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Wild Internship!

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With a few weeks of summer under my belt, I'm comfortably settled into my role as Graphic Design Intern at the Minnesota Zoo! I spent the first week learning the ropes of the zoo and working on a few smaller design projects for various exhibits. More recently, I had the opportunity to create several large pieces for the Butterfly Garden, which will be opening for the season next weekend! It's really exciting to see my designs around the zoo, and to see children and their families actually interacting with them. One of my recent projects (shown below) is a digital display for the zoo's butterfly conservation campaign, which is located at the entrance to the zoo right in front of the cashiers' desks.

The other interns and I are encouraged to walk around to the different exhibits, and we've gotten special tours of behind the scenes areas where they keep the animals when they're not on display. In the future, my boss even plans to arrange an event for us where we can interact with some of the animals up close! So far it's been an amazing experience, and I can't wait for the rest of the summer!

This will likely be my last post of the season, and I'm not yet sure if I will be returning in the fall. If that's the case, I'd like to thank you all for reading and wish you a wonderful summer!

Kate
Graphic Design

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Portfolio Polishing

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Now that the semester is over, I've finally had some time to fix up my portfolio and make it look a bit more professional. I just added the photos from my last surface design project, which you can take a look at here. I'm pretty happy with how they turned out, especially considering that they were taken on a coffee table in my living room using a bed sheet and a work lamp for some makeshift lighting.

For the projects that didn't include a printed component (or that I just didn't feel like photographing) I've began to create photoshop mockups that give the designs a bit more context. Mockups are great tools for graphic designers and allow clients to preview what a design will actually look like in its finished state. There are tons of mockup templates available online that you can download for free and use for your own projects. They're super easy to customize and only take a couple minutes to complete. Below I've included before and after images of a basic poster mockup that I recently added to my portfolio. If you'd like to learn a bit more about how to create your own, you can take a look at this online tutorial!

Kate
Graphic Design

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Looking Forward

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With final projects and exams all wrapped up, I'm excited to say that I've officially completed my sophomore year of college! The year flew by so fast, it's hard to believe it's already over. Over the past few months I've met some amazing people, grown even closer with my friends here at the U, and developed so much as a designer.

Although I'm a bit sad to see this semester go, I'm really looking forward to my summer at the zoo and have already started planning for next fall. I'm really excited for my upcoming classes and am happy to announce that I've accepted a fall position as Head Designer at The Wake Student Magazine.

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For those of you who aren't familiar with The Wake, it's a bi-weekly, student-operated magazine that covers events going on around the University of Minnesota. All the reporting, writing, editing, and artwork for the magazine are done by students, and anyone who's interested can sign up to write, regardless of their previous journalism experience (or lack thereof).

As head designer, I'll be responsible for the overall look of the publication. We're planning to give the current design a major update, and I already have some ideas bouncing around in my head! If you'd like to get involved with The Wake, or just want to check out their latest issue, you can see their website here or at the link posted above.

Kate
Graphic Design


Surviving Finals

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With finals just around the corner, my stress level is steadily climbing towards its peak. I not only have three huge final exams coming up, but also my final Surface Design project to complete. During such a difficult time, everyone can use a helping hand, which is why I'd like to devote this entry to one of my favorite study tools - StudyBlue.com.

This website is a great resource for both college and high school students, and has helped me cram for (and pass) more finals than I care to admit. It allows users to create separate flashcard decks for each of their courses, and keeps track of them in an online account, or "digital backpack." You can also share cards that other students have created for the same class, which is a huge time saver. The site keeps track of your flashcard results, marking each one that you got right or wrong. Over time it generates a chart to show your progress, identifying which cards should be studied more.

In addition to its functional benefits, the site has a great user interface and overall look. As a graphic student, I can't help but appreciate such good design! I've included some images of it below, but I would definitely recommend visiting the site for yourself. Hopefully you find it as helpful as I have!

Kate
Graphic Design

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Fake Business = Fun Design

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In my last post I mentioned that my final project for Surface Design is a visual identity system based on the color and texture of ice dyed fabric. Now that the dyeing process is complete, I've spent the last week refining the complete concept for the business that it will represent. I've decided to create an identity for a fictitious fabric store called LOOM that specializes in hand-woven and dyed fabrics, featuring regular collections by local textile artists. I know that it's a pretty specific niche business and that it might not be successful in the real world, but that's the beauty of designing for a fake business - it doesn't have to be plausible. It just has to look good.

Below I've included a mock-up of a few business cards, which I'm currently working on screen printing as a color separation (hence the bitmap format):

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I'm pretty happy with the look of the cards so far and plan to develop the rest of the visual identity system around them. I've decided to include a letter template, envelopes, paper bags, and a series of product labels. I'll only be screen printing a few of the components to fulfill the project requirements, and the rest will be digitally printed to save a bit of time. I can't wait to share the final product with you!

Kate
Graphic Design

"Cool" Final Project

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With only two weeks of class left, final projects and presentations are kicking into high gear. One of the biggest tasks I have yet to complete is a two-part final project for my surface design class. It's an extremely open ended assignment; the only requirements are that it include an "experimental" component (i.e. something you've never tried before) and a "planned" component that utilizes some other type of media. For my experimental portion I decided to try a new dyeing technique called "ice dyeing," where fabric is placed on a rack, covered with ice, and then sprinkled with dye powder. As the ice melts, the dye reaches the fabric at different rates and creates a really interesting effect. The technique is pretty unpredictable, so after trying a couple times I still came up with completely different results.

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For the next portion of the project, I plan to choose an an area from one of these fabrics, photograph it, and convert it into a color separation that I can use to create a visual identity system for a fictitious fabric store specializing in hand-crafted textiles. I plan to hand print business cards and product labels, as well as several other components. It's a pretty ambitious project, but I'm really looking forward to it!

Kate
Graphic Design



Officially Employed!

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After a busy few weeks interviewing for summer graphic design positions around the cities, I am happy to announce that I've accepted an internship at the Minnesota Zoo! I'll be working on a lot of their promotional materials for the upcoming season, as well as a major rebranding project that they are undertaking this summer. I'm really excited to gain some hands-on experience with branding for a large organization, especially for one as fun as the zoo! I'll be working 30 hours a week from mid-May through August, which makes it a nearly full-time position. It'll definitely be an intense experience, but I have no doubt that it will be worth it! I'm looking forward to getting involved, learning a lot, and having a blast in the process.

Kate
Graphic Design

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Magazine Makeover

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Since I first began the Graphic Design program here at the U, one of my biggest interests in the field has been editorial design. I'm specifically interested in the visual composition of books and magazines, and I would love to pursue a career at a publishing company or work in-house for a major magazine.

After nearly two years of looking forward to it, I'm finally getting the chance to work on an editorial project. In my Typography class we are currently redesigning the cover, contents page, and two spreads of an existing magazine. For my project I chose to focus on First for Women magazine, which is in serious need of some design TLC. The magazine's content primarily consists of health-related articles and promotes a positive lifestyle among its wide age-range of female readers. For the purposes of this project, we were instructed to alter the magazine's target audience to make it a bit more specific. I chose to go with a slightly older demographic, focusing on health-conscious, active women between the ages of 40 and 55.

The original aesthetic of the magazine was very overwhelming and cluttered, with bright colors, huge fonts, and loud graphic elements that changed on every page. My goal was to tone down the design, make it more organized, more legible, and much more pleasant to look at overall. I redesigned the masthead to serve dual purpose as a framing element and gave the magazine a fresh color scheme to emphasize the health aspect of the publication. Before and after images of the cover are shown below:

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Let me know what you think in the comments below! I'd love to hear your opinions!

