Wednesday, December 17, 2014

I Got Tagged

> It's that time of year...time when I get show off my promotional gift! From blog posts about other promotions (here, here, here, here, and here), you can probably tell, while I like my gifts to be a design piece, I also like them to be useful. And what's more useful at Christmastime than gift tags?

> The "do not open" one was in my head first, and as I designed it, I loved the way it worked out so well that I decided I wanted the whole set to be typographically playful, bold, and with numbers mixed in. 

> I knew this was not one I wanted to put my logo on. But, I did want to have it branded in some way. I considered switching out the pine-green for "Maralee green", but it just didn't create the rustic Christmas feeling I was after. A little exploration led me to the idea of adding a little pop of my color on the corners, also creating the shape of a corner-cut tag—and it was just right.

> I wanted to use all the space on the front of the tag for my typographic message, so I included the "to" and "from" space on the back. And if I'm paying to print on the back anyway, I'm gonna take in one step further and get my money's worth! A custom pattern for each tag was added.

> Initially I had planned to string each of the tags, but as the end of the first week of December passed, and my workload pushed the promo assembly to after hours, I decided it would be okay to send them with "some assembly required". After all, we're used to that with Christmas gifts anyway, right?

> The feedback has been awesome. I've had a few people tell me they are only going to use them on immediate family, or not use them at all, so they can keep them (I want them to be used, but if they like them THAT much, I get it—and I'm happy and flattered). I had one client tell me I should market them...maybe I'll check into that for next year!

> My husband loved them too, so I adjusted the message of the card a little bit for a second version, and was able to use these for my personal greeting cards from us as well. Bonus! 

>Now that I've finished assembling and sending them out, my after-hours can be spent getting ready for Christmas in other ways, like wrapping and tagging gifts! Whether you got tagged or not, I wish you Merry Christmas!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'm Different

> Most people have gone through times when they've felt like they were "different" and didn't fit in. When I was a little kid, I was uncomfortably aware of every little thing that made me feel different from other kids. The most obvious difference was my hair. I was one of 2 (maybe 3) redheads in my entire school. People made comments about my hair, but I never heard any comments about other kids' hair, so I knew mine set me apart. I always felt like I was wearing a big beacon on my head (more on that story). 
> Thing is, in a successful business, being unique is a good thing. One of the important questions I ask my clients is, "What sets you apart? What makes you the better choice over your competition? What do you have to offer that they don't?" You want to be different—show off the figurative beacon on your head!
> I've decided to share my own company "beacons" here. To define my strengths, I like to compare myself against the common stereotypes about graphic designers:
  • Procrastination  I begin projects immediately, allowing the maximum time to develop then refine the best creative solution.
  • Sloppy/Disorganized  I thrive creatively when my work area is neat; and being organized is something on which I pride myself.
  • "What's a deadline?"  I don't miss deadlines. A project schedule ensures that the job is finished according to your needs. I'm an independent designer, so no one is making unrealistic promises on my behalf. I know what I can and can't do in a given amount of time. The agreement on a realistic timeline for the work is just as important to me as agreeing on the budget. 
  • "Hello, is anyone out there?"  When you contact me, I respond promptly. Unless it's a weekend or holiday, you will never wait more than a day to get a response from me, (and it's usually within the hour). 
  • It only has to look good  Quality is more than just great-looking design. Through communication, I make sure we both share the same vision so the finished product will be on target. If I've created something that I love, but you don't feel like it's right for your company, the job isn't finished. It's not successful if you don't like it. Of course if you request changes that will negatively impact what we're trying to achieve, I will give you my professional opinion, and will recommend other ways to accomplish what you want—in an appropriate, attractive way.
  • Difficult to work with  Things don't always go as planned, but I strive to make sure each project is a good experience. I see my clients as friends—it's easy to figure out how to resolve problems that arise when you're dealing with friends (I've been told by many clients how easy I am to work with. That's GREAT to hear).
  • Glad that's over, gimme the money  Obviously this is a business. I have valued experience, and put a lot of time and effort into my work, so I need a return on that investment; but repeat customers and word of mouth are very important to me. In my opinion, the end of a successful project happens when we both feel like we were treated fairly, with respect; when you walk away feeling like you got what you paid for, that you'd be happy to refer me, and work with me again; and I got paid for the work I provided, and look forward to hearing from you again when you have another project.
> Those "beacons" tell you how I work differently. Look at my portfolio and you'll see another really important beacon. There are lots of designers out there. We're all different, and that's a good thing. It makes it easier for the right client and the right designer to find each other.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014


