friend. You could also take a different approach by hosting a charity function, serving double duty by promoting a good cause and generating publicity for your restaurant.

2. Don’t Slack on Your Website

Many people like to check a restaurant out online before visiting, so if your website is barely functional or completely non-existent, you’re definitely hurting yourself. Invest in a robust site that includes your current menu, pictures of food and the ambiance, location information, an about page, information on making reservations, and anything else that may interest your customers.

3. Get on Social Media

Having a great website is essential, but you also need to be active on social media. If you have the resources to manage them, then create Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts for your restaurant to get your name out there. Use these social platforms on a daily basis to interact with customers, share pictures of your food, and offer updates on new menu items.

4. Try a Daily Deal Site

Expand your customer base by putting a deal on a site like Groupon, LivingSocial or Travelzoo. These platforms offer a great deal of freedom to create an offer on your own terms, allowing you to set constraints on things like dollar value, when it can be used, and which menu items are eligible. For example, if your restaurant is always busy at dinner, but slow during lunchtime, you can make the deal for lunch only.

5. Create a Loyalty Program

Encourage people to become repeat customers by creating a loyalty program where they receive discounts or free items after a certain amount of visits. Apps like Belly, Perka, and Loyal Blocks make it easy to partner up.

6. Craft a Detailed Yelp Profile

Many people rely heavily on user review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor to make their restaurant decisions. People are going to leave reviews for your business whether you like it or not, so make your page look great by completing your profile with as much information as allowed. Add photos, operating hours, location, price range, menu, and other details that can help you appear in as many search results as possible.

7. Connect with Food Bloggers

Generate publicity for your restaurant by inviting local food bloggers in for a meal. Many of these bloggers have thousands of readers and social media followers, so a great review can really get your name out there.

Want to know more about Culinary Management? Explore the programs offered in this area by The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division!

12 Tips for Travel Photography

written by Georgia Schumacher 21 May 2015

travel photography

Summer is almost here, and it’s time to enjoy sunshine, warm weather and of course summer vacations! Whether you’re planning a road trip across the country, a tour of state parks, an exotic beach escape or an exciting urban getaway, your travel plans are photography gold.

Don’t forget to take your camera and use this opportunity to get some amazing shots of an entirely new terrain. This is a great opportunity to hone your skills and expand your portfolio.

Worried that taking summer classes will stop you from taking a trip? Remember, you’re taking classes online, so as long as your destination has an Internet connection, you’re set! So, go ahead; pack your bags and use these 12 tips to get incredible photos on your trip.

1. Start Early

Not only can you capture incredible sunrise views when you get out of bed early, you can also photograph spots that will be buzzing with people later in the day while they’re still empty.

2. Book a Room with a View

Make it easy to get outstanding shots by choosing a hotel offering picturesque views from your window.

3. Never Put Your Camera in a Checked Bag

Unfortunately, some baggage handlers have sticky fingers, so it’s not wise to let anything valuable out of your sight.

4. Invest in a Lightweight, Sturdy Tripod

A tripod can make the difference between good pictures and great ones, so find one that you can easily fold into your bag.

5. Travel Light

You probably have a lot of great camera equipment, but you can do without most of it on your trip, so pack only essentials.

6. Capture Cities at Night

Urban areas are always beautiful, but especially alluring at night when construction and other distractions slip away into a twinkling skyline.

7. Conduct Background Research

Find out what the area has to offer before you get there, so you can create a comprehensive photography plan that includes all the best sites.

8. Schedule Time for Photography

Serious photography requires a certain time dedication, so block off a portion of your vacation schedule to focus on your craft.

9. Make Photos of Family & Friends Count

If you’re traveling with friends and family, you’ll certainly want to take pictures of them, but be sure to line the frame up so that some of the local scenery is in the background. Otherwise, the image could have been taken anywhere.

10. Head Off the Beaten Path

Popular tourist destinations are great, but if you really want to capture the culture, head to places that the locals go.

11. Ask Permission

Never take a close-up photo of a stranger without asking for permission, as this may feel like a personal violation to them.

