Monday, September 21

Lessons Learned

It's been quite some time since I've updated this blog. Why so long? Life, work, general business. I've learned that it's quite hard to keep going on a project such as this when so many other things need attention. I have thought about how to turn this blog into something more useful, something I would enjoy writing in everyday and something which may be of interest to other designers. I can only say, at this point, is that I want to do my best to update more often. With what? I'm not totally sure yet, but it will come to me. In the meantime, go take a look at my Typography students' first entries into their type journals. Their first assignment was to find naturally occurring letterforms. The links are down there on the right hand side.


Thursday, June 11

Licensing Part 2 - Getting Started

If you haven't read Part One, click here.

Licensing is not a hard field to break in to, though it does require patience and time. The first step is to determine which types of goods and merchandise on which you feel your art would work best. Does it lend itself to greeting cards, gift wrap/bags, notebooks, stickers, bedding, t-shirts, wall art, ceramics, etc. Go to the store, look around and search for things in which you can say, "My art would look great on something like that." Once you've found those items, take note of who manufactured the product. If you pick up similar items, you may notice overlap of manufacturers. The same manufacturer may create greeting cards, gift wrap and notebooks. Write this information down. Also take note of the styles of designs the manufacturers use.

The next step is to create your portfolio. You may have a great style but your work is not likely ready for submission. Look at the category in which you think you'll fit. What does the art look like? Look at your own work. Do you need to create patterns, scenes, more character driven art, etc. Best advice given to me is once I have a piece of art created, I should create at least 3 more pieces of art to go with it using the same or similar elements and color. Create a series using your original art as the basis. Personally, I create one scene and, at minimum, three patterns to go with the scene, often picking up elements directly. Sometimes I add in a cup, plate and napkin for art I think would work well on paper party goods.

In terms of stationery, think about the categories as well. You have Birthday, Holiday (general referred to as Christmas/Winter), Other Holiday (the rest of them - Easter, Valentine's Day, St. Patty's Day, Memorial Day, etc.) and Everyday (Wedding, Baby, Congrats, etc.). Does your art fulfill these needs? What can you do to have a good range? You may have new art to create to have a varied portfolio but just remember to stay true to your style. You may not have a style that's good for wedding. That's ok, just beef up another category instead.

Stay tuned for Part Three - I have a portfolio, now what?

Sunday, June 7

Tiny Art Director

I need to interrupt my Licensing talk with a brief mention about a fantastic blog. Tiny Art Director is a blog about a father (and artist) and his now four year old daughter who gives him requests as to what to draw and whose critique is recorded after she is presented with the finished piece. It is hilarious and not unlike some remembrances of meetings with difficult clients. And, his work/his daughter's critiques will now be available in book form (Spring 2010 from Chronicle). I, for one, will be purchasing said book to bring levity after a particularly rough client interactions.

Check it out.

Wednesday, June 3

Licensing Art Part 1 - Definitions

See that little bag in the middle? The one with the blue monster and orange background? That is one of my many licensed images, manufactured by Garven LLC and sold at Target. Pretty cool, huh?

Illustrating is a lonely, hard road as a career choice. There is a variety of options: comic books, children's books, editorial (magazines and newspapers), medical, advertising, packaging, etc. The biggest challenge is getting people to 1. see your work and 2. want to use your work instead of stock.

Licensing is one more way to earn an income (albeit it's the get rich slow method) and one can never have too much money, right? Licensing is allowing someone else to use your work for a particular product for a limited time. You earn and advance and royalities on your art and everyone wins. You still maintain the copyright and still maintain the right to license the work again to a non-competitive client. For example, you allow licensing of your art for a gift bag. Someone else approaches you to use it on a baby bib. You have the right to allow both to use it thereby increasing your income with the same piece of art.

Note: An advance is an upfront payment to you which comes from projected royalties. Royalties is a percentage of sales and can be based upon manufacturing, wholesale or retail sales figures. You don't receive royalty payments until the amount of money exceeds what they paid you for the advance.

One can also do Limited Use Rights which is a form of licensing. That's when a company pays a certain amount (usually much more than a standard advance) to use your art on a specific product for a specific amount of time. There are no royalties involved. This is not selling your art outright, however. You still maintain the copyright for this option as well. If the company wants to use the art on a second product, they owe you another payment.

