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Weightlessness

16 Feb

Today I installed my most recent work in the Apothecary (a student-run gallery at UTC). The theme of the show is Weightlessness. If you know me, you know I’m a bit of a nerd for sci-fi. Lately, I’ve been all up in some BSG. I’m finishing up my GenEd with an Astronomy class this semester, which is proving to be equal parts challenging and interesting. Given all of this, it just made sense that my work would be deep space oriented.

For my work, I began researching communications logs for NASA Gemini and Apollo missions. They are available for free download at the NASA website. They’re gorgeous on their own merit; they’re scans of typewriter-written transcripts of ground-to-air communications.

I read through one of the transcripts from the Apollo 13 mission, and found myself mesmerized by it. I expected to find a log riddled with jargon I didn’t know, but instead what I read was incredibly human. It gave me chills at times to read their conversations. This particular transcript did not contain the infamous Apollo 13 disaster, but instead was a log of their initial take-off and first day in orbit. The whole log was full of wonderful snippets, but found a particularly interesting bit of dialogue between Commander (CDR) James A. (Jim) Lovell, Jr., Command Module Pilot (CMP) John L. (Jack) Swigert, Jr., and Lunar Module Pilot (LMP) Fred W. Haise, Jr.

This really struck something within me; it read almost like poetry. The best I can figure from the log is that ORDEAL had something to do with the camera they were trying to mount. As you can imagine, trying to Google search “Apollo 13 ORDEAL” only returns a lot of Tom Hanks.

Anyway, I knew that the line “your blood rushes to your head because your heart doesn’t have anything to pump against” was something I definitely wanted to work with.

I came across the work of Antoine de Villiers, a very talented figure painter. He recently created a short series of beautiful paintings called “Weightless.” I chose one of his paintings and abstracted the form, removing certain parts, adding others and vectorizing it in Illustrator. I then found some license-free deep space images on Wikimedia Commons of the Crab Nebula and the Omega Nebula. I chose to use Archer as my typeface because its hairline weight is one of my favorite things. Ever. The type is so thin and, well, weightless, that from a distance you only get a hint that something is there, and are quietly asked to move in closer to engage with the piece and read its message. The final printed piece is 19×15 inches, so the type is legible upon close inspection, which is exactly what I wanted to achieve.

The whole composition came together quite nicely, I must say. The show opens tomorrow, February 17th at 5:30 pm at the Apothecary, 744 McCallie Avenue, Suite 113 The Doctor’s Building Chattanooga, TN 37403. Feel free to come by and check out not only my work, but the excellent work of my classmates, designers, photographers and painters alike.

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Feel Better: A packaging project

13 Feb

My allergies keep me sick throughout the year. On average, I find myself in the cold medicine isle of the drug store three to four times a year, bleary-eyed and sniffly, trying to find the right medicine. I am immediately assaulted by harsh geometry and cold, unfeeling or just plain cluttered design like this.

I feel terrible, and all I want is to feel better. I want something that is going to feel like a warm bowl of soup, a cozy blanket and my mom stroking my hair. I want something comforting, and cold medicine packaging is anything but. This is the challenge I decided to take on: make cold medicine look as good as it’s going to make the user feel.

I wanted to create something novel and unexpected. Given the fast approaching deadline, I knew my limitations; I had to go with something I already knew how to do. Thankfully, I learned how to knit in high school, and what’s more comforting than a knit sweater? It was a solid concept; all I had to do was learn to knit pouches and I was set. After some internet research, I quickly learned and applied the technique.

Deciding on the typography was fairly easy, but typesetting the Drug Facts proved to be rather difficult. I wanted the look and feel to be simple, but there is a lot of information that is legally required to be on medicine packaging. But, this is why I love design: there are certain rules and challenges you have to figure out how to work around. All in all, I feel very proud of my work, even though these are all just mock-ups, and I hope to push the concept even further and really develop these into something fantastic.

How Thick Cards made our city stand out

10 Aug

Part of the collateral we had to provide for the 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat was a guide to the city so that visitors wouldn’t be at a complete loss for something to do when the meetings, seminars, etc. were over. We wanted to create something that would express the quirky, fun spirit of Chattanooga. We knew our city deserved something more exciting than the typical fold-out paper guide. We decided that we would make a pack of cards; much like trading cards. Each card would be designed by a different member of the Engage team, and feature a local “hot spot” in Chattanooga. We proposed this idea to the class and to our printer, Cy Devilbiss of WonderPress, who both loved it and jumped on board immediately. Cy was a fantastic, enthusiastic source of encouragement and truly worked along side us to help us create something unforgettable.

