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.