Hidden Gem : Red Rock Coulee Natural Area

This summer I just recently discovered Red Rock Coulee Natural Area. I have lived in the area all my life and had not heard of this place that is a mere half an hour south of Medicine Hat. After driving down a tucked away narrow dirt road prehistoric looking boulders of red appear in the middle of nowhere. I was so excited about my find that I decided to visit the area twice in one day.

The large boulders are a mineral formation that was built up around a simple object such as leaf. The soil around the boulders is grey and crumbly with only desert vegetation living immediately around the boulders. The perfect location for rattlesnakes, which luckily I did not encounter. In the distance of the coulee the typical natural of southern Alberta surrounding with coyotes howling in the distance.

The color and shapes of the boulders make for beautiful photos. Here are a few I was able to shoot.



The brisk air of fall
has blown away 
the summer warmth.

Surrounding me
a low flight of crows
devouring the fallen leaf buds.

The colors are changing
into shades of orange and red
The crows and their black suits.

It is a new season.


Inspire Me San Francisco

Tomorrow I leave for my vacation trip with my best friend to San Francisco. Yay! We have many interesting sites and attractions in the schedule. I hope to bring back some great photos and gain loads of inspiration, plus actually take a true break from my full-time graphic design position.

One of my most anticipated and inspirational stops includes the SFMOMA (San Francisco Museum of Modern Art). The exhibits showing include: Prints by Paul Klee (1946), New Topographics - Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape, Picturing Modernity, New Work - Mika Rottenberg, The Anniversary Show, and Dispatches from the Archives.

Other notable visits of inspiration include Musee Mecanique, Golden Gate Bridge, and San Francisco Movie Tour. I am excited to see what the key highlights of the trip will shape out to be.

Here's to happy travels!


Welcome to Reality 2.0

Augmented reality. Just a scene from Back To The Future Part II?

The days of merging the real world with computer generated images are closer than we think. In fact, primitive versions of AR have already arrived in the form of smartphones with built-in GPS and cameras. By aiming a phone's camera at a store, you can not only see the store but also a review at your fingertips. Currently AR is primarily used as a marketing gimmick tactic extending a brand into virtual 3D webcam space. Think Robert Downey Jr. on Esquire's Augmented Reality Cover or General Electric's Smart Grid digital hologram.

But what does this mixed reality mean for the future?

Imagine bubbles of information right in front of your eyes, literally, embedded in contact lenses. As you walk down the street, you will see details about the nearest bus stop and schedule, area statistics, restaurants and reviews, gas station and the current price, that house for sale across the street, and your nearest Facebook friends in the area. The information all activated with your eye's retina, no longer a fingertip thing. The world with AR will become an integrated part of daily life much like Internet and email is today. National Geographic is suggesting that AR enabled contact lenses could hit the market as soon as 2015.

How will the future of design be affected?

User interface design will become even more critical as information overload will become even more widespread. The experience could feel very much be like walking through Times Square New York with all the billboards and news tickers. The difference in that the user will customize the data information that will be presented to them. The ability to filter our virtual reality, opting in and out will be essential to our augmented reality experiences. There will be moments where we will have to disconnect. The synthetic spaces that we create will force a streamlined data exchange. Instead of designers focusing on how product will function in the real world, there will be thought involved on how the product will extend into the virtual world. Keiichi Matsuda has an amazing video of how reality and computer generated reality could possibly merge into our daily lives.

Will society feel like they are playing one big video game?

Though there are numerous benefits of AR, it will be interesting to see the psychological effects on society. As with the social networking of today AR will allow users to connect with their friends, family, and people that share interests, but in an even more custom way. For many users isolation and lack of human interaction could cause their virtual reality to become their reality. With access to information as close as your retina, will society become reliant on AR for all the answers - similar to just Googling today? Will augmented reality become the next level in the real world - reality 2.0?


Design Is Everywhere!

Design is in unexpected places. It has no boundaries. It does not matter if you live in an urban center or a rural setting. Look around and you will see patterns, grids, shapes, styles, compositions, and layouts.
"It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."
Henry David Thoreau
Design is on instrument panels, warning signs, billboards, store window displays, appliances, packaging, magazines, antiques, clothing, money, stamps, architecture, and movies. Take a walk and really look. Your door, your sidewalk, your neighbourhood have all been designed.
"Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent."
— Joe Sparano
Design is transparent but bold. It communicates, functions, inspires, and creates action. Design is so powerful, so accessible. Design is your interpretation.

Design is everywhere!


Remember The Title #2

(500) Days of Summer (2009)

A story of relationships, expectations and destiny, (500) Days of Summer is one of my favorites. After reading good reviews about the movie I drove to Lethbridge to see this one in the theater because it never did show in Medicine Hat. The title sequence is equally rich in contributing to the movie. I love the fact that the title sequence could have many interpretations. At first glance it could easily be understood as a love story of a guy and girl, destined to be together as kids. But at second glance and understanding the movie the title sequence becomes Tom's (the main character) story of how he imagines this relationship. It becomes Tom's fantasy that they were destined to be together, leaves growing on the trees, childhood parallels. But then parts of the sequence become disjointed like there was a reason that Tom and Summer are supposed to meet, but not in the way that we or Tom expects.

Click To View The (500) Days Of Summer Sequence Here 


Stony Plain - The Town with the Painted Past

The Strong Arm of The Law
The Town of Stony Plain, just outside of Edmonton, Alberta, features a jackpot of colourful murals in which the rich history of Stony Plain, Alberta, and Canada is depicted. The murals were researched and skillfully painted by artists across Canada, earning the town of 14,000 the nickname "The Town with the Painted Past." What a great little town with an artistic appreciation.

