Tools Of The Trade #17: Death To The Stock Photo

Nubby Twiglet | Death To The Stock Photo

Why is it so difficult to find good quality stock photography at an affordable price?! So much of it is just downright cheesy. And, it can be very time consuming to dig up. That’s why I love Death To The Stock Photo so much.

Sign up and each month you will receive a link to download a bundle of free, high quality photos that you can use to illustrate blog posts, client projects, mockups and more. I’ve been a subscriber for a few months now and each pack is solid — no primary colored backdrops, creepy smiles or corporate handshakes in sight! You can get a good idea of the quality from the newest spring-themed pack above. Beautiful, right?

One of the most common questions we get from students at The Blogcademy is where they can find high quality images to illustrate their blog posts if they don’t have the means to take their own photos. Well, here’s your holy grail.

And, if you’re a designer mocking up projects and need some good general background images, they work great as well. I actually just used a few in the Chutzpah Creative post!

What are you waiting for? Sign up now and say goodbye to questionable stock photography forever.

All photos: Death To The Stock Photo
Check out even more Tools Of The Trade posts here.

Project Spotlight: Chutzpah Creative

Nubby Twiglet | Branch: Chutzpah Creative Branding

Over at Branch today, we’re sharing the outcome of one of my all-time favorite branding projects, Chutzpah Creative. Based in Perth, Australia, Chutzpah specializes in video — they’ve got you covered from “about me” films to weddings and do it all in style! I am obsessed with the super bright color palette Chutzpah’s founder FayAnn settled on and we’ve balanced it all out with a dose of black and white imagery. Check out the full outcome right here!

The Week In Pictures: 5.2.14

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

The week before I gear up for traveling with The Blogcademy always feels like that back to school rush — dusting off the backdrop, digging out the projector, printing off report cards, gathering up supplies, shipping off totes and workbooks…but in the best way possible. After our longest break ever (we’ve been working on some new offerings behind the scenes), I can’t wait to head off to San Francisco next week!

In an effort to not work through my free days in San Francisco, I’ve been delivering as many Branch client projects as possible and making sure everyone is taken care of. There have been so many cool projects going on that I can’t wait to share — everything from badges for a travel blog to brand guides for long-time clients to labeling for a skincare line. That mix definitely keeps things interesting and inspiring.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

With so much time spent at my desk lately, I try to make it at least feel pleasant to be at! It’s all about those little details.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Portland is too beautiful right now to stay indoors all the time! Every time I’m outside, I’m greeted with this kind of beauty.

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Branch web developer Star was in town last week — we went over current clients, talked about how we could improve our forms and processes and…made more trips out to pizza and ice cream than I care to admit!

Nubby Twiglet | The Week In Pictures

Our living room was so neglected for so long. It used to have dark gray walls and very little furniture but finally, after putting some effort into it, the room is coming together, piece by piece. It now feels comfortable and relaxing, just like a home should.

Have an inspiring, fun-filled weekend, everyone!

Link Love: 5.1.14


Nubby Twiglet | Tim Walker

• Are you in a blogging slump? Here’s what to do.

• Hold yourself accountable by following the punk rock take on the four agreements.

• If you’re feeling jealous of an industry peer, this advice can help.

• Stop playing the numbers game when it comes to your website’s traffic and social media stats. It’s a vicious cycle.

• Since we still have another bathroom in our house to remodel (it never ends!), I like these alternate patterns for subway tile.

• A Beautiful Mess shares their take on sponsored posts.

• Sam Polk wrote a sobering account of his addiction to wealth. “In 2010, in a final paroxysm of my withering addiction, I demanded $8 million instead of $3.6 million. My bosses said they’d raise my bonus if I agreed to stay several more years. Instead, I walked away.”

• Planning a trip? Here’s an awesome list of tools and tips.

• Rejection letters sent to famous people.

• Behind the scenes of America’s textile industry.

• If your hair is bleach ravaged, here’s how to rescue it!

Image: Tim Walker.

