Doing fun things for a couple of great projects

I’ve had some fun the past night or two helping out a couple of guys on a couple of cool projects. I’m not much of a cartoonist (wish I was) but it was great fun sketching some ideas up and making them come to life in Inkscape. It’s never been something I’ve been really interested in, but after the great fun I had doing these I think I’ll spend more time on stuff like this. You can probably see lots of places where my skills need work.. but if you don’t try you’ll never improve.

First, I came up with a fun little logo/mascot to help out rowinggolfer, who is trying to solve his proprietary (aka Crap) software problem at his dental practice. He (along with many other dentists apparently) are stuck with poor quality and poor service when it comes to their expensive dental database management software. After trying to help them solve the problem with constructive feedback and getting nowhere, rowinggolfer has decided to bite the bullet and create his own open source solution. Check out the OpenMolar project to see what he’s up to. Here’s what I came up with for him:

Another fine project I’ve recently helped out on is the newly created site. Created by Linc Fessenden, one of the original hosts of TLLTS, is a great site that tries to connect up people who want to give away fully functional computers running open source software to individuals who need a computer, free of cost. Absolutely awesome idea. I had fun creating this one too.

Stop Recommending (Quality) Free Software with a Proviso

Just noticed this post about “35 Tutorials to create amazing Vector Graphics using Inkscape” come across Twitter. And while I was quite happy to see a post aggregating some great tutorials on Inkscape, I was a little bothered by the blurb at the top of the post itself:

“Inkscape is a free vector graphic design alternative software similar to Adobe Illustrator and CorelDraw, only it doesn’t cost you a penny. It is maybe not as powerful as its higher priced rivals, but certainly powerful enough to design high quality vector graphics.
If you are looking to venture into vector design, I recommend using Inkscape first, learn as much as you can and then if you need something with more kick splash out on Illustrator.”

Why does there have to be an immediate proviso that somehow it’s not as powerful? The last sentence is even a little more bothersome to me. I can see someone saying, ‘hey, learn all about vector illustration with Inkscape, it will help you if you ever have to use Illustrator or CorelDraw’ or something like that.. but I really don’t see how using Illustrator is going to somehow give my work more ‘kick’.

If you need something with more kick.. then obviously you should sit in front of whatever you’ve created and give it more kick. I can’t stand the insinuation that somehow if you need higher quality artwork, you’d obviously have to go with the paid option.

While recommendations for free software alternatives are increasing daily (or it seems to me that they are), it bugs me that they always seem to come with a proviso. And sure, while in many cases those cautionary notes are completely valid, in other cases they are not.

Rant over. ;)

I got published in Linux Journal… well sort of… :)

About 6 or 7 months ago I was invited to submit some logo concepts for the SouthEast LinuxFest. I was absolutely thrilled that they chose one of my submissions. Since then, I’ve done a few ancillary things with the logo such as a flyer design and some web site badges.

The venerable Dave Yates of the LottaLinuxLinks podcast is one of the organizers of the event. Several weeks back he asked if I could provide a couple of print ads for the event and I was thrilled (and to be honest, quite nervous) about accepting. There was something a little nerve-wracking about creating something that will actually appear in a publication. It’s one thing to create some web site graphics or desktop wallpaper, but it’s another to actually create a print ad… at least for me. I’ve never created an ad before but it actually turned out to be quite easy.

I created a half-page ad for Linux Journal (which you will find on page 55 of the May 2009 issue of LJ) and it turned out quite well I think. I created the graphic for the ad in Inkscape (of course!), exported the PNG file and then made a CMYK TIFF version using the Separate+ plugin for the GIMP. From there I used Eckhard M. Jager’s fantastically useful CMYK Tiff 2 PDF plugin to create a PDF in CMYK. Like most things I try, it was a real seat-of-the-pants sort of process for me.

Eckhard by the way, has a really fantastic blog called appropriately enough Linux For Designers. I’ve been subscribed to it for ages and I encourage anyone interested in design on Linux to check it out. There’s lots of great stuff over there.

The fact that I know absolutely nothing about CMYK or creating print ads is a testament to how useful those two plugins really were to me. It was satisfying to know that I could really create an honest to gosh print ad using free software tools and come up with what looks like a decent result.

There is another full page SouthEast LinuxFest ad I created that is supposed to run in the next two upcoming issues of LinuxPro Magazine too, so keep an eye out for them. Hopefully my sparse knowledge of CMYK will not fail me in those ones either. :|

While to most people they’ll just be another (hopefully attractive) magazine ad, to me they’re definitely getting stored safely away so I can brag to my grandkids about them someday. :)

Blathering on about creativity and an icon set


icon_blankFor quite a while now I’ve been harbouring a desire to embark on a longer term graphics project. I love diving into a variety of smaller projects, like the recent Lumiera logo entries, playing around with a gPodder logo and even more recently contributing a little of my play time to Crunchbang linux.

However I would like to stretch my right brain a little further by coming up with my own icon set. Now, I know pretty much diddly-squat about actually creating an icon set, but I imagine it’s somewhat tedious, time consuming (if done well), but entirely possible. So since I have been secretly wanting to do this, why post about it now? There are two reasons:

First, very recently (like on the drive home last night) I listened to an interview with Merlin Mann by Leo Barbauta. While it was an interesting interview, the highlight for me was a question that Merlin asked of Leo (and I’m paraphrasing here of course): If you woke up tomorrow with 60% of the required materials, knowledge or information already in hand, what creative thing would you do?

