Portfolio

XRD Racing Carbon Fiber Component Packaging

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

XRD Carbon Fiber Component Packaging

I designed the branding concept of this box for high-end carbon fiber bicycle racing components along with the mechanical design of the packaging itself. The thickness of the material is greater than most smaller packaging pieces. This required special consideration in the die-cut design to yield perfect folds and matching joints. As a graphic designer, I create designs like this in Adobe Illustrator and not in 3D packaging software like industrial designers do. This requires being able to think in 3D while working on a single plane file. But as you can see, it’s perfectly possible and very effective in fact. I’ve designed countless pieces of packaging in this same fashion and it allows my expansion into realms many other designers dare not venture.

This box also features a 5 color print using Pantone 877 metallic. My original design involved large masking areas to apply spot UV to only certain sections of the box. The remaining sections were supposed to be coated with a satin soft-touch coating. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints, that part of the design had to be scrapped and a single full cover of UV coating was applied. Not necessarily my cup of tea, but it’s an impressive piece of work nonetheless.

Jessica Coats Swimsuit Modeling Photos

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Jessica Coats Swimsuit Modeling

This project was a collaboration between model Jessica Coats-Saenz, photographer Kreston Clark and myself. The photos were taken out in the desert in Southern California in tricky mid-day lighting. My goal for the first photo was to smooth out the look as much as possible to help make the harsh lighting less obvious. Apart from that, I smoothed out the skin tones a bit and touched up the areas around the knees. Other details included fixing one of the swimsuit top straps that was twisted, straightening the shot, removing a piece of re-bar that was showing over the top right corner and adding a subtle vignette.

Looking at the original photo, it looks like the window frame Jessica had to climb up on was quite dirty! I had to clean some dirt of her hands as well. Haha.

Jessica Coats Modeling Before and After

The photo on the right has all the improvements. I went for a smoother dreamglow effect as well. Click to view larger.

In the second photo below, I experimented by smoothing out the photo with a dreamglow effect, however I then used an unsharp mask to sharpen it again. I wanted to completely clip her out of the shot in order to be able to use the image over marketing material I was working on for FloatWays.com – I experimented with a couple of logo locations. In the end, I ended up using various versions on the site itself as well as on the site’s Facebook and Twitter profiles.

Jessica Swimsuit with Background

Jessica Swimsuit with FloatWays Logo

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!

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.

High End Mountain Bike Graphic Design – Product Artwork

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Mountain Bike Graphics PhotoNot everything I design ends up on paper or on the web.  Some projects are way more exciting that that.  This is one of those projects.  Not only was the final design laser etched as the main graphic look of the Solis Tephra 5.5 mountain bike, but It is now the mountain bike I personally ride.  The best part is that every time I go riding I’m proud to see my work gracing the anodized frame.

Mountain Bike Graphics Frame Forward Triangle

Mountain Bike Graphics Section 2

Another great aspect about this project is the fact that it was a team effort job.  Too often I’m stuck developing a design by myself.  The design for this bike was a collaborative effort between the product manager of Solis Bikes and myself.  We both pieced ideas together and created multiple mock-ups and concepts.  In the end, we combined different parts of my concept drawings with his and ended up with this final design.

The Solis Tephra 5.5 is a high-end all-mountain bike distributed around the world.  It’s one of the best value for money mountain bikes on the market.  The retail price for one of these is around the $3,600 mark.

King’s Cathedral & Chapels Bulletin Cover

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

King's Cathedral & ChapelsBack in 2003, while in Hawaii, I designed the bulletin shells for First Assembly King’s Cathedral & Chapels in Maui.  This church has a large number of churches that spread across the Pacific Rim.  These bulletins were handed out as a formal way of announcing future events and other news related to the chain of congregations.

There are a number of things I really like about this project.  Given that I’ve been designing for a long time, I can see how trends come and go.  For example, the heavy use of glows and shadows, clearly depict the design trends of the time.  These are techniques that I mostly avoid these days.  When used tastefully however, they can still work to your advantage.

King's Cathedral & Chapels Bulletin

Simtec Silicone Website 2007-2008

by Danny Cruz| Follow Danny @sixstringsensei on Twitter HERE

Simtec 2007 Website Screenshot
Simtec Silicone 2007 Tech Page Excerpt

Simtec Silicone Website Quality Page

Simtec Silicone, an ISO 9001:2000 certified, Wisconsin based company that specializes in silicone parts for industrial and healthcare applications hired me in early 2007 to redesign their existing wesite.  The plan was to use the existing website as a base instead of scrapping the whole thing and starting from scratch.  The HTML code was updated to comply with 2007 web standards, a new look was developed and CSS was implemented to stylize the site.  Additionally, an array of new images, pages and links where added including a brand new drop-down menu.  At the time, the new menu was created in DHTML.  I optimized the site for search engines and added a number of other nice features like a Google map for easy location and downloadable PDF certification documents.  You can’t see it in these screenshots, but both the page header and main image are animated.  The animation cycles through a number of their key products in order to showcase some of the company’s capabilities as soon as a visitor lands on the page.

In the end, the website looked like a brand new project way ahead of what was there before.  You wouldn’t even think it was the original site, revamped.  The client was very pleased and that lead to a phase 2 addition to the site a few months later.  Great company to work with.