I committed myself to one class each semester at a local university for the last year (and continuing this year). The experience has been positive in so many ways including but not limited to getting out of the house, meeting people, being uncomfortable, learning new things, being okay with learning new things, and being reminded how young I look ;).
Last fall I completed a Video Art class to re-familiarize myself with video software and techniques. A few jobs ago, I was doing quite a bit of basic video editing in Premiere. Nothing crazy or complex, but tediously trimming all of the mumbles, ums, and mess-ups out of talking head interview videos. I share this because not every designer knows their way around video tools and software, myself included. I do not intend to offer video services, but I would love to be able to creating training videos for my clients and/or marketing videos for myself. If nothing else, I figured this would at least get me closer and hold me accountable for learning.
Video takes so SO much time and skill! I know this because I have had the pleasure of watching and working alongside some talented video folks at every job I’ve held. It takes creativity, technical know-how, flexibility, resourcefulness, and so much more. I’m want to preface my sharing of amateur classwork by saying that capturing quality footage and weaving together beautiful stories is not easy. But trying new things is so valuable, so here are a few video projects I created!
All work represented below was created or curated by me for educational purposes. I have included credit where possible and will disclose where and how I used my own footage.
Project 1: Appropriation
Katie-Kassel-VA3150-Appropriation-Lemon-Tree-091018KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.
Exploring the symmetry and contrast between the pace of nature and the man-made world was my goal in this video. How did I get there? When browsing footage, I downloaded anything I found visually pleasing. After saving several video assets, I had to comb through my collection. I started to notice patterns emerging from the footage I collected that contained similar colors, and the subjects’ movements mimicked each other. The process began by pairing up videos and arranging them in an order of nature, man-made, nature, man-made, and so on. One thing that I was careful to mention when I presented my video in class was the timing, the pace of this video. When you watch it, it feels like everything lasts just a beat longer than you expect. This was intentional as part of the overarching concept of my video. As humans we’re like “yep, got it, okay, next,” and nature’s like “whoa, hey, what’s the rush buddy? got some more raindrops.”
This project allowed all of our footage and audio to be “found.” This meant using free and appropriately licensed footage and songs. This also left us the option of using footage that we personally captured too. All of the footage featured in this video is free and licensed, and not my own. All of the sounds were also found and pared with their corresponding clips. The ice in the glasses, the fingers typing, the bee buzzing, the wind, rain pouring down; all of those are separate clips that I matched up with the video assets. The music was also found, but the poem was written and recorded by yours truly. And let me tell you, there is only one thing worse than hearing your own voice…Hearing your own voice in a room full of people. Which I survived and lived to tell the tale. I felt like I needed one more element that would tie all of the videos and music together so I chose to write exactly what I needed. This allowed me to incorporate the words and timing that fit the video perfectly.
Project 2: Multi-Frame
Katie-Kassel-VA3150-Multi-Frame-Floating-100818KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.
This project was half luck, half skill and only came to be because I just got started with what I had. We had just vacationed in Hilton Head, SC where I had captured a wide variety of footage. I didn’t know what I would end up with so I just filmed wherever we were, whatever we were doing, whenever I could. When I started putting the frames next to each other, I thought I would show “water” images in every left frame and “air” images in every right frame. But it felt too simple. I’m all for minimal BUT I felt like the video as a whole lacked depth visually and metaphorically. So I did what I do best…Make It More Complicated (Trademark Pending). I started layering air and water videos together and the result was much better. I loved the tension of not knowing if you were seeing air or water in motion. This is also reflected in the color scheme and somewhat eery, ambiguous music. That’s how Floating came to be the title.
All of our footage had to be our own, captured by our own cameras. Our audio could be created or found. The goal of this assignment was to present footage in a unique way using two or more frames. Frames could be layered, side by side, different sizes, etc. I do wish I would’ve pushed the boundaries of spacing and effects more with this assignment, but I also feel the end result aligns with my personal design style.
Project 3: Mini-Documentary
kkassel-va-final-documentary-121018KK from Katie Kassel on Vimeo.
Behind the Screen
While I wanted to use my learning experience to try a new things, I also wanted to be practical about how I was spending my time working on projects. I decided that if I was going to spent 15-20 hours on a project, it should serve me and my small business well. Time is money, baby. So I decided to create a tool that might help me share who I am and what I do as a one-woman graphic design studio. I love how prominent technology is in what I do as a graphic designer, but sometimes it can be hard for people to truly get an idea of my personality (and face) if we only ever exchange emails and phone calls. You’ll notice a dumb blue line in the middle of the video that’s not supposed to be there. You’ll also enjoy a few sub-par audio moments (hello, hi, student project) and rambling explanations. If or when I revisit this, I would cut the length WAY down and ruthlessly edit what I choose to say.
