A Monster a month calendar for 2010

After much faffing I finally got round to making my prototype Monster calendar. Each calendar features a monster a month and all artwork is original and drawn freestyle digitally.

Final size is A6 mounted on 6×4″ mount card. Held together at the top by screws and bolts with a hinged back.

Perfect size for the desk. It can be purchased from my Folksy store for a modest fee.

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Typography, design and best practices

I am a big fan of Smashing Magazine, an online design resource for graphic and web designers. They always have interesting articles that help in all aspects of design. They also have lots of freebies like fonts and tutorials.

Recently released is an article called Typographic Design Patterns and Best Practices which I found of particular interest. The team did a survey of the top 20 websites to compare things like font styles. font sizes, background colours.

What I found of most interest is that the most popular size for fonts was at 13px and the most popular font-style for body font was Georgia. A long way from when the standard web font was Verdana 10px.

A really interesting article with plenty to think about.

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Using professional printers

I have always believed that to get professional results you should always use professional printers. I believe this even though we have a super-dooper laser colour printer that does really good quality work.

I have been requesting samples from printers for a few clients’ stationery requirements and have been impressed with some of the quality I have seen. My particular favourite at the moment, and something I have an eye on for my own stuff when it comes to updating, is Spot UV treatment on business cards, especially on dark colours. Lovely.

Today I get a knock on the door and it’s a DHL man with a package. I get very excited, sign on the handheld unit and he hands over a C4 envelope with ‘URGENT’ taped across it. At this point I am a little confused as the envelope feels a little light and not that impressive considering the delivery method and packaging.

I open it up to find a couple of business cards a letterhead and a flyer. It is a sample from a printers I contacted. I look at the letterhead and think that it’s my eyes as the logo and blue printing looks a little blurred. I show ‘Mr. Crayons’ who promptly whips out his photographer’s negatives viewer and confirm that it’s the shoddy printing quality. One look at the business cards confirms that this is not the type of company I want to refer my clients to or have anything to do with. The inks look dull, the card stock looks cheap and the overall presentation is poor. A total let down and considering the expensive of the courier, seems like a waste of money and resources.

Just goes to prove that it really does make sense to check out the quality of the press, paper stock and printers before using a company for your printing jobs.

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Commissioned invitations

The spaces for the next Made by Artisans fair in Peterborough is now pretty much fully booked up.

I am just so thrilled with the artists attending. I can pretty say that the quality is just outstanding and I hope that we have a good variety to interest everyone.

The next stage is the marketing and PR to the public and to the media. I have consulted with my PR guru and she has advised me on a game plan to lure in the interest of all those media lovies.

I have commissioned some original artwork and will be designing and sending out a beautiful invitation. I have already seen some sample mock ups of the invites and very excited. Will post some sneaky previews once the design has been agreed with the artist.

This is a flyer for the event which will be distributed as a little A6 handout.

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A good kind of Diva

I was delighted to see a luxury gift wrap and accessories shop in our little village. It seemed like fate as I am currently a little obbessed with papers and packinging. What is even better is that the couple who run business are just lovely people who are friendly and make it such a welcoming place to browse in (which I am doing quite a lot of recently).

Anyway, I got to talking to Wendy and James about all their wonderful stock, which is hand-picked by Wendy and James personally. They told me that they always make a point of meeting with potential suppliers and seeing the work in action before taking on any new stock. These guys clearly have a strong sense of what and how they want their business to be perceieved and it is important to them that they have a strong relationship with their partners.

I really admire their business ethics and so was thrilled when they asked me to come up with some concepts for their logo and brand identity.

I have always enjoyed working on branding projects as there is nothing more exciting than devising and coming up with something from scratch and to see the client’s reaction to the concepts and ideas and working together to build to something that both parties are happy with. I love it when the process becomes a real collaboration between client and designer. When you bounce ideas of each other and when both parties are open to suggestions and not afraid to experiment with colour.

