Wait a Minute

I’ve been thinking about writing more, or rather, about the fact that I don’t write more (and I should). I also think– and I’m pretty sure this happens to a lot of us– that good ideas, whether they’re for blog posts, art, whatever– come to us at times when it’s hard to capture them and save it for later. Even with note-collecting apps and stuff.

I also think that a lot of times we operate with a “hope” and “wish” mindset. We wish we had more time for “x”, or we hope that “y” changes, allowing us to effect some change in some part of our lives. Or we spend a lot of energy spinning our wheels, wishing for some improvement in because something isn’t going the way we would like…

And it’s that mindset that I keep coming coming back and re-examining. We expend all this energy trying to figure out how to change things… When sometimes all we need to do is wait. It became clear to me while going to get lunch a few weeks ago.

I typically bring my lunch to work every day but one. On that day, I usually go to one of a handful of places (not a lot of options near work, and half of them are burger joints. Since I don’t eat beef, it sort of narrows my options. But I digress). That day, the forecast called for rain. I stepped out around 1pm, and it was drizzling. I had brought my umbrella in to the office, but had left it at my desk, so I shrugged my shoulders and resigned myself to getting a little rain on me as I walked to the car. I drove out and headed a short distance (barely 1/2 mile, I think). By the time I got there, it was not only raining, but HAIL was coming down. 10 minutes later, after getting lunch, I came out and the sun was shining, and there was not a cloud in the sky.

I thought the rain was crummy enough, and then got hail. When I thought that was as good as it was going to get– the sun came out.

I’m not sure where I was going with the story, but the bottom line is this. Every step of the way I thought it was bad or couldn’t get worse, with no “hope” in sight. But all I had to do was wait 10 minutes.

“Wait a minute”. Sometimes, that’s all we have to do.

The Sheep and the Unicorn

“That’s the way the competition is doing it”. “That’s how it’s always been done”.

These are not fully valid reasons for making choices. Sure, there can be times when visual cues or specific language help the consumer make an immediate connection to whatever is being sold. But, more often that not, falling into this type of groupthink and making decisions from that place can be at best a bad idea, and at worst catastrophic. Thinking like this can dilute a message. It can take a standout design and make it generic. It can take the air out of a successful marketing campaign.

Figure out what makes you you, and leverage that. Forget the sheep, and embrace the fabulous unicorn within.

Pagers, email, emoticons and priorities


I remember that, back in the “olden” days of pagers and beepers (you know, the 90s), we would add codes to messages to indicate certain things (a little like how we have LOL and emojis today). I imagine this was done as a way to save on the number of characters being used in a message. Frankly, I can’t remember the exact reason. I do remember that one of the most popular shorthands was to add “911” to a message to indicate the level of urgency that was needed in the reply (another was “411”, used to request info). Fast-forward a number of years, and I realize that some people I’ve come across over the years ALWAYS send their emails flagged as “high priority”. And it got me to thinking… 

We live in such an interconnected world where communication has become almost instantaneous– from things like cell phones and social media posts to instant messaging on mobile devices.

So I wonder– has email’s “high priority” outlived its usefulness? Or does the little red flag (or exclamation point!) still a place for it in our modern communications?

Curious 2 know 411 911

Depth vs. breadth– the age-old argument

"Tools"-- Via New Old Stock
“Tools”– Via New Old Stock

A finely honed screwdriver. A Swiss Army knife.

We all have our favorite tools. But is one inherently better over the other?

Specialist– or Jack-of-all-Trades?

This has been a source of debate within the design community that has gone on for a long time now, and it’s likely to continue. Be a screwdriver or a multi-tool. Specialize or generalize. At its core is the difference between depth and breadth. Peanut butter or chocolate. Pepsi or Coke. “Less filling” or “tastes great”.

(For those not familiar, that last one was a nod to a Miller Lite campaign that was big in the 70s and 80s– here’s a sample of one of the ads)

But I realize it’s both. Especially in today’s marketplace, where global competition is so fierce. Sure, it’s important that we become focused in some area. That we have depth of knowledge in something. It helps establish us as thought leaders, experts in our field. It helps to set us apart from other professionals.

