Category Archives: Materials

Nerd Party

Our last class in process and materials was a small presentation to our real-world client (more on that project to come) and class wrap-up. And it also happened to included donuts, chocolates, cocoa and these cupcakes by the amazing Summer. She used different typefaces for each cupcake and labeled each one. Nothing like a bunch of design nerds getting excited over a batch of type spec cupcakes!

Yummy cupcakes


Type cupcakes


Photos credit to Laura H. Winn.


Things I have learned in {this semester} so far

drift wood made beautiful by the elements

Things I’ve have learned in my life this far…a few reflections on the past semester.

Be quiet

I can be quite the talker and I am always more than willing to contribute to any classroom conversation. Yet, this semester I realized that my egarness to share may be inhibiting those who are less inclined to speak up in class. My disdain for awkward pauses will always come with a constant inner struggle for me to remain silent and let others speak. I don’t like dead air and feel like someone has to get the conversation started, but I’m working on letting others be that person. This, I feel, will always be an active process for me.

Ask questions (and find the answers)

I don’t know everything and would be hard pressed to meet someone who does. So asking questions is imperative. Yet, sometimes the best answer can be found by myself. Having the ability to find answers is much more important than having all the answers. I’ve found I learn and retain more information by finding the answer myself.

Relationships are important

This semester, I had class with the same people for six hours straight twice a week. And we were all together in another class on the opposite two days of the week. So, to say we’ve become like a family is an understatement. In a fairly competitive program, it would be my first assumption to think we would all become super competitive with each other. Yet quite the opposite has happened. My classmates constantly strive to make their own work stand out and it creates a positiveness throughout and pushes me to be better. We encourage each other, we laugh with each other, sometimes we air our frustrations, but all in all I truly enjoy spending time with my class.

Prepare for the worst

Murphy’s Law says everything that can go wrong will. Every major project I had due first thing Monday morning this semester came with major printing issues. Power outages, technical glitches, tornados; you name it, we encountered it. Finding ways to make projects happen after a tornado whipped through town will certainly make me a designer who can weather the storm…no pun intended.

Face your fears

Web media has been a semester long exercise in facing my fear of all things web design. I always looked at writing markup as some crazy mathematical language that I knew nothing about. But as I worked my way through the semester, I actually found myself enjoying it. And more importantly, understanding it.

While this was one of the more stressful semesters of my career, it was in so many ways one of the best. I know each semester will just continue to exceed my expectations in more ways than I can imagine. At this holiday season, I am beyond thankful for teachers who inspire, classmates who encourage, and being blessed to study something that brings me joy.

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“That press is bigger than my living room!”

Our last process and material class field trip was to Williams Visual Solutions. They were the largest printer we visited in terms of printing volume and machine size. And boy did they have the machines! I watched their largest machine spit out printed pages by the second. I was in awe. I was even more impressed with the head pressman. The pressmen were calibrating color getting ready for a reprint for an existing client. They were trying to get the reds to match just right. Because it was raining the day of our visit, the humidity and moisture in the air was affecting their machines. Watching the head pressman tweak the color balance a few degrees here and there was like watching a concert pianist. He would inspect the print with his loop, balance the colors with a few buttons and all with the swiftness and ease of a talented musician. I know he was just making the job look easy and as I watched him I couldn’t imagine how long it took him to learn the ins and outs of the machine. There really is an art to this very technical job and he was painting a masterpiece the day of our visit.

The entire Williams facility was like a giant maze of press machines and finishing machines. By the time we were at the end of our tour, I had no idea where the front door was. We passed through design areas, prepress areas, warehousing, press and more. I can see now the facilities it takes to produce large-scale productions and publications.

test prints from Williams Visual

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I'm an author! (well, self-published)

My book - Out of the Game

Out of the Game

This project was daunting and exciting all at the same time. When we were first instructed to think of a topic we wanted to write about, I was at a loss. I wanted the topic to be something personal and meaningful so I would be able to put some passion behind it. Then the idea of writing about my leg injury came to mind. I’ve always wanted to write about it as a means of catharsis and have started drafts here and there, but never had a driving force to ever finish anything. Well, here was my driving force.

