Category Archives: Design

Cooper Hewitt Exhibit Explores “How Posters Work”

From my childhood I fondly remember staring at Richard Amsel’s Raiders of the Lost Ark poster outside of the theatre box office: it’s clean lines, graphic symmetry, and beautifully rendered images and bold colors inspired me.

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Richard Amsel’s iconic poster for Raiders of the Lost Ark.

As a designer, I have always loved to create and study posters. They have always struck the balance between information and creativity; often revealing an artist’s distinctive style and singular point-of-view as much as the product or service it’s promoting.

Cooper Hewitt’s How Posters Work Exhibition explores the theory and technique of the poster and is on view from May 8, 2015 to November 15, 2015. I have included samples below, but a detailed look at the curated pieces for the exhibition are online and print in a companion book edited by Ellen Lupton, Cooper Hewitt’s Curator of Contemporary Design.

POSTER, JUNIOR WELLS, 1966 Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie J. Schreyer. 1979-34-37, Victor Moscoso (Designer). Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18498021/
POSTER, JUNIOR WELLS, 1966
Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Leslie J. Schreyer. 1979-34-37, Victor Moscoso (Designer). Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18498021/
This object was made for (as the client) Addo-x and designed by Ladislav Sutnar, Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18647331/
POSTER, ADDO-X, 1958 Offset lithograph on white wove paper. Gift of Anonymous Donor. 1994-109-7. This object was made for (as the client) Addo-x and designed by Ladislav Sutnar in 1958, Source: https://collection.cooperhewitt.org/objects/18647331/

 

Take Cartoonist Lynda Barry’s Drawing Challenge

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Artist, educator, novelist, and playwright Lynda Barry encourages us to draw like children with the Monster Drawing Challenge

Every day I pick up my four-year old daughter from day care and every day each student produces at least two new art projects! I admire and aspire to their level of output (and to have mandatory naps and play time), but what impresses me most is the freedom and joy in their work. Kids aren’t overly concerned about proficiency and perfection, they just want to express themselves and get their ideas out. The results are always creative, interesting, and original—isn’t that what EVERY artist wants?

Enter artist and educator Lynda Barry, whose comics I have been reading for about thirty years, who has a great drawing exercise to access one’s creative inner child (Source: http://www.cbc.ca/radio/q/schedule-for-friday-may-8-2015-1.3065520/cartoonist-lynda-barry-dares-you-to-draw-like-a-kid-1.3065525):

Level one! Monster to-do list:
1. Take an 8 1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper. It’s better if it’s a piece of paper you were planning to throw away.
2. Fold it into four quarters, so it’s divided into four chambers.
3. Take a pencil or a pen. On one chamber, make a squiggle.
4. On another chamber, make a closed shape, like a square or a rhombus.
5. On the third quarter, make another squiggle.
6. Set a timer for two minutes, that’s how much time you have to turn that first squiggle into a monster. You know, eyeballs, teeth, claws, etc. Repeat for all four chambers.
7. Make a list of 10 things you have to do that you’re not doing. (I have to do my laundry, go to the dentist, etc.)
8. Look at that list, and figure out which monster has to do what.
9. Write those tasks above those monsters. It’s an instant comic and the results are often hilarious.

Level two! Monster parenting
1. Fold another sheet of paper into quarters.
2. Take any one of those monsters, and now draw that monster’s parents.
3. Think about the task that monster has to do — like go to the dentist. Make one parent loves the monster “Honey those teeth aren’t important, what’s matter is you’re happy.” Make another parent hate you “Of course you’re not going to the dentist.”
4. Just have them start talking about the problem. It’s instant! And the most important thing is it makes you start laughing.

Bonus: the Counterfactual Drawing Board Project:

Emily McDowell’s Honest Design for Serious Illness

Designer Emily McDowell turned personal illness into beautifully empathetic design

“My work reflects our shared human experience, in all its different, messy forms, and I feel most satisfied when something I made helps somebody feel like someone else out there gets them.” —Emily Mc Dowell

Designer and Illustrator Emily McDowell has transformed personal illness into beautifully empathetic design by creating a line of cards for people with serious illnesses.

