Saturday, July 28, 2012

Screen Printing

Over the past 4 weeks I've had the opportunity to take a crash course in screen printing through The Chicago Printmaker's Collaborative. This is my first Artistic Fling where I have used a class to learn new tricks. I loved doing this. I was able to meet new people in the design community and network with other types of artists in addition to learning screen printing.

So to give you a good idea of what I did, I'm going to walk you though my process.

1. Design
So I really wish I spent more time making a good design for the class. Class time was used for the actual production of the design. I hadn't really made any design before that I wanted to screen print. Since this would be my first time screen printing, I wanted to make sure that I had a design that would be easy for me to learn on. I decided to base my screen print off a picture that I had taken while in London.

I then took to pen and paper sketching the car because I wanted it to have  an illustrated look. I scanned the paper into the computer and did some touch up work. I made different layers just so I could see what the finish product might actually look like. In screen printing, each color must be printed on a separate layer. I was only working with 2 colors so I only needed 2 layers.

2. Grease it up, baby.
So after I had printed out each layer in black and white, I needed to grease the paper up with some baby oil. In order to burn your design into your screen, the paper must be translucent. The design should be printed on the paper in black in order to block light from getting to the screen. Some screen printing tutorials teach to print on mylar. Greasing up the paper is easier, more cost effective and works just as well.

 3. Go into the scary basement.
Now it's time to head to the dark, scary basement so we can grab that photo emulsion. Using a trough, I put a thin layer of the emulsion on the screen. I let the emulsion dry for about a half hour next to a fan. Then I grabbed my prints and headed to the light box. I placed the prints on the glass in the light box then set my screen flush with the glass, sandwiching the prints between the glass and the screen. A vacuum makes sure the screen is pressed tightly against the glass to insure no unwanted light gets to the screen. About 7 minutes later I have a screen that displays the shapes of my layers.

 4. Please don't eat the Mac and Cheese.
While I was waiting for my screen to dry and expose, I mixed ink. This is probably the hardest part of screen printing. I was trying to make a color similar to the yellow that was in the photograph. It turned out to look like mac and cheese. So I decided to mix up a turquoise color. That was just as hard. So I decided to use both colors and just have ugly colors. Once I printed the colors they dried into wonderful shades. So I guess my color mixing experienced turned out to be better than I thought.

 5. Sectioning off your layers.
While you can print multiple layers on one screen it's important to cover any layers you won't be printing at that time. Ink has a mind of it's own. It's best to be able to control where it can and cannot go.

 6. Getting your hands dirty!
Now's the fun part! Printing. You've got to place the ink at the top of the image and take your squeegee and pull it towards you. Then you keep doing it over and over again on different sheets of paper. It's handmade mass production. The best, and worst, part about screen printing is the margin of error. Sometimes I would have mess ups because either my screen was sticking to the paper or I made general mistakes and had little experience. Either way, each print turns out a little differently. Each piece has it's own unique character.

7. Lining up those layers.
Now that I have the first layer done it's time to move to the next one. I section off the next layer and go through the printing process again. This step requires attention to detail. You have to make sure that each layer lines up with the previous layer. I did this by printing the new layer on a sheet of mylar. I then would position the paper with the first layer under the mylar. I would be able to make marks on the table as a reference to put the rest of the paper while I print the new layer.

8. Done!
I had a lot of fun screen printing and I plan on doing it again. I just want to screen print everything now. Hopefully I can do more of it in the future.

Now I have all these cars laying around. So many in fact, I'm selling 10 of each color on my etsy shop.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Patience. And having some.

The past couple months have been some what of a roller coaster. There's been ups, there's been downs, and there's been parts that make me question why I even got on the ride. Just like mom used to say "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." I believe that even though I've been scared for the last few months, I have been able to carry on and still be a stronger person.

Now I could sit here and disclose all my private situations and tell you all my stuggles but they aren't as important as the lessons I have learned. I might just throw in some scenarios to set up the scene but I'd hate to clutter up the blogosphere with more whiney stories.

There's only one lesson in this story. I don't know if it's the fairly religious person inside me talking but I believe things happen for a reason. I truly believe that there is some higher power out there that knows what each of us struggle with. I think the big guy upstairs also knows what we need better than what we think we need. I also believe that he thinks I need to have more patience. In case you didn't read the title of this post, I want to let you know that I'm going to talk about patience and the importance of having some. 

 So as many of you know, I am a recent grad. Normally when one graduates they should skip out of the grad ceremony right into their career of choice. That is a lie that is told to you at college orientation in order to delay the murder of your young, naive dreams. Instead, I skipped out of the ceremony without a job and $80,000 in student loan debt. I had planned a solo trip to Europe two weeks after graduation and then realized that I was dirt poor and probably shouldn't be spending the rest of my savings on a two week trip. Throwing all caution to the wind, I hopped on the plane. Let the patience lessons begin.

