Category Archives: The Design Process

I recently had a conversation with a good friend about design styles. The question was posed to me…

That begs the question….is it better to develop your own “style” that you become recognized by, or have an arsenal of styles to draw from to please your clients?  Both have valid arguments…

That’s a tough question.

I think a designer should provide the client with the best ‘solution’ for their particular design problem. That solution should transcend any particular ‘popular design trend’ but could have elements of various design trends and styles. I think designers come up with their own style from looking at great work and remembering what they felt was effective. The design solution should ultimately be the best one that reaches a particular target audience. So, really what a client ‘likes’ doesn’t matter so much as what reaches their target audience. Hopefully the client has their target audience in mind and there is no problem pleasing the client and reaching the target audience at the same time. That is part of the job of a designer: to educate folks about the design process.
 
There’s also an argument that says designers should show more than one solution for a design problem when presenting ideas to a client. I’ve read a lot that this just confuses the client and puts them in the role of ‘art director’. Really they should be advising and reminding us who their target audience is and answer all questions in terms of whether their target audience will respond to it. That’s why design ‘styles’ and ‘trends’ really aren’t the point.  It is true that everything does somehow fit into a particular style or trend but that is the nature of design and how we group things in our minds. Maybe a particular design style should be defined by what reaches a particular audience at this particular day, month or year. Therefore, when that design style changes it really is a reflection that what is reaching a particular audience has changed.

sgalogo

Logo for the Student Government Association at ATSU – This is to be used on their brand new website that I posted a few weeks ago. Will be in WordPress – should be come out nicely!
iconnect_ad
iconnect – a website that connects the ATSU community through various social networking all in one place. I can’t wait for this to launch – The URL has been blurred out since it’s not live yet. This is a magazine ad that will be in Still Magazine soon.

finaidvideo

Financial Aid videos for ATSU – the most extensive use of web videos at ATSU to date – I think… Again I can’t share the URL since it’s only for a select set of users. The previous and next buttons use jQuery to ‘slide’ to the next video. An example is here.

weekdesign

So I decided not to include the other 10 million design projects I worked on this week – so I collaged them into a small space.  This week included an iconnect magazine ad, blackcat billboard ideas, newspaper ad for meadow heights, SGA logo, iconnect subpage design, creative improv subpages, financial aid video slideshow, blackcat illustrator recreation and a bunch of programming.

I’m.

Exhausted.

invites2

MEADOW HEIGHTS MESSAGE SERIES INVITE CARDS
Do you have what it takes?

photoretouch

PHOTO RETOUCHING & COLORING
This photo is one that my aunt gave me about a year ago. It’s my dad and other aunt in the 60’s. The photo was almost beyond repair, with the graininess and lack of contrast. I made good use of the burn tool. First I made it black/white then began layering color in and then burned  more contrast in.

MEADOW HEIGHTS CHURCH ‘REMEMBER’ MESSAGE SERIES

Another message series! I’ll have another one to post in two weeks. This one was a borrowed set of graphics from LifeChurch.tv. What is borrowed is the glass image and ‘remember’ logo. The rest is a unique design that fits the Meadow Heights ‘style’. It’s funny that Meadow Heights ‘style’ is identical to my design style. I just counted how many message series graphic sets I’ve designed for Meadow Heights….. drum roll please….. 28!

 

ICONNECT – YOUR ONLINE CONNECTION TO ALL THINGS ATSU

Still being developed, but I just had to share this. This is website numero deuce that I’ve developed for ATSU. It follows the same style that atsu.edu does and still has it’s own identity. The most important aspect is the ATSU blue banner that is consistant across all ATSU websites. The footer is a unique aspect that will be used on all new websites I develop. It’s an alternative to the global navigation at the top of the website.

 

SGA – STUDENT GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

This is a sneak peak at an even less developed website. the goal here is to globalize the two SGA’s – one for Arizona campus and one for the Missouri campus.

I’ve spent the last four months working on starting my own freelance business known as Creative Improv. It is a unique collaboration between myself and Michael, but also might include more folks in the future depending on the specific project (photographers & programmers). Michael and I would always tell each other, “you know we should start a design business”. Well that’s what we’re doing. I’m the designer while Michael is the creative director. Check out our website so far: http://creativeimprov.com – not much yet, but more is coming.

