All posts in inspiration and learning


For the past four weeks I’ve been taking an online course through HOW Design University, based on Jim Krause’s excellent book of the same name, D30: Exercises for Designers. “D30” refers to thirty days of hands-on exercises for designers and other creative professionals or fans to fine tune their skills and re-invigorate their connection with love of design—that childlike desire to play with art that we can lose touch with over years of dealing with the grown-up realities of deadlines and clients and billing.

For this course, we focused on three or four exercises a week. On the playful, getting in touch with your inner kindergartener side, projects ranged from making paper mâché balloon bowls, to creating designs on paper with uncooked pasta, to drawing stylized “swirling swirls” on paper napkins; on the more technical honing side, exercises included drawing the negative space of a chair or other simple object, playing with the macro settings on your DSLR in a simple homemade photo studio, and creating a short stop motion movie with photos of circles.

I found it really fun and refreshing to lose myself in these projects—a great reset on my own engagement with love of design and arts and crafts. Highly recommended for designers and artists looking to reconnect with the basics. Here’s a selection of the wide-ranging projects I tackled this month.


If you use Facebook to promote your business, you should be using boosted posts to maximize your marketing impact. Learn why in my recent post for The Placemaking Group’s Get Famous blog and its accompanying video.

Your Facebook audience can’t Like your posts if they don’t see them.

Fortunately, with Facebook boosted posts, you can affordably reach way beyond your page’s fans and attract a wider audience.

Check out the full article here »


I’m running a little book giveaway this week, just for fun.

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design (Workman) by Chip Kidd is a really fun primer for kids and their adults—even seasoned designers will enjoy it. Here’s what the great Milton Glaser had to say about it. Read more…


Essential Knowledge for Front-End Engineers

Over six years since its first publication, this concise little book remains relevant, listing 14 ways to improve your website’s performance that still hold true today.

As a designer, particularly having come from a print design background, I often spend large chunks of web design projects primarily focused on look and feel: color palette, branding and messaging; choice of imagery—photography, illustrations, icons and so on; where the eye lands as it travels across a page and whether that flow is helping folks get to where you want them to land. But my experience as a front end developer has taught me that while there are more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to choosing an approach to building a great looking site, not all of them are equal in terms of performance. Read more…


This month in heavy rotation are Coffitivity, a white noise app that emulates the gentle murmur of a coffee shop, and Adobe’s Kuler, a color palette generator.



Coffitivity is based on the premise (supported by some interesting research) that coffee shop noises enhance creativity. Can’t make it to your favorite local haunt to brainstorm over a latte? Use Coffitivity on your iPhone, iPad or other mobile device, or use it straight from your browser via their website or Mac Desktop app.

Whether your workspace to too quiet or you need to drown out the ceaseless chatter of the IT guys a few cubes down, the gentle hum of coffee shop background noise really seems to help one focus on the task at hand.

Adobe Kuler

Adobe Kuler color picker

Adobe Kuler color picker makes quick work of creating a palette based on a photo.

My other favorite new toy is Adobe’s Kuler color palette generator. Powered by Adobe’s Creative Cloud, Kuler allows users to work in a browser or use their handy iPhone app to share their custom palettes and to explore and save popular themes.

Lose hours noodling with color palettes or whip one up in a jiffy by starting with a photo. It’s quite the enjoyable rabbit hole to jump down, and a powerful tool as well.


Taking a little time to be properly prepared for a video shoot will allow your personality to come across on screen, and your message to feel more authentic and have more impact. In my latest post up on The Placemaking Group’s Get Famous blog, learn a few quick tips for video and having a great presence on camera.

Video is still a really great way to engage with your client base, present yourself and company as leading experts in your field, and gain followers. Looking your best for video will allow your viewers to focus on your message rather than your appearance. If video is part of your online marketing plan, it’s essential that you think about your personal presentation before you start recording.

Check out the full article here »


On vacation this week I got lost in a wonderful new app commemorating the 50th anniversary of Interaction of Color by Josef Albers. The new edition of the book is also splendid, but it was playing with the app really took me back to art school and X-ACTO knives and Color-aid paper. From grain edit:

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color,Yale University Press has released an interactive iPad app for the now classic book on the subject. Beautifully designed by Potion, the app features the original set of over 140 color studies as well as the full text. In addition, a variety of experts and scholars provide commentary on Albers’ theories and work.


Maria Popova at Brain Pickings has posted a wonderful write-up about Albers’ theories and the design of the new app featuring audio interviews by Debbie Millman, that’s recommended reading to anyone who appreciates design and the power of color.

50th Anniversity Edition of Interaction of Color

50th Anniversary Edition of Albers’ Interaction of Color

After three years of studying painting an printmaking at Hampshire College, it was a summer class in color theory based on Albers’ classic at the School of Visual Arts, along with Graphic Design 101, that convinced me to switch my major and school to pursue a career in design. For years my interest in design had been growing, inspired by early 20th century Surrealist books and illustrations and with modern album cover and magazine design.

For me, Albers’ exercises made me realize that design choices made around the exploration of color can be as satisfying an intellectual and emotional pursuit as those artistic choices I’d made on a daily basis as a painting major.

It was lovely to dive back into that world of color via the Interaction of Color app over coffee and freshly baked scones on holiday.


The ability to display a wide variety fonts online has dramatically changed over the past few years, allowing web designers a great deal more flexibility in design than when we were locked into choosing between Verdana, Arial, Georgia, Times and a few others.

Google Web Fonts offers designers hundreds of typefaces for free use for display on websites, that can be easily used with WordPress. Here are some of my current favorites.

  1. Open Sans
  2. Arvo
  3. Vollkorn
  4. Droid Serif
  5. News Cycle
  6. Bitter
  7. Unna
  8. Abril Fatface
  9. Lora
  10. Parisienne


Gustav Klimt: The Magic of Line

My first year of college, I missed the opportunity to see MOMA’s amazing exhibit, Vienna 1900: Art, Architecture & Design, on a field trip because I forgot my wallet. I had somehow missed the memo that after three hours on the charter bus from my school the Berkshires, I was responsible to pay my own way that day. It was quite a shock to realize the apparent limits of my common sense as a teenager, but my best friend, Michelle, and I managed to pass the time window shopping at FAO Schwartz, taking in the architecture of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and people watching along 5th Avenue, and between us we scraped together enough change to buy hot pretzels from a push cart vendor, so all was not lost.

Several months later, my parents were kind enough to give me the catalog for my birthday—and it changed my life. As a painting and printmaking major, to learn about artists engaged in graphic design not only as a means to communicate but also to beautify the world we live in was truly inspiring, and planted the seed that eventually lead me to switch my major to graphic arts.

So it was quite moving to recently see the life drawings of Klimt, the founder of the Secession movement, at the The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Klimt was a master of gesture and line, and his figure drawings on display at the Getty demonstrate his “emphasis on the two-dimensional surface of the picture plane” — in other words, thinking like a designer — and the influence of Japanese printmaking and Greek vase decoration on his design.

If you’re in the LA area in the next few weeks, I highly recommend a visit to the Getty to pay pilgrimage to this incredible artist.

Learn more about the exhibit, at the Getty through September 23rd on their website: Gustav Klimt: The Magic of Line »