Take a breathe and enjoy the ride. In Berlin I got lost and ended up walking about 2 miles before I could even recognize where I was on the map. It didn't take much longer for me to get lost again. I was seriously frustrated and just wanted to get to the Typographie des Terror. I finally just gave up and started walking down what ever street looked interesting, completely disregarding the map. I started watching the people around me, looking at the buildings, reading the signs, noticing street art and posters. I was actually witnessing Berlin at it's finest. I got to see the culture and make meaningful observations about the city. Then all of a sudden, I was standing right in front of the Typographie des Terror. The journey may have taken longer than I wanted but I got more out of it. It's not always the destination but the journey. I also learned that it's ok. Just breathe. Let go. Stop stressing out and let it be. 

Wait for the right opportunities. Before I left for my trip I got a job offer. Before I go into the story it is important for you to remember 2 things. 1- I am jobless. 2- Recent grad. Got it? Ok! Job opportunity = Full time, benefits, jr. art director title, $23,000 salary....wait? What did you say? $23,000? I've heard of leaving room for negotiation but that's a lot of room. Everything sounded wonderful until we started talking money (which I'm super awkward about but I should get over it.) Now I thought about it. Seriously thought about it. I took the whole weekend. I talked with mentors, peers, creatives with the same title, my mom... Then I did the numbers. I would be barely making $11/ hr. I've had part time jobs that pay better. Now I understood it was an opportunity. I understood that I would learn a lot. But I also understood math. I live a pretty low maintenance life style but once those student loan bills start rolling in.... no more trips to the Bongo Room.  So without interviews lined up, a trip to Europe quickly approaching and no reliable source of income, I declined the offer.

After Europe I picked up a minimum wage gig to make the ends meet. I went on a few interviews, all very hopeful. It had been a few weeks and really hadn't heard from anyone. It was a Monday night and I was doing laundry. I totally forgot that I couldn't dry my work shirt but you guessed it, I stuck it in the dryer. The shirt didn't fit anymore. I said it as a sign that I had to quit. Frustrated and overwhelmed with hopeless tears, I told myself that I would just have to be patient and everything would be fine. Maybe I would loose a few inches off my waistline before my next shift. 

The next morning I woke up to my annoying ringtone. I answered with an overly cheerful voice hoping to mask the "Hi! I just woke up" voice. It was a job offer. I literally had pennies sitting in my bank account and here was the phone call from Heaven. The offer was everything I hoped it would be and a little bit more. Suddenly everything I had been so stressed out about the night before didn't matter. 

Good things come to those who wait. I don't know where I would be if I took the first offer. It may have been totally great. It may have sucked. But I'm so thankful for my support system at creative go-round that taught me the value of my work. (Chris and Jason you better be reading this and crying...) I'm so glad that I wasn't afraid to keep looking. I'm even happier that things worked out. Like I said at the beginning, I think the big guy upstairs knows what I need better than I do. 

The most important lesson I learned is to be knowledgable about the creative industry and don't settle for less than you think you are worth. One day, when I actually know what I'm talking about, I will write about getting paid. It's something that the folks at creative go-round have ingrained into my head. But for now, I will direct you to Mike Montero's F You, Pay Me.

Everyone is trying their hardest, just like you. Remember that minimum wage job I was talking about? Yeah I was babysitting many kids of various ages. I have always been a person who loved children. I'm the oldest of 7 kids so it's kind of natural. I just get them. But with a bachelor's degree in one hand and a dirty burp cloth in the other, I was quickly loosing my patience. It was like every time I turned around some kid was falling off a chair, eating play dough, or picking their nose and making somebody else eat it. I would try to distract kids with the cool puzzles but some of them couldn't do it because their fine motor skills hadn't kicked in yet. Better yet, some kids couldn't even talk yet. Others didn't even speak English but were impressively fluent in Korean, Spanish, or German. 

The thing I got the most frustrated with was their lack of coordination. Have you ever had five 18 month old kids running around in shoes that are slightly too big? I'll tell you what it's like. None of them can stay standing for longer than 3 minutes. You spend the next two hours picking kids off the floor and praying that the next kid to fall doesn't fall on a smaller kid. Then there's a 6 month old crying because... you don't even know why. You just want to scream "Learn to walk already and tell your parents to buy you shoes that fit!!!" But the only thing you can do is stick in an Elmo video and blow some bubbles. (Thank God for Bubbles!) 

Today I was helping a 2 year old put together a puzzle. I got so frustrated that she couldn't comprehend that the pink piece should connect to the other pink piece. I really don't know why I was so frustrated. She wanted my help and here I was steaming because this tiny person was... learning. 