While the class started designing, my team met with Cy to discuss logistics. He used his awesome Thick Cards method to give each of our cards a unique feel. Cy creates his Thick Cards by adhering two pieces of cardstock paper together, creating cards that are twice as thick as normal business cards. By using this method, we could have a different paper for the front and back of each card.

We decided that the back of each card should be the same, and feature the retreat logo when all the cards were placed face down and put together like a puzzle. That way, when the cards were flipped over, face up, each card would feature a different place, different paper, and different designer. Each card also had a number that corresponded to the area map we included in the badge kit.

As we worked on our designs, we worked closely with Cy, as he helped us learn how to design for the paper; keeping in mind how the texture and color of the papers we had chosen would affect the designs we had created. His printing expertise coupled with our design know-how made for an epic conglomeration of awesomeness. Cy was great to work with. His enthusiasm for the project inspired us. He believed in our work so much that he began bragging about it to others and even made mention of entering the piece in some contests. The fact that he took such pride in his own work made us take even more pride in ours, resulting in a great final piece.

We were told again and again by attendees of the conference how visually striking and refreshingly different the guide was. It really made Chattanooga look great, which is exactly what this city deserves. I had the opportunity to hand out the guides on the first day of the conference, and never got tired of people’s surprised and delighted reactions. It was truly impressive, and we couldn’t have made this stellar piece without the help of Cy and his Thick Cards method.

Engage: 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat

10 Aug

I spent the better part of this year working on the branding for the 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat. We began in January and worked every day until the actual retreat ended on June 5th. It was an awesome experience, complete with exhilarating triumphs, crushing defeats, valleys of calm, and moments of complete panic.

This was a project that my classmates and I worked on collaboratively. We began as one entity, developing the brand from the ground up. We needed something that would bespeak Chattanooga’s fun nature while allowing itself to be taken seriously as a brand. Our theme was “Engage,” so we needed to create something that would represent interconnectedness without feeling like a corporate-synergy-team-building-exercise kind of thing. Through weeks of trial and error, we eventually landed on a brand based off the awesome work of our own Lillie Somerfield.

Inspired by color blindness tests, a logo comprised of thousands of dots of various sizes all coming together to create something while still retaining their individuality perfectly captured what we were going for. We created a color palette that we felt represented Chattanooga well, complimenting the city’s harmony with its natural beauty.

Once we established the brand as a class, we split into three teams and began cranking out some collateral. Our three task forces were Printed Materials, Web/Social Media and Environmental Graphics. I was the leader of the Print Team, and as such assumed a great deal of responsibility that kept my hands tied most of the time.

My team was in charge of designing table top signs, a guide to city of Chattanooga, the name badge kit and tshirts. I also created and revised again and again the brand guide to the brand we created, as well as daily sessions signs to go outside each room used throughout the conference.

The name badge kit involved eight different pieces:

  • The name badge itself
  • A schedule of the retreat’s events
  • A map of the retreat site
  • An area map and food guide
  • A card about transportation around the city
  • A card for questions to be left at the front desk
  • A thank you card for the sponsor
  • And a card corresponding to the attendee’s assigned table in the main ballroom.

It was a lot of collateral, and the team definitely pulled their weight! Everything came out looking great. More on the breathtaking Guide to Chattanooga in a little bit…

It was a completely new experience for me to be a leader for this project. It was awkward at times as the dynamics of interaction between myself and my team (who were at once my peers, classmates and equals as well as members of the team answering to me) became difficult to balance. It’s odd and unsettling to have to reprimand and respectfully demand things of people who are on the same level as you in a lot of ways, and in some cases are your friends in your personal life.

That was really where the awkward place was, in that overlap between personal and professional relationships. I very quickly learned how to manage this ground, which has proved invaluable in other aspects of my life as well. It was a great lesson to learn: how to stay friends with those you work with/for/above.

I also came a long, long way in my client relation skills. Before this project, I was used to designing in a bubble, so to speak. I was designing things that would only be shown to other designers that I already knew. There was no expectation other than the high standards of design quality that my professors expected of me.

