Little pieces of me

billboard There it is. Loud and (thank the good lord) clear at the edge of town.

I can’t take all the credit as it was such a collaborative piece. I am very thankful that I got to play a small role in it as it has been a real learning curve. Printing something A4 size is totally different to printing something F*%#ing Huge size (pretty sure that’s a technical term right there).

One of the drawbacks of working freelance straight out of … ok, almost finished … Design College is the huge learning curve that sometimes feels more like a tsunami.

I do wish there was an opportunity to work somewhere local as a Junior Designer so I could pickcar the brains of fellow workers when sticky projects come up because my current go-to knowledge base is Google and my study notes. In other words, precious little.

Unfortunately, I believe I’ll have to leave town to get the opportunity to work in an actual agency and whilst that’s not the shittiest idea in the world (I would gladly move southwest – closer to the coast and further from the heat), NIH has a great job and is very happy. I don’t want to shake that tree just yet when I can still get by on doing what I’m doing.

It has been kinda cool to see some of the projects I’ve worked on get finished off and start appearing around town, even if they are just tweaks of original designs (with permission, of course) rather than entirely my own originals. I guess I’m the carpenter equivalent of a handyman – I may not build the house but by gum, I can fix that hole in the wall, no worries.

I’m slowly getting the gist of what I really like doing design-wise. Whilst images are cool and all, my real love is the ol’ formatting of Final_Gone but not forgotten-1documents. Another project I’ve just finished involved a local exhibition to commemorate ANZAC Day.  The design section was quite simple and low-key and it was the formatting of text in the document that took the most time.

Funnily enough, nothing gives me more satisfaction than perfectly presented text.  I think that’s the proofreader in me coming out.

My next big project is designing the collateral for Queensland Public Library Association’s upcoming conference in October. It involves everything from the initial branding design to creating programs, forms, website and bits and pieces.

Seriously, how awesome is that?

 

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I heart my lecturer

blog atomicI am down to the wire with my diploma, so close to the finish line it actually seems possible I’ll be done … someday.  And after more than 20 years of studying in a virtual campus-type scenario for one university, college or training centre or another, I have had the absolute pleasure of getting a lecturer who I am deeply in like with.

His name is Benji and he is awesomeness personified.

He does audio blogs for us to go with the reading material. It works to spice up the rather dry subject matter of Design Industry as well as give an opportunity for him to share some of his first-hand experiences as a graphic designer out in the big, wide world.

He encourages online discussions and stimulates interest with wacky little side projects that can be rattled off in 30 minutes tops yet give a little more depth to our knowledge.

He marks your assignments THE SAME DAY.

Oh, but not only that.

He sends you an audio critique to let you know what he really liked and where you could work to make it just that little bit better.

He’s personable, humorous, positive and without a doubt THE BEST lecturer I’ve ever had.

And as I have alluded to before, I am not a first-timer in this online campus shenanigans. I am a study tart who gets around, people. I get around and I’ve had LOTS of lecturers *blush*

Truly gifted teachers, whether in a classroom, online or just happening to do so as part of the job, are easy to spot.

They are passionate about what they do and they want to pass that passion onto others.  They care deeply about the results of their students – they want them to do well.

They find alternative ways and means to deliver the message so all of their students can engage fully.  They don’t travel the tried and true highway but rather take their students on the back trails and down side streets.

They make learning fun.

I have had so much fun with this module that I’m almost sad to see it will be over soon.  And as a veteran student, that’s a very big deal.

 

Joys of working for yourself

Clown

Clutsy the Clown would like to get paid. Please.

Otherwise known as the “Cashflow Blues” …

Don’t get me wrong – I’m still a fan of working from home and being my own boss. Getting to be creative on a variety of jobs from a real mix of clients is great fun. Getting to do it in comfortable (i.e daggy) clothes and no makeup plus getting those mundane household chores done as part of your working day is a real bonus as well.  I can take a long weekend and head off somewhere if I so choose, or stay in bed all day if I’m not well.

Theoretically.

In practice, I can’t really take that many long weekends because the sad reality of modern society is that you need money to do that. Money that I get sporadically at best. And surprisingly enough, I don’t seem to have as many sick days anymore …

But back to the green stuff. I’ve become a compulsive checker, looking at my work bank account daily (sometimes twice daily) to see if by some miracle people have actually paid me.  I mean, I have a deadline to work to. My invoices should be treated in the same manner.  But by and large, they aren’t. Sigh.

I’m currently studying Design Industry at the moment and this week is about contracts.  Now, they suggest doing up a full contract outlining how many hours; what equipment; who holds intellectual property; whose arse gets kicked if certain project markers aren’t met and ensuring you as the graphic designer can use the completed work in your portfolio as future promotion.  There is even suggestions of getting a down payment before any work is done to avoid cashflow problems.

