New Series of Watercolor Paintings

New Piece, Painting, Places

Over the summer, I completed a series of watercolors, the second time I’ve done so for the Sereno Group annual calendar. The images are of points of interest in the South San Francisco Bay, Peninsula, and Santa Cruz Coastal areas, and they will be featured in the 2015 calendar.

It was fun, as painting always is. I enjoyed working on the sunset image over the Baylands park, as making smooth gradients in gauche can be tricky but rewarding. I also really enjoyed painting the ship that sits at the dock in Capitola State Beach, as the colors of the rusty ship were really vibrant and contrasted beautifully against the bright teal water. I also haven’t played much with painting waves, and was happy with how they turned out.

I’d be happy to pass along any extra copies of the calendar that I get if you’d like a copy. Send me an email or leave a note in the comments if you would.

Originals are also for sale. Final sizes are roughly 8-1/2×11 inches.

Brain Dump

Design, Illustration, New Piece

Brain

Deciding to leave my full-time position was not a light decision. I had been there a long time and felt quite comfortable. I started at Sereno Group as an associate designer, but quickly rose to become the lead of the design department, which I ran for 7 years. I’ve come to realize that 7 years at one job is not common this day and age, certainly not amongst my immediate peers. Being somewhere that long had its rewards though: a solid accrual of vacation days, familiarity with all aspects of your job, and other people’s reverence for the knowledge you have amassed. I became an information super center, able to answer seemingly random questions in half a second since I was either there when it happened, or was the person who put the system in place. I thoroughly enjoyed when we hired new designers to the team and they would wonder why things were the way we were and I could provide solid evidence and anecdotes to back up the decisions I had made (though, always eager to see a fresh perspective in case there was something I had been missing in my own view of the way things were). It was gratifying to be working in a system where you understood the ins and outs, and knew where to find things, and knew the reason behind why things were being done, versus the usual mantra of “I dunno, that’s what I was told.”

logo

But I also found that being steeped with such knowledge and know-how had the simultaneously adverse effect of feeling like nothing was new. Over the years I became increasingly lazy about note-taking and recording my processes since I was the only one involved in each step. When I decided it was time to start my own venture, the reality of how many things I needed to pass along to my replacement was a bit daunting. Being mostly proactive about upcoming deadlines and projects, I had a decent mental map of what was coming on the horizon and when things would need to be started, and how they would need to be accomplished, but lived in a sort of reactionary world where the time of year, for example, would trigger the memory of needing to tackle the task, more so than any calendar of events I had inscribed somewhere.

logo

So when my replacement asked me for instructions on how to take over the projects I’d been doing solo for 7 years, I felt overwhelmed with all the things I had not taken good notes on that I needed to pass on. On top of it, she asked me to make them pretty (yeah, designers, I know). I wondered how I could relay the detail, caveats and nuances of all the projects into simplified graphic instructions. I ended up making a set of “pretty” instructions, and then also bombarded her with loads of emails full of more detailed instructions for certain projects that I hope will be more useful when the time comes for to actually need them.

logo

So, for the “pretty” instructions, I made a brain dump, describing with each page of the packet the process involved with each task, distilling it as much as possible into illustrations and flow charts. It actually made the task of relaying all this knowledge rather delightful, as I was challenged to be concise and informative. There really isn’t anything I love more than making cute illustrations, anyway.

New Year’s Party Invite Website

Design, Invitations, New Piece, Uncategorized, Web Design

SerenoNewYearParty Screen Cap 1

I have another Hype* creation to share. This project was a party invitation where I had the simple task of getting the attendees information about when and where, as well as collect RSVPs from everyone. Click here to see full site.

Firstly, I chose a photo from the Sharon Heights website that I found to be rather appealing (I’m always attracted to the evening/dusk color palette). It also complemented the company’s branding with the warm ochre hues and dark green lawn. Even the blue of the sky was pretty close to the blue that’s in the branding guidelines, and since this was a January party, I thought that it’s cool tones would work best as the main body color.

I wanted the most important info to be prominent: Title, Date, and Time followed in importance by the Location/Directions, then the body text adding description to the event. I wanted it to be easy for visitors to understand where to go to rsvp, add the event to their calendar, and also the option to stay at a nearby hotel that had reserved a block of rooms, so those 3 call-to-actions I made look like buttons in the bottom right of the page.

CalPopUp

While clicking the “Calendar” button would float up 3 options for downloading the event to their calendar of choice (Outlook, Google, and iCal), and the “Stay” button would open in a new tab the custom website that the hotel put together for the attendees to reserve rooms, clicking the “RSVP” button would take the visitor to a second page that has an embedded google form (minimally styled), that they could submit their RSVP. Additionally, clicking on the map image would also take the visitor to the google maps page with proper instructions leading them to the site from their current location.

SerenoNewYearParty Screen Cap 2

The thing that people really loved though, was the snowflakes. This took a little trial and error to get right. Initially I had created the graphic for the static poster image that would go up in the offices, so when it came time to translate to a motion graphic, I had to deconstruct the pattern so that it flowed as an animation.

Snowflakes_Static

This is the base pattern I created on the static image

In order to convert this image into a flowing, seamless pattern, I set up 3 layers of animations: slow, medium, and fast. Pulling apart the original pattern, for the slow animation, the I made a relatively compact version of the design that was only slightly taller than the height of the canvas. Medium was a looser pattern, and approximately 1.5 the height of the canvas. Fast was much looser and about 2x the height.

