Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ring, ring doorbell ring...It's house party time!

So I've been tagged again. This time by the excellent Carey of Lasso'd Moon, a fellow stationery designer who can be found at her blog: http://www.theinkspotblog.com. The header is a nod to one of Carey's most embarrassing songs..."House Party Time" by Dan Zanes. Don't worry Carey...you can find my girls and I dancing to this one in our kitchen most weekdays at around lunchtime. You're not alone.

Here's what I'm supposed to do:
1) Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 5 songs you are embarrassed to admit to others you like and tell why.
3) Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4)Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

But I'm going to have to wimp out on 3 and 4. Honestly, after tagging everyone back in January I think I tapped out my resources. So unfortunately this tag ends with me. BUT, I will treat you to 5 songs I'm embarrassed to admit to others I like and why. Here goes.

First you must know that I am a die-hard 80's and 90's alternative girl, who grew up singing in choirs and musicals. That right there should let you know that I have secret CDs stashed all over the place. Move over my well played friends like The Smiths and Jeff Buckley...say hello to the closet skeletons of my CD collection.

1)"Un-break My Heart" by Toni Braxton— The over the top drama of the lyrics, the moments where Toni gets her super sassy low-register whisper on, the vocal acrobatics (imitated by Idol contestants season after season I might add!), the big "whoo!" at the end. All very cheesy. But I have BELTED (that's the only way to sing this song) this one out in the privacy of my home office before.

2)"Leave (Get Out)" by JoJo- I'm a sucker for a dance tune. Sure she was like 15 when she recorded this, but the girl can sing. As my brother-in-law once asked me (when he caught me jammin' out to this one) "How do you think they decided to add the girl in the background of the chorus yelling 'Leave!, Now! Who? Why! Waste of time!' I would've loved to have been in on that record exec meeting!!!" Lyrics like "Boy you must've gone and bumped your head" make this song almost intolerable but I still like it anyway

3)"Gotta Get Thru This" by Daniel Bedingfield-Again, it's got a good beat and you can dance to it. Still the digitized falsetto is pure cheese. Thank goodness he's European, it's the only excuse I have for liking this.

4)"Stand Up" by Ludacris featuring Shawnna- I am a mother, I should not own music with lyrics like this. I will say though that dancing to this and "Hot in Herre" by Nelly are the ONLY things that got my daughters through "the witching hour" as infants. You know, the period between 1 and 4 months old where they cry for like 2 hours straight every night between 5 and 7 pm? Apparently, when I moved, they moved. And it was in a way that worked for them. Who says hip-hop isn't comforting?

5)"(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time On You" by N'Sync- I don't think I even need to elaborate on this one. I'll go hang my head in shame now.

So there it is. And I did not go easy on myself with this tag. Those are just a few of the songs I'm embarrassed to admit I like. Feel free to comment with one or two of your own favorite stinkers!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Design Find: helpineedhelp.com

My friend and collaborator over at http://sweettalkboutique.com pointed me towards a great site a week or two ago: http://www.helpineedhelp.com. I love the aesthetic of the site as well as their product ideas. Any company that has this to say about packaging design—"Many companies enjoy packaging their goods inside nasty materials covered in gaudy graphics.That’s because many companies are controlled by crazy people."—is A-OK in my book! While you're visiting the helpineedhelp.com site there are lots of things to do and look at, all presented in an orderly and legible fashion that would make my college Swiss design professor proud. A visit to their blog is sure to give you a chuckle. You can design your own "Help, _______" T-shirt in their store section. I personally want to get one that says "Help, everyone spells stationery...as stationary!!!" Just a little pet peeve of mine. Lastly, be sure to check out their "help I am BORED" area. While there you can find all sorts of easy remedies for toplessness, homesickness, stupidity, aggression and more! So props to the designers over at http://www.helpineedhelp.com/home/. Thanks for adding some more good design to cyberspace. And thanks Jen for for being my design buddy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Kiss My Face!

Today is Earth Day and I have to share a few of the most well-designed (and earth friendly!) skin care products I've had the pleasure of trying. I am officially obsessed with Kiss My Face's Obsessively Organic facial care line! Why you ask? Because it WORKS. I say that these products are well designed because they excel in both form and function. From the packaging to the effectiveness of the individual formulas, this is a group of stellar products that each stand out individually while also working in perfect harmony with each other. Of course they've all got obscenely cute and catchy names, which makes me love them even more.

