What Are Your Favorite Conferences & Festivals?

We Need Your Input

Hello loyal readers of the GoMediaZine! We are reaching out to you to get your input on what your favorite conferences and festivals are and why. Please comment below with your suggestions and keep a lookout for your responses in a future Go Media Podcast episode.

Love Gifts

Do you love gifts? We know you do! One commenter below will be selected at random, and they will receive a FREE WMC Fest 2012 T-shirt. The winner will be chosen on Monday, December 10th.

WMC Fest 2012 T-Shirt

Blank Canvas: Creative Resolutions

It’s that time of year again. January first always seems to bring out the best intentions in people, and us creative types are no different.

Some may choose to lose weight, get in shape or quit a bad habit. But Go Media is curious what you the design community wants to change, improve or quit in regards to your creative life.

I’ll kick things off by sharing what art-related resolutions I’ve made in 2011.

Most of my plans for the coming year are less on the creative side and more on the business side of my art. In general the theme for me is to expand the reach and availability of my art and creative services.

In particular, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve been offering a pretty narrow slice of my illustration talents — for the most part it’s been targeted to those seeking custom work. I had a bit of an “aha!” moment in late 2010 (which of course in hindsight seems obvious) that there are many more potential clients, customers and fans out there who don’t need to hire me for custom work, but would like to have some for themselves.

This will also help achieve the other goal I have for 2011 and beyond, which is to create more artwork for myself. I pretty much had a laser focus for the past 5+ years to grow my illustration business to something that was self-sustaining, and by doing so I focused completely on the illustration work I created for clients.

Of course the past years were not all about art, since in order to achieve the goal of running your own business you need to do, well, business. But it all revolved around commercial art. I’d like to get more into creating art I want to create, and being able to make it self-sustaining from a business standpoint.

I’ve actually spent most of the Christmas/New Year’s “holiday” working on putting these goals into motion. To paraphrase Newton’s laws of motion, it’s much easier to keep something going once it’s in motion that it is to get it started.

Part of this process also involves my third resolution, which is to get more involved with others in the creative community. Some of the other projects I’ve begun are being worked on in conjunction with other like-minded illustrators. I find it makes the process not only more enjoyable, but it helps keep you on point when others are working towards (or bugging you to complete) the goals you’ve taken on.

So that’s my 2011. Go Media wants to hear from our readers: what’s your creative resolution for 2011?

Go!

Dragon photo by Rollan Budi

Blank Canvas: Students — What’s Missing From Your Classes?

Go Media has a large student readership. We’d love to hear from you regarding your current classes and offered classes — what’s missing?

I know back in my college days, it was a far different environment than it is today. The school and professors were considered reputable in their field, yet I found some of their approaches to be out of touch. I imagine that situation never changes.

What’s not offered, or not given enough time in the classes you’re taking? What’s not available to learn that you feel are important skills for a designer to have in their arsenal for the future?

Are you missing out on new web technologies like CSS and HTML5? Is designing for mobile computing environments with iOS and Android sufficiently covered? What sort of information do you find yourself turning to design blogs like Go Media Zine for?

And let’s not be completely negative here — if your university is offering some kick-ass classes in areas that you feel are part of the future of design, let us know as well in the comments below.

Go!

Blank Canvas: Stock Photography

For this installment of Blank Canvas, Go Media Zine would like to get some reader feedback on stock photography. Do you use it? What’s your favorite site? Do you sell your own stock photography?

For the most part, when stock photography comes up for a project, I tend to use iStockPhoto. They have a pretty decent selection of both photography and illustration, and it seems easy enough to find what you are looking for.

That said, I think the primary reason I’ve used iStock is because the prices are low, the quality is decent for what you pay and I’ve just been using them for so long it’s easiest with an account and credits set up already.

I’ve dabbled with some other stock photography sites such as BigStockPhoto.com, but that’s about it. To be honest, I’m not too familiar with any other competitors out there.

As far as contributing, I’ve never contributed photography, but I have done so for some illustration work. I’d be curious to hear from any readers who do contribute photography to a stock photo site — let us know what your experience has been as far as exposure, pay/income and what seems to be the most popular.

It seems to me the way to make any decent money is to have a lot of stuff uploaded, since the royalties aren’t that high.

If you don’t use stock photo sites, where do you get your photography from? Shoot your own photos? Hire a photographer? An alternate resource we may not be aware of?

Go!

Hot Topic T-Shirt Wall Game: Name That Designer!

