The Aging Illustrator

Let’s face it… I’m getting old and the aches and pains are starting to set in. For me, that means carpal tunnel syndrome. It’s nothing new, I’ve been fighting it since about 2008 when working for FedEx and Brinks really started to damage my hands from repetitive use (pushing boxes and hefting coins).

Last week I finished this project I had been working on for the past 3 years. It was a personal goal to draw an animal for each letter of the alphabet. I started the project in 2016 with a few critters but it got put on the back burner several times while I worked on other projects both personal and professional.

Alphabet Animals A to ZZ

While working on the Yak last week, I realized how painful illustrating by hand had become to me. I sat alone and cried for a bit, not just because of the pain, but because of the realization that it wasn’t going to get better… that I wasn’t that young kid who used to lay on her belly on Friday nights in front of the TV with a bunch of paper and pencils and draw for hours while watching some late night horror show. I couldn’t lay on my belly (at all) or draw for more than about an hour or so these days. Hopefully, with the help of ice packs (try it, you’ll love it) and an OTC anti-inflammatory I’ll get better. (Thanks for the free medical advice, Dad!) So far, I’ve been able to regain a lot of the feeling I had lost in my thumb. 🙂

I’ve always been creative and I’ve always worked hard to keep doing creative things. I look for them all the time. I play with chalkboards, chalk and chalk pens. I do calligraphy, I play the ukulele and I spend a few minutes of every day, learning German because it’s supposed to be good for your brain. I recently discovered colored pencils and I think I may have a particular way to use them that suits my style and combines them with pen (my favorite medium).

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Becoming an aging illustrator is rough, though I feel it’s something I just have to keep doing because I love it so much. As for being an aging graphic designer? Well, that’s still pretty easy on the body, except for maybe sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Either way, I love both and can’t imagine my life any other way.

Years without Adobe

It has literally been years since Rolling Rook Studio did any work for a client using an Adobe product. We really don’t miss it. It has been very liberating not having to rely on the cloud or renew a software subscription every year.

Not all designers can pull it off though. It’s pretty easy for us, since we primarily do logo, publication and illustration work. We don’t do websites or 3D graphics (we’ll leave those for the young whippersnappers), so we don’t really need Adobe. Our work is provided to our clients and their printers/promotional products companies via digital files. We provide PDFs (vector, when able) and PNGs (lossless) files for the web.

It’s nice to actually own the software for a one-time fee of less than $50 (each), and not spend $400-$1200/year just to rent it. Sure, you get things like the cloud with Adobe, but try and convince a busy client to go look at work on the Adobe’s Cloud. Most of the time, they would rather you just email them small files. Let’s face it, it’s just much quicker than opening an email, clicking a link and waiting for your browser to open a website.

….and aren’t we all, just a little lazy?

I Want To Work WITH You, Not FOR You

I get a lot of interesting requests in this business and one that I always pass on is becoming a full time graphic designer at someone else's company. Sure, freelancing is rough and running your own studio, doubly so, but the thought of designing day in and day out within one set of branding guidelines, is unthinkable.... at least for me.

There are days when the thought of a reliable full-time job with a steady paycheck are very appealing, but I really love my clients and the immense amount of variety they bring. All of these things, (different personalities, different types of businesses, different styles of branding, different geographical locations, etc.), bring with them unique challenges that require unique, individualized solutions. At Rolling Rook Studio we truly work together with our clients to find those solutions.

Last week at Rolling Rook Studio

Hey all! I'm sorry I haven't posted a new blog entry in quite some time. Things have been hectic at the studio (which isn't a bad thing). We've been in the process of revamping a bunch of things. We started with getting rid of some old. clunky furniture and ripping out the icky old carpet (that, I believe, came from Pete Steffy's restaurant).

After some of the furniture was removed we got down to the business of ripping out the old carpet and exposing the original tile beneath. Most people don't know this, but the studio was not only my bedroom when I was a little girl, but it was also my mother's bedroom when she was a little girl. She came over and had fun seeing the old floor.

