Category Archives: Graphics

Creating Mood Boards and What They Should Convey

Oh, the good ole mood board. Its so powerful and yet so subjective in what it should be and contain. Its not an easy thing to define exactly and it feels like everyone could have a slightly differently approach to it as long as it conveys the right things; style, feeling, tone, etc.

Google called it this, “an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc., intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept.” … and I don’t hate that definition.

I broke it down a bit differently to give instructions on creating one.

  • The end goal is to convey the style and tone in the design you are concepting out
  • The audience is usually a creative director or client stakeholder
  • Use elements from research, past designs, current collateral from the same brand or newly created elements
  • Re-create any elements that are too far off-brand (like the completely wrong color or image) but don’t spend too much time making them perfect
  • When you squint, it should start to mimic the design style you have in mind

I actually think this is a powerful practice to complete even if you’re not showing a stakeholder for approval but only for yourself. Its not easy to have the discipline to do that, but I bet it will pay off in the long run in making you a stronger visual communicator.

Portfolio Shows & Stalking College Design Talent

Staying connected to the local colleges that have design departments is a bit tedious but an important task that I try to fit in.  There almost needs to be some mechanism or website that fulfills this need. Now, I’m just relying on Facebook and hoping those design programs are posting about upcoming shows or related news. There’s way too many talented college students who could truly benefit from experience like an internship or even talking to professionals in the real word and get some key advice.

At one portfolio show I was surprised to be the only person there from an outside company. There was just the students and few professors. I admit I was taken back by that, and when I approached the professors afterwards, they were almost surprised I showed up. I thought that might be the point of these shows. At my university, our senior show was advertised to every single agency and design firm in  a 100 mile area … and about half of us got internships and interviews.

I do feel like a bit of a stalker having to follow the schools on Facebook and then when I see a picture of work hanging up, I almost want to comment and ask if it’s a public show. Here I am, practically begging to get in there and catch some of this talent … BUT shouldn’t that be the other way around? I would absolutely love it if I had department heads at these design programs contacting me on a regular basis to discuss opportunities for their kids, or asking me to come in and talk about digital media and real world projects. Hmmm, I think I have a new goal. I’ll make this happen soon.

Stock Photos: The Hunt in Today’s World

There’s almost nothing more frustrating than coming to a great idea for the photo direction, but then not exactly finding the right image. I couldn’t imagine trying to find the right stock photo way back in the day, before websites with metadata and account preferences and fancy features. I do have to admit this is a frustrating process and almost silly thing to bitch about, since before the more advanced internet of things, this process was so much harder when your only option was to plan, budget and execute on a custom photoshoot to capture that perfect image.

Anyway … websites like have made it so efficient to not only find the perfect image, but to repeatedly use their tool for ongoing campaigns, special needs, and any research. From all the autosuggest category tags, which is actually extremely very helpful if you think about the fact that they are showing you what actually tags have content, and you don’t have to peck and hunt via crazy words that you just came up with.

The “light boxes” on istockphoto are also worth a shootout. They are essentially just folders to save your image ideas in (and what a cool way to brand it and make it sound more connected to the industry) … anyway … The real reason I love this is because I used to take thousands of screenshots when doing research for images or just mood boards, and it was a pain because I was always ensuring I also captured the ID or URL, in case I wanted it and then couldn’t find it again (starting the craziness of the process over again). I fill those light boxes up, and love the comfort in knowing every idea is one click away from purchase.

And thank god, they have the additional filters like file type, because I can’t stand seeing illustrations when I’m looking for a photo. Theres way too many people out there essentially doodling in illustrator and trying to sell it professionally as stock work.

Graphs, Charts, & Data Visualizations are getting Pretty Advanced

Its amazing to see how data visualizations have been pushed from a development standpoint, which helps designers know which cool affects can come at a smaller development effort and not break the bank or timeline.

graph data visualization entry

When decided on the actually graph or chart type, its easy to have 3 or 4 that really fit your data in a good way, but then it becomes more of a cosmetic discussion on what looks better or fits better with where you’re displaying it at.  Even stylistically the development Libs or plug-ins make the design more streamlined as they have built in CSS treatments like gradient shading or drop shadows.

A lot of the libraries really focus on the animating of the actual graph pieces which really make any data vis really pop. Even if the end visual seems sort of plain, that first 1-2 seconds when it is animating into its full representation, any client or stakeholder will be wowed with the motion graphic aspect of it.

Mobile App Game Graphics Getting Good

I’ve been researching spaceship graphics for a mobile app game we’re wanting to concept out, and I’ve been really impressed with how some designers have approached a more flat-ish skew-morphism style which really comes across contemporary and professional. It also helped me to see all the various states and pieces these designers are putting in this sprite-type view of their graphics.

game spaceship colors entry

The other important element is the overall brand of the game, and before I even thought of a logotype or identity, I was worried about the color palette. Some designers were really pushing the boundaries of normal color convention and going with a wide range of colors and chromas. I expected to see some monochromatic ranges mixed with various grays and black, but most of the ones I saw were using at least 3 or 4 different colors and some neutrals or browns in the mix also. I love doing this type of research before I start just to help me step up my game and not re-invent the wheel, or don’t start way behind the industry when these examples can boost my starting point.

