Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DLM 2010 Food & Wine Show Poster

At my day job at Dorothy Lane Market (an upscale grocer here in town), I'm the only designer on staff. It can be quite demanding at times, and like all design jobs, some projects are cooler than others. Once project I look forward to every year is the Food & Wine Show poster (and related advertising materials). I've designed every poster since the event started in 1998, so it is a real challenge to come up with a fresh idea every year. And let's face it, some years might have been better than others.

Typically, I've stuck with a color palette the reflects the fall season and red wine or night and the moon (since it gets dark earlier in November when the show is held). This year, after looking at my previous years' posters, I realized that I had entirely overlooked the lighter side of wine (and color). So I went inthe complete opposite direction: I made it my mission to explore a color palette the revolved around "white wine".

Along the way, I developed a few ideas that I presented...

The first was inspired by one of my research photos of grapes glowing in the afternoon sunlight, so I added some texture for a Tuscan-inspired concept...

For this concept, I went a bit more stark/fine art simplicity...

Derivative with different background texture and altered bottle color...

And last but not least, champagne colored background with a "leaf glass' (thanks to my buddy Von and his fantastic book, Drip, Dot, Swirl.)

The unanimous choice for this year's poster was the last one: the champagne background with "leaf glass", and after only 1 day of it being posted, I've already received quite a few comments (1 from the owner who said it was my "best ever", guess I get to be employed for awhile longer!) I must say, that honestly, I was rooting for the Tuscan inspired version, but I do think there is a appeal in the simplicity of the "leaf glass" that does work better since it is a fall event.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Dell's Unsubscribe Procedure = MAJOR FAIL

A year or so ago I ordered a product that was on sell at through the Dell Business website. Ever since, as one you would expect, I've been on their e-mail and paper mailing lists. In my efforts to clean up my inbox, I decided to opt out upon receiving their latest e-mail. What I thought would take a few seconds ended up taking so much longer. There are at least 5 steps and several minutes involved in this process. I'm completely baffled that a large company like Dell doesn't have a better and faster system in place to unsubscribe people.

Here's the 5 (Yes, really FIVE steps) that led me to be "unsubscribed":

First you have to enter your e-mail address...
Once you've entered your e-mail address, then you can choose your options to unsubscribe: e-mail, paper mail, phone.

Seriously, I just entered my e-mail address, why do I have to enter it again?!

Surely my e-mail address and my account is linked to my mailing address, why the hell do I have to re-enter my info?

Geez, I hope their system was smart enough to e-mail the correct address so I am actually removed from their mailing list...

Well, it's been about a week after I went through this way-too-complicated unsubscribe and I now receive more Dell emails than ever. So long to you Dell, you're now a SPAMMER in my book. Good luck on getting more of my business.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Artisan Economy

I've never been much of a cook. If you ask my friends, they will tell you that the microwave is my best friend. In fact, one of my best buddies was shocked when he learned that I actually use the stove on occasion.

Well, when I first was out on my own I did not own a single pot or pan to cook with. I cooked using the Stouffer's method. But when I decided to buy some pots and pans, I went for a set that featured a saucepan, skillet, and larger pot along with a lot of cook looking utensils that was a great price. These little cookware pieces lasted several years and were of decent quality.

However, when I decided to replace them this year, I decided to look around and spend a bit more for something of higher quality. I ended up purchasing a great T-Fal 2-quart saucepan along with their eco-friendly non-stick 12.5 inch Saute Pan.

So what does this have to do with an "artisan economy"?

Well, I got to thinking that I didn't value the cookware I had, it was disposable because I had only spent a modest sum on it. Then I started thinking about things like the apps in the app store, or office supplies, you know, the little things that are cheap and how if it breaks, you just buy a new one.

Really, when you think about it, can something that costs a dollar or less really cost less than a dollar to produce? In some cases yes, but what about something that is five dollars or even ten? When those items break, we usually discard them too.

