Monday, December 22

2008 American Graphic Design Awards

Last week I received the 2008 issue of the Graphic Design USA, which is a news magazine for creative professionals.  Each year, for nearly four decades they present the American Graphic Design Awards, which is sponsored by Adobe. The contest is open to everyone in the community: advertising agencies, graphic design firms, corporate, institutional, and publishing inhouse departments, etc. It honors outstanding new work of all kinds of media: print, internet, corporate identity and logos, etc.

Recently, I was notified that I was a winner of a design for Yasharians Interior & Exterior Remodeling that I submitted for the category of Internet Design. I was honored and excited to be recognized for this exceptional award. I received an embossed Certificate of Excellence. In addition, my design was also published in the Awards Annual magazine (pg. 220), which will be seen by an estimated 100,000 at ad agencies, graphic design firms, and more.

Tuesday, December 16

Getting to know me...

I was recently tagged on Twitter by @AndyVitale. As a result of being tagged I have to post seven things you don't know about me. I thought it was such a huge compliment for Andy to tag me as a helpful resource on Twitter and since I am always eager to participate, I figure why not :)
  • I am a self proclaimed professional Annie's Mac & Cheese chef. That purple box contains the fixings for delicious Mac n' Cheese goodness. However, you still have to add the butter and milk. I have perfected a balance of butter and milk to a tee. Come on over, I'll make you some, you'll see.
  • My biggest fear is public speaking. Enough said!
  • If I wasn't a graphic designer I would be a fitness trainer or a nutritionist. I am fascinated by the capabilities of the human body both mentally and physically when it comes to the power of exercise and eating right. I love to work out and cook healthy meals.
  • I share the same wedding anniversary date as my Grandparents. July 5th :)
  • I hate doing laundry (ask my husband), but I actually enjoy cleaning the house on a Saturday or Sunday morning. It makes me feel accomplished, organized, and fresh.
  • I love Bill O'Reilly and I am a reality TV junkie. You name it, I watch it: everything from Top Chef to The Girls Next Door, to the Hills, to Jon and Kate Plus 8… I love it all!
  • I can't resist a good deal at T.J. Maxx or Homegoods. I have to make a weekly trip otherwise I go into withdrawl. 
Since it's my turn to tag some people. Below is a list of seven people that you may or may not be following on Twitter. Being tagged means that you have to create a similar blog post.

@colorburned - a great resource that I discovered via Twitter who lives in the same town that I grew up in

@Vital_Design - a NH based Agency that provides Web Design, Graphic Design, and Marketing (and a fellow Twitter buddy)

@iamkhayyam - an enthusiastic Designer, Wordsmith, Standup Comic, Radio Guy, Photographer, etc., who is always willing to help with Retweets and send links :)

@imjustcreative - one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter because he has great ideas and he is always getting the design community involved in his blog

@SpinWhiz - one of my most recent Twitter buddies, who does Brand Management for a media company

Monday, December 15

How to be a good client

For all of you clients and designers, here is a true (and hilariously ironic) account about How to Be a (Really) Good Client. This link that was shared by DesignEnabler on Twitter. It is from a designers POV on how to be a good client. Designers across the board, (including myself) wish that there was a more modest way of sharing this list with clients or including it in proposals, in the meantime we will continue to pray for the "Perfect Client".

Sunday, December 14

Kevin Skarritt featured on the Seacoast Business Connection radio show

Kevin Skarritt, Chief Nut of Acorn Creative, will be featured on the Seacoast Business Connection radio show on Portsmouth Community Radio, WSCA 106.1 FM, from 12-1 pm on Monday, December 15, 2008.

This session, produced by the Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce, will be on the topic of Social Media and is sure to be a lively exchange.

We hope you will be able to tune in and listen!

Saturday, December 13

Featured Nice Person on

This week I was featured as this week's nice person on Graham Smith's, We Are Just Creative web site, which is an Audio, Visual & Social Media Community Creative Magazine.

Graham gave his followers the opportunity to be featured on the home page of his site. Graham said, "I thought how cool it would be to series a number of these black and white portrait photos for anyone who wants to submit them, just like a gallery."

