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Art Against Ebola: Illustrator Otto Steininger and Friends Respond to the Crisis

Posted by Rebecca Blake on October 21, 2014

Art Against Ebola print © Otto SteiningerAward winning illustrator Otto Steininger has rallied the talents of his colleagues in creating a means to generate funds supporting Ebola relief efforts. Art Against Ebola sells artwork created by a number of prominent artists, including Steven Guarnaccia, Melinda Beck, Edel Rodriguez, and Aya Kakeda. Twenty-one artists contributed illustrations of snake heads, which were combined onto a body spelling out “Ebola.” Proceeds from the sale of the artwork benefit Last Mile Health, an organization which provides training to health workers servicing remote villages in Liberia, one of the nations hardest hit by the Ebola crisis.

Artists Against Ebola is commendable, in that fees generated by sales of the artwork go directly to Last Mile Health. Interested buyers purchase the artwork by making a direct donation in the appropriate amount to the organization with Artists Against Ebola and the participating artist credited in the dedication. Individual prints of each head can be purchased for $75, and prints of the entire piece are available for either $350 (17”x17”) or $500 (24”x24”). The original artworkfor each head can also be purchased for $250.

While progress has been made in stemming the rate of infection, Ebola continues to take lives and destroy families. Organizations such as Last Mile Health provide crucial services in fighting the epidemic, and in rebuilding the fragile health care system in Liberia, already ravaged by years of civil strife. Steininger’s hope is that Art Against Ebola will raise much needed funds. With that in mind, a lovely piece of artwork seems to be the perfect Hannukah or Christmas gift this year.

Top right: Otto Steininger's print for Art Against Ebola; below: the 21-header serpent print.
© Otto Steininger. Used with permission


Art Against Ebola © Otto Steininger

This Is the Story about “These Are the Things”

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 14, 2014

Jen Adrion and Omar Noory of the design and illustration studio, These are the Things, are the paradigm of successful creative entrepreneurs. Young and attractive, their resumes are the stuff of designer envy: creators of cool maps featured on the tony shopping site Fab, illustrators with a steady gig with Afar magazine, purveyors of beautiful cards and posters, and subjects of a case study in a best selling book on successful start-ups. Yet at last autumn’s Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, Adrion and Noory dispelled any myth of an easy ride. In a talk memorable for its honesty, they described the daunting setbacks they’ve faced.

The lecture, titled ”How We Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy The Ride,” is illustrated with a graph showing Adrion and Noory’s meteoric rise, a suitable device for two infographic designers. Rather than showing a steady, straight angle towards success, the upward trend is punctuated with deep dips representing financial loss, anxiety, and thwarted plans. The two provide a frank recounting of their setbacks, from unmet expectations, to naïve mistakes and oversights in financial planning, to circumstances beyond their control.

Despite the grim topic of lessons learned, the lecture is hardly a downer. Both Adrion and Noory are brimming with energy and self deprecating humor, and many of their setbacks were the result of inexperience, hardly unsurprising for two 20-somethings starting their first company. What stands out is their ability to assess a bad situation, and do whatever is necessary to continue in the business they love. The lecture is a gift to the creative community, made all the more generous by Adrion and Noory’s openness.

A full transcript of their talk is provided on their website.

Portrait of Adrion and Noory, used with permission.

Jen Aldrion and Omar Noory

Dorm Room Tycoon: Information & Inspiration

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 07, 2014

Dorm Room Tycoon sounds like a startup founded by a 20-something cobbling together the next big Internet sensation. In fact, it’s a collection of podcasts with innovators in design, technology, and business. A wide range of design disciplines is covered, featuring the likes of Jeffrey Zeldman (webdesign and coding), Erik Spiekermann (typography), Swiss Miss (communication design), and Jason Saint Maria (interactive design). The interviews are a relaxed exchange, as DRT founder William Channer and the interviewee seem to wander from topic to topic. Listening to the podcasts is rather like overhearing two very bright people having a comfortable conversation.

Channer started DRT in 2011. As a creative and mobile product designer based in London, he was frustrated by the dearth of solid advice on building a startup business. Reading profiles of entrepreneurs in technology publications exacerbated his frustration, since most articles focused on irrelevant life stories, or perpetuated origin myths. Channer decided to conduct his own interviews that would focus on questions about process, drawing out practical advice and life experience. He chose the name, “Dorm Room Tycoon,” to reflect the idea of starting small and doing something big.  

