CategoryDesign Inspiration

Pretending to be a Photographer 3.0

We recently took a cruise around Norway, and, of course, the scenary was incredibly inspiring.

Here are a few of my favorite shots:

Outside the Ascot Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark. Lots of bikes around the city!

Alesund, Norway

We loved all the old ships at the Sunmore Museum in Alesund, Norway.

Amazing Fjords around Geringer, Norway, with the Seven Sisters Waterfalls.

Rocks weighing down the strings on a loom at the Sunmore Museum in Alesund, Norway.

Water front property in Norway.

My designer takeaway: Traveling makes it easy to see things in a new perspective. Take advantage of that.

Holiday Card for the Animal Shelter 2.0

For the second year, a friend who works at the local animal shelter asked me to design a holiday card for them. Of course I agreed again!

They sent me a couple of ideas they liked themed around fun, cartoonish design. They also shared a new logo they’re switching to. We played with a holiday theme graphically, but their new brand colors instead of the traditional green and red for a little bit different feel.



I hope it helped them share some goodwill this season. I always enjoy helping out when I can.

My designer takeaway: Throw out the obvious color choices every now and then. Mix it up.

Holiday Card for the Animal Shelter

This year, a friend who works at the local animal shelter asked me to design a holiday card for them. Of course I agreed!

They sent me some photos and text, and I gave them a couple of options. I’ve said it before, but I enjoy the freedom of working for free. There is an unwritten rule of “I get to do what I want to do (for the most part).” I used colors from their new website and had some fun. I mimicked some of the family holiday cards I’ve seen recently with the animal portraits. I think of this design as the Brady Bunch design. 🙂

front of card

front of card

back of card

back of card

We also ended up adding a decal for the card.


I hope it helps them raise money and find homes for the animals! It made me feel good to help. What more could I ask for?  

My designer takeaway: A free project every now and then can be freeing and a creativity boost!

The 125th Celebration Identity Package

At work, my department usually gets handed the unusual, one-time projects or events for the state government that don’t seem to have a natural landing place. One of those just happened, the state of Wyoming celebrated it’s 125th anniversary of statehood. It was a whirlwind event that turned out great. Here are visuals I created for this event based on a tourism sticker celebrating the 125th anniversary. (I didn’t create the sticker. It was selected by the 125th committee to serve as the event “logo”.)


As far as the eye-catching quality, it’s hard to miss the yellow and black combination! I pulled colors from the logo/sticker. Color is mostly what I used to grab attention.

I mixed in a little of our traditional western fonts for that “Wyoming” feel. Overall, I kept the design really simple and tried to ensure the basic/essential information was the star of the show. There wasn’t a lot of time to ponder options on this project. The first meeting I went to I brought two flyer options. Instead of saying which option they preferred, the committee asked how soon they could have it.


Initially, we didn’t have all the activities nailed down, but we wanted to start promoting the event. I created some simple icons to illustrate the activities for the event, trying to keep them similar to the style of the logo/sticker.

We hit just about every media outlet we could. I assisted with printed newspaper ads, banners around town and created and maintained a Facebook page for the event.

For the event itself, we created a lot of signage. Here is a sample.

My designer takeaway: The pace of this event planning was fast. What I learned was “go now, and don’t overthink it.”

Pretending to be a Photographer

I love to play around with photography every now and then. I wish I did it more often (because I’d probably be much better at it). Anyway, this week, I thought I’d share a few of my better shots from our recent camping trip into the mountains. It was so beautiful there that it was hard not to take photos! How’s that for inspiration!

I played around with natural lighting with these (and usually that meant waiting for a cloud to cover the bright sun so I could get a richer tone to my photos).

My designer takeaway: Practice makes us better, and sometimes it’s even fun to practice!

3 Free Nature Textures

Apparently I’m still on a texture kick (not really a surprise). We recently took a family camping trip into the mountains. I found myself snapping close ups of rocks and bark to use as background texture for future work projects. I find all kinds of uses for nature images in my day job. I’m excited to have some new options available whenever I need them.

I picked a few of those images to share with you here. Download them, and use them anywhere you need a little natural texture!

My designer takeaway: Always good to beef up your supply of background textures for a future use!

3 Free Textures

I believe I’ve said it before, but I love using visual texture in my design work. Often it’s just a background that no one would even notice, but it adds depth to the piece.

