First, I hope all are doing well and staying safe.
As we hunker down into a new normal of less physical interaction, adjustments must be made. In order to minimize the possible spread, my day job is now a work-from-home situation. So, when not doing telework, I maybe spending some time tinkering on various projects…..maybe even some related to the present situation.
If you are cloistered away, whether due to work or caring for family, perhaps take a moment to do something creative. Grab some printer paper and doodle, draw, journal, or just scribble. Find a coloring page on a Pinterest site and let your inner kid out maybe, or even print some for your kids. The point being let your mind wander as your body is asked to do less wandering.
Recently a friend of mine who runs a screen printing business made some shirts I thought were humorous and asked where he got the logo. It was a generic one from the internet, but he had a time converting the raster image to a vector for better scaling and such. In response, I pointed him to a Reddit about font identification that I get notifications from.
I also remembered finding several color palette pages that might be of use for his business. I used a few of these in the past, especially the team color one, for the hockey jersey concepts. Figuring out a color scheme can be a tricky component of a project, especially when stepping away from simple gradients. I know from map making, the choice of colors can also affect how readable and understandable something is (think colorblindness).
My alter ego is in Geographic Information Systems (GIS). In fact, working cartography and GIS in part led to my foray into graphic design. Recently, GIS helped my graphic design. Usually, graphic design helps GIS better portray data.
With the unveiling of the US Space Force’s (USSF) ‘new’ camo (same one the Air Force borrowed from the Army), I decided to try my hand at making a more USSF-specific pattern. Yes, the first one was a tongue-in-cheek star pattern. After that, I took a little more serious look at it.
Here’s where GIS helped out. I wanted to use a hexagon pattern. Easy enough to build in Inkscape. Sort of. Yes, I can create a grid of hexagons, but the rub came in two areas.
The first was making sure all of the cells were actually snapped and aligned. This is fairly easy on a small area, but a larger fabric area introduces lots of edges to snap together. The next issue was randomly coloring all those cells to be a disruptive(ish) pattern, the main reason behind camouflage.
So, how did GIS help? Opening QGIS is the first step. It’s a free GIS suite that runs pretty much on anything. It also has tools to generate a grid and assigned random colors to the cells. After generating a global grid (just for good coverage), I then randomly selected and assigned one of four color values to each cell. Export that to DXF (CAD file) and then import into Inkscape.
Once back in Inkscape, I recolored the greyscale cells (DXF didn’t capture other colors well) for the final pattern. Merge each color and the result is this:
For the colors, I borrowed the Navy’s NWU (aka ‘Bluberries) colors and add some green. Why green? Well….they are Space Force (you know, little green men?)
Being a self-guided designer has the upside of allowing me to design what I like and want to focus on. The downside: trying to find a market or outlet for those designs.
This is something I struggle with at times. I have plenty of spur-of-the-moment ideas that I might quickly draft out. Then they sit in the digital holding tank, often collecting digital dust. Dust collection can occur from no real outlet for the design (often due to subject matter), artistic stall, or very limited audience.
I’d like to say I have a solution, but I don’t. In some ways, I’ve tried to use this blog and my portfolio site as an avenue to expose more of my creations, but even those don’t always blow the dust of some of my collection.
I think most designers and artists have that moment, while working on a project, when a spark brings all the elements together in a flash. I had one of those moments tonight while working on a logo for an employee council at work.
The project started with the usual circle, a popular form at work. That was version 1. Before hitting the hay (after camping the night before and still recovering from that), I cranked out version two, which was more text based, but had some elements from version 1. Sitting down tonight to tweak version 2, I looked around for more inspirations for some visualization of the “employee council” concept. Finally I just searched on “employee” and came across a stock graphic from Adobe. Sparking an idea, I used the concept in that stock graphic to create the final icon.
In this case, it took finding the right inspiration to kickstart the process. I think the end result finally captured the concept well. The actual final version for the employee council, naturally, has more elements.
