Tuesday, February 8, 2011

This blog is moving to a happier place

I've been trying to keep way, way too many blogs in the air at the same time, and for all the right reasons I'm in the process of combining as many as I can. This blog and all its previous posts will be combined with my kid's illustration blog at http://www.nora-thompson.blogspot.com.

I hope things don't get too mushy, but if you're feeling they are, please let me know. I'm going to keep this blog in place while I wait on feedback, so I can always separate everything again in the future.

In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out what to call the blog and how to integrate my graphic design brand (somewhat serious) with my kid's illustration brand (not so much), which isn't the easiest thing to do. I might play around with a few ideas before something actually feels right for me so, you know, comments are always helpful.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The gift of a Web site: Priceless

So for Christmas, the present I gave that made the biggest splash was a Web site I built for my husband. He's a potter, a sculptor and a painter, and the site was designed to showcase his work. The gift included a domain name and perpetual updates. He's never had a Web site before and was so impressed with the idea that I could have gotten anything I wanted for about a week.

In hindsight, I realize I should have taken more advantage.

He spent the next few days taking new photos of our studio space along with shots of some pottery he had been working on. He also spent a good bit of time looking up information including titles, sizes and exhibit information. Some of the portfolio pieces I had initially marked with dummy text like $priceless and with sizes like really"xbig" which didn't really fly.

I included a lot of dummy text all over the site. It was meant to be funny on Christmas morning, but then replaced with information my husband was supposed to give me later. And the idea did spur multiple readings and a lot of out-loud laughing, which was the whole point of not using "Lorem ipsum" everywhere.

What I wasn't ready for was how much he liked that silly dummy text. He liked it so much that he chose to keep the bulk of it on the site. As is. He said if people couldn't handle his sense of humor, that wasn't his problem. I protested at first, but eventually gave in, and we ended up keeping all the references to beer and how much his wife totally rocks.

Really, I'm just the designer. Who am I to argue?

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Things I'm learning about myself while cleaning

I started a massive throwing out of (what is turning out to be) the junk in our office space, and I'm finding out some things about myself as I go.

First of all, until the last few years I didn't feel I had actually created an illustration until I held it in my hands, so I printed out everything I did, and sometimes in several copies. What, exactly, did I need those for anyway? Now I have a huge stack of illustration pages that are waiting to be recycled sitting illustration-side-down at my printer. The rest are in a box until there's room on the stack.

Second, my mother typically bought things in relative bulk just because it's cheaper, especially if whatever it is you're buying isn't going to go bad anytime soon (like in your lifetime). The problem I seem have with that theory is the "isn't going to go bad" part. I bought stuff that wouldn't go bad physically, but that went terribly bad personally, digitally, stylistically...
  • I went and got married in the middle of this career which, of course, is a good thing, except for all the business cards that state otherwise.
  • Shortly after I ordered a new batch of promo postcards—and shortly before I received the shipment—we changed from a street address to a post office box.
  • Somewhere in the middle of all these things I changed my illustration style.
  • And as if that weren't enough, I also updated both my graphic design and illustration branding.
So domain names and contact information all needed to be updated which now means, along with the old business cards, I need to throw out any old postcards that I could have used as handouts.

I also spent a good bit of money to participate in a directory that the Pittsburgh Society of Illustrators sent out which included giving me a stack of 500 tear sheets of my page to use as self-promotional pieces. With my old name. And old contact information. And old style. Those pages were printed on glossy paper, so I can't even recycle the backs of them in our printer. Another stack for File 13.

And third, add to all of this the fact that computers and their programs have a half-life of around 13.7 days, so after they've sucked in their last breath, you're the one left holding the coasters. Yes, that says "Windows 95."

What a waste.

What have we learned?
  1. I don't need to print things out unless I need to.
  2. It isn't necessary to take advantage of printer deals that offer twice as many of something for just $3 more.
  3. My husband is stuck with me, if only for the sake of the environment.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dear Fall: If I had appreciated you more, would you have stayed?

(The trail photo is from September, taken while riding my bike on the Great Allegheny Passage.)

I'm already tired of the snow. And the winter. And the scraping of the car every time I want to go somewhere. And the gloves that you can't use to do anything except keep warm. And it really isn't even winter yet for another two days.

I'm not sure I can survive three more months of this! Steaming cups of hot chocolate, now that's what I'm talking about.

We've had one day this month above freezing, so until that day the snow just kept hanging around with no way to melt away.