12. Use Your Photos

After putting in so much time and effort to ensure you get a great shot, you definitely need to show them off! Put some in your portfolio, enter your favorite in a travel photography competition, or have a few framed for your walls.

To learn more about photography, explore our online degree programs or request information to see what you could be learning in our photography classes!

How to Become an Expert at Online Learning

written by Georgia Schumacher 14 May 2015

Desk set up for online learning

Preparing to start your very first online creative arts class? Or maybe you’re a seasoned online learner looking for ways to enhance your experience? Either way, it’s important to make sure you understand how to best approach online learning and the ways it may differ from a traditional classroom setting. Use the five tips below to achieve success.

1. Take Advantage of All Available Resources

Opting to take classes online doesn’t mean you shouldn’t receive the same benefits as students taking the traditional route. Enhance your educational experience by using all resources available to you. For example, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division offers a number of benefits to students, such as career resources, technical support, a counseling center, and more to help support your educational journey.

2. Stay Organized

Online learning is much more independent than a traditional classroom format, so staying organized is key. Carefully review your syllabus at the beginning of each course and mark all important dates on your calendar, so you don’t forget important deadlines. Designate an area of your home as a place for studying and keep all your course material there, so you don’t lose track of books, papers, and any supplies you need. Our mobile app can be a helpful tool for staying organized!

3. Connect with Your Peers

It’s always nice to have a study buddy or someone to chat with about the class or your assignments. You don’t have to lose this social element just because you’ve opted for online learning. The Art Institute of Pittsburgh — Online Division has an exclusive social network called Connections, allowing you to interact with your classmates and teachers, participate in student groups, and become part of this creative community outside the classroom. Take advantage of this opportunity to really get to know your fellow student-artists and make new friends.

4. Participate in Class

Taking the online learning route isn’t an excuse to be invisible in class. Sure, this option allows for increased flexibility, but you won’t get the most from your experience if you don’t engage with your classmates and instructor. A certain level of engagement is required in your classes, so make sure you post questions and comments about your readings, your artwork, and the artwork of your classmates in online discussion boards. Of course, you'll also want to respond any inquires from your peers about your comments or your work. Furthermore, if you need clarification on an assignment, have a question about a grade you received, or just want to talk about the course material, feel free to contact your instructor. In fact, they expect you to do so!

5. Fully Commit Yourself to the Program

Many people mistakenly believe online classes are easier than their traditional counterparts, but this certainly isn’t the case. It’s important to take your coursework seriously or you won’t succeed. Adjust your schedule to balance your school obligations with your work and family responsibilities. Set aside designated times throughout the week to work on assignments, so you don’t fall behind.

Want to know more about online learning at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division? See a full list of online programs, request information here, and be sure to check out the online classroom demo on our homepage!

Simple Ways to Impress Your Freelance Clients

written by Georgia Schumacher 5 May 2015

Simple Ways to Impress Your Freelance Clients

If you’re looking for a way to be your own boss and spend your days doing work you’re passionate about, freelancing might be the answer. If you’re working to get ahead in the freelance market, use the 10 ideas below to make a great impression on your clients.

1. Promptly Respond to Client Inquiries

When a potential client contacts you for more information, there’s a very good chance you’re not the only freelancer they reached out to. Respond to the inquiry as quickly as possible to show that you’re excited about the possibility of taking on their project. Not only does waiting too long make it seem like you don’t want the job, it also means the work is likely go to someone else in the interim.

2. Don’t Overpromise

As a freelancer, you always want to make the client happy so they don’t take their business elsewhere, but don’t make promises you can’t deliver. It’s much better to be upfront with the person if their expectations aren’t realistic or you simply don’t have the time to completing a project. Overpromise too many times and you can find yourself in danger of burning bridges.

3. Keep Up with the Latest Trends

Trends change at the speed of light. Whether you’re a freelance photographer, web designer, fashion stylist, or holding down any other type of creative job, it’s imperative that you stay on top of the industry’s latest big thing or you’ll risk becoming obsolete.

4. Exude Confidence

Why should a client trust you with their project if you’re not even sure you can handle it? It’s only natural to be a bit intimidated by big projects or new opportunities at first, but this is how you learn and grow your skills! Learn to emanate confidence, even when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Impress your clients with your level of assurance to make them feel comfortable trusting you with this job and ones that come up in the future.

