ADC Paper Expo

Some paper samples from the expo, with the letter pressed Livin the Dream design print in the center
Some samples from the expo

While I don’t get to work with paper that often in my projects, it’s definitely my favorite medium. Nothing feels quite like it, and paper can evoke so many memories through touch. Whenever I hold a piece of colored construction paper, the kind used in elementary school, I get transported back to the sensation of drawing on it or cutting it out for a project.

Going to the Art Director’s Club 2014 Annual Paper Expo wasn’t exactly that, but it still inspired. What I would consider the best part, and the main reason I went this year was to hand crank my own limited edition letter pressed print (along with 499 other people) of the ‘Livin the Dream’ design from illustrator Scott Biersack (aka @youbringfire). Scott was  the winner of Aldine’s Featured Artist contest for the ADC Paper Expo. In addition to the print, which I patiently waited 40 minutes to get (20 of which were spent fixing the letterpress after they ran into some technical problems), I of course picked up some samples from most of the vendors.


The limited edition Livin the Dream letter-pressed print       Close of of the limited edition Livin the Dream letter-pressed print

Creating my limited edition letter pressed print. STEP 1: Inserting the paper into the press.       Creating my limited edition letter pressed print. STEP 2: Cranking the press so the plate imprints onto the paper.

Creating my limited edition letter pressed print. STEP 3: Releasing and removing the print.

Cup & Spoon – WOW District: Chicago

Cup & Spoon interior. Photo courtesy of
Cup & Spoon interior.
Photo courtesy of

I recently visited my close friend from Portfolio School (Creative Circus), Rose Quasarano, in Chicago, where she now lives. Like many people I graduated the Circus with, Rosie made a huge leap from being an advertising creative in as an Associate Creative Director at a well-respected agency, to being an entrepreneur diving headfirst into the unknown of owning and running her own coffee shop. Ironically, though, the industry she left to pioneer her entrepreneurial dream, armed her with an arsenal of resources and connections to help her get started.

What began as a life long dream turned into a pop-up shop (at NOSH in Wicker Park/Logan Square Farmer’s Market), then a Kickstarter campaign and finally a brick and mortar business called Cup & Spoon, which now stands at 2415 W North Ave in the WOW district (West Of Western) of Chicago. I was honored when Rosie asked me to design her logo, and in doing so  joined a few other Circus alumni whose talent and admiration for Rosie helped nurture her ambition to open this shop (Designer Kiki Karpus and writer RC Jones both generously donated their talent to offer perks for C&S’s Kickstarter campaign). Like many small businesses, Cup & Spoon strongly believes in supporting the community in which it’s based, and sources their brew and sweet treats locally. But what really makes them special is Rosie’s continued connection to artists. Cup & Spoon shares a building with Dreambox Gallery, a contemporary art venue based in Chicago since 2003. Together they formed WOW Frequency, which showcases emerging and established artists in Chicago right inside the coffee shop.

If you’re ever in the area (next to Humboldt Park) and are in the mood for coffee or tea, or if you just want to taste one of Chicago’s best pop tarts (Interurban Cafe & Pastry Shop’s pop tarts, which are sold at C&S, were dubbed by Chicago Magazine as one of the best pop tarts in the city), I guarantee you’ll be happy you stopped here.

Cup & Spoon WOW Frequency Launch Party.
Cup & Spoon WOW Frequency Launch Party. Photo courtesy of
Today Ennis set up his easel at Cup & Spoon to work on his latest painting. It's awesome to watch him create. Photo courtesy of
Today Ennis set up his easel at Cup & Spoon to work on his latest painting. It’s awesome to watch him create. Photo courtesy of
Pop Tarts sold at Cup & Spoon. Flavors: Apple Cinnamon, Plum Caramel, Strawberry Vanilla & Blueberry Orange. Photo courtesy of
Pop Tarts sold at Cup & Spoon. Flavors: Apple Cinnamon, Plum Caramel, Strawberry Vanilla & Blueberry Orange. Photo courtesy of
Me at Logan Square Farmer's Market, holding a cardboard cutout of the logo.
Me at Logan Square Farmer’s Market, holding a cardboard cutout of the logo.

Zombie in 20 minutes

As a  follow-up to my post from October 5th when I attended the New jersey Zombie Walk, I wanted to post a few pics from when I had again went into zombie mode for my company’s informal Halloween party. On this occasion, I had way less time, but still managed to make a pretty convincing zombie, even without the contacts.

