The Creative Process

Oh the creative process. I have to sigh before even writing this post because if you are a creative, then you can know the joys and woes that come along with the words “creative process.” I have often said that it’s a marvel and a curse. It’s a marvel that such a process exists where you start from nothing and in what seems like magic, something beautiful, wonderful, insightful, fantastic, and tantalizing presents itself and the world is saved once again (yes, it can totally feel like that).

The curse comes when that process betrays you. Each creative has their own process and they are as varied as there are stars above. But sometimes that process gets stopped or blocked. It is either someone else blocking our path because of budgets and asinine requests (insert the word “client/committee” here), which once you’ve been in the “creativity as a service” industry long enough, you kind of get the hang of dealing with them. But then what happens when YOU block yourself. When that innate part of you that you’ve always been able to call upon refuses to give you that spark of inspiration. Or refuses to run smoothly, where each step forward feels akin to running into a brick wall repeatedly. Oh yeah, it can feel like that. And mind you, all of this is taking place inside your head. Yikes…

But us creatives keep coming back for more. There are those of use who do turn their backs on their creativity and that spark because it’s too emotionally draining, but most of us keep coming back for more. We can’t help ourselves. To be without it would be to be missing part of ourselves. Plus, look at the tangible items that come from the creative process? Houses, planes, sculpture, spoons, posters, films, fashion, cars and the list goes on. Our world has seen some pretty freaking awesome things come from the creative process.

I’ve spent three paragraphs attempting to explain the creative process and didn’t even come close to it, if you haven’t experienced it yourself. But I came across a commercial for Dodge (It’s always the car companies. Damn them and their huge marketing budgets…) that attempts to show not only the creative process, but the process of specifically bringing a vision (car) into a reality.

So if you have a creative process, then you’ll definitely identify with the video. If you don’t have one, then you’ll get the most accurate version that I’ve seen of the creative process out there, even though it’s about cars. Enjoy!

Thwack, thwack, thwack, click, ding!

The Typewriter. For most of us, it was almost on it’s way out when we were born. Computers were finally starting to come around and while many adults were still comfortable with a typewriter, youngsters were charging forward with technology.

I still remember my mother telling me about her typewriting classes in high school, and how they would have a metronome going to keep people typing at the right speed. Oh, and her nails! Her instructor was always telling her she just had to cut her beautiful nails, but Mom persisted, and managed to keep up with your talon-like nails, which were all the rage at the time.

Or I remember my grandmother had one up in her spare bedroom and she always typed her stories on it to submit to the newspaper. Even though there was a computer down the hall, she only had eyes for the typewriter.

There was something very satisfying about hitting each key and hearing it twack against the paper, making a nice imprint on the smooth and pristine paper. Twack, twack, twack went the keys. Everyone knew when you were typing something up. Spies, be advised.

Now things could get tricky when you made a mistake. Me and the white out strips did not get along. Or when the ink ribbon decided to twist or when the carriage return jammed. They were not the easiest things to deal with: To complete anything it usually involved several curses, some sweat (remember how HEAVY those things were?) and a paper cut for sure. But you were always very satisfied when you finished. Not exactly the same feeling I get on a keyboard…but I digress.

The editor of UPPERCASE Magazine, a “magazine for the creative and curious”, developed this video as a way to raise money for the book entitled, The Typewriter: a Graphic History of the Beloved Machine. They look to still be taking donations! But just perusing the site and watching the video is great for anyone that is a designer, a collector, or someone with an aesthetic eye!

This post would not be possible without Lacy Kelly, who sends me all sorts of wonderful things that I would never know about without her! Thanks lady!

Color & Ink: A process

Colors are magical. I still remember how beautiful the red, blue, and yellow buttons on my parent’s VCR just seemed like a happy gathering. Always brought a smile to my face. Or the color of a lawn that has just been mowed. It’s green, but with so much more. As a graphic designer, I am very aware of color and how it can be used to create a certain feeling or mood for my audience. As a letterpress printer, I’ve become even more tied to my colors because I am always mixing up my own. True, I can match them to a pantone chip, but to my mind, the color I come up with is always just slightly different. That perhaps I have found a new hue that has never been made EXACTLY to these proportions. That just makes me have a sense of awe and wonderment at the possibility. So as I said, colors, and their many shades, create a mysterious and beautiful world.

