Wednesday, December 5, 2012

HTML Email from Mailchimp

Mailchimp has a really nice write up about how to design for mass HTML email templates.

See it here.


I've never actually tried hand written calligraphy. It seems to take a lot of patience and some guidance to make it happen. I tend to like to push around pixels more than I like to push a pen around these days. However, given the right tools and situation I would give it a try.

This site has viewers vote on what letter form they find more appealing. I personally find myself drawn to the hand written letters more that the digital ones. The digital ones remind me of when I studied typography and looked at a lot of the 90s fonts made by Emigre and the like. Which to be compared to Emigre, isn't such a bad thing.

Here is the site I am referring to.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Adblock or "Why I am a hypocrite."

I love Adblock. If you don't know what AdBlock is, it's basically an add on that you download to your browser of choice (I prefer Chrome. Download Adblock for Chrome here. Also, if you aren't using Chrome as a browser it is pretty rad, get that here.) and it will block most banner, sidebar and pop up ads that you will encounter as you browse teh internetz. The only time that I have had issues with Adblock is when I am using a streaming video site like Hulu. Hulu's in video ads do not play well with Adblock, so you need to turn it off if you want to watch those streaming videos.

Honestly, it is now super odd to use someone else's computer, or even my phone and see all the ads that pop up. Even when I am streaming video on the Xbox, the ads baffle me. It's been a long time since I have seen the sidebar ads on Facebook, which I am thankful for. Not only are their algorithms for their product placement wacky and annoying, bu they are downright invasive.  So, I block them. Which makes me happy.

With all the advertising garbage happening in social media, I have decided to try and purge some of the excess. I'm even going as far as deleting my FB page due to their use of my information for advertising. They sell your information, and no matter what your privacy settings are, in your terms and conditions you have agreed for them to do that. You can't get around it, they own your information. Ick.

But, even in doing all these measures to purge excess advertising, I struggle with the notion that it is essential in my life. Why? Well, I'm a graphic designer and one of the biggest sectors for graphic design is advertising. One of the main jobs for a graphic designer is the proliferation of the idea that "this" product is desirable. It is my job to try to convince you that you need something you do not, or that the product you have is obsolete, or that this service will make you happy, etc, etc.

Granted not all products are bad. i am a strong proponent of shopping local, growing sustainably, promoting self expression, healthy living, you know, all that socialist hippie bullshit. But, I need to pay the bills just like any other American. This makes it really hard to justify my choice in occupation. I am trained to make things look desirable, and a lot of those things are not necessary, but they are prolific and the most available jobs right now.

As someone who has never been very brand loyal, I am hard to employ because I believe that we should have options and that maybe, even the product I am selling, should be weighed against other options. I suppose that comes off as passive, not willing to back up any brands, but I don't truly believe any one product is the best for everyone.

So, my struggle is this: How do I continue to be a graphic designer (which I really enjoy doing!) and not feel like I "sold my soul" to some sort of product I don't believe in?

I know there are jobs out there that promote the things that I care about, they just aren't very plentiful.

So, I wait and take the small jobs that i do enjoy working on, even if they are sporadic at best until I can reconcile how to use my design skills in the future.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The Indecisive Designer

I have a problem. Everytime someone asks me what my favorite color, food, design style, music is, my answer is always a blank stare and something along the lines of, "Right now? Well..."

Am I afraid to commit to things? Yeah, sometimes. Do I enjoy lots of different things? Most definitely. Does this make me a terrible person to go shopping with? You bet it does. But it has also effect my design process as well. One week I will be in love with patterned backgrounds, the next, I love minimalism. This is both a curse and an attribute. Its a curse because I constantly want to change my personal website. I just recently launched my website It's cute, but it never felt quite right. So I dug around, bookmarked a ton of sites I loves and realized that all the stuff I am digging right now is SUPER minimal. Doh!

So, I took a look at my site and decided to do an overhaul of the feeling. Cleaner, easier to navigate AND mobile friendly. So, I did a redesign (which I am hoping to launch in a week or so, WITH responsive design. 

This is something that I battle with constantly. Maybe it is the perfectionist in me, but I have found with the exercises that I have been doing over the past week or so, being indecisive has made my design better. It's made me test out possibilities that I may not have explored previously. Made me dig deeper into my image research and how things function.

While it can be frustrating at times for me to come up with a solution, I get the feeling that I am really developing my process to be more efficient. Which is a relief.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Intersection: Art and Science

I feel like, when you are younger and in school, there is this type of separation of church and state between the disciplines of art and science. These two disciplines cannot live in the same space, and they are fully unrelated to each other. At least that is what I got from it. Science was empirical practical, sterile, while art remained emotional, chaotic and fluid. Granted, these two disciplines do have those qualities, but they are not exclusive to themselves. I know this was just a naive sensibility that I had at the time. However, there seems to be this absence of acknowledgement that one would not be able to exist with out the other.

I love looking at the intersections of art and science and the science of art. Psychology/sociology/anthropology could be construed as the study of human artforms and behaviors. Where as geometry/biology/physics can be seen as a more empirical art. The equation is the paint, where the answer is the solution. The solution being how viscous a medium is, or the way light hits certain elements.

As a graphic designer, science is essential to my image making. Just take a look at this Wikipedia page on B├ęzier Curves ( Granted I didn't read most of it, but I love the break down of how the curve functions and the calculations it takes to get there. I'm particularly enamored with this image:

There are also the use of pendulums to create spirograph like images, where the weight, angle and type of contraption being used determines the end piece. Which are then displayed as art.

