I committed myself to one class each semester at a local university for the last year (and continuing this year). The experience has been positive in so many ways including but not limited to getting out of the house, meeting people, being uncomfortable, learning new things, being okay with learning new things, and being reminded how young I look ;).
Last fall I completed a Video Art class to re-familiarize myself with video software and techniques. A few jobs ago, I was doing quite a bit of basic video editing in Premiere. Nothing crazy or complex, but tediously trimming all of the mumbles, ums, and mess-ups out of talking head interview videos. I share this because not every designer knows their way around video tools and software, myself included. I do not intend to offer video services, but I would love to be able to creating training videos for my clients and/or marketing videos for myself. If nothing else, I figured this would at least get me closer and hold me accountable for learning.
Video takes so SO much time and skill! I know this because I have had the pleasure of watching and working alongside some talented video folks at every job I’ve held. It takes creativity, technical know-how, flexibility, resourcefulness, and so much more. I’m want to preface my sharing of amateur classwork by saying that capturing quality footage and weaving together beautiful stories is not easy. But trying new things is so valuable, so here are a few video projects I created!
All work represented below was created or curated by me for educational purposes. I have included credit where possible and will disclose where and how I used my own footage.
Exploring the symmetry and contrast between the pace of nature and the man-made world was my goal in this video. How did I get there? When browsing footage, I downloaded anything I found visually pleasing. After saving several video assets, I had to comb through my collection. I started to notice patterns emerging from the footage I collected that contained similar colors, and the subjects’ movements mimicked each other. The process began by pairing up videos and arranging them in an order of nature, man-made, nature, man-made, and so on. One thing that I was careful to mention when I presented my video in class was the timing, the pace of this video. When you watch it, it feels like everything lasts just a beat longer than you expect. This was intentional as part of the overarching concept of my video. As humans we’re like “yep, got it, okay, next,” and nature’s like “whoa, hey, what’s the rush buddy? got some more raindrops.”
This project allowed all of our footage and audio to be “found.” This meant using free and appropriately licensed footage and songs. This also left us the option of using footage that we personally captured too. All of the footage featured in this video is free and licensed, and not my own. All of the sounds were also found and pared with their corresponding clips. The ice in the glasses, the fingers typing, the bee buzzing, the wind, rain pouring down; all of those are separate clips that I matched up with the video assets. The music was also found, but the poem was written and recorded by yours truly. And let me tell you, there is only one thing worse than hearing your own voice…Hearing your own voice in a room full of people. Which I survived and lived to tell the tale. I felt like I needed one more element that would tie all of the videos and music together so I chose to write exactly what I needed. This allowed me to incorporate the words and timing that fit the video perfectly.
This project was half luck, half skill and only came to be because I just got started with what I had. We had just vacationed in Hilton Head, SC where I had captured a wide variety of footage. I didn’t know what I would end up with so I just filmed wherever we were, whatever we were doing, whenever I could. When I started putting the frames next to each other, I thought I would show “water” images in every left frame and “air” images in every right frame. But it felt too simple. I’m all for minimal BUT I felt like the video as a whole lacked depth visually and metaphorically. So I did what I do best…Make It More Complicated (Trademark Pending). I started layering air and water videos together and the result was much better. I loved the tension of not knowing if you were seeing air or water in motion. This is also reflected in the color scheme and somewhat eery, ambiguous music. That’s how Floating came to be the title.
All of our footage had to be our own, captured by our own cameras. Our audio could be created or found. The goal of this assignment was to present footage in a unique way using two or more frames. Frames could be layered, side by side, different sizes, etc. I do wish I would’ve pushed the boundaries of spacing and effects more with this assignment, but I also feel the end result aligns with my personal design style.
While I wanted to use my learning experience to try a new things, I also wanted to be practical about how I was spending my time working on projects. I decided that if I was going to spent 15-20 hours on a project, it should serve me and my small business well. Time is money, baby. So I decided to create a tool that might help me share who I am and what I do as a one-woman graphic design studio. I love how prominent technology is in what I do as a graphic designer, but sometimes it can be hard for people to truly get an idea of my personality (and face) if we only ever exchange emails and phone calls. You’ll notice a dumb blue line in the middle of the video that’s not supposed to be there. You’ll also enjoy a few sub-par audio moments (hello, hi, student project) and rambling explanations. If or when I revisit this, I would cut the length WAY down and ruthlessly edit what I choose to say.