I thought this would be a fun game. I’m sure you’ve been into Hot Topic and looked up at the t-shirt wall for inspiration on designing tees. You might even have the pleasure of seeing one of your OWN designs up on the wall. Or you might recognize the work of fellow designers. I went in there recently and discovered that I could only identify a couple of designs that I recognized and there were a lot that I didn’t know. I admit, I haven’t been keeping tabs on this in quite some time.

So I snapped a photo of the Hot Topic t-shirt wall and posted it on Flickr so we can all “tag” the photo with the designer who did that particular shirt. I want to see how many designers we could identify on this wall to test our awareness of who is doing what in the band merch scene. It’s pretty tough!

Use Flickr’s tag/note feature:

I’m asking all GoMediaZine readers to click on the photo to go to the Flickr page and add a use the “actions” button to add a “note” with the name of the designer over his/her tee design. If you know the designer has his/her own Flickr account, you can add a “person” so they are notified that they’ve been spotted in the wild.

Name That Designer!

Go to Photo 1 on Flickr

Name That Designer 2

Go to Photo 2 on Flickr

Blank Canvas: How Do You Learn?

For this installment of Blank Canvas, I’d like to hear from our readers on the topic of learning new design and illustration techniques and software.

Obviously here at the Go Media Zine, we offer plenty of design and illustration tutorials, however not everyone learns best from a computer screen.

Creative types have a wealth of information online nowadays, however many out there learn best from a classroom setting, one-on-one tutoring or perhaps even good old fashioned books.

If you are one of those who keep up to date and expand your arsenal online, what do you prefer as the format for your content — step-by-step tutorials, video walkthroughs, “quick tip” articles or in-depth analysis of techniques?

For our student readers, do you augment your classroom studies with outside sources? If you’re already a degreed pro, what do you use to keep current, and have you considered going back to the classroom?

Blank Canvas: Design Contests

There seems to be quite a growing number of websites such as 99 Designs offering design services by way of “contests”, where the client will submit specs for the project, and the designers will then submit actual designs in order to “win” the payment.

While I can see the appeal of these types of services for the client (get designs for free, only pay for the ones you like), I feel this devalues the worth of a designer’s skills. You don’t get to have 5 mechanics work on your car and then only pay the one you felt did the best job. You can’t eat a meal at 5 restaurants and then only pay for the food you found the most delicious.

I’ve read articles and blog comments in defense of these types of services, but none of the arguments was very compelling to me. It reeks of spec work, and the team over at No Spec agree.

Student designers looking to bolster their portfolio, “hobbyist” designers doing it for fun, and the like are the typical arguments in favor of these services.

I suppose it’s the choice of those who participate if they wish to work for the chance of getting paid, but in general I think it sends a message that logo design work is so “easy” that people are willing to do so for even just a chance of compensation.

I much prefer the eBay-style approach of sites like iFreelance where projects are posted and the illustrators and designers bid on the job. No work is done for free.

Go Media wants to hear from our reader, especially as we know many of you out there are students: what is your take on these “design contest” types of sites? Have you participated? Sound off in the comments section below.

Go!

Blank Canvas: Personal Projects

For this installment of Blank Canvas, Go Media is interested in hearing about your forays into the analog world.

With so much design work being created and used online and in digital format, it’s easy for a creator to only see their work on the screen. And typically the work you create is for a client.

Our question this time around: how much work do you create for yourself, and do you exhibit that work in shows and/or galleries? If so, how do you go about finding an outlet for your design work?

We also want to hear from you illustrators out there. How much of your work is personal creation, and do you show your art in community events?

Personally, most of my illustration work ends up being seen on-screen. I’ve been planning to create more personal digital artwork and get it out into the physical world, but to be honest I have been dragging my feet in that area.

At Go Media’s recent WMC Fest art/music/film event, I had the opportunity to display work and worked up an original illustration and had it printed out. The impact of seeing non-client work in large format print was addicting, and I plan to do much more of this in the coming months.

I’m also very curious as to those on the design end of the spectrum, what your thoughts are regarding personal creations and displaying them in a public setting. Sound off in the comments section below.

Go!

Blank Canvas: Photoshop, Crashes & RAM

“Photoshop crashed!”

I see this cry all over Twitter, on blogs, in web comics — you can’t go anywhere online that has a tangential relationship to Photoshop without seeing this complaint.

So why is it that Photoshop never crashes for me?

I’m not bragging or anything, but instead actually interested in why this happens to some people and not others. Perhaps it’s the setup, perhaps the types of files. I’d like to get to the bottom of this, and I need your feedback to do so.

