This is my official blog. It is meant to be informative yet light-hearted and fun. This is where I get to talk about more than just art and graphic design. If you want to find out more about me and what makes me tick, read on. Yes, you will find lots of good info about design but also my other interests which are many! These include: Guitar and drum music, yacht sailing and racing, surfing, skateboarding, snowboarding & kiteboarding. Please subscribe! Thanks, Danny

WordPress Customization – Secret to Pro Blog Website Design!

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Thesis Wordpress Theme Logo Post Image

There are a trillion WordPress websites out there! Yes, I said a trillion. Meaning lots! Mucho grande. With those trillion WP sites out there comes the desire by the owners to customize those sites. As most of you know, there are tons of ways to do WordPress customization. Methods available are both free and paid and range anywhere from themes to professional WordPress customization services. However, let me start by saying I don’t like or recommend free WordPress themes unless they are in the wordpress.org system. Apart from the spam and hidden code that’s often found in these free themes (stuff that can potentially mess up your site) you simply don’t have the kind of control that you really need over your site. I believe that when it comes to good things, it’s absolutely worth your while paying for them.

WordPress Customization – My secret to pro website design!

Now, I speak to you by experience. I’m not coming up with junk here that I can’t prove. I’m basing what I write here on my own experience customizing this website. What do I use to get this site looking and working as great as it does? The answer is: Thesis WordPress Theme from DIYthemes. When I want quality (always), free goes out the window. With the exception of WordPress itself, I just don’t find that free and quality go together well in the same sentence. That’s why I use Thesis. With Thesis I get the ultimate control over my website. I can design it however I want. I can add features and functionality that others can only dream of when they butcher their websites with a free theme. And it’s not just dannycruz.com! I run a number of other sites as well and all but one of them is running WordPress with Thesis.

When you run a quality theme like Thesis on your WordPress blog or website you also get access to world-class support and a community of web developers that is also kind and eager to help. In fact, that’s one of my favorite features when it comes to being a Thesis developer. When I post a question on the WordPress.org forum I NEVER get a proper answer. In fact, I don’t remember a single time I’ve been able to get help from somebody on the WordPress.org forum. However, when I have a question and I post it up on the Thesis forum, I usually get a useful answer within a few minutes to an hour. Additionally, since the forum is not crowded with junk and a million unanswered questions, like the WP forum is, I can quickly and easily search through it to find the information I need.

As far as functionality goes, this is a list of some of my favorite functionality features that I get by running Thesis:

  1. Easy addition of a custom header image.
  2. Easy addition of a favicon image for my site
  3. Excellent SEO (Search Engine Optimization) control over every page, category, tag and post on my entire website.
  4. Complete control over every color and font used throughout my site.
  5. Piece of mind knowing there are smart minds updating the software for future WordPress releases.
  6. Complete control over all parameters of WordPress blog customization.

Take it from me. It works. Don’t waste time with free themes. A very good friend of mine set me straight and put me on the right track by introducing Thesis to me. You’re reading my blog and I truly appreciate. I want to share this with you just like my friend shared it with me. If you want to have complete control over your WordPress site, Thesis is the best way to do it. Click here to learn more about Thesis Theme for WordPress and save yourself a headache.

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What is the Job of a Junior Graphic Designer?

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Landscape Crater SunriseIn my years in the creative design industry I’ve worked with many designers. A question I get asked often is:

What is the job of a Junior Graphic Designer?

While this might be up for personal interpretation, there are certain traits that describe a junior designer. Maybe you are looking to hire one. Or maybe you are planning your graphic design career and want to know where you stand. Well let’s get some details, shall we?

As you might have guessed, a junior graphic designer is close to the starting point in the corporate ladder. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean the designer is a “greenie.” Some have a certain level of experience already. In most cases, before a junior designer you’ll get a student or an intern. In many cases the junior designer might be a very talented artist, but the lack of long-term experience in real-world designing will hold the designer in a junior position for quite a bit of time. A junior graphic designer would be responsible to produce all kinds of creative designs under close supervision of the department head or team leader. In most cases, projects are handed over to the junior designer in an organized manner with clear deadlines. The junior designer rarely takes decisive actions that will change the direction of the final product without the close supervision of the department head. Additionally, they rarely have the responsibility of managing their own time.

