Saturday, December 22, 2007

Disappointment Compass

Hagar and I went to see The Golden Compass, and we had a great disappointment. I was very excited about this movie after reading the book. We were also intrigued to see how the director would surpass the whole controversy regarding Philip Pullman’s attacks on religious institutions. I was prepared to understand some level of compromise from the writers and director in order to make the movie commercially successful, but it went too far…in my opinion.

Here are three points to explain my feelings:

First: During the first 5 -15 minutes of the movie the narrator gives away what a reader gets only after reading most of the book, which means that all the suspense and intrigue in the book are lost.

Second: The movie is so sweetened that a very important passage of the book—the death of a child whose dæmon has been cut away— is changed completely, getting rid of an element that makes the reader understand the real horror against which the main character, Lyra Belacqua, and her friends are fighting.

Third: Nicole Kidman…no way she is the best representation of the Mrs. Coulter in the book. I have liked her performances in the past, but this is not one of her best. The character in the book is beautiful and evil. Her portrayal is neither one nor the other.

In general the movie feels like a preview, not the real deal. The creators tried to condense a great story into 113 minutes, but unfortunately someone did not do a great job this time. I hope the upcoming second and third movies of the series are better.

I, personally, would recommend that you read the books before seeing the movies; otherwise you will miss a great story.

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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Interesting combination

I woke up this morning and I found my wife's shoes in the living room, in a surprising relationship with the VCR and DVD remotes.
I don't know what to make of it; I just thought that it was an interesting image, maybe good for advertising or poster design. I wanted to share it with you, and if someone comes up with something, I will happily publish the image here, next to my photo.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Leopard semi-hidden features

This is way too cool! Muy bueno.

This is an article about the features that are usually not mentioned when Apple talks about Leopard (the newest version of Apple Operating System)

I have been a Leopard user for a couple of weeks, and I have to say that I love it! There are so many ways to speed up your work. This article talks about features like:
  • Printing and Page Setup integration: No more two separated dialogs.
  • Use of Spaces to define specific applications to each space: One of my favorites, no more clutter.
  • The Path Bar Bonus: An easy way to find your way around.
  • Login Items: Find the locations of everything that is automatically open when you log in.
  • Autosave for TextEdit: You won't loose that text anymore.
  • Automator recording: Record what you do once, and to do it again in the future...just press a button.
It's just great!

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Perfect bouquet!

Today is Hagar (my wife)'s birthday, and I gave her a fruit bouquet.... yummy!. Check this out: Pineapple, Strawberries, Apples, Melon and Grapes, some of them covered in Dark, Milk and White chocolate... Am I not the perfect husband? ;-)

I didn't want to do advertising for the company that creates them, but they are really delicious.


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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Google logo designer

If you ever wondered who is behind Google's fun and festive logos, here you can find an article about him. His name is Dennis Hwang, and he lives in Korea.

In general, I think that it works great for Google to have a flexible enough visual identity that allows for so many creative variations. Here you can see some of the logos.

Cool stuff!

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Friday, September 7, 2007

Some ideas about paper

Paper selection is a very important part of the design process for a printed communication piece. Unfortunately, in many cases this element is left behind in the process, and the final decision depends more on the available budget.

There are many elements to consider when selecting paper stock: Coated or Uncoated, Textured or Smooth, Bright or Dim, Glossy or Dull, Thick or Thin, Opaque or Transparent, White or Color, etc.

One of the basic decisions is Coated vs. Uncoated:

Uncoated papers are more textured and porous, affecting the way ink lays on the paper surface. Inks tend to spread out more, which would not work well for a design with very small, thin, or sharp details. Images would be softened, and colors would not be very saturated.

Coated papers are smoother. Their surface allows a sharper and more detailed result, and brighter and more saturated colors can be obtained.

If you are a designer or a client working with a designer, research paper types, talk with your printer to learn about possibilities, and make the best choice depending on who will use this piece, how it will be used, and what is the intended message.

Glossy papers can make reading harder in certain lighting conditions, for example, but can be good in some cases because of the more shiny end results and the more saturated colors obtained.

There is no unique formula for a successful choice. Talk with your designer or client, and may the best paper win!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

New drafting table

drafting tableI just bought a drafting table. It does not seem like a big deal, but when you think of the many hours that designers spend working with a computer, a table to sit and sketch, just by hand, without a fancy Wacom tablet, or an Apple super mouse, just ideas flowing in a natural fashion...
I am very happy with this new acquisition; I just hope that it will help me to get new inspirations.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Very cool type animation

A friend sent me the link to a very cool type animation based on the audio track from ‘Pulp Fiction’. Thanks to Michael Lok from

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

So, I have started reading some graphic novels

It's a very interesting form of art, and unfortunately I didn't have much access to it until I moved to the US in 2003.