But what would happen if we spent more for something of a bit better quality? What if that five dollar toy was ten and was built a bit sturdier and of quality materials instead of cheap plastic? Maybe your kids would value their toys a bit more and want to keep them longer. (Ok it was worth a shot... :P) Or maybe that nice utensil that you bought for $10 that was made of metal instead of plastic would last longer and do better for your needs.

As I've gotten older, I've learned that I'm willing to pay a bit more for quality. Maybe if we all were willing to spend a bit more less often for quality items, then our economy would improve as we need to fill positions to make all this cool stuff.

Ironically, soon after I had this revelation, Eric Karjaluoto over at Ideas on Ideas had a great post about the very same topic. Maybe, fingers crossed, it's the start of a good trend....

(btw, I'm not affiliated with Eric, smashLAB, or Ideas on Ideas other than I enjoy Eric's posts and once had a fun conversation about design conferences with him on Facebook that he probably doesn't remember...)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Deaf Monty Illustration

Over the summer, I was asked by my longtime friend Leslie (who co-owns the Innport B&B with her husband Jeff) to illustrate their dog, Deaf Monty for a new business venture. They are hoping to obtain a liquor license and open a small wine tasting bar at their bed & breakfast. They have a small dog, Monty, who is a cute cross between a Westie and a Maltese. He really is deaf and he has a penchant for cheese and red wines, so they figured he'd be the perfect way to advertise their new wine tasting bar.

So my job was to illustrate the ultra-cute, ultra-fuzzy Deaf Monty for a logo-esque usage. I started out by meeting the clients and Monty at Innport. I took some photos and the client also sent me some shots they had taken so I could have reference to draw from.

I reviewed all the reference photos and I Googled "westie" and "maltese" to see the breeds that are a part of Monty to see how I could best capture his personality.

After I narrowed down the photo reference to the few shots I thought would best convey Monty's personality, I began sketching with pencil. My first few attempts were very sad...but that's the whole point of sketching, to practice learning to draw your subject. After about a half dozen or so attempts, I sketched out this version of Monty that I felt captured him pretty well...

Reference photo...

My sketch...

Clearly, it is not 100% there yet, but I felt it was at a stage to get some feedback from the client. They replied that it was close, but not quite there yet, they felt the ears and snout still needed work. So back to the sketchbook for me.

Usually when sketching a subject, you get better at it the more you sketch it...well unless you don't. I just couldn't seem to re-capture the "magic" of that previous sketch. Here's one of the later sketches that was worse than what I presented to the client...

So what the heck do I do now? I had to take a break and think about what my next step would be. After some contemplation, I thought I would review the other reference photos to see if I should try a different angle on my sketch.

After re-reviewing the photos, I choose this one to sketch...

And here's my (quick) sketch from the photo...

I showed the client both the crappy "second version" as well as my new angle. They replied back that they really still liked the first sketch, but the third one (the new angle directly above) was very good too, was there any way to combine the best traits of each?

Most designers and illustrators probably would gasp in horror at this moment. But I didn't because by combining both sketches, I was able to resolve all the issues of the first sketch and was better able to capture the "true Monty".

Here's a rough digital composite I made for the client to review...

The client loved the composite and so I proceeded to make the sketch digital. In order to do this, I took my composite file and imported it into Illustrator where I used the brush tool and my Wacom tablet to retrace my pencil lines. I also decided to add a "wine stain" as a background element to help Monty stand out against a white background.

Here's the first version of the "digital Deaf Monty"...

The client overall liked the this version, however they felt the mustache was a bit too heavy handed and they had another suggestion, one that I wish I would have thought of. Since Monty is a dog who "nose wine", the client suggested I make the nose and mouth a subtle wine glass shape.

Here's my first attempt...
The client thought it was good, but not great, so I refined the linework and the nose/mouth area a bit and here is the final illustration...

