Four Years in a Book

Dear Readers,

My sincerest apologies in having been so neglectful in writing these last few months. I have been incredibly busy finishing my MFA (Masters of Fine Arts) in Graphic Design, and sacrificed a lot of my favorite pastimes—including gardening, watching movies, and unfortunately, writing blog posts—in order to do so. But the deed is done, my diploma in hand, and I am back!

One of the final steps in graduating, as a designer, is to put together a portfolio of the work I did over these last four years. While the vast majority of people view design portfolios online, and when I go to interviews all I really ever show is my portfolio website on my iPad, we are still required to also create a beautifully designed portfolio book to showcase our work. And I have to say—despite it being less relevant than it used to be, I’m really glad to have my work collected in such a lovely, bound anthology. There is something about the heft of a book, the texture of a page, and going through all those projects one page after another, that gives a certain feeling of gravitas to my work. For all its versatility and accessibility, the online portfolio just doesn’t quite capture that same feeling.

Working Magic: TOCI had a lot of fun designing my portfolio book. I am interested in digital design and book design, and I love both cutting edge design developments as well as the history and tradition of design going back to the days before set type and the printing press, so I tried to bring that juxtaposition of modern design and design heritage into my portfolio. I chose an old-fashioned blackletter typeface and a modern sans serif, I found layout inspiration in the simplicity of pages from illuminated manuscripts, and tracked the project number in the upper right corner in a visual style that echoes the step by step indicator in software wizards. In general, I tried to exemplify my personal style, with clean and elegant layouts, lots of white space, bright colors and  little details that add fun and a bit of interest to the simplicity.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Capable of Working Magic, my portfolio design was inspired in part by a quote from Carl Sagan. In it, he talks about the power of books to communicate and bring together people from different epochs, which to him seems “proof that humans are capable of work magic.” I love that quote for many reasons, and in particular for how it seems to really express delight in design.  This idea of delightful design is something I value, and wanted to emphasize throughout my portfolio.

Working Magic-IntroductionWorking Magic-quoteOne of the challenges to creating a beautiful, professional book is figuring out how to present the rough stuff—the process, the sketches, the drafts—in a way that doesn’t look jarring next to the polished finished work. One technique I used was to put the wireframes or sketches on a navy background, sometimes with little notes scrawled on the edges to show thought process and development.

WorkingMagic-wireframesWorkingMagic-LogoSketchesAnother fun design challenge was designing my portfolio website. For all that I love my portfolio book, at the end of the day my website is more important. The challenge with the website was to create an interactive, responsive, screen-viewing experience that had the same aesthetic as the physical 8×10 printed book that I designed. This meant the same typography styles and color scheme, and a simple, clean layout that referenced the layouts I used in the book, but adapted for the web viewing experience, taking into account things like the ability to scroll and needing to look good on screen sizes changing from a large desktop to a potential employer’s small smartphone.

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PortfolioWebsiteIf you are interested in viewing more of my portfolio book, you can find it online on issuu, and my online portfolio is at www.rebecca-wright.com.

Reading the Web

Reading on the web can be annoying. Websites are often crowded with additional features, graphics, ads, navigation, alternative content, links, and who knows what all else. Every little thing pulls at your attention, drawing your eyes away from the text you are trying to read.

This is the polar opposite of reading a book. In a book, you get the text, perhaps a page number and chapter title in the corner, and that’s it. Even reading modern ebooks, for example on the kindle, you usually still just get text and some information tucked in at the bottom about how far through the book you are.

So what’s up with the web? Why can’t web designers control their impulse to put anything and everything on the page next to the text? The answer is, they’re starting to, and we can see this in both the NYTimes redesign and Medium, the latest venture of Twitter cofounder Evan Williams.

NYTimes.com Redesign

The NYTimes.com previous site design was just as bad as anyone in terms of loading up the page with distracting extras. Below is a screenshot, where I’ve highlighted which part of the screen is actually taken up by the article (including the article’s picture):

Old NYTimes Design

Compare that to the new NYTimes.com design, where they’ve recognized how much better of an experience it is when the screen isn’t completely cluttered:

NYTimes Redesign6Because they still need to make money from ad revenue, there is an ad at the top. But notice how I could say “an ad”—there’s just one. And there are still links to share the content online and go to other sections, but they’re kept to strictly defined areas that don’t compete visually with the article. Typographically, the article title now grabs your attention as the most important text on the page, and the social media icons are now all the same color so they’re less visually distracting. And now look at what happens when you start reading the article:

Continue reading Reading the Web

Graphic Design Halloween Costumes 2

It’s that time of year again, and I have no idea what I want to be for Halloween. Despite a rather random desire to perhaps wear a wig, I’ve got zero inspiration. So I started looking around for some graphic design-related outfits. There are some fun ones out there, so I thought I’d share this collection with you; categories include typography costumes, Pantone costumes, web design costumes, and famous art costumes).

Typography Costumes

I’ve always thought it’d be fun to go as a letterform, but have never really figured out how to make it work. For example could your hands be serifs, if you did it just right? I haven’t figured it out yet, but here are some ways other people have made it work for them.

The first option seems to be body paint (the face paint example is from a fun article in The Atlantic):

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Font Paint

The second popular technique is cardboard construction:

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Pantone Costumes

These seem like a great idea—easy to make, easy for other people to get, and easily customizable—you can go as whatever color fits your mood. Not that original, but you’re still probably not likely to run into another Pantone color at your Halloween party. The second one’s a little bit weird because it’s actually a Barbie outfit, but it’s still kind of a cool idea…

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Pantone Costume

Web Design Costumes

My original graphic design costume post featured a couple of webby/pixelated get ups that were surprisingly effective, so I went searching for some more web-related options this year. My favorites include an 8-bit mask, a last minute 404 Error tshirt, and a fantastic Firefox logo.

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Firefox logo costume

Famous Design Costumes

And finally, some pretty impressive replicas of famous design and artwork. I featured a Lichtenstein girl in the last costume round up, but I found another really impressive version, complete with speech bubble, that I decided I had to include. There’s also a surrealist Son of Man costume, AND, my favorite of all of these ideas, a costume of the best Banksy artwork out there: the bouquet grenade. I’m betting it takes a lot of work to get the costume looking this good, but this guy did a stellar job!

Roy Lichtenstein costume

small_son of man halloween costume

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