Conceptualizing Through Questioning | Design Tip of the Week

Conceptualizing Through Questioning

Coming up with an idea can be difficult. Coming up with a GOOD idea is even more challenging. There are times when one faces a creative drought, when those AHA moments feel as if they are never going to happen and solutions are elusive. We’re left with that frustrating feeling of being “stuck.” But what if we focus less on finding answers and spent more time asking questions? For this Design Tip of the Week, I’d like to share the approach of conceptualizing through questioning.

We often ask practical, straightforward questions to determine situations and starting points in a design project. This includes figuring out the budget, timeline, audience, company history and goals. While figuring out these aspects help in sparking some ideas and providing direction for aesthetics, sometimes we still get stuck. When this happens, ask even more questions.

What is the medium?

How long will a person have to experience it?

What does it need to feel like?

Should it be masculine or feminine?

What do similar things out there look like? What is being done that is successful? What is not?

What associations people do have of ________?

What is too typical or cliché? How can I make it unique?

Is this boring?

Is this too strange?

Is this too simple? Is it too complex?

More specific questions can certainly help in making particular decisions. Say you are choosing a color palette for a new aromatherapy clinic. “What colors are relaxing, yet encouraging and supportive?” Another example: perhaps you’re having trouble picking a typeface for a new BBQ restaurant owned by a renown chef. You may want to ask yourself, “What typeface communicates the idea of being established, yet not too fancy in that the viewer feels they have to wear a suit and tie or elegant dress?” (After all, it is still a BBQ joint, and not, say, a French gourmet restaurant.) These questions keep us focused, reminding who and what we are designing for.

Boosting Imagination Through Questioning

There are times the right solution requires the strangest, most unorthodox approach. The new Old Spice commercials are a perfect example. They are absolutely fantastically random and hilariously imaginative, which resulted in a large increase of sales. How does one even come up with this stuff? Well, a great way to expand our minds into those inconceivable, brilliant territories is through, again, questioning. But not normal, pragmatic ones. I’m talking really weird questions, force-you-to-think-out-of-the-box-but-then-realize-there-is-no-box-and-that-your-imagination-has-the-potential-that-equates-to-a-space-whale-being-born-from-a-supernova-weird.

I stumbled upon this idea when I was sketching one morning at a coffee shop, however I was facing the problem of not knowing what to draw. I ended up doing some loose figural sketches. The one figure I drew had this strong, heroic pose, and for whatever reason, it sparked a strange question: “I wonder what this figure would look like as a deity of nature?” From there my imagination ran wild and I delved into more abstract concepts. “What would this figure look like if he was composed of a wood and iron?” I began visualizing gnarled, bark-like forms fusing with a mechanical, hard-edge appearance. I jotted down my thoughts, and from them I hope to create a new series of drawings.

I went from not knowing what to draw to coming up with a concept for a new body of artwork. And it all resulted from me asking just one, very weird and random question. Because what I was asking was so strange, my imagination was unhindered by obvious answers. Possibilities were endless.

I encourage you to try it out. Ask yourself ridiculous, bizarre questions. Your mind will launch an expedition of thoughts. Practicality and logic are of no concern. The more extraordinary the question, the better! Here are a few that I came up with:

How would you design a poster for an audience that is blind?

What if there was a device that could conduct positive emotions and use them to charge your cell phone? What would the device be called? What would the promotional campaign be?

If you had a robot companion, what functions would be programmed into it? Based off of those functions, what would its appearance be?

What would a computer keyboard look like if we had an extra finger?

What if umbrellas had hyper-efficient solar panels on them?

What would the mission statement be of a non-profit organization that had the ability to control weather forecasts?

Phew! This was quite a long Design Tip of the Week, so thank you for reading. Again, questioning can be extremely useful, from establishing aesthetic directions, helping make specific visual decisions and boosting one’s imagination. Remember, the answers and solutions will come. All you have to do is ask the right questions.

Cheers!

9-14-15

Adjust Rounded Rectangle Corners in Illustrator | Design Tip of the Week

Adjust Rounded Rectangle Corners in Illustrator

I forgot who showed me this (I think it might have been Aaron), but man, it absolutely blew my mind. It’s so simple too. In fact, you probably already know this tip, but for those who don’t, I’ll let you in on a little secret. You can easily adjust rounded rectangle corners in Illustrator simply by using the UP arrow key or DOWN arrow key.  Simply equip the Rounded Rectangle Tool, drag out your rectangle – don’t let go of your mouse click – then use your arrow keys.

