MonthMarch 2014

Lessons Learned

Mistakes are not an ending, but an opportunity to learn, change and improve.
From Learning How to Right Your Wrongs by Gace Bonney

Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a Montessori teacher about making mistakes. She feels that it’s important for students to know that mistakes are okay. Instead of erasing those mistakes and pretending they didn’t happen, she recommends crossing them out, in essence ‘owning that mistake’, and putting the correct version next to it. So, I’m going to own up to some of my past design mistakes and how I (and you) can avoid them in the future.

Calendar holes: A few years ago, we decided to make an art in the state parks calendar for the upcoming year. I really got to run with this design. It was a fast, but fun project. I even had the great idea to add a fact at the bottom of each month about the site featured. The mockups were a big hit. Off to the printer it went. About halfway through the run, I got a call from the printer. Those fabulous facts I added were a little too low, and the hole for hanging to calendar was hitting half the bottom line of text. Did I ever think of the hole in my layout? Not even once. I’m lucky that it wasn’t worse. We made some adjustments and reprinted.

What did I learn from this? Two things: 1) It was a reminder to always consult your printer on new projects. In school, we were always taught the value of talking with the printer about the best options for projects prior to starting. 2) Do some online research about guidelines for new types of projects. A lot of printers have put out templates to help designers set up files correctly.

Phone number: While this error wasn’t mine alone, I will never forget it. I made an invitation for a fancy donor event. Others looked it over and gave the okay. It was printed, mailed and received. A sweet older gentleman called a coworker a few days later and informed us a phone number for one of the hotels provided was incorrect. And not just incorrect. He said, “I listened far longer than I should have,” meaning it was a “pay to hear more” kind of number. Nightmare mistake! Turns out the last two numbers in the phone number were transposed. That was all it took to send our donors to a very wrong number.

What did I learn from this? Again, two things: 1) Always, always check phone numbers, addresses and titles. These are easy to ignore. One of my coworkers said when she gets a proof from the printer, she physically dials all the phone numbers to make sure they’re correct. 2) Always have a fresh set of eyes check things over and give the okay. Honestly, even if things slip past you all, at least the blame can be shared.

I think that’s enough owning up to mistakes for one day. 🙂

My designer takeaway: While incredibly painful at the time (and often costly), mistakes help us learn and improve our process. Own it, apologize for it, and learn from it. That’s really all we can ask of ourselves.

Icing on the Cake

Having just celebrated a family member’s birthday with a silly homemade cake, I’ve been reminiscing about some of our past adventures with cakes and cupcakes.

I thought this week I would share some of those decorating adventures.

The latest cake, a dragon.
This cake idea came from the Family Fun magazine (a favorite!) It was super easy to put together with the great instructions. The hardest part was getting all the different sweet treats at the store used to create it.

The shark cake.
This cake was a challenge, and mostly because we made it on a hot day and the icing wanted to fall off. Here are the instructions we used. While it could have turned out better, it was a big hit!

The pig cupcakes.
These were a great Pinterest find. These were great because they were super easy, and in my opinion, really cute. Plus, they were for my daughter who loves marshmallows.

The moose cupcakes.
This idea came from a Wilton cupcake book. These were a little more of a challenge mainly because we struggled to get the large pretzels to break where we wanted. Also, the darker chocolate was actually melted chocolate chips, which meant we had to work quickly. The lesson I took from these was that if you only need a few, it’s fun to tackle a more challenging design.

The Ninja Turtle cake and the Spiderman cake.

With these two cakes, I learned that I can create fancy cakes from the shaped cake pans. You simply need strong hands to squeeze all the icing stars. We also learned to outline all the features in black or white first. Then it’s simply filling in spaces. At the end, we usually went over those outlines again.

The ninja cupcakes.
These were a Pinterest find, too. I love these because it was using something we already have, a gingerbread man cookie cutter, and turning it into something new. My son’s friends thought it was awesome because they got a cookie and a cupcake.

My designer takeaway: As I’ve previously discussed, using a different medium can often spark your creativity. I think working with cakes and cupcakes count! And, I believe fun cakes are good for children and those who are children at heart.

A Simple 60th Celebration

Early last month, I had a small 60th birthday celebration for my mother. A lot of other things had been happening, and so we decided to keep it low key for her sake (and my own). But I still wanted it to be fun. Here’s what I did:

Invitations: I just called a few of her friends and invited them over on a Saturday evening to celebrate. I think we had 12 of us total.

The Room

The wonderful plates

The wonderful plates

Decorations: I started by looking for some fun paper plates (Yes, I wanted the ease of paper!). I found these wonderfully colorful flower plates. They had black, red, yellow and teal in them. Then I bought a yellow table cloth because, as I’ve said before, a colored table cloth can really transform a room into a party fast. I went for nice white napkins and red cups. In the middle of the table, I printed off a variety of photos of my mother, young and more recent. I mounted those on red cardstock to give them a little color. I spread those out along the center of the table with some confetti and party blowers. I had two small red buckets that I filled with a teal tissue paper flower. This made for a very interactive center piece. Guests actually walked around the table and looked at them all. They were great conversation starters!

Food: Like I said, I needed this party to be simple. So, I just asked what my guest of honor would like for dinner. Saved my brain a little thinking. My mother said “meatballs.” In my house, this can mean two different kinds, spaghetti and meatballs or Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes, a family recipe. So I made both. I was hoping that they options would appease all the guests, including the kids. The great thing about meatballs was that I could make them a day early and just heat them in time for the party. In addition to those, I made salad, corn and rolls.

Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

Strawberry Ice Cream Cake

Cake: I went for another easy but wonderful option, an ice cream cake. It was strawberry and vanilla with a layer of chopped strawberries in the middle. Big hit!

While it was all incredibly simple, it was a lot of fun! I think it was just how we needed to celebrate.

My designer takeaway: It’s good to remember that the people/friends make the party and not all the planning or decorations. Simple is fine.

Welcome to the Absurdity

This is a silly little project that came from one of those points where graphic design intersects with motherhood. I was prepping a gift for a friend who was expecting her first child, and I had an idea for making my own humorous card. (It’s always a little scary to try to be funny, but this one felt like a sure thing in the humor department.) I made a list of some of the really ridiculous things that have happened to me in my first few years as a parent. I picked a few non-gross items, and I used those to make a personalized card, as you can see here:

My homemade baby shower card.

My homemade baby shower card.

The best part of this little project was the moment it dawned on my mother-to-be friend that these were real experiences as she was reading the card. It got a laugh by many! I would definitely do this again, and I think I have several new items to add to my list!

My designer takeaway: When life and graphic design overlap, have some fun. You’ve got the skills to make it great!

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