Kate
Graphic Design


CMYK Magic

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Last week in my Surface Design class, we were introduced to our next big screen printing project! The goal is to design and create several prints of a poster using a technique called "color separation." This process mimics four color process printing, where small dots of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black are placed on the paper in multiple layers that combine to create the illusion of many more colors.

For my design, I chose to create a modernized travel poster using large geometric shapes and photos from my high school trip to Barcelona. After finishing the design, I separated it into the four process colors using the split channels tool on Photoshop, and then created a bitmap out of each channel. This left me with the four screens shown below that layer together to create my final image (on the far right).

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CMYKbitmap.jpgI found this process to be extremely interesting, and loved seeing how just four hues could create a nearly endless spectrum of color. If you look closely, you can see how the individual layers of CMYK combine to create something completely different. I've included a close up of the gray section here on the right so you can really see how the separation works. It's such an interesting perspective, and it really changes the way you view color within the screen printing process. For any screen printers out there, I would definitely recommend giving it a try!

Kate
Graphic Design


Typography Time!

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With spring break officially over, it's time to reluctantly return to reality. Although this past week of relaxation has been fantastic, no classes means no new work to show here on the blog. Since I have this extra time on my hands, I thought I would get you up to speed on one of my favorite classes - Typography.

In the past few weeks we've moved past classic typefaces and basic type anatomy and began looking more at how to establish hierarchy and emotion through type. A lot of our in-class work has involved laying out type based on specific axes and grids, but we've had a bit more freedom in our individual projects.

The project below is one of my favorites from the class so far. It's a promotional poster for the Design Culture Now lecture series and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City. The only requirements for the poster was that it include all necessary information about the event, organize it in a readable manner, and be created solely from type. Since the event is geared towards designers, I wanted to give the poster a sophisticated feel while still using a creative organizational approach. The slicing diagonal effect that I chose really gives a strong sense of movement acts as a visual puzzle to keep the viewer engaged.

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If you have any thoughts on the final poster, let me know in the comments below!

Kate
Graphic Design



Netflix and Nuptials

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After a frantic week of cramming for midterms and finishing up projects, spring break has finally arrived! Although I don't have any exciting travel plans, being able to relax, watch some Netflix, and get an adequate amount of sleep will be enough of a vacation for me.

The break is also giving me the chance to catch up on some homework and get started on a new freelance project! I'll be designing a matching set of wedding invitations, rsvp cards, and ceremony programs for senior Apparel Design student Karen Fiegen. Her wedding to fiancé Zach Allen, a marketing student at the University of Minnesota Duluth, will take place next October at the McNamara Alumni Center here on campus! The invitations should fit with the ceremony's classic theme, yellow and navy blue color palette, and subtle nautical hints. With this description in mind, I've put together the following mood board using images from Karen's Pinterest page:

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Even though I've never done wedding invitations before, I'm really excited to get started on this project! Karen has been great to work with so far and I hope that I can create something truly amazing for her wedding day.


Kate
Graphic Design


Dean's Reception Fun!

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Last weekend I had a blast volunteering at the College of Design Dean's Reception! It's an annual event held for prospective University of Minnesota students considering the College of Design for enrollment in the fall. Since I was unable to attend the reception my own year, I was extra excited to be helping out and getting an inside look at the event!

My main job for the day was to lead a group of students on a tour of the graphic design facilities and to present some of my work during the graphic design informational session. I also had the opportunity to sit in on the Honors Luncheon, where I spoke about my experience as an honors student, answered questions about the Honors Program, and got to snag a free sandwich from the buffet table.

Overall, the day was a huge success! All of the families that attended were extremely polite and seemed genuinely interested in the college. It was great to be able to share my personal experiences with future students, and I'm sure I will be seeing some of them here next year!

Below are some photos of the event that were taken throughout the day. (My back makes a special appearance in the center image.) If you'd like to see more photos, visit the College of Design Facebook Page.

Kate
Graphic Design


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Putting on my Professional Pants

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Although most of my classes are just reaching their halfway point, my half-semester Career and Internship Preparation course is already kicking into high gear for its final week of class.

During our past few sessions, we've concentrated on creating resumes, cover letters, and portfolios that are both appealing to employers and representative of our own aesthetics as designers. This was capped off by an in-class portfolio panel led by practicing designers from around the Twin Cities. The night before this panel took place, I decided that I wasn't satisfied with my current portfolio and completely switched sites to CargoCollective.com. I'm now much happier with the finished result and got really positive feedback from the panel. If you'd like to see the new and improved version, follow this link: http://cargocollective.com/katejohnston.

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In addition to portfolio panel, we were also required to conduct an informational interview with a professional designer in our specific field of interest. Although the assignment only called one interview, I chose to meet with two designers -- one from Periscope and one from Studio MPLS. Their workplaces and projects were definitely very different, but they both sounded amazing to me. I was really able to learn a lot and could definitely see myself working at either place in the future.

Next week we wrap up class with mock interviews, which will be a culmination of everything we have learned throughout the semester so far. I'm a bit nervous, but also excited to test out my new professional skills. Although I still have two years of college left, the adult world of employment already seems to be just around the corner.


Kate
Graphic Design



Online Portfolio Launch

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This week I took a huge step forward as a graphic designer by launching my online portfolio! At this point it's still a work in progress -- I have a lot more work to upload and some minor kinks to work out -- but you can see the beginnings of it here:

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I had some difficulty finding a site that really represented my work in the way that I had envisioned. There are tons of free portfolio hosting sites out there, but they aren't quite as customizable as the ones you have to pay for.

I ended up going with folio24, but I chose the free version rather than the paid subscription -- it's still super easy to use and allows you to upload 35 images, which is more than many other sites. I also toyed around with PortfolioBox and Crevado, but they had a lot of limitations on their free versions. I may eventually upgrade to a paid site, but I'd like to really know what I'm looking for before I make that commitment. For those of you who may be looking for an online portfolio site of your own, this article has tons of great resources for you to check out:
http://mashable.com/2013/09/17/online-portfolio/.

Since this post was published, I've actually switched sites again. Here is a link to the new and improved version: http://cargocollective.com/katejohnston I'd love to see your thoughts in the comments below!


Kate
Graphic Design


Mixed Results?

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Hello everyone! Just as I promised, here is a look at the finished prints for my first surface design project. I ended up with a total of six prints on three different types of paper, each of which are slightly different.

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I'm not completely happy with how they turned out, but for a first attempt I would say its still a success. After starting with such a strong background shape, I had trouble finding an image that could be printed over the top and still stand out as the main focal point. Instead of working against the shape, I decided to sketch out tree branch that roughly followed the curves of the original print. I went for a gnarled look to contrast the smooth lines of the background and printed it twice (slightly offset) to give it more visual weight.

It was a fun to experiment with a more spontaneous approach, but if I had to do the project over again I would definitely plan a bit more up front. Luckily I'll get a chance to do that soon, as we're already moving onto another project -- printing a repeat pattern on dyed fabric! I have a couple ideas floating around in my head right now, but I'll let you know when I have something more solid to show.


Kate
Graphic Design



My First Typeface

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In my past couple entries I've talked a lot about my Surface Design studio, so for this week I thought I should give you an update on another important design studio that I'm taking this semester: GDES 2345 Typography.

The first few weeks of class were heavily focused on textbook readings, which outlined the historical foundations of typography, classic typeface examples, and type anatomy. This week we finally got some hands-on experience as we took a stab at designing our own typefaces. Here's a look at my first attempt:


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bloom_fabric_11.jpegAlthough the text reads "Mango," that isn't actually the name of the typeface -- I just chose it at random until I can come up with something that really fits. I wanted to achieve a clean, geometric feel while still playing around a bit with the proportions. The top sections of the letters appear to be a solid gray here, but they are actually a slightly transparent black. I'm not sure how practical this will be, but I really wanted to try something different. The overall inspiration for the design came from the "Bloom" Chair designed by Paige Vanderkemp (pictured to the right).