Researching Old Atari Games brings up nostalgia and surprise

Is it as shocking to everyone else, over 30 years old, how basic the graphics were on Atari games? I seem to research them for various projects about every 3 years or so, and every time I look at them I can’t believe how simple they are. Especially in consideration to how amazing it seemed as a kid to have all these different games and talk trash on your brother or cousin on who was the best at which games.

atari graphics entry

I look across some of my favorites like Pitfall and Dig Dug, and think to myself, ‘I swear it looked cooler than that back in the day’. The UX (or game mechanic) seemed so much more complex when you were a kid and console games just came out. Would kids today, after having the amazing graphics and in-depth game features even appreciate the old Atari games?

What if I took the exact game mechanics of Pitfall and just updated the graphics to photorealistic 3D style, would it be fun in today’s world? I want to play all the games now, to really get a sense of what the UX is, what you really strive for (like points, levels, achievements) and see how it compares to even the simplest mobile app games these days. Boy how times/games have changed.


3D Motion Graphics seems to be the Next Big Thing in Visual Design

The more 3D modeling turned into animated motion graphics that I see, the more I think its the future of inspiring new cutting edge visual design. There is something completely unique about setting your 3D objects up and then upon a motion sequence, seeing how it visually looks when either the objects are moving or the camera angle is moving, and everything is churning together creating unplanned visual states, lighting affects, overlaps, etc. This type of composition building, with various visual elements at different perspectives and angles, become mind-blowing when you start to think about re-creating that without any 3D software. Its almost impossible.

3d motion graphics entry pic

In this virtual space which becomes an infinite canvas of opportunities, seeing even the simplest shapes take form into something greater can blow your mind. Like having a close zoomed-in angle with motion and color/lighting change, then change into a greater object or motion sequence … and along the way you get all these amazing visual states each with their own evolving composition. It all can go by so quickly when you’re actually watching a video, but if you break it up and export them to individual images, you start to see how this type of design can create the most innovative graphic design that starts to hint at the future of exploration. Any young designer in today’s world should at least be learning 3D modeling, if not fully embracing it.

New ESPN Studio with Big Digital Media Wins

ESPN created a new studio set and did it right with some innovative digital experiences. It really seems they wanted to push the limit with the environment and have multiple areas where associated branding, graphics and color could be shown. I absolutely love it, and don’t think its distracting (which would be my worry if planning it). Even though the new host desk seems a little Star Trek-ish, I’m ok with it because the overall feel isn’t too futuristic … which is ironic since Star Trek came out in the 60’s.

espn new studio big video wall

One of the signature areas is the large media wall that is the backdrop for one of their main discussion and interview areas. It seems to be around 10 displays wide and 7 displays tall, and have them jutting out at inconsistent levels from each other. At first glance, it seems like a hard idea to swallow with all the extra dimensions, but then I realized that the sides of the displays seem to show (or mirror) the content from that display (or the display next to it). And even though it might just be mirroring some of the content, it still gives the impression of a seamless piece of content and comes across really nice. I will work on getting a tour and seeing this bad boy up close.

Icon Hunting Between Sets and Styles is Taking over My Life

Every project can use them. Every client wants them. Every one is completely unique in its own way, even if its an extremely slight difference. I’m talking about graphical icons here people. I have folders on folders on folders of downloaded icon sets to choose from, and it only builds onto the icon madness.

Each project, or client style almost calls for a unique icon style or content set (if its technology, devices, weather, etc). There are round corners, pixel-styled, bulky, sketch-y, iPhone-y, and any other artistic take on creating your own icon set and putting it on the internet for all these creative download sites to give away as a “freebee”.

Every time I have to start my ‘icon hunt’ through my folders gives me a sharp shock of anxiety. I have my go-to folders but then have to preview the set to see if it has the type of icon I want. I will say that started an initiative to build a library of various icons and expose a widget that allows you to search by tags. I would vote this as one of the more helpful design initiatives over the last decade, and they let you download eps versions of any of the icons … booyah. But that brings up licensing, and we all know each set has its own and I’m dreading that day when someone really takes legal action on some random icon I used this one time. That will be a different and very fun blog posting.

Blade Runner’s Futuristic Computer Screen for 2019

So I’m watching Blade Runner for probably the umpteenth time (you know, the classic 1982 movie w/ Harrison Ford) and something struck me for the first time. For all the futuristic elements they portray in this 2019 setting, the computer screens just have a DOS-like black screen with green text. Is that crazy? I mean they have flying cars, holograms, digital screens on the streets all over, but they didn’t see computer screens taking a futuristic leap?

Now maybe this is the first time I’m noticing this because I’m currently watching Halt and Catch Fire which features the evolution of the first personal computers and they were just blown away by someone creating a graphical user interface. But it seems like such an important piece of technology to show off a new vision for in the movie. We all know Minority Report took it to the limit and has become the buzz word for innovative user interface and functionality. Huge miss hollywood, but I guess nobody noticed since every nerd loves this movie.