Tag Archives: How-To

The Making of Rock n Roll Bride Magazine: Tips & Insights

Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

A mock-up of Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

Today I have some tips and tricks to share that I gathered while designing my biggest personal job to date, Rock n Roll Bride Magazine. These are meant to give you some insight into managing a project of this scale and will hopefully make things easier for you both from a design and management standpoint.

Tips & Insights

• Get your print specs as early on in the process as possible. Nobody wants to go through and reformat 80+ pages at the end of a project! Since Kat is located in the U.K., her magazine was set up with a different standard of sizing — I knew this from the beginning and was able to build her magazine on the proper template from day one.

• Draw a rough outline before diving into the design process. I knew that Kat’s magazine would be a maximum of 80 pages and feature 4 core sections plus a handful of additional supporting pages. I also knew that featured weddings would take up the largest chunk of pages. I sat down with a pen and paper and quickly sketched out the page counts so I had some guidelines.

For example: 2 lifestyle articles x 5 pages each = 10. 5 featured weddings x 6 pages each = 30. 2 D.I.Y. features x 5 pages each = 10. 1 fashion spread x 8 pages = 8. Misc. layouts + last minute additions = 22 pages (this has some wiggle room in case an article stretches on a bit).

Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

• If you get stuck on page layouts, step away from the computer. Sketch out some thumbnails to get your creative juices flowing. One of my all-time favorite design book authors, Jan V. White has a few titles that can help you quickly visualize fresh layouts. I love his books because most were written before design became computer-based and the solutions are solid. The two titles I reach for most often are the Graphic Idea Notebook and Designing for Magazines.

• Use a few basic grids throughout your publication for consistency. InDesign makes this super easy. Simply go to Layout > Margins and Columns > Columns and set the number of columns needed. Then adjust the gutter so that your content has some breathing room.

• Stick with black and white printing for your first proof. Not only is it about 1/10th the cost of color but it will allow you to focus more closely on the strength of your layouts and the overall legibility of your type before tackling the images.

• Always mock up your design before sending it to the printer! Once issue 2 was finalized, I did one final print, trimmed all the pages and then affixed them with double-stick tape (see above). I wanted to make sure that when I flipped through it, the magazine as a whole had a solid flow.

• Things look WAY different printed versus on your computer screen. The scale of type and the brightness of images may be way off from what you think. Even if you’re completely confident in your layout, print it! Then, print it again. And again!

• Keep your content organized in a way that makes sense to you. Since Kat’s magazine had four distinct categories that the content was divided into (Lifestyle, Fashion, D.I.Y. and Weddings), I used these as my main content folders so I could drill down and find images and text quickly. We kept a text document of copy for each segment nestled in there along with the photos – breaking the magazine content into those four sections made the project feel a lot less overwhelming. We focused on filling these areas out first and then I went back to the supporting pages at the end and filled in the blanks.

• Save the front and back cover design for last. Chances are, your imagery will change as you move along and it’s hard to know what the headlines will be until you’re getting close to wrapping up the project. Think of this final design challenge as a way to wrap up your masterpiece and give it a face and a name!

Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

• Always save your proofs. I hold onto mine in my flat files. You can learn a lot from looking back at your process.

• Set up some basic layouts you can reuse. InDesign master pages allow you to apply the same templates again and again. Consistency in a print publication is a good thing — developing a consistent rhythm with formatting will help establish a visual style throughout.

• Let your content breathe! I remember the first time I did an editorial layout in college — we were all new to InDesign and a lot of us felt the need to jam as much content onto each page as possible. But think instead of each page as a piece of art. Allow images on certain ones to take the stage — maybe all that’s needed is a big, beautiful quote. Others may tell the heart of the story. Let the copy rule on those. Overall, let either the copy or image take the lead because that lack of balance is what creates visual interest. If both of these elements are too equal on a page, it loses impact.

• Do your research. Buy a few magazines from the genre you’re designing for. I knew very little about the wedding industry as a whole so I bought a few Martha Stewart Weddings magazines, flipped through a few more wedding titles and researched what worked. I knew that I wanted to have a fashion and lifestyle angle in the mix so I defaulted to my no-fail favorites for inspiration: W, Interview and O Magazine. The big time publishers have the big design budgets and know what’s up when it comes to great page layouts. Observe the best and pay close attention to what makes their layouts stand out.

• Commitment-phobic? Print on demand first. If you’re wanting to give your layouts a spin and see how they look in a magazine format before taking the plunge, order a single issue through MagCloud first. See your work on perfect-bound glossy pages before committing to a full run!