5. Never Miss a Deadline

Don’t agree to a project deadline unless you’re sure you can meet it. When you fail to submit work by its due date, you brand yourself as unreliable. This is not a way to retain clients. Earn bonus points by making a habit of submitting your work early.

6. Create a Robust Online Presence

There are lots of talented freelancers in your field, so stand out from the crowd by presenting yourself as an industry leader. Write regular blog posts about the latest happenings in your industry, frequently update your online portfolio with your latest work, and use your social media profiles to promote yourself and share updates relative to your field.

7. Go the Extra Mile

Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most. Impress your clients and earn word-of-mouth referrals by making a point to go above and beyond what’s expected of you. You’ll outshine your competition and create loyal clients.

8. Conduct Background Research

Take the initiative to learn a little bit about prospective clients before meeting with them. This is a great way to show your enthusiasm for the project. It also allows you to be prepared with relevant ideas to present.

9. Be Open-Minded

The client has the final say. You may not agree with their ideas or love everything about the finished product, but, even after you’ve shared your recommendations, you may still need to compromise. While you may be the expert in your field, your client is the expert on their individual or business needs and goals.

10. Double Check Your Work

No one likes to receive sloppy work. Make a point to review your finished product a few times to make sure there aren’t any errors. Remember, a project filled with mistakes can make you look like an amateur and distracts from your hard work and talent.

For more information on freelancing in the creative arts, check out our past blogs on the topic: 4 Keys to Starting a Freelance Business and How to Grow Your Freelance Business.

5 Keys to Impactful Advertising Campaigns

written by Georgia Schumacher 27 April 2015

5 Keys to Impactful Advertising Campaigns

Ready to grow your audience? Creating an advertising campaign is a great way to get your brand name out there and generate a buzz. Of course, consumers are already inundated with advertisements for just about everything, so you’ll need to work extra hard to ensure yours makes an impact. Follow the five tips below to create an effective advertising campaign that really works for your company.

1. Clearly Define Your Target Audience

Even if your product or service is amazing, it’s not for everyone. Determine exactly who you’re marketing to, so you can focus on meeting their needs and reaching them with your message. When you know precisely who your target audience is, you can concentrate your efforts on forming a connection with them, so they feel drawn to your brand.

2. Set Goals for Success

Before starting your campaign, it’s important to know exactly what you hope to achieve with the finished product. Creating clear goals for the campaign helps you stay on track with your efforts and allows you to clearly determine whether or not the campaign was a success. When the marketing period ends, you don’t want to be unsure if your hard work paid off or not.

3. Effectively Deliver the Message

These days, there are countless marketing mediums to distribute your message, so you’ll need to decide which ones you’re using from the beginning. After making this decision, tailor the content that will be shared on each channel to meet the unique needs of the platform. For example, if you’ve opted to advertise on television, online, and on social media channels, you’ll need to approach each one differently or it won’t work.

4. Keep it Consistent

While you definitely do need to approach each marketing platform differently, it’s still imperative to keep your brand messaging consistent. You don’t want people to see your advertisement on multiple mediums and not realize it’s promoting the same product or service.

5. Evaluate Campaign Analytics & Performance Metrics

Creating a campaign is only half the battle, as you also need to make sure it’s working. Closely monitoring your campaign analytics and performance metrics allows you to identify usage trends, consumer behaviors, the most effective medium, and more. This information can help you learn more about your target audience, what they want, and how to reach them.

Want to learn more about Advertising? Considering a career in the field? Explore our programs related to the field at /degrees-in-advertising/!

7 Ways to De-Stress

written by Georgia Schumacher 21 April 2015

Feeling stressed about upcoming deadlines or a busy schedule at work or in your online classes? There’s nothing fun about being under pressure to complete a project. In fact, stress isn’t just unpleasant, it can also be detrimental to your health. Stress can have a negative impact on your body, mood, and behavior, so it’s important to find a way to combat stress before it takes it toll. We suggest using these 7 tips to de-stress and allow yourself to relax a little!