Creative Improv’s thought process is centered on the idea of simplicity that Jazz Bassist, Charles Mingus puts forth:

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.

Speaking of simplicity: This is one of the first concepts for the Creative Improv website.

click to view it larger!

Be sure to ‘follow’ creativeimprov on Twitter.com to keep up to date on the website progress and new projects we are doing!

from left - Home Storage Solutions magazine cover, 'Stack Your Storage' magazine spread, Table of Contents

from left – Home Storage Solutions magazine cover, ‘Stack Your Storage’ magazine spread, Table of Contents

A few days ago I received a package in the mail. The package was from Dave Stone at Workbench Magazine. It contained the magazine that I spent all summer conceptualizing, branding, designing and redesigning. I had so much anticipation during the past 4 months about what it would be like to finally get the printed copy of the magazine. If you are a designer, you know the feeling of getting to see your design work finished and printed.

From the beginning of the summer, I sometimes doubted my ability to take on such a large project. After all, it was 100 pages and I was charged with the task of designing and redesigning every article in it. Beyond that I got to come up with an overall brand and style that could be used throughout.

I got to work with the amazing Doug Appleby. He’s an assistant art director at Workbench and a pretty awesome photographer as well. He challenged me to never settle for less. This usually meant designing 15-20 versions of a single magazine spread. I must have learned something, because by the last week of work, when we were putting together the table of contents, it only took about 5 versions – with a few tweaks.

If you want to see a preview of the magazine, check out http://www.woodsmithstore.com/w0901a.html

Check out this blog post – “An Amazing Summer So Far“. It was when I first started my internship at August Home Publishing.

I would never have guessed that of all places, Fredericktown, MO would be home to a really awesome illustrator like Tim at Unique Ink.

Michael Goldsmith and I teamed up to create a truly ‘unique’ website for Unique Ink. They offer screen printing/poster design/vinyl lettering and a bunch of other stuff. His artistic style is really hip. It’s hard to put my finger on something that it reminds me of, but it’s sort of retro, detailed, flat colors & monochromatic.

The cool thing is that Tim designed the website and handed it over to us to turn into a website. His website design is very fresh and ‘never been done before’ because he doesn’t bring to the table past website design experience (like I do). I think that’s what I like about it most… that he designed it… and Michael and I just helped to make his design a functional website, while adding our own touch of detail, accessibility & functionality.

Michael & I have started Creative Improv, a print/web design firm, a few months ago. For a sneak peak at our mantra, check out CreativeImprov.com. We will be launching the full website very soon – get ready.

Oh yeah, and I’m starting my new job at A.T. Still University as web developer on January 5th.  It should be an exiting two months!

The best is yet to come.

Initial sketch and final intaglio print

Initial sketch and final intaglio print

Bruce Mau is a designer from Canada. Mau runs a successful design firm in Toronto and Chicago. He wrote something called the “Incomplete Manifesto for Growth.” It is basically a list of 43 things that exemplify Mau’s style, strategy toward every project.

My motion graphics course has incorporated this manifesto into our recent video project. We were to create three 30 second videos (1-type dominant, 1-imagedominate, 1- negative space dominate) that explored a particular point from the manifesto. I chose to explore number six,‘Capture Accidents.’ 

My concept was that during the drawing process there are accidents that occurr – a misplaced line here, wrong proportions there, or smearing of pencil lead.

smearing of pencil lead

I wanted to focus on this because I’m left handed, and if you are too (both McCain and Obama are left handed!), you know that this always happens. Notebooks or sketchbooks weren’t meant for left-handed people. The idea I had was to do what the manifesto says – to capture and gather accidents and ‘ask different questions’ or create something great from that accident.

I chose to record myself drawing one of my old sketches of Jesus being persecuted and accidentally smear the pencil lead where the wood block is on the left of the drawing. But then I would turn that smear of lead into the shading of the wood block.

Below is the type dominant version for ‘Capturing Accidents’

In part two, I continue my discussion of McCain and his ineffective use of the web. This is part two of six.