Walking the Fine Line Between Inspiration and Imitation

Nubby Twiglet | Walking the Fine Line Between Inspiration and Imitation

There’s such a fine line between inspiration and imitation. It’s so fine that in retrospect, I’ve crossed it a few times myself.

What is the difference between inspiration and imitation, though?

To me, inspiration consists of gathering imagery you love and creating a mood board. Designers do this for most projects to inform a client of the look and feel they’re going for. Inspiration can set the stage for what’s to come and that’s a good thing. Inspiration can help get the creative juices flowing and makes sure everyone is on the same page. I gather inspiration for every project I do.

On the other hand, imitation is knowingly lifting someone else’s design and claiming credit. I say “knowingly” because most of us have had instances where our work turned out eerily similar to someone else’s but we weren’t aware of it until after the fact. This happens sometimes and it’s completely normal because there’s only so many ways you can do something. We all get on similar brain waves.

I am flattered when someone is inspired by the work Branch does and I always get a thrill when I spot it popping up on their client mood boards. It means that the work we’ve produced is resonating somehow, in some way. I love that. Feeling like you’ve somehow inspired someone else’s work is an honor.

The dark side though is discovering that your work has been taken as-is, perhaps badly modified and written off as someone else’s. This has only happened a handful of times that I know of but when it did, I had that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach.

Back in 2009, when I was building up my freelance clientele, I released a PDF of my print portfolio on my blog, only to come across a version a few months later that had lifted my entire custom design including the cover, simply replacing a cropped close-up of my face with theirs. Everything else, from the fonts to page layouts to description lengths, was identical. If you’ve ever built a portfolio, you know how many months of hard work it can take to put together something even deceptively simple.

Another time, a well-known graffiti artist took my “mouth with pill” logo as-is. It was easy to spot because my original design had been illustrated from a photo of my mouth, mini fangs and all. The artist had printed my design on t-shirts and circulated it in a newsletter without my consent, claiming it as their own. I fired off a cease and desist which cleared up the issue by the next day day but it’s still not fun even thinking about going down that road.

5 Tips Before You Turn In Your Work

Even with endless amounts of research, there’s no surefire way to know if what you’ve created is too similar to someone else’s work. But, there are a few things you can do before you release it:

1. Do a gut check. Does it feel original to you? Have you truly created it from the heart? If you’ve knowingly pulled a little too much inspiration from a source, ask yourself what you can adjust.

2. Find little ways you can make your piece ownable. We all have access to the same programs, type families, shapes and stock images. Print out your piece, step back and figure out how you can further modify it. With Gala’s branding, it was a matter of adding small heart elements to her wordmark. With Olivine, it came down to adding a gold tip to the feather icon. For Blogcademy, it was about slicing and color blocking a basic B icon. Think of that one added twist that takes your design from expected to unique.

3. Ask a trusted source for feedback. A few weeks ago, I was working on branding for a client in an industry that was completely new to me. As the first round neared completion, my gut told me that while the branding looked solid, the icons were feeling a little too familiar. I couldn’t quite place why, though. I called Joey in and he confirmed my suspicion — the icons were too simplistic and probably wouldn’t be able to be trademarked. Because of that, I pushed hard for more unique concepts in the next round. An extra curve here, an extra flourish there. My client ended up picking a much more original option. In the end, we all felt better.

4. Sketch, sketch, sketch. I am not an illustrator by any means but I do make sure to do a ton of thumbnail sketches and map out concepts before I ever get started on designs. It forces me to get my ideas onto paper and figure out ways to customize branding elements without the allure of Pinterest and Dribbble (which I do love).

5. Do a Google image search. I very rarely do this myself but when I was working at larger agencies where an icon had to be trademarked worldwide for a client, we would give this a go if an element felt too familiar. To do this, go to Google, click the images tab and then click the camera icon in the search bar. From there, you can upload a screen shot of your branding and see what transpires.