Snowflakes_How

When pulling those images into Hype, I stacked them on top of each other, and placed their starting and ending points so their bottoms were more or less aligned. Giving them 10 seconds to float down, I left them to be more or less aligned by their top boundaries (after getting them generally aligned this way, I did have to tweak the positioning a bit so that the pattern for each was seamless on the repeat).  Because of the different heights of the original images (which, btw, are transparent pngs), setting them to the same time, the appearance of some snow falling faster than others is achieved.

snow transitions 2

Issues

So the only problem I had with the project was with the embedded google form. Most people were able to submit their RSVP directly on the site, but a few people who used the site on their mobile device were unable to scroll down to click submit. I inserted a work-around by making the rsvp button on the second page a direct link to the proper google form (non-embedded, which google has clearly made mobile friendly), but it was a hack and I would obviously not let that be an issue if I did this again. There is probably a javascript behavior I could implement that would make the form more accessible on mobile, but the easier and simpler option would be to have the form not fall into an iframe – just have the dimension of the original canvas be large enough to hold the form without needing to scroll. Another testament to how important testing on mobile is when designing anything for web nowadays. 

* Just a reminder to anyone who doesn’t know, Hype is basically the HTML5 equivalent to Flash, therefore, the site/animations are visible on iOS devices.

One Percent for Good

Advertising, Design, New Piece, Print

The company I work for, Sereno Group, began a charitable campaign last year called “One Percent for Good.” Our president and the company’s founder, Chris Trapani, is often inspired by Patagonia and wanted to emulate their “1% for the Planet” program. The goal: “In an effort to support the best of our community, Sereno Group has pledged to give 1% of our gross commissions to a charitable or community-minded group committed to making a positive difference in the communities we serve.” So saying, agents within each of the 6 offices of our company can choose to participate, donating toward the charitable-cause-of-choice each quarter. Each office works independently to choose their charity, and a committee of agents help choose charities, make contacts at those charities, and coordinate with me to have advertising made for their cause. Ads are taken out in local papers, posted on Facebook, and also sent out as emails and direct mailers to agent’s clients, friends and family. The purpose of the ads is two-fold: one to inform the communities about the campaign, and simultaneously to bring attention to the charities themselves, as often times the small, local charities can use as much help as they can get to bring awareness to their cause.

My role varies from project to project, but basically requires getting or taking photographs (either candid, on-site images, or setting up a photo shoot), creating ad copy, laying out the ad, and then scheduling the ad run dates with publications. We have a wonderful photographer we work with on a regular basis for such projects, but when he is unavailable, I have taken to filling in. I admit to not being a professional by any stretch, but have had the pleasure of making it work when time or logistics are strained. The last 2 ads I worked on had me on site at the Saratoga Senior Center, and the Paralyzed Veterans of America facility in Palo Alto.

Sereno_OnePercent_Ad_SASeniorCenter_Bunnies

 

The Saratoga Senior Center is a place that offers a variety of classes and programs for active seniors, as well as an adult-day-care center for seniors who need a place to come to where they can socialize, but also have assistance if needed. We were able to coordinate a day with them where they got to visit with pets; on this day, it was 2 very sweet bunnies.

Sereno_OnePercent_Ad_ParalyzedVets

 

The Bay Area & Wester Chapter of the Paralyzed Veterans of America is a wonderful facility that provides services and social activities for paralyzed veterans and is on the same campus as the Palo Alto VA, so easy access for those who also require medical needs. They are fully independent though, and subsists on donations and grants. I was happy to meet and befriend Jessica, a member of the organization who utilizes the facility for recreation and is also one who gets sponsored to attend the National Wheelchair games. She was super helpful to me, being my model and showing us around the facility.

The biggest challenge in every ad we work on is expressing the feeling of hope and support with one captivating image, and giving a short and concise description of our program AND the goals of the charities we are supporting.

It is great to have a chance to work on projects that have an impact, are challenging, and require me to break out of my day-to-day routine.

 

http://www.serenogroup.com/onepercent

Texas Hold Em Poker Tournament Custom Card Deck

New Piece, Print

Every year the company I work at hosts a Poker Tournament Fundraiser for Relay For Life (American Cancer Society). A couple years ago, I made a poster for the event and designed a face card with the President/CEO’s face on the card and it was a huge hit. I had been considering making a whole deck of cards with faces of other people from office since, but never quite got my act together to put it together. This was the year it was going to happen though, even in true last minute fashion (isn’t there an expression that great things only get done when you don’t have enough time to do them in?).

The face cards are all of people whose faces most people who work there would recognize. The President and co-founders got the King cards, and the Jacks and Queens are VPs, with one exception being the Queen of Clubs who gets a spot as the official cheerleader for the Relay for Life event, as she’s very active in organizing events and getting people on board to donate. I modeled the cards after the classic “Bicycle” format, and used the colors of the company’s branding. I used the font “Helldorado” to get that western look with the typography.

Getting the cards to coordinate upside down and right-side-up and look the same was a fun challenge. I was more brazen with some designs than others, but overall was pleased with each of the designs. In the interest of sharing the joke with you, since you probably don’t know what these people look like, I’ve done a couple side-by-side comparisons so you can see where I drew the characters from. All of these were designed in Illustrator, and I more or less traced the faces with a .5 stroke to start, and once I was satisfied that I had included just enough detail, I finished off the designs with the neck/shoulders/patterns. I spent roughly 1 hour on each face card design (some more, some less). Most of the images I was able to pull from just 1 photo, but there were a couple that I pieced together from multiple photos to get the right look.

If you are very interested, I’ve posted the full pdf with all the final artwork for a full res viewing experience.

I was super happy with the vendor I chose to print these. There is such a smattering of custom playing card design/printing companies available on the web and I didn’t have much to go on, so was glad the gamble paid off when I decided to use them. How I got past their really terrible 1.0 website is beyond me, but again, they were great, so withhold judgment on the site.

For the record, the event these were made for was a huge success, and I believe raised nearly (or over) $7,000 towards this year’s Relay for Life Fundraiser.