Thursday, November 13, 2008

Follow Through

A friend of the family died last week. Not only was he a friend but also one of my first basketball coaches. One of the things he taught me was how to shoot a basketball properly. You line up your toes, knee, elbow and hand to the basket and shoot the ball. But the most important part of the shot is the follow through. As you release the ball you let your shooting hand finish the motion - your wrist is bent and your pointer finger ends up pointing at the hoop. If you stop the short with the shot you greatly reduce your chances of making the basket.

The same goes for design. You may have everything in line and on target but unless you follow through to the end and complete the project you will end up missing the target. Following up includes getting feedback from the client and making sure you are meeting their needs. Making sure they can look over the finals before they are printed. It also means once the job is complete you call the client to make sure everything has come out like they wanted.

Follow through is also important when quoting on jobs. After sending the client a quote be sure to follow it up with a “thank you for the opportunity” a couple days later. Whether you win the job or not, thank them again and ask what made the difference for the person who won. Some clients may not tell you but if they do it can help you make your next proposal better and following up might help you win a different job from the same client.

In basketball follow through is the difference between a good shot and a brick. In design, it can be the difference between a new client or not.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Spirit

Have a safe and Happy Halloween and enjoy some Halloween spirits.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Designer Myths - Busted

Many people really don’t understand what a graphic designer does. Over the years I have heard many different things about what my job entails. Here are a few of those myths:

You make things look pretty.
You draw all day.
You press a button and poof your design is done.
My kid could do that on his computer.
I have a computer, I can do that.

In a way all these things are true, but yet far from the truth too.

We do make things look “pretty,” but we do so much more than that. We take rough sketches and abstract ideas and flesh them out. There have been many a day when I have been given a very (and I mean very) rough drawing (a few lines and scratches) and some Sanskrit scrawled across it and asked to turn it into something. After a few questions to get a better understanding of the expectation, I begin designing. Usually, a couple hours later I have a workable draft that the client is pleased with. After going back and forth a few times to clarify things, we end up with a product both the client and myself are pleased with.

As for “drawing all day,” yes, sometimes I do. Most days though are spent talking with clients about their projects and working on the computer to create the art for them. Some days are spent drawing and taking ideas and bringing them to life. Each day is different and each day is spent working on different aspects of jobs.

There are days that I wish I could “press a button” and the design would be done. Unfortunately, or fortunately for designers, it is not that easy. Each design takes time to figure out, plan, explore possibilities, and place each element. We do “press a button” (actually, many buttons) as we work on the computer to refine our designs.

“My kid could do that on his computer.” He could. “I have a computer, I can do that.” You can. Anyone can “do it,” but designers are trained and most have years of experience designing and creating. We know how to use the right fonts, images and layouts to promote your product or business.

A design result may look simple, but there is a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Anyone can sing a song – but not everyone is Luciano Pavarotti. It may seem easy just to swish paint on a canvas to come up with something that rivals an abstract masterpiece – until you actually try it.

I have talked with various clients, and they wonder what it is I do and why it takes time. They always see the end result, but they don’t see all the work that goes into it and all the prototypes and drafts that preceded it.

Designers can educate clients on their process. Help them understand that these and other myths are only partly true. There is more to good design than meets the eye.

It may look simple in the end product, but it’s usually not easy to achieve.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Shrunken Head

Since joining I have been playing with different ideas and illustrations for it. This week I posted a shrunken head illustration I did and have decided to post about the process of creating it.

First I made a rough sketch of what I wanted and scanned it in for use as a template. It is a bit off balance and lopsided but it works for what I need.

I opened up Adobe Illustrator (AI), placed the image in as a background layer and reduced its transparency so it wouldn’t compete with the other lines I was going to draw. I started with a circle for the head and an oval for the mouth. I then shaded them to give them some dimension. Next I made one of the eyes and gave it a gradient fill and duplicated it to create the other eye.

I then moved on to the stitching. I made a vertical rectangle with rounded corners, gave it a gradient fill and copied it multiple times. After copying it, I placed it and rotated it a bit here and a bit there as I placed each stitch on the mouth and eyes. Once they were in place I made a black circle and placed them behind where the thread would have entered into and out of the head.

