March 18, 2009

The Elements of Typographic Style

I will elaborate on this subject later (after I finish reading the whole book...hey, at least I'm honest!) but I just had to express my love.

Why did I not read this 20 years ago? Oh, because I couldn't read.

Now that I can, however, I am ecstatic I read this book. I finally discovered where all these "rules" about indents and columns and white space and capitals and tracking and rag and typeface choice come from. Honestly, for the past few years I've just been listening and trying to remember all these ambiguous guidelines various professors and fellow designers have been preaching. Once I began reading The Elements, I realized that I have finally reached the essence of the rules of design. I am hoping to finish the book soon (as well as my website...I had my first fistfight over spring break, and dreamweaver won.)

No, but seriously, every designer. every level. read this book.

Maybe it's because I'm way more into typography than graphic illustration, but I found The Elements truly made me feel a bit more confident in myself . Once I learn all the rules, I can finally break them FOR GOOD [content-driven] REASON. 

March 14, 2009

Portfolio Inspiration

How am I supposed to cram my entire (design)life into a teeny little book?!

As you can see, I've been giving my mini-portfolio a lot of thought. Most of my thinking is not about the clips I want to include — which is what I should probably be more worried about — but I'm instead focusing on how I want to design the cover.  If the cover of the book is unappealing, there is no way anyone will go to the effort to flip through the contents. I have been looking through business cards to get ideas for color schemes and text treatments. Here are some favs (although, most may not work for a portfolio...)

This one would be great if I could find a design mantra.

I love the simple typeface and transparent box over the graphic of these cards. The design elements add interest without looking overdone or "grunge." I love grunge-esque styles, but those are not necessarily the most universally appreciated or understood design for a portfolio cover. 

Rounded corners are pretty trendy. I love the ambiguous photo and fun, scripty font. 

Oooooh, black embossed on black. I like very much. Not a huge fan of the logo, though. A little too corporate and quasi-religious, in my opinion. 

My personal favorite. 

March 12, 2009

Show Me Dharma

This week I designed logos for the "Show Me Dharma" insight meditation organization in Mid-Missouri. They are a community "dedicated to making the practice of Insight Meditation available to Mid-Missouri. We also encourage the development of community based upon Buddhist ideals, teachings and practices. All persons are welcome to learn these practices. Insight meditation, or vipassana, helps us to become more aware and accepting of our lives in each moment. Through the practices of non-judgmental awareness, or mindfulness, and kindness, it teaches us relaxation, serenity and an openness to each moment."

These designs were part of our 20.10 assignment, in which we were required to make 20 preliminary sketches and execute 10 of them. I usually sketch out my designs anyway, but trying to design 20 completely different ones was a bit of a challenge. I find that I usually build off of my initial ideas, resulting in many similar designs with only small differences. This project forced me to try and execute ten different ideas. Although I have a similar type-treatment on all these logos, I think the typeface works well with the graphics and reflects the simplicity and mindfulness of the Buddhist faith.

I wanted to focus less on the religious and iconographic aspect of Buddhism and focus instead on the organic nature of the Buddhist ideology. This would be more appealing to both people familiar with the Buddhist faith and those who may know nothing. The growth represented through the leaves branching off the word "Dharma", the increasing size of the dots and the floral graphic are all reminiscent of a spiritual path or path to enlightenment and self-awareness. The Buddha graphic, however, is a little less meaningful, but is my favorite. I think it says "Buddhism," but in a more fun and subtle way than a full-on Buddha graphic.

March 11, 2009

Coffee, Sketch, Google and...Go!

I used to think coffee was my greatest inspiration. I guess I was wrong.

I have honestly never given my creative process any thought. It is a given that anyone doing anything creative automatically has some sort of subconscious process that they go through, emotionally or physically, in order to prepare for their craft. But to me, it's kind of like when certain artists don't even consider themselves artists because they're just doing what they love. When asked what my process was, I immediately thought, "I basically just try to make kickass things and get them done on time."

I feel like my response in class made it sound like I work on all my projects the night before. This isn't true! I put a lot of thought into all my work, and just tend to do everything late at night, whether that be weeks or hours in advance. As a student I find it is difficult to truly develop creative skill when there are a billion other non-fun (read: non-design) things that need to be done as well. I cannot wait for the day when I can focus solely on harnessing my creative energy and finally put ALL my time and thought into the process and execution. 

Recently, however, I have begun the long process of developing and identifying my process (wow, redundant much?) Without realizing it, I really do have a method to the way I do my work! However, when I heard what others did in order to prepare for designing, I realized I am not as unique as I thought (sad) and that a lot of us did similar things. While it was surprising to discover I'm not the only person who fills their desktop with random Google and Flickr images, it was also comforting to know that other designers do the same for inspiration — I'm actually doing something right! And, although I don't feel I need music to enhance my creativity, I think I will pop on the ol' headphones next time just to see what happens. It should be interesting to see how underground hip-hop will affect my work...

