June 23, 2009

According to Virginia Shea there are 10 core rules of netiquette.
Rule 1 is “Remember the Human” which calls on internet users to treat others as we want to be treated. Rule 10 reminds us “be forgiving of the other people’s mistakes.”
Sound advice on how to act towards others on the internet.

However, as I read through her other rules, I was disheartened to read her opinion on spelling and punctuation of internet users. Let me explain.

The Inclusiveness of the Internet
Cyberspace is a great place. It is open to all types of people. It includes all types of people, genders, sexes and ages. You can dance in Second Life even if you are sitting in a wheelchair at home. You can speak without others commenting on the fact you may be mute or deaf.  The weight of wise words is accepted from the old and the young. Even the barrier between cultures fades as Google Translates allows us to read each other’s language.

The Internet is supposed to be the great leveler between all people right?

Actually, No.

The Internet Hates Bad Spellers and Bad Punctuators.

This is what Virginia Shea wrote as she explained how to make yourself look good on the internet.

“You will, however, be judged by the quality of your writing. For most people who choose to communicate online, this is an advantage; if they didn’t enjoy using the written word, they wouldn’t be there.”

So much for the inclusiveness of the internet.  The National Institutes for Health in the United States estimates  approximately 15% of the population has some form of Dyslexia. Forms of dyslexia can range from severe illiteracy to milder forms where individuals can read and write but have problems with mixing the letters up in words. According to the Center for Dyslexia, differences in the brain of dyslexics makes recognizing words difficult. It is a disorder that isn’t curable. However, many people have learned to compensate for their dyslexia; many even go on to be CEO’s and university professors.

Dyslexia and Netiquette
Given the statistics on dyslexia, is correcting someone else’s spelling and grammar appropriate, even if done in a private email?  In my opinion no, its not.

Many dyslexics have written about their traumatic experiences of being screamed at for not being able to read or write properly. Alex Kocan recounts at Dyslexia-adult.com how he felt he was dumb, lazy, or stupid because he just couldn’t learn in school.  Sylvia Moody, a psychologist author of Dyslexia in the Workplace, documents many emotional aspects associated with dyslexia in adults. Embarrassment, guilt, shame, and low-self esteem are common emotional scars left by dyslexia. Why would we ever want to dredge up such horrible feelings in someone else?

In my opinion, pointing out someone else’s spelling and grammar mistakes violates netiquette rules 1 and 10. What is implied in rule number 5, judging someone based on how they write on the Internet, is worse.  It violates something bigger; it violates the inclusiveness and the spirit of the democratization of information, which is the heart of the Internet.

We need to remember the human on the other side of a post and forgive more freely the spelling mistakes of others. We have no way to know who the person is on the other side of the computer screen. He or she may be the most articulate intelligent person we would all seek to know outside of cyberspace. Don’t dismiss the value of someone just because they aren’t excellent spellers.


pop up madness

June 11, 2009

Pop up books are fascinating for children and adults. By incorporating interactivity onto a static print page, a whole new user experience is achieved.

Exploring Pop-ups

Over the last week I have been exploring the use of pop-ups for a CD project I am working on. It is much more difficult than I originally anticipated. We have all made a pop-up card or two while we were in elementary school. It was simple right?  Unfortunately, moving from creating a simple images that juts forward or a monster mouth that opens and closes to creating more sophisticated designs is a lot more complicated process.


There is only one way to design a pop-up: prototypes. The premier pop-up book designers can take 6 months to designing and testing their pages. Robert Saduda says his books can take over a year to complete.  When he designs his book he constructs prototypes with card stock, then traced each piece onto paper and scanned into it into illustrator for refinement. His card stock prototype has to be approved by a publisher, as size and printing of the components can become too expensive to produce on a large scale. All this happens even before a single illustration is added to the book.

Staying Flat, Standing Up.

I am currently in this hell of a prototyping phase. I have unique design requirements that are challenging my mind and my scissors. I want my project to sit flat on a table with the pop-up standing up straight. This means the simple use of pop-up methods of v-folds and parallel folds will not work. These elements require a 90 degree to 120 degree angle to the card stock to appear at their best in 3-D.

As Saduda and others have mentioned, its not getting the book to stand up that is the problem, its getting it to close. Too much paper architechture will cause the page to be too thick to close.

Worth It?

Is all this prototyping work for one simple CD project worth all this trouble? Oh, yes it is. Being able to revive part of our childhood through the excitement of a pop-up creation, creates a wow factor that just can’t be dismissed. The applications to packaging design alone, would be well worth the effort of learning the basics of pop-up.

Check out the possibilities.


Art dances

June 3, 2009

Line in Design
Last week I mentioned I love clean lines. Line creates movement, grouping and tension on a page. A blank page with nothing but a single brightly colored line can create more visual interest than a whole photograph. Photos cluttered with shapes and made up with thousands of colored pixels can’t compete with a simple razor sharp line.

All this talk of lines, got me curious about line in other art.

Line in Dance
Line is particularly important in dance. How the hands extend, how the back arches etc. The line of the human body is angular and straight, serpentine and curved. Coupled with movement, these lines combined to give us surprising visual reactions.

I remember going to a dance show in Ottawa in 2002 that featured contemporary dance mixed with Japanese traditional forms of dance. The choreographer contrasted the stillness of a single group movement with the soft S shaped movement from one dancer. The movement was so refreshing.

