• Handy Tools for Today’s Designers

    On: July 11, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 991


    As designers, we’re always looking for little tips and tricks to make our lives easier, whether it’s a keyboard shortcut or helpful online resource. Here are a list of 10 tools that can help out any designer! (It wouldn’t be fair for me to tell you to use all of these tools if I’d never used them myself, so I’ve given them all a try and highly recommend them!)



    1. LittleIpsum – Downloadable app for Mac or online tool for Windows users. It generates an amount of placeholder text specified by you. I used it on my Mac at work… loved it! (The trick is “paste”… that’s how you get it into your document!)

    2. Smush.it – Tool for optimizing images. Upload your photo or provide a link and it does the work for you!

    3. GuideGuide – Downloadable Photoshop tool. I hate the fact that Photoshop seems to be lacking the precision of InDesign when it comes to guides… this tool fixes all of that!

    4. WeTransfer – Online file tranfer service. I used to use YouSendIt, but the free version only allowed me to send files up to 50MB. WeTransfer allows you to send files up to 2GB… the cherry on top: you don’t even have to create an account!

    5. FiveSecondTest – Online tool for designer feedback. This unique online tool allows designers to upload their designs and set up a series of 5 questions to ask viewers. Viewers get 5 seconds to look at a design and then answer questions about it… it’s quick, easy, and provides valuable, unbiased feedback. (I haven’t uploaded designs of my own but have provided feedback to other designers… it seems helpful to get “first impression” type of feedback.)

    6. TypeTester – Online typography tool. Easy tool to compare multiple fonts side-by-side.

    7. Fount – Online font identifier. I have one word for whoever created this – genius! Drop this little guy into your browser toolbar and when you turn it on, it identifies any font on any website you go to. (Disclaimer – if the font is in an image, it doesn’t work… it has to be actual type in the website.)

    8. Designers Toolbox – Exactly how it sounds, this is a website full of tools for designers… everything from document templates to an html cheat sheet!

    9. Harvest – Online time-tracking and invoicing tool. This is the one tool I haven’t tried myself, but after viewing the website and video it seems like a handy tool for those of you who are freelancing or running your own business!

    10. Paper & Pencil – I know that as designers in the 21st century, we can get wrapped up in the computer and all of its glory, but never forget the fundamentals! Always keep a pencil and paper handy for quick sketches and thumbnails or a hand-drawn approach… this is where your creativity starts!

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  • Clear Channel Celebrates Independence Day with Cross-Country Digital Billboard Display

    On: July 3, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 866

    With the 4th of July right around the corner, I figured what better topic to blog about this week than our country’s Independence Day! No, I’m not going to give you a history lesson on how our country came about… instead, I found something much more exciting!

    This year (more specifically in the last 2 weeks), Clear Channel Outdoor has put together the first ever cross-country digital billboard display. The cross-country campaign will run from July 4th to July 7th displaying the lyrics of “The Star Spangled Banner” on more than 1,000 digital billboards in different cities across the United States.

    The goal of Clear Channel Outdoor’s cross-country patriotic campaign is to harness “the immediacy and flexibility of its digital out-of-home media to unite the nation in celebration of Independence Day.” (clearchannel.com) Clear Channel Outdoor is also enouraging Americans to show their patriotic spirit by posting photos or videos of how they celebrate the 4th of July on various social media sites using #united4th.

    Take a look and see if this campaign has traveled to your neck of the woods:

    • Albuquerque
    • Atlanta
    • Baltimore
    • Boston
    • Chicago
    • Cleveland
    • Columbus
    • Dallas/Fort Worth
    • Des Moines
    • El Paso
    • Fort Smith
    • Houston
    • Indianapolis
    • Jacksonville
    • Las Vegas
    • Los Angeles
    • Melbourne/Daytona Beach
    • Memphis
    • Miami
    • Milwaukee
    • Minneapolis/St Paul
    • New York
    • Ocala
    • Orlando
    • Philadelphia
    • Phoenix
    • Portland
    • Reno
    • Sacramento
    • Salisbury
    • San Antonio
    • San Francisco
    • Seattle
    • Tampa
    • Washington DC
    • Wichita


    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • 2013 Champion a Cause Creative Challenge

    On: June 20, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 824

    Everyone has heard of it, many people have been a part of it… it’s cyber bullying. With the monumental role technology is playing in our lives nowdays, cyber bullying has become a problem in our nation and around the world.

