Entries in My 2 Cents (18)
No one gets anywhere in life (you can read also business, romance, relationships, etc.) without making a plan and setting some goals. Last year (2011) my friend Katie and I made a bagua map to start our year out. You start by dividing a square into 9 parts and then according to the categories in the bagua map set goals for the new year. Last year I didn't feel like sharing my goals as a lot of them were more personal. This year I feel like being a little less cryptic and sharing a goal or two with you. Each link is the images' source followed by my goal. (Note - I didn't really follow the map very well, I set my goals first and then made a map around that). You too can make a map for your new year, or your business, or your marriage and display it prominently where it can serve as a visual reminder to you throughout the year. I chose to display mine on my desktop so I can constantly remember to stay on task and what my real priorities are.
2. Work - Continue to develop web site and share more projects on design site. This one is hard because it is so important to keep your design portfolio current but it is so hard to find the time! I have quite a few projects that I have completed but just haven't formatted for my design site.
3. Motherhood - Get baby on a sleep schedule. Before Henry came into the world I swore I wouldn't be one of those moms with a rigid schedule. I owned the book Baby Wise but didn't think twice about reading it. Now, I see how important it is for my sanity and for baby's good health that I get him on a good schedule. I have since read Baby Wise and have started Henry on a routine (I don't do the whole cry yourself to sleep thing though - that might work for some people but it hurts my ears and my heart). Anyway, so far it is working out GREAT!
4. Health - Eat better. Stop having a Chocolate Oreo shake before bed every night. Lose my baby weight and get back to where I was before I got pregnant. Work out. (I think I could make a whole map revolving around this one goal)
5. Marriage - Something about this image makes me want to run to Conor and hold him forever. I want to be more supportive. I think I'm pretty supportive but sometimes when things don't go according to "the plan" I get a little stressed out and shut down. I need to roll with the punches a bit better. Also, when Conor gets home everyday I want to stop what I am doing, look at him, say hello! and kiss him on the mouth. No more of this staring straight at the computer like a zombie and saying, "heeeyyy...."
6. Creative - Think longer and harder on my design work. Streamline designs and make them more cohesive. Don't worry if you don't know what I'm talking about here. I don't really know what I'm talking about. Basically, make my work better than it ever has been before. Don't settle for good.
7. Worry Less - worry less, worry less, worry less. I need to worry less.
8. Family - Have family night every Monday. Plan a simple activity to do with husband and baby. Turn everything and everyone else off and enjoy the two people I love the most.
9. Start Business - I am going to stay a bit vague on this one. I think I have a pretty good idea and I really want to develop it into something bigger but I'm not ready to share just yet. Hopefully someday soon!
My favorite thing in the world (well, in the design world) would have to be typography. I don’t know why I love it, it’s just one of those things. When type is beautiful and laid out just so – it makes my heart sing. Conversely, when fonts are just terrible and the layout was never taken into consideration I want to die. Dramatic? Maybe. But, it’s the honest truth. I also love it because I feel like it is a skill I can constantly improve on. If you're just starting out in the design world here are 5 quick typography tips to make your designs more wonderful!
No. 1 LEARN THE BASICS (image source)
Before you can really appreciate great typography and layout you need to understand what makes great typography great. Become familiar with certain type styles: serif, sans serif, script, hand drawn, etc. If you would really like to read up on the subject visit I love Typography and read Paul Dean’s eXtreme Type Terminology column. It is loaded with great information about typography, the history behind type faces and type setting.
No. 2 ESTABLISH A HIERARCHY AND A GRID (image source)
Hierarchy refers to where you want the reader to start reading and how they should proceed. Your header or title does not always need to be located at the upper left hand corner. With a well-defined hierarchy the reader’s eyes will be drawn to the most important information first. Using size and type faces to establish a hierarchy is important. It is also important to stick to a grid. When doing this don’t let the length of your paragraph line be so long that the paragraphs become difficult to read. On the other hand don’t let line length be so short that the eye can’t stay focused.
