Sunday, January 29, 2006

Design Education

Very interesting story about design education here.


Proficiency in requisite technologies, not to mention a slew of optional techniques, easily takes a year or more to master in a rudimentary way. Acquiring fluency in the design language(s), most notably type, is an ongoing process. Then there is instruction and practice in a variety of old and new media—print and web, editorial and advertising, static and motion, not to mention drawing and photography—these take time to learn, no less to hone. And what about the liberal arts: writing, history and criticism? Theory is also a useful foundation if taught correctly, but it is often perfunctorily shoehorned into studio classes. How can a design student function without verbal expertise, let alone the ability to read and research? This must also be taught in an efficient manner that takes time. And then there is basic business acumen; every designer must understand fundamental business procedures, which are virtually ignored in the ultimate pursuit of the marketable portfolio.

Check the forum in the discussion group.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Yet another music video...

This one has some amazing animation. I doubt that this was done with a computer.

On the Media

This is a link to a very interesting On The Media podcast from last October covering several topics. Worth a listen in general, but there is a bit of web design specific content in a story about ICANN and who makes the rules about the "world" wide web. The story about WHER - the nation's first "all girl" radio station - is interesting too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

The worst Atari game ever.

Anyone besides me actually ever play this game?

Keyboard Shortcuts

For those of you who are making a transition from working on a boring Windows box all of your life to working on the much more elegant and interesting mac, you might be getting frustrated with the fact that rather than right clicking you have to move your mouse all of the way to the top of the screen to access your menu commands. The Windows OS is more menu driven, thanks to that right-clicker, while the Mac OS encourages the use of keyboard shortcuts which allow you to work much more quickly. If you are determined to use menus in a similar way to the right-click on a PC, keep your non-mouse hand near the control button and control-click whenever you would like to bring up a right-click-like menu. If you have seen the light and would like to consider yourself a Mac user, forget about menus and use keyboard commands. Here is a link to a list of keyboard commands for Mac OS.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Interesting Design Studio Site


Position: Graphic designer-multimedia
Date posted: 1/19/2006
Company: Oxfam America, Boston

1.Design and produce
a variety of Oxfam America print and interactive materials from concept to delivery, including — but not limited to — magazine, project updates, campaign postcards, research reports, brochures, information packets, annual report, cards, websites,
banner ads, interactive animations, and other promotional materials. Also responsible for development and production of existing designs.
2.Work independently on some projects and with the Senior Graphic Designer on others.
3.Work with Creative Services
team and individuals from other departments to develop publications and interactive content within specified timeframes.
4.Work with printers and manage production of some projects. Attend press-checks as required or requested.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

And... Logo Action!

Click Here: And... Logo Action!:
From September of 2004, when we first moved to New York, to September of 2005 we had no cable TV in our home. By choice, I think. No NBC, no Bravo, no HBO, no ESPN no E! Just a TV...

Thursday, January 19, 2006

I'm an Artist, But Not the Starving Kind

We have as much training as other professionals. Imagine if we had their business sense, too.

By J. D. Jordan

Sept. 19, 2005 issue - "I could get an art student to do it for $35 and a six-pack." I remember the first time a prospective client said that to try to intimidate me into accepting dramatically reduced fees for Website design services. I was newly self-employed and hungry for work, so I conceded. I delivered a great Web site, but I hated my client for making me work for so little—and myself for not knowing how to get what I deserved.

It was 2002, and I had just opened my own graphic-design studio in my basement, where I was working with two old friends. Back then, I thought I had to compete with local students—to accept it as just another part of doing business. Now I find myself at one of Atlanta's premier art colleges, standing at a podium and teaching those very same students.

In my small, windowless classroom, in front of a baker's dozen of powerful G5 computers that line the walls, sit tomorrow's crop of great graphic designers, illustrators, filmmakers and animators. But despite their skills, their burgeoning individual styles and their unlimited creativity, they are crippled by the narrow focus of their education.

