Flight Tag Prints

I spotted these Flight Tag prints on Grain Edit a while back. I love them sooo much! They were designed by Neil Stevens and are based on the designs of vintage airline baggage tags. See more of the series over on Stevens’ blog or buy one of the prints in his shop!

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Creative Freedom …or not.

“Not having a specific purpose or goal in mind creatively is like paddling in the middle of an ocean with no land in sight. Where do you start? Who is going to give you approval? What is the product you’re trying to sell? And wouldn’t it have been easier to have just stayed on the boat?”

— Anna of Door Sixteen

The hardest projects for me to wrap my brain around as a graphic designer are the ones where there are no rules; the ones for which “the powers that be” have given me “creative freedom.” These projects are usually things like thank you cards and desktop wallpapers; things that could depict anything. Projects like these seem like they should be the easiest ones; just come up with something cool and slap it on there. But, then my designer brain thinks, “Yeah, sure, but what does this super cool design mean? Nothing? Right. So, go back to the drawing board.” I have a designer friend that would describe this strange inner drama something like this: “Designers are problem solvers and, if there is no problem to be solved, it’s hard for us to know what to do.”

I had this mental battle with myself last week as I was designing for a client. It was something that could literally be anything; I had total “creative freedom.” Therefore, as usual, I was at a loss for what to do. While I’d known about the assignment for over a month, I waited until literally the last day to come up with something. …not my best decision, but it ended up turning out alright. Ironically, I ended up making it mean something. I guess my designer brain just can’t shut off sometimes.

Oddly enough, I was introduced to the blog post from which the quote above was taken just as I hit my “I’m never going to think of anything” moment. The post was written by Anna over at Door Sixteen. You should go read it :). …Anyway, It’s always nice to know that there’s someone else out there going through the same thing. And the post serves as a nice reminder that sometimes you just have to create something and not worry about the consequences. Best case scenario; you end up liking what you created …and perhaps someone else will too.

Culture Crush: More Fraktur

So, I hope you aren’t tired of Fraktur yet! …I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. John Foster who rights the Accidental Mysteries post series on Design Observer scouted out these lovely examples of Fraktur. They are from a beautiful book with the very long title, “The Proper Art of Writing: A Compilation of All Sorts of Capital or Initial Letters of German, Latin and Italian Fonts from Different Masters of the Noble Art of Writing.” The title looks even longer in German, so I won’t go there.

What I find most fascinating about Fraktur is how intricate some of the forms can get. This intricacy is especially evident in these specimens. While looking at these, just try to remember that someone sat down with a pen or brush and ink to create these forms by hand; no Photoshop touch-ups or Illustrator line drawings here. Can you just imagine how long these forms took to make and how much thought went into planning each stroke?

In awesome news, the copyright on this book has expired, so it’s now within the public domain! …AND the entire book can be viewed in PDF form courtesy of Open Library!

Here is another of my favorite pages because I just can’t resist:

Be sure to click on over to Foster’s post on Design Observer to find out why he thinks this book contains an “accidental mystery!”

Fear of Failure

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Milton Glaser on the Fear of Failure; Watch it on Vimeo

One of my graphic design professors once said that sometimes the craziest ideas are the best. These are the ideas that might initially promote boisterous laughter and a, “That’s stupid!,” by a committee of critics or that guy you always meet in traffic on your way to work. I’m pretty positive that Henri Matisse was talking about this stage of the design process when he said, “creativity takes courage,” because it truly does. It takes guts for designers (or anyone, really) to put their ideas and craft out there for clients to judge. Sometimes they judge it fairly and with tact, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes it will be judged by people who know what they’re talking about and sometimes they won’t have a clue.

As Mr. Glaser mentions in this video, the fear of being judged by others is often what leads to the fear of failure. We assume that if we fail, if that crazy idea doesn’t turn out to be the best one after all, people will judge us and our work because of it. …and they will. But, in reality, people will judge us and our work no matter what. They’ll criticize the work because it contains the color pink; they’re least favorite color, don’t you know. …or because the design doesn’t “pop.” In these instances, it’s simply best to meet the client in the middle. If they don’t like pink; try blue. If there isn’t in enough “pop;” spice things up a bit.

Sometimes, though, clients will turn the opportunity to criticize a designer’s work into a personal attack on the designer. Though it may be hard at first, it’s best to ignore this type of criticism. It’s not constructive in the least because it doesn’t do anything to improve our work. It also doesn’t give us any perspective on how to make our work more pleasing to the client.

But, before we ignore all the criticism that comes our way, it’s best to remember that, more often than not, it’s meant to be constructive. It comes from a place of honesty and from people who genuinely want to improve our work. As a designer, this honest and constructive criticism is the kind we want to hear because it teaches valuable lessons and helps us grow.

“Amelia Lost” by Jessica Hische

I’ve fallen completely head over heels for this book cover design by Jessica Hische. If you don’t know her work, you must go to her site immediately! According to her site, Ms. Hische is a “letterer, illustrator, and crazy cat lady known for her silly side projects and occasional foul mouth.” Her work and her website are fantastic.

This piece in particular seems to cover all of my favorites: beautiful vintage photography; vintage mechanical things (the plane); red and off-white color palettes; delicate, yet strong line work with pretty flourishes; a dynamically tilted layout; and a beautiful geometric typeface. The combination of all these things made me stop my continuous scrolling in the design section of Pinterest and gasp with excitement! It also makes for a striking book cover design!