It was daunting at first, the idea of designing for AIGA. However, the wonderful people at the national office (namely Katie Baker, with whom I had the most interaction), quickly proved themselves to be approachable and reasonable. While at first I was intimidated by the scope and nature of the AIGA audience, I became quite comfortable with the national representatives by the time the retreat came around.

Visiting the national office in New York helped tremendously. That “field trip” was simply incredible. The vaults of AIGA member work made me fall in love with design all over again, and the building itself was gorgeous and inspiring.

From right: Jessica McGhee, Lillie Somerfield, Katie Baker, myself

As the Print Team leader, I also learned how to preflight files for our WONDERFUL printer, Cy DeVilbiss with lightning speed. Cy and all the guys at Blair did such amazing work for us, and graciously donated all of it. Our best designs would have been useless if our printer hadn’t been as amazing as he was.


Among the amazing printed materials he provided for us was the outstanding Guide to Chattanooga. You can read all about that process here.

As the semester came to an end (but our Engage work just began to kick into high gear), I made Engage themed cupcakes for everyone to enjoy! I carved the “e” out of a sheet cake, and used three different sized cupcake/muffin tins to create the dots. I handmade and colored the icing to match the brand we had built. The cake was confetti cake, too; even MORE dots!


Cute, you guys.

When it came time for the actual retreat, we were stoked to have the chance to volunteer. Not only would we get to see all of our hard work come to fruition, but we would get to rub elbows with AIGA board members from all over the country and make some great networking connections. During the opening address, we were brought on stage with the one and only Debbie Millman, President of AIGA. She personally thanked us for our work and presented us to the attendees of the conference. That was incredible. The whole experience was so, so much fun. I made some great new friends and it was wonderful to be appreciated for all the work we did. It was so rewarding to watch people use our materials. Driving home one night, I passed a number of groups on the street, holding up our area maps and using them with confidence. That was really heartwarming, to say the least. I had to miss the last day of the conference for my cousin’s wedding, but the time I was able to spend there was unforgettable. Here are some pictures of our final conference pieces:

cleaning the windows in preparation for the vinyl dot decals


Austin Reed, leader of the Environmental graphics team, in front of the dot window graphics his team created


retreat attendees Engaging with the Engage brand


a daily sessions sign about to be installed


a daily sessions sign in its environment


some of the directional signage the Environmental team came up with


installing room numbers and daily sessions signs


helping attendees register


the assembled badge kits waiting to be picked up at registration


waiting to be installed


column banners going up, more environmental team magic


we're volunteers! engaging with the attendees!


Jessica's name tag


around 300 chapter board members came to Chattanooga!


hanging out with Katie Baker

You can call it a comeback

9 Aug

WOW it’s been a while since I’ve blogged. I apologize for my neglect. My time and attention have been eaten away by several big, exciting projects that I fully intend to share with you over the next few days. For now, I will give you a summation of my time away from WordPress and a preview of the blogs you can expect to see very, very soon:

I spent the spring semester engrossed in creating the branding for the 2010 AIGA Leadership Retreat that was held here in Chattanooga in June. This was a project that my classmates and I worked on collaboratively, having been split into three task forces (Printed Materials, Web/Social Media and Environmental Graphics). I was the leader of the Print Team, and as such assumed a great deal of responsibility that kept my hands tied most of the time. More about this awesome and hectic experience later.

Once the retreat was over, I took a few days to recuperate with an awesome friend and a lot of laughter. This amazing friend happens to brew his own fine alcoholic beverages, which I felt needed some humorous branding. I quickly obliged. A post on this later.

I then came back to Widgets & Stone, the lovely studio who hired me as a Designer after having me as an intern for only 5 months. It has been nothing short of an amazing experience to be a part of the Widgets team. We’ve done some awesome things since I last blogged. I was even allowed to take lead on a couple of projects. Again, more on these later.

Early in the summer, the extraordinarily talented and quirky Terry Chouinard came to the studio to host a letterpress lecture and workshop, which was so, so much fun. I learned so much from him and his humor kept everyone in the workshop in high spirits. It was a really enjoyable experience that gave me the confidence and knowledge to attempt a letterpress project of my own. Again, a later post (we’re up to what, at least 4 now? Good grief…)

So, a lot has happened. A lot will continue to happen. And I will blog about it. Be prepared.