Just let me play!

As I enter my second year of college classes, I have been feeling a bit frustrated with a strong desire to “move on with my life”.  It feels like I am spinning my wheels at school and accomplishing very little.   Turning down full time work on two different occassions over the past month added to that burned out cloud hovering above.

At one point during week one I wanted to share the words of a song (that I owned) with some of my friends.  All I wanted to do was to say “I love you” and I found the perfect song for it, but no YouTube available.  That motivated me to spend some extra time playing around with Windows Movie Maker.  It is very simple, but I was motivated:

That intense motivation for something so “simple” made me decide to do a quick review / inventory of the past 4 quarters to put things in perspective.  In the process, things in general began to look more promising! 

Things that don’t work so well for me in the classroom (thus, probably not in a job either):

  • Designing logos that I can’t make interesting to myself such as the bag clip, a restaurant, or an industry
  • Advertising for products that don’t inspire me like Therma Care
  • Programming games (even for kids)
  • Websites for topics I don’t care about
  • Projects that are centered around movies, tv shows, the gaming industry, etc.

Things that are working for me:

  • Writing and designing projects that centered around charities
    It did not matter which class or media I was working in, these projects motivated me and they were covered in a myriad of classes such as Script Writing, Marketing, Typography, various software classes, as well as some Design courses. 
    (Examples: Compassion International, Indiana Sheltie Rescue, and website for a friend’s passion.) 
  • Creating communications that promote relationship building.
    Basically… being able to share and relate are very important to me. 
    (Examples: the cd case for my family, videos about my family, and photography class projects that allowed me to incorporate my familynostalgia, or my vacation time.) 
  • Topics that send a message.
    (Examples include the video about the Human Footprint, the video about animal rescue,  a poster with a call to action for animal rescue, or the Christmas one for Food for the Hungry.)
  • Anything that has to do with kids, fun, and just pure enjoyment.
    (Such as the snowmen USPS stamps, the diety interactive book I made in Design Concepts, or the newspaper page that was all about cats.)
  • Helpful projects business-wise.
    I have to say the Eiteljorg wayfinder logos and standards manual was one of the most helpful projects I have worked on in regards to my career.   It opened the door to creative possibilities by combining the skills I already possess with new ones I am learning.
  • Hands-on, get messy, physical creating.
    When I thought of my favorite classes, by far it would be those that incorporate a lot of drawing and creating on a more tactile level.  Design Fundamentals is at the top of the list, although photography ranks up there as well.  I also enjoyed putting the diety book together.  Software is ok… but I want it to enhance my creations, not be the sum total of them.  That was interesting to learn.

What I will do with all this information is only to be guessed at.  However, I am hoping that I can find ways to use it as I continue down the college path in the upcoming quarters.  It certainly picked up my spirits and has me ready to get back into the “fray”.  I hope all this thinking has given me hints on how to motivate myself and keep my interest up even on dull projects.

If You by Charlotte Franck

Over break the three of us have been having fun getting to know a new friend and after one particularly lovely girls’ evening out, Charlotte was thinking about relationships and penned the following.  I think it gives a good sense of the essence of this 3-week-long break, as well as the invitation to friendship!

If you want
I will drink your
Honey tea
Red burst sunsets
Star studded sky.
If you want
Come drink my
Morning coffee
Seas at sunrise
Cathedral rock.
Savor every drop.
 ©C. Frank 2010

[Update: Charlotte has now started a blog for her poetry, Essence, which I love so much!  She deals with tough topics as well as fun ones, so just explore! ]

Facebook and the Cuddle Factor

Ok, I just couldn’t resist this one.  A study shows that social media interaction increases oxytocin.  And you all wonder why I am so huggy / happy?  It is because I hang out on Facebook, of course!!!


Let's pile on Aunt Sheri!

Of course, the other option for “happy” is contained in about 18 little hearts that I love so dearly.

Pictured: Aaron and Ruth’s kids as well as Beky and Brian’s brood.  Orren, William, Samantha (Kolb), Lizzy, Eva, Simeon (Kolb), Nathanael (Kolb)

End of Quarter

This quarter ended with a >bang<.  It is hard to even capture it and convey the energy of the moment.  On Tuesday I gave my presentation for Corporate ID and sighed in unmitigated relief to have my standards manual completed and off my hands.  Now it was up to Beth to do the grading.  At this point, I did not even care what happened. 

