Category Archives: Design

Trust Design

Trust does begin with the client. The first principle, keep your promises, is by far the most important. If the client can’t trust your word, they probably won’t trust your design either.

Trust Me, I’m a Designer: 9 Principles for Creative Credibility
Author: Jason Cranfordteague
“A recent study by Demos ( called Truth, Lies and the Internet found that a third of teens polled in the UK believe any information they find on line is true without qualification. Even more staggering is that a 15% of that group admit to making their decision about the truthfulness of the content of a Web page based on appearance alone.”
View on slideshare

A Layered Approach

An often overlooked element of the work-flow process is layers. All the Adobe products use layers. They are great – you can have a layer for every little line in your project if you want. It’s actually a great thing for editing a file later. So when aren’t they beneficial? When you haven’t named a single one of them and someone else has to use your file to edit a project. Note: the next person could be you in six months. Will you remember what Layer 135 is?

I think it all started when, at my first job as an in-house designer, I inherited all the files from the previous designer. I had to click through so many layers to find what I needed, re-labeling, re-grouping and deleting empty layers. A half hour at least for every file I had to open. Multiply that by even just 10 files and looks how much time is wasted. Right then and there, every file I created was labeled, grouped and clearly named. This became a blessing when the company hired two more designers and I already had a workflow in place.

Layers Mess

The Offending File

Another more recent example – I downloaded a template file that a client purchased. I open the file, ready to get to work and what a letdown. None of the layers have names or they are weird names that make no sense to me. It took me an unnecessary 20 minutes just to nail down the layers and where things were.

Sure, it might seem tedious to name every layer. How about folders? You can group layers into folders named Header, Footer, Right Sidebar, etc. and, even if you don’t name the layers, at least you can drill down right to the specific area you need to edit and instead of going through 50 layers you only need to go through 10. I do both.

Neat Layers

Neat & Organized

I name every layer and then group things into named folders. I’m a freelancer and, at this point, I’m the only one who works on my files but my workflow is so much easier because I can just open a file, zero right in to where I need to be. But who knows – maybe I’ll have an assistant someday. I wouldn’t want nightmare files slowing down the person who is supposed to be helping me. Besides being a bit anal and knowing that I have to practice what I preach, I just think it’s courteous and although I’m usually only being courteous to myself  – if I’m not courteous to myself, who will be?

Side Note: I recently worked with another designer who sent me the psd files that I would be using to develop the website. Of course, I was thinking the files were going to be a mess when I got them but I was wrong! Much to my surprise, this fellow designer created her files like I do. Naming every layer and grouping the areas in folders. The project was a breeze to develop.

An Identity Challenge

Being fairly new to logo design but really liking it, I am always excited when a new identity project becomes available. I think I just had the biggest challenge of my career to date.

Original Client Sketch

It sounded simple enough – Vet clinic name, cat, dog, heart shape. The client had a rough sketch done of what she had in mind. Some designers might mind this. My illustration abilities are fairly raw so I like a jumping off point especially when there is drawing or illustration involved. I can draw but am not a natural. Illustrations and lines don’t just flow out of me. I have to pencil sketch, erase, sketch, erase, and grumble, erase again. I also used to really wrestle the pen tool in Illustrator (I don’t think I’ll ever bother with it in Photoshop). I just didn’t get it but, like most things, after using it enough times it finally clicked and while still not my favorite tool, at least I’m not hiding from it anymore.

Once I got the sketch scanned in and got the initial outlines done, the original position of the cat and dog ended up being too awkward to create. The animals just didn’t look… comfortable. I looked at so many images of animals in different positions, blending sketches of my own, until I finally came up with a position that created the heart the client wanted and liked. Hard part number one down. Now to actually fill the little guys out and make them look like pets you’d want, not flat, little rat-looking things. The ears on the dog and both tails were the hardest (they definitely had a rat-looking thing phase).

My Sketched Version

I created the animals as outlines for more control but when I chose ‘Create Compound Path’ the paths didn’t fill in solidly; you could see the odd twists and turns they took. There was an option in the menu that I had never tried – ‘Join’ – so I took my chances. You can always ctrl+z, right! I was pleasantly surprised (and relieved!) when my outlines joined and then filled the way I wanted to. After some tweaking of the font and placement the Upper East Veterinary Clinic logo emerged. Warm and fuzzies all around!