So knowing you would already be 60% of the way there, what would the project be? Forget about starting from scratch, forget about facing that mountain of initial effort to get moving – what would it be if you were already more than halfway there? Now, I’m nowhere near 60% of the way there (more like 0.1%), but it really gets you to question yourself about what to do creatively.

The second thing that prompted this post was a fascinating post that popped up over on VectorTuts this morning about 10 Tips For Effective Icon Design. It has some really inspiring examples and great useful advice for people who are designing icons.

So I’m really putting this post up to get myself started on this little project. I’m not sure what the scope would be, but it can’t hurt to try. You know there might even be a potential screencast in there somewhere too, you never know.

At least I now have something I know I can put in my Moleskine knockoff. :)

Lumiera’s new logo concept – tweaks part deux

Based on the great constructive comments on my previous post from Thorsten and Troy about Lumiera’s new logo concept, I thought I’d make another slight tweak to what I had already posted and came up with this:


I added (somewhat crudely) the additional film sprocket hole and used the mgOpen Cosmetica type with slighter tighter tracking (which is the spacing between letterforms across the whole word). I think it looks pretty cohesive as a logo. One of the things I liked about the winning concept was its simplicity and the way it could be used on both dark and light backgrounds.

Anyway, I’m not sure what the Lumiera guys will end up doing, but I think it’s an interesting and attractive concept nonetheless.

Lumiera’s New Logo Concept – and a couple of suggested tweaks

Back in mid-November, I posted about Lumiera’s logo contest over on the screencaster’s blog. I made several entries, some of which are below:


The winning concept (which I really liked) was this one by anamii:


Now the aim of the contest was to select a “concept”, so there is some ongoing discussion about tweaking the logo. While I loved the concept and it’s simplicity, I never really liked the typeface that was used. It seems somewhat unbalanced or unfinished to me. Over at Thorsten Wilm’s blog he proposed using a significantly heavier typeface. I wasn’t crazy about the results. And he also made some alternative suggestions of a slightly lighter weight. I would propose something light too but definitely thicker than the type originally proposed. I’ve shown two options, one using mgOpen Cosmetica, and one using Gentium. I like both.


But something else has bothered me a bit about this logo from the start. I love the concept, but the geometry seems very non-square and maybe a little too flattened for my tastes. So as another idea, I propose simply stretching it upwards to give it a more square geometry. I think it makes it look more dynamic as well. Remember that this symbol will have to suffice from the largest graphic sizes way down to 16px favicon sizes. Having something more square in nature might help that. Here’s a quick and dirty attempt at it. It would still need some additional polishing – like the missing sprocket hole near the upturned corner:


Of course these are all just opinions. But now that’s exactly what blogs are for right? :)

Facing down a perfectly blank Moleskine alternative

We spent a few days down near Buffalo (Cheektowaga to be exact) just prior to the new year to do a little swimming, resting and shopping. Now when I say shopping, that means my wife and her mother hunt down various bargoons (at least 80% off or fuhgeddaboutit) for several hours at a time. For me (and my daughter) it just means a quick trip to Borders and maybe Barnes & Nobles to have a look around. It all amounts to about 15-20 minutes of shopping time for me. Which is plenty. I grabbed a copy of Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, a copy of Car magazine (what the hell did everybody do with the latest version of TopGear anyway??!!), a word search book for Emily and on the way out I spotted some Picadilly notebooks at Borders. Hmm.. looks like a Moleskine, but costs significantly less. I picked up a plain medium notebook (5″x8.25″) for a little over 7 bucks I think.

Now I know nothing about Moleskine notebooks, never owned or used one. But when I have seen them, they always seemed a little too overpriced to me. At least these Picadilly things are a little more reasonable. And they seem to be perfectly capable competitors, at least thats what these guys think. And they seem to know a lot more about notebooks than I do.

Anyway, I’m now sitting with a nice pretty notebook with absolutely nothing in it. I’m almost afraid to sully it. Maybe I should have bought a ruled version instead so I could at least jot some semi-important notes. Ahh.. but I guess I bought this thing for doodling (y’know, logos, graphics and the like). We’ll see if it fills up with anything substantive in the coming weeks. I hope so.

So you want your own stinkin’ font?



Via Pewari, I just found out about this neat service called YourFonts where you can create your very own TrueType font very quickly and easily. You download a PDF template sheet, print it out, carefully draw out your characters in pen (I used a medium felt-tip), scan it in and upload to their site. You will be rewarded in short order (like 1 min for me) with a ttf file of your very own. All for the cost of zero dollars.

That is simply cool.

gPodder doodling

Yeah, I know that gPodder already has a logo. But after listening to the recent interview on Linux Outlaws 67, I figured it might be a nice creative exercise to come up with something anyway. Not most people’s idea of a fun evening, but it relaxes me after a stressful day of engineering work.

Anyway, I think what I came up with looks kinda neat. But I think it’s too complicated and fiddly to work as a logo or icon, and unless you want to have gPodder wallpaper (hey – whatever floats your boat) it’s likely one of those images that serves no purpose at all… except giving me something to de-stress over. :)

[UPDATE: Late last night after a little more fiddling, I made the same modification as raydancer made in the comments to this post and shortened the horizontal stroke of the "G", making it look more like a "G" and less like an "E". The revised one is below.]