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Simply Beautiful Design

Do you feel overwhelmed with the complexity and daily noise of life? Why not relax and look at some simply beautiful design at Geometry Daily!

Minimalist story telling

You may have heard of Blaise Pascal famously ending a correspondence to a friend with "I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had time to make it shorter." Many writers identify with this because they understand how much time and effort is needed to convey complex meaning in few words. I'm no designer, but I'd imagine they face similar challenges when conveying meaning with minimal visual elements. At least that's what I thought of when I saw this series of minimalist posters for fairy tales. Scroll slowly and see if you can guess the tale with just he image.

Design thinking: A new egg carton?

Welcoming spring with this innovative egg box design by a University of West Hungary student.


The redesigned carton is made of cardboard and a rubber band. It's flexible and environmentally friendly.

Think it will make it to the supermarket?

Stay creative

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Just a nice video to help you think of ways to stay creative...


A banana nut muffin

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It happens to the best of us. You sit down to start a project or feature article...or a blog entry for the Communicators Forum and you get stuck. The blank page or screen is the biggest dam for creative juices. How can you get them flowing? 

Just start writing. You could just get out what you want to say and agree to come back later and fix it or you could just start with a stream of consciousness. 

Get up and go somewhere else. Maybe if Charlie had moved his typewriter to a less dismal location, inspiration would have hit!

Exercise! A quick walk around the block or a trip to the gym might give you a bolt of creative energy from just getting your blood circulating to your brain. 

Look at something completely unrelated. Watch a short TED Talk, open book of images, or read an article about a new science discovery. The point is to break out of the subject matter you are dealing with and come back to it with a new perspective. 

What other tips do you have for getting un-stuck? Share them here and help your colleages! 


Designing in three dimensions

If you've ever thought about designing in 3D but didn't want to invest in the software Google (rather, now Trimble) will let you do it for free! Sketchup is a terrific program that will let you model and design in three dimensions. It is fairly intuitive and there are numerous tutorials available to help you learn. It's easier than you might think.

SketchUp Intro:

Once you've created something neat you might try using these tutorials to make your designs look more realistic.

Rendering Tutorials:


Color of the year

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pantone.jpgPantone announced the color of the year for 2013 today: emerald (17-5641 for those of you who like to be exact about this kind of thing). Those of us who prefer green may be a little smug about this announcement, but...does it really mean anything? Will we start seeing more designs using this color that purportedly "enhances our sense of well-being further by inspiring insight as well as promoting balance and harmony?"

Is it more than a marketing tool? Is it fun, regardless? Would you have picked something else?

The Creative Process

Recently, I've been doing some research on the creative process to help describe to my non-design educated co-workers what it is I actually do all day. I came across this beautiful, informative, and short video of the very talented minds behind MINDCASTLE. 

I would also be remiss to not mention the (presumably) fabulous National Design Week last month in New York at the Smithsonian Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Launched in 2006, National Design Week is held each year in conjunction with the National Design Awards program. During National Design Week, Cooper-Hewitt's award-winning Education Department hosts a series of free public programs based on the vision and work of the National Design Awards honorees. National Design Week culminates with the National Design Awards gala ceremony. Definitely something to keep in mind for next year. 

UMCF Member of the Year Profile: Jen Peters

Editor's note: To start off a new academic year on the blog, we decided to profile the 2012 UMCF Member of the Year, Jen Peters. Take notes, folks.

jen.jpgUMCF: What is your job title and department here at the U? How long have you worked there?

Jen Peters: Graphic designer at the University Libraries since September 2008 (4 years, 1 month).

UMCF: What's an average workday like?

JP: The majority of my day is spent in my office designing. I generally have at least five projects going at once, and produce them from concept to completion. I often start a project with a few quick sketches and typeface explorations before moving into InDesign. I often sort through images from the Libraries' archives and special collections and collaborate with our exhibits designer, Darren Terpstra. I work closely with the Communications Director finalizing text edits and creating and sending HTML emails.
UMCF: Favorite part of your workday?

JP: I love starting a new project, particularly brainstorming visual concepts and searching for the perfect typeface! I am fortunate to work with so much incredible art here at the Libraries such as these lovely seed catalogs.

