If you want to talk about great and totally ethical graphic design, look no further than the awful bootleg DVD covers coming out of Asia. Last summer we went to Vietnam and quite shamelessly purchased four or five bootlegged box sets of our favorite television series and film directors. They were super cheap. Although some of the discs don’t work on our DVD player and some of the episodes are poorly copied from Canadian television, they are well worth the price. Legally, I don’t believe the manufacturers are in any sort of wrong, because it’s not against the law in said countries. Ethically however, there seems to be a whole lot of gray area going on. I can say it’s really no different from offshore torrent sites and illegal downloading in the US, and you get some fantastically erred  packaging to boot. If you want to score some illegally copied intellectual property, go with the complete package by buying your bootlegs in those floppy, poorly printed sleeves with mediocre English. Think of it as a souvenir.



I’ve found another great source for public domain images provided by Creative Commons, Qatar based news network, Al Jazeera’s Creative Commons Repository. Through this site you can access hundreds of vidoes and photos—via their flickr page—for public use. You do have to credit Al Jazeera and leave any logos intact. Earlier I wrote a post praising the high res images you can find at the Library of Congress, and though the LOC is a gold mine, the majority of the photos date from the 1920s and prior. In contrast, Al Jazeera’s media library is new, breaking news new. It’s a fantastic source for new images, especially if you’re interested in the Arab Spring. There’s some moving citizen journalism at work there making it well worth a visit.

We spoke on Tuesday over innovations in self-promotion, a rather trick subject matter. Whether applying for a job or promoting yourself for freelance, you do want to stand out among the designer throngs. You also don’t want to look like an idiot or needy or desperately unstable. Here’s a neat site that features 40 Creative Examples of Self Promotion. It’s a long list with some impressive and extremely ambitious examples of self-promotion that are largely successful. Engaging packaging, interactive media, brochures, and strangely floppy discs abound. A fine place to start for some great ideas about self-promotion.

I lieu of our conversations about clients, I discovered this link from Speckboy that highlights some of the more ridiculous bad client quotes among web designers. 

“Please follow original instructions. we don’t want this page to look tricked out or computer generated…”

“Our web site doesn’t load if I turn javascript off … please fix this.”

“I want our side bar to look exactly like amazon’s. oh, here i am gonna send it to you, just use it…and then maybe make it kinda pastel, i hear that’s the new thing now, to make things look feminine.

“Can you guys make it more like a power-point presentation, you know, with the sliding text stuff and all?.”

“Well, I don’t think we really want it to look too much like a Web site. You know what I mean?.”

“I checked with a friend and they said there definitely IS a rainbow effect in photoshop, why did you tell us there wasn’t one?.”

“more fonts. use more fonts!”
“ummm… how many do you want?”
“how many do you have?”

“I just don’t understand why this Flash cost so much. I mean, I can do the same kind of animations in PowerPoint. Why can’t we do something like in PowerPoint. It seems pretty simple to me.”

“We want a website that can play DVD quality video, but we don’t want to use streaming video and the load time must be zero.”

“less creativity, bigger pictures.”

“I saw your flash and html demos and the 3d commercial that you prepared, firstly,”I should say I dont believe that web design is a form of art”,and what you create is a kind of “bad art.”You shouldn’t create those, our agency will inform you about design, just use the instructions which will come from them, and create the site… Isn’t that what the webdesigner is for?”

“Dude, I got you a CD of clip art. Let’s make this site look dope!.”

“What is so complicated? I can understand all this! Let me do it, do you really think it is that complicated? It seems pretty easy to me.”

“Can you do it like in the Matrix…you know with numbers, zeros and ones, and glowing light, like in the Matrix, you know.”

“…why don’t you use more of that purple and green together?.”

“Please move the buttons to the top right hand side as one of my friends who uses the internet a lot says they will look better there.”

“We want it to be black, but could you not make it so dark?”

“The fact that this logo is creative and interesting is exactly what is wrong with it.”

“Why do we have all this blank space here, what can we do to fill it up.”

“Can you make it work in Netscape?”

“I’m not to sure about that “sign-in” button. Could you please make me 50 of them so that I can choose.”

“Can you add a frog, just jumping around the page. That’s bound to get people coming back to our site”.

From a client responding to a prototype with ‘lorem ipsum’ text on it:
“Why’s the site written in Spanish? The partners are definitely going to want to know what that’s about!”


Taken from Tofslie’s blog here.




In class we looked at HOW’s summary of design salaries. It contained some nice breakdowns by region as well as some interesting data. I discovered a similar survey here, conducted by AIGA and dated from 2011. Although it may not be quite as involved as HOW’s analysis of design salaries, it is more recent. It also nicely breaks the salary of each design job into percentile and often includes the average hourly freelance rate. Ah, and each bar graph includes a section titled “additional compensation”, which includes healthcare, insurance, and any other expenses.