Eventually these colors have to be obtained, created, and dispersed into the next part of their life: being part of a bigger vision. While I love mixing colors, seeing that color being printed makes me so completely giddy! But how do we even get to the point of picking up a palette knife and taking a smidge from this can to mix with a dollop from that can? One company has come up with an excellent and artistic way! The Printing Ink Company, along with Vepo Studios has created an in-depth look at how ink arrives at it’s final destination and the intricacies that go into creating such beauty.

So indulge your nerdy design senses!

For the love of letters!

The life of a designer usually includes collecting ephemera to some degree. Whether it’s posters on our wall, cards in our desk or matchboxes in a bowl, we usually can’t get enough of it. There is something about the tactile sensation of it all that just draws us in. I am no different. My collections over the years have grown immensely, been cleaned out and started again numerous times. We’re each other’s best historians, simply by purchasing our friends’ work to have in our own collections. The best part is when we can purchase something lovely for our collection and completely help out a worthwhile cause.

The Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum has had a bit of a rough year, in that they have to pack up from their home (an original Hamilton building established in 1927) and move to a new residence. I was lucky enough to make it up to Two Rivers, WI for their last Wayzgoose (a gathering of printers) just this past November. The space is amazing and honestly jaw-dropping. When you walk in, it’s just like coming home. That’s hard to create once, let alone recreate. But they will have to do so in their new space. But to get there they need some help.

For months they have been having events to raise money and awareness to their cause and the response has been incredible. Slowly, but surely, they are getting closer to reaching their monetary goal that it will take to save certainly one of this country’s treasures.

Now I know you might be asking yourself, “I have no idea what letterpress printing is or who these people are. Why should I help?” Let me present it to you this way: Do you like pretty things? Do you need a Valentine’s Day gift for that special creative in your life? Do you hate putting water rings on your favorite table? If you answered yes to any of this, then I have the opportunity for you!

Mama Sauce, an awesome letterpress/silk screen and design shop out of Florida are offering up Love Letters, a set of coasters created by some of the most talented designers and illustrators out there today. To make sure proceeds go to the museum, everything was donated, from the designs, the paper (Neenah Paper & French Paper), and the printing by Mama Sauce. Talk about a set of awesome and passionate people!

So with Valentines Day just around the corner, and these coasters in stunning red, this is not a bad place to invest your money. Those chocolates, roses, and stuffed animals can wait until next year. Give a gift that will wow your special someone and help out a wonderful cause!


Mama Sauce’s friends at Fiction heard of their endeavor and made this wonderful little video to help.

Love Letters from FCTN on Vimeo.

ROI Rage

For several years I’ve been hearing quite a few acronyms when it comes to metrics, social media, and companies FINALLY starting to see that there really is something to doing metric measuring campaigns. With every new technology, it sometimes takes a little time for people to become comfortable with the idea of it and to honestly figure out how it can fit into what they’re currently doing. I sell muffins…metrics can’t possibly be for me. I sell lawn mowers…no one cares if I have a digital presence. Not true my dear, delusional friends. You too can have a digital presence and make sure your money is being invested in the right type of social media too!

For so long there have been rumors and myths moving through the corporate world that metrics don’t work or they’re limited. And the age old question is always, “What am I actually getting from my monetary investment into social media and digital campaigns? If sales don’t double, really? What is the point.” Here is where the acronym ROI comes in. It stands for Return On Investment. Every company wants to know what their return on investment will be. We’re all about the benjamin’s baby.

