Cooler with Kuler

Every trade has its tricks. And it’s not very often that one trick can carry over into another trade. So when I found a trick that carried over, I was pretty excited.

As a graphic designer by trade, we have all sorts of tools to help us out. Like a writer, we can sometimes get blocked. That’s where a few tricks can come in handy.

Some days colours never seem to work. In that case, Adobe Kuler is the place to go. You can create your own colour palette or check out what other people have been working on. It’s a never-ending site of inspiration for anyone who works with colour at all.

I was browsing the site the other day and came across this palette:

kuler_01

I love the deep chocolate brown with the teal and vibrant red. Rather than open a design program, I dove into my yarn bins. This is now what’s warped on my loom:

kuler_02

Refund! Refund?

Refund

As a designer there is often a question as to what it is exactly that I provide. Am I in the goods industry? Am I in the service industry? Or both?

I recently had a client who got very confused about this. The job was offered to me and I accepted – why turn down work? After some mild confusion about what the client was actually asking for, I managed to get to work and was quite sure, after several hours spent on the piece, that the client was getting exactly what they were asking for. I was wrong.

A day or two later, out of the blue, the project was cancelled. Another day goes by and the client requests a refund from me saying he didn’t get what he wanted.

Refund? I sent a note back to the client kindly explaining that, first of all, he never paid me a single cent – there is nothing to refund and, two, I’d already spent several hours working on something that looked a heck of a lot like the images he said he liked. Even if I had been paid, I would not be inclined to refund for what he deemed to be a defective product.

What is the point in all this (other than a mildly amusing story)? It got me thinking. How often do we show God a picture of what we want and say “I want something just like this!”? You see something you want and you ask. And if you don’t get what you want, you ask God for a refund. For something else that suits your fancy.

Ask, and God will give it to you.

Search, and you will find.

Knock, and the door will be open for you.

~ Matthew 7:7

I’m quite certain that this is not what God is referring to in Matthew. I’ve learned that our relationship with God is much like a designer/client relationship. Communication is key. You are the ignorant client who sees the final product in his head, but has no idea how to convey that to the designer. God is the designer who knows how to get you the final product you need that, while it may or may not quite match up to what you have in your head, it will suit your needs better than you imagined!

At every available opportunity, I try to take the time to educate my clients. I let them in on my process. I tell them how the project will work start to finish. I ask for their input at certain stages. I give them choices to make. I ask them to put their trust in me as a trained professional and 99% of the time, the end result is better than what they imagined.

So why don’t we do this with God? Why do we make impossible demands on Him and then stomp off if we don’t get exactly what we want when we want it?

Then the man said to me, “Daniel, do not be afraid. Some time ago you decided to get understanding and to humble yourself before your God. Since that time God has listened to you, and I have come because of your prayers. But the prince of Persia has been fighting against me for twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the most important angels, came to help me, because I had been left there with the king of Persia.

~ Daniel 10:12-13

Could you imagine what this conversation might have looked like if Daniel had given up on day 2? That angel may have told Daniel to be very afraid after he’d been left fighting the prince of Persia with no end in sight. Here, though, Daniel took the time to get understanding. He knew what he was asking God for and was in a position where he could be heard.

Let’s stop asking God for refunds on our ignorant, selfish prayers and let’s start with getting understanding and putting ourselves in a position to be heard. And then, don’t give up! Just because you don’t get the result you wanted immediately, doesn’t mean the answer is not on the way.

The Seven Elements of Design – Part III – Form

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”

Genesis 1:1-2

Form or shape could really be considered the very first element of design ever to be used. First there was nothing and then there was something. As soon as something exists, form exists. Something cannot exist without form. Everything has a shape whether we can define it with words or not.

It would be foolish to deny the fact that there is design involved in every form. As I look at the objects surrounding me on my workspace, I have to realise that every single thing had to be designed by some one or some thing. Objects don’t just design themselves. We cannot think about something and expect it to create itself, nor can we expect to get everything perfect on the first go. Design is a process.

When I think of form, I think of clay. A potter can’t just envision a vase in his head and then it appears in his kiln. It takes time. How much time will this take? It takes planning. How much clay is needed? What kind of clay is needed? What tools are required? Colour? Size? All these questions come into play, but without form, they are all void. There is nothing to apply them to without a shape. Something tangible.

Design cannot exist without form and all form has to start somewhere. Think about it next time you’re working on a project. Next time you see something interesting. Wonder where it the form originated. The answers may surprise you!

Nor

Romans 8:38-39Nor is not a word that is common in our every day language. It seems almost archaic in our text-savvy world. We’re all about the new and innovative. The next big thing. The new phone. The new OS. This word nor has become as obsolete as the iPhone 4.

As I was creating the graphic above, I couldn’t help but notice how many times the word nor appears. How many people can say that death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from anything let alone God?

It all comes down to commitment. How much are you willing to do to protect what you really believe in? How many nors come before your commitment if any at all?

More

More

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief;  and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.”

~ I Timothy 1:12-14 (NASB)

With school over and work to begin, life gets scary. You go from having constant work and deadlines to no work and free time. You think you knew it all leaving school and leave confident that you will have all you ever dreamed of while zoning out during a lecture on resume writing. And then reality sets in.

It’s not that life gets better or worse once you leave the safety of the classroom. It’s that it’s different. You realise that, even though the Dean says you’ve been given all the tools you need to succeed in your selected career path, all you really have is what’s (hopefully) left of your sanity and a few skills to get you started down a long road.

School ended in September. Graduation was last week. It’s taken me this long to take my first few faltering steps into the great unknown as a freelance graphic designer. It took a shove from my career advisor and a few stern words from my mother, but here I go. Off earning my keep doing something I love to do.