My Setup

So let’s start off with a description of my setup, then an overview of a typical Photoshop document. First, here’s my rig:

  • Mac Pro (2008) dual quad-core processors
  • 14 GB RAM
  • Dual-monitors connected to the stock dual-monitor card shipped with the Mac
  • Creative Suite CS4 Premium (Photoshop CS4 Extended)
  • Wacom Intuos4 graphics tablet

I use Photoshop more for drawing and sketching than for photo manipulation, but a pixel is a pixel; a layer is a layer; a layer effect is a layer effect. Here’s a typical Photoshop document for me by the time I am done with it:

  • 8″ by 8″ (or larger) canvas at 240 DPI
  • 15-20 layers, collected in layer groups with effects such as transparency & masks added
  • RGB color mode

In addition, I am typically running Safari, my email program, iTunes, Illustrator, Acrobat, InDesign, Tweetie, an RSS reader and sometimes even recording or watching recorded video via EyeTV.

During the process I extensively use Photoshop CS4 features like the Rotate Canvas tool and other processor and graphics processor features. Rarely does Photoshop feel sluggish, occasionally do I need to wait for an extended progress bar, and as I mentioned at the outset crashes are virtually non-existent. At least no more often than any other random software application crashes on the Mac (which is rare as well).

What is RAM?

In case you are unaware, RAM (“memory”, aka ‘Random Access Memory’) is like a magic potion for your computer. Most (or all) modern operating systems use virtual memory, cache and scratch disks (even Photoshop uses it’s own scratch disk) to allow you to do many things at once (“multitasking”) with a limited amount of RAM. Basically these features use your hard drive to swap out things from the RAM to “make room” for the digital information.

Why Should I Care?

Hence, more RAM equals less swapping info with the hard drive. RAM is fast; hard drives are not. Even without RAM, you can still open 183 applications, but if there isn’t enough RAM to not only store them all in the RAM but also allow for enough room to store the information for your open documents, you’ll see slowdowns and eventual crashes because of the swapping of information to and from the hard drive.

So the idea here is the more RAM you have, the faster things should be on your computer (this is true for Mac or PC). RAM allows you to work on larger files, have more software running at once, and work with larger files faster.

Physical Limits

In chatting with other Photoshop users, one thing does play a big factor in your RAM situation: the maximum physical limit you can install on a machine. Computers are built to support a maximum amount of RAM, and once you hit that limit there’s nothing you can do about it. It seems those with older or entry-level laptops are the most affected here.

When I replaced my aging PowerMac G4 with the Mac Pro in 2008, believe me I wanted to go with a far less-expensive iMac. But back then it all came down to the RAM. The iMac back then maxed out at possibly 8, but definitely 6 GB of RAM. From previous experience, this was not sufficient. I knew I would want a minimum ceiling of 10-12 GB of RAM in my new computer. The Mac Pro holds up to 32 GB of RAM. While overkill, it was the only option that fit my needs.

Today the iMac handles up to 16GB of RAM, so when I finally do need to upgrade my main machine I will be able to go for an iMac (or the equivalent) when that time comes.

What’s Your Setup?

My question to the readers: does Photoshop crash on you on a regular basis? If so, what version of Photoshop and how much RAM do you have installed? If not — well, the question is basically the same. I’d like to hear from the readers on this so we can nail down the role RAM plays in your Photoshop usage.

And it also may be a “heads up” to those looking to buy a new machine to keep an eye out on the specs for the RAM cap on that new machine. A tool at a good price is no good if it doesn’t add to your productivity.

Go!

Blank Canvas: Adobe Creative Suite CS5 — Are You Upgrading?

It’s that time of year again fellow creative types. Well, actually that time of the 18-month release cycle for Adobe’s Creative Suite upgrade.

I know many users out there have a feeling of “didn’t I just upgrade?”, but in fact the release cycle is indeed every 18-months and this one is right on schedule.

Come April 12th, Adobe will be hosting a live CS5 launch announcement event where we will all find out about the new features to be added.

Some of you may already be aware of some of the sneak peek videos Adobe has released for the amazing new Content-Aware Fill feature:

This looks amazing for photo editing, almost like magic!

But our question to you, dear readers: even before knowing about what’s to come in CS5, are you considering upgrading? What’s your typical policy on upgrades?

If past pricing is any indicator, upgrade pricing for the Design Premium bundle will probably be around $500 USD.

Personally, I try to always stay current with the Creative Suite upgrades, and I have heard snippets of features to the Photoshop brush tools that make it very compelling to me.

I’ve also been told by the product Manager for Adobe Illustrator that there will be a “mind blowing” feature coming to Illustrator CS5. And no, I have no inside info as to what that feature is.

I love adding new tools to my arsenal that increase my productivity and enhance my workflow. I found the CS4 upgrade to be more than worth it, and if CS5 offers anything in the way of those features, I won’t hesitate to get me upgrade license.