 That evening my inbox contained a request to bring examples of my work to an interview the next day. I have a random portfolio of my writing, but wow… I could take this finished and bound standards manual!  With a promise to return it promptly, Beth allowed me to borrow it prior to my interview.

That turned out to be the most exciting interview / networking opportunity I have had in years!  I went in expecting the standard writing discussion (for a full-time Roche project) and came out 2 hours later on fire and wanting to work for this comapny.  When they saw my work they were really interested, but when the standards manual was pulled out, it tipped the scale over to excitement.  However, as a full time student, I turned down the opportunity of a full-time gig.  Maybe in the future!

It was such a fantastic experience that various people told me I was “glowing” throughout the remainder of the day!  I rode that wave for weeks!  My final in video class that night did not even phase me, I was so “high”.

That following Friday Lainey and Charlotte took me out to Petersons to celebrate survival and Saturday was spent at our extended Garvin Reunion in Hagerstown.  It was wonderful to see everyone, but  my sister, Mattie, and family from Ohio was a special treat.  I had not seen Kara for some time and she has turned into a doll!  She certainly captured her Aunt Sheri’s heart!!!

The Eiteljorg – Standards Manual

This blog post has been very hard for me to compose, but it needs to be done before I start back into classes tomorrow.  First, I absolutely LOVED! this project because it gave me excuses to hang out at my beloved museum and immerse myself in a topic so dear to my heart.  

Secondly… this was one of the most painful finals I have had to date.  The reason for that happened to be the software we were told to use, which I have not yet been trained in (I will be taking that class this coming quarter.)  This made the process of creating much slower and more complex than was necessary.  I put my head in my hands and cried a couple of times from the intense frustration with the software (InDesign), which blocked my creative process time and time again.  Charcoal pencils and paper quickly began to look like highly desireable tools, let me tell you! 

So how about the part of the project that I loved?  Wow… Beth told us to choose any logo we had created during the quarter and develop it further, just as we would in a “real world” situation.    

Of the 6 wayfinders I created for the museum, I chose to develop the performing arts logo.  Why? For the simple reason that Beth liked it best.  I have learned that it behooves the student to take note when a teacher gives a strong indicator of a preference!  Start out good and that is one hurdle you can eliminate! 

Our first step was to begin revisions on the logo itself to bring it up a notch.  Notice the changes created on the brown shapes as well as separating the “ground” where the dancer’s foot is touching.  Fortunately, my changes were simple and subtle, thus not much work.  

Original logo

Final logo

We then did a color study, so the second logo above shows the final color choices.  Pretty close to the original, but again, a subtle change that makes a difference somewhere in the creative brain.  I also performed a typography study, but stayed with my original Lithros Pro; however the study was a positive and validating activity. 

Pantone 2 Color Study

Typography Study

The culmination of all this production was a logo standards manual.  Anyone who has worked in the professional world (especially large corporations) has probably run into “rules of use” for the company logo.  Knowing the rules can keep you out of trouble (basically, you can get fired for certain types of infractions!)  Maintaining the integrity of the logo is key.  

In other words, you don’t want to stretch/distort the image, change its color/size, place distracting information too close, on top, or underneath it, etc.  As a consultant, the standards manual is the first thing I search for on a project.  When one is not available, then I talk with the marketing / legal department to write my own reference manual.  It is an essential and vital reference for any consulting project involving logos. 

Being that this is a familiar business product, creating it in Microsoft would have been a cinch and far quicker, but maybe it is a good thing I was slowed down.  Otherwise, this would have been a 50 page manual instead of the 17 minimal pages I settled on! 

Basically, a standards manual defines how a logo may and may not be used, identifies its color palette, sizing, typology, clear space requirements, etc..  It may show examples of applications such as t-shirts, stationery, brochures, ad banners, as well as membership cards and other company specific uses. 

[Click the book cover below to see the inside pages.]