Next came the ears. I hid the head so I could see the sketch and drew a vector path around one of the ears. I went in and tweaked the points to give it the curve I wanted and changed the line to a path. I created the bone and made it look like it was going through the ear, grouped the lot and copied and pasted it. After pasting it I flipped one vertically and placed it in the approximate position of where the ear would be. I revealed the head and eyes and positioned the ears where I thought they looked best. I had a nice little bald shrunken head.

It needed hair so I again hid the head and created a vector path of half the hair, tweaked it, copied and flipped. I than added the leather tie at the top using the stitching I had created earlier along with duplicating and enlarging the bone that was in the ear.


I tweaked the whole thing some more until I liked it and added a background with a texture from Von Glitschka's Old World Textures.

Creating this way is fun and can actually be done fairly quickly as you really only need to create half the face, or one part and than duplicate it and use it again. Be sure to stop by to check out some of the other creature creations.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Design Community

Design doesn’t happen in a vacuum but in a changing world where ideas are continually growing and expanding. As an independent designer you don’t always have people to bounce ideas off of or brainstorm with. You need to find a community you can tap into, to use, to gain ideas from, put ideas into. With the internet there are many places you can tap into and groups you can tap into.

The first online design community I joined was the HOW forums. Two years ago I went to the HOW Design Conference in Atlanta. It was incredible. Thousands of designers all in one place sharing ideas, the love of fonts, paper and printing. I met many designers and made a few key connections. These connections have inspired me and helped me to get my independent design company off the ground.

The second community I have joined is the Freelance Switch forums. I came across their podcast, Freelance Radio, a couple years ago and really appreciated the information they share on it. After listening to the podcast I checked out their site. They have tons of great information on it for designers and clients who want to understand the design industry.

The third community is Twitter. Yes, the social networking conversation. Twitter is one of the strangest communities but depending on who you follow and who follows you, you can learn all kinds of neat things. Many people who I follow share links to some very cool sites. Everyday someone shares something new or shares some of their work that inspires.

Forums and sites like these also help to inform non-designers about what designers do and the best practices when dealing with creatives. It also helps them to understand the back-end of design and the thought process involved in the creation of a product.

Because of these forums I have started to connect with other designers in my town and have started to build relationships with them to share ideas. Having a group of designers you can bounce ideas off of and collaborate with helps you stay up with the latest ideas,technologies and trends. It gives you design team, of sorts, that can help you get out of a rut or push your ideas to the next level.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monster Creations

Designers create. We create for others and bring their ideas to life. Sometimes we need a break and just need to create for fun. There are some fun blogs out there geared toward that. Two come to mind right away Sugar Frosted Goodness (SFG) and Illustration Friday. Each of these gives you a topic to draw and make a creation and than post it. It gives designers a chance to try new ideas and techniques, to explore their abilities and tools. There is now a new blog to add to the list and it is:

Monster Monday is a blog where every Monday various artists will post a creature creation. Whether alien, zombie, classic monsters or whatever they can imagine. Some weeks there will be themes to explore some weeks may have lots of posts others a few. But each week should be interesting as the things that go bump in the night are explored. Stop on by and check it out.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Many designers have a portfolio consisting of a book or large folder of some type to take with them to interviews or possible job opportunities. These are great and have their place but in this day and age of electronics it is easy to carry a portfolio with you at all times.

I was at a friend’s birthday party and I was talking with a lady about what I do. She wanted to see some of my work but unfortunately I didn’t have any with me. But, I did have my iPod Touch. I was able to access my friend’s wifi and show her some of my stuff on-line. It wasn’t great but it worked.

It got me thinking about the touch’s capabilities and iPods in general. Each one is capable of holding photos on it that you can show to potential clients and elevator talkers. So I sat down and adjusted some of my work to fit on my iPod in a photo gallery called “Portfolio.” Now when people ask what I do and to see some of my work I can say, “Sure.” And pull out my iPod and show them.

It’s not a perfect portfolio but it gives people a good idea of what I can do. I have used this on the train, elevator and when talking other social settings.

So you don’t need to have a 24”x36” portfolio to carry your work around in, just make sure that what you do show on your iPod is your best.