But it took the Grandaddy of digital…well digital anything at this point, Adobe to put a smart, well put together ad out there to really ahem, slap people into reality. My favorite part is that Adobe isn’t even worrying about print vs digital and that petty argument these days. They’ve risen above it and simply said, let’s talk metrics. Whatever format you’re approaching metrics from, lets get it straight that it’s a functional and accessible part of business today. It’s a little hard to ignore now, especially when you’re being ahem, slapped in the face with the use of metrics and digital campaigns, whether that is through an app, a QR code or some other measurable, metrics system.

So get in touch with your inner ROI rage and if someone tells you ROI is a myth…just ahem, slap them into a reality check. It’s all about the ROI’s baby.

*Do not attempt this. But feel free to laugh at the idea of doing this in the office.*

The final frontier…

First, I have to start out by apologizing to you all.

For the last several weeks (okay a good six) I haven’t written a blog post. I’ve even had a few of you contact me, wondering what is going on! haha Apparently it is how many of you keep tabs on me, my life, and if I’m still alive! Well the answer is, I am. But I’ve been pretty sick on and off, then we had Thanksgiving, I was traveling more on the weekends to fabulous conferences (which I will slowly post pictures of on future posts), and taking on more responsibility at work. The whole blog writing thing just got away from me. But I missed you all! I missed writing down my findings and hearing your responses. So please forgive me. This will probably be my last post for the year and then I will pick it up again in the New Year. Thanks for listening!

The holidays are here. Not, they’re on their way or it will be nice when the holidays are here. After Thanksgiving past (and even before) the holidays are upon us and it’s a sometimes neck-breaking roller coaster ride to New Years. You get caught up in the holiday parties, the gift buying, the socialization of it all. Who wouldn’t? But then you end up like me: It’s a week before Christmas and I realize that I haven’t sent out holiday cards. I had originally thought that I might letterpress print my cards on Sir Sigwalt, but it just didn’t work out. I loathe buying holiday cards, but I hate not sending anything out even more.

So I hightailed it to Target to see if I could come up with something that didn’t make me grimace. Makes me feel at least a little better when the card has some kind of typographic and color aesthetic merit. Things can get a little atrocious and dicey with holiday cards…buyer beware.

I sit down, make my list of recipients and start writing. Oddly enough, I feel a little weird. My own handwriting is looking a little chaotic, not smooth, and I’m just not happy with it. What the hell has happened? Then it came to me: I’m out of practice. Talk about a mind explosion. I’m out of practice for writing? There is something seriously wrong with that idea, but I know it to be true. My life has come down to hundreds of emails a week, a post-it note here and there, text messages and that’s it. In a world where we’re going head-long into technology based methods of communication, here is a tradition that still lives on, frankly, flying in the face of every technology user everywhere.

In a world where we send evites for baby showers, weddings, and birthday parties, the holiday card lives on. Why? Is it because the holidays are a time of slowing down and reliving the memories of happier times in our lives? Sounds like we’re going back to a time that we remember taking the time to actually WRITE out our messages of cheer and love to one another. By hand. With a weird thing called a pen.

I can tell you this: I haven’t received one e-holiday card this year, but my mailbox has been flooding with handwritten, paper holidays cards. People are posting pictures of mantels and doorways plastered with cards. They love it! So maybe that’s it. It’s the one time a year that we go back to something that we liked to do, but don’t really have time anymore to complete. We go back to the naive wonderment of writing a card to someone, licking the awful glue to close the envelope (makes you feel alive!), putting a stamp on it, and putting it into a post box, with the anticipation of it reaching our loved one and bringing a smile to their face.

The only thing I can think of is this: technology might be winning the war, but I hope it will never win this battle. Score one for the holiday card. Better luck next year technology…

It’s here! It’s here! It’s here!

The title of this post could mean a multitude of things, such as: Friday is here! Autumn (my favorite time of year) is here! My birthday is here! (Yes, today is my actual birthday! Hello 27!) In short, the title means all of these things because they are all true. But what’s really here is even bigger!

