Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all and peace on Earth.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blast Off!

I recently bought Crumble. Crackle. Burn., by Von Glitschka. It is a very nice coffee table style book, with great illustrations from various artist using textures in digital media. It inspired me to play around with textures and see what I can create.

One thing I enjoy, is listening to old radio shows and finding inspiration from them. After listening to one episode, about flying in a rocket ship to a far planet, it inspired me to draw a ship as the author described it. Here is my initial drawing:

I took this drawing and scanned it in and imported it into Illustrator. I traced the image and recreated it in Illustrator and then added a background and some color. It came out pretty cool.

I liked it but it was missing something. So I played with it some more and then I remembered Von's book. It came with a DVD of textures. YES! So I transfered the image into Photoshop and started to go through the textures. After searching around I found some that would work for what I wanted and added them to the image. The picture became much more dynamic and had a really cool feel to it.

Here it is with the textures.

For now I think it is done. I may revisit it and tweak it here and there. But for now, I like "Flight to Planet X"

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Branding Yourself

I’m taking the plunge and starting to do some freelance on the side. Wow! Who knew there were so many little details you have to do. My plan is to blog about the experience of starting up so others out there can learn and hopefully some of the more experienced freelancers will share their knowledge.

The first step in starting out is to brand yourself. No, this does not involve fire and hot irons (though it might be easier). It is coming up with a name for your company. I had thrown around a couple names: Gibbs Grafix, SG Design, Gibbs Design, Grafix Gibbs. I have decided to go with Gibbs Design. The reason being is that it's simple and it says who I am and what I do.

The next step is to come up with a logo, a mark that represents your company. This is one of the hardest things to do for yourself. At times there are so many things you want to put in but at the same time you want to keep it simple. Here are some of the sketches I went through before landing on my final design.

This is the design I ended up choosing. It's simple and clean. Why the break in the box? As a designer I like to think outside the box, step out of the box for new perspectives but I also have to work within a framework.

In a previous post I talked about how branding is not just about a logo but about the whole company. It is about everything that's put into it and comes out of it. So a big part of branding yourself is how you promote yourself. View yourself as an expert in your field. Do your best in everything whether it is a blog or a forum. Present yourself with your best foot forward because you never know who your next client or co-worker may be. When you are out running errands or getting coffee be polite. You would be amazed how many people remember the rude guy. Remember how you like to be treated when you're a customer and treat others the same way. Your work may be the best but if you are rude, condescending and obnoxious no one is going to want to find out that your work is good.

So as I go through starting up I need to remember that my brand is not my logo but it is myself and how I present myself. People may not remember my logo but the will remember me. If I’m friendly and helpful I will stand a better chance of getting the jobs I want.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Design of Cooking

We all have to eat and I love to eat. I also love to cook and watch cooking shows. As I work in the design field I have started to realize cooking and design are very much alike.

One of my favorite cooking shows is Iron Chef America. The challenger and the iron chef are given a secret ingredient they must feature in their cuisine for the night and have an hour to prepare at least five dishes from start to finish. The chefs have a vast array of ingredients to add to the main one and skills to help bring out the flavors. When the time is up they have to stop and present their creations to the judges. As with art the tasting tends to be subjective. Some stuff may not work at all but usually it is a mere 5 points or so separating the winner from the loser.

Designers work in a similar fashion. We are given a secret ingredient from a client and a limited time to work on the project. We have our skills and other extras we can bring to the table to make the design work. The solutions to the design problem are many but ultimately it is up to the client to chose which design they like the best and which will work for their company.

Another show I enjoy is Chef Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares. Chef Ramsey goes to a restaurant that is failing and tries to help the owner turn it around. Many times the chef of the restaurant is very good and has the best ingredients but is stuck in a rut or trying to do things that are above the clientèle's tastes. Chef Ramsey comes in and gives them a reality check and helps them get back to what made them good to start with.

Many times we as designers are the same as the restaurants. We are good at what we do; we have the latest and greatest equipment; and are designing for an audience that is not there. We need a reality check. We need to get back to the basics and make our designs for the audience our client is aiming at. No, it is not always glamorous but it does get you recognized locally and if it is designed well can win awards and give you national recognition. It also allows clients who do have that designer/artist background, who are looking for something different, see your work has a solid and strong base and open up for those "dream jobs."

So use your ingredients to your advantage. Take what you know and work from the basics. Make sure you're not stuck in a rut and if you are step back and see what needs to change. Always design with your audience in mind.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Branding. What is it?


A brand is the consumer’s anticipation for a unique and defined experience, or for a certain unique benefit obtainable solely through consuming/owning a specific product/service manufactured/ offered by a specific company. A familiar name or logo - do not suffice to make for a strong brand.

Why do you need branding?

Branding makes the company. It separates you from the crowd and makes you stand out. It defines the uniqueness of your services and products. It informs people who you are, quickly. It is how you are perceived by others.