Last way to sell your art is to Sell it Outright. Many companies try for this method as it's most economical for them. This means they pay you for a piece of art and you hand it and your copyright over to them. They are then allowed to put it on as many products as they wish without having to pay you again for it.

I prefer to License or do Limited Use Rights as I am not a prolific illustrator. I can't produce a piece a day for 365 days a year. If I did, then maybe I could Sell Art Outright and not feel like I sold a piece of my soul.

Stay tuned for Part 2 - How To Break In To Licensing

Monday, May 18

Great Packaging

At a dinner I recently attended ordered tea with my dessert. The waitress brought out a selection I had never seen before—Timothy's™. While I find the type something to be desired, I very much like the triangular packaging. I was also pleased that the tea bag itself was shaped as a triangle.
Finding a package which is suitable and aesthetically pleasing is always a challenge for a package designer. Additionally, creating a package that can be machined is equally as difficult if the end result is something other than a square. In this example, the designer was able to create a shape which would uniquely stand out in the standard tea box presented in a restaurant. It made choose this tea over packet teas. My only issue with this structure is that the tip gets easily damaged—see the Earl Grey package as an example.
This is a great example as to why a designer should always ask "What can I do to make this (insert type of project here) unique?"

Sunday, May 10

Papyrus- What will we do with you?

The SCBWI conference I attended was a smashing success. Great speakers and fabulous advice was abundant. Everything was going great until a speaker began his PowerPoint presentation and used a font so terrible I was distracted the rest of the day.

It was *gasp* Papyrus. I know you can feel my horror, but do you know why other that you've been taught to never use it?

Papyrus was developed by American designer Chris Costello in 1982 and was released by Letraset. Its goal was to feel like something handwritten on 2000 year old papyrus. Regardless of how I personally feel about the font, I can't argue that it missed its goal. The font does indeed give that feel. So what's the problem?

Papyrus has become the default font for any designer (or non-designer) who wants an elegant antique feel. This has led to the prolific overuse of the font over time. It's found on Arizona iced tea, Bakery signs, PowerPoint presentations and just about anywhere else you can think of. It also generally accepted that its usage is a clear indication that the user is not a trained designer. My students certainly know not to use it. In fact, they sometimes turn in "joke" projects using the font to see how long it takes for me to notice. The average time is .04 seconds.

When is it acceptable to use the font? It may be used for something that is representative of a 2000 year old papyrus manuscript. That's it. No exceptions. If you want an antiqued look, do it yourself by utilizing custom brushes in Photoshop. If you want it to look old, draw it by hand.

Saturday, May 2

A short word on dashes

Hyphen, en dash, em dash—what are they used for and why does everyone use the wrong one?

Used for split words at the end of a sentence and for compound words
ie. a hard-won fight

En Dash
Used to show passage of time and can be in replace of through or to. The En dash is a medium length dash. On a Mac, the key command is option + - (hyphen).
ie. Monday–Friday, 6:00–7:00

Em Dash
Used to show a change of thought within a sentence. It is a long dash and often replaces parenthesis or semi colons. On the web and in Microsoft Word it is represented by two dashes in a row. On a Mac, the key command is option + shift + - (hyphen).
ie. I pay the bills—he has all the fun.

Remembering to use the correct punctuation is key to a well-designed piece. It is important to take responsibility for the text even if you did not type it. Pay attention to the details—it saves time, revisions and makes you look better in the eyes of your client.

Tuesday, March 24

New SciFi Logo

There's been a significant number of major redesigns making the news lately. Tropicana has drawn jeers for its new generic-inducing look and Pepsi has changed its logo from a wave to a smirk.

The SciFi Channel is nex ton the list of those companies looking for a brand change and it has made a doozy of a change. SciFi is now SyFy. Why you ask? According to an article by Stuart Elliot for The New York Times, one of the reasons, “ that Sci Fi is vague — so generic, in fact, that it could not be trademarked. Syfy, with its unusual spelling, can be...” Also stated was the fact that SciFi as a term tended to make people think strictly of alines and space. The company wanted a logo that said more. The surrent logo “...didn’t capture the full landscape of fantasy entertainment: the paranormal, the supernatural, action and adventure, superheroes.”