Needless to say, I didn't get as many bicycle rides in this past week as I would have liked, but by the aches and pains I was feeling from ripping up the carpet and wiping down the tile floor, I think I got a bit of a workout in anyway.

The next thing I did was drive over to IKEA in Ohio (Indianapolis doesn't get one until later this year). I had already visited the week before and knew exactly what I wanted. I absolutely fell in love with their sit/stand desk line up and knew I wanted the biggest (and motor driven) desk I could get, along with the shelves to make up for the loss of the huge desk and filing cabinets. So I took about 5 hours out of one day and drove all the way over to Cincinnati grabbed the stuff from the bins and drove back to the studio to start assembling.

I got most of the desk done by myself, but our art director (who had previously assembled the same shelving unit), helped me out extensively with the shelves, which eased my frustration considerably.

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Once the furniture was assembled and put into place, I went about searching for the perfect rug... You know.. the one that "ties the room together"? After purchasing the desk and shelving units, my budget was kind of tight, so I found the perfect rug at Menard's for $35!

The rug had all the colors of the studio, including the off-white trim, the brown wood of the shelves and most importantly... the blue of the floor and the green of the walls!  

I also did some tile repair work and this weekend, got around to painting the company logo on the wall above couch!

I even gave the logo a hidden little feature that can only be seen under UV light (with a Sharpie highlighter).

I still have a ways to go. I'd like to grab 2 more shelving units (replace the wooden book case) and I think, after that, I'll be happy with the studio space for a very long time to come!

Trend Responsibly

As a designer, part of my job is to follow trends. I need to be in the loop about what is coming and going, especially when it comes to the latest design and illustration trends, but I also need to know about business trends when it comes to the types of clients I choose.

While it's good to be aware of trends, it's also good to look at trend alternatives. Here, I will write about some of the top trends people follow and how to look at them alternatively, in a more socially, economically and environmentally responsible manner.


Fashion

The fashion cycle used to be 2 to 4 seasons per year, now it's 52. That's a new or rehashed fashion trend every week! Is it any wonder that some people own 100 pairs of shoes? For the rest of us, the only clothing we really need to worry about is what attire is required for work and what attire makes you feel good (possibly comfortable) when we're not at work. (Being “at work” for me, typically means meeting with a client in person, so 99% of my work day is usually super casual.)

Responsible Fashion

Get a general idea for what people are wearing, but look for responsible alternatives. Trends such as advanced, sustainable materials, recyclability and the abolition of sweatshops. Find fashion houses who are committed to their communities, the environment, animal or human rights. You might even look for fashion retailers who pay their employees a living wage.


Tech

When I worked for Apple, it was part of my life to be up -to-date on all the latest tech, software, computers, games, gizmos and accessories. It was easy back then because all your coworkers would let you know if you missed something. Let's get real…As an average consumer your biggest worry is going to be when your OS is no longer being supported or when the space runs out on your mobile device.

In recent years tech has become so mainstream, it's pretty easy to stay in the loop. As a designer, however, I have to be able to keep up on all tech, not just Apple. For instance, Apple's app icon design standards are a little different than Andriod's so when you're working with someone who is developing apps for both platforms you need to know how to design them, and these design standards are always being updated.

Responsible Tech

Responsible tech might include agriculture and water technologies for feeding the world. It might include health and science technologies that end debilitating diseases or create alternative and sustainable forms of energy.


Luxury

If you're wearing a Rolex or driving a Rolls-Royce, then you might be just a little vain. These particular goods are called Verblen goods, which are outrageously expensive items that are in demand with certain types of people because of status. These goods tell the rest of the world that they have money and that they want you to know about it.

Responsible Luxury

Time and money are the only basic luxury items that most people simple do not have. Having the luxury of time to volunteer or the money to give to charity would be responsible luxuries that not only help various organizations, but also make the person “spending” them feel like they have done something to help others. Something I believe, that wearing a Rolex, just doesn't do.