They are funny, quirky, touching, and above all refreshingly honest—eschewing the usual tropes and clichéd language found in other sympathy cards.

Serious cards for serious illnesses

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Ms. McDowell has created a line of cards that she would’ve liked to receive during her battle with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma at age 24.

So You Want to Learn to Code? Five Great Resources to Improve Your Web Skills!

I am a Graphic Designer with a little bit of Front-End Web Development experience—no one would ever confuse me with a programmer or full-stack developer. In all honesty it takes some knowledge and experience for me to accurately assess what I know and what I don’t know.

One of the cardinal rules of design is never, ever misrepresent yourself or your abilities (better to be perceived as ignorant than incompetent), so rather than fake it here are five resources you can use immediately in your journey to web design:

  • General Assembly, their onsite front-end courses are a great way to network and learn
  • Codecademy, useful interactive online courses
  • A List Apart, informative blog tracking the web industry
  • Code School, fun and challenging online training
  • Lynda, the definitive resource for online design training, learn at your own pace
A List Apart is a great web resource.
A List Apart is a great web resource.

Find out what you don’t know, gain confidence, and have fun!

To Wix or Not to Wix?

Helpful content management system or a sign of the end of civilization?
Helpful content management tool or a sign of the end of civilization?

In the past six years I have had many client inquiries to build a website for a product or service and several have wanted to use a template-based Content Management System (CMS) like WIX.

Although these drag and drop, do-it-yourself sites have been a source of controversy amongst designers and developers (several months ago I attended a designer’s meeting where the disdain was palpable); as a freelance designer and small-business owner I need to consider the factors of time, budget, and functionality and make the right decision for my client. Sometimes that may mean using WIX, like I did for Sparkling Clean Handbags: a client with a small budget, quick turnaround time, and a service and products ready to go to market.

Sparkling Clean Handbags: Landing Page
Sparkling Clean Handbags: Landing Page
Sparkling Clean Handbags: Product Page
Sparkling Clean Handbags: Product Page

In the end, the client loved the final product and I gained practical UX experience and gleaned invaluable metrics on the strategic planning and pricing of web projects.

CMS services are innovations and tools that are here to stay, so it is necessary to make peace with the machines and fashion a peaceful coexistence. Familiarize oneself with CMS functions, usefulness, and drawbacks in order to provide your client with sound counsel and effective design facilitation based knowledge and experience, not fear and anger.

Are You Telling Good Stories?

“Artists love to trot out the tired line, ‘My work speaks for itself,’ but the truth is, our work doesn’t speak for itself. Human beings want to know where things came from, how they were made, and who made them.”
Austin Kleon, Show Your Work! Chapter 5

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Remember the old adage “If a tree falls in the forest and there’s no one around, does it make a sound?” I used to think this was an absurd question (“of course it makes a sound!”), but what one approaches the question metaphorically, I have a difference of opinion.

One’s creative output is like the tree and putting in the work (chopping it down) isn’t enough. One must make sure people are around to hear the sound.  Show the work, explain the work, analyze the work, accept feedback on the work, learn from the work, and create new work.

It’s not easy and it takes dedication, discipline, and patience, but the potential for growth and reward is great. Besides, if no one at first notices one or two felled trees, they will surely notice the clearing you’ve created if you keep on chopping!

Adobe Draw CC: Part 2, Whiplash Poster Design

I loved the movie Whiplash and I think the kinetic energy and jazz subject matter makes it a great springboard to launch into a new illustrative poster project using Adobe Draw CC mobile application (in conjunction with Adobe Illustrator and InDesign). My goal of the poster is to use modern technology to create an homage to classic cinema posters and record albums of the 1940’s and 1950’s.

Despite learning the functions of Adobe Draw CC, using a digital stylus as opposed to pen and ink, and grappling with capturing the detail, color, and movement of BOTH the subject and style; Version 2.2 is progressing well.

Keep posted as the project develops.

Adobe Draw Sketch
Version 2: Initial sketch in Adobe Draw application.
Refining sketch with Paintbrush tool.
Version 2.2; Refining sketch in Adobe Draw with Paintbrush tool.
Cuba Baila Poster
Graphic Inspiration for Whiplash Poster