MonthFebruary 2014

Interpretive Maps

I love making maps. And by making maps, I mean using existing maps to create interpretive maps or maps that explain history, show a story or link together events. I’m not out there GPSing any landmarks or detailing the topography. But I love making a topic make sense just by putting it together on a map.

Here are some examples:
Wyoming State Museum WPA exhibit map – At a quick glance, Wyoming State Museum visitors can see that the WPA had a vast reach across the U.S. Then on closer inspection, they can see examples of how it reach their community. It makes it easier to relate to this Wyoming exhibit if you’re not from Wyoming.

Examples of WPA projects around the US for a museum exhibit

Examples of WPA projects around the US for a museum exhibit

Wind River Reservation map – So much of the story about how Native Americans were treated by the government can be summed up in these maps about the changes to the Wind River Reservation borders with little explanation.

Maps showing the changes in the borders of the reservation over time.

Maps showing the changes in the borders of the reservation over time.

Preserve Wyoming conference map – This map gives conference attendees an idea of places to visit and what they’ll find. It’s nice to have it all in one place.

Conference map

Conference map

Railroad map sign – This interpretive sign has two maps that I made on it. The main one serves as a reference for where this railroad line when as well as a visual clue as to what the sign is about.
Railroad sign

Interpretive sign maps – Many of the interpretive signs we do have a map for reference. This seems to be especially true for historic information. Here are a few examples.

Interpretive Sign with Map

Interpretive Sign with Map

Interpretive Sign with Map

Interpretive Sign with Map

Black Diamond Trail brochure – This historic trail map shows the overall trail and then provides two insets with more information on the larger areas the trail passes through.

Trail Brochure with Map

Trail Brochure with Map

For many of these, we combined historic maps with modern day maps. We edited out information to focus on just the parts we needed. Sometimes this was a tedious process of tracing, but considering the lifespan of an interpretive sign, it’s worth it.

My designer takeaway: Maps can be a powerful visual tool. Don’t be afraid to spend some time on them making them tell your story.

Tips for Working from Home

A perk of being a graphic designer is that typically you can work from anywhere. I was able to take advantage of this perk after having each of my children until they were about a year old. Here are some of my tips for working from home.

    – Never turn on the TV, period. I never did this in the two years I worked from home. There are enough distractions at home without adding this one.

    – Find a location in your house that you love. I sat in our diningroom which has lots of windows/light. It was a nice place to be all day.

    – I found that I need a little background noise to keep me company. I fell in love with podcasts. In fact, I became quite the podcast junky. Hey, at least they give you something to talk about.

    – I experienced over and over again that people don’t respect working from home as much as in the office. Because of this, I recommend responding to emails/calls immediately. They’ll know you’re at your computer and working.

    – I also found that I was working more to ensure that they knew I was working. I started at 7:00 in the morning and at times completed things in the evening. Here I’ll say, don’t worry about it so much. As long as you’re doing your job, and your boss knows you’re doing your job, who cares what everyone else thinks you’re doing. The other perk of working at my dining table was that I had to pack up my work for dinner each night.

    – Enjoy it. Wear comfy clothes. Prep a nice lunch. You may not always get these perks, and you’ll miss them.

My designer takeaway: For me, working from home was worth it for my personal life, but I think it may have temporarily stalled my professional life. As a short term gig, it was very worthwhile. I’m not sure I’d do it long term. There is something about being part of an office culture that seems to help with networking and advancement.

A ‘Smash’ Hit

I just received a Smash book as a gift. And I am super excited about it! I have given them as gifts before, but I’ve never taken the time to get one for myself. If you’re not familiar with a Smash book, it’s basically the concept of what a scrapbook use to be. I had one as a kid where I stuck magazine clippings, lists of things I wanted to do, etc. It’s a scrapbook for anything and everything, with no pressure to be perfectly laid out. It’s just a place to store ideas/thoughts/cool things. All the books are different and lots of fun.

My New Smash Book!

My New Smash Book!

Intro to a Smash Book

Intro to a Smash Book

I did a little research online for ideas on how people have used their Smashbooks. I found two main concepts: 1) focusing around a trip or event, or 2) as a journal of sorts. I think I’m going to use this one as more of a journal.

While I’ve only minimally started, I have some fun ideas planned for my Smash book:

    Quotes I love
    I can go overboard if I want because it’s just for me!)
    Doodles
    I’ve been trying to doodle more. I feel like it’s a nice release and opportunity to think. Every now and then, something wonderful comes out of a doodle.
    “When I rule the world” list
    I’ve been making this mental list for years of things I would do, if I’m ever a manager. Here I’m writing down my list.
    Plans for a big trip this summer
    We have a big one in the early planning stage to celebrate our 10th anniversary!

Maybe some time in the future, I’ll show you a full Smash book. For now, I’ll keep daydreaming about what to include. 🙂

My designer takeaway: Some times it is good to take the pressure off and get the ideas out.

A New U(niversity) Update

Well, I finished my How Design University course (the Coding for Designers: HTML and CSS). Yay! I can check that off my to-do list! I said I’d let you know what I thought; so here it is: I’m very pleased with the course. It was informative, yet manageable.

    Here is what I liked:
    -It started at a place I was familiar with, HTML, and then built on that.
    -It was challenging, but each lesson (with a total of four) only took about an hour including the assignments.
    -The lessons all built on one another. So you’re using the HTML from the first lesson in every assignment, and then the CSS in every assignment. It reinforces the basics well that way.
    -I was able to download all the information we were provided, which will be a nice resource for in the future.
    -It talked about the upcoming features with CSS3 and how to implement them for the various browsers.
    -There were tips for online tools that make coding easier.

Do I think you could find all this information online without this course? Yes. However, sometimes you don’t even know enough to know what you don’t know, if that makes sense. In that case, this is awesome. It also saves a lot of stumbling around the internet.

The big question: Will I take another class from How Design University? Yes. I’m hoping they schedule another run of 28 Days to Your First WordPress Site again soon!

My designer takeaway: After you try something new, be sure to evaluate it.

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