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Seven Years of Brain Pickings — Immeasurable Wisdom

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 26, 2013

Brain Pickings logoIn late October of 2006, Maria Popova, a college student and freelancer at an advertising agency, started sending out a periodic inspirational email. The email included links to an eclectic mix of mind teasing articles, from biomedical research to poetry. The email evolved into a blog which Popova dubbed Brain Pickings. Since then, Brain Pickings has grown to be a creative wellspring, with over 500,000 visitors per month, 150,000 subscribers to its newsletter, and over 395,000 followers of Popova's Twitter feed. Brain Pickings has also been included in the Library of Congress’ digital archive of historically relevant materials. On the seventh anniversary of Brain Pickings, Popova published an article of what she has learned from the experience. The list amply reflects the wisdom behind Brain Pickings, and provides a framework for building a relevant and productive life. We recommend reading the article in full, but to synopsize:

1) Allow yourself the uncomfortable luxury of changing your mind.
2) Do nothing for prestige or status or money alone.
3) Be generous.
4) Build pockets of stillness into your life.
5) When people try to tell you who you are, don’t believe them.
6) Presence is far more intricate and rewarding an art than productivity.
7) “Expect anything worthwhile to take a long time.” – Debbie Millman

Brain Pickings is ad-free, and Popova derives her primary income from voluntary subscriptions and donations to the site. A “donating = loving” link on the site recommends a subscription level of $7.00 per month. Considering the hundreds of hours of labor every month behind the blog, supporting Popova’s work is worthwhile. Consider it an investment in a creative infusion.

Sunrise: Font Aid VII Creates a Collaborative Typeface for Typhoon Haiyan Relief

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 25, 2013

The Society of Typographic Aficionados is doing it again: in response to the devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan, they’re reissuing their Font Aid fundraising model. Font Aid VII calls on designers and typographers to create glyphs based on the eight-rayed sun featured on the Phillipine flag. The glyphs will be arranged in a typeface that will be offered for sale on the SoTA website; proceeds from the sale will got to Typhoon Haiyan relief efforts. The deadline for submissions is Sunday, December 1st. Participants are asked to submit vector artwork in black and white, to fit within a 10” square. The artwork cannot contain gradients, color, open or stroked paths, embedded images, or glyphs from existing typefaces. Submission guidelines and instructions are posted on the SoTA website.

SoTA has a long history of creating Font Aid initiatives. The original Font Aid project was spearheaded by Swedish designer Claes Källerson in 1999. It raised funds for UNICEF to aid victims of war and national disasters. Since then, Font Aid has been resurrected to meet other disasters: Font Aid II: September 11 (2001); Font Aid III: Fleurons of Hope (2005 – Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunamis); Font Aid IV: Coming Together (2010 – Haitian earthquake); Font Aid V: Made for Japan (2011 – Japanese earthquake and tsunami); and Font Aid VI: Aster Effects (2012 Hurricane Sandy). The typefaces created for Font Aid VI: Aster Effects and Font Aid V: Made for Japan are still available for sale on the SoTA website. Aster Effects features a glyphs created from astersixes and star symbols, whereas Made for Japan features symbols inspired by Japanese popular culture and historic imagery.

Guild Attends Icograda General Assembly 25

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 20, 2013

The Guild attended the Icograda General Assembly 25 from November 16-18. Icograda, the International Council of Communication Design, is a global organization representing the interests of design associations and educational institutions. As a Professional Member of Icograda, the Guild and other organizations were invited to present on the challenges facing our members, and on how we hope Icograda can help us achieve our goals. We described the Guild's activities within the United States on copyright and advocacy issues, and iterated our desire for a dialogue on speculative practices with similar organizations from around the world. We also expressed our desire for action with like-minded organizations via an Icograda platform on speculative practices. Following is the text of our presentation to Icograda.


Among the many excellent professional organizations in the United States, the Graphic Artist Guild is unique, in that we are a labor organization of predominantly freelancers. We represent a broad range of creative professionals, from illustrators to designers across several disciplines.

Our primary focus, as expressed in our mission statement, is to promote and protect the social, economic and professional interests of our members, and to improve conditions for all graphic artists at all skill levels. Our union status permits us to be active in advocacy work unhampered by limitations imposed by US law on traditional non-profit and professional organizations. This is a crucial distinction; we engage in lobbying in the US Congress to influence proposed legislation to the benefit of creative professionals. We also work closely with the Copyright Office in providing the perspective of our members. This past year, we testified before the Office on the difficulty of copyright holders’ ability to bring small copyright claims of $30,000 or less to court.