Design

Flat design vs. 3D design, Retro vs. Mod, bright colors vs. subdued colors, positive vs. negative space, etc. While, yes, I kind of have to keep up on this topic (it's my job), I do choose to acknowledge short-lived trends but focus mainly on lasting or classic trends so that my clients get the biggest bang for their buck.

Responsible Design

Responsible design might lie in who I choose to design for. I try my best to never design for clients who have anything to do with weapons (anything typically used to kill a living creature), sex (sexuality, sexism, gender issues, etc.), politics (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, Nationalism, Fascism, etc.) or religion (of any sort).


Business

Knowing what types of businesses are doing well and which one's aren't is important to me, but it should be even more important to anyone attempting to start a business. I'm pretty sure I've actually prevented some of my clients from loosing money by providing them with some simple demographics on the zip code where they were thinking of starting a business.

Responsible Business

Responsible businesses might include alternative transportation, sustainable products, alternative energies, ecological solutions, refugee housing, free or affordable education, etc. I'm also happy to report that these types of businesses actually are trending and that consumers are finding them extremely desirable.


Culture

The last trend I want to write about is culture. Anthropologist E.B. Tylor, defined culture as “that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society.” In contemporary society, culture seems to be manufactured and marketed. Depending on your reality (the types of websites you visit, what your friends post to Facebook, and where you shop), you can be constantly bombarded by it. Culture is what distracts people into unhealthy preoccupations with fame, celebrities, luxury goods and obsess over their own socioeconomic status.

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Is Reasonable Culture the Geek Culture?

One of the few, fairly reasonable cultures I see, is geek culture. It's a culture obsessed with video games, mental games, scientific discoveries and a wealth of diverse, fictional characters fighting crime and making the world a better place. It's a culture in love with Wonder Woman, Doctor Who, Daredevil, Star Wars and Star Trek. Being a geek might mean that you're bombarded with the marketing of useless luxury products like a Star Trek replica or a Wonder Woman bracelet, but it also means that you're most likely interested in science and have some hope for the future. (Even if some geeks' hope might be for a zombie apocalypse, they might stand a better chance of surviving it.)

Mailer Design - What You Need To Know

It's nearly the new year, and with it comes another year of lessons learned. In this blog post, I'd like to discuss some very important lessons I learned about mail.

While working at a post office for a few weeks this holiday season, I got to see a lot of packages, and a lot of mail. I especially saw a lot of presorted, standard, direct mail, or what the average person calls "junk mail". It was one of my jobs to sort through the stuff headed for the recycling bin looking for first class mail that might have mistakenly gotten into it, and return all that first class mail to the proper carrier for delivery. I probably sorted through 500 pounds of the stuff.

First off, let's discuss what EDDM® is. Every Door Direct Mail® is a low cost program created by USPS to make direct mail easier and more affordable for small businesses. You can basically pick a zip code (or codes) and directly mail your promotional materials without the need for a mailing list. You can just pick your zips, upload your design, make a payment, and they do all the rest. It's a great deal and a fairly low cost solution, but it's a waste of your money if you don't design your mailable pieces correctly. (If you're going the DIY route, I recommend using their online design service.)

I'm going to mention another service USPS has that most people don't know about, that's their MDAs and District Business Mail Entry Offices.  MDAs are Mailpiece Design Analysts, and you can reach one via the MDA Support Center. You can also visit a District Business Mail Entry Office (find one near you here). Use either of them if for any reason you might be unsure of your mailer design specs. If your mailers are not set up correctly they could cost more OR end up in the recycling bin.

Two things I noticed, that ended up in the recycling bin more than anything else were, HUGE mailers and small business postcards or flyers with improperly designed areas for postage, indicia, addresses, barcodes, etc. In the case of one, unnamed, international, Italian restaurant chain, their mailer was so huge (something like an unfolded 11" x 17") that it would not fit into most mail boxes, PO boxes, apartment mail boxes, etc. It must have cost them a fortune to design, print and mail, and yet I saw so many of them dumped into the recycling bin.