Here was the criteria:
  • Submit images with the following dimensions: 460px wide by 147px deep, include a short bio, and send them to Graham.
  • There is no deadline. Just a cool thing to do.
For more information, or to submit yourself, visit:

Visit Graham's other sites: I'm Just Creative, SoulTweet, and I'm Just Graham.

Friday, December 12

"Tweeter" (Twitter) has made me sweeter!

I Tweet a lot on Twitter – it is my latest guilty pleasure – but I can honestly say that I don't really feel that guilty about it. Here's why:
  • I utilize Twitter as a professional tool to further my career as a designer.
  • I am making connections with designers, creative people, business people, etc. that I may not have connected with otherwise.
  • I try to help other designers by answering their burning questions; I contribute to their surveys and blogs when invited to participate; I engage in meaningful conversations with other designers; I share cool links when I find them; I retweet posts as often as I can when I find good content, etc, etc, etc – all of which helps to validate me as a professional in my industry.
  • I get the inside scoop on the latest design software and updates and gadgets and tricks and tips and everything!
  • I try and mix my tweets up with design related posts, business, social media, tip, and a few day-to-day personal touches to keep people interested and coming back for more.
  • I feel more confident as designer because people have approached me on Twitter and shared my ideas and re-tweeted me and shared my posts with their followers, which lets me know that I am respected member of the design community.
  • Plus so many other benefits, that it is just too much to list in one post!
Please share your experience with Twitter and how it has made you a better designer, business person, chef, blogger, etc. by posting a comment below. I'm excited to hear what all of you have to say!

Thursday, December 11

Little, Big Town (not the band)

I used to hide my geographic location from people on the web because I thought that they might think I was, well… "small-town". People (and by people I am referring to the general population of non-designers) assume you have to bask in the action of New York or L.A. in order to get recognized as a top designer. Well, that is a poor assumption, because it's not true. There are so many talented designers and artists hidden in small towns and cities.

Recently, I've decided to embrace my geographic location because, well… why not? So, my geographic location is not a big city, but I don't have to live in the city to be well connected. That's what social media is for (i.e. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc).

I happen to live in a beautiful part of the United States – Concord, NH to be exact – which has a lot of great qualities: i.e. hiking, skiing, fishing right in my backyard (well, not right in my backyard, but close); Concord was nominated by Forbes as one of the top 10 recession proof cities (certainly a bonus during these tough times); it is a day trip away from Boston and Burlington, VT (two of my favorite places); it is home of the Barley House (best burgers, I swear by the Dublin Burger); it is the state capital; and I have discovered through social networking that there a lot of great powerhouse design agencies and individuals that represent NH.

So I am doing away with my "small-town" thoughts, and moving on to, er, Big Town. I encourage designers to share any similar experiences :) All comments are welcome!

Wednesday, December 10

2008 Shorty Awards

Today, I was nominated on Twitter for a Shorty Award, in the design category, by my lovely Twitter friends at Vital Design in Portsmouth, NH. The Shorty Awards honors the world's top Twitterers for producing "short" content (140 characters or less).

I was honored to be nominated because it was such a huge compliment to be recognized as a helpful design resource on the world wide web.

Visit the Shorty Awards website to learn how you can participate and nominate your favorite "Tweeters."

The Good Life for Less

Let's face it, the economy isn't getting much better and your pockets aren't getting any bigger. But if you're like me, you've gotten a little taste of the good life, and cutting back during tough times in the financial state of our country can be kinda hard.  I found a new web site this morning called Shoestring. It is all about living fabulously for less. It has articles and tips on gift giving, entertaining, household budgets, etc. I like this article and it is especially appropriate for the upcoming holiday shopping. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1

Designers share their Proofing Processes

A couple of weeks ago, I invited my fellow designer friends to participate in answering questions about their proofing process.

Some of the questions I asked were:
Some things to consider sharing:
- How do you present proofs? On boards or electronically via PDF or JPG?
- Do you meet with the client in person, via email or teleconference to discuss designs?
- How do you retrieve feedback from the client? (through discussion, questionnaire, rating system, etc.)
- How you respond when the client does not favor any of the designs presented?
- What is the next step after you have completed a first draft review with your client?
- Any other relevant information...Etc, Etc, Etc...