Although the typeface is still a bit rough, I'm definitely excited to see where it leads! If you have any thoughts of the design, let me know in the comments below.


Kate
Graphic Design

Spontaneous Screen Printing

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UnfinishedPrint.jpgAs I mentioned in my previous post, I've already begun my first screen printing project for GDES 3312: Color and Form in Surface Design. The project is loosely titled "Portrait," but it doesn't necessarily have be a portrait of a person -- the final print could depict nearly any subject, from an animal to a season or even a mood.

Although my own prints are roughly halfway done, I still haven't decided on a specific subject. This lack of direction may seem a bit strange, but it was done intentionally to give the project a more spontaneous feel. Our professor encouraged this impromptu approach and urged us to jump right into the printing process without any set ideas or plans.

Although I was initially a bit uncomfortable with the idea, I've really come to enjoy the process -- being creative feels much more liberating without a strict plan to follow or a specific outcome in mind. It's been really interesting to see how my prints unfold and where the next day's work will take me.

One of my six prints for the project is shown here on the right. Even though it isn't finished, I'm pleased with my progress so far. Up to this point I've been working with basic screen printing techniques and experimenting with a few different approaches to achieve the mottled texture and watery lines you see here. I haven't quite decided where to go next, but I definitely plan on including at least two more layers of color. I'll be sure to upload some photos of the final prints once they're complete. If you'd like to see how they turn out, stay tuned!

Kate
Graphic Design


Getting Messy!

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Now that spring term is officially underway, I'm really excited for my upcoming semester of design coursework! Even though we've only been back in class for a few days, my classmates and I are already digging in and beginning some major projects.

In GDES 3312: Color and Form in Surface Design, we've already started our first screen printing project. Compared to the highly-controlled digital environment that I'm used to working in, screen printing has been complete one-eighty. The process can be unpredictable and messy, but it also allows for a high level of freedom within the creative process. Each print is different than the last and you never know quite how the next one will turn out. Although this can lead to some imperfections in your work, these unique characteristics may turn out to be what makes a piece great.

The images below are from the website of Dan Mather, an independent screen printer and graphic designer based in London. They really show that sometimes the most beautiful things can come from the messiest places.

Kate
Graphic Design


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Designer Stereotypes

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SpotTheDesigner.jpgAs a graphic design student, I'm well aware of the many stereotypes typically placed on professionals within the graphic design field. Designers (especially young designers) are often portrayed as avid Apple fanatics decked out in black rimmed glasses, graphic tees, and skinny jeans. Although I don't personally conform to this dress code, I do identify with a number of intellectual and creative traits commonly associated with graphic designers -- I'm very visually oriented, extremely critical of my own work, and a diehard perfectionist.

Over time I've stumbled across a number of infographics that jokingly outline these traits and poke fun at common graphic design stereotypes. I've posted two of my favorite infographics here, which you can click to view the full-sized versions. These infographics are not only entertaining, but also have a real resemblance to my own thought processes and habits (except maybe the one about digging through the garbage).

I hope you find them as entertaining as I did!


Kate
Graphic Design


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Design Pin-spiration!

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Since the beginning of winter break, I've found myself spending a lot of my free time online. Much of this time has been devoted to one of my favorite websites - Pinterest. In addition to its countless recipes and craft ideas, Pinterest is also a great source for creative inspiration. With countless boards created by professional designers and design firms, there is always something new to look at. Every area of design is covered, from typography to branding to packaging. I've posted links to some of my favorite boards below. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Kate
Graphic Design


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So Many Classes, So Little Time!

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With spring semester just around the corner, I'm really looking forward to my upcoming design classes! As I mentioned in a previous post, I will be taking Typography, Surface Design, and Career and Internship Preparation. I had also planned on taking Design and Its Discontents, but unfortunately there were no more open seats. Instead, I decided to take one of my three required program electives. With nearly twenty options listed on my APAS report, the only difficulty was choosing which to take.

I very interested in several classes including one on bookmaking, one on photography, and another on user experience in design. Sadly, none of these classes fit in my schedule so I had to think a bit outside the box. I ended up choosing a class called the Phenomenon of Everyday Design (DES 3351), which is only offered periodically every few semesters. The class not only sounds really interesting, but is also given by one of my favorite professors from freshman year!

Even though DES 3351 it wasn't on the list of preapproved classes, a quick email to my adviser assured me that it would count as a program elective. With such flexible scheduling, it's easy to find classes that suit my schedule as well as my interests as a graphic designer!

In addition to this change, I also swapped my Journalism class for Management 3001 and an Art History class in Roman Art and Archaeology. You can see these new classes on my updated schedule below!

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Kate
Graphic Design


No Rest for a Designer

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Winter break is finally upon us! It's the perfect time to relax, catch up on sleep, and enjoy a much needed break from homework and classes. But as much as I was looking forward to spending some quality time with my Netflix account, I find myself with a number of design projects in the works. I'm currently developing a logo for a student group on campus, creating and illustrating a Prezi for the College of Design Office of Admissions, and redesigning the Lambda Delta Phi sorority alumni newsletter. I don't have much to show yet as the projects are all in the early stages of development, but I've included a screenshot below that gives you the basic feel of the newsletter:

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These types of projects and design opportunities are everywhere if you just keep an eye out for them! Mine were mostly found through mutual friends and acquaintances, and there are always a few requests posted on different social media sites. I would definitely encourage other graphic design students to take on a few extra projects when they have the time -- it helps develop your skills as a designer, and it always looks great on a resume!


Kate
Graphic Design

Final Web Design Project

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Now that fall semester is over, I've finally completed my big project for GDES 2342: Web Design. As I mentioned in a previous post, the basic idea behind the project was to redesign a website for a local business or organization that was in definite need of some design assistance. My website of choice was Mesa Pizza, which was both fun and a bit challenging. Although it doesn't quite have all the features that I originally envisioned, I would say it's a pretty big success for my first attempt at web design!

You can see a couple screenshots of the site below, or you can check out the full website by visiting my U of M Personal Webspace. There's an issue with one of the fonts in Firefox that my professor and I couldn't quite figure out, so I would recommend viewing it in either Safari or Google Chrome.

Let me know what you think in the comments below! I'd love to hear your opinions.

Kate
Graphic Design

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Web Design in the Twin Cities

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Since I started my web design class at the beginning of this semester, I've found myself paying a lot more attention to the designs of the websites that I regularly visit. I've also developed a habit of browsing for new and interesting websites during my free time between classes and homework. Through this process, I've discovered a lot of really inspiring sites, many of which are for design firms right here in the Twin Cities! I've included images of some of my favorites below, which you can click on to visit the actual sites.

Even though my class isn't quite this advanced, these websites got me truly excited about web design. I'm hopeful that after another class or two, I will be able to create something this amazing!


Kate
Graphic Design


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Oh, the Places You'll Go!

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With my sophomore year nearly halfway over, I've been thinking a lot about studying abroad. It's something that I've always wanted to do, and it looks like I may finally get the opportunity sometime next year!

Although I'm not very far into the planning process, I've been spending a lot of time browsing through the Learning Abroad Center website. It's exciting to see all the different countries I could visit, but with over 300 study abroad programs available, the possibilities are a little overwhelming. Thankfully, I was able to narrow down my options significantly using the Program Finder tool. I simply entered my major, my region of interest, and the term I wanted to study, and it came up with a manageable list of programs that fit my specific needs. After browsing the list, I've narrowed it down to programs in three different locations: Glasgow, Scotland; Florence, Italy; or London, England.

