Designer Rut: A Form of Writer’s Block

Since the day I graduated the thought of relaxing after four years of hard work sounded like a great plan. I had been applying for jobs here and there, but haven’t gotten a single interview. It’s late July. The summer is almost over and I have nothing to show for it. My friends have been trying to keep me lifted by offering me advice on how to spend my time exploring new design theories and enhancing my skills. I wasn’t having any of it.


I have now come to realize that I haven’t done any good for myself. I could’ve been building some immaculate portfolio pieces, but instead I’ve been building on some immense hours of sleep. A message from one of my friends today really hit hard and brought me to this realization. I now know I have a lot of work that I could be doing and should have been doing all along.


For the record and to keep me liable for my lack of motivation, I will list out the projects I intend to create:
- Portfolio Website Redesign
- Website for Mom’s Crafts
- Fix Up Happy Fish Redesign (then pitch it!)
- Graphics! (Infographics on sports teams, players, etc.)
- Delve into InDesign and Flash for a refresher.


That’s all for now. I have a lot to do can’t you see?!


Lisa x

The Importance of Usability in Design

Usability is a word that always pops up when designing things for the everyday user such as, in this case, a website. It is safe to say that we designers are what most people would call “geeks” or “nerds.” It’s true, most people look at the backend of some of our projects and think, “how in the world do you do that?” It is crazy if you look at it in the perspective of a regular computer user. They’re not used to seeing code like that. I actually feel quite special knowing that I have a specific set of skills that is unique to my peers around me. I am quite tickled, like the Pillsbury Doughboy. I digress. This is a perfect segue to why it is important to push for usability as a high priority when developing designs for a website because these sites will indeed be used by these everyday users that don’t know what we do. Just because us “nerds” might be able to figure out things that might be obvious to us, it might not be so obvious to the everyday user. Then, at that point your website has lost all of its usability points. Everyday users need sites to be easy to use so that they can get to point A to point B at the fastest amount of time possible. Therefore, as designers we need to cut out the cool elements that might impress us and our peers for the sake of usability if the point of the site is to appeal to the masses. This roots back to the demographic post where designers also have to be aware of their audience. This is because if your audience is indeed other designers than maybe you could afford those totally cool and tubular elements that those folks would appreciate, but for the everyday user just scratch it.


‘Til next time!
Lisa x

Importance of Demographics

Today’s topic is on demographics and why it is necessary to recognize the demographic you are trying to appeal to when designing. This is important because with different ages and backgrounds comes different tastes in aesthetics. The subject of your design will of course depend on who you are designing for because if you’re trying to cater to grade school-aged girls, you wouldn’t want G.I. Joe anywhere near that design. This should be common sense, but there are small details that designers can take into account that aren’t so obvious as the previous example. For example, the choice in colors and font can totally alter the look and feel of a design and whether or not it appeals to your audience. When I think of designing for older generations, I think rich colors like maroons or royal blues with some refined looking font in the likes of cursive with that being the most decorative the font gets. For younger generations, I think neon, bright colors with crazy fonts. The younger generations are more forgiving I feel with design and are more willing to experiment whereas with the older generations (correct me if I’m wrong) you should try to stick to the straight and narrow.


In a real life situation, for an example I’ll use my line of work, which is creating graphics for sporting teams, you have a pretty wide demographic to work with. You have the experienced sports fan that come to all the games to the little ones that are just there for fun. I think as far as a sporting team is concerned, I think the general consensus as far as aesthetics goes is to make the team look as cool as possible even if they suck. You got to make them look good, really good. So, in my line of work I know to use really high contrast, really high impact pictures and a lot of bold colors. You really have to make their colors known because that is an identifying factor of the team. The overall image has to appear strong to make the team appear strong. At least, this is how I think about it. Check out the Facebook cover photo I made for the Rivermen. I feel like this encompasses what I’ve been conveying and it’s definitely something I’m proud of.