Currently I'm using the products geared toward normal to dry skin. I start with "Clean for a Day" creamy cleanser, which is as much a treat for my nose as it is for my skin. Scented with natural vanilla and tangerine, I always think to myself that it smells like I'm washing with a yummy smelling cream pie filling. The best part is I don't gain any weight and there's none of that stickiness! Next up is the anti-aging powerhouse serum "C The Change." I love this stuff and so would the wrinkle lines on my forehead...if they were still visible!! I am new to serum use, but over the past few weeks I cannot deny the changes I've seen in my skin. It looks and feels healthier, with less wrinkles and redness to boot. Since this is my night routine, I follow up with "Under Age" an ultra hydrating moisturizer. This is a rich cream (I use a very small bit with each application) but my skin just sucks it right up. I can't give all the credit to the serum, as I feel this moisturizer contributes a great deal to softening my skin and smoothing out fine lines as well. Of course, it's also got a lovely rose garden type fragrance. Amazingly, not perfumey or too floral, but rather fresh smelling...like a bouquet of botanicals.

There are lots more options you can add to this routine, especially if you have special concerns. There's a botanical acne gel in the line, a moisturizer with sunscreen for day use, a deep pore cleansing mask and a body scrub as well. The only extra treatment I've tried so far has been KMF's "So Refined" facial scrub. I use it once a week or whenever I need a little oomph in my complexion. Next I'm itching to try their "Eyewitness" eye repair cream and "Balancing Act" toner.

When it comes to Kiss My Face I have to admit, I might be a bit biased. They're based right next to my little hometown and I've been familiar with (and a fan of) their products since I was a high schooler. Another fact I love about Kiss My Face is that they're the only independently owned major natural personal care company. And the company is still owned and operated by the founders!

I may be a fan of beauty products, but there have been plenty of casualties over the years—products that just didn't work, moisturizers that fostered breakouts, too heavy, too smelly...the list goes on. How refreshing it is to find a line that works for me, and that works to benefit the earth as well! Happy Earth Day!

To get some of your own earth day treats check out: http://www.kissmyfacewebstore.com/

Monday, April 14, 2008

Break me off a piece of that ART!: Helena Garcia

I have a darling little 18 month old. Those are her gorgeous brown eyes up in the header there. Not long after she was born, I set about designing her room. Of course, with a big sister in the house, much of her room was decorated with hand-me-downs. Determined not to let my second child get the perennial shaft, I made sure there were a few things that are all her own—the lemon colored walls, the white sheer curtains with hot pink polka dots, and a perfect set of prints from illustrator and artist Helena Garcia.

OK, so I had my eye on Helena's work before baby #2 was even in the picture. Who wouldn't be charmed by her colorful world of cheeping birds, adorable rocker chicks, and shared sushi yumminess?! Framed and placed on my little one's walls, I knew they were a hit when my big one, who was two at the time, instantly decided..."that's me! I'm the one with the guitar!" and "Look at me, I'm walking with my music." Notice her sister wasn't mentioned at all there. Still, I'd say little sister is the one who wins out. After all, she gets to wake up with Helena's illustrations everyday.

Having spent a lot of time looking at "I Love Music" and "A Stroll" while I rocked my sleepy, sick, or just plain cuddly baby, I came to the conclusion that for me, good design is truly comforting. Throw in the additional "cute factor" of Helena's art—I mean isn't the little animal ear hat in "A Stroll" is an inspired choice?!—and I'm comforted even more so. Her saturated color choices warm me and the musical themes found throughout her illustrations speak to what it's like being a girl who loves music (which I still happen to be to this day). The flat 2-D nature of Helena's work reminds me why I love being a print designer, and her "less is more" approach makes her art very accessible to children and adults alike.

Speaking of which (my big one's new favorite phrase), I aim to choose art for my children's walls that will grow with them and I felt these prints were perfect for that. Nothing against the "nursery art" trend, I've made some nursery art myself in the past. But much the way adults converse naturally with babies to encourage receptive language and verbal skills, I want to give my daughters more than just the equivalent of visual baby talk. I want my home to be filled with art that they notice, that interests them, and that they enjoy. As I rocked my little one the other night, thinking of how she'll someday be too big to rock, she pointed to "I Love Music" and said "guitar." That's when I was reminded once again, of what a good choice I made buying Helena's prints. Oh yeah, and I was also reminded that one is never too big (or too little!) to truly RÖCK!!!

