Blog Entries

Graphic design competitions in every category

http://99designs.com/

Participating in design competitions is an excellent way to keep your skills fresh, interact with fellow designers, and make your work public and more widely known. 99designs.com is a collection of design competitions that pay! They describe their goal as providing “a friendly, professional and secure environment where designers from all walks of life can find opportunity and compete on a level playing field – where they can show off their work, improve their skills, communicate with peers and win new clients.” Post your work and if someone likes it they can purchase it from the site, you make their revisions, and you get the profits.

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Added productivity with my iPad: zaggfolio

Recently I scored an iPad from work. While it has been über fun to sit on my couch and serf the web instead of actually getting up and going to the office to do so, I was having a hard time figuring out what it added to my productivity at work…which it was intended to do. Yes, I have used it to test out the design and development of some websites built with responsive web design (RWD), but other than that it has basically been a connection to the internet.

ZAGGfolio for iPad

ZAGGfolio for iPad

Then I got a new case that has made it a production powerhouse: ZAGGfolio for iPad with Keyboard. It has already saved me a good deal of time with note taking and list making (which I do a LOT of). Typically I will take notes and make lists during meetings and then come back to the office and type them into Evernote to organize my thoughts better. With the ZAGGfolio typing notes during the meeting is so much quicker than with the built-in keyboard and I don’t feel like I’m always behind on the discussion because I’m trying to keep up on the keyboard.

Also worth mentioning is the amazing functionality Evernote offers for organizing notes and articles. I use it to clip web articles that I want to read regarding design and web development, as well as taking meeting notes, and making project lists. Combined with the ability to tag by departments the project is with, type of project, etc., finding content is a snap.

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What to do about junk mail

Last year we packed up and moved to the country. All things considered, it has been a great move, minus one thing…trash. I grew up in the country where trash pickup was not an option. Trash was often one of my childhood chores, and is probably why I HATE having to deal with it today. As our mail began forwarding to our new address I couldn’t believe the amount of junk that had made the move with us. Junk mail I couldn’t remember ever receiving at our previous address. Junk not even addressed to us! Ever day our mailbox was full on this useless information and the volume of trash I was having to deal with was unbelievable.

So I dealt with this problem the way I deal with all of life’s annoyances: I Googled it.

Opting out of Junk Mail

paper karmaI found several online solutions for unsubscribing to junk mail, most of which required online sign-up and then finding companies, submitting requests, etc, etc. Too much work! The little gem I finally landed on is PaperKarma, an app for smartphones that allows you to simply and quickly rid your life of junk mail. To use the app you first have to enter your address and names for the people who are receiving mail at your address. The app uses your phone’s GPS functionality to help fix your address so you don’t even have to type it in. Score one for being lazy!

After you have your mail recipients set up you just take a photo of whatever mail you receive that shows the side of the mailing that has your address. That’s it.

Seriously.

PaperKarma is so smart/magical that it figures out who the mail is being sent from and submits a request on your behalf to remove you from their mailing list. You can pull up the app at any time to see the status of previous requests.

Results

I started using this app a couple of months ago and am now starting to notice a huge decrease in the amount of junk mail we are receiving. As soon as I pull the mail out each day I snap a quick photo of the junk and throw it directly in the trash so I don’t forget to unsubscribe later. You should note that a lot of direct mail companies have their mailings scheduled months in advance and after you subscribe there may be a few mailings already in the mail queue that you will still receive.

Designing for the Blind

UPDATE: my thesis is completed!!

I have been working towards the completion of my MFA in Graphic Design for what feels like an eternity. For the past two years I have spent most of my free time researching the senses, blindness, and sensory production techniques. I’ve found it difficult to compose an “elevator speech” that makes sense. What is most difficult to express is a clear connection between graphic design, an inherently visual medium, and people who are blind. Here is how the two connect.

It is my belief that design should enhance meaning, offering instruction or making clear something that otherwise may not be clear. The problem with this is that most of design is visual and as designers we are taught to follow visual principles to aid that understanding.

But what about those that cannot see?

Designing for the Blind: separate or unified?

The prevalent attitude I have found is that there should be separate design for those with sight and those without. A great example is library access. Public libraries have copies of printed books, magazines, and other periodicals. There are limited books on tape available, usually in current, popular materials. For the general population, access is provided to most reading materials desired. Public libraries don’t, however, offer the same type of access to materials for people who are blind. There is a separate library system for people who are blind, the

What if access wasn’t separate, but design was accessible to both those with sight and those without?

