Till 2009

I'm on vacation from now until the end of the year. I will continue posting in January 2009. Happy Holidays!

Holidays Card Inspiration 2008

I like the simple and artistic feel of these holiday cards. The ornate green and white card is from Invitation Consultants and the rest from Pear Tree Greetings. I especially like how the Pear Tree Greetings designers were creative with not-so-traditional holiday colors.

The Art of Laurel Burch

I recently noticed this beautiful notebook with art by Laurel Burch. Although you can't see it in this photo, there's also a Native American quote I love on the notebook: "The soul would have no rainbow if the eyes had no tears."

Laurel's site has more of her colorful and eclectic work. These two horse paintings are my favorites from her site.

My Work: Plant Molecular & Cellular Biology Logos

I'm in logo mode. I worked on these a while back and have another logo project in process. Now if only I had shorter center or program names to work with... The logo I'm working on now has 11 words in the name.

Flock notecards

These strikingly simple and beautifully illustrated notecards are by Eleanor Grosch and are available at chroniclebooks.com.

The Font Game

Test your typographical recognition skills with the rather difficult Font Game from ilovetypography.com. While you're there, browse around the typography deliciousness that is ilovetypography.com. I scored 31 out of 34 in the Font Game—it really is difficult.


While other san serifs can be cold and ultra-modern, Cosmos's gently shaped letters and active italics make it the "friendly san serif," at least in my book.

The Calling

I like the vintage tech look of this book cover. I especially like the simple and moody color scheme and detailed black and white patterns.


Remember spirographs? I used to love making them—it was one of my favorite toys as a kid. I stumbled into a neat tutorial on making spirographs that's different from just doing step and repeat in Illustrator. Here's my summary:

  1. Open a new document in Illustrator. Set your stroke color to black, point size to 0.5, and your fill color to none.
  2. Draw a shape (star, circle, spiral, rectangle, etc). While still holding down on the mouse button, hold down the ` key (it's right next to the 1 on a standard US keyboard).
  3. Now, move your mouse around—play with zooming out, zooming in, moving it in circles, etc. The direction and speed you move the mouse determines the size of the copied shape and space between the copies. Faster = further apart. Have fun!

Mulberry Tree

My favorite Van Gogh painting is this one, Mulberry Tree, painted in 1889 at an asylum in Saint-Rémy. I love the energy and corkscrew curls of the branches.

Christmas Ice Skating

This simple ice skating scene is adorable. I love the colors and the simple stick people. It's one of Smashing Magazine's desktop wallpapers for December and is designed by VladStudio.

Distressed Grunge Effect

Here's how to create grunge or distressed look for your text or image. This technique has you create the distressed texture in Photoshop and then jumps to Illustrator. Skip ahead to step 5 if you already have a distressed texture that's vector.

  1. In Photoshop, create a 5 x 5 in. grayscale document in Photoshop. Make sure the background is white. 
  2. On the same layer and with black as your foreground color, use grunge brushes or Photoshop effects to create a distressed texture. 
  3. Apply Image > Adjustments > Levels and pull the black and white sliders towards the middle to get a black and white image with very few shades of gray. Save your image.
  4. In a blank Illustrator document, place the Photoshop grunge file. Choose Object > Live Trace > Tracing Options. Choose Black and White Logo, check Preview and adjust the Path Fitting and Corner Angle as necessary. Make sure Ignore White is checked and click Trace. Click the Expand button.
  5. Group (Cmd-G) your vector texture and copy it to the clipboard. Open your clean artwork, making sure it's a different color than the vector texture. Paste the vector texture.
  6. For Sample 1 (top left), make the texture white and reduce the opacity to 40%.
  7. For Sample 2 (top right), select both the clean artwork and the vector texture. Click on Divide in the Pathfinder.
  8. Using the group selection tool, click on a piece of your vector texture and choose Select > Same > Fill Color. Press Delete. Repeat this action for the little pieces left (usually there are blank pieces left with a fill of none, stroke of none). This cleans up your artwork so you have a truly one color piece of artwork, necessary for one color T-shirt printing.

My Work: Orange Tree Holiday Card

I designed this abstract orange tree holiday card as an e-card for my department to send out. It had to be somewhat generic but still graphically interesting and, if possible, include some aspect of what we do (Florida agricultural educational materials). A fun little project.

Indie Film Posters

Last week Smashing Magazine had a post featuring 40 indie film posters. These three were my favorites:

  • Zoo, for the startling and unusual cropping of the horse
  • Paris, Je T'aime, for creative use of the Eiffel tower, subtle background texture and the typography border
  • Taxi to the Dark Side, for texture, composition and use of the US flag as a shadow

Farmer's Market

The cute little curl on this can of pumpkin puree first caught my eye when I was flipping through an issue of Real Simple magazine. Worth a second glance, Farmer's Market's design is a cozy mix of old and new. Their webpage has a slightly vintage feel mixed with plenty of white space and well chosen typography.

Photoshop in Real Life

I've seen this real life recreation of a blank Photoshop document a few places on the web recently. Still, it's too cool to not share here. My favorites &mdash the tool bar (especially the paint bucket and the hand) and the transparent sheet for Layer 1. An outstanding idea that's been beautifully executed. Created by Bates 141.


I really like Izze's simple packaging and ultra-modern look. The logo is stunning in its simplicity &mdash fruit pips in a circle. Izze's logo and packaging are designed by tda advertising & design.

