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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

Dec 27, 2010

Photographers! Be Seen

By On 13:03
Well, not just photographers--visual artists too.

I stumbled upon a great wall paper sharing site called Open Wall (www.owall.net). I was looking for creative commons and clicked on the unfamiliar link and got floored. People are sharing their work, rating others, and downloading like crazy.
Well, obviously, this image wasn't posted by the photographer, but it likely began life as one of the gorgeous, royalty-free images of space available on the NASA website.  Good deal.

I've come to use Open Wall as a resource for fun images, wall papers and even as inspiration for compositing in photoshop. Take a look and enjoy.

AND Speaking of NASAs royalty-free space shuttle/Hubble images...
Be sure to read the Image Usage Guidelines

Dec 21, 2010

Where’s Your Lightbox??

By On 09:41
JQuery is functional and fun to look at but—by god—it’s a ton of coding. A metric ton if you’re a graphic designer not well versed in the development side of JavaScript.
Thankfully, others saw the demand and have come to your rescue. Here is a Creative Commons solution to get your lightbox portfolio up and running:

prettyPhoto Lightbox Clone

To see this professionally executed JQuery clone in action,  view the PORTFOLIO page of the Robust Web template.

Dec 20, 2010

Tax Time Write-Off

By On 12:52
At the start of tax season, freelancers and consultants need to sort through receipts to get the itemized list together.  Here’s my short list of work-related expenses:

  • Marc Train Tickets / DC Metro Tickets / Road tires for my bike(tis a stretch)
  • New Laptop
  • CS5
  • Lacie 1TB portable drive
  • Lacie 500GB portable Drive
  • HP scanner
  • USB Hub
  • 5 Sketchbooks
  • CA magazine subscription (must purchase this week)
  • Rainbow Pentels and Charcoal pencils
  • Pantone Color book
  • 1 Art Gum eraser
  • Letramax boards
  • 2 reams Hammerhill 70lb cover
  • UB Lab Card
  • Toner
  • Home Office

I normally don’t count the charitable donations, but this year, that $75 is on the list baby. 

Dec 11, 2010

I've got a new look...

By On 13:25
...my  site has one, anyway.  This new design is courtesy of TemplatesDock.  The design is called BestFolio released under a Creative Commons license. I know what you're thinking, "A Web designer using another designer's template!!! Unheard of." I disagree.

I often view great Web templates created by talented developers. These sites are functional, creative,  and technically  exceptional. Bestfolio is a simple one with all the elements that I needed to revamp my site in a timely manner ---it took me approximately 6 hours to customize the template.

Learn more about : http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kudos to TemplatesDock

Dec 6, 2010

Job Search Advice for New Graduates

By On 07:28
I went to the design studio on Friday to print some comps and ran into a student I knew from grad school.  *Randy, who will graduate soon,  had one question for me while I adjusted the print setup. He queried, "You just graduated, right? Is it really tough out there?" I know that's 2 questions, but the important one is obviously the second. Randy was referring to the job market.

My answer: yes, it's tough as hell out there. You need to know what  kind of design job or work environment you're looking for.  Apply only for jobs that you want, instead of casting a wide net and applying for positions that either a.) don't interest you, or b.) don't match with your goals and aspirations. Be selective and only take the time to  go after jobs that you actually want. It'll make you happier in the long run.

This is something I've always believed and it hasn't let me down yet.

The second part of my recommendation went: don't wait for graduation to begin looking. If you've already identified your ideal work environment, start your job search now. This means:

  1. update your resume, 
  2. print and format your portfolio, 
  3. network and make inquiries, 
  4. and apply.
* pseudonym

Dec 5, 2010

Worst Interview Ever III

By On 07:28
Here’s another 2nd person account of a terrible interview. Names have been changed to protect the innocent.

A year ago, “Janet Blackstock” was in the market for a new job. She found one at a national philanthropic organization located in a downtown high-rise, and sent them her resume.  The posting was for a low-level administrative position that she could do from 9 to 5 while attending university on nights and weekends.  The salary was sufficient, but not great, and she’d recently heard that this organization was not an awesome employer. Needless to say, getting this job was not a matter of life or death for her.