UMCF: How does what you do support the mission of the University?

JP: We work to promote our vast resources which ultimately help expand the reach of research: our expert librarians, the millions of volumes held in our collections, tools to enhance productivity, and programs and services.

UMCF: Why did you join the Forum? What role does the Forum plan in your everyday work life?

JP: It was a big transition coming from an agency setting into my current position, working with only two other people. I joined to network and gain a better understanding of the communications work happening at the University.

I have learned so much by volunteering on the conference committee. I have been asked to help plan events at the Libraries as a result. Plus, it gave me a good excuse to approach potential speakers - designers and artists I admire.
UMCF: Where do you find creative inspiration?

JP: Design and photography blogs, any type of magazine, Pinterest, plus the incredible local art and design culture here in the Twin Cities.

UMCF: What are your hobbies outside of work?

JP: Riding bike, gardening, photography, skiing - anything outdoors!

UMCF: Tell us a fun fact about yourself.

JP: We (my husband and I) have a 15 year old music loving cat. When my husband plays guitar, she demands to be in the same room, sitting by his feet.

Go for the Maroon and Gold: Training Tip

Screen printing. This is quite possibly one of the coolest forms of visual communication. Conveying a message or brand through images is compelling and, if you're an art enthusiast like me, more engaging than other forms of communication (when done well).

A great example is Twin Cities illustrator and print maker Adam Turman who tells the story of biking in the Twin Cities through his collection of cycling prints.

Check out how to create the final product in this
screen printing tutorial written by Turman.

And, plan to attend Turman's UMCF conference session "Let's Print" where he'll talk about the process of screen printing, but more importantly, he'll be teaching how to pull some actual prints that attendees can take with home.

Register by April 23 for the discounted rate.

Link Roundup: Sustainable Design

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In celebration of Beautiful U Day which is happening next week, some sustainable links:


Link Roundup: Olympic Design

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In light of the upcoming "Go for the Maroon and Gold" conference, happening a day before the 2012 Olympic Games begin, some Olympic design-related links:


And don't forget to register for the conference. Rates go up after April 23!

Link Roundup: Photography

Mastering photography is an elusive art. But, practice makes perfect and building photographic skills is an enjoyable hobby.

Here's an edition of link roundup on getting good at taking pictures.

-- 14 Ways to Improve Your Photography in a Few Days
-- 90+ Online Photography Tools and Resources
-- How to Stay Up Late and Make an HDR Image
-- How To: Master Smartphone Photography 
-- iPhone Photography + Social Networking = Instagram
The Washington Post Wants Your Instagram Photos to Illustrate Health of U.S. Economy

Wordle word cloud of Comm Forum blog posts

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So this is a word cloud (courtesy of Wordle) of all the blog posts on the Comm Forum blog since Jan. 2011. If you're unfamiliar with word clouds, this weights words according to appearence frequency, presenting them within an image.

It seems "communicators" has been a big topic this year so far. Makes sense, since that is the topic of the May 12 conference. "Forum" is (quite literally) big, too. We like to toot our own horn, it seems. Social media mentions include "social," "media," and a fat "Facebook," but I don't see Twitter...Hmmm... So maybe the question here is, "What don't you see?" Because Twitter is BIG. I do see a slightly smaller "Neil." That would be as in Neil Diamond. If you missed that post, you better go find it.

What else are you missing?
It looks like The Line online magazine is beginning a "Big Picture" interview series. Their first interview happens to be a conversation on designing the future with U of M design dean Tom Fisher.

You're Gonna Love This

Like probably maybe most of you, I receive several forwards a day from friends and fellow designers, who freely declare, "you're gonna love this." And while I'd heard of tilt-shift photography, I'd never seen the technique applied to art. Here, a select few Van Gogh paintings, many of which I know well and admire greatly, are dramatically transformed with the tilt-shift treatment.

It was as if I was experiencing them if for the first time. And since then, I've not stopped thinking about this dreamy perspective or how I wish I could travel at a slant into all the paintings at the MIA.

