Friday, May 29, 2015

Tips for Keeping a Designer's Workbook, Pt. II

The first post discussed the selection of your new workbook. This post provides a variety of ideas to try in your book that will help you explore and grow. Try a mix of the following and adopt what works for you:

1.       Write
Write about your artistic experiences, ideas, adventures, and frustrations. It will help you connect with your work on a deeper, intellectual level which equals more ideas.

2.       Record your process
Document the stages of your art or design (photos or screen grabs), paste the images in your book, and annotate them (what worked, what didn't, what were the digital settings, and what would you like to try next?).

3.       Document your inspiration
Print or clip inspiring art or design and write a sentence or two about why you liked them and how you can use that in your own work.

4.       Experiment with new mediums
Explore new mediums in your book. Graphic design is largely digital now, but traditional mediums are often scanned and incorporated into the final design and some people still work in traditional mediums, so traditional is a handy item in your skill-set.

5.       Draw
Draw in your workbook, even if you are not a drawing major (try a combination of sketches from objects in life, photo copies, and imaginative sketches).  Also, drawing can speed up some of your graphic design process: for example, it is faster to draw logo ideas and then pick the best to digitize rather than doing all the exploration on the computer (one of those funny facts of life).

6.       Draw your inspirations
If you are a graphic designer, sketch found graphic design (drawing someone else's poster will help you really see it in a much deeper way than snapping a photo).

7.       Cite
Legally, this one is very important. Remember to cite the original sources of work that is not your own (photos, copies you drew of someone else's drawing, etc) and ask permission before posting online (citation is not enough for posting or republishing--more on that in a later post).

Remember, the biggest tip is to stick with what works for YOU, no matter what others say.  If you are a graphic designer and you love to paint watercolors too, don't let people deter you from a process that helps you grow.  I love to write in my workbook and I document anything from design ideas to passages about artistic challenges. I've had people tell me that I shouldn't write in my book because I am a visual artist and my book should be visual, but I found that my creativity dropped when I didn't write in my book.  Explore everything you can think of, give advice a try, but stick with tips and ideas that help you.  If a tip doesn't help you grow, then it's not advice.

Now enough reading. Get out there and dive into your books!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Advanced Printmaking

Here are some of the digital contacts for the photo intaglio process I explored this past spring semester. These were drawn in marker, scanned, collaged in Photoshop, bitmapped and then printed on contact transparency and exposed to an emulsion coated zinc plate, which in turn was etched and printed.  These were also part of my organic synthesis B.F.A. thesis research and so the lines explore replication of topographic maps.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Tips for Keeping A Designer's Workbook, Pt. I

Sketchbooks aren’t just for the drawing majors, and art journals can be for more than documenting your dreams with watercolor washes. For graphic designers, the workbook can be a very powerful tool for growth.  Don’t think you have talent?  Watch yourself grow it just by keeping a book.  

There are no rules for keeping a book, except for one: stick with it.  Some people work in their books daily. I work in mine a bit sporadically, averaging a few entries a week with some weeks featuring nothing. However, it works because I’ve found my balance—I know that I can be a little sporadic and still produce three books a year, each averaging 130 pages each. So don’t worry about pushing yourself to meet a strict standard or a schedule, just make sure you are connecting with your work on a mostly regular basis. Practice really does make perfect.

This first post will help you choose a book to work in, and the second post will help get you started with various things to try in your new book.  So let's get started.

No one can tell you what size is best for you, but there are a few things to consider before making that purchase.  Firstly, if you are going to draw (and I recommend it, even if you're not a drawing major), then a bigger book is usually better for beginners.  Bigger books let you move loose and free, creating those gorgeous sensuous lines.  Try something like an 11x14 inch.  Secondly, consider where you are storing your books, from the size of your shelves to the size of your backpack or carry bag.  The larger 11x14 inch rarely fits in most people's bags or backpacks, so an 8.5X11 inch is a good compromise. And thirdly, think about what you will include in your book--if it is just for pasting cool things you found on the internet, then 8.5x11 inch makes for easy pasting.  If it is only for logo thumbs, then try 5x7 inch.

Like size, binding will be determined on how you are storing or transporting your book.  Spiral bounds are flat to work in, but they snag inside bags and are very smudge prone and therefore not the best choice for students especially.  Hardbound is durable and dependable, but you'll lose the ease of use from a spiral bound.

