Thursday, January 31, 2013

Graphics & Design

I'll be honest, I really wasn't look forward to today's post. Many of you have asked about my blog's graphics and design, and I'm slightly embarrassed to share the process with you because it's far from being very professional. All week I stressed about how I would discuss this topic in a post, and then I remembered just how kind and encouraging you've been. Here goes nothing...

You are aware I'm not the most bold or courageous gal. I'm a perfectionist. These traits and a handful more kept me from starting a blog of my own. I worry a lot. I worried about whether or not my writing would come off as silly, and I worried that I'd never create graphics or take professional photos like my favorite bloggers. My lack of Photoshop skills had me feeling anxious. I wanted my blog to have a certain aesthetic. I wanted it to be professional looking and, well, perfect. As with anything in life, perfection is unattainable—my mom reminds me of this often! I finally took the plunge, and I'm really glad I did. In this case, practice makes perfect.

When I look back at some of my very first posts, I shudder. I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a Comic Sans criminal, but I definitely used some pretty hokey fonts and images. My creativity felt stifled by my lack of knowledge and blogging resources. I knew what I liked and what I wanted out of my blog, but I didn't know how to execute it. As I mentioned last week, I did have some experience with Photoshop and Illustrator, but it had been years since I played around with it last. I was a little too afraid to dust off the software. It just seemed overwhelming. My urge to create graphics that conveyed the point of my posts intensified. I needed to up my blogging game. 

After toying around with online programs like Polyvore, I read an article about bloggers who created images without the fancy software. Instead, they created graphics with PowerPoint or Keynote. Huh? That didn't seem as intimidating to me, so I gave it a whirl. It worked! All you have to do is export your slides as JPEGs or PNGs. Before I knew it, I was creating images left and right. Then it occurred to me...Why not create a spiffy header? Over the past 1.5 years, my header has changed about a dozen times. With each draft, it's gotten closer to the end product I'd hoped for. It's become something I'm proud of. I feel like it personifies me best. And yes, I created it with Keynote (until recently when curiosity, Photoshop, and a personal pep talk intervened).

Most of us have access to PowerPoint or Keynote on our computers. With the resources I included in Tuesday's post (fonts, blog bling, etc.), it's really quite simple to create graphics of your own. You'll find your own groove and learn to work efficiently. I learned that when all else fails, Google it. So much of my blogging experience has been trial and error. If I create a header and it's too big for the space, I look up the dimensions. If it needs to be centered, I Google the code that needs to be embedded, hit copy and paste. Voila! There are endless amounts of YouTube videos with tutorials. It really comes down to time and whether or not you're curious enough to find the answers yourself. When you're ready, you can move on to Photoshop, CSS, and Illustrator. Baby steps, my friend. Pick out a few images, play with fonts, colors, pattern, etc. Experiment, create, and be sure to give credit where credit is due. 

For example, I created today's image with the following stream of thoughts...
  • I really love this image I pinned. It's adorable. I wonder how I could incorporate it into the post?
  • Hmm, I wonder what it would look like if I got rid of the background...
  • Isn't that cute? Now what to do?
  • Ooh, fonts! Let's play around with some of my favorite free downloads (www.DaFont.com).
  • Straight is boring. I should play with the alignment of the letters a little bit.
  • I wish there was another pop of color... What about this amazing painting by Emily Rickard? I wonder if there's any way I can use it.
  • I really love this particular group of colors at the top of the artwork. Maybe I could use it as a stripe or border for the image?
  • This is starting to come together quite nicely. Oh, and I better save the links for proper attribution in my blog post.

While I discuss my Type-A tendencies frequently,  you must know that my creative side will occasionally trump my orderly and systematic ways of thinking (as evident above). Whenever I get the urge to create, I usually end up making some sort of collage. I've done this since grade school. I think it's my way of making something that reflects the way I'm feeling. Collages come easy to me because I think it's how my ADD brain works. When I'm excited or inspired, I'm all over the place. That's precisely how a collage is executed. Pair your inspiration with your skill level and Tim Gunn it—make it work!

Blogging is a process. I can't stress that enough. Learn to love the process. With each post you create, you're one step closer to perfecting your skills. Be daring and put yourself out there. I have to remind myself of this quite frequently. Blogging is such a fulfilling way to express yourself. 

P.S. Here's a helpful tutorial for creating product collages with Photoshop (via A Beautiful Mess).

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