Janet arrived at the interview on floor 9, 15 minutes early and introduced herself to the receptionist.  After 30 minutes the interviewer had not arrived, but she waited patiently. At 40 miutes after her arrival, the interviewer’s assistant came out to speak to her. “The job that you’re to interview for is filled. Sorry.” She then offered Janet a chance to test for a different—more responsible—position in the same area. Janet was dubious but positive about the situation. She reacquainted the lackey her skills as listed on her resume, making sure to point out that her typing speed was lower than the position required—even allowing for 100% accuracy.  The lackey smiled, waved off her protests, and got the testing room set up for Janet.

30 minutes later, our heroine emerged from the test to await her  results. The computer-generated verdict was that she did not have a high enough typing speed to apply for the job. Janet thanked the stupid go-between and slinked off back to Mt. Vernon for lunch and a quick sulk. She had spent nearly 2 hours in travel, waiting, and pointless testing.

Today, Janet holds a Master’s degree and is an art director at in a communications firm in PA. When retelling this story she always laments that she could have been more firm about her desire to skip the test, and left the office when she learned that her job was filled.

The moral of the story is that she’s right. There’s no reason to be a push over in an interview. You should let the hiring manager direct the flow of the conversation, while always remembering your agenda items: finding out about the company, seeing if it’s a good fit for you, selling yourself as the ideal candidate.

Nov 25, 2010

How's Your Portfolio Looking These Days?

By On 10:31
Remember near the end of school, you bought that sexy black portfolio case that was so expensive you were forced to subsist on ramen noodles for months afterwards? Along with the box, you picked up the 3-foot sheets of Letramax and meticulously cut them down to uniform rectangles and adorned these with the best of your student work.

What ever happened to that sexy box? While you've been creating newer work and perhaps updating your website with medium-res jpegs are you neglecting the physical design boards that you worked so hard over?

I was guilty of that for over a year.  Whenever I got pieces from a completed print job, I'd grab 5 or 6 pieces and toss them into the box and forget about them. Today I have 2 annual reports, 3 different brochures, 4 brand new logo designs, and a book that I've not mounted for display. It's time to get my samples together AND to get rid of some of the older pieces that are no longer relevant in my portfolio box.

The reason for this newfound commitment to updating my portfolio is the sexy new portfolio box that I found in Plaza art  in MT. Vernon last month. The new box has a brushed copper finish, binder rings for extra copies of my resume or references, it accommodates about a dozen 8x10 Letramax boards, AND it fits in my sleek brown leather briefcase (this thing barely holds my 13" MacBook). This is smaller than anything else I've ever seen in school or with other designers.  More than that, this bad boy cost me $12.

I also picked up some rich brown, textured leather (some sort of swamp reptile, I believe) to conceal the top cover and give the box a very expensive look. I want the casual observer to glow green with envy of my luxurious little case.

I have two different portfolios that I show; a Web only version that holds 10 samples, and a Web & print version  that holds 9 samples. So, this weekend, after I finish up a freelance project, I'm mounting 19 new boards and ordering them in the manner I've been taught, and putting them in my sexy new box away for another year.  

Worst Interview Ever: Part Deux

By On 09:52
I met Tracy last night at a pre-turkey day show at the metro gallery. I heard her interview story while outside smoking and knew I had to blog it.

Tracy, the lawyer, showed up for her initial interview with the department of Health and Human Services. She was professionally coifed, dressed appropriately and more than prepared for the probing questions that the interviewer would ask.

She arrived in the office and sat for an hour. The interviewer never showed up.

Happy Thanksgiving all.

Nov 21, 2010

Logos getting friendlier??

By On 11:18
Sure they are.  Logo redesign is the wave of the present.  These corporate  giants moved from authoritative type in bold uppercase characters to lighter weights,  lowercase, sans serifs.

The jury seems to be out on the GAP logo redesign.  It has a few striking differences that hit me immediately. Readability: dark on light is 15% easier to read than light text on a dark background. The gradient square looks like part of a whole.

Corporate logo redesigns have also added greater levels of tactility and depth to their upgrades. UPS designers brought their signature brown into the 21st century by sketching the shield and giving the previously mechanically sterile design a hand-tooled look; it puts me in mind of sitting next to the artist at his drafting table and being part of the creative process. Again, we see an added gradient.

This tactility is very evident here:
Another prevalent technique used is the breaking down of personal space.  By this I mean that we are closer to the character of the logo. We are now face to face with 'Carmen Miranda' when we bite into our Chiquita bananas. And the 'face' of LG is more human and more closely cropped..Take a look

Nov 17, 2010

4 Weeks Mac-Less

By On 06:07
I'v almost got the hang of it.
The highlights of my Sony Vaio is the full keyboard, sick speed, and the new upgrades to MS Windows, I guess I have W 2010; it offers a more intuitive UI than previous versions.