For a designer's workbook, a thicker, multi-medium paper is the best choice, as it will hold up to pasting, ink drawing, and some wet media. In short, they give you freedom to explore many things without falling apart or letting designs bleed through to the next page.  However, if you are only going to work in one medium, such as only graphite, then you can select a book with paper made just for that one medium. There are also different colors of paper from white, to cream, to toned.  I use a warm toned book as I find the color relaxing and love that I can draw with white highlights.  Also take a note of the paper texture: smooth is great for graphic design concepts that you want to scan and digitize, but rough textured paper can lend interesting effects.  Lastly, check if the book has perforated pages.  These are great for tearing out and scanning pages but they are also not as durable (think about those backpacks). Decide what you want, what you are comfortable with and go from there.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Internship Sneak Peek

This summer, one of my design projects is the creation of online and newspaper ads for the events at the Historic Arkansas Riverwalk of Pueblo. Shown here are digital sketches for 4"x4" ads as well as the development for a full-page ad in The Pulp, an entertainment and editorial newspaper published in Pueblo.


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Tempered Steel Covers

In my advanced graphic design class, we operated as a student-run design studio and accepted real jobs from southern Colorado non-profits, such as the student literary magazine, Tempered Steel. These were my proposals for the spring 2013 cover, shown here in 3D mock-up.

These were created using the matte painting process in Photoshop, a method of combining painting and photography for a seamless, fictional landscape.  They feature my own painted planets, creatures, skies and photos that I took in southern Colorado. The logo was a pre-existing design supplied by the client.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Tips for Writing Communications Campaigns

One of my tasks at my summer internship was the creation of a Twitter communications campaign.  This planning document is very common in the communications field and if you are a marketing communications, promotion or public relations student you will write at least a few in your college career. So here are some tips to writing a communications campaign.

A rough draft of my Twitter communications plan.  It looks scary, but once you know the basics, you can write full-sized documents in no time.

Key Elements of a Communications Campaign
All plans vary a bit and the exact structure of your plan will depend upon your employer's standards or your professor's requirements.  However, most plans have the following sections in common: an executive summery, a situation analysis, research, target audience, statement of purpose and the plan itself.

Executive Summery
It sounds fancy, but it is the most straightforward section of your plan. In concise language you will summarize the problem or opportunity, the situation, the goal, and how your plan will help. It is usually a page long.

Situation Analysis
This second section summarizes the current situation and is a powerful tool for helping others understand the opportunity or problem, which is useful when proposing your document to those who are not immediately involved in the situation.

The research section summarizes, in clear language, the findings of either your primary or secondary research.  Since many people are visually strong, be prepared to bust out those charts and graphs (they save time, too).

Target Audience
This section is straightforward but very crucial as it is where you will detail who will receive the message of your campaign. If I'm writing key messages for specific target audiences, I like to put them here next to their respective audiences.

Statement of Purpose
This section briefly explains the reason your document exists and how it will help capitalize on the opportunity or improve the problem. In one page (maybe two for larger plans) I introduce the goal and summarize key objectives, strategies and tactics of the plan.

The Plan
At last we've arrived at the meat of your document and this section outlines everything you or your team will do to reach the communications goal. Crucial aspects of your plan will include deadlines and measurements for evaluating the success of your plan. The next section covers tips on writing and formatting your plan.

Know the G.O.S.T
You will structure your plan around what we communications junkies call the G.O.S.T., the Goals, Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics.

The Goal
The goal is the whole reason you are writing this document. In one sentence, you will summarize what you hope to achieve. For example, my goal was "Boost the Twitter followers from 588 to 1,000 by June 2015."

The Objectives
Your plan will have at least one objective to support the goal.  The objectives for my plan were "Objective 1: Network through Twitter's follow feature" and "Objective 2: Improve content quality and posting regularity."

The Strategies
The strategies are clear statements of direction for each objective.  For example, my strategy for objective 1 was using Twitter's follow feature as an online networking mixer by following relevant Twitter accounts and their followers.

The Tactics
Tactics are specific actions that will complete the strategies. They range from websites, press releases, social media posts to speeches. For my networking strategy above, I wrote tactics such as "follow the bands that play at the Riverwalk, post comments to their accounts, retweet and follow some of their fans." My other tactics included social media press releases and the creation of evergreen content like tips for enjoying the Riverwalk or posting of exceptional Riverwalk photos.