As far as experience goes. A junior designer usually has about 1-3 years of graphic design experience. They would generally be somewhat fresh out of college or some even studying still. In other cases, such as with a recent person I was working with, they might be in the middle of a career change. Coming from a different career, they can land a job as a junior designer until they learn the ropes of the new industry. Like with any other industry, having a degree is good, but experience trumps that. No matter what, you have to go through the learning stages in real-word applications.

According the AIGA Graphic Design Salary Survey (2010)* – A junior graphic designer salary, for a designer in a full time position in the USA will make between $29,000 – $35,000 a year. However, due to the high competition for new jobs and the current job market, I can tell you it’s most likely less than that. My estimate is between $22,000 – $29,000 a year. But don’t despair. If you really want to be a successful designer, you can! While this initial step as a junior designer doesn’t pay much, it’s a great learning experience. Also, I remember my junior designer days back in 2001-ish to be some of the most fun I’ve had as a designer. So, take it one step at a time, crawl, then walk, then run. Be diligent, and you’ll get there!

If you are working on developing your career as a designer subscribe to my blog here.  I post a lot of valuable information that will greatly help you.

*Source: AIGA – Aquent Survey of Design Salaries 2010 – designsalaries.org (USA job for an entry-level designer in a 10-99 employee national company)


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Brochure Design Ideas – How to Best Accomplish the Design of a Brochure.

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Brochure Design Ideas

Just about every serious business person who’s marketing a product or service must develop a brochure to help sell that product or service. Even if you are not doing the design yourself and hiring somebody to do it, it’s your job to understand all the ins and outs of development. This will ensure that you end up with a professional product that’s properly targeted to your market or niche. The design must be simple enough, yet carry all the information necessary to help connect to prospects. Notice I mention “simple” first. Most people have no problem filling every white space available on a piece of paper when planning brochure printing. It’s being able to restrain from that what is difficult.

Brochure Design Ideas…

Before you tackle the design process you need to study every angle related to the brochure. Don’t just start putting stuff on paper. First of all, you need to consider 2 things: form and function. Form would be the actual design, colors, fonts and how you want the design to look. Function will include the content, text, diagrams and photos and how these elements are supposed to interact with the consumer. The bottom line is that you want your brochure to tell a story in the most concise manner possible. Function also involves the shape, position and folds of the final product. Plus, there’s a grey area where both form and function will meet harmoniously. If you can successfully achieve this, your design and content will merge seamlessly. Your final brochure will look professional and well thought through. Most importantly, it will convert readers into buyers. If you miss the point of the brochure in the first place you’re simply going to end up with a pretty piece of paper than will yield little to no sales. People don’t want to know every single feature of your product or service. They simply want to be engaged, satisfied and confident in what they are getting. If you get too technical and speak in language they cannot relate to or even understand, you are going to lose trust and ultimately a good customer. So remember, always speak in terms your customer can easily understand.Brochure Cover

Here are some technical details that will help with your design:

