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Communications Design Industry Discussion, Inspiration, & Tutorials

Dec 7, 2011

Build a Digital Magazine with Indesign CS5

By On 11:34

This is awesome because my formal training ended in the previous version. I ended up buying a decent textbook and walking through tutorials for hours to get a handle on the new CS5 upgrades.

This Week: Addy Awards Submission

By On 05:03
I should've done this when I was a student, but didn't. Now I've got to pay a higher application fee.

Anyway, this new job has offered me several opportunities to create--what Bert Smith knows as--elegant graphic design. I'm pretty darn happy and proud of the work I've done during my tenure.

My advice: Do you have some design work that makes you particularly proud? Submit it to a juried panel. You might win.  Application deadline for the 2011-12 Addy is January 6th, 2012

Nov 4, 2011

Retail Rantings and Ramblings

By On 07:13
Now I’m completely convinced. The large brand name stores that we know and love are desperately trying to put themselves out of business; in a manner of speaking.

I noticed 3 weeks ago when I had to go to the Verizon store to get my phone replaced. The customer service was TERRIBLE and the in-store prices were extortionary. The phone that I originally bought for $100 cost nearly $240 in the store. Before I made my trip to the small brick-and-mortar edifice in Charles village, I did some quick checking online so that the sticker shouck wouldn’t kill me. The price was half what I was later quoted in the store. AND the price on Amazon was 1/3 the verbal price quote.

I spent over 30 minutes in the store with the salesman but walked out phoneless. The only real help that he offered is that he suggested that if I can find a cheaper price online, I should go ahead and make that purchase. I walked out in disgust ant then it dawned on me: large companies like Verizon have been outsourcing their US-Based customer care staff for years, and taking money out of the traditional storefronts; hence the closed or—just as often seen—understaffed stores in the mall.

Factors that lead me to this conclusion include:

  • Declining staff training/customer service
  • Increased availability of goods on retail websites, and discounts for using online services
  • Increase in tele-sales and customer service forces in companies like ATT and Target
  • My razor sharp intuition

Oct 14, 2011

This Week: Creative Commons

By On 05:52
This week I'm finishing up another poster project that will be a highlight of my portfolio!

This is actually three lists of funds. The goal is to showcase a couple hundred names and draw the eye. Initially, I created 3 design options: two traditional / bankerish choices then a third more modern list. This third included modern type, and huge blocks of color. I'm working on developing the colors and headings--I think I'll have the options to push the envelope a bit more. Anyway, I now have a good sketch of what the finished product will be. FYI, I took a quick tour of Compfight and found images from  local photographers with CC licenses. So this is what I'm working on:

Sep 27, 2011

This Week: Middle of a Poster Series

By On 14:55
Take a look at the "Beginning of a Poster Series" for a snapshot of the progress.

And then, I got a bit closer.  Tulle, 3-element palette, and varying photo treatments, PLUS a very cool looking faux-spot varnish when the final is printed.   This project still has a little way to go to completion, but I feel I'm on the right track.

Sep 23, 2011

This Week: Middle of a Poster Series

By On 06:45
Take a look at the "Beginning of a Poster Series" for a snapshot of the progress.

I went on a site visit to the location of the recognition event, and got a wake-up call. The walls will not frame a vertical orientation well.  Actually those walls could take a vertical , but my design would need to be  much more narrow.  So, here's what the first set have morphed into :

The color scheme and tulle pattern give a layer of elegance--not to mention the addition of a faded drop cap in Vivaldi Italic.  I'm still working on the framing of the portrait (I think a tighter crop might work better than what you're looking at now). To get to this point in  the design process I worked on several layouts in this color space. I experimented with making different elements of the palette the primary color. Don't scream :

Please note: the difference in the focus of these posters and the ones from series one. Emphasis is now on the individuals rather than on their accomplishments.   

Sep 12, 2011

Portfolios that Inspire!

By On 06:22

Not only is he an awesome friend, he’s also an awesome graphic designer.  This is what my portfolio aspires to be when it grows up. Simon’s is an example of an excellent graphic design portfolio, full of great design samples, diverse projects, simplicity of design/layout, and consistent branding! Kudus buddy.

