Here we are at Monday again…

Even though (for me at least) this fine day is almost over, I decided that today I would write about Monday.

I think it’s safe to say that for a lot of people, the “M” word is a loaded one!  For many, Monday means back to the daily grind and that the lovely weekend spent at home is now over.

I suddenly realized that I haven’t felt this way about Mondays in quite some time.  I have been working full-time as a graphic designer for nearly six months now, and it suddenly hit me like a ton of bricks that I absolutely love my job!  I don’t dread going to bed on Sunday nights anymore knowing that my butt is back in the office at 8:30 the next morning.  I don’t count down the hours until I am out of the office anymore, and even though I love the time I get to spend at home with my family on the weekend; I don’t live just for Fridays anymore!

This is such a glorious thing and I am so grateful that I can actually enjoy the work that I do.  This is the first time in my life that this has happened!  The journey to this point has been a long one; from graduating with a (seemingly useless) degree having no idea what I want to do for a career, to having three different jobs that I absolutely loathed, to going back to school to gain some experience and knowledge for a career change, the road certainly hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely been well worth it (even though it’s still just the beginning)!

I could talk about this subject for DAYS (as it is something I’m very passionate about), but to sum everything up, I want to share something that really helped me with figuring out what I wanted to do and to formulate a plan to have the career I wanted; I read this book:  Quitter, by Jon Acuff.

Quitter was the first (of a few) of Acuff’s books that I have read, and it really is amazing.  He is a hilarious writer, but he is obviously very passionate about helping people find work that they love.  Life is too short to hate your job, especially since we spend most of our time there!  If you are in a rut with your current job and desire to do something else but don’t really know where to start; start by reading his books!  They have helped me out so much!

BTW, Jon Acuff literally has not paid me anything to say any of these things — the dude is amazing and a great writer and I just love his stuff!  I recommend his books to people whenever I get the chance!  😀 

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Animation in Disney’s Moana

While I have always been a pretty big fan of animated movies, I am pretty new to to the animation “scene” as far as beginning to understand what actually goes into making one of these masterpieces.

I have been reading a fair amount of articles that discuss Disney’s newest adventure in animation.  Every single review that I have read about the movie says that Moana is not only visually breathtaking; it is one of the best animated films they have ever seen.

From what I have read, the amazement that comes from watching this film comes from a few factors.  I have read that nearly every frame of each scene in the movie was beautifully animated and rendered so well that the textures, hair, fabric, water and lighting make each scene seem all too realistic. Even from the short “bursts” of scenes that I have scene in previews, I can say that this observation is certainly true.

I think that with the deep history that Disney has cultivated with animated films, this is definitely saying something.  Disney has literally defined for generations what an animated film experience should look like.  Because each film that Disney has cranked out has consistently been better than the previous ones, they have set an almost ridiculous bar height for them to soar over.  Audiences go into these animated films just expecting to be blown away, and I have to say that I am in this crowd as well.  I am always blown away by not only the great experiences I have when watching one of Disney’s animated films, but also by how far technology has come even in just the past few years.  Animators have to stay on top of the ever-so-quickly changing technology, and now having nearly completed an introductory class to animation, I can begin to understand what a feat it is for an animated film to be made; especially for it to be a good one!

I can almost not wait to get to the theater and see Disney’s newest gem, Moana.

Should Creatives Work For Free?

“Don’t worry, even though you’re not getting paid with money, the rewards in the long run from all the exposure you will get will be so worth it!”

Has anybody else in the creative field heard these words before?  With me also being a musician (in addition to a designer), I know I certainly have heard these words countless times before.

It’s a frustrating position to be in as a creative person (sometimes).  You are passionate about what you do, and that is why you love what you do.  You want to get work, because that’s what pays the bills.  No matter what type of creative you are, the services that creatives provide will always be needed.

Everybody at some time or another will need to solicit the services of a creative — let’s take weddings for example.  A graphic designer will be needed to design the wedding invitations, a photographer for documenting the entire day, musicians for the ceremony music and a d.j. for the reception dancing music, and a chef/catering company to provide all the good food (just to name a few).  Now, I am married and I know how scarily expensive weddings can get!  I also know that (in my experience) that most people think that creatives overcharge for their services and people essentially want to get the services that creatives provide for free.

