Graphics

Drawing during the pandemic improves skills measurably

Patience, the Procreate app, and creating something every day improved my drawing and illustration skills.

Last year, my “go-to” hardware was a MacBook Pro, a Wacom drawing tablet, a wireless keyboard and a 25-inch monitor. Late in 2019 I upgraded my iPad and purchased an Apple pencil. I could use the iPad anywhere, rather than be chained to the desk in my studio.

Back to the pandemic… I have worked at home for over 15 years, so staying home a bit more was not too taxing. I wanted to improve my drawing skills, but could not make myself pick up a sketchbook. I remember my drawing teacher told me, “just try drawing something–anything–each day.” So I started creating something on the iPad nearly every day. Birthday cards, abstract illustrations, watercolor drawings, comic-style illustrations, and more. I learned how to use dozens of different types of “brushes,” something I hadn’t explored much in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. I created many works from photos–free stock photos and my own photos. My skills grew, week-to-week and month-to-month. 

Do something good. Create something every day.

Jill B Gilbert

I truly improved my drawing and illustration skills during the COVID-19 pandemic. I credit patience, and creating something nearly every day, for much of the improvement. And I credit learning the Procreate app for the rest.

Now I use my sketchbook almost daily. Sometimes I use it at the start of a project. Most days I see where my mind takes me when I start Procreate, and use the sketchbook to take notes and to paste printed versions.

My advice: Do something good. Create something every day.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Best Practices, Graphics, Illustration

Procreate for iPad review

Procreate is a Raster (pixel) drawing app with many features not found in other drawing apps available for the iPad.

In 2019, my “go-to” tools for making quick–and detailed–graphics and illustrations were Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop on my Macbook Pro. My setup included a Wacom drawing tablet, a wireless keyboard, and a large monitor. My iPad was a secondary tool, hardly part of my graphic design workflow. I dabbled in the different Illustrator and Photoshop apps for the iPad, but they seemed awkward. 

Then I traded in my iPad for an iPad Air (3rd Generation) and bought an Apple Pencil. I kept hearing about an app called Procreate, designed for the original iPad Pro and the Apple Pencil. A blog I follow had lots of Procreate tutorials, so invested a small sum of ten dollars (!) and got started. Read on to learn the ins and outs of Procreate.

Pluses

  • You can choose from pre-installed drawing templates, or create your own.
  • You can use pressure sensitivity to change brush behavior and drawing stroke.
  • Layers! Depending upon the drawing size and resolution, you can have up to 40 or more layers.
  • Robust text capabilities and the ability to add typefaces.
  • Preinstalled color palettes.
  • You can create color palettes manually, from an image or a photo, or import palettes created by others.
  • You can export and save color palettes.
  • The shape tool creates “perfect” geometric shapes.
  • Drawing assist allows you to create straight lines, smooth curves, symmetrical illustrations, and more.
  • Create CMYK and RGB documents for print and Web, respectively
  • You can export to several file formats, such as PNG, JPEG, TIFF, layered PSD, and PDF.
  • You can edit and create Procreate brushes and brush sets.
  • Thousands of free and paid Procreate brush sets are available.

Minuses

  • As a Raster app, the drawing size and resolution must be set upfront, according to how you intend to use the illustration.
  • In the current version (5x), you can draw and edit arcs with three or four points, but not “S-curves.”
  • If you are a Typophile or often create illustrations with 20 or more layers, Procreate will crash periodically, even with decent iPad memory–but I have never lost a file!
  • There are so many Procreate brushes available, you may find it hard to limit the number you add; currently, you cannot tag brushes as “favorites.”
  • Cannot lock a color palette; I have accidentally changed color swatches many times.

Conclusion

Procreate offers many features not seen in competitors’ drawing apps. I recommend it as part of a graphic design workflow and use it almost daily. It is a true gem, and well worth the money. 

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Design, Graphics, Illustration

San Jacinto College selects Jill B Gilbert’s design for Quality Enhancement Plan

On April 20, San Jacinto College Vice-Chancellor Laurel Williamson, QEP Director Ann Pearson, and the QEP Committee announced that it selected Jill B Gilbert’s design to represent the program for the next five years (see the announcement here). The college’s Quality Enhancement Plan (QEP), Thinking and Beyond, promotes student success through critical thinking.

The winning design for San Jacinto College’s Quality Enhancement Program

Gilbert’s design addresses the “right brain” creative and “left brain” logical aspects of critical thinking, as well as the San Jacinto Monument, topped by a star, and a USB connector to symbolize how students are always plugged in—the connection between critical thinking and technology.

Viewed another way, the symbol depicts a launched rocket, shooting for the stars, with puffs of exhaust parting as the rocket travels upward. This is an homage to Houston, aka the Space City; Jill’s Dad, a rocket scientist, and her little brother who followed in his Dad’s footsteps.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Art, Branding, Design, Education, Graphics, Logo Design, Marketing

Develop style guides for your design projects

Whether you are developing a 50-page Website, a small mobile phone app, or an annual report for a corporate client, you should get in the habit of developing a style guide.

Branding and style guides are important for projects large and small. They help to provide consistent messages about an organization and provide a degree of professionalism. Creative Bloq has a good post on this topic, with examples of thirteen style guides for famous organizations.