Check out some more Portfolios that Inspire

Sep 8, 2011

Job Interview: Make a good Impression

By On 07:23
Interviews are a fact of life in job hunting. If you want to make a good impression, learn and execute the following:
Be Prepared – Don’t walk into an interview without researching the company and job. You should know what the company does, recent or notable press, and basic information about its history. Not knowing the basics is an immediate turn-off for interviewers.
Dress well – The fact is that you are judged-–or pre-judged—by your attire. Pay attention to your appearance. No matter what the position you’re applying for, dress professionally and compose yourself similarly. After you get the job, you can choose clothes that suit your personal style.
Have your portfolio and leave-behind ready – You’re a graphic designer and they want to see your work! In addition to your portfolio, leave the interviewer with a piece that gives them access to your design skill. I mean a brochure, view book, writing samples, flash drive, DVD, etc.  At the very least give them a biz card with links to your portfolio site.
Arrive on time –Plan to arrive 15 minutes early. Being earlier than that may make the interviewer feel rushed. If you get there sooner, grab a coffee and use the spare time to practice your interview responses.
Be confident – You know why you applied for the position and you know why you’re right for it! Your task here is to convey this to the interviewer. Smile, sit comfortably–and straight, make eye contact, offer a firm handshake, and respond to questions with enthusiasm. And for God's sake, don't fidget.
Ask intelligent questions – By asking pointed, intelligent questions, you'll impress the interviewer with your interest and set yourself apart from the competition. Get a great list at SimplyHired.com
Follow Up – After the interview is over send a thank you note to all who interviewed you.  Get their names or business cards of all the folks who interviewed you before you go—or snag them off the internet. You have the option of an email or hand written note—your call.I’ve recently added a 4x6 notecard to my identity package; I use this for invitations, thank yous, invitations, and notes.   

Aug 31, 2011

Using Stock?

By On 13:49
I'm sick of catching bad stock being used poorly.  I can't deal--it's like adding insult to injury (I'll plan a future rant about cliches).
In a recent hunt round the Web I came across a very familiar bit of stock--I think we all know the multi-colored hands reaching into the circle. Well, AARP did some minor tweaking and gave that vector back some of its pride:

The stylized human form--that we all default to at some point in our career--is the domain of the Noun Project.  This designer used the semantic vector art to create a clever narrative in 3 characters:

Finally, this stock photo is one I've seen before but chose not to touch with a t 10-foot pole. The daring designer grabbed this heinous pic and used it to his advantage; making a poster that cleverly spoke  to his audience :

Aug 24, 2011

This Week: Beginning of a Poster Series

By On 13:00
This is step 3--after reading a dozen donor stories and balling up terrible sketches.

Adding white to a gradient really diminishes the subtlety. Oh well, I'm looking forward to developing this concept into a finished series.


Aug 11, 2011

PhotoDune: The New Place for Stock

By On 05:47
I love Envato!  They just launched PhoteDune Beta, another online resource for stock photography.

If you're unfamiliar with Envato they're an international community of designers and developers that provide stock for graphic, game, and Web designers. Plus a couple blogs for networking and general freelance design.The prices on Envato stock designs are relatively cheap and the products are always high quality.

Browse the sites, then bookmark these pages:

Aug 7, 2011

Because Envato Rocks, That's Why!

By On 18:50

 wallpapers.audiojungle.net and called Jungle Desktop Wallpapers – was created to show off the top 21 competition submissions. You can still see and download those wallpapers today.

Jul 27, 2011

My Handmade Wish-List

By On 09:07
I might be a shop-aholic, so it's taking all my resolve not to buy everything on this list right now.  Thanks Etsy!