I received a lot of great replies (thank you everyone who responded ;) I hope to do more posts like this in the future.

Here are the replies below:
I usually present proofs electronically via PDF, but I will discuss the proofs via e-mail, in-person or phone call (whatever the client prefers).

If a client doesn't favor any of the designs presented, I will discuss with the client what he/she is looking for, if there is anything on the provided comps that DOES work, etc. to try to determine next steps moving forward.

I will then do some new PDFs and repeat as necessary. If I'm doing my job right, one more round should get us headed in the right direction.

José Mota
I am José Mota, a state-of-the-art freelance web designer.

I use Skitch (wonderful :D). It's electronic, yea, because my clients are far away.

Feedback is given either through email, IM or Skype discussion. You're guessing correctly when you say I talk to clients online. Even so, I kindly insist in a first personal meeting to approach a solution.

I believe it's most important to let the client know of our potencial as designers and suggest good tips on usability and accessibility like certain elements' positioning, etc.

If a client asks something too generic that allows our creativity to play full out and after that he just says "", I always say to myself they oughtta know better :P That's totally different than correcting certain aspects of a design.

One last thing: designers are selfish and egocentric by nature. They are good attributes, use 'em in your favor. However, the very last word is the client's.

Tony Chester
For OnWired, we typically submit our comps via Basecamp, so electronically is the correct answer for us. As all clients are unique, the follow up revisions may be hammered out in person, over the phone, or via Basecamp.

JPG's usually suffice for web design comps. Sometimes a GIF, PNG, or PDF for print materials.

Once the initial design is approved, we move forward with any secondary pages and so forth. By that time, most of the critical design elements are accounted for and the road becomes a bit smoother.

Bruce Colthart
My print design work is (surprisingly?) a very electronic process. Of course, some clinets like face time more than others, but via email or through my print brokers Basecamp account, most every proof is sent as a pdf. It's actually been quite a while since I showed a dummied comp in person.

Even if a printed piece will have certain folds, I'll often make an illustration of sorts by working the pdf in Photoshop. If specific spot colors or finishes are involved, then presenting samples in person is required.

I am of two minds regarding feedback. Face to face is great, and vital for my initial meetings, but when a client responds, I *love* the "paper trail." Especially when client proxies are involved, or when additional charges or last minute problems are involved!

I have a templates directory setup on my server. I usually like to hash out a few different layouts in HTML and CSS (I know, it's probably more work than it's worth).

I like doing things this way because it lets the client actually use the layout, not just look at it.

Brian Yerkes
We upload jpgs and upload them to a client folder we create on our server and send the link to the client asking them to review.

Depending on the client, we either speak with them on the phone or we discuss it over email. I am becoming extremely green minded these days, and if we don't have to meet in person (using gas, car emissions etc), then we try not to unless the client really feels they need to. While it is important to get to know a client, and allow them to get to know you and your company through face-to-face meetings..but after one meeting during the sales process, I think it is enough for most clients.

Phone call or emails

I try to figure out what aspects they don't like, what they do like etc. It can be really difficult to get this out of some clients and that is why designers sometimes struggle to hit the nail on the head for the client...the one's that are unable to communicate their thoughts clearly are often the ones that also have a specific design in mind...but don't know how to describe it until you actually get it and they see it!

If they have changes, we send an email back to them outlining all of the changes we understand they are requesting. This confirms with them that we are on the same page. Then we work on the changes, and submit to them again for review.

Once the design is done, if it is a website project, we begin the html/css, or if it is a logo design or print design project, we invoice final payment and get working on the preparing the final production files that the client will receive once final payment is received.

Hope that info helps somehow! Regarding the topic of presenting design visuals for websites, I recently discussed a new way I am doing this (with some clients) and it is working out to be a huge time saver.

Brittany Shellington
Hmmm, I think PDF proofs seem to be the way to go..moreso than jpegs definitely, where you can arrange it on whatever page size you want, in whatever order you want, they can zoom in/out or go full screen. I think it's still clean and professional and effective.

Presentation boards are awesome, but I think of that more for a presentation when you're trying to impress the client before they've committed and actually on board.