The client loves the final result and is looking forward to using their new illustration to promote their new wine bar once the liquor permit is approved. I think this project was a great one in that I was able to help out longtime friends and with their input and guidance, I was able to take a good illustration and really make it awesome!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Wedding Invites for Sarah & Jon

Wow, it's been a busy year for me. So busy that I forgot to post several cool projects that I completed this year. Here's one of them...

I met Sarah through mutual friends a few years ago. She is a bright, bubbly, enthusiastic person. We both share a love of creativity and her energy really inspires me.I had known her for a few years when she met Jon. He is a bit quieter than Sarah, but he is a great guy, funny and fun to be with. They make a great couple, and I was honored when they asked me to design their wedding invitations and save the date cards.

I was a bit nervous, as this was my first ever wedding invitation, so I wanted to be sure I got it just right. I started my usual process of meeting with the bridge and groom to discuss the color palette for the wedding as well as to determine what theirpersonal tastes were. Once I had a better of idea of what their expectations were, I got to work doing research and sketches. Ialso started looking through my library of type to see which one would work best for the invitations.

Here's a look at a page of sketches....

As I was sketching, I doodled out a fancy "S" and "J" to represent the bridge and groom...

As I moved on to the digital mockups, I brought the cute little flowers and the fancy monograms with me. I wanted everything I did to be handmade by me so I all sketched everything by hand and then retraced each element with my Wacom tablet into Illustrator.

Here are the individual monograms...
And here are 2 unused concepts for the inviations...

After developing a few concepts for review by Sarah and Jon, I took their feedback and went back for another round. They really wanted to keep the invitations simple yet elegant. So I removed the floral elements and stuck with just the monograms joined together to symbolize their union as a couple. We also met with my fabulous friend and all around awesome person, Annie, who owns a local upscale stationery store, The Envelope. The couple chose a sparkly champagne paper with a darker navy-esque blue to back up the invitations. Annie suggested envelope liners to add a touch of elegance to the envelopes. To save on costs, I hand assembled the envelope liners and invitations. Thankfully, there were only 90 invitations to produce!

For the save the date cards, I designed the layout and per the couple's request, we had them printed at our local photo lab (which seems to be the trend these days) so they could send them out as their holiday cards/save the date cards. The final save the date cards printed on photo paper at our local photo lab and mailed by the future bride and groom...

And the final invitations and reply cards...

The couple informs me that they still get raves on their invitations to this day (as of this writing, almost 4 months after their wedding). They were extremely pleased with how the invitations turned out. While I was nervous when I first started on this project, I was also pleased with the results. And like any good designer, I was happy that the client was happy with the end product. It is a great feeling knowing that I could use my design skills to help make my friends' special day even more special.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chilean Miner Poster

The story of the 33 trapped Chilean miners has really captured my heart. These guys could die any day that they go into work as a part of their normal job. (Most of us designers just sit at desks,the most dangerous thing we have to worry about on a day-to-day basis is falling out of our chair or our computer mouse biting us.)

I was thrilled to learn that the miners had survived the initial mine collapse. But then I was shocked, literally, jaw dropping shocked, to learn it could take 2 to 4 months to rescue the miners. Wow, I couldn't image being trapped with 32 other people in a dark, small, enclosed space for that amount of time.

I anxiously await to hear news that the rescue has occurred earlier than anticipated, but that doesn't seem likely, so I did the only thing I could as a designer: I made a poster to show my support for the miners and I've made it my Facebook profile image until their rescue. I know it's only a symbolic gesture, but it is a heartfelt one. If you'd like to join in, you are welcome to make it your Facebook profile image too. In the meantime, I'm praying (rezar means "pray" in Spanish) that these miners are rescued as soon and as safely as humanly possible.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bunkers Sauce Labels

Wow, it's been a busy year for me. So busy that I forgot to post several cool projects that I completed this year. Here's one of them...

I completed this label design for Bunker's Bar & Grill, a local sports bar earlier this year.