And a P.S Ah. Rollover any of the stats, and you get a tool tip listing job descriptions, implied hourly rates, implied daily rates, additional compensation, and total compensation. Rollovers galore! It’s extremely informative and well worth a visit.


Ever since we touched upon the Public Domain and copyright laws several weeks ago, I’ve been particularly fascinated with acquiring and collecting copyright free imagery for those special occasions when a client wants a gig poster inside the hour. This week I searched our  library on campus and found several great resources for imagery. After all, once the school projects are over, I believe fair use is out the window and Google image search turns into infringement. Dover publishing offer many books full of images, many of which come with high resolution, digital versions to eliminate the monotony of scanning. I recently got Dover’s Bewick’s Animal Woodcuts as well as L’Aventurine’s Fantastic Ornaments, the latter of which is full of bizarre anthropomorphic woodcuts of hybrid animals, demons, and angels. Similarly, any edition of the zine Craphound is full hundreds of images, usually based around a them like “Church and State” or “Death”. I suppose I’m so excited about this massive library of great art, because I was so ignorant to it before I fully investigated the whole issue of plagiarism, copyright, public domain, and all those other things that simply vital to graphic design.

Continuing our discussion on the genres of business, I found a decent—and devastatingly local—link to Nashville’s own News Channel 5 brief on the Basics of a Sole Proprietorship. Hmm, it seems that link wasn’t as in depth as one would have hoped, though it does give a fine summary of sole proprietorship and offers a strange new term, DBA of Doing Business As. Here’s the blip:

As a sole proprietor, you may still need to register your business. Business licensing differs from state to state. Some, like California, require nearly all businesses to register; others have relatively few requirements. If, however, you are doing business as a sole proprietor under a trade name rather than your personal name (“City Architects”, as opposed to “John Smith, Architect”), you will likely need to get a business certificate or register as a DBA (Doing Business As). This allows your customers, your suppliers, the government, and anyone else your business deals with to know who the real owner of the business is.

As a P.S. to this partially interesting post, I’ve also included the link to Tennessee State’s Business Name Availability checker, because everyone knows your business is only as good as its name. And if you get bored, you can always test it to see if anyone’s started any businesses with unsightly names.



I can’t believe I’d never heard of design firm Big Spaceship prior to our Lynda videos on Tuesday. There work and philosophy is jaw-dropping. I delved futher into their portfolio and found their ingenious website, The Expressive Web, they put together for Adobe. Being in mere Web I, I’ve mostly just heard of the inherent power of CSS3 and HTML5; And even with my light knowledge of advanced web development, Big Spaceship’s wonderfully interactive site for Adobe is brilliant, approachable and educational. The site shows you the capabilities of CSS3 Animations, Gradients, Queries, and Shadows—among numerous other great features. Seems that Big Spaceship had another overwhelmingly happy client. I believe the designers at Big Spaceship summed it up perfectly on their portfolio page:

We were excited to discover The Expressive Web drew praise not just from designers and developers, but also a legion of curious everyday users. In short, we created a window into the future of the web, with Adobe positioned squarely in the center of the conversation.

On Tuesday we finished out the class with a extensive flickr gallery comparing suspiciously similar graphic design pieces. Some were contained obvious plagiarism, while others stood as a noble homage. To further this conversation I found this a similar posting by designer Jacob Cass titled Graphic Design Rips Offs or Inspiration? Though his list isn’t nearly as long, it does demonstrate some interesting comparisons. Copyright infringement won’t be going away anytime soon. I touched upon the rise of Creative Commons and the copy left movement in blogs past, so I won’t dote much on that tonight. I also mentioned how Walt Disney could be considered one of the original remix artists with his borrowing to create Steamboat Willie. I found these images at Cass’s blog; looks like old Walt was so good at remixing that he soon sampled from his own catalog. Copy, Paste, Disney.

Recently, a musician friend of mine asked about alternatives to Photoshop. He’s dabbled in poster design and promo work for his band and can’t afford the Adobe Suite. I’ve colleagues who are far more knowledgable than I with open source software, so I asked them. When I was an early teen, my mom had been laid off from a pulp mill, returned to school (thanks to union dues), and became a graphic designer complete with Photoshop 5, or whatever was the latest in the late 90’s. Point is, from a young age I’ve always known Adobe for design projects. And as far as the profession goes, Adobe is the means. However, it is expensive. And for those who design on an occasional basis, I should be able to reference non-designers or anti-CS types to photo editing alternatives. I know we’re all heavily invested to our beloved Adobe CS, be it for Mac or Windows, but there are solid alternatives that are worth investigating. From what I’ve gathered GIMP, Krita, and Chocoflop are the best freeware options for photo editing on the market. One friend said he often prefers GIMP over photoshop for certain applications. We may not need to know any other software than Adobe to succeed professionally in design, though it can’t hurt looking into other options, especially when they’re free.