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Manual Focus

Note: The images below link to a book on amazon.com. This is not a paid promotion or review. Any opinions expressed are entirely my own and do not reflect upon the author of the book.

So freelancing fell by the wayside in the last year and a half. OOPS! It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the work. I got caught up in landing a day-job that I turned out to absolutely love. That turn of events actually reinvigorated my desire to sell what I make. If it means I need multiple platforms then that’s what I’ll do. Jumping further in, unsatisfied with free resources online, I found a book – while working said day-job – and it’s going to be another tool in my arsenal to keep trying and making this thing work.

No lie: I’ve been a failure a great deal on this journey. Go back to the beginning and count them. I’ve had two day-jobs in that time and discovered that I am actually really good at customer service! That’s a very good thing since it’s been a weakness of mine since I was born. Treating my depression was the beginning of my new life. I wouldn’t give it up even if I go broke trying.

I don’t want to actually go broke. Please, Powers-That-Be, save me from THAT. 😛

The book I bought, was gifted by my mom, is called Mind Your Business: A Workbook to Grow Your Creative Passion into a Full-time Gig by Ilana Griffo. What I like about it most is the focus on creatives. It’s not a “business book” (it totally is though). It’s a guide that says, “Here’s something to think about, and then do it!” I’ve only read the first few pages. It’s written in plain English with very little jargon to get in the way.

Not only that, but it’s written by a typography lover, so there’s always something interesting to look at. That’s really how I found it in the first place: the beautiful cover!

Just paying through it, I can tell there’s a lot of exercises and thoughtful nudges in the form of list-making, brainstorming, and graphics that illustrate business ideas visually. YES! A CREATIVE AUTHOR THAT GETS IT! I mean, check out this glimpse of a cake diagram to fill in about branding:

Anyway, I’m going to read some more and hopefully learn something new!


Take it easy and remember to smile!

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An Informal Poll

…of my family members shows me that most of them would prefer buying ready-made products. This is one of the reasons I made a move to have a second, independent shop on my website. While Etsy has the advantage of a large audience, it isn’t in the spirit of Etsy to sell commercially produced products as the mainstay of an Etsy Shop.

I did, however, post one of my Pitbull Life shirts to see what would happen. I’m just leaving it there for anyone to find, but not advertising it like I would my other listings. It’s an experiment.

I’m not sure yet what will do well in my shop. I do have some data on website traffic, but until I get some actual buyers, it’s pretty hard to know where to focus. So I keep doing what I like and hopefully that means someone else will like it too.

I ordered myself a shirt so I can see the quality for myself. Printful offers a few options in terms of technique. If I don’t like the quality, I can restrict what I offer to the products they make with only certain techniques. To shorten the story, I’ve heard of, and seen, some pretty shoddy examples of Direct-to-Garment printing, and I don’t want to offer it if the price isn’t right for the quality. I do know that many of the apparel choices are from Bella Canvas which is much higher quality than the Gildan brand and thus worth the extra money to buy.

As always, still learning, still journeying.

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Accomplished

What a great day! Work went great! And now I’m prepping for my 1 yr wedding anniversary with a trip to Savannah, GA. I’m feeling more comfortable as a someone in charge of production. I get to use all of my skills.

I have a new chance at being me. I can work digitally and physically. It’s not 3D printing or anything, but stores need window decals right? Company cars need logos on them. Truck drivers need to comply with DOT regulations and have their business license information on their trucks. Little girls need copies of their favorite shirt that accidentally got stained and ruined. Schools need branded uniforms. There’s a lot I get to see and do. Most graphic designers never work physically with printers and produce what they are designing. It’s an asset to my skills that I know how logos are used in the real world.

Trust me. If you need a logo get it in vector format as well as .jpg or .png. It will save you money down the road to have a vectors file that can be made as big or as small as you want! You could hire me – shameless plug- to make your logo because my pricing comes with any and all formats you could ever need. If you’ve read my blog you know what my qualifications are. 😉

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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The Most Greatest Awesomeness

I never claimed to always use words gud. 

Anyway, this week was good. It started out hectic but we hired a third person at work and that helped so much with catching up and having less to worry about in production. I’m sure when things get crazy we will really appreciate the third pair of hands around the shop!

In other news, I’ve had some time to play games. Been playing Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A really great addition to the franchise. I had a few late nights playing Rimworld. It’s still in alpha, but it has only gotten more fun to play! And last, but not least, I finally installed Undertale. I know all the twists and turns but it’s still fun to go through it myself. I wanted to see how hard the battles were. I need a controller to play the game properly. I needed the stress relief during the crazy time last week. 

My brother-in-law asked if I could design a website. I told him the truth that I can do very basic sites, and since I have a Creative Cloud subscription I have Dreamweaver. I spent a few hours, too many hours, learning a little coding as I stumbled through the very most basic steps of a website. It’s not great, but it’s got all of the requested information on it! I think I learned enough to start over with a more clean CSS file and way cleaner coding. It really helps that Dreamweaver now has a fiction where you can look up what code does by right-clicking on it. A great addition to the program so you don’t need a ridiculous coding bible door-stop. Then again I shouldn’t talk since I own both The Art and Artefacts of Zelda and The Illusion of Life (the long and thick tome that describes the art and magic of Disney animation – and that’s totally a pun). 

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Machine Embroidery is Kryptonite

I’m in production. That’s my job. In this case it means I make stuff. I run a printer, embroidery machine, and a hot iron press. Car decals and custom t-shirts are most popular, and thankfully the most straightforward to make. Embroidery, now that’s another issue. 