Wendy and James gave me a clear brief. They wanted their business to be extraordinary and to be outside of the norm. They love textures, strong bright colours and a feel of luxury and decadance. Wendy gave me a purple Quality Street sweet (still with chocolate enclosed) to use as inspiration. I wish all clients gave me chocolates to fuel my inspiration process! She also loved the Amazone BT font, but outside of that I was pretty much given free rein to let my imagination go wild.

This is the final logo, which I think they are really pleased with. I love the feeling of the modern font with the slight serif vibe and the luxurious platinum* flourish encompassing the name underneath. The purple works so well with the coolness of the silver. We did try gold tones as well, but the silver won through.

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*Wendy and James made the mistake of calling the flourish ‘grey’ once and I did my ‘designer scoff’ and threatened to storm out in a hissy. Clearly it’s silver, now upgraded to platinum (I have since called it grey once and now condemed to self-imposed ‘designer timeout’ for the crime).

I am looking forward to seeing their website which is due to launch 1st September 2009 when you can buy all their goodies online.

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Promote at every possible opportunity

I have recently been obbessed with stationery, decorative papers and packaging, so much so that my friends are probably a little sick of hearing me harp on and on about using the back of business cards to promote. It doesn’t help that a little gift wrapping boutique has opened 100 yards down the road from me (more about that another time).

I have been working on business card designs for a couple of clients and I do like the idea of Moo cards because they give you the opportunity to use up to 50 different images on the back of your cards. But, that comes at a cost. I think we worked it out to around 31ish pence per card for their standard 50 cards. For that sort of money I would only be giving them to family and friends!

So here I am harping on about the different ideas you could do yourself for the back, not just limited to printed images, you could create little artwork or illustrations, use beautiful papers with textures or even use photographs. I gave a client one of my cards yesterday which I had decorated with some textured raised suede effect papers and it made him stop and ask me about it.

Anyway, photography friend turns around and tells me “hmmm, I am not convinced.”

Sometimes actions speak louder than words (or nagging aka ‘life coaching’)…

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Christmas in August? Say it isn’t so!

Don’t panic, I haven’t gone completely bonkers. I have had to dust out my elf hat though and get into the Christmas spirit as I am designing some posters for the Made by Artisans Christmas Fair. It’s very weird thinking about snowflakes and christmas trees and the festive spirit when it’s stinking hot outside and BBQ season.

Anyway, here is a rough design, I can’t decided on which colour palette I prefer. What is more Christmas-y, maybe I just need more eggnog…

Stylish laptop accessories

I happen to be in a computer store today and noticed these from the corner of my eye. I just love the shape and the fact that it is rigid like a bucket, but obviously more stylish. It was a good decent size and also has two compartments and side pockets. I no longer have my Powerbook, but I can see it being an art bag for all those crafty bits and bobs.

Am I obbessed with handbags? Oh god yeah.

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Dialogue by Design website

I am often asked to create concept designs for company websites. This normally involves designing the homepage and a series of content pages as concepts which I then handover to the client and they take it away to build themselves in-house. I often find it hard to handover the concepts because I always worry about how the design will change when it is out of my control (control issues I know…).

I worked on concepts for a consultancy called Dialogue by Design months and months ago and had completely forgotten about it until I got an email from another client today telling me how great the site looked now it was live!

Normally you don’t get any control over the final result when the design is taken out of your hands. But, I just checked it out and think they have done an excellent job. The brief was to create something simple, elegant and light. The image in the banners are all different depending on what page you are on, adding a little bit of interest, a rotating banner effect without the annoying rotating banner bit.

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UK Artist Diary 2010

A heads up for everyone.

There are a team of crafters, designers and artists getting together to create a UK Diary with contributions from artists around the country. This is being organised under the UKhandmade umbrella. If you would like to be involved in the planning and organisation (contributions will follow later) and have relevant skills (print, pr, marketing, design etc.) please contact Ann (Snowdrops and Daisies) via UKHandmade.