The client had a couple of requests: they'd like a sports theme if possible and they really wanted to do a pepper that showed a heat scale for each of their sauces.

I started out with the sports theme, but it just wasn't giving off the right vibe. Plus the addition of a pepper graphic was not working out well...

So I worked on a simpler version that focused more on the pepper heat scale...

The client preferred this direction much better, but wanted a cleaner look to the label. After the client's suggestion of using white, I needed to figure out how to make the flavor name stand out more. I tried several variations and decided to give each flavor its own style of brushstroke along with a unique color that related to the heat scale imagery.

The client loved it and these are the final labels...

Monday, July 26, 2010

Mail Fail...Local is Relative

I just received this cute little bit of direct marking in the mail this week:

As you can see, it's addressed to "Our Neighbor". How nice! But the return address is in San Antonio, Texas. Hmm...a quick Google maps search shows that San Antonio is about 1200 miles from Dayton. Wow, that's some neighborhood!

I know that the larger companies have centralized mail services/print vendors/what have you, but really, "Our Neighbor" just really isn't cutting it on this one.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How Not to Make Friends After A Conference

As mentioned in my previous posts, I had the privilege of attending the 2010 CFC and HOW Design Conferences in Denver in June of this year. Like any conference, you share stories with your colleagues. Eventually someone breaks out the business cards and you trade. And while I love a well-designed business card, I have a pile of them by the time the conference is over and other than enter a few of my top picks (more on this in a minute), I add them to my growing dust collectors collection of cards in my office.

So how do you keep in contact with your fellow attendees that you do want to connect with? Well, I first narrow down my cards based on 1) the notes I took on the back of the card or 2) how well I remember the person. I make those people a top priority to connect with and put the rest on the back burner.

For those few folks I do choose to connect with, I typically connect via an awkward e-mail or two, Facebook, or Twitter. So needless to say my follow up isn't the best. However, I learned of another way that people are connecting post-conference, and while it might be a good idea overall, the implementation needed work.

Apparently, by handing my card out to a few folks at this year's conference, I was also added to their e-newsletter without really knowing or thinking about it. Now for me, I do expect the large companies in the resource center to use and abuse my business card in exchange for cool schwag. However, for some reason, I never anticipated my fellow attendees signing me up for their newsletter just because I gave them my card. To me, this is spam because I never granted my permission to be on their e-mail list.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised when I started receiving new newsletters in my inbox that I didn't sign up for . Were these newsletters asking me to try viagra or some other product? No, they were nicely written pieces that deserve more attention. But I didn't ask for them. So I promptly unsubscribed from each and sent an e-mail to the person so they knew why I was unsubscribing. (I'm not always the most tactful person either, so I did my best to restrain myself, but I still need to work on it...) In every case, the person understood and made sure my name was removed.

But this all could have been avoided. All I want is to be asked to be signed up. So when you trade business, the exchange could go something like this: "Hi, it was nice to meet you. I would love to keep in touch with my e-newsletter, is it okay if I sign you up when I get back home?"

See how easy it was? I've been asked (and will most likely agree) to receive your newsletter because I've given you my card so I might think you're a good person that I can learn from and share cool design stuff with.

My other thought is to follow Mig Reyes' example and only hand out my card to folks who promise to send me something cool. That way I'm giving them permission up front to send me stuff.

Either way, please don't be offended if I don't ask for your card or give you one of mine. I've just grown to the point where I need to find quality connections, not quantity.

