How would you like your graphic design?

Humor, as promised. 🙂

Or, check out

or this one…


Recommended supplies

Xacto #1 knife


Xacto blade 15 pk


16 x 20 presentation board, 10pk×20-10.html


Spray Mount


Tracing paper, 11 x14×14.html


Artist’s tape, white (for writing on back of boards)


Technical marker (0.5mm)


India ink


Speedball lettering set (make note of model and shop at Plaza)

Leading verses

Decision-making, being a Christian citizen designer and excellence in business

  • Ecclesiastes 11:4 – He who observes the wind will not sow; and he who regards the clouds will not reap.
  • Proverbs 11:14 – Where there is no guidance, a people falls; but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
  • I Corinthians 9:24 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize?
  • Proverbs 16:18 – Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before the fall.
  • Proverbs 22:16 – He who oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to want.
  • 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control.

Quality of work and skill

  • Proverbs 18:9 – He who is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.

Being a steward of your talent

  • Proverbs 18:16 – A man’s gift makes room for him, and brings him before great men.
  • Romans 11:29 – For the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable.
  • 2 Timothy 1:6 – Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands…
  • Exodus 35:35 – He has flled them with the ability to do every sort of work done by a craftsman or by a designer…
  • 1 Timothy 4:14 – Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given to you by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you.

Dressing for the interview

So, you’ve done it! You made it into the design office of your dreams for a face-to-face interview! Congratulations! Or perhaps you are dressing to survive one of my infamous portfolio reviews.

A few words about this day: A large part of your evaluation may be on the nonverbal part of your presentation: dress, mannerisms, etc. Don’t panic; this part of the interview has been survived by many a student, yours truly included. We’ve all walked this path and there are many pieces of advice we have to pass onto you, the uninitiated. Ask for interview and resume advice from as many people as you can. Most colleges have a career center with extremely helpful individuals ready to proof your resume and help in any way they can. Below is what I have to offer for dressing and acting the part of the professional.


In Jackson, Mississippi, Fondren has a shop called Silly Billy’s, which carries both men and women’s fashions. I just can’t stop visiting this place. Just today, I bought four blouses and two dresses (Banana Republic and J. Crew) for under $30. They carry shoes and jewelry and change out fashions for the appropriate season. The store is beautiful and organized. They make thrift fun!

In Nashville, the Goodwill stores (especially the superstore on Gallatin Pike, close to Rivergate) and Southern Thrift on Nolensville have a good selection of items. If you are a lady looking for a more organized experience, Designer Renaissance is a good option, but the prices are a bit higher. Designer Finds in Green Hills is where I’ve had the most luck. The Plato’s Closet stores have good options for men.

I’ve also had great luck at Marshall’s and T.J. Maxx clearance racks. Set a budget and stick to it. You can find good clothes on the cheap!


Ladies and gentlemen need to concentrate on what fits well, wrinkles the least (wool and some rayon), and is timeless and business-like (keep the trends at home). There are a lot of wrinkle-free shirt options for both sexes. I personally splurge on the Land’s End wrinkle-free shirts (shop the online outlet). They are pricey, but worth the money and, if reserved for business occasions, they last forever. Just wash, dry, and hang, no ironing!

For ladies, the power suit works best. I read a recent article that said the skirt suit was replacing the pants suit in this category. I personally prefer a pants suit with a lined pant, because I can move more freely. Skirts should almost touch the knees; nothing too short.

For guys, a tie may be overkill, depending on the environment, but no effort goes unnoticed. An interviewer notices the effort you put into getting ready. A matching suit isn’t necessary, just wear your best pants and jacket, and use your shirt and tie to bridge the gap in coordination. Make sure and see the color guideline below about matching according to hair and eye color, and you’ll look great!


The best piece of advice I ever received about color came from a beauty magazine many years ago: Dress according to your hair color and eye color. If you are a blue-eyed brunette, a nice brown suit with a stunning blue-patterned blouse will do it. If you are a blonde, layer light chestnut and almond colors together to create a beautiful effect. This works for men and women. Not everyone should wear a black suit to an interview.


I know (and love) the current trend in sky-high heels for women, but unless you can walk gracefully and confidently in them (and bless you if you can!), I recommend a lower heeled shoe. Guys, opt for a nice dress shoe with a slim profile. Match your belt to your shoes.

