The client is the boss

Recently, a fellow design student asked for my input on a logo design. The client was an acupuncturist. She had worked up several ideas. They mostly played off of the yin/yang symbol. But the client wanted to go an entirely different direction.

My friend came to me because she was struggling to reconcile the client’s vision with the reality of what the final product would look like if she did exactly what the client thought she wanted. Does that make sense?

The client wanted her logo to look 3-D, like it would pop off of the page. My friend felt that it looked too cartoonish that way and did not mesh with the look and feel of the client’s website. She dialed it back some and the client was not completely satisfied. When she asked my opinion, I told her that what matters most is that the client is satisfied. Though it hurt me to say it to her–because then I have to acknowledge it is true for myself as well–I told her I thought her skills were perhaps not up to the challenge this client presented. I mean, after all, we are still students. I thought she did a good job in the end.

In the end, she created something with which the client was reasonably satisfied. I don’t think she thought of it as her most stellar effort. I think the logo looks fantastic.

The takeaway for both of us in this whole endeavor is to listen to the client and do your best for them. By all means, give them your recommendations and give them options. But, ultimately, remember that it is their logo and their business the logo and design elements represent and they are paying for it, so it should be exactly what they want whether you like it or not.

Coloring book

A present for Christmas.


At first I was…what?! I don’t have time for this!

One day, full out of fresh enthusiasm, and reeling from a poor critique on a design, I pulled it out, picked a random page, chose one of the six colored pens than came with it, and started filling in a space. I became engrossed. What was most intriguing to me was how to best use only six colors. I agonized over my second and third color choices. It took up quite a bit of mental process and time.

The funny thing is, it totally relaxed me and reminded me how much fun there is in the challenge to design within a given framework and with a minimum of colors.

What a great gift!


I got a small job. It’s a start. I’m proud. I share only a little bit of it as it’s not ready to be included in my portfolio.

My sister frequents a hair place to get her hair and nails groomed. She calls it a “hair boutique.” I call it “the client.”

Anyway, they are trying to expand and be more upscale. They are planning a move to better locale with new decor and equipment. The property manager asks them about their logo and they say, “What logo?” My sister happens to be there at the time this happens, getting her hair done, and she says, “My brother designs logos.” I get a call and here we go.

I was honest and told them I’m still in school. I think they like the idea of helping a student and I tell them I’ll be a lot cheaper than a real grown-up designer. They thought this was funny. I get the job.

I start by trying to understand what they want for a logo. They don’t know. So, I asked, “What will the decor for the new place look like?” That was a good question. They know exactly what they want for that. Black and white tiles on the floor. Pink leatherette chairs. Grecian columns. Hmmmm…did I mention they are Greek?

So, this is where the rubber meets the road: the designer takes the vision of the client and using all the knowledge he has acquired in three semesters, shapes that vision into some sort of useful icon that will accurately communicate their purpose, their business, their services to the waiting world.

After several panic attacks, I got a hold of myself and made a plan. I needed inspiration, so I decided to head over towards Tarpon Springs where there are a ton of Greek restaurants and businesses. I walked around the sponge docks for a good hour but found no inspiration. Nada. Nothing. So I did what any artist would do when faced with a dead end: I ate.

I stopped in one of the bakeries for baklava and coffee. The floor was black and white tiles and there were white columns. I paid for my snack and sat down in one of the vinyl lined booths. I laid the spare change in my hand on the table planning to leave it there as a tip. I ate the baklava slowly, savoring every bite. The coffee was black and sharp. I exhaled deeply. It was at that very moment, I saw the coins. One was a quarter. It sat on the table “heads up.” It was the head that drew my attention. That head was covered in hair. You know where this is going, right?

It made me think of a coin I had seen many times: The 1921 American Peace silver dollar. It looks like this:


Inspiration comes from many sources and at times when you least expect it. Just be ready. Then, go for it.


The beginning of a new semester and I am ready to learn more about design. I am inspired by the work of others (check out the Journals page). I’m excited about the newest season of Ellen’s Design Challenge. I think I have decided where I want to go to finish my degree: SCAD.

SCAD stands for the Savannah College of Art and Design. They are considered one of the best, if not THE best design school in the country. I think my local college has served me pretty well for the first two years of school and, economically, it was imperative that I stay local to keep my costs down. SCAD will cost me about ten times what I have been paying, but I think the opportunities they offer more than make up for that cost difference. If I get accepted, I will have access to materials and supplies and a fantastic faculty, not to mention, other top notch creative types to with which to collaborate. The internships and industry connections are phenomenal. Alumni benefits are amazing as well.

I have dreamed for a long time of interning for a greeting card company and SCAD just happens to be hosting an event in February where potential internees can meet with representatives from Hallmark. I wish I were ready now! I’m not, but I know I want to attend a school that can procure that sort of opportunity for me.

So, what will the year 2016 be about? 

Design technology is ever evolving. The changes come rapidly and it can feel daunting to even begin to understand, let alone, master. But there’s lot of opportunity, as well. The freelance sites, like Upwork and Guru, plus the ability to use Adobe in the cloud, is helping people such as myself to begin to get their feet wet in the design industry. I hope this aspect does not change.

A new thing being launched by Google is quite interesting to me. It’s called Material Design. I’ve been following it over the past year and it has been an invaluable tutorial for me in learning the basic tenets of good design.

Downspout design

All the rain we’ve had this year on the east coast has got me to thinking about an unusual aspect of outdoor design: gutters and downspouts. Think about it for a minute. This is a necessary component to have on the outside of your home, yet gutters and downspouts are often utilitarian at best or just downright unattractive. But what is utilitarian need not be necessarily ugly. While homeowners are usually preoccupied with clogged gutters, as long as building codes are satisfied, and the design does not impair the function of the drain, then there is no reason for any homeowner to settle for ugly downspouts. As you start on your downspout design, keep these stats in mind:

• The standard downspout sizes are 2” x 3” and 3” x 4”

• Your design must insure that the water draining through it will be directed exactly where it needs to go. (Looking good is not enough. The homeowner will be upset if your design causes his basement to flood!)

• Know what materials are necessary to meet building codes. Copper always works. Here are examples of downspouts taken to new levels of artistry.

These photos are a compilation of designs found on the web. (Many are from and Pinterest pins by various people.)

A different approach to the greeting card

There’s a new game in town:the greeting card kiosk. Think Redbox for greeting cards. The company is called Card Isle and was started by three guys going through a business program at Virginia Tech. So far there are just a few locations, mostly in one area of Virginia, but I expect the idea will take hold. Here’s why.

Nearly 50 percent of people nowadays use their phone or pad for all their online activity. These people probably don’t own a printer and are not going to take the time to use Shutterfly or Tiny Prints to buy a one-time card for a friend’s birthday. But this consumer is used to personalization and wants an alternative to the card they can pick up at drug or grocery store. So, they go to the Card Isle kiosk conveniently located near the grocery store and they pick out a unique design from one of hundreds of talented free-lance graphic artists. They can then choose exactly what they want the card to say and print it right then and there. It won’t be cheesy and cheap and it won’t cost them $10.

Check it out below.