Monday, July 14, 2008

“WE are stronger than ME.” –Steve Gordon

At the 2007 HOW Conference, in Atlanta, Steve Gordon spoke on using other designers and creatives by networking with them for jobs and collaboration purposes. I never really understood this until recently. One of the guys I work with is moving on and looking for web design work. I have a fulltime job but do design work on the side and one of the other people I work with does copywriting. Each of us has found job leads for the others. We have found that even though our separate skills don’t fit the specific need one of us can fill the roll and the others can back up and help out.

Even though we are three separate entities our combined abilities are a great design firm. As designers we know others who are copywriters, web gurus, photographers and other creatives. Each of us has a different skill that we can use to help others and they have skills we can utilize. As a design firm of one I have increased what I can offer by two or more. Working for others is great also because it gives us one-man firms people to bounce ideas off of, making our designs even better.

WE are truly stronger than me.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Radio Flyer

I was doodling one day and doodled a line and thought, “Oh, that looks like the canopy of a space ship.” So I took my pencil and drew some more and created a cool little ship and thought, “I like this. I should do another.”

So I did and drew the Radio Flyer. I pulled out my colored pencils and proceeded to color it in. I was starting to dig this little thing.

I had just been to the HOW conference and was inspired by Von to do some stuff using vectors. I scanned the image in and took it into Illustrator and started to draw the lines and create the vectors. I really like the way it came out.

It reminded me of a spaceship I would imagine while riding my bike or in a wagon as a kid. Which got me to thinking, “Where would I imagine I was flying.” I went onto the NASA web site and found a picture I liked, applied a Photoshop filter, drop the spaceship in and… I liked what I had.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Water Dragons

For the last two years the company I work for has been one of the corporate sponsors for the local dragon boat races. Each year I have created a t-shirt image for our team.

The first year I looked at what the boats are like and drew inspiration from that. I came up with a pretty cool boat image.

This year I wanted to use elements from last years, Asian culture and boating. So I did the two sea dragons locked in combat around a yin-yang rotated to give the look of sky and water.
It had a life preserver feel to it so I added the dragon boat oars in the background.

Overall I feel they are both successful images that reflect the ideas of the competition.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


Shades is a character I created way back in high school. He is a cartoon character that has had many different looks over the years. I finally brought him to the computer and now he takes on different holiday looks or looks of friends. One thing I have never given Shades is a girlfriend. I have never figured out what she would look like but I am working on it.

Below are some of the variations I have created for Shades.

The original look:


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Journey or Destination

Is the end more important than the journey to get there? Or is the journey more important?

At times people focus too much on the goal and forget about the process to get there. It doesn’t matter how they get there, who they hurt or what they miss out on as long as they make the goal.

Others will focus too much on the journey and get stuck meandering around and never reaching the end. They’ll enjoy what they're doing and learn things along the way but never have the satisfaction of bringing something to an end.

I believe they are both important. You have to start with the end in mind. If you don't know where you're going, you won't know how to get there.

My art professors would talk about enjoying the feel of the brush on the canvas or the pencil on the paper. I never really understood this, as I wanted to see the final image as soon as I could. As I started to draw more I found joy in the feel of the different papers under the graphite of the pencils or the feel of clay in my hands as I sculpted. I would have a design in mind and work toward it but noticing the process made the final product much more exciting and the feeling of finishing even better.

In design it is the same. You have to plan what you want but getting to the final product is just as important. As you work to the final product you go through a process of trying and exploring different ideas. As you work through these possible solutions you may find ideas that will work for other projects. You may learn a new technique or use a new tool. But as you move forward you have to keep the end on mind, the goal.

Once you reach the goal the process is worth it. The time you take makes the final solution satisfying.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Night Mares & Dream 'scapes

I joined with an online design forum last year and periodically we will do different creative exercises. One of the regular exercises they do is a zine called HOWiezine. It is open to everyone on the forum to submit two pages for the book. One of the long time members collects the pages, binds them together and sends them out to all the participants.

I decided to give the latest one a go. The theme for HOWzine #12 is Nightmares and Dreamscapes. Below are my submissions.

I chose to do a night “mare” because this is how I envisioned them since I was a child. If I had a nightmare I was told to try to take control of the dream and change it. Sometimes it worked sometimes it didn’t.

The dreamscape image is from a short story I started about a door that stands on a beach. The door leads to somewhere else but I never figured out where. Coming from the door are footprints, whose they are, I don’t know. As I looked at the image I thought, “That dream has escaped.”

