And…we have a wiener!

7 09 2010

For all of you who submitted designs, inquired about submitting designs or were just anticipating the results, we thank you!

We received a whole bunch of wonderful, original, exciting design ideas for our design-Meowsic-Cat’s-dog-friend contest. I will post a few of them next week.

The winning design was submitted my Ms. Wendy Witt, Retired Naval Commander, who is just started her new career as a French teacher at Elgin and Larkin High Schools in Elgin Illinois. Wendy wasn’t going to submit her design but she did and the rest will be history! She won $200.

We drew a name from all of the submitters to win the $25 submission prize and it was won by Irina Gelman.

The new dog’s name, is Woofer.  We’re finalizing his look now and we hope to debut him late next week. If you’re so inclined, you can join his Facebook page now  or you can wait to see how cute he is before you join!

Sorry to be so brief, but time is short and I have a lot to do!

Shana Tova — a Good Year — to all of you celebrating Rosh Hashana — the Jewish New Year — this week. I hope you have a sweet and healthy 5771.





Don’t forget about the contest! Schnauzer chance!

12 08 2010

bass clefOkay, lads and lassies, you may remember that I’m conducting a contest on behalf of Gold Medal Ideas. We’re soliciting designs fur our new character, a musical dog that should be created using a bass clef in some fashion. See the bass clef on the right.

I’m delighted to say, we have received some fun and very creative submissions! All have been very fetching. Howl we choose a wiener? Well, we’ll continue to accept submissions through September 1, 2010 until we setter on one that really bowls us over.

In the meantime, we’ve herd some good questions from some interested parties and I’d like to give you a few pointers. I don’t want to stifle any creativity so I’m sorry if I’m being vague, but I want you to em-bark on this project without any preconceived notions.

The “model” that we’re using is Meowsic CatMeowsic Cat, seen here on the left. She has been created from a treble clef and she’s all in one piece. Several people have asked me how to handle the bass clef, which is made of several pieces. The dog can just suggest a bass clef. It doesn’t have to be bass clef exactly. Our goal is to have somebody look at it and say “hey, that dog is a bass!” Meowsic needs a paw-tner!

Several people have asked about colors. Ideally, it would be able to be printed in black and white. That being said, Meowsic has these pesky whiskers and she can’t be just black and white, so she has some gray.

Several people have ask if they have to make him full front, can they make him viewed from the side, can it be just his head. Give us what you’ve got, we want to see any and all ideas. Think outside the boxer! There are no bad ideas—we won’t put you in the doghouse!

I very very firmly believe that there are NO bad ideas in the creative process. When people create, they should have as much freedom as they need to bring their ideas to the table. Feel free to send more than one idea! This may be yorkie to success. It’s a project you can really sink your teeth into.

Send your design ideas to me at sj@essjay.us. If we choose your design, or the main part of your design, we will give you a cash prize — $200. You will give us all rights to him forever and ever. Your name will be published on this here blog. We’ll make him famous.

Official Rules & Release Form

We  want to throw everyone a bone so to wheaten the pot, everyone who submits a design, along with the attached rules and release, filled out and digitally signed, will be entered in a drawing to receive a $25 cash prize. This form must be filled out in Adobe Reader 8.0 or above. Adobe Reader is available as a free download. You may submit more than one entry but each entry must be sent in a separate e-mail and each entry must be accompanied by a signed release. Don’t be afraid to submit ruff sketches. You send it, we’ll retrieve it!

Okay, I’ve hounded you enough fur now…

:)Sj





A Kernel of a Marketing Idea. Or, Why Are You All Wearing Sparkly Clothes?

8 08 2010

My “little chorus” had a gig last week. I sing with a large Sweet Adelines chorus, The Melodeers, that’s right near my house and a small Sweet Adelines chorus, Riverside Chorus, that’s an hour or so away. My large chorus doesn’t sing out very often all together, but the small one does gigs fairly regularly, especially in the summer. My sister Amy is also in both choruses. (And, she’s the bass in our quartet.)

Riverside actively seeks out opportunities to sing in the community. First of all, it’s part of our mission to be a community chorus. Also, we find that it’s a good way to solicit members. Sometimes we get paid, sometimes we just do it for the opportunity to go out and show people who we are and what we have to offer. Also, we like to sing! Sweet Adelines love to perform.

So we had a paying gig last week — a 90th birthday party at a very busy, big local restaurant— Linos, in Rockford, Illinois. We actually performed downstairs in a party room, but as always, when a bunch of people stand around in the same sparkly outfit, wearing “heavy street make up,” you attract a lot of attention. Lots of people asked us if we were going to sing.

Jeffrey, guy from the restaurant who seemed to be in charge of the party was very attentive, brought us glasses of water while we were warming up, made sure we had everything we needed, etc. He told us afterwards that he really enjoyed our singing both during the warm up and during the performance.

On the long drive home from Rockford, Amy & I talked about how we could motivate restaurants to give out our flyers to people who are having parties in their party rooms. What if we offered to sing around the restaurant for free for every three or four gigs that we do for their party patrons?