Tattoos should be covered as well as possible. You’ll have plenty of time to show your uniqueness after you are hired and complete your first successful project.

Nose rings and studs should be removed if at all possible, or, if not possible, buy a flesh-colored stud or keep it very, very small. As far as ear gages, I’m not sure about removal, but my personal opinion is if you’ve gone that far with body modification, opt for the least flashy jewelry option you have available.


Go conservative. For the ladies, this means either a stunning necklace, earrings, or bracelet, but not all at once. Guys have it much easier, like above, match your shoes and belt. Keep rings on the hands conservative and not too flashy.

Makeups for the ladies should be kept clean, fresh, and natural, but use enough to play up your best features without using too much.

For guys, if you have a beard, make sure it is clean and trimmed. Do keep in mind that some corporations have dress codes about hair touching collars and facial hair, so research these in advance if you will be interviewing at such a place (be sneaky and call a department assistant or someone in Human Resources to ask these questions!).


If you are in a cold climate, the best investment you can make is a good, dressy coat that matches your business look. Most places place these on sale in February or so. Watch the racks for a steal and buy out of season. The same goes for suits!


I just got a very nice one that holds my laptop, cords, and other items for $35 at T.J. Maxx. You can use folders to keep your documents, like a resume, nice and crisp. Ladies, if you can find one that you can tuck your billfold into, that’s best. The fewer items you carry in, the less of a chance there is you will get nervous and leave something behind.


Invest in shoe polish or at least a shine sponge for your shoes, both easy to find at Target or Wal-Mart. Condition and take care of leather items. Buy a Dryel kit for your dry clean only items, and had wash what you can in cold water to make it last longer.


–      Smile! A lot! It makes everyone less nervous.

–      Breathe! If you take a breath, it will alleviate that nervous chatterbox thing that happens to all of us. Usually an interviewer is waiting for your signal to stop so they can ask the next question.

–       Maintain enough eye contact, but not too much.

–      Have questions ready to ask about the company, about the job description, anything. Have a question or two prepared for them to show your interest in the company. Research them in advance and find out more. What do they do in the community? How many employees to they have? In what industry do most of their clients work? Show you have done your homework.

–      Remember that you are both getting to know one another and see if the relationship can be mutually beneficial.

–      Don’t discuss money, benefits or vacation until you have been offered the job.

Good luck and I hope you get that paycheck, but most of all, I hope you find a fulfilling place to work with cool people.

UX, UI and mobile first: An introduction

Recently, I read a news story that included a short history of smartphones and the growing “phablet” category. Dell introduced the Streak, a 5” smartphone, about three years ago with high hopes. The Streak subsequently bombed for a variety of reasons, one of which was it was “too big.” Fast forward to the present day, with Samsung’s successful introduction of the Galaxy Note II, and it appears that phablets are here to stay. Where else would we go, with shrinking tablets and growing smartphones?

For the graphic designer, this introduces a new tangle of definitions and responsibilities, especially since designers and web developers are now encouraged to design responsive websites and app interfaces for the mobile market. The battle cry of the market is now “mobile first.”

Here’s a brief summary of a few things you should know as a design student when designing for mobile:


UI is User Interface. The extended abbreviation GUI, or Graphical User Interface, is essentially the same thing. It is a pretty little display that stands between the user and a command they wish to impart to an app or computer. The current generation has almost never dealt without a UI, but all you have to do to appreciate what a UI does for efficiency is remember writing BASIC, try to execute a command in DOS, or work a little while in the UNIX-based Terminal area on a Mac. Once you try to execute a commany without a UI, you have an idea of what you’re missing. UI design for mobile depends on the pixel space of the target smartphone and on the requirements of the smartphone’s OS. Creating a pixel perfect design for your UI is essential and now expected in the field. If you’re really up for it, Android and iOS have their own development handbooks that discuss UI and UX principles for these platforms.


UX stands for User Experience. It deals, in short, with what a user cognitively expects when using a UI. Human computer interaction, or HCI, is a large field of study that influences UX. As people, we are trained by environments as to how we expect a UI to react. For example, if a button is pressed on a screen, we expect it to depress, then snap back, just like a physical button. We are also influenced by biology as to how many things our attention can handle at once, with the legendary number being about seven things. This number is backed by cognitive research and learning theories. There are several features built into mobile and tablet apps that do not exist for function, but rather exist to satisfy this cognitive side, such as start-up screens and transitions.

