Ads Designed While You Wait!

September 17, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

There’s a tattoo shop in Louisville and Lexington called Tattoo Charlie’s with the slogan: “Tattoos While You Wait!” Ridiculous slogan? Yes. Effective? Yes, it interrupts my thoughts every time I see it. Good slogan to swipe to draw attention to this post? Yes!

I’ve been very fortunate to have been very busy lately doing tons of ads. Everything from two page spreads to 1/12 page ads. Local, regional and national. Tourism, real estate, entertainment, motorcycles, horses…

The variety of ads to be created have been challenging and a good stretch for me as a designer. Here are a few samples from the last couple of months:

Think I may have to start an “Ads” section in the portfolio!

Thanks for looking.

18 Benefits of Hiring Me for Your Next Project

July 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Do you have a design, web, marketing, illustration or advertising job that needs to be done? While a design firm or agency can offer many great benefits, great design and may simply be the best fit for you in some cases, I’d like for you to consider for a moment the following 18 benefits my company, Tin Star Media, has to offer you for your next project.

1) I Keep My Overhead Low

The great part about working with a freelancer is that you get more for your money. Typically, when you pay an ad agency for work you are also helping to cover the costs necessary to run the agency. Office space, equipment and upgrades, staff salaries, benefits, and the list goes on and on… Of course I also have expenses associated with running my business, but they are much smaller. I can work from anywhere and equipment upgrades are a lot cheaper for one person than an entire staff!

2) I Help You Control Your Costs

How? I have a lot more flexibility on the size and scope of projects I can take on than a typical agency does. If your project doesn’t have enough return on the investment an agency will have to spend for your project, most will be reluctant to take your project at a price you can afford. If you happen to be a start-up business that can’t afford to divert all of your resources into your advertising, using a freelance designer is a great alternative.

3) You Don’t Have to Keep Me On the Payroll

What if you only need graphic design on a seasonal basis? The flexibility of being a freelancer allows me to be there when you need me and be somewhere else that doesn’t cost you money when you don’t!

4) I Make Decisions Based on Circumstances, Not Policy

As a freelancer, I’m my own boss for better or worse. I don’t have to get approval from anyone to make financial or scheduling decisions. While I do have personal guidelines in place for running my business, I also have the freedom to go against them if the situation warrants it! For example, I’m willing to work on an hourly or project basis. It really just depends on your needs and circumstances.

5) I Don’t Charge You the Same Price for Everything

Many agencies will charge you the same rate for burning a CD as they do for coming up with your creative concept and I don’t think this is fair. I use tiered pricing for specific tasks, so you’re not going to pay an outrageous amount to get that CD with your project on it. Which leads to…

6) I Believe in Transparency

I’m transparent about everything from whether I am truly a good fit for your project to managing your budget. I despise design jargon that keeps you off balance and covers my butt if something is not working out right. I use professional software to provide you with a detailed invoice that shows you exactly how and where your money was spent down to the quarter hour and to facilitate project management and communication.

7) I Keep a Short Client List

I intentionally keep my client list relatively short to ensure that I am able to meet deadlines. I want to give your project as much attention as possible and give you the best customer service I can.

While adding as many clients and projects as humanly possible may seem like a great way to make a lot of money, it is actually a short-sighted game plan that is doomed to fail. I truly believe that having too many things going on at one time will cause the quality of work and customer service to suffer and lead straight to dissatisfied customers and personal burnout.

8) I Don’t Work a 9-5 Job!

While I try to keep the hours I spend working as reasonable as possible, being a freelancer allows me the flexibility to adjust to special circumstances. This is not always the case when working with an agency and your project may have to wait until the right people are in place, the right meetings are held, etc.

9) Working With a Freelancer is Usually Faster

Working with a freelancer is oftentimes faster than working with an agency because we will be working together directly for the most part. I don’t have to wait for the creative director to get back from vacation to approve your job and your project does not have to go through multiple layers of employees or systems to move forward.

10) Timeliness is Next to Godliness

(Or something like that!) The bottom line is that I have every motivation to get your job done in the required timeframe. Why? To impress you as a customer and earn your repeated business of course. Also, I am well aware that missed deadlines and incomplete projects = no money.

11) I Am Directly Responsible for Your Project

As a freelancer there is no one else to pass the buck off to if something goes wrong. Talk about motivating!