The drawbacks are--well, they're more my problems than actual hardware/software issues--it takes way too long to shut down ans start up, I'm trying to be okay with the widget add-ons and I just can't (I only use WeatherBug because I trust it, but I miss having my dashboard).

Finally, I know why Windows machines are so susceptible to virus attacks--they're always communicating with the web--whether you ask them to or not.  With an Apple, you have the option to allow programs to constantly scan the Web for updates or no-You're never surprised by a program update on shutdown.

That's all I got, I'm well behind on a work project.


What’re you Waiting for?

By On 05:58
Right now every professional designer I know is busy as hell. And no wonder, companies have tightened belts and expect small creative departments to do more with less. Unfortunately, the trend is increasing. As a graphic designer, you have a few options that can be employed:

  • Hold your breath until you turn blue.
  • Threaten to quit until you get some help.
  • Look for a new job with a company with greater resources
  • Delegate more work to your subordinates (as if)
  • Get an intern, and create opportunities for students to learn on-the-job and increase their skill base, while you get a helping hand.

That’s right, consider hiring an intern! You have options for skill levels and knowledge; there’s no rule that sayS your intern will be a novice who only knows the rudimentaries of Photoshop. Undergrad and Graduate programs promote internship throughout the length of the programs, and you can easily end up hiring a gifted designer with mad Adobe skills, aptitude for typography and a passion for the visual arts.

One problem that you’re sure to encounter is making time in your too-full schedule to interview prospective interns. Take a tip from me, schedule them all on the same morning—preferably the one that the mandatory staff meeting fallS on—and then keep your afternoon free to tackle your ever-expanding ‘work’ pile.

Learn More About:

Nov 2, 2010

Dangit - I'm Getting an Intern

By On 12:31
  • I'm busy as hell at work
  • I'm about to get busier.
  • I have a lot to teach novice designers.
  • I had an awesome internship and learned a lot at Port Discovery.
  • I keep telling other people about the benefits of mentoring an intern.
  • I'm ready to 'give back'.
  • I want a partner in my once weekly commute
  • I'm busy as hell at work.

Oct 27, 2010

Three Keys to Landing that Internship

By On 16:23
1. Network 
Get to know your professors. Whether it’s a visit during office hours to discuss coursework or an impromptu cup of coffee before class, take the time to know the man or woman who’s teaching you. This is the person who may write you a stellar recommendation next semester.  

In my undergrad program, we had several professors who had real world projects that kept them busy when not in the classroom. My friend and on-campus co-worker, David was asked to assist with a summer book design by one professor who got to know him in class and liked his attitude and work ethic–even though his software skills were lacking. 

2. Initiative 
When you find an internship that interests you, send a resume and cover letter immediately. Waiting weeks means that the hiring manager will see many more applications that just yours, and you don’t want to miss an unstated deadline. Be sure to include the name of the person doing the hiring for this position, “to whom it may concern” has always been an unacceptable greeting!   
Follow up after a week with a short note by email or a phone call to check on your application status. It’s not pushy and employers appreciate it when applicants take initiative.

3. Portfolio
Do you have a portfolio? If you’re just starting out, your body of work may be slim—but the truth is, three design pieces are better than none. Make the three pieces flawless and be sure to include a link to your samples in your resume or cover letter. Employers seeking a graphic design intern want to know that you have the basic skills to do the job.  Omitting your samples in the application means that your paperwork gets recycled instead of reviewed.

When you land the interview, show up with your pieces mounted and be sure to speak knowledgeably about the design principles used in each project. My first portfolio was slender. I think I had five pieces, and one of those was my personal identity package—seriously. Among the pieces I included were: 
  • a typography assignment from school that was particularly successful (thanks Bert Smith) 
  • an identity package from a freelance client
  • and two posters from my poster design class
 Although the pieces were few, I could speak intelligently about every design decision that I made in creating them. I knew that the baseline shift in my typography exercise created visual interest and movement, and that the bolded text and placement helped to create hierarchy and give color to the black and white page.
This is what you must do in today’s competitive design world.

 “Take Initiative” was Adapted from American University AUpedia 

Three Weeks Mac-less

By On 08:20
The default browser is Google Chrome. I know that I should’ve tried this out a year ago, but I just wasn’t thinking. Chrome auto-populates as you type, and when you hit enter, you’re there baby (just like Safari, actually)! It took me a while to figure out how to get my bookmarks in there, but I’m on a roll now.