Izze tastes great but you can also make your own sparkling juice at home. Just combine 1/2 cup sparkling water and 1/2 cup fruit juice.

My Work: Lotus Henna card

I designed this colorful card for a traditional Indian wedding I attended recently. The lotus and henna patterns both respect the traditional element and are arranged in a simple composition with this love quote I found. Thanks to keepdesigning.com for the free mendhi/henna vector art used here.

Grady McFerrin Photo Album

I seem to be attracted to autumn colors lately. I love the warm browns and golds in this photo album cover. The beautiful and delicate strip of pattern on the left contrasts nicely with the rough texture and simple butterfly art.

Unique Ampersands

These are some of the ampersands that caught my eye in a recent logo typography search. Just for fun, here is bit of history on the ampersand's origins:

An ampersand is a symbol representing the word "and". The symbol is a ligature of the letters in et, Latin for "and". Traditionally, in English-speaking schools when reciting the Alphabet, any letter that could also be used as a word in itself ("A," "I," "&" and, at one point, "O") was preceded by the Latin expression "per se" (Latin for "by itself"). So the word ampersand is a corruption of the phrase "and per se and".

Over time the way the ampersand was written evolved into the symbol we use today. In some of the examples above, the ampersands are interpretations of the modern ampersand symbol and others are more closely linked to the older Latin et.

This short description is cobbled together from the full Wikipedia ampersand article.


The wind is blowing and drops of rain tingle in the air today — autumn is here. This dreamy illustration captures that autumn spirit. It's desktop wallpaper from vnwallpapers.com

Jeffrey Fisher Notecards

I love the creativity, color and handmade styling of these charming Jeffrey Fisher notecards.

Borges Poema

Borges Poema is at the height of italic elegance. I especially love the curlicues and the curves of the W, g and f. I'm going to have to get the whole family.

I recently used Borges Poema on a congratulations card for a retiring coworker. The funny thing is — when I was looking through the retirement book assembled for her, I saw another card using Borges Poema too. I guess I'm not the only designer who likes this font.

US Election Graphics

I'm heartily sick of the presidential election and ready for the media circus to end. (Actually, it never ends, it just switches topics but one can always hope...) I was most impressed with the Obama campaign design although McCain's campaign design suited McCain quite well. So for an election graphics roundup:

Obama's campaign fonts are Gotham and Perpetua (I almost thought it was Warnock Pro but the A's weren't right and a Google search revealed the correct serif font). Gotham is a good sanserif font choice for a message of change with its simple and modern look. Perpetua can actually be annoying as a text font because the x-height is rather small but it works well for titles and has a sharp modern look here. I like the O logo — it's simple and striking, although the Capitol building feels a little too round - it might have been better with the cupola added on top. Using a brighter blue with or instead of the standard dark blue was another graphical way to convey a message of change.

By far, my favorite design item was the multicolored Obama poster. Great choice of colors, image and retro styling. I've seen these posters all around town.

McCain's campaign font is Optima, a bold sanserif font with slight curves in the letterforms. The star was a good choice to emphasize McCain's military experience. It also brings the stars on the American flag to mind. This shade of yellow with this shade of blue doesn't work so well but it's bold and again ties to the military — all of those "Support Our Troops" ribbons are yellow. The McCain stickers are the same exact design as the yard signs so I didn't duplicate it here. I haven't seen any McCain campaign posters around town.

I'd give Obama's website design an A and McCain's website design a C.

Creating a Halftone Background

Here a simple way to create a background texture with halftones:

  1. Create a new file in Photoshop. I created a 600px x 600px at 72 dpi file for this example.
  2. Fill the background with 50% gray.
  3. Choose Filter > Pixelate > Color Halftone. I left the default angles alone and chose 8 px for one sample and 30 px for the other.
  4. Choose Image > Adjustments > Gradient Map and pick whatever colors you like.
  5. If the background you've created has too much contrast, you can apply levels or change the layer opacity to get the desired result.

Sleepers Awake

One of our print vendors gave away promotional posters featuring this painting by Daniel Nevins. I like his smooth and flowing style and how he contrasts bold and delicate textures and colors.

The Indian Clerk

The Indian Clerk is a work of fiction set in the early 1900s British India and relationship between mathematicians G.H. Hardy and Srinivasa Ramanujan. My favorite thing about this cover is the small title centered in the circular pattern. I also like the muted sepia tones and subtle patterns.

Color Scheme Cravings

You know how sometimes you start craving ice cream or creamy pasta or something yummy and not immediately available? I'm craving colors today.

I'm wearing a light cyan blue shirt today. When I walked by a hibiscus bush during lunch, I was struck by how well the colors work together—how the icy light blue beautifully complements deep red of a hibiscus flower. Since I can't use these colors for any of my current projects, I thought I'd post my color scheme here.

The flower is a character in the free font Kalocsai Flowers.


I like Nofret for its elegantly rounded letterforms, straight serifs, and beautiful small caps. In the italic cut, the characters are less round and more compressed—very calligraphic. As is generally true of modern serifs, as the font weight gets heavier Nofret's thick to thin ratio becomes more and more pronounced.


I'm not interested in reading this book (too morbid) but I couldn't help admiring the colors and design of the cover. The colors work so well together! I also like the rough texture in the typography and upper part of the cover. Beautifully executed.