Microsoft UX guidelines

iOS Human Interface Guidelines

Android UI Gudelines

There are many, many more things to explore in the fantastic world of designing for tablets, smartphones, and (yes) phablets. I’ll follow up with more posts later.

Organize yourself! App tricks of the trade

As a one woman department show teaching near-double overload, a freelance designer, and an exhibiting artist, I often get the question: How do you do it?

Well, honestly, most of it is slight of hand. No one sees the pile of undone laundry in my hamper, the stack of mail, or the unswept porch. I killed my cable subscription some years ago to save time and money. I own an unplugged video game console that sits next to an unplugged television in a spare room. I guess it’s more like out of sight, out of mind.

However, I do use some resources to manage the classroom, the department and my files. Here is my go-to list for making it all happen.


Dropbox (Cost: about $10 a month) is my cloud source for file back-up. I save all of my presentation files for class on my account, and they auto update to my office and home computers. To share files with clients and students, I copy a link out of my Public folder. To collect student work, I create a shared folder for upload. I no longer have to carry external storage, or even haul my laptop to most classes. My shoulder is thanking me for this one!


Omnifocus (Cost: about $80) is my program of choice for personal project and list management. When you enter data in Omnifocus, it autosaves. Having a brilliant idea? Make sure it hits your Omnifocus and you’ll never lose it again. Everything is searchable. I project-managed my way through graduate school with this handy program. Evernote is a similar program that I just downloaded and haven’t used, but people say similar things about it.


When it comes to managing the classroom outside of a campus course management system like Blackboard, Sakai or Moodle, I’ve just started using Basecamp ($20-$50 a month) and I am loving it. The inspiration to use Basecamp came from the local ADDY award winning agency Mad Genius and their workflow. Since I’m always keen on modeling the “real world” in the classroom, I plunged into using Basecamp for all of my classroom project assignments. The friendly interface is appealing to students and encourages collaborative work. Files and announcements are stored in project locations and I receive a notification when there is an update. This semester, my small group of students have been able to pull off live client classwork for collateral for a large dance conference, a print poster and website design for a Mississippi not-for-profit that benefits the arts, the design of my department handbook, and a social media awareness campaign for campus. In addition, I created a job board where I post incoming internship and job opportunities. Can you say increased enthusiasm and productivity?

Google Calendar, Docs and Drive

The Gmail calendars are amazing. You can create a separate calendar for each course, and students can link to deadlines and reminders for class. Prior to Basecamp, I used this free resource to manage classes. Additionally, I was an adjunct teaching on several different campuses at once, and the combination of Calendar and a blog kept me organized. Emails asking for project guidelines dramatically decreased, and students were able to checklist on their own, outside of the classroom.

I also did a presentation at the CAA conference about some of these products. Here are the slides. Good luck with getting productive and organized!

Other Resources

A former student of mine, Tyson Cadenhead, is a JavaScript Engineer with the patience of Job. He uses a variety of tools for billing and staying focused on work. Check out his list here.

Dealing with a client, proposing a contract, and getting paid

First, dealing with a client. Graphic design is part art, part psychology, part counselor. The main objectives in an initial client meeting should be determining budget, getting the client to articulate their ideas about what they want, and getting enough information to develop an initial quote.
Client questions for a logo

Client questions for a website

Asking the client about a budget

Client red flags

Then, the contract. Please always use a contract. A “contract lite” is a letter of agreement. I always require a signed letter of agreement to schedule the work.

David Airey on contracts.

Basic terms to include (have them reviewed for the state in which you intend to have your office by a lawyer).

Free forms from Creative Public. Click on “forms.”

Finally, getting paid and protecting your work.

Cease and desist.


Death & taxes. Both are a sure thing.

Keep 33 cents out of every dollar to pay your taxes. Get to know a lawyer and a CPA on which you can count.
Check Bankrate for tax advice in plain English

Portfolio tips

Here are some of my guidelines for portfolios to think about when gathering your work. When you are gathering your work, don’t neglect old projects. Sometimes a 2-D class project can be repurposed into a great poster or editorial layout!

– Include 8 to 12 of your very best pieces. Ask people to help you edit ruthlessly.

– Always have a web presence. I’ve had professionals say they will not even considering calling someone for an interview unless they have a website. Consider these sites to get one up quickly.