It took me a couple of years out of college to realize that my own B.A. in history was an asset. I landed my first salaried job during the heady days of unstoppable Internet growth, when the fact that I hadn't gone to art school was no impediment to getting hired as a senior Web specialist at a studio. Then the World Trade Center was attacked, and suddenly, I was answering questions about Islam, oil policy and our government's struggle against a new enemy for my colleagues—degreed artists all—who didn't understand the basic issues of the day.

As surprised as I was by their lack of knowledge, I was even more shocked by how helpless they were in light of our impending unemployment. The tech bubble had burst several months before 9/11, and our company, like many, was discarding its creative services staff to buoy sagging growth. My colleagues were unprepared to manage their own work—not as artists, but as businesspeople.

Unlike most college and university educations, art-school curricula do not revolve around math and language, writing and economics. Instead, they revolve around fundamental artistic principles such as color and light, figure and still-life drawing, basic electronic arts and art history.

What about creative business and copyright law? What about intellectual rights and business ethics? For that matter, what about basic history or civics? In a field largely defined by individual inspiration and accomplishment, where is the foundation for personal and financial success? Perhaps in an attempt to compensate for public schools which have stripped their curricula of arts education, art schools have left their graduates unprepared for the real world.

During my first semester as a teacher, I noticed a hunger in my students—a drive to crack the marketplace and build a portfolio, not just of teacher-assigned projects, but of real work for real clients. I also imagined I saw the threat in their eyes that my old boss saw in mine when I resigned to start my own company: "I can do this better than you ... and for less." It wasn't long before I realized that what I was seeing was simply untrained enthusiasm.

Now, a couple of semesters under my belt, I've learned how to get the kids excited not just about art, but about succeeding as businesspeople. I squeeze as much business education into my courses as my required curriculum will allow. I lead my students in roundtable discussions and offer anecdotes from my own experience. I use whole lectures to give them primers on service pricing, contracting, good business practices and copyright protection. I teach them to fight the tendency that lingers in all artists to give their art away. I tell them that their art is a specialty, not a commodity, and that they deserve to get paid for it.

But what can one professor do? These kids should have to take business education as a freshman requirement to learn how to manage their artistic enterprises before their enthusiasm sweeps them into a depreciated marketplace.

It took me a long time to learn how to answer that prospective client's $35 challenge. A long time before I learned to say, "You get what you pay for," and walk away.

My students often ask me what they should charge for the work they do outside of class. I help them come up with a fair estimate, then tell them the story about Carolyn Davidson, the Portland State University student whom Nike paid $35 for its "swoosh" logo in 1971. (Years later, the company gave her an undisclosed amount of stock.) I tell them about the calls I still get, clients trying to drive down my rates with "Any student will do it for $35 and a six-pack."

I tell them not to be that student—that it hurts our industry and that it'll hurt them in the long run, when they're in my shoes.

© 2005 Newsweek, Inc.

Konica Minolta quits photo market

Japanese photographic equipment maker Konica Minolta has announced plans to withdraw from the camera business.

Konica Minolta said the market had become too competitive, and added it would sell its digital camera business to Japanese electronics giant Sony.

Konica Minolta is planning to cut 3,700 jobs, or 11% of its workforce, by 2007 as part of a restructuring drive.

Earlier in January, fellow Japanese cameramaker Nikon said it would stop making most of its film camera line.

Instead, Nikon intends to focus most of its effort on digital cameras.

Digital era

Konica Minolta, which was formed from the merger of the two companies in 2003, warned in November that it was on course to post a full-year net loss of 47bn yen ($408m; £232.5m).

Its decision to ditch the camera business altogether includes the cessation of its colour film and photo paper business, in which it has trailed Eastman Kodak of the US and Japan's Fuji Photo Film.

Instead, it plans to focus on products such as colour office photocopiers and medical imaging equipment.

"In today's era of digital became difficult to timely provide competitive products even with our top optical, mechanical and electronics technologies," Konica Minolta said.

"For colour film and colour paper, while considering our customer needs, we will step-by-step reduce product line-up and cease our film production and colour paper by the end of fiscal year ending 31 March, 2007."