All of our footage had to be captured using our own brains and equipment. Audio could be found, but most documentaries include some spoken word for narrative purposes. This video had to be at least 4 minutes (!) long. Folks, it takes SO MUCH footage to edit down to 4 minutes. SO MUCH. And since I was using all of my own footage and myself as the subject, I made this extra hard on myself. I literally cringe watching this because it is hard to watch yourself do anything, but you better believe I met those requirements.
I totally enjoyed this class. I will say, the hardest part of anything for me is getting started so just signing up and showing up for this class required five minutes of bravery. What keeps me hooked and continually amazes me about the creative world are the endless possible outcomes. We all start with generally the same requirements and the finished projects are wildly different. We all heard or read the same words but they meant something different to each person.
Perhaps the kindest and highest compliment I received from my professor and classmates was my sensitivity to typography. Insignificant to you but touched my heart! I’ve loved letters all my life and discovering that I can care for them in my profession is super cool! All that to say, I love typography and believe well-chosen fonts and colors help communicate the story or information you aim to share.
I set a goal for myself to read as many books as possible each year. I started with a hard and fast goal of 20 books and try to keep that number in mind. Last year, in 2018, I managed to devour 30 titles and today I’m sharing titles 16-30. Missed the first post? Check out titles 1-15 before you leave!
Let’s see what the second half of the list includes…
List of 2018 Book Titles – Part 2
Another one that easily makes it into my top picks of the year. The fact that the author lived these lives (yep, girlfriend definitely lived a few lives) and eventually had the opportunity to document and share her experiences is impressive. I couldn’t put this down because I have no life experiences that can even remotely compare to the author’s childhood, and for that I am so thankful. It also made me endlessly thankful for the hundreds and thousands of teachers and professors who champion students without support systems. Just, thanks so much for what you do. Fans of The Glass Castle, grab this one.
17. Lilac Girls
World War II read. This is based on a true story of two Hungarian sisters who survived life in a Nazi concentration camp. They seriously survived the unspeakable.
18. The Stars are Fire
Not my favorite, but very okay. The main character is an INDEPENDENT WOMAN and she takes care of her family in a time when women didn’t have the autonomy we have now. It does involve a few somewhat sensitive topics surrounding motherhood and relationships.
19. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Another contender for 2018 Favorite! Eleanor is billed as a curmudgeon, and she IS. But she’s also so lovable. This book was so endearing and I am crossing my little fingers that this is adapted into a film or series. I would recommend this one to lovers of A Man Called Ove.
20. You May Also Like: An Age of Endless Choice
This one was fascinating! If you don’t care about why humans make choices and the research documenting the process then maybe pick something else on this list. The best way I can describe the gist of this book is taste is an individual choice and is most developed by our repeated exposure to things. I believe there are more recent editions than what I read.
21. Monday’s Not Coming
Page-turner. Read this in a single day. No idea if I ate or drank water or breathed, but I HAD to finish this book. This was eye-opening as a white person who lives in the burbs, but I think any person would benefit from reading this. The author weaves a heartbreaking story of race, poverty, mental illness, and friendship. Read this.
22. Drop the Ball
This book was at once both exactly and not at all what I expected. I did expect the author to suggest not even trying to “do it all,” because you don’t have to and you don’t need to. But there were a few other really good, practical nuggets in there. Any relationship requires teamwork, yes? Both parties do not need to handle the same tasks/responsibilities – it’s inefficient – which means there are going to be certain things that one person tends to take on. Typically, the only way people will know if you need help is if you…what for it..ask them. And typically the person we harbor bitterness towards is the person in the best position to help us. Also, it can be frustrating if your counterpart doesn’t seem to care about the same things you care about.
23. The Hate U Give
If you saw this movie, then you know the general story but this book was another important read that brings awareness to the all-too-familiar story of racial tension and vilification of African American boys and young men.
