Hiking, Adobe, and Chronic Migraines

Last week I hiked a local mountain called Blodgett Peak with my good friend Randy. It climbs 2500 feet in just 2 miles. This was not an easy hike. Most of the mountain is controlled by the Forest Service, so the trails are neither marked nor maintained. It has steep inclines that increase in height with each step, with ridiculous amounts of loose gravel piled up on the slope. A good chunk of the hike consists of rock scrambling. I felt apprehensive because I knew the hike would be difficult, with an increased likelihood of getting lost.

 

Blodgett Peak from the parking lot.

Turns out my hike was a lot like the journey of my final project for COMM130. We students were tasked with bringing together all the skills we’ve learned in Adobe this semester from Illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, via the presentation of an ad campaign. The target audience is a fictional boss who wants to see the next phase of our marketing strategy.

Our hike began on a 40s era dirt road built by the U.S. Army– a clearly defined path. My school project began easily, too. I got to choose a modern advertisement to mimic, which was a great excuse to wander around for hours on the Internet. Like finding the right trail from which to branch off, I found a clever ad that I could commit to.

On Blodgett, we turned onto a single track trail and began wandering uphill. My Adobe project got a little steeper, too. I had to reverse engineer my ad selection and analyze why I felt the ad was a success.

Before long our hiking trail disappeared. All we had was a rock field and a vague notion of which way was up. Photoshop felt the same to me. I had a faint idea of where I wanted to go, and countless Adobe methods of how to get there.

We encountered a few small victories on our hike, such as the waterfall and the occasional Carin (man-made rock structures that reassure hikers that at least one other person went this way… although there’s no real proof that person made it to the top or survived the journey…).

A small victory with my school assignment was putting together my rough draft. Not quite what I wanted for an end result, but showing steady progress.

As predicted, it was easy to veer off the “trail” to the top of Blodgett, and we had to backtrack a couple of times. The same thing happened with my ad. I spent hours choosing and color-perfecting my first background, only to abandon it because there just wasn’t enough sky. I searched through at least 300 elephant images on visualhunt.com, and was convinced that Disney has fed us lies and real elephants don’t sit. I also got quite frustrated with fonts and alignment. I spent hours trying to overlay text between the different programs before backtracking to Photoshop and working it all out there.

It took about two hours of concentrated climbing to reach the summit on our hike, and the feeling of accomplishment can only be compared to… the feeling of accomplishment when my new ad came together! But it took more than a couple hours. Way more. Just sayin.

Alas, our hike didn’t end there. We still had the sketchy downhill scree to navigate on the return trip,

and I also found it tricky to combine all the Adobe programs together for the slideshow.

We finished our hike up Blodgett Peak, exhausted but elated at the accomplishment… just like I’m finishing up this semester in COM130. My hiking skills get a little better with each climb, and my Adobe skills get a little better with each project. I’m actually eager for the next adventure, in either setting.

 

Photo credits for my ad:

background (which looks suspiciously like Australia, not Africa: Photo by <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/author/26573a”>%5B embr ]</a> on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/f4ca00″>VisualHunt</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-NC-SA</a>

baby elephant: Photo by <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/author/d47d1b”>Tambako the Jaguar</a> on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/a6b58a”>Visualhunt.com</a&gt; / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-ND</a>

guy in white shirt: Photo by <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/author/9a4cba”>brandoncripps</a&gt; on <a href=”https://visualhunt.com/re/a2ef29″>Visual hunt</a> / <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”&gt; CC BY-NC-SA</a>

original ad: http://graphicdesignjunction.com/2015/12/advertising-print-ads-best-of-2015/

I personally took the photos of the hike.

 

Bob Genealogist: Private Eye

This week in my genealogy writing class we had to write a blog.  Then we had to develop it into a magazine article for a genealogy hobbyist publication. Of course, it didn’t end there. We also had to write a second magazine article. Since I now have this actual blog for my visual media class, I figured I might as well upload my articles and have something to show for all that work.. Now they’ll be kind of published. (Sorry there are no pictures. If I were to seriously publish them, I’d add pictures. Because all those words look boring).