> I think I've been in love with leaves forever—I can't remember when I didn't love them. I've made my husband stop on various drives so I could stop and pick a leaf, I've pressed countless leaves in the pages of books for years, and most recently, I brought home more leaves than souvenirs on the trip we just returned from. In fact, one of my best friends from college calls me "Leaf" (I can't remember how that happened, but it would sound wrong now if I heard her call me anything else).
> I always tell myself (and my husband) that someday I will take these beautiful little pieces of nature and create something really amazing with them. Unfortunately, I've paralyzed myself with the thought that once I make something, if the end product isn't more beautiful than the leaf itself, I will have ruined it. 
> As I mentioned, we just got back from a wonderful, long trip to DC and the surrounding areas. We spent a day in Gettysburg (more to come on the best parts of our trip!), and the path to take us to our parked car was beautiful and wooded, and I found several leaves I NEEDED to have. My husband is a good sport, so he actually waited every time I squealed (okay, I didn't really squeal) and bent to pick each one.
> My greatest disappointment is that I didn't have anything to keep them flat that entire day in the car, then at the hotel, I placed them between the pages of the only thing I had: brochures from places we'd visited. I put them under the corner of my suitcase, but it wasn't as heavy as it needed to be. I did the best I could with what I had, and while they arrived home surprisingly well, they are not as perfect as they could have been.
> Luckily, nature itself is beautifully imperfect, so they are all still imperfectly beautiful to me.
(The gingko leaves—the little fan-shaped ones—are from a tree in front of the Capitol Building. The others all came from various paths in Gettysburg).

Thursday, June 12, 2014


"The human brain starts working the moment you are born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public." —George Jessel

> I recently accepted the invitation/assignment/calling to teach an adult Sunday School class every other week in my church. I've been told by a number of people that if I didn't tell anyone I was nervous, they wouldn't know. Truth is, I get horribly nervous and anxious (yep...trigger the stress-induced tension headache which often turns into a multiple-day migraine). Once I get going with the lesson, I'm fine—not comfortable—but, when I'm well-prepared, I get going with my material, then with appropriate interaction from the class, I settle into a flow.
> I've received compliments (for which I'm SO appreciative) and I believe that my college education (even though it was years ago) helps me a lot when it comes to presenting or public speaking. We regularly presented different stages of design projects for rounds of critique from the instructor and fellow students until each round of changes was approved. 
> I don't love public speaking or presenting, but with years of experience in my career and past church obligations, I've learned to hide the signs of my anxiety while I'm on display. But I'm always glad for a bit of advice to help me improve. Following are several teaching/presenting tips I'm working on, from a variety of sources (and here and here). Maybe they'll help you too.

Smile at the opening and here and there in your presentation. It sends a powerful nonverbal signal that you are self-assured and in control. An occasional smile at appropriate times will help you relax and will increase your rapport with your audience.
 Make eye contact. The people are there for the same reason you are. They can relate to you.
 Don't apologize for any part of the presentation. You're giving people a reason to check out before you even get going (This is not a problem for me with work, but for teaching, I'm making a solid effort. The reason I have people telling me they wouldn't know I was nervous if I didn't say it, is because I started my first couple lessons with some comment about my inadequacy, nervousness, etc. The first time I finally suppressed the urge to be self-deprecating, someone asked if I was still nervous...yeah, I've set a nice precedent for myself ;-)
 Be genuine—be yourself. People almost always respond positively when someone is being genuine (Luckily I've found this to be true. The flow I get into allows me to do this, and I've felt very supported by those in the class. whew!)
 The best presentation is like a conversation with someone you like, where the ideas and thoughts flow naturally, not from looking down and reading every word from notes (I really try to do this by asking questions that will generate a discussion. I love it when lots of hands go up. People are really engaged and wanting to be part of the conversation. Success!)
 Pauses are essential to a strong delivery. Pause after introducing new points to add emphasis (It's really hard to pause when you're nervous, workin' on this one).
 Practice! The more you practice, the less you will have to think about during the actual talk itself. This will increase your confidence, decrease the inevitable jitters, and allow you to focus on other details that are also important to a successful presentation.