So leave us your opinion in the comments section below, we want to hear what the community has on their mind about CS5.

Blank Canvas: How Often Do You Upgrade?

Design software ain’t cheap. And for us designers and illustrators using the professional-level software to create such as Adobe Creative Suite, we find a typical 18-month cycle for new releases of Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign and the rest.

GoMedia wants to know: how do you handle your upgrades? Do you get the latest and greatest when it comes out, or do you wait until you have to upgrade?

If you’re on the cutting edge, what compels you? If you’re the waiting type, how long do you usually hold off between releases?

Personally, I am a “latest and greatest” upgrader. Typically there are enough compelling features for me to justify the price. In the past I have skipped some of the versions of Creative Suite, but lately I have been making sure to keep current.

As a self-employed illustrator, it’s a bit easier for me in some sense since I only need to purchase one upgrade license. A studio needs to consider all the machines they own. Students have different upgrade options as well – you get your initial student license, but upgrades need to be full licenses.

I’m a big fan of graphics software so it’s a bit easier for me to justify the upgrades. Since I work almost 100% digitally nowadays, it’s kind of a no-brainer for me as long as the new features are something that I think will enhance my productivity.

Sounds off in the comments below: how and when do you upgrade, and why?

Discussion: Design year in review

The past year has been a fantastic close to a decade filled with great design advancements in all media, but especially on the web. New artists, new firms, new techniques, styles & trends. We’ve seen a lot of stuff that we like, and some that we don’t – but it’s all been a thrill to live through.

The White Stripes tugged the young decade into nostalgia for the 1960s, The Strokes reacted with tunes reminiscent of the 1970s, and The Killers rounded off the pattern making music that borrows from the 1980s. The mood and intentions of creative people seem to move in harmony around current culture; Designers started putting out work with a nod toward vintage aesthetics. Then in 2009, the shapes & color palettes of the 80s seemed to be especially popular.

Trends are inevitable and not inherently bad. But eventually, we all get tired of patterns and similar-looking designs. Here’s a handful of (web design) trends as identified by our friends at Smashing Magazine. This list is just to refresh your memory – let’s not limit the discussion to these design trends only.

  • Letterpress
  • Big Typography
  • Modal Windows
  • Carousels (slideshows)
  • Big footers
  • 80s colors & shapes

What do you think?

So this is topic is now open for discussion. Let’s chat in the comments about what you think are the some overused trends in your area of expertise? Whether it’s design, web, illustration, etc. What do you think?

Blank Canvas: How Do You Promote Yourself?

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Self-promotion is a must for any self-employed or freelance graphic designer or illustrator. This installment of Blank Canvas asks our readers: how do you promote your services?

Cold calls? Mailing lists? How do you use the internet for your marketing? Social networking? What works best? What have you tried and abandoned? What services or methods do you recommend as the most effective?

I’ll start things off with my own approach. The bulk of the promotion I do for my illustration services is online. The main thrust of this is by proper, Google-recommended search engine optimization. Nothing shady, just good practices for the content of your website. And by content I am referring to the text content. People search using words, so you need those words to be on your website.

A big part of this is not just on my own website and blog, but also being an active participant in online design & illustration communities and artist/designer blogs, collectives and related websites. I also create accounts on as many relevant online portfolio sites as I can and I regularly submit my work to photo-sharing sites such as Flickr.

One drawback to this approach is that I am limited to clients who are searching for an illustrator. Certain portions of the industry such as children’s publishing, editorial/spot illustration for magazines and websites and apparel design/illustration are most likely not out there doing a Google search for illustrators. This is where a direct-mail marketing approach or cold-calls might fare much better.

The upside to this approach is that you have built-in interest from the potential client. Typically these clients are starting up a new business, which also has the potential for additional design work for branding and other marketing materials for the client’s new company or service.

For the past year I have been considering a direct-mail approach, but currently my online marketing keeps me busy enough that it hasn’t been a priority.

One aspect of reaching out to larger companies that is a big lure to me is the added exposure of your work which can come from working with a larger company, as well as the name-dropping you can do when promoting your services to future clients. I do have some “dream clients” I would like to work for, which is the biggest impetus for me to strike out with this approach. I love the clients I work with, but getting some “street cred” is appealing.

And getting an “in” with a larger company also has the added benefit of ongoing work. If they like your work, you’re likely to get more of it. Probably keeps the stress levels somewhat lower.

Your turn — Go Media wants to hear from the readers, please let us know in the comments section below how you handle your self-promotion and marketing. Go!

Blank Canvas: Where Do You Freelance?

