Happy New Year!

Well, here it is, the last day of 2007. I can't complain, I had an awesome year--from the growth of my business, to the birth of my third daughter, to all the great people I got to know and work with this past year.

And here's to a great 2008! I am already planning for a bigger and better year: more great clients and projects, a marketing plan I'm really excited about, more blog entries... no more kids, though (we've got our hands full with 3 :)

So to all out there: Happy new year! Have fun, be safe, and I'll see you next year!



6 Degrees of Separation

So, I'm sitting at my computer tonight, reading a couple blogs, and lo and behold, I come across this picture:

Whoop de do... Brad and Angelina shopping. But the pink scarf with the embroidered flowers caught my eye. That looks like--wait a minute, it is!--one of my client's products! And--OMG--there's the tag I designed hanging from the purple scarf! The client is One Kid--they make the most adorable kids clothes--and I've done a decent amount of work for them, including their catalogs, website and clothing tags--which Brad Pitt may or may not be looking at in this picture (He could be saying, "Hey Ang, get this scarf. Not only is it cute and well made, but the tag design is really cool!" OK, a girl can dream).

Of course, this is probably the closest I'll ever get to Brad Pitt...

(Brad and Angelina photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Fresh Air Ideas

So I've had this marketing idea kind of lingering in my head for the past couple of weeks... and unfortunately, I haven't had a moment to myself to really concentrate on turning it into the fantastic idea that it has the potential to be. Until today.

It was a balmy 50 degrees here in Connecticut, so I decided to take a late afternoon walk. All by myself, for one hour. I walked my usual route, which includes a swing through Fairfield U; which was really nice, because the campus is completely empty. And that's when the ideas started to pour in. I couldn't get home fast enough to write it all down.

It was nice to get outside and get some fresh air for an extended period of time, but even nicer to come home with a page's worth of great ideas. If this is what happens when I get fresh air, I definitely have to get out more often!!


I'm back!

Yesterday I got my first new "design" job since having Eleanor. And you know what? After a 2 month design hiatus (I've been working, but it's been on the development side), I am so excited to get back to creatively thinking!


Best Gadgets of 2007

So yesterday I was nytimes.com, trying to find the electronic version of an article I read so I could post it to the blog (it was all about how the gifts from the 12 Days of Christmas would cost thousands upon thousands of dollars--and really, what on earth would anyone do with partridges, calling birds, maids a milking, etc? Give me a pear tree, and --of course--the golden rings, and I'm good); but I found something much more interesting instead: The Pogies.

I don't read David Pogue's column on a regular basis, but I do enjoy it once in a while. And I'm a sucker for all things "best of 2007" so this column was a natural read. So here's what I think is cool, based on Pogue's list:

VISUAL VOICE MAIL, from the iPhone. Well, duh. I don't know who came up with the current voice mail system now (that Pogue argues--and I agree--is meant to eat up your minutes), but it seems awfully archaic to listen to your messages in the order they were received, compared to listening to whatever message you want, in whatever order you want.

T-MOBILE HOTSPOT@HOME. This is the freakin' BOMB. The Hotspot @ Home is just that, except instead of wireless internet access, it's mobile phone access. Which roughly translates into this: all calls made from a T-Mobile Hotspot are free, and don't count against your monthly minutes. Which means that if you have the Hotspot @ Home, all calls you make from home are free. And anywhere else there's a T-Mobile Hotspot (Starbucks, Borders, Kinkos...). Brilliant.

AUDIO-LIMITING EARBUDS. Earbuds for kids that only allow the volume to reach 80 decibals, as opposed to 120 for a standard ipod. Awesome if you've ever been in the position of hearing your child's backseat music--via earbuds--from the front.

MAPPING BREAKTHROUGHS. I love love love google maps. The technology just gets better and better. Over the summer, mapping out a route to Ridgefield, I found that you can take their directions, and modify them by dragging the route line onto another road. If that's not cool enough, there's the live traffic data.

CELLULAR FLASH DRIVE. You know those cell phone modems you can get, so you can have internet access anywhere there's phone service? Well, Novatel's gone one better: they've made a USB antenna that doubles as a flash drive. Awesome.


Merry Christmas!!

Well, it's 9 at night, and Christmas is just about over. The presents have all been opened (and my! How many presents there were!), we ate dinner (and then some!), the kiddies are just about all in bed (no doubt with big plans for tomorrow and all their new toys), and Mattio is at his computer, anticipating the uninstall of Windows Vista.


Yes, Mattio's big gift this year was Windows XP, to replace the version of Vista he is tired of fighting with (he got some other stuff too, but that was the one thing he asked for).

What cracks me up, is the fact that Mattio's PC keeps proving those Apple commercials right, time and time again. Cancel or Allow? We've been there, done that. Now he's actually downgrading to the previous operating system...

Thank goodness he has his Macs to fall back on.

Hope Santa was good to all out there... Merry Christmas!

PS. How freakin AWESOME is this t shirt Mattio got me??! I am SO an original design gangsta, cause I totally rock the white space!!


A Festivus miracle!

Tomorrow is Festivus, and what better way to pay tribute than through a clip of all the festivus scenes in that classic Seinfeld episode (unless you have an aluminum pole).

By the way, do you ever watch an episode of Seinfeld, and forget just how great it really is? I always forget about all the subplots... Watching this particular episode tonight, I completely forgot about the "two face" girl, the H & H bagel strike, and the Human Fund ("money for people"). Classic!


I confess...

OK, so in my last post I proclaimed that I was not a geek (sort of--by the end of the post I 'fessed up). Truth be told, I guess I am a bit of a geek. But not a computer nerd... I'd like to say I'm more of a design geek.

I was sort of laughed at last week, when I was talking with a little too much enthusiasm about an article in the latest HOW Magazine, about Helvetica alternatives (I found the article quite fascinating... I mean, as great as it is, you can't use Helvetica for everything!); and just today--to prove my design geekdom--I got a little giddy over the mail: the biggest issue of Graphic Design: USA came: The Annual Awards issue.

I love this, and other annual awards issues (Comm Arts, Print, etc.) because it's nice to see what else is out there, and what else is judged as "the best." It's also completely inspirational--I keep these issues out in the open, as they have sparked a couple of great ideas. Oh yeah, and I, ahem, won 6 of these awards myself this past year :D

I'm only halfway through the issue, and there's some really great stuff in there. A ton of beautiful designs in the announcements/cards category. I can't wait to get to IDs and stationery!

So there you have it: Confessions of a real life design geek.


No. Freakin. Way.

I am not a geek, I swear. OK, I have been known to get a little over-excited over fonts (and this month's issue of HOW Magazine is the typography issue!! But I digress). But I am a bit of a Mac enthusiast (I don't think I'll ever be able to properly express just how thrilled I was when my PC using, Mac-hating husband asked for a Mac for his birthday a couple of years ago).

Years, years, years ago, one of my first jobs was laying out the MicroWarehouse catalog (God, that is so embarrassing!); and vendors used to send us stupid promotional stuff all the time: Computer Associates magnets, Linksys notepads, Cisco keychains... stupid tchotke garbage that was wasted on me. However, every once in a while the folks over at MacWarehouse--one cubicle row over--would share their promotional booty; I still have T shirts advertising System 7 (now with Sherlock!) and a great "Think Different" baseball cap that I still wear to this day.

So when I just came across RedLightRunner.com, I got a little giddy. It's actually an online reseller of Apple... stuff, I guess would be the right word for it.

A G4 Cube (remember those? Remember how hot they got? You could seriously fry an egg on those things!) T shirt. The original Bondi iMac Mouse yo yo (It glows in the dark!). Nano refrigerator magnets. They even have rainbow Apple Computer stickers (old school, as Apple dropped the "Computer" part of it's name with the launch of the iPhone). And they get new inventory in all the time!! And yes, I totally signed up to be notified. Which I guess makes me a geek.

Blue New Year?

So according to Pantone, not only is 2008 the year of the Rat, but it is also the year of blue... Blue Iris, that is.

I don't know how I missed this, but apparently Pantone has been assigning colors to years for quite some time now. I mean, I know every year there are some colors that are hotter than others (2007 was Chili Pepper Red... interesting it wasn't some form of Green--lord knows that's all anyone talked about), but I was completely unaware that there was a specific color picked for each year.