> What doesn't kill me makes me stronger...right?  I'm using what I learned from years of design classes, and presenting to clients to help me with this current teaching assignment; and learning to teach better will in turn give me additional experience for presenting design projects to my clients. Win-win.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Golden Anniversary in Silver

> My parents recently celebrated their 50th Anniversary (woohoo!) Despite their resistance to having a big event, my siblings and I planned a day of celebration with extended family that I think we will all remember. We each presented something to them by way of talent, performance, etc. at a program for my parents and their progeny.
While I grew up with music lessons, I really don't like to perform, but I wanted to share some sort of talent, and worked to find something unique that I could create for them. I designed the invitations, but wanted to do something more—something that felt like a gift. 
I follow the blogs of several paper artists, and I've been a long-time love of all things paper, so I decided to attempt to design and do a papercut (beware of half the images that will come up if you do a Google search!) 
Interestingly, paper is the traditional gift for a 1st anniversary. Gold represents the 50th anniversary, but that's a bit out of my budget! I created a typographic design using their names, and added a stock border that I could customize and incorporate with the design. I thought about metallic gold paper, but I decided silver would "go" better with the decor in their home.
With great optimism, I photographed my process to share here. The curves aren't perfect, I wish they were, (perhaps my first attempt should have been less curvy!) but if you're not looking closely, it looks pretty good—good enough that in a frame, I felt excited to give it to them.
I think with more practice, this is something I'll do more of!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Inspired by...Humans of New York

> I LOVE this blog so much I follow it on Facebook. Instead of waiting til I have time to catch up on the blogs I follow, I get to see the posts immediately, and I'm always happy when there's a new one.
> It's pretty much one guy—Brandon Stanton—who approaches people in New York City, asks them if he can take their photo, then asks a couple questions, to which he gets some really amazing and insightful glimpses into the lives of people. I recently watched a video clip of part of a speech he gave at a college in Ireland where he explains his process. He seems like a down-to-earth, likable guy which makes me like the blog even more. And hearing about his process really makes you realize how important persistence is in anything we do. It was also interesting to learn how he's able to get (some) people to open up a little.
> Admittedly, I'm a guarded, private person, so I'm amazed at some of the very deeply personal things that people share with him (and everyone...the blog has over 5 million followers), but I realize those are the ones that touch me the most.
> Here are some favorites.

"If you could give one piece of advice to other kids, what would it be?" "If someone is bullying you, and you bully them back, then that makes you a bully." 
"For the longest time, I was so focused on being deaf in my left ear, that I almost forgot my other ear was perfectly fine." 
When my husband was dying, I said: "Moe, how am I supposed to live without you?" He told me: "Take the love you have for me and spread it around." 
These two were acting like complete teenagers. When I walked up, she was nuzzling her head against his shoulder. She giggled the entire time I talked with them, while he kept a big goofy grin on his face. And whenever I asked about their relationship, she clutched his arm, looked at him just like this, giggled, then said: “We’re not telling!”

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Who Are They?

> An infographic is intended to present complex or detailed information in a simplified, visually interesting way. Graphic designers have been utilizing this as a method for sharing information for many years, usually in corporate literature such as annual reports. The term "infographic" is relatively new, but with the rise in social media outlets, they have become more popular, more commonly used for marketing purposes, and for communicating a lot of other types of information than they used to.
> I've designed a lot of annual reports, brochures, and other literature using what we now term "infographics". In the past few years, I've done more graphic-infused work, and have designed a few projects that are strictly visual—very little text. You can see one of those projects here. I wish I could show you another one that I really love, but I did it as a work-for-hire project, and we (an agency I work with and I) agreed that I wouldn't publish it. So, you'll just have to trust me that it's awesome!
> I have enjoyed designing them so much, that I decided to design my own infographics as marketing tools for my own business. Here's the first of a series: "Who"—visually showing the percentage breakdown of the clients, (and the focus of their projects), that I've been fortunate to work with over the past 10 years (Click on the image to see it larger).
> Still to come: "Where" and "What". Stay tuned! 
> Do you need an infographic for an upcoming project, or for your own marketing efforts? Get in touch—I'd love to talk about what I can do for you!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Looks Better, Feels Better