Enter the fun and exciting world of GENEALOGY! It’s like being a detective… for DEAD PEOPLE.

The work of a private detective and the work of a genealogist have a lot in common. Just like a trained private eye, a genealogist uses problem solving skills, interviewing skills, and careful analysis to solve cases. Both fields research records that provide background information on people, and reconstruct lives through the events their target person experienced. The following are some detective/genealogist parallels.

Timelines

Like a detective investigating an alibi, genealogists build timelines to show where a person and his family were living at a certain point in time. Through records from the past, such as the U.S. federal censuses, genealogists can discover hints about a name such as occupation, literacy, home ownership, relationships, and immigration. By applying locations to various records, they can deduce the major events people experienced: political frameworks, natural disasters, fantastic inventions, traditions, and trends. For example, an ancestor of mine was born in Kentucky in 1847 and died in Colorado in 1905. That was quite a distance to travel before the invention of airplanes and automobiles. However, by comparing his timeline with national events, his census locations coincide with the building of the transcontinental railroad. Timelines show the dominant experiences in the arch of a lifetime.

Migration routes

Tracing migration routes is another skill of detection used by genealogists. Across the ocean on a ship, across the country on a train, or across town as a newlywed, the genealogist can build a case to show an ancestor’s motive by putting together dates and places. For example, the ancestors in my mother’s line were born in England, married in Nauvoo, Illinois, buried children in Winter Quarters, Iowa, and died in Toole, Utah. Their migration route strongly suggests they were Mormon pioneers. Knowing the possible motives through migration routes can change the ancestor from a name on a chart into a real person.

Money trails

Like following a set of footprints, genealogists can follow money lines through probate and tax records. They know what was inherited, and what was bequeathed to others. Personalities emerge, with favorite relatives, likes, and dislikes. Lists of property show how wealthy or destitute a person from the past was. Records can also show if they owned slaves, and where they stood on that issue. Genealogists can know who was important to a family by the names they gave their children. They can spy on the neighborhood through census records and land deeds. They know who lived next door or over the fence, and these families sometimes merged. They can be clues for finding maiden names.

Research Skills

Private eyes don’t spend all their time on exciting undercover assignments. They also have to spend time in the office, finding facts on the computer. Efficient research skills are helpful to genealogists, too. Knowing how to use different search engines, different phrases, and wildcards can make a difference and glean a document that could crack the case.

Interviews

Detectives consult many sources to gather information. Genealogists also conduct interviews to further their investigations. They record the memories that roll out, and the details as they are remembered and click into place.

So if you’re stuck on a missing person case, or want to bring a name to life, consider using detective skills to aid your genealogy. The details of their lives are there in the paperwork. Pick up the magnifying glass and join the agency!

 

article #2

Paleography Primer

Have you been frustrated by an old document that you couldn’t understand because the handwriting was indecipherable? There’s help! Paleography is the answer. Paleography is the study of old handwriting. Just like styles in clothing and architecture, handwriting changed through time. Political movements, social trends, and the invention of the typewriter are some of the factors that caused handwriting styles to shift. The further back you trace your ancestors, the more crucial paleography skills become to you as a genealogist.

Here are some paleography pointers for deciphering older documents:

 

  • It’s very helpful to have reference sheets of various scripts to compare as you’re transcribing. Print off sheets of old alphabets to have on hand. Contrast letters from words you recognize with the letters in words that are unfamiliar.

 

  • Transcribe the document. Write the words you know, leaving underlined blanks for words that are a mystery. Then go back over it; many words will fall into place.

 

  • If a word is confusing, try tracing the penmanship with the computer cursor. Or, print the document and write over the words with a pencil. The motion of your hand may help you to recognize a letter or two of the word, so you can begin guessing what the other letters could be.

 

  • Download an older handwriting font and transpose familiar items on your computer into to the older writing. You can practice reading your email in these old fonts.

