Posts tagged graphic design
Book Review: All Messed Up by Anna Gerber

All Messed Up by Anna Gerber is a pretty old book now - but I wanted to share it on the blog as it's one that really influenced me a lot when I was doing my foundation course and my degree. I have always been drawn to design that has started its life with something created by hand - hence my love of handlettering - at art college I would spend so much time making things before actually going near the computer. Don't get me wrong I love clean and beautiful typography too - but getting my hands dirty and experimenting with different techniques will always be my first love - and that is why this book was so important and inspiring for me. 

One thing in particular that I love about this book is that it shows work where techniques are used that mean 'mistakes' are inevitable. But often these mistakes are what make the work so interesting and beautiful. Old typewriters, letraset, dymo machines, letterpress, screenprinting - these methods of creating type and illustrations are such exciting mediums to work in - partly because you don't know exactly what will come out - the quirks of the machines and the tools have an impact on the final piece.  

I truly believe that making mistakes is integral and so important for the creative process. It can be something that we are so afraid of, but this book explores and celebrates the beauty of mistakes. We need to learn how to use these mistakes to our advantage as designers and makers. 

I think it was such an important lesson to learn when I was a student, but I am very aware that it is a lesson I need to relearn now after 10 years as a designer. There really is so much beauty in being brave enough to experiment and embrace making mistakes - because sometimes those mistakes result in your best work - or the project taking an unexpected turn. Sadly the way I work and the way the industry often works these days doesn't allow as much time for experimenting as I would like, and I definitely think that as designers (myself included) we are often to quick to go straight to the computer.  Don't get me wrong - computers are wonderful things, and have made the life of a designer so much easier and faster, but along the way I think we have lost something.

I would definitely recommend this book if you are a bit tired of looking at your screen and need a bit of inspiration for different techniques and tools to use that might inspire your work to go in a different direction. I think it would be inspiring for designers and artists alike. Its a nice chunky book with lots of pages to drool over and as soon as you start turning them you will want to get busy and get ink all over your hands as quickly as possible! 

Do you allow time to experiment and make mistakes? Do you use any tools that make mistakes inevitable? 

May - Life Lately
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As we approach Reuben’s 10 month birthday and he has been out in the world longer than he was inside cooking, I feel like I am very tentatively coming out of the first baby fog and am slowly starting to think about work and how things are going to look like juggling motherhood and working. I tried to keep up a little bit of work since he was born. I only did things that didn’t involve a client or a deadline so that I didn’t feel any pressure and could work on things at my own pace (i.e. when R treated me with a good long nap). The perfect low pressure thing for me to keep going was my shop. If I managed to get a new product up that was great but if I didn’t no one would mind. Posting orders was totally manageable and a trip to the post office was a perfect outing for me and Reuben. I actually found doing a bit of work that connected me to my pre-baby self really helped me. Just having a little something creative to think about that wasn't baby related kept me sane in those first few months I think. 

Since we moved to Cardiff I had to hand in my notice at the job I was doing before R came along. I was so sad to say goodbye to my lovely colleagues and I am going to miss them so much, but I am excited that I am going to get a chance to do more freelance work. 

So I will be working on freelance work, my blog and shop 2 days a week (which will feel like such a luxury I imagine) and then I will look after R the rest of the time - squeezing a bit of work into the odd nap time I am sure. 

I am tentatively taking on a few small freelance design projects already - ones that I am confident that I can get done during evenings and weekends - but going forward I think there is going to be a bit of trial and error in terms of working out how much I can fit into my two freelance days. 

I will write another post soon with a bit more information about what sort of design services I will be offering and how we could work together. But until then if you have a project that you need a graphic designer for, feel free to get in touch and I can give you a quote and let you know my availability! 

Book Review: The Fox and The Star

Last week after seeing images online I impulsively bought a new book by Coralie Bickford-Smith (of Penguin book cover fame) called The Fox and The Star. It is a children's book and is probably one of the most beautiful books I have ever owned. I would seriously not let a child touch this book, it is far too beautiful for drool and grubby fingers, so if I ever do have children they will have to sit on the other side of the room whilst I read it to them! (haha). 

I have long been an admirer of Coralie's work and the attention to detail from the cloth bound cover, to the colour palette, to the little details in the illustrations are just spot on. The pages are beautifully thick and creamy (have I every told you about my obsession with stroking paper?) and so along with the hard bound cover this book feels really great to hold in your hands and very sturdy. I also really appreciate that the pages are on uncoated stock rather than silk which is what I think children's books are often printed on. 