And in all of that, I’ve attached my reminder that the grace of God is more than abundant.  The NIV says “The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly”. In all my work, all my successes and even failures, if the grace of God was more than enough for the apostle Paul, it is more than enough for  me.

Everything

Psalm 150:6

 

One of the first full chapters in the Bible I ever memorized was Psalm 150. It seems that those first few verses that you commit to memory stick with you for the rest of your life. I have a lot easier time remembering the scriptures I memorized as a kid than the ones I tried to remember as an adult.

I heard a speaker this weekend talking about the difference between God’s power and other powers we see manifested on the earth (he was speaking in reference to a particular illusionist who is known for accomplishing the impossible). The power that many find on earth seeks only to glorify man. It is selfish and withholds from others. The power that flows from God never boasts and is always beneficial to someone else. It always points back to God and is for the benefit of His creation. This verse in Psalms reminds me of that. We forget that humans aren’t the only living, breathing things here on the earth. Beyond us, there are the animals around us. Pets, farm animals, bugs… And beyond those are plants. Trees, grass, flowers… Everything that lives and breaths gives glory to God.

What we do that most gives glory back to God is to act like Him. In love. In kindness. In goodness. In generosity. In creativity. God is the ultimate creator. When we act like Him and put things into being that once never existed, it glorifies Him whether we see that or not.

HIM

An instructor told me recently that every designer should do a series of creative exercises every day. Something that has nothing to do with a job you are working on and that can be done in a relatively short amount of time (an hour or less). This keeps a constant flow of creativity going and allows a designer to explore ideas that they otherwise may never approach – things like typography, Photoshop brushes, Illustrator clipping masks and an assortment of other goodies we all learned in school and then promptly forgot about. I decided that, if I’m going to build myself up creatively, conceptually and technically, that I could also be building myself up spiritually.

Today I spent an hour staring at these words for Colossians 1:16 (NASB) and as I did so, began to wonder how this verse could be rendered visually. When I think of the sheer vastness of God, my mind immediately goes to creation – this spectacular universe in which we live. I believe I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again – I cannot look at the world, galaxy and universe around me and not believe in a divine creator. If good design cannot happen on it’s own, this world in which we live is not the result of millennia of evolution that magically burst forth from a whole bunch of nothing. Besides, when was last time you multiplied anything by zero and got something other than zero? The idea that the universe came from nothing is a mathematical impossibility.

As I work on these exercises, I will continue to post them. Feel free to download and use them as wallpaper. They will all be sized for 1600 x 900 screen resolution at 72 dpi.

As for how I accomplished this piece, the text was created in Illustrator CS6. “HIM” is set in Bodoni Poster and the verse inside is set in various weights of Avenir. I created outlines of all the type and created compound paths so that I could subtract the verse from “HIM”. Once the vector was saved, I pulled it into Photoshop. The background is made up of three layers of rendered clouds in various colours overlayed with pieces masked out to create the look of a supernova. The stars are from a set of free brushes I found at Brusheezy.

 

The Only Opinion That Matters

We’ve all had critiques. As designers, we wouldn’t be much without them. Our work thrives on them. The feedback of others pushes us and makes our work better. We often ask opinions when we’re stuck on something. Should this go here? Maybe that can go there. What do you think of this image? Colour? We can push and pull and make adjustments for weeks, but in the end, there is only one opinion that really matters – the clients. We can work all we want, but the last say always goes to the client.

Don’t we ask for the opinions of others elsewhere in life? How often do we go around looking for the opinions of others, taking critiques and applying them to our lives? We look for and accept the input of people who may or may not know what they are talking about. Truth be told, most people are ready to give a critique and too many people are ready to accept it, but in the end, there is only one opinion that really matters – Gods. When we accept what God has to say about us is when we’ll be at our best.  It’s His opinion that matters most and He is the one we should work to please.

It’s Who You Know

Image In the world of art and design, much of a person’s success is based entirely on who they know – not who they are or how good their work is. If you know the right people, you can be seen in the right places and get noticed at the right time. Sometimes it seems like the least talented people get the luckiest breaks.

In the world of Christianity, this principle is much the same. It’s all about who you know, not who you are or what you’ve done. If you know the right Person, you can be put in the right place at the right time. Sometimes it seems that the least likely people get the most grace.

I recently heard a pastor preaching a series called “I Know He Is, But What Am I?” As Christians, we are to base who we are on who God is. But all too often, Christians don’t even know who God is or their perspective of Him is entirely jaded. They walk around saying they are just like God, but they are just like their perception of God, not the true nature of God. We cannot truly know who we are until we truly know who God is.

When it comes to Christianity, it really is all about who you know.

The Seven Elements of Design – Part II – Colour

ImageThe second of the Seven Elements of Design I want to address is colour. The science behind this one amazes me.

Did you know that colour doesn’t really exist? What the human eye perceives as colour is merely a reaction of light reflecting off the surface of an object. Our eyes translate the wavelengths and we see the colour(s) of light that is reflected. So, in a way, this element of design is not colour, but light.

John 8:12 says, “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.'”

If what we see as colour is really light and Jesus is the light of the world, it stands to reason that Jesus is reflected in everything. Everything! This goes far beyond a simple element of graphic design. This is the basis for the world in which we live. God is the creator of all things. Like any artist, He wants the recognition for his work. A painter will sign his piece, an author will make sure that her name is on the cover of her book. God, well He makes sure He is actually, truly, literally reflected off of all of His work.

Imagine how famous I would be if I could do that.