Meeting in person is huge, I think. You not only get a sense for them, their needs and direction, but they get a sense of YOU. You're able to identify (or at least try) what kind of working relationship will be most appropriate for working with them down the line. As for feedback, I think over the phone is best as compared to emails. I love printing out a hard copy, then reviewing on the phone, RED PEN in hand and taking notes, crossing things out, circling things, etc. Nothing's more frustrating than going down a list of TEENY TINY critiques, pending the project (I guess it could work sometimes for minor tweaks..)

There's been a few times when clients weren't entirely in favor of a concept, but after explaining why I did something a certain way, and what I was trying to accomplish, they've leaned more in my direction.. not always, but sometimes ;)

Mary Dolan
I normally present design proofs via PDF or JPG on a sheet of paper with my watermark and company logo/info on the bottom of the page. I also communicate with clients via email, phone or Skype, since the majority of my clients live in other states. If the client is in the same town as me, I will meet them and discuss comps and revisions face to face.

If my client doesn't like the first round of designs, then I create them a second round for no charge. I normally include 3-4 revisions within the project price.

I can normally nail down a design within 2 revisions..but there are clients out there who like to get a million revisions out of you. That's where the 3-4 revision limit is useful. Once they go over that 4th revision they have to pay per hour. Comes in handy.

Finally, once they pick a final design, I either choose the printer(online or local) and I send the final files to print. Sometimes the client will request that I just give them the files so that they can use their own printers. Depends on the client.
As a book designer, my answers might be a little "brand specific," but I believe it might add something to your discussion, so here goes ...

How do you present proofs? On boards or electronically via PDF or JPG?
I email or upload (if the client has an FTP site) PDFs of each chapter, generally, as I complete them. I usually send then at print-resolution, so the client can print them out for proofreading.

Do you meet with the client in person, via email or teleconference to discuss designs?
I haven't met in-person with a client (or interviewed in-person with a prospective client) in over 15 years. Telephone is as old-fashioned as my communications get. I don't even use snail mail anymore, except for the rare client who wants a disk of files, rather than sending them electronically, or for me to print a hard copy.

How do you retrieve feedback from the client? (through discussion, questionnaire, rating system, etc.)
Often by email, and the occasional phone call, although mostly for a whole book after it's been proofread, a marked-up print-out is usually the means for getting me any correx or edits from that first run of pages. I've been videoconference-able for over three years now. Not as long as some, perhaps, but I have still to have a client, or a potential client, who wants to conference or interview by videochat. I look forward to the opportunity, however.

How do you respond when the client does not favor any of the designs presented?
I've never had a total rejection. Genereally, however, I've never had my first interior or cover design accepted exactly as is. There's always some exchange, give-and-take, a refining of the design that we go thru until the client gives the go-ahead for production.

What is the next step after you have completed a first draft review with your client?
For me, that first draft review is the proofreading of the first run of all the interior pages of a book. I input those correx into the respective chapter files of a book and email or upload the files as I complete them.

Saturday, November 22

Please Critique Me

I work for a small graphic design agency in the Lakes Region of NH and I also do freelance work on the side as time allows. I look to my co-workers for their thoughts on my designs, but sometimes that just isn't enough. Without the formal training and because each of my co-workers are so busy, it is difficult for them to give me practical feedback. For me, it is imperative to have my designs critiqued, so that I can continue to provide the highest quality work for my clients. Soooo, where do I turn? A week ago, I wouldn't have a good answer for you, but…

…that all changed this week when Please Critique Me was revealed to help creative people get the feedback that they need from experts in the design industry. The brilliant people of OnWired have recruited 8 of the top design professionals to start a place for people in need of design feedback to congregate. Please Critique Me is different because this isn't just some willy-nilly site where anyone and everyone is giving you their opinion. You are getting feedback from a group of hand-picked designers who are experts in the field and have a sophisticated eye for excellent designs.

I know that I will be utilizing the thoughtful, yet stern feedback of my peers on this web site to evaluate my work, especially for my new personal web site that will be coming soon. Make sure you also follow them (and me) on Twitter.

Thursday, November 20

Answering Difficult Client Questions

Designing for clients is fun and challenging, but one of the downsides of designing [for me] is responding to tricky comments and questions from client feedback on the designs that I have created for them.  I want to be honest with clients – I don't want to devalue my services and my knowledge by giving into poor design choices. On the flip side, I have to be careful in how I deliver my response, so as not to offend a client.