But, the saddest of all things I saw, (because of poor design, improper addressing, etc.),  were small business mailers tossed in the recycling bin. Small businesses don't have a lot of money to spend on promotional materials, printing, and advertising, and here they were just tossing their money away. I literally saw bundles of local menus tossed into the bin.

Just like addressing a letter, there are standards and specs for mailing pieces. If you're a DIY type of person and you'd like to read about and familiarize yourself with the basics of mailer design, please follow this link: 202 Elements of the Face of a Mailpiece or if you'd like to learn more about Business Reply Mail, please follow this link: 505 Quick Service Guide Or, if you'd just like to hire someone to design it all for you, please follow this link: Contact Us


SOME USEFUL TIPS & SUGGESTIONS

 
 

    •   This is just a suggestion, but you might not want mail any promotional or marketing materials during December, or the weeks of Valentine's Day or Mother's Day. Those are the major shipping holidays for packages, cards and flowers, which might leave your investment lost in the shuffle.

    •    Anything that is NOT MARKED FIRST CLASS MAIL (which includes PRESORTED FIRST CLASS), such as Presorted Standard, or Standard is more than likely to be junk mail and not personally sent to you, so checking the indicia can save you the bother and the time. (For more info on how to spot junk mail, there's an excellent article online here.)

    •    Don't waste your time writing, "Return to Sender", "Deceased", or "Not At This Address" on junk mail. (Which is typically marked PRESORTED STANDARD or PRSRT STD.) It doesn't get returned and only ends up in the recycling bin. You can simply recycle it yourself.

    •    There are presorted non-profit and pre-sort standard stamps, that can make mail look a lot like first class mail.

If you'd like to see examples of indicia formats (first class, presort, etc.) from USPS, please click here. Or, if you'd like to learn more about EDDM® from USPS, please click here.

 

Why We Use PayPal

With very few exceptions, Rolling Rook Studio, accepts all of our client's payments via PayPal. We have a PayPal business account and have always been very happy with their service. But...we don't use them just because it is convenient for us. We do it to protect our clients.

PayPal is really part of our service. We provide our clients with professional services, professional invoices, and easy transactions, but that's not all. Our clients are protected by PayPal. PayPal offers our clients Purchase Protection. That means that they protect the financial information of our clients and if anything goes wrong with our service, our clients are covered! PayPal will investigate any fraudulent transactions, and if they are deemed covered by Purchase Protection, they will fully reimburse the client. 

It would be a major tragedy if this ever happened on our end. Not because we would loose money, but, it would most likely mean that our studio and all of our staff were destroyed and that no one could send you the files that you just finished paying the final invoice for. Hopefully, that never happens, but if it did, PayPal has you covered.

PayPal also offers us a very important service called Seller Protection. This protection includes protecting our sales, financial information, encrypting our transactions, protecting us against fraud, and the ability to make global transactions (as we do have clients in Canada, the United Kingdom and South America). Best of all, PayPal offers dispute resolution. 

Only once has Rolling Rook Studio ever had to use PayPal's dispute resolution. Still, to this day, we have no idea what happened. (The client never hinted at being dissatisfied with our service and they were sent the final files for their project.)  But, because we meticulously document EVERYTHING...we won and payment was awarded and released to us.

PayPal isn't just for eBay. It comes in handy for all types of secure, online purchases and donations. With the PayPal debit card, you can also shop just about anywhere. You can even get cash back! (Which is one of the ways that we keep the prices for our services at a reasonable rate.)

No, we're not getting paid by PayPal to write this blog entry (we wish), but it is a service we have been using for a very long time and highly recommend.

Watch People in Other Industries React Hilariously to Being Asked for Free Spec Work

Watch People in Other Industries React Hilariously to Being Asked for Free Spec Work

Architects don't give away their blueprints. Diners don't fork out free meals. Personal Trainers don't sign over their intellectual property on spec. So why are we as creative agencies signing away our ideas? In fact, why is anyone in any industry giving it away? We'd love to hear what you think.