All of our footage had to be captured using our own brains and equipment. Audio could be found, but most documentaries include some spoken word for narrative purposes. This video had to be at least 4 minutes (!) long. Folks, it takes SO MUCH footage to edit down to 4 minutes. SO MUCH. And since I was using all of my own footage and myself as the subject, I made this extra hard on myself. I literally cringe watching this because it is hard to watch yourself do anything, but you better believe I met those requirements.
I totally enjoyed this class. I will say, the hardest part of anything for me is getting started so just signing up and showing up for this class required five minutes of bravery. What keeps me hooked and continually amazes me about the creative world are the endless possible outcomes. We all start with generally the same requirements and the finished projects are wildly different. We all heard or read the same words but they meant something different to each person.
Perhaps the kindest and highest compliment I received from my professor and classmates was my sensitivity to typography. Insignificant to you but touched my heart! I’ve loved letters all my life and discovering that I can care for them in my profession is super cool! All that to say, I love typography and believe well-chosen fonts and colors help communicate the story or information you aim to share.
Every once in awhile the universe rewards me for my devotion to both pop culture and graphic design which allows me to bring you such hits as Thank U, SpecsTM. Have you ever worked with a graphic designer or printer? Maybe you’ve run an ad in a high school basketball program or wanted to get your company’s logo on a polo? Tackled home improvement or a technical project? If you’ve encountered any or all of those scenarios then you’ve probably heard the term “specs” thrown around a couple times. Ariana sang about ’em (well, close) printers have ’em, and designers need ’em to get your project complete and out into the world.
What are Specs?
Specs is short for specifications, and is defined by Merriam Webster as “a single quantity (such as a dimension or a measure of performance) describing a product” or “a detailed precise presentation of something or of a plan or proposal for something.”
Specs are the technical details required to actually produce your project.
Letting your graphic designer know where and how you plan to display your new look is important! For example, let’s say you have a new logo (exciting!) and you want to start using it everywhere. It’s crucial that a graphic designer knows the dimensions, colors, and file types to deliver a file that your printer can actually work with. A standard tri-fold brochure is pretty straightforward. But if you’re renting billboard space, that’s going to require a high-quality, hi-res image and a file sized to the correct dimensions of the billboard. If you’re adding your new logo to your social media profiles, you’ll be fine with a smaller, lo-res JPEG.
Types of Design Project Specs
A graphic designer, a web designer, a marketing team, and printer should all be able to provide and communicate the following technical specs:
- Dimensions – pixels, inches, picas, dpi, ppi
- Resolution – 300 dpi (high res), 72 dpi (lo-res)
- Bleeds – do your colors, text, or images extend to or beyond the edge of the page? Pages need to be trimmed accordingly.
- File size – 100KB, 2 MB
- Colorspace – CMYK, Pantone, Spot, for printing, RGB for web; these are set within the document
- Color swatches – Hex #efefef, RGB 34-78-35
- Material and weight – 100# text-weight paper, vellum
- Bindery – spiral bound, saddle-stitched, perfect bound
- Finishing – perforated, scored, folded
- Filetypes – .doc for text only, PDF or EPS for hi-res printing, JPEG (no transparent background) or PNG (allows for transparent background) for web
Consider these marketing specs as demographics and goals for your target audience. These specs are important for understanding who a designer is communicating your information to.
- Demographics – Who are your customers? Age, gender, income, region, motivations.
- Goals – What goals does your customer have? What are they trying to accomplish with your organization or services? Are they trying to lose weight, learn something, spend time with friends?
- Tasks – What series of steps can someone who sees or uses your product or service take to move forward? This could be make a phone call, email, take a photo, buy a meal, etc. This part of understanding your customer’s journey towards you.
- Calls to Action – What functionality must be included in technical items? Maybe you need a contact form on your website or your mailed letter must have a return envelope for donations.
Examples of specs
Why are design specs important?
Design specs are important because they directly affect the production and outcome of your project. Knowing the colorspace, material, and medium for your printed piece ensures your colors are not only accurate but look great! Having thorough and accurate technical specs means that your ad is going to fit in the space you purchased or can be mailed within your budget. Understanding why these details are important and how to ask for them means saving time and money. There’s no having to redo designs or spend money reprinting materials.