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I’ve been using Illustrator for freakin’ over seven years, since I was in high school, and I had no idea about this little shortcut. GAH! Absolutely awesome. Again, for those who knew this tip already, I apologize. For those who didn’t, YOU’RE WELCOME! It goes to show you that there’s always something new to learn. It’s these little tips and shortcuts that can help streamline your process and just make things a whole lot easier.

Want to save even more time? Check out my article on designing faster with vectors on hand.  (There’s even a freebie included!

God speed!

9-7-15

With Each Day You Get Little Bit Better | Design Tip of the Week

With Each Day You Get Little Bit Better.

A week may have already passed since Weapons of Mass Creation Fest 6 ended, but I’m still riding that inspiration wave and hopefully can share it with others. Therefore, this week’s tip goes out to those who have been feeling down in the dumps, who feel discouraged or even defeated. We’ve all been there. I hope that this Design Tip of the Week provides you a nugget of encouragement.

Let’s face it, there are days when we are just not our best. We feel sluggish and unmotivated, small and incapable. There are days when we’re slow, taking forever on something that does not even turn out all that great. We inevitably ask ourselves “am I even good enough?” or “will I get better?”

The answer of “you become good over time” is not always so reassuring. We’re too focused on the now, the immediately-felt insecurities. In the present when a brighter future feels uncertain, we are left with questioning “well…WHEN will I become good?” We search and search for that definitive moment of success. We are dying to hear “you made it.”

When I was facing these thoughts (and I still do), I was so fortunate that I had Aaron, a friend and co-worker at Go Media, to confide in. This article is because of him and it is his piece of advice that I wish to share with you all. This is what he told me…

With each day you get little bit better.

This may feel trivial at first, but it is a simple truth that offers so much encouragement. I will admit when I first heard him say this, it didn’t really sink in. I was too stuck in the now-ness of feeling “I suck and am no good.” Each time we would talk, he would graciously repeat, “Remember, with each day you get a little bit better.” Aaron’s insightful reminder now really hits home. We often don’t recognize the subtle growth we undergo day to day. A child has no idea if he or she is becoming taller if it weren’t for those little tick marks on the wall, each marking a new height gained month by month, year by year.

Pay attention to those tick marks. Take notice when something becomes easier for you, even if it is slightly. Seriously, set aside time to reflect on the things you’ve accomplished. Cherish those achievements and use them to propel you towards the next one. It is little by little that we become extraordinary.

Check out other articles on design insights that we have in our Go Media Zine. Get smarter, become inspired and go forth in creating masterpieces!

8-17-15

Meet Other Creatives | Design Tip of the Week

Meet Other Creatives

I wanted to write an article about meeting other creatives, but struggled with it. The advice of networking and connecting to those in the industry can often be belaboured by college professors and concerned parents. However, they are totally are in the right. Who you know does often lead to that next opportunity. In addition to that, building camaraderie and a sense of belonging goes a long way.  I’d like to share my experience of being part of the creative community, which I believe will be more helpful than an article full of obvious advice.

I should first point out that ever since my years of college I have always felt intimidated. Many of the artists, illustrators and designers I know are older than me. I often felt like a kid, young and inexperienced (which I was.) Yet despite my feelings of smallness, it was awesome to have the opportunity of spending time with those who were experienced and damn good at what they do.

From my sophomore year in college up until the point I left Pittsburgh, I made it a point to attend everything: art shows, lectures, happy hours, workshops, performances and whatever else. The art and design scene, especially in Pittsburgh, is a small one, so after a while, you begin to recognize faces. Before I knew it, I would hit up an event and exchange handshakes and high fives with the majority of people there. It was fantastic, that feeling of being a part of something. There is a quote about the importance of just showing up…But it’s escaping my memory right now. Regardless, attending events was crucial in developing my involvement with the art and design community. I heard once that “YOU are the scene.” These words could never be truer.

So #ThisIsCle

Since moving to Cleveland, I have been to a number of events. Actually, even before I moved to Cleveland I attended Brite Winter Fest, Wizard World Comic-Con and the 78th St. Studios gallery crawl. This all took place when I was in town for my interview at Go Media and apartment hunting (once I got the job). Within the first week of living in Cleveland, I hit up a AIGA Cleveland happy hour, which is actually how I met Ian Zeigler of Photonic Studio. Since then I have participated in a live drawing event at Spaces gallery, shared a drink with Aaron Sechrist (Ok Pants) and met Sean Higgins (the Bubble Process) and Brian Jasinski (Grey Cardigan) at an arts festival. Cleveland’s art and design scene is flourishing, and it is filled with the friendliest, most supportive and talented people.

