damn good

damn good by jason adam & tim lapetino
damn good by jason adam & tim lapetino

my buddies over at hexanine have just released damn good: top desiners discuss their all-time favorite projects with how books. i like this book for a few reasons. for one, it’s really well organized into project type, so each project is in a category with similar work. another thing i enjoy now that i know some of these authors is to see what they would curate as a set of work worth sharing. everyone has an opinion about what’s good, and we can easily look at their own portfolios, but it’s always fun to see what they like and are inspired by.

finally, i liked the feedback feature in this book. it’s not just a selection of nice pieces, it’s a chance to hear from the designers about their favorite parts of each project, which can sometimes reveal aspects readers couldn’t have guessed on first glance.

aiga la: speakeasy poster in damn good
aiga la: speakeasy poster in damn good

i’m honored to be among the group of damned good, here in the form of the aiga la: speakeasy poster, which was a really fun project for the 2010 aiga la fellows gala and celebration. the people who work with the los angeles chapter of aiga are a fantastic group, and this project was a great reflection of that.

see the aiga la fellows gala project here.

how’s creativity issue for 2012

how's creativity issue, may 2012
how's creativity issue, may 2012

it’s that time of year again, and i’m honored to say i’m back in HOW‘s creativity issue, compliments of ilise benun’s freelancing piece, fighting the crowd. it was humorous to come home from a morning meeting where i’m discussing picking up the pieces of a failed crowdsourcing experiment, to see myself quoted on the pitfalls of this practice.

fighting the crowd, by ilise benun
fighting the crowd, by ilise benun

awhile back, i wrote about why crowdsourcing not only isn’t the best choice for most businesses, it’s not the answer when you don’t have a budget. if price is the main thing on your mind, look further into what you can offer in trade. sometimes cross-promotion is an opportunity worth more than money to a well-paired team. read get design on a budget without a crowdsourcing contest here, or pick up the latest issue of HOW on newsstands this month!

how magazine, may 2011

how magazine, may 2011 cover
how magazine, may 2011 cover

if you’ve got your how magazine‘s design & creativity issue for may 2011, check out ilise benun’s piece, “making the move,” on how to transition to freelance for advice from myself, alisa bonsignore, lydia varesco racoma and kristin maija peterson. i’ve been talking a lot about how i started planning for my transition and then put it into high action during an unexpected layoff. 3.5 years later, i’m still going strong and only getting better. if anyone has questions about what they should know or what to be aware of, i’m always happy to help.

making the move, by ilise benun
making the move, by ilise benun for how magazine

i’ve been reading how for about 15 years, and i’ve met so many great people through it, it’s a true honor to be able to contribute to it and be included in helping other designers learn different aspects of our industry.

for more on the transition to freelance, check these links below:
Ready to Conquer the World? by Ilise Benun for creative freelancer blog
Take 6 Steps Toward a Successful Freelance Career by Ilise Benun for HOW
In House Interpersonal: Walking out of the house from the InHOWse designer blog
Interview with Heather Parlato on Freelancing, podcast with Ilise Benun
Freelancing 103: When to Make the Leap to F/T Freelancing by Ilise Benun
Freelancing 102: Balancing Two Jobs by Ilise Benun
Freelancing 101: How to Begin Getting Clients by Ilise Benun

creative inspiration


work life by darren booth
[image: darren booth]
this piece was a monday inspiration pic on fudgegraphics.com and it’s easy to see why. what a great combination of words, hand lettering and illustrative awesomeness!

i’m an undying fan of maira kalman, and as any undying fan should, i promise to post any article on her that crosses my rss reader. this week, she’s the focus of what’s in your toolbox, from designsponge. take a peek inside her studio!


finishing touches by hoefler & frere-jones
[image: typography.com]
the people at hoefler & frere-jones have done it again with an outstanding post outlining the finishing touches of typeface design in which they show you how they mind your p’s & q’s.

if you’re looking for a good review of the latest web font embedding services, smashing magazine offers: review of popular web font embedding services so you can choose your tools wisely.