Now, I’m all for a good deal but creatives deserve just like anybody else to receive the pay for the good/service they provide.

I think that what makes it difficult for people to accept what creatives charge is that art (in its many forms) is difficult to measure.  Yes, it can be easy to calculate how much time an artist would spend on a specific service in contribution to the wedding, but part of the service charge is the key word here:  artistry.  How many years has a designer, a photographer, a musician, and a chef dedicated to get their skill to the level where it is today?  That is very difficult to measure.

Any average Joe can go around with a camera and take pictures, but those pictures aren’t going to look a thing how the client wants them to look.  So, in response to the question posed in the title of this post — NO, a creative should never provide their services for free.  No creative should undermine their expertise in their area like this, no matter how much a person promises for all the “exposure” in the world.

Now, especially for younger creatives, I think if an arrangement is made for an exchange of goods/services instead of money, there is nothing wrong with that.  As long as a creative is not working for free, I’m happy.

3 Important Things to Remember About Branding

One side of graphic design that can tend to be pushed to the back burner is how important graphic designers are in the implementation and use of branding.

I have been reading a good deal about branding recently, and I have found a lot of similarities with what I have been reading.  The below are some of the most important things that I have been reading, and they are especially important so that a business’s voice is able to be heard.

          1.  Be Smarter, Not Louder

With so many businesses vying for our attention, they to be smart if they want to be heard over everybody else.  The key to grabbing a consumer’s attention probably will not be trying to be “louder” than everybody else; depending on the product as well as the audience they are communicating with, the answer might actually be to whisper to the customer.  I believe the key to success is being inventive and innovative, not louder.

          2.  Tone of Voice

Since businesses communicate with their customers is so many different ways now, one of the things that is so important to keep consistent is the tone of voice.  Across all mediums in which a business communicates from, the message that is being communicated needs to be exactly the same.  I think that if a customer were to get a different tone of voice from a business on social media and then on print, the message that was trying to be communicated would be lost.  The goal with branding should always be to keep the customer engaged in what the business is doing.

          3.  Believe in the Product

Pretty simple concept, but if a customer gets the impression that the business doesn’t believe in the product/service they are marketing, then the customer certainly won’t either.  Customers want to see that a business believes in their product with unwavering support.  That’s certainly what makes me interested in and have confidence in a product that I am going to invest time and money into.

Website Landing Pages: Good Design That Captivates

Have you ever wondered what it is that some websites have that makes you sit and just look for a few seconds?  I have certainly come across my fair share of great landing pages and I would like to take some time and share with you just a few of my favorites.

  • Apple

apple website

I have always loved visiting Apple’s homepage.  I think simplicity in good design can be highly underrated, and Apple just embraces the simplicity.  They truly let the products speak for themselves (one product at a time is featured right in the middle of the screen), the font choice is very easy to read, and the website is just as easy to navigate.  I also love their use of all the white space as the background for the website — it almost allows the viewer to breathe a little bit; it is such a breath of fresh air to not see too much going on with a website.

  • Pinterest

Pinterest

I will say that while I am not the most avid Pinterest user, I do enjoy using the website for a good recipe every now and again!  There are a few things that are striking and immediately noticeable when going to Pinterest:  1) To view any content on their website, you must join!  2) They’re all about passing information on to the user.  So literally, Pinterest has something for anybody who could happen upon their website.

While I don’t think that Pinterest is the most clean looking website I have ever seen, I do think that they do a great job of keeping everything quite organized (with as much information that is being shared), and it is also very easy to navigate.  With one quick search you’ve got a few thousand different recipes at your fingertips, and that’s just for Fettuccine Alfredo.

  • Indochino

Screen Shot 2016-08-19 at 12.05.56 AM

Ah, Indochino.  I have been to this website many times but I have never actually purchased anything from them.  This company specializes in custom made suits, and the entire ordering process takes place online.  The website will even walk you through step by step on how to get the perfect measurements (if you don’t already know them) so that you can get the perfect bespoke suit in the mail.  These folks really know how to make a gorgeous suit.