This project gave me such an empowered feeling as I began to realize my original design instincts are strong, developed over 30 years of painting and working with buyers to improve my work and increase sales, I am sure.  I instinctively know what will work, yet the combination of Beth’s 2 classes has given me an ability to develop beyond instinct and to know how to improve from a starting point.  And since that is the whole reason I am at AI (vs. IUPUI’s much less expensive IMD program) it makes me very happy in my choice of school!  

One thing I do find ironic is that my classes in logo and branding (which have  been so scary to me) have given me tools that I know I will use in developing my fine arts pieces from this point forward.  I never would have guessed that, yet I am grateful.

Kids Again by Chris Rice

Video Final Music Video:

  • Tell a story using a song
  • Submit a Proposal
  • Create a Storyboard
  • Take lots of footage and put it together

Once again, Alex did a fantastic job on his half of the project and together I love the final product (of course!  It is my family!)  The “story” – we grown ups are too intense… just get out and play and be kids again.  This version has some sound in the background that was removed for the final, but this is the one I uploaded to YouTube.

Pick a Favorite Band

Web Scripting class wound itself up to a final project web site and before it was over, I was asking myself “what was I thinking?”  I was a mess and was really questioning my choice of degree program.  That is how bad this quarter was for me.

Constraints:  A favorite band, 3 columns on the home page, 5 specific pages.

I chose a band that would be different from what is usually seen in the classrooms, yet would still provide content.  The Cockman Family – Gospel Bluegrass fit my own criteria nicely.

There was more time spent on meeting the course rubric than on the physical design, but the “feel” I wanted to portray is “wholesome, family, folksy”.  I am including 2 images here:

The teacher felt I could have done a better job creatively and I was dinged for that… jolly fine!  I was just happy that I finally understood what I was doing.  Burnout had set in.  This class had been the most stressful of my entire life, partly because of allergy issues.  It ended up being my first ever B+ because I missed 2 classes due to allergies, which dropped my A- below the tipping point.  Those participation points really do make a difference!

#1 Teacher Award

I am handing out a #1 Teacher award this quarter.  Being a teacher myself, I am not easily impressed; however, I have met a few good ones at AI and I always let them know. 

This quarter one instructor went over the top into the “Excellence” category, and that was Beth Remsburg.  All the students who have talked with me about Beth speak with great affection, even as they complain that her classwork is a killer.  The thing is… you LEARN in her class!  And the students know she cares about their success even if it is painful.  This adds up to one of those teachers who impacts lives!  Several times this quarter it brought to my mind my 3rd grade teacher whom I loved dearly and have never forgotten.

The biggy for me is that I am no longer afraid of logos and using them to communicate visually in a corporate setting.  I have even learned that it can almost be fun!  The moment that corner was turned for me was the moment I knew Beth was one of the best teachers I have had!  

Beth kept encouraging me until I did it… always challenging not just me, but each of us, to be better (with a charming mix of humor and wisdom that keeps you from wanting to strangle her!) 

Beth made me feel like I really could do this.  That is a mark of a true teacher. I will forever remember that matter of fact “Sure you can!” comment she makes (leaving you standing there with nothing to say in rebuttal.)  Not to mention her “get over it!”  [When I am struggling with a project I have a tendency to outprocess about it, which some unnamed friends call whining, and Beth did not cater to the “I am no good at this” comments.]

Unfortunately this is probably the last class I will have with Beth, but I know for certain that she will stand out as one of those teachers who changed my course in life!  One of those you tell people about years later. 

I am not sure of all the impacts, but I know they are big and I really want to say “Thank you, Beth!  If more teachers were like you, there would be no limits to what we students could do!”


Three weeks in programming class were spent in the 3D world of Canegie-Mellon’s program called Alice.  It was interesting, but honestly, I was working hard to keep up.  Being a hands on artist and having grown up before the era of 3D gaming, etc. much of this is taking some getting used to.

This was the project I made for this course:  basically the cat meows, which startles the cow, who kicks the chicken, who is caught by the scarecrow, scaring a frog into leaping causing the chicken to fly off the screen.  The cat, scared by all the ruckus, runs to the barn, which opens as he arrives.  I did this with my nieces and nephews in mind.

All because of a cat’s meow…

The only thing that saved me in this class is the 100% I got on most of the tests.  I understood the concepts, executing them was a bit more tricky but I pulled off an A for the final grade.