Rock n Roll Bride Magazine

• Finally, practice makes perfect. The first time you tackle any big design project, it feels overwhelming (at least to me). But just like anything, the more times you do it, the more it becomes second nature. Five years ago, this project would have given me a panic attack. Now I say, bring it on!

If you have any questions about the specifics of my process, let me know in the comments!

Skate or Die DIY: Customize Your Own Skate Deck!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

When ScotchBlue Tape invited me to take part in their D.I.Y. creative challenge, I was both honored and flattered but I’ll be honest here: my mind when blank when it came to dreaming up a project. I’m used to spending my days designing behind the computer but feel like a fish out of water when it comes to handcrafting most things — luckily, this is Joey’s strong suit! He started his own line of skateboards last year and we’d often talked about collaborating on a design but it was one of those projects we never seemed to get around to. We quickly realized that this was our chance to finally make it a reality!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

To get started, I built out some inspiration boards to give Joey and idea of the direction I wanted my design to take. Pinterest is great but I thought it would be WAY more fun to curate my ideas on cork boards. I knew I wanted the design to be geometric, have at least one pop of color and include my old standbys, type and stripes.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

These are the supplies that are needed:

• Blank Skate Deck. Joey carved mine himself (see above) out of reclaimed wood from a furniture shop that was 9 ply but you can pick up a blank deck at most skate shops.

• Print-outs of Design. We printed out my design in three 11×17 inch sheets (black and white is fine on normal paper) that were then taped together as a stencil.

• ScotchBlue Tape. The thinner width was especially awesome for knocking out our stripes.

• Spray Adhesive: You’ll need this to affix the paper stencil to the tape. We used a 3M version.

• Spraypaint. We used Krylon brand with a gloss finish in black, white and yellow (see above) and finished with a clear coat to seal it.

• X-acto Knife. You’ll need to cut out the pattern so you can spray paint the design.

• Prep: Joey cut this deck out with a jigsaw himself, measured and drilled the holes for trucks and sanded it to a smooth finish. If you purchase one from a skate shop, the holes will already be drilled.

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1. Start with a base coat of spraypaint (we used white) and let it dry for a full day to make sure it isn’t tacky.

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2. Cover the entire bottom surface of the skate deck in ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape.

3. This is the surface that the stencil will be cut out of.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

4. Cover the entire taped surface of the skate deck in spray adhesive.

5. Next, affix the stencil to the tacky surface and cut off the excess.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

6. Cut out the black portions of the stencil using an X-acto knife. Remember to cut through both the stencil AND the painter’s tape. The stencil and tape are affixed together so peel both off to reveal the painted surface.

7. All black portions of the stencil should be removed EXCEPT for the A.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

8. The first coat of black spraypaint is applied. The A was masked over with ScotchBlue Tape because we were going to apply a different color to it later in the process.

9. Remove the rest of the stencil.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

10. This is the result.

11. Peel off the A section of the stencil and SAVE IT!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

12. Create a fresh, inverted circle stencil.

13. Use paper and ScotchBlue Tape to mask the entire skate deck with exception of the circle and a single stripe (these are the areas we want to make yellow).

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

14. Spraypaint the yellow sections. Let this dry for a few hours to ensure nice, crisp edges.

15. Remove all paper and tape to reveal the yellow. Then, replace with the A that was set aside earlier. Mask off everything that should NOT be black. Apply one final coat of black paint and let this dry for a few hours.

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

16. Once surface is dry, remove all masking to reveal your final design!

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Joey wasn’t quite finished yet, though. Before I took my deck out for a spin, he applied grip tape to the surface and sliced out my trademark cross symbol. The perfect finishing touch! Get creative here — you can cut out anything in the grip tape you can dream up!

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I loved my finished design so much I put it on display in my office. Nothing beats a piece of functional art! If you have any questions at all about the process, please let me know in the comments and we’ll do our best to respond! And if you make your own skate deck design, let us know — we’d love to see it!

scotch blue tape DIY skate deck

This post is a collaboration with ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape. Visit Scotch Blue Tape on Facebook to learn how to win rad stuff and check out the other participants’ projects in the gallery. All concepts and designs within this post were created in partnership with Joey Maas.

