What will graphic design look like in twenty years?

Ah, ye ole Zip disk[1][2] circa 1990s. Once the preferred removable storage device for young graphic designers — now, well, . . . these days you will have to scavenge Amazon[3] or eBay to locate a Zip disk. Then you will need to find a Zip drive that will connect with a USB port in order to salvage any data.

Somewhere between the days of floppy disks, magnetic tape and CD storage,[4] the Zip disk was a practical way to transfer files from art department to pre-press department.

There were deadline nights in the art department — back when Friends and Party of Five were on network television. I would scramble with the rest of the design team to print out press proofs for a project. Then we folded all the proofs and color separations into a FedEx Envelope or Box. Next was to save all related files onto a Zip disk —the QuarkXpress document file, native Illustrator and Photoshop files, and fonts — and pack that into the FedEx package. One of the design team was tasked with driving the package to the FedEx dropbox by 7 p.m. pick up.

When I shared this story with an intern several months ago she displayed a perplexed facial expression. I took for granted the evolution of systems and technology experienced during my career in graphic design. It is something she may never fully appreciate. She will experience an entirely different progress of technological applications as she begins her career in advertising and marketing.

I told her that on those press nights a few of us at the office would use it as an opportunity to grab supper together at a favorite Mexican restaurant. Or maybe catch a movie. Some nights we would go play bowling as a team or hang out at the Village Cafe downtown. We were a twenty-something tribe of professionals working in an industry that was rapidly changing.

Kind of a reward for putting in long hours, she commented.

Yeah, I replied.

I wanted to continue sharing details of those days during the digital revolution in design, but stopped. She will have her own stories to share about those days when everyone used flash drives to transfer data. And how easier it was to upload PDF files from a laptop or mobile device to the cloud.

I cannot help but wonder what will graphic design look like in twenty years?

 

NOTES:


[1]Image originally posted: May 18, 2011. https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2011/05/18/anyone-remember-using-these-old-zip-disks-better/
[2]Christopher Phin, Think Retro: Who else kinda misses their Zip disks?, Macworld, January 27, 2015, accessed April 11, 2017 http://www.macworld.com/article/2875893/think-retro-who-else-kinda-misses-zip-disks.html.

[3]Amazon sells discontinued Iomega Zip disks (accessed April 11, 2017): https://www.amazon.com/Iomega-Formatted-reformattable-Discontinued-Manufacturer/dp/B00004Z83E

[4]History of Data Storage Technology, Macworld, May 5, 2016, accessed April 11, 2017 http://www.zetta.net/about/blog/history-data-storage-technology

Dry transfer lettering and the human touch

Dry transfer type

From the graphic design history archive… Anyone remember doing advertising or editorial mockups using dry transfer lettering? Or the fact that mockups were expected to take several days. Not hours.

At the university where I received education in the art of design, I spent a lot of money purchasing packets of dry transfer lettering and Pantone triple nib markers. And I spent a lot of hours in the design studio developing the skill of paste ups and thumbnail layouts.

As I designed a multi-page layout project recently I could not escape the fact at how fast I was able to pull it together. The hand drawn layout thumbnails and non-repo blue line paste ups were not part of the process. Nor were there long days of sketches, dummied text, paste ups, Photostat machine, rubber cement, T-squares, proportional scale wheels and other essential pre-digital design tools.

Fortunately for me, I entered the world of advertising and marketing during the digital revolution in design. The design process for the multi-page layout project was exclusively digital — from concept to completion.

Instead of paging through thick, expensive design journals and other trade publications for color palette and typography and font inspiration, I visited a couple websites like Design Seeds[3] or Font Squirrel.[4] The color palette choice and font and photo selections were quick. That is the nature of the fast-paced environment of production work for a graphic designer.

Yet, last Thursday when the printed product arrived and I reviewed the freshly-inked pages, I was disappointed. The final printed product lacked the essence of human touch. At no point did my hand every touch the page. Everything was created by digital proxy. I can see the difference. Most designers see the difference. A careful observer may also see the difference.

NOTES:


[1] Image originally posted: August 8, 2014. https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2014/08/08/dry-transfer-lettering/
[2] It is a challenge to purchase the old style triple nib markers. Here is one source: AOE Artworld.