> Within a year of our moving, we had made significant progress toward getting rid of the honey-stained oak that was everywhere in our last house. It took a while, but neither of us like its yellowish color, so it was worth it. When we were walking through our new house with the realtor, my second thought was, "oh great—more yellow oak I'll have to stain!" (my first thought was "wow, I love this house!")
> We learned right away that the fireplace didn't burn off all the gas, so the only way to safely use it was to open the windows at the same time (kinda defeats the purpose of having a cozy fire!) So, we shopped around and budgeted replacing the insert with a new vented one.
> We had a few extra tiles that match the floor and tile facade, but not enough to replace what they'd have to remove to make the insert change, so we initially intended to buy a few more matching tiles, but I convinced Gene that it would look even better to do something contrasting in size and/or texture. He was persuaded, so we spent way too much time deliberating over several alternatives at Lowe's, and finally decided on a weave pattern.
> As I've said before, I'm a huge fan of before-and-afters, so of course I took photos to document the process and confirm that we made a whole bunch of "right" decisions (unfortunately with large windows above, to the sides, and across from the fireplace, it was tough to get good lighting, but I think the effect in pictures is still good enough to get a sense of how much better it is). We love it!
> Next on my DIY list: the seemingly endless yellow oak handrails...after my knees recover from being on them too long during this last project!

Friday, March 7, 2014

2 Outta 3 Ain't Bad

> Ever heard the of saying "When God closes a door, he opens a window"? Well, recently, I experienced both—luckily I didn't have to look around for the window. 
> Recently, after a couple days of questions, answers and discussion, I successfully negotiated a great book project—giving me an ego boost. I always feel a surge of confidence when I get a new client! Shortly after, an ongoing client emailed to ask about my availability to work on a project for them (I always find a way to be available for my clients!) I told her to send the files when she was ready and I'd get started. 
> Just after sending that response, I received a disappointing email that shook my confidence a little. I was told I wasn't a good match for something I really and truly felt I was a PERFECT candidate for. Ouch! 
> I know, it's business, don't take it personally—right?
> I try to invest my "everything" when I work on projects—I believe it's one of my strengths. Unfortunately, it's also a weakness when I don't get to do a project I'm really excited about.
On the positive side, during the very same hour I received that disappointing news, I also got 2 big projects—one from a new client where I get to prove that I can beautifully bring life to the book concept she's so passionate about; and the other from a great ongoing client who gives me repeat work, which tells me that I'm doing a great job for them. 
> I know I'm not the perfect fit for every business' design needs, but I love working with the ones who feel like I'm perfect for them.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Keep it Current

> Any designer will tell you how important it is to keep your online portfolio up to date. I know, I know...I won't make excuses here, I need to (and want to) update my site. Bigger project photos, bigger type with fewer—but carefully chosen words. Mostly I need to make it easier to upload new projects. I considered going with a blog format, til I read about Adobe Muse. I've been pleasantly surprised with how easy it is to use, since it uses the same tools as other Adobe products I use all the time, but somewhere in the middle, despite my lack of programming knowledge, code gets "magically" added, and it will become a real live web site! 
> In the meantime, I've started updating an online portfolio site called Behance. It's easy to upload work to, so I've added a few projects there. Many of them are already on my current—but not current—site, but there are a few that aren't, and I'm glad they have a home while I keep plugging away with Muse. Check them out here. I guarantee there's at least one you haven't seen before!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Mixed-up Valentine

