Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rebecca Fels

Logo Rebuild - Illustrator

Shawn Griffen

My Favorite Ride - Illustrator

Sara Rudder

My Favorite Ride - Illustrator

Michelle Ernst

My Favorite Ride - Illustrator

Friday, April 3, 2009

Project Management/Scheduling

This post is about developing skills in managing projects and meeting deadlines. What you have to do once a deadline is given is to work backwards from that deadline. Take into account all the steps and processes you have to accomplish to meet the deadline and assign yourself a date/time where each stage must be accomplished. This gives you a complete timeline for your project and if you meet each point along the way, you shouldn't have problems. Remember to build into that timeline some slack to allow for potential problems. Production problems, changes in the project and a host of other difficulties tend to crop up towards the back-end of projects. The closer to a deadline you get the more likely problems will happen. Learn to anticipate problems. Don't miss deadlines! 

To relate this to your current deadlines... you need to get your .pdf of your Ride poster submitted to the print monitors by Monday. Tuesday should be your fall-back time to reprint the project if you had problems printing on Monday.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Design early and often

When taking a comp into production you probably experienced the desire to make changes to the layout, because the design is not translating well into the computer and needs something not thought of earlier in the thumbnail or comp stages. But, you are restrained in doing so because the client has already approved the layout you are assembling. If your layout really sucks, you need to work to make it better, it just means you have to submit these better ideas for approval by art directors, creative directors, account executives and the client. Don't be afraid to suggest something to make a design better. That is the ultimate goal... to produce exceptional work. If can sell your supervisors on the alterations, it is their job to get the approvals on the changes. Don't let the process dictate quality. But, to be efficient in the process, you have to design early in the process so alterations aren't needed at the back end.

When introduced to this design process of conceptual development, thumbnails and comps, students have a tendency to delay creative and visual decisions until they can get on the computer. The computer seems to be a security blanket. But the real design takes place in the grey matter between your ears early in the process. The markers and technology only translates what is in your mind onto paper. You need to keep in mind when thumbnailing and comping how you are going to assemble the layout on computer. Experimenting visually and designing variations takes much less time at the thumbnail stage than it does on the computer. Use this stage to your advantage.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spiral Sperm Special

Wow, what a deal! The beauty shop that advertised this didn't think so when the ad with this headline ran in a local publication. What the nice ladies at the beauty shop wanted to advertise was a Friday Spiral Perm Special. But, they were victims of the eternal, never-ending battle that exists in marketing, advertising and design - typos in the copy. One little slip on the keyboard and the beauty shop was getting all sorts of phone calls about this special. I don't think it was from their normal clientele. Actually, maybe it worked. OK, we won't go there. 

In the days prior to computers and designers setting copy, the typesetter was a buffer in avoiding typesetting errors. Typesetting companies had internal proofing processes in addition to the proofing stages that exist internally in an agency or studio. Copy would be proofed multiple times before going to print. Today, that typesetter buffer to protect a designer and/or agency from typos no longer exists. So, it is very important for you and the organization you work for to proof all copy carefully. You should proof everything multiple times. Be paranoid to the extreme. Typos cost you or your employer money and loss of reputation. Make sure when the final art is being approved by the client, that they understand they also have a responsibility in making sure there are no errors in the copy.

Tips on proofing copy
1. Find a quiet place and time to proof. Don't proof with someone hovering, waiting for you to get done.
2. Read the copy slowly and carefully.
3. Read the copy backwards from the end of the copy to the beginning. This forces you to break down the copy word by word.
4. Get other people to proof the copy. They will see things you will miss, since you are too familiar with the project.
5. Create a sign-off process of all those responsible for the accuracy of the project. Get signatures! Cover your butt.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I channeled Elvis - I just had to.

When I was first building my freelance business, I had one primary client - a regional bank. This client made up most of my annual billings for the first couple of years. The Marketing Vice President of this bank was very active in developing advertising materials and organizing events for the employees throughout the year. 

Once she had scheduled a big retreat for all the bank managers and she had me busy designing a whole range of collateral materials for this event. She had a big venue reserved, entertainment, food and activities planned. As the big day approached, I thought my part in this event was complete. But, at the last minute one of her scheduled entertainers for the event cancelled. It was an Elvis impersonator. 

Now, I had worked with this Marketing Director for many years and she knew that I liked to try to impersonate Elvis... "Thank you very much!". That was my first mistake. Guess who she asked to stand in? That's right, me. As my largest client, I couldn't say no. So I did what any struggling business owner would do - I said I would do it. Not only did I have to wear a 70's Elvis jumpsuit and Elvis wig, I had to sing Viva Las Vegas with a Karaoke machine to a very large group of bankers. It was bad, yet painfully funny. I am probably the only nine-fingered Elvis impersonator on the books. It was my one and only performance. But, I earned by client's eternal gratitude (my respect ratio I'm sure took a hit) and assured myself at least another year of design work from this client.

The reason I'm blogging about this is to let you know that you will be expected to do many things for a client that falls outside of your specialty area of graphic design. You may have to write copy, you may have to take your own photography and do creative presentations to sell your ideas or even do impersonations. There will be times when you have to bail your clients out of a jam. So, be ready to step up and be the go to person and look like a hero.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

My days as a Stripper

Just another note about the changes that computers have brought to graphic designers. Initial entry-level jobs in the graphic arts typically were that of a paste-up artist. That was my first job in the industry. Today, a graphic artist will take an approved marker comp to final art production in InDesign on the computer. Paste-up artists would produce the mechanical art boards that were used by pre-press technicians to produce plate-ready negatives in a photo-mechanical process. 

It is these mechanical art boards with the text pasted onto the base art board and the various layers of acetate overlays, and Ruby and Amberlithe that the pre-press technicians would shoot on those big vertical and horizontal stat cameras. Each layer of the mechanical art would have to be photographed in negative and then stripped together. Remember, I told you that I used to be a stripper. Tell your parents you have an ex-stripper teaching your class - see if that gets their attention. 

The stripping process required taking multiple negatives of text, images and masks and assembling them together. Strippers and camera operators were very, very detailed oriented people that knew a lot about photographic "special" effects. The end goal was to get a composite negative for each color used in the design to make a printing plate. This is what the old guy in the movie Helvetica - who was it?, was talking about as being so difficult in the days prior to computers. The designer and paste-up artist didn't see what the design actually looked like until a blueline, color key and/or Match Print proof was made from the composite negatives. You had to be very good at visualizing a design in your mind and you relied heavily upon the marker comp. That is why comps had to be so accurate in representing the design. It was all you had to go by visually until the proofs arrived.

On Friday I'll bring in a small mechanical paste-up board to show you what a production art mechanical board looked like in the days before computer.

This is so Old School

Yep, thumbnails and marker comps are indeed old school. The computer has replaced much of the drudgery of layout that existed before computers were integrated into the design process. Comping was rather tedious day in and day out. Thumbnailing ideas is still utilized extensively... the process is a fast way of visually getting ideas onto paper. But the full-blown marker comp has been diminished in layout process. 

Comping skills are still in high demand for story boarding commercials and scenes in motion pictures or to conceptualize something that doesn't yet exist. Comping has become a specialized skill set. Not many designers can do it well any more.

To do thumbnails and comps in a design process is a way for me to reinforce in your mind that YOU are the designer, not the computer or any of the technology currently utilized today. Computers will not make a better design just by using them. There is no "Make good design" button on the keyboard or in the drop down menus. You are the creative factor and you can be creative and design with or without computers. A good design hinges upon creative application of the basic design principles and elements. Those principles and elements should also be included on the tatoo list.