Category Archives: Designers

Letterpress Alive and Well in the Age of Computers

Grandpa-UncleLou

One might say printing, design, typography; all are in my blood. My grandfather in the rear left is the pit boss in this 1930s era print shop. My mother was a proofreader, and my uncle, rear right also worked in the shop and later became a Linotype operator at the Chicago Sun Times. He retired in the 1960s after the paper adopted cold type.

Computers were not for my Uncle Lou. But they were, and are for me, which is why we do all our greeting card printing on short run digital “presses.” Nonetheless, the art and craft of letterpress is not dead, as we learn in Print Magazine’s recent feature, “The Letterpress Journals: Guardians of the Craft.”

A Little Macintosh History on TBT

Mohammed-AliIt was nearly 18 years ago that I had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco MacWorld ’98 where I met Mohammed Ali. The former Apple Master and Faculty member was already dealing with Parkinson’s Disease at the time. Still he stood and shook my hand, and graciously allowed me to photograph him with his son munching on goodies in the background.

The late 80’s and 90’s were certainly exciting times for Apple Computer, Inc., if not somewhat volatile with Steve Jobs leaving Apple and later returning to the helm. There was an ongoing technology debate through the late 80’s and 90’s : Mac vs. PC, a debate perhaps as volatile as religious or political debates get—that’s how confident were each platform’s users.

Press-badgeThat particular conference year was a turning point for me. It was time to learn the workings of e-commerce and web design—no more putting it off. But in the meantime, I decided to explore the interactive capabilities of Acrobat, with everything I needed to make an interactive newsletter with recorded sound and video.

Gregory-HinesI purchased a CD with all of the recordings that were presented at the conference by the Apple Masters: Actress, Jennifer Jason Leigh; dancer, Gregory Hines, and many more.

Standing at the foot of the stage, I was just a few feet away, as Hines tapped out his personal history using Apple’s “Mac,” as he referred to it. He started with an unnaturally slow click…click…click, and as he told he story of periodic upgrades, the clacking became louder and faster, until he could snap, clack, and tap no louder, faster or longer. Just Wow!

Following the Dream on Throwback Thursday

back-to-school

Very few people understood what we Mac Fanatics were up to in 1987 (let alone 1985), but I was following my dream of designing and printing from the desktop. The following month I made the business official and called myself Desktop Design. Today is little Joey’s 36th birthday. He currently works for Disney Studios as a Global Analyst. Happy Birthday, Joey!

Not Another Green Marble Background?

For a designer, creating a new look for a green marble background is like bringing out the old bell-bottoms and believing they look as cool as they did in 1969.

Filling a “simple” request can be not-so-simple if you make a lot of blind starts, like spending an hour hunting down an old CD filled with stock marble images, just to find they are in an outdated graphic format.

A second blind start—searching stock images—another hour easily wasted as I realized, why not create an original image? Not only can it be easy, but the price is right. We refurbished our kitchen a few years back, and while out searching for the right granite counter top, I took plenty of photographs of the various granite and marbles, but none were green. Take them into Photoshop, and with a couple of well placed clicks I was able to turn my images into perfectly suitable green marble backgrounds.

gold marble

This is the original photograph of the marble.

green marble

By applying levels to increase the image’s contrast, and then applying a hue and saturation effect, the result is this rich, green marble-like background.

There are only two steps to go from the original photograph of the gold marble to the green. First, I created an adjustment layer for “levels” to increase the image contrast. The adjustment layers are forgiving in that they allow you to manipulate the data at any time without destroying any of the original pixel information.

The second step is to create and adjustment layer for “hue and saturation.” There are three areas that can be changed within the H&S palette, but before changing anything, click on the “colorize” button. This extracts all the color from the image, assigning a default hue to all the pixels, while maintaining their original values.  Next, the hue slider cycles through the “rainbow” — ROY G. BIV (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet) — stop at the desired green hue. The saturation slider adds or subtracts color, and finally the bottom slider lightens or darkens the values.

Of course, to achieve the desired result might require additional steps, depending on the nature of the original image. You might want to add additional layers of color, transparency, contrast, and texture to create a unique effect.

If you want to create a library of backgrounds and textures, do it yourself. Textures exist everywhere, and for every photograph you take, you can manipulate it in an infinite number of ways.

With today’s image editing programs, you don’t have to mortgage your home or rent out your kids to afford amazing software. I’m currently experimenting with an app called Pixelmator, a $15 Photoshop wannabe, and after half an hour of playing (and they call it work), I can say it’s certainly worth the investment. In fact, I’d recommend Pixelmator to any of my beginning design students who have a newer Mac, but can’t afford Photoshop. This app works on my iMac, now that I’ve upgraded to Lion, but Pixelmator will work with OS10.6 or later. With a little coaxing, I could be persuaded to show and tell more about this cool app, Pixelmator.