Peoria Rivermen Hockey Facebook Cover Photo by: Lisa M. Watkins
‘Til next time!
Lisa x

Alternate Major

This is a hard topic to write about because I honestly couldn’t think of another major that I would choose aside from the one that I’m in. I feel like I don’t excel anywhere else. But, I guess if I were to be boring I would just say graphic design because it is kind of associated with the same skills. The reason why I didn’t pursue graphic design is the fact that I hate printing out stuff. It annoys me and it is so unpredictable that I get so impatient and mad. One of my good friends is in graphic design, God bless her. 


If I were to think more intuitively, I might say I would pursue something like public relations or broadcasting. I’ve always flirted with these ideas, but never thought I would excel at them as much as my current major (Web Design). I’m really into sports so I thought it would be fun to do broadcasting or public relations for a sporting team because I feel like it would be a fast paced and interesting career. I feel like I’m a great communicator when I need to be. (Fun fact: it’s written in the stars for me. I’m a gemini and it is said that geminis are known to be great communicators.) My favorite team is the Chicago Blackhawks and I really admired their former female sports commentator Sarah Kustok because she was very professional and really knew her stuff. That is the kind of female sports commentator I appreciate because I know there are some that just go in and flirt with the players, which is really annoying. With public relations I think it would be fun to represent a high profiled figure probably in the sports arena of course. I think that these majors are definitely a shift from what I’m doing right now because designing doesn’t really require a lot of communication at least not as much as these career fields do I would think. I guess the only communication I’ll get is from the collaboration sessions with my team of fellow designers, which I’m content with.


‘Til next time!
Lisa x

Strongest Portfolio Piece Thus Far

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo Book Cover Redesign by Lisa Watkins


I’m not quite sure if this is the strongest piece I’ve done so far, but it was definitely my favorite to complete because I had so much motivation to make it look perfect in proportion to the image I had for it in my mind. Oh…that’s deep.


This particular project was brought to you by my first semester at Bradley University. This project was for my ART205 class — Typography. I want to say it was our final project because I don’t remember a project after it, so yeah, I’ll say it was. It was our final project. Teehee. We were assigned to redesign a book cover of one of our favorite books. At the time I was in the middle of reading The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo series. This was an obvious choice for me to redesign because I completely understood the essence of the book, which didn’t have much of a book jacket design at all. It was just brightly-colored with dragons about and the text. I think this gave me a great opportunity to but my spin on it especially as a fan.


I knew what I wanted the jacket to look like and I needed a model. I recruit one of my friends whose style resembles that of the main character Lisbeth, so I knew it wasn’t going to be hard for her to emulate the look and feel that I needed. Thankfully, she was really excited about modeling for me. It also helped that she once majored in theater makeup, so when I wanted a beaten up and battered Lisbeth, she was easily able to get that look. I took her picture a thousand times in various positions, but never of her face full on. I didn’t want the reader to be caught up on the cover model’s visage being attached to their idea of what Lisbeth looked like in their minds. I hate when books do that, ugh. I more or less wanted Lisbeth’s presence on the jacket, that’s all.


When I got the image down, the real designing started. The previous jacket made it seem like this novel was easy going with its bright and enticing colors. I, on the other hand, wanted the novel to be known for what it really was, a dark, dark, dark tale. I used font colors that would pop against the black (white, bright green, and red) to still entice those who are curious about the title. I also utilized some smoke brushes to add an air of mystery or to pay homage to Lisbeth’s horrible smoking habit. Everyone seems to smoke in this book. I think it added a sort of texture without it having it be an actual texture. When applying the image of my friend to the layout, I really wanted it to seem like she was peering from the shadows. That is why the lower half of her torso blends in with the black background while the top of her torso shines with her leather jacket.


I guess all of that was what appealed to me about this project. What was challenging was the fact that my teacher at first told us to pick our own title, then the next class date told us to choose a title from a list. I fought for everyone to design for the titles they had chosen because I could tell in everyone’s faces that they were disappointed that they weren’t going to be designing for a book they were passionate for. Once we got the okay to do so, I was challenged by my teacher every class to persuade her that this was a good idea because she hadn’t read the book. Therefore, I had to create a design that captured the essence of the book, which I feel I did successfully without hinting to what the story is actually about. The only thing I did was put Lisbeth in physical form on the book jacket, which I think is enough.