No. 3 DON'T OVERWHELM YOUR DESIGN WITH TOO MANY FONTS (image source)
A good rule of thumb is to use around 3 to 4 fonts. Keeping your fonts consistent throughout your layout will help you establish your hierarchy and provide balance. Ever wonder what font is being used in a certain layout? Fonts In Use is a great site to look at to get some typography ideas AND it tells you what font is being used where.
No. 4 AVOID USING DECORATIVE FONTS IN YOUR BODY COPY (image source)
Decorative type faces should be used as accents or headers in your design. Script type, hand drawn type, overly complicated type - should not be used in a paragraph! Ever. When laying out a web site or an editorial piece information is key. Allow your reader to actually read it.
No. 5 PAIR FONTS TOGETHER WISELY (image source)
Thoughtfully pair serif, sans serif and scripted type faces together. Using different fonts to compliment each other is an art. It also gives your design more depth and interest. Avoid pairing two fonts that are very similar to each other, this will just look like a sloppy mistake.
I’ve never really considered myself a blogger. I think I am a graphic designer who has a little blog on the side. However, I think I have been around the blogging block enough times to give some advice on beautifying your blog. This advice is for anyone starting a blog, whether it’s about photography, design, or just a personal journal. These are some simple things you can do yourself to improve the look and feel of your blog before seeking out professional help.
#1. FIND A UNIQUE, CLEAN, EASY TO NAVIGATE TEMPLATE ONLINE
The first thing I notice when looking at a new blog is the layout. Blogs that look clean and easy to navigate are always going to be more appealing. Blogs that look like the generic blogger template that everyone else has or have been freakishly overloaded with graphics, colors and buttons are going to lose me fast. You can find some pretty sweet blog layouts on the internet for free. One really great source out there is Pugly Pixel (responsible for layout featured in photo above). If you don’t know about this site already you seriously have to check this girl out – she has tons of cool downloads and tutorials for fancying up your blog, half of which are free!! Find something out there that is as close to what you want your blog to look like and then customize it.
#2. CUSTOMIZE YOUR BLOG TO FIT YOUR NEEDS AND STYLE
In order to customize your layout you might need to do a little digging into the CSS and HTML behind your template. Does this intimidate you? Don’t let it. There are thousands of tutorials and step by step instructions out there on how to adjust certain elements of your blog. You just have to be willing to search for them. When I started blogging on a regular basis I realized that most of the blogs that drew me in had wider pictures that were consistently the same width. I asked around about how these bloggers were able to do this and then I Googled it. Between the helpful advice and the online tutorials I was able to come up with my current solution: I upload all photos and images through Flickr by copying and pasting the share code into my posts. This allows me to archive all of my blog’s content while presenting wide, clear photos that are consistently 640 pixels wide. Look at the blogs you love to read and ask yourself what some of the common visual elements are. For web design inspiration I often go to Siteinspire.com. This site has a massive library of beautifully designed blogs and websites of every kind.
#3. ADHERE TO SOME SIMPLE DESIGN GUIDELINES WHEN CUSTOMIZING YOUR BLOG.
The following are just guidelines not hard and fast rules that can’t be broken. And remember that in the design world rules are made to be broken - you just need to know them in order to know why you are breaking them.
No. 1 – Keep your blog a manageable width. Your overall width should be somewhere between 900 and 1200 pixels. Blogs that are too wide often become very difficult to fill with clean, neatly laid out content. Blogs that are too narrow will limit your ability to present large beautiful photos.
No. 2 – Your blog should stick to a strict 2 or 3 column setup. Most blogs use a 2-column setup with the main column taking up 2/3rds of the space and the sidebar taking up the remaining 1/3rd. The rule of thirds can be your best friend.
No. 3 – If your photos are vertically oriented - pair them together in order to fill your entire content width. Nothing allows your eyes to focus more clearly on content than nice straight clean lines up and down the page.