Let Dance Inspire your Design
In color and design class, we briefly touched on the concept of contrast. Nothing demonstrates the use of contrast of line like dance. Without the changes in line of the human body, dance would not exist. The little surprises from dance always inspire my design.

Go out and see a dance show, it might surprise you 😉

Somethings to inspire you.


What is Your Style?

May 28, 2009

The difference between knowing how to use illustrator and being exceptional at illustrator is having style.

A square is just a square unless you put it together in a unique way. Does your square have sharp corners or are they rounded and puffy. Does it scream in red or float in at a ghostly 25% opacity.

But How Do You Learn How to be Stylish?

As someone who has never taken art classes, this is a tough question. This may seem basic for those who have art in their background. For people like me, who are babies in the design world, just figuring out who we are is a huge battle

Become More Design Conscious.

Pick up a few design annuals at the magazine rack and flip through them. HOW International and Applied Arts are staples for a designer. As you go through them ask, “What styles do I love? And how do these styles relate to the projects developed?”

My personal favorite illustrations are cartoons. I love the minimalism and the lines. As I think over my past projects, I realize minimalism and lines in the logos I have tried to create and the layouts I have designed.

Don’t Fight What You Got

For the longest time I was blocked when I tried to create or draw because I assumed being a good illustrator meant drawing realistic images. Well, that’s just stupid. Realism and what needs to be expressed sometimes don’t work together. Think of a medical illustration selling a child’s toy.

The best ideas I have ever drawn have been stick figures. I can do wonders with stick figures. If I like making cute dots sing or monster computers make friends with 2-D little girls, why try to do something I’m not. Fighting what I do well at this early stage of learning to illustrate is counterproductive.

What type of drawings, ways of expressing yourself work for you? What mental constraints do you put on your sketching that hold you back from expressing your message?

Learn More from the Masters, Push Your Art

Stick figures are great but they won’t make me a commercially viable illustrator if that’s all I can do.  To acquire style we must dig deeper.

I am on the look out for other artist’s work , so I can dissect their work. OK, admittedly this is copying and lets make it clear master designers do not copy. But there is only one real way to learn how to be better at art: learn from a master.

Any commercial work I do, I definitely want to push for entirely original work for my client. But, when I get the chance to practice and explore techniques, it is helpful to learn from master’s work.  It’s about learning technique not copying concepts.


Printing projects

May 22, 2009

Getting the Color Right Is Important

Comprehensive are shown to clients and potential employers. Get them right.

Printing comprehensive can get expensive if you are just learning how RGB colors translates to CMYK. Looking great on your monitor and  setting your Photoshop file to CMYK is not going to give you great color when you print. Its the old  additive versus subtractive color issue.

If you don’t know how to compensate for this difference before you print, you will be surprised at the dark murky and even “missing” colors on the print.

Don’t Get Color Surprises

My solution:

Print out a color chart reference guide. You get an accurate look at what your neighborhood printer (i.e. staples) will produce for you. You can always tweek your project for a professional printer later. But at least you will be in the same ballpark range of the color you want.

The pdf version I plan to print out.

Paper Size and Cropping Matters

Don’t go cheap and print your comprehensive out at 8×11 and hope your client can read the micro-mini typography. If your client can’t see a key element of your design then you are wasting your time and theirs.

What works for me:

  • Print black and white when you go big and provide a smaller color proof.
  • Print it in pieces if its too big.
  • Learn to export with your crop marks and cut your work to size. (remember to send your work to the printer on one standard paper size bigger than your crop marks and bleeds.)

What other tips do you have for impressing clients but keeping comprehensive hassle free?


Pen Tool Tips for Rookies

May 14, 2009

The Pen Tool is Addictive

I recently completed a comprehensive using only the pen tool to create my images in Illustrator. Needless to say this took me hours and hours, days and more days.

Pen Tool Tips

So after that rude introduction to the pen tool, here are a few tips for making it go faster.

  1. Lock the image in place and make a new layer to draw on when you are tracing an image . It will prevent you from having to match the path and the picture up every time you accidentally move it.
  2. Know the keyboard shortcuts before you start. It seems irritating to have to hunt for the keys at first but after a while it becomes second nature. It saves tons of time.
  3. Think it through. Don’t put anchor points willy-nilly around the image. Analyze it for a second. Try to identify where the curve naturally starts and stops. Then put your anchor point there.
  4. Collapse the curve handle from the previous curve into the anchor point with the direct selection arrow. This prevents the curve from warping your next curve in unexpected ways
  5. Label your layers and group your components. It helps you find what you drew later. It also helps if you lock the layer so it won’t accidentally get selected.

well anchors away… (ok bad joke)


My Inspiration

May 7, 2009

Inspiration Drawn from the Past

Ok, so with all my moaning about the need for inspiration, I suppose I should actually take my own advice. I didn’t get the chance to go out and  do anything particularly new (too much homework).

Instead I went back in time to explore something that inspired me in the past. This image was taken by myself just outside of Shanghi in 2002.

Framing Windows and Webpages?

I love the pattern the windows form. its pretty basic by itself. But then they added those heavy block columns in between to make the pattern pop. Makes something boring really standout.

This juxtoposition of pattern with dark columns can be traslated to web site design. Instead of sticking to the normal convention of print design with thin gutters and wide columns. Why not play around with gutter spacing for dramatic effect?   fancy  windows