It took me 20 minutes in the bathroom, some fake blood, cotton balls and latex to turn into this

First phase of zombie makeup, with latex, cotton balls and fake blood

It took me another hour or so just to get the contacts in

Second phase of zombie makeup, with more latex, cotton balls and fake blood and contacts

Which is why I opt for glasses 

Final phase of zombie makeup, this time with my reading glasses and fake teeth


The Desired Things

For the past couple of years, I’ve been living with my sister and soon-to-be brother in law – by financial, rather than personal, choice. I have my own room and belongings, yet most of my possessions are in storage. And while I recognize how fortunate I am to have a sister who has a home with enough space and amenities to accommodate me tenfold, I can’t help but feel that my life has somewhat been on hold for as long as I’ve been here.

The other day I took a trip to the storage facility where part of my existence has been tucked away since the end of 2010. Sometimes when I visit and see everything that was once at my fingertips stacked high and packed tightly out of my grasp, I dwell over the fact that I’ve missed the enjoyment of so many things I own – books, photos, plates, pillows, etc. This past Saturday, I was there to store some more stuff I no longer had room for at home. And as I do on most occasions, I opened up a few boxes to both reacquaint my mind with those things I had since forgotten, and to evaluate what if anything is no longer worth holding on to.

I rummaged through a bunch of old papers I had saved from past jobs and schools, happily purging things I felt I wouldn’t even remember existed. My eyes  perused everything, quickly opening folded papers to check the importance of their contents. After throwing away a small chunk of overstuffed, disorganized folders, I opened one of my many worn out cardboard boxes and came across a piece of white paper haphazardly folded, peeking out from underneath an old DVD/VHS player. Thinking it was nothing, I hastily grabbed and opened it. At the top were the words “La Desiderata”  (Latin for “desired things”). As I started to read, I thought about who could have given it to me. I could not recall for certain, but believe it was my old design teacher from the Creative Circus – Sylvia Gaffney. I vaguely remembered her doing so, and it seemed like something she would leave us with upon our departure from school onto our next step in the world of advertising.

La Desiderata is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann (1872–1945). Largely unknown in the author’s lifetime, the text became widely known after its use in a devotional, after subsequently being found at Adlai Stevenson’s deathbed in 1965, and after spoken-word recordings in 1971 and 1972 (Wikipedia). The poem is one that makes you stop what you’re doing and reflect upon your life at that very moment. It forces you to take a step back and put everything, all the your sadness, anxiety, uncertainty and anger, into perspective. On that one sheet of 8.5×11 paper, words served to remind me of the most important and meaningful lessons in life. And now I will safely store it very close by so that my fingertips can once again touch it at a moment’s desire.

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

On the Star Wars Front

If I didn’t know any better, I’d assume that a new Star Wars movie was on the horizon. It seems that every day or so, I come across something on the web or receive an email about SW news or related creativity. I subscribe to DesignTAXI, a news and editorial site that is updated daily with inspired creativity and innovation. Just looking back to my emails from February, I count about 15 messages related in some way to Star Wars. Most of the articles are pretty enjoyable as it’s interesting to see how someone has yet again reinvented the cult classic. I’ve watched the first 3 movies and can’t remember much of either except the famous scenes that people can recite by heart. Yet, growing up in the 80s, I will always have affection for the trilogy. And so to keep that nostalgia alive, I’ve compiled some of the more enjoyable Star Wars-related pieces that I’ve found from DesignTAXI and elsewhere in the universe. Click on the titles/photos to read the full article.

Darth Vader As Don Draper?

Reimagination of ‘Star Wars’ Characters As Samurai

‘Star Wars’ Characters In Various Yoga Poses

LEGO Releases Official Ultimate Collector’s ‘Star Wars’ R2-D2 Set

What Happens When ‘Star Wars’ Characters Meet Zombies?

‘Star Wars’ Condoms Offer Full Protection Of ‘The Force’

Teach The Alphabet To Your Child With ‘Star Wars’ Characters

When ‘Star Wars’ Meets Steampunk

‘Star Wars’ Propaganda Posters

LucasArts Reveals ‘Star Wars 1313’

‘Star Wars’ Shower Mosaic

If Dr Seuss Did ‘Star Wars’

‘Before Star Wars’, Vintage Photos of Darth Vader And Co.

Official ‘Star Wars’ iPhone Case To Be Released

‘Star Wars’ Flash Drives

Darth Vader Hot Air Balloon

What Happened To The ‘Star Wars’ That We Used To Know?