The Times article goes on to talk about fashion, and how blue has been popping up on the runways of late. Which lead me to think of the great speech Meryl Streep (as Miranda Priestly) gives to a dumbfounded Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wear Prada:

"This... 'stuff'? Oh... ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don't know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you're trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don't know is that that sweater is not just blue, it's not turquoise, it's not lapis, it's actually cerulean. You're also blithely unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar De La Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn't it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of 8 different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic casual corner where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it's sort of comical how you think that you've made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you're wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of stuff."

Interesting... she's talking about the color blue.


Office Space

I am lucky enough to work in the comfort of my own home; but unfortunately, a lot of people out there can't say that. I have worked in many an office, and sadly, many a cubicle. And they're every bit as drab and depressing as you can imagine. I think the only thing worse than spending the better part of a day in a cold, grey cubicle, is sharing that cold, grey space with someone you dislike (trust me, I've done that before, too).

But with makeovers--especially home makeovers--being all the rage right now, why not makeover your work space to fit your personality? And I don't mean a couple of pictures of your boyfriend/girlfriend/kids/family/pets; I'm talking extremes. Cube Chic: Taking your Office Space from Drab to Fab is a new book by interior designer Kelly Moore, and wow, does she have some great ideas!

I love the cover cube (Zen Cube), but I'm also partial--and who wouldn't be?-- to the Costanza-esque Nap cube (complete with cereal dispenser!). You can view a slideshow of a couple of other great cubes here.

By the way, according to Amazon, customers who bought this book also bought the brilliantly titled Pimp My Cubicle: Take Your Workspace from Boring to Bling! Oh, and the author, in case you're wondering, is Reverend Smoothello G. Debaclous. Sadly, this book is in the bargain bin, but maybe with Kelly's book there'll be a renewed interest.


Merry Xmas (War is Over)

I met with my pal Cyndy, of art + interiors, today, to go over her monthly favorites email. Every month she sends out an email to all of her contacts with a couple of her artists, and a quote to go with it. The December quote she picked is simply amazing, and I really want to share:

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there’d be peace.”
— John Lennon

How appropriate, especially at this time of the year. I love Christmas, and I love shopping, and I love giving gifts; but I would happily trade it all in for peace.


Schweaty Balls

As I've posted before, I am in full-on holiday mode: we've had Christmas music on for the past month now (I just wondered what on earth I would listen to come December 26th), the stockings hung and the tree decorated, cards sent, gifts bought and wrapped, and cookies baked. Well, there is one thing I haven't done this Christmas... I haven't purchased any Schweaty Balls:

I just about lose it when Molly Shannon says, "I just can't wait to get my mouth around this ball!" Seriously, I don't know how they can keep a straight face.


I'm away from my desk...

There was an interesting article in the Styles section of today's Times. It was all about how people find inspiration and work better when they're not at their desk. Some companies (beyond Google) have taken the traditional desk/cubical away and replaced it with work areas, lounges, conference rooms, and/or rotating desks.

I don't know about the rotating desk idea (never sitting at the same desk 2 days in a row), but I find that I do tend to get inspired away from my "office". Starbucks is my home away from home (only before school lets out though--then it's only good for making me feel old). The change of scenery is nice, but I think I get more done due to the fact that I won't pony up for internet access, therefore forcing me to complete the task at hand.

The Times refers to the place where work actually gets done as "White Space." I refer to my white space as writing off my $10 coffee :)


I heart Tim Gunn

So Mattio and I are not the biggest TV watchers in the world... We watch the Thursday night NBC line up (except ER, or errrr, as Mattio says), and I'm a big Heroes fan. Other than that (and sports), Mattio will turn on SportCenter at night, or I'll flip on the Today Show in the AM just for background noise; or we'll happen to catch our new favorite: How It's Made (fascinating show, by the way--guarantee you'll be hooked. I have no idea when it's on, but I know it's on the Discovery Channel and Discovery Times). But except for Mondays and Thursdays, we don't make time to watch TV.

But with Eleanor, I've been up at some strange hours and let me tell you, if you think there's nothing on during prime time, you haven't watched TV at 3 AM. Along with a steady stream of Gibbs commercials (seriously, who are these people marketing to airing commercials non-stop at all hours of the night/morning??), there's a whole lot of nothing on.

But sometimes I'm lucky enough to catch a rerun of Project Runway. It holds my interest, but not enough for me to look up when it's actually on (besides, if I did that, what would I watch at 3 AM?). And if I'm truly lucky, I'll catch Tim Gunn's Guide to Style. I ain't gonna lie, there's been times where Eleanor's done eating and back in bed, and I'm still watching Tim and Veronica's latest transformation.

Tim Gunn is fascinating. He makes the worst news a bit more bearable. Seriously, when a contestant gets outed on PR, and he has to tell them to pack their things, he makes it sound not quite as bad as it really is (sometimes he makes himself out to feel just as bad as the recently cut). And as much as he hates some of the clothes on Guide to Style, he tells each makeover-ee with a little more panache than anyone else can muster.

I seriously want Tim Gunn to break bad news to me; I think I would hug him, just to make him feel better about the whole thing.



Wow--it's been a while, huh? Well, I'm back! Since I can't imagine it's very entertaining to keep up with a blog that hasn't been updated in quite some time, I'm making that one of my almost-new-year's resolutions (almost-new-years, because I plan on starting now, rather than on January 1).

Actually, updating the blog more often falls under my biggest almost-new-year's resolution: getting organized. This past year has been a great one, business-wise; however at times I could have been more organized and found myself with a bit more time.

So starting today, I am planning on getting organized: creating task lists and deadlines, so I can keep myself, as well as my clients happy. Of course, my early Christmas present has much to do with that: I got the new Treo, from Palm, so I can check my calendar, task lists, and email on the go.

So now I can check off blog entry off my list--however, I have a ton of other things to do... so I am off to check them off, as well. But let me know some of your resolutions for the new year (or almost new year, if you're like me and want to get a jump on things) in the comments. Maybe I'll be inspired to add to my resolution list!


be thankful

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I have been in full on holiday mode for about the past week and a half, whistling Christmas songs (and desperately trying to find the holiday station on Sirius--anyone know?), baking Christmas treats, and watching Christmas movies; the girls and I started the holiday movie season with Elf on Saturday night--this Saturday night I'm looking forward to the Grinch and a Christmas Story).

Unfortunately, there are far too many people out there who don't share my cheer; people who are more eager for the 5AM opening of Wal-Mart on Friday than they are for the upcoming holiday season (my shopping, btw, was started in late August because of the baby's due date. I still have a few things left to get, but for the most part, I'm just about done. And let me tell you, I'd start that early again next year, too: the stores are far less crowded, the sales are just as good, and the financial impact is spread out over a longer period of time, rather than a few short weeks).

So on this day before Thanksgiving, I'd like to give thanks for all the wonderful things that happened this year, from the healthy birth of our daughter, to the successful year traciedesigns has had. Thank you to all of my clients, who are awesome to begin with, and huge thanks to those that passed my name on. Thank you to my family, for supporting me and the crazy hours I keep. And thank you especially to everyone reading this--I know I don't post often, but it's nice to know there's a small handful of you out there that read this blog.

Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday!


New Baby Girl!

Well, our newest addition decided to pay us a little visit 9 days early (which, quite frankly, was just fine by me! :)

She was born early Saturday morning, 11/3, and is perfect in every way... right down to the mohawk she was born with. She has been a real treat since we got home... I can't even complain of sleeplessness, because she really hasn't been that bad.

Anyway, she's the reason behind the lack of posts lately... Once we settle into a routine, I promise to post a little more regularly.



The kindness of strangers

Lately I've been kind of bumming about the state of our society today: rude, obnoxious people who are in such a rush that they become oblivious to the world functioning around them. It seems lately I've stumbled across all kinds: the woman on her cell phone (not hands-free) in the monsterous SUV who tried to cut me off and pass me on the left--on a one lane road, mind you; the senior citizen that couldn't get out of the market fast enough and almost mowed me down in the process (I know I'm moving a little slower nowadays, but the 5 people in front of me weren't exactly moving at a jackrabbit's pace, either); the woman who interrupted my little one's Enchanted Castle experience because she just couldn't let her voice mail pick up (instead, she answered her phone with a quick, "I'm at the Enchanted Castle, can I call you back?" Seriously, you couldn't turn the ringer off for a half hour and let voice mail do your dirty work?)

