January 12, 2011

Backlogged project

For those of you who also follow me on twitter, you should know by now how absolutely crazy life has been. In the month of December I organized an event called Help-Portrait in New Haven and it literally monopolized my entire month. Before I knew it, it was Christmas and New Years and on New Years Eve we signed the lease for the studio so that brings me to know. Spent this week putting together a ton of IKEA furniture. Matt could the death flu (i made up that name) and he was out of commission for 7 days which means I did a lot of the moving.

Here is a really amazing project we did just a week before things got out of hand crazy. I think this was probably one of the most fun projects because the stars of this little movie were so entertaining themselves and the concept was really neat. I was involved in directing the shoot and conceptualizing scenes and shots as well as some minimal styling. Larissa Lake and her team did all of the hair and make and they were amazing – can’t wait to work with them again.

December 19, 2010

Part 1: Do some personal art/creative projects

A big part of getting my groove back as an artist (I seem to have lost it in the code) is going personal and creative art projects. Comissioned and client work is great, and some times it’s down right exciting, but there’s something fun about just doing something for yourself. So here is a really neat stop motion project I worked on with a HUGE help to my husband Matt.

December 18, 2010

Few things are as beautiful as a Swatch

Maybe it’s because it’s the Christmas season, but I have been posting a lot about products and retail items. I think it’s mostly because it’s Xmas and I have been getting barraged in my inbox with very tempting email marketing ploys. Today on my facebook page was a post from Swatch and I just couldn’t resist checking out their new line.

The beauty and class with a mix of fun hipster that encompasses the entire swatch brand is something I can truly appreciate. I was browsing the line of new ladies watches and came across this gem and just wanted to share it.

It’s called the Swatch Collar Girl watch and I love everything about it. The flowing black line around the edge, the cute little bow ties down the center, but it’s the elegant typeface on the watch’s face that I really love. I spent some time trying to figure out what it is to not avail. If you have a clue, let me know because I’m very curious.

Swatch Collar Girl Watch

December 15, 2010

The internet is officially polluted

Flat Iron Consumer Report Buyers GuideNo wonder facebook is trying hard to create a more tailored experience for not just connecting with people, but also with consumers. Let me tell you a little about this experience I had the past few days.

My hair flat iron died, and if you know anything about my hair, you should know that I can not live without my flat iron. So I went almost two weeks without it because I just did not have time to research and then shop for one. Flat irons are so different across brands, price points, and styles that if you are going to drop $50+ on a piece of equipment you want to know you are going to get something you love.

My previous flat iron was a $20 one from TJ Maxx that retailed at about $90. It lasted me 5 years so I definitely consider it a good run. It probably would have lasted even longer had I not brought it to the Help-Portrait event because it was freezing cold and it probably shorted out because of condensation. The brand I had was a Jilibere Pro Select and it was very basic; an on/off switch, dial for temperature control, and floating ceramic plates (they have a slight spring when you squeeze your hair. I took for granted the great quality of this flat iron because I would always go into Sally’s and marvel at the $80, $120, $150, and $200 flat irons. I thought, even though it didn’t feel this way, that the flat iron I had was somehow inferior.

So I finally have time to do some research on the brands that I saw on the shelf at TJ Maxx and Sally’s and it seems like every darn brand I searched had glowing reviews. Well, that’s quite useless. I tried googling things like “User reviews [brand]” in hopes of finding a real review from a real person, but all I got were what looked liked either people who didn’t really care about the quality of the flat iron or canned reviews that probably stemmed from the company. Then I started realizing that it’s very possible that a good 70% of reviews on various websites could be company written!

I am now ridiculously frustrated with the whole system, and this isn’t the first time it has happened. I have never had an easy time seeking reviews on hair care products, makeup, and other items like that. It seems that the women’s beauty supply industry is full of companies paying for glowing reviews. Before the FCC made the rules that bloggers had to tell people if a review is paid, you couldn’t even trust them!

So I guess I have to find a good beauty supply expert to follow in hopes that she will review some of the items I am looking at. All the while I will be waiting for facebook to somehow create a product review system geared by actual real people. I think it goes without saying you can expect a complete outline of the flat irons I have already tried and returned to hopefully add a little substance to the world of crap out there.

What about you, have you ever tried to find information on something only to find a load of crap reviews and nothing really substantial?

November 7, 2010

What’s the purpose?