Let’s take a little trip down memory lane for a moment. Two and a half years ago I met a lovely woman named Gail Anderson at the HOW Conference in Denver, Colorado. Name ring any bells? It should! She has a career that others only dream about, she has authored/co-authored many books, teaches at the School of Visual Arts in NYC, and travels the world speaking on numerous topics. The words “design royalty” come to my mind…

At this particular conference she was presenting on graphic designers and the things we collect. While her collections ranged from bottle caps and salt/pepper shakers, I was running through my own head of the collections I have. We’re creative people, we can’t help ourselves! It’s during her talk that I realized that she was THE Gail Anderson who had co-written New Vintage Type and New Ornamental Type with Steven Heller. Whoa! I had been in love with the covers and content of those books for ages. I had to meet her without a moment to loose!

I waited until the swarm of people had abated and then I approached her. I think I had stopped breathing at that point. I asked her politely if she would mind signing the book (Incidentally I had a well-worn copy of New Vintage Type at home, but I went and bought another copy so that she could sign it! Total nerd moment!) She graciously accepted. As she was signing (I’m still not breathing), I told her that I wanted to design books and then wanted to see them in bookstores. That’s all I wanted to do. She paused and asked me what I did currently. I replied that I worked for a medical device company. Her reaction was one that I had clearly had many times…haha We quickly moved on…

So I asked her if she would be willing to take a look at my website that I had just put up and give me some feedback. She graciously said yes and we exchanged business cards. After that, everything changed. A couple months later Gail approached me about this book she and Steven Heller were working on about modern type. If I decided to work on it, it would be like an internship: little pay and long hours. I believe my response was was polite and concise. However, in the privacy of my own home, I believe I jumped up, yelled out a “yippee” and did a happy dance!

That was several years ago now, but the product of that chance meeting and me mustering up some courage, has finally seen the light of day. Through countless hours, ridiculous amounts of emails, and the hard work of Steve, Gail, Christine (head researcher and all around fantastic person!) and myself, the editors and staff at Thames & Hudson, world-class type designer Bonnie Clas, plus all the work contributed by awesome and amazing designers and studios around the world, we have a completely beautiful book.

I am proud to announce the publication of New Modernist Type by Gail Anderson and Steven Heller.

It’s a heady experience to type that and know that I was part of it. The experiences I had because of this book, the things I learned, the conversations I had, the people I met…Well I will never forget it. I will forever combine my birthday celebrations with the week that “the book” (as my friends and family so fondly called it) was published and was introduced to the world. Thank you to everyone who supported me and kept excited about the prospect of this book. Really, thank you.

This book is available for purchase at Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, and basically any good bookstore that knows what they’re doing!

I don’t have my official copy yet, but the good photos are coming soon! Plus be sure to check out the acknowledgement’s page…you might just see a name you recognize!

The Typographic Universe: Steven Heller & Gail Anderson

Greener pastures…

For this week, I’m sending you faithful readers onward to an even better experience. Steven Heller is a commentator on design and everything involved with it (art, illustration, books, photography, etc) and is very well respected within the design world. Each day he writes a blog post (I can only dream of getting up to this) called The Daily Heller. They range from current events to being completely off the beaten track. But he always has wonderful examples either from his own personal ephemera archive or from someone who has given him something as a gift.

This week he wrote a great piece about the lingo that printers use. To be honest, there are some crazy ones out there. In true Heller fashion, he has a wonderful example of some cards that were created to explain these “exotic and unusual printing terms.”

Read Steven Heller’s post here!

The Hunger Games: A battle of the brands

The first movie adaptation of the Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins came out a little over 5 months ago, but I have put off watching it until now. I have read the books previously and I just wasn’t ready to let go of the image I had in my head to what competed (pun intended) on screen.

For those of you who have not seen this movie, it’s a gripping story set in an undefined period of time (Perhaps a statement about our future?) where there are 12 districts, each with a group of people with a specialized skill that exports a specific natural resource, such as fish or coal, to The Capitol. These districts were established after the people rose up against The Capitol (the richest and most well-to-do) and were subsequently defeated and restricted to these districts depending on how close they were to The Capitol (one being closest and 12 being the furthest away). To show tribute and how benevolent The Capitol was towards the districts (read: to keep keep everyone terrified from ever revolting against the government again), they hold The Hunger Games each year, televised to all the districts in real time. A boy and girl tribute from each district is offered up to compete, to the death. There can only be one winner. May the odds ever be in your favor.