24. How to Be Yourself
If you know and love/put up with me, you may have unfortunately experienced the weird, emotional, irrational? meltdowns I have leading up to big events. Basically, BIG days bring out BIG feelings for me. It was like my brain was shouting “CHILL OUT, WE’RE FINE” while I cried about what I was wearing and snapping at people. After reading up on social anxiety, it’s pretty clear I display a lot of those characteristics. I’m reading about and working on how to deal with this and purposefully putting myself in controlled situations that push me. OK, THE BOOK, RIGHT. I loved this. Now, it’s totally geared towards me. It addressed common thought processes and behavior patterns of folks who get anxious before, during, or after social situations. More than addressing behaviors, it offered some super practical, quick, free exercises for managing anxious feelings.
25. The Great Alone
I really enjoyed this book! I felt it was a well-rounded, vivid story. It could have been the timing of this read because I think I was ready to experience an escape.
This cover was everywhere and pink so I knew I would read it #millenialpink. I didn’t love this but did find the complicated relationships and demands of the hospitality businesses really interesting. If you’re all about NYC and have experience in a restaurant then you might enjoy this more than I did.
27. Grit by Angela Duckworth
I have been recommending this to everyone I know! Solid and fascinating research on grit and humans’ abilities to stick with things. I think the stories and principles can be applied to any person at any age in any industry.
28. Beautiful Boy by David Sheff
This was honestly a hard read. And by hard I mean frustrating and heartbreaking. I am fortunate to have personal experience with addiction. To read about the destruction addiction can unleash on families and the cost of resources was eye-opening. This is a movie with Steve Carrell and Timothee Chalamet so maybe it will sound familiar. If you live a relatively comfortable life without need for government assistance (myself included, I’m working on this) this would be a good opportunity to expand your horizons.
29. We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families
I would not recommend this book if you do not have any interest in the political climate of the last 50 years of Africa, especially Rwanda. I was determined to read several Rwanda-specific books after our visit there last year. I do think this book did an excellent job of capturing the complicated, nuanced feelings of Rwandans post-genocide. Dry but informative.
30. Girl, Wash Your Face
My last read of the year was a positive one, on purpose. This book has been everywhere so the library queue was pretty long! I know I may get some heat for this, but I thought it was very OK. This book was really good and encouraging and all the “good” things you want in a book, but I feel like I’ve read this 10x before. I still think you should read it because it might be the warm fuzzy your soul needs, but don’t blame me if you roll your eyes a few times.
Ok, that concludes my 30 Books I Read in 2018 list. I hope you found one or two new titles that you hadn’t heard of or might add to your list. Most importantly, share your recommendations for your favorite reads below! Did you read any of these? What were your thoughts?
Ah, yes, bookworms, we meet again! I’ve compiled a list with my thoughts on all of the books I read in 2018. If you didn’t read a single book in 2018, that’s cool – this list isn’t to shame you! This list is purely for me. I like to look back at the variety (or not) of books and authors and I chose to spend time with. Recounting each title brings back the lessons, stories, and feelings I experienced in those pages. My grand total for 2018 was 30 books, beating my record of 20 in 2017! I also try to share these in my Instagram Highlights because it’s an easy quick way to share. Please enjoy these sub-par images using random surfaces around my house (#aesthetics).
Okay, here we go.
List of 2018 Book Titles – Part 1
1. Little Fires Everywhere
Okay, this was easily one of my favorites of the year. If Reese is turning this into a series, you better believe it’s a good one. I thought the writing was vivid and descriptive without dragging on forever. I also loved how this book examined many sides and dynamics of seemingly imperfect people. Turns out even the characters you can’t stand are doing what they believe is right. I think that’s my biggest take-away from LFE: there’s not really a “right” answer or “right” way to handle something. Read this. Please.
2. An American Marriage: A Novel
This book was not AT ALL what I expected but I read wayyyy past my bedtime to finish this sucker in a day or two. It’s a heartbreaking and frustrating journey of one couple’s struggle with the US judicial system. This one, again, so carefully layers in extenuating circumstances that I would challenge anyone to say “Oh, I never would’ve done that.” Plus, Oprah recommended it so….
3. The Rosie Project
This is a sweet one. I think anyone can guess the ending but the route there is winding and funny and sad. Not earth-shattering but still good.
