Font-astic Friday

I could rattle off a string of technical typography characteristics; ascenders, descenders, kerning, leading, etc. etc. but when I see a font I really like, I usually have an emotionally associative reaction to it. Here are 6 of my favorite fonts with my very non-technical impressions of them.

You can see this font used in the header on this blog, too.

This font makes me want to visit 1895 Savannah, Georgia.

I used this font for my wedding programs in 2000.

This lighthearted Honeymooners-era font speaks of more innocent times.

This font reminds me of the Art Deco filled video game, BioShock.

I've never been to the Ravinia Festival north of Chicago but would like to go.


An Interview with Chicago Graphic Designer Brooke Becker

I was lucky enough to sit down with the lovely and talented Brooke Becker. In this interview she gives some insight into her design-rich background, what she digs about art, and how she stays sane as a graduate student and professional.


SARAH: Brooke, you’ve got a great sense of design. Did growing up around art influence your education?

BROOKE: My mom was an art teacher; I was exposed to art at an early age. Other than elementary and middle school art classes, my first art class was my senior year of high school. I played the viola and my mom insisted that I be in the orchestra all four years and take four years of math! So, this was the first year I had extra electives that I could take an art class. Thankfully, the teacher knew my mom and allowed me to join with the other senior classes, Illustration and Commercial Design. In college, I was a Visual Art major with a concentration in Graphic Design. This program didn’t really get established until my junior year, when they built a new Mac lab and brought in adjunct teachers who were in the industry. Currently, I am getting my Masters in Arts in New Media at DePaul University.

SARAH: What’s your favorite kind of art?

BROOKE: I have always been drawn to photography. I like the idea that the moment captured by the photographer will be forever saved and documented.

SARAH: What is your key advice to others just getting into the creative arts field?

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BROOKE: I recommend getting exposed to creative environments and industries by doing internships or summer jobs. I wish I would have been a bit more focused on the types of creative companies out there and tried to get in at the ones that excited me.

SARAH: What is your “expertise specialty”? Has this stemmed or grown from something else?

BROOKE: I consider myself an expert in design for print and web. I am much better executing print work. However, I feel I have become more of a design consultant for print and web projects. Assessing bad design and making it better. I think this has just stemmed from being exposed to both print and web design for so long, and having a strong art background helps me communicate my ideas.

SARAH: What have you found to be most valuable being in the New Media Studies Program?

BROOKE: I love the fact that the NMS program is interdisciplinary allowing each NMS student to explore their own interests. I also have enjoyed the people I have met and collaborated with on projects.

SARAH: How do you keep life balance as a “constantly connected” new media artist?

BROOKE:  I used to do a lot of improv comedy…I’m still doing a little here and there. I play volleyball. I’m also trying to take more fine art classes. I took an oil painting class last summer and it was amazing the amount of anxiety I had from starting the painting. You can always delete or create multiple versions in digital art, so I feel that pushing my creativity to be more decisive is a good thing.

SARAH: And lastly…where can we view your current portfolio?

BROOKE: – I use WordPress for my site which allows me to easily update work and include descriptions.

[And be sure to follow Brooke on Twitter]

Photoshop of Horrors

You don’t need to tell me. I DO know that I *may* have a small problem. It started a long time ago in the pre-Photoshop 90’s when I cut a photo of myself and placed it strategically atop a magazine cut-out of Jean-Claude Van Damme (I know, but he was hot back then) so it looked like he had his arms wrapped around me. My experimentation in splicing began a collage kick that went on for years, until I ended up immersed in the dark underworld of Photoshop in the late 90’s. Aside from using Photoshop weekly for my job, I still often indulge in the pleasures of ‘shopping as my own form of…therapy.

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It has brought out a monster in me, though. On many occasions I’ve sat at the computer for hours cackling to myself as I twisted and mangled, mutated and distorted. My husband, on numerous occasions, has said to me, “There’s something wrong with you.” While I don’t disagree I wonder if Picasso felt that same “creative rush” moving an eye or an ear out of place. These days, it causes me great joy to see sites like “Chicks with Steve Buscemi Eyes” that put me into unhealthy fits of laughter. Additionally, Lady Gaga’s Bad Romance video offers some effects of oversized eyes and extra-tiny waists similar to 2-D photo Frankensteining. I personally think it’s genius and fun to look at. After all, magazines have been ‘shopping the proverbial flaws out of women for YEARS. Well, I say leave the flaws in and THEN ADD SOME… and maybe then you’ll have my interest. There is an iPhone app called FatBooth Photos and it provides levity and laughter to countless people who wish to see themselves morbidly obese…so I’m not alone in feeling that life’s too short to look at boring stuff.

The slideshow is just a few abominations for your pleasure. Let me be clear that I do not intend to be cruel in my depictions nor do any of these images even closely resemble the people from which they originate. I do not make fun of actual people with deformities or laugh at anyone who has been maimed. I laugh at this particular creative process in the context of imagination; because I KNOW it isn’t real. (This “knowing it’s not real” stuff has allowed me to enjoy horror movies for decades.)