My rough draft shows one option for formatting the G.O.S.T. section of your plan. Cleanliness and legibility are crucial no matter which style you choose.
Formatting Your Document
Your document needs to be clean, professional and easy to follow. Your margins should be 1", your typeface double spaced, 12 point size and in a typeface that is easy to read (select durable serifs like Cambria, Minion Pro or Palantino Linotype).  I like to set my headings in a bolder sans serif, like Century Gothic Bold or Franklin Gothic Medium, to add a little bit of contrast and visual interest without breaking the professional look of the document.  Setting a color for the headings of your executive summery, situation analysis, research, target audience, statement of purpose and the plan can help organize the sections. Ad a cover document with your client's logo, a clear headline and your contact information in a discrete corner. Slip the pages into plastic covers, assemble in a nice binder and you will have a nice proposal. Good luck!

Friday, May 15, 2015

Summer Internship

This summer I am the social media and marketing intern for a local entertainment and recreation venue in Pueblo.  Under my marketing label, I serve as a photographer, graphic designer, ad designer and public relations specialist.  Lots of designing, press release writing, and social media posting to be done this summer!  It's been exciting so far with lots of big events to promote. Summer is going to fly by too fast.

A growing list of duties in Trello (man, I wish we had this cool program at my other internships!)
My boss is the sweetest--she made me and my fellow events intern our own work journals.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Digital Art

My digital art class was a blast. The Photoshop centered projects spanned surrealism art, abstraction, scanner photography, and videography.  I enhanced my skills in matte painting, masking, painting, and abstraction while exploring new skills in video manipulation and scanner photography.  A lot of what I learned blended so well into illustration and graphic design, so if you are a design student and have the opportunity to take a digital art class, jump on it.

Shown here are the scans, tests, and manipulation experiments behind my scanner assignment. Even in a digital class, it helps to have a printed sketchbook. I used mine to document inspirations, record ideas, document my progress in stages, and record the different Photoshop settings I used.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Drawing Inspiration from Your Locale

A lot of artists and designers draw inspiration from where they live and, for me, Pueblo is a source of inspiration.  Pueblo was once as a well-off Victorian establishment, then became a steel city and is now a growing arts circuit.  As a result, there is a lot of history, a mixture of culture and ethnicity and a mixed graphic design style. The posters in Pueblo range from sleek contemporary to an odd but effective combination of grungy and mid-century modern.  Last Leaf Printing pretty much summarizes the mixed style in Pueblo that has been an inspiration to me.  The murals and building ads are my favorites--some of them are the vintage thing and others are retro contemporaries.  Here are some details of my favorite murals in Pueblo.

Intaglio Process Overview

Intaglio is a gorgeous and wonderful process, but is not widely known or practiced. In fact, it is a rare treat if a university offers it and my university is one of those rare schools to offer this process outside of the elite arts schools. Not everyone goes to a rare gem like the art department at my university, so here is a brief overview of the steps I use to create intaglio plates and prints so you can get a glimpse of the fun. It is not a comprehensive tutorial, but for those starting out in printmaking it offers a rare overview into this fabulous method and offers a few tips.

Step 1: Prep
Cut your plate and file the edges so that they are beveled and the corners rounded. This will protect your paper from tearing when you print.  Polish your plate with steel wool until it shines and then clean with paint thinner.

File, file, file.

Polish with the 'grain' of the zinc.

Step 2: Hard Ground and Image Transfer
Apply an even coat of hard ground and allow to dry (there are different kinds of ground, but this is a good one for beginners).  Once it is dried, bake the ground on the hot plate until it turns glossy and then allow it to cool again (this is how you harden the ground).  I use white carbon transfer paper to get my image onto the plate.  I slip the transfer paper between the plate and my drawing and secure with tape before tracing.

Applying the hardground.
Baking the hardground (you are finished when
the matte ground turns glossy).
Tracing the design onto the hardground.
Step 3: Create the Design
Once the drawing is traced onto the hard ground, scratch your lines into the hard ground with a blunted, pointed object. I love using old pens as they give me the line width I like. You don't need to scratch through the plate, just the ground.

Removing the hardground with a ballpoint pen.
Unlike drawing, keep some spaces between
your lines--they'll get thicker and fill in during etching.

Step 4: Etch
Dip your plate into an a properly mixed acid bath and let sit in the acid according to your time charts and the line width you desire. For my plate, I etched it in steps of 10 minutes each to create three different line thicknesses (this is called step biting).