4. The Woman in the Window
Not a fan. I think I’m just generally tired of every twisty, dark white lady thriller? If that’s your genre and you haven’t read this then I can safely recommend this to you. I will say that the twists in this one were actually surprising! It’s also possible I only read this during daylight hours.
5. When I’m Gone
I definitely felt feelings reading this. Thankfully I haven’t had to experience the grief that this family experienced but the thought alone made me emotional. My critique of this book is the pacing. 90% of the book is devoted to one storyline and then a BUNCH of stuff happens in 10% of the book and then it was over. This was a solid “OK” for me – I would ultimately give it 3 stars.
6. Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done
Ok, admittedly learning new and better ways to actually get your sh*t done is probably not everyone’s idea of reading for fun. But it is mine! I identified so many examples of my own patterns of behavior. Jon Acuff gave them humorous explanations and clever titles. Let me say, I am actively working on my Noble Obstacles and doing my best to move forward on The Day After Perfect.
7. Crazy Rich Asians
I feel like this has been a polarizing book and movie. I loved this read! It was fun and magic…dare I say, enchanting? I read this as a purely fun adventure but I also got to chat with some folks who were so turned off by the family dynamics they didn’t dig CRA at all. I thought the movie was a delight as well, so 50/50 you’ll love or hate it.
8. Before I Go to Sleep
See my reaction to #4. That’s a no from me, dawg. The opportunity cost of watching the move is better.
9. Everybody Always
Bob is a positive, goofy, encouraging guy and I never regret a moment spent reading his books. This book could easily be gifted to someone you love or someone you just met. He offers anecdotes for life and faith. If you need a little encouragement, read this one.
10. Looking for Lovely
This was very okay. It is spiritually-based and fairly short if you’re into that sort of thing! The author shared some personal experiences but left a lot of them really vague, and also weirdly name-dropped some of her cool friends? This one didn’t particularly move me.
11. Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved
This book gave me some serious life perspective. I was so intrigued by the author’s career – researching the prosperity gospel – and how she approached this concept in light of her life-changing diagnoses. Not a long read, but truly interesting. If you read When Breath Becomes Air, then you might be interested in this book.
12. The Girl Who Smiled Beads
The book’s author wrote about her first years on earth fleeing Rwanda for her life as the Genocide began and then spending her childhood walking between and merely surviving refugee camps in Africa. I felt weary just reading her accounts. She shares what it was really like to be reunited with her family on live television. If you’ve lived a relatively comfortable life, I would highly recommend reading and wrapping your brain around the life of a refugee.
13. Come Matter Here
Of all the positive, semi-spiritual books I’ve read, this one felt refreshingly…honest. The title and the explanation behind it were almost more impactful than the book. “Come matter here” was the idea that we are waiting for and relying upon attention and validation from others. We are waiting for an email or text or invitation to matter somewhere, anywhere. I appreciated what seemed like a truly genuine account of the author’s life, faith, relationships, and depression.
14. The Female Persuasion
This cover was EVERYWHERE for awhile! It’s really cute and Instagrammable so I’m not shocked. I didn’t really know what to expect but this kind of a preppy coming of age story. The book is pretty thick, but I enjoyed this read, and didn’t feel like it dragged on forever. Liked it!
15. Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Genocide
There aren’t enough or right words to describe this read. I’m still in shock that something so devastating happened in 1994. I know most people won’t read this one, but if you can I would recommend that you do. You won’t soon forget Immaculee’s story.
Have you read any of these? What were your thoughts? What should I add to 2019 list?
Thanks so much for reading! I’m sharing the second half of my 2018 list next week. Subscribe below if you just want the post emailed to you. I’m not selling anything, it’s just an automated way for you to get my blog posts without checking social media. Up to you!
Every once in awhile the universe rewards me for my devotion to both pop culture and graphic design which allows me to bring you such hits as Thank U, SpecsTM. Have you ever worked with a graphic designer or printer? Maybe you’ve run an ad in a high school basketball program or wanted to get your company’s logo on a polo? Tackled home improvement or a technical project? If you’ve encountered any or all of those scenarios then you’ve probably heard the term “specs” thrown around a couple times. Ariana sang about ’em (well, close) printers have ’em, and designers need ’em to get your project complete and out into the world.