The first problem I've encountered is this; I've been spoiled by the Fetch FTP Client! The GUI is simple intuitive and easy to use, period.  On day one of getting my Vaio, I downloaded Filezilla and got the shock of my life. Where the hell are the "Get" and "Put" buttons, dammit! I ended up having to use my MacBook to plop a new site onto my ftp just so I can work directly from the server.  
From now on, I'll have to do the one thing that I always advise others to do when working with unfamiliar software, RTFM.

Today’s my 2nd day telecommuting on the Vaio, wish me luck.

Oct 25, 2010

A Virtual Color Index, Only Better

By On 05:50
If you’re like me, you’ve got an ever-growing list of resources that help you as a designer.  My  list gets longer by the week. One item that's been in my top 10 for years is COLOUR Lovers.com. This online community is a place to share colors, color palettes and patters, and discuss color trends and get inspiration.

If you haven’t bookmarked this one yet, do it.


Oct 18, 2010

Two Weeks Mac-less

By On 09:57

The new laptop is a Sony Vaio with CS5 and the newest version of MS Office. I’ve been on a quest for an Apple-free existence since the springtime customer service cock-up when I tried to:  
  • Buy a new Mac desktop  
  • Replace the new desktop that arrived at my house cracked 
  • Cancel the replacement 
  • Get my money back (after over a month with no computer) 
The customer service experience was terrible. Based on weeks of being treated like garbage while attempting to spend thousands of dollars, I chose to move away from Apple. I opted for a Sony machine. 

In undergrad, I was surprised to learn that while we graphic design students swore by Apple Macbooks and Imacs, the game design students all programmed on Vaios. The high-end professional machines are sleek, light and fast as shit! Picking the Sony brand was a no brainer for me. 

When my F-series laptop showed up I had no idea how to work the damn thing. All I knew was that I’d need a bigger briefcase to accommodate the larger screen. In older Windows machines, font management was not intuitive; I had to suppress my initial freak out when I went looking for fonts in the "Control Panel". I probably shouldn’t have freaked out. Font management is much simpler, and there are previews like with Fontbook. 

Granted I haven’t opened MS Office on it yet--but the commercials on Hulu all claim it's awesome, functional and intuitive--we'll see.  I will make another update when it’s been a month.

Oct 15, 2010

Packaging Redesign at Giant Foods

By On 18:02
This is my new favorite breakfast cereal. It's a knock off of a more expensive brand, and it's healthy as hell!! I started eating fiber select 3 weeks ago after picking up two boxes of the stuff on my bi-weekly grocery run.  
Here's the box: 

When I went back to my local Giant  for my 2nd pair of boxes, I was surprised to find the package fundamentally different.

It took a little while for me to note which was the newest design because I purchased them out of order (and I had completely forgotten about the new branding/logo that Giant and Super Fresh recently undertaken).  This is the box from my second grocery run:

I scrutinized both boxes for a long time and came up with the short list of essential differences. The redesign has several things that the original do not have:
  • off-center placement of logo
  • a background on which the cereal bowl rests - giving it some context
  • quantifiable nutritional information on the lower third of front panel
  • active writing  on the back panel
  • tilted orientation and splashy milk to simulate movement
  • title case for the headings instead of all-caps
  • less fruit
  • a closer resemblance to the brand that Giant's copying
It was an interesting experiment to review the box designs. I even took the images over to another designer's house and made her go through the exercise with me.  The majority of the changes made a lot of sense to me. One still niggles at me though. The move from more fruit to less - my thought is that they want to showcase the healthy twigs of bran and leave them in the forefront, but I just can't be sure.

Maybe next week I'll try to contact their art department to find out; I won't be able to sleep well until I get some answers.

-cheers y'all

Worst Interview Ever!

By On 17:29
Bad job interviews happen. Sometimes it's the interviewee's fault, sometimes there just isn't a good fit, and sometimes the forces of nature conspire against a positive outcome. Whatever the reason, bad interviews happen. Look, here comes one now.

This past summer--also known as the hottest summer on record--my buddy Lisa* went on her first job 
interview in over three years. The night before her appointment, she picked up a new pair of shoes to complete her interview ensemble. Little did she know that this purchase was to be her undoing.

The appointment took place on the Johns Hopkins campus. Her first stop was the Human Resources department, where she met the director and learned more about the position. The second stop was to be held across campus, with the department head and her potential, future boss.