print techniques: letterpress

letterpress cards by lulu dee
[image: lulu dee]
one of the great letterpress artists i saw at the 2nd annual LA print fair recently was lulu dee, who’s work has just been featured on for print only. her work is so cute, pairing song lyrics with delicate illustrations.

design industry

if you do packaging design, HOW and thedieline.com have partnered to bring a conference just for you: the dieline package design conference, presented by HOW.

this week in the biz ladies column: biz ladies: how to create digital products, from design sponge. if you’re thinking of writing a white paper, an ebook or selling other digital assets online, they’ll help you get started.

if you’re looking to make sustainable choices in your future print projects, check this out: choosing sustainable paper made easy, from the living principles. find the most sustainable paper that’s appropriate for your project!

beyond design

did you just ask what’s going on in echo park? well… if you’ve known we’re going to drain the lake and update the plumbing system, and you have questions, the city is offering 3 rehabilitation pre-construction tours to anyone interested. we’ve also got the rock n roll los angeles half-marathon running right through our neighborhood this sunday!

in food news, this weekend is artisanal LA, where you can do home gardening & food prep workshops, learn about all kinds of neato techniques, and taste a selection of wonderful artisanal foods! from the seasonal eats corner, if this completely insane rundown of apple recipes isn’t enough for you, consider enflorinating your tastebuds with this lavender recipe rundown from thekitchn.com. and for the non-recipe food piece, the utne reader pointed me to this very interesting our meals, ourselves: a short history of food writing, from themillions.com.

creative inspiration

design history

see america vintage u.s. parks posters
[image: travel.nationalgeographic.com]

this collection from the archives of national geographic of vintage US parks posters are stunning and inspirational specimens of illustration and design. don’t forget to take a spin through the vintage national parks photos while you’re there. thanks boingboing for the link!

vintage mens adventure magazines
[image: artofmanliness.com]
refresh your beverage and get comfortable, this collection of vintage mens adventure magazines from art of manliness is entirely too awesome to pass up or rush through. i might have to buy the book.

another one from the history blogs, <a href="smashing magazine presents 100 years of propaganda: the good, the bad, and the ugly

design industry

werner heisenberg by shannon may
[image: shannon may]
i love art and i love science, so when they come together in exciting ways, it makes me super happy. design sponge shared these awesome illustrations by shannon may this week, and i am loving her web site. even her logo has a cute illustrated diagram worked in. fantastic!

how magazine has some great follow-up blog posts now that the how conference is over. and we’re back is a nice first look at what went down. more how conference love has a little more collected from around the web, some speaker presentations and such.

looking into a summer internship? how magazine has a great article on getting the most out of it: advice for prospective interns. for another perspective on interns, design sponge biz ladies column features hiring interns this week.

need resources to save time and be efficient in your workday? freelance switch offers this collection of cool things you might need: top 3 productivity articles from workawesome.

have a facebook page for your business? not sure what you can add easily that will enhance your presence there? my colleagues over at pi design have some suggestions: jazz up your company facebook page.


GOOD's guide to education innovation
[image: meg paradise]
run over to GOOD’s guide to education and check out all their amazing programs, illustrated with these playful & fun pieces by meg paradise of parliament of owls. look at all their portfolios while you’re there, they all do amazing work.


if you can’t get enough of the world cup, take a look at what designey things are happening at tinyhaus and their piece for nike!