At the same time it’s important that we’re at least familiar with a lot of things outside our area of focus. If we’re a print designer, then knowing at least the basics of things like web design or packaging. Or even cooking. If our focus is on web and mobile design, maybe things like motion, or video, even music– may be a good thing. It’s this breadth of knowledge that helps balance out, and complements, that expertise. And, it also helps to give further depth, since things learned in other disciplines can be brought in and re-interpreted through that design lens. Or whatever your area of focus may be.

Is one better than the other?

So, the debate may continue. People will continue to argue for each side. And, each one has its merits, sure. But discussions on whether you should be a specialist, or jack-of-all-trades, will go on. Whether it’s better to be a hammer or a Swiss Army knife. Whether one is better than the other.

I say be both. You’ll likely be the better professional– even the better person– for it.

Klout… Huh! What is it good for?

I’m reminded of Jules Winfield–  Samuel L. Jackson’s character in Pulp Fiction

“I was sitting here, eating my muffin and drinking my coffee and replaying the incident in my head, when I had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.”

I wasn’t sitting around, eating a muffin. But there was something. I’ve been thinking for the past few days about social media in general, but specifically thinking about metrics tools like Klout. About how we read and hear from “experts” that say we shouldn’t focus or spend too much time thinking about Klout scores, follower counts– all that stuff. And they’re not wrong. At least not entirely.

See, this is what I’ve been wondering. As much of a downside as these experts/gurus/ninjas/rockstars of the Social cosmos tout, I have to believe there’s an equal upside to them.

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”– Newton’s Third Law of Motion

What if there is a usefulness for these tools beyond the obvious ego stroking? What if we used these to measure something else?

The past couple of weeks, I’ve taken to Klout (I really don’t like to focus on one site, but since they’re the de facto leader in the marketplace, it just seems inevitable) and instead of looking at my score, I’ve decided to look at the breakdown by network. I’m looking to see how my general day-today breaks down. I took some screen caps to show you what I mean.

Klout score overview
Klout score overview

The overview– this shows what the current Klout score is, and the high/low scores for the past 90 days (why 90 days? I have no idea). It’s really not an important component, but since engagement is tied to the score, it bears mentioning.

Clout score- Pie chart breakdown
Klout score- Pie chart breakdown

One view of the breakdown. This is one area where I’ve been focusing my attention. It shows me how my calculated score breaks down. We’ll see in the next shot WHERE it breaks down more fully (the different colors correspond to the various networks associated with this account). In my case, it looks like the majority of my score right now is coming from Facebook and Twitter activity.

Klout score- breakdown by network
Klout score- breakdown by network

Here’s the legend to the previous pie chart (or is it a donut chart? I don’t know. I like both.). As I noted, the bulk of my Klout score is coming from Facebook and Twitter (almost 70% combined), with Instagram coming in third place. These percentages are fluid, and will vary depending on where you’re choosing to invest your energy and social engagement on a given “snapshot” in time.

What can I do with this info? If I were a job-seeker, for example, I could look at this and conclude that I might be spending a good chunk of my energy and time on Facebook and Twitter– not necessarily a bad thing per se, but odds are if you’re on Facebook, you’re not networking or engaging in what I’d describe as “professionally productive” engagement. So I might look at spending more time on Linkedin and seeing how the scales tip after some time.

Personally, my goal (lofty and unattainable as it may be) is to get to a point where my score is being calculated by a balanced split among the different players. I’ve taken steps to increase my engagement in places like Google+ and Linkedin, although with Linkedin there is the issue of involvement in groups, and my experience so far has been less than positive (in short, I find there’s a lot of noise and unnecessary self-promotion, rather than genuine conversations going on there). However, the Google+ community in general has been much more engaging. I’m surprised more people aren’t as actively involved there, but I  understand the why behind it, especially in light of the popularity of the behemoth that is Facebook.

So, there it is. While a lot of people may have their issues and reservations with sites like Klout (could we consider them a type of aggregator), I believe it can be harnessed to reap potentially positive results beyond that for which it was designed.


Quick logo roundup– Puerto Rico and the 1970s.

I love logos. There’s something about taking a business, an organization– whatever– and boiling it down to an icon or a wordmark that really appeals to me. It’s like the ultimate Cliff’s Notes (side note– do they even make Cliff’s Notes anymore?).

(After a quick Googling) Apparently they do. And they’re still made with those awesomely-almost industrial yellow & black covers. Glad some things haven’t changed.

But I digress.