New Logo

Old Logo

I am a fan of the new logo in terms of typography and overall lockup. The kerning is spot on and the font is friendly and a bit retro/SciFi feeling with the rounded f. The rounded f also ties back to the old logo, making an evolutionary change, not totally abandoning its roots. The elimination of the Saturn icon also helps pull the logo away from strictly an alien/space related theme.

As for the name, my jury is still out on that debate. I understand the company needing to find something ownable for them. SciFi is a generic terms. I agree that someone quickly texting the name would likely be spelled syfy. I disagree that a spelling change alone will make people think of something beyond aliens and space when they hear the words being spoken. If someone unfamiliar with the channel pronounced it, would they say SciFi (long i) or SeeFee (long e) or Sifi (short i)? I'm not 100% slam-dunk convinced, but I'm willing to give it some time to see what happens.

Thursday, March 5

Veer Scores Big!

This is the news I've been waiting to hear. Veer now has a low budget "marketplace" for stock imagery just like iStockphoto, luckyoliver and others. While I am all for paying full price for limited rights of a stock image, this option helps out my economically challenged clients AND students who have little money.
Veer is now offering "over 100,000 images priced as low as $1." Yeppers, those low budget jobs will now have another source, one I very much prefer. The range goes from $20 for XXL images (approx. 11 x 17 @ 300dpi) down to $1 for XS images (approx. 4 x 6 @ 72 dpi).
I have tooted Veer's horn many times over the years and I'm happy to do it again. Thanks, Veer, for thinking of the little (and poor) guy during these tough economic times.

Oh, and they're offering $10 credit to any new registrations so go check them out.

Friday, February 20


It's only natural for dogs to want to track down cats, especially dogs with extra large noses.

Wednesday, February 18

The Kern Monster is Loose!

My Graphics II class obviously loves me. This was drawn on the board while I was meeting with students. The tag around the octopus monster reads "Bosler". The other text reads "lo-res images", "magazine project" and "widow, you fail". The rest of it reads "Hi younger and less sleep-deprived CD majors... RUN while you still can! Yours Truly, Graphics 2 students."

I think this is hysterical, and true, so so true. Our classes are 6 hour studio studio classes with an equal amount of homework outside of class. Most of my students have 3-4 studio classes plus 1-2 academic classes. That makes for 24-30 hours of in-class time and 24-30 hours of homework time. It doesn't seem like much but it makes for regular all-nighters and tired students. (Student's time management skills are definitely lacking at this stage). Of course, add on top of all this a professor, me, who insists not only on good design, but good imagery, properly edited text and skillful use of InDesign and you get a terrifying octopus-like creature who runs the class. I love my job.

Note: props to Matt for creating this fabulous artwork. I love it!

Monday, February 16

A Monster of a Thank You

I thought I'd share the latest in thank you cards for my LLC. These little monsters have really taken on a life of their own. From a gift bag in Target to Halloween stickers and Valentine cards, these guys are sure getting around. I have always liked cute little creatures and monsters seemed to be a natural extension of that. They began as a doodle eating a page in my sketchbook and came to life the day before I left for Surtex last year. Who knew they would become the bell of the ball. I have high hopes for them in the coming year.

Sunday, February 15

A Winner of an Intern

This week I came home to a wonderful surprise. A smart little package was addressed to me from a dear friend who teaches at Moore College of Art. Inside was a t-shirt and notes from both my friend and an intern I had working for me this summer. Moore's Business of Illustration class held a t-shirt contest and my intern, Amanda, was the winner! Whohoo! Congratulations Amanda! It's not a surprise since her adorable Illustrator Ninja is just perfect.

Saturday, February 14

An IF response

A friend sent this in response to my Illustration Friday drawing. It cracked me up!


Thanks! I needed that!

Friday, February 13


It's been awhile since I've participated in Illustration Friday. I used to do the challenge regularly in another blog of mine. That blog has since died in favor of this new one here. I've missed IF and I feel the need to set the challenge for myself again. Surtex is coming up soon and I think this is what I need to get those creative juices flowing.

This week's theme is TIME. In honor of one of the best commercial series ever made, my contribution is entitled "Time to Make the Donuts".