Eric Karjaluoto from wrote an article on just that and it's worth reading here – "How to disarm 10 difficult client observations / requests".  His approach is helpful because as a designer you remain in control of the design direction, yet the client should be happy that you are looking out for their best interests.

Tuesday, November 18

Do's and Don'ts of Twitter

Sara Evans of was recently published on with 10 tips on How to: Build Community on Twitter. Twitter is one of the fastest growing social media networks out there right now (connect with me). No surprise - for every tip on how to build your community, there are tips on How NOT To: Build your Community on Twitter.

Attention Designers

I am inviting designers and other creatives to share your most effective ways of presenting designs to clients.

Some things to consider sharing:
- How do you present proofs? On boards or electronically via PDF or JPG?
- Do you meet with the client in person, via email or teleconference to discuss designs?
- How do you retrieve feedback from the client? (through discussion, questionnaire, rating system, etc.)
- How you respond when the client does not favor any of the designs presented?
- What is the next step after you have completed a first draft review with your client?
- Any other relevant information...Etc, Etc, Etc...

Submit your feedback by November 30th and I will post your replies on December 1st. Be sure to include your name, company, web site url, and your email address.

Blogging Webinar - 3-Part Series

A little shameless self-promotion never hurt anyone, right?! So, I just want to let everyone know about a FREE 3-part Blogging Webinar that my employer, Acorn Creative, is having. The first one starts tomorrow. Kevin Skarritt, "blogging guru", will discuss the importance of blogging, and how it is the single greatest method for delivering additional traffic to your website and generating additional revenue.

The 3 sessions offer:
November 19th
Learn the importance of blogging and the basic steps to start getting your business message out to the world.

December 3rd
Discover how to impact your business by utilizing blogging as part of your marketing mix. Review basic blogging strategies that will dramatically improve your visibility, increase inbound links and enhance reader engagement.

December 10th
Explore the more complex aspects of blogging and how to utilize this opportunity to promote your business for greater success.

Sign up at Acorn Creative.

Friday, November 14

Logo Featured on

Recently, I submitted one of my favorite logos that I designed for a client at Acorn Creative, to a blog that I follow regularly, The Design Cubicle. Brian Hoff, graphic and web designer and author of The Design Cubicle, asked fellow designers to submit their favorite designed logos and a brief description to be featured on his blog. Granted I submitted my own design – is still such an amazing feeling to see my own work featured among so many other brilliant designs. Check it out when you have a minute - it is the logo for PaladinID.

Friday, November 7

Hello, my name is Katie, and I am…Connected!

Last week I attended a LinkedIn Event for NH High Tech Council, which was co-hosted by Lani Voivod of Epiphanies Inc. and my boss, Kevin Skarritt, who is owner of Acorn Creative.

While working for Acorn Creative I have been submerged in the new frontiers of social media. I personally have an active accounts with LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Ma.gnolia, etc. Okay, so let's say you have accounts with all of these networks, too… You are probably asking yourself…"What do I do now?!" The answer is: CONNECT!

Social media networks, like LinkedIn, are all about connecting with people, and building professional relationships. BUT it doesn't happen overnight – it takes time, patience, and a well-thought out profile. Here are some of the key talking points from last weeks's event that might help you become better connected:

1. Etiquette is first and foremost. Online Etiquette is probably one of the most important. Remember, LinkedIn is a place for professional business people to connect – this is not Facebook or Myspace. Think about this analogy used in the presentation, you should treat LinkedIn like it was a "business cocktail party". You wouldn't meet someone at a cocktail party and instantly hard sell them on your new services. You would find common ground that you could both share stories and ideas about. In fact you shouldn't sell to people at all on LinkedIn, which leads me to the next talking point.

2. LinkedIn is not a place for you to start selling. If you try to sell your products or services, you will very likely get "red flagged". People may think it you are spamming them if you send messages to them selling your services on LinkedIn and then you can get red-flagged – the kiss of death. Three red flags and your account is terminated. Do not sell! End of story.