One thing that this activity really made me realize is just how much I design by "feel." Of course, I do the preliminary research for all my design projects; there's just no way to skip that step without failing conceptually. However, once I do begin on a project, I find myself randomly drawing boxes or just clicking swatches just to see what happens. Or sometimes I just rearrange everything and hold down apple+Z to see if any of the in-between stuff strikes my fancy. I need to put just as much thought into my later pieces as I do in the initial designs, and  the visual aspect will eventually fall into place.

Note to self: simplistic = bad. simple = good. 

March 3, 2009

Acejet Update and Moleskine Response

So, I'm sure many of you have seen these, but Acejet just mentioned them in a post about Cowskine bags. In all their typographically-orgasmic glory, I introduce to you The Helvetica Moleskine. 

For years I have been a moleskine skeptic. I am a self-proclaimed planner-person and felt the moleskine was too blank for me to be able to put any method to the madness spewing out of my brain. Also, I have been using the same style of Quo Vadis planner since high school and felt it would be unfaithful of me to use a moleskine because the planner is perfect. Allow me to explain.

1. The pebbled leather-like cover is beautiful, easy to find when digging around blindly in my bag AND protects the goods from my daily coffee spills. Back in high school, I started with basic black. Then, I went with red for a few years. This year, sky blue. Next year, mustard. I know, I know — you care. 

2. It is a weekly planner, but there is still ample room to write on each day. Unlike most people, I don't put my daily lists directly in my planner, instead the planner is more for due dates and important events. I keep lists written on a baby legal pad (I have been relentlessly taunted for using them but they are so handy!) that fits perfectly inside. I don't rip the paper off each day, but simply fold it over the top. This means I can look back — all the way to the first week of January in my current pad — and figure out if I need to transfer any old to-dos onto today's list. 

3.5 I am neurotic. 

3. There are rippable edges so you can directly open to this week. 

4. There are strong pockets on the inside front and back covers that actually hold paper.

I can preach planners all day, so if you are as nerdy as I am about organization we can talk privately. 

Back to the moleskine. First off, why the extra "e?" Secondly, I cracked and bought one the second week of this semester.  With so many projects and ideas filling my head, the moleskine has become my savior and is perfect for a designer working on multiple projects. I label the top right corners of each page with a little letter (r = renovate|style, v = VOX, etc.) to keep my sketches and ideas super organized. I'm sure I could buy a bunch of little ones, but I like the idea of having everything in one place. I am proud to say that I am no longer terrified of plain-paper notebooks and  realize that for the creative nature of design work, a structureless idea-catcher like the moleskine is the perfect way to make ideas tangible. 

Now please, don't let this post give you the wrong idea about me. Yes, I am obnoxiously organized when it comes to school and work and professional things of this nature. However, I am certainly not this crazy in other aspects of my life, in fact I am often described as "laid-back." This scheduling-frenzy and list-madness is in direct relation to how crazy busy I am (and all of you, I'm sure) at this point in my life. And the fact that if I am not this organized I. WILL. DIE.  At least that's how I feel on those horrific occasions when I misplace the quo. 

VOX Grocery Covers

It is Group 2's cover design week again, and here are my original designs for the grocery feature (a comparison of 7 different Columbia grocery stores explaining each store's strengths and weaknesses and where to get the best deals.) I agree that the designs don't necessarily speak "grocery," but I really like how graphic they are. Plus, they make me hungry for spinach and lemons. Spinach and lemons?! Design really is more powerful than I thought.

Sarah noted that their simplicity is reminiscent of the London-based grocery store "Waitrose." She was so right on. And now I want to work for them as a designer. Like, really bad. I mean, just LOOK AT THOSE HONEY JARS!  
Their ads (like the egg one below) are clever without being obnoxious. Love.

I have done some preliminary redesigns on my grocery cover. I tried to maintain the original design's starkness and modernity, but focused more on the grocery aspect of the feature, rather than on the food itself. 

So these pretty much stayed true to the original idea. Then somehow this (design below) appeared on my Indesign page late last night. I think it is far too busy for a consumer-based community magazine, but like it regardless. 

Payday Loan Help

I am designing a 4-page spread for a payday loans feature (THRILLING!) and need your help. This is what I have. I'm trying to embody the obnoxiousness of the entire payday loan industry; their in-your-face advertising and garish designs. It's still up in the air whether VOX can use the full gradient as the page background, so that may be cut. Also, the second spread is definitely unfinished. I can't believe I'm putting up an unfinished design, I feel so vulnerable. Please, give me good ideas!

Portfolio Review

When we were asked to bring in EVERY piece of design work we've ever done, I freaked out. Because I have been in the fine arts school for four years, I imagined I would have hundreds of designs. However, once I sifted through all the junk, I realized...I don't have that much relevant design work to show (I decided the baskets that I weaved in fibers class probably weren't going to cut it.) Granted, within the past few weeks I have probably doubled my real design clips, but still feel a bit behind because I have not had any sort of professional design internship. 