[3] Design Seeds: https://www.design-seeds.com/

[4] Font Squirrel: https://www.fontsquirrel.com/

Step-by-Step Graphics magazine

Young creatives—back in the transitional years of the digital revolution in design—coveted Step-by-Step Graphics magazine. One reason, the price of the publication was expensive for university students. Not as expensive other trade journals, but college students did not have a lot of disposable income. The cost of art supplies ate up most of the budget. Another reason, there was one copy of the latest issue for twenty students. Magazine copies were placed in the fine arts building’s library. The main reason is obvious, university students devoured each issue in hopes of creating work inspired by the amazing artists and illustrators featured in each publication. That was the goal. Graduate and earn a living creating graphic and commercial art.

I used to enjoy reading articles in Step-by-Step Graphics magazine. The editorial content was one part inspiration, one part innovation and a healthy dash of technical craftsmanship. The periodical was the inspiration and trend source for many Gen X graphic design student. Of course, we were never called, labeled nor pursued as Gen Xers at the time. We were simply called students.

One memorable story—for me, at least—was the 1992 feature of a medical illustrator. There was a page devoted to perspective and painting—airbrush painting. What does a 30/60 prospective grid mean, and will I learn about it in this semester, I pondered many winters ago. I marveled at the color photos of the artist pencilling arrows on a perspective grid and drawing ellipses with a template. And all the tracing paper required to pull off one truly amazing image about how a pharmaceutical product responds to cholesterol molecules.

Rabbit trail. There used to be an old bookstore in Milwaukee’s downtown area that had back issue copies of Step-by-Step Graphics and other resources like Communcation Arts and Émigré. I bought these back issues and toted them back to university. Some of you may remember when Step-by-Step Graphics magazine’s cover logo design changed—sometime in the late 1980s—from the rectangle black box with “graphics” in script font under the words “Step-by-step” to the square reflection logo.

When I graduated, the digital revolution in design matured. The need for hands-on technical skills that I spent years learning dissipated as computer hardware and software flooded ad agencies and publishing houses. New digital skills were learned on the job. Learn quick or go hungry was the unwritten motto.

Step-by-Step Graphics magazine disappeared sometime around the appearance of the iPod. Today, if you are searching for pro tips on graphic design and illustration, you search for YouTube videos on the topic. Imagine the graphic design profession without the internet. Without YouTube. How did graphic arts and designers work before 2005?

I went to school for graphic design

Sharing this post[1] with you from nikography — plus my own story afterwards. Because graphic design is hard work.

i went to school for graphic design, and did not spend my nights getting drunk. instead, i worked my ass off, spent most of my outside-class time learning/trying/doing as much as possible, and then got an awesome job after graduating.

protip: if you’re lucky enough . . . to be in college, you should be spending all available time learning, trying, making things, messing things up, experimenting and READING. . . .

i didn’t waste a single day. and neither should you. build your momentum and go with it.

for the but-i’m-an-artist’s: you want money? learn a technical skill related to your field and get good at it. then get better at it. . . . just sayin’.

final note: i had a BLAST in college, and miss it like crazy. working hard does not mean no-fun-allowed, it means relax harder 🙂 [2][3]
nikography


I had the unique opportunity to enter a graphic design career during the transitional years of the digital revolution in design (somewhere between the Upper Peasealithic and Macolithic periods). The university offered computer graphics classes during the final year of the academic program called commercial arts. The degree was catalogued as a bachelors in science (as opposed to a bachelors in arts).

All other graphic design classes were hands-on, analog, technical application of composition, typography, illustration, photography, color theory, and so on. And for that fact, I am grateful.

One afternoon, during critique of students’ work a professor called two of my classmates out of the room. Most of the students knew why. One of the two owned a personal computer (yes, this is back in the paleolithic days before wifi, laptops, and mobile phones). They did their copy layout (design jargon for arranging blocks of advertising text — usually Lorem Ipsum — on a page) using a personal computer and printer. Then they inked over the print outs and submitted their work. Or so the rumors went.