All of this, combined with a few other choice incidents have really bummed me out of late. Are people so self-absorbed nowadays that they can't see beyond their own needs?

Well, I got a little attitude adjustment today, courtesy of a problem I was having with a website I'm working on. The site--which isn't live yet, so I can't go into too much detail--has a main menu going across the top of the page; each category has it's own drop down menu. Directly below that is a flash movie--nothing fancy, just 5 photographic fades. Problem is, the drop down menus are created in javascript, and the flash movie is, well, duh, it's flash. And little did I know, but certain web browsers (ahem, PC web browsers) layer flash as the top most layer--which means that my fancy little drop down menus were hidden behind the flash movie. Not exactly what the client was looking for (or me, for that matter).

So I spent a good part of yesterday looking for the solution; fortunately, this is a common problem (whew, it's not just me!). Unfortunately, the common fixes I found weren't doing anything to remedy this problem. I even enlisted Mattio in the process (during halftime, of course), and he kept coming up empty as well. So I turned to a flash forum.

I wasn't expecting much, to tell the truth; but I posted my problem (as well as the numerous solutions I had tried), and within hours I got a response. The genius behind the response hooked me up with a clever little download, as well as some fancy script. Mattio tutored me on where to put it in my code, and voila! In 5 minutes we had the site working the way it should.

So thank you, strange genius on the flash forum, for not only helping me solve a complex problem with your javascript/flash wisdom, but also reaffirming my faith in the kindness of strangers. Now, if only there was a forum in cell phone etiquette...



Just a quick note to apologize for not keeping up with the blog the past few weeks. I've been trying to finish up some bigger projects before the baby comes (3 more weeks), on top of the fact that I have officially hit that 10th month slump. I hope that once I tie up a few more loose ends, I'll find myself with a little more time to devote to the blog. That is, until our newest addition arrives :)



About nine months ago, my pal Cyndy (of art + interiors) came to me asking if I could help her with a marketing email she was planning on sending out once a month. The email was going to be along the same lines as the kate spade favorites email we both get: in this case, instead of a sampling of accessories, Cyndy is showcasing her artist's works.

She's sent out about 6 monthly "favorites" emails so far, and the idea has been well-received. She uses Constant Contact to actually do most the legwork for her: once the email is designed and coded, Constant Contact sends it to the addresses in her address book that she specifies, stores the email and photos, keeps track of who opens the email (even multiple times!)... it's really a great service.

But I have to say, it's pretty refreshing on my end to sit down with her once a month and go over her artist's works--sometimes it's hard to choose work to showcase (only 4 artists are in the email each month), and sometimes--like this past month--we see a piece of work and the ideas just come to us.

If you're ever in the market for fine art, I would strongly suggest getting in touch with Cyndy--her artists are amazingly talented, and she has a great eye for talent.



Due to lack of space, my home office the past few years has been the dining room table (unfortunately, I've found that too many people share my concept of "office space;" I feel for you, I really do). However, all that changed today when the UPS man came and delivered my new desk!

(That's not the photo of my actual desk, rather the photo from the West Elm catalog. My desk is actually in a stain called "chocolate." Hey, I'm pregnant--of course I'm ordering furniture in colors named after food!)

Part of the appeal of this desk is that the bottom half slides out from underneath it, almost doubling it in size--perfect for our "cozy" little space--when I'm done for the day, I can slide the desk back together and it will be out of the way.

I can't wait to start using it. I'm even more excited that when people come to my house--as the dining room is the first room you walk into--the first thing people see won't be the traciedesigns office :)


You get what you pay for

So this morning Mattio alerted me to what I refer to as a design chop shop--basically, an assembly line of "designers" (term used loosely) doing logos, business cards, websites, etc... for a ridiculously low price. Now, don't get me wrong; I am all for saving money--however, I don't do it at the expense of my business, and neither should you.

This place--which I won't name--is designing logos for $200. And you know what? You're getting a $200 logo. The only attention-getting thing about these logos is how bad they are (I won't even get into the websites--it's just wrong on so many levels). A lot of times, your company's identity is the first thing people see, it's like the welcome mat to your business.

Maybe I'm a design snob (OK, there shouldn't be a maybe at all in that sentence!), but if I had a choice between 2 companies offering the exact same service--one with a well-designed logo, and one with a logo that was just thrown together--I'm starting with the company with the well-designed logo, no doubt about it. My reasoning (besides the whole design-snob bit)? This company has obviously taken the time and spent a little money to ensure that they look like professionals. If they're doing that for their own company, imagine the level of service they can provide for me.

Just another case of you get what you pay for...


Is this what Starbucks thinks of me?

I went to Starbucks this AM to combat the little sleep I got last night with a big 'ole Frappaccino. I ordered my normal Mocha Light Frappaccino; I got a Mocha Light Frappaccino.

However, you know how they write the initials of your drink on the cup? Well this is how mine was labeled:



Ahhhh... Saks

So today I found myself at Saks; which, quite frankly, is easy to do when you're me. I actually had to go to the Apple Store in Stamford, which is conveniently (or not so conveniently, depending how much money I have in my wallet) located in the Stamford Mall, right by Saks. So, faced with the close proximity, what's a girl to do?

While browsing in Saks (today was a not-so-convenient kind of day), I noticed their visuals (mannequins, store displays, etc.); I do in every store, as that was my first job out of college. But what struck me as particularly awe-inspiring, was the "trend" signage throughout the store: high heels! Capes! Textured cardigans!

But instead of the usual high-fashion photo accompanying those words, the artist had worked clever illustrations into the script font (which is Sloop, I believe). Behold:

I couldn't get enough: not only were they gorgeous--how could you resist buying a cape after seeing this?--but they were so inspiring as well. Before I saw these, I was trying out a similar idea for a logo I'm working on. The idea wasn't really panning out, I just couldn't make it work; but once I saw these I got completely re-inspired. The logo--which I won't show right now, because I'm still in the first phases of design--works well now, so well that as of now it's my favorite out of the small handful I've designed thus far.

Just goes to show you, inspiration strikes when you least expect it!

PS. The flagship Saks in NYC has a great marketing campaign going on for their revamped shoe department: it's own ZIP code.
''Our new shoe floor is so big that it deserves a ZIP code of its own,'' said a Saks spokeswoman. Ummm, seriously: how cool is that?

PPS. If you own a Mighty Mouse, and the ball gets jammed up and won't scroll one way or another, clean it with a damp cloth. That's what I learned at the Apple Store today.


Shameless self promotion

Today the kids were off from school, so we (finally!) got some back to school shopping done. After an exhausting outing, I wanted nothing more to do than to come home and lay down... but first let me check the answering machine, and pick this toy up, and oh, yeah, I need to check the mail... (you know, the usual).

After checking the mail, the need for nap completely left: I had a pretty nice package waiting for me from Graphic Design: USA; the 2007 American Graphic Design Awards came in! Out of all the contests I had entered this year, I probably had the most entries in this one (10). And I'm happy to report, 6 of those entries came out winners!

They are as follows:

Bodd Fitness: website

Imagine Imaging (now Justin Marantz Photography): website redesign

Saturnia: logo

Saturnia: stationery

traciedesigns: website

traciedesigns: 06 holiday card

In addition, let me add that this is the second year in a row Imagine Imaging has won; last year I received an award for website design for their site as well. This year we went bigger and fancier, and it's nice to hear that the judges thought the same.

So thank you, thank you, thank you, to all my clients for trusting my design skills and ability, and for going with me in the first place :) And thank you to all those clients that keep coming back for more, and who refer me out to others. I've said before that I find that a referral from a client is one of the best compliments I can receive.


If only I had the time...

I love the Thursday edition of the NY Times; there's Thursday Styles (a much, much more abbreviated version of Sunday Styles), the Arts section, of course, and Home and Garden.

In last Thursday's Home and Garden section, the cover story was about people who buy/find stuff from Ikea (or, as Mattio affectionately refers to it, i-crap-a), and modify it to how they would use it. Like the guy who took some broken Ikea chairs, attached a surfboard to the top, and called it a table. Inneresting....

Further into the article, it turns out, that yes, there really is a website for everything: witness Ikea Hacker. This blog documents--through reader contributions--the different ideas out there for Ikea furniture. Got some spare sofa legs? Don't discard them, buy some wood and fashion the whole thing into a table! Tired of not having enough storage? Add some hinges to your dalselv bed frame, and voila!