Channer has applied what he’s learned from the DRT interviewees. Just this year, he launched Panda, a web app and Chrome extension, which provides a steady stream of news and inspiration. The web app provides a split screen with news feed of article links on technology, design, and job listings on the left, and thumbnails streamed from portfolio sites Behance, Dribbble, and Awwwards on the right. The news feed streams from technology and design aggregators, such as Hacker News, sidebar.io, and Layervault Designer News. Users can add the Chrome extension to their browser window, book mark the web app,  and subscribe to Panda’s  weekly newsletter.

Below: The speakers featured in Dorm Room Tycoon are tagged by color codes: red for business, green for technology, and gold for design.
Image © Doorm Room Tycoon. Used with permission.

Bonsai Slice: The Twists and Turns in Game Development

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 27, 2014

Bonsai Slice logo © Playground TheoryIllustrator Joey Ellis has published an eye-opening account of his travails in developing the iOS game, Bonsai Slice (by Playground Theory). The game is fairly simple: players attempt to slice through a variety of objects, assisted by a tree-stump dwelling robot residing in a Japanese garden. Users play the game by making slicing motions with their device, and rack up points, giving them access to a variety of swords. As simple as the game’s premise sounds, the development of the story, characters, and visuals was a labor-intensive, two-year journey. And as Ellis writes, “where you think you'll end up is never ever where you actually end up.”

Initially, the developers explored a number of game ideas. It wasn’t until the mechanics which permitted gamers to “chop wood” by making motions with their iPads were developed that the idea of a chopping game was settled upon. To test the concept, Ellis created crude GIF animations, eventually developing a quick workflow that took ideas from sketch to playable content within a couple days. While Ellis thought Abraham Lincoln might be a suitable character on whom to hang the game’s backstory, the team decided on a quirky robot, Multus, as the main character. The full backstory, game mechanics, rules, and scoring were worked out as Ellis – the art director and sole illustrator – developed the interface graphics. The team soon realized that simplicity was key, rejecting ideas such as a second robot antagonist and streamlining the game’s action.

Ellis’ recounting is a fascinating read that reveals the detail and behind-the-scenes development necessary to game development. His sketches show the thought process that went into minute details, such as the app icon, the weapons, and the library of “fun things to chop.” His development of Multus’ appearance and behavior was meticulous; he even created a “launch screen” – never intended to go into the game – to provide the developers with insight into the robot’s character.

Anyone interested in working in game development, or interested in developing their own app, should read Ellis’ post. It’s a thorough description of an arduous and lengthy, but from all appearances, very fun project. (The project did take a toll; Ellis reports that he’ll “never ever want to do wood texture illustrations ever again.”)

Below: User interface screens from various points in the game, under development. © Playground Theory, used with permission.

Bonsai Slice interface screens, © Playground Theory

Paperwork: The Project Journey

Posted by Rebecca Blake on May 15, 2014

Illustrator's Union logoThe UK-based Illustrators’ Union has created a campaign to help illustrators stay on track in managing their paperwork. Called “The PaperWork Campaign,” the project tranlsates effective project management into simple steps, illustrated as a journey. The campaign breaks a project into four parts: First Contact, Agree to Proceed, Do the Work, and Project Wrap-Up. For each stage except “Do the Work” (which is self-explanatory), key questions and tasks are identified. The campaign covers often overlooked steps, such as setting copyrights and usage rights at the outset, or updating financial records and setting aside a percentage to cover taxes when the project concludes.

The PaperWork Campaign flags key steps with large, hard-to-ignore graphics. Even better, they back each step with a "Why Do This?" justification, followed by more detailed, relevant advice from seasoned professionals. The Campaign articles are liberally peppered with links to more in-depth articles on the zero2illo website, on topics such as “Marketing 101 for Illustrators” and “Managing Your Projects 101.” It’s a valuable resource for anyone structuring their project management workflow, or looking to revisit the systems they have in place.

Image © Illustrator’s Union. Used with permission.

The PaperWork Journey, © Illustrator's Union

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