Could we do it for Riverside out in that neighborhood? Could we try it for our quartet in our own neighborhood?

What do you guys think about this? Has anyone else tried this strategy? What works for you?

:)Sj





Resolution. Or, Why Can’t You Just Take My Logo From My Website?

1 08 2010

Okay, we’ve talked about vector art vs raster art.

Now we’re going to talk about resolution. Please note, in this discussion we’re talking about raster art. Vector art, as we know, is completely scalable to any size. Raster art is made up of tiny little boxes of color, like a mosaic.

Any graphic artist will tell you that nothing strikes more terror in his heart than hearing a client say, “Just take my logo off of my website.” There’s a reason for this. I promise you, we’re not just being prima donnas.

Lady Bug 1 inch squareYour computer screen can read 72 little blocks of mosaic color dots per inch of screen space, or 72 dots per inch — dpi. Check out this lady bug. It was created at a size of 72 dpi and it’s an inch big, so there are 72 dot across each row and 72 dot down each column. If you right click that picture and view properties, you’ll see that it’s displaying at 72 x 72.

Lady Bug too big!When I take this same picture and make it bigger, it’s going to start to get weird, because it only contains 72 dots each direction, and it’s not meant to be bigger than that. Right click it and view properties and you’ll see that it’s displaying at 144 x 144. By it was created at 72 dpi, so your screen is stretching it. There’s not enough information in that graphic. See, you can see ragged edges — that’s called pixalization. It’s obviously not as clear as the other picture.

Okay, here’s an animated picture of the same lady bug. (This is going to open in a new window. When you’re finished looking, close the window and you’ll be back here.) I’ve taken those 72 pixels and blown them up. As you see, there’s only so much information in that graphic. At the end, you’ll see that we’re looking at the same 72 pixels. If you blow them up, you’re just distorting the picture.

Here’s the thing. While your computer screen has a resolution of 72 dpi, printers require higher resolution. The HP or Epson on your desk may say it prints 600 x 600 or 1200 x 2400. If you take our lady bug and print it at one inch, it will look pixelated, because your printer requires more than 72 dots per inch.

That being said, your HP or your Epson is somewhat forgiving and it will try to print your lady bug as nicely as it can. Commercial printers are not forgiving. Commercial printers prefer 300 dpi and require 220 dpi. And those commercial printing presses are NOT very forgiving. If you don’t provide good art, your art’s going to look BAD when it’s printed.

So some people try to fake out the system. They take the same low res lady bug and just divide the image into more pixels to get more dot per inch. Doesn’t work! Because that original image only contains the information that it contains. You can’t add what’s not there.

small version of a beehiveOne last thing resolution demo. Check out this picture, on the left. (This is going to open in a new window. When you’re finished looking, close the window and you’ll be back here.) Any idea what it is? When you click on it, you’ll get a bigger version and you’ll see all of the details. Once you make it smaller you lose detail, as you see here. You’ve removed some of the information. If you take that smaller picture and you just try to blow it up, that information is gone and you’ve lost the detail.

I think that’s enough about resolution for right now. Stay tuned, there’ll be more about resolution and more about vector vs raster, down the line.

As always, please let me know if I can clarify anything!

:)Sj





Let’s Paws for a Contest!

28 07 2010

Meowsic CatMy first month and I’m already straying from the format — wait— do I have a format???

I need help. I’ll tell you my tail and then, please share this with all the young, starving sharp, creative folks that you know.

Look to the right. Do you know her? Her name is Meowsic Cat. She’s a character of mine and we sell her on shirts, bags,etc., printed and embroidered. She has quite a following. She’s just purrfect!

Clearly, she’s a musical cat. Her whole self is in the shape of a treble clef. Though I’m good at a LOT of things, this kind of out-of-your-brain design, doesn’t come easily to me. But when my sister asked me to design a musical cat, well, Meowsic Cat was a natural (that’s for you, Laurie!)

bass clefNow I’m being hounded to design a dog. We know a LOT about this dog. We know his name, his sex, we know that he’s associated with a bass clef (look to the left.) What we don’t know, is what the little guy looks like!

I just couldn’t master thinking out-of-the-box enough. I felt like a heel. My design has musical elements, and does utilize a bass clef, but I just haven’t hit on the perfect design. All my efforts fell flat. I was licked.

So, here’s my challenge to you, gentle reader, show us what our musical dog looks like. Send your design ideas to me at sj@essjay.us. If we choose your design, or the main part of your design, we will give you a cash prize — $200. You will give us all rights to him forever and ever. Your name will be published on this here blog. We’ll make him famous.

Everyone who submits a design, along with the attached rules and release, filled out and digitally signed, will be entered in a drawing to receive a $25 cash prize. This form must be filled out in Adobe Reader 8.0 or above. Adobe Reader is available as a free download. You may submit more than one entry but each entry must be sent in a separate e-mail and each entry must be accompanied by a signed release.