Oswego, NY amazing sky - photo by BSC Photo

Oswego, NY amazing sky - photo by BSC Photo

It’s a question that I am always asking myself in so many aspects of my life. If you are like me, and on a budget, you are very used to asking “do I really need this”. Well, the same goes for almost every aspect of design. Whether we are dealing with logos, web design, or even fashion, you need to learn to take a step back and ask yourself “do I really need this?” If the answer is yes, then you have to ask your self “what’s the purpose?” Why do you need it?

Simply asking yourself if you need something or not will not always lead to editing yourself. There are many times a designer will think that they absolutely must have this drop shadow effect on this text. If they asked themselves “do I need this” that would very easily answer yes. However, if you asked them why they need it, chances are they will not have a great answer if the effect or graphic is not well thought out.

To me, the difference between art and design is thought and purpose. You do art to express yourself as an artist and you can leave your work to be interpreted in many different ways. With design, however, if your final product is open to different types of interpretations then you failed. Design is meant to communicate a very specific message whether it be a brand’s ethics, a company’s style, or to announce something. A designer has to put specific meaning into every element that they contribute to this project.

There are many times where a client will come to be after submitting a mock up and ask me to make something larger, change the color of something, or rearrange something. It’s extremely common and there are a million websites* out there dedicated to this client vs. designer conflict. Because I am very good at designing with a purpose, when a client asks me to change things like color and size, I always have an answer for them as to why it works the way it is. I am not saying that everything I do is perfect and we never do revisions for clients (we do them often). There are aspects of a company that only the business owner would understand and know and there are aspects of design that I know more than the owner of the business.

As designers we need to be prepared to be asked “can you change this”. In order to prepare you simply have to make sure that you have a purpose for your design so that you can stand behind your choices when necessary. Typically if a client requests a size change on the banner, graphic, or some other element, they get a long email explaining the divine proportion and explaining that if the area were to be changed it would throw off the rest of the design. When a client sees that I know what I am doing and it wasn’t just an arbitrary decision, they understand my choices better.

If you are a designer and you are sitting here thinking that it’s impossible to have a reason for every single element that you put into a project, then you should send some time in design classes and understand the elements of great design a little more. Look at some of the best graphic artists out there and ask yourself why it works. You will quickly realize that it works because there are elements in there drawing your eye to specific points and colors that make you feel something different.

I promise you that if you do this not only will your design skills improve and you will grow as a designer, but you will be much more prepared to deal with client requests for arbitrary changes.

October 20, 2010

A few gagdets and gizmos all computer creatives shouldn’t live without.

If you know me, then you know that it is no secret that I love gadgets – especially the shiny, new, and impressive ones that make your office look like something out of the future. Well, this post isn’t about those glamorous items. This post is about comfort and health.

People who work on computers full time, especially people who work on graphics, photography, and web, have the worst posture and generally do some serious damage to their bodies. You lean forward so you get in really close to that design you have been working on, you sit with your mouse for hours drawing lines and adjusting, and you sit with your fingers on the keyboards typing out code for hours straight.

I got the worst back pain of my life in the last months, almost to the point where I was useless on a computer because I could not sit up for more than an hour at a time. I started seeing a chiropractor which helped a lot, but I always felt like there was more I could be doing on my own, at home.

The first thing I realized that while the Mighty Mouse from Apple was sleek and pretty, it was the stupidest mouse ever invented. It was killing my hand/wrist and thus creating misalignment in my shoulder and then my back. The sleek flat design that is so appealing to us mac users is what causes a lot of wrist pain. You have almost nothing to grip and it leaves your wrist stressed and bent in a horrible direction. So gadget #1 is a new mouse! I found two that are awesome:

The Evoluent Verticle Mouse

The Evoluent Verticle Mouse - your hand wrests in a handshake position.

Microsoft Natural 6000

Microsoft Natural 6000 - slightly less verticle but still comfortable

Both of these mice are ugly as heck, but they have made a huge difference in my wrist pain and have made it so that I can work for many hours in a row on my computer. These mice, paired with a nice little bean bag pillow to rest my wrist on is the perfect solution. They are both very responsive and the Microsoft one ever scrolls left to right (something mac users love). The only pitfall is that they are not bluetooth they are wireless. I had no idea there was a difference, but the wireless ones need to have a base station plugged into a USB port which sucks because it takes up a port.