Monday, June 21, 2010

CFC & HOW 2010: Part 2

I had the privilege of attending the 2010 Creative Freelancer Conference and a few sessions of the 2010 HOW Design Conference. In a stroke of brilliance, F&W Media decided to hold the CFC, HOW, and inHOWse conferences all at the same location and at the same time. As a result, my CFC package included access to the HOW resource center (samples and schwag! :), the HOW Opening Keynote and one "Wildcard" HOW Session. Here's part 2 of my experience…

Alas, the topics of Day Two were a bit dry: It's Your Money (Galia Gichon), Legal Basics (Jean Perwin), and The Art & Science of Pricing (Shel Perkins). Galia and Jean presented their rather dry info in a good and as interesting as possible way as they could. It was a necessary evil, but useful and informative. Shel's session, however was not for me. Way too dry to keep me interested. It looked like good info, however the slides were nearly illegible at the back of the room and instead of offering us a link to his extremely long presentation, he just mentioned that all the info was in his book. Major fail there dude, this conference is about sharing! A link his presentation would have been greatly appreciated here, especially since Shel talked way too fast and had too much info to capture in the session's allotted time.

The session on Internet Marking by Aliza Sherman was informative and great for those who are tiptoeing into social media and internet marketing. Not nearly as dry as the financial and legal presentations, Aliza really lit up her session with color and wit.

I skipped out on the remaining sessions to hang with my fellow HOWies (members of the HOW Design Forum) on the 40th floor of the Hyatt's Peak Lounge, which has a fantastic panoramic view of the Rockies and downtown Denver. And while I was skeptical of Von's order of the Crisps with Artichoke dip, it was really good. I think I became addicted to it in the first bite! The company and the view were fantastic and I wouldn't have traded that for any session.

After our pre-HOW meetup, we all trekked over to the Denver Convention Center for the HOW Opening Keynote by Andy Stefanovich. I'd seen Andy speak at a previous HOW conference (Vegas, I believe) and as I expected, he was fantastic. He talks a mile a minute, but this enthusiasm and passion are quite evident and it is is hard to not get caught up in it. Andy's session was a great way to kick of the 2010 HOW Conference (and the mayor's proclamation declaring it Design Week in Denver didn't hurt either... ;)

After that rousing session, it was time to hit the famous Resource Center. One of the best aspects of the HOW Design Conference is all the vendors that are located in the Resource Center. Plenty of schwag and samples to be had by all! But that doesn't stop 2,500 of your closest design friends from clamoring to get all the cool stuff on the first night. Nothing beats earning that Veer T or French Paper sample kit by standing in line and waiting with your fellow designers chatting about the day.

Day Three for me (Day 2 of HOW) was a short day for me since I just had the 2 Wildcard HOW sessions. (I was fortunate enough to score 3 Wildcards for HOW because of friends who either purchased both CFC and HOW Conferences or had a plane to pays to know people! :) I started out with Gail Anderson's session on You Are What You Keep. It took Gail awhile to get up to speed and I figured that she was like me and didn't do well with the whole getting up early thing... Gail had great info and I particularly liked how she showed specific examples of how items she collected were used or inspired future projects.

Next up was Von's session, 5 Alarm Concepts. Von always has a great presentation and his latest one was no different. Von spoke of collecting "matches" to fill up your virtual matchbox so you could ignite your brain to creative 5 Alarm Concepts. Funny and informative, this was my favorite of the two sessions I attended.

2010 was a great year for the CFC/HOW Conferences and I was pleased that I was able to reconnect with old friends and make new ones along the way. Alas, I was bummed that I missed out on the closing Party as well as the awesome Kevin Carroll giving the closing keynote, but I was able to squeeze in another day of Denver siteseeing along the way before heading home Tuesday evening. All in all, I think I did a good job of collecting a variety of matches from different sources to fuel my next creative endeavor.

Friday, June 18, 2010

CFC & HOW 2010: Part 1

I had the privilege of attending the 2010 Creative Freelancer Conference and a few sessions of the 2010 HOW Design Conference. In a stroke of brilliance, F&W Media decided to hold the CFC, HOW, and inHOWse conferences all at the same location and at the same time. As a result, my CFC package included access to the HOW resource center (samples and schwag! :), the HOW Opening Keynote and one "Wildcard" HOW Session.