  1. Don’t necessarily base your brochure design around an 8.5 x 11″ piece of paper. Also, don’t immediately opt for a tri fold brochure design. If you are printing large quantities in a proper printing press, you have more flexibility for sizing and folds. Plus, for a professional looking brochure you will likely want bleeds (where the ink goes all the way to the edge of the paper) so the printer will have to print on a bigger sheet of paper anyway and then cut to size. There are certain final sizes that yield the least wasted paper so you can always ask your preferred printer to offer some size recommendations.
  2. Think about the paper type. Do you want a thinner, more lightweight paper? Do you want a thicker material that will hold it’s shape better? The latter will probably look best and last the longest, but it will be more expensive, take more space and be heavier and more expensive to distribute. Keep all that in mind and try to find a good balance. Also consider the paper coating. You can choose between dull or gloss coating, or even no coating at all. Keep in mind this will all affect how your ink and photos look. For even more flexibility, all types of paper can be re-coated after printing with an entire array of options such as aqueous coating, super high gloss UV coating, spot varnishes and one of my favorite “soft-touch” coating.
  3. Decide beforehand how you will distribute the piece. Will you mail it? If so, you must leave space for an address and postage. You probably also need to consider how to tab it to keep it closed while in transit. If you are only going to hand it out at a store for example, you might not need an address area. Having one anyway, even if it’s small, can allow for more flexibility in the future.
  4. Pick up a few of your competitor’s brochures before you start conceiving yours. The worst thing you can do is shoot completely in the dark. You want to have a good idea of what others are doing in order to be able to compete accordingly. It doesn’t mean your are going to copy. You can create an original piece nonetheless. But at least you are aware of what your competition is doing so that you can develop a better marketing strategy.
  5. Be careful with time sensitive material. If you are going to put dates or other information that will deem the brochure obsolete after a certain amount of time, make sure you have a realistic timeframe for distribution and conversion into sales. Otherwise you’re bound to throw away money. In many cases, creating timeless material can be best unless the brochure is designed specifically for a certain time-sensitive event. Be aware of other things that can yield your brochure obsolete. Things like phone numbers, addresses and employee names. If there are high chances that any of these might change during the time you expect to use your brochure be very wary about the way you use them in your final print.
  6. Don’t skimp on the photography. There’s a very good reason behind the saying “a photo says a thousand words.” Because it does! Avoid saying your product is crap by using crap photography. Taking good photos is best left to a professional product photographer. Trust me, even if you spend a lot of money on good camera gear, unless you have someone that can operate it properly, you’re going down a very expensive rocky-road, downhill, with no brakes.
  7. Measure twice, print once. I can’t stress this enough. Make sure that all your measurements throughout the design are spot on. Make sure all the text is perfect and there are NO TYPOS. There is no room and no excuse for typos in professional design. Even if you think it’s not your fault there’s a mistake, trust me, it is your fault. If you are the designer, even if your client signed-off on a project as approved, if you find they made a mistake, even a small one, contact your client and get it sorted out. They’ll appreciate you for this.
  8. Always have your projects quoted by at least 3 different printing companies. That’s the only way to really arrive at an average price. Plus, even if you have somebody that you work with most of the time, nobody can focus on every single area of printing. So, depending on the project, the person who usually gives you the best price might not necessarily always be able to. Unless you enjoy paying extra, quote with various companies.

There’s no real magic to designing a good brochure. It just takes planning beforehand. Then, a good amount of thinking during the design process. If you are planning the design of a brochure for your product or service, please feel free to contact me by clicking here. You can discuss the project further with me for valuable guidance and information. All this with no obligation. I’d be thrilled to develop your professional brochure, but if in the end you decide not to hire me… No hard feelings!  However, you’d be glad if you do.  I guarantee it!  :)

Have a good one! -Danny C


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Cycling Gloves MTBYou’re an avid cyclist.  You need a new pair of mountain bike gloves because your old pair has worn through.  You show up at a bicycle shop after doing your research.  However, you arrive at the shop with your mind already set on a pair of Specialized cycling gloves.  You look around at the display rack and something else catches your attention.  You find yourself looking at a pair of RAVX Design gloves.  Yes, it may be a lesser known brand, but upon closer inspection the quality looks impeccable, the design looks legit and the features are plenty.  You try them on and guess what? They fit like a glove! (Haha, had to say that!)  You pay the good man at the register and head home all excited to try out your new gloves.

What you may have not realized is the psychology behind your purchase.  You arrived at the store with your mind already set on something.  That idea was engrained in your head thanks to big budget advertising. Something the smaller brand does not have.  But, how did the small brand with just as good a product get an edge over the big boys at the spot where it matters, the point of purchase?  The answer is very simple. Apart from good product the key is eye-catching, high-quality packaging.  I mean, how are you going to sell a product, no matter how good it is, if the packaging is subpar?  Next time you are studying the market to develop a new product all the way from the drawing board to the point of purchase don’t skimp on the packaging.  It’s the last thing your customer will see before deciding whether or not to buy your product.