The global photographic market has been undergoing a major upheaval recently, with many key players withdrawing from traditional areas of the industry.

As well as Nikon's decision, Eastman Kodak has said for some time that digital is to be its priority in the future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Internet users judge Web sites in less than a blink

Tue Jan 17, 2006 3:39 PM ET

By Kamakshi Tandon

TORONTO (Reuters) - Internet users can give Web sites a thumbs up or thumbs down in less than the blink of an eye, according to a study by Canadian researchers.

In just a brief one-twentieth of a second -- less than half the time it takes to blink -- people make aesthetic judgments that influence the rest of their experience with an Internet site.

The study was published in the latest issue of the Behavior and Information Technology journal. The author said the findings had powerful implications for the field of Web site design.

"It really is just a physiological response," Gitte Lindgaard told Reuters on Tuesday. "So Web designers have to make sure they're not offending users visually.

"If the first impression is negative, you'll probably drive people off."

In the study, researchers discovered that people could rate the visual appeal of sites after seeing them for just one-twentieth of a second. These judgments were not random, the researchers found -- sites that were flashed up twice were given similar ratings both times.

They also matched the responses given by subjects who were shown the sites for longer.

But the results did not show how to win a positive reaction from users, said Lindgaard, a psychology professor at Carleton University in Ottawa. "When we looked at the Web sites that we tested, there is really nothing there that tells us what leads to dislike or to like."

And while further research may offer more clues, she said the vagaries of personal taste would always be a limiting factor.

"If design were reducible to a set of principles, wouldn't we find an awful lot of similar houses, gardens, cars, rooms?" said Lindgaard. "You'd have no variety."

Friday, January 13, 2006

Design Rockism

Click Here: Design Rockism:
Is an appeal to authenticity currently gripping graphic design? Currie explores whether a new anti-computer-based ideology is rearing its conservative head.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Nikon Plans to Stop Making Most Cameras That Use Film

NY Times
TOKYO, Thursday, Jan. 12 - The Nikon Corporation, the Japanese camera maker, said Thursday that it would stop making most of its film cameras and lenses in order to focus on digital cameras.

The company, based in Tokyo, is the latest to join an industrywide shift toward digital photography, which has exploded in popularity. Rivals like Kodak and Canon have already shifted most of their camera production into digital products.

Nikon said it would halt production of all but two of its seven film cameras and would also stop making most lenses for those cameras. The company will halt production of the film camera models "one by one," though it refused to specify when.

A company spokesman said Nikon made the decision because sales of film cameras have plunged. In the most recent fiscal year ended March 2005, Nikon said that film camera bodies accounted for 3 percent of the 180 billion yen ($1.5 billion) in sales at the company's camera and imaging division. That is down from 16 percent the previous year.

By contrast, sales of digital cameras have soared, the company said, jumping to 75 percent of total sales in the year ended March 2005, from 47 percent three years earlier. Scanners and other products account for the remainder of the division's sales.

"The market for film cameras has been shrinking dramatically," the company spokesman, Akira Abe, said. "Digital cameras have become the norm."

Mr. Abe said the announcement might trigger a brief revival in sales of film cameras, as film photography buffs rush to buy the cameras before production stops. The decision may also help make film cameras a popular nostalgia item in second-hand markets like eBay.

Nikon made its first film camera in 1948, as Japan rose from the ashes of defeat in World War II.

The quality and durability of Nikon's film cameras made them popular for decades among amateurs and professionals alike, turning Nikon into one of the industry's best-known brands. The first Nikon cameras arrived in the United States in the 1950's when American servicemen started bringing them home from tours of duty at American bases in Japan.

But in recent years, all brands of film cameras have virtually disappeared from store shelves.

Digital photography has won out because its images are visible immediately and are easily stored on tiny computer chips, eliminating the need to carry and develop clunky rolls of film.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Welcome to Spring Semester 2006

Welcome to the 2006 Spring Semester at Virginia Western Community College. This is the home page that I have created to serve as a central information source for students in my courses. If you have been in my class before, you'll notice that the site has been redesigned. I eliminated a lot of the extra content to try to make the information that is available here to be more efficient and valuable. Please remember this web address, as I will be using this site to make announcements about class content as well as job openings, college services and functions, weather closings and whatever else might need to be communicated.