There's a lot of decoupage on the site, but also some pretty cool ideas for some otherwise plain, unstained, DIY, cheap furniture.


Skinny Betty

I admit, I don't watch a ton of TV... and although Ugly Betty gets rave reviews, I've yet to see an episode. But I have, however, seen the star of the show, America Ferrera, enough to know that girlfriend's got some curves. Not in a bad way at all, I think her body is great--I've said before how I wish more actresses would embrace a "normal" looking body rather than the size 0 that seems to be today's standard.

So when I saw this month's cover of Glamour magazine, I thought to myself, "Hmmmm. Something's just not right here..."

Looks like America Ferrera either went on a crazy diet, or Faith Hill's photoshop magician really went to town. Behold, the un-photoshopped version of the actress:

What really gets me going, is the following cover lines:

America Ferrera: Ugly Betty is Hot! (But apparently not hot enough for our cover without digitally taking off a couple of inches)

1st Annual Figure Flattery Issue (huh?)

and my favorite:The Secret Reasons Women Gain Weight (and in really small print below: And How to Stop)

Hey Glamour, the not-so-secret reason that women gain weight is that you place women with "real" bodies on the cover, only you're afraid that their extra 20 pounds won't sell, so you digitally alter their waistline. It's no secret that women's magazines--especially the covers--are heavily photoshopped; unfortunately a lot of women choose to ignore that, buy the magazine, and get depressed reading about girls with unrealistic bodies, like Keira Knightly (someone please feed that poor girl!). And when a woman with actual curves makes it to the cover, she's gets digital liposuction.


Today is Tuesday...

Tonight at dinner, we were discussing one of my little one's books, "Today is Monday." The book, which has a song that goes along with it (or vice versa), goes through all the days of the week, and the foods associated with them. For instance:

"Today is Monday
Monday string beans,
All you hungry children, come and eat it up!"

The discussion involved what food was on Tuesday (spaghetti), to which Mattio replied, "Tuesday isn't spaghetti, Wednesday is spaghetti!" When Ashlee went to correct him, he argued back, "Wednesday is spaghetti--it's Prince Spaghetti day." She had no idea what he was talking about.

But anyone from our generation surely remembers the kid on the bicycle, pedaling home furiously because it was Wednesday, and Wednesday, after all, was Prince spaghetti day. The commercial hasn't been shown in years, but it's pretty amazing that the association of Wednesday and Prince spaghetti still holds up. That's some pretty effective advertising, no?

So of course, I got to thinking about other commercials and catch phrases from my youth: "Where's the beef?" will always be associated with Wendy's; "I can't believe I ate the whole thing," Alka Seltzer (even better: "plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is"); and the famous anti-drug PSA, where the dad confronts the kid about his drugs: "I learned it by watching you!"

I could go on and on... I wonder how many ads that are out today are going to be remembered 20 years from now?


Packaging oxymoron?

While I don't drive a Prius, and my clothes aren't made from recycled organic cotton, I do like to think that I do my part for the environment. I recycle everything (seriously, our bin is overflowing every single week), I bring my own bags to the grocery store (and it absolutely infuriates me if I have a bagger that just doesn't know/care, and fills my bags only halfway and then starts giving me plastic bags. Ummmm... defeat the purpose, much?), and just recently, we started using compact florescent lightbulbs in the house.

I just changed one today... and as I pulled the new compact florescent out of the package, something struck me as odd: the package that my 4 lightbulbs came in--lightbulbs that are supposed to use less energy and last longer, and therefore be better for the environment--the package is plastic. Like the kind of plastic that you have to use scissors, or a knife to open. Like the kind of plastic that something like batteries come packaged in. Does anyone else see where I'm going with this?

I know I will recycle the package once I finish it, but... will everybody? Seriously, the whole marketing behind these lightbulbs is that they are better for the environment, because they use less energy. Don't you think that they'd be that much better if they came packaged in recycled cardboard or something?

Just one of those silly packaging conundrums that doesn't seem very well though out...


I gotta have more cowbell!

Just because the last couple of posts have featured youtube, I thought I'd throw this in as well:

One of my all-time favorites... I don't know what's funnier, the fact that Will Ferrell gets so lost in the character, the fact that Jimmy Fallon can't keep it together (watch him turn away to laugh on numerous occasions), or the fact that famed producer Bruce Dickinson has a fever, "and the only thing that will cure it is more cowbell."



Clever Ad

I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of the Cingular/AT&T (or whatever company name they're going by today--seriously, could they flip flop back and forth a little more?) dropped call ads. I think the concept is a good one, but man, are they poorly executed. The actors are awful, the circumstances awkward... I'm just not left with the feeling that Cingular/AT&T is the company to go with if I don't want dropped calls. It's more like, I want to smack all those people with dropped calls, especially the doofy fiancé who is talking to his future father in law.

However, I finally saw the entire Roger Clemens commercial:

This is it--this is that great concept, with a great execution. And think of all the other ads that they could do: Karl Rove, calling the President to tell him he's going to retire (cut to Bush jumping up and down, throwing a child-like tantrum); Britney Spears, calling her mom to tell her she's getting married again ("But momma, only with your blessing!"); David Chase, creator of the Sopranos and the man responsible for the disappointing last episode, on the phone with HBO ("I think I'm just going to end the show in a diner")... the possibilities are endless.


Original Design Gangsta

Came across this today, and it might just be the funniest thing I've seen in quite some time:

I love how Pantone 187 runs through his veins.

Word of Mouth

I just received the new issue of How Magazine yesterday, and upon flipping through it, I found a poll: "Do you send out self-promotions around the holidays?" There were supporting quotes for both sides, but the one that really stuck with me was the last no answer. The person pretty much said something along these lines: "I'm embarrassed to admit that in the 12 years I've been doing this, I've never sent out any type of self-promotion. Almost all of my work has come from word of mouth."

And this is embarrassing, how?

Anytime I get business that has come from a past client, friend or colleague, it makes me almost giddy with pride. I feel that my name wouldn't get passed on if I didn't provide a stellar level of service (because I know I wouldn't pass on someone else's name if I didn't feel that way about them), so I must be doing something right--right? Every time I get a phone call, or email from someone who has gotten my name from one of my clients/friends/colleagues, I want to throw that person a party. I certainly am not embarrassed to admit that the majority of my business comes from word of mouth; and I hope that I can continue to boast that.

So thank you, thank you, thank you! to all those who feel that my services are worthy of passing on to someone else! And who knows... maybe one day I will throw a party; with the skills of all my many clients, it will definitely be diverse, if anything (and of course, fun... cause I am known to throw a bitchin' party).


Vacation, all I ever wanted...

Ahhh... just got back from a much-needed week off spent up in Cape Cod (contrary to the above photo, the majority of the week was sunny and beautiful. This was one of the few pics I had that didn't have one of my kids in it :). I spent the week relaxing, catching up on some reading, and getting inspired. I have some pretty cool projects that look like they may come my way, so I'm excited to channel some of my vacation-inspired creativity towards them.

Now, if only I could take a vacation every time I needed inspiration...


Bookmark this!

Mattio has this uncanny ability to find the weirdest, and the coolest websites. The other day he found a pro-breastfeeding Cafepress site selling t-shirts that say "Eat at Mom's." Completely random, yet hysterical. But he also came across a "mom" blog--basically an online community for mothers (something I've been thinking about doing for quite some time... if only there was another couple of hours in the day!), and also Mashup, a site who's slogan is "Social Networking News." Eh, not really something I'd check everyday, but...

The reason he pointed it out was because he found this post on it: Web Design Toolbox: 50+ Tools for Web Designs. Basically a list of different websites for developers and designers.

The first part of the list is basically cheap competition for me: DIY websites. Definitely not my cup of tea, as I'm a firm believer in "you get what you pay for." And if you're looking for a cheap, copycat site with an overused template, then by all means. But I'm a firm believer in individuality.

But the rest of the list, well... it's pretty freakin' cool. The developer side has links to pages that will create automatic rounded corners in CSS, or test your site in different browsers. But what really got me excited was the designer side: sites where you can create custom color palettes (brilliant!), links to sites with free icons and buttons, inspiration sites for web designers (which to me, are priceless). It's a pretty cool list to have stumbled upon.

