All posts in work samples

Window display for a high-end mattress company

Most of the time these days I work on web projects: designing new websites or working on their production, crafting blog posts and related graphics, and managing social networking sites for agency clients. But I do also often design printed marketing pieces for clients and it’s fun to see them out and about.

Here’s a few snaps of some of my work as seen in Bay Area shop windows and BART stations.

Window display for a high-end mattress company

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BART posters for a contemporary dance company

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Update! I happened to be at Oakland International Airport the other day and finally got a photo of the ParkSmart Self Pay interface I designed for them a few year back. Each machine had a slightly different size so its decal’s die cut had to be created individually to fit. Here’s one of them:

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In July of 2010 I was hired to be the first Web Manager for Holy Names University’s small marketing department, where my role would complete a trio alongside a Graphic Designer (mainly print) and reporting to the Director of Marketing and PR. While I’ve primarily worked for small agencies (as well as on a freelance basis) designing for a wide range of clients, I do have some experience working as an in-house graphic designer. In fact, it was how I started my career.

HNU is an Oakland institution, originally founded in 1868 on the shores of Lake Merritt, where the Kaiser building now stands, by six young and determined Canadian nuns. Their mission focuses on issues we all can embrace: educating women (and men since the 1970s), embracing diversity, and striving for social justice.

I was very excited to bring my skills and design sense to take the University’s web marketing to the next level, to better reflect the energy and passion of its students. Their site was a few years old and built using tables and bloated, deprecated code, and there was much to be done. While time and resources didn’t permit a complete from-the-ground-up rebuild of the site, I was able to accomplish quite a lot to improve the site’s look and performance over the course of two years.

The redesign

The site I inherited struck me as busy, and rather dated and corporate feeling; it lacked the compelling emotional draw of a thriving university with its commitment to diversity and social responsibility. I was faced with certain limitations: the table structure meant I was stuck with an 850 pixel wide site, so I worked around that, incorporating a turning page graphic from the logo into the background as a decorative element.

The website’s color palette was updated to reinforce the school’s brand, giving it a brighter, cleaner modern look, and a wider slideshow was created using photos of the campus and its students to add human warmth and to communicate the strengths of the school that differentiate it from its competition. Navigation was simplified to provide users with a less confusing experience.

Styles for the design of sidebar banners were created to help catch the eye and drive traffic into the site coordinated with efforts by the print designer to unify the brand. More screenshots can be seen on my portfolio page for my HNU work.

Blogs

The University’s news blog was hosted by Google at Blogger, and had a dated look that used the same background and color palette as the old website. By moving it to from its blogspot.com address to be hosted at hnu.edu/news using WordPress, I relocated valuable content to the HNU domain, insuring that current news would be added to the website frequently, where visitors expect to find it. This move had the added benefit of boosting SEO, and providing more control over the look of the blog’s theme.

WordPress blogs were also added so that key departments could manage their own online news and information, such as the Library’s Hawk Squawk newsletter, and in addition, I created the award-winning Preserving Historical HNU blog at the request of the school’s President, where I wrote about my discoveries about the history of HNU as I delved into the photo archives of the school dating back to the 1860s.

Digital marketing

The university partnered with MoGo Marketing to start a new digital ad campaign using retargeting to increase traffic to the site and awareness about the school’s monthly info nights. HNU’s graphic designer and I collaborated to create several ads targeting different majors, and I placed tracking pixels on the site and prepared R.S.V.P. landing pages in the Admissions Department’s Blackbaud site for each separate campaign.

Under the hood

The site was built in static HTML using style sheets: there was no content management system whatsoever, although Adobe’s Contribute was used by a few staff members to keep their department’s pages current. A full scrub was performed to tighten up code by replacing deprecated code with modern standards based code, to remove bugs—mostly remnants of old javascript no longer used on the site—and to simplify the updating of the site by replacing Dreamweaver Library items with includes.

These Library items were used for repeated sidebar menus and for the main header and navigation bar, so each time a small edit was needed in one of the menus, the entire site would need to be checked out to make the modification before uploading the entire site once again. It was extremely tedious and time-consuming. Switching to use include files meant that an update to the menu was a simple update of a single HTML file, that would be pulled for use on each page.