12) I’m Not Going to Fire Myself

This is a benefit to you because I will be working on your project from start to finish. You don’t have to worry about something going wrong behind the scenes and your project being passed off to someone else midstream.

13) You Know Who You’re Dealing With

With an agency, you may not know who your project will be assigned to. Could be a senior designer, could be an intern…

14) Single Point of Contact

You won’t get passed from the secretary, to the account executive, to the art director, to the designer to talk about your project. If you’ve ever encountered a situation like this, you know how easy it is for things to get “lost in translation”. You get to talk directly to me about what we are working on for the duration of your project.

15) I Stand Behind My Work 100%

If you’re not satisfied with my work at any time during the development of your project, I guarantee that I will do what needs to be done to fix it. If you are unhappy with the work I produce for you and don’t want to use my designs – there is absolutely no charge to you whatsoever.

16) You’re the Expert

You talk. I listen. You know your business better than anyone. I may have suggestions based on my experience, but I will look to you to inform me on your goals for your project and as the source of the information I need to craft a winning design.

17) I’m Motivated!

One of the coolest things about being a freelancer is that I have fewer limitations than I had when working for an agency. But being a freelancer takes a lot of self-motivation. Motivation to keep up with what I need to learn and know to do my job effectively. Motivation to prove my worth. I know new jobs and clients aren’t just going to land in my lap because someone else did the legwork and brought the job into the agency.

18) I Appreciate My Clients!

You’re the Rock Star to me! My clients help me to feed my family and further my career. I work hard to get them and to keep them and I’m very grateful for each and every one!

Thank you for reading and considering the benefits listed above. I’d love to know more about your next project and how I can help you! If you are curious and would like a free, no-obligation quote on your next project, please fill out a few basic details on my handy “Get A Quote” request form and I will get back to you ASAP!

Where Have You Been?!

April 27, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Where have I been is a better question?! I’m so glad you asked…

In the “woodshed” man. Getting it done.

I’ve spent the better part of the last month or so turning this logo:

into this logo:

this masthead into:

this masthead:

this magazine (from cover to cover):

into this magazine:

and this website:

into this website:

I also had the “opportunity” to learn how to configure the site’s OSCommerce store! (Which actually turned out to be similar to other shopping carts and stores I’ve set up in the past, so it wasn’t too bad and overall I’m impressed with the features offered.)

As a whole, changing all of this stuff in a very short period of time turned out to be not as scary as I feared (had to happen quickly so there wasn’t a lot of time for fear!) and was a great opportunity to learn, expand my skill set and refine a lot of the things that I was dying to improve upon from the first couple of issues of Stunters Edge Magazine and the Stunters Edge website.

More detailed posts coming soon about various aspects of this redesign.

Thanks for reading!


New (Old) Items Added to Galleries

March 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

I’ve been going through some archives looking for pieces that I thought turned out well or are some of my favorites.

Here are the new items added to the Graphic Design, Digital Illustration and Identity galleries:

(Just a hint… always take a few minutes to archive your projects as you go so you can find them later. I’m still looking for a lot of things I remember but can’t find. Bummer.)

What Do You Mean You Can’t Make It Bigger?

March 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve worked in design for very long (or worked with designers) you’ve no doubt made this face!

One of my goals with this blog is to speak to both designers and clients and attempt to address some of the problems that come up in the client/designer relationship.

One of the first and most common issues that comes to mind is the use of images. More specifically, the issue of what images the client has and what the designer wants and needs from the client.

Following are a few facts about digital images in layman’s terms. (And I’m not just talking to clients here either. I’ve worked with plenty of young designers who do not yet fully grasp the concepts.)

Images can be either Raster Based or Vector Based.

Raster based images are created using a grid of pixels to define the image. Each pixel is assigned a color value and all of the pixels together create the image. To increase the size of a raster based image, the pixels defining the image can be increased in either number or size. Increasing the number of pixels or making the pixels bigger in an image results in the original data being spread over a larger area. Spreading the pixels over a larger area causes the image to begin to lose detail and clarity as seen below.

You may notice if you look at the information on the file that the file is XX dpi. DPI means Dots Per Inch. Most printing is done at 300 dpi. Most web images are 72 dpi. (For all intents and purposes, 72 dpi is as small as you should go.)

Raster files handle the subtleties of photographs very well as a general rule and can be very large if there is a large amount of detail and pixels in an image.