While this book has many political undertones and at times isn’t as outlandish of a leap as it seems (Some of the events and actions sound eerily familiar to our current government), it is the intense branding that occurs for each set of tributes that really got my attention. Admittedly, when I was reading the books my branding strategy and graphic designer spidey senses were tingling, but I was so wrapped up in the story, I ignored them. But with watching the movie, since I already knew what was going to happen, I could focus more on the details.

As designers and marketing folk, we know that developing a brand is no easy task. There are a lot of factors to take into account, but there are some oldies, but goodies to always keep in mind: Know your product, know your audience, create a story, keep interest high, and be consistent. Most people would probably think that only products or technologies are branded in today’s market. While the world may have the most interaction with product branding, branding also occurs for people. Think about any of your favorite athletes, musicians, or politicians. Certain words or actions probably come to mind when their name is uttered. Those same words also probably come up for everyone else who thinks about them too. They have created an “image” aka brand for themselves. The Hunger Games makes good use of creating an “image” for each team of tributes.

If we had to break this down, Katniss and Peeta are products that are launching to the public (The Hunger Games). Haymitch, the always inebriated, disheveled, and previous winner from The Hunger Games is the branding strategist (mentor). He certainly knows his audience, The Capitol members, who love a good story as much as a good kill. They’re flashy, over the top, but with money to burn. But convincing this audience to act as sponsors (read: buy the product) is the difference between life and death. Tributes from other districts are branded as “Professional Tributes” or as sweet and adorable, in the case of Glimmer from District 1 (She’s actually a sadistic girl that laughs as she kills other tributes. Ugh).

Haymitch Abernathy

The Capitol People

While Peeta understands how to play the game (of branding), Katniss really struggles with being branded. Haymitch tells them that they need to be gracious, pleasant and to sell a good story. After their mentoring (aka branding) from Haymitch they are ready to face their audience. Basically the product is launching to the public. To garner interest, Peeta and Haymitch create a story that Peeta and Katniss are star struck lovers doomed by The Hunger Games. Haymitch even goes so far as to say, “I can sell forlorn lovers.” Ever the seemingly sleazy ad man.

The next part of a good brand is keeping interest high with your audience. If you don’t give them anything to pay attention to, they’ll just move on to the next interesting brand. This is best shown while The Hunger Games are in full swing. While Katniss is slow to play the part of forlorn lover, she slowly starts to see that to survive she has to sell her and Peeta’s brand to the sponsors. Get them to believe in the story they’re telling. She helps heighten the story by giving several PG kisses, snuggling in a cave and risking her life to save Peeta’s. Peeta held up his side of the brand by telling the audience/Katniss how long he had loved her, even back when they were in District 12. The Capitol ate it up with their expensive silver spoons.

The being consistent part of their brand really comes in Book 2 and 3. So we will see if the brand of Katniss and Peeta as forlorn lovers who survived stays true or if they end up needing a rebrand (I’m not giving the ending away!). Either way, the proverbial wool wasn’t pulled over this designer’s eyes! Sneaky branding!

Obama is hiring!

This post originally started out as me doing research of Obama’s brand/identity/campaign work because it has been pretty exceptional at truly telling a story. In short, I’ve been picking up what he’s been putting down…hehe

But I found something else completely! His marketing team is hiring! Yes, you read right. Their team is looking for junior and senior designers (both print and web) to join their them and basically be part of history. So often opportunities like this feel like they are impossible to get and there no doubt will be hundreds of people applying for these jobs, but just to apply is simply amazing. You have a real chance to make something that people aren’t likely to forget any time soon, regardless of which direction this election goes.

So follow the link below and take a shot. You just might be “elected” to work on something that will impact the masses and help decide the future of a country!

Click to apply click here!