Then it hit me. PATIENCE. She will never learn that pink goes with pink if I keep taking that piece out of her hand and doing it for her. Those clumsy kids will never learn to walk if I don't let them fall a few times. Then it came full circle. I realized that these kids were like me and I was like the big guy upstairs. If the big guy just gives me everything I want, when I want it, and how I want it, I will never learn. I'm sure he's frustrated with me and my learning process but he understands that I have to do things on my own. 

These are life lessons, folks. I'm sorry if it was too deep or intellectual but according to the kids I babysit, I'm graduated now and that makes me a real adult.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Nice! The Walgreens' Rebrand

 If you've stepped into a Walgreens lately you probably have noticed their new package design for their generic products. Yesterday, while cruising through the candy aisle (naturally!), I noticed this rebrand. It's clean, fresh, and fun.

Now I didn't remember what the former brand looked like so I did some research. The old brand just had the Walgreens "W" and a textured red background. The branding showed off Helvetic complete with drop shadow! This look, by definition, was generic. This old packaging did, however, allow the product to be visible through the see-through packaging, allowing the candy to be the "eye-candy". (Pardon the pun.) The packaging itself wasn't selling the candy so the design relied on the candy to sell itself. While I think this is a pretty smart tactic, I do believe this generic red design looked cheap and actually deterred from the delicious looking candy inside.

When I was at Walgreens, I was with a group of other designers. We all sat in the candy aisle discussing this wonderful new rebrand, complete with a new name, Nice!. We loved the clean use of white space as well as the fun approach to the see-through window. The designers really thought about each specific candy. The see-through windows are different for each different candy. The windows create a shape that shows off the colors of each different candy. The best example was the Peanut Butter Bars. They are black and white striped so, naturally, the window would be in the shape of a zebra. 

The actual naming of the generic brand was interesting. Instead of just using the "W", Walgreens gave it a name. It became it's own brand instead of associating itself with the actual store. Not only does the name give the brand an identity, it also allows for consistency. We did notice that the Nice! brand wasn't exclusive to candy. It carried over into the nuts. Hopefully Walgreens plans to carry this rebranding into their other generic products including food, cosmetics, toiletries, ect.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Secrets. Good Design Portfolio and Interview Tips.

Recently I have been trying to build my portfolio and make it stronger. This longing for perfection was probably set on by a few factors. 1- I've had the opportunity to be the "industry professional" on the other side of the table at a few interviews,  job fairs and portfolio reviews. I'm seeing mistakes that I've made and I'm seeing really awesome stuff that I could use to improve my portfolio. 2-  My interests for employment have changed a little bit and I want to include pieces that speak directly to the kind of work I want to do. 3- I am in the process of developing my own style and I believe my current portfolio doesn't show that off as much as I would like it to.

I think I am in a very unique and opportunistic situation. I am, myself, an emerging designer. I consider these portfolio owners my "competition" in the job market. Being able to see what my competition has gives me a huge benefit. So what does that mean for all you internet lovelies out there? It means I'm going to help you. While, yes, you are competition, you are my friends and it makes me happy to see you succeed. So here I go. A list (and corresponding explanations)  that will help your portfolio, make you look professional and ace your interviews (even though we all know you're scared to death.)

1. You can't do what you want if you're not already doing it.
While at a portfolio review, I asked a soon-to-be-grad to be what she wanted to ultimately do. She said package design. There was not a single piece of package design in her book. It's hard to convince someone to hire you to do something you can't even prove you know how to do. Would you buy a pair of non-refundable shoes without trying them on? No. Let your potential employer try you on. Having a bunch of ads in your portfolio is great but if your applying for a graphic design position at Branding and Rebranding R-Us they want to see if you can make a decent logo.

Which brings me to another point. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE! That's, like, the number one rule of design, right? Just like designing a logo for a client's customers, you have to design your portfolio for your customer, aka, potential employer. Show off pieces that deal with the same kind of work they do. I'm not saying you should be exclusive but maybe you can talk more about your process if you're showing work for a food product while interviewing for an in-house position at Kraft.

2. Have a purpose.
Design, whether you like it or not, is an ART. If you don't treat it like one you might find yourself out of a job. You are no different than Da Vinci, Van Gogh or any of those other fine artists. Every brush stroke was done purposefully. Every design decision you make should be done purposely. If I hear one more person say "I choose to do that because it looked nice." I will scream! Of course it looks nice. I'm asking you why you did what you did to see if you KNOW why it looks nice. It's one thing to know good design. It's another to be able to explain good design. This is something employers love. It makes the firm look knowledgable in front of clients. It also makes you an easier person to work with because you know how to use words to make people understand your ideas and thought process.

3. Be a perfectionist
As a designer you have a responsibility to pay attention to detail. While your portfolio may or may not include real world work, you should treat it as such. This work may not be a way for you to get a pay check but it's going into a large book that will someday get you a job that gives lots of paychecks.