See below my design for the header cards of the gloves mentioned in the article above.

Cycling Gloves Packaging Header Card

The die cut is an original design emphasizing the ease of removal from shop pegs even if it's at the back of the pegboard.

Photoshop Face Effects Beach Beauty

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Photoshop Face Effects Beach Beauty

Take a beautiful face like this and bring it to its fullest potential.

One of the most exciting yet challenging projects in Adobe Photoshop is enhancing photos of a face by using:

Photoshop Face Effects

It sounds like I’m talking about pre-programmed filters. Please let me be clear, that this is most definitely not the case. The best effects are the ones done on a case by case basis where you analyze what the photo actually requires rather than running some sort of prefabricated Photoshop action or filter. It’s takes quite a bit of experience to be able to make those calls, but once you can, the possibilities of enhancing photographs are endless.

This photo is of a friend of mine (I’m not going to reveal who she is). I’m actually not sure who shot it. The thing to notice is that when you start off with a beautiful face, specially that of a girl, it is much easier and exciting.  With this kind of photo, getting great results is relatively easy. However, once thing I have to point out is: This photo was shot during a rainy day, with so-so lighting and a cheap digital camera. Yes! My challenge was to improve the quality of the photo so that it would rival those shot with a professional camera. Apart from that, I had to improve the light, color tones of the image and add sharpening.

These are some of the things I did to enhance the photograph:

  • Changed the water and sky color tone from a pale gray to a more inviting blue while still maintaining the mood of an overcast rainy day.
  • Removed some buildings in the background that were to the left of the model’s head.  This was done in order to better balance the photo and to give the impression that she was in deeper waters.  I also found the buildings to be a distraction; an eye-sore, if you will.
  • Removed a reflection of her eyes in the water in front of her.  There was a reflection of one of her eyes in the center, more or less where her mouth would be.  I thought it looked a bit weird, almost like a 3rd eye, but below.
  • Cleaned some of the specks on the water and her face while brightening up her eyes.  I also added a level of sharpening to her face.
  • Finally, I added a faint grayish-blue vignette around the edges of the photo to help draw the attention to the center.  The tone of the vignette also fits perfectly with the color tone of the photograph.

Like I said earlier, the possibilities and options for Photoshop face effects are endless. You can do as much as you know how. That’s why it’s so important to get as familiar as you can with all aspects of Photoshop. One very common technique, which can be done in multiple ways is changing a color photo to black and white. Here is a great tutorial that explains the most popular techniques: How to Change a Photo to Black and White in Photoshop.

To find out more of what I can do to improve your photos for your website or printed publication, don’t hesitate to click here to contact me.

Mountain Bike Action Magazine 29er Hardtail Carbon Fiber MTB Ad

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Mountain Bike Action Magazine May 2011 CoverHere is a beautiful magazine ad design piece for the biggest craze to hit the mountain biking market in recent years.  I’m talking about…

29er Mountain Bikes

This ad was released in the May 2011 issue of Mountain Bike Action Magazine. It garnered quite of bit of attention and generated a large number of inquiries. The ad features a clean design concept with copy that flows with the shape of the bicycle. The name of the product plays an important role. It follows the color scheme perfectly and the shape accentuates the fast nature of the bike.

29er Mountain Bike Ad in Mountain Bike Action Magazine

Road Bike Action Magazine RavX CNC Parts Ad

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Road Bike Action Magazine RAVX Ad

Road Bike Action Magazine May 2011 Ad Layout

Half page ad layout. The location of the advertisement is in great company. It sits inside a Campagnolo editorial article.

What can I say? Very happy with the turn out of this ad. I wrote more in detail about the design process in my blog post Rush Jobs Make the Day Shorter here.  However, one thing I did not mention in the design process post is the location of the ad. When the final printed magazine was sent to me I realized the piece was featured within editorial content for a Campagnolo article.  I’m very happy with the positioning as well!

What is Twitter and How Does it Work?

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Funny Twitter Bird Custom Post Image

In recent weeks I have released a number of Twitter tips articles based on my own experience.  Most of the information in these articles is intended for people with some level of experience with the service.  I do realize however there are thousands of new people joining Twitter every single day.  Somebody has to take care of these folks!  Let’s put the finer nuances aside and talk about the basics…

What is Twitter and how does it work?