However, judge me as you see fit: I will continue to snap on the hypothetical plastic glove and whisper to no one in particular, “scalpel”?

Social Network Geekery

In one of my graduate classes an assignment is to map out our Twitter network. A couple of the online tools used for this produce some pretty cool images (at least I think so) with regards to the nodes and ties, it almost looks like a universe of stars or constellations. I like to see data in visual form anyway and, while I do not follow a ton of peeps (and have even less followers) it shows the strength of your network and where to possibly beef up. I would recommend trying it out with your own network just to see a map of your connections. Both applications are free (require no download) and take literally 10 seconds to generate your map. Go!

Here is what my Twitter network looks like according to Twitter Browser by Neuro Productions.

I'm sure your network will be bigger than mine. And I'm fine with that.

There is also a tool that helps map Twitter mentions. Shockingly, it is called Mention Map. I don’t do a ton of this, but here is the visual product:

You're happy I'm pointing out this app? Ah, don't mention it.

If you would like to be part of my future maps, I invite you to follow me on Twitter – I will most certainly follow you back. Cheers!

DePaul University’s New Virtual Exhibit

DePaul University’s Office of Mission & Values  just rolled out a new Vincentian Collection digital online museum featuring the Virtual Exhibition of  Saint Lazare as a Women’s Prison (1794 – 1932) in Paris…and it is out of this world. The Saint Lazare structure had a long history pre-dating the Congregation of the Mission. After its confiscation by the Revolutionary government in 1792 the buildings of Saint Lazare became a prison for enemies of the revolution. In 1811, it became a prison exclusively for women. Until 1936 the main complex of Saint Lazare became the notorious “St. Lago” prison, housing mostly women convicted of prostitution. Despite efforts to close the prison, it endured until 1932.

DePaul University's new digital archive currently offers a virtual exhibition on Saint-Lazare

I attended the unveiling of this massive project at DePaul University a few weeks ago and learned that this ever-growing digital archive is on par with virtual archives that the “big boys” have. Few universities have such a grand collection. It offers intuitive navigation, maps with fantastic Zoomify capabilities, gorgeous black and white photos and illustrations archived from very old originals, short, carefully-crafted audio stories about the history of Saint Lazare and even French songs that were re-recorded by students in DePaul University’s Music Department. This digital museum serves to provide a narrative to educate on the culture and social climate of the time as well as how St. Vincent and the Congregation of the Mission played into the lives of the female criminals and prostitutes (including the infamous Mata Hari) during the revolution – and how they were treated and cared for by the sisters at Saint Lazare.

On a day when you don’t feel like paying admission to wander the halls and fight the crowds of a physical museum, take a virtual stroll through this free and magnificient new archive which will continue to grow over time as a treasured source of research and rich history.


What’s Black and White and Read All Over?


Please enjoy my website : )

A shout out and thanks to fellow grad student Zoe Kind for the heads up on the very timely and interesting topic of QR code (or, Quick Response code) generators. You see these black and white blocky patterns everywhere. Fodder for smartphones, these little information thumb prints link to further information and websites once scanned. They are on billboards, fliers, menus and even clothing. I’m guessing tattoos are next. Acting as a redirect for details, these unique image blocks can be generated online through sites such as among several others. The patterned blocks can connect to text, URLs and other information and the aforementioned generator offers code blocks in sizes tall, grande and venti — sorry, still jacked up on caffeine. With so many carriers of smartphones and the future of mobile tech, it is crucial that traditional marketing utilize these codes. The QR code is the Rorschach inkblot of the Web 2.0 generation. And we’re all going crazy for it.

Meet Andy Elkerton, Illustrator Extraordinaire

Illustration by Andy Elkerton

Allow me to introduce you to an uber-talented British children’s book illustrator, Mr. Andy Elkerton. By chance I came to associate with this artist through my husband’s snark-filled movie review podcast, Everyone’s A Critic (shameless plug) – as Andy is a listener and interacts with the EAC “community”. An ironic clash between hard-edged podcast content and the illustrations that whisper delicately of knights in armor, apes wearing bras, frogs eating cake and other imaginative visual delicacies.

I had a chance to shop-talk a little with Andy about his stellar work. From initial glances, the illustrations look amazingly smooth with airbrush qualities. This is because he creates them digitally, using a Wacom to do the virual drawings. Andy has a rich history of working in the field of creating computer-generated images. 

These samples are compressed but I HIGHLY recommend that you check out the full size and high def versions of his amazing showcase at his website

Illustration by Andy Elkerton

Illustration by Andy Elkerton
Though the mood of the content is quite opposite of the art I do, this type of work has my utmost respect; it is so lovely and innocent, it helps foster imaginations and forge memories for the children who enjoy his books. I can recall absolutely wearing out some of my books as a kid as I couldn’t get enough of the illustrations and alluring form of storytelling. Characters come to life, endure humorous situations and help teach values. The developing minds of children will always benefit from the talents of such illustrators as Andy.

If you have kids, I think they would love to look at the fabulous images in these books. And you just might, too! list of the children’s books that Andy  has illustrated.