 

  • If you’re stuck on a particular letter, narrow it down to a couple of possibilities and then search the document for those specific letters in words you recognize and compare them. Even if you don’t find an exact match, it may help you to eliminate some letters.

 

  • Use common sense. The words and names should be somewhat familiar. If you can’t clearly read the location, Google it and compare the results of the Internet search engine to the document you’re trying to read. That will confirm or possibly narrow down your choices.

 

  • Scribes had personal nuances. In a document, look for small words like “the“ and “and,” or the names of the family, the city, and the state. The combination of these letters could give you half the alphabet to work with.

 

  • Become familiar with common contractions and abbreviations of that time period. Realize that everything had to be hand-written; so shortened words were more efficient and often used.

 

  • Spelling didn’t matter until around 1890. Capitalization was random, and punctuation wasn’t standardized either. Don’t apply modern grammar rules to colonial or old English documents.

 

  • Search for common words in the document. Records have their own vernacular. For example, the phrase “In the name of god Amen” was used to begin wills in the eighteenth century. Use Google to find common phrases to watch for in land deeds, probate records, pension records, etc.

 

  • Watch for word pairs. When William the Conqueror began ruling England in 1066, the ruling class spoke French and Latin, while the peasants spoke old English. The lawyers of the day used word pairs (joining an English word with a Latin word) to make sure the meanings in legal documents were absolutely clear. We still use them today: free and clear, terms and conditions, null and void, breaking and entering. Look for the word “and,” then examine the words sandwiching it. If one word is “will,” there’s a good chance the other could be “testament.”

These documents of the past had purpose and meaning. Despite the first impressions they give of chicken-scratch, they are not gibberish. Using paleography can help you decipher them.

 

 

 

 

 

Call me… Command Z

This unit for my visual media class involved learning Adobe Illustrator and designing icons. The glory of this program, Ai,  is the ability to shrink or enlarge an image and keep perfect clarity. This happens because the program is based on vectors rather than rasters, which means it’s mathematically based rather than just a bunch of dots that pixelate when enlarged.  Pretty cool premise.

The assignment, after learning the program basics, was to design 4-6 original icons, wherein each one communicates a single message. The icon set needed to be consistent and to incorporate the aspects we’ve studied in our design class. So, pretty cool project. Except… I don’t draw. Not even smiley faces. I approached the assignment loaded with misgivings, but with an ace up my sleeve.

The first step was to envision my audience. I chose the consignment shop where I work. We have price tags that we print for each item. I decided that simple pictures for the various categories could help the tags be more easily identified. To keep the shop costs low, I decided to do the categories in one solid color that could change each week with the tags. My category choices for the icon design included office supplies, electronics, games, jewelry, books, glassware and many others. I still felt overwhelmed, so I played my ace.

Sporting goods sketch

I consulted Matt, who is, after all, an internet cartoonist. He sat me down with blank sheets of paper and had me sketch designs for those various topics, and then darken the one that conveyed the message the best.

 

 

 

Next I went to the computer and began my designs– and earned my new name. Command Z is the “undo” button on my computer. It’s my mode of operation, as well as my new best friend.

Jewelry sketch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I used basic shapes and lines, but found this

assignment ridiculously difficult. My puzzle piece to represent the game category gave me an absurd amount of grief. I even opened a jigsaw puzzle and tried to duplicate a piece, but the results were pathetic. Just look –>

 

Aside from lacking Ai skills, the main problem was that I didn’t “get” icons. I was attempting to draw pictures. I hadn’t realized yet that every ap picture on a smartphone is an icon, as well as all symbols for businesses and everyday life. Think Nike swoosh. Think the recycle triangle. Think “save” on a computer– an image of a floppy disk that high schoolers would not recognize in real life. But they understand it means save because of the picture… because of the ICON.

Once I connected the dots, I saw icons everywhere. At the gym they’re on all the posters, they’re on race t-shirts next to sponsor names, and on clothing we can recgonize the brands in an instant. The ability to shrink the symbol down for a business card or blow it up semi-truck size is a powerful advertising tool.

