it’s not YOU designers are scowling at

graphic design blog, musings

Ever walk up on a working designer and see them scowling at a computer screen? Or just staring? And then wonder if that is what designers do all day—stare and scowl? It’s true, there is a lot of screen time logged in our chosen profession, but the inner workings of the creative brain are hard at work. Here are some things we’re contemplating while staring:

Those fonts just don’t work together. Scrap the display face, go with a sans instead.

Those colors together…just…no. No.

Bah! Look at the size of that face! It’s scary! Good rule of thumb: no faces larger than life sized.

This is such a nice default font to use. But I really need to stop using this font as default.

That sidebar placement completely destroys the flow of the spread.

Does this design look too…early ‘90’s grunge band-esque?

There’s a high concentration of black and yellow in this season already. Try a different color scheme.

Resist the photoshop filters. Resist the photoshop filters.

THIS ISN’T WORKING. RRRRRRRR. (usually accompanied by hair rending in some manner)

Blasted rainbow wheel of death.

*insert favorite expletive here*

The feel of this layout is too serious. It needs to be much more in keeping with the playful voice of the manuscript. How best to achieve this? (usually followed shortly by staring up & to the right. Or sketching. Or research.) (side note: looking up and to the right can also connote another form of creativity—lying)

There’s just not enough magic in these. Ask illustrator to add more magic.

Cover meeting in an hour cover meeting in an hour need to show this at cover meeting in an hour COVER MEETING IN AN HOUR

This is turning out really well! But for a teen book, not a 4th grade book. Save idea for a more fitting project.

Is this really a plausible design solution for a series of books that will go on indefinitely? Can’t be too trendy to last.

Do I REALLY want to hand letter all the chapter titles and sidebar heads and running footers and playlists and title pages and covers for every book in this series? Not really time efficient. Or xml efficient. And I’ll end up with claw hand at the end of it. But it’d be the correct way to solve the design. Yes, I shall do it, and suffer for my art!

(In case you’re new here, yes, I design books for a k-12 children’s book publisher. And may tend towards the overly dramatic at times.)

There’s always more, but for now I’ll end this brief foray into the designerly mind. What runs through your head when staring at computer screen at work?

old notes

graphic design blog, musings

I recently found some design class notes from college days gone by. Here are a few select tidbits:

When thinking about a design problem, go places. Somewhere you’ve never been, or just some place different.

Approach something as if you have never done it before.

Exaggerate—go to extremes

Create a list of words and phrases that boils the problem down to the essence of what needs to be communicated.

Visualize that brick wall you just hit.

Restate the problem in terms you can work from.

Take risks with no fear of failure.

Keep laughing!

Still relevant points. And I imagine they always will be.

happiness is: the end of the world

graphic design blog

I finished another large personal/work design project tonight. It feels good. Tomorrow I shall continue on to a different project—which will be either the ‘save the world creatively’ project or the ‘save my own creative world’ project. One of those may end up being both, but both are not all. There you go. Any opinions, let me know!

During the large personal/work project finishing, I realized there were a few past projects that made me particularly happy as finished products. To end this post, here are bits of one of them: The end of the world.

and finally,

graphic design blog, musings

This may not be an ‘and finally’ to you, dear reader, but it is to me. I finally finished my own identity pieces. It hasn’t been a horrifically long time I suppose, but when things are hard to put together it seems to take forever.

Creating your own professional identity is tricky. You know yourself so well, how can you narrow yourself down to that One Simple Thing? You’re so much more than that! And of course THIS part of you is more important. Wait though, what about this other part? Yes, that’s you but is it professional design you? The next day you feel differently, then you want to strip everything down and just letterpress your name beautifully on a gorgeous card stock… in the end I did go with my name. Except with a bit of humor that takes a bit of thought. Or a rewarding realization. This is how I approach design after all, with careful thought, but also with some humor.

Below we have: digital letterhead, resumes (one header for the personal side, one header for the carkneetoe side, only one is shown), invoice, business card front and back with optional small mailing address label, cd label, and a few versions of stickers to use for CD sleeves, envelopes, and possible randomness.