The day began with a mad dash for public transport, followed by a painful walk to HR--the new shoes were binding, pinching, and burning. During the first Q &Q session, Lisa's feet howled in pain. When the meeting was over she felt down by the heel that burned the most and drew back fingers coated in blood. The too-small shoes had rubbed her feet raw and--before her actual 
interview was even under way--she was already wounded. Before her 2nd trek across campus, Lisa stopped at an on-site pharmacy and bought a box of plastic bandages to cushion the friction and staunch the flow of blood. This was pointless because the humid atmosphere made it impossible for the cushioning to stick to her feet and the high heat made her feet swell; further exacerbating the problem.

By the time she got to the main 
interview, she was consumed with worry and physical pain. She half answered questions and was uncahacteristically laconic. When it was over, Lisa walked out, removed her shoes and headed for the bus. Needless to say, there was no second interview and no job offer was made.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Sep 14, 2010

Everybody Needs a Good Purge

By On 08:37
I decided to have a clothing swap at a local art/music venue. Thanks to Travis and our  long-shuttered clothing shop, Funk in the Trunk, there's more 70's fashion in my apartment than any other decade.

The swap will help whittle down the luggage,  plus all the leavings will go to Goodwill of Baltimore to further their mission of providing social services to women and children in our community.

After Sarah, owner of the Metro Gallery, gave me a date on her calendar, I had to scramble to get the name and logo together before I could even think of the logistics of the project.

The audience for this event--young women from 25-35, professional, fun, cute, wine enthusiasts, etc--is one I'm familiar with.  The first--and only--event names that came to me were ‘”Binge & Purge” and “Out with the Old, In with the Old”. I guess I really didn't need to do a poll to see which was more resonant, but I took one anyway.  Binge & Purge won by a landslide.

I chose the new and beautiful typeface, Gotham, as my primary. Then I married this with Goudy Old Style, a strong and lovely typeface with delicate serifs.  

These three images were to go on the FB event, but the dimensions were vertically stretched so I had to lose the girls in favor of the type only solution.  

Aug 26, 2010

Business Lunch

By On 09:15
My home office is a mess, with stacks of design books and paintings in piles on my worktop. So when I meet potential clients I do it like we’re back in the 60’s or 70’s. I’m talking about three-martini lunches as they were called (mine are usually sans martini, however).  I usually suggest a restaurant in midtown or Charles Village. The choices that these two neighborhoods offer are varied, eclectic and delicious.  Yes midtown restaurants are exciting!

Here are my top choices for business lunch meetings (in no particular order):

Donnas of Charles Village – I go to Donna’s weekly, business or no business. The staff is okay with off-menu orders, everything is always perfectly prepared, and wines are tasty-licious.

City Café – a great wine selection. Most of the tables downstairs are small, but outside and 2nd-floor seating more than makes up for this. Keep clear of the desserts.

Dougherty’s Irish Pub – tasty pub food and a quiet atmosphere. There are also big tables to spread out your laptops, design samples, notebooks and contracts. They've also got the best coleslaw in town.

Owl Bar – they have the best calamari in town; the capers aioli make the dish. It’s a good place to share a pizza with a client over contracts and Chianti.

Picadeli’s on Read Street – upstairs seating with the best veggie burger and fries in town. You can also get take out and have you meeting in Monument Park by the fountain.

Minato – fabulous sushi and great wait staff.  This is more of a late lunch, early dinner meeting place.

One World Café – outdoor seating and delicious vegetarian fare. The wine selection is decent and moderately priced.

Honrable Mention:
Tapas Teatro - I’ve never actually had a business meeting here, but I love everything on their menu.

Bon apetit!

One Thing All Creative Folks Need

By On 08:31
I just had dinner with a friend, a well-rounded communications professional—who shall remain nameless.  We recently talked over our plans for the future over salads, salmon and Cotes du Rhone at Donnas of Charles Village.

My buddy is a writer - designer - communications kinda-gal with diverse and extensive experience in marketing and communications.  In order to get an idea of the type of work she does you need to ask her to review her portfolio; there’s no one place to find her design or writing samples online.

She’s in the market for a workplace change, but gave me the wrong answer when I asked about her Web presence.

Creative professionals NEED a website!

Using a simple free blog site like Google’s Blogger, Wordpress, of LiveJournal is a great way to get your design and writing samples online and also showcase current projects! These sites provide professional looking templates and quick formatting of images and motion graphics. The two hours it takes to set up a blog is worth it in the long run. You only need to include the link in your cover letter or resume to a potential employer.