As I said at the top, I love logos. And I especially love logos from the 60s-80s. There’s just something about them…

Anyway, I was doing some housecleaning the other day. As I was putting stuff away, I came across an old program from a play I did when I was around 5-6 years old, which led me down a rabbit’s hole of memories for a bit. After a while I started to look at the “booster” ads in the back (you know, the kind parents and family buy to say hi to their kids. I even saw one from my great-grandfather to me. That made me a little misty-eyed. I had totally forgotten that was there). I saw that it wasn’t just parents. There were also stores– some local to Puerto Rico, some not– that had also bought ads in these programs. Then, somewhere along the way, I couldn’t help but realize how I’d never noticed the logos before. So I took picture of a few that I especially liked. The quality of the printing was not the best, and these were quick pics taken with an otherwise decent cell phone camera, so I apologize in advance for some of the quality (although that less-than-perfect execution gives them a little something I like).

Well, without further ado, let’s look at some logos (which are used for the purpose of sharing cool stuff I’ve found and are the property of their respective owners)…

Burger King's logo, circa late 1970s.
Burger King’s logo, circa late 1970s.

For many, many years, Burger King was the big player in the fast food landscape in Puerto Rico (Up until sometime in the 80s, there was only one McDonald’s in PR.). Burger King has gone through some logo changes over the years, but this design has always been my favorite (they seem to have brought it back– even if for a little while– these days with the re-release of their hot ham & cheese sandwich).

First Federal Savings-- circa 1970s
First Federal Savings– circa 1970s

First Federal (now FirstBank, I believe) was one of the big local banks in PR, along with guys like Banco Popular. While Banco Popular used a lot of reds and blues, First Federal leaned heavily on the color green. The extruded “1” on this is pretty funky, IMO.

Lopito, Ileana & Howie logo
Lopito, Ileana & Howie logo

I have no idea what this company is/was, or what they did. The logo– to me– has a cool bicycle-meets-Taíno-iconography feel to it. BTW, the Taíno were the peoples native to Puerto Rico and some of the other islands in the Caribbean. You can find out more here about the Taíno and their symbols.)

Erwin Rodriguez & Asociados logo
Erwin Rodriguez & Asociados logo

This is a logo for an engineer (if I had to guess, structural engineering or something construction related. But don’t quote me on it). I like how the “E” is formed out of the left-hand frame, and the bar carries through into the arrow, and the whole thing is lframed out in that rectangle. I dig it, even if I have no clue what the “dot” (which ends up looking like a Pac-Man because of the arrow) has to do with anything here.

Graficor logo
Graficor logo

This one’s a little crusty. It’s a logo for a graphics and print shop. Unfortunately, it looks like the ink spread a little on the printing, and things got a little goopy. You can barely make out the “c” in “Graficor”. But if there was a logo in this bunch that epitomized that period for me, this is probably it.

Baskin Robbins ad
Baskin Robbins ad

Okay, so this one’s not a logo per se. But I like the feel of this ad. And  I love this version of the Baskin Robbins logo. It’s most definitely a product of its time. And, if memory serves me, it was in use well into the 80s, maybe even later.

So, there it is. Nothing scientific or fancy. These were just a bunch of logos that appealed to me in some way, and I thought I’d share them with you. Hope you’ve enjoyed them. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Illustrator tip | Packaging it up

Funny story. Well, maybe. I was brushing my teeth yesterday morning, thinking about the whole Sony/“The Interview” kerfuffle. Now, I have my thoughts about that, and I may share them separately at some point. But as I was brushing my teeth, I remembered another useful improvement the folks at Adobe have made to Illustrator.

Often when working with Illustrator, you may find that you’re not only creating art within the program, but you’re also placing in external elements– like images. These can be placed either as links, or embedded directly into the file. On one hand, a linked file allows for a leaner Illustrator file. The linked image can be edited externally (think, for example, of color-correcting a photo or putting a clipping path on the image), and the changes would be reflected back in Illustrator once saved. However, send that file out without also sending the linked image, and you’ll run into trouble.

An embedded image eliminates the risk of missing links, by sheer virtue of it being part of the Illustrator file. The downside of this is you Illustrator file will likely balloon in size (depending on the size of the link, and if you work with high resolution images, you can bet it will). You will also no longer be able to edit the embedded file.