For more on Helena Garcia's rockin' illustrations check out: http://helenagarcia.com/

Friday, April 11, 2008

Picture Book Ponderings: Miffy

Back when I was "tagged" in January, I mentioned that my ultimate dream is to illustrate children's books. To say that I am a lover of children's books (picture books in particular) is an understatement. As I troll local libraries for books to read with my toddler daughters, I am continually reminded of the many books and authors and illustrators that helped shape my design sensibilities. Hence the regular feature I'd like to start..."Picture Book Ponderings."

I figured I'd start out with the Dutch design icon, Miffy! I found Miffy late in life, after I became a mom and my oldest daughter fell in love with the "Miffy & Friends" television program on Noggin. The show's distinct color palette (basically primary colors, plus the use of white, black, and brown) immediately won me over, as did Miffy's simplistic shape and features. Who knew that with just two little dot eyes, and a "x" for a mouth, a bunny could be so expressive!? Being a print designer, I immediately ran to e-bay to see what sort of actual Miffy books, stationery, toys and products I could find for myself...Uh...I mean my child. What can I say, I'm a design junkie.

That's when I discovered that MIffy is HUGE in Japan. Yeah, I know...big surprise right? With a styling similar to Sanrio's Hello Kitty products, Japanese pre-schoolers and teenage girls alike have scooped up any and all the Miffy they can get. The website Business in Japan notes that while Miffy may not rank as highly as Sanrio’s characters in terms of brand recognition, she still rakes in ¥40 billion (US $332 million) a year on products! And that doesn't include the picture books where our super sweet bunny got her start.

I credit Miffy with bringing me to the real Dutch design icon here, Dick Bruna, the modern master who created her (When it comes to art, when isn't the word "dutch" almost immediately followed by the word "master"?). From the deStijl to Droog Design, Dutch Graphic design is consistently defined by it's pursuit of minimalism and simplicity. Dick Bruna's ability to capture the affection and interest of both children and adults through the use of simple lines and forms, truly inspires me! After writing about the Dutch quest for nothing more than what is visually essential, I'm off to design myself. Thanks Miffy (*wink*)!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Springing Forward!

I'm not sure it's here to stay (did someone say there might be SNOW next week?), but Spring is certainly here for the moment. Designing this smashing yellow and black stationery wardrobe back in January certainly filled me with a much needed burst of brightness this past winter. I was also thrilled to create these items as part of a collaboration with Jen Comfort of She Takes the Cake, shetakesthecake.com, who designed the matching wedding cake.

I didn't always think so highly of collaboration. As a BFA student and a professional graphic designer in the publishing and in-house communications industries, I often heard that competition fosters innovation. Further into my career I noticed an increased use of the the phrase "design by committee." Wikipedia notes the defining characteristics of "design by committee" as "needless complexity, internal inconsistency, logical flaws, banality, and the lack of a unifying vision." They wrap it up with this: "Design and style much more relate to intuition and aesthetics than science or politics." True that, Wikipedia. True that.

Collaborating with Jen on designs has made me realize that when two people do share a "unifying vision," that vision often has double the impact. Do I still experience "design by committee" situations? Sure, every once in a while I'll take on a freelance job with "too many cooks." Or perhaps I'll volunteer my time and services for an event or organization that's lacking resources, leadership, or proper planning. But, when I do let my intuition and sense of aesthetics inform my decision to collaborate with another artist or design team, I find I am often pleased with the results.

I recently did some business "Spring Cleaning" and decided to let that same intuition and aesthetic ideal be the driving force behind this blog. Using this blog as a platform to promote my products just didn't make sense. Frankly it didn't help me sell anything and I honestly don't enjoy writing 100% PR and marketing driven posts. I also had to admit that as an avid reader of many blogs myself, I in fact HATE reading those types of posts as well! As a result I've decided to change the subject of this blog from my business, to my passion. When I thought about what I did want to write about, I realized that design is what I want to share with the world.

Design is what inspires me to be an entrepreneur, to do my job and in a large part contributes to who I am. I LOVE good design, but am amazed at what I can learn from bad and mediocre design as well. I am especially interested in the random, interesting, and often ignored design that occurs around me daily. Some of it might be mundane, and some of it might be marvelous, but it all contributes to the visual world around us...a world I never get tired of exploring.