If you don’t know what the specs are for your project (or don’t want to deal with it) ask your printer/vendor of choice to supply theirs, which are typically in document or PDF form, to you and/or your designer. A lot of times these can be found on vendor websites as well. Connecting your designer with your vendor is a perfectly reasonable solution and part of hiring a creative professional!
Good luck singing Thank U, Next in it’s original version… From here on out, it’s Thank U, Specs. And you’re welcome.
There are numerous articles about the importance of logos and branding; why they’re both necessary and an investment. There are also SO many options available to a business, organization, or individual when choosing a logo. How is a person to choose? Most things come down to time and money. Get a $5 logo in 5 minutes or get a complete branding system and spend $2,500. The hard truth? You get what you pay for. And what you pay for comes down to experience and relationships. In an effort to more clearly communicate what goes into creating a new logo and why it takes a minute, I’m sharing my process for designing and delivering logos.
My Logo and Branding Process
1. Kick-off Call
This part is crucial in determining if a client and I will make a killer team. Phone calls help to establish a little bit of trust and verify that I am, in fact, a human who does what I say I can do. Not only can you get a pretty good feel for personality in a quick call, but you can cover a lot of ground and answer a lot of questions in 15-20 minutes. Ready to roll? I like your style! You can schedule a call at any time that works for you.
This takes about 30 minutes.
1a. Complete the Questionnaire
Another form? Ugh! I know, I know, you’re really busy and you don’t have time for another online form. I created my Branding Questionnaire as a quick-and-dirty way to share your business details. You know your business better than anyone else so it’s really helpful to hear the history and details from the source. And honestly, this is a great way to gage where an organization and its leaders are at in the process. In my experience, when I have to write things out, I am forced to wade through my thoughts and communicate them as best I can. I find that folks who are willing to put in the 10 minutes to share their vision for their organization, are serious about investing in a logo and branding suite. I encourage folks to take this before or directly following our kick-off call so we can work through any missing pieces or dive into more detail.
This takes about 10 minutes. You don’t have to fill out every field – just fill in what you can and move on!
2. Design Research
Performing research includes surveying the branding of both competitors and businesses outside your industry. This does not mean slapping together an exactly-the-same-but-different logo for your own business. But there are important insights to be gained. Does everyone in your industry look the same? Is every single logo blue? That could mean you have an opportunity to pick a look that sets you apart! This is the step where I explore the relationship between every word, shape, letter, and color that corresponds to your organization’s name, service(s), and mission. Completing this phase includes a lot of thought and tedious sketching. My research phase means getting everything out of my head and onto paper. I fondly refer to this as “getting all the bad out” which inevitably leads to many pages of pencil sketches and later…the good stuff.
This takes about 2 weeks. Why so long? It’s the most tedious step requiring equal parts thinking and designing. Plus, I’m lucky enough to work alongside lots of clients so I need time to keep everyone’s projects moving forward!
3. Three Logo Concepts
After researching and sketching and sketching some more, I move to the computer screen. What does “moving to the screen” even mean? So glad you asked! This means I use my digital design tools and software to trace, recreate, and build upon the sketches from the Research phase. Designing on my computer (aka my life) allows me to quickly design, refine, and iterate. I typically present 3 logo concepts for my clients to consider. I like to have to discussion over the phone or in person to help explain my decisions. (This can’t always happen and that’s fine).
The variety of the options (how similar or different they look) really depends on the client and project. If we have a crystal clear vision to begin with the options maybe be more similar than an organization who is still grasping how they want to visually represent themselves. I encourage clients to choose the concept that will most clearly represent and communicate their business to their customers. Once a concept is chosen, I allow one round of revisions and a final stamp of approval.
The honest truth:
99% of the time, one concept is the obvious winner in the client’s eyes. And I pretty much always agree. So why offer three options? When I’m personally investing in something. I do a lot of research. I want to know I’ve chosen the best option for me. Picking a logo for an organization is a big investment and I believe clients want to know and see that I/we have considered and explored the best options for their goals.
This takes about 1 week, but can take longer depending on how long it takes to present concepts, review options, and receive feedback.
4. Introduce Some Color
This step is born of my personal belief that a logo, at minimum, should “work” in black and white. But there are practical reasons, too. Wouldn’t it be great if a logo is readable on documents printed or scanned in black-in-white? I think so! Trying to keep costs down? Black-and-white helps. This is the step where I carefully consider color theories and create palettes that further reinforce the client’s visual presence. I have had many folks share strong color preferences and I’m happy to accommodate those. (“I hate orange!” or “We are all about water, so please no red!”) You’ll get to see your chosen logo in each color palette.