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This installment of Blank Canvas is directed towards you freelancers and self-employed illustrators and designers out there. Go Media wants to know: where do you work?

There are quite a bit of options for those who can choose where to get their work done. Some prefer the “Fortress of Solitude” route, while others need some sort fo social interaction whether it be a coffeeshop, library or perhaps even sharing a coworking space with others.

So where do you work? What decisions led to that choice, and has it changed over the years? Pros and cons? Wishlist? Advice? Warnings? Let us know in the comments section below.

I’ll start things off with my situation:

I primarily work from a dedicated second bedroom in my apartment. I have plenty of space for a large work table, a drawing table (which I use for storage more than anything else as of late) as well as bookshelves, a flat file, etc. The solitude of working from home can be an oasis at times, allowing me to focus on my work and keep me clear from distractions, but it can also get to be a bit isolating at times.

I’m working towards making more of an effort to get out and work at local coffeeshops and restaurants to break up the cycle, but many times I find myself distracted and far less productive when I am working away from home.

With the internet, mobile phones and laptops/smartphones, there are many options for me to work away from home on the business side of my illustration and design work, however I find the creative process needs to be done primarily at “Command Central”. From back when I was freelancing around some regular off-site work, I’ve grown into the habit of associating the work with the location. Perhaps it’s just the opportunity to work distraction-free, but I am sure at least some of it is just plain habit.

Recently I’ve learned the finer distinction between introverted and extroverted personality types (it’s probably not what you think) and discovered that I lean towards the introverted side, which also plays a factor in my choice of workspace as well. Introverted types aren’t necessarily anti- or non-social, they just tend to “recharge their batteries” and work/concentrate better in solo.

OK readers, your turn—GO!

Blank Canvas: What’s Your Digital Design Setup?

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We’re starting a new feature on the Go Media ‘Zine to give our readers a chance to voice their thoughts and opinions. We’re naming it “Blank Canvas”. And if you readers have any topics you’d like to see covered, please let us know in the comments and we’ll choose from the best and use for future “Blank Canvas” posts.

To kick things off, this week’s topic is “What’s Your Digital Design Setup?” and we’d like to hear from readers about your setup for creating.

The Questions:

  • Mac, PC or other? What kind of machine?
  • What software/version do you create with?
  • Any extra hardware gadgets or tools?
  • Reference books/media nearby?
  • Inspiration?
  • What kind of desk & chair?

To get this ball rolling, here’s my personal setup:

2008 Mac Pro with 14 GB RAM. Most of my work is done Using the Adobe Creative Suite CS4, primarily Illustrator and Photoshop, but InDesign gets it’s fair share of attention. I rarely use my mouse, almost all of my interaction with the Mac is via my Wacom Inutos4 medium-size graphics tablet. Keyboard and mouse are stock from Apple. I have a basic scanner, a Canon LIDE 90. I have a dual-monitor setup, my main monitor is a 24″ Samsung SyncMaster 245T and my secondary is my former main monitor, a 20″ ViewSonic a Samsung SyncMaster 2243BWX 22″ monitor. Main monitor is calibrated using a Pantone Huey. A bunch of external hard drives, mostly for backups and more backups.

I also have a webcam set up, primarily for the microphone. Of course I have a set of external speakers hooked up. All my main computer equipment runs through a battery backup/surge suppressor in case of power glitches or outages. I also have an EyeTV which lets me watch & record TV on the Mac while I am working.

My desk is always cluttered, I have a small bookshelf nearby with various drawing and design reference books. I have a nice rolling taboret for all my drawing and art tools, including all my Pantone swatch books and color reference books. The desk I sort of built myself, it was a DIY IKEA 60″x30″ tabletop and leg setup. Lots of paper and sketchbooks nearby, I primarily sketch on laser paper sheets as they are easiest to scan afterwards. Chair is a basic drafting table chair.

There’s a drawing table next to my main computer desk, but mostly it gets used for stacking paperwork and other random stuff. I usually draw and sketch on a small drawing board sitting in front of the computer.

A tiki sculpture and an Easter Island bobble head keep me company, along with a posable wooden reference hand as well as a posable mini wooden reference manikin.

Ask the Readers: Who is a current household name in design?

name a famous designer

LeBron James, Barack Obama, Terrell Owens, Britney Spears – names you all recognize I assume? For better or worse, I think that just about everybody in the United States would know these people by name.

So I wonder: Who are some current, active, living designers that you (or your younger sister) would know by name? At first glance it may seem that designers are under-appreciated by popular media, but I’m sure you can think of at least a few current headliners. I’m leaving this completely open, and I’m really curious. So don’t let me down – leave a comment!