Armed with my new understanding and helpful comments from my instructor and classmates (as well as Adobe tutoring from Matt), I redesigned my icons to all be the same color. Originally I was demonstrating the various colors we use, but if they were used at my shop, they’d all be printed the same bright color each week. Here they are together, finalized:

 

The picture frame represents the category of wall hangings. It’s attached here as both a 400 and a 60 pixel diagram. I am very proud of the nail.

The necklace for the jewelry category was the easiest and most fun for me to put together. I deliberately overlapped the beads to take it up a notch and make it look more real– a la Marge Simpson. No, don’t tell me you think otherwise.

Next is the ball, for sporting goods. Just those little lines on it took an hour. Seriously.

And finally, the game category puzzle piece. Voted “Most Improved Player.

I have an entirely new appreciate for icons and the counter-intuitive process that makes the great ones. In the icon world, unembellished  is better. For example, the triangle on most devices means “play” and the square means “stop.” If it’s that simple, might have a chance at success. It’s genius.

 

 

Commitment to Design

I love music. I have tremendous admiration for composers. How to write a song- especially a good one- is a mystery to me. But I’m seeing a parallel in my design class that might explain why Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue is my #1 choice for the “Song I’d Want to be Stranded With on a Desert Island” compared to, say, MacArthur Park. Like a pleasing magazine layout, a good song probably begins one element at a time, and then deliberate features are layered and massaged into the music until the end product is a song you’ll listen to and maybe add to your playlist. Again, I don’t know much about writing songs, but I can walk you through the steps I traveled to create a magazine spread that will hopefully entice you to read the whole article and maybe add it to your favorites.

Here’s the end result, small and tidy. It meets all the requirements: 3 pages, 1 spread, 2+ columns, 1+ pull quote, 1+ word wrap, 2 photographs that I took myself, 3+ subheadings, contrasting typography, consistent headings and body, a 600+ word article from LDS.org with no headings… all put together in Adobe’s InDesign program.  Looks pretty simple, actually.  Well, my friend, it wasn’t. Come with me and I’ll show you.

Choices, Choices

The first task was to choose the article from LDS.org– one with no subheadings. Because conference talks today are published immediately on the internet to be studied and read, most modern church leaders write using subtitles. So I went back in time to my favorite apostle, Marvin J. Ashton, and found my favorite talk by him: “The Word is Commitment.”  My target audience is my fellow class members in my Self-Reliance Initiative class, and this message is ideal for living gospel principles or paying off debt. Next I studied it, divided it into sections, and chose subtitles. Then I decided on the quote pull. I liked “Dale Carnegie once said, ‘If you are not in the process of becoming the person you want to be, you are automatically engaged in becoming the person you don’t want to be.'” However, it didn’t seem right to quote Elder Ashton quoting Carnegie, so I went with “True happiness is not made in getting something. True happiness is becoming something.” Because that’s good, too.

I researched color and found that charcoal grey is a great for making a solid first impression at a job interview. I figured I’d contrast it with yellow. I chose two contrasting fonts that seemed a little uncommon without being weird: Bodoni 72 Smallcaps (A Modern typeset for the titles) and PT Sans Narrow (A San Serif for the body).

Worth a Thousand Words

Mini Incline; Caste Rock, Colorado, photo by Connie Wilson

The pictures were the hard part, and they played a key role in the rest of the layout. For the title page I wanted to use a photo I took of the Mini Incline in Castle Rock. I went there with my friends during the lunch break for Time Out For Women on October 9th. It’s called Mini as a contrast to the Incline, which is an old cog railway that climbs 2000 railroad tie steps up the side of a mountain in Manitou Springs. The Mini is 200 steps and 178′ increase in elevation, whereas the Incline is a mile high and over 2,000′ elevation gain. But I digress…

Originally I planned to enlarge the steps and use them as a border on the right side, with text on the left. The problem was the stunningly blue sky. The steps lost their effect if I cut the sky out, but the colors were too bright to write over, and the picture seemed too harsh and sharp for the layout. But the steps displayed the message of the article so I  kept working with it. While playing around on InDesign, I found the fx button that allowed gradient colors, and the radial option toned the sky down enough for me to insert the text over the picture. It also allowed me to not worry if the resolution got fuzzy with the picture enlarged.

