Who doesn’t love the smell of coffee and fonts in the morning?

Who doesn’t love the smell of coffee and fonts in the morning?


Graphic designer… at work

Graphic designer… at work

Say something creative

Yes. Someone actually asked me that. The request: “Say something creative in 150 characters or less. Grab my attention.”

Here is my on-the-spot 30-second reply:

An artist may paint an image of a stop sign on canvas and it earns some interest. A designer creates a stop sign and people stop. Message delivered.

Dry transfer lettering

Dry transfer type

From the graphic design archive…

Anyone remember doing advertising or editorial mockups using dry transfer lettering? Or the fact that mockups were expected to take days not hours?

Four tools to create a color palette

Color palette based on book cover design

Color palette based on book cover design for the novel Blue Dollar

Wear the blue neck tie to suggest boldness and confidence. Wear the red tie for passion. Or so the conventional wisdom offers those business persons who are presenting themselves for a job interview. Color is important when designing books, posters, web sites, etc. Building an effective color palette takes years of experience in knowing the right color combinations that present contrast or harmony or various other arrangements.

Thanks to some online resources, creating a color palette takes only a few minutes. Here are four online tools to use in creating a customized color palette.

  1. CSSDrive.com: http://www.cssdrive.com/imagepalette/index.php
  2. DeGraeve.com: http://www.degraeve.com/color-palette/
  3. colorhunter.com: http://www.colorhunter.com/
  4. PaletteFX.com: http://www.palettefx.com/index.php

There is also a way to create a color matrix using Adobe Illustrator, but that’s a bit more involved and takes longer to explain. Here’s an example of what a color matrix looks like (see below).

Color matrix

Color matrix (for a corporate brand book)

What tools do you use to create effective color palettes?


Rarely do I reblog someone’s blog post, but this is extremely useful for authors and graphic designers who are working on a children’s book.

Originally posted on Writing for Kids (While Raising Them):

Editorial Anonymous provided a great explanation of basic picture book construction a few months ago.

At that time, I skimmed the info. Today, I’m studying it.

Why? An editor asked me to make page breaks on my current manuscript. And know what? I had more page breaks than a 32-page picture book would allow! Whoops. I knew that my manuscript had to fall within the 500- to 800-word length, but I had neglected to pay attention to logical page breaks.

The editor said, “Page turns can make or break a book, and it can be helpful to an editor to see how you envision the text.”

In a 32-page picture book, you don’t actually have 32 pages for your story. You only have 24 pages since 8 are used for the book ends, copyright and title. And 24 pages translates to 12 spreads (an illustration that spans the two opened pages…

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Job title – Creative Director


It is still a bit odd for me when I see the title of “Creative Director” on the labels of mail and packages that are delivered to my office desk. I won’t deny that so many years ago, sitting in graphic design class at the university, I dreamed of being a creative director. But now I look at that designation, that job title, and wonder.

What does a creative director creative director do anyway? It is too reductionistic to say that a creative director is the primary enforcer of consistant brand and mission of a company. The job is more nuanced. One professional states that the “job doesn’t come with operating instructions.” [1] That is absolutely true, at least, in my case. There’s more I could write about the path to a creative director or even the role of a creative director, but that may be for a different post.

What makes me wonder about the designation of job title of creative director is what it means. Is it my identity? Yes. No. Does it matter? It seems that the title is more of a way for other people to catalog and/or judge me, but it is not who I am as a person. Does that make sense?

NOTE: [1] wiseGeek.com’s What Is a Creative Director?

Good design is more than this

(image via Jonathan Trier Brikner)

There’s more to being a design genius than this. Truly.

Just because you have a computer, laptop or tablet allowing you to download free fonts and free images and use some free app you discovered on Twitter does not make you a design genius.

Just because you “designed” a cool graphic image the way many misled souls believe they labored and “built” an IKEA bookshelf does not make you a design genius. [1]

Celebrated graphic designer, Milton Glaser, put it best:

Computers are to design as microwaves are to cooking.

Good design solves problems and presents stories. As a creative director for an international publishing house, my chief goal is to attract potential readers to new books by capturing a story in a single cover image. To illustrate the point further, an author (for whom I had just completed a book design) emailed me recently: “I’m getting some great feedback on my Facebook page about the cover. Thank you very much…” Good design is about communication: problem solved, story told.

NOTE: [1] For what it is worth, IKEA is not good design. It is nothing more than cheaper-than-Wal-mart veneer furniture, second-rate fabric products and wax-paper lamps. And don’t call IKEA “modern design” because modern design is so 1948. Seriously, the modernist movement began almost a century ago. But I digress.

Hidden in the closet

Hidden in an old portfolio

Something hides in the closet. Below the button down shirts and dress slacks for work, behind the winter wardrobe of sweaters, vests and jackets, and against the back wall is an old black leather portfolio with handles. Years ago it was a mandatory item for any and every graphic design student or young professional with goals of becoming an art director, illustrator or creative director. I pulled out the old portfolio and the oversized heavyweight document envelopes behind it and entered a gateway to another time and place.

Like time travel, I am back in the 1990s. There were three main portfolios I presented. One presentation was corporate, ad agency design samples. The kind of material that ranged from logo design, brand campaigns and the like. The second presentation was print design. That portfolio exhibited all manners of print designs from brochures, books, direct marketing collateral, magazine spreads, cover designs, etc. For presentations, I would rotate the design samples in the black leather portfolio based on the interview. Sometimes I presented a hybrid of both that included work that featured my copyrighting and marketing pieces. But the third portfolio was my favorite–the illustration portfolio.

Professors, peers and even my first art director advised it was the weakest of the three. The general critique was that technique needed improvement. So I kept working on improving technique and execution. A black cloth case bound sketch book always accompanied me almost everywhere I traveled. I’d sketch landscapes, still lifes, portraits and tried various techniques using pencils, Sharpie markers, charcoal, ink and watercolor. But soon I learned that I could earn more financially and find more consistent work with digital designs.

It is not that I abandoned illustration. A few years ago, a national news magazine featured one of my illustrations on the cover of its annual books issue. Earlier this year, another illustration was featured as a book cover design. Also this year, a few spot illustrations were published in a book.

As I look at these old illustrations and sketches, I see a younger, self-doubting me at a time before home computer, internet, or smartphone entered my life. Back in those days, the only entertainment devices I had was a stereo set with a five-CD player, a stack of maybe 30 audio CDs and a shelf full of books. Through the portal of this time capsule, I see the mistakes and accomplishments with a new perspective. Hidden away in that closet is a portfolio of dreams, aspirations and ideas that was slowly replaced with a portfolio of duty and responsibility. A thought occurs to me as I examine an unfinished sketch of a female portrait, did I focus on pursuing a career path rather than a vocation? Maybe that is a thought I should hide in the closet while I bring some of these illustrations into the daylight.