Try your hand at the tilt-shift technique in Photoshop

Query: Your favorite online tools

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Have you tried It's a fun and helpful online application that lets you preview words with the fonts installed on your computer. Definitely a time saver when you're trying to choose an appropriate font.

What about your favorite online tools? Have you recently come across any great online resources like this?

Who wrote this?

A well-intentioned department wants its own newsletter/email/(insert random project here), but there's no one in-house to create it. What is a communicator to do? In the days of tiny budgets and shrinking staff, a solution to meeting your organization's needs is not easy to come by.

Some organizations and nonprofits have turned to using a content provider to fill in the gaps. In some cases the content provider just supplies generic text on a predetermined topic. In other cases, they provide copy and design services for client newsletters and webpages.

The choice to use these companies can help ease the load on existing staff, while still meeting the organization's communication needs. However, this set up also creates a host of other issues.

Who will manage the relationship with the company? Who will ensure your brand and style is represented appropriately? Will the generic content be compelling or suitable to your specific audience?

I wanted to see what Forum members think about this. Does anyone have an experience to share? Any tips on working with a content provider?

Ode to a Typeface

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This is fantastic and fun. You'll never look at Neutraface the same: Neutra Face : An Ode On A Typeface (A Bearded Poker Face Parody).

National Day on Writing, Oct. 20!

With all the gridlock in Congress these days, it's hard to believe politicians can agree on anything at all. Apparently, though, they've found common ground in agreeing that writing is a good and necessary activity. In September, Congress unanimously-approved a U S. Senate resolution establishing Oct. 20 as "National Day on Writing."

In case you didn't know it, the U of M has a Center for Writing, which supports the work of all U students, faculty, and staff engaged in the practice, teaching, and study of writing. And on Oct. 20, the Center is hosting a variety of writing events, including some quirky ones, like "Stalled Writing," an event that will take place in the Nicholson Hall bathrooms, where you can be "inspired by the porcelain muse," and perhaps move beyond "for a good time" to "Once upon a time."

If the bathroom isn't your style, they'll have "InTentsive Writing," which will take place guessed it--a tent. Those looking to get outside any physical boundaries might have luck with "Artful Writing: Writing With, Through and About Art with the Weisman Art Museum," which will practice building perception skills and respond to works of art verbally and through a variety of writing activities. For more course offerings and more information, see the Center for Writing, National Day on Writing.

In case you hadn't heard, a new online accessibility resource has been created by the U's Computer Accommodations Program--a partnership of Disability Services and the Office of Information Technology.

The site has been designed with the goal of sustaining and improving access and services to students, faculty, staff, and visitors--including those with disabilities. It's all about making the U-wide-web available to the widest possible audience -- including users of old, adaptive, alternate, or emerging technologies.

The site content includes the following seven categories, each represented by an icon used to identify category membership:

Documents -- includes information on accessibility barriers, best practices, and how to create accessible Microsoft Word, PDF, and Microsoft Excel documents.

Presentation -- includes information on accessibility barriers, best practices, and how to create accessible PowerPoint, Adobe Presenter, Apple Keynote and S5 online presentations.

Multimedia -- includes information on captioning, accessibility barriers, best practices, and how to create accessible Flash, QuickTime, Camtasia and Podcast media.

Learning Technologies at the U -- includes information on accessibility barriers and best practices for Moodle, Google Apps, MyU Portal, UMConnect Meeting, Clickers, UThink, and Wimba Voice Tools.

Web Content -- includes information on making Web pages and applications accessible. Includes a self-assessment tool.

Laws, Policies and Guidelines -- includes information on university policies, federal and state laws, and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) guidelines regarding accessibility.

Adaptive Technologies -- includes information on a variety of technologies available for making information accessible to individuals with disabilities.


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Letterpress brings the digits back into the digital

Did you know the University of Minnesota's graphic design program has its own letterpress studio? You'll have a chance to visit it at this year's Communicators Forum conference on May 13. Associate Professor James Boyd Brent will be presenting a hands-on demonstration in the Session I Design Break Out.