Drawingmachine by Eske Rex from Core77 on Vimeo.

Here is a good article on one of those drawing machines.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Link Dump

I've been pretty busy getting some projects underway. Most of them are int eh fast turn around arena, so that leaves little time for musing on creativity or writing long rambling posts about toast. So, in the mean time I leave you with a few of my favorite or newly discovered sites.

Here are some sites that have come to interest recently due to the work that I have been doing.

Factory North
Design Firm

Gig Posters
Collection of Gig Posters from the US and more

Web tutorials for CSS3 and other HTML/CSS needs

Lost Type Fondry
Name your price for some beautifully designed fonts

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Architecture: Heliotrope Design

I want to live here.

As I get older, the more I realize how much I love super modern architecture. Love the windows and the sense of space, while maintaining the human aspect with the exposed shelving.

The rest of their work can be found here.

Freelance: I'm making all the mistakes

So, I quit my job awhile ago. I had been working there for 6 years. My work had stagnated, I was becoming increasingly frustrated with the work I was having to do, and I wore way too many hats. At the end of the day, I hated my job. Yes, hated it. Not to say there weren't awesome things about it. The co-workers, the types of work I got to do that I had dreamed of. Yeah that was awesome. However, the managing, clerical work, never ending meetings, low pay and overall burnout did not do me any favors.

So, my awesome boyfriend said, "Hey, I have some extra money. Quit and do some freelance until you can land a job you will really like."


So, I was super gung-ho. I got a FL gig with my old job right after I quit. I soon had some bites for some other jobs. Unfortunately, some of them didn't pay. They were more for experience. And that was pit fall number one:

1) Gaining Experience on Non Paying Jobs

Ok, experience is fantastic. However, I need portfolio pieces. The jobs I chose did not necessarily contribute to my portfolio. This leads to:

2) Not flushing out my portfolio with freelance before I quit

I really want to punch myself in the head for this mistake. But, the problem with burn out is, you don't want to do fucking work after you have already worked 9-11 hours a day. All you want to do is drink bourbon, dance on chairs and maybe light something on fire. You definitely don't want to sit in front of a computer and continue to be creative. I did work on a few things here and there, they were so sporadic though and the quality inconsistent that I really was unable to use any of those "part time freelance" pieces I had created.

3) Burnout After Math

Not working is easy, playing video games is even easier. And while I sometimes fall into the "let's be lazy" trap, I am generally pretty good about putting on pants and eating breakfast before I start working.

After quitting my job, I will say, one thing that came back was my creativity. I hadn't really used it in a while. Granted my job was "creative" and required me to come up with new ideas, they were pigeonholed by branding and meetings that made me want to parkour right through a window. But now, I can dictate my own designs. I can reach out to my peers and get their opinions, when I want them.

4) Confidence

Ok, I have an issue with my confidence. Always have, probably always will. I am not Sagmeister getting naked in front of people to make a design point. I'm just me. So, I'm learning to embrace that.

The nice thing to realize, is my vision is mine and I hope that it is similar enough to someone else that they may want to have me help them create something amazing. Hell, I'm actually desirable from a design point of view. And that's pretty awesome.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Learn On: Ctrl+Paint Digital Painting Tutorials

Story Time: 

I had an art show (my first to be exact) recently and in true procrastinator fashion, I had only two weeks to get at least 4 large digital prints, finished, printed and framed for the show.

However, I was a little lost when I went to start the project. What do I draw? How long should they take? Who is going to print them? Can I even draw anymore?

After much whining at my computer, cursing my unused drawing hands and tugging at my hair,  I did finish the pieces.

The end of the nightmare whirlwind butted up against the tornado of printing sorrow.  I thought I had the artwork uploaded, but had issues uploading to the printers ftp site, files became corrupted. *bear roar, more hair pulling* Finally around 10am, day of show, all things were at the printer. I got to pick them up at 2pm. The show started at 6pm.

Things continued to follow Murphy's Law. At home I couldn't print my business cards because the printer ran out of ink, so I couldn't print name cards for the wall, or makeshift business cards. *sad trumpet sound* After running around to the printer and trying to get the art into the frames, I realized that one of the pieces was too big for a frame and one too small. As I stuffed my face with food and tried not to get it on the prints, I managed to get the prints looking somewhat decent.

Off to the show! And onto the wall. Murphy's Law was torn down by shear determination and anxiety driven craziness. I celebrated with whiskey and running around the neighborhood.

Learn On:

Anywho, I would not have been able to work as quickly if I hadn't been to this lovely website:

He does amazing tutorials that are easy to follow. If you are a novice to digital painting, or painting in general,  he gets right down the the artist basics. Tone, value, how light plays with color and how to pick a palette. Granted I knew most of the artist student mumbo jumbo (I didn't spend 4 years in art school for nothing) his more advanced techniques helped clarify a lot of questions I had about using brushes, getting nice gradients and setting up your tablet to work more efficiently.

This is only one site that helps with digital drawing. However, it is really well done, free (for the most part) and really easy to follow.

Also, the people at The Color Group are freaking amazing, do really great prints on watercolor paper, canvas, and other neat things for a reasonable price. I highly recommend for bulk or small run art prints.

Happy art making, illustratoring, and being rad.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Design Changes

I've decided to move my design blog over to the Blogger platform. It's easier to edit, not as slow as some other platforms I've used in the past and will integrate nicely into my new website that I am preparing to launch very, very soon.

For now, i will up date with stuff I love, cool gadgets and current work. Stay tuned!