For my hair: Chamomile Lavender Shampoo Bar

For my face: Vanilla Mint Lip Balm
For my hands: Sweet P Shea Hand and Body Balm
For my neck: Multi-color snake scarf
For my feet: LaLa Shoes!
For my mod street cred: This gorgeous bag
For the kid in me: This harlequin jester

Jul 22, 2011

Entrepreneruial Spirit: Ali Dryer

By On 08:15
Okay, I ran into Ali  a couple weeks ago after a huge craft fair in Baltimore.  I love seeing her, and I love her story.  The long and short of it is that she was treated like sh*t at a restaurant job and she did some soul-searching before saying bye-bye to the stress and ill-treatment.  Then she started makin' bags.

I'll have to edit this post later; with a few of her national magazine features!

Interview Question: Describe your Experience...

By On 07:41
For a recent grad or someone early in their career as a designer, you may need to rely on your internship, in-class, and freelance experience. Don’t think that work you’ve taken your time to complete doesn’t count; it counts!

First be very familiar with text and terms used in the posted job description. In a DC job description posted today one requirement for the position is “Familiarity with information architecture principles desired; basic understanding of HTML and CSS also desired.”

This means, can you put a site together logically; with important and relevant links in the main and secondary navigations. Also, do you know the basics of building a Web page? The answer to both questions is “Yes!”

So how do you convey to an interviewer that you have this experience? Here goes...

When talking about your internships: Realistically, your experience should cover 90% of the position requirements from the original posting. You could begin like this, “I recently completed an internship with Company Ecks where my primary tasks were to maintain the website and update social media." You follow up with a short description of the actual work, especially coding specific aspects of the job.

When talking about experience through coursework: Even if your experience is limited, begin with an affirmative statement. You want to be sure that you present a well-rounded and skilled designer. “I’ve had several courses in HTML/CSS and have built a few different sites from scratch: from planning and building out the site architecture and wireframes, to creating web graphics, and optimizing photography, and creating text content. With my personal website I took the opportunity to experiment with jQuery and lightbox design in order to increase my coding skills.” You want to be sure that you present a well-rounded and skilled designer.

Finally, when talking about your freelance work: Having a diverse body of work is ideal. Give the employer a brief list of your client projects and highlight items that are relevant to the type of work you’re applying for. I interviewed for an internship my first semester in grad school, the position was for a graphic designer to create posters and signage at a museum—nothing I’d really done before. I told the interviewer about my experience creating identity packages for my (only) 3 freelance clients and then followed up with a synopsis of my relevant college coursework. Apparently my ability to work with hierarchy, typography, and visual balance was enough to get me the position.

Link to more Interview Questions for Graphic Designers.

Jul 20, 2011

Interview Question: What are your Strengths?

By On 11:23
But there are so many to choose from! Tough…pick 3. The fact is that the interviewer may only ask for one or 2, but you want to have that third one in the chamber, just in case.

Select three traits or attributes that are most beneficial for the position/type of work and give examples.
This is not the time to list your technical skills. They already have that information on your resume.

Instead use this time to talk about you and your work ethos; employers want to know if you:

  • have great time management skills (in our field, it’s almost as important as the actual designs you produce)
  • thrive in a collaborative environment / or function better with more autonomy
  • are flexible and can change gears quickly when necessary
  • communicate effectively with others (in print, Web, face-to-face)
  • keep your skills up-to-date (through coursework, seminars, webinars, etc)

My personal favorite—and possibly the thing (besides my portfolio) to which I owe my current position –is, “There is always more than one solution to a problem. When faced with a design challenge, I study the problem then come up with a couple equally effective yet visually dissimilar solutions.” The follow up this statement is a short and poignant anecdote about an invitation design that the client wanted. Sorry, I have no pithy subhead for this one.

The important thing to remember here is to be clear on what you want to communicate and keep it brief.
Learn More About:

Photo Credit: bbaltimore via Compfight cc

Interview Question: What are your Weaknesses?

By On 10:48
What are your weaknesses?

The best advice I’ve gotten regarding this questions is “be honest, and provide strategies to address the weakness”. I’ll need to use myself as an example here. I suck at proofreading copy in my work. I can do it, but –for some reason—I don’t.