 

Farish Recreation Area, Colorado, photo by Connie Wilson

The second picture took a couple of days and about 10,000 steps. We had rented a little cabin up in the mountains for my birthday last week. While there I hoped to find something visual that showed “commitment.” It occurred to me that I’ve seen trees that grown straight out of boulders, and that would be perfect. I took my camera and hiked all over the place. There were plenty of trees growing out of rocks, but most were aspens and we missed the golden leaves by a couple of weeks. I didn’t think a dead tree really worked with my message. I took dozens of photos of fir trees growing from rocks, but none of the pictures worked quite right. So I went with this photo of a rock pushing an aspen, or maybe the aspen is holding the rock in place. Either way, there’s commitment..

I took pictures of this from all different angles in three different sessions of daylight. That’s commitment, too.

InDesign: the Magic, the Mystery

Next it was a matter of putting it all together. InDesign was a steep learning curve for me and I can’t even tally the hours or the tears or the tutorial youtube videos I watched. But I came out with a product I like. Rather than charcoal grey and contrasting yellow, I kept the muted blue sky theme going in the colors.I grabbed the blues with the eyedropper feature. I wanted the inside spread to have partial borders along the top and outer margins. I found the slanted lines by fiddling with the text box borders. Again, the blue was too bright so I used the radial gradient features on the borders, too.

The trickiest part was altering the text box on page one to slant at and angle so there would be no words on the stairs. L-O-N-G story short: I accomplished it not by cutting the text box, but by inserting another text box of triangular shape over the stairs, which somehow forced the words to scurry to the left side. I did the same thing on the right hand side for the words on that side of the stairs.

Elder Ashton shared great insights regarding goals in this conference address. I hope the layout I’ve designed to highlight his message is intriguing enough to motivate you to read the entire talk. That would be music to my ears!

A Very Particular Set of Skills

Back in the ancient days of my youth, a person actually had to have a camera with them to take a picture. But today’s generation has photos at their fingertips by merely pulling out a cell phone. Taking a selfie or a snapshot is effortless. But by applying a few photography techniques, one can take the quality of those photos up a notch. I’m going to discuss three particular skills: Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines, and Depth of Field.

I found this outstanding photograph in the August 2017 issue of Adventure Cycling magazine. It’s on the title page of the article “Canada’s Great Trail: A dream at 125 years is ‘connected’ at 150” by Ellee Thalheimer. The photo was taken by Jean-Marc Carisse and is courtesy of Trans Canada Trail. The caption reads “Trans Canada Trail Board Chair Paul LaBarge shares a misty morning with some very appropriate avian traffic.”

I love this photo! The cyclist is herding geese, with a barren tree in the foreground and hazy outlines of trees in the background. It has a pleasant feel to it from calming colors, and is an excellent example of the Rule of Thirds.

My next photo is an ad in the May 2017 issue of Backpacker magazine, printed on page 55. The featured company is eno, which turns out to be a brand of hammocks. https://www.eaglesnestoutfittersinc.com/. I chose this picture because of  its strong Leading Lines that draw the eye to the waterfall.

 

 

My third professional photo is from the cookbook Asian Cooking: Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian Recipes. The inside cover states “Favorite Brand Name Recipes (trademark) Presents Vol. 1, No. 62, February 16, 2016, published by Publications International, Ltd. The specific photo is found on page 41 alongside the recipe for “Bean Threads with Tofu and Vegetables.”

Depth of Field is the most recognizable photography tool to me, because it’s used in absolutely every photo of food. Whether it’s a recipe, menu selection, or Pinterest food, depth of field is employed. I chose this Asian dish because the background is more cluttered than other examples, so it clearly demonstrates the advantage of using this tool.