Because of the excitement of moving to a new city and being somewhat of an extrovert, I was able to do a lot of things and meet many people. However, I was still rather nervous through all of it! In many of these situations, I did not know anyone. No one could be my social safety raft. This can be terrifying. But the nerves go away after the first conversation starts, so you just have to take a big gulp of your beer, go up to someone and sincerely say, “Hey there, I’m so-and-so. I’m new here and looking to meet people.” The rest is easy-peasy.

From Pittsburgh to Cleveland, I have met the most amazing people. From sharing struggles and triumphs to teaching and inspiring, it is because of them that I have grown so much in my ability to think and create. With that, I say this to you, wonderful reader: go out there and show ‘em your stuff! Meet people and do things. Make new friends, form strong bonds and learn all you can from everyone and anyone. I know it can be nerve wracking and down right scary to put yourself out there. It is for everyone else. Like I said, things become a lot easier with that first “hello.”

8-10-15

How to Halftone Photos | Design Tip of the Week

Halftones are a fantastic method of achieving lovely tonal values through a flat, graphic look. From the time of Andy Warhol to the present, they are still being stylistically used in art, illustration and design. Don’t know how to do them? You’ll find this week’s design tip to be quite useful then!

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I’ll be using this photo as an example. (Pretty sweet, huh? Look at those gnarly-looking monsters.)

Step 1Convert the photo to grayscale and up the contrast

Do this by going to Image > Mode > Grayscale. Then increase the photo’s contrast in either Levels (Image > Adjustments > Levels) or Curves (Image > Adjustments > Curves).

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Step 2: Covert the grayscale image to bitmap (halftone )

Similar to the last step, go to Image > Mode > Bitmap.

• Output Resolution should match the image’s input.

Method: Halftone screen

Frequency option is really based on preference. The higher the number, the more dots will be used to translate the photo’s tonal values. However, a lower input will produce a result with less dots and a more stark appearance. The result of the frequency is also dependent on size and resolution. I recommend 25 lines/inch to 45 lines/inch for images that are between 150 and 300 dpi. If the dpi is at 72, I prefer 12 lines/inch. Slight adjustments through trial and error may be needed in order to get the desired halftone look.

• Shape: Selecting “Round” will produce a halftone that utilizes dots to translate the photo’s values – the typical “halftone look.”

• Angle: I would keep this input value on default (22.5°). It pertains more to “Line” option (Shape).

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Step 3: Marvel at its beauty

Boom! Hafltone complete!

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Screen Display Discrepancies

There are times when a halftone image may look odd or plain crappy on a monitor. I do not know the reason for this, but after experimenting I found the frequency, size of the image and its resolution can affect the result displayed on screen. I recommend zooming in at 100% for a more accurate visual outcome. Checking printed proofs is never a bad idea either.

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Dropping it into Illustrator

Because the image has been converted to Bitmap, you can select its Fill in Illustrator and easily change its color. Just save it as a .Tiff from Photoshop and re-open it in Illustrator to do so.

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You now know how to halftone photos! This concludes this Design Tip of the Week, but speaking of halftones, did you know we offer a Halftone Pattern Vector Pack? There are also more resources and tutorials in the Go Media Arsenal, so definitely check them out! Finally, keep your eyes peeled. We’re working on something big, which may or may not be halftone-related…

Anyways, God speed!

8-3-15

Line Variation in Illustrator | Tutorial

Line Variation in Illustrator Tutorial

In a previous Design Tip of the Week, we mentioned the increasing trend of icons and simplistic, geometric illustration. While their minimal, clean aesthetic is perfect for some situations, there are other times when an illustration needs to have more personality and be more dynamic. Line variation can add that extra flavor.

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In this tutorial, I’ll show you how I personally add line variation in Illustrator (there are, however, many different approaches and methods). Let’s begin!

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We’re going to use this guy for our first example. (He may look familiar, but he is in fact a different blob-person than the one I previously introduced in an other tutorial.)

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Take a look at the Stroke Panel, you’ll notice that the (line) profile is uniform – consistent all the way through. (Also the line weight is 3 pt. – this will come into play later.) We want to change that. After all, our friend here has some lovely curves that need to be accentuated. With a monotonous line weight, no wonder his expression is rather plain.

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Illustrator offers an array of line treatments.