I mean, you tell me if it was enough? I guess it was because I got an “A,” but that’s besides the point *^-^*


‘Til next time!
Lisa x

Advantages/Disadvantages of HTML5 and CSS3

In my web design class that has introduced the use of both HTML5 and CSS3 I have been able to get a little bit of a firsthand look into the advantages and disadvantages of each of them.
Let’s start with HTML5. The first distinct difference that I feel is a great advantage is the simplicity of the Doctype. Before, there were multiple types and they were all sort of not memorable, at least to me they weren’t. The Doctype for HTML5 is simply, get ready for this: <!DOCTYPE html>


Holy crap! So revolutionary.


Another great advantage of HTML5 is the use of some pretty standard sections that make up generally every website: header, footer, navigation, articles and sections.


A pitfall, I would say, for HTML5 would have to be that it isn’t quite cross-browser compatible yet. Since it is a relatively new development in structural programming and hasn’t been widely accepted yet, the support for HTML5 has yet to be a hundred percent for every browser and for everyone.


As far as CSS3 is concerned, it’s awesome because it offers up some features that will spice up designs just by code itself. Some of my favorite features would have to be the box shadow, border radius, and the @font-face attribute. I have used all of these attributes before and I must say, they have definitely spiced up my designs. In my resume layout alone I use the box shadow and the @font-face attribute. Before my layout was just kind of flat and I had just debated on using a texture in the backgrounds like I did with the rest of my site, but the box shadow really set it off. I feel like this subtle detail really made the layout come alive and eliminated the need for me to tarnish the simplicity of it with textures. I am also thankful for the @font-face attribute. Before I had utilized it my layout contained the generic sans serif fonts that most websites tend to use, but it just didn’t fit with the rest of my layout. I like the softness of the font and how it plays into the overall softness of the layout. Thanks to CSS3, I couldn’t stop staring at my resume webpage for days (as vain as that sounds).


I think bright futures are ahead in web design through the use of these new developments. I’m excited to see how things will appear once they are both widely accepted.


‘Til next time!

Lisa x

Cliche Desert Island Question

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You are trapped on a desert island and can bring only five (5) objects with you – what would they be and why?


Hm, hm, hm…


The five things I would bring with me on a deserted island would have to be: my laptop, an Internet connection, my phone, a really hot man and a fully stocked kitchen.


I guess I have some explaining to do, huh? Well, I would obviously take my laptop because she is my world. Yes, she as in Victoria. She’s a very sophisticated lady. I do everything on my laptop. It houses my entertainment as well as my work. I literally cannot live without my computer. Is that sad?


To access all the great things that the Internet provides us today, I would of course need an Internet connection. High speed por favor! Isn’t the Internet great? It’s so odd to think of how far the Internet has come since its development and how fast it has exploded. Well, I’m glad because without it I would be out a career path. I might’ve had to become a nurse like my mother wanted me to…yikes! I don’t do blood.


Another device that I’m on a lot is my phone. It’s probably obnoxious how much I’m on my phone. I know, it’s rude to be on it while you’re having a conversation with another person, but whaterr. It’s called multi-tasking. Just kidding, I’m trying to be more considerate. I digress. So my phone, although outdated and beaten up, I still love the darn thing and use it as my primary source of communication to my peeps. Yeah peeps, I said it.


Next, I need a hot man to accompany me on this so-called desert island. Do I really need to explain? I do? Fine. So, I really enjoy cuddling and the company of a really attractive guy in general. Sorry for being a total girl right now, but I’m sure a lot of guys probably put down that they would want Megan Fox on this deserted island. Same difference. I really just hate feeling alone and I need someone to keep me warm if it gets unseasonably cold on this island. Actually, the question never specified the location of this island so for all I know it could actually be Antarctica. Once again, I digress. I don’t have a specific guy in mind really, but I won’t cry if it happens to be Chicago Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews. Just sayin’.