Oh, and a quick softball update: Last week, my daughter's softball team won the state championship, beating West Hartford 3-2 in 7 innings. I am so proud of this team--it's a great group of girls and I'm glad mine was a part of it.


Digital plastic surgery

Awww... look at Faith Hill on the cover of Redbook Magazine:

She looks great, doesn't she? Of course she does, she has like, a bazillion dollars to hire only the best hair and makeup people, not to mention personal trainers, chefs, and the like.

Apparently Redbook isn't doing too poorly either; they must have beaucoup bucks to hire only the best Photoshop artists, for behold Faith Hill sans retouching:

The sad thing is, she looks kind of, well, her age for one (which a quick search says she'll be 40 this year). But she doesn't look that bad in this picture. Unfortunately, in today's society, crow's feet and flabby arms don't sell magazines--sad, but true.

I've always admired actresses like Kate Winslet, who--besides being my birthday twin--has sworn off any photo retouching when it comes to magazines. Because while we all might enjoy a little digital lipo (oh, come on, it's completely painless!), it's somewhat refreshing to see "real" women on the cover of magazines, flabby arms and all.

Years ago, I used to work for a trade publication, not only laying out the magazine, but coordinating files for the printer as well. I also had to, on occassion, sit with my boss and go over cover shots. Then I would watch as he took his red pen to the poor model:

"Get rid of all blemishes--birthmarks and beauty marks included."

"Whiten teeth and eyes."

"Smooth laugh lines..." and so forth. I always, always felt terrible looking at his remarks--especially since nearly all of the models we worked with were drop-dead gorgeous. Ever since then, I've always looked at magazine covers and model photoshoots with a grain of salt.

Ah, the power of Photoshop.


Time flies

I can't believe it's the middle of July already--where has the summer gone? Anyways, just a quick post to apologize for not keeping up with the posting... it's been a crazy couple of weeks; old projects, lots of exciting new projects (which I will keep you up to date on), and softball.

Yes, that's right softball. My oldest's team just last night won the District 2 chamionship! They have this weekend off, and then it's on to the regionals all next week. So I'm looking at another crazy week filled with old projects, new projects... and lots of softball. And I will enjoy every minute of it.

Go Fairfield!


This guy's my hero

I always have to give major props to a man who understands a woman's foot, and her obssessive quest for the perfect shoe. Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, Kenneth Cole... and just today, I've added another name to the list: Michel Tcherevkoff.

Michel Tcherevkoff is a photographer (with a pretty impressive list of clients, if I do say so myself), who was shooting cosmetics one day, and was using flowers as props. He looked down at a leaf and saw a shoe:

    “The print was lying upside down on a table,” he recounts, “and I said — although no one was listening to me — ‘Hey, that looks like a shoe!’”

(Seriously, how cool is this guy? I thought I was the only one who say shoes in every day objects!)

Long story short, he started building these shoes out of flowers--and obviously photographing them, tweaking in Photoshop along the way. The photographs are now staring in a book: Shoe-Fleur, out in September. The end result is absolutely amazing: exquisite photography, gorgeous subject matter.

Unfortunately, the book's website isn't up and running yet, but you can read the article--and view a small gallery--here. I definitely plan on checking out the book this fall, if the couple of photos in the gallery are any indication, it just may be love at first sight.



Back in 1995, I was a recent college grad with no kids. But when the movie Toy Story came out, a friend and I ran to go see it; we were both intrigued by the animation--which was (and still is, in my opinion) groundbreaking. With my new degree in graphic design, I was completely fascinated with how the animators at Pixar acheived the level of exquisite detail that they did. That, and the story was pretty cool, too.

Fast forward (gulp) 12 years and 2 kids later: today I took the girls to see Ratatouille, the latest Pixar creation. My kids wanted to see it for all the reasons any kid would want to. I, on the other hand, am still drawn to the animation. And yet again, Pixar never ceases to amaze. Truth be told, the story didn't look all that great (it wasn't really that bad, but I've seen better--and worse, for that matter), but the animation--it was incredible. There are times when you could swear you're looking at a photograph; it's just that real looking.

Last year I took my oldest to the Pixar installation at MoMA; again, utterly amazing. To see familiar characters as they started--as simple sketches--and the detail that goes into the development of not only the characters, but the "sets" themselves; it was so cool. The time, effort and energy that goes into creating these movies is evident in the quality of the animation itself, but to see how everything starts out is almost overwhelming.

After walking out of the museum, my daughter turned to me and said, "I want to work for Pixar."

Not a bad career choice, kid. Not bad at all.


Party time, excellent!

So last night Mattio and I trekked on up to Portland, CT, for the 32 Annual Connecticut Art Directors Club Awards Show: Design Ain't Pretty. I mentioned in an earlier post that the stationery I designed for Saturnia had won an award, so off we went to the show last night to collect the goods.

This was the first time for both of us, so we weren't quite sure what to expect. When we arrived, we checked in, mingled and ate. All the award-winning entries were on display, so we checked everything out, including the competition (when all was said and done, there were 6 awards of excellence and 2 silver awards for the stationery category). There was some really awesome--and inspiring--stuff all around.

When it came time for the stationery award, they announced there were 6 awards of excellence, then they ran down the list. It was incredibly nerve-racking. We ended up taking the last excellence award--not bad considering a) what I was up against; and b) it was my first year even entering.

When we left, they handed me my award:

The only thing I bummed about, was that I filled out all these forms to enter, and then more forms when I won, and they still did not get my information correct; for not only the display showcasing the stationery, but the evening's program as well. Somehow my company got mixed up with another, and another art director's name was added to my stationery:

Ah well, after all was said and done, it didn't ruin my night. I was in some pretty good company last night, the competition was fierce, not only for the stationery category, but for everything.

Congratulations to all the winners out there!


Home Improvement

Riding around town I can't help but notice all the home improvement going on: there's a sign on every other lawn advertising painting, driveway sealing, pools, landscaping... the list goes on and on. Obviously now is the time to do it; Connecticut's cold winters and unpredictable springs make it pretty impossible to, say, repave a driveway.

But what I have noticed in recent years is that all these home improvement signs... well, they suck. There's one that I saw just recently that stood out in particular:

Oh, Brothers Pool, how clever you are, using the 'L' in pool as the side and bottom of... a pool. The only thing is, when you're driving down the road at, say, 30 miles an hour, you're only given a window of about a couple of seconds to process what you're seeing. And the first time I saw a sign advertising a Brothers Pool, I did a double take--now, I know deep down the sign was for a pool company; and yes, I will admit to at times having a dirty mind, but that sign looked to me like it could have said Brothers Poo.

I know, I know, the water gives it away; of course it's a pool company, silly! But seriously, now every time I see one of their signs, I have a little Beavis and Butthead moment and think, "heh heh, Brothers Poo."

Now I'm sure that Brothers Pool puts together a fine product, but my first impression of their logo is ingrained in my head as Brothers Poo. And I'm pretty positive that is not what they were going after when they created their logo.

Other signs are not quite as drastic, but still pretty bad nonetheless--I'm all for using some kind of icon with your logo, but perhaps it doesn't need to be so obvious (yeah, I'm talking to you, builder with the 3D logo/house). After all, a lot of these services (pools notwithstanding) are for improving the looks and curb appeal of your home--why not improve your company's curb appeal as well, and create an identity that's easy to read, looks good, and doesn't make potential customers giggle like a bad 90's cartoon?


Muchos Gracias!

I am currently doing some freelance work for a small design firm, who just happen to be interviewing for a full time employee. While I was working in their offices last week, a package came. But not just any package, it was one of those Edible Arrangements. And it wasn't just any old Edible Arrangement, it was chocolate covered fruit. But it was almost mutant fruit--the strawberries were literally the size of small apples.

Sidebar/Edible Arrangements plug: if you are ever looking for a great edible gift, Edible Arrangements is the most delicious! Every time I have been on the receiving end, they never fail; the fruit is always beyond fresh and yummy, and the presentation is fantastic. Well worth the $$$!

But back to the story... so Edible Arrangements had been delivered--so what? Well, the person who sent it was one of the job candidates, who was sending it as a thank you! Holy cow!