I am currently reading "Palestine" by Joe Sacco, and "Watchmen" by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.

In the meantime, I just got this very cool link where you can see comic book covers.

Enjoy it, and if you have any good recommendations for graphic novels, I would love to read them.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Very interesting portrait of humankind

I just found this very interesting website named 6 Billion Others. It shows videos of people from all over the world, talking about basic themes that are important and part of the life of every human individual: Joy, Family, Dreams, Fears, Tears, and many others.

I watched every video, and felt many of the testimonies as very close to my own experience in life until now.

Great idea! Many congratulations to the creator, Yann Arthus-Bertrand.

6 billions others

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Respect designers and yourself: say no to spec work

I recently received an email from one of the forums that I read, where someone requested that the designers in the forum submit logo ideas to this company, so they could choose which logo they liked, and would then pay the selected designer for his work.

Even more interestingly, the person making this request was a doctor, and the company in question is a private clinic.

It's incredible how often proposals like this appear on the web. The worst part is that both sides, designers answering these requests and the clients posting them, are playing a terrible role.

I wonder what would be the answer from the medical community if a patient goes and says: "I want to have appointments with as many doctors as possible, have all of them give me their best knowledge and treatment, and at the end of the day, I will pay only the one whose treatment I enjoyed the most..." Note: This example is mentioning doctors; however, it would apply to anybody who finds it fair to make designers work for free.

When someone makes this type of request, their idea may be: "There are tons of students and beginning designers who would be more than happy to have their work selected and used by us, so, why not have them work hard, and we just select and pay for WHAT WE LIKE at the end".

The emphasis in the last paragraph is to remark that you are not getting WHAT IS BEST for your company, you are just selecting what looks the best among the available options.

As a client, the practice of spec work damages your company, because the designs that you receive will not be based on any professional research. In another of my posts I tried to explain that a logo is an investment, and this extends to any product of design. A designer or firm that creates a successful design for you (meaning more sales, more client recognition and loyalty) will need to thoroughly know your company's mission, goals and projections, among other things.

Although the option of requesting spec work from the design community may seems cheaper, at the end of the day you may be paying double or more, or having worse consequences, similar to choosing a bad clinic to treat your illness only because it is cheaper.

For more information about spec work visit this website.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Greetings in other countries

If you are interested in learning international greeting protocols, check out this site.

Coming as I do from a different culture, I have had to learn (and I am still learning) the American customs and behaviours in social interactions and in professional environments.

I was very surprise, for example, when I learned how much personal space is valued in this culture. In Cuba we don't keep so much personal space, perhaps due to the fact that our island is so tiny that we all have learn to be closer to each other.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Letter spacing test

kerningTest your ability to kern (adjust the distance between two letters, to make words more readable) at this page. The University of Delaware and its Visual Communication program published this test for their students. You will be able to take the same test if you click on GUEST, at the bottom.

For more information about kerning and tracking (evenly adjusting the space between letter in words, sentences or paragraphs), visit this article in Wikipedia.

Good information about printing

I found this web page with very detailed information about printing. Great for designers, students, and everybody interested in learning about printing. Some of the topics are:

Digital Printing, Binding, Die Cutting, Embossing, Foil Stamping, Folding, Laminating, Numbering, Padding, Perforations, Paper, Inks and Coatings, Prepress, Color, Desktop Publishing, Imaging, Planning and Design, Proofing, Software, Print Processes, Security Features, etc

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Vector graphics vs. Pixels

vector vs. pixelsPixel images contain a fixed number of pixels. Scaling up a pixel image can cause jagged edges, because pixels are enlarged to fit the new size, or blurry details, because new pixels are added to fit the larger image.

When creating logos, for example, designers should use vector programs. Vector graphics can be scaled up to any size without any loss of image quality.

Friday, March 23, 2007

How to find objects using a specific color in InDesign

To find objects using a specific color in your InDesign layout, for example an RGB color, follow the steps below. This works with InDesign CS and CS2.

convert to spot color1. Open your Swatches palette.
2. Select the color that you want to search for and convert it into any spot color.
3. In the Window menu select Output Preview > Separations Preview.
4. In the Separations Preview palette turn ON Separations.
5. Turn OFF the CMYK inks, leaving ON the spot color.
6. The objects using the spot color will remain visible in the layout, while the rest of your objects, text, etc, will be invisible.

That's it.

separations preview

turn off cmyk

What Is a Graphic Designer?