I decided to start a more formal design presence, it was a pretty leap to take my signature design (at least one variation) and build a logo from it. Adding some blocky, almost stencil-like letters to convey the “DMD” concept was also an easy start, even with the second “D” being reversed to add a nice ‘cradle’ for the face.
Reading through Instragram today and scanning the search area, I came across a graphic designer that had some wonderful logo designs. Many of them were beautifully laid out based on clean lines. While I have no allusions of reach that artist’s skill, I was intrigued by his use of lines and combining things.
So, cracking open Inkscape, I decided to experiment on a new logo that was more simplistic logo that could be applied to less ‘tactical’ designs and projects. My plan was to combined the “D” and “M” of Data Monkey. With that simple plan, I cranked out the designs below. There is a subtle difference – the upward line for the “M” borrows the curve from the “D” on the righthand design, versus the straight of the left.
Not in a hurry to change my logo, but thought this was a nice experiment, and something to potentially use in the future.
With life, some projects come to a standstill. In my case, work on Trigrams and some other card decks came to a hiatus. In an effort to keep some personal work alive related to those projects, I decided to research the real cost of a Kickstarter project, mostly focusing on Trigrams.
With the few articles I read, the sobriety of reality set in. While games like Exploding Kittens and Cards Against Humanity were runaway hits, many other funded projects ended up either completely breakeven or net loss for the teams.
So, why discuss here? My design work, as mentioned before, is mostly a hobby. While I do occasionally sell patches on eBay, it’s not my primary occupation. Reality revealed itself that some of my projects may simply remain concepts, some more developed than others. Much like my military rank card deck, other forces seem to stall the best-laid design plans.
For now, it seems some of these projects will remain ‘in the vault’ as it were. Perhaps, at some point, the stars will align and my creations will move from drafting table to reality. Or maybe a benevolent patron will stumble my way 😉
The bulk of my design work is self-initiated, with a few requests scattered in. I’ve received requests at work, or suggestions to submit ideas. The one area I really haven’t strayed into is the world of commissions, where a new customer requests a design based on a concept. I’ve thought about adding a ‘services’ page to my portfolio, but haven’t taken the step.
My main worry is that design right now is mostly self-expression, an outlet for my sarcasm and critiques on things in the world. I also have to balance my day job with any potential work (not expecting to quit the day job by any means).
If anyone has thoughts on this, please let me know. This is definitely one of those times I wish Jacquie was here to consult.
Color is one of the key things to design. Choose the right color, it evokes certain emotions, as does the wrong. There are way too many colors in nature to truly see them all. For designers, it becomes a matter of palettes or collections of colors. Some designers will simply look up colors with no real set collection, going with what colors seem to fit or the customer wants. Others may chose more set schemes based on their own design philosophy.
I recent picked up a book called color index from a used bookstore. Adding a color guide to my bookshelf is something I’ve needed to do for awhile. Many of my designs tend to be a very earth tone, largely due to the ‘tactical’ or military aesthetic to them.
I’ve also taken to noting car paint colors, both for my own interest for future purchases and as a reference for colors I like and want to add to my palette. To be honest, I hadn’t actually created a palette either. I just picked colors as I needed, maybe not always sticking with the same similar color across designs.
So… I decided, while looking up car paint colors, to start collecting colors. Using the Encycolorpedia (trying saying that one fast…), I start shopping colors for my palette. As you can see, still very earth tone, but will hopefully give me a more consistent collection.
To quote Yogurt from Spaceballs – “Moychandising, moychandising, moychandising”
As you saw with my Best Woman design, I’ve tinkered with the print-on-demand (POD) idea before. So, now with my expanded portfolio compared to my early Cafe Press days, I’m contemplating building another store for the monkeys and other designs.
Now comes the question of which provider to use. While Cafe Press was my first go at POD products, I may try a new vendor this time. I’ve played around with some of the various ones, but still doing some product exploration.
I know t-shirts are prerequisite for POD (pretty much), I’m also thinking of other things to offer like mugs, electronic cases, maybe skateboards (one vendor does offer those).
I also need to figure out which designs to offer. Stencil, cheeky, and flying monkey are already on the list. I may also throw in some of the more irreverent designs.