MonthJanuary 2014

Yet Another Class

Last weekend, I took another class. This one was for pure fun: floral arranging. This is something I’ve always been terrible at (3D art in general always challenges me), but somehow taking a class makes it seem manageable. While I’m still not good, I definitely learned some tricks. In addition to that, I loved the overlap of principles with graphic design.

Things we discussed included:

    – Containers: This should be the starting point. Ask yourself if you want a tall or short container? Will the arrangement be tall? Go for a tall container. Do you need it to be unlikely to tip? Go for a short container. Always make sure it’s water tight prior to using it. If your container has a lot of personality, don’t over power it with the flowers. Scaled them back a little to flaunt the container.

    – Mixing dried and fresh materials: I can’t say I really ever thought about mixing the two, but now I see how a dried plant can provide a backdrop for fresh flowers or be used as something more. We used these huge seed pods that I love. I could look at them and touch them over and over again. They’re even fun to shake because the seeds roll around inside them. And, the beauty this arrangement is that most of it is dried. With minimal effort, I could update it with a few fresh flowers and keep it going for a long time.

    – Principles of design: I’m not surprised by the fact that the same principles of graphic design apply to floral design. It’s fun to think of them in a different application. We talked about having a focal point in the arrangement. One of my pet peeves in graphic design is the overuse of symmetry (I used to tell my students that it often told me they had no idea what to do with the content if they simply centered everything.). We talked about the use of asymmetry to create some visual movement. Of course, then we had to touch on balance and the use of open space (or white space in graphic design).

I definitely need more practice. I think I’ll watch for some future courses in this. It’s kind of nice to just walk into a room and use materials that someone else has prepped for you. No hassel of shopping or deciding what to get. Nothing to store or find a use for afterward. And a good challenge of using what is available.

As I’ve said before, I have done some research into improving one’s creativity or getting out of a rut, and taking a class like this definitely falls in line with some of the tips I read. It challenges you to use those skills and knowledge you already have but in a new way.

My designer takeaway: Find a fun new challenge. It just might provide some inspiration for your work.

A New U(niversity)

It’s a new year, and what do we do with a new year? Why make new plans, of course! In this new year, I’m trying out an online course from How Design Univeristy. The one I really want to take (28 Days to Your First WordPress Site) had a prerequisite for Coding For Designers: HTML AND CSS, which is the one I’ve just started. It began this week. So far, so good.

In case you haven’t guessed, most of my day job is print design (wow, huh!). But in previous positions, I’ve designed web sites, HTML emails, and flash animations. I’ve been in this current position for awhile now. I think my web skills are getting rusty and out of date. Yikes! Plus, there is some hope that I’ll be able create a WordPress driven site for an upcoming temporary museum exhibit at work. We shall see…

As for the online course with How, it’s the typical read this section that explains the lesson and then complete an assignment on your own. The answers are provided so you can make sure you’ve completed it correctly. There are quizzes at the end. It all seems fairly standard for online courses but helpful.

How Design University

How Design University

The first lesson was mostly a review for me (HTML). The second one is a much better explanation of CSS than any I’ve had in the past (and I’ve even used it in previous jobs – yikes again!) I think it will be a good experience. When I’ve completed it, I’ll let you know what I think.

My designer takeaway: Don’t let your technical skills get rusty. Keep learning!

Surviving Conference Materials as the Designer

Having completed several sets of materials for conferences, I have a few things I’ve learned:

    #1 – Something will always come up at the last minute. Relax, you’ll figure out a solution. Things have happened like a speaker backs out. You have to switch content on signage, but it’s too late for the printed program. A piece of information won’t be ready in time. Print the program without it, and insert a single sheet with it later. A name was misspelled or a room number changed – get some sticker paper.

    #2 – Have a set plan for organizing the schedule. To me, it’s most logical to go by date, time and then title/topic. Here is how I set up all our conference schedules:
    Day
    Time, Title, Location
    Description

    #3 – Plan ahead for signage. There is always a need for some kind of signage: Session titles, thank you to sponsors, shortened schedule, etc. Often these are oversized prints, which need some time allotted, as well as the mounting on foam board.


    #4 – For speaker photos, I’d recommend just including photos for your keynote or main speakers, and not for everyone else. It hold things up asking and waiting for the photos. They frequently are of a very mixed quality, and they take up a lot of printed space.
    Conference Speakers Example
    #5 – When you start planning the design of the registration (print or online), plan your program design too. In the end, the program is the largest, most informational piece. The design needs to work for both.

