Art direction for Chevrolet New Roads Magazine.
Call me old fashioned, but there’s something rewarding about making art with your own two hands. Taking a break from the computer, I decided to dabble in letterpress thanks to a recommendation from a friend. I ended up taking a wood engraving/letterpress workshop at Signal Return in Detroit’s Eastern Market district, which led me to trying more letterpress projects with a print maker in Ann Arbor. I worked with setting moveable type to making bookmarks and then eventually letterpressing my sister’s wedding invitations.
Hoping to work on a bigger canvas, I took a screen printing class (also in Detroit, but this time in the Cass Corridor) at Ocelot Print Shop. I had stumbled upon a quote by one of Detroit’s most famous authors, Elmore Leonard, several months back and was looking for the right project to use it. Screen printing a Detroit-themed poster was the perfect fit.
I love Michigan. Duh.
When I was living in the bluegrass state, I was trying to find some way to stay connected to the Great Lakes state. When I heard about The Awesome Mitten, I was immediately intrigued. It was a handful of 20-somethings, just like me, who had a strong passion for our Pleasant Peninsula. I’ve since helped produce graphics for homepage sliders, seasonal series and a time-consuming (but very rewarding) illustration highlighting some of the best spots in the Corktown neighborhood of Detroit.
November 2012 marked my return to the Mighty Mitten, the most pleasant peninsula, my home, sweet home; Michigan. I accepted a position as a graphic designer for Automobile Magazine, an automotive publication based in Ann Arbor. Now, I went to school down the road in East Lansing, and it’s an understatement to say that my alma mater and the University of Michigan don’t really get along too well. It’s tough being green in a town full of maize and blue.
Working for Automobile has given me the chance to expand my horizons in the realm of print design. I’m now working with six and eight page spreads instead of section covers and one to two inside pages. Sometimes the freedom of typography and design decisions with such a broader page size can feel overwhelming. But more so in a “Oh wow, I can’t believe I have this much space” kind of way.
I work with both the print and iPad editions of the magazine. We first design the print packages, and after the magazine has been sent to the printers, we begin to transfer over the designs to iPad slides. The Adobe InDesign extension, Woodwing, makes it quite easy to incorporate interactive features such as slideshows, videos and hotspots into the iPad designs.
I may not be the biggest car buff, but the automotive industry runs deep in my blood. My great-grandfather owned an auto repair shop in Detroit during the 1930s, I have a great uncle who ran and operated his own Scout dealership on the east side of Detroit, and my grandfather worked for the Chrysler plant in, you guessed it, Detroit city.
Print journalism isn’t dead; it’s just changing. Will newspapers ever be as booming or as profitable as they were decades ago? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean that they still can’t serve as a compelling, visually-driven form of story telling — something that online news can’t always offer.
Working as a designer for the Louisville Gannett Design Studio had me in the thick of a fast-paced, interactive environment that places a heavy emphasis on high-impact news design. Having only a few hours to turn around a front page graphic or special section cover while also electronically dealing with numerous newsrooms and working on advance projects morphed me into a master multi-tasker.
Despite my youth, I was thrown into the fire for some of the biggest sporting events on the calendar. I designed the look and feel of the March Madness special sections for the Lansing State Journal by creating logos, banners and flags during Michigan State’s Big Ten Championship run and into the national tournament. The opportunity was given to me to create a special section poster page previewing the 138th Kentucky Derby — the biggest day of the year in the blue grass state. Gannett shipped me out to Indianapolis Star for three days to assist in the special section coverage for the Indianapolis 500. While on loan in Indy, I designed another special section preview front, this time for the big race at the Brickyard.
The opportunities — travel, professional experience, working under daily deadline pressure, being in a design-centered environment — have been endless, and I embraced the adventure of living in a new state on my own.
I got my first real break (and actually my first real attempt) at logo design while I was interning with the College of Communication Arts and Sciences at Michigan State during my junior year. The School of Journalism was gearing up to celebrate its centennial in the fall of 2010 and was in need of a logo for postcards that were being mailed out to alumni.
My boss at the time asked me to come up with a logo, and what I created was what the school ended up using over the next year to promote the celebration. It showed up on letters, signs, magazines, coffe cups, tote bags and even teddy bears. You know you’ve made it big when your logo is emblazoned on the furry stomach of a stuffed bear.