A graphic designer is not a color professional, a photographer, a printer, a web developer, or an artist who creates his or her art following a particular style. It may be said that all these disciplines should be familiar to a designer; yet while this is very true, it may also confuse the definition of a designer as a visual communication specialist.
I had a very interesting online chat with a few colleagues from different countries, and most of them paid special attention to one specific problem, that unfortunately is more important than the time that is spent in its solution. We were discussing how clients see and understand what a graphic designer is and does.
Very often, a designer is asked to make something "prettier" or to "work his magic"; unfortunately, this approach does not make it easy for the designer to create an effective design. The client would benefit from a deeper understanding of the designer's capabilities, going beyond just the aesthetic value of his work.
A designer is the visual communication specialist who will give shape and visual translation to a message, following an extensive process of research and analysis of information. A designer should be able to offer a solution to a visual communication problem and not just organize text and images in a layout.
An Example of Problem Solving
The problem: A client needs to promote college programs for high school students. The message is targeting students from a Latino community.
The solution: A brochure communicating the study opportunities in a way that makes it interesting for the students and their parents.
The efficacy of the message goes beyond simple aesthetics. While the primary audience is the students, a secondary and equally important audience is their parents. They can greatly influence the student's decision of which programs to choose. The development of the project includes the research of symbols, colors, and phrases used or recognized within the culture and history of several Latin-American communities. The resulting look and feel is "cool" enough for students, and at the same time it provides the parents with useful information about the different programs.
To maximize the potential and success of any message, a designer, in-house or freelance, should be part of the team of specialists involved in the project from the very beginning. There should be clear communication about the objectives of the project and the different factors that define the message. The designer should participate by suggesting strategies and an effective use of the different media and capital available.
There could be many different approaches to this process, depending on the project, the client and the message to be conveyed, but the ultimate goal is to implement a general strategy that would make use of the whole potential of talent, knowledge and creativity of a graphic designer in the success of any project.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A Logo is an Investment

You know that you need a logo, but you have just started your company, and of course you are trying to save as much money as possible. Unfortunately, paying a designer to design your logo was not included in your business plan. You see it as money that you will be spending without an immediate benefit.
I invite you to investigate how much a company pays every time they use their logo, when they publish a brochure, a flyer, a poster; when they use it in their website, their business cards, their product packaging or labels. I will give you the answer to save you time: nothing, not one cent. What do they get instead? Every time they use their logo, they are creating a presence; they are planting a seed in the minds of every person that sees their logo. They are making money without even thinking about it. So, if it is so important to have a logo, and you have already understood that a logo does not cost even a small fraction of how much you can gain by using it; the next step is: how do you get one?
Have a Designer Do It
So you go online and search for logo designers. There is a myriad of designers, artists, students and computer savvy people that offer design services online, and most of them offer a logo for the price of a lollypop. Do not be fooled by the cheap prices. A logo is not a dress that you can change in the afternoon. You have invested not only money, but also effort and heart in your business. It is a very important part of your life, and you would do whatever is in your hands to make it succeed. Why then give it a cheap logo?
Why Not My Cousin Joe
Here are a few points that could help you choose who will design your company's logo:
1. Choose a professional with experience and a good portfolio to design your logo. Think about it: Would you prefer to go to an amateur doctor to cure you? Would you let your cousin Joe do it, if he's not a doctor, just because it's free?
2. A logo should be unique. Many cheap designers use free imagery from clipart to create a logo in five minutes. That's why there are so many look-alike logos on the market. It contradicts the first reason for a logo's existence: to uniquely identify a company or a product among its competitors.
3. A logo should be simple. People don't have time to translate complex messages. Look at successful companies: their logos are simple and memorable. There is no room in a logo to show all you have to say about your company. Work with an experienced designer on what concept will best identify and differentiate your company.
4. A logo should be designed to work well on a building facade as well as on a pen. If there are lines that are not visible, or letters that can't be read, it is not a good logo. You shouldn't need to change your logo every time it is used.
5. A logo is not just a drawing or a photo that you could take from a website, and it should not be your favorite pet (unless your business is about pets). Your logo should represent your company’s ideals, personality and values. If it works well, your customers will be proud to buy your products, even if they are not the cheapest in the market.
These aren't the only considerations to have in mind when deciding why and who should design your logo. Search and read more about this. Look at the prospective designers' portfolios. Give your business the value it deserves.