    This year, SecurityPoint Media decided to focus on the topic of cyber bullying for their 2013 Champion a Cause Creative Challenge. Champion a Cause is a competition put on each year by SecurityPoint Media and AAF. Each year, a topic is chosen in hopes of bringing a clear voice to an important and underserved cause and to bring awareness in the form of security bin advertising in airports.

    Winners have been chosen for this year’s competition and because they were so impactful, I wanted to share them with you! Please feel free to share your thoughts and which one is your favorite!

    CLICK HERE to view video of winners!

    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • The Great Gatsby: The Creative Process

    On: June 13, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 2768

    I’ve heard about the movie and have even awed over the intense previews, but I never stopped to think about the creativity behind The Great Gatsby typography. Until that is, I found a case study from its creator online… then I was intrigued!

    The creator of The Great Gatsby typography is Like Minded Studio, a Sydney based design studio. They collaborated with Baz Luhrmann, director of the film, to create what they describe as a, “bespoke Deco styled logo reflective of the roaring ’20s and Fitzgerald’s masterpiece.”

    In addition to designing the logo for the movie, the Like Minded Studio team created an entire display typeface that went along with their design. They even went as far as creating a system so that letters alternate between striped and solid when typed in words.

    Below are some of the creative team’s first ideas that eventually helped develop the amazing typeface that is The Great Gatsby logo. I enjoy and find it inspiring to see the creative process of other designers… especially when the outcome is as impressive as this one.

    Gatsby01 Gatsby02 Gatsby03 Gatsby04 Gatsby06 Gatsby05

    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • Typography at its Finest

    On: June 6, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 1067

    I’m always looking for creative inspiration. It may sound cliche, but I’m always looking for that way to think “outside of the box,” to think of something in a different way. As I was scouring my brain (and the web) for interesting topics to blog about this week, I ran across these amazing images that did just that!

    I’m honestly not sure if this is a specific type of design or just someone having fun, but I love the way that this artist took typography to a whole new level. In each one of these designs, the artist used the word as the inspiration and illustrated it through typography. Enjoy!



    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • Infographics – A Whole Other World of Design

    On: May 23, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 911

    By definition, inforgraphics are “graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present complex information quickly and clearly.” English please! Basically, infographics are ways to explain complex topics in a visual way. These graphics allow the intended target to understand the information quickly and easily.

    At one time or another, we have ALL (including the non designer audience) created some sort of inforgraphic… maybe it was the pie chart in math class or the venn diagram we drew in elementary school to compare and contrast things. If it’s so easy that an elementary student can do it, then why is it such a large part of the design world? Where’s the art in it? The truth is, anyone can create an infographic, but figuring out how to create them in a way that’s informative AND creative is the real art.

    After scouring the web, I found all kinds of infographics… some simple and some more complex. I also found a wide range of topics – both serious and goofy. From the examples below, you can see that there are no set rules to infographics, as long as you are getting the information across to the viewer quickly and clearly.


    One that most of us have seen before… a subway system map.

    InfoGraphic02    InfoGraphic03

    Some infographics help consumers.


    Others get impactful messages across.

    news illustrated 121201 GStyle outline


    And some are just for fun!

    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • Print-Ready Files for Happy Designers (Part 2)

    On: May 16, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 862

    Last week I enlightened you with 5 helpful tips for successful print-ready files. As promised, I’ve returned with Part 2 of this topic, so without further ado, here are 5 more tips for preparing your print-ready files.

    6. SIZE MATTERS! (Print Size, That Is)
    Be sure to always create your files at the actual size you want them printed. Also, make sure you have the appropriate resolution, for most print jobs (e.g. brochures, business cards and flyers) 300dpi is acceptable. If you fail to build your files at actual size, you will most definitely run into issues during printing. Just think about it, it wouldn’t make sense to create a poster at business card size and expect it to print out perfectly crisp when the printer enlarges it to poster size, right? *Please note that large scale printing (e.g. bus benches and billboards) follow different rules for file size… but that’s a topic for another day!

    This is a design basic! RGB is used for on-screen, such as websites and eblasts. CMYK is used for print, such as posters and flyers, just to name a few. That being said, always convert your files to CMYK before printing – even if you can’t see any change on screen, it can make a world of difference when printed.

    8. GET A PROOF
    For multi-page documents, such as programs or books, it’s helpful to provide your printer with a proof. That way they can ensure that all pages are in the correct position and things are aligned the way you want them. In addition to giving your printer a proof, also request a color proof from your printer. This will allow you to fix any color issues before they run the whole job and you’re stuck with something that isn’t right.