On the right side of the page you'll find links to your course - these links will take you to the Blackboard site for your course. I use blackboard as well as the VWCC webmail system intensively in my classes - all assignments will be available there, as well as your grades, tests, quizzes and other information. It is critical that you become familiar with blackboard, and also with your vwcc webmail account. For those of you who would prefer to use a different email address, you are able to forward your vwcc mail to a different address. I will only send emails to your vwcc address.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tutoring Opportunities

Please be aware of two options every student has regarding tutoring:

1) If you believe you would benefit from the help of a tutor, do not hesitate to talk to me about it. The tutoring center does not keep Comm Design tutors in their regular staff, but it is possible for me to match you up with another student in the program who is more experienced with the software you might be having trouble with. There is no cost to you, and the tutor is paid, so it is a win-win situation for all involved.

2) If you are interested in tutoring, please let me know that you are available. The college pays above minimum wage for the work, and you will find that you learn as much or more answering someone else's questions as you do from working on your own coursework.

Please don't hesitate to email me if you are interested in finding or becoming a Comm Design tutor.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Interesting story from the New York TImes RE: Movie Posters

Not Just Another Half-Dozen Pretty, Floating Faces

Published: January 1, 2006

SINCE the dawn of film marketing, studios have relied on posters featuring "floating heads": as many movie star faces as can be crammed onto a single page. In 1927, for instance, state-of-the-art ads for "The Jazz Singer" featured two disembodied Al Jolson heads - one in blackface, one without makeup.

Skip to next paragraph

A Polish poster for "Rosemary's Baby" (1968) shows a demonic baby hand, a plot spoiler. In Communist Poland, posters were more about art than commerce.

The "Hostel" poster uses a daguerreotype image by the photographer Mark Kessell.

Since then floating heads have become an industry cliché: the formula that once guaranteed success is now so ubiquitous that posters in that vein are nearly invisible. So what does it take to get noticed some 80 years later, especially when you're selling yet another horror film, without the luxury of big stars?

Surprisingly, the answer may be fine art.

Tim Palen, the executive vice president of worldwide marketing for Lionsgate - the company responsible for the gory "Saw" movies - was recently looking for a fresh campaign to introduce "Hostel," a slasher film that is to open on Jan. 6. Directed by Eli Roth, it is about a group of gullible and horny American males who find themselves in a Slovakian hostel, where promises of easy sex turn to gruesome snuff.

Mr. Palen said he figured that a poster with mangled bodies wouldn't do the trick.

So he dropped by the airy, tastefully decorated Chelsea studio of the Australian photographer Mark Kessell. A soft-spoken former physician who practiced medicine in Sydney for what he calls "several unsatisfying years," Mr. Kessell, 49, now takes pictures of things he's fully aware the larger public may not appreciate. One collection of daguerreotypes, "Perfect Specimens," shows the human body in its physical extremes; there are several shots of fetuses and old people near death.

But it was Mr. Kessell's "Florilegium" (or "collection of floral images") daguerrotypes that caught Mr. Palen's eye: each image is close-up of a surgical instrument, so poetically rendered that it seems almost organic. Some of the macabre implements resemble exotic flowers. One, from a distance, could be mistaken for the horns of a gazelle. "We were sort of blocked, and all the pieces fell into place once I saw that image," Mr. Palen explained. A deal was made to use that daguerreotype, which actually shows a surgical clamp. It now appears in theaters and on widespread promotions. (Billboards for "Hostel" rely on a more conventional image of a masked tormentor with a chain saw, which, a Lionsgate spokeswoman explained, translated more easily to the horizontal format.)

Mr. Kessell may seem an unlikely choice to sell unapologetic horror to a large youth audience; he has no interest whatever in popular culture. Over tea in his loft, the elegantly dressed Mr. Kessell confessed to not having seen "Hostel" or, indeed, to remembering the last film he had seen.