I guess I didn't need to worry that much, because my fellow designers gave me great input on how to refine my portfolio. They liked the STRANGEST things, ex: preliminary designs that I considered trash. The comments really opened my eyes to how sometimes my meaning can get lost in the design. I like to make things that look striking and visually interesting, but sometimes I forget all about the content part. Here is the work that was commented on the most...

1. VOX Chocolate Cover. It's published  AND cool looking. Keeper.

2. Center Magazine Cover. This got a lot of comments; both positive and negative. After discussing it thoroughly (with myself) I think the point of this kind of artsy magazine is to look a little grunge, so the vibrant, almost garish color-scheme and typeface layering and variety that some thought was a bit too "unrefined" is going to stay. I will work on the nameplate a bit, however, because right now it is getting overpowered by the sell lines and cover art.

3. Economy Redesign. The little man was a HIT! There is some typography work to be done on the "head" (pun intended) and I think I will simply cut one of the opening paragraphs in order to create a more logical entry point for the reader.

4. Lincoln Graphic. I stupidly designed this for the books department, forgetting that we had to use Frutiger for heads and subheads. I could probably title this one, "The Many (Type)Faces of Abe."

5. Preliminary Magazine Design Spread. What!? I brought this one out from the dark, untouched corners of my flash drive thinking it was a failed sketch and in the judging it came in second after my chocolate cover. I agree that it is a really fun spread. I may change the story to one about dog food to make it more content-driven.

6. Typography Assignment. This showcases what I can do when there are no cool graphics to distract the viewer. 

7. VOX Cover Redesign. Apparently this is a very graphically powerful image, which I think will be just as strong on those teeny portfolio pages.

Renovation Style. Renovate. Renovate|Style.

So, finally, a post about the prototype presentations. I feel as though the rest of the designers and I had similar goals for RS, which we solved in completely different creative visions. Contrary to what the editors may think, there are some problems with RS both in the publication's editorial and design. The problems I addressed in my design were primarily the following.

Negative Nancy says:
1. this magazine is dwindling in newsstand readership
2. there is a lack of a clear magazine identity/genericness
3. it has ambiguous department pages

However, there were some components of the magazine that I chose to keep intact. I feel the following were uniquely important to the magazine.

Positive Patsy says:
1. there are fantastic full-color, full-bleed, multi-page features (did I need hyphens? I don't care)
2. the magazine's content is a clear reflection of its affluent, mature audience (if you're doing renovations you obviously own a home and have some money to play around with)

I addressed the former problems while trying to remain loyal to the magazine's elegance and hands-on approach to renovation.

Problem-Solving Chelsea solved problems by:

1. Creating a more active nameplate. I changed the name to "renovate" because active verbs are better attention-getters, meaning more newsstand sales. It's also a very strong 3-syllable sound, reminiscent of many other powerful words...renovate. decorate. celebrate. conjugate. (yay editing!) There is no ambiguity regarding the name; someone who wants this magazine is ready to renovate. Also, in my opinion, the word "style" is a little redundant for a publication that is to be filled with stylized interiors and beautiful design. I wanted to let the content speak for itself. 

2. Establishing a vibrant but restrained color palette. Right now, the colors used within the magazine are dated (peach + teal = DESIGNER'S WRATH.) By combining classic neutrals with more trendy color combinations — pink and grey, beige and purple, etc. — the magazine has a more updated feel, which is exactly what this magazine is about...updating a home.

3. Implementing a descriptive subhead. "your guide to home renovation" is placed at the lower right side of the nameplate, with subtle dots leading the eye into the text. This subhead creates a sense of accessibility, which is important when most sales are going to be off the newsstand in home improvement stores. Plus, the wording includes the audience (your guide), making them an active part of the process. 

4. Creating cohesive department pages. I did this by using a similar typeface for each department head, and using the dots as an underline throughout the publication. The dots are put in grey and made smaller so they don't act as a distraction and rather act as visual punctuation and add movement to the pages. I thought they set the mood for a renovation magazine because they reflect nailheads, screws, rivets and blueprint dotted lines. Too literal? Perhaps. But, I still like them. 

5. Giving the magazine life. The former design did nothing to enhance the content. In fact, I believe the editorial outshone the dated design. With my new design, there is a higher-level of respect given to the photographs, bright and cheeky department heads established and the magazine looks more alive (and, oddly enough, a lot like Domino...unintentional, I promise!)

Doing a presentation like this was a great experience, and I'm not just saying that because I should. We are eventually going to have to be able to sell our creative visions to skeptical editors/publishers, and this process helped me identify my ideas and thoroughly explain my convoluted thought process. It is not easy creating cohesive ideas and explaining creative visions to non-design people, and this project definitely helped me think more about the business and marketing aspect of the magazine industry. I think I'll stick to design, though.