No one else in the class owned a personal computer and had to lay out the text for a three-panel brochure by hand using rulers, graphite and non-photo blue pencils and rubylith film for color overlays.

The professor had caught them cheating. They denied using a computer to do the text layout. Hushed conversation relayed that they were nearly suspended for the act.

The recollection of that afternoon seems so arcane and archaic. The level of craftsmanship and skill required to accomplish print layout work was demanding. Each design student spent hours a day in the studio working on each project.

It used to take weeks of hand-lettering and composing mock-up pages before submitting the design samples for ad director and client reviews. Now it takes me a morning to generate three design layout drafts of a two- to four-page project.

The digital revolution allowed for faster turnaround of design projects, but graphic design is still hard work. It is something I try to impart to interns and young designers.

If graphic design is not good, hard, rewarding work, than you’re doing it wrong.


NOTES:


[1] The original post was shared from Tumblr, January 20, 2010. https://coffeehousejunkie.net/2010/01/20/nikography-i-went-to-school-for-graphic-design/

[2] orginal image via synecdoche

Good design is subtractive

“Design that communicates efficiently is typically more subtractive than additive.” [read more]

Anatomy of print advertising

DSCN6003[DSCN6002[sqr-basic-lomo-dusk-tilt]]
Very excited about a mentoring opportunity with the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee this afternoon. Last October I volunteered and really enjoyed sharing my knowledge and experience of graphic design with the students.

Here are my notes on the five basic elements of a print advertisement.

  1. Headline
  2. Subhead
  3. Body copy
  4. Visuals
  5. Layout

A print ad includes other components (like, color, shape, logo, etc.), but these five elements are foundational to print advertising.

A page from the history of graphic design

There was a time — somewhere around the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods of graphic design — when all pre-press art files were saved to a 250 MB Zip disk, packed into a Fed-Ex overnight envelope and delivered to a Fed-Ex pick location.

Working for a weekly newsmagazine, I was the last person to see that package and its digital content before it travelled 384 miles to the press that printed the periodical.

On one occasion I had to deliver the package to the airport due to a late breaking election story. That was before Adobe Photoshop CS arrived. And sometime between versions of QuarkXPress 4 and QuarkXPress 5.

The magazine introduced a virtual private network (VPN) in 2003. This linked the headquarters with various national offices as well as the press that printed the publication.

Soon Zip disks became novel items that were relegated to the bottom drawer of a filing cabinet. Like the extinction of the Neanderthals, the Zip disk has completely disappeared from all graphic design and print production today.

Four tools to create a color palette

This is the most read blog post this week. Thought I would share it with those who may be interested in reading about graphic design tips.

Coffeehouse Junkie

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).

View original post 17 more words

Putting the finishing touches on a new book design

Constellarium_Cover_Final
Since the publisher posted the following on Facebook last night, I guess it is alright to unveil a new book I designed:

Jordan Rice’s debut poetry collection, CONSTELLARIUM, a finalist for the 2015 Orison Poetry Prize, is now available for pre-order at a discounted price! Order now and be among the first to receive the book when it’s released in April.

“Constellarium is a bold announcement of a new poetic voice to be reckoned with. These poems make us stare down shame and celebrate transition, celebrate the body inside. Jordan Rice does not flinch from what society would have us try to look away from, instead she carefully constructs a book in which we are forced to reckon, layer by layer, with her being. Let us be thankful that such a voice exists, that it is brilliant and shattering, and here to take us all on her journey.” –Fatimah Asghar

The process of cover design is exciting. Especially when the title of the project is constellarium.

There are so many stories behind the cover design that would be fun to share. Like, for example, how the kidlingers enjoyed the image of cetus — how cetus does not look like any image of a whale they have ever seen in a picture book. And how the eldest kidlinger is writing a report about rhinos.

And how a species of rhino has been reported extinct. And we wonder if these old drawings are accurate. And that maybe the cetus represented in the book cover art is correct. But maybe that species of ceti (is that the correct nominative plural of cetus, Latin students?) is now extinct.

Maybe these behind-the-scenes stories are more interesting to me than you.

See if you can find cetus in the cover art by pre-ordering Jordan Rice’s Constellarium!

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.