I'm a CFC and HOW Conference veteran and while my main purpose was to attend both conferences, I brought along my friend who likes to travel, so I planned on working in a bit of a vacation too.

Despite what our pilots told us at the beginning of the flight, our ride into Denver was anything but smooth. Especially the last half hour, it felt as if we were on a roller coaster and not a plane. And alas, I did succumbed to altitude sickness that same night. Going into the first day of CFC, I was a bit unsteady and uncertain.

However, once I arrived and saw Bryn Mooth (HOW Editor and all-around awesome person) and chatted with her a bit, I started feeling much better. That carried me until I entered the room filled with CFCers and the energy of several hundred independent creatives lit my design fire up.

Ilise stared the day off right with the session You Are A Business.She talked about how we decide if and when we are a business. It was very empowering. Pitch Perfect by Dyana was good, however, it was the same basic presentation from 2008, so although it was not new to me, it was good to hear again and to do the exercises to help clarify how I define my business when asked the dreaded "What do you do?"

Luke's session Who's The Boss was by far the best presentation of the day for me. He explained how to set clear boundaries between work and personal for you and your client as well as strategies to keep your business and clients all working together smoothly.

Rather than attend the panel on freelance success and the networking reception, I decided to fill up my soul or as Von said in his HOW session ("add a match to my matchbox", more on that later). My friend's friends were going to visit their dog who had just given birth to the cutest little labrador puppies I've ever seen. Nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, I really got to see the beauty of Denver and surrounding areas.

Day Two of the CFC was shaping up to be a long day for me since I also had the HOW opening keynote and resource center on my agenda. I was starting to really feel better today! The design mojo and creative energy was definitely palpable as I walked through the Hyatt to the sessions.

Look for part 2 coming Monday!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

HZ-14: Coffee

After a short hiatus, the HOWiezine is back and to the theme for issue 14 was Coffee. Personally, I'm not a coffee fan, but I couldn't miss a chance to participate, so I signed up without being inspired as to what I'd do.

I did something thinking and I figured I could use my aversion to coffee as a part of my concept. I've also seen more Star Trek than I'd like to admit. The Borg are a great enemy and they have an awesome line they use when they encounter civilizations who try to beat them as they go around conquering the universe: "Resistance is futile." Now we're talking...with that in mind, I began to sketch.

After getting the coffee beans down, I wanted to create an old-school "hypnotic" effect with a coffee at the very center. Sure, I could've used lines spiraling inward, but the idea of using a coffee "stain" as the rings seemed better.

Since I don't drink coffee, I substituted hot chocolate to make the rings. The original rings were a bit light, so I had to darken them a bit in Photoshop.

I then converted the "coffee" stain to black and white so I could better blend the rings into the background in Photoshop. Here's an early stage composite of the layout:

Next up, I took my coffee bean sketches and digitally inked the best one in Illustrator. I added color for the bean. I also added a red "eye" like a cyborg to give it a more menacing feel.

I layered in the coffee bean, added a background texture, duplicated and blended the coffee rings into the composite image. I decided to add in the type "Resistance is futile." It started out bold, but I gradually blended the type so it was a bit more "subliminal". Here's how it looked before I finished blending and adding the lighting effects:

Next I added blending and lighting to create the final image for page one:

Now my dilemma: I had a great page one, but no clue as to what to do for page two! As I was working on page one, I kept thinking of how I could tie in the second page. My previous 'zine entries had a poem as the second page, but it didn't seem appropriate for my chosen concept.

I had finished page one and still hadn't had a good idea for page two yet. I went on to work on another project and let the idea marinate in my subconscious for awhile. When the solution came, it was so simple I should've thought of it sooner: take the cyborg coffee bean and duplicate it to fill the entire back page. I had considered making several different coffee beans for variation,but in keeping with the cyborg theme I simply used the original bean. Here's the resulting image for page two:

Another fun HOWiezine project under my belt! Can't wait for HZ-15!