What are Specs?
Specs is short for specifications, and is defined by Merriam Webster as “a single quantity (such as a dimension or a measure of performance) describing a product” or “a detailed precise presentation of something or of a plan or proposal for something.”
Specs are the technical details required to actually produce your project.
Letting your graphic designer know where and how you plan to display your new look is important! For example, let’s say you have a new logo (exciting!) and you want to start using it everywhere. It’s crucial that a graphic designer knows the dimensions, colors, and file types to deliver a file that your printer can actually work with. A standard tri-fold brochure is pretty straightforward. But if you’re renting billboard space, that’s going to require a high-quality, hi-res image and a file sized to the correct dimensions of the billboard. If you’re adding your new logo to your social media profiles, you’ll be fine with a smaller, lo-res JPEG.
Types of Design Project Specs
A graphic designer, a web designer, a marketing team, and printer should all be able to provide and communicate the following technical specs:
Dimensions – pixels, inches, picas, dpi, ppi
Resolution – 300 dpi (high res), 72 dpi (lo-res)
Bleeds – do your colors, text, or images extend to or beyond the edge of the page? Pages need to be trimmed accordingly.
File size – 100KB, 2 MB
Colorspace – CMYK, Pantone, Spot, for printing, RGB for web; these are set within the document
Color swatches – Hex #efefef, RGB 34-78-35
Material and weight – 100# text-weight paper, vellum
Filetypes – .doc for text only, PDF or EPS for hi-res printing, JPEG (no transparent background) or PNG (allows for transparent background) for web
Consider these marketing specs as demographics and goals for your target audience. These specs are important for understanding who a designer is communicating your information to.
Demographics – Who are your customers? Age, gender, income, region, motivations.
Goals – What goals does your customer have? What are they trying to accomplish with your organization or services? Are they trying to lose weight, learn something, spend time with friends?
Tasks – What series of steps can someone who sees or uses your product or service take to move forward? This could be make a phone call, email, take a photo, buy a meal, etc. This part of understanding your customer’s journey towards you.
Calls to Action – What functionality must be included in technical items? Maybe you need a contact form on your website or your mailed letter must have a return envelope for donations.
Examples of specs
Why are design specs important?
Design specs are important because they directly affect the production and outcome of your project. Knowing the colorspace, material, and medium for your printed piece ensures your colors are not only accurate but look great! Having thorough and accurate technical specs means that your ad is going to fit in the space you purchased or can be mailed within your budget. Understanding why these details are important and how to ask for them means saving time and money. There’s no having to redo designs or spend money reprinting materials.
If you don’t know what the specs are for your project (or don’t want to deal with it) ask your printer/vendor of choice to supply theirs, which are typically in document or PDF form, to you and/or your designer. A lot of times these can be found on vendor websites as well. Connecting your designer with your vendor is a perfectly reasonable solution and part of hiring a creative professional!
Good luck singing Thank U, Next in it’s original version… From here on out, it’s Thank U, Specs. And you’re welcome.
In May of 2018 I had the distinct privilege of joining a group of physicians on their medical mission trip to Rwanda (more on that later). Getting to Rwanda from Omaha requires a route like this: Omaha > Another big airport with more connections > AMSTERDAM > Kigali, Rwanda. In an effort to adjust to the new time zone and keep each traveller’s sanity, we spent one day and one night in Amsterdam. When I first learned I had the good fortune of going on this trip, I was felt overwhelmed by all the activities one could do in Amsterdam. In some of our travels, we have over-scheduled ourselves and it can suck the fun out of the day. Part of traveling is seeing how other people live, eat, shop, commute. It’s really hard to observe and enjoy if you have tickets to seven different museums and sights. Once I came to terms with our super-short stay in Amsterdam, I made peace with the fact that we can’t fit everything in. This took the pressure off and allowed us to enjoy the company and wandering.
What We Did and Didn’t Do in Amsterdam
We did not nap.