My first immediate thought (besides how many strawberries can I get away with eating without looking like a pig), was, huh, I feel cheap. I haven't formally interviewed for a job in a very, very, very long time (with the exception of freelance gigs.. but somehow that feels different), and the last time I did, I can tell you that I did not send any type of food as a thank you.

So the bar has been raised. Or has it? Of course, everyone who worked at this firm joked that this person had just guarenteed themselves the job... but is sending an expensive basket of fruit really the way to seal the deal?

Food for thought... (heh heh heh)


Mini me

Last week, my 12 year old had a project for school that involved creating a postcard. She did this elaborate drawing/paper collage for the front of the postcard, but then kind of stopped when it came to the back. This might be a good time to mention that she is very computer savvy; she's pretty proficient in the Microsoft Office suite, knows what she's doing online, and even gets frustrated at her grandmother's dial-up service ("Mima, your internet is so slow! Why don't you just get a cable modem??!"

But back to her project. She kind of frowned at the postcard, and explained that she needed it to look like a postcard, but wasn't sure how to do that in Word. No problem, I reply, your mom's a graphic designer (at which point she just rolled her eyes)! I opened up Quark and showed her how to lay out a page to look like the back of a postcard. Then I opened up my font management program, and showed her how to open up different fonts. Then I went to do something in the next room.

When I came back, there was a couple of discarded printouts on the table. I asked what they were, and I kid you not, her answer was that she was unhappy with her font choice, and went into the font management program and played around with some other fonts. My heart melted a little.

Then just yesterday, she was working on another project, this time on Mattio's computer. She wasn't quite cursing, but she was definitely mumbling under her breath. "What's wrong?" I asked.

She then went on this rant about "Dad's fonts", and how he doesn't have a font management program and she was entirely unhappy with her font choices. I almost cried.

My little girl is becoming a font-addict, just like her mommy...


London Bridge is falling down

Have you seen the new logo for the 2012 London Olympics? No? Well, feast your eyes...

Wow, huh? It's a bit... Andy Warhol. Kind of... bright, and definitely... non-traditional. My first thought was, "ew!" Upon closer examination, my thoughts are still "ew!" but now with good reason: it doesn't say anything about London. I'm certainly not saying that you need an image of Big Ben, but I don't know... it looks a little more Depeche Mode circa 1981 (alright, so they're British) than London 2012.

The even bigger issue here is that the people in London hate it. Despise it. Have a petition out to redesign it. Even more outrageous? The price that was paid to the firm Wolff Olins to design it: £400,000 (about--GULP--$797,120 American dollars. Ummm... note to the Olympic committee: I'm available).

But the funniest part of all of this is the Daily Mail has a contest going to see if regular Joes can design a better logo. Guess what? They can't. Actually, I'm reminded of that hilarious scene in European Vacation, when Chevy Chase can't get out of the traffic loop, so the family is stuck driving in a continuous circle all day: "Look kids, there's Big Ben."

And the Millenium Wheel. Oh, and look, there's the Tube. I realize that these are not graphic designers (The Mail actually brags about the amount of time spent on these logos: not much. Hey Daily Mail: no kidding!), but these designs aren't much better than the original. There are a few (using the term "few" loosely here) that stand out a little more than the rest, but nothing to write home about.

The final nail in the coffin is that there was a commercial produced introducing the logo. The logo moves in the video. The bright pink and yellow logo moves in the video. Calling all epileptics: don't watch this video! That's right, the logo is inducing epileptic seizures.

Seriously, Olympic Committee: Call me.


And the winner is...


It's design awards season, and I'm not shy about entering my work. After all, I work really hard at what I do, ensuring that each of my clients is getting a quality piece--print or web.

So I'm thrilled to announce that the Saturnia stationery (check it out in my portfolio) I designed is a winning entry in the Connecticut Art Directors Club 2007 "Design Ain't Pretty" Awards. I didn't enter a lot in this contest (unfortunately, these things add up to be quite expensive), but I'm really happy with the way the whole logo/stationery system/website came out and I couldn't be happier that it was recognized by a jury of my peers.

In related news, the Saturnia website is getting ready to launch soon. You can view the temp page here, but don't worry, once the site goes live I promise to let you all know.

Happy Friday everyone! I, for one, know that I'll be celebrating this weekend!



As I'm sure many designers do, I have a love/hate relationship with Helvetica. It's a gorgeous font--that's completely overused. Every time I think about using it, even if it's the perfect font, I feel a little lazy. It's so easy to use Helvetica, because as I stated above, it's a great font--so like a good pair of diamond studs, it goes great with just about anything. But when I do end up using it, I feel like I could be trying a little harder. What happens is a vicious font circle: I try about 200 other fonts, only to go back to helvetica.

So I came across this article on helvetica over the weekend. It's a pretty breezy read; actually, it's a 10-slide slideshow. A little background on the font, how it's used for logos and marketing (lots of big name companies in there: Target, American Airlines, the NYC Subway...), and some comparisons to Helvetica knock-offs (yes, I'm talking about you, Arial and Verdana). And because I'm the font lover that I am, I thought I'd share.

In related news, Mattio found this (not exactly G-rated) t-shirt a while back. He went to order it for me, but they were sold out. Unfortunately, they've yet to make more, but man, these are my sentiments exactly. Even if my house is G-rated, and I can only wear it to bed, how awesome is this shirt? :)


Our lips are sealed

So I was just flipping through InStyle magazine, when I noticed a trend in some of the advertising: lips. But not just plain lips, these are heavily glossed, sexy lips, biting various objects. "Come hither" lips. Seriously, these are some sexy lips. In the first third of the magazine, there are no fewer than 4 ads featuring... lips.

Max Factor has 2 full page ads ina row depicting said glossed lips biting a gold necklace in one, and a piece of rock candy in the other. Nowhere in the ad does it mention Max Factor, instead, there's a website: areyounaughtyornice.com. The next ad, a good 15 pages away, is again selling make up; this time it's Chanel lip gloss, and the lips in question are biting a pearl on a gold necklace. Revlon has a pair of lips another 15 or so pages in, but this time there's a face that goes along with them, and they're not as heavily glossed. The last pair of lips are located in an ad for Midori on page 163; again, these have a face attached, but they are still heavily glossed, sexy lips nonetheless.

Maybe it's my hormones... who knows? I also noticed a ton of ads of diamonds. Hmmm... lips and diamonds; somewhere out there is a psychologist that would have a field day with that one.


John Mayer's plan to save the world! (Or just clean it up a bit)

I have to admit, I have somewhat of a crush on John Mayer. He's a talented singer-songwriter, and (I think) a pretty engaging blogger. Oh, and he hails from Fairfield--nothing wrong with that! So every once in a while, I'll check up on his blog.

A couple of weeks ago, he started blogging about going what he called "light green:" rather than everyone going out and buying a Prius, and wearing clothes made of hemp, and adding solar panels to their houses, and taking environmentalism to the complete extreme; he suggested baby steps. Essentially, pick one thing about your life that you can change, and start there. He even offered the John Mayer-designed "introduction of products that are cheap, easy alternatives to cut down on plastics." Brilliant--I'm always glad to see a celebrity lend themselves to a great cause.

Well just the other day I checked in with John again; and there he was blogging about his "light green" theory (the term light green, as it turns out, was kind of... used. So he picked a song title instead, Another Kind of Green, from the John Mayer Trio album). What struck me as cool--as a designer--is this guy is already thinking about logos; he's got a couple of pictures of sketches. We even have the same taste, I immediately gravitated towards the one he likes, before reading that he liked it.

I'll be checking in more often to find out what else John has up his sleeve; as I said above, I'm happy to see a celebrity lend his/her name to a great cause; to have this kind of follow through is amazing. In the meantime, I'm going to do my part and take baby steps... we're pretty good about recycling around here, maybe I'll get a little more diligent about bringing my canvas bags to the grocery store, instead of taking the bags they offer. And I really hope that anybody out there reading this can offer to do the same: find one thing about your life that can be changed to help the environment, and stick to it!


Happy Mothers Day!

Just wanted to take a moment to salute all the moms (and moms-to-be) out there celebrating today... May your day be filled with love and happiness... and not too much housework! Happy Mothers Day!