For these reasons you need to protect our identity and work to make it strong. To protect your identity you need to make sure you're consistent in what you produce, in how you use your logo and how you talk about the company as a whole. To make it strong, you need to make sure you have a unified look and feel, and are sending out the same message, whether it is in an email, a memo, a phone call, a client visit or an event.

What are the benefits to me?

Branding helps you become unified and inspired by a common sense of purpose and identity. It brings you together and aims your company at a common goal and helps you to identify with each other, to find a common ground where none may exist. Every associate is key in building a brand image through their verbal and written communications, execution of business processes or business development efforts.

You are the organization. You are the ambassadors of the company as you meet and interact with colleagues, customers, suppliers, competitors and industry experts. As well as interacting with a number of people totally disconnected to the corporation in the form of family members, friends, former colleagues and many others.

What are the benefits to the company?

The benefits for a company are many. It helps to differentiate your company from others. Branding helps to create added-value to the products and services you market and it helps to maintain customer relationships to prosper in a competitive and changing global market.

Branding also creates a unified look which helps to create a positive perception about your company in the minds of your associates, customers and prospects, leading to increased new business and stronger client relationships.

The cornerstone to a strong brand is consistency in…

  • Graphics Standards
  • Written and Oral Communication Standards
  • Business Cards & Stationary Standards
  • Endorsement of Image Attributes
  • Strong, Simple and Consistent Messages
  • Internal Branding

Today, brand building no longer constitutes a mere manipulation of the consumer’s perceptions and desires, but it is a creation of a system that on the one-hand makes promises and arouses anticipations, while on the other-hand it delivers and realizes the promises that it makes.

– Dan Herman, PhD, owner and CEO of Herman – Strategic Consultants

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


The design process... Is there a set standard? Do you have to follow XYZ? No. Each designer needs to find their own process that works for them.

I think there are three main types of designers. There are the “sketchers”, the “thinker” and the “technophile.” The “sketcher” will draw copious amounts of thumbnails and work through each on paper until they find a few they like. The “thinker” will let the ideas gestate in their mind and do a lot of processing before they sit down and layout a design. The “technophile” will sit at the computer and play with ideas until they all fall into place.

All of these are valid ways to solve design problems and each way works for different designers. Most designers I know, myself included use a combination of each of these ways depending on the project. Some projects I hear and “BAM!” I have an idea. I sit down at the computer and work it out and refine it. Other projects I’ll think about and throw ideas around in my head until I settle on one and create it. Others I have no idea what to do so I’ll start to draw and do word association to try to get the ideas flowing.

I have found lately that I will get a project think about it, sketch out some ideas and than sit down at the computer and play with them until they look like I think they should.

The process is just as important as the end product as it gives you ideas. You may not be able to use the ideas on the current project but you may find a use for them later on.

Here is an example from my sketchbook of the idea I used to create the 838 wine label.

It looks kind of like the final product but you can see some of the ideas I threw around in my head.
Whatever your process is use it and try some of the others to expand your mind.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Java Jazz

Here is a design I did a few years ago and redid for my wife's 30 birthday.

We love coffee and I have a dream to open a coffee shop some day. This would be the name of it and the logo or some version of if I ever bring this dream to reality.

Anyway... for my wife's 30 birthday I turned our house into the coffee shop for her and her guests. It was pretty cool. The invitations had this image on them:

Over all it was a pretty cool party and a way to see part of my dream come true and let my wife enjoy a coffee shop all to herself with her friends.

Doing these type of things is another way to keep sharp as a designer and do some fun things if you don't get the chance to every day.

I also created Java Joe the mascot. He looks like this:
One day I hope to bring these to life for a real jazz cafe, but until than I will enjoy doing the design.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Where does inspiration come from? As a designer it is important to find out what inspires you and what helps you create. For me there are a few different things.

  1. Podcasts – With the invention of the iPod, podcasts have become a new way for me to get inspired. There are many out there dealing with design, art and many other subjects, but my favorites have become the old time radio shows. Just listening to these are fascinating. The ideas and thoughts put forth in them. The good vs. evil. The “wow” factor of Sci-fi that has become real in some respects and is still a long way off in others. The stories get my imagination going and help me to come up with new ideas.
  2. Music – Music has always been one of my inspirations. It helps me to relax and let my mind wander down other paths it has not gone down. My favorites for inspiration are; jazz, trance music (Enigma type), African (hey I grew up there), movie sound tracks and others like Pink Floyd.
  3. Miniature Games – Yup. I’m a geek. I find miniature games to be very cathartic for me. I like to buy and paint the pewter minis and make the terrain for them than hang out with a friend and play a wargame. My favorites are from Privateer Press. They also have some very cool art. Below is one of the minis I painted.