    #6 – Make sure (if there is one) the map is simple and useful. Redraw it if the one you’re given is not.

My designer takeaway: For events like conferences, it’s best to stay on top of what you can, but just go with the flow on the rest of it. As a designer, we don’t usually have control over when information comes in or things are planned.

More Online Photo Books

Well, I lied. I said I probably wouldn’t do another online photo book again. Not only did I do another one, but I made two. I’m so thrilled about these books, too!

Laying out the covers online

Laying out the covers online

When I ordered the kids’ school photos this year, I received two free photo books from Snapfish.com. The email with those free book codes was haunting me. They didn’t expire for several months. One day, I decided to check it out. While perusing the site, I came across theme ideas for photo books, and there I had it. I would make a book for each set of grandparents from our kids called “10 reasons we love you” for Christmas. It wasn’t hard to come up with reasons. In case you’d like to do something similar, here are our lists for ideas:

For the out-of-town grandparents
you visit us
you read to us
you send fun packages
you video chat with us
you celebrate with us
you play with us
you teach us
you snuggle with us
you make us wonderful presents
you love us

For the in-town grandparents
you play with us
you snuggle with us
you’re silly with us
you celebrate with us
you read to us
you have great toys at your house
you teach us
you make us wonderful presents
you let us wear jammies to your house
you love us

The challenge was searching through years of photos to find images that supported those reasons. For the most part that was easy to match up, but there were a few reasons that I just haven’t photographed (like online chatting with grandparents). So, we faked those.

Being a graphic designer, these online specified layouts make me feel pretty limited at times. I couldn’t make the text as large as I wanted on the cover. So, I got creative. I printed out a “10 reasons we love you” sign, had the kids pose with it, and made the cover a full photo. It turned out great. (Side note: Of course I couldn’t get two kids to smile in the same photo. I ended up ‘Photoshopping’ my son’s smiling face into the photo with my daughter’s.)

In the end, they came out wonderfully. And who wouldn’t want a personalized gift telling them why they’re loved! Big hit!

My designer takeaway: Having a set goal or theme in mind can make all the difference when the options seem overwhelming. (For some reason, for me, stepping away from a project personally can make it easier to complete. If I’m making design decisions for others, it’s easier for me to decide than if it’s something for me.)

You’re invited …

I’ve had the pleasure of creating lots of invitations to large formal events. In fact, for the same formal events year after year. As you can imagine, I have to dig deep for something unique each year. I hope these can help you spark some new ideas.

Here is a sampling of these invitations:

The two things that really make this invitation a success are 1) the awesome photography of Don Butler’s leather work (a fabulous leather craftsman) and 2) the die cut. I must admit that when I was told we had the time and money for a die cut, I was giddy! It turned out elegant and fun.

While this invitation is interesting, it’s the accompanying program that really drove this project. The concept for the program was to create the look of a book, complete with a fake set of pages that would actually be a pocket for a CD. Working backward, we made the invitation match the book theme. To create this book, I went to the local library and looked for old books with a plain cover with an interesting texture. I scanned several, and started playing around with combinations. Then I added pattern and our event logo. I also scanned some of the old yellow interior pages and made myself some blank pages to add as the background for the interior of the invitation and program. This helped sell the concept of a book.

I always love transforming simple paper into a textured beauty though printing. It’s purely a visual trick.

One last die cut, and then I’ll move on. 🙂 This one has a beautiful ceramic piece with a die cut around the top portion. While it’s probably hard to see here, it also has a gloss varnish over the highlights on the ceramic piece. One of my favorite parts of this one, is the big pop of bold color. Often times when trying to keep the formal feeling, we are more muted or dark with colors.

This is a fun technique that I’ve spied a few other places. It works well when you have a mix of images. Basically, it’s an accordion fold brochure with the top cut diagonally. No die cut needed here! The effect with the tease of colors definitely makes you want to open it and see more. For this event, it allowed me to feature the artwork of more artists. Often times, we go simple and feature one piece per show.

This one uses the printed texture concept again and an off-center fold. It plays on the concept of covering part of the art to make you want to open it to see the complete image. Of course I’m very lucky to have amazing art and photography to help with these invitations.

I love the simplicity of this invitation. The theme of the event is the statement on the front. The concept for the design was defining that theme, which appears simple until you read it and understand how large and varied it is. I was able to use a lovely yellow paper for this invitation and two-color printing.

My designer takeaway: If you have the budget and time, go all out. If not, use tricks like printing textures and unusual folds to step it up.

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