A few weeks back I was able to explore the murals in the downtown center of Stony Plain and was able to capture the murals.

Stony Plain Japanese Gardens Mural
Milling On Main
Press Relief
No Problem Autocare & Towing and Me
The Life and Times of Murray & Esme Byers
For Home and Country
The First People
The General Store
Early Trade and Commerce


Billboards Are Not Printed Using Three Hundred DPI (Ten Things I Have Learned As A Designer)

Next year marks 10 years for me working professionally in the graphic design field. I have had the opportunity to work for a web design firm, a printing company, and now an international wedding accessory company.

Being able to work as a member of a corporate design firm as well as an in-house designer has allowed me to experience design from both sides of the fence, so to speak. Each insight has shaped my design experience.

There is Strength In Numbers

Most fresh faced graphic designers feel like they are failing if they get stuck on a project. Talking about their project, asking for input from other team members, is the beauty of a creative team. It will force you to think in a different direction or see things from a different perspective. Even if working as an independent designer there are plenty of excellent resources online. You can post your designs online for other creatives to give feedback in real-time. Collaboration is a designer's best friend. The more members you have a part of your creative team the better. The more minds, the more ideas. The more talents, the more specialties to draw on. The better end product.

School and The Real World of Design are Different

There are times when I miss the freedom of design school, the experimentation of style, the expression, the creatives I was able to hang around. In school it was all about developing your portfolio of work, which in most cases was designing for yourself. You were your own client promoting yourself to land your first job. Landing that first design job quickly introduced a learning curve. The challenge - translating the tools from school into practical application. Working professionally in design is hard work. In the real world it is about your client wants, quoting your time, meeting deadlines, and still carving a creative identity for yourself.

Use Spot Colors For Large Areas of Dark Ink Coverage, Even If It Adds An Extra Ink Colour

Early on in my career I designed a double sided full color brochure for a local carpet cleaning company. The client was extremely happy with the design, the proof was signed, the ink plates prepared ready to go on the press. The perfect job quickly became a nightmare. The small detail of choosing a dark chocolate brown PMS spot color would have avoided the disaster on press as well as an angry client with 20,000 mismatched streaked brochures. Check your ink coverage. If you are designing in CMYK make sure you do not have large areas of color that are maxing out (70%+) on ink on each of the four plates. The press can not handle it, especially in the browns or greys. It will become a streaky mess. Trust me.

You Will Never Know It All

There was a point in my career where I thought I knew everything I needed about design. Impossible. Graphic design is a constantly changing field. The new technologies in web and print, design trends, software, are never ending. Staying on top and being informed will help you in your career. But you will never know it all. Thinking you know it all will not get you anywhere. It will actually keep you from progressing.

Default 12 Point Type Is Too Large For Body Text

In my early design jobs my body text was 12 points or even larger. Looking back this was enormous. 12 point is the default sizing of all the design software programs but there is a reason why you can change the size. For large areas of body text reduce your font size to 11 points or even 10. It will be easier to read and will give you more room to play with the leading. Good body text should seem like it is natural to read. If you notice the body type before the content that is a bad thing.

You Benefit From What You Make Of Your Experience

My first graphic design job was not glamourous. As the business downsized I ended up working in a cubicle designing in a printshop. But it was worth sticking it out. I was able to gain loads of experience with web design and hands on experience in a print environment. I was able to work directly with corporate clients for both web and print projects as well as learning the tricks of the trade in the prepress area of printing. All invaluable to my current position.

Good Design Starts In Black and White

Reducing or starting a design in black and white reduces it to the basic form. This allows you to focus and not be distracted by color. This is particularly important in logo design. Logos need to be reduced to the basic black and white to transferred into embroidery, engraving, or stamping applications.

Your Brain Will Never Take A Day Off

Ideas have a mind of their own and have a funny way of showing their face. Even though your job may have a 9-5 schedule, the creative's brain is always working. Inspiration is in the supermarket, when you are taking a shower, traveling, talking to a friend, watching TV. By allowing your brain to work without a schedule you will see ideas all the time.

Children Are True Inspiration

As adults we sometimes lose the spontaneity in our work. Hang out with kids. See how they colour outside of the lines. See how they view the world. Hold on to that with your own work. It will be your best.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Dimensions are so important in the design world. In dealing with overseas suppliers it becomes even more important to clearly communicate dimensions before starting a project. A few years ago I worked on a industrial design via email. Everything looked perfect on screen and it was approved to be sent the physical sample. To my surprise the sample was about 50% the size it should have been. Needless to say, the project was scrapped.

Billboards Are Not Printed Using 300 DPI

In graphic design it is endlessly stressed that designs for print require 300DPI resolution images and for the web they can be reduced to 72DPI. Taking the theory about 300DPI for print early on in my career I applied that to billboard design. After creating a monster file that was 500MB or larger, crashing my computer, and losing half my design to find I had to start over, I realized something was wrong. Then I thought about it. The billboard will be seen from many meters away. So even at a smaller resolution the printing will look crisp. Billboards can go down to 30DPI. Now my computer will not crash. Why didn't they teach that in design school?

Look At Your Designs Upside Down

If there is something that seems wrong with your design but you can not pinpoint it, turn your layout upside down. This forces you to look at your design so you can not read it and you can focus on the composition. This has saved me many times. Good designs look balanced right side up and upside down.

Creatives - what have you learned about design?


  © 2010 Design by Stephanie Janke - sjjdesign.com

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