> A good graphic designer always makes her own valentine cards, right? I admit I didn't for a long time, but I've done better since this blog post a couple of years ago. 
> I started with a "Valentines Eve" surprise (and boy was it a surprise!) After I made the bed yesterday morning, I taped several cut-out hearts to the sheet under the covers on Gene's side of the bed for him to find as we went to bed last night. After I finished washing my face, I found him sitting on top of the covers, and I started scheming in my mind about how to make sure he got under the covers before turning off the light. I pulled back the covers on my side of the bed, and couldn't stop laughing. He had moved all the hearts to my side of the bed (who does that? he's so funny!) Here's where I got my idea...he came up with his "response" all on his own.
> For his valentine today, I made a mixed up message that he'll have to unscramble then assemble. I used a different font and background color for each word so it won't be too tough to unscramble and put the message together—it IS supposed to be more fun than work ;-) I printed the letters onto pre-cut label stock and left the backing paper on. I attached each sticker to a Hershey Kiss, which I used to make a "trail" leading into Gene's office. As he decodes each word, he can adhere the stickers to the marks on the accordion-folded card, which will spell out my valentine message. I'm kind of excited and hope it's a fun way for him to get his chocolate (well, what's left of it...there were a lot of leftover kisses! Maybe I should have made a longer message...)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Mind the Gap

> Gene and I love to hike. We're not majorly outdoorsy, nor are we impressive when we hike, but we really enjoy doing it. We usually go on a couple weekend trips a year in spring and fall (my favorite seasons for hiking) and we take advantage of the beautiful state where we live. On a recent trip, we went to Kolob Canyon and we explored a couple trails we hadn't hiked before. On our way home, we decided to take a detour and we went to see the Parowan Gap—where an ancient river cut a 600-foot deep "notch" through the hills, according to this article. (After seeing it though, is "notch" really the right word??)
> The Parowan Gap is neat as you come upon it. At first, it feels like you're on the wrong road—you're out in the middle of nowhere—then all of a sudden you turn, and the road points you right into the middle of it. It's awesome! I took a bunch of pictures, but I don't think it can really be photographed in a way that gives you a sense of what it's like to come upon it. It's big, and there's nothing around it. So if you try to capture it with the vast nothing-ness it's surrounded by, you lose the sense of its size. If you try to get its size, you lose its isolation. It's a neat juxtaposition. You just have to see it yourself. 
> Then there are the petroglyphs. The guidebook said the place was covered with them. Being a designer, I LOVE petroglyphs. I mean, they're neatly designed, they were made to endure, and to communicate. As far as I'm concerned, the people who left these visual messages years and years ago are my design predecessors. 
> Once we parked, I was disappointed to see all the fences. (It always makes me sick to realize these fences HAVE to be put up in order to remind some people to respect something that's irreplaceable). Anyway, the side of the mountain is covered—I mean covered—with petroglyphs. It's so cool to look around at all the different designs. As you walk on the road through the gap to the back side of the hill, it appears that part of it has crumbled down, and there are boulders, again, just covered with more petroglyphs. 
> It's not a big place, but we were there for quite awhile—looking, taking photos, and just enjoying an amazing little place with a lot to see. (And no, I didn't digitally retouch the sky, it really is that blue).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Car Craze

> Last summer, my family reunion was at Lake Tahoe (GORgeous!) and one day, some of us drove to Reno to visit the National Auto MuseumMy sister and brother in law had been a few years before and knew I'd love it. I love a nicely-designed car. In fact, when we're driving somewhere, I say the words "nice car" as often as Gene does. So my dad, a car-loving nephew, Gene and I hit the road.
> It was awesome! So many beautiful cars, and in such amazing condition for their ages. I took SO many photos...unfortunately, it was hard to get great shots—the cars were extremely shiny, and there were really bright spotlights everywhere, but the other lighting was not very good, so no matter what I tried*, some of the shots have really bad glare. Also, there are so many cars that most of my shots have other cars or signage in the backgrounds. But still, it was amazing, and I had fun taking photos and have enjoyed looking at them since (*my "trying" is limited since I'm no pro when it comes to photography).
> The photos I'm sharing here are front-views of several cars—I love how "styled" they are. The grills, hoods and fenders seem to have a lot more "going on" in these old cars than cars do now. I know there are logical reasons for the changes, but it's still fun to enjoy the details in these classics.
> I had a lot of favorite styles and features, but my favorite—just because it's SO odd—is the last car, shown in the last 2 photos in this grouping. I can't remember what it is, but it's awesome, yet there's no question why you don't see anything like it on the road today!