Category Archives: Features

Whether we blog about something of interest around the world or around the corner, our Features category examine graphic design trends and viewpoints that are interesting and helpful.

Shopping for a good WordPress theme for your blog can be a huge challenge. How do you find one that has all of the elements you need, but still feels original? It seems like anything on the main WordPress Theme Viewer is either forgettable or inadequate, and many of us lack the technical skills to develop a fully-customized theme. Here are six quick tips to help you conquer the boring blog blues, and come out with something that original and dynamic.

Start with the WordPress Themes Directory. As you begin to identity things that work and things that don’t, you can borrow some of the searching tips below and migrate over to Google for some queries YOU think of that span the wider web.

  1. Search by most recent: sometimes the newest WordPress themes are the most advanced and original, so limit your searching by including the current year, or just the past 3 months, etc.
  2. Find one theme you ALMOST like, and visit the homepage of the designer of THAT theme. It’s likely that he/she has created other themes that will be up your alley. Some of my favourite WP theme designers include Allan Cole and Darren Hoyt
  3. Look for themes that are compatible with the latest version of WP (at the time of writing, the current version 2.7, with 2.8 is currently in beta). Again, like tip 1, it ensures your theme will be new and pretty original — for the time being.
  4. Check out people’s personal stashes of WordPress-related bookmarks on del.icio.us. (Here’s mine.)
  5. Find out what specific style of WordPress theme you want, and narrow your search down to those types. For design professionals and illustrators, I’d recommend using queries like “portfolio style wordpress theme” or “photo blog.” Other possibilities might be things like “magazine style” or “2-column.”
  6. Use search.twitter.com to look for themes that are making people talk. On Twitter, following entities I Heart WordPress will give you some pretty good re-tweeted tips.

Of course, any theme you choose will depend on you to take it to the next level with your customizations: modify it enough to make it truly your own.

History has rewarded the graphic designer for being aloof, elusive, and eccentric. Unpredictability in both pricing and productivity, slavery to sudden fits of mis-communcation, and being too creative to play well with others are all reasons why we don’t fit well into today’s corporate reality.

If success and freedom as a freelancer is your goal, it may be time to make yourself aware of the common stereotypes associated with the Graphic Design industry.

Creativity is Not King

It’s certainly not something you hear very often and as a graphic designer it’s probably a statement that makes you cringe. More importantly than the level of creativity and innovation you bring to the table, your biggest asset is your ability to meet and exceed the expectations of your client. Although a wise client with submit to your professional direction, it’s important that you are willing to swallow your pride and sacrifice creative elements if it makes your client happy with the work you produce on their behalf. As a designer, despite your desire to excel creativity, when it comes to providing great customer service, your client is king.

Pick up your Phone

It’s tempting to get in a groove and isolate yourself until you are happy with a final result. Resist this temptation. Be aware that the level of service you offer is influenced by the accessibility you provide for your clients to ask questions and receive status updates. Return e-mails and voice mail within 1 business day and establish a reputation of being reachable the majority of the time. Be proactive in your efforts to be a good communicator and call a client before they call you, in doing so you will ensure your client feels respected and in control of their marketing efforts.

Make Sure the Price is Right

In addition to the uncertainty faced by business people to easily access creative professionals in a timely manner, the worrisome subject of cost is also a difficult issue often encountered. Before you present pricing, ensure you have your information organized and accurate. On larger projects where subcontractors or outside suppliers are involved, be sure you outline the scope of the project clearly to your client and the establish the responsibilities of each supplier you choose to work with. Receive written quotes for printing, development or writing and issue your proposal in writing as well. Do not make vague estimates a part of your quotation process. Take billing seriously, even as seriously as eating the extra cost of a project if you go over budget. By absorbing a small amount of money here and there, issuing an invoice that matches a proposal is far better than losing the trust of a client. I think you would expect the same in any other purchasing situation and by adopting this perspective, it will encourage you to be more careful with your numbers.

Nice to Meet You

Virtual tools make working together easy. If you work with clients that are not local, take advantage of technology to communicate well. If you find yourself working with a client who does work close by, make time, when it’s appropriate to meet over coffee, get proof sign-off in person, or even deliver a final printed product once in a while. By making yourself a part of your clients’ reality, you are making a case for a continuing business relationship. As technology makes working with anyone, anywhere a viable option, your local presence may be the reason a client is comfortable working with you.

Spell Check

Good grammar and spelling are often overlooked in favour of correcting pre-flighting issues or troubleshooting interactive elements. Especially in print design, one word spelled correctly can be the difference between success and epic failure. By using spell check often and paying attention to the little things, your client will never know just how close they were to being unsatisfied.

Every graphic designer is creative. Being creative and knowing what your clients expect in terms of customers service will give you the edge you need to compete and succeed as a Graphic Designer.

Much of the time, as I’ve surfing through the blogosphere, I tend to come across fascinating bits of information that may not warrant a full post, but certainly require mention of some sort. With this being the case, welcome to the random reading round-up, a short tour of amazing things. Let’s get started.

Millions of Screenshots

The first stop on our tour is at 456 Berea Street. This is the home of Roger Johansson, a Swedish web specialist and accessibility expert. His blog is always well stocked with cross browser compliance tips and CSS techniques. I found this topic on styling form controls particularly amazing and quite helpful. In this post, he’s coded and taken screen shots of over 200 different form elements in different browsers! Unbelievable!!

Digital Inspiration

If you are in the mood to be blown away, make sure you drop by Think Four’s blog. This post is is loaded with mouth-watering, juicy photo manipulation design, created by experts. Inspiration is just a click away.

Read Once, Print Twice

Next stop is Fuel Your Creativity, a source for ideas, inspiration, and helpful tips from your good friends and mine at Fuel Brand Group. This post, called 3 deadly sins of print design, although a bit more on the elementary side, is a great post for beginners in the print medium, or web developers who may be looking for some helpful advice.

Before you leave, make sure you check out this interesting post from Fuel on dual element logos. One of the most interesting and challenging aspects of identity design is the layers of meaning embedded into the design elements. When more than one idea plays across the logo, you know you’ve succeeded.

Be Good To Your Clients

The good folks at Vandelay Design seem to know what they are talking about when it comes to getting along with clients. In addressing the common problem designers seem to have with communicating well, this post outlines the right way to go about customer service. The emphasis on learning to respect your clients ideas and working collaboratively is a lesson many Graphic Designers could use to learn.

Be Good To Your Ideas

Eric Karjaluoto has difficult last name to pronounce. Don’t let that deter you from visiting this post at ideas on ideas. This is another post about being a better designer, but it’s more from a creative perspective. This is a great read on challenging yourself to take your work to the next level.

What to Read Before You Die

The Die Line claims to be the world’s #1 packaging design website and who’s going to argue with that? My favourite part of the site to visit is the redesign category of their blog for fresh new takes on product packaging.

Enforce Your Design Rights

In closing, here are some helpful templates from the Design Police you can use to vandalize critique other people’s work when you just can’t stand bad design.

Thanks for reading. If you’ve got any other sweet links you’d like to share, please leave a comment!