My ears pricked up at that.

The trouble is that I work in a rural area. Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with the way things work out here but most things are done on a handshake. It would seem strange to go through a five page contract BEFORE any work started, with a hokey little ol’ graphic designer who’s working from home and more than likely gets business because she’s a known entity. It’s a small town. People are very trusting. I am never asked to show a portfolio. It’s very humbling, to be honest.  I’m also cheap and get the job done quickly.

I know it’s in my best interests – protects my finances, ensures intellectual property and makes the deal very clear on paper. But I’m not sure if it would work out here. And to be honest, I’d feel a little uncomfortable doing it. Seems … pushy.

Having said that, I do have a nest egg that allows for the bills to be paid when cash is not flowing inwards so it’s not like we’ll starve or lose the house … but the tightarse in me really really hates using it.

Oh yeah, and that’s my clown. I sketched him then scanned him in and used that as a background so I could use the Pen tool in Illustrator to build a digital version of him. I feel rather pleased with myself.

Signs from the Universe

pinnacles dk photography

courtesy of DK Photography

I woke from a vivid dream yesterday morning that left me slightly troubled and found me questioning where I was headed with all this graphic-design-in-the-comfort-of-shorts-and-tshirt-at-home malarky.

You see, sometimes it feels a little TOO comfortable. Too safe. Lots of time to do things like make bread, make my NIH’s lunch every day, get the washing done, have morning tea catch-ups, grocery shopping and keep the house in some semblance of order. I get interesting jobs but spaced out enough that I’m not having a coronary.  And in this day and age of hustle and bustle and high-octane stress … well, it feels a little wrong somehow.

So my dream had me sitting in a caravan talking to a guy I went to school with about living life to your fullest potential. I had sat next to this guy in our school’s version of “Home Room” for 5 years and, let’s be honest, had a major crush on him for roughly the same amount of time. Sadly, he died last year – far too early and from last photos, looking far too much like my dad’s last days when cancer had found it’s mark. A cruel and untimely death that seems unfair, especially since he was only my age.

In the dream, he was questioning me on whether I was really pushing myself to achieve. Was I growing and developing my skills? Was I reaching my full potential? Would I still be pottering (my brain coughs politely and inserts ‘pretending’ there) with being a graphic designer?  Should I be looking for a ‘traditional’ job with a company or organisation in a design-related area that would improve my skills/develop my experience/pay me more money?

Now, graphic designer jobs are few and far between where I live in rural Central Queensland. But I do know that there are a couple of jobs I know I could do and have a pretty good chance of scoring with a previous employer. However …

  • I work on contract for an association that requires me to travel to Brisbane once every 2-3 months and I’d have to ask permission for time off
  • I would have to ask permission to take holidays and we’ve already planned one biggish one and a couple of mini’s (can you tell I hate having to ask for permission?)
  • I still have 3 units to finish of my Diploma and trying to do that with full time work and still doing jobs on the side would be crazy
  • I know the current situation at this particular workplace and let’s just say it’s a rather noxious environment at the moment with nil morale and leave it at that
  • What about my morning tea catch-ups and card games?
  • I’d have to get dressed every day
  • And be on time to work

As you can see, the list is a little on the weak side …

I’d more or less convinced myself by yesterday afternoon that all I needed to do was pull my finger out, start being a grown up and actually print some business cards and start a Facebook page to advertise locally.  And that’s about the time that the Universe decided to cement the deal and drop me a very clear and concise message.

I received an emailed remittance advice for an invoice I’d resent to this particular workplace because it was way overdue. Great … except that they’d paid it to another person with the same name as me. I mean, I can understand initial confusion with the name but my address and bank details are on the invoice. You would think that would be checked – I certainly used to when I did it – but no.

So after my expletives were spent, I took a deep breath and thanked the Universe for letting me know that I am on the right path, old ground and past workplaces should be left where they lie and as long as you’re managing to pay the bills, there’s nothing wrong with having time to perfect the art of baking bread.

Outside the comfort zone

DGDAD12002

Who else but Jesus to market bum bags?

I’ve landed a big job and it’s kinda freaking me out. Not that it requires a great amount of graphic design finesse or will take up a huge amount of time to finish – it’s just BIG.

As in billboard big.

And I don’t know why it freaks me out, apart from the fact I’ve never actually done one ‘for real’ before.  Sure, I understand the theory of it:

No more than seven words – check √
One large graphic – check √
Contrasting colours – check √
Clear fonts (preferably sans serif) – check √

I completed the advertising module of my diploma with no problems. To be honest, I quite enjoyed it. I enjoy the psychology of marketing – it’s the commercialism and competitiveness that leaves me cold and guarantees I’d never go into the industry full-time.

