Sunday, December 30, 2012

Exploring Type

One of the coolest things type vendors do currently is produce sample specimen graphics as art. It's the sort of thing your design instructors might assign in college. Here are a few that I have done in my spare time. I have credited the type designers in the graphics. The typefaces shown are on my home computer, purchased or shipped with my iMac. I used Quark XPress 9.5 for the project layouts. Layouts were exported to PDF then saved as PNGs (Photoshop CS6).

Diavalo, various weights

ITC Edwardian Script


Hope you enjoy this. Hope you have a great 2013!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Collage Experience, B.P.

Once upon a time there was a budding artist who was asked to make detailed drawings of what he saw. He made them as realistic as possible because it was a class assignment. He spent hours on each charcoal sketch to make things look just right. He and others in the class completed the assignment. Imagine their surprise when the instructor asked them to rip the drawings up and use the pieces to create a collage.

That budding artist was me. I wasn't thrilled at the time.  I did the collage, though. Something about grades that gives one additional incentive. I think back on it now, and ask myself: why did it bother me? I'm sure my mom (and yours) was so proud of the magazine and newspaper collages that graced our home fridge as a kid. I like the collage art Jack Kirby created for The Fantastic Four during the Marvel Age of Comics. I realize now my instructor wanted us to not be afraid to make something new out of something we worked hard on.

A few years later, I was asked to design a cover for a World Book article reprint. In the days before desktop computers, World Book's sales force used reprints to show potential customers the features of The World Book Encyclopedia. My cover design was meant to show iconic African-Americans in a new way. (Years ago the article title was Black Americans. World Book has since changed the article title to African Americans.) For my design I took back and white images, made color copies in combinations of CMYK and various sizes. I cut them out and rearranged them to make a new graphic. I thought the design would then be assigned to a freelance artist, but our team thought it worked best as 'xerox art'.  We made better quality copies, and had a freelance production artist put the design together as keyline art.

Reprint cover design for a World Book Encyclopedia article.
© World Book, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

We realized some readers might not recognize some of the persons on the cover, so we added a sketch with their names on the inside back cover. Our photo editors provided credits, and the photo sources were compensated for use of the images.

Key to famous Black Americans. From 'Black Americans' reprint.
© World Book, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission.
If we were to recreate the cover today, the composite image would consist of images layered and colorized with an editing program like Photoshop. But the principle of collage would be the same as it was in the late 1900's B.P. (Before Photoshop).  Making collages can be fun!

Speaking of World Book, take a few moments to visit World Book's website. Any one of our print or digital products would make a great gift for a budding student or family!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More fun with InDesign and Illustrator

Here are a few more examples of projects for fun.

Using InDesign, design and create a one-color event poster. Use the "supersize" example from Before and After.

InDesign document. Dingbat symbol fonts with free fonts.

Variation with contrasting weight fonts, smaller dingbat figure.

White art and type on black background.

Here are a couple more.

Poster for kids Sunday school class.

Variation with fish graphics.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Forward, Together Forward

If you are a successful veteran creative, you have much to be thankful for. It's great to think about past design experiences. The projects and campaigns assigned to you. Clients and vendors who became friends. Mentors and co-workers who affirmed your talents—sometimes engaging in friendly creative competition. You may have received a number of awards from your peers. Or maybe the project that gives you the most joy is the one you did pro bono. No one notices it but you and the cause or organization you helped.

It is great to look back but you can't remain in neutral. You must move forward.

Moving forward might mean going back to school to learn a new design skill, or learning on your own (as many of my current and former co-workers have done). It may mean you take on a project that's outside your comfort zone. A Flash based website designed by a friend spurred me to begin this blog.  A Dreamweaver project for my employer introduced me to the world of HTML years before knowing HTML and now HTML5 became essential for designers and web developers.  The possibilities presented for e-books and other media driven projects make it a scary AND an exciting time to be a graphic designer.

It may also mean that even in a tough economy sometimes you have to spend (or invest) a little to ensure you have what it takes for the long haul. For example, Adobe's Creative Cloud subscription model might be right for you. Purchasing an iPad or Android tablet may help you better understand how adults and children use and learn with these devices.  You might choose to learn Quark XPress or Apple's Pages programs.

If you're a new designer, I hope the experiences of the past that you've studied and the understanding of the technology and new methodologies in graphic design that you have embraced prepared you well. You will still have much to learn, and the veterans like me will learn a lot from you.