Here's an interesting documentary about letterpress printing:

Link roundup, 3.5.10

030510.jpgI've been putting a lot of miles on my to_read tag on delicious, but have managed to read some good articles lately. What have you been reading, listening to, or watching? Let us know in the comments.

Ten rules for writing fiction (part two) :: I know several of you Forum members are also fiction writers. Here's a refreshingly insightful collection of writing tips from established authors.

Iconic TV :: "Created out of a love for posters, modernism and television, there wasn't a client out there to commission such a job so Austrian designer Albert Exergian wrote his own brief and created this self initiated series of posters throwing all of the above inspirations into the creative melting pot."

6 Ways to Optimize Your SEO for Misspellings - And Why It Pays to be a Bad Speller :: "it turns out that a significant percentage of web users are sloppy with their language - particularly when using search engines like Google. There are around 10 million misspelled search queries every single day."

How Much Should I Charge? [PDF] :: Suggested rates for freelance writers based on a survey.

A Little Less Conversation :: "Have you ever invited employees to a meeting just so they wouldn't feel left out? If so, you may be an overcommunicator."

The Brand Quiz :: Two colors, a visual hint, and a cryptic clue.

What Type Are You? :: A video quiz created by the always-innovative Pentagram. Happy Friday, fellow typography nerds.

Finally, who was at Ignite Minneapolis last night?

Monday link roundup, 1.11.10

011110b.gifIt's a quick one this week, so help me out: What have you been reading, listening to, and watching? Add a comment or suggest a link for next week.

Monday link roundup, new year edition


Ok fine, early January: you win. Here is the obligatory Best of 2009 post (with some decade wrapup thrown in).

What do you think of these lists? What would you change? Do you have other year-end lists to recommend? And was 2006 really the year of ironic mustaches?

Image / / enimal

Communicating for good

102209.jpgSaturday is Make a Difference Day, one of several events throughout the year aimed at getting more people to volunteer. It got me thinking about the ways we as communicators can use our talents for good.

Finding a way to volunteer your skills can be as easy as contacting non-profits you support and asking if they could use your assistance. Or, maybe you'll find like-minded people in these networks:

Proofread for good:
I've been volunteer proofing for Distributed Proofreaders for a while and found it to be a well-run and supportive network. Volunteers go through scanned-in text of public domain works to help convert them to e-books for sites like Project Gutenberg.

Account plan for good: Planning for Good is a network of account planners who volunteer to solve problems for causes and non-profits.

Design for good: There are many volunteer design opportunities posted on sites like VolunteerMatch and HandsOn Twin Cities.

What volunteering have you done? Are there other sites or networks you recommend?


Monday link roundup, 9.28.09

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Every Monday we'll post a roundup of interesting communications news and articles from the past week. What have you been reading? Add a comment or suggest a link for next week.


Communication Skills


University of Minnesota

Web Lists

Monday link roundup, 9.21.09

Every Monday we'll post a roundup of interesting communications news and articles from the past week. What have you been reading? Add a comment or suggest a link for next week.

Now that students and faculty are back in action, do you feel overwhelmed and overburdened? Don't let the demands of your work day get the better of you. Use your time at work more efficiently.

Does branding pay off for Colleges? Harvard thinks so.

Do you think Kayne's outburst at the VMAs was a publicity stunt? This expert does.

Social media

Brands are strengthened (or damaged) based on the experiences they provide. And in an increasingly social world, those experiences are no longer created for people but with them. On this blog you will find articles and insights about the opportunities and challenges created by rapidly growing and evolving Social Media.

Twin Cities Twitter (Shout out to Jessica Franken, our rockin' Blog editor) for sending this my way.)

Graphic Design
Looking for Photoshop and Illustrator Tips/Tricks? Check out Pixel Perfect on Revision 3. You can download episodes via ITunes or watch right on the Revision 3 Web site. Side note: Revision 3 is an amazing resource for all things technology. Check out Tekzilla if you are a geek like me!

Fun stuff
Myna is sort of like Garage Band in your web browser.

Collection: 16 rock concert posters

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Ugh. Tuesday morning. Let's start the day with some creative defibrillation in the form of a completely subjective collection of concert posters.


AA Bondy poster

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