Architecture and Graphic Design Play Off One Another

Montreal Condos

Condos on a small island strip in the middle of the St. Lawrence River.

Each time I travel I make new discoveries, and often, insights and inspiration comes only once I’m back home and have had a chance to unwind and process the whirlwind adventures.

On this trip which began on the St. Lawrence River in Montreal, Canada, I became particularly focused on the art and design in architecture (probably because there wasn’t much wildlife or sport activities in our itinerary). I found the range in age and architectural styles to be visually stimulating without appearing to end up in a hodge-podge of visual clutter. Continue reading

I’m a Photo Horder

unedited octopus

I was pretty sure that among the 200-some-odd photos I had taken, there had to be an octopus somewhere.

 

octopus, starfish

By opening up the shadow areas and toning down the highlights in iPhoto, the values are redistributed to more closely resemble the actual scene. However notice the reflection in the lower left quadrant of the screen.

In the small dark cavern, I would have completely missed the fact that the octopus was there at all had I not made the quick adjustments that open up the shadow details. I performed the adjusted preview in iPhoto on my Macintosh, but Microsoft’s comparable software is Windows Photo Gallery.

I learned lots of valuable lessons in photojournalism classes, many long forgotten, but a couple of lessons really stuck. Thirty years ago when, as students, we were advised to Shoot a lot, our biggest complaint was the cost of film.  Today, the cost of digital equipment pales when compared to film and processing costs, so I was surprised to learn that one of my companions on a day-long adventure to the Aquarium of the Pacific was throwing away photos after she previewed them on her iPhone, deciding they didn’t “turn out.” I wondered how it was possible to make such a quick decision about the images under such poor conditions and on such a small screen.

The next day, I showed my companion a rough edit slide show of my 230 images. I put them up on the big screen tv. She, on the other hand, had only 13 images, which we viewed on her iPhone. Granted she’s not a fanatic like me, and didn’t shoot as much as I did, but I can’t help by thinking about the photos she threw away. “What if there were details in the image that she missed on the small preview screen?” I wondered. “What if she could adjust her lighting after the fact?”

The reflection in the previous images has been replaced using the “content-aware” feature in Photoshop.

My first task after downloading photos to the computer is to make preliminary adjustments to the tonal values in the images. It’s a relatively “quick” and painless process, and I finished this batch in about 2 hours, or about 30 seconds per image. Unless you are serious about photography, you might unwittingly skip this most critical step, so that’s where the hording comes in to play. Don’t throw away any photos before you perform a quick adjustment to the image’s tonal values.

In the edited photo, the reflection in the lower left is more obvious than before, so I bring my photos into Adobe Photoshop where I make all the actual refinements and adjustments. To eliminate the glare, I made a feathered rectangular selection and filled the area using the “content-aware”  feature, which gathers data from nearby pixels to simulate the surroundings.

Cleveland Airport Layover

Dr. Gino

“Oh my, is he serious?”

As we approached our gate, I couldn’t help but be struck dumb by the goofy looking dentist in the billboard posted directly across from Gate 20C. Enough to stop me in my tracks, I read the headline, and grabbed my husband, Bob, by his shirtsleeve. “Is it just me?” I asked Bob. He saw the sign, and we looked at each other. After having a good chuckle, we took seats waiting at the gate, where I attempted to test my new camera equipment.

In all likelihood, as a graphic designer and teacher of design, I am not your typical observer, but I was a captive audience during a five-hour layover. Let’s just say I had a lot of time on my hands. The poor airport gate agents had to stare at Dr. Gino’s new ‘doo day after day.

“Uh, he’s not working on my teeth.”

One of the agents walked over to a small group of us who were being entertained by the reactions of the rushing travelers. “Do you think we should call him?” the agent asked the group. Several passengers gathered around the sign, and the three agents pondered over the dilemma. Should they, or shouldn’t they call Dr. Gino and warn him about the ruckus his sign is causing?

“Yes, but perhaps that was his intention? It could be a genius marketing plan,” a female agent suggested. “Look at all the people who are drawn to the ad and are talking about it.”

Passersby were surely gawking and talking about Dr. Gino. Maybe they’re still talking today.

“Honey, you’re not going to believe this.”

Airline passengers pass the time people-watching at a busy airport terminal where a billboard greeted arriving and departing travelers.