So, if night mares run wild rein them in and if a dream ‘scapes catch it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Corporate Cup Win

The company I work for sponsors runners in each years Alston & Bird LLP Corporate Cup 2008. This year was no different. The Corporate Cup also sponsors a t-shirt design contest for the corporate sponsors, so every year I design a shirt for our company and this year my design won.

Each year I find this to be a labor to come up with a new look and something that looks cool. I had different designs rattling around in my head and none of them really worked for the look I wanted. As I watched the Super Bowl one of the ads gave me an idea. I sketched it out a few different ways but didn't like it then I remembered a runner I had worked on for last years design. I used him as my base and created a geometric silhouette of it, merged it together, added a rough Charlotte skyline and BAM! I liked it and so did the judges for the contest. Here is what the final design looked like.

Here we have one of the shirts in action.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Bad Idea

I was in a meeting, doodling, the other day and had an idea. I deemed it a bad one. So I doodled the idea of a bad idea (Still with me?).This got me to thinking this would be kind of cool as a graphic so I doodled some more and came up with this.
Then I turned to the computer and created the final version. At which time I thought that would be cool on a t-shirt. So...
if you go over to you can purchase a shirt that started as a "Bad Idea."

You never know when a bad idea is going to pop up. They start off as a good idea, but then something happens and they turn bad. I think this bad idea started good, went bad and then somehow became a good, bad idea.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


im·ag·ine [i-maj-in] verb, -ined, -in·ing. –verb (used with object) 1. to form a mental image of (something not actually present to the senses). 2. to think, believe, or fancy

Imagine. Imagining is the start of all design. The beginning of a process.

You imagine the finished piece and bring it to life. Along the way your design may change, you may have other ideas you want to incorporate, but it all starts as an idea, an imagining.

Look at a blank sheet of paper. Now imagine the possibilities. A sketch. A photograph. A painting. A brochure. Or any number of design results. You imagine. We’ll finish the process

"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."

- George Bernard Shaw

Thursday, February 7, 2008


The company I work for opened a new office in Europe and this is a brochure I helped design for them. I found out this week that a piece won a 2007 PICA "Award of Excellence." It is in three languages; English, French and Spanish. Below are the Printing specifications.

Size Final Size : 33.0708 x 11.6929 >>> 9 x 11.6929 (A4 size paper)

Monday, January 21, 2008

Happy New Year!!

WOW! It's a new year and we're already 21 days into it. Time does fly. Many people make resolutions for each new year and those resolutions have probably fallen by the way side by now or are getting ready to. I have never seen the need or reason to make resolutions but as I have grown older I have started to set goals for myself each year. I try to come up with at least four goals in three different categories for the year and share them with my family and coworkers, that way they keep me accountable. I try to make goals for my family, my personal growth (This include me and my freelancing) and my job (the place I work for "real").

If I complete them or not doesn't always matter because working on them can be a growing experience and I can learn from what I do and possibly complete them the next year. I know it sounds like a cop-out but sometimes you don't always realize the turns life will take or how difficult some things really are. But if you put forth the effort you are rewarded with the satisfaction of trying and possibly setting up the next year to be great.

So, now you are probably wondering what my goals are.


  1. Vacation up north with family
  2. Vacation at the beach (I know 2 vacations but one is with extended family and one is with my girls and wife. Each is a great time to get to know my family members, build relationships and make memories.)
  3. Do some local day trips (Each year we try to do these. Some years we succeed.
  4. Go camping (My girls are 7 and have never been "real" camping out in the woods or somewhere. So this spring we're going.)
  1. Grow my freelance business
  2. Read some of the books I was supposed to read in college
  3. Sketch and draw more
  4. Create and send out promotional pieces for my business
  1. Learn some new software (Not sure what yet.)
  2. Bring more jobs in-house (We use an agency at work to do some of our jobs because I get swamped with internal projects.)
  3. Create a work flow process (again this may be a challenge as we have many small one offs.)
  4. Take time to meet my co-workers (This is important because many times we work with so many people but never really know them. We know their name but not really who they are.)
So those are my 12 goals for the year. Some things I have control over some things I don't but we'll see what happens as the year goes on.