    9. BLEED
    No, I’m not talking about actual blood, I’m talking about the bleeds on your document. Be sure to ALWAYS include bleeds on your document… I have found that a 1/8” (or .125”) bleed works fine.

    I have found that the key to successful printing projects is to get to know your printer. Most printers are more than willing to work with you to get your projects printed to your satifaction. Don’t be afraid to ask question, tour the print facility or voice your opinion when your project just isn’t printing right. If your printer doesn’t seem to be offering you any help, don’t be afraid to try a new printer!

    Hopefully some or all of these tips will help you create successful print-ready files. Good luck and happy printing!
    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • Print-Ready Files for Happy Designers (Part 1)

    On: May 9, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 964

    You know that feeling you get when you finally finish a project and send it off to the printer? It’s a pretty great feeling, right? How about that feeling you get when the printer calls you saying there’s something wrong with your file or when your project has been delivered and the client calls you ranting that there’s a typo in your design?!
    I know, I know… that totally killed your happy feeling!

    Well, here are a few tips to get you on the right track to print-ready files and successful outcomes!

    Contact your printer ahead of time and figure out how long they will need to print your project. Count back from your due date and create deadlines for yourself… remember
    to add a bit of cushion just in case something goes wrong.

    Unless you design every piece with Times New Roman or Arial, you can’t expect your printer to have every font that you’ve used in your design. To avoid font defaulting once your file gets to the printer, remember to embed your fonts into your file.

    Nothing is more important than proofing your documents… I mean you wouldn’t want
    to have your client’s name or website misspelled, right? Even if you’ve proofed your document 100 times, I recommend having someone else proof it (even if they aren’t
    a designer) — sometimes a fresh pair of eyes can make all the difference!

    Be sure to double check your image proportions, dimensions and resolution. Please don’t be one of those designers that stretches an image out of proportion so it looks super squished or super stretched! en if the actual size of your image is correct, the resolution may be too low – creating ugly pixelated images in what could have been
    a beautifully designed piece.

    It may just be because I have obsessive compulsive tendencies, but I find this tip
    to be extremely important! Paying attention to the small details and keeping things consistent is key to a great design. Make sure that margins are consistent on
    multi-page documents, punctuation is the same throughout, spelling is consistent
    (for example, in my job I have to fix many inconsistencies between BolchalkFReY, BolchalkFrey and Bolchalk Frey… it may not seem super important, but it is), etc.

    Hopefully these few tips will help you get started on creating great print-ready files,
    but stay tuned next week for more tips for successful files that make happy designers!

    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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  • Helpful Tips for Successful Business Cards

    On: May 2, 2013
    In: Design
    Views: 814

    My mom always told me, “A first impression is a lasting impression.” Your business card is often the first impression you give of your work as a designer… so why not make it a great one?!

    Here are a few tips to make sure you put your best card forward when you’re networking or meeting new clients:

    • Design for the Space
    A business card is 3.5” x 2”, so keep your information to a minimum. This is not the place to write a novel! I understand that you may think your life story is important, but more than likely the people you’re handing out your cards to only want your contact info. (which is the most important). On the flip side, make sure to include ALL of your contact info. – don’t forget to include items such as social media links.

    • Font Frenzy
    As is true for all design projects, don’t use too many fonts. If you choose to use more than one font, try mixing a serif and sans-serif font as this will give you variation without getting
    too chaotic.

    • Is That Logo Low-Res?!
    Please, please, please make sure that you are using hi-res images or vector art for your business cards! Seeing anything with a low-res image drives me nuts, but having one as part of your first impression would be a nightmare!

    • Keep it Simple
    Avoid using busy images or crazy color combos that could distract the viewer from the card’s information. The main objective of a business card is to get your contact information out there, so if people can’t read it then you have failed. Don’t get me wrong, you want to make sure that your card is visually impactful, but make sure your visual doesn’t overshadow the card’s purpose.

    • Keep it With You
    Having your business cards on you at all times is key. What would you do if you met the client of your dreams and didn’t have your business card on you? Write your website on a napkin? An old receipt? I think you get the point – keep a hefty stock of your business cards with you as you never know who you might come in contact with.

    If you already have business cards, check and make sure they follow these few rules. If designing your business cards is a project on your to-do list, keep these tips in mind!

    Kristen Oaxaca, Graphic Designer

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