Iconic Images Redone with ‘Star Wars’ Action Figures

‘Star Wars’ Brand Wars

‘Star Wars’ Swimsuits for the Ultimate Geek Girls

‘Star Wars’ Fans Save Luke Skywalker’s Home

Tattoos For Badass ‘Star Wars’ Fans

The Info on Infographics

A few weeks ago I received a job posting entitled “Infographic Designer (Freelance).” I thought I had read it wrong because, as naive as it sounds, I had never heard of the term infographics. The job description didn’t give me too much insight, which makes sense since if you don’t know what infographics is then you’re probably not right for this job. Before I Googled it, I took a second to think of what it could be. Obviously, the name does say it all. But I started to wonder if perhaps I knew what this term meant and just didn’t realize it had a label.

The first thought that popped into my head was the website We Feel Fine.

It’s an exploration of human emotion. It “continually harvests sentences containing the phrase “I feel” or “I am feeling” from the Internet’s newly posted blog entries, saves them in a database, and displays them in an interactive Java applet, which runs in a web browser. Each dot represents a single person’s feeling. The color of each dot corresponds to the type of feeling it represents (bright dots are happy, dark dots are sad), and the diameter of each dot indicates the length of the sentence inside.”  I’m not sure what made me think of this site – probably because it had received a lot of press and was an interesting creation. But after I did eventually Google the term, I realized that We Feel Fine was quite possibly the simplest form of an infographic. The only visual indications were size, color and frequency. No numbers, no words, no percentages – all of that was embedded in this interesting and colorful graphic.

My search for infographics pulled up a plethora of results. There were websites that listed them by creativity, uniqueness,usefulness and other classifications. What I learned was that they’re nothing more than creative graphs, PowerPoint presentations on steroids. Albeit, they’re done very creatively, and actually contain much more complex information than you would ever want to squeeze into a PPT deck. But all in all, they’re simply cool looking graphs. Yet, creating an infographic does require creativity and planning. This site gives an anatomical look at one and also outlines how to go about building it.

And if you’re in the mood for some eye candy, here are some examples as well as list of sites that feature more beautiful infographics.

Marian Bantjes: influence map

Little tip on organizing font inventory

I was recently on Veer’s site watching their Go Wild with Opentype short animated film, when I scrolled down to where they list their fonts by style. Nothing significant about it, except it looked very nice and also provided me with a good starting point for organizing all of the fonts I’ve acquired over the years. This isn’t a creative breakthrough. But for someone like me, who is an indecisive scatterbrain, but also thrives on order and organization, I never really knew where to start when it came to organizing my typefaces. Unless the name of the font is an indication of it’s family, alphabetical classification is not an efficient method of searching for them in a pinch. Part of it was also the fact that there are so many to look at and a lot of them fall into multiple categories. Simple as it may be, I think this little diagram may solve a problem for me.

Hope for Unemployed Creatives

Tim Robbins said it well in The Shawshank Redemption – “Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

I’m writing this not as an expert but as one who has experienced, and continues to, what it’s like being unemployed in the advertising industry for 6+ months. (Unemployed being defined as unsuccessful in seeking full-time employment – not including freelance.) Being unemployed just plain sucks. It’s, as a friend once put it, demoralizing. If you’ve ever had any insecurities or doubts in your ability as a creative (in my case, an art director) they’re now magnified 100x and looming overhead daily. My old ACD once told me that everyone gets laid off at least once in their life. I had always hoped that wasn’t true for obvious reasons. But, after 4+ years in the industry, when finally it became a reality, I almost felt relieved. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but I did feel like I had gone through a rite of passage.

When you first get laid off, you try to be optimistic, at least after any bitterness that was there has dissipated. You realize there’s nothing you can do to change this and start to think about the good things associated with being given the boot. Here are just a few that come to mind:

1. Sense of relief – Though this does not apply to everyone, some of us are well aware when layoffs are taking place and whether or not we might end up on the chopping block. It’s a nerve-wracking, sickening feeling that can consume you constantly. You start to micro examine everything you do, for fear that the one mistake you overlook will be what ultimately seals your fate. You wonder if you should even put forth 100% of your effort because they’re just going to let you go eventually anyway. In my opinion, this is self-sabotage for 2 reasons: 1) When time comes to decide whether Jane or I get laid off, giving the powers that be any ammunition to chose me over her (such as incompetency or lack of motivation on my part) will make their job much easier and just self-fulfill my warped prophecy in the first place. 2) Your career doesn’t end with this job. Even if you go out – go out with as big a bang as possible. End on a good note with everyone. That way, you can at least feel good knowing you did your best, have great references, and are in a good place for things to come, and you don’t have to worry anymore!