Another option is to purchase your domain name and use one of the easy build tools to create your site. This option allows you to create a decent looking site without advanced knowledge of HTML or any Web coding. Register.com and GoDaddy.com are two names that immediately spring to my mind.

My favorite solution is for a creative type to mine their social network.  Fellow students would love the opportunity to work on a visually interesting Web site; it will add to their experience and could become a portfolio piece. Post a job for pro bono design work on a bulletin board on campus. 

For folks out of school, college friends, colleagues, and your BFF all have skills that may be useful to you. Ask them.  Start a conversation on LinkedIn, post a fB status update, find out about trading services; maybe someone can build your website in exchange for using your timeshare for a week in the summer. That is, if they’re not interested in money.

Like I said, creative professionals need a website. If you don’t have one yet, get started today.

Aug 22, 2010

An Online Portfolio

By On 16:07
It's time to update yours!

Having an online portfolio does a lot to boost your street cred among potential clients and employers. It’s also:

More Convenient than a Resume and it saves time in your job search. This tool gives potential employers and clients a preview of your skills and abilities. In addition to the pieces that you present, folks are impressed by the design of the portfolio site and the user experience.

Showcases Your Talents - Online portfolios instantly show off your work. To establish yourself in this industry, let your designs do the talking!

Makes you Readily Accessible to clients worldwide, instantly. This opens up opportunities to work anywhere. Potential clients from other regions are now able to access your portfolio and maybe even hire you! Plus your contact information / link helps get contacts in touch immediately.

Saves Time in the Application Process - Virtually all employers have embraced the concept of online portfolios. They expect to see your samples when you apply for a position in their company. Look at it from their perspective. Employers have to search dozens of resumes, choose the right candidates, schedule and conduct interviews. This is very time consuming and virtually impossible without design samples. Having an online portfolio saves employers time and they can see your design work instantly, enabling them to find the right fit for their company.

Aug 18, 2010

Designer Job Search: Supplemental

By On 12:07
Here are a couple other job search resources that I know of.  I've gotten feedback from former jobseekers that these are valuable resources:

Mid-Atlantic Employment Search:

Maryland - Maryland Workforce Exchange
Washington, DC - DCNetworks.org
Virginia - VAEmploy.com
Pennsylvania - Commonwealth Workforce Development

Happy Hunting!

Aug 2, 2010

Entrepreneurial Spirit: Shodekeh

By On 06:20
Friday, July 23rd was a particularly hot night; not just because of the 100+ degree temperatures. The Baltimore Symphony Opera brought the heat when conductor, Maryn Alsop, featured a local musician alongside her world-class orchestra.

The Musician: Shodekeh Dominic Talifero
The Instrument: His voice

I first met the beat boxer about ten years ago when he performed on one of the West-facing stages at the SoWeBohemian Arts and Music Festival. Of course, a decade ago he had an unfulfilling day job to pay the bills while he hustled to get face time on the stages across the region.

Today, Shodekeh works for himself. In the years between our first meeting and this most recent performance at the Meyerhoff , Shodekeh toiled tirelessly to push his music into ever growing arenas. His regular gig—of the last four years—is as the accompanying percussionist to a renowned ballet studio. He’s been on stage with KRS-1, numerous hip-hop elite, classical and world beat musicians, and emerging performance artists. He’s been interviewed on NPR and lends his voice—speaking and percussion—to promote the arts wherever he goes.

Check out part of the performance, https://vimeo.com/18653408

 At the Friday night concert, my jaw dropped when I heard the newest addition to his repertoire. Shodekeh does an uncanny rendition of a didgeridoo. The technique put me in mind of the throat singers of the Caucasus Mountains, but my ear was convinced that it was a five-foot long wooden pipe being blown into by an aboriginal Australian. I was literally gape-mouthed throughout the concert. Shodekeh has something that all would-be entrepreneurs need, confidence. This unwavering confidence in himself and his talents led him to get free of the nine-to-five shackles.

Another tool in his bag-of-tricks is his inexhaustible energy. Anyone who chooses to work for themselves knows that it means trading in the eight-hour daily routine for a 24/7, perpetual process of self promotion. It’s exhausting and rewarding. We recently had drinks at Tapas Teatro in Mt. Vernon. Shodekeh, not content to take a break, told me of his plan to take his classical-meets-contemporary performance to audiences nationwide. It’s an enormous undertaking. He knows that he can do it.

