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How to make a killer portfolio

Life after college can be scary, applying for jobs and trying to make yourself stand out from the rest can be hard. Graphic design students might not have any work experience because they weren’t able to take that summer internship in DC or find the time to do any freelance work. This lake of experience makes you fade into the crowd of designers applying for the same position. The one thing that we as new designers can do to really stand out is have an amazing portfolio that really showcases our talent.

I’ve worked as a freelance artist for the last twenty years and have learned how to make my portfolio stand out. You can too with these three easy steps. First, focus your work to highlight your strengths. I know that you created many different works of art while at Mason, but you only need to show what you specialize in. Showing your specialized work makes you look more like an expert to potential employers. Second, when choosing art for your portfolio only put in the best works that show that you have a mastery in graphic design.  Don’t include fillers or other works not related to graphic design. Third, match and mirror when applying for your dream job. Do a little research on the company and see what kind of art they produce. Try to include things in your portfolio that would best mirror the company. Employers are looking not only for great talent but also for people who will best fit in with the company.

The Iconic Structure of Twitter’s Distorted Text Meme

Twitter is an incredible platform to yell your thoughts into an app that gives you the potential to be seen by millions of users from around the world. It has given us amazing content and one of my favorite categories is the distorted text structures. Where this first originated I’m not sure but it’s an interesting phenomenon. From a design standpoint, these tweets seem chaotic and disorienting, but the key is to recognize the content they’re referencing.

            At its root, the distorted text tweets make obvious references to various pop culture like the tweet on the top that cites Bill Nye as inspiration for correcting the quoted tweet. On other occasions, the allusions can be a bit more obscure like the tweet on the bottom which is a dialogue from a snippet of a video of two young Scottish girls talking into a webcam about their favorite artists when their very Scottish mother barges into view to ask about the girls’ flushing habits. What makes this structure of meme so next-level is that the distortions of the text perfectly encapsulate the accents and inflections of the people speaking and you can hear it playing out in your head. Every time you come across a new distorted tweet, a new new element of intrigue is discovered; there are so many directions this meme can go.

Generate your own distorted text tweets

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Don’t Judge a Book By…Wait, What?

You know how the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. I was recently in the Rizzoli Bookstore in New York City for the first time. Rizzoli is teeming with pretty coffee table books all vying for attention. The old adage is useless in a bookstore like Rizzoli, with tables and tables of book covers staring up at you. You pick up what catches your eye. To earn a place in my library, a book better have cover art that can hold its own. I walked out of Rizzoli with one book, The Anarchy of Chilies by Caz Hildebrand. The book is a reference of 100 types of chilies and Caz Hildebrand is both author and artist. Hildebrand’s book stands out with its super saturated illustration of chilies on a bright white background. The same Mexican oil cloth inspired illustrations are carried throughout the book. Hildebrand designed a very specific style for The Anarchy of Chilies, and I would love to see a whole series of reference books in the same style from her. Inspired to wander into a brick and mortar bookstore? Check out this list of 11 Author recommended destination bookstores in the US.

thank u, next: The Design Behind the Music

Ariana Grande in her music video "thanm u, next."

I’ll admit right away that I’m not an Ariana Grande fan, so I’ve avoided listening to her new song “thank u, next.” Despite my opinions, Grande’s hit has become incredibly popular and broke records on YouTube within days of its release. An interesting fact that many people don’t put much thought into, though, is that Grande and the musicians she works with create their music with the help of something relatively simple: sheet music. 

Today’s sheet music is standardized. It uses a combination of one or more staves, which denote the exact pitch, and mensural notes, which show how long to hold each tone. As commonplace as this form of music notation has come to be, the sheet music we use is vastly different than the sheet music that was used centuries ago.

Prior to the eleventh century, choir chants were taught using a system called “neumes,” which offered the general shape of the melody, but nothing specific about the notes to sing. To solve the problem, a monk named Guido of Arezzo perfected the staff circa 1025 CE to help musicians understand the precise pitch, even those who had never heard the chant before. The next issue to solve was knowing how long to hold each note, and over the centuries that followed, notes evolved to incorporate timing as well. Finally, in the 1600s, written music took the form we use today.

Having a well-designed sheet of music in front of a musician can guarantee that it is played perfectly and consistently, every time. Thanks to sheet music, even someone like me (albeit with a better vocal range) can sing “thank u, next” and sound just like Ariana Grande herself.

White Space Is Your Friend

What does white space give design work? Many people find themselves scoffing at white space in traditional art, graphic design, and other types of visual communication. The most common complaints I hear are “That’s so simple that even I could do that and make money from it!” and, in the case of traditional art especially, “That isn’t interesting!” During previous graphic design courses, I’ve learned that white space gives text and images a place to breathe. There should be room throughout the visual information the viewer is attempting to process. By overwhelming the viewer, designers fail their most important job: communicating important information.

Many think that making the change to incorporate white space into design work is easy. This is not the case. It may be easy for a designer to appreciate white space in other designs, but when it comes to their own work, the white space feels empty. In the past, I battled with myself over the idea that more content and more design elements meant better work. I am disappointed when my own results are cluttered after following this logic. As with all growth, personal or not, implementing new strategies and better behaviors takes time. If you are a designer struggling with adding more white space into your work, the best thing you can do is to remind yourself that white space has a purpose. White space is necessary for effective design work.