Some Colors and Meanings

How can we choose a color for a company's identity among so many colors available? Here is a short list of colors and their associated meanings:
Red: This is the hottest of the colors. It is energetic, full of life, vibrant and active. It is also one of the most visible colors. It is associated with passion, life, masculinity, energy, danger, anger, blood, fire and power.
Blue: This is a cold color. Dark blue has been associated with intelligence, stability, trust, depth and intellect. It is also the most calming and relaxing of the colors.
Green: This is also a cold color. It symbolizes health, nature, freshness, harmony and balance. It has been associated with money, spring and stability.
Orange: This is a warm color and very stimulating. It is associated with joy, vitality, creativity and energy. It is used to symbolize construction and is a great action trigger. It has been said to increases the craving for food.
Purple: This color can be cold or warm, depending on the amount of blue or red used in the mix. It is symbol of spirituality, luxury, royalty and power. In some cultures is also associated with disease.
Yellow: This is a warm color associated with energy, light, happiness, energy, creativity and the sun.
Black: This can be warm or cold, depending on the colors with which it is combined. It symbolizes elegancy, sophistication and mystery. In some cultures it is also a symbol of death.
White: White can also be warm or cold, depending on the colors with which it is combined. It symbolizes innocence, purity and light. In some cultures this color is associated with mourning.
With colors, however, there are not strict rules. Sometimes blue can make a BIG difference when red is abundant. Take for example the case of the two most popular soft drinks on the soda market. And one very popular brand of chocolate uses purple, a color far, far away from the traditional colors associated with chocolate.

Three Reasons to Have a Logo

First reason: A logo helps you to stand out. I invite you to do a very quick FREE experiment. Close your eyes and think of a company. Do not over-think it, just the first one that comes to your mind. Now, what's the first thing that came to your mind? The name. That's because as adults we have a line of thought where words are predominant. The second element to appear in your mind was probably an image: the company's logo. That's what makes that company stand out among the other companies that sell the same products or services. And that, my friend, is also the case for your company.
Second reason: A logo makes you look professional. Now, let's do a second quick and FREE experiment. Imagine yourself talking with a company's representative. You meet this person at a party, so you can't judge him or his company by the color of the walls in his office, or the sound of the doorbell when he opens the door. All you have is the conversation at the party and a business card. The next day you look in your pocket, and there is the card. It has the name and contact information of the person that you met the night before and a professional looking logo, clearly representing what the company does. Would you have the same impression if the card did not have a logo on it? If there is no opportunity for a long explanation of what your company does, there is still the presence of a professional looking logo. It is the first impression, and, as many first impressions, it could be the only opportunity you have to attract someone’s attention.
Third reason: A logo gives you loyalty from your clients and employees. We are all loyal to some brands. We may buy a specific brand of clothes, soda, food, or computers. What will make your clients choose your products or services once, and then again and again? You might say good service and good quality, and you are right! We all want to get impeccable service and excellent quality, and in fact, we get them from almost every company with which we deal. They wouldn’t survive otherwise. Your company will have to offer something different than what your competitors are offering. You must offer an experience, and that experience will be certified by the presence of your professional looking logo. Every time your customers visit the market, or sit in front of their computers to buy online, they will be able to identify your products, and your logo will become part of their lives. They will wear it on their clothes, they will show it to their friends and family, and it will make them feel proud, because your logo will represent more than just good service or quality, it will become a way to make them feel important.

Image Sells

Years ago one of my dearest professors at college did a very interesting experiment.
At the time of this story, the Cuban revolution was happening at all levels, and one of the questions that arose was: Do we need advertising?
My professor, one of the best advertising professionals on the Island, was part of a high commission created to analyze the matter. He brought two groups of beer bottles to a very important meeting. One group of bottles was labeled. The other group included only plain bottles: no labels, logos, or specific design identifying the content. He then asked the audience to taste the content of each group, and to decide which beer tasted better. They did so, and the unanimous answer confirmed that the labeled bottles contained the better beer.
To everyone's surprise, my professor explained that he had put the same exact content in all the bottles.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

My Wife's Favorite Color

When deciding what color will best represent your business in a logo, brochure, or website there are more issues than just personal preferences. A color can be warm, cold, serious, professional, humorous, energizing, vibrant, powerful, solemn, easy, refreshing, active or another number of adjectives. Your audience, meaning the people who will buy your products or services, can be attracted, or repelled, by the color your business wears.
Two years ago I had the opportunity to attend a lecture by a well-known international graphic designer about current trends in the field. The lecturer's first words made us all smile. He told us, with a very serious face: "The most frequently used color in graphic design nowadays is my wife's favorite color." Laughter spread through the room, and finally the lecturer smiled, convincing us that we didn't have to meet someone's wife to be up-to-date on our profession.
The fact of the matter is that he was talking about an experience that all designers have to face one day, when they are playing their best professional role at the first meeting with the client, or during a well planned presentation. Suddenly, the client turns to us and says: "I want it green, and don't ask me why, but that's my wife's favorite color..."