revealing the magic

Posted on Sep 7, 2014 in Interactive, Visual design

I’m working on a project that needs a loading state for an icon. I’ve never done this before and always wondered how it was done. A quick Google search revealed to me the secret and the magic will never again be the same.

I’ve used the animation timeline in Adobe Flash, After Effects and Premiere, but it wasn’t until today that I used the animation timeline in Photoshop.

16 circles later I have a loading icon.

loading icon

There was a star…

Posted on Aug 8, 2010 in Visual design

there was a star, under it was I born
I’m always carrying my camera around with me, snapping photos of interesting things. I’m started to get a little bored with single images, and I’ve always been interested composting and experimenting with blending modes and transparencies. (I switched to InDesign from Quark when I found out that it could do transparencies instead of having to do them in Photoshop). Now I’m finally taking the time to play around with different images.

The image above started with an image of a hole cut into metal siding on a warehouse in New Westminister. I added a dragonfly and changed the colour to a cooler palette, then an image of myself that a friend took last week went in the cutout of the hole. An image of Kingston city hall, weeds from a field near my parents house and a moon all from winter scenes in Ontario filled out the left hand side of the composition. A sprinkling of stary images and a Shakespeare quote, (along with a couple of hours of experimenting with blending modes, masks, and adjustments layers) and voila!

Africa: Not a Single Story

Posted on Jul 7, 2010 in Visual design

Africa: Not a Single Story

Even though I’ve graduated from VFS, I’m still involved in a few projects with current students. One of those people is current EBM student Bernat Manzano who also happens to be an aspiring documentary film producer. Right now I’m working on a poster for his final project, a documentary pitch package for a film called Africa: Not a Single Story. Above you can see the inspiration taken from an actual painting and some iterations for the poster underneath.

Customizing type

Posted on Mar 4, 2010 in Visual design

Even as an untrained designer growing up, I had a designer’s mind. I spent my days making things with my hands, and less with barbies and the television set. I liked things to look customized. I wanted to be and make things that no one else had. This meant hardened playdough characters, homemade paper and clothing for both myself and my cabbage patch dolls. This desire for the handmade, the one-off if you will, has developed into a bit of an obsession of decorative title fonts looking unique and handcrafted as well. I hate seeing a beautifully decorated book cover with duplicate letters staring out at me like they were the last little detail to be forgotten in the greatness of the graphics.

When Choom Lam, the classical animator that Taura and I collaborated with for our final project, sent me a psd file for the cover graphic, the first thing I did was to fiddle with the text. I reset it in Illustrator and converted it to outlines. For those of you following my blog without an obsession for clean vector art, this means that the letter “E” was no longer text, it was a picture of the letter “E”. This allowed me to go in and create individual letters unique to their duplicates on the page. Pinching, pulling, filling in hollow areas and slightly skewing the letterforms helped me create a typography (fancy word for text) treatment that would compliment Choom’s illustration beautifully.

I also created custom, yet simple block initials for the inside of the book. With only 5 letterforms to create, it took no more than ten minutes to make each one feel customized by rotating, flipping, and pulling and pushing some of the corners and angles on each one. It’s well worth the ten minutes in my mind. I can’t speak for population without a designer’s eye, but custom font treatments for me are the finishing touch on a project that speaks volumes. It may not be something you notice when it’s done, but it’s certainly the first thing I do notice when it’s not.

Book layout sketches

Posted on Jan 26, 2010 in Visual design

All too often it’s way too easy to jump on a computer and start laying something out without really giving it much thought prior to your hand on the mouse. And while I have participated in plenty of that in the past, the last 8 months I have been exploring my ideas more on paper before I hit the computer. Even if you end up going with the first concept you sketched out, I think pushing your limits and exploring other possibilities can only reinforce how good of an idea is it, or if it was really as good as you originally thought.

I was taught at St. Lawrence College to push out as many ideas as quickly as you could in sketches on paper. You can certainly get through a lot more bad ideas on paper than you can bringing the whole idea to fruition on a computer only to realize that the concept and layout isn’t really going to work how it is. Sometimes ideas you might think are a bit silly, like the diamond shaped block of text in an above sketch, may not work for this project, but might spark some imagination in a future one.

I forced myself to sketch for two hours and came up with the sketches you see above. Perhaps some of them will inspire you in a future project.