Enter packaged files

Packaged files (also sometime called collected files) solve the issue of potentially missed links without unnecessarily increasing file sizes. If you’ve ever used Adobe’s InDesign or QuarkXpress (the “Coke and Pepsi” of page layout programs– so to speak), you’ve likely packaged or collected files.

Nice package!

Essentially, a packaged file (I’m going to stick with that term, since this is what Adobe uses) is a separate folder that’s created that includes the original file,  and can include all links and fonts. It’s a real convenient way to send files to third parties or printers so that they have everything that they would need to open the file with (in theory) no errors or discrepancies.

When sending files for others to modify and work off of, I think packaged files are great. When sending out to printers… That’s a different story (personally, I prefer sending press-ready PDFs whenever possible, but that’s a discussion for another day).

In programs like InDesign or Quark, this feature has been built in to the software for a long time. Illustrator users were not so lucky, and were left to rely on outside help. In this case, plug-in software. When I first started working on packaging production art (back in 2005), this was the way things were done. I believe the software was called Art Bin. This piece of software collected Illustrator files in a manner similar to Quark or InDesign.

There had to be a better way

Unfortunately, a native feature wasn’t available in Illustrator at the time (I believe it was v.9), and users were left with these third-party solutions. The alternative to packaging files being embedding photography/links and outlining type. This at least ensured all image elements are included and there are no font-related issues.

And so it was until not too long ago. I’ve been working primarily on packaging since then (both freelance and in-house). My software of choice is Illustrator, and a lot of times I use photos or other outside images. Up until recently, if I wanted to send files to a printer, I resorted to the embedded file and outlined type method of file output, more out of necessity than choice. Nowadays, it’s 100% a matter of choice and minimizing the impact a printing bureau may have on the content of the art supplied.

Here we are

With the latest version of Illustrator (as of the end of 2014 we’re at CC, their new subscription-based model), Adobe’s bridged the gap between software apps and users now have the ability of packaging the art like they would in InDesign. Let’s look at how it works.

For this tutorial (I guess that’s the best description), I created a file and named it GEERD.ai (GEERD™, for those unfamiliar, is something I’ve come to call myself. It’s a combination of “geek” and “nerd”.). I placed a picture of myself, a circle with beveled edges and some type.

This is what the files looks like

You have the basic elements of a file that would make sense could be packaged out. In order to package the file, Illustrator has provided a menu item. It’s located under “File/Package…”

This is where the “Package” menu is located

So, if I wanted to package my file, this is the menu option I would select. From here on out, it’s a pretty straightforward process. After selecting “package”, you’re prompted to select where your files will be saved. You can leave the default location (which should place it in the same folder as the original piece of art), or a different place altogether. It will also give you the option to (re-)name the folder, if you so desire. All this is up to you, the user, to decide.

This box allows you to select the location where the packaged folder will be placed

After selecting your package folder’s location, Illustrator then moves on to package out your file into its own folder. When it’s done you’ll get this:

The packaging of your files is now complete!

You can view the packaged folder to make sure everything’s copacetic by hitting “ok”…

The main package folder sitting in the folder it was saved.

… and then opening the folder itself.

This is everything that’s inside the packaged folder– including a PDF.

After that, the folder can be burned on a disk, put on a flash drive, or zipped and either emailed (size permitting) or sent via any number of cloud-based file sharing services (like Dropbox, Google Drive, Copy, Microsoft’s OneDrive, just to name a few).


So there it is. A quick, easy way to take files and all their ancillary elements and put them in one folder for ease of transport or distribution. I hope you’ve enjoyed this, and I’l see you here next time.

OK, so maybe I won’t really see you. At least not physically. But your comments or input would be greatly appreciated.

The Social order of things

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. Not sure why. It’s just something that popped in my head one day. It’s been sitting here as a draft. I’ve been contemplating fleshing it out, but as best as my brain can see it, there’s not a whole lot to flesh out, so I’m just going to think it out loud and leave you all to come to whatever conclusions you will.

A while back (September of this year, to be precise), I jotted down the following:

Does the order of social media links matter, and how does this affect visitor perceptions?

The idea behind it was that, if someone visited your website, or anywhere else there may be social media links grouped together, would the order the sites were linked make a difference?

For example, if I were to list my social profiles in the following order:

What would be a visitor’s impression? And would it be the same if I listed them this way?:

  • Linkedin
  • Google+
  • Twitter
  • Facebook

It’s not that the information provided is any different. They would link to the same places, the information on the profiles would be identical.

