Bold Red and Black

Posted 30 September 2010 at 9:43 PM | Comments (4)

When I’m wasting my time creating a wedding inspiration board, it’s fun to imagine what type of couple it might appeal to.

This bride loves romance and glamour but isn’t a girly-girl; she’s completely disinterested in pastels and peonies and gravitates toward the bold and dramatic. How nice, her groom gravitates toward the modern and masculine. Maybe she’s a stage manager. Maybe he’s an accountant. They vacation in cities that are energetic and exciting, like New Orleans and Miami. They love ‘80s music, Thai food, and black granite countertops. They’ve been together for five years and are finally making it official. Their big day looks something like this:

Bold Red and Black

Favorite Design Ideas from the IKEA 2011 Catalog

Posted 19 September 2010 at 9:47 PM | Comments (3)

The IKEA fairy left a stack of catalogs outside our apartment building last week, so I spent a good chunk of the weekend thumbing through one and making note of their most steal-worthy design ideas. Here are my top seven.

1. Shelving in a shallow room with a vaulted ceiling:

IKEA 2011 Catalog: Shelving Under a Vaulted Ceiling

2. Doubling-up on chaise longues:

IKEA 2011 Catalog: Double Chaise Longues

3. Mostly white palette with touches of gray and black:

IKEA 2011 Catalog: All-White Room Palette

4. Above-door shelf (a brightly-colored door, I might add):

IKEA 2011 Catalog: Above-Door Shelf

5. Wall of potted plants:

IKEA 2011 Catalog: Wall of Potted Plants

6. Sliding glass doors in the kitchen:

IKEA 2011 Catalog: Sliding Glass Door in Kitchen

7. Single high shelf for children’s artwork:

IKEA 2011 Catalog: Single High Shelf in Child's Room

You Win Some, You Lose Some

Posted 18 September 2010 at 11:02 PM | Comments (9)

Graphic design, like any creative business, is a lot of work; in part because the possibilities are limitless and making small improvements can go on forever. In college I was undisciplined with editing and found myself sitting alone in the computer lab after 3:00 am every night. (I’m sure that all of you writers, filmmakers, photographers, etc. know exactly what I’m talking about.)

After ten years in the business, I’ve learned when to stop. I’ve learned which projects require more time and which require less; which require more research on the backend and which require more action on the front; and, perhaps the most valuable skill, I’ve learned how to work fast—especially when I’m not getting paid.

I recently entered a book cover design contest where working fast was essential, mostly because I was on the verge of going into labor but also because my instinct told me my style didn’t match the author’s intent. I wondered if I should enter the contest at all, but since it presented yet another opportunity for my unemployed, stay-at-home-mom ass to get a design workout, I went ahead and created a contest entry anyway:

Book Cover Design Contest Entry

The author had some interesting requirements. He felt it important for the book cover to have images of people, money, or open doors and to suggest attraction; yet he didn’t want images of fish or boats (see book title). So, one of my challenges was to come up with a design concept that was relevant to the book title without being overly literal. My solution? Turn dollar signs into “fish” and show them attracted to, and enthusiastically swimming upstream toward, “your boat.”

Another dilemma was the lengthy, almost confusing, book title. How do I get someone to stop and read the entire title and understand what the book is about? There were several solutions here. One was to keep the text clean and legible, and another was to highlight words that needed emphasis. Also, since the book’s subheading, as opposed to the title, makes it much clearer that it’s a marketing book, it was important for me to create a visual relationship between the two blocks of text, hence the swimming dollar signs that move your eye from top to bottom. I was also able to emphasize the subheading with a lighter blue background but didn’t make it so bold that it steals the show from the book’s title.

Lastly, it’s a marketing book, so it’s important for the book cover to convey a sense of authority as well as look up-to-date. Thus I was very careful not to use imagery or type treatments that would make the whole thing hokey; everything is very clean, strong, and midway between modern and classic.

I didn’t win the contest.

I’m perfectly alright with that, for two reasons. One, that’s the risk I take with design contests. I’m aware that my chances of winning are slim. Two, since I understood that risk involved, I didn’t let myself spend a lot of time on this project. I only allowed myself to go as far as I needed to create something good. Could it have been better? Heck, yeah. It could have been a whole lot better.