The story is sweet and simple and something that I can totally imagine reading to a child and them enjoying - but as you might expect the illustrations are what really make it and what makes the story come to life. I really love how the colour palette is mostly dark colours, navy blues, blacks and greys and then you get the amazingly bright pops of orange from the Fox and other details. 

I don't normally buy myself children's books but I have to admit that I think that that this is a book that I will look at over and over again even if I never have children because it is so well done. If you haven't checked out Coralie's work before I would really recommend doing it and if you are a lover of books and illustration then this is the book for you - whether you have children or not!

I hope you have a wonderful weekend whatever you are up to! I am going to try and make some time for reading - there really is nothing like holding and feeling physical books in your hand.

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Book Review: Things I have learned in my life so far
Sagmeister Book Review - Liz Mosley

I am back with another book review for you today. This book is called ‘Things I have learned in my life so far’ and is by the graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister. Sagmeister is a Austrian graphic designer based in New York and I have known about him for a long time and been a big admirer of his work. 

Sagmeister Book Review - Liz Mosley

Now this isn’t a design book that you would traditionally expect. The book is made up of a set of zine like booklets which slot into a cover with Sagmeister’s face on and full of holes (I like the fact that if you position the zines in a different order it totally changes the look of the cover - and I'm sure that was part of the plan). Each booklet tackles one or two of the things ‘learnt’ by Sagmeister and each one is very visual and full of bright, rich typography and design work, but also includes small essays to go alongside the ‘lessons’.

I think initially I thought this book was quite self-indulgent but actually reading through it Sagmeister really does have so many interesting stories to tell and share.  

Sagmeister Book Review - Liz Mosley

Something I have heard Sagmeister talk about before and which is mentioned a lot in the book (and is really the catalyst for the work in this book) - is when he decided to take a year off from client work, to see what happened to his work when he didn’t have any briefs to work within. I suppose to a lot of designers this would seem like the ultimate luxury - just creating work for yourself, and it is so interesting to get glimpses of how Sagmeister used this time and the work that came about as a result when he started taking on clients again. 

The list of ‘lessons’ come from a list he hurridly wrote in his diary on his year long sabbatical, which were then incorporated into client work later down the line.  

Sagmeister Book Review - Liz Mosley
Sagmeister Book Review - Liz Mosley

I think something I always admire and find interesting about Sagmeister is his commitment to his work and the levels he is willing to go to, and take risks for it. There have been many instances of him doing crazy things to his body for a piece of design, like this poster with the typography razor bladed into his torso. Reading about the interesting projects that he has worked on and the lengths that he goes to, to create work inspires me and gets me excited about being a designer. Design is about having something to say and a message to share, and often we are sharing a message of the client but Sagmeister does have something to say, he has wisdom to share and that comes out through his work and his words. 

His life lessons are insightful and actually come from a lot of experience which he back up with anecdotes from his life. They seem honest rather than just a list of lessons that he thought would sound good or even look good typographically.  

Sagmeister Book Review - Liz Mosley
Sagmeister Book Review - Liz Mosley
Sagmeister Book Review - Liz Mosley

Sagmeister is a designer to take notice of, to learn from and be inspired by. He says in his opening essay that this is a design book that is not aimed at designers and I think that is a fair assessment - I would recommend this book to anyone even if they weren’t a designer…But if you are interested in design and glimpses into the life of a prolific designer I would recommend this book even more. 

Personally, I think I get stuck in a rut of only doing client work and not just creating for the joy of it, taking the risk that it might look rubbish and not work. I play it safe - but reading through these stories from Sagmeister has made me realise how important it is to experiment, how it helps you to improve as a designer, and it impacts on your work down the line. If you are feeling stale creatively (which I actually was when I read through it recently) then get this book pronto! 

I hope you all have a lovely weekend. We are in York and Bradford this weekend visiting family and I’m feeling happy to be out of the city and having a bit of a break.  

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The Design Process

I have been thinking a bit recently about how I can do posts on this blog that are more helpful to people and inspiring and that actually help people learn. I guess design is what I know most about so maybe I will start a series about design with advice and tips etc. Today I want to share something with you that I remember being taught at University while studying graphic design and it was something that was really drilled into us regularly > the design process. 

At uni we had to show really clear evidence of each stage in all of our projects. I think now I use it slightly differently as I don't necessarily have that intense accountability (and assessment!) over my process and I probably spend different amounts of time on the various sections than I used to.

I still think it is a really great way to structure the way you work if you are a designer (and to make sure you don't miss out any of the important stages) and so I thought it would be worth sharing here for a reminder to myself as much as anything. I think this process isn't really limited to graphic designers either and would be useful to people working in any creative role. I hope you find it helpful! 