Tens 3000 muscle stimulator

Tens 3000 muscle stimulator

The other gadget that I recent purchased (with the help of my chiropractor) is a Tens machine. Oh my god I love this thing. Its a little 9volt powered muscle stimulator. They use these machines on people who have had surgery and end up with muscle atrophy, but they can also be used as a muscle relaxer or massage. They don’t shock you so bad that it hurts, but it tingles and makes your muscles contract in a way that when you are done they feel so loose and relaxed. If you work on a computer for long hours and get that neck/upper back pain along the side of your spine, this will do wonders for you. You don’t need to be seeing a chiropractor to get one of these, but you should consult with a doctor before sticking electrodes on yourself.

I just had to share these things with you because I feel like I finally have my health back! I sleep better, get more done during the day, and enjoy sitting at the computer working. I have had the mouse for 1 week now and the Tens machine for 2 days (but have used one at my doc for months) and I am seeing a major improvement.So this is me preaching to you that keeping yourself healthy while working a million hours a week and focusing on every detail.

What have you done to try and adjust your workspace to make it healthier and more “ergonomic” ?

October 12, 2010

My personal social media blackout

Blackout

photo by Leanri van Heerden

This little switch flipped inside of me and I realized that I really seriously absolutely need to buckle down, get my ducks in a row, and get my priorities straight. Social media has been pretty much a godsend for me. I have gotten new clients, learned new things, and networked with exciting people all via facebook and twitter. Want to know what else I do with facebook and twitter? Waste time.

So I announced tonight that I will be doing a 7 day social media blackout. That means absolutely no facebook and twitter updates. I will not be responding to private messages, replies, or DMs from any of the mentioned websites and I will stay away from any websites linked to the aforementioned (like daily booth).

It is so hard to not get sucked into all of the interesting stories and articles and videos out there, so I need to figure out how much time I can spend on these sites by cutting them out completely. Personally, I think this is the only way to truly see how much you need social media and/or how much you don’t need it. The sub-goal is to also break my obsessive habit of checking and rechecking and refreshing and all of that stupid garbage!

So is anyone with  me? Anyone else want to try a social media blackout? You don’t have to do it this week, and you don’t have to do 7 full days. Just do it on your own time and announce it here so I can check up on you when your days are up!

I have set up an auto-tweeter to just mark each day and let followers (who might not have seen my announcement) know that I have not fallen off the digital earth.

So thanks a bunch for the support and look forward to connecting with you on the tweet-side!

Ohh, and if you do want or need to connect with me, I am not cutting myself off from all digital connection. I am 110% reachable via e-mail and as always I will be responding to comments on my blog.

October 11, 2010

In order to be a good blogger..

You have to be a narcissist. Not only do you have to be a narcissist, but you need to have someone around you all of the time to feed into your narcissistic tendencies and help that little monster inside of your grow and flourish and eventually become a full blown unstoppable being of self importance. Ok, so I might be a little bit overly dramatic, but I have not seen, read, or met one successful blogger that didn’t have that little monster inside of them telling them how great all of their thoughts and ideas are.

This little monster called narcissism is not a bad thing so long as it stays small and manageable. Having a voice inside of you day in and day out telling you how great you are is a really uplifting and empowering feeling. It gives you that inspiration and urge to do things like start a blog and position yourself somewhere in the wide world of the web as an authority on whatever it is you write about.

The problem. Well, in my opinion there is more that one problem. The first is obviously the very real possibility that your little pet monster becomes unruly and your narcissism starts to stunt your intellectual growth and before you know it you start feeling like you can not learn anything from your constituents and the people around you just “aren’t on your level”. I have seen this happen in a lot of industries, but I have seen it happen more so in the fashion and design blogging worlds than anywhere else. People learn to love themselves and their work so much that they can not take criticism, suggestions, or even inspiration from those who are not on their level.

The other problem is, how do you feed your narcissism and urge to blog about yourself and your life without effecting those around you. I have done lots of really cool things and met some really awesome people over the last few months, yet I have almost nothing to show for it. Aside from the fact that  my husband is an amazing photographer I have very few pictures of me doing these interesting things because I feel like a self important fool asking him to take pictures of me.

Have you ever been some where public and seen someone talking into a video camera? Well, I have, and if you haven’t, just watch some of those life vloggers on youtube and you will quickly start to wonder what in the world do you people around them think! There are times that I envy that level of self importance paired with lack of public humility because I know it feeds into the online community’s urge to peek into each others lives. On the other hand I question what makes them feel so important that they have to walk around making a documentary of themselves. Isn’t that the same thing they made fun of on various sketch comedy shows?

I am going to be exploring this whole thing with a friend of mine. We both really want to get back into blogging and documenting our “great exciting adventures” [insert sarcasm here]. So the plan we have hatched includes the following.