My mom is a sewer. She likes sewing doll clothing mostly. I’ve been familiar with how a sewing machgine works since I was much younger, but this embroidery machine boggles my mind. So many more things can go wrong with it than on a sewing machine. Also, it’s never clear whether I’ve done something wrong to it or it’s just plain malfunctioning. In one case, I had a pattern that would sew fine until it got to this one area, then it would say the thread broke even though it clearly hadn’t.  I have no idea who to troubleshoot that. You see what I mean!?

Sometimes the backing material is too light. Sometimes the thread randomly messes up when it was fine a few seconds ago. It’s very frustrating to work with a complex machine like this. It’s not that I don’t have help, but I need to be able to diagnose these problems on my own so I can ask for the solution instead of floundering like an amateur. I am an amateur. What I don’t want is for customers to think that about the store! 

I’m learning new things all the time. I actually like my job most of the time. However, I don’t want to ever run a store like this. I’m confused all the time about pricing and products and what we can and can’t do. I can tell you how long it takes me in production, but not how much that time and materials are worth. 

When I think about pricing, I usually try to make it easy on both myself and the customer. Set pricing for certain services or products. If you read my blog when I post, then you’ve seen I’ve posted a couple of ads for my services at Guru.com. You’ll probably see more like them in the future. Design, I think is best represented by a per-hour rate, while a specific product would be a flat minimum budget. For example, another product that might be a flat rate would be image editing: $1/photo with a minim price of $25 for light balancing, basic spot removal, and background removal. Given that photos like that take minutes, it’s actually less time to turn around 25 images for one client since they will likely all be similar. Thus it makes sense to change the $25 even if it’s only one image because there would be a lot of “empty time” before and after to turn the job around in production. On the other hand, if a client wants beauty editing for their products, those images would take hours per image, and vary too greatly to charge a flat fee, so charging $15/hr makes more sense. 

Did I lose you? Sorry. Talking about pricing is one of the trickiest parts of any business. I struggle with it all time. This probably won’t be the last time. 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Le Sigh

I feel stupid a LOT these days. Maybe I needed a lesson in humility. I don’t think I know everything, but I don’t like discovering I’ve done something wrong that could have been prevented by better training or or own creativity in problem solving. Some days, though, I feel like an ignorant child. 

I want to learn new things. That’s the good part of all this. New skills means more marketable when I’m ready to find a new job. I’m not goo any everything. I’ll never been a jack of all trades. But I can try my best and do what I can. I don’t think I ever want to run my own print shop, but working in one shows me how my work might someday be used so I can avoid designs that won’t look good after printing. 

As for the things I feel stupid about, it’s not as bad as I make it sounds. How I feel is true, but it’s not like these are Earth-shattering mistakes. The business isn’t going to fold because of it or anything. I don’t think I’m that important! With a little luck and hard work I’ll be able to teach someone else to do what I do so no one will ever have to go through what I did!
Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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Branding

I work at a shop that does signage and branding as well as graphic design. That influence has led me to think that there’s a better way to embrace my name as a brand. You’ll notice that there’s a new profile picture and banner across my social media and web presence.

Let me know what you think. I’m open to feedback. My idea was to have it be bold and still have color as an accent. So I narrowed it down to black and two shades of green. If I ever need it in black and white I will likely have a single white stripe where the dark green is and the lighter shade will be black. That maintains the stripe effect while simplifying for one-color applications if needed. The M would be recognizeable on its own, which is a big plus!

Take it easy and remember to smile!

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Credit Where Due

I had an epiphany today. I was working on a job at work and started doing corrections to make the result polished when I noticed that some of the details were rather ugly ok a logo. The designer had clearly used Image Trace in Illustrator. It wasn’t the worst I’ve ever seen, but I did a better job in less than 10 minutes. I think that extra 5-8 minutes I spent on it are the difference between good and great. 10 minutes is the equivalent of $0.16 under my own pay scale. The business is not losing money by taking the time to do the job right. Even if no one would have noticed the curves and bobbles of the Image Trace, you don’t want to give the the opportunity to either.

I guess all of the above depends on the complexity of the work to be done. Maybe I’d use Image Trace for a photo or complex logo and only fix the bare minimum if it was going to take, say, an hour, or $10, of my time. I have had to use Image Trace for a photo simply because the original wasn’t big enough for me to use. Usually, however, I make it look like it’s a bit pixelated anyway so it looks like a raster, what most people expect from a digital photo. 

I try to avoid Image Trace on the whole unless I’m looking to clean up or stylize something. For example, I have a drawing in pen or pencil. I want the lines to be black and crisp and the whites to be transparent. Image Trace is perfect for that! You can set it so that you only have black and white and then play with the threshold and minimum area size in order to clean up some lines or make sure some fainter ones are traced properly. It’s a good idea to expand an Image Trace before editing it. Expanding the result allows for editing individual points. I’ve also used the Path > Simplify option to further clean up needlessly complex results. It’s an art in itself. 

Take it easy and remember to smile. 

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deejay.photo


This design showcases the entertainment and event planning part of Ronnie’s business. The brief mentioned that the client wanted to see a design with foil in it, so I made my cards using the 877C Pantone swatch. Of course, the client could choose to have his cards foil stamped, which is more expensive. Either way, I included a mockup of the card so the client could see where the foil/metallic ink would go. The black area is what will be silver in the final design. The client also wanted the card to be two-sided so I put his contact information on the back. Since the logo was already a camera, I thought I’d stay away from photography related iconography. 

I chose to make this card tall instead of wide to emphasize the spotlight on the camera logo, which will be silver. It also affords the logo some much needed space. The client provided a logo, but I thought the lettering, especially the small lettering under the deejay.photo, would be too small when it came to print. I did a test print on my home printer and it bled fiercely. I know that professional printers would have much better detail in their prints, but why run the risk? I beefed up the typography while maintaining the weight proportions of the original.