Now that I have a basic idea of where I want to go, I'm excited to meet with my program adviser and really begin my planning process!

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Kate
Graphic Design



Design Demo

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A few weeks ago, one of my professors from freshman year invited me to give a project demonstration for his current GDES 1315 students. The project that he requested is known as "The Book," which is one of my favorite projects from the class.

The basic idea behind the project is to select a set of lyrics from a song or a poem, pair them with a series of images that change the perception of those lyrics, and then combine those lyrics and images into a book. For my project I used the lyrics to "Viva La Vida" by Coldplay and paired them with images of a homeless man (played by my friend Hunter). Once I had my images and type layed out into pages, I printed and assembled them using an accordion style fold. I then attached the pages to a cover that I made myself using bookboard, Japanese book paper, and a lot of glue.

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As part of the demonstration, I brought in my finished book to show the class. I also brought some leftover materials from the project and assembled a miniature book cover to give them an idea of how the process works. It was great to be able to share my knowledge with a new group of students and I hope that I was able to help them complete their projects successfully!


Kate
Graphic Design



Mesa Pizza Redesign!

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For my Web Design class (GDes 2342), our biggest project this semester has been redesigning the website of a local business. We were initially assigned this project at the beginning of September, but were unable to make much progress on it due to our lack of web design knowledge. Now that the semester is heading into its final weeks, our websites are finally beginning to come together.

My business of choice for this project was Mesa Pizza, whose website was in major need of some TLC. In addition to the fulfilling the regular requirements of the project, I also chose to treat the website as a basic rebranding project. This decision mainly arose because of my dissatisfaction with Mesa's logo. Although I love Mesa Pizza, I've never been a fan of their logo. I don't find it to be particularly appealing on a visual level, and it doesn't really reflect the fun and youthful atmosphere that Mesa embodies. I was initially a bit nervous about changing something that is important to so many students, but I really thought that altering the logo would enhance the website.

I quickly established the basic color scheme and overall feel of the site, and then began working on the logo. I have now narrowed down my options to the two tentative logos seen below. Although there is still a long way to go, it's great to see the visual and technical aspects of the site finally coming together. I look forward to sharing the finished website with you in the near future!

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P.S. Let me know what you think in the comments below!



Kate
Graphic Design


Spring Semester Approaches!

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With only four weeks of classes left before winter break, preparations for next semester are already beginning. On Tuesday I will register for my spring classes, which I am really looking forward to! After a nearly design-free semester, I'm excited to jump back into some hands-on graphic design classes. If everything goes as planned, here are the classes I'll be taking:

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GDES 2345 - Typography
This course focuses on Typography, which the art and technique of arranging type. The class integrates Typographic principles into a variety of projects that are done both digitally and by hand.

GDES 2399W - Design and its Discontents
This class focuses on a number of universal concepts and theories within the design world. One of the biggest projects centers on consumption: What do we consume and why? This can include anything from the food we eat to the music we listen to.

DES 3201 - Career and Internship Preparation for Design
This course provides students with the tools needed to locate and secure jobs and internships within their specific field of study. It outlines the job search process, helps students identify personal skills and strengths, and teaches them how to create cover letters, resumes, and portfolios.

GDES 3312 - Color and Form in Surface Design
I am a bit foggy on the content of this course, but it seems to focus on different methods of altering surface materials (printing, dyeing, etc).

JOUR 3004W - Information for Mass Communication
This is my only non-design course of the semester, which I will be taking to fulfill my Mass Communication minor requirements. The class focuses on the application of information strategies within different mass media industries, including the processes of gathering, evaluating, and using information.

If you need help planning out your schedule for next semester, try using the U of M's Schedule Builder!


Kate
Graphic Design



Designing Life

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Despite my lack of graphic design courses this semester, I have been busily putting my design skills to work in a number of other classes. Just last week, I utilized these skills in my Astronomy Lab for an unexpected and slightly unusual purpose - designing an alien life form.

The assignment was to choose any body in our solar system and develop a life form specifically adapted to it. My group chose Jupiter's moon Io, which just so happens to be the most volcanically active body in our solar system.

Alien.jpgAfter selecting our creature's home, my group immediately went to work brainstorming different adaptations that would allow it to survive in such a harsh environment. We chose to give it a gelatinous body that would resist Io's extreme temperatures and allow for easy movement. Due to the absence of plant life, we decided that the creature would derive its energy from sulfur and other volcanic wastes abundant in Io's atmosphere. The creature would collect these gases through its large mouth, filter out the energy-giving elements, and eject the remaining gases through holes in its underbelly and sides. These jets of gas would allow the creature to float above lava patches and areas of intense heat. Rather than eyesight, we decided that our life form would navigate using thermal readings generated by sensors in the tips of its sweeping tentacles.

Although the resulting sketch is definitely not something to display in my portfolio, it was created using the same critical thinking skills developed through three semesters of design coursework. This just goes to show the importance of design experience, even the most unlikely of situations.


Kate
Graphic Design


Web Design: Celebrating the Small Victories

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As I mentioned in a previous post, this semester has been a bit unusual for me as I am only enrolled in one class for my major: GDes 2342 Web Design. When I first registered for this class last spring, I was extremely excited − I had no previous experience in web design and was eager to learn something completely new.

MyFirstHomepage.jpgMy classmates and I spent the first month of the course learning how to write basic HTML code for a webpage. Although I found this topic interesting, it was a bit difficult to pick up. The code was very picky and at times could be extremely complex. After several unsuccessful attempts, I finally succeeded in creating my first webpage (shown to the right). Even though it was extremely rudimentary, it felt like a major accomplishment.

After working a bit more with HTML, the class moved on to CSS code − this is where the fun really started. We were finally able to add colors, fonts, and work with the layout of the page. After weeks of basic, unattractive web pages, it was a relief to create something a bit more appealing.

Now that the semester is halfway through, our class is finally ready to begin coding our own websites. Although most of us still have a long way to go before we are competent web designers, we have definitely made huge strides forward. I am excited to begin work on my own website and am looking forward to developing my skills further throughout the remainder of my semester!

Kate
Graphic Design



Portfolio Review = PASS!

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Hello again everyone!

If you've kept up with my past few entries, you may recall that I was recently preparing for my upcoming portfolio review session. This preparation culminated last Friday when I finally completed my review! I have since received my results and am extremely pleased to announce that I passed! I am now an Official Graphic Design Major.

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Although the process was nerve wracking, it was definitely not as scary as I had anticipated. The most difficult part may have been waiting for my turn in the hallway along with the six other students in my group. Each time the door to the review room opened and a name was called, my stomach would drop a little further in anticipation of my turn.

However, when the time finally arrived, my nerves surprisingly subsided. Even though I was talking to a panel of judges, it felt like just like another class critique. The review process lasted less than ten minutes, and upon leaving the room it felt as though a great weight had been lifted off my chest. Even though I didn't yet know if I had passed, it felt great to have the experience behind me.

After a tense week of constantly checking my email inbox, I finally received my results. It arrived in the middle of my web design class, which happened to include several members of my portfolio review group. Word quickly spread around the room that the emails were in, and we abandoned our work in frantic pursuit of our results. I was ecstatic to learn that I had passed, and was happy to hear that the other students in my group made the cut as well.

It feels amazing to have passed my review and finally be able to call myself an official member of Graphic Design program. I'm feeling comfortable, confident, and am looking forward to completing the rest of my undergraduate study here at the College of Design!