Oh, and the day it was above freezing? Yeah, all day freezing rain. It was the front edge of a nasty storm that dropped another seven + inches of snow on us overnight (please see ruler picture to the right). So the freezing rain froze, and the snow piled beautifully on top. No, seriously, it was beautiful. (Just take a look at the ruler picture. The trees? In the background? See? I told you.)

Maybe I didn't appreciate the other seasons enough. Maybe I complained about the humidity one time too many. Maybe I sat at my computer too much instead of going outside.

Why can't spring and fall last as long as summer and winter?

On the bright side: After Tuesday, the days start getting longer, and then winter will have to hit the road.


6:38 PM.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If I've ever said anything bad about Steve Jobs, I want to take it back now


So my MacBook belched up a huge hair ball, and decided now would be a good time to never, ever allow itself to go through that whole "Start Up" bull again. After some pleading on my part, it decided to let me sneak in through the Safe start mode, so I backed up anything I could get and could possibly ever use on a computer again.

That's when it realized I was eating it's brains.

It complained my OS reinstall DVD had fingerprints. (It didn't.) Then it ate said OS reinstall DVD and laughed, "Neener, neener." Then it totally deleted the idea that it had ever even contained a hard drive to boot from.

All this in less than 24 hours.


I called our local Apple Store last evening, and the nice young man (Benji) scheduled me for an appointment this morning. And, well, my laptop isn't all that new. O.K. Fine, it's like four years old now. So, so totally out of warranty.

Me: Crap. I'm so not going to be able to afford this...

Walked into the Apple store this morning and, after drooling over the iPads, I finally got a sit-down with my own personal Genius Bartender, Mike.

Mike: I don't know if we still have Tiger on our Network. Would you like to upgrade to Leopard?

(Me: Crap. I'm so not going to be able to afford this...)

Mike: (Plugs in magical "Network." Plugs in computer. Ejects DVD--huh?) This should take about five minutes.

(15 minutes later...)

Mike: O.K. You're good to go.

Seriously? I sat as still as I possibly could for a few seconds so as not to draw attention to myself and the fact that I hadn't paid them. For anything.

I closed the lid and looked around to see if anyone was watching me leaving with a new operating system on a newly serviced laptop.

Apple employee as I snuck out the door: Have a nice day!

But the no-longer-under-warranty bill. The Tiger-to-Leopard upgrade. Do they know where I live? Are they going to accost me at a later date? When I'm sleeping?

I'm thinking I don't think so. I'm thinking this is what I paid for when I bought the thing in the first place. I'm thinking Steve Jobs must have figured out how to take a flying leap over his old buddy Bill.

Thank you, Mr. Jobs. That's not sarcasm. I really mean it this time. I will recommend your stuff. Apple products for everyone!

P.S. And thanks for giving me iWork (which I paid for the last time) for free in Leopard.
P.P.S. And thanks extra for employing Mike who resuscitated my little digital corner of the world.

Now to reinstall absolutely everything.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Matthew Carter a 2010 MacArthur Fellow

Here's a guy you have likely been reading for years and didn't even know it. Read about Matthew Carter's becoming a $500,000 MacArthur Fellow here. Carter has been designing typefaces for something like 50 years, and he worked as a punchcutter when first starting out, and later kept right up with technology by designing faces digitally.

You know that tiny type they use in the phone book? Take a look. It would look kind of funky if you used it as a regular face or big for display type because it was designed for a different purpose. The ink on the presses would fill in the counters of the letters (the spaces inside letters like the lowercase "e"), especially on absorbent paper like they use for phone books. Carter created extra pointy spaces in the counters to allow the ink to spread and still be readable.

And you know Microsoft's Verdana and Georgia? Yep. Carter's. Designed to be legible, even at small sizes on computer screens. He also designed Tahoma.

Carter was featured in the full-length film Helvetica where he explained the theory behind his job. He wants you to read and not take any notice the font carrying the message. If you do that, then he believes he's done his job well. So you've probably read his work your entire life, but never even noticed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Mega storm damage

And on last day of summer.

Some neighbors lost some huge trees from the storm that rolled through late yesterday afternoon. I happened to catch this lady taking photos of the damage this morning. Sad part is, they had had a beautiful tree-lined driveway and removed most of those trees last year (you can still see one of the stumps still there). They had all been huge like this one.

Another tree covered the entire road and took a powerline with it.