No. 4 – Left align your text and allow it to fill your content bar. Unless you are writing poetry or a grocery list your blog should probably read like a book or a newspaper column. The human eye will thank you for doing it this favor.
Welcome to today’s 2 Cent Tuesday (on Wednesday)! Last weeks 2 cents was a little wordy so I am going to try to keep this one shorter and to the point. The topic is - do a project just because you want to. Period. In my opinion one of the best ways to stay inspired, keep yourself busy and make your portfolio (online or print) look amazing is to do work that you love. Work you love also tends to be work you are really good at. If it's not than doing more of it just for the heck of it is only going to make you better.
So, what kinds of projects should you be working on? Well, what kind of work do you want to get? Show projects in your portfolio that reflect the type of work you dream of doing. When I first started putting together my print portfolio I got some really great advice – design the heck out of everything. If you have designed a really great logo for a client and you can clearly see the potential for there to be so much more then don't stop! Do it just for fun, just to make your portfolio that much more amazing! Here are 5 ideas to get you started on a project just for you.
#1. Go to your favorite restaurant, ask for their “to go” menu and re-design everything. Make them a better logo, a better menu, and an amazing add that they could run in their local paper. Get some great inspiration from sites like The Art of the Menu - photo above taken from this site.
#2. Design a “leave behind”. Imagine you just got an interview at the place you have been dying to work for as long as you can remember. You are going to show them your work, you are going to smile and be as charming as possible. But, what is going to make them remember you long after you are gone? Design something that says something about who you are as a designer that you can leave with them. Photo above via Laura Berglund.
#3. Dying to get more editorial projects? Team up with a great photographer and design several layouts for a magazine. It can be a magazine that already exists or one that you just made up. Get some great inspiration from Uppercase Magazine.
#4. Brand yourself. Do you think that branding is where it’s at? Do you yourself have a brand identity? Take time to go through the whole branding process with yourself. Design everything – business cards, portfolio, invoices, letterhead, etc. I know a couple of designers who actually do this every year at the beginning of the year just for good practice.
#5. Would you like to do more packaging design? Think of a product that you know you buy just for the packaging. I know when I walk down the cleaning isle at Target I have a very hard time making up my mind about what to buy because so many of the bottles are beautifully designed. Need help making your project look legit? Check out sites like Live Surface. They allow you to put your design on pretty much anything!! (Photo Credit: Lovely Package)
Welcome to today’s 2 cent Tuesday. I realize for most of you it is already Wednesday... but it is Tuesday here and I am still in full swing! Today's topic: How much should I charge and how do I explain my prices to my clients?
HOW MUCH SHOULD I CHARGE?
First of all, let’s start at the start. All freelance graphic designers charged little to nothing when they first got started. This directly reflected where they were as a designer – at the bottom. The first real job I took on while still in college was designing a wedding invitation. I designed, printed and assembled every invitation myself. Then I hand carved a linoleum stamp and personally inked and printed every individual enclosure. For hours upon hours upon hours of tedious work I charged $50. And when I was done I felt guilty asking for the check. HAHA! That makes me laugh today. But, I, like everyone else out there had to start somewhere.
Luckily for me the couple that I designed the invitations for were very grateful, so fun to work with and completely supportive of my creative ability. Also luckily for me not everyone I worked with after that was. I say luckily because this is how I learned to charge what I am worth. After that first great experience I kept charging almost nothing but I started to notice that some clients weren't always fun to work with. They started to ask for a million and one revisions. They wanted to see something just because they were curious about how it would look, not because they really wanted to use it. I actually had a client ask me to teach them how to do something so they could do it themselves (this last one really fried me). It got to the point where I felt abused and taken advantage of. I started to really hate what I was doing. When you undercharge for your services, and fail to communicate your expectations up front people WILL take advantage of you. Whether they mean to or not. And when you feel like you are being taken advantage of you start to resent your client, your work and then your life. So let go of your insecurities and the mindset that you aren't that good yet and start charging what you are worth.