3. Connect, Connect, Connect! Build relationships! In turn, you will build your report and credibility in your industry, which will create more leads and visibility on the web.

4. How do you start the daunting task of creating your profile? Mirror your resume when you start to create your profile. There are several benefits to do this. First, it will help your sanity because it can be overwhelming. Second, if you use your resume as guidelines, you can expand on that as you build your profile. Third, by including past companies, education, activities, etc. you will increase your connectability. In turn, you will be increasing the odds that more people will see your profile.

5. Include links and key words in your profile. This will increase your search engine results. Be sure to include links in your "Description" to your web site, blog, company, etc.

6. LinkedIn allows you to post or answer questions from other members. So, take 5 or 10 minutes to answer a question post related to your industry. This will lead to more visibility and you will appear to be an expert in your field (even though you know you already are an expert ;)

There are so many benefits to using LinkedIn to empower yourself and your business. Hopefully, these ideas will give you a leg up on how to utilize this powerful tool.

Friday, October 31

It's never too early...

I may be jumping the gun on this one… but it's never a bad idea to start thinking about the dreaded Christmas shopping season.  Yes it is still October, but I want to bring this up for a couple of reasons. First, with the economy hitting an all time low since the Depression we need to start shopping for the best prices, sales, and bargains. Second, it is much easier on your bank account to do a little shopping here and there throughout the year, instead of taking one big hit during the holidays when people typically need it the most. Third, who wants to scramble around trying to find the "perfect" gift while fighting against crowds and traffic.

Below are suggestions of gifts for designers to give or receive.  Hopefully, some of these strike your fancy:

Inexpensive, personalized home decor.
Send a high-resolution photo to this seller on Etsy and she will customize your photo on canvas

All Designers Must Have Coffee
Why not get a Color Matching Guide Mug for you favorite designer or printer from Suck UK. This web site has slapstick gifts and accessories for the home.

Also try W2 as resource for the Pantone Mug . W2 is a Products Website that sells innovative gifts for the home.

Designers can never have enough of these. Enough said. 
Try these:

Wine Lover

Other cool ideas

Good luck shopping this season!  I will continue to post new ideas as I find them!

Wednesday, October 29

My "Dory's"… My inspiration

Inspiration. What does that mean? Where do we find it? How do we propagate it? Can it be generated? Is there a formula? A blueprint? A recipe? ? ? ?

For me – a designer – I am always searching, scouring, and scraping for inspiration. I look for it even when I'm "not looking for it". And then… it usually hits me, like a ton of bricks. There is a saying that "Everything happens for a reason", well, Inspiration is kinda like that, it happens for a reason. You may not be able to identify why it happens at that moment, but it happens. There is no straight answer.

Today, it [inspiration] happened for me. Let me share: First you should know that my short term, current goal as a designer is: to increase my presence on the web and in social media.

Inspiration 1
A couple of weeks ago, I spent two hours in the car with my cousin, Brittany (an amazing designer with innovative ideas and a bubbly sarcastic personality to match - a true delight). We talked about design and blogs and shared ideas and our experiences for almost the whole ride and the conversation could have kept going and going had she just stayed at my house and called in sick the next day. Well, this was awakening for me, because I had never talked so much about "design" in one sitting and I never knew that I had so much to share. This was my first real clue that I need to start a my own blog.

Inspiration 2
Today, my friend Karina (a recent grad of Plymouth State, a fabulous designer, colleague, friend, and author of ) e-mailed me to say that she had started a blog of her own. Now, I have worked with Karina for about six months now and prior to our work history together, I don't think Karina had that much experience with social media or blogging (I am sure she will let me know if I have quoted inaccurately :). But Karina is a "sponge" - so enthusiastic and motivated. She really embraced the new ideas and concepts related social media, blogging, etc. – always keeping me on my toes with new links or connections – that alone is inspiring.

This got me thinking… as designers we are do-ers, we make things happen, we INSPIRE… so why shouldn't we all be taking an active role as designers and creators to do the things we say we want to do – enlighten, provoke, trigger, and execute new ideas. So today, I am taking an active role in my own design destiny – instead of "saying", I am doing! I am acting on all of the opportunities that will lead me to great things - so today marks the day that I begin my adventures in blogging!