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How I know I'm a Graphic Designer

If you're played the video game Tetris for any period of time, you may be aware of the phenomenon called the “Tetris Effect.” What it does it causes your eyes and mind to see the real world around you as blocks that can form together. This can seep into your thoughts and dreams long after you stop playing the game. I experience a form of this every day. But not related to Tetris. My habit is seeing the world through the eyes of a Graphic Designer.

I thought I would share some funny but real examples of how being a Graphic Designer has affected my life outside of the work I do and how I preserve the world around me.

  • My first instinct is to ⌘+Z when I make any mistake in real life.
  • I’ve almost been in car accidents because I was noticing the typography on a billboard.
  • I’ve scrapped ideas for tattoos because I couldn’t decide on the correct typeface.
  • I’ve been too busy studying the pattern on someone’s shirt to hear what they were saying.
  • On occasion, I’ve been too busy trying to see something in the negative space that I can’t figure out what a logo represents.
  • I have to read every magazine twice because the first time to look at the design and the second to read it.
  • I’ve analyzed snow-cover yards over their use “white space.”
  • I can use keyboard shortcuts at light speed and blindfolded, but I can hardly type a paragraph of text without looking at my keyboard.
  • When giving directions I describe the typefaces on signs instead of names of businesses.
  • I’ve cleaned my monitor more times than I’ve cleaned the windshield of my car.
  • I’ve hard someone mention a beach ball and immediately thought they were referring to OS X’s spinning pinwheel.
  • I have a had time eating out at a restaurant because I’m usually too busy critiquing the menu design to decide what to order.
  • I’ve bought books and albums knowing nothing about them other than the design of the jacket appealed to me.

I could go on and on but I'm sure you get the idea. I'm willing to bet, no matter what your profession, you're trained to view the world in a way specific to your job. I'd love to hear some more examples coming from or outside of the design field. How has your work changed the way you see things?


If you want something done right, don't do it yourself

When I hire someone else to do a job for me, I make sure they’re not just looking up a “how to” video on YouTube. They need more than just to tools for the job. I want someone who truly understands the task at hand and can execute it properly. When I hire a plumber, I want someone who is educated and licensed in the field - not just anyone with a wrench. And when I have an electrician re-wiring my home, I’m not going to lecture them on how it should be done. I’m sure almost everyone else is this way with the people they hire, except when it comes to graphic designers.

Graphic designers don’t seem to receive the same respect that other professionals get. Some people believe because they have a computer and printer they can design. And others think a designers job is to put on paper exactly what the client’s mental image for the project is. Obviously, a client knows what they are looking for and what they want, but a designer also knows what will work best for the client so there needs to be some creative collaboration and cooperation. Also, I understand that as humans, we are all creative in our own right and each have an individual sense of style. However, I can’t help but think that graphic design, as an industry, is one that everyone thinks they could dip their toe into, thus devaluing the whole industry. Why do so many think they could be a graphic designer and have the right to spew forth loads of creative advice? I believe for a number of possible reasons.

It starts when we’re kids. We are all told by teachers, parents, and families that your coloring/finger paintings/drawings/creations are all fantastic and that you’re talented. This works great to build overall confidence and encourages children to strive for a goal of excellence. But if you are constantly told this by the people who mean the most to you, you are going to start believing you have a heightened sense of artistic abilities which may be hard to shrug off. Combine this with the fact that from an early age, we are all media-trained from an early age by a constant bombardment of advertisements. We are all indoctrinate to recognize the nuances of branding through osmosis.

It is very easy for everyone nowadays to open up Microsoft Office or any photo-editing software and play around with clip art, word art, and various templates to create a menu or brochure. This doesn’t make that person a ‘designer.’ Having instant access to this kind of software makes people believe that have the right to call themselves a graphic designer. Before design software became so prevalent, I never heard of any instances of an amateur grabbing a pencil and paper to create their own business cards and letterheads. Mark Busse from Industrial Brand wrote a great piece on his experience with this in ‘No, I’m Not A Graphic Designer’ in which he states he deserves a better title than ‘Graphic Designer’ to separate him from the poseurs.

If it’s true that each and every one of us is truly creative, what actually defines a graphic designer Training. No matter if it is self-taught or through college courses, a true graphic designer knows the ins and outs of basic fundamental such as the principles of design. We’ve memorized the elements of design and know how and when to use them best. A graphic designer is able to navigate through their tools with ease and not have to rely on computer software and over-used filters or effects to create their work.