2. Severance or salary continuance – In some cases, your agency will grant you one of these without stipulation as to whether or not you get to keep this income if you start freelancing within a certain given period of time. This isn’t always the case, but for me it was. What does this mean? Well, for starters, you can temporarily make double income with one job, thereby building up savings for when your severance and/or new freelance does eventually run out.

3. Reconnecting with all of those long lost contacts – Though I love to talk, I’m not always good at keeping in touch with people (be it old colleagues or friends). However, when you’re unemployed, reaching out to those forgotten ones starts sounding like a great idea, as they might actually be able to get you your next gig. And if they’re one of your Linkedin contacts, it makes the whole process (of sending a simple email, or many) that much painless. And even if they can’t get you a job, I’m certain they’ll have some words of encouragement that will help you get through this difficult time.

4. Being social again – With all the free time on your hands, you’ll be able to attend those events and meet all the new people for whom you previously never had space in your busy schedule. If you’re thinking about making a career change, this is a great place to start. Not only can you get perspective from others, but it may even land you a job. And, don’t just limit it to advertising circles. Spread out to any social networks you’re interested in art, cooking, sports, etc. Many times, people are given a job because of a common interest or passion they share with those doing the hiring. It’s almost like a back-door opportunity where you get to know someone on a more personal level before you even ask for a job. I once got an interview simply because I put Scrabble as one of the things I like to do in my free time.

5. Taking time for you – If, like many creatives, you were working late hours right up until the day you got laid off, now is the time to take a break and gather your thoughts. Yes, it might feel like a guilty indulgence not jumping right into your work search. But the only way you can plan your next step is if you take a look at where you are at this point.  Maybe you’ve thought about traveling (near or far) but never could. Or you’ve been wanting to attend at least one PTA meeting, or pick up/drop off your kids at school.  Whatever the reason, now is the perfect time to do it. This isn’t to say throw caution to the wind and wing it for the next 6 months. But taking a week, or  even a few, out of a lifetime of working, to do what you’ve been yearning for, is not going to be detrimental to your career.

6. Reinventing yourself – You’ve noticed that, over the course of your last job, your website/portfolio has gone completely out of date. If this is your first time getting laid off and you’re junior-mid level, it’s possible that a portion of your work is from school.  You look down at your only business cards to see them emblazoned with your [former] company’s logo. You’re caught somewhere between being the alumni of your college/portfolio school and being just another young creative at your agency. It’s time to wipe the slate clean and grow into a real professional. Get new business cards with your own logo. Update your website with work you’re proud of. Establish a presence of the new you, showcasing the skills you’ve acquired and what you have to offer a prospective employer. You’re now your own brand. Act like it.

7. Learning something new – One of my future posts is going to be a list of things I’ve done since being laid off that has helped me keep me from becoming stagnant both in the professional and personal sense. With all of my new found downtime, this was probably the most important lesson for me.  Learning something new empowers you and boosts your confidence. It gives you something to talk about when people ask “what’s new on the job front” and you’re tired of telling them “nothing.” You can do this by selecting a program/software that may or may not be a professional requirement to know, and teach yourself how to use it. Learning a program which will make you more marketable to employers is as good place to start. And it goes without saying that familiarizing yourself with the basic ins and outs of Twitter, Linkedin, WordPress and the like, will most certainly help in all aspects of your life. Not only does it provide an outlet for you to share information with others, but it’s perfect for learning about endless amounts of subjects. For me, Twitter is great for aggregating news about design, jobs, news, etc. And the number of times I’ve benefited from my Linkedin connections is more than I can count.

These aren’t the only good things about being laid off, there’s also the prospect of working with new people, on new accounts, possibly even in new cities. It really depends on your outlook. Hopefully it’s a good one!

The 35 Most Beautiful Websites in 2010

Level 2 Design

Sensisoft website

Above are two of the websites included on this list. As far as looks go, I have to say these are some stunning sites. I didn’t visit them all so I don’t know if the user experience matches the aesthetics, but even if they don’t, the sites are still great to explore.

Reposted from


With the Fall Creative Circus graduation coming about (or maybe just passed), I thought I’d add a relevant entry to celebrate the creativity of the students who make the school as great as it is.

Grad Men is the brainchild of three Creative Circus students:  David Ma, Deanna Director and Mike Quattrocchi. While talking over some cocktails, they thought it would be cool if Mad Men Creative Director, Don Draper, was their keynote speaker at graduation – That indeed is very cool.

Read more about the project and to see if they were successful in their pitch to John Hamm.