And now, from the beginning. We waltzed off plane after our overnight flight and checked into our hotel which was attached to the airport and train station. Staying at a hotel attached to to the airport is a great option if you’re freaked out about navigating Amsterdam or are coordinating travel with a large group (ahem, herding cats). After checking in we showered and did not lay our sleepy little heads on a single pillow. Powering through is a new one for me. Simply glancing at a fluffy white hotel bed can cause me to succumb to jetlag. This is a Cale trick and it worked. No nap. Instead we laced up our tennies, threw on our jackets and got ready to cover some serious ground.
We did stroll along the canals.
Honestly, Cale and I would agree that these wandering types of days are our favorite in any city. When the pressure is off, you’re free to take photos of anything and everything, eat when you’re hungry, sit and grab a drink, swing into expensive shops you have no business being in, etc. Obviously the architecture of the homes and businesses along the canals give the city it’s charm. If you are wandering with absolutely no agenda, be aware that the rest of the population of Amsterdam are on bicycles and they have places to be. Keep your head on a swivel and get outta their way!
We ate giant waffles.
If you’re gonna be walking miles and miles around a beautiful city, you’re going to want to carb load. And carb load we did! I’m sure there are a million more quaint, gourmet restaurants but these giant waffles WITH ICE CREAM are not to be missed! I think two people could easily split a single waffle but there are savory and sweet options so good luck deciding. We got two waffles because we are overachievers.
We did walk by the Anne Frank house and the long line to get in.
The front door of the original home is totally nondescript (it was a regular home so…) but you can take a picture of or nearby the plaque of the front door. If this is an important stop for you, get tickets exactly two months in advance of your visit. We weren’t able to secure tickets but I absolutely intend to make it back to Amsterdam and walk through the home, which is now a museum.
We did [try to] take photos in front of the famous sign.
We had covered a lot of ground and built up our Tourist Tolerance by now. By this I mean we said goodbye to our personal space hours before. Just know that you’re going to have a bunch of strangers in your vaca photos. You’ll be fine and there’s no way around it. You can laugh about how weird people are later. Bring coins for bathrooms and peruse the gardens nearby – it will feel like a breath of fresh air!
We did take a canal cruise.
This was such a fun way to see the city. Touristy? Sure! But it was super enjoyable. Everyone gets [many] glasses of [cheap] wine, your own little personal pizza, and ice cream. I think you can please anyone at any age with that menu. I really liked doing the cruise because offers you a chance to sit(!) after walking all day while enjoying the architecture and evening views. There were so many quirky cool house boats that we saw along the way too!
This is not the Red Light District. This is Cale petting a furry friend.
We did walk through the Red Light District.
Yep. And lived to tell the tale. It is at once exactly what you expect and totally different. The District is marked by red posts and lights so you know exactly when you step into the area. Wouldn’t recommend this as a family activity because you will see and smell things you maybe shouldn’t. But seriously, it was a way more civilized 15-20 minute experience than I expected it to be. Walk through and walk on home.
What to Pack for Amsterdam
A few tiny nuggets of advice on the thing I stress over the most: packing. People are going to know you’re a tourist no matter how chicly you are dressed, so be yourself and wear socks, shoes, pants, shirts, bras, jackets, etc that allow you to focus your eyeballs on the beautiful things around you.
Pack comfortable shoes. I get blisters so easily so I am always willing to sacrifice spaces for clothes in the name of an extra pair of shoes. I don’t care if they are thick-soled Dad Sneakers or comfy suede boots or both, but you do not want blisters on the first day (or any day) of your trip. A gal in our group wore ankle boots with a decent heel and ended up buying flip flops at a gift shop because her feet hurt. So there’s a back-up option for you. Pack or buy some bandaids just in case.
Wear light layers. Granted, we went in the spring so the weather was super pleasant. Even still we spent pretty much the whole day alternating between wearing our jackets and taking them off. If you’re going to go the No Nap route, and spend your whole day out and about, definitely bring some kind of light layer. You’ll be much more comfortable in the evening and night if you’re walking or sitting outside.
So that was our adventure in less than 24 hours in Amsterdam! We are actually heading back later this spring and intend to get to know this city much better on the next adventure, mostly because we can spend more time. Do you have any recommendations or things you would add to the list?