By definition:

Twitter is a micro-blogging service.  By definition, a blog comes from the term “Web log” and is essentially a web journal.  By stripping away all the details involved in managing your own blog or site and leaving only the bare essentials, you end up with a service like Twitter.  The log is there, it’s called a timeline.  Every entry that you make into the timeline is logged in order just like a blog but without all the bells and whistles.  The stripped down nature of the logs and the fact that each post or “tweet” is only 140 characters long earns it the name micro-blogging.

What makes it unique?

The unique aspect of Twitter is that while it’s a stripped down way of blogging, it adds a number of functionality features that makes it a unique place to interact with others.  The requirement of short messages also adds to the fact that almost everything that is said on there is straight to the point.  You only have 140 characters to say what you want to say, so you better go straight to the point.  Unlike email or traditional blog posts, you don’t have to worry about the time it is going to take you to write a long detailed message because you simply can’t!  This means you don’t have to worry about the finer details like introductions, signatures and all the other things that often take time and detract you from simply writing in the first place.  You can just concentrate on writing, quickly and easily.

The features:

Let’s go ahead and break these down by points. It’ll be easier and more intuitive to handle this in small, bite-size chunks:

Twitter Timeline

Example of my Twitter timeline. Click to view in actual size.

  • Timeline: The list of messages (tweets) that is populated by the people you follow. Keep in mind you also have an individual timeline. That one is in your profile and shows only YOUR tweets. Mine looks a little like this: (See photo to the right.)
  • Followers: These are the people that are subscribed to you. Whatever you write shows up in their timeline.
  • Following: These are the people you are subscribed to, who’s tweets you read. Whatever these people write shows up in your timeline.
  • Replies: (aka @replies or @, or mentions) This are tweets directly at someone or about someone specifically.  That someone is the username to which the “at” symbol is applied.  Since not all replies are directed at somebody, but instead “about” somebody, these are also called “mentions.”  For example, if you are directing a reply to me, you would type @sixstringsensei . Make sure not to attach anything else to the reply link or it will break.  Full stops (periods) at the end generally cause no problems, but I still avoid it.
  • …you can can only send direct messages to people following you and you can only receive direct messages from people you follow.

  • Direct Messages: (aka DM) These are private messages which are not displayed publicly.  It’s the only way to discuss something privately with another user while still using Twitter.  The trick to DMs though is that while you can trade @replies with anybody on Twitter, whether they are followers or not, DMs can only be received if the recipient is following  the sender.  In layman’s terms, you can can only send direct messages to people following you and you can only receive direct messages from people you follow.  If you are following somebody who is also following you, you can exchange direct messages no problem.
  • Hash Tags (#):  Don’t let these scare you.  All they do is turn a word into a link to other tweets.  If you type a “#” in front of any word like this, #design, that word will be become a link to other tweets bearing the same hash-tagged word.  It’s an easy and covenient way to link topics together.
  • Trending Topics: Trending topics is simply a topic that is being talked about often during a time period.  I’m not going to go into detail as to how many times a topic needs to be mentioned to become a “trend” but let’s just say it’s a lot!  Trending topics can be single words or phrases stuck together to form links with hashtags.  Kind of like this: #designer or #designerofthemonth.  Usually, when big news breaks out, such as the Japanese Tsunami or Michael Jackson’s death, it’ll become a trending topic.  Keep in mind that searches for topics on Twitter will return results for the search term whether or not they have a hash tag.
  • Lists: This is one of my favorites.  Followers can create lists based on a topic or title and then place the people they follow in these lists according to topic.  For example, I keep lists of people for design, music, surfing, skateboarding and more.  It’s a simple way of reading the tweets I want to read based on the subject these people usually talk about.  Not only that, but I can group friends into lists, or group my favorite follows together.  It makes it easier to find what you are looking for rather than sifting through an entire timeline.  This works for your tweets as well.  People will list you according to what your tweets are based on, or whether or not you’re a friend or they actually like you in the first place! I sometimes encourage my followers to list me under the terms I know I tweet about such as playing music, design, graphics, surfing and such. It quickly helps those who not know me that well realize what niches I tend to fit in.