I once sent a biz card to the printer with a half a phone number!! Unfortunately the client gave me a file with the different names, titles and contact information for the business cards and omitted the last 4 digits of one of the numbers. I looked past it; after obsessing about the myriad changes the client had already sent and FTPd the file with that glaring omission. Luckily my printer—a woman with a great eye for detail—caught it and emailed me before beginning the proof. My point is that I just didn’t look.

In interviews I answer the weakness question truthfully, “I need an editor.” That’s exactly how I phrase it. Then I of course follow up with a sentence or two on the importance of copy editors, and round it all out by stating that, “in recent projects I’ve become more aware of this challenge, so I build in time in my project schedule to allow for edits to copy or text revisions.”

The takeaway: be honest and follow up with an achievable solution.
Link to more Interview Questions for Graphic Designers.

Jul 14, 2011

This Week: Letterpress-ish Poster

By On 14:16
They wanted a foldy brochure, and I gave' em a foldy brochure. They didn't like it. I decided to make it into a poster/single-sheet design; something that will translate easily into a motion infographic--when completed.

Here it is:

Quoth the Raven: Compfight

By On 13:55
This is just a quick note to let you know that if you’re still using Google to search Creative Commons on the Web, there’s a better way. COMPFIGHT.COM

Here is photo search engine that allows you to view images with “any license”, “Creative Commons”, and “Commercial” licenses. Use freely, however—if you find images with CCSA licenses—please give proper credit.

Jul 11, 2011

DIY Paper Dolls

By On 13:57
Like you don't have enough to do, right?

I got a lovely surprise in the mail this week. A friend took some of my more memorable looks and created a paper doll of me as my birthday card.  Some folks are just so  industrious!! As this is an awesome (economical) idea for a present, I decided to copy it--the easy way!!

Vecteezy has some awesome guy and girl AI vector packs; they include hair, facial expressions, hand gestures, and clothes. This is convenient since I have six other friends having birthdays this month--of varying  gender, age, and ethnicity.

I just started working on one of the femme birthday cards, will update with pics when all are done!!!!

Vector Doodles--Just in Time!

By On 13:35
Are you designing a piece and don't have the time to idly run your ballpoint across some note paper for the right graphics?  Someone else has done it for you!

Spoon Graphics - Shape and Plant Doodles
Social Media Icon Doodles
X-mas Doodles

ARS Grafik - Hand drawn Vector Doodles 
HTC Sense - Vector Doodles

Vector Pack Duo - Mr. T Doodle +!!

These actually came in handy on one of last week's design projects. I hope you find them useful too.

Jul 8, 2011

What's up with This Social Network?

By On 06:48
Really, Facebook??!!

I don't want to give you my mobile number in case my "account is compromised". I have a sneaking suspicion that you'll sell it to advertisers.

Maybe I'm cynical, but I can't believe that your desire to collect increasing amounts of demographic and geographic information about me is just innocent curiosity on your part. I'm just sayin'.

And what the hell is this all about??

Jul 7, 2011

Letterpress Typefaces

By On 06:45
 As any lover of type, I revere the look, feel, and technical aspects of letterpress typography. On a recent project, I scoured the internet for a handful of fonts that fit neatly into my design.

I ended up with several excellent options (see below) before getting reacquainted with the work of typographer, Billy Argel. He’s the awesome designer who created Panhead.

The Letterpress typeface, Body Hunter  has all of the characteristics I needed for the display type part of my project: the artifacts associated with movable type: the uneven inked appearance, and bold slab serifs and glyphs.

The font is free for personal use—so give it a try.

 The other great hand-inked, distressed fonts I found are also available on Dafont. They actually work well together.

Jun 17, 2011

Because I can, I think

By On 10:03

I snagged this image from ubpubdesign. Just a friendly reminder from my alma mater.

Jun 8, 2011

Dope Dingbats!

By On 10:49
On a recent biz card project, I got to revisit DaFont.com in search of dingbats.  I needed old skool 80s graphics, and I found what I was looking for—and then some:

CKas- Retro cassette tape dingbats by junkohanhero

Beatbox- Ghetto blaster dingbats by Mathew Taft

DeeJay Supreme – Early 21st century rave style simplified dingbats by Fontalicious

Jun 1, 2011

Working and Listening: Matisyahu

By On 13:05

Nothing beats a dope beatbox when you're stuck at a desk!