HOW conference 2010, day 3

big blue bear, convention center, denver, colorado
[photo: ©larsonmirek on flickr]

[recap day 1 and day 2 of the HOW conference]

we’re in the home stretch! at this point i was really exhausted—but it’s back to the convention center for the final wrap up on HOW 2010!

designing the future, dodging the vectors

i’m always interested in what the aiga is up to, and wanted to hear what richard grefé would talk about as their new direction. i have to admit, this presentation went by too quickly for me to keep up with the notes, but grefé talked about how design has changed from simply executing on creative direction, to strategic thinking. his idea of dodging the vectors is about the fact that traditions in design practices have become the vectors we most often follow, and it’s time to divert from those in order to evolve the industry, both in practicing differently and teaching it differently. we start as makers of artifacts, and evolve into designers of higher concepts and more interdisciplinary hybrid intangibles. similarly, the global landscape has changed, and since american culture is received less openly, we have to change how we appeal to the rest of the world. aiga will adapt to these changes by investing in the new generation of designers, meeting people where they are, recognizing that social responsibility counts and that institutional authority is no longer valid. interesting points, i’m going to have to download his presentation to recreate the full picture. i couldn’t write fast enough!

rediscovering play: bringing fun and passion to your work…and life

kevin carroll, closing keynote at HOW 2010
[photo: ©larsonmirek on flickr]

kevin carroll was a very inspiring closing keynote for the conference. while he talked about play as a universally important aspect of human culture, my takeaway was that he connected with something he felt passionately about and made it his life’s work, working with ann willoughby to make his ideas accessible in a few forms of media. but above all, his message was to find play and connect with our need to play as an uplifting social exercise. i really enjoyed his style.


overall i really enjoyed my first HOW conference. there were so many amazing people here with so much to share, even advice that may have seemed obvious was re-framed in new contexts as food for thought. there was so much good programming that it was hard to narrow the choices down for concurrent sessions.

that said, i do have a few critiques
first, a lot of the sessions were named something a bit misleading. the session titled killer copy was not about crafting killer copy, it was about creating clear content. three word taglines was not about branding practices so much as changing process and approach. i started to wonder how many other sessions i passed over due to the title [and description] that would have been interesting to me. second, a lot of these presentations are too portfolio showcase-heavy. i remember a time when i might have been more curious what artifacts these designers were producing, but currently i’m a lot more interested in their process and style than having half [or sometimes all] of a presentation be a portfolio show. this is probably due to how online portfolios have become so available remotely, but what i want to see & hear these days is more about how you think rather than what you made. third, the exhibition floor should be open a little more often. it seemed like it was only open during the breaks, and i get that, but a conference like this is so back-to-back that we need lunch breaks outside. the only time the floor was open was when it was flooded with people, and as such, i never got a chance to walk & talk with vendors. they paid for those booths, give them some quality time with attendees, not just a swag-fest.

getting respect is a 2-way street
another thing i noticed in a big way due to the nature of CFC and HOW happening back to back is the difference of the attitude toward design between business owners & independent professionals like myself and in-house designers. in both arenas there is a lot of talk about how to communicate the value of design, how to convince our clients and bosses that design is a priority not to be overlooked. at CFC we talk about strategic thinking v. simple execution on directives. we talk about knowing the value of what we produce, creating a fantastic experience for our clients, and charging accordingly. and we talk to each other about how we plan to do this, things we have done that work, evidence that we have converted clients to believers because they see the return on their investments. this was also discussed at HOW, but when i’d talk to attendees, i also heard in-house designers talking about working on the side for rates that could never support an independent practice, doing branding work on an hourly rate with no value add commensurate to the service, or working to justify the value of design to the higher-ups and then turning around to pressure their contract designer to do extra work for free. when david berman challenged designers to do 5 hours of work per week for a cause, i heard grumbling along the lines of …but how do you pay the bills? when i related some of brian dougherty’s sustainable best practices to someone i met, the response was but how do you get clients to pay for it? this was disheartening, but it’s no surprise to me that getting respect in this industry is so hard when so many people are willing to sell it out in one way or another, or come to the most simple, somewhat-cop-out answer. there’s an inherent flaw in trying to sell your clients and bosses on the value of ideas if you’re selling logos on the side at production rates. to be valued in the way we say we’d like to be at these conferences, we all have to bring professionalism and respect to everything we do, in all areas of our practice. we all have to live this message more so we can talk about it less.