Tips:

Now that you understand the basics of Twitter let me give you a few important tips to get you started:

  • Add a Profile Photo: As soon as you get started I suggest you upload a profile photo. Most people will not read, or care about users with the stock Twitter “egg” as the profile picture. Not only that, but you could easily be mistaken for a spammer. While some people use photos of stuff other than themselves, I recommend a photo of your face. A photo of your face will add value to your messages. Up to you though.
  • Follow Some People: Do a quick search on a topic that interests you. Then, follow some of those people who talk about your interest. Reply to them about their tweets. People appreciate knowing someone is reading their tweets. You don’t have to ask for a follow back. A thoughtful reply to someone’s else tweet is usually the best way to earn a follower.  Don’t go on a crazy following spree.  Following about 50 people is more than enough at first.  Later on, once you get the hang of things, you can up your follow list to 100.  Watch out, following too many people when you have a small amount of followers isn’t very useful and just plain looks bad.
  • Decide on a Topic: You can talk about whatever you want; multiple things too.  However, in order to gain some momentum it is good practice to focus on a topic which you enjoy and are good at and tweet about it.  Not only will it make tweeting easier, but more enjoyable and rewarding too.  Soon enough you will start seeing people catching on.  The more valuable the content, the better.
  • Avoid the Mundane: People follow other for good content.  Good content is information that will help edify others.  Try to avoid tweeting about the common things from your every day life, such as eating, showering or watching TV unless something eventful actually happened during that time.
  • Protected Tweets Twitter Profile Settings

    You have the option to protect your tweets so only approved followers can read them. Click to see actual size screenshot.

  • Promote your Profile: If you have a website, Facebook page or other social network profile it is a good idea to link to your Twitter account from there.  If you use Twitter for business, you can have your username printed on business cards.  The idea is to promote your Twitter presence.  However, if you use Twitter just for friends or family you may want to keep your profile on the down low.  For people like you, there is a protected tweets option that will hide your tweets from anybody not following you.  You will have to approve any potential followers if you use this feature.  You can find this option under you profile option > Settings.  See the sample screenshot to the right.
  • Hook Up to Your Phone: Just about everyone I know has a smartphone these days.  Find out what apps are available for your phone model whether it be an iPhone®, Droid® or whatever.  Some of the favorites are Twitter for iPhone®, TweetDeck and Echofon.  Even if you don’t have a smartphone you can still text posts to Twitter via their “mobile” option in the settings page.  Most of my best tweet ideas occur on the road.  You’ll find you need to make posts when you are away from you computer.  Also, when it comes to Twitter connections, it’s always best to answer replies and direct messages in a timely fashion.  If you have to wait to get to a computer all the time, that’s not going to help you answer in a timely fashion.
  • Be Nice and Retweet: People greatly appreciate when you read their posts and reply.  They even like it better when you retweet their posts.  Essentially, retweeting involved reposting someone else’s tweet to your followers giving credit to the original writer.  The traditional way of doing it involved copying and pasting the user’s tweet into your timeline while preceding it with an “RT” and an “@Reply.”  Should look a little something like this: RT @sixstringsensei Expectations are only disappointments waiting to happen. Don’t expect. Do!” Not so long ago Twitter introduced a quick retweeting function that allows for retweeting without having to copy and past.  If you use that function, you will be put the entire tweet, plus the user’s profile photo into your followers timeline.  There are pros & cons to both methods so my recommendation is you use them both in different occasions.  That’s it for now.  Be nice and retweet this article.  :)

Click here to follow Danny Cruz @sixstringsensei on Twitter.  This would be a great way to start!

Silly Twitter Bird Custom Image

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Product Graphic Design – Professional Bicycle Racing Saddle

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Saddle Graphics Main Top ImageDesigning graphics for product is one of the facets of design that I enjoy the most. The design process is more 3-dimensional. I greatly enjoy that. The concepts are put together on a flat art board in 2 dimensions but the thought process requires you to consider the shape and area where the final design will be. The wrapping around of objects creates additional requirements to consider. The design needs to be done slightly larger than the flat plane might suggest as it needs to wrap around a larger area. Such is the case with this design.