The whole concept of getting a custom suit all online is still a pretty new concept, and I think that the design of the website reflects that.  The website is modern looking and simple, and it is ridiculously easy to navigate.  The first thing you see when you open the website is always either a closeup of one of their suits, or a group picture (usually a wedding shot) of guys wearing their suits.  You almost can’t look at that first glance of one of their suits and not continue clicking farther and farther into their website.  Indochina certainly does know what they’re doing.

 

These are just a few of my favorite landing pages with websites that I am familiar with.  That first look at a website does make a big impression, and I know that is makes a big impact on what I think about the company.

Graphic Designers: Thinking Like Illustrators

Working as a freelance illustrator is daunting work (so I’ve heard). While I am not one of the brave souls that is putting my work out into the world and landing illustration jobs, I am able to learn from the successes of the illustrators out there making a living doing what they do best.

One of the things that I have been able to learn from (and put to good use) from illustrators is their ever so useful sketchbook.  The sketchbook is and can be a designer’s best friend.  Not only is it to be used for sketching and drawing, the sketchbook should be with the designer at all times. The sketchbook should be used to record important notes, place images of inspiration as well as any sort of inspirational material.  It is a good practice to make sure your sketchbook can easily fit into your pocket or the bag you carry.  This way, you are never without the item that documents design inspiration, whenever it may strike.

Another meaningful leaf that can be taken out of na illustrator’s book is the art of brainstorming.  To many graphic designers, brainstorming can be a tedious task that just stands in the way of creating a design solution for a client.  I believe that this train of thought could not be farther from the truth!

Simply speaking, brainstorming allows the designer to bring together their research, notes, sketchbook scribbles, and plentiful thoughts together to create a solution for their client.  All of these items combined might not create a definite design solution immediately, but they certainly can (and will) play their part to creating what the client needs.

In the brainstorming process, even when the ideas coming through the designers head might seem ludicrous or outright ridiculous; the ideas need to be jotted down.  All ideas need to be documented because there is no telling when the designer will need to recall that thought or idea to create a design solution from that abstract thought.  There is no telling when design solutions will strike.

Technology Review: Moleskine Smart Writing Set

To start off, let me just say that I absolutely love Moleskine notebooks.  I have had many notebooks throughout the years (mainly used for my to-do lists and to simply get some of the thoughts out of my head and on to paper), and Moleskine has always been my notebook of choice.  I’m not even sure what it is about them, but they are just so nice to write in.

Well, Moleskine has created something to take note-taking to the next level, and that is their Smart Writing Set.  This set includes a notebook, pen, and app that when combined, really maximizes your time spent writing.

A couple of cool things to note about this technological trio:

  1. The notebook is actually encoded with dotted paper that helps the pen you are writing with recognize where and what you are writing on the paper.
  2. The pen that is used with the notebook is (quite) a smart pen that has an infrared camera at the tip of the pen in order to track and then digitize your writing.  The pen also contains a micro USB port used to charge the pen as well as a LED light that alerts the user as to the current battery status.

Now to the good stuff:  after your pair the smart pen to your phone/tablet (the app is free), the user writes/sketches whatever they wish in the paper tablet, and the pen immediately digitizes what you are writing to the app as you write it.  This is seriously mind-blowing!

Below are some of my favorite features that can be of use:

  1. Notes can be replayed in the order that you wrote them down.
  2. Auto page detection tells automatically when you start writing on a new page.
  3. You can export specific page(s) to other platforms like iCloud and Evernote.
  4. If your handwriting is not exactly the most legible, do not fear!  You even have the option to automatically change your handwriting into a specific font once the page is automatically synced to your device.

I am a big technology buff, so I am completely nerding out about this find.  I absolutely love how it combines old-school writing in a notebook with 21st century convenience with your writings able to be accessed on a mobile device at any time.  Even with the somewhat lofty price tag of $200.00, I just might have to give this one a try.