I also include some real-world examples – like a polo shirt, a billboard, or sign – because seeing the logo in different sizes and applications can help clients visualize their new logo and get excited about using it!
This takes about 3 days.
5. Brand Guide & Delivery
Put your brand to work! Once your logo and palette have been approved, I will deliver a Brand Guide to you. What do you get? A Brande Guide includes all the details about your logo, your color swatches, and how to use all of them. Plus, you’ll get various filetypes of your logo. Um, what? You’ll probably want JPEGs or PNGs for your website or social media. EPS and PDF files are great for printing. I’ll make sure you have what you need. If you’re going to invest time and money in a logo, it makes sense to know how to use it! Consistency is key. If you’re not personally responsible for implementing your new logo, Brand Guides make it so easy for your marketing folks, printers, or other partners to know how to best serve your new brand.
This usually takes about 1 week
Now you’ve seen the step-by-step process of how I create a logo. Even though I might be the one creating the shapes, you can see the project takes teamwork! My goal is to create an environment where we can have honest conversations with a little bit of humor. Finding a graphic designer you trust is crucial because logo projects are an investment and honest feedback is the only way to move forward. Thanks so much for reading, I hope it was helpful or insightful to learn more about what goes into a logo project!
If you’re interested in working together, get in touch! If you might maybe possibly be thinking about a new logo, you can see some of my past work before taking the first step. Think we’d make a great team and ready to move things along? Take the Brand Questionnaire and I’ll be in touch!
I posted a “Busy Bee” lettering graphic on Instagram awhile ago, and I had really wanted to write and publish this blog post at that time but I didn’t plan ahead quite enough. But here I am! The inspiration for this Design for Fun project began when I ordered the most adorable drinking glass from Anthropologie. I just loved the imperfect, artsy look of the glass and the tiny little bees are so cute!
Lola Juice Glass
The glass also perfectly coincided with my current professional status. You see, I’ve been doing this thing every year for the last, oh, 10 years or so where I enthusiastically say “Yes” to bunch of projects that I really want to do. I plan them out, stagger the deadlines, and inevitably they all end up happening at the exact same time. And this year is no different! Except that it is different, because this year I’m in charge and I want each and every client served by Kassel Creative to get the absolute best service in a timely manner. When friends and family would ask how things were going my most honest response was, “Busy, but fine, busy!” I should also say that I genuinely enjoy each project and client I’m working alongside.
Bee Bee Graphics
Presenting: Busy, but fine, but busy. I created these digital illustrations with lettering created by yours truly.
I’m trying to be much more aware of how I talk about my schedule, workload, etc. Any tips for limiting your commmitments or setting aside time to consider new projects before signing on?
Happy Friday! This is not a lengthy deep or personal post but I’m try to put more effort into my website and blog. The truth is like genuinely like designing and writing so I’m using my season of change to implement new creative habits. Before April and May of this year I had not designed or photographed or written anything for the pure joy of designing in at least a year. A YEAR. OF NOT DOING THE THING I LOVE TO DO. I mean, the glorious part of a J-O-B in the creative field means using one’s “creativity” each day in the office for clients. But after months and years of strictly making stuff for other people, you get burnt out or uninspired or both. I felt like I was withholding the very thing I like to do, from myself, because I should only spend my time on paid work. Getting paid to do what you do is, well, important and probably (definitely) the ideal scenario. There’s value in design; it’s important for communicating things. There are many technical aspects that can be most efficiently understood and completed by a professional. BUT WHAT ABOUT THE FUN.
2 Hours of FUN
I’ve mentioned before that I’m a perfectionist in almost every area of my life. But the books I enjoy reading, the art I enjoy looking at, and the people I enjoy spending time with are not perfect. And it’s OK. We’re all better for it. So I’m getting back to the basics by blocking off 2 hours of “Design for Fun” time to my calendar each week. I can make whatever I want for those two hours and the result can be simple, complex, dumb, ugly, or whatever else. The graphics below are the result of a couple hours of Design for Fun time a few weeks ago. I’m also experimenting with finalizing my own brand color palette so that’s how I ended up with those colors.
Things I am OK with this week:
- I made progress on but am not done with my UX mobile app design.
- I worked out almost every day this week.
- There are emails from recruiters and miscellaneous other contacts I did not follow up with.