Are You Resume Savvy?

By On 06:01
from Web Design Dispatch
Checked my inbox and was happy to see this post What Recruiters Look for in a Resume  on the SimplyHired Blog. The article breaks down the criteria in a logical fashion. You need to present a resume that outlines your:

Work experience/ employment dates
Software packages & technology
Success- If you’ve won awards, increased Web traffic, etc.

I want to add two more things to this list for professional designers. Your resume needs to have:
  1. Portfolio or link to your design samples 
  2. A clear, well-designed identity (your brand)
 Graphic designer’s resumes must be carefully thought out, designed pieces.

I don’t mean to say that your resume has to have over-the-top typography, reverse type on a color, over-sized glyph elements, or some 3-D component. I mean that the page must be easily scannable AND elegantly designed. This is the most important marketing piece you’ll ever work on, because the product you’re selling is YOU.

When recently tasked with reviewing resumes for a graphic designer position, I scanned the applications of 200+ respondents—quickly weeding out the poorly designed ones first; art directors and hiring managers don’t want to see MS Word Resume Wizard! I also weeded out CVs with no portfolio link or samples.

When there is one job and 200 applicants, the designers who present the best first impression (i.e. resume/portfolio design) get the interview.

May 26, 2011

Create an E-Book with Indesign CS5

By On 15:09
EPub will get your e-books easily viewed on smart phones, tablets and various readers--I dont mean a PDF

Here's part two:

Illustrator CS5 - Terry's 5 Faves

By On 14:44
I think the perspective grid is in my top five too!!

Coming soon--to a blog near you--embarrassing practice vectors using perspective drawing tool!

May 24, 2011

Freelance resources

By On 10:20
Thinking about going it alone—or at least getting started as a freelance designer?? There are hundreds of resources out there to help you get started.

 A favorite of mine is the book “The Business Side of Creativity” by Cameron Foote. This book offers practical advice on getting started, preparing contracts, doing your taxes, and even incorporating yourself. If you’ve never heard of this book, you have now. Pick it up.

Recently, a designer asked me how I approach the copyright issue when approaching a new project. The best advice that I could offer—without scanning and emailing a page from the book above –was to direct her to the AIGA Documents page. AIGA has a huge offering of sample contracts and advice for the freelancer. Members must login!

Graphic Design Forum also has a post that includes one of the most comprehensive list of contracts and documents that you might need.

Speaking of the interweb, Envato notes directed me to an awesome blog that they also produce, http://freelanceswitch.com/. This blog is pretty comprehensive and offers answers to questions that working designers come across all the damn time.

Another great blog –as I ALWAYS say—is Bittbox.com. Jay Hilgert is a designer/developer who spends all his time creating and finding various tools for the graphic designer. I’ve bookmarked him and check in every week to find tutorials and vectors that might help in my design work.

Good luck, y’all!

May 19, 2011

Free Adobe Video Tutorials!!

By On 12:00
For a great library of online training materials, Lynda.com is an excellent resource. As my year membership has recently expired—and I used it mainly for Adobe products—I’ve decided to give Adobe TV a shot. It’s FREE and you get to learn from the pros while you follow along. 

Here's an awesome example- the top 5 Illustrator CS5 Features. Take a look!

May 16, 2011

The new drop-down menu

By On 07:00
Like many designers in my peer group, I loathe conventional drop-down menus. Where once they provided added functionality and a sneak peek at the site map, many companies overuse the poor things. Often drop down menus make simple navigation complicated. At times I yearn for the day of the landing page.

Enter the Mega-Menu:

I saw this, www.eatright.org, the updated website of the American Dietetic Assn.Thank you,  Davis Design Partners  for giving  the dropdown menu back its dignity. This was achieved by creating a hybrid landing page/dropdown; when users roll over an item in the main navigation the content area changes to reveal the MEGA-menu:

  • a section description
  • “featured content” a.k.a your dropdown menu
  • a beautiful user interface.