"It may have been 'Dogville,' " he finally allowed. With a grin, he said that in selling his work to Lionsgate, "I am prostituting myself." But he added: "The money has to come from somewhere." And, he said, that money would be poured right back into an art project. In the process, his work is placed before an audience of millions.

"I have a lot of trouble as an artist getting people to either look at my work or know my name," said Mr. Kessell, who generally finds that his pictures repel as much as they fascinate, much like the horror genre. "I'm interested in what makes us human," he said, "what makes our sex drive and the drive to violence the way they are. And what happens at the other end when we die."

Bill Sienkiewicz, an illustrator, writer and director who has worked on movie posters for more than 20 years, said the tide was turning toward more provocative designs. "If there are any floating heads, it will have to be a decapitation," he said by telephone from his studio in Stamford, Conn., where he was working on a poster for the horror movie "Evil Aliens."

Mr. Sienkiewicz, whose work has included posters for Clint Eastwood's "Unforgiven" and "The Green Mile" starring Tom Hanks, pointed out that some classic posters, like the one for Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now," found a more artful way to use actors' faces.

"It had headshots," Mr. Sienkiewicz said of the "Apocalypse" poster. "But it also had the ambience and the heat of the jungle, and the levels of desperation. There was lots of information in the poster that set the tone. You don't see that today."

Universal Pictures' president for marketing, Adam Fogelson, agrees that a saturated marketplace has forced everyone to think differently about poster ad campaigns.

"I would say that there is a mistake in equating artistic with distinct," he said, citing Lionsgate's creative use of two strategically hacked-off fingers to sell its "Saw" sequel as a good example of an approach that managed to do both. "Making something different or artistic for its own sake is not the answer I advocate. I am not in the business of creating art, I am in the business of creating advertising."

Mr. Fogelson pointed to his studio's use of Steve Carell's incredulous face for the "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" campaign as an example of a floating head that worked because of the actor's connection to the audience.

Using fine-art images to promote movies isn't entirely new: the practice has been common in Eastern Europe, particularly in Poland. Charles Evans Jr., a film producer whose credits include "The Aviator," recently displayed his personal collection of Polish film posters at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum, including a prized one for Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby" (1968) in which an infant hand is clearly seen to be demonic - a plot spoiler, which would never allowed in this country.

In Communist Poland, Mr. Evans noted, poster art wasn't so much about commerce as about expression. "An artist could turn in whatever he wanted," he said. "They were allowed freedoms the other Eastern bloc countries were not."

By contrast, the current trend in the United States is largely about getting people in seats. But once trained to expect a more compelling vision on their billboards and buses, audiences aren't likely to settle for less imaginative, traditional advertising.

"They'd turn on you like a pack of wolves," said Mr. Palen, of Lionsgate. "These campaigns are arduous, and finding people like Mark Kessell is harder than doing floating heads. But it's absolutely necessary."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Communication Design Discussion Group

This semester I'm beta testing a discussion group for Communication Design Students. You can find the link in the navigation area to your right. I will be monitoring the Discussion Board in that group on Wednesday and Thursday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:00, but the discussions will be available to you 24 hours a day. I see it as a place to discuss design topics not covered in your classes - such as job opportunities, design and designers, technology and anything else related to Communication Design. It will also be an appropriate place for you to ask questions about assignments or coursework and have those questions answered either by me or by your colleagues at the college. We'll see how it works out.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Comment on this blog

Share your comments, complaints or suggestions about this blog here.


Date posted: 1/2/2006
Position available: Other Creative Professional
Salary range: $50,000-$99,999

Trollback + Company
302 Fifth Avenue, 14th Fl
NY, NY 10001

Contact: Danielle James

Job Description / requirements:
Sr. Designer / Animator - Fulltime

The successful candidate will be a highly self-motivated strategic and conceptual thinker who has a strong desire to develop award-winning design on projects ranging from network branding, film titles, trailers and TV commercials to environmental and architectural installations. In addition to excellent technical ability, this person will work across all stages of a project, from initial concepts through research and development to final production.

