Nostalgia in the Mail

I just got Copper and Amulet 2. I doubt there's anyone who reads this blog now that would remember this, but this blog started out as a venue for me to display a graphic novel I was working on. While I was working on the graphic novel I took a lot of inspiration from Kazu Kibuishi. I loved Copper and learned a lot from Kazu's post about his process creating each page, but after about a year away from college my pursuit of comics started to dry up. As I took my first job I always viewed myself as an illustrator who did graphic design, but that's changed pretty drastically—now I think of myself as a graphic designer who used to do illustration.
Reading through Copper was refreshing for me. It gave me the feeling of creative inspiration that makes me want to grab that pad of bristol board out of the closet and start a new series, but I think for the time being it'll have to wait.


Air Conditioning as a Selling Point

Every once and a while I come across a company promoting their new, easy to use website. I don't think a good website should be a selling point anymore. Businesses that highlight the fact that they have decent websites remind me of motels with neon signs showing that their rooms are equipped with air conditioning. At some point air conditioning ceased to be a luxury and started to be a standard. From that point on the sign that might have communicated quality now says old fashioned, or in need of upgrade. The longer those signs remain in place the more outdated they make the facility look. The lesson I take away from this is to focus marketing efforts on benefits that are truly unique, and not spend time promoting features your customers expect you to already have.


Seeking Balance in a Self-imposed Spotlight

There’s a piece of advice you’ll be familiar if you’ve spent any time assembling a portfolio, “you’re always judged by your worst piece.” I’ve adhered to this advice almost religiously as I’ve gone through many versions of a portfolio. The more I go through this selection process, the more I’ve started wondering how self-curation might apply beyond the 10 or 15 pieces I call my work.

Social media provides us access to more information about each other than we’ve ever had before. Right now I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Flickr, Blogger and Delicious, and I’m not nearly as involved as many of my peers. Being connected has been a great thing for me; I’ve learned so much from designers who’ve taken the time to blog, seen many things I never would’ve stumbled upon on my own and even made a few friends along the way. However, always being judged by your worst piece has difficult implications in light of this transparency. While it can be liberating to think of the web as an open forum full of room to create, the reality of constantly being on display can dampen the freedom.

A worst piece isn’t even necessarily bad design work—it could be a poorly written blog post, a foolish tweet or even a questionable Facebook photo. Granted it can seem pretty narcissistic to worry that people are paying so much attention to you that they’re evaluating your every gesture. Frankly, it’s not likely that people are paying attention to me at any given moment—it’s the fact that the information is available that gives me pause. Every time I click publish, I think, “This has my name on it, am I prepared to stand behind this tweet, drawing, design etc., as a representation of me?” This hesitation is often a good choice, and yet sometimes I feel as though it has a tendency to make things stale.

An example of my struggle between sharing openly and strictly curating my work occurred last fall. As I was walking around my neighborhood I noticed how much trash was lying around. Normally I wouldn’t consider it a dirty place, but the more I looked the more there seemed to be little pieces of garbage everywhere, so I went out with a bag and picked it up and made a poster with the trash to vent my frustration.

Afterwards I did something that I almost never do—I posted the image to my blog the day I made it. Usually when I’ve just created something I’m way too close to the work emotionally and have no ability to judge it objectively. Later that week Brandflakes for Breakfast linked to that post and sent more traffic my way than my blog had ever seen. Looking back I’m glad I posted it, and I still believe that the poster was a good idea but there are definitely some things I might have changed had I waited.

Here’s my big question; do I post more raw materials that haven’t been fully vetted yet, accepting that some may be real garbage and I may get judged as such? Or do I hold back most of the untried pieces until I’ve had an opportunity to really think about them, accepting the fact that some of the good stuff may never see daylight? I don’t know that there’s a strict right answer to this question. It heavily depends on an individual’s willingness to take risk. In answering this question for myself I take inspiration from this quote by Howard Zinn
“If you don't want to take risks you've lost your freedom”


Typography by Ronnie Bruce

Well worth a few minutes of your time.


The kind of garbage only a designer would love

While I'm at it here's a picture of the floor of the middle school that my church meets in. While everyone else is socializing, I'm thinking about how chunky this "W" is.


Post holiday sale typography

I was in the mall today on my way to make some post-christmas purchases. Almost all the stores I passed had their huge sale signs in the window to try and squeeze in those last holiday sales. Most of the signs were just the plain vanilla bold sans-serif type, but a few of them were pretty great.