Northern Illinois University's fight song has a verse that begins with the words  "Forward, Together Forward." I like the thought of the line. We may have been given great abilities, but we need the help, teaching and encouragement of other like minded people to come along side us (in addition to our families and friends).

Let's all go forward, together.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Links on the Right, Create Art from Photos


Before working on this post I checked out one of the links to the right, Design Festival. The post shared 5 free resources for designers. It's worth a look and a few downloads. Check out the others too.

It was time to change the blog design too.  Hope this one is a little easier on the eyes.

Some time back I encouraged you (and myself) to spend a moment using the filters that ship with Photoshop. As I recall it was with an image taken after a snowstorm.

With Photoshop CS6 recently I used the filters to play with similar effects.

Close up of party setting.
 I duplicated the background first, then applied a filter to the new layer.

Image with watercolor effect applied.

Tweaking the filter produced a watercolor painted effect.

A still life pottery display. Similar steps, using  the pillow filter to give the image a little sheen.

A dash of pillow effect makes the porcelain shine.

Try using Live Trace and other effects with Illustrator CS6.

Live Trace with painterly effect.

 Cross hatching effect.

I hope you will be moved to use the tools you have to turn static photos into a work of art.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A little bit of this and that

Haven't posted in awhile. Thanks for checking in.

Since last time Quark XPress released an update, 9.3. The main feature is the ability to export a file to Kindle's MOBI format. If you are a Quark 9 user you will want to install and use the update.

Screen capture of Quark's ePub tutorial file ready for Export to Kindle.

To get the benefit of the update you'll also need to install KindleGen available here. Quark will prompt you to do so if you don't already have it. KindleGen will download and install the Kindle Previewer. This tool will help you ensure text and graphics appear properly.

Screen capture of the ePub in Kindle Previewer. The previewer allows you to check the readability of the document in various devices.

Recently I saw a tip from the Before and After website. The video discussed the technique of using  an oversize image for maximum impact. By the way, John McWade provides a great service to novice and established designers with his videos and PDFs.

For fun I developed some banner designs based on a variation of the principle.

Hope your creative juices have been stimulated a bit!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Fun with Photoshop and InDesign

Hello again!

Lots of great information out there about Creative Suite 6 and Adobe's Creative Cloud. You can get the 411 from Adobe here.

Here are more projects created with Photoshop CS6 Beta.

Type and gradient effects created while listening to a recording of Beethoven's 5th Symphony.

Table of pottery for sale at the Theater Squared building, Walton Arts Complex, University of Arkansas.
Wood frame Action.
© Isaiah Sheppard

Same Photoshop action run on a photo of former President Clinton's home on the University of Arkansas campus.

Many designers aren't familiar with the great effects you can create within InDesign. You can find a cool resource at the InDesign Secrets store. Mr. Rankin wrote the e-book for users of CS3 and above, but there were a few tricks I could accomplish with InDesign CS2.

I took this photo from a recent trip to Alaska.

© Isaiah Sheppard

Placed the image into an InDesign document. Used a hue effect and added type, creating a textbook cover design.

Another effect using the drawing tools in InDesign.

Imagine what you will be able to do with CS 6!

Monday, April 9, 2012

A look at Photoshop CS 6

Shortly before Passover and Easter, Adobe released a beta version of Photoshop CS6. Like millions of designers, photographers, motion graphics specialists and others, I downloaded the software. You can too here for a limited time.  There are a couple of websites that will walk you through the new features. One is Scott Kelby's Photoshop User website with a special link. has a series of videos presented by Deke McClelland on the features.  A third is Photoshop Cafe. Visit these sites to learn more.

These are a few of my favorite things about CS6 (so far. Makes you want to sing with the Von Trapp family).

One: importing images from your camera or mobile device directly into Photoshop.  I really like this. Following are a couple of images I imported from my phone, sized and added a watermark. Cool.

 Two: 3D type effects. Much improved from CS5.

Three: Content-Aware Move. This is a phenomenal feature. When it works it's a great time saver. But like content-aware scale, it works on some things better than others.

Here's a photo of a guy on a cruise ship taking a picture.

I made a selection (tighter than recommended) of the gentleman and his reflection on the deck. I then selected the Content-Aware move tool, and moved the figure to the right.

When Photoshop completed its processing, the man was now at the right, but he left a halo. In addition, there is an issue with the chairs and the rest of the ship receding into the distance.  You'd spend a fair amount of time cloning and patching afterwards.

Still, pretty amazing when you have the right type of image on a white or covered background like grass or a brick or concrete wall.