This is achieved through advanced javascript and incredibly elegant, functional graphic design. Kudos!!

May 10, 2011

Portfolios That Inspire: Davis Design Partners

By On 06:53
This week I've been working on a planned giving campaign--Web ads, print ads, etc-- and I did a search to see what sort of hand and plant images were popular with the non profits. That's when I came across Davis Design Partners.  The design piece pictured is elegant and out-of-the-box! I had to share.

May 6, 2011

Portfolios That Inspire: Cline & Co.

By On 11:38
In my frantic search for creative commons I came across a gorgeous design site. The subtle, clean color scheme and the simple navigation reminded me why I love web design. More specifically why I love portfolio design. Here's a sampling of the design that took my breath away. Cline&CO Graphic Design Studio

Apr 29, 2011

Website Redesign: SEA the Truth

By On 16:24
Writer and poet, Simone Eva Alexis has more talent in her left eye than I do in my whole being when it comes to the spoken and written word. She amazes me every time I see her.
Her site did not, however. We discussed a redesign over a year ago and played phone tag or just drank wine when we should've been talking business.

Today we've begun a project that will make her site more accessible and easier to navigate.  The first problem with the original site is that it does not work in most browsers.  Early version of IE, yes. But Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, or even IE 8, not at all.

New Color Palette

Design In Progress

As I've mentioned before, I love to incorporate more of the artist's personality into sites I create. As earlier implied, Simone also performs spoken word. She's take the time to create edited shorts of a few of her pieces and spliced in photography and film. I took the liberty of adding just one link to the home page. I also moved a sparsely populated page's content to the home page. 

Apr 26, 2011

How Many Samples do You Really Need?

By On 10:46

Just back from some R’nR in Costa Rica to a new post on ENVATO Notes .  Lasts week's discussion topic was about the state of our work space-- is your desk messy?

The short answer is YES, my desk is more messy than not.  A great stopgap measure that  I devised was my sample wall. I post designs that I'm presently in love with on the wall and refer to that as needed.

The wall is 6'x4' and full of push-pins, magazines, postcards, and one special memento (place cards from my lunch with the president of the Ravens). Almost every square inch is covered. This is not my only repository of samples, but it is the place where I keep the most useful, relevant and interesting pieces. I also rotate the pieces on a monthly basis as I get more beautiful design work to look at.
Here's to getting organized!
-Bueno SuertE!

Apr 15, 2011

Creative Commons Week - You Need These Fonts!

By On 10:28
If you're on the lookout for a serious grunge look--before it completely falls out of fashion--take a look at Action of The Time - New

The latest update of this ultra-bold, distressed, grunge font shows more cross hatching than the last. It looks like what happens to glass or mirrors after some seriously rough treatment.

Note: use sparingly

Creative Commons Week - You Need These Fonts!

By On 05:57
I remember when I first found Bleeding Cowboys back in '07-I'd sought out the font on the urging of designer, Jay Higgert of Bittbox. Needless to say, it was love at first sight.

Today, I pay it forward. If you're in the market for an uncomplicated sans serif with a slender stroke, clean lines, that's exceedingly readable at the smallest point size, then Chapenettoer 8 THIN is the typeface for you.

Apr 14, 2011

Creative Commons Week- Best Vector Halftones

By On 06:21
You can achieve halftones many different ways. The effect--properly executed-can really make an illustration or design come to life.

Here are a few of the free halftones that I've found and used from around the web. There's also a handy-dandy how-to that I've found invaluable for creating patterns.

Apr 13, 2011

Creative Commons Week - African Batik

By On 12:49
In a recent blog redesign, I came upon a problem of finding the right image to place. I needed an afro-centric, woman-centric graphic and could find nothing suitable. Eventually, I took some existing photography and created an illustration that was suitable.

I snapped some pics of different Batik fabrics and have themavailable for download on Flickr.  The set has medium to hi-res images for ya!

Download the full set at Flickr