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We’re going to select one that has more variety.

Alright! Now we have something going on. However, I am not so sure if I want the line to be as thin as it is where it tapers.

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This is a crucial part in fixing line weights that are too thin. You’ll want to…

1. Click on the original line
2. Copy it
3. Paste IN PLACE (Shift+Command+V or Shif+Ctrl+V).
4. Set the newly pasted line weight to a lower value (than your original, dynamic line). Our original line was at 3 pt., so I’ll make this one’s line weight set to 1.5 pt.
5. Change its Profile to Uniform

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Ta-da! Just by those simple changes, our blob friend now has more personality. He even now has a charming mustache!

Now let’s take a look at an example that is a more complex illustration. And what better imagery than a pig with a jet booster strapped to its back!

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As you can see, the illustration on the right has more complexity and character with its linework than the version on the left. The varying thick-to-thin lines play off the curves of the rounded forms and the angular lines of the more streamlined shapes.

Now give it a shot! Go transform those boring vectors into lively illustrations! In addition to this one, we have TONS of tutorials on illustration in the Arsenal. Check ’em out and start creating masterpieces!

Thanks for reading!

Hanging Punctuation in InDesign and Illustrator | Design Tip of the Week

Hanging Punctuation in InDesign and Illustrator

This week, we’re getting into a nitty gritty aspect of type: hanging punctuation. For those who do not know, hanging punctuation is a method of typesetting punctuation marks (and bullet points) to preserve the ‘flow’ of a body of text and avoid breaking the margin of alignment. Let me show you what I’m talking about. While there are options that include hanging punctuation in InDesign AND Illustrator, I’ll show an example in InDesign. (Don’t worry, I’ll touch upon Illustrator towards the end.)

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As you can see, the quotation marks are tucked inside next to the “M”, throwing off alignment.

(Side Note: I decided to use pirate ipsum for my copy. I mean, why the hell would you use boring lorem ipsum when things like pirate ipsum exist?)

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You’re going to want to go to Type>Story.

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Check the box next to “Optical Margin Alignment” and change the value below until you’re happy with the alignment.

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There we are. Donezos.

For Illustrator, it’s actually one option, which is Optical Margin Alignment – right under “Type” in the top menu. When I tried this out in Illustrator CC, the results were pretty good. However, I wasn’t satisfied with how Illustrator CS5 handled the alignment. If you think it needs some tweaking, I suggest making those adjustments using Tabs (Window>Type>Tabs.)

Thanks for stopping by! Hope this was helpful!

7 - 13 - 15

Making Perfect Curves in Illustrator | Design Tip of the Week

Making Perfect Curves in Illustrator

Hello, hello! Last week, I gave some tips on designing faster in Illustrator, but this week, we’re going to focus more so on quality. In Illustrator (as you all know,) you have super-tight control over line weights, shapes, etc. and can produce incredibly crisp visuals. The best creatives who make the most stunning vectors are those with a sharp eye for detail. Having a hawk’s eye (both the animal and the Marvel character) that can pick up on subtle changes in line work and curves of a shape is pretty crucial for creating awesome illustrations. For this Design Tip of the Week, we’re going to focus on curves.

Here is our example:

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As you can see, this little blob dude is not happy. He feels insecure of his imperfectly smooth form*. Let’s help him out.

*Note: you do not need to have a perfectly smooth form to be a strong, independent, beautiful blob thing. 

If you can already see where some touch-ups need to be made, then you, my friend have a good eye! For those that haven’t picked up on the areas that need working, hey, no sweat! That’s why I’m here, to help and walk you through it.

DTOTW_7-5-15_Article_Image_2Okay, first problem. As you can see, there’s a bit of a point where the two curves are not aligned perfectly. This is very common and can easily be overlooked. Let’s smooth that out.

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There we go. Take advantage of those curve handles, they will indicate the direction and sharpness of the curve. When the handles are aligned and create a perfectly straight line, you’re curve is good to go. Remember to always zoom in and out to see how your changes affect the overall shape.

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Hmm…something is still off.

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There it is. Cases of super, super subtle misalignment are what you really have to watch for. Be relentless in going through your illustration and checking for any places that need refined.

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Awe, he looks so much happier. Getting into the habit of really examining your illustration, finding the places that need some polishing and making those improvements will only result in your work becoming better and better. So, roll up them sleeves, zoom in at 6400% and make that shit flawless.

Just to let you know, we actually have tons of tutorials on Illustration that you should definitely check out!

Until next time!

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