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.

My Favorite Things #1

I love a list of favorites. Don’t you? I usually discover something new with an honest critique/recommendation.

At this time of year, the feeling of beginning again or starting anew, has had a big impact on my favorites. Here is where my heart is at the moment:

1. Decluttering calendar
For the last three years, I have started to follow a calendar like this. Even though I get stopped each time, I love the progress I’ve made and the philosophy of tackling it in little steps each day. Recently, we even organized our junk drawer. I love to open it now!


2. Adult coloring books and this blog post: How to Color Like a Boss
I have given them as gifts, but this year, I received one! I love telling my family to stay out of my coloring book and markers. I love the excuse to enjoy a “child’s activity.” It’s nice to take the time to concentrate on it, even if it’s just five minutes. The activity seems to suck me in, and I lose track of time. It feels like a good test of color combinations and visual depth.


3. Draw a bird each day to avoid depression
I’m not so much worried about avoiding depression, but I love the concept of having one little drawing to do each day (and I love his collection of birds for sale). It’s like an ongoing artist study. We could easily switch this concept to any animal or object.

4. Audiobooks
I love a good story, written or read. Lately, I seem to be stumbling on to audiobooks that are like performances. It makes the experience so much richer than if I had just read the story. Here’s one to try: JoJo Moyes’ “The Girl You Left Behind”

5. Mini canvases
I bought a pack of canvases to try out, but I’ll admit it, I was chicken to start and “waste them.” One day recently, my son asked for something sturdier to paint on, and I busted them out. I love them. I hope to play some more, even if I do waste some.

6. Trying new recipes
I try to use a new recipe most weeks. Lately I’ve been toying with making a new soup each week. If that goes well, I’ll share with you here! But here is this week’s recipe that I’m going to try, Mongolian Beef. I love using a slower cooker!

7. Minute to Win It Games
Every time I host a party, I search for some minute to win it games. I love this concept, silly and fast. They are games that we haven’t done and won’t inherently be good at. They will make everyone cheer and laugh. My son’s school teacher even incorporated some at their last class party. Genius!



8. Homemade Valentines
Over the years, I/we have made a lot of Valentines for my kids’ classes. We’ve made puppies, ladybugs, rockets, guitars, fish, superheroes, dinosaurs and more. It’s always a lot of fun and a lot of work. I realized as my kids have gotten a little older and more able to help that it’s a good project for them. They get to not only create something, but also think of others and give to them.


9. Fairy Gardens
While I don’t have mine up and running yet, I’ve been collecting items and ideas. I have a lovely front door and a large log with a vision. I hope to share this with you in the summer months.

10. Just Dance
Our Wii has come back into play since we bought a copy of Just Dance (a old edition). It’s a lot fun with some silly moves and, hey, it has to add a little bit of exercise into our playtime. In the winter, we need to get our energy out somehow!

Feeling Like an Artist

Awhile ago, I listened to a Ted Talk by an artist, and something she said stuck in my mind. She said that when she started, she didn’t feel like an artist. She said she thought artists produced artwork and, maybe if she could do that on a regular basis, she would feel like an artist. I would like to do that also, but I don’t make the time.

A few weeks ago, I was asked if I do any drawing. My immediate response was that I use to do a lot in college, but I don’t find the time anymore. Then I realized that was wrong. I do draw for work; it’s just different. It’s very purposeful drawing to communicate a certain message as opposed to fine art drawing for my own reasons.

I thought I’d share a few of those drawings today. I am putting those drawing classes to use.

My designer takeaway: Designers tend to wear many hats throughout the design process. Give yourself some credit!

Not Your Typical Yearbook

One of my annual projects for work is a yearbook. Yes, a yearbook. No, I don’t work for a school. No, I never thought this would be part of my job once I left school.

We do a yearbook for the state’s Centennial Farm and Ranch Program. This is a really interesting project. The program’s purpose is to recognize families who have owned and operated a farm or ranch in the state for 100 or more years. The yearbook is a collection of their family-business history as told by the family.

Unlike in school, where the content is generated by the yearbook staff, the content for this is provided by the families. It really varies from lengthy stories well documented with photos, to a paragraph and one image, to nothing at all. In school, we tried to make the layouts full and fun. My goal in putting the books together is to attempt to be uniform in presentation and chronological with photos (which can be daunting at times). It’s such a mish-mash that I hope all the families feel they were given equal treatment. I hope they are pleased to share their history with family and friends through this means.

This goal feels foreign to me. Usually, I strive to pick something to feature, something gets to be highlighted or the focal point. Here, I try to keep it all equal. (But, sometimes it can’t be. Sometimes a photograph just isn’t high enough in resolution to be the standard size.)

Here are a few example spreads:




Perhaps to the general public this would come across as boring, but the audience for this is not the general public. It’s for the farm and ranch families. That’s why it’s really important to remember the purpose of a project.