Client project style guide

The client’s goal was to refresh their brand and their Web site to draw more customers to their wellness practice and retail establishment. I prepared a simple style guide, using Adobe Illustrator. The Style Guide displays the brand, color chips for main and accent colors, typography and usage examples:

Style Guide | Nature’s Garden

Here is how the styles look when applied to a “mobile first” Website design. Note how the colors and the leaf motif are repeated throughout the page. The design works well on a smartphone, on a tablet or on a large HD screen.

Mobile View | Nature’s Garden
Responsive Home Page on Retina Display

University style guide

On a whim, I researched my alma mater’s color and brand guidelines. The Miami University is a nationally recognized Public Ivy, and its brand is particularly important. The brand must convey the Public Ivy experience.

The University uses different reds for print, Web and merchandise use. Several formal and informal logos are available for these uses. The use of certain “vintage” logos requires special permission.

The branding guidelines include logos, colors, typography and graphic elements. They encompass Web, print publications, social media, photos, use in athletic programs and more.

How people – alumni, students, future students, faculty and staff, fans, donors, and the public at large – feel about Miami University directly relates to the University’s success. In a sense, the brand speaks on the University’s behalf without saying a word. It represents who we are and what we stand for. It is the visual representation of our reputation.

Miami University Brand Guidelines

Here is the “M” spirit mark often used on sportswear and signs.

The Miami University Spirit Mark

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Best Practices, Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Graphics, Guidelines, Logo Design, Marketing, Standards, Typography, Web Design

Will bespoke typefaces replace Helvetica?

Bespoke typefaces are on the rise

Definition of Bespoke

More and more big companies commission their own typefaces, rather than relying upon the thousands of fonts readily available for marketing their goods and services.

Recent, notable bespoke typefaces

2018

This month, The Coca-Cola Company (TCCC) introduced its bespoke Unity font.  Depending on who you ask, some designers love it, and others hate it. Coca-Cola has used a script logotype for decades, and a while back introduced a serif font with the word, “Coke.” Unity is a departure; it is a sans-serif typeface family with several weights.

Coca-Cola’s Unity Typeface

2017

In 2017, IBM rolled out its bespoke typeface families, named Plex, and YouTube introduced YouTube Sans.

IBM Plex Typeface Family
YouTube Sans Typeface Family

2016

In 2016, Apple introduced San Francisco typefaces at its Worldwide Developer Conference. These fonts were inspired by Helvetica, and were developed for ease of reading on small screens like the Apple Watch and iPhone, as well as on iPads and Mac computers. The same year, CNN introduced CNN Sans—also modeled on Helvetica.

Apple’s San Francisco Typeface Family
CNN Sans Typeface Family

2015

In 2015, Google rebranded its famous “G” using a proprietary font called Product Sans. Product Sans closely resembles the Futura typeface. Google rolled out Roboto In 2013 for the Android OS. Also in 2013, Mozilla rolled out typefaces for its Firefox OS, called Fira Sans and Fira Mono.

Google Logo, 2015
Roboto Typeface
Mozilla’s Fira Sans Typeface Family

Why use a bespoke typeface?

It’s all about branding. We are bombarded by thousands of advertisements each day on smartphones, tablets and computers. We see an ad for a fraction of a second before engaging with the brand or discarding the ad. According to Envato, having a recognizable logo is not enough. Companies must stand out from the competition using logos, colors, copy and typography. This is where custom typefaces come in.

Branding requires notable logos, colors, copy and typography. “Bespoke fonts offer brands more control over their identity, and in some cases can even save them money in the long run.”

–Envato

Will bespoke typefaces put an end to Helvetica?

Helvetica (Neue Haas Grotesk) was developed in 1957 by Swiss typographer Max Miedinger and became the de facto standard of international typeface design in the mid-20th Century. It remains popular today—Helvetica Neue is the default Mac font—because it is both readable and legible at many different sizes and weights.

Helvetica is not going away anytime soon. It is still the favorite of many designers because of its versatility and simplicity. Just make room for the new, bespoke typefaces to coexist with Helvetica.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Branding, Color, Corporate Identity, Design, Graphics, Logo Design, Marketing, Standards, Typography

Giving thanks: amateur chef meets graphic designer

Fall is in the air (finally) and we celebrate Thanksgiving this week. I am thankful for friends and family, our adopted dog, great professors, art & design mentors, and more.  I will illustrate my dinner menu, as I have done for many years, but this year I have Ninja Illustrator and Photoshop skills. Will it be comic book style, chalkboard style, or vintage style, or a mashup?

The origin of printed menus

The whole printed menu “thing” came from my Mom, who was a Registered Dietitian. She knew how to plan meals for the masses or for our family of six. She was a good cook and baker. Mom would scribble out her menu on a slip of scrap paper and stick it to the refrigerator, just to make sure that she did not forget to cook or serve one of the many dishes she had planned.

Amateur chef meets graphic designer

I love to cook and bake, and have done both since I was a young child. After I had a home of my own, I started to generate menus for various dinners and parties as soon as I could get my hands on a computer. At first, all I had at my disposal was a simple word processor. Later, I became very proficient at MS PowerPoint and Word, and used lots of clip art. Then I started an Art & Design degree program. What I used to do in Microsoft programs was primitive, compared to the capabilities of Adobe Creative Cloud apps, Snagit and online tools, plus a myriad of  free resources.

Here is the menu… more for practice than for show, since we are having dinner for two! I used a primary color palette and generated halftone patterns in my custom colors for the stars and the cloud backdrop. I used a comic book font found at dafont.com.

Posted by Jill B Gilbert in Design, Graphics, Illustration