Always Keep Moving Forward

As difficult as it may be, if someone lifts your work, you can’t let it take over your existence and eat you up inside. If you’re amazing at what you do, by the time you’ve discovered what they’ve taken, you’re already five steps ahead and onto bigger and better things. Always keep moving forward. Dan Phillips once said that “One can steal ideas but no one can steal execution or passion.” Use your talents and push yourself outside of your comfort zone. Your uniqueness will shine.

There Are Honest People

As I was writing this post over the weekend, an email popped up from a travel writer who had googled the name for his project and I happened to have a blog column under the same name. I’d created a custom header for the column ages ago (now defunct) and he inquired whether he could buy it and use it for the branding. I packaged up the files, invoiced him and a few hours later, I passed on the rights and was a few hundred dollars richer. Because he was honest and bought it outright, he has a clear conscience and can use it however he pleases for his project. We both felt good about the transaction. There are always going to be bad seeds but you’ve got to focus on the good because things like this do happen.

Mistakes are inevitable but learn from them. Do your best to stay inspired. Do your best not to imitate. Do your best to create from your heart.

Your turn: With so much inspiration out there, how do you keep yourself from crossing over into imitation?

The Typofiles #134: Monster Children

Nubby Twiglet | Monster Children Magazine

Nubby Twiglet | Monster Children Magazine

I’ve missed posting as many Typofiles lately so here’s a note that I’m bringing it back more often.

And with that declaration, one magazine that always seems to make its way into my must read stack is Monster Children. The content is geared towards skate and surf culture but the design is so consistently spot-on that I plunk down my debit card even though I haven’t been on a skateboard since I was 14.

Nubby Twiglet | Monster Children Magazine

Part of what makes Monster Children so awesome is that it’s not afraid to take chances. In a way, it reminds me of Ray Gun back in the day — designers had a pretty strong reaction to David Carson’s style (there was never anyone who was on the fence about it — it was full-on love or hate) and I feel like Monster Children is a more controlled version of that in-your-face design sense. Text marches off the pages, content is rotated sideways, copy runs over images…but the result is always somehow…beautiful.

Nubby Twiglet | Monster Children Magazine

Featured: Monster Children Magazine
For even more Typofiles, click here.

Latest & Greatest #23: Garance Doré For Rifle Paper Co.

Nubby Twiglet | Garance Doré For Rifle Paper Co.

I’m a big fan of sending thank you cards — no matter how much times change, nothing can replace the handwritten note. So when my favorite stationery line, Rifle Paper Co. partnered up with illustrator / blogger Garance Doré for an exclusive line, I was in heaven.

First off, the quality is amazing. All of the printed materials are U.S. made and very weighty. I also love the custom black angled belly bands — the little details really make this line.

Nubby Twiglet | Garance Doré For Rifle Paper Co.

I am a huge fan of Garancé’s art prints and had the idea to buy the Assorted Girls Set to frame as mini prints across our guest room wall. Her work is so chic and quintessentially French.

Nubby Twiglet | Garance Doré For Rifle Paper Co.

Trying to be conservative, I ordered a box of cards and set of notebooks the first time around but once I saw how nicely everything was made, I picked up some more cards. It’s impossible to feel guilty splurging on thank you cards — it feels so good sending out something this beautiful to people I care about.

Nubby Twiglet | Garance Doré For Rifle Paper Co.

I couldn’t buy everything (trust me though, I was tempted!) so here are a few more of my favorites pieces:

1. Cape Card, 2. Canary Thank You Card, 3. Oui Pocket Notebooks, 4. Thinking Of You Card, 5. Sunglasses iPhone Case, 6. Femme Card, 7. Friends Card, 8. On The Go Notepad, 9. Hello, Darling Card, 10. Graphic Notepad, 11. Le Glamour Card and 12. Bonjour Card.

Nubby Twiglet | Garance Doré For Rifle Paper Co.

I love it when two worlds collide and collaborations like this happen!

Are there any collaborations out there at the moment that you’re super excited about?

Photos: Shauna Haider
Product images: Rifle Paper Co.