- I have not done my business accounting for May yet.
- I finished a 20 page document layout that was a day late but my client was flexible and excited about the result.
- I ordered, like, 12 dresses and shoes for upcoming events and I didn’t really like how any of them fit or looked.
If you didn’t get everything on your list done this week, it’s OK. You’re OK. I’m OK. OK then! Thanks for reading.
About the Project
During the day I am almost always styling WordPress Websites or creating branded graphics for social media for clients, but I like to design outside of the ole 9:00-5:00, too! I attend The Water’s Edge church in West Omaha and Pastor Craig and the staff are always open minded when it comes to small church campaigns that need a little flair. The Water’s Edge (WE) is in the final stages of a completing our first ever physical church facility; exciting times for past, present, and future members! This building (WE Build… get it? OK.) has been years in the making and there’s not a single milestone we will not celebrate. In the spring of 2017, I was tasked with graphics for the Groundbreaking Event. This was one of the those projects that just came to me. The only item I got really lucky on the was the yellow construction helmet.
If you’ve read Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic, this project is a prime example of “big magic” for me. The general premise is that inspiration passes through individuals, and when a person embraces inspiration and takes action the magic just happens. This project took me around 8 hours to complete, including editing and creating custom social media graphics. I am the over-researcher of over-researchers so to think of and execute a project in an afternoon is, well, magic for me.
Here are the steps I took to create a hand lettered graphic.
Step 1: Visualize the Finished Graphic
I knew the goal of this project was to create graphics to promote an event and I would have to find ways to use the same static images at different sizes and dimensions. What works well as a long skinny rectangle does not fit comfortably into a square. I start pretty much every project with a pencil and paper so I sketched out “WE Build” on a plain sheet of paper to figure out the angle and shapes I wanted. I also had to consider the sizes of potential props and how they might fit into the overall composition.
Step 2: Gather Supplies
The only items I bought for this project were a large white foam board and a yellow foam construction hat from my Local Craft Store. (Ok, it was Hobby Lobby, not trying to be political here). As I mentioned above, that little construction helmet was my only struggle/lucky find. All other supplies were found in my own garage. These supplies-turned-photoshoot-props included dirt from a landscaping project, two small shovels, a tape measure, work gloves, a hammer, a level, and pliers. To set my extremely glamorous stage, I used an old white bed sheet, a ladder, and my good camera to take photos.
Step 3: Control the Environment
I wanted to use real dirt and props, no stock photography, so I knew I needed to be able to control my set up. I decided to use my garage for a few reasons. First, using the garage would give me plenty of room to spread out and climb up and down a ladder. Second, it’s easy to clean or sweep up any messes. Third, I wanted natural light. Luckily our garage opens to the West so I got lots of natural light without the light being too harsh. I’m all about that golden hour evening light. Being surrounded by 3 walls kept the dirt and other supplies from being blown around by wind or strong breezes (Midwest living, am I right?).
I would also like to add that this type of project is perfect for freaking out your neighbors. Bonus points if they already think you’re weird!
Step 4: Start Spelling Already
Did I mention I used dirt for the lettering? I started by drawing two parallel sloping lines so that all my letters would be about the same height. Then I used my precious, keyboard-typing, non-manual labor hands to grab handfuls of dirt and start roughly drawing each letter. It’s super fun and low stress to use a material with the consistency of sand for letterforms because you just sweep away any part you want to reshape or get rid of.
Step 5: Place Your Props
The internet and my heart would like to refer to this next step as “styling” the props. I gathered my collection o’ tools and started lying them around the edges of the letters. And then I repeated these steps approximately 75 times: arrange props, crawl up ladder, hang off ladder, take photo, crawl down ladder, rearrange props.
Step 6: Clean Up Crew
Next was time to clean up the images in Photoshop. Oh, did you think I was talking about the garage? I did that, too, in fact it only took me 7 months to bring the poster board back up to my office! Being married to a designer is thrilling – you don’t know what kind of supplies you’ll find lying around or how long they’ll be there! I uploaded my favorite/best shots and got to work brightening up colors, tracing and masking props and letters so that I could put them on a clean white background and move all of the pieces around for the various sizes. This step also includes adding typography and hoping people like it. “Oh, you actually wrote that?!” You better believe it. And it was FUN.
Have you ever had projects that come to fruition so easily, you just blink and they happen? Do you also leave miscellaneous projects supplies lying around for longer than you should? If you do, we would make terrible roommates!