Embrace your inner nerd

I read this on Graphic Design: USA's May newsletter, and it made me giggle:

    Avant-Nerdism is gaining steam and will hit the mainstream in 2009. "Avantnerdiwhat?" you say. Zandl Group researchers, the ultimate trendspotters, define the term as "a stylish, cool or social person who engages in nerd culture; especially one who purposely embraces nerdish qualities with full awareness of the irony and/or symbolism of their action." Irma Zandl says this is the new creative class, with a "compact, eco-friendly, quirk and smart" aesthetic. Avant-Nerdism taps into retro style and reflects a more European sensibility. Avant-Nerds are highly social; they merge a participatory DIY mentality with nerdy interests to make art, music and happenings/events. They ironically re-appropriate nerd culture, transforming the formerly nerdy into Avant-Nerdism. The aesthetic is influencing fashion, industrial design and interior design. Instances include the geek band Weezer, The O.C.'s Seth Cohen, and the rise of Spelling Bees and Wii and Cheese parties at hip bars and locales.

But then I started thinking of all the hipsters out there, the ones that are defining music, clothing, and culture in general, and it makes sense. Today's nerds aren't just smart programmers, they're programmers who listen to Arcade Fire while wearing slogan tees and cords, skateboarding to work. They've traded pocket protectors for trucker hats, super-scientific calculators for Wii.

So while I certainly don't recommend trading in your car for a skateboard, try embracing your inner nerd. You never know what cool thing you might discover.


Gotta love that research!

Wow. It's been a while since my last post. My apologies for the long lapse of time... last week I was sick with a nasty head cold/fever, and unfortunately I was stuck in bed for a few days. Then I spent most of the end of the week playing catch up... It's been crazy.

But now I'm feeling much, much better; the sun is out, it's a cool 70 degrees, and (with the exception of last week) spring is treating me well.

As many of you know, I've been working on a site for a clothing boutique down in Greenwich. It's been a lot of fun, especially the research part, as I get to go to all kinds of trendy, upscale sites (Barney's, anyone?). Too add to my joy, just last week I started working on a site for a similar store in Westport. More research--woo hoo! The downside to all this virtual window shopping is that it's just that: window shopping. As much as I'd love to drop over $200 for the perfect pair of jeans... that's just not in the cards right now.

Oh well, when Mattio sees a $300 shirt on my screen, at least I can say it's all in the name of research. Too bad I'm not doing any work for any shoe stores...


Happy Spring!

Just a quick break from the madness of the day to wish everyone a happy spring! Technically, spring begins at the end of March, but here in Southern CT, it doesn't feel much like Spring 'till late April/early May. Anyway, the past few days here have been gorgeous: 70+ degrees, bright sun shining, flowers in bloom... With the exception of my allergies, I love this time of year!

So take a moment out of your busy lives to stop and enjoy your surroundings. Whether you're in Florida or Maine, California or Kansas (Hi Jennie!), Spring only comes once a year. Enjoy!


Bon Appetit?

I am not a big fast food connoissuer--every once in a while it's ok, but for the most part it just sits in my stomach, and I end up regretting it for days on end (not to mention that it's pretty gross to think that most fast food meals are the caloric equivilant of a full day's worth of meals).

Which is why when I stumbled across this, it makes me sooooo glad I don't indulge more often. Talk about false advertising!

I love the disclaimer at the top: "Nothing was tampered with, run over by a car, or anything of the sort." Cause all that Arby's Beef and Cheddar... thing looks like it needs is some cleverly placed photoshop tire tracks, and you'd never know the difference.


Best. Horoscope. Ever.

Alright, I'll admit, I'm not big on the horoscopes. Unless it's really really good. Then I take it word for word. Because, come on, who doesn't want to win the lottery and go shoe shopping on an unlimited budget and have George Clooney wait on you hand and foot and... Oh. Sorry. I got away from myself for a second. But seriously, on the rare occasions that I do read my horoscope, and it's really good, of course I want it to be true.

Which is why when I read this, my first thought is it absolutely must be true. Because who would toy with me like this:

May is a fabulous month for you. Your designs garner hefty praise and you gain respect among your peers. Clients are openly requesting you for their projects. Co-workers are seeking your opinions and asking for your advice. There's even talk about you becoming 'Employee of the Month.' And if all that isn't enough, you also correctly pick the winner of American Idol.

OK, I don't watch American Idol, but I can tell you from this week's press that the winner won't be Sangiya. But come on, hefty praise and gaining respect among my peers? Clients are openly requesting moi?! Employee of the month??! This better be correct!!

Then, I looked at the source: a stock image company. Hmmm... I wonder if all the horoscopes are good, just so you'll feel great and buy some photos. I checked out a couple of others, and some of them are borderline depressing (Leo: your personality needs to be recharged--Ouch).

Oh well, for what it's worth, I'm putting in Employee of the Month effort and hours. I can only hope that all my hard work pays off with this kind of outcome.

Here's the rest of Jupiter Image's Design Horoscope's. But click with caution, especially if you're Leo.

PS. Another reason to take this with a grain of salt: my Lucky Image Number brings up a pretty cheesy stock photo.

Fling a ding ding

My new favorite font, ladies and gentlemen, is Fling:

It's such a pretty font. I've been using it for a while now, but it really stood out to me last year when Martha Stewart's new Blueprint magazine came out. Yep, the logo for the magazine is Fling.

I love the playfulness of each individual character. It's definitely a girlie font, which I think I knew all along, but definitely found out for sure when I tried to apply it to a more masculine logo I'm working on.

I'm looking out my window now, at the daffodils in the sun, the trees in bloom, and spring in the air; and that's what I picture with this font, the perfect Spring day.

Hope you're enjoying your perfect Spring day!


Pantone Ugly Bright Yellow

This afternoon, I was dropping my daughter and her friends off at the movies, when the three girls struck up an interesting conversation. Across the street from the theater, there's a Planet Fitness building. I don't know if you've ever seen one of these gyms, but the whole exterior of the building is--no joke--bright yellow. Really, really bright.

The girls attacked immediately: "That is the ugliest color ever." "Eew. The colors don't even match. Who uses that bright yellow with that color purple?" "Why on earth would you paint your building that color?"

And thus begins our lesson today in branding. While I'm not advocating that color (It's pretty atrocious, but you can't miss it!), Planet Fitness gets an A for effort with the idea of setting themselves apart from the competition. Right down the street from the Fairfield Planet Fitness is a Fitness Edge. Fitness Edge has their standard sign outside, and they're located in a plain brick building. Nothing fancy, nothing to set themselves apart. It's just a way of making themselves stand out as a gym, making themselves more memorable, I explained. You see that color yellow, and you begin to associate it with the gym.

Of course, being preteens, they didn't quite get it. "It's still ugly," they collectively said.

Noone's saying it's pretty, I started... then I realized what I was doing. To me, I was trying to teach them a little lesson about marketing and branding. To them, I was defending what I believe was Pantone Ugly Bright Yellow.

Never mind, girls, never mind.


Cancel or Allow?

A little over a month ago, Mattio bought a new PC. It was time, his old one was pretty old in Computer Years--at least 7 years old. He really debated on buying a new one; a couple of years ago he was at a job where they used Macs, and he pretty much converted. Being a web developer, though, it's always good to have both platforms in the house; and he works on a PC at his current job, so it made sense.

But when he got the computer, it took a while for him to set it up. Being a devout Mac user, I snickered and joked about the current Apple campaign, Mac vs. PC. There was one commercial in particular that seemed to address the whole PC set-up issue. It certainly is nowhere near the plug it in and go functionality of the Mac.

Then came the Cancel or Allow messages--seriously, just like in the commercials. We'll be working side by side at night, and out of the blue he'll turn and say, "Cancel or allow, Tracie... cancel or allow."

And just last night, he came to bed muttering about Bill Gates and Microsoft; I won't repeat what he said, but let's just say it wasn't good. At all. He brought his iBook into bed, and just for fun, we watched a couple of the new Mac vs. PC commercials; the new one with the broken down PCs on the cart is hysterical. And from past experience, probably true.


Doing what I love, and loving what I do

This week has been a crazy week for me... lots of work coming in (trust me, I'm not complaining). And this upcoming week is only going to get even more nuts: with a couple of logos and websites on my plate, it's going to be a design-heavy week.

Truth be told, I was kind of stressing about this workload. But now that I've sat back and thought about it, I'm actually pretty excited: I got into graphic design because I love what I do. But I've learned in the past 2 years that running your own business doesn't always mean you get to do what you love all the time; there's invoices to send, emails to answer, meetings to attend... not to mention always trying to stay ahead of the curve and keep new business coming in (or, as Mattio likes to put it: keep food on the table).