However, to actually do a design for a company and have it stuck up at the entrance to town in all its 8 metre x 3 metre glory for the next who knows how long? That’s a totally new experience and one that has me over-thinking.

Usually along the lines of “But what if it sucks?”.

At the same time, I recognise the benefits of stepping out of my comfort zone. Nothing signals great leaps in learning and personal/professional growth than saying “Yeah, sure! No problem!” to a job then walking out the door wondering how the hell you’re going to deliver.

My quoted price for this job doesn’t cover the time I’ve spent researching my old study notes and website how-to’s – nor any analysis of the ultimate message they want to convey, usually done in the wee small hours of the morning whilst trying to get back to sleep! But what the hell. If I’ve undercut myself, it only seems fair since the experience I get is well worth it.

When asked how he managed to achieve so much in his lifetime, Peter Brock was once quoted as saying “I took on more than I could chew, and then chewed like mad!”

I’m chewing like mad, Pete.

 

Designing a logo

Souzou Designs blogOtherwise known as “What in blue blazers do I want to call myself that doesn’t sound cliché or pretentious or dorky?”, it’s a process that hasn’t been very easy for me.

After much internal debate, internet searching and musing in the wee hours of the morning, I decided to focus on something Japanese, since both my better half and I have a bit of a love affair for the country, its people and philosophies.

Souzou in Japanese means ‘imagine’ or ‘imagination’, which I thought was rather fitting since I need to use so much of it with some of the jobs I do. I chose cherry blossoms, or Sakura, as they only flower for a very brief period of a few weeks (we were so lucky to time our week trip right at Cherry Blossom time this year!) and are thought to represent the ephemeral beauty of life. Hopefully the fleeting nature of its flowering won’t in any way relate to my business!

I drew the cherry blossoms with pencil then traced over with felt tip pen. I scanned the design into Photoshop and painted the colours in. I had to buy the Japanese calligraphy for ‘souzou’ but it was cheap and worth it to make sure it was legit!

I really like it – which is rather important since this is my ‘brand’ now. Funny though – it’s one thing to come up with a logo but entirely another to register it as a business name and then start using it. I guess it’s commitment to myself as a business entity and the logo is a rather large chunk of me up on display. Very personal and a little unnerving … but they say that growth only comes when you step out of your comfort zone.

Feeling pretty damn clever!

RBG 2nd Draft Linking Alms LogoI’ve been working on a job for a local not for profit organisation and it’s been frustrating the hell out of both parties for about two weeks.

It’s for an annual community project that happens every Christmas and is, in my humble opinion, just bloody brilliant. The community group, along with the local newspaper and other NFP organisations in town, coordinate and publish a list of families (no names, of course. Just details such as ‘mum, dad, girl 14, boy 7’ so people have an idea of gifts to buy/how big to make the hamper etc) that are currently undergoing financial hardship and people can ‘adopt a family’ and build a Christmas hamper containing food, celebratory items and christmas gifts for them.

It is such a lovely way of giving back to the community and spreading the Christmas cheer around to those that may not be feeling the love.

So, anyway, the NFP organisation got a new coordinator early this year. And I used to work with her and then was her supervisor for a brief period. Luckily, we had a great working relationship so when I left my job and went out on my own, she was most generous in sending any graphic design work my way.  As repayment, I set their newsletter every quarter for free (my way of donating to their fantastic programs and thanking the hand that is doing a lot of feeding of me!).

We usually can communicate very well regarding what she wants for a certain job. But this one … this has been a struggle for both of us.  At first I did two hands intertwined on the front of the christmas present and the gift card with their logo and was pretty pleased with it … but it was too much like ‘all about them’.

They don’t feel they have complete ownership of the Linking Alms appeal so they didn’t want it to necessarily be their colours/logo etc. They wanted to keep the old clipart of people holding hands but it was a design that wasn’t very clear and I couldn’t do much with (although I did like the concept). At least, they did want something ‘christmas-y’ so I was on track with the christmas present box …

I wracked my brain, trying to think of what the hell I could do that would incorporate the old image of people holding hands and christmas … and came up with the above.  It meant using the pen tool to trace the individual people (there’s a granddad, little girl, dad, little boy and mum in a rotation of colours) so they were clearly outlined and vector graphics so I could use the perspective tool to wrap them around the bottom of the christmas present.  And although I’ve done a quickie tour of how to use the perspective tool in InDesign, I hadn’t really used it until today, so that was another whole lesson in itself.

However, I managed it and I must admit to sitting back with a glass of wine at the end of today and feeling pretty damn pleased with myself! As a draft logo, it’s pretty clear, relatively simple and conveys the message of people linking together at Christmas.

I just hope they like it!