Raster based images, as a general rule, are created in a program like Photoshop. Common file formats will be .jpg, .png, .gif, .psd, .eps and .tif

Vector based images, on the other hand, are created by using mathematical equations to define the shapes and points of the image. If the image is increased in size, the equation is recalculated accordingly resulting in the image increasing in size with no loss of data or detail. As a result, dpi is not a factor with vector based images. In theory, your image could cover a skyscraper without a loss of clarity or quality.

Vector files sound like the way to go then right?

Unfortunately, vector programs do not handle photographs as well as a general rule. Photographs are still raster based and it takes an extensive amount of time and effort (budget often becomes a factor here) to recreate a photo as a vector. (Though it can be done! Look at some of the people here.)

Vector based images are generally created in a vector program like Illustrator. Common file formats will be .ai, .pdf or .eps.

(For even more detail than you probably want to know, see this post: Vector vs. Raster.)

Now that we have that out of the way, what does this mean to you?

For clients:

This means that if you have an image that is a 3″ x 5″ .jpg at 300 dpi on your computer, you have a raster file. If you want this file to be an 11″ x 17″ poster, you’re most likely going to be out of luck no matter how talented your designer. As stated above, increasing the image more 10% or so (not big enough for your poster) spreads the pixels over a larger area and will result in a significant decrease in quality.

Expecting a designer to make something out of nothing will make your designer pull their hair out and might possibly put a lot of strain on the relationship.

Possible solutions / tips for clients:

BIGGER than what you need is almost always better.

If possible, obtain a larger image. It might be a little more expensive if you are are using a purchased image, but larger is almost always better. Think of the final size you want and shoot for that, or consult your designer before purchasing with your ideas for guidance. After all, that’s what you are paying him/her for right? Their expertise.

If you have the image you want printed somewhere, scanning the image might get you where you need to be. Quality might be a little less, but not nearly as bad as an image that is “blown up” too much.

See if your designer has any ideas of how they might “stylize” the image, like with a simple, but elegant, redraw in a vector program or maybe an artistic effect like a watercolor effect. Or, if the image is small but of a high quality, Illustrator’s Live Trace feature might be an option. Ask your designer.

Opening a raster based file in a vector program like Illustrator and then resaving does not make the file a vector file! It’s still just a raster file saved from a vector program.

Avoid sending your file attached in a program like Microsoft Word or Xcel if at all possible. Your designer will not be able to get much more than a low-resolution screen shot of your image.

Your logo is the most important piece of artwork you have. Strongly consider having your logo created first in a vector program. Creating your logo in a vector program makes your logo portable. Tiny for a website, or huge for a 20-foot banner, you’re covered. (Think classic and solid too. Those cool beveled edges and  the sunburst in the middle with all the drop shadows may look kind of cheesy and dated in 20 years!)

For designers:

It’s easy to get frustrated. I’ve listened to frustrated designers yelling expletives and have come close to putting my head through my monitor a couple of times. And I’ve definitely yelled a few expletives.

But, always keep in mind that your client may have their hands tied. Maybe the tiny .jpg of their logo is all they have. Maybe the “corporate office” is not being responsive. Maybe the mom & pop client has no idea what you are talking about and barely knows how to use email and they are paying you to handle all that “stuff”.

Maybe they know what they have is junk and they are counting on you to make it wonderful.

If you do this job for any time at all, especially freelancing on the local level, you will encounter it all. If you have accepted the job, your task is to find a solution that works. If what a client has given you simply will not work, get creative and find a solution.

Lastly, don’t forget, you are a professional and you are being paid for your expertise. (Meaning, if the client knew all this stuff and knew how to do it themselves there would really be no need for your services.) If you are not being treated like a professional, that is another issue and one you should address.

Hopefully this post has brought to light a few of the issues that tend to come up in designer / client relationships and offered a few helpful tips. If you would like to add more, from either side of the fence, please add your two cents in the comments.

Photo by windchime

Thank You!

March 1, 2010 by · Leave a Comment was chosen as a “Designer of the Month” site for March 2010 by! (Along with some other very nice sites.)

I’ve been a HUGE fan of Creative Public for a very long time. I just finally had a website to submit… is a must-visit resource if you are a freelancer or a small business. I refer people to the site all the time when they have questions about setting up their business or pricing services. (The method I use came straight from Creative Public!) I highly recommend this site, props or not, it’s a great site with tons of useful information.