I’m good and done with this for now. But part of the fun of being your own thing—you can revise at will. I’m also planning on doing a yearly update to everything. It’ll still be recognizable from year to year but will show progression in design. I’m looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

you know what else is fun?

graphic design blog, musings, travel blog & musings

The Bean, in Chicago.

Says my brother when we were walking up to the Bean: “Hey, that’s really reflective. It’d be interesting to go up close and take some pictures of your warped reflection.” Says me “Yep, you’re the first person to think of that… or maybe the millionth or so…” Brother seemed disappointed he wasn’t the first to think of this (as we walked up closer to the bean and the couple hundred people taking pictures of themselves in the reflection at that particular moment in time). This conversation quickly devolved into a Whovian discussion of how we really were the first and will travel back in time in the future to tell all of this fabulous idea, and so pleasant Carnito equilibrium was restored. Discussion stopped and photography started.

(To be fair to my brother, he’s not that oblivious. He lives in Europe and hasn’t been to downtown Chicago since the Bean made its appearance.)

The Bean really is a fun dream of photo composition play for a designer. However, with all of the people around, it’s hard to get a clean photo! There’s always another person or a bag or a shoe in there somewhere. You can only ask so many people to get out of your way…

And now you know what I look like, what my brother looks like, and that my hair isn’t the kind that does all that well in humid weather.

ADDENDUM 2.19.2012:

Brother apparently would like for it to be known that he really is that oblivious.
(but I still don’t really think he is)

brochures are fun

graphic design blog, musings

Why are brochures fun? My thoughts are these: they generally have a short lifespan, so you don’t have to worry about them looking to trendy and not holding up in time. They can be a chance to try a new technique or design idea. And even if you end up hating the result (admit it, that happens sometimes) you won’t have to live with it for long. But it’ll be there, in your file of past work, to look back on and laugh and chalk up to a learning experience.

Here’s a companion brochure to the IPS identity I posted earlier. I like this one, it was fun. I don’t look back on it and laugh. Instead I look back on it and think “Hey, can I do more collateral work with this identity?”

design nerves

graphic design blog

I’m working on a book cover now (surprise). It’s the follow up YA novel from Blythe Woolston. Blythe’s first novel The Freak Observer won her a really nice award, hence the gold emblem on the front cover below. I’ve met Blythe, she’s a fantastic author, quirky awesome fun, full of random knowledge, from Montana (as am I), loved the cover for her book, and was very appreciative of what I did for the design.

Which brings me to the nerves part of the post: I have eight cover ideas for Blythe’s next book ready to show to our cover committee for approval/discussion. This is not accounting one bit for the nerves. What I’m nervous about is Blythe seeing the options and none of them to her living up to The Freak Observer cover. Perhaps what this means is I should never meet awesome authors (especially if they live in the homeland I miss) and add another level of importance to an already high-profile project? When you have a client you like, you really want to do awesome work for their awesome project, so you add that extra pressure and it can all get a tad overwhelming.

Sadly there are no body parts on the new book cover (yet). But there is a big hole on one of them. Should be a nice companion cover to the first. Crossing fingers.

Maybe after this, if they let me do her third book cover, that one won’t be as hard…

ADDENDUM 8.12.11
Blythe liked the cover. And the interior layout.

it’s an app!

graphic design blog

I’m excited to say my first iPad app is up and running!

It’s been a process. Or several processes, actually. The Adobe process, the Lerner process, and the Apple Developer process. Guess which one took the longest…

Journey into the Deep (the book) was released in the Fall, and was a joy to work on then. That’s good, since I basically re-did it for app purposes. There are so many fantastical-awesome-alien-looking sea critters in here, I never got tired of the images. As a print piece, they looked nice. Put them on a backlit screen, they look even better.

Here’s my favorite little critter in the book. Check out the eyes:

Making an app from a print book was an interesting thing—elements that work in books don’t necessarily add anything to an app. For instance, page numbers! I detailed some more about the app process in a post over on the Lerner Books blog.


Shameless plug: You can buy your own copy of the app here.