I began with some research of other sports based books, books written by professional athletes and biographies of athletes. They all seemed very male oriented, either by topic and/or design. I wanted my book to still have a feminine feel to it. While I do like to participate in outdoor and sporting events, I am still very girlie by nature. I wanted my book to reflect that aspect of my personality. But I was at a loss as to how to combine the athletic aspect of the content with a still feminine feel of the design. So, I researched baseball in the 1940s and wartime. This was a period in history where because many men were serving in war, women took the place in several professional baseball leagues. Once I had this inspiration in mind, the marriage between femininity and sports was seamless.

In addition to the feminine feel of the book, I wanted to display a rugged, dusty, outdoorsy feel as well. That is what I often think of when I think of softball or baseball. I wanted all the images to have a rustic and somewhat antique feel to them, so I explored with duotones and different hues to coordinate with my color palette. I had never used duotones before this project, so it was exciting to explore this new (to me at least) treatment.

This project had a large focus of file set up and practices. In addition to the creative process, we were also being graded on our file. We spent much time learning the ins and outs of paragraph, character, table and cell styles. I can honestly say paragraph styles saved me on this project. Because of some pdf formatting issues, I had to choose an alternative typeface for my entire book at the last minute (it was the main header typeface). Because I set up proper character styles, this was not an extremely large task. I also made sure to get my book to the printer two days before our actual due date to leave me some time in case any major catastrophes happened. Because Murphy’s Law is anything crazy that can happen, will happen. And they did with my project. I was all worth it to finally have my pdf accepted and book ordered. I’ve never been more proud of an order confirmation than this book.

Book printed with Blurb

Title page

an inside spread

full image spread

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Allegra Printing

The class checking out the Roland machine.

Our process and materials class recently took a field trip to the Chattanooga branch of Allegra printing, and we met some of the nicest printing people in town! Sales Manager, Jennifer and General Manager, Dan were our tour guides and gave us the run down of everything and anything printing. Our class was fascinated by their Roland digital cutter. This machine has the ability to cut just about any shape and can easily cut vinyl to make stickers, including car stickers. One tip that Jennifer gave us was as a printer, knowing your limits. “It’s about knowing people who can do what you can’t do. It’s not about being everything to everybody.” Both Jennifer and Dan stressed that printers should be willing to seek the help other printers when there are tasks that are out of the realm of their capabilities. They said not one shop can do everything and if they tell you this, they probably aren’t being honest.

Once we toured the digital area, we moved into the press area where we met press operator, Jim. We could certainly tell the passion that Jim had for his press. Jim told us he had been a press operator for more than 20 years. He was ready with handouts of his s machine when we arrived. He talked at lengths about Pantone colors, crazy client requests, and problems and solutions he’s faced over the years. There is nothing I love more than people who are passionate about their jobs. And it’s even more inspiring when it happens to be related to what I love to do.

Heidelberg press

Jim speaking about the press.

All photos used with permission and taken by Laura H. Winn.

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A good printer is your best friend

scoring cards

Last Thursday, my processes and materials class took a field trip to Blair Digital, a local printing company. This company is what I consider to be a model small business. They will go to great lengths to make their customers happy and are willing to fill the gaps that some large printers will not. Blair Digital owner, Cy, talked to us at great lengths about how the printing industry has changed over the years. He noted because technology is constantly changing, printed materials as changing as well. This leads to shorter runs (or smaller orders) and faster turn-arounds. It was amazing to me when he said a week turn-around time is on the longer end of their deadlines.

Cy also talked to us about his business model. He told us much of his business lies in handling the mix of small jobs and larger jobs and the workflow between them. He noted this allows the company the freedom to do more of the experimental jobs, or what Cy called “the fun stuff.”

I was surprised at how much hands-on work was involved after printing. I was absolutely fascinated by the paper cutting machine. Cy also noted the hands-on portion of Blair is one reason they can accommodate both small and large jobs. The larger online printing companies sometimes are forced to offer limited paper availability and will only accommodate large runs to make the job worth while. This is where a company like Blair Digital comes in. I was very impressed at their try-anything attitude and willingness to accommodate any customer. A printer is more of a partner to a designer and if the two can work together well from the beginning, the printer will go the extra mile for the designer. I can’t wait for the opportunity to work with Blair and perhaps get my own business cards printed there.

And to top off a great field trip, our class stopped for pizza for lunch!

Thank you Laura Winn for the photo!