  • Meet for lunch at least once a week
  • Plan at least one really interesting outing each month (either to NYC or some random event)
  • Take lots of pictures
  • Do not feel insecure about indulging that little monster inside

How is it going to turn out? I have no idea. I would love to hear from some of you bloggers out there about how you have managed this balancing act between real life, online life, and publicity.

September 30, 2010

work-catation

Ahh it’s been so long since I have written anything on this blog. We have been crazy busy and with a vacation thrown in the middle of it, we just got slammed. So here I am, catching up on everything I didn’t get to write about, starting with what started this whole thing – the vacation. The whole idea of being away from my house, my office, my work really freaks me out. I get that from my dad.

This vacation was impromptu.. Well, it wasn’t really seeing as the family planned on us going before we did, but it was kind of the whole “you are coming and you will have fun”. We went to Myrtle Beach South Carolina. The mecca of all things sandy and oceanic. Everywhere we went had sand and shells decor, some were better than others, but all were of that theme -pretty tacky but in some ways soothing.

Myrtle Beach Hotel Room

Me watching my nephew play a computer game in our room

Our room was really… interesting. As you can see in the pictures, we got two twin beds! Married and we still can’t sleep in the same bed! Just kidding, it was more of an oversight than anything, and in the end we just pushed them together because there was just something so wrong about sleeping in separate beds in the same room.

Myrtle Beach Hotel bedroom

Yep, two beds and two laptops and some fake bamboo furniture

The bedroom and interior might have left a lot to be desired, but the view from this room was to die for! My in laws have been going to this hotel, and stayed in this room for the past 28 years (since that furniture was NEW!) and this year was just another year among many. Everyone was there, Me, Matt, and Matt’s whole family including nephews. Looking out this balcony just seems to make all of the tension of 6 year old boys yelling and clients calling just melt away though.

North myrtle beach pier

The view from our balcony looking out over the beach towards the pier.

morning waves in myrtle beach

Early morning on a cloudy day. The beach is empty and the water looks amazing

linear elements in nature

This is what you see when you look directly down from the balcony. I love seeing perfect lines like this in random places

So there it is. The first of a series of posts that I will be publishing to catch up with where I am today. By the time I am done with all of these posts I will have some more exciting projects and work to show off. Can’t wait!

August 27, 2010

Designing and identity is more than just making a logo

Phew, first I have to do the happy dance – ITS DONE ITS DONE ITS DONE! I have been working on this website for months, and it’s definitely one of my proudest moments to know that it is launched and ready for business. This website is massive, but I will explain the website in another post, this is about the identity and branding.

When you hire a company to design a brand for you (not just a simple logo design, but a brand) you should receive more than just a logo. A brand, as I have explained a million times in this blog and in individual conversations, is a package. It includes color standards, font options, and any additional graphical and illustrative elements that are part of the brand as a whole. Things like buttons, headers, and styles for text create a solid brand identity throughout all of your marketing materials and creates a standard for creation when you start working with a new designer.

We offer a brand package to clients who purchase our middle or upper level brand packages, and the clients who receive the brand standards package are always very happy they did in the long run because it means their future promotional materials all have that look that they are happy with. When this new client came to me she had a logo and nothing more – I had to even dig just to get the name of the font in the logo!

Since I was creating a website for her based solely on a logo, I was the designer who ended up creating the brand identity, so I thought it would be nice to give her a brand package. First I want you to see the logo as it was given to me:
Hug Me Up Logo

Now, I really like this logo – I am definitely in love with this logo. It was the inspiration for the entire website that I designed which (i feel) has turned out to be one of my favorite websites ever. Even though this logo came with some pantone colors to be used as the logo color, that was it. There were no standards for background colors, fonts, or additional styles for use along side this logo. It basically leaves the client feeling like “Great, I have a logo – now what?”

So here is what I put together after spending a lot of time and development time with the brand:

Hug Me Up Brand Standards DocumentNow, this document actually has a few elements more than would typically be in a brand package document, but it is still a lot more than what the client had when she came to me. Typically a brand standards package would have most of what is there, and additional elements like the custom icons, and illustrative elements would need to be requested by the client or spoke about previously with the client. You should not expect to receive a brand standards document with icons and illustrations if you do not request these elements to be a part of your identity. You should, however expect the rest of what you see on there. The little hearts as an element for a heading, the button graphics, and the background color paired with the logo are all part of what will create a solid brand for the client. When you look at this document you can see how having this as a part of your branding will create limitless possibilities for design and promotion.

I am really very happy with the way the final project looks!! What do you think?