So, I kind of cheated with the last item because it comprises of a bunch of different items, but oh well. I obviously would need the things that are necessary to keep me alive and I think a full stocked kitchen would be sufficient enough to keep me alive until my beau and I figure out how to return to civilization.


I apologize for this not being extra intuitive or creative, but I’m just being honest. And honestly, I wouldn’t want to be on a deserted island in the first place.


‘Til next time!
Lisa x



Favorite Project I’ve Done In College

Hello faithful readers that I’m sure exist in an alternate universe. For this next installment of my blog I will be talking about my favorite project that I’ve ever had to do in college.


My favorite project I’ve done in college would actually have to be my very first project in college, which was to take a children’s book and animate it. I remember thinking this was a daunting task because I had never done a multimedia project to this extent before, so I instantly felt overwhelmed. Thankfully, I had the best professor David Smit, who was thorough in his explanations and was always willing to answer any questions we had. I only had David for one class and he’s still one of my favorite professors I’ve had in college.


So, for the project I had to do a lot of scanning, selecting, and clone stamping to be able to move the characters around the screen. This project was a real crash course in a lot of the programs I would be using for the rest of my college career including photoshop, premiere, and audacity. This was a true multimedia project encompassing design, sound, and video. Despite the quality of the video (I didn’t grasp the quality/exporting concept back then) I am really proud of how it turned out. I had a lot of fun producing it and gaining experience in multiple programs.


The book I used for this project was Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees. The book was full of colorful artwork and a lot of different speaking jungle animal characters. The greatest thing about this project was when I presented my project to the class, my professor asked me which of my classmates I recruited for all of the animal voices. I told him that I had done them all myself, yet he still didn’t believe me. But, it was true! My professor asked me how I managed to get all of the different voices and I told him that I used the very program he had taught us about in class–audacity. I sat in the little studio that we had at the back of the room and read through the book without changing my voice to act like different characters. I was able to manipulate my voice to what I wanted using only audacity. He still didn’t believe me…


I am forever grateful of having done this project because it taught me about time management when trying to produce a massive project as well as expose me to a variety of programs and their capabilities.


‘Til next time!
Lisa x

Thoughts On A Review On A New Technology

Lady Gaga Heartbeats Headphones Image

I don’t know if this constitutes as a new technology per se, but since I have not been able to access a lot of new technologies where it be the new iPhone, the new Mac, etc. I have chosen to voice my opinons on a review casted on a product that I find is unique in my collection.


You can view the article that I am deriving my opinion on here.


This particular review is on the Heartbeats Headphones by Lady Gaga. I own these headphones thanks to an ex-boyfriend. Probably the best gift he gave me the entire relationship, but that’s a whole different topic haha. I had been wanting these headphones for the better part of 2 years partly due to the fact that I’m a Little Monster (Lady Gaga fan).


So, this article pretty much gives this product a less than stellar review making it seem like they weren’t worth the money, which they probably weren’t because I could never justify a $100 pair of headphones, but thankfully I got them for free. The review starts off by talking about the design of the headphones. They’re right about the design being very eye-catching. I always get people asking me about them because they look awesome. The review mentioned the level of discomfort that the triangular design evokes on the ear and how it always seems to fall out of the ear. I agree with this somewhat because the headphones do hurt after a while, but I usually don’t notice it a lot for me to not want to use them at all, and they do tend to fall out, but even regular earbuds fall out of my ears. I found that the different silicon eartips definitely made a difference. The headphones are pretty comfortable to me if I’m just at my desk, but I wouldn’t go on a run with them because well with any earbuds, for me anyway, they fall out.


As far as the sound quality, the review bashes the headphones for making the music sound muddy. I have no idea what muddy means, but I can tell you that I enjoy the sound quality of these headphones. There’s a lot of base, everything sounds crisp and the most important thing they forgot to mention throughout their whole review is that the headphones cancel out sound really, really well. Like, really well. I don’t blast my music by any means and I still can’t hear if someone is calling my name from 5 ft away, which I find impressive and helpful around a bunch of ruckus.