Kate
Graphic Design


Design + Journalism

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As a student in the College of Design, I have become accustomed to spending a good portion of my time on the St. Paul campus. I enjoy getting away from the hustle and bustle of East Bank and look forward to the relaxing twenty-minute ride on the Campus Connector. However, this semester I find myself only making the trek between campuses twice a week. This change is due to my current class schedule, which contains only one Graphic Design course. Instead, my schedule is filled with classes for my planned minor in Mass Communication.

Thumbnail image for murphy.hall.jpg Communication is a fairly common minor among Graphic Design students as it often meshes well with their course work and career goals (especially advertising). It is part of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, which is located in Murphy Hall on the East Bank Campus (shown in the photo to the right). Although it is a journalism program, isn't just for students who want to be journalists. The program offers a wide range of course options that can be tailored to suit anyone's interests. Two of the classes that I'm particularly interested in are JOUR 3006 Visual Communication and JOUR 4242 Advertising Portfolio Development.

Although I have not yet declared a Mass Communication minor, I am hoping to do so at the end of fall semester after I have completed the prerequisite courses. I'm really enjoying the classes so far, and am looking forward to becoming an official member of the School of Journalism!


Kate
Graphic Design


Meet McNeal!

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This semester I have received my first-ever campus job as a tour guide for the College of Design! The tours will focus on McNeal Hall on the St. Paul campus, which houses several different design programs. I will mainly be assisting prospective freshman and transfer students who are interested in apparel design, graphic design, interior design, and retail merchandising.

Until recently, my work mainly consisted of job training and shadowing other tour guides. Then last Friday, I was finally able to lead my first official tour!

My group included three students and their families, all of whom were interested in the graphic design program here at the U. This made the tour especially enjoyable for me, as I was able to share my enthusiasm for my own major. I brought them into several different studio classrooms and computer labs, and also showed off our new study space in the atrium.

StudySpace.png McNeal.jpg

Although I was a bit nervous in the beginning, that quickly evaporated as the tour progressed. The students and their families were polite, inquisitive, and seemed to be genuinely interested in the program -- I couldn't have asked for a better group to lead on my first tour. Even though they are still a long way from college, I hope that I was able to help them come one step closer to making their final decision.


Kate
Graphic Design


Portfolio Review Approaches!

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Here at the University of Minnesota, fall is one of the most exciting times of the year. With football games, homecoming events, and tons of campus activities, there is never a dull moment. As a sophomore pre-graphic design student, fall also means one more thing: Portfolio Review.

This important day, which once seemed so far off, is now rapidly approaching. In just a few short weeks I will present my design coursework to a panel of judges who will determine whether or not I will be able to continue on as an official graphic design major.

Portfolio.JPGThroughout the month of September, my nerves steadily rose in anticipation of the big day. I was anxious to prepare in any way I could, so when an opportunity arose for me to attend an informational portfolio review session with CDes faculty, I jumped at the chance.

The session was not only extremely informative, but also helped to calm the rapidly multiplying butterflies in my stomach. The faculty members were friendly, knowledgeable, and addressed everything from portfolio requirements to appropriate dress. Students also were given the opportunity to ask any questions regarding the portfolio review process.

After attending the information session, I feel much more comfortable, confidant, and mentally prepared. I have begun assembling my portfolio, picking and choosing the pieces that best demonstrate my abilities as a designer. Even though there is still much preparation to be done, I finally feel ready to face portfolio review.

Kate
Graphic Design


From Farms to Photoshop

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Hi everyone! My name is Kate, and I'm a sophomore graphic design student here at the College of Design.

Although I've lived in Minnesota my entire life, I never expected to end up here at the U. I'm originally from Tracy, Minnesota, which is a small town in the southwest corner of the state. I graduated with a class of 61 students, most of whom (myself included) spent their summers working on farms. The photo below shows my friend Lexi and I during one summer that we worked together on a local farm. Our job was scour corn and bean fields for large rocks that could potentially damage farm equipment. RockPicking.jpg

Despite my rural upbringing, I always had big dreams for the future. From the time I was a toddler, I wanted to be an artist. As I got older, my goals shifted to pro-athlete to archaeologist and everywhere in between. When I was finally faced with the decision of what to pursue in college, the answer came surprisingly easy - graphic design was the obvious choice. With my major decided, I began to look at colleges. I was initially attracted to smaller schools, and was extremely reluctant to consider the U. After some persuasion from my family, I finally agreed to go on a tour.

Much to my surprise, I immediately loved it - I loved the city, the campus, and especially the College of Design. Now, with a year under my belt, I'm happy to say that I have not been disappointed. I've enjoyed my classes immensely and I've made some great friends in the process. I'm looking forward to sharing my experiences with all of you throughout the upcoming year, and I hope that you are able to find your home here at the College of Design.

If you would like to stay up-to-date on this blog, check back regularly at z.umn.edu/cdesblogs.

Kate
Graphic Design



A Final Farewell

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While I'm not quite a graduate yet, I'll be saying farewell in this blog due to my busy summer away. I'll be back at the University of Minnesota in the fall, but will only be a part-time student due to the small number of classes I have yet to complete. My hope is that after a successful summer working and learning at my internship in Austin, I can return to Minneapolis to find a part time internship in the fall while I finish up the remainder of my courses and prepare for the graphic design senior show and graduation.

It's hard to believe, and not to mention a little terrifying, that by this coming December, I will be out in the real world searching for a full-time career. My experiences and education at the University of Minnesota have taken me unexpected places and given me many great opportunities. Above all, I greatly appreciate all of the personal connections I have made with design peers, professors, and design professionals in the Twin Cities area through classwork, events, interviews, and more. In the future, it is my network of design-centric friends and acquaintances that I will turn to for design and career advice.

The end of the semester sure came about quickly and I didn't do much hanging around before I was off again to visit with family and friends before leaving for Texas this summer. I was fortunate enough to spend a few days in St. Petersburg, Florida during finals week while my Dad was there for work. Finishing up some homework and work while enjoying the sunshine was quite relaxing. I am now currently en route to Austin, TX where I will be doing a 12 week internship at Springbox. Below is a picture of me on some cliffs above the Mississippi in Missouri.

riverTown.jpg

I am very excited for what the summer has to offer and also to return to my friends and family in Wisconsin and Minnesota in the fall. I have very much enjoyed being able to share my CDes experiences on the student blog and hope that my writings have been both enjoyable and informative. Best of luck in all of your future endeavors and College of Design schooling!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Tying Up Loose Ends

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It feels great to be done! Other than tying up a few loose ends with one of my jobs, I'm all done for the semester! The last few weeks were pretty crazy, but it sure feels great to be almost done with all of my semester class and work commitments. Last week, I finished my job as a student assistant at the Usability Lab, as well as my job as graphic designer and video producer at the College of Design Student Services. I've been so busy the last few weeks that I haven't been able to talk much about some of my class and work projects, so I'll wrap up the semester with a few fun projects I have been working on.

A few weeks ago, I talked a little bit about my personal project for my Interactive Design. I created a responsive design framework specifically for one page websites. If you do a lot of web surfing, you might find that one page sites have recently become popular for things like portfolios, restaurants, landing pages for new apps, and more. In order to differentiate my framework from others, I decided to cater it specifically to one page sites. You can check out the landing page I made for Structure, the name of my framework, and even download the template to create your own one page site. It's still a bit of a work in progress, but the existing downloadable template contains all the html and javascript you need to make a one page responsive site. The template contains minimal css styling so you can easily style the site how you please without a bunch of existing style and code getting in your way.