  4. Reading – I love to read a good book. My wife says I devour them. My favorite authors are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. I really enjoy fantasy and find I enjoy philosophy too. The problem I find when I read is I get lost in the book and will read to the exclusion of all else until the book is done. I find though that a good book will get my brain working and take me down new paths and to new ideas.
  5. Other Artists – Artists are a breed unto themselves. We see the world in ways others don’t. We try to capture feeling, emotions, thoughts and ideas on paper. Seeing how others do this helps me to understand how to do it and gives me ideas about how to try to do it. We see things in different ways. An example seeing things differently:
These are my five top inspirations. Looking at them makes me realize they are all a type of art. Each thing comes from someone’s imagination that someone else has inspired.

What’s your inspiration?

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Wine Label

I'm a member of the How forums and found this challenge in the Sandbox section:

Here's the task: Design a new label for Robert Mondavi's new (fictitious) line of Zinfandel wine, "838 Zin."

The details:

The Mondavi Winery corporation is looking to capitalize on the recent explosion in United States' 21-35 year-old wine-buyer market. Young and hip, this generation of wine buyer has discovered/rediscovered wine as the social lubricant of choice, a more sophisticated alternative to beer or mixed drinks.

The Mondavi corp is looking to launch a new line of red Zinfandel, calling it "838 Zin" for it's fun abbreviation, and the fact that only 838 cases will be produced each year.
So I played around with Photoshop and Illustrator and came up with this:My thought was to go for a more sophisticated drinker. One that enjoys art, aesthetics and the labels on the wine bottles. I'm one of those that likes to wander through the wine stores and look at the labels and see which ones I think are cool. I thought this one would attract me for its combination of modern feel with the older watercolor looking background art.

I also took this challenge was to try something I don't normally get to do. In design I find it is good to try something new to stretch your mind and your creative muscles. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said:
Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Design: A Model or A Puzzle?

I used to think of design as a “model” to be assembled. We have parts A, B and C you put them together and “Viola.” But I have come to realize that it is a puzzle with infinite possibilities.

When I started designing in the corporate world I would create all sorts of drawings and designs and than I would be told no it does not fit what we have. We need to use this logo, these colors and this text and fit it in this area so it looks like or goes with this. So I would take the parts and place them in a reasonable semblance that resembled the previous brochure or whatever and move on.

I have realized that this is crap and lets you slide by. NO FUN!

When you look at design as a puzzle with infinite possibilities it opens up a multitude of options. You may have certain elements you have to use and they may need to reflect or build on what has gone before. But those are the edges of the puzzle you have to work in. That is the challenge that makes it fun and interesting.

Let me take you back to Drawing 101. The assignment is for the class to draw a collection of shoes using pencil and a white sheet of paper. Those are the elements; shoes, white paper and the color gray. There are 20 people in the class and each person takes their materials and finds a seat. After two hours of drawing each student hangs their pictures to critic what they have done. The amazing thing is that even though everyone has the same elements no two drawings are the same. The same is true in design you give five designers the same elements and specs you will get five very different designs. Once I realized this the world of possibilities opened up.

The hard part is stepping back at times in the corporate world and seeing other possibilities. That is why collaboration is important. As you come up with a few good designs share them with other designer friends and get their feedback. Their ideas will feed you more ideas and help you become a stronger designer.

So work at design as a puzzle to be solved with infinite ways to solve it not a model that has a set number of parts and only makes one thing.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

First Blog

Well here is the first blog. I sit and ponder what I will write. What foolishness will spring from my fingers. Why am I doing this? Well let's go back a couple weeks to June 10-13, the HOW Design Conference. It was my first designers conference I have been to and it was great. I met many cool designers who have inspired me and I seem to have refreshed my creative flow.

I have challenged myself to do a couple of projects due to the conference and starting a blog was one of them. Why start a blog? Well I figured if I had a good idea I could share it. If I had seen something inspirational I could post it and it might inspire someone else. I thought "A blog would make my brain work in a different way and allow me another creative outlet."

So, here I am doing a brain dump.

Two of the cool people I met at the conference are Steph Doyle and Von Glitschka. Both Steph and Von are very cool and down to earth guys. They had some excellent advice for me as an "in-house" designer and how to deal with some of those issues. Going in I didn't realize Von was "famous." He has written a book called "Crumble. Crackle. Burn." His work has been inspirational to me since I found it. I find it has a quirky fun quality to it and is well executed. Steph has been an encouragement to me as I have been able to email him ideas and thoughts and get good feedback. His work has also been an inspiration. It is clean and well executed in both the idea and concept. Looking at his designs has helped me to step back from the same ol' humdrum at work and try to look at it from a different angle, a new perspective.

Anyway... here is the first blog of many (hopefully) to come. The goal is to update once a week if you start to read my blog and see I'm not doing that email me and remind me. A little accountability keeps us all honest.