Visuals

For the visual component of my thesis I’m trying to show exactly what this might look like in practical application. I chose the grocery store for application and am create a store map that would be at the entrance and end-cap graphics for each of the aisles. Though this is a work in progress, I hope it might help spur further thinking into accessible design. As always, let me know what you think.

 

Entrance Map

Entrance Map. Gray strokes would be embossed to outline store layout and icon shapes. Braille text identifies each section.

End Caps

End caps have Braille labeling each section and indicating which side of the aisle items can be located on. Also included is a price scanner which visually displays item descriptions and prices and reads the information.

Plagarism and Fair Use

Finding imagery is entirely too easy. A quick Google search will give you thousands of images for any topic. The ease of finding images online may give the impression that those images are free to use. This can be a sticky situation.

Any image that you find online is protected under copyright by the author. This also includes text, code, and all other types of content. Even if an image or site doesn’t explicitly say that the materials are copyright they are still protected. If you use this content without obtaining permission you are infringing the copyright and that person would have cause for legal recourse.

Fair Use

I’ve heard the term Fair Use is thrown around quite a bit to justify the use of these images.There are limitations to what Fair Use covers and in general it allows for reproduction of work only in the case of criticism, comment, reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research.

Students need to pay attention because “scholarship” may not apply in the sens of using found imagery in a design that is later presented as your own. Without receiving and giving credit to the original author the use of imagery is plagiarism.

 

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Design Templates

Free Packaging Templates

It is often necessary to mock-up designs in a practical way for a client, particularly when trying to show how branding can be applied. You may not have the time to create your own product mock-ups and the better solution may be to use design templates for products found online. Here are a few resource to point you in the direction of quality product templates:

Apparel

Vehicles

Packaging

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Typography Basics

Typography is not simply about choosing the best typeface for a particularly application. Although that is an important first step, the details and attention paid to the final text easily distinguish an experienced designer from a novice. Here are a few tips to get you started on the path of good typography.

Small Caps

Small caps are the uppercase characters at the size of a font’s x-height. An important distinction, however, small caps are not simply  smaller versions of the same capital letterforms. True small caps are crafted differently to be readable at smaller sizes and to flow within the text. I Love Typography has a great visual representation of the difference between the caps and small caps letterforms.

Usage: for acronyms like lol and abbreviations such as am or pm.

Hyphens & Dashes

Three different types of hyphens and dashes should exist in every designers toolbox: the hyphen (-), en dash (–), and em dash (—).

Hyphen

Hyphens are short dashes used to link hyphenated words and connect word breaks at the end of lines. A good way to remember their use is to remember that they connect, like joining numerals in a phone number or a word across two lines.

Usage: Typographic rules can be a real eye-opener.

Em Dash

The em dash is based upon a unit of measurement and used to indicate a break in thought. An em is the length in points of a font. So, for a 12pt font the em would be 12pts long. You can use an em dash in place of parentheses.

Usage: You are the dash—the best dash—to create drama.

En Dash

The en dash half the length of an em dash and is used to indicate a range of values.

Usage: indicating a span in dates such as March 3–7, 2012.

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Web Hosting

Choosing a company for web hosting can be a frustrating experience! I learned this the hard way after making the leap from a basic xHTML site to the WordPress platform. The host I had at the time was completely unreliable after the switch and I found my site down much of the time.After much Googl-ing I learned that some hosts just aren’t able to handle WordPress.

I have tried out a few different sites for WordPress hosting and have been quite pleased with HostGator.com. My site is stable and reliable now that I host here. Another big plus is their customer service, which is excellent. Shortly after switching to HostGator I had a minor issue with my site performance. After chatting with a service rep online they were able to resolve the issue in a matter of minutes. What I appreciated was the real-time support they offered. Other sites require you to submit an online request and they follow up with an email hours or days later. When your site is down hours or days isn’t acceptable. HostGator is one site that understands that and really gets it right.

If you are looking for a host, I have a couple of discounts to offer below. If you’re unsure about hosting sites, use the first discount to get a month free and try out their services.

Host Gator Coupon Codes

Get the first month free with coupon code SHIELDSDISCOUNT

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