HOW conference 2010, day 2

HOW conference 2010 exhibition floor
[photo: http://www.neenahpaperblog.com]

[recap day 1 of the HOW conference here]

how can we use design to influence positive change?

this breakfast with kit hinrichs was a late addition of interest to me. hinrichs started off by showing some of his work relevant to the topic, and then introduced his senior designer, maurice woods, to present on his labor of love the inneract project, where he offers free design classes to creative kids and teaches the concepts of creative problem solving. woods shared some pretty outstanding work from this program, which grew from a few interested students to a thriving classroom of engaged kids, bringing design to their personal passions. this program has a host of sponsors, including sappi paper, who handed out a cool booklet on creating positive change afterwards.

visual storytelling: resonate and activate audiences

i was interested this presentation by nancy duarte since i’m considering doing some speaking in the future. her talk was hands-down rockin’—and it should be, because she’s been in the business more than 20 years. too many presentations are about the presenter and not about helping the audience. duarte talked about deciding who your audience is when they walk in, and who you want them to be when they walk out. creating a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter that starts ‘to whom it may concern.’ duarte talked about contrasting between what is and what could be, take your audience back and forth between the two, using storytelling to talk about transformation. she had a fascinating way of telling her own story to illustrate this, starting out as a slide design company, moving through the transformation to powerpoint, and facing competition from abroad in a global marketplace, she had to transform her own business to remain competitive. she also talked about mapping out some of the most famous and poignant speeches in history, and formulating her own for presentations that have the most impact. using contrast as a structure, add a veil of emotional appeal in each transition to connect the audience to the story. use different media and try to illustrate points a few different ways. every presentation needs a star minute that everyone will remember. finally, deliver profound experiences, be the authentic you.

evolve: the future of sustainable design

this presentation by brian dougherty was just what i was looking for: something that goes beyond using recyclable paper. dougherty described that as the formative years of green design, and said he wanted to push it further: there must be better options than green & leaves or sustainability as a movement will hit a dead end. over time, green design has become about designing for outcomes. if you look at green design as a vehicle for changing behavior, design for change is your job. in order to do this, we need to make green design accessible, consider it part of a whole system that uses best practices, and give tools that enable the right actions. dougherty talked about his concept of designing backwards, considering the final resting place of the piece before creating it. if we don’t want it in the trash, we must design it to be used or recycled; if we want it recycled we must make it easy to de-ink; if we want to waste less, consider a package that uses as much of the sheet as possible to avoid throwing out unused materials. take these concepts up the chain, talk to vendors, find out about materials and processes and think about how best to use them.

three. word. taglines. [and other horrible branding practices]

tate linded at HOW 2010
[photo: http://www.neenahpaperblog.com]

as a branding specialist, i was curious about what tate linden had to say about branding practices. he ended up talking less about the practices themselves and more about developing a process that breaks out of “the written rules” of how traditional business has been done, and gave examples of how he wrote his own. the client is best qualified to open up insight into what they think their brand means. it’s up to you to add value. some of his practices include exploring all avenues before choosing one [rather than downplaying the alternatives to the client or allowing consensus to water-down concepts], always working directly with the decision-maker on every project, and knowing your target and going after their motives. some of the brand practices he cautioned us to avoid: company names that are acronyms, three word taglines that aren’t a call to action.

neenah white party

heather parlato & beth goldfarb at the neenah white party
[photo: neenah paper]

after all that action was over, we had a break for a couple hours before the white party. we took our time having dinner and then dressed up in our white outfits. i assembled a paper dress of tissue and outdated paper swatch books, because “it seemed like a good idea at the time” and “i am nuts.” beth made that awesome tissue flower for me, it really ties the whole ensemble together!