1. Get a Second Opinion

There’s nothing more frustrating than a strong case of creative block. You can spend hours staring at a project, willing a great idea to pop into your head, but that won’t make it happen. Step aside and ask someone who isn’t involved in the venture for their opinion. Sometimes a fresh perspective is all you need to stimulate your creative energy.

2. Take a Walk

When you’re on deadline, going for a walk may seem counterproductive, but it can actually be the opposite. Sometimes you just need a change of scenery for inspiration. You never know when you’ll pass something that triggers the great idea you need to pull your project together.

3. Block Off Time for Projects

It’s beyond stressful to keep losing great ideas due to constant interruptions. Avoid this by blocking off a set amount of time to work on projects. Unless it’s urgent, avoid all distractions and don’t respond to any calls or emails during this time period. Relax and enjoy the ability to see what you’re capable of creating when you focus on your work.

4. Switch Up Your Work Area

Whether you’re working in a dorm room, library, or a cubicle, it’s easy for your scenery to get a bit mundane. Reignite your creativity by making a few easy changes, such as moving your desk to the opposite corner, changing your screensaver, or hanging a new poster on the wall. Sometimes the little things can make a huge impact.

5. Visit with Friends

When you’re super busy with a class or work, you may inadvertently isolate yourself from your friends or family. This may add more time into your schedule, but it can also increase your stress levels. Spending time with your closest friends can reduce your production of cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone, so clear an hour of your day and meet your crew for lunch.

6. Turn Your Phone Off

Your smartphone is a constant distraction. Incoming calls, texts, emails, and social media notifications never stop, meaning you always feel pressured to check your device and respond accordingly. Put your phone aside and enjoy being present in your current situation. It’s a lot easier to relax when you can concentrate on the here and now.

7. Listen to Music

Pop your earbuds in and soothe your mind by listening to some music, as it fills your brain with neurochemicals like dopamine that help you calm down and unwind. Generally speaking, classical music is the most relaxing, but anything you enjoy will decrease your levels of stress hormones, slow your heart rate down, and lower your blood pressure.

Dead Can Dance: Grim Fandango Remastered, PS4, Review

written by Georgia Schumacher 16 April 2015

Jay Haney By Guest Blogger, Johnathon Haney
Bachelor of Science, Media Arts & Animation Student
International Game Developers Association member
The Art Institute of Pittsburgh – Online Division

Grim Fandango Remastered, PS4, Review

Contrary to popular myth, some works of art need time and distance to be appreciated properly. Movies are the most obvious example. Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo is now hailed as his greatest film, quite possibly by many of the same critics who lambasted it at the time of its release. It took the medium of television to transform the reputation of two box office bombs called The Wizard of Oz and It’s A Wonderful Life. So it is with one of the last great adventure games ever created by LucasArts, Grim Fandango.

While receiving initial critical acclaim and fondly remembered now by game enthusiasts, this game was, in fact, a financial disaster that helped to put an end to the adventure game era of the company. So it is quite surprising that the same game has now been re-released and updated.

The Plot

The story itself is amusingly engaging. You are Manuel “Manny” Calavera, an afterlife travel agent working off his sins. His particular office specializes in making sure souls get to the Ninth Level of the Underworld, a place of eternal bliss. It’s a journey that usually takes five years but, with enough of the right karmic credit, you can get there a lot faster…and in style. For such souls, the Number 9 train is the ultimate prize.

Unfortunately for Manny, he’s on a serious losing streak. All he’s been getting are middling clients that leave him without any commissions toward his time served. So he decides to take matters into his own hands via a little corporate skullduggery. The fallout of that reckless decision starts him on his own journey to the Ninth Level—and to discovering the real reason he hasn’t been catching a break.

The story itself references everything from The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca to Glengarry Glen Ross and the beat movement. You may not know what’s going to happen next, but you know it’s going to be outrageous and a blast to watch!