Official Rules & Release Form

Fetch me a design! Unleash your creativity!
Don’t make me beg!

(I have a good feline about this!)

:)Sj





Vector VS Raster. Or, Connect the Dots VS a Mosaic

12 07 2010

I’ve always wanted to have a forum for explaining a few graphics things that confound lay-people. I’m going to discuss two of those things here in a very short period. In this blog I’m going to talk about the difference between vector art (.eps, .ai, .svg) and raster, or pixelated art (.jpg, .gif, .tiff). In the next one I’m going to talk about resolution.

After you’ve read these you’re finally  going to understand why people tell you that they can’t download your logo from your website to create poster board-sized signs.

Think of vector art as like playing connect the dots and then filling in with a crayon.  When you create vector art you move your cursor around the work area, creating dots, or points. Between each two points is a line. You can make your lines straight or curved depending on how you click your points. The computer says “Okay, here’s the first point at this fixed spot.” It gives that spot a name. When you make your next point, creating your first line, the computer says “okay, the next point is  over here, and the line has a curve that looks like this…”

Here, take a look at this — click on the graphic to see it larger. You can see the points and lines in the first tree. You can see the points in the second and the “regular” picture in the third.

The special thing about vector art is that you can scale it — make it bigger or smaller — without having it lose any information. When you scale it up or down, it keeps its crispness. That’s why the person creating your posters or your programs or your tee-shirts wants your logo as vector art. He can change the size without losing any quality.

Vector art is most commonly created in Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw.

On to raster art. That’s Microsoft Paint or Photoshop’s world, and what people are most familiar with. Think of raster art as a big mosaic. Each little piece, or pixel, means nothing by itself, but together, they create a picture. Take a look at this tree.

Raster art is what digital photographs are made from. It’s what all web graphics are made from. It’s what Microsoft Paint creates.

So, when do you choose vector art or raster art? Many people tend to create their artwork in raster simply because it’s easier to learn the basics of Microsoft Paint or Photoshop than it it to learn the basics of Illustrator or CorelDraw. But it’s not always the best answer.

If you’re creating anything that you may want to use in various sizes, you want to use vector art. Logos are created in vector art. It’s also best to use vector art if you’re creating anything with words, that needs to be printed. As you’ll see in the next blog, because of resolution issues with raster art, text can be a real problem in raster art.

Since photos are raster art, you use raster art to manipulate photos.

You can only use raster art on the Web. So, if you’re creating art for the Web, you can create it either as raster or as vector, but you’ll have to save it as raster to put it on your Web pages.

But, I want to stress again, logos should really be created in vector art. You may think that your logo is only ever going to live on the Web, but someday you may want a business card, letterhead, a flyer or tee-shirt with your logo on it. If you must create your logo in raster art, make sure you make it big enough to start. You can always make it smaller, you can’t always make it larger.

Okay, later this week we’ll talk about resolution.

:)Sj





Don’t Click Here! Or, How to Use your Links Effectively

30 06 2010

As I was driving up to Summerfest with my sister Amy, I read to her from a Sweet Adeline chorus’ home page (gotta ♥ the iPhone!) about a unique method they were using to solicit new members.

“Blah blah blah,” I read, “and for more information click here.” And “click here” were the words that was the link.

I told her that you should never make “click here” the link!

She asked me why and I proceeded to explain it to her in some detail.

That’s when she told me that I should be blogging. And I told her that I wasn’t sure I had anything new to contribute. And she told me that I had the opportunity to reach out to people in my own “community” who need to understand today’s technology. Like that chorus that had a great idea for a promotion and just needed some help in promoting it…

So, with that long-winded introduction, here’s why you should never make “click here” the link.

Two reasons, actually.

1) Accessibility. A person with poor vision, no vision or dyslexia will often utilize a piece of software called a screen reader to read his computer screen out loud to him. When a screen reader reads a website, it starts at the top and reads everything on the page. This person may “skim” through the page by just tabbing through the links of the page, to see what the page has to offer. If the only thing that’s linked is “click here,” the person will have no idea where “clicking here” will take him. See the video to the right to see/hear an example of what someone might hear by using a screen reader.

So, what do text do you link to? Link to a description of what he’s going to when he clicks.

  • Register for the class instead of Click here to register for the class
  • Find more information about our director, Wolfgang Mozart instead of More information

2) SEO or Search Engine Optimization. Folks, you stick with me and you’re going to wish you knew as much about SEO as I wish I knew!

SEO is what we do to our websites so that people can find them. I’ll talk a lot about SEO on these pages, but right now, let’s just agree that if we have a website, we want people to be able to find it.

Search engines believe that one of the things that determines what a page is about, is what it links to. So, if your page is about a class that you’re offering, it will help the search engines if your links look like this

  • Register for the marketing class
  • Learn more about the teacher
  • See the class itinerary

Bottom line? Don’t “Click Here”  or “Read More.”  Put useful, meaningful words on your web pages.

Comments? Questions? How am I doing?