My designer takeaway: Sometimes the goal of a project can mean breaking the standard design “rules/best practices”.

A Creativity Challenge

Every now and then, I think when I’m feeling uninspired, I dream up a challenge for myself — to push my creativity. Do you ever find that when you’re forced to make something out of a limited number of elements, it’s more creative than if you had unlimited resources at your disposal? I do. For example, in college, we would have to make a ridiculous amount of sketches for a layout, say 50 or 100. After those first couple dozen, we’d put any option that came to mind down. Sometimes, those desperate attempts to meet the quota head a great idea.

A few years ago, I dreamed up my “100 cards in 100 days” challenge. This was really good for me. It gave me some great creative, hands-on time each day. And, I ended up with a stack of greeting cards to use. In fact, I still print them out and use them these days. I keep thinking I should do this again, but limit it to one theme, i.e. holidays or birthdays.

From my knitting class, a 24-month cable-knit girl's top.

From my knitting class, a 24-month cable-knit girl’s top.

Then I challenged myself to the once a month knitting class. I loved learning new techniques and growing more confident in reading knitting patterns, but this was a disaster for me. I missed a bunch of classes because of kid commitments. I only finished a few projects (and this really bothers me). The rest are sitting in a tub waiting to be finished or even started. My goal for this winter is to finish the most challenging project, which was a two color cowl with a complicated pattern. It requires me to sit in a quiet place without distractions (kids, hubby, TV) so I don’t mess up the pattern. We shall see!


So this year, my self-imposed challenge has been to produce a blog post once a week. When I first started my blog, I was terrified that I wouldn’t be able to dream up enough content. Then I got a few posts under my belt. It’s not always easy. I do keep a running list of ideas, but I often look over it and don’t have the desire to write about any of them. My goal this week should be to beef up that list! 🙂

The next challenges I’m contemplating are to try a new recipe once a week and/or plan a new craft project for my kids once a week. I’d love to do them both, but that feels like a lot of planning and prep on my part. Who knows!

My designer takeaway: When you’re feeling uninspired, give yourself a long-term challenge to force the issue. You never know what you might come up with!

Playful Promotions

I can’t take credit for the concept (we have some pretty creative folks in our State Archives), but I had the pleasure of helping with these fun projects promoting the State Archives.

Historic Valentines
These were a last minute idea that we threw together to share on social media around Valentine’s Day. What a simple and inexpensive, yet fun way to show off both the collection of historical photographs in the archives and also give a glimpse into the state’s history.

Design wise, we went for cutesy (or cheesy). The best part is the photo anyway!

Who doesn’t love a paper airplane? This plane is a promotion for an oral history grant project that the State Archives did. It was handed out as flat sheets for people to take and fold.

My main job was making clear instructions for the plane folding. I modeled it off of some of my kids’ origami projects. (Yay for having kid stuff to inspire me!) These were a big hit. Everyone who walked by my office commented on the planes. I can tell you that coworkers were more than willing to help me test out these instructions for building this paper airplane. We even sent copies to meeting for the board that supplied the grant money.

My designer takeaway:
Every now and then, throw out the typical ideas. A little playfulness can be highly appreciated and appropriate!

A Vacation with Inspiration

I just returned from an amazing vacation, a Mediterranean cruise. What a dream! I still can’t believe we pulled it all off! Of course, the sites of Europe are always inspiring, from the ancient places to the amazing architecture to the food and way of life. I found the street markets enticing and the laundry hung from balconies enchanting. I was amazed at how all of this rich history is mixed right in with homes and modern life, as if it could all be taken for granted because you see it out your window everyday.

Here are a few of the photographs I took for inspiration (as opposed to all of those I took looking like the tourist I was! Ha!). It was fun to play photographer again!

My designer takeaway: Nothing beats getting out and exploring the world to find new inspirations.

Inspiring Children’s Books

My kids recently finished the summer reading program at our local library, and their prizes for finishing were books. One of the books they earned reminded me how amazing design can be in children’s books. I’m not just talking about the illustrations. Of course the illustrations can be spetacular! Sometimes I fall in love with a book just because of the illustrations (Who cares what it’s about, right!).

But here, I’m talking about the typography and layout — the whole package. It can be really simple and yet add so much to the story.

Here’s the new one that I fell in love with, the design and story!

I am so taken with Klutz brand activity books. These are amazing, well thought out, well designed and really fun to do!

I love this ABC book. Look at detail in letters to give them the qualities of their character. And they are spot varnished with a gloss to make them really pop.

And this book is my very favorite kids’ book. This is the one I always give at baby showers. The typography is simple, but look how it conveys the message.

My designer takeaway: Inspiration can come from everyday experiences, even when you aren’t looking for it.

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