Applicants must have a minimum of 5+ years proven experience in design direction encompassing brand development, advertising, film, and/or photography with notable experience leading strategic creative development and execution. Exceptional portfolios expected.
Excellent After Effects skills are a must.

Please send/email REELS and SALARY requirements to:

Danielle James
Trollback + Company
302 Fifth Avenue, 14th FL
New York, NY 10001

If emailing your reel please specify what position you are applying for

Graphic Design Services

With ten years of experience in design as an Art Department member, director, and as an independent freelancer, I have developed a wide range of skills and abilities that are available to businesses and individuals within the Roanoke area, or off site through internet connectivity. Services include:

General Design: Just need a flier, postcard or newsletter put together quickly, professionally, and for a great discount relative to the high prices charged by local advertising agencies with high overhead? You will be shocked at how much money you can save by hiring a one person design team.

Web Site Design: Put an online face on your business that reflects your own professionalism and quality, without having to hire an entire IT department. Quick, painless, impressive web site design for people who don't know there HTML from a hole in the ground.

Design Production: You know what you need, and you know you need it quickly, but you also know you don't need to keep a staff of highly trained designers and expensive design computers in your office to get it done. With a flexible schedule, a fierce work ethic and a nose to the grindstone attention to detail and time management, allow me to put my time tested production skills to work for you - getting the work done quickly and inexpensively and getting out of your way when it's done.

Photoshop Production: Photographers! Do you miss the simplicity of the days of Film? There is no debate that digital has taken over, and the affordable and convenience of a digital workflow are critical to the success of a photographers business model. With 10 years of focused and intensive photoshop experience, I have developed a fluency with Photoshop and a knowledge of its ins and outs that is unmatched in the Roanoke area. Bring in the Photoshop Expert for your preproduction and save yourself time and money.

Editorial Design: With five years at the helm of Art Direction for Leisure Publishing Company, allow me to apply my knowledge of publication design to your need. Whether you need a freelance designer to get you through the crunch, a few fresh looks at an important cover, or a refresh of your entire publication's design - I have the experience to help you with the process.

Direct Mail and Advertising: It doesn't matter how carefully and strategically you build your business model - if people don't know about you, you're sunk. If you are trying to get the word out, allow my experience with advertising and direct mail concept and design to point you in a new direction, or reinforce your current marketing plan. With two businesses of my own to wrangle in clients for - you can bet I've had some practice.

Identity Design: Just starting a new business? As you daydream about the name of your brand, and see the good and bad logos of other businesses in your chosen industry - does the task of establishing your own identity seem too daunting? With experience creating visual identities for both local and national companies I can enable you to realize the visual identity that you might not even know you want yet.

Music Promotion: J cards, Tray Cards, Screen printed discs, Jewel cases, Jackets, Eco-wallets - get your music out there with a design and package that helps reflect your sound and looks like it's music you made. All aspects of CD packaging and distribution can be managed and provided.

Design Education: As an instructor of Communication Design at Virginia Western Community College I am able to provide in classroom instruction for any of the current industry standard design applications. Enroll in one of my courses through Virginia Western's Website. I am also available for individual training or on site seminars and training. Contact me directly through email if you are interested in individual or on site training.

Writing: With work published weekly in the Roanoke Times, and regularly in Blue Ridge Country Magazine and The Roanoker Magazine, I am proud to include my services as research writer in my portfolio. If you need editorial content based on local activities such as Motorcycling, Fly Fishing, Design, Technology, outdoor sports or anything else, allow me the opportunity to research, photograph, and write the content for you.

Affordability: All of these services are available at your convenience and for a great savings when compared to other options that are available. Please email me at for a free quote on any work that you might need, a closer look at my portfolio, or for references you can call who will back up my promise that I can provide top-quality and timely work at a great reduction in cost over other alternatives. Thank you for taking the time to look at my work, and I look forward to talking with you!

William Alexander