Frankly, so do I.

Jul 26, 2010

Worst Typeface - That’s easy. The second worst - that’s tough…

By On 15:03
Comic sans is number one!  That’s the truth according to every graphic designer I know.  I’m on that bandwagon, too. While we’re all in agreement, we can’t come to consensus on number two.

Recently a young designer that I respect and admire totally blasted Bleeding Cowboys on a popular social media site. She said it’s the “absolute worst.” Bleeding Cowboys is a distinctive typeface with limits to it usefulness, and it has been greatly over-utilized of late–to my knowledge--by young designers with limited access to, or knowledge of typefaces.  But is it really the worst??

Last Friday, I enjoyed an incredible night of music and performance at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. I say that in spite of the bitter slap in the face I received when I looked at their summer program—laid out with headers and subheads in Cracked. Ouch!

Some say Times New Roman is Terrible! Horrible! Awful! But I haven’t heard a sufficiently good reason except that it was the default typeface for Microsoft Office (and everybody knows that as professional designers and Apple adherents, we must loathe anything non-Apple).

People, everything African, Indian, and Middle-Eastern can not be represented by Papyrus. This is another typeface that non-(or unskilled)designers use as a go to when unable to rely on sound typography skills to create an effective use of space, hierarchy, movement, purpose.  

Bradley Hand and Dakota Hand. I personally believe that these two live in the same zip code as Comic Sans.

Finally, this name wouldn’t have come to mind except that I got a request to create a logo from this font. What self-respecting professional membership organization wants to be represented by Monotype Corsiva? You heard me! It's ridiculous, yet this offensive, improperly used, over-used abomination is what they chose to represent their decades old, professionally respected organization. I choose Monotype Corsiva too... as my number two worst font of all!

Jul 22, 2010

Internet Job Searches - The Keyword is the Key

By On 06:56
The prospect of looking for work is a scary one, but it’s a fact of life for many of us; either you’re dealing with a lay off, or you’re looking to cash in your education, or you simply long for a better work life.

The pickings are slim out there and with companies tightening their belts, creative departments are taking a huge hit.  Small to medium-sized firms now choose to make due with the few folks they have. 

So, how do you ensure that you’re not missing out on jobs when searching online???

Choose Relevant Keywords
You’re a graphic designer. You want a graphic design job. Think about where you want to work: the government, retail, hospitals or medical centers, fashion, colleges, etc.  Be precise and narrow down your industry. Then make a list of things associated with your industry. Let’s take hospitals as an example.

Associated terms: hospital, medical, non profit (all hospitals fit in this category), health care,  allied health, etc.
You are a ‘Graphic Designer”. So, that will, of course be a search term.  Maybe not. Many companies still use the term graphic artist, so think about simply using the word “graphic” or "graphics"
Associated terms: design, **UI or UX (Web design terms), multimedia, graphic art, in-house design, communications, marketing (yep!),  pre-press, creative, etc

Start out with one or two keywords. Then, as you continue with your search session, switch out your keywords and see what different options pop up.

Look at your results.  Are there terms in the posted jobs that are relevant to you? Add them to your list, and use them in the next keyword search.

Be Search Engine Savvy
There are tons of job search websites that can be helpful in your pursuits.  I’m partial to a site called SimplyHired.com (SH).  SH pulls jobs from dozens of different websites. In a recent search I found positions originating on dozens of different websites including job sites, company sites, and headhunter and consultant sites.

For me SH was the perfect one stop shop—it’s where I found my current job—but it’s not necessarily for everyone. Here’s a nice long list of search sites that have yielded good results for graphic designers I know in this region:

Happy hunting!

**User Interface, User Experience

Jul 19, 2010

Rant: Apple, iPhone, iMac, MacBook

By On 13:16

Apple has gotten its last dollar from me.  I’ve always been true to Apple. The desktop that I purchased last month was to be my fourth Apple computer and the first desktop I’ve EVER bought.  Unfortunately, the machine turned up with a crack in the screen.  After getting jerked around by the nads for weeks by the geniuses in their call center, I’ve had enough.

You see, in my attempt to re-order my exciting new machine, I was:
  • hung up upon 
  • transferred from department to department
  • deceived about a return mailing label that was never sent
  • and generally treated poorly by a company that has several thousands of my hard-earned dollars!!
The rude,  stupid,  customer care staff in the call center placed me on hold for no less than 30 of the 35-45 minutes I spent on each call with them, and I got an ulcer from internalizing my hatred and ire–lest I be hung up upon again. 
I just had my last contact with Apple, three minutes ago. I checked on the status of my refund and was kindly reassured that it was processed and cleared through my bank by Joan—likely the only competent customer care rep in their entire call center.  