Business Cards: Do They Have to Look Nice?

Standard sized; 3.5 inches by 2 inches.

A business card’s main purpose is to relay the information of an employer to someone who is interested in the company. What’s the point of making the business card pleasing to the eyes if the receiver only needs the contact information?

There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” However, as human and especially as a designer, eye catching pieces always leave longer lasting impressions so we can’t help but judge; it is our job after all. This stays true to business cards. A well-designed card leaves a more positive impression than a bland, boring card. The design shows professionalism, passion for the company, and overall vibe the company has to offer. Plus, the receiver is more likely to keep something that looks nice, including business cards.

Imagine this.

There are two companies with promising job opportunities, and both present their business cards. One looks like this:

While the other looks like this:

Good Business Amazing Business Card Designs MN11 – Dayanayfreddy

Which would you choose?

The choice is obvious. The first is just bare bones of a business card with only information and nothing that cause any interest. In contrast, the second has flesh, eye appealing design that does its job and more. The sleek design of a black business card creates a professional aura with white text displaying the information in the bottom left with interesting type on the back and the black logo/company name with a spot UV finish on the front.

Well designed business cards will say so much about a company. Judging a book by its cover can be necessary, especially when a career is on the line.

Pros of the Pro’s Logos

Once a professional athlete has hit the prime of their careers, an over-looking company takes advantage of the opportunity. A brand emerges as the offspring of the new partnership that leads to the creation of a brand, along with a logo. The world has seen various logos of professional athletes, and most logos are really well-known. What it is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear “Jordan”? The answer, obviously, is the “Jumpman”. Who could forget the “TB12” emblem by Super Bowl LIII champion, Tom Brady? Often unnoticed, these logos are actually a breath of fresh air. All of them are very distinct in many ways. First, the designs capture all of the important qualities of the athlete. For example, Tom Brady’s personal logo embodies two of his well-known characteristics: his initials and his jersey number. Secondly, the logos are so simplistic and appealing that they enhance the reputation of their respective brands. Companies, like Nike or Adidas, do benefit from these brands; however, we should not forget the logos that got them there. 

Want to see other personal logos from professional athletes like the two mentioned above? Check out the collection below:

Motion Design: It’s Alive!

Good visual design requires consideration: clear visuals, a good color scheme, compositional balance, and all kinds of other details that bring the whole piece together. For posters, pamphlets, and other printed designs, you only need to worry about 2D design elements, but when it comes to Web Design, you can’t stop there. (I mean, you can, but that’s boring.) Imagine if a website were completely flat. The buttons wouldn’t blink when you passed over them, the screen wouldn’t scroll, and there would be no loading animation to let you know whether or not your computer has simply crashed; you’d get a little miffed at how unresponsive the website was. What you need is a little motion design.

Put simply, motion design is all animated design. Motion design is every title screen for a movie or music video where the text comes to life on the screen and becomes part of the environment of the piece. It is also every little demo animation on a website that shows you how a product works or makes a survey or puzzle game more fun and interactive. It is design come to life.

So liven it up. Our eyes are already wired to detect movement. Motion design grabs our attention and holds it, takes us for a walk across the screen, lets us know if we’ve accomplished something, or made a mistake. Motion design turns your website into a helpful companion, rather than an emotionless machine. A responsive design will also let your customer know that you were thinking of them when you were creating your project— if not for your clients, then who for?

If you’re interested in adding some flair to your own designs, or simply want to know more, check out this article on motion design.

The Inner Turmoil of the Mason Design Student

Being a design student is not all rainbows and butterflies people might think it is. Though being a design student can be very rewarding and very fun, it can also be a lot of tears. One time, I had three projects all due on one day and four due the next and I just cried in my car for a bit because of how stressed I was. Going from an undeclared major to a Graphic Design major was a big leap and took some getting used to, but overall has been the right choice for me. Some things I realized when coming into the major: there will be critiques on your work; you can’t take anything to heart; and people will tear your design apart. I had to learn very quickly not to take it personal and realize that critiques just help your designs get better and help you grow as a designer. 

Another struggle of being a design student is the schedule. Almost all design classes are hours long, twice a week, and only for three credits. Having these long classes means that one class takes up a big chunk of your day so it is difficult to take multiple classes in one day because if you take three classes in one day, you’re going to be in class for nine hours. It is something that all George Mason design students must deal with but it is not that bad because we are here designing and working to get a degree in something that I hope we all love. Even though being a design student has its struggles just like every other major, I wouldn’t want to change it for the world.

To read more about struggles of a design student click here

Being a Design Student

A lot of the difficulty that comes with being a design student is letting go of your designs. Separating yourself from the design is difficult at first, but it is key in the process because the designs are not a part of you. In any form of art (e.g. painting, drawing, sculpture) a work is a projection of the artist. Designers create for a purpose instead of an outlet like in other art forms: we design for our professors and eventually for clients. When designers first start out, they tend to treat the design as part of themselves. Throughout classes you learn to desensitize yourself through critiques and people not liking or agreeing with your design. Eventually others treating the design like its own thing, not an extension of you becomes normal, and through that process of class critiques you begin to treat it the same way. Separating yourself from designs is a long and sometimes difficult process, but for the most part it’s what every designer goes through. An article I found has advice for design students and goes into depth about different subjects.