Let me tell you a little more about the object. This is a high end bicycle racing saddle by RAVX Inc. It is an expensive product for serious competitive cyclists. It is very lightweight and has very impressive features such as carbon fiber rails, ultra lightweight padding and top-of-the-line Lorica® leather covering. The rails are an upgrade over the already lightweight titanium allow rails, and a huge upgrade over lower-end chromoly or steel rails. The nature of the product requires a design that projects the same fast, high-end, racing image.

Logo

In 2008 I designed the XRD® logo that graces the saddle. XRD Racing® is a registered trademark.

The budget for this kind of project is pretty high therefore there are a number of design options at my disposal. First of all, I was not limited by ink alone. The design uses a combinations of inks, clear gloss spot UV coatings and de-bossing patterns. In other words, the final design in a combination of layers that yields a very intricate piece. The challenge comes in translating these details to the manufacturer. In order to guarantee the manufacturer stays true to my design, after the final artwork has been created and approved, I proceed to break it all down into color-coded layers. The layers are kept together on one end of the artboard, however, to the right of the board I divide the layers individually and space them out evenly. This ensures the manufacturer can see and understand each process individually. Take a look below to see an example of the final layout and how it’s divided. Each of the layers has a unique cyan, magenta or yellow color that is then replaced with the proper ink color, embossing or spot UV pattern. In fact, I even have separate color keys for outline-only debossing and full debossing. This further ensures the manufacturer interprets my design correctly.

Saddle Graphics Original First Mockup

First mockup of the design. This one was scrapped.

Saddle Graphics Final Colorways

Saddle graphics - Final colorways of the design.

Saddle Graphics Final Black Colorway

Final artwork, black colorway example.

I started off with a more traditional, yet complex design. I laid out all the patterns and lines in such a way they would flow with the shape of the seat. After a few hours, I was happy with the overall concept and laid it out as an example colorway in both black and white. You can see the initial mockup in the example to the right. Darren, the product manager, thought the design was good but he wanted to see something completely different. Instead of redesigning the current file, I decided to scrap it and start from scratch to force myself to come up with something completely different. The result is the design pieces you can see to the right and bottom.

For the new design, I went with more aggressive lines and racing styling. The artwork emphasizes length and sleekness and gives the impression of speed and movement. The sharp triangular shapes towards the back of the saddle were originally solid black. They are bold and sharp so some people weren’t sold on them. We decided to keep them but tone them down slightly using clear gloss coatings instead of solid inks. Upon close inspection, you will notice some of the printed sections sit inside de-bossed patterns, in other cases it does not. Some of the de-bossed patterns are also accentuated with glossy UV clear coatings. To make the design even more interesting, the solid printed sections are actually embossed only as outlines, keeping the center fill intact. The large solid spikes towards the back are all de-bossed completely, not simply outlined.

Saddle Graphics Final Layered Layout

Final layout. Example shows a layered separation of each print, embossing and gloss coating layers.

Saddle Graphics Final Product Photo - Black
Saddle Graphics Final Product Photo - White

After the design was ready, the final product was completed in a few stages. The factory sent us a blue line sample of the design and how it fits the base of the seat. Then a final sample was created. We changed a few things here and there, so the final photo does not look exactly like the final design on paper. That’s just part of the refining process.

Drumming Video – Jam Solo Opportunity – A Musical Intermission

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

For the last two months or so I’ve been bringing you a blog post a week. I’m trying to abide by that rule. I’m working on a rather long and complex post at the moment. Needless to say it won’t be ready for this week’s post. As many of you already know, I’m a designer but I’m also a musician in my spare time. That explains my @sixstringsensei Twitter username just in case you were wondering. So, while I work on the new article which will then release next week, I’ll leave you all with a brief musical intermission. I present to you my latest drumming video… Jam Solo Opt. Enjoy! -D

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