Developing A Design Process: 01

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Moodboard for Sasha Gulish Photography branding

One of the questions I get asked most often is about my design process. Most of us have a method for working through a project but once it’s done often enough, it begins to feel like second nature. I’ve continually held off writing this article until now because truthfully, my design process has become so routine that I don’t think of it as being significant. But, when I take the time to step back, I realize that we each have a different method for working through projects and can learn from one another. Today, I’m going to share an overview of the general design process I go through when working on a project. Please note that the process detailed below is focused solely on the creative side of a project and not on any of the administrative or strategic tasks that take place.

1. The Questionnaire

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Nubbytwiglet.com Questionnaire

When I’m working with a new client, I begin my process by sending out a questionnaire. It’s comprised of a short, succinct set of questions meant to jog memories and provide the basic information clients might not otherwise think about. The last question encourages clients to gather their own visual inspiration and links to sites and content they like. After all, we know ourselves better than anyone else and the more we share about what we love & loathe, the easier the designer’s job becomes.

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Nubbytwiglet.com Pinterest

2. Visual Research

While the client is doing their own visual research to show me what they like, I’m doing mine at the same time. Conducting visual research is important because it helps you become aware of current trends. This doesn’t mean that you should rip off every hot color, font and lockup you see. It’s meant to inform you of what’s happening in the world around you. Think about the flipside; you don’t want to end up with a logo that looks exactly like someone else’s because you didn’t do your homework! Clients tend to want a logo that’s on-trend while still remaining unique. But by on-trend, I mean current, not trendy. Nobody wants to go through the hassle of redesigning their logo every few years if they can help it!

My top places to search for visual inspiration are:

1. Designspiration

2. Pinterest (This is my personal account where I save some of my favorite images).


4. Flickr: I have a private folder that I upload everything I find into and have been actively adding to it since college. I do this mainly because I can be anywhere in the world, log in and have my full collection of inspiration at my fingertips.

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Thumbnail sketches from a recent logo design

3. Thumbnail Sketches

Ah, yes. Our college professors made us do page after page of thumbnail sketches and they do have their benefits! My head is usually full of potential fonts and lockups the second I start working on a new project and getting them onto paper helps me define some of the options I really want to explore. Plus, being away from the computer helps me clear my mind and creatively focus in a fresh way. To be completely honest, I’m not a big sketcher. Often, my notebook pages will be composed mostly of lists, like “try this font” and “reference this image.” Sketch, make lists, do whatever suits your style best. Just try to do some part of your creative process away from the computer. Breaking up your routine often yields some of the best, most unexpected results.

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Inspiration section from my presentation deck

4. Presentation with Visual Research

A moodboard (at the top of this post) is more of an arbitrary, outward-facing step I’ve included to show online folks what outside influences inspired me on a particular project. But usually, the visuals I’ve gathered are placed in a section within the first client presentation I deliver called, you guessed it, “Inspiration.” This is beneficial for the client because it can make them more feel more confident of the outcomes when they understand the general reference points. Also, something lurking in the visual inspiration may very well grab their attention. Perhaps they’ll say, “I love the layout of option #4 but the type feels off. Can you modify it to feel more like the type in XYZ?”

5. The Moodboard

I’ve noticed a huge trend lately of designers showing moodboards online of what inspired a particular project. I’ve never shared this part of my process with my readers but am considering making a change the next time I showcase a project. Of course, in my world the inspiration is just a folder of gathered imagery tucked inside the client’s job folder on my hard drive but in an effort to present a so-called organized, methodical look, an example of the visual research I gathered for photographer Sasha Gulish’s identity development is at the top of this post. Looking back, it really did help speed up the design process and aligned perfectly with the colors we’d already been considering.

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The final outcome of Sasha’s identity / business cards (note that only the blue version was printed).

6. Revise / Review / Redeliver

Once you’ve delivered that first round, it’s time to wait for client feedback, revise the options they liked, perhaps gather even more visual inspiration if they’re feeling a particular direction and send off the second round. Rinse and repeat until complete!

I’ve titled this article Developing a Design Process 01 because I figured that you might have more questions about specifics. If there’s something further you’d like to know about developing a process, please leave a question in the comments!

Shoe Care Secrets

Over the years, I’ve gotten many emails like this one from readers that want to know the secrets of my shoe care:

I just got hold of a very special pair of shoes. They are very limited and beautiful. I know you have a fantastic shoe collection that you get a lot of wear out of, but is there ever a case to be made for not wearing a special pair of shoes? And, how do you take care of a very precious pair while still getting a good amount of wear out of them?