I was interviewing a guy who made a hypothetical campaign for a hypothetical shoe company. He wanted the campaign to extend into Facebook. He took a screen shot of Coca-Cola's Facebook page and edited the photos and statuses to reflect his campaign. The one thing he forgot to edit? The name of the Facebook page. There was all these logos for his hypothetical shoe company but the whole page was still called "Coca-Cola." The job is in the details, folks. It would have taken him 30 seconds to fix.

Make sure that your type is set on grids. Check for typos. Clean up those rags. Kern. Tidy up vectors. Consistency. Have good print quality.

Your portfolio is your lawyer. It should be on your side so make sure it says good things about you. It is one of two lines of defense. The other is you.

So I met this guy at a portfolio review and I loved his work. I asked for his business card and gave him my personal card, not even my office card, like, I mean my personal business card. He didn't have a website and his email was something with a whole bunch of numbers DOWN FALL. I looked him right in the eye and said "The second this portfolio review is over you go home and put all your stuff on You have great stuff and people need to see it." I went back to my office and wanted to show my co-workers the wonderful stuff this kid had but I couldn't because he didn't have an online presence. It made me really sad. is a great place to put your stuff if you don't have a domain name or website. But please don't stick with that for too long. I'm not kidding, this weekend get on godaddy and buy yourself a domain name, it's like 12 bucks. Ever heard of or cargocollective? They have easy portfolios, too. 

5. Get a big kid email address.
So I will admit my email address was originally b_campbell89 [at] hotmail (yes, hotmail.) . com. That's embarrassing. Then I got a gmail and switched that "hot" for a "g". Not so embarrassing but still pretty bad. Then I had a professional and friend tell me that the 89 at the end of my email address what giving away my age. Which could be a bad thing. He explained that some of the people doing the hiring out there started working before I was even born. The year 1989 seems like yesterday and I don't want an employer thinking I was born yesterday.

If you google "use my own domain name on gmail" you will find countless tutorials on how to actually create your own email address. For example: It's free, as long as you already own the domain name (which you should be using for your website anyway.)

I think this is the info I used.

6. Presentation
At an interview, a potential employer is staring across the table from you, someone they will probably end up putting infront of clients. If they have a boss, they will probably have to put you in front of their boss and explain why they choose to hire you. If you get hired don't embarrass the person that just went out on a limb for you. Be professional. Be professional in the interview. They're not only critiquing your work, their critiquing your presentation skills. I've compiled a short list of dos and don'ts to help aid in this tricky but important section.


  • Start and finish with a handshake.
  • Bring your portfolio.
  • Talk positively about your work.
  • Provide reasoning for your design choices.
  • Make sure you understand the questions.
  • Answer questions directly, short and to the point.
  • Dress to impress. Better to over dress than under dress.
  • Accept feedback politely.
  • Follow up with thank you emails or letters
  • Ask questions.
  • Dont' be late. Always plan for the unexpected.
  • Don't explain you're sweaty because you ran to get a cab then it got lost and...
  • Don't apologize. Stay confident and explain your design choices. This business is fake it 'til you make it, baby.
  • Don't be afraid of silence. Let the employer think. 
  • Don't talk negatively about your work.

While presentation of yourself is important, it isn't the only thing you need to be focused on. They medium in which you present your portfolio is very important. Depending on what kind of work you do, you may or may not want to present digitally. I still print my book. Many employers have liked that. It's easy to see, employers don't feel like they're invading your privacy by touching it, and it shows your production skills. 

With iPads and laptops becoming more popular, many interviewees are opting for digital portfolios, which, can be completely acceptable. This can also be a good idea if you have a lot of work for the web. Make sure your presentation looks just as professional as a printed book would. I've seen pdf portfolios on interviewees' laptops that don't even allow us to see a full piece of work. It's also very difficult to see on a 13" monitor. It's unprofessional to see other files on your desktop or your desktop wall paper displaying the pictures of you and your boo. For an iPad make sure the files are easy to flip through and require little navigation. 

Whether you print or have a digital version, make sure you pay attention to detail. This includes using high quality files, high quality printing, clean crop marks, no dog-ears on pages, no coffee smudges, ect. 

GREAT TIP! If you have made any bus ads, in store displays, or package design, show how it's used. It's one thing to see it flat on a page but it speaks volumes when we can see it in a picture being used in a store, or on a bus, or on the actual package. This will help the interviewer understand your process and the final piece. Also do this for books. If you make an annual report PRINT IT and photograph it or bring it along with you. 

The coolest thing I have ever seen was a student who created a first aid kit. He had great color choices and perfect icons on everything from the bandages to the scissors to the aspirin. It was awesome. He actually had the kit with him and had pictures of it in his portfolio. If he would have just had the .ai files laid out on a page I wouldn't have been so impressed.

I hope this has helped you and if any of you have good things to add I would love to hear your thoughts and pointers.