Another web project I have been working on outside of class is call Design High. It's a toolkit and set of workshops created in order to help high school art and communication teachers bring more design oriented thinking and activities into their classrooms. Design thinking is a great skill to have, and many advocate that it should be taught to everyone.

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Well, that's all for now. As you can see above, I am currently down in Florida enjoying the sunshine and some time with my family before I head to Austin, TX for the remainder of the summer. Do you have any awesome summer plans? Let me know in the comments!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

When Push Comes to Shove

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Ah yes, my favorite time of semester: the week all of your design projects are due.

Unless you are some kind of magical design wizard, there will likely be times in your school career where you need to make a decision on what projects are most important, and what ones you may need to sacrifice a little time on. While it's a tough decision to consciously choose to spend less time on a project than you would like, it's important to keep in mind that your ultimate goal should be to continually improve your portfolio work. One subpar project isn't going to effect you in the long run. Everything is a work in progress- it's extremely likely that even the project that you are most proud of can still be improved greatly. Take some time away from it and come back- you'll see a ton of areas in which it can be improved. If you run out of time on a project, think about what you can do to get the best grade possible and take notes on what you would like to come back to and improve later - though it's best to keep improving while the project is fresh in your head.

clear.pngI'm no stranger to picking and choosing my design battles, though when the clock is counting down, I do a few things to help me get as much done as possible.

1) Prioritize - I use the iPhone app Clear to keep track of what I need to get done in order. If I change my mind or something comes up, it's easy for me to reshuffle or add new priorities.

2) Set Deadlines - If you are really down to the wire with multiple projects, tell yourself you will spend no longer than 'X' minutes or hours iterating on a concept. It's easy to get sucked into a black hole of designing and redesigning a small aspect while often only improving it marginally. If I find that happening when I'm crunched for time, I set a timer on my phone and tell myself that I will be done with it when the time runs out. Often times the pressure for the timer actually helps me create something I'm satisfied with.

3) Stay Healthy and Hydrated - This one is super important. If you are pulling a few nights with little to no sleep while downing a bunch of coffee and energy drinks, offset it with some healthy snacks and a lot of water! You'll ultimately crash a lot sooner if you become dehydrated from all of the caffeine and salty snacks you are consuming - I've learned this the hard way!

Well, I need to get back to it. 24 more hours to get everything done! Good Luck with your final projects!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

So Much To Do, So Little Time.

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Man! The end of the semester sure has snuck up on me. Since I haven't talked about what's going on in my classes for awhile, I thought I'd use this blog to talk a little bit about the major remaining projects I have left for the semester. I have 5 classes this semester, but aside from a reflection and a short exam for my Mass Communication minor, my biggest concerns will be completing my final projects in Interactive Design, Identity and Symbols, and Packaging class.

In my Interactive Design class, we just finished up our second major project where I conducted research and prototyped a solution to an inconvenience associated with the UofM's course registration system. The remaining project, which I will present on May 8th, is a self chosen personal project that has spanned the length of the semester. I chose to create a responsive design framework that will be publicly available to anyone who would like to use it. This project has let me do a deep dive into something that I am passionate about and given me the motivation to make consistent progress as I work toward my goal. The official download hasn't been released yet, but it will be linked on my site when it is complete.

Screen Shot 2013-05-01 at 6.56.12 AM.pngIn Identity and Symbols, we will be turning in several pieces of our major semester project. We developed an entire identity for a non-existent company of our choice over the course of the semester and will turn in a stationary system, website design, and graphic standards manual on May 9th. I chose to create the identity for an brick-oven pizza restaurant called Fucina, which means forge in Italian. The Fucina logo and wordmark seeks to convey the industrial nature of the brick oven, as well as the simplicity and authenticity of a premium pizza made with high quality ingredients.

In Packaging, our last project consists of creating a new product of our choice with an accompanying point-of-purchase display. I still have quite a bit of work to do here, but expect an update in the future!

Good luck finishing your final design projects!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Finding Design Jobs and Internships PART 2

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Back in February I posted a blog called Finding Design Jobs and Internships where I listed four different resources that I had been finding helpful to find internship openings including using the Goldpass website, networking, browsing a lot of firm websites, and using alternative job boards. It took me about 1 month of very vigilant networking and searching, but it paid off because I've been successful in finding a summer internship that will be a great fit for me. While all of the previously mentioned techniques were helpful, below I'll talk about a few more techniques and resources that led me to my internship for the summer.

A) Look in a different city - The Twin Cities are great for design, but picking up and moving for a summer is much easier before you graduate and could help you expand your network outside of the Midwest. If you think you would be comfortable spending the summer in a different city, explore what is out there. I decided that I would love to travel somewhere new for the summer, so I specifically concentrated on three design/tech cities I was interested in: Austin TX, Boulder CO, and Portland OR and looked for as many openings as I could in those cities.

B) Linkedin - Finding a wide variety of firms and one that fit my interest in cities that I had never been to provided to be a challenge at first. If you are looking at a companies page on LinkedIn, on the right side you will see a section called "People Also Viewed". The companies under this section tend to do the same type of work and will be located in the same city as the current company you are viewing. This was really helpful for finding a lot of different firms in unfamiliar cities.

C) Twitter - If you found a place or two you are interested in on Linkedin or elsewhere, check out their Twitter page. Here you can find out more their personality and check out who they follow and interact with to find likeminded companies located in the same city. Often, you may find a firm that looks interesting, but doesn't say anything about whether or not they hire interns. In this case, it may be appropriate to send a short email inquiring to whether or not they do hire interns, though I had several successes with doing this via Twitter. Get a feel for the companies personality and use your own judgement to determine whether or not it would be appropriate to ask this question via Twitter. If the company is active on Twitter, it is likely a quicker and easier response for them, as well as good promotion.

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D) Networking, again! - I don't think I can say enough about how important constantly meeting new professionals and expanding your network is. Design professionals I have met throughout the Twin Cities helped me by introducing me to people they knew in the cities I was interested in. Having any sort of personal connection can give you a big leg up on the competition.

So it's official: I'll be spending this summer in Austin, TX as a Design Intern at Springbox doing UX and visual design and I couldn't be more excited! If you are looking for a summer job or internship, don't limit yourself to only the Twin Cities and don't be afraid to reach out to others in your search!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Mobile App Challenge Finale!

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Today is the conclusion of the 2nd annual U of M Mobile App Challenge. The Mobile App Challenge started back in October when organizers encouraged student designers, developers, entrepreneurs, or anyone interested to pitch an idea for a new mobile app. If your pitch was selected, you received up to $500 to help with the costs of designing and developing your product. This evening, the apps will be examined by a panel of judges and winners will be selected shortly thereafter. Together with a 4-person team consisting of three student developers and myself, we have created an app called ThinkTank. It has been a enriching and sometimes frustrating project, but an extremely beneficial learning opportunity for the design work I would like to be doing in the future.

thinkTankPres.jpg

ThinkTank is an idea and thought collaboration network that is location-based, anonymous, and user governed. ThinkTank provides a unique and refreshing take on social media and human interaction. The home screen of the app shows posts closet to your current location. An anonymous post from a user of the app might be about an interesting landmark, a breathtaking view, an event that is currently taking place, or perhaps it is just a silly or even thought provoking idea. The idea is to get people interacting and conversing anonymously, rather than always worrying about how they may be perceived on their sprawling social network.

Another feature of the app are "Ponders". If you like a post by someone, you can "ponder" or like it. If you don't like a post or find it inappropriate you can downvote it or flag it. This keeps unique and interesting posts at the top of your feed and demotes uninteresting ones, letting ThinkTank's users govern the content they interact with.