Fourth: Paragraph and Character styles. I'm enjoying adding effects to the styles. Here are two.

Glow effect

Gradient applied to editable type
So give it a try. Take the opportunity to tell Adobe what you like about CS6. Offer suggestions for tweaks. Last but not least, thank them for allowing a free preview of the program all of us use daily.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Need some professional art for your design?

The last two posts focused on creating art yourself within your page layout application of choice. In addition to the sample projects I showed you, you can get other tips via online tutorials. One is an Illustrator project created by Deke McClelland for See it here. This week the link shows creation of railroad tracks with no drawing (amazing). If may be a different Illustrator or Photoshop project when you view this page. Mike Rankin has a few InDesign art effects videos you can view at free here. If you enjoy these examples and want to learn more, consider subscribing to this site. Mordy Golding, Brian Wood, and other instructors have videos there.

Sometimes you need a little help from artists who create illustrations for a living. You need a specific style of artwork. Or you need multiple images in a compressed time frame. You need quality art but your budget is challenged. A few posts back I mentioned the following sources: Shutterstock, Veer, and Dreamstime.  I assume you know where to obtain free art, and how to properly use it in your projects. One possible downside to using stock/free art is other designers have access to the same art. You would not want to use it for a logo, for example. Or your client wants an illustration especially created for them (a magazine article, a children's book, or an e-Pub cover). You need to enlist the services of a professional artist. Where do you go?

One way is through an agency.  A full service agency usually has a group of freelance illustrators who have been screened and are available.  An example is Artisan, here. The Society of Illustrators is a great resource, here. You can find freelance artists on sites like this one. A few agencies will give you advice on how to find an illustrator. Look for the artists in your area who can best serve your needs.

A great illustration can really bring an article or project to life. Following are examples from World Book products.

Terrain map for an article on Brazil. Teaching map created by World Book Inc. Cartographers.
From The World Book Encyclopedia. © World Book Inc. All rights reserved, used with permission.

Information graphic for a World Book Year Book Special Report about the steel industry.
Illustration for World Book by Jay Bensen. © World Book Inc. All rights reserved, used with permission.
From an article about Wyoming. World Book map, World Book illustrations by Richard Bonson, The Art Agency.
From The World Book Encyclopedia. © World Book Inc. All rights reserved, used with permission.
From a Science Year Special Report. Illustration by Tim Hayward, Bernard Thornton Artists.
© World Book Inc. All rights reserved, used with permission.
Perhaps you work with in-house designers who also create fantastic art.
How a tsunami is formed. World Book illustration by Matt Carrington.
From 'Earthquake', World Book Student. © World Book Inc. All rights reserved, used with permission.

Next post, a little about the Photoshop CS 6 beta now available for download.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Can you tweak it a bit?

Last time, one of my project examples was lacking something, at least to me. The post card example which looked OK in Quark lacked contrast when I saved it as a low-resolution PDF. I upped the contrast in Photoshop, but not enough for your viewing pleasure. That would not be acceptable if this were a paying job (yours), and your approval was needed on-screen. You'd probably ask for a tweak.  And being the designer I am, I'd go back to the drawing board (my computer).

First, I would export the project at a higher resolution than I supplied before. I would make a production quality PDF, or in this case, re-save my sample in a different manner and at a higher contrast.

But this might not be sufficient. I would notice it if I viewed it in a web browser or making a printout.

Next I would push the saturation and or contrast even more. Increasing the saturation didn't help, but upping the contrast produced a sunnier result.

Third: create some contrast via adding a different color. Here I used a darker brown in various places and added a black border.

One more: bring in a blue to contrast with the sunny color.

Which would you choose? Which ones would you present if you could only present two?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Make your own art

Having fun this evening, listening to Sam Cooke (who I'm told my parents knew before he became famous). Needed a break and started creating shapes just using what is available in QuarkXPress 9. You can use InDesign CS5.5, Pages, or Open Office to just play. Here are two projects.

The first is a party postcard. Take a circle and a rectangle. Create a color palette, use gradients and transparency to create the effect you want. Apply some simple color and type effects, and suddenly what was plain is given dimension.

The second started with star bursts of different shapes and sizes. I added a square with a simple border, type, and a photo inset (no her name isn't Peggy Sue) to round out the look. All in an hour or so (sounds like an ad).

How will I use this time of play? To be honest I don't know. I can only trust it will come in handy. Hope you got a few ideas.

Finishing off with Shania Twain, "Any Man of Mine. . .Whoo!" See you next time.