– Always have a business card at the ready with current information and an email address that is not school related or oddly named. Get a quality card to show that you care. Moo cards Vistaprint

– If you don’t know what industry you are aiming for, craft your portfolio as 1/3, 1/3, 1/3. This could be 1/3 editorial design, 1/3 illustration, 1/3 web, for starters.

– When dividing the work up, a good rule of thumb are the categories for the Addy awards. See here or the separate post. You can start with the student categories.

– If not dividing the work up, make a separate portfolio for each kind of job you want. Using the container/board method outlined below allows you to trade out and reorder work very easily for your physical portfolio.

Shooting your work:
When representing dimensional items like a CD jewel case or a brochure, having an interesting product shot is the way to go for representing the item in your portfolio. Set your items up in good lighting, such as diffused daylight, and shoot high resolution.


The Physical Portfolio

Are you buying a book?

Check here or Michael’s….

Or, these cool engraved books…

Or are you finding a really cool box or other container to use? (Recommended method!)

You can either (1) mount your portfolio pieces as below or (2) create another version of your InDesign document and format it to the size of your boards/pages. See the video for an explanation of this.

Use good quality black-core board or black-core foam board. Cut the edges neatly or have a shop do it. Always format your boards so that they face the same direction, i.e. landscape or vertical. Use spray mount or studio tack so that the mounting is flat with no ripples.

If you are mounting a single image on the front, use this guideline to place your image, making sure you leave space on the lower right or left for a consistent labeling technique.


Make sure everything is spelled correctly!!



My favorite way to mount work is to lay my labels and image out as a single print from InDesign, then print the work, mount it on the board, and THEN trim. That way, you don’t have to center your work or mount work and labels individually.

The PDF Portfolio

In InDesign, make sure the images for your portfolio are 300ppi. You can downsample the PDF in Acrobat to a friendly size, something like under 5mb. I am not a fan of creating an interactive PDF to showcase work; these are usually too large to email. Don’t forget to create (and spellcheck, and proof) a resume page, and include your contact info on every page in an unobtrusive format.


What is an identity standards manual?

An identity manual, or standards manual, governs the look, feel and voice of a logo, which represents a brand. Especially in the case of a large entity like a university or large museum, this manual can help keep the integrity of a brand in one piece. Most of these manuals are now online for a quick and easy reference, This online version may also include high resolution downloads of the logo for use and preferred Pantone colors.


Western Kentucky University’s standards manual


The Smithsonian


An extensive one for University of California Riverside:




Brand identity, Lovemarks, and the successful logo

In college, you learn color theory, gestalt theory, semiotics and other lines of research in order to inform the creation of a logo or a “mark.” But what happens when marketing meets the “mark?” Then, you have the creation of a “lovemark.” Lovemarks are brands to which a consumer has developed an emotional attachment. These attachments can be quite strong, as evidenced by this image.

Here is a collection of links to consider when pondering the difference between logo, brand, and identity, and which logos are connected to a brand who have ascended to the emotional status of “lovemark.”

The difference between brand, identity and logo

What makes a logo successful?

But I LOVE Starbucks!! (Lovemarks)

Here is an exercise to grow your identity acumen: Pick one Paul Rand logo from the above site (or one from your current environment). Answer the question: Why are these logos successful (or are they successful)? You may reference use of elements of design, such as line, shape, direction, size, color, value, or principles of design, such as balance, contrast, scale, unity, repetition, etc. Here are some guiding questions. 

Line: is it horizontal (restful)? vertical (active)? diagonal (unsettling)?

Shape: Is there a dominant shape? Closed or open?

Direction: Is it “pointing” a certain way? Why? Are there emotional connotations to the direction?

Size: Is there a tension happening in scale?

Color/Value: For the single color logo, are there changes in value? What does this do for the logo?

Balance: Is there symmetry? Asymmetry? How?

Contrast/Scale/Unity/Repetition: Is there a change in the scale of items that are repeated?
Does the logo reproduce well at a small size, such as 1″ x 1″ or the size of a postage stamp? Does it drop line width, legibility, or design elements at such a small scale?

Does it work well in a single color, such as black? (I recommend designing a logo in black and white only at the beginning of every project).

You can blend several of the items above into a single statement about the logo. Don’t be afraid to make your observations. There is no right or wrong way of looking…there is only looking until you see. 🙂