[continue with day 3 of the HOW conference here]

HOW conference 2010, day 1

how conference 2010 backdrop
[photo: ©larsonmirek on flickr]

from one conference to another, we jumped right into the HOW conference on monday morning. my conference buddy, beth goldfarb, and i had matching agendas for today, so we got our breakfasts and jumped in.

design and social responsibility

david berman gave a really inspiring presentation on how design can change the world if we start asking what can we do with design, where will we have the greatest impact? he showed several examples of design solutions to seemingly non-design problems where a strategic system + clear information becomes a network for people in need and changes lives. examples: mpedigree.org, innocentive.com and kiva.org. if we had the innovation that created facebook dedicated to good causes, we could change the world. indeed! berman also talked about some of the failures of bad design and how it’s altered the course of history: the palm beach ballot fiasco, how traffic lights could be redesigned for the color blind and how colalife.org is using the space between soda bottles to ship essentials to third world countries. i have seen this theme since the beginning of my involvement in aiga, and am glad to see people are still talking about it, because the movement toward better practices has been a slow one. we helped create consumerism, so we can help move away from it. berman challenged the audience to dedicate 5 hours of their work week to design for worthwhile causes. hopefully those who were moved by this will find a way to make it happen.

a perfect marriage: great design and killer copy

the most effective design i see appeals to me because of how the design and copy interact cleverly, so i was sold on attending this presentation by erin anderson of braintraffic.com. she opened with a common scenario we’ve seen too often: where design of a site and content for it have been developed separately and then pieced together as 11th hour content, which is always less effective than a site that has been developed with design & content hand in hand. web users read 20-28% of the words presented on a web page. don’t fight this fact, plan for it. think about your target audience, their lifestyles and how they interact with information. prioritize content by what you want users to do when they visit, and don’t bury these items with less relevant content. plan content so users see themselves in it. don’t forget about mobile users, low visibility & literacy users, and international users, who may be using a different interface, or may not be able to read the content you’re presenting. in short, for the best outcome, involve your writer early, have them come to all the meetings, involve them in brand objectives and create an editorial style guide so all future content stays on message and within style guidelines. plan an editorial calendar for refreshed content at regular intervals, and do periodic content audits to make sure everything on the site is still relevant. she also gave a run down of best practices writing tips to keep in mind when creating your own content.

how to sell your ideas to bosses, clients, and other decision makers

sam harrisson at the how design conference
[photo: ©larsonmirek on flickr]

sam harrison presented how to sell ideas, kicking it off with a funny selection of negative client feedback. often our reaction is to think ‘they just don’t get it’ but this is a dangerous victim mentality. i liked how harrison isolated every aspect of a selling situation and gave examples of best cases and how plan for them. involve clients from the beginning so they are invested in the concept long before the final pitch. know your buyers and how close to buying they are in the spectrum between awareness and action. ask open-ended, simple, and follow up questions, and always add what else should i have asked you? and listen to what might be the most important thing they tell you. every presentation is a performance. they have certain expectations of you, and it’s on you to rise to them. be the best possible version of yourself when you present. get to know the room, practice your delivery, ask for a stress-free time in your client’s schedule, and don’t distract them with hand-outs. then harrison gave his 5 secrets for putting together a good presentation: have 1 theme, open with a strong start using a story, question, fact or quote, use simple language with memorable quotes peppered in, be visual with your words, and add drama using a prop or visual demonstration that makes your point. go in passionately and the client will pick it up. give your ideas the energy they deserve!

make stuff

mike perry presented on his extensive work outside the strictly commercial, showing illustrations, collaborations, zines and sculptures. his approach to work has turned more into taking commercial work in order to fund an art career where he can explore his own themes and ideas. his work is hard to describe, but take a spin through his site and watch some of the video tours and you’ll get the idea.

folded inspiration

kit hinrichs and trish witkowski showed folding techniques from the conventional to the totally awesome, presented by sappi paper. hinrichs showed a selection of his own work, and then witkowski talked about how she got interested in folding, which led her to get a ph.d on the subject. she also presented all kinds of complicated folds—all with the kind suggestion to please talk to your printer and binder through the entire process to insure success. these were really awesome ideas in the area of paper technology, and the presentation came with a book full of diagrams and samples. total paper fetish love!

since this was the only night without a party scheduled, i took it off & went home after dinner. saving my energy for the next 2 days!

[continue with day 2 of the HOW conference here]