Since then, I have redesigned a publication’s brand and identity (Michigan Hockey Magazine), draw up logos for freelance projects and created banners and logos for newspaper special sections — most notably for March Madness in the Lansing State Journal.
One of my proudest student works, an expressive wordmark for “Argyle,” was selected as a student piece to be shown in AIGA Detroit’s Design Re:View in May 2011. To have my work, as a journalism major, acknowledged amongst hundreds of pieces created by graphic design students was a tremendous honor.
Unlike my computer engineering friends, I’m not primarily a coder. But that doesn’t mean that the sight of PHP or HTML forces me to curl up in the corner, full-on fetal position. Code doesn’t scare me. In fact, I’m trying to learn as much about web design as I possibly can.
My first web design project was to revamp Michigan Hockey Online, a niche publication that centered on youth hockey in the state of Michigan. The older site was built using Dreamweaver and didn’t allow for daily updates nor an article archive. To help create a site that could be current, topical and easily brought up to speed, the client and I decided to use WordPress.
I settled on a WordPress template and incorporated my knowledge of CSS/HTML and PHP to mold the site to our specifications. Everything from the color scheme and front page layout to the rotating banners and site navigation were designed to give the site visitor an interactive and informative experience.
Another web design project that I developed was for an IT company based in Toronto. They came to me wanting to use WordPress to create a simple, easy to navigate web site to help their customers and potential clients find their contact information and services.
The company sent over examples of sites they liked, and then I went out and found a WordPress theme that could be easily manipulated to their specifications. I highlighted their services on the homepage slider by playing off of their fun and quirky logo.
The ZeroPing website can be found at ZeroPing.ca
Full disclosure, this isn’t a working, live web site — it’s just a conceptual idea for a site that focuses on reducing cafeteria food waste.
The assignment was completed in my interactive web design class (which ironically, didn’t involve too much actual web design) at Michigan State. We had to choose a destructive behavior and then create a web site that aimed at dissuading others from participating in the act. After holding a meal plan for three years during my time as an undergrad, I came to see the horrors of wasteful activities that took place in college cafeterias.
Being a journalism student in a graphic design class, I took the time to do my due diligence and research the issue at hand instead of just using dummy copy on my slides (I’m actually really humble, I swear). I again focused on how the site visitor would interact with the information on each slide and developed an effective route for them to travel the site.
If a client ever comes to me in need of a web site aimed at reducing cafeteria food waste, I’ll have these blueprints in my back pocket.
Whenever I swap European travel stories with friends or acquaintances, I have to imagine that I sound like a broken record when discussing the five weeks I spent in Spain during the summer of 2010. “It was greatest five weeks of my life!” “Barcelona was incredible!” and “Seriously, why did I even bother coming home?” are common declarations lumped into my tales of the Catalonian city on the coast of Spain.
The art, architecture and culture also served as fantastic inspiration for a travel book assignment in a graphic design class I completed at MSU. The guidelines of the project were such: Pick a place, any place in the world in which to create a travel book highlighting unique and interesting characteristics of said place. It was to be a six page book with the following pages:
- A cover, front and back, complete with spine
- A table of contents
- One page with primarily text
- One page combining text and images
- One page with primarily images
- A unique information page
Since I was still in a hazy state of wanderlust from my study abroad adventure three months before, I naturally chose Barcelona. It also helped that I took boatloads of pictures on my trip so I had plenty of colorful and vibrant art to pick from.
The Barcelona travel book still ranks up there with the most enjoyable design projects that I’ve ever cranked out.
Lakes in Michigan have two very different functions, depending on the season and time of year. In the summer, they’re the epicenter of recreation and relaxation for beachgoers and boaters alike. But it’s during the winter, when the waters glass over amidst the barrage of lake effect snow, where they reveal their true purpose for me: Pond hockey.
After more than a decade spent playing the sport while growing up in Michigan, I jumped at the freelance opportunity to help turn around a niche publication: Michigan Hockey Magazine. I would be responsible for rebranding the identity of the magazine and creating a new website in the process.
I served as the web developer/content manager/graphic designer/page designer/art director/photographer and even a copy editor for the publication. For a small magazine such as this one, it was necessary to get my hands involved in all aspects of the operation. To read more about my experience redesigning Michigan Hockey, click here.