Most importantly, a graphic designer cannot turn their creativity off Marnie B has a great list of comical anecdotes about hard core designers, a lot of which I can personally attest to. It’s nearly impossible for me to order a meal at a restaurant because I’m too busy redesigning the logo and signage in my head to actually read the menu. As truly creative beings, graphic designers eat, sleep, and drink design. We relish being bound to this creative lifestyle. 

Sure, anyone can create a logo or design. Just as anyone can build a house. Or install new breaks on a car. But will that job be done correctly? A graphic designer knows their job is to choose the right concept for the intended market and convey the client’s messages in a clear, concise way.

There are probably hundreds more points to define graphic designers that I’ve missed! But what are your thoughts on this? What do you fell makes a person a true graphic designer? Do you feel that the creative industry is devalued by amateurs and poseurs? What do you say to people when they give you creative solutions or suggestions that you know will not work? 


What's new is familiar with Sony's PlayStation 4

We’re now on the heels of Microsoft’s reveal for the next Xbox console (May 21, 2013). Before we get too excited, let’s not forget about their biggest competitor, Sony, and what we already know about their PlayStation 4. The PS4 is described as having ‘supercharged PC architecture’ with an X86-based CPU, enhanced PC GPU, 8GB of unified memory, and hard drive storage. With a slew of new features such as cross-compatible with smartphones and tablets, Gaikai integration for cloud computing and backwards compatibility, and a new DualShock 4 controller, it’s hard to see what’s not there. What’s truly missing is the Spider-Man font.

Sony ditched the original Playstation 3 logo when they unveiled the Slim PS3 model in 2009, in favor of a logotype more reminiscent of what was found on the PlayStation 2 in 2000 and PlayStationPortible in 2004. In a move I find interesting for them – how many logos do they really need for one brand? – it looks like they are staying consistent and keeping with this style with the PS4. Similar to the revamped PS3 logo, the PS4’s typography uses friendly, more trendy, rounded edges while the PS2 and PSP had sharp angles.

The PSVita’s logo fits right in with this style using the new, rounded characters. So it looks like Sony’s branding could finally become unified throughout. If they want us to use all of their devices together, it would help if they all had the same look and feel. While it’ll be sad not thinking about Sam Rami and the Dr. Octopus train fight scene every time I boot up my next Playstation console, I’m glad they didn’t go with the Amazing Spider-Man font.

How to increase productivity in OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion 


Finder's Status Bar and Path Bar are two great ways of navigating through all your folders and files. These two features are quite handy so it's strange to me that Mountain Lion hides these features by default. If you want to improve efficiency while working, follow these simple instructions to make sure you're getting the most out of what OS X has to offer.

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How to Show the Status Bar: From any Finder window, pull down the View menu and select Show Status Bar.

The Finder window Status Bar (highlighted yellow above) displays handy information such as how much space is available on your Mac or external hard drives, as well as how many files are in the current directory. It's a good idea to show this at all times.

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How to Show the Path Bar: From any Finder window, click the View menu and choose Show Path Bar.

The Path Bar (highlighted yellow adove) not only shows your full path of all Finder windows, but it's also interactive. You can click on it to jump to locations, and even drag and drop items into any of the folders displayed. This is a time-saver for users who are often digging around deep in the file system directory.

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Voilà! Just by making those two changes, you've shaved yourself a considerable amount of time and clicking every day you use your Mac.


Creating custom swatch libraries in Illustrator

Color is crucial to the success or failure of a design so finding the right colors for the job be a difficult task. Adobe Illustrator can simplify the process by allowing you to browse colors within a color scheme, and a number of swatch books are provided to you. They’re a good start but can be overwhelming and tiring to browse. Creating your own custom swatch libraries, organized by project or client, is paramount for better color management.

  1. Open the swatches panel: Window > Swatches
  2. Locate or create the desired swatches. You can create a new swatch by clicking the New Swatch button at the bottom of the Swatches panel.
  3. To add a color swatch from an existing swatch book, simply click and drag the swatch into the Swatches panel.

    You may also want to organize swatches into color groups for easier browsing. For example, group all your reds and browns together. To create a color group: Select the swatches to be included by clicking them while holding the Command (⌘) key. Click the New Color Group button at the bottom of Swatches panel, name it, and click OK. Add additional swatches to the color group by clicking and dragging them into the group.
  4. Once you have organized the swatch panel with all the appropriate swatches, click the Swatches panel options button in the upper right corner. Select Save Swatch Library as ASE (Adobe Swatch Exchange - this makes the swatch library available in other Adobe programs) or Save Swatch Library as AI (this will only be saved for Adobe Illustrator).
  5. To open a swatch library, click the Swatches panel options button, select Open Swatch Library. The swatch library you created will be listed under its given name.
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