I’m a total shoe fanatic though I am fairly picky about what I buy. When I do add a pair of shoes to my collection, I take steps to make sure that they will last for as long as possible. Though some of the pairs I own are more fragile than others, I’m not a fan of collecting items only to leave them on a shelf to collect dust. Over time, I’ve discovered a few products and modifications that you can do to make your shoes last much longer.

My favorite brand of polish is Collonil Waterstop. The benefit of Waterstop over other polishes is that it has Goretex waterproofer mixed into the formula and a soft sponge applicator. Simply apply it straight from the tube, let it dry and then buff it out to a high shine with an old rag or even better, a horsehair brush.

Superfeet Dressfit insoles won’t make your shoes last longer, but they will add some much needed arch support. I love the Dressfit insoles because they never lose their shape and can be rinsed off when needed. Also, they are three-quarter length so that they don’t take up any precious toe room in dressier shoes. Pinched toes are never in style!

Modified Acne Atacoma platforms with Vibram soles

I always take my favorite shoes to the cobbler and have Vibram soles put on the bottoms. A lot of more expensive shoes have leather soles. Leather doesn’t hold up particularly well, especially in the rainy climate where I live. Having a layer of Vibram added not only provides extra traction but also makes the sole last about three times longer in my opinion. I have been doing this for years and on average, you should expect to pay about $40.00 US for this service.

If you own many pairs of shoes that are made of a smooth leather and need a quick fix, nothing works better than Dr. Martens Wonder Balsam. Made of natural oils and waxes, it features a sponge applicator. Simply rub on over scuffs and scratches, let it soak in momentarily and your shoes will be moisturized and gleaming. It goes on clear and works on any color of leather. Genius!

Lastly, if you need your shoes repaired, finding a good cobbler can be a real challenge. Before dropping off your most prized pair of Louboutins, it’s always worth the time to do a little bit of research. A good place to start is by reading reviews on Yelp or Citysearch. In Portland, I absolutely swear by Nob Hill Shoe Repair. They just put the Vibram soles on my Acne Atacoma wedges (above) and have always done impeccable work. In New York, my favorite shoe repair is Alex Shoe Repair, especially for crazy modifications. They’ve put some intense treads on my pointy boots and added eyelets and laces to my Chloe wedges. Best of all, they work super fast.

Readers: Do you have any secret shoe tips and tricks that you swear by?

7 Tips For Creating a Print-Based Design Portfolio

This is a bold statement, but building a portfolio is quite tricky because everyone seems to have a differing opinion on how it should be done. Building a portfolio is about showcasing your work and therefore, it should be an expression of your personality and design style.

Most online articles tend to offer advice on just web-based portfolios. I’ve found that information addressing print portfolios is sorely lacking even though many design programs still require them to graduate.

Though PDF and web-based portfolios are becoming more acceptable, I still believe that nothing takes the place of a well-executed print portfolio that a potential client or employer can physically hold and flip through during a meeting.

What steps can you take to make your print portfolio your absolute best?

Get as much professional work in your portfolio as soon as possible. It’s never too early to start seeking freelance clients. As soon as you feel comfortable with your skill level, hit the pavement. I did a massive magazine project a year before I went to school for design and landed a freelance job from Virgin Records in my second semester. The work gained from these two clients helped me get my first internship.

I’ve now been out of school for about a year and in that time, I have replaced nearly every class-initiated project with client work. Showcasing client work in your portfolio projects a level of expertise and professionalism. It demonstrates that you are able to work in the real world with companies who have actual deadlines and budgets. Client work implies that you can handle feedback on your work while delivering solid results.

Invest in a format that you’re passionate about. Most designers stick with a standard portfolio cover and fill their ‘book’ with printed pages of work but I’ve heard of others who create a set of cards (with their work mounted on heavyweight paper) and some even take it a step further, designing handmade books. Custom-made cases and personalized portfolio covers are also legitimate options. The sky’s the limit.

For the last year, I’ve been using a white glossy acrylic 11 x 17 portfolio cover from Office and I absolutely love it. The simplicity, durability and expandability all played prominently into my decision to go with this format.

No matter your concept, keep in mind that your interviewer usually has a limited amount of time. Don’t make your portfolio so complicated that it becomes a nuissance. Remember that the overall goal is to keep the focus firmly on your work.

Limit the number of projects that you choose to showcase. There is varying feedback on the maximum number of pieces that should be included in a print portfolio and many designers are encouraged show no more than 6 to 10 of their best projects. I usually try to keep the number as close to 10 as possible but I am not afraid to go over this amount if I feel that a project is a must-see (though, it should be noted that most of my projects take up only one page).