So today I want to share three free textures for you to use anyway you can dream up.

Download the red fleece, cardboard and canvas.

My designer takeaway: A little texture in the background can often enhance any design.

Holiday Card Challenge – Post 2

I’m working on a Christmas card challenge I set for myself: 50 cards total, 10 designs, 5 of each design.

I shared my first three designs last time. Here are two more!


The first is just a simple design I was playing with. It’s a flat, simple print. The fun part about it being simple is that I’ll share it here as a FREE PRINTABLE!



The second one I designed because I love making snowflakes in Illustrator (and on paper). I love the copy, paste in place and rotate options. It’s fun to make something complex that way. After I made several snowflakes, I debated on how I wanted to use them. Then I realized I wanted to use up some of my basic card stash. I have a box of plain glitter cards that I couldn’t pass up on clearance. This would be a great way to embellish my gold glitter cards!

My designer takeaway: Copy and rotate. 🙂

Brewers Festival Logo Design

I’ve been MIA from my blog! But that doesn’t mean I have nothing to share! Spring tends to be a really busy time at work for me, and I’ve just felt too mentally fried to post.

Here is a fun project I did recently.


Before I get started, I’ll add the caveat that I did something here that I do not condone. I entered my design work in a logo contest. I don’t support working for free. That’s one of the ongoing challenges I face as a designer — that anyone can do it and there is no value to it.

The reason I did it was because it was for our local brewers festival, and I thought it would be fun. The best part about design for this was no one was telling me how to do it. I was my own boss. And if they don’t like, I don’t have to make changes. I just walk away.

Plus, way back in college, I really wanted to create an identity system for a liquor brand. They always have the most fun with their stuff! I love browsing at wine labels or beer logos. But, the instructor I had told me I couldn’t do that because I didn’t want that in my portfolio as I was looking for my first job. Sigh. I did a bank instead. Fun, right?

So I did a little research. I got excited because this sparked lots of ideas for me. This brewers festival is a fundraiser for our historic depot held at the depot. So, I thought that image should be included. Then I looked at general images for craft beer. The images that jumped out at me were bottle caps and the line of glasses with beautiful shades of brown beer in them. I had a other ideas as well, but those are what I chose to run with.

Here is what I did.



This first one has the tower of the depot on a bottle cap. I wanted it to look a little like a stamp. This one actually took a lot of time to get the right balance of detail and simplicity in the depot drawing.



The second one has the glasses that I love. I think the color version really is a lot of fun. This one took some experimenting to get the balance right from top image to bottom type.

I enjoy how these both turned out. I haven’t heard who won the contest, but it really doesn’t matter. I just did it for fun. It felt good to own the whole project.

My designer takeaway: If you get the chance, do some design work just because it’s fun. It’s good to feel excited and tied to a project.

What I Think I Do vs How Others Describe It

(I don’t mean for this to come across as a rant, but more as a description for people like my grandmother who never really understood what I do.)

I cringe when co-workers ask me to “make it look pretty.” Yes, this happens to me more often than I’d like to admit. Of course, they aren’t trying to be rude, but to me, it feels like describing what I do as frivolous.

Here is what I do as a graphic designer:

    1. Organize other people’s information to make it clear and concise. Make sure the basic questions are answered and that information is easy to find. I filter out the extra unnecessary parts.
    2. Make it look like their organization so people know which group it belongs to (e.g. color schemes, typefaces, logos).
    2. Make it visually appealing (aka make it pretty), but more than that, make people want to look at it. Grab their attention and hold it.
    4. Find a budget appropriate production method and timeframe. (At times, this is printed in house and hand cut by me. Other times it’s sent out to a printer or fabricator.)
    5. Assist with enticing and recognizing sponsors and how to provide that in printed materials. People are more willing to put their company name on a piece that looks polished.
    6. Help people time their message. You don’t want to hang a poster or run an ad four weeks prior to an event. It will just become visual clutter, and it will be forgotten or overlooked.

To me, graphic design is visual communication. It’s not fine art. I’m not creating a piece because I like it. I’m creating it in an effective way to convey a particular message.

My designer takeaway: I bite my tongue, smile and nod. Then I remind myself what the piece would look like without my efforts. I’m sure I over-simplify what many others do as well. 🙂

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