We will be showing off a real working beta on our phones tonight in Walter Library room 101 from 6-8pm if the snow doesn't scare everyone away. Stop by and check it out or feel free to ask me any questions about the app or the Mobile App Challenge in the comments.

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Transportation on Campus: Why I Love to Bike!

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With the weather getting warmer (not accounting for the snow that may be covering the ground by the time I post this), I wanted to talk about my preferred method for getting and to and from campus from my house: via bike! The Twin Cities has a vibrant biking community and the University of Minnesota has taken notice, recently making many improvements to campus and the community to encourage more frequent and safer biking. Living off campus in the Como area, I am positioned between both the St. Paul and East Bank campus. While my $97 Metro Transit UPass easily pays itself off every semester, I prefer biking when the weather is decent for many reasons. Check it out below:

1) Biking saves me time - Living off campus on Como Ave, most students take the city bus onto campus. The 3 (the bus that comes down Como) runs every 10-15 minutes during the day, and it's about a 10 minute ride to campus from my house. However, the total time I spend walking to the bus, waiting, and riding is usually around 30 minutes, where biking only takes me 10 minutes to get to East Bank, or 15 minutes to ride the opposite direction on Como to St. Paul Campus and McNeal Hall. If you are making multiple trips during the day, those extra 15 minutes could add up to an extra hour that you could spend on your design work, or whatever else you need to do.

2) Biking keeps you fit - Okay so kind of a no-brainer, but at about the same time that the weather gets nice enough to bike everyday, the amount of design work and other commitments that build towards the end of the semester start to increase rapidly. Unfortunately, the first thing I cut out of my schedule when I don't have enough time in the day (and I can bet I'm not the only one) is exercise. While a 10 or 15 minute bike ride might not seem like a very intense workout to some, doing it 4 times a day amounts to quite a bit of physical activity!

deroZAP.jpg3) Biking gets you free stuff - What!? Yep, free stuff just for biking! Ever see one of these funky antennas on the right around campus or somewhere else in the Twin Cities? These are RFID receivers for the Dero ZAP program that the UMN Bike Center participates in. You can get a chip mounted on your bike that will track when you ride past a receiver and be rewarded with free bike gear or gift cards if you ride enough in one month. I've already gotten several gift cards and bike accessories and it's totally free to participate! Head to the University Bike Center near the Superblock if you would like to check it out.

Are you a fan of biking to campus or class? If not, give it a try! If you have any questions about biking on campus or the ZAP program, let me know in the comments!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

More GD3 Packaging!

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GD3 (Packaging and Display) has definitely been one of the most time intensive, but also most fun classes of the semester. It is refreshing to do some hands on work in a semester dominated by computer work. Today, I presented my second packaging design project - Rizzare Premium Kombucha. If you aren't familiar with Kombucha, it is a fermented tea beverage that contains probiotics like those in greek yogurts. Kombucha is well know to be a very detoxifying and rejuvenating drink, but there is not much marketing differenciation between the few types you will commonly find in a nicer grocery store or corner market.

One of the reason I chose to do Kombucha for this project is that I felt I could more easily develop a brand and product marketed towards women. My portfolio was lacking any projects directed specifically at women, but being able to design for any audience is important, so I took this opportunity to break out of my shell and specifically market towards very active and athletic, health-conscious women between the ages of 20 and 40. Below you can see the brand board I put together- this board gives a quick overview of the interest and lifestyle of my target audience and helps to focus design decisions.

brandBoard.jpg

One of the biggest things I was influenced by when designing the packaging for Rizzare was Chipotle's typographic bags and cups. I felt that the handwritten type on Chipotle's packaging provided a very down to earth and authentic feel - exactly what I wanted to communicate with Rizzare. I chose to package Rizzare in Tetra Paks for two reasons: 1) An active or athletic person doesn't want to throw a glass bottle that could potentially break into their bag. 2) Tetra Paks are unique in that they keep contents sterile - even milk in Tetra Paks doesn't need to be refrigerated. This is advantageous for Kombucha due to the raw, probiotic nature of the beverage which is susceptible to spoilage. Check out quick snap of the final product below:

rizzare.jpg

The end of the semester is approaching rapidly. What projects are you most excited about working on? Let me know in the comments.

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Networking: Start Early, Never Stop.

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I have posted a little bit about professional networking in the past, but it is so important that I am going to talk some more about some of the best ways to network with others in the design industry.

twitter-bird-light-bgs.pngHow about starting with the easy, digital networking solutions:

1) Twitter - While you may not be directly talking to professionals on Twitter, you can follow industry professionals to see what they are up to and what they are talking about. Producing insightful tweets or even replying to a firm or a design professional in a tweet when appropriate could net you a follow from them. Make sure to include a short and sweet description of yourself on your profile and link to your online portfolio if available. You can find me on Twitter @sean_mateer.

imkgres.jpeg2) Linkedin - I'll admit that I neglected Linkedin for awhile, but I've recently found how helpful it can be when applying for internships and looking for connections in different cities. I was able to connect with a few strangers in distant cities through introductions from my existing Linkedin connections. Linkedin also gives you an alternative place to organize all of the information you would put on your resume. I try to keep mine as updated as possible, as I have found that some employers actually prefer to look at a Linkedin profile over a resume.

Alright, real life networking. It's easier than it seems. Here's my two favorite ways:

1) Hang out before/after events - Typically, before or after an event, industry professionals are more than happy to chat with you about any questions you may have. If you aren't confident walking right up to someone and introducing yourself, try working your way into a conversation between a few people and go from there.

2) Informational Interviews - Do these. Do these a lot. Did you find a firm in town that looks cool on Twitter? Send them an email saying you'd love to chat with someone at the firm. Did you meet someone after the AIGA event you attended? Send them a follow up email and ask if you can meet and chat more sometime. Informational Interviews are by far my favorite way for creating lasting and meaningful connections with design professionals.

How are you building connections in the design industry? Let me know in the comments.

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Spring Break is Finally Here!

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I'm writing this blog a little early, because by the time this it's posted, I will be in Jackson Hole, WY with the Ski and Snowboard Club and will have limited internet access. I will have some pictures to share when I get back, but in the mean time, here is a picture of some of our group at Jackson last year:

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Before I go, I wanted remind you again to check out Public Interest Design Week (hosted by the College of Design), and talk about an update in my design career.

Iconothon is a Public Interest Design Week event that is especially relevant to graphic design students. Spend the day creating graphic icons that will help contribute to the growing visual language of The Noun Project. I'm really hoping to make it to this after I get back from Jackson!

Way back in December, I talked about some of the things I wanted to accomplish over winter break - one of those being creating a new online portfolio. Today I realized that I neglected to mention that I did meet my goal and create a new portfolio that you can view at www.seanmateer.com. The website was made from scratch and incorporates responsive web design so that it adapts to any screen size that a user may be visiting on. Over time, I will be making updates to my site and adding more work, but I am very satisfied with how it turned out! If you are interested in creating your own online portfolio, check out my blog posts "So You Want to Create an Online Portfolio" Part 1 & Part 2.

If you have any questions about Public Interest Design Week or creating your own online portfolio, let me know in the comments.

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Public Interest Design Week

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If you aren't tearing your hair out and falling asleep in class this week due to all of the design projects due and exams to study for, you must really be on top of things - nice job! Sometimes the week before Spring Break seems almost as busy as finals week, but we're almost there! I'll be spending the majority of my spring break in Jackson, WY with the University's Ski and Snowboard club, but when I come back I am going to try to catch the last day or two of the College of Design's Public Interest Design Week.