Mobile typography

Posted on Jan 24, 2010 in UX, Visual design

Yesterday I took on the task of deciding on a font for the mobile device portion of our final project. While I knew that there must be fonts out there that would perform better than others on a small screen, I had never thought about it until this point in time.

Of course, like every good design, typography included, there’s a slew of design considerations to be made when designing (in my case choosing) a font for a small mobile device. While as a designer, I’m always looking for something a little different that lends itself nicely to whatever project I’m working on, sometimes I do sacrifice a little clarity for a special effect or extra ligature. Mobile fonts are likened to signage on, where they say that the audience of the visual font is varies so greatly, from young to old, experienced to newbies, visitors to regulars, that functionality (legibility) must be the prime attention.

Fonts are generally set on a computer as a vector, a scalable letterform with smooth edges. As smooth as these edges are, they are still made from pixels, which are tiny squares on the screen that work together to produce a smooth line. When you reduce the size of a letterform, or anything vector for that matter, into something that’s only 20 pixels high, instead of seeing a smooth transition on curves and corners, blocking starts to happen and you lose the crispness that you had when the letterform was larger. Holes in the middle of letters, known as counters, can start to fill in, thin lines can start to disappear and pretty quickly you can end up with a muddled font.

For this reason, straight, even width lines are best to construct a screen font. Keeping descenders (like the hook on the y) and ascenders (like the top part of the l) shorter rather than longer, as well as keeping the x-height (height of the middle part of the letters) 65 to 80% of the size of the letterform will also prevent lines on top or bottom from running into each other. (The space between lines of text is called leading.)

Considerations to the amount of space that is available on the screen to hold the chosen font also dictates what it should look like. With a limited amount of space, a condensed font, or at least one that is not too wide will get you more characters per font size than a regular one. A font that is already well spaced (called kerning) between each letter is also important to ensure that there are no gaps when reduced in size, or that letterforms blend together. This will all help increase legibility for the user.

To start your quest in the perfect mobile font, you can explore Microsoft’s clear type fonts originally designed for LCD’s or try out the Droid fonts, specifically designed for mobile devices.

Buy-A-Net case study

Posted on Dec 15, 2009 in Visual design


When I was in Kingston, Ontario I was fortunate enough to cross paths with Debra Lefevbre, founder of Buy-a-Net. Buy-A-Net is a malaria prevention charity that works in Uganda to educate the community, treat people infected with malaria and most importantly, prevent the transmittal of malaria by mosquitos with bednets. She is a woman with passion for her work, and since my time at VFS, I have adapted creative briefs to work in Buy-A-Net’s favour such as my term 2 flash game, Fight the Bite.

This term I took a branding course in which we had the opportunity to rebrand an existing brand of our choice. I chose to rebrand Buy-A-Net and give them more of a community-centred feel. The new logo represents the community of volunteers that support Buy-A-Net, the community of Ugandans that Buy-A-Net has helped, and the actual bednet that they distribute. The range of colours represent the hope, and the diversity of people involved in the project. You can read the full case study here.

Revive Case Study

Posted on Oct 19, 2009 in Visual design

Revive logo

This term we had four major projects. Branding was one of them. We had the choice of a tea or a beer, and we had 6 weeks to come up with a product and brand it. We had to create a proper case study for our print class in InDesign and present our work in class. Check out my case study.

All around the world in a hot air balloon

Posted on Oct 14, 2009 in Visual design

hot air ballon created in Cinema 4D

This is nothing compared to what some of my compadres in class are capable of, but to be truthful I didn’t spend nearly as much time on this as I could have. But here it is as promised. A little basket weave texture on the basket, a few nurbs twisted together for the ropes, and a few clouds in the sky. Perhaps in the future when I have more time I’d like to come back and learn more about 3D. But for now, the basic understanding is all I need to know to communicate with the specialists when I hit the professional world again.

3D hot air balloon

Posted on Sep 13, 2009 in Visual design

I came to VFS thinking I was interested in motion graphics and 3D. It turns out, while I value both of those, I’m really interested in interactive, print (of course, it was my first love) and project management. Nonetheless, I have 3D class this term. Here is the second assignment: a hot air balloon. We’ll be colourizing, texturizing and adding lighting effects over the next few weeks to spiff it up a bit. Stay tuned!