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It's not easy being green

Hug a tree - me at Mt. Rainier National Park

While Barry from Neenah Paper visited our class, we talked for a large portion about the environment and paper. A paper mill uses a lot of natural resources, like water and trees, so it is important for these mills to give back to the environment. There are also many businesses who make the environment a large part of their business model, if not their entire business model. As a designer, it is important to know when you can use certain green labels in various aspects of branding. And there are so many channels to follow. It is not as simple as slapping a FSC logo on a brochure and calling it a day. Thinking about not only the paper, but the ink and the facility both are produced in are just some of the beginning questions to ask when following green logo usage. In addition, a chain of command must be followed. If you change the paper or the ink, it changes the chain of command entirely. Or, if you are printing with a FSC certified printer, yet on non-recycled paper, you can still use certain green logos because of the facilities where the paper was made. So many options! These are important elements to know as a designer. Including a green logo that is not in line with the environmental chain of command could lead to a lot of trouble. It’s important to be environmentally conscious, but with that comes responsibility and making sure the green logo use is not abused.


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Feel the Paper

paper sample books

I love color. And not in the simple way that color is all around us and makes the world beautiful and all that Hallmark card type stuff. I really LOVE color. I salivate over deep purples and shiny golds. Images and patterns printed on pearlized paper makes me a little weak in the knees. So, when Barry Clough from Neenah Paper came to visit our class and speak with us about paper, it was Christmas in October!

Neenah Think Ink

Barry introduced our class to Neenah’s new Think Ink app for the iPhone. You can build a color palette on your phone from a photo or from a Dewey Color System personality attribute, then choose either their Classic Crest or Classic Linen paper and order color paper samples. All from the comfort of you iPhone. Barry talked about the question of “Who’s your who?” or knowing who you are designing for. He discussed paper mills not being the most technologically advanced field, yet designers want someone to speak to them in their own language. I think this new app (and website) is doing just that. We discussed in class that selecting a color from an image or nature and building a color palette around it tends to be in the creative process for many of us. This will fit right in.

[This post serves as a personal plug for my Christmas wish of an iPhone. Thank you.]

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Christmas in September

Aisles of paper

Screams of delight, trading, laughing, paper crunching. You would think it was Christmas, but it was really a group of graphic design students getting free paper samples. My process and materials class took a field trip to PaperPlus, a paper supplier company. We had the opportunity to ask questions and look around. I know there are millions of different types of paper, but to see a giant warehouse full is another story.

The paper samples and spec books were the best part of the whole trip. To see the design of each book and all the different choices was so much fun. We brought all our books back to class and discussed which ones we liked and and why and what sort of projects we would use each type of paper for. We discussed printing issues that could come up with each type of paper. to some, I’m sure this would be a boring topic, but it really is so exciting.

Our tour guide gave us his one piece of printing advice: know your printer, know your paper. Knowing these two things will prevent goofs and incompatibilities between paper and printer. He also said to check with your printer often about availability of products before meeting with clients. Paper changes often and sometimes no longer available or out of stock, which can be a problem when working with deadlines. Knowing your budget was also a tip he gave us for printing success. Paper pricing can run the gamut from stock to extremely expensive. Knowing upfront the money you have to spend also keep you from embarrassing yourself in front of clients.

All in all, the paper samples were my favorite part of the day. From the reactions of my classmates, I’m pretty sure it was theirs too.

running for samples

To plan a journey, you must know the destination

There are many questions to answer before even beginning a print project. What is the project? Who will be printing it? What type of paper do you want to use? How many copies? What colors are you using? Print it in-house or commercially? How much will it cost? How long will it take to print? “From Design into Print” explores these exact questions.

Some of these questions seem to have obvious answers at first glance. But when the number of copies starts to increase or a deadline looms, the answers get more and more complicated. Each question has multiple possibilities creating a web of interdependent answers and solutions. With a little (well, okay, sometimes a lot) planning and knowing your project and capabilities, you can easily knock these questions out. Enter Art 361, better known to us graphic design students as Processes and Materials. These seemingly simple, yet ever complicating questions are exactly what our class will be exploring this semester.

This tiny aspect of the design world is one of the great things about design: choice. If every designer was forced to use the same type and color of paper, our world would look pretty boring. There are 16 students in this class and each one of us has the potential to be our own unique designer. None of us will ever have the exact same solution to a design…there are simply too many choices. While these choices make each designer unique, they can sometimes show the different between a good designer and a great designer.  Knowing what machine the final document will be printed on will help in planning the design and can save some career embarrassment and much stress in the final stages. I am looking forward to exploring all of these elements of design this semester.