But this upcoming week I've got some pretty cool projects that I'm really excited to be working on. And I get to spend my week doing what I love. That's not a reason to stress, that's a reason to celebrate.

Hmmm... I might just have to squeeze in some quality shoe shopping time :)

Enjoy the weekend!


Ugly Rubber Sandals

I always thought of myself as pretty ad-savvy, I could get how advertisers are aiming younger and younger all the time.

Then my oldest daughter turned 12.

It started out simple enough, shopping at Abercrombie. All the clothes we bought had the moose logo emblazened on it somewhere. As the year progressed, everything became a brand name: her jacket isn't a jacket, or even a fleece, it's her North Face. Her boots are not boots, they're Uggs. Her friends don't have cell phones, they have Razrs. I finally got why advertisers are sprinting toward the tween market: these kids are no joke, they really know their stuff.

However, now my youngest, at three years old, has gotten in on the action. She just got a pair of Crocs for Easter (trust me, she really, really, really wanted them--looks like she picked up my shoe fetish!). The thing is, they're not really Crocs--they're Croc knock-offs (because $30 for a pair of rubber shoes she's just going to grow out of in a couple of months is a little exessive). But she calls them Crocs, and we tell her no different. But Croc is the name brand--what do you call the shoe that isn't a Croc: ugly rubber sandal?

She's even gone so far as to tell me that she doesn't need a radio anymore, she's ready for an ipod.

Did I mention she's three?

The funny thing is, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how brands have an impact on the products they represent. My mother doesn't refer to tissues as tissues, to her they are Kleenex. And I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who have not made photocopies, rather they've Xeroxed something. We no longer record our favorite TV shows, we TiVo them. Q-Tips, Google, Blackberry... the list goes on and on.

I'm guilty of it: Google to me is not just a great search engine, but a noun, verb, sometimes even an adjective. I FedEx packages via UPS and DHL. And yes, I do own a pair of ugly rubber sandals I use for gardening.


well written... revealed!

A while back (OK, February), I had posted about this really cool font I had found, and how I was trying to apply it to the logo I was designing at that time... Well last week I met with Wendy, from well written, and we finalized her logo:

I'm so happy she ended up going with this one--I think it really is my favorite. This, along with quite a few others, was entered into Logo Lounge's contest for their 4th book... I'll keep you posted with the outcome. As an old pal used to say: Fingers firmly crossed.

In other news, I have to apologize quickly for not keeping up with the posting. It's been a pretty crazy time here, and as a result (among other things), I've been pretty run down at the end of the day. I'm going to do my best to post more frequently, and keep it interesting!

Ta ta for now...


Opening Day!

I looooooove me some baseball. I get all warm and fuzzy when March Madness rolls around, only because I know that baseball season is not far off. And finally, it's here.

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to go to Yankee's Opening Day. I am a die-hard Yankee's fan, but I've never actually been to an opening day, so it was a treat. Even more so was that it was an AWESOME game; I had such a good time. I love the energy and excitement of taking the 4 train up to the Bronx; walking down the stairs from the platform, somebody pointed out Mayor Bloomberg was right behind us. The madness of trying to get into the stadium at the same time as about 50,000 other people, the trek aaaallllll the way up to our seats (and the great view--don't knock the nosebleeds 'til you've tried 'em), and the post-game congestion--I'll take it any day. Corey Lidle's wife and son threw out the first pitches--I bawled. A-Rod missed an easy pop-up--I booed. The Giambino steps up to the plate and hits a homerun, giving the Yanks the lead in the first inning--I screamed my little head off. Hearing the first few notes of "Enter Sandman," and seeing that bullpen door open to reveal one of the greatest closers in the history of the game still gives me goosebumps. Especially cool? Seeing the cranes working on the new stadium.

I was about 8 years old when I went to my first Yankee game; back in the days of Don Mattingly, Willie Randolph and Dave Winfield. My grandfather had managed to get seats about 10 rows back from home plate; it was myself, my grandfather and my father. At first, I had no idea what to expect, I sat watching the first couple of innings intently. But by the 4th inning, I was screaming with the best of them. I remember quite a few people turning around, commenting to my father that I really must have been enjoying the game. I think both my father and my grandfather were proud.

Yeah, baby! Baseball is back!!!


Bad Design

I am in the midst of writing a proposal; I won't give too much away, but the client is located in Greenwich, CT. For those of you that don't know, Greenwich is a very, very, VERY upscale community--one of the wealthiest not only in the state of Connecticut, but in the entire country.

In my proposals, I always do a bit of research on the prospective client's local competitors. And to my surprise, this particular business's local competitors had websites that were, well--to put it quite frankly--bad. Really bad. Like 1998 bad.

It really made me think: here you are, with a business in one of the wealthiest areas in the country, and this is how you are marketing yourself? I don't know much about these businesses--for all I know they could be very successful. But if I was looking for this particular type of company, and I had the money to spend, these people had better wow me. And upon viewing their websites, my first impression was "wow," alright; just not that kind of "wow."

I'm not saying that you have to go out and spend tens of thousands of dollars for a hot-looking website with all the bells and whistles, but I am saying be smart about it. My prospective client expressed a desire for a classy, upscale website--as well they should, as that's who the target demographic is.

Look at who you're marketing to, and look at what you're marketing with. If your website looks dated, it might be time for a redesign. Check out your local competitors, see what you're working against.

I highly doubt that the people of Greenwich are shopping at the dollar store; why make them feel like they are?


Update: Ad Rants

As I was driving on 95 North the other day, I noticed that my favorite billboard has been changed! BMW of Bridgeport is proving that their bad ad sense isn't affecting their sales at all by changing their ill-concieved "From up here I can see BMW of Bridgeport," to a much more sales-friendly message: #1 BMW Dealership in Connecticut/New England/Northeast (something like that--I was driving, so I didn't get a good look at the geographical range).

However, the guy is still perched on top of the billboard--AND he now boasts a "We're # 1!" foam finger.

While I still can't appreciate that guy sitting up there, the foam finger did make me giggle. Oh well, baby steps, I suppose.


Advertising Rants

One of my biggest pet peeves is poor advertising. Not poorly designed, necessarily--although that doesn't rank very high on my list--I'm talking about poorly executed. I came across two examples of this today.

Driving north on 95 this afternoon, I came across this billboard:

The message is simple: look at these 3 very different people who share the same surname! Where else but in America would you find that!

The problem is what I take away from it: Homer Simpson, OK, that's fine, I can dig it. But Jessica Simpson is perhaps better known for her bra size--and not being bright enough to figure out the difference between chicken and tuna--than for her marginal singing talent (and believe me, talent is used very loosely here). And OJ... I know, I know, he was once a great football player, he won the Heisman Trophy; but unfortunately, that's not what he's famous for today. He's got that nasty little car chase/murder trial/"If I did do it" book.

So this is what we're bragging about in America?

The campaign somewhat works with other people/places/things: Wall Street, Bourbon Street, Sesame Street; Superman, Superbowl, Super Sized... But the whole Simpson idea was, let's face it, a pretty bad one.

The other poorly executed billboard was not much farther up the road. This one was for BMW of Bridgeport, and, as Mattio will attest, irks me to no end.

When I think of BMW, I think high end. They are a luxury car, and that's how they market themselves--except in this instance. The billboard is simple; it says "From up here, I can see BMW of Bridgeport." Then, sitting on top of the sign, there's a 3D model of a man... looking towards Fairfield.

See, BMW of Bridgeport is located in the heart of, you guessed it, Bridgeport (the name kind of gives it away). But the billboard is on 95 north facing Fairfield. So the model either needs to be turned around, or he's got to have some Exorcism-like neck moves in order to see the dealership. Actually, he's really looking towards Mercedes Benz of Fairfield; perhaps something BMW should have thought about.

So not only is it a completely misleading ad; but it's not doing anything to sell this car. This beautiful, luxurious, expensive car. Instead, to me, it's selling the view of the billboard. I can see where whoever thought this idea up might think that they're selling proximity ("Hey, you're really close to BMW of Bridgeport! Just keep driving in the opposite direction of where our billboard tells you!"), but the whole package just doesn't work.

Boo, boo, boo, all around.