All in all, I’m happy I have these headphones in my possession. They’re my pride and joy as far as ear candy and I honestly don’t have very complaints about them.


‘Til next time!

Lisa x


Most Influential Class

Andy Warhol Inspired Painting of Lady Gaga by Lisa Watkins

Looking back on my college career I have come across a lot of different experiences in the classroom. One particular classroom experience that stands out to me the most was an art class I had taken at Illinois Central College, the community college I had attended before Bradley.


In preparation for my departure from Illinois Central College (ICC) and looking onwards to Bradley, I took up this art class to get ahead in Bradley’s curriculum to ensure that I would complete college in four years. I took this class because it was a prerequisite to another class and figured it might be slightly easier at ICC than it would be at Bradley. This class was your traditional art class where all we did was paint. I took art all throughout grade school and high school, but I was never a great painter. As a result, this made me panic that I was going to get horrible grades. The class started and immediately demanded a lot of supplies, which already aggravated me. We were also required to carry around these huge portfolio bags to hold our huge notepad of paper that we used to paint on. Everything was just so awkward and I already hated it.


The semester started out pretty slow and easy, but then it just got crazy. My professor would assign multiple projects at once to be due at the same time and there went my life. I literally spent every weekend painting. I did not have time to do anything else. I squeezed in some time to hangout with my boyfriend at the time, but that was it. I was always cranky because all I did was paint. Even though this class took over my life I was not getting the grades I wanted. My professor would always give me a “B” and nothing more. This made me really angry because of how much time I dedicated to each project. At one point there was a string of projects that utilized the same abstract drawing that we had come up with. One week we had two of those abstract paintings due, and the next project required a third version. On the first two versions I had gotten “B’s” which really made me angry because I thought I did a really good job on them. This pushed me to go up to her and blatantly ask her what exactly was wrong with those versions and what did I need to do to get an “A” on the next one. She explained to me what I need to do and I did exactly what she told me to do. Thankfully, when I got the project back I actually did get an “A,” which I was so ecstatic about. The painting also ended up hanging in the student gallery for a bit, which was the cherry on top.


From then on it was still an uphill battle with my professor. She still gave me “B’s” on everything and during critiques she would verbally rip my project apart. Towards the end of the semester I started to take it personally and at one point cried during class because it was just too much for me to handle. I have no idea why my professor seemed to be picking on me because as far as I was concerned I was one of the few students that was actually putting out some quality work. I felt that she went easy on those who obviously did not care as much as I did and who obviously still had a life.


Finally, the last projects were assigned. Finally, some light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel was still long, but at least I knew there was an end to it all, an end to all my misery. One of the projects was an Andy Warhol inspired painting in which we got to choose the celebrity and we had to paint essentially four paintings in one using different color schemes outlined by her. Each painting was a full sheet of regular print paper. It took my half a day for each square, so basically it took two whole days to paint this. I was really inspired by this concept and told myself that I would make an appropriate ode to Warhol’s unique style. I was nervous once the critique rolled around because I thought what I had done was really well done, but I just knew she was going to have something bad to say about it.


So, on the day of the critique everyone hangs up their paintings and the critique begins. We finally get to my painting and I explain what I had done. After my explanation, my professor simply says, “This is really great work Lisa. This is the best thing you’ve ever painted this semester.” I literally wanted to fall to my knees and cry. That was what I was waiting to hear all semester. I was so gratified, so happy and in such disbelief that she actually had said that to me.


I ended up getting an “A” in the class even after all of the “B’s” that I had gotten throughout the semester. When I talked to people about it shortly after the class ended, I got some insight about her reasoning. People have told me that she probably thought I had it in me all along and that she was pushing me to do better because she saw the potential in me. I like to think that was why she put me through such misery for a few months. I guess this class was the most influential to me because I have never been so out of my element, yet so determined to make things work out the way I wanted. It just really shows how inspiring it is for someone to have some faith in you to push you to your limits and beyond so that you can feel a sense of real gratification.


Moral of the story: keep on keepin’ on and you will get what you deserve.


‘Til next time!
Lisa x