As I said in part one, I spent last Spring studying the presidential candidates and how I could create some ‘advertising’ to help one of the candidates. This was when the democrats were narrowed down to Obama and Clinton and the republicans were narrowed to Huckabee, McCain and Romney.

A side-by-side comparison of McCain and Obama's website through time

The Facts
I began looking at web statistics for these remaining candidates, especially the number of Myspace and Facebook friends. We all know that if you want to reach young people, you need to go to where they are most of the time: Facebook and Myspace. There’s a phrase in the Church that says, “God will meet people where they are.” The candidates need to meet young voters where they are: the web (specifically Facebook and Myspace). What I found is that Obama had 800,000 Facebook supporters while McCain had 117,000. Today, Obama has over 2 million supporters and McCain has 575,000 – this has to worry McCain when it comes to young people not being excited for a McCain presidency. Last Spring they were presumed to be the nominees, and yet were getting very different numbers in terms of young support – today is no different. If that wasn’t enough evidence, I looked at website stats from Quantcast.com and 88% of McCain’s website visitors were over 24. Today, Quantcast reports that 63% of his website viewership come from people over 34 years old. Today, McCain’s website draws 4.3 million visitors a month. That’s a lot, right? Well, double that number – 7.9 million – and that’s the number of visitors a month who visit Obama’s website.

I know, I know – McCain’s support lies in the senior citizens of America and they don’t use the web as much as younger people do. But the question will be: Will young people who support Obama via Facebook actually go and vote. Similarly, will seniors who support McCain actually go and vote. We shall see on November 4.

So, as you can tell, McCain has a problem with young voters. Not only because of the web statistics, but also because he’s not speaking to issues directly relating to them. He doesn’t mention much at all about technology, or college tuition. He wants to keep the Internet free (wow-who doesn’t) and for college, he doesn’t offer anything as substantial as Obama’s $4,000 tax credit for students. But I set out to find those issues that would connect to young voters, even if in a very indirect way.

My Small Contribution to McCain
I decided to pretend I worked for McCain and wanted to get young people to vote for him, because I could tell that Obama had the young crowd in the bag… and still does. The reason I decided on this was because I searched and searched and couldn’t find a “Students for McCain” website. No place for students to call their ‘online home’ if they were checking out McCain or were already Republicans. I set out to make McCain seem ‘exciting’ to more young voters.

My work in Advertising last semester resulted in this website: a blog style website that allowed students to interact with the campaign and each other on issues that were important to them. It also highlighted the lighter side of McCain via photos and video (videos no longer work since they were deleted from youtube). This website would theoretically allow students to take action and network with McCain via social networking websites, which was hidden or not there at all on his real website last Spring.

In part three, I will talk about what McCain has done with his website to reach a different audience.

*side note*
I’ve been keeping track of my blog’s visitor statistics and my first post about newspaper ads is the most popular of any I’ve written, with an average of 15-20 views a day. It also is ranked high in search engines when searching for ‘how to make great advertisements.’
**

With that knowledge, I decided that I would write part two…

In part one, I talked about some reasons to be different, aesthetically. Here are a few more reasons, along with thoughts about the ad’s message.

  • limit the amount of content you have. An ad should grab attention not inform the viewer of every single detail.
  • Use only a few sentences, bullet points or short phrases. Similar to writing for the web, you want to give the viewer a break from the massive amount of content in the stories surrounding the ad.
  • Aim your message at a targeted audience. Be sure your audience isn’t just all males or all females.. that’s way too broad. The broader your target audience the less effective your message becomes!
  • Try to portray the uniqueness of your product/service that is being advertised.
  • Steer clear from using most free fonts in the ad. They are generally very poorly designed, have poor default kerning, etc. There are some great free fonts out there, but be picky and be prepared to do a lot of work on your typography to fix the flaws.
  • Be sure your ad is appropriate for where it is placed in the newspaper. Newspapers usually control this, but just in case… it’s probably not a good idea to put a beer ad next to the comics. Your kids will end up seeing that ad.
  • Take advantage of the placement, if possible. If you know the page your ad will be on, try tying your message to the subject matter of the surrounding stories. Or ask if your ad can be placed near certain subjects/stories.

Some of these items apply to graphic design and advertising in general as well as newspaper advertising. Are there any other tips you would add?