News feeds were used to keep the home page fresh, saving time previously spent hand-coding updates. Page titles and meta data were updated for consistency and accuracy, and to improve organic search results. A footer reiterating main navigation was added to make it easier for users to move around the site.

Measurable results

Holy Name University’s redesigned website, the Preserving Historical HNU blog and the digital ad campaign each won a Horizon Interactive award. Moreover, the targeted digital ad campaign resulted in an increase of R.S.V.P. page visits by up to 400%, and more importantly, a more than doubling of attendance to the info nights.

Thought not obviously visible to the average user, the efforts to update and streamline the site’s code decreased page load time, and made for a more SEO-friendly and easily updated site. In a one-year period following the  launch of the redesign, the site saw an overall increase of visits of 32.38%, with pageviews increasing 33.64%.

 Check out my portfolio page for my HNU work to see more examples of screenshots of the site.

The IMAX Ridefilm At The Luxor by Cayusa on Flickr

When I graduated from The School of Visual Arts (SVA), armed with a bachelor’s of fine arts in Media/Graphic Design, I assumed I’d end up working as a designer at an agency or publishing company. My career, however, immediately took a rather unusual and awesome left turn.

Logo design for MASS.ILLUSION Visual Effects, using metallic Pantone inks

That summer, a dear friend and fellow art-fan from college, Michelle Quigley (who is quite an amazing artist and designer herself), invited me to join the Art Department of the Trumbull Company, a simulator ride film company in Western Massachusetts founded in the early 90s by the renowned visual effects director, Douglas Trumbull. Highly respected in the film industry for his ground-breaking work on such films as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Blade Runner, Trumbull had moved on to develop immersive film-based rides such as Back to the Future: the Ride for the Universal Studios theme park.

As an Art Department Production Assistant, my days were occupied with making piles upon piles of copies of storyboards day after day, though I was occasionally rewarded by being asked to do something novel, like painting enormous, panoramic cycloramic canvas backgrounds sky blue for the miniatures film set, or designing a book jacket prop. The daily work was often repetitive and a bit dull, but the environment was exciting and very creative, and I was very grateful to be there. I made a point of working hard and asking questions, and when the opportunity presented itself, I showed my design portfolio to the Production Designer, careful to point out my technical skills.

Soon, Trumbull had me creating elaborately Photoshopped illustrations of proposed scenes for future movies, and designing logos for undeveloped projects. I was one of the first people he hired when he started his next company, IMAX/Ridefilm — my first job in a marketing department. Reporting to the Vice President of Marketing and PR, I continued developing art and design for bid presentations and dog and pony shows.

Decal numbers on a model in Starship Troopers

When IMAX moved shop to its Toronto headquarters, I stayed in Western Massachusetts to work for MASS.ILLUSION (later known as MVFX), a new visual effects company that is best known for its work on Starship Troopers, the Schwarzenegger vehicle The Eraser, and two films that went on to win Academy Awards for their superior visual effects, What Dreams May Come and The Matrix. There were many opportunities to expand my skill set and to work on diverse, exciting projects. One week I was designing a bid presentation for the multi-million dollar project, What Dreams May Come, and the next I was designing futuristic numbering for the model makers to transfer onto model spaceships for Starship Troopers.

Photoshopped composite illustration of the waterfall to hell, for the What Dreams May Come visual effects bid presentation

It was truly a dream job for a young designer to be working in such a creative, fast-moving, intelligent atmosphere, with such richness in projects. It was during this time that I learned a diligent work ethic: problem solving, working hard and learning new skills was a daily job requirement.

As the sole in-house graphic designer, I worked closely with the Director of Marketing and Public Relations in developing ad campaigns for Variety and The Hollywood Reporter, an identity system including a new logo and letterhead, and marketing collateral such as postcards and promotional brochures. Building and maintaining that brand across print and web and time was a fantastic experience that has served me well over the years.

Featured photo credit: The IMAX Ridefilm At The Luxor by Cayusa on Flickr, shared with an Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) Creative Commons license.