The Setting, Characters, and Interface

The setting of Grim Fandango draws inspiration from Día De Los Muertos (which itself is highly influenced by Mayan and Aztec cosmology) and film noir. Most of the characters are skeletons with distinct personalities and fully dressed in modern clothing. They’re juxtaposed with grand architecture that recalls not only ancient Central American civilizations, but also a bit of Art Deco. The exceptions to the character designs include the occasional demon, such as Manny’s vehicle-obsessed sidekick Glottis, who proves to be both help and hindrance on the journey.

The interface is simply elegant—the ultimate expression of Lucasarts’ trademark SCUMM engine. True to the original, if Manny can interact with something in the environment, he looks at it (something that was carried over to Konami’s Silent Hill series a few short years later). He keeps his entire inventory inside his jacket pocket, which the player can look at any time they choose. Best of all, there is no such thing as a wrong dialogue choice, and picking any dialogue option can give you the fun you want.

The Verdict

While the basics of this game are solid, it’s the innovations that were added that make it spectacular. At the time of the game’s release, it’s high-end hardware requirements kept it from being playable and thus sellable. So it’s ironic that innovations in lighting and graphics (which oddly needed little reworking) were a huge part of the re-release, and are actually instead showcase the PS4’s ability to create wonderful environments. Along with the director’s commentary and a concept art gallery, these impressive environments are what make the game worthwhile.

It’s rare that anything in the arts gets a second chance to make a first impression. But Grim Fandango has more than earned that chance. Any serious gamer who loves adventure games owes it to themselves to give it a shot!

Want to know more about programs in the area of Media Arts? Explore what you can learn at The Art Institutes and find out what school was recently named among the Top 5 Undergrad Schools To Study Video Game Design by The Princeton Review!

The information and opinions expressed and/or any artwork displayed herein represent the independent opinions and ideas of the individual faculty, student and/or staff and do not represent the opinions or ideas of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division.

See http://ge.artinstitutes.edu/programoffering/204 for program duration, tuition, fees, and other costs, median debt, federal salary data, alumni success, and other important info.

6 Newbie Graphic Designer Mistakes to Avoid

written by Georgia Schumacher 8 April 2015

Like any skilled profession, graphic design has a learning curve that can result in several common beginners’ mistakes. These gaffes may range from how you approach your design to the relationships you form with your clients. Here are 6 of the top major mistakes prevalent among young graphic designers, and how to avoid them.

6 Newbie Graphic Designer Mistakes to Avoid

1. Messy Design Elements

New graphic designers often go above and beyond to please new clients and showcase their talents. However, left unchecked, this eagerness can lead to overdesign and even a bit of chaos. So keep your focus on implementing a simple and clean design, unless your client specifies otherwise.

2. Failing to Sign a Contract

Unfortunately, graphic designers don’t always protect themselves with client contracts. Be aware that, without a contract, unscrupulous clients could short you or take your work without proper compensation. Although you may think that asking a client for a more formal agreement involving a contract might scare them away, it’s important to get one signed anyway.

3. Stock Image Overuse

As a web designer, it’s tempting to use simple stock photos. Unfortunately, the best stock photos are already being used across the web, which can detract from the originality of your web design. If possible, include your own images. Take them yourself, if feasible, or, if your budget allows, partner with a photographer you know and trust. Let your client know that you’re putting extra time and effort to deliver them personalized images, and they'll notice the difference.

4. Stale Designs

As a graphic designer, you may have a great sense of aesthetics, but it's also important to stay on top of the latest trends to make sure you offer something fresh. Creating a design that stands out from the competition can be one of the single best ways to keep clients happy.

5. Not Understanding a Client’s Needs

Always check and double-check that you fully understand your client’s needs before producing a design. Build a roadmap of your graphic or web design plan and make sure your client is on board. This will help you please the client the first time around and help you avoid costly redesigns.

6. Not Knowing Your Limits

You may want to take on a lot of work, but it’s important to set deadlines you can meet and tackle projects that are within your skill set. Over time, your knowledge of graphic design will grow and you’ll be more comfortable tackling more complex projects. Until then, know your limits.

Conclusion

Remember, everyone makes mistakes. It's an unavoidable and essential part of learning something new, but you can always learn from the mistakes of those who come before you! To really up your design game, consider earning a degree in the area of Graphic & Web Design. Explore our programs today!