Identifying needs
This is the bit where you really get into the nitty gritty of what is needed for a project. In a commercial project this is where you work out exactly what the client wants and needs. Sometimes what the client wants and what they need can be quite different. It can be your job to be an investigator to get to the bottom of it all. You need to ask the right questions, give your opinion and use your expertise and then come to a decision with the client about what the brief should be. Some people have a questionnaire that they get clients to fill in to help them think about all the various aspects of the job they are commissioning. This can be a great idea and save you work later on if everything is clear from the beginning, sometimes though I am not sure a 'fit all' questionnaire will do the trick and a bit more hand holding on your part is needed. 

Information gathering
This is the time to get busy researching. To start off with you will need to find out and learn as much as possible about your client and the industry that they are in. Depending on what that is you will probably need to find out who their competitors are and what they are doing. The internet seriously makes doing research so easy and it is usually pretty easy to find out what other companies are up to when it comes to their design and campaigns. 

Analysis
This is the point where you take stock of everything you have found so far. You can start refining your brief. Often clients will want to do something similar to their competitors and stay safe but sometimes it is your job to push them and challenge them and encourage them to break out of the mould and do something new and fresh that will stand out from the pack. This is usually a scary prospect for a client so it is great to really develop their trust in you as the whole process goes on. 

Idea generation
This is the time to just let loose and come up with loads of ideas. At the beginning of this phase I just like to get down as many ideas as possible however crazy and unlikely they may seem. Part of being a creative is making connections and so often ideas can spark other ideas. After I have got everything down and out of my head and pushed it as far as I feel I can, it is good to take a break and come back to it again a day or so later. I think people (and me too) don't often totally realise the value of letting a problem percolate in your brain. It sort of hangs out there in the back of your mind while you do other things and often new ideas and connections hit you when you least expect it. When I am working on ideas for a client I usually want to present them with a few different routes to get their feedback on the initial ideas stage. The number can vary from client to client and project to project but I would say about 3 or 4 initial ideas are a good place to start. These don't have to be final designs, just enough for the client to get a good feel for what you are proposing. Getting feedback from these initial concepts can really help your client and you understand better what they like/don't like and what they are looking for. 

Design Proposal
This is where you refine your ideas and narrow down your final designs. This will often involve a bit of to-ing and fro-ing between you and the clients and it might involve quite a few iterations before the design can be finalised. It is quite likely that you and your client will have different opinions about elements of the design and it is helpful to think through which things you think are important to fight for and which are not. It is good to remember that you are the professional and the expert and you do have expertise to bring to the table that can help your client get the best solution possible. If you are fighting for some part of your design it is good to be respectful and explain your thoughts with good reasons that are backed up with research and your experience. Clients will often really respect that and take on board what you have to offer. I think sometimes as designers it is easy to give up and just make every change and suggestion that the client gives but this can sometimes be a bit soul destroying especially if you feel like it really detracts from the integrity of the design.
 

Evaluation
Now it is time to look back on all the work you have done and evaluate whether it has been successful. Have you achieved what you set out to? Did you fulfil all the 'needs' that were identified in the first stage? The evaluation can look different depending on the client and the project, but maybe you were creating a campaign to encourage more sign ups to a newsletter - in that instance the evaluation could take place over a period of time and would be assessed on how much sign up numbers increase. Maybe you created an infographic to help people understand some statistics better. In this situation it might be possible to ask for feedback from the audience. Either way it is good not to just walk away from a project and wash your hands of it immediately after it is delivered. Find out how things are working, learn from things that could be done better in the future, the evaluation stage is a great place to make sure you are gaining experience and learning lessons that will make you a better designer in the future. 

I think often as a designer client work can be frustrating because you don't have the freedom to just design everything exactly how you would like and you have to take into consideration the clients opinions and ideas. Though I think when the design/client relationship works really well, the working together and compromising element of the process can often create even better results than you could have created working all by yourself. I think when that happens I know that this is definitely a client that I could work with again. 

Anyway I hope reading through this process has been helpful and even if you are not a graphic designer actually thinking through these steps can be helpful whatever creative problem you are tackling. It is all problem solving after all. I would love to know if you found this post useful and if you would like me to do more design related/educational style posts. 

Happy Tuesday!

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Sawdust
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Sawdust is the creative partnership of Rob Gonzalez and Jonathan Quainton and they are based in London. They have some really beautiful work in their portfolio but one of the things that really grabbed me was the Shanghai Ranking Numerals that they have created. I love how natural and flowing it looks. Its like they used washi tape to create these numbers. They are really beautiful and look great in the book that they created for Shanghai Ranking. For more inspiration go and check out their lovely website. (There is lots of beautiful typography if you are into that sort of thing!)

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