We work closely with other US based organizations, such as the American Society of Media Photographers in addressing copyright, legislative, and legal issues. For example, this summer we joined ASMP in protesting Instagram’s terms of use, which effectively strip copyright protection and permit Instragram to sublicense the images of their participants. Finally, we draft amicus briefs for court cases which will impact copyright law.

We are also members of IFFRO, the Authors Coalition, the Copyright Society of the USA, the Copyright Alliance, and recently became founding members of the International Authors Group. On the member level, we work to educate creative professionals on responsible business practices, copyright and intellectual property issues, and conducting professional relationships.

The challenges we’re facing are a reflection in how the methods of communication and business models for creatives have evolved. There is an overall erosion in the understanding of the value of copyright protection among society as a whole; business models which require creatives to work on speculation for the lowest fees possible are becoming the norm; and we’re seeing an alarming number of creatives who either do not understand or do not implement basic business practices (such copyright protection, responsible pricing, and appropriate licensing terms), undermining the industry as a whole.

Participation in Icograda is crucial for us in achieving our mission in a meaningful way. Although our organizational structure means that we are active within the United States, we need to be adaptive to the changes in the global economy and in how our colleagues across the world conduct their business. This includes engaging in an ongoing dialogue with professional organizations and institutions from other continents. For example, business models which hurt US designers may in fact benefit designers in another part of the world. In responding effectively on behalf of our members, we need to understand how the same practice can have very different impacts. This will educate us in formulating better and more forward-thinking policies for our stakeholders.

What we would like to see the most from our involvement with Icograda is an ongoing dialogue with like-minded organizations through out the two years between General Assemblies. We’re particularly interested in seeing a Speculative Practices committee activated which will provide a forum for collaborative discussion and action.

What we hope to achieve in our participation in Icograda is a balanced approach to protecting the interests and integrity of all our stakeholders, returning to creators the right to control and prosper from their work.

Artist Dies of Exposure: Tim Kreider on Working for Free

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 10, 2013

© Tim KreiderThis October cartoonist and writer Tim Kreider had a particularly galling week, in which he received no less than three requests for his services, for free – in exchange for “exposure.” The experience drove him to issue a manifesto via The New York Times Op-Ed page, in which he calls upon his younger colleagues to not give away their work. In fairness, Kreider admits that many of the requests come from struggling organizations or publishers. But in his article, "Slaves of the Internet, Unite!" he accurately describes a cultural shift which has occurred, in which creative work has been devalued and demoted to “content”, and in which the ease of digitizing and accessing that work via the Internet has lead to stagnant income increases.

Kreider concludes his article by pointing out that businesses wouldn’t keep making the “free work for exposure” pitch unless it worked on somebody. In response he offers a bit of writing he’s willing to donate: a template for a polite refusal to send in answer  to the next request for free labor.

Tim Kreider splits his time between New York City and the Chesapeake Bay. He is the author of We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons (Simon & Schuster), and his cartoons have been collected in three volumes by Fantagraphics.  He is a contributor to numerous publications, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, and Men’s Journal. He is also the creator of the cartoon, The Pain–When Will It End?, which appeared in the Baltiimore Sun from 2000-2012.

Image © Tim Kreider

You Are What You Kern: Beautiful Web Typography via HTML5

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 30, 2013

web typography from Amy PapaeliasFor the AIGA Upstate NY Portfolio Workshop this past February, Amy Papaelias created and coded an online resume, “You Are What You Kern,” showcasing beautiful web typography. She welcomes visitors to “poke around” and see how she put it together. The resume was finessed in straight HTML5, using CSS to create section IDs and classes to assign web fonts and control the layout. Such fine tuning is problematic in content management systems such as WordPress and Expression Engine, which make it difficult to override their own CSS structure. However, “You Are What You Kern” is well worth a visit to see what mastering CSS can yield. To make the visit even more worthwhile, Papaelias has included a list of links to some of her favorite typographic resources, from grids and stylesheets, to a how-to on hanging punctuation.

Amy Papaelis is a self-proclaimed type nerd and design educator. She is an assistant Professor of Graphic Design and Foundation at the State University of New York at New Paltz, where she teaches web and interactive design, typography, and 2D design.

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