Use a feather to regularly stroke away the bubbles that build up in the lines. Hint: if you're getting a lot of bubbles, your bath is probably too acidic.

Step 5 Optional: Aquatint
Aquatint is one of the hardest techniques taught at CSU-Pueblo, but it is worth it. Aquatint is the intaglio equivalent of the halftone--it gives you shades of grey tone, perfect for coloring. Aquatint is created using a resin dust. To apply it, you must rock the box of resin dust to stir it in the air within the box, then set your plate in the box until the right amount of dust settles on your plate (about 50% coverage). Finish the plate by baking it on the hot plate until the aquatint turns glossy, then etch according to your time tables and the depth of grey you desire.

Step 6: Ink and Print
The hardest part about intaglio is not applying the ink, but rather wiping off the right amount. Ideally, you want your negative space to be clean and white, not grey. Achieving this takes practice. Begin by dipping a card into your ink and dragging it along the plate until it is well covered. Then gently wipe away the excess ink with a balled cheesecloth until only the etched lines and aquatint pores are filled with ink. Making test prints will help you learn the right amount of wiping.

Be sure that the ink seeps deep into the lines (as you can see here, the ink isn't quite there in this image)
Printing of the intaglio plate requires a special press and the correct blankets.
That moment when you finally see if the majority of your semester was worth it or if something horrible pulls away from the plate!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Intermediate and Advanced Graphic Design

A little peak into just a few of the many, many sketches I generated for design projects in graphic design 381 and 481.  Graphic Design 481 was a student run studio that accepted real projects from non-profits in the southern Colorado region.  I had the great opportunities of designing book covers, logos, posters and shirts for clients such as SoCo CRAG, The Nature and Raptor Center of Pueblo, SoCo Reading Series, and the Tempered Steel literary magazine.

If you are a design student and ever have the opportunity to take a class that works with real clients, jump on it. Working with real clients is the best way to learn client interaction and designing a lot of quality material in a short time span. The experience is invaluable and will give you a massive leg-up when you start an internship or beginning job.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

When Majors Collide: Campaign Update Pt. V

My PR writing class required the creation of various PR materials for a real client (mine was the CSU-Pueblo Art and Music Department). These materials included brochures, newsletters, media pitches, G.O.S.T.s (goals, objectives, strategies, and tactis) and the good old press release.

I expanded my efforts by developing a personal project for this client in the form of an integrated promotional campaign. Aside from the written promotional plan, a visual branding pallet was a key component of this campaign. This pallet was applied to the required PR homework (like the brochure shown here) and additional personal projects (like social media graphics) that were integrated into the campaign. So what started out as homework became a massive extracurricular project under my own direction and something that was very enriching and fulfilling.

Shown here are some of the PR homework was well as the personal projects that were a part of the campaign.

The finished proposal complete with situation analysis, target audience, key messages, promotional plan, and supplements illustrating the rebrand.
A sneak peek into the process behind one of the posters created for the campaign.
Logo development.
An illustration of the proposed brand as applied to social media.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Thesis Tuesday, Pt. X

The Thesis Tuesday series comes to a close with photos from my thesis exhibition at the CSU-Pueblo senior art show in the Hoag Hall Gallery.  The exhibit was on display for the month of April and as of now, I have completed all of my B.F.A. graphic design requirements.  It has been quite an adventure!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Being an art major: it's more than studio sessions

Being a B.F.A. major is a lot more than spending most of your time in the studio doing what you love, be it drawing, painting, photography, design or what have you. To be a successful art student, you must also think conceptually and write well. Case in point, my term paper for contemporary art history.

Our requirement was to write an argumentative paper proposing a new method or medium that could influence contemporary art or design. I choose to argue the current affects of biomimicry on art and design and propose it's future effects. Biomimicry is a field that has made an interesting and large impact on engineering and robotics. Its impact on art and design are mostly beginning, so it will be exciting to see how it will affect architecture, graphic design, fashion and art in the future.

Art students must be masters of Powerpoint or Prezi.

As well as masters of the good old research paper.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Adventures in Printmaking Pt. X

Advanced printmaking has come to an end. It took two semesters, but I finally conquered the photo intaglio and successfully hybridized modern graphic design to an analog printing process. Shown here are some of the proofs of my photo intaglio project as well as the final edition (a total of 9) and a close-up of that edition (above).