Final Logo

My Own Worst Design Enemy

A Corner of
My Future Site

I am currently in the process of redesigning my own website, which showcases a portfolio of my web design work along with my photography. It is long overdue and certainly could benefit from more copy and a more coherent design and flow. Looking at the site from a potential client or employer’s perspective one would wonder who this designer is. What does this designer have to offer? On the surface, it doesn’t look like much.

The design aspect of my site is definitely farther along than the copy which is unfortunate because it is really better to design with content than without. Designing without the copy can lead to a whole host of issues including continually redesigning and, were it for a client, extra charges. While I may not be charging myself, I don’t want to waste my own time either.

Writing copy for the web is a little different, as many articles will tell you. The copy needs to be succinct but as detailed as possible because it needs to be found by search engines and users otherwise it’s just a pretty element of cyberspace. The thing that gets in the way is the search engine optimization (SEO) aspect of the writing. While there are key phrases and words you want to find you in a search, you also don’t want to sound like you’re writing just for the search, which is part of what was holding me back writing copy for my site. I could blame it on writer’s block but I can eke out a few blog posts and a lot of poetry in a given time span so clearly it isn’t writer’s block. Part of it of course, is determining who I am as a designer and then making that work with ‘key phrases’ and part of it is my perfection confinement: it has to be right the first time.

An article I read the other day at Website Magazine really helped. And the thing that got me was that as a writer, the advice was so obvious. “Start by writing 2 or 3 bulleted points that you want to make….” Wow. Brilliant, eh? That’s the basis for essay writing in high school: the outline. (Incidentally, I don’t think I ever wrote an outline that was worth anything. I went right into the writing part – I guess its coming back to haunt me now!) Using this paramount piece of advice for the ‘elevator pitch’ at the beginning of my resume, which was also eluding me, I broke through these barriers and I feel that I’m ready to move on to tackle the copy on my website.

Another good point at the Web Designer Depot was to “Think about the story you want to tell at each point in the design process.” This is something that was definitely missing from my approach. Looking at how I was proceeding in my own site design, I was seeing each page as its own entity, separate from any other page but this shouldn’t be the case. A website, in this instance mine, should have a solid idea as a whole and each page should support that. I am my worst client. I was doing all the things that frustrate me in dealing with clients. Not provide copy, not having a clear vision of flow, not thinking about the audience. No wonder I have been stumbling all over the place.

I now have a much more clear vision of what I want the site to do and I see my little cyber niche becoming a much more enjoyable place to land.

Oh so Manly

I’ve always been attracted to packaging. I don’t work in the package design industry – I don’t think I have the brain particles necessary for 3D design.  I didn’t take to 3D software very well, unfortunately. It would have been great to get into video game design, which is actually a good segue way into my topic as the video game market appears to be predominantly male.


Axe Scrubber

Lately in the pharmacy I’ve noticed the shelves containing more skin and hair care products designed to attract the male consumer. Darker toned packaging, like the Dove or Vaseline Intensive Care bottles, and the edges aren’t as soft as products are that are geared toward females. Take the body scrubber thing that Axe has created for men to use in the shower, while using the sexy, masculine scented line of body washes, of course. It is not just a soft little ball of mesh attached to a soft colored string. No, the scrubber thing for men is contained. It has two sides, one to clean and one to buff. When I look at it I think, you could wax a car with that.  I also think that it would be easier to hold and guide to where you’d want it unlike the unstructured mesh poufs that litter the skincare aisle.

Vaseline Intensive Care

Vaseline's Male Packaging

Dove Scrubber

Dove's Scrubber Thing

Dove Lotion Bottle

Dove's Male Packaging

I have always thought that I have a masculine ‘streak’, I guess you would say. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the typical shoe indulgence (in fact I have overindulged a time or two. or three.) or jewelry (I have cut myself off) but just an edge. I like suits styled like men’s suits, vests, pick-up trucks and have a marginal fascination with guns. So when I see these skin care products aimed at the male consumer dressed in navy blue, black and dark red packaging,  I always pause in front of them, longing to dress my shower shelves in more masculine colors. After smelling them, however, I sigh and walk away. I do not care to smell like “Active Sport” which, in reality, probably smells nothing like that sharp, fresh, tingly, smell. Someone active in sports probably smells more like a gym locker. I have yet to find a product in the male body care section that is unscented so, until that future time, I shall leave the ‘Fresh Sport’ scent with its lovely dark packaging for the male consumer and continue to buy pastel colored bottles with soft curves to adorn my shower. I will not, however, use products that are scented like Spring Rain (nope, smells nothing like fresh earth) or Rose (nope, wild roses don’t smell that way either).