But would it make a difference? That’s what’s been sitting in the back of my head, festering. And it bugs me.

And frankly, it’s not something that bugs me enough beyond it being an academic exercise. Which is why I’ve never bothered with testing this out in any way. Maybe one day I will. Who knows?

So that’s it. I fell better having thought this out loud. I’m curious what you, dear reader, think about this. Am I on to something? Or am I just making more out of it than I should? Let me know in the comments, or get in touch with me through one of the social media outlets above.

(Thanks for reading! Hope you have an awesome day.)

Looking at Point vs. Paragraph type

As someone who currently works mostly in packaging, the bulk of my time is spent elbow-deep in Illustrator. Because of this, I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my life and workflow easier– from so-called “life hacks”, different uses for existing tools and apps, to brand new ways of doing things. I’m sure I’m not the only one out there.

A reoccurring issue is scaling of type and making copy edits. Sometimes this involves adding copy to the existing blocks of text.

That’s where things get interesting. and the issue I’m looking at only affects type in Illustrator (I tried to replicate these same issues in both Photoshop and InDesign, and was not able to do so, so I’m going to presume it’s a situation unique to Illustrator. Don’t go sending hate mail if I’m wrong.).


A Brief Explanation

There are two types of type in Illustrator– point type and area (also called “paragraph”) type (an explanation of the two can be found here). If you just click on the type tool, place the cursor somewhere and start typing– you’d be laying down point type. On the other hand, if you take the type tool, make a text box, and then add type inside the box. That’s paragraph type. We’re going to be looking at the two, how scaling affects them, and how one can be turned into the other.

We’ll start with point type.


Let’s Dive In, Shall We?

point type- original
This is what a line of point type looks in Illustrator

For the sake of this demonstration, I typed the above example in Illustrator. It could really be a piece of copy of any length. The important thing to notice is that, even though it looks like a text box, there’s an open circle on the little handle on the right side. Remember that.

Here’s the thing. Let’s say I typed this in and decided I needed to make the type bigger for some reason (maybe, for the sake of argument, we’re making it into a headline). I would need to make the text box bigger in order to accommodate the larger point size. To do this, I would grab one of the corners and extend the box as needed.


point type- stretched
This is the same line of point type when I try to make the text box bigger.

Not exactly what we wanted, was it?

The problem with point type is that it treats the contents almost as if it were a graphic. So whichever way you scale the box, the type will move along with it– except it won’t do it proportionally. Enter paragraph type.


Going with the Flow– with Paragraph Type

paragraph type - original
This sentence was written as paragraph type.

At first glance, it looks pretty much like the point type, doesn’t it? But there’s one slight difference. Notice how the circle is now filled in? Let’s say I also want to change the size of the type. I grab one of the corners and open up the box. This is what happens.

paragraph type - opened box
The type didn’t get distorted this time. Sweet!

This time, the type stayed the same, and only the container box was affected. Now we can change point size, font– whatever, without having to worry about our type getting all distorted.


Change is Good

In previous versions of Illustrator, before you could make a conversion, you’d have to find a script online that would convert point type to paragraph type– a relatively easy search, frankly. You’d have to install it, select the type, then run the script. Not altogether complicated. Just tedious.

In the latest version of Illustrator (CC– or v.18, for those that would rather keep track that way), Adobe has finally simplified the process, and they’ve done it without the need for third-party scripts. Remember the little open circle at the end of the point type text box? Click on it. It will fill in, indicating that the text box is now paragraph type.

Like I said. Easy.


A Caveat

From time to time you will probably find yourself working with legacy files (files created with previous versions of a particular piece of software). If you do, you might find that what you thought was a bunch of paragraphs is, in fact, now a series of lines and separate blocks of words. I wish I could say you could select multiple lines of point type and turn them into a nice paragraph. But I can’t.

Maybe in the next version of Illustrator.


In Conclusion

Although I prefer it, paragraph type isn’t inherently better than point type. I suppose if you have small amounts of  copy– like in a logo, for example, using point type would be perfectly fine. However, if you’re dealing with multiple lines of copy, or you need to work with blocks of type like you would in a layout program (such as InDesign or QuarkXpress), then setting your copy as paragraph type would definitely be the way to go.

I hope this tutorial helped you, and I would love to hear your comments or questions. Drop me a line in the comments and let me know what you think.