I have one final phone call to make to ensure that I’m rid of Apple for good.  I’m calling AT&T and bidding their asses “adeiu”, too.

My heart aches for those struggling with the newest iPhone. Good luck getting any help on the phone.

Jul 3, 2010

Designer Freebies!

By On 07:48
I love love love free stuff. And , working for a nonprofit, I'm used to resorting to ad hoc methods and making do with not getting everything on my wish list to make my job easier.  When I do web searches for freebies and vector elements I always check for 'Creative Commons' before I download anything --there's never a need to risk a lawsuit for misusing  intellectual property.

Here's a list of my favorite sites that provide designer resources:

Jul 1, 2010

The Entrepreneurial Spirit: Belltown Pull Apart

By On 11:22

I was in downtown Seattle last week where I met the owner and proprietor of Belltown Pull Apart, a used bike shop on 4th Ave.
Eric started out working on Pedal cabs, the once ubiquitous three wheeled transports that worked the waterfront. His alleyfront shop specialized in fixing and fabricating the rides. Today he has the front and back of the building. In open hours, 5 or 6 bikes line up for sale along the sidewalk and the shop dogs amble fatly in and out of the open doorway.
Inside, sexy refurbished bikes hang from the walls and form neat rows for easy access on the floor. The guys who hang out in the store also work there, and there’s a refreshing feeling of realness. Eric and his cronies love bikes, and belong to the growing ranks of the self-employed.
When I went in last Saturday to pick up the cheetah print handlebar grips I ordered, Chicheron, the rotund Chihuahua was helping himself to somebody’s half sesame bagel smothered in cream cheese. The last I saw him he was being chased into the back of the shop with half a bagel gripped in his jaws. That morning I got a chance to talk to Eric about why he took the entrepreneurial plunge. His answer was simple, “I can’t work for other people… I’m a terrible employee.”
I feel you dude! Most of the folks I know who are ready to take the plunge are Eric. I've heard it before. Here’s the checklist:
  • Passion for the organization’s mission wanes.
  • The persistent feeling of being underappreciated weighs on you.
  • The commute—no matter how short—gets longer every day.
  • The work is unfulfilling.
  • At least 20 % of your work week is spent planning your escape route (i.e. looking for jobs, updating your resume, reading up on how to ship anthrax thru the mail, etc.)
  • Stress builds from Sunday night to Monday morning, and continues until Friday at 1pm .

My hat’s off to you Eric.  If I were a Seattle native, I’d make Belltown Pull Apart my second home.

    Jun 6, 2010

    I LOVE T-Shirts!

    By On 11:52
    One more stop motion piece. I created this for I love T-Shirts. Rebekah and Dan from Club Chuck starred and the music was lifted from DJ Medic (thanks).

    Two Art Scapes ago they met me on campus and let me pose them, shoot them, and eventually make one of them into a t-shirt monster. The music's a bit loud, but this is a fun little piece.

    Fresh Burrito

    By On 11:36
    Hey Hey. I totally forgot about this little gem.

    I created a 30 sec spicy Burrito ad for the Chipotle contest back in 07. I bought some produce, beans and a burrito and took between 100 and 200 still images then strung them together in Final Cut.

    ASIDE: Final Cut is the best program to edit any sort of video. From simple, silly things like this to artful and thoughtful documentaries like "The Tuskegee Airmen". If you're partial to imovie or flash for these projects give it a try you'll be impressed with the control and functionality.

    Anyway, I love stop motion. Enjoy!

    Jun 2, 2010

    A Minute of Your Time, Please

    By On 17:19

    ACNM, my current employer and one of the great professional associations, has it's 55th Annual Meeting in a couple weeks. As part of the festivities--and to raise awareness of midwifery--we sponsor an annual video contest. In years past the contest was open to student members, the topic always being 'Why are You Becoming a Midwife?'

    This year we opened the video contest up to all members and midwifery clients (or potential clients) nationwide. The response was overwhelming! The winning vids will premiere to our Saturday Night at the Movies viewers and then awarded prizes during the awards ceremonies.

    As a promo, I put together a 60 second sample for our site...this is it.

    "Because I wouldn't trust the health of my family to anyone else"