If you keep your descriptions short and concise when showing your book and flip through at a consistent pace, a potential employer usually won’t mind a few extra projects (as long as they’re good). Test yourself: can you flip through your book and describe each project in a total of 10 to 15 minutes? If not, revise.

As you gain more clients and a wider variety of work, it becomes harder to narrow down the amount of pieces that you feel are worthy of inclusion. Just use common sense and don’t go overboard; I’ve seen student portfolios that had upwards of 40 pages!

If you haven’t had many actual clients yet, it’s okay to take on low paying or even unpaid projects in areas that you need work in to fill out your portfolio.

Simple Layouts are Good. When you’re building your first portfolio, it’s understandable that you’ll want to show off how awesome your work is. But, I suggest that you keep the focus on the actual work, not on the portfolio.

These pages are from my 11 x 17 print portfolio. An emphasis is placed on typography in the opening pages since this is one of my main interests but the page layouts of work are always white with descriptions limited to a few sentences at the bottom.

The pieces that you’ve chosen to showcase should speak for themselves; keep flourishes, gradients, drop shadows, patterned backgrounds and textures to a minimum.

Create an order that works for you. This is another area where everyone has a differing opinion but you really have to weigh what’s right for your needs; go with your gut instinct. Creating an order usually begins with selecting two of your strongest pieces to begin and end with. The middle should be ordered in a way that creates an interesting mix through varying color schemes, styles and formats.

Though, when building a portfolio, don’t be afraid to break the rules. A few months back, I had a meeting with a designer that I really admire. She had some interesting advice about how a portfolio should create a vision. Her idea revolved around beginning with flat, 2-D based work (such as print design and logos) building to interactive, web-based work and ending with 3-D based work (packaging design, retail displays, etc.) Though this advice won’t necessarily work for everyone, it’s always interesting to hear a new perspective.

Get feedback. Before taking your portfolio out into the world for interviews and client meetings, have a handful of people that you trust flip through it and ask for honest (yet constructive) feedback. Though, this is where your gut feeling comes into play once again.

I’ve had reviews on the same day where one professional offered me work on the spot while another had a laundry list of changes that I should make. You know your work better than anyone else so it’s up to you to decide which feedback you should take (and leave).

Accept that your portfolio is never really finished. Think of your portfolio as a constant work in progress. There is always something that can be improved upon, even if it’s freshly printed. In the last three months alone, I’ve made three rounds of revisions.

Once you have a solid layout and order of work that you’re proud of, the updates come much more easily. Consistently add in new client work, self-initiated projects that show off a new skill set, projects that you’ve reworked, updated (improved) product photos and refined descriptions.

In Closing. Everyone will have an opinion about your portfolio but it’s up to you to filter this information and then do what suits your work best. When you walk into a room for an interview, your confidence about what you’ve created has to shine through. A portfolio is about your vision as a designer, not anyone else’s.

We can be our own worst critics and feel that our portfolios are never good enough. But in truth, as a designer, your job is never finished. Even when you hand a final project over to a client for approval, you’re probably still making changes in your mind, questioning what you could have improved upon. A portfolio can be the same way but at some point, you have to learn to let go.

You have to accept your portfolio for what it is while having a vision of what it will (eventually) be. Take a deep breath and let it venture out into the world, for better or worse. As you grow, it has the potential to grow with you. Each project, each internship, each job should be viewed as a stepping stone to an even better portfolio.

Portfolio Resources.

• Office has an amazingly comprehensive website of portfolio options. My personal favorites are by Pina Zangaro. They even have portfolio covers in bamboo!

• Bryony and Armin of Under Consideration are working on a book all about portfolios!!!

They recently announced that “For our next big project we have decided to focus on a subject that is the cause of both stress and excitement for want-to-be-employees and employers: Portfolios. The book will explore best practices in putting the physical portfolio together — not the work itself — and achieving the best presentation possible. The book will feature case studies of portfolios as well as insight from people that review portfolios about what they expect as well as insight from those presenting.”

• Mark Bowley has penned an excellent article on preparing and talking about your design portfolio.

• I never get tired of reading Michael Beirut’s May I Show You My Portfolio? in which he gives us a peek at the actual contents of his portfolio, circa 1979. Good stuff.

Your Turn: If you’re a designer, do you have a print portfolio? What format do you use? How many pieces have you included?