My strategy for determining how much I should charge for my services is simple. I take into consideration two things. Number one – what is the average going rate for someone out there doing the work I am doing? And number two - what is my time worth to me? When I say “my time” I mean time with my husband, time taking care of myself, time with my soon to be new baby boy, etc. What is the price I need to be paid in order to feel good about giving up “my time?" Every time someone presents me with a project I ask myself these two questions. How Design has a great breakdown of Graphic Designer’s Hourly Rates. If after looking at that you are still unsure (or you are in another field of freelance) I strongly suggest you do some research into what the average going rate for some one like you should be. As far as how much your time is worth - well, that is not something you can Google. But trust me, at some point you have got to come up with a price that makes giving up “your time” worth it or you will be terribly unhappy when your client deviates from the project’s original path (and they will 90% of the time).
So, take a good look at your skills, remind yourself that your clients are coming to you because they cannot do this work themselves and you are worth every penny you are about to charge them. Then you should probably go ahead and add 10% to your price just for good measure. I know a lot of you are still undercharging. Of course we all have to start somewhere to gain experience but when you start to think that your client is a pain in your side you maybe just need to re-evaluate what you are charging and how you are communicating the terms of your services. It might be you, not them, with the problem. 99.9% of the time that I have done my part communicating my value and my expectations up front I have worked with amazing clients. Which brings us right to our next question.
HOW DO I EXPLAIN MY PRICES TO MY CLIENTS AND BILL THEM ACCORDINGLY?
You give them an invoice outlining everything in detail! After discussing the details of a project with a client I determine the total cost and write up an invoice. In my invoice I am very specific about the project timeline, the amount of revisions the client will be allotted, when they are expected to pay me, how they should pay and what they will be charged if they request any additional revisions. I also let them know what I will charge for every day that their payment is late. I go ahead and let the client know right away that I expect half up front before I even touch their project. I outline all of these things for every single project. No matter what. And because things seem to fall through the cracks sometimes I don't just stop there. I reiterate everything in an email. Later, when things start to deviate from the original course I refer my client back to these two documents and let them know that I was not originally commissioned for the task they are requesting but that I would be happy to do it for the previously mentioned agreed upon price. When a project takes longer than it should I refer my client back to the invoice and remind them politely that we are on a schedule. This system has worked very well for me. The only time it has failed is when I have failed to provide them with an invoice at the very beginning.
Don't know what to include in your invoice? Check outSmashing Magazine, they have a great article with tips and examples on how to invoice like a pro. Don't know where to start when designing your invoice? Adobe offers free Illustrator templates that allow you to customize an invoice for your business. My invoice is loosely based off of this design - it is clean, easy to read and looks professional. If you do not currently send and invoice at the beginning of every project start now. Send one for every project - big or small. It doesn't matter if the client is your 5-year-old niece requesting you design her birthday invitation, you should get in the habit of sending an invoice every time. I guess that last example was a little extreme but writing and sending and invoice every time will save you tears and frustration many times over.
I have wanted to write a regular post on this blog about what I have learned as a freelance graphic designer for sometime now. I would love for this blog to be a place people come for inspiration and a few helpful tips. However, I know a lot of friends who look at this blog are already talented and successful freelance graphic designers and don't really need my advice. For this reason I have been extremely intimidated and too scared to share my knowledge. But, the other day I got a call from a friend asking for some advice on how much she should charge and how should she explain her prices to her client? It reminded me that we all had to start somewhere. Any advice or encouragement we could get from a friend meant the world. So I am attempting to write a regular post on this here blog enlightening anyone who shall inquire about my tricks of the trade. If you are one of those gifted and talented friends I mentioned above PLEASE offer any of your own advice in the comment section! I would love it as I am sure so many others would as well.