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What is Public Interest Design Week you say? It's five days of workshops and events uniting people at the intersection of design and public service. It's going to be a really great event. Best of all, many of the events are FREE! Check out the Public Interest Design website for the full details, but here is a glimpse at a few of the events that I think look interesting:

Extreme by Design
Wednesday, March 20th. 7:30pm, Rapson Hall
A documentary film following a group of students from the Stanford Design School.

If You Build It
Wednesday, March 20th. After Extreme by Design, Rapson Hall
Another documentary observing students in Studio H, one of America's most innovative classrooms.

Iconothon
Saturday, March 24th. Rapson Hall
Holy cow this is going to be cool! If you aren't familiar with The Noun Project, go check it out right now! The Noun Project is a website that is working to build a visual language through icons for anything and everything via user submission. You could contribute icons right now if you wanted! Hear two of the creators of The Noun Project speak and facilitate a day of icon creating collaboration!

What are your plans over spring break? If you are going to be around, make sure to check out Public Interest Design Week!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

What I've Been Reading

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I'm a sucker for books about design. I have accumulated a large pile of design related books from personal purchases and gifts over the last year or two - many of which I haven't even had time to read yet - though the ones I have read have been great. Here is short summary of a few of the great design books I have taken a look at lately. I highly recommend them all!

Designing the iPhone User Experience
Okay so, kind of a dry name, but a really thorough and useful book if you at all interested in mobile app design. Before ever talking about the visual design of an iPhone app, the book talks extensively about user research, usability testing, and evaluating your competition- factors that are much more important in the long run. A pretty app doesn't make a good or successful app, careful research and analysis and a intuitive user interface does. The book also includes several case studies of real apps that are very interesting to read.

The Handy Book of Artistic Printing
Recently, I have been getting very inspired by hand lettered typography. I had never tried doing any hand lettering before reading this book, but I am now thinking of integrating some hand lettering into a packaging project. While the book does contain quite a bit of content that I have mostly neglected to read so far, just the pictures that it includes on every page make it worth checking out. On a similar topic, check out this trailer for a documentary about sign painters if you enjoy hand lettered type:

SIGN PAINTERS (OFFICIAL TRAILER) from samuel j macon on Vimeo.

The Mobile Book - Smashing Magazine
Smashing Magazine is great online resource for the most current topics in web/mobile/ux design. Smashing pulled together some of the best mobile experts to talk about the bleeding edge and future of web and mobile design for this book. It's a little technical at times, but really interesting if you are at all into web and mobile web design.

Have you read any great design related books lately? Let me know in the comments!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Awesome Collaboration Tools for Group Projects!

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In my Interactive Design class, we are working on an interactive personal project of our choosing throughout the course of the semester. This project is a huge portion of our grade and procrastinating is not an option. We are required to check in and have critique sessions with groups of students we have been placed with who are doing similar projects. We were also asked to find a unique project management tool to share our progress and ideas throughout the course of the semester.

Up until now, I have primarily used either Facebook or Google Docs/Drive to stay on page with others while doing group projects. After researching project management tools, our group found that there were much more elegant and efficient solutions for managing our group tasks and progress. Next time you have a group project, consider trying out one of these awesome and free collaboration tools!

Dispatch
Dispatch is a great tool for collaborating and stay up to date with your team. Discussion boards allow you to easily attach any files or links that you want keep your conversations organized and removed from your email inbox. You can tag your group members in comments with an @ symbol like you would on Twitter to make sure they get notified. Best of all, tools you might already use like Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote integrate seamlessly with the tool.

Trello
Trello is a great tool for managing deadlines and organization information, whether it's only for yourself, or an entire team. Trello's interface is a set of user created "cards" that can be shuffled around and organized however you want across a board. For instance, a card might have project details and due date on it, as well as your teams conversation regarding the project. When you finish the project, you could move the card from a "to-do" section of the board to "done". Trello is great for keeping members of a team on the same page. It's a little difficult to explain, but super easy to learn and use. Try it out!

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Dropmark
Dropmark is a little different from Dispatch and Trello in that it is focused more on collaboration and idea generation rather than full project management. However, it's still a really nice tool so I thought I would include it. Dropmark allows you to drag and drop almost any type of file (images, music playlists, PDFs, even raw Photoshop or Illustrator files) into the browser where it is organized into a mosaic of squares. Dropmark is great for quickly sharing visual inspiration with other team members or sending a preview of a Photoshop or Illustrator file without converting to PDF.

dropmark.jpg

Do you know of any other great project management or collaboration tools? Tell me about it in the comments!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Instaflame! A packaging redesign.

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coghlans.jpgYesterday, I presented my first packaging design for Packaging and Display (also known as GD3). Our first assignment of three was to repackage a sport-related product. My professor's definition of "sport" was pretty loose and encompassed pretty much anything you might find in an REI or Dick's Sporting Goods. This was great because my classmates and I found a lot of interesting things to repackage ranging from darts, to a hiking compass, to a bodyboard leash. I decided to repackage the fire starters pictured right.

The original package is not very appealing, is it? However, the attractiveness of the packaging wasn't the only reason I decided to repackage the fire sticks. In both REI and Dick's, these fire sticks are hidden in the camping section next to speciality backpacking supplies like expensive, ultra-compact camp stoves and burners - not things your average weekend camper would likely be interested in. I did some research and interviews with people who are into serious camping and backpacking, and they said they would never use these fire sticks. They have their own techniques for starting fires like using cotton balls soaked in oil or the old fashioned flint and steel method. So why do these seemed to be marketed towards the more advanced camper?

instaflame.jpg

My redesigned package (Above - the matches were a last minute added bonus for fun) aimed to make a more attractive product in a more convenient package - one that easily slips into the pocket of a casual hiker, camper, or outdoor adventurer. Because one fire stick can be used to start two or more fires, it wasn't necessary to have 12 sticks in one pack - especially for a more casual user. The smaller package is meant to be stacked and displayed. Aimed to be sold for less than $2.00, it would be a great product to put near the checkout area of a sporting goods store where small trinkets and other goods are sold and often purchased on impulse, rather than only being hidden in the back of the store. Moral of the story: remember that product packaging isn't just about being pretty, it's about your audience and how it is marketed as well!

P.S. The Dean's Reception for incoming 2013 CDes freshman is this Saturday! Unfortunately I am not able to attend, but there will be a lot of others bloggers and faculty there for you to talk to. Make sure to attend!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

Finding Design Jobs and Internships

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Depending on where you are at in your graphic design career, you may be starting to think about trying to find a design related job or internship during your time off in the summer. There are many useful resources for finding graphic design jobs and internships. Below, I'll talk about some of the most common ways to find a graphic design job or internship as a student at the U of M. This is by no means a comprehensive list for finding opportunities, but a good starting point and some of the resources I have found most helpful.

a) Goldpass - Goldpass is the U of M's personal job board. Employers from all over Minnesota, and even throughout the US post jobs and internships on Goldpass. Goldpass makes it easy to search by discipline or type of work.

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b) Networking - This could very well be your best bet at landing the perfect job or internship. By building a relationship with professionals in the industry, they are likely to keep you in mind when they hear of an internship opening. This can be espeically helpful with firms and corporate agencies that don't publicly list whether or not they have internships available.

c) Firm website - A majority of design or advertising firms will have a "work for us", "jobs", or "careers" page somewhere on there website (though it's not always easy to find). If you are lucky, you might find information about internship openings on these pages or someone you can contact to see of they offer any.

d) Alternative job boards - There are also a number of job boards such as Indeed, Authentic Jobs, and internships.com that you may find a design job or internship on. AIGA has it's own job board as well!

Do you know of other great resources for finding jobs or internships? Leave a comment!

Sean Mateer
Graphic Design

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