This is the design that won:

Book Cover Design Contest Winner

I’m a Little Bit Country

Posted 15 September 2010 at 10:45 PM | Comments (4)

I’ve had a decades-long, secret love affair with countryside chic. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be chic as long as it’s country. I’m talking A Little House on the Prairie country—tiny-print florals, dresses that look like aprons, and lace-up boots covered in dust.

I have no idea where and when this love affair began, but while looking at these stills from Tommy Hilfiger’s fall collection, I honestly had heart palpitations. This is modern, grown-up, A Little House on the Prairie chic, and I could dress like this every day.

Tommy Hilfiger Fall 2010 Countryside Glamour

Yes, when you drive past me in your horse-drawn carriage, you can expect to see me in one of these outfits while I walk three miles to the office. Or the grocery store. Or the bank. It doesn’t really matter, as long as you = horse-drawn carriage and me = country fabulous.

Cool Cupcake-Themed Bedroom

Posted 11 September 2010 at 12:44 PM | Comments (5)

The cupcake trend will eventually wane, but I don’t want it to. Perhaps I’ve been out of the U.S. too long (read: cupcake deprivation), because a cute, personal-sized, decorated cake in a pleated paper cup sounds like the best idea ever invented, and the thought of them fills me with delight and nostalgia.

A few days ago, I came across this set of four cupcake prints by Etsy seller teconlene. While I do love cupcakes, my favorite thing about these illustrations isn’t the subject matter; it’s how the subject matter is treated. Because it’s so easy to take a cupcake motif and make it overly saccharine, it’s impressive that this artist keeps it under control and actually makes cupcakes cool.

Cupcakes, Set of 4 Prints by Seller teconlene

In seventh grade, I sewed a cupcake-shaped pillow for my Home Economics class (by the way, how are cooking and sewing “economics?” Anyone? Baffling, isn’t it?). If I was still in seventh grade, I’d love a cupcake-themed bedroom, but the tricky part would be not overdoing it—just like teconlene manages to do in her prints.

Once I start thinking in these “what ifs,” it’s impossible for me to stop; so I went ahead and started pulling together some ideas for a cool cupcake-themed bedroom, using the set of four prints as a starting point. Then, to capture the sweetness and nostalgic quality of cupcakes, I chose items that are a little bit “cottage” and a little bit retro, with sprinkles, er, sprinkled, everywhere.

Cool Cupcake-Themed Bedroom

Oh, and because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want with it (hooray!), here’s a link to a great, four-minute segment on NPR, A Renaissance for Cupcakes, first broadcast a year ago.

I’m In Babyland

Posted 10 September 2010 at 6:59 PM | Comments (4)

I guess I overestimated myself, thinking I’d be able to keep up daily blog posts after the birth of new baby. Yet two weeks later, here I am, barely connected but for a few minutes a day. It’s not that I don’t have time to get online but just that I’m not thinking much about design right now. Unbelievable, I know! I didn’t expect it, either.

Anyway, it would be silly of me to finally write a post and not at least post my own baby announcement, so here it is!* And let me just say, it’s really tough to design your own baby announcement. I’ve done so many styles for many people, varying from modern to whimsical, and I had a lot of trouble choosing which style I wanted for myself. So after consulting my two most important clients—my husband and my two year-old—we decided on 1) clean and simple, and 2) choo-choo train.

Vintage Train Baby Announcement

In case you’re wondering how I did the train illustration:

Vintage Train Illustration How-To

*Names and details have been changed.

Finally Found a Use for That Old Piece of Jewelry

Posted 4 September 2010 at 4:16 PM | Comments (3)

For years I’ve regretted having invested in a high school class ring. It’s not that attractive and, even if it was, I would have very little interest in displaying it. And though I’d considered selling it, the question was: who would want it?

In comes my friend, Mona. She had just taken a few pieces of gold jewelry to a local jeweler who trades the gold, melts it down, and makes new pieces for retail. She left with a few pieces she didn’t care for and came out with a new piece of jewelry that could make any girl swoon.

So that’s what I did! I traded my class ring (plus a plain, gold chain) for the gorgeous item below. It was valued around $270 but looks like a million bucks on my hand. And since all of this happened less than twenty-four hours before my second child was born, it’s like a baby gift to myself. Or, maybe a labor and delivery gift? I mean, come on! All that pain! Anyway, I digress. Here’s a picture of the ring sitting on my Wacom tablet.

Blue Topaz Oval Ring