 

Rule of Thirds

The first analysis is the Canadian picture that uses the rule of thirds so well. This composition rule involves laying an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid across a photo. The four places where the lines intersect are the strongest focal points. In this picture we see the cyclist at one of those points and diagonally from it, we see the center of the tree. The grid lines themselves are the second strongest focal points. Here we see the horizon with the line of geese and the bicycle.

For comparison, my neighborhood didn’t have the same misty, soothing elements. To showcase the rule of thirds here I took a photo of the freeway and telephone lines outside the YMCA in Monument, Colorado. The semi truck becomes the focal point as its at the lower right intersection. Not particularly exciting, but there you go.

   

Above photo by Connie Wilson

Leading Lines

The next analysis is of the eno ad, with a photographer relaxing in the hammock. This picture showcases leading lines. The bright, contrasting color of the hammock causes the eyes to naturally sweep towards the edge of the clearing, which reveals a waterfall. Although dark, the shine on the camera is a line pointing straight up, and it takes the eyes directly to the eno brand logo.

The picture I took to mimic the leading lines example is of my daughter relaxing on the front porch. Her legs form the lines that direct the eyes to the stunning autumn leaves on our tree.

  

Above photo by Connie Wilson

Depth of Field

Depth of Field is used to draw attention to the object in focus, whether it’s in the foreground or the background. Often the object in focus has more light reflecting from it, which also makes it more noticeable. In this photo of “Bean Threads with Tofu and Vegetables,” the details of the food are more sharply in focus than the napkin, glass and other dishes in the background.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The photo I took to mimic the one above is of a typical Asian recipe prepared in my home. Note the food in the foreground is sharply in focus, while the background method of cooking is blurred. This allows the mind to grasp all the elements of the meal, while the photo spotlights dinner itself.

   

Above photo by Connie Wilson

Daily we are exposed to countless photos– in advertisements, social media, books, newspapers, etc. To make a photo stand out and be memorable, the photographer uses techniques that help steer the reader to what the artist wants him to see. Skills such as Rule of Thirds, Leading Lines and Depth of Field help accomplish that goal.

 

Come Thou Font

This is the February 2017 cover of Adventure Cyclist magazine. I can refer you to an online  thumbnail of this picture at https://www.adventurecycling.org/adventure-cyclist/adventure-cyclist-online/2017-issues/, but you can’t get closer without paying the $45 annual membership fee. All their magazines show excellent use of typography, but this cover in particular employs several categories of type as well as other contrasting features, resulting in a sharp, memorable image.

 

 

 

 

The first category of type I’m highlighting is Sans Serif. This typefaces is characterized by letter-forms that are the same consistency throughout with no variation in thickness of the letter strokes. Another feature of this typeface is the lack of serifs, which are the decorative doodads on the end of letter strokes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The artists also used Slab Serif, a typeface characterized by uniform letter strokes that have horizontal serifs on most of the alphabet letters. The category evolved from the need to easily read letters from a distance, as in the case of signs and advertisements.

 

 

 

 

 

A bonus typeface displayed in this magazine cover is Oldstyle, which has angled serifs on the letters. The curved strokes transition from thick to thin; they are replicating brush strokes from quill and ink. A line drawn through the thinnest parts would be diagonal; this is known as “stress” in the typeface world.

 

 

Sand serif and slab serif contrast nicely by themselves, but there are several techniques applied to increase the contrast between the typefaces. One is the color of the letters in the word “cyclist” (see photos above). It is schoolbus yellow (or orange, depending on your interpretation of the color of a schoolbus). All other letters are black or white, as well as the picture on the cover. The letters also range in size. One subtitle, here highlighted in blue, has shadowed font that no doubt is a play on the word “sunset.” Finally, here highlighted in pink, the image of the cyclist has been placed over some of the words so that the mind has to fill in the missing letters. It’s a neat trick.

The use of contrasting typeface categories, the size of the letters, and the grayscale page with one yellow word all contribute to giving this magazine cover a professional and memorable look.