Father’s Day 2012

It’s Father’s Day 2012. This year my dad took my brothers and I on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Las Vegas, The Grand Canyon through the Sedona and into Phoenix. During our stay in Vegas we got to see KA and Phantom–both amazing shows. With my dad’s background as a director and in many ways a technical director of many impressive church productions, it was fun to “talk shop” about what impressed us technically. Both shows really pushed the limit in my mind of what’s possible to do on stage theatre. During our stay in the Grand Canyon and our travel through the Sedona our focus took much more of a spiritual journey as we stood in awe of God’s creation. My dad paid for the entire trip.

If there is one thing that characterizes great parents–especially our fathers–it’s the ongoing sacrifices they make for their children. When my parents divorced in 2003 they made it a point that my brothers and I would remain number one in their lives. We still are and because of their decision I can say that they have the best relationship I have ever witnessed in any divorced couple. Very minimal to non-existant conflict. We (my brothers and I) are very blessed to be in a situation like that–I have seen and heard of many others that are not as fortunate.

Dad’s ongoing sacrifice and inspiration in my life has molded me into the man I am today and the father I hope to become.

An Ode to Helvetica – The Movie

Few movies truly inspire me. Let’s see there was Air Bud when I was in Elementary school (seriously. I would watch it the night before every basketball game) and…yeah, short list, BUT I have to say something about the documentary Helvetica.

Coming from a background of very little formal arts training, I soak up every little bit of knowledge I can about the people and the history of graphic design. Helvetica is a goldmine for any designer simply because it documents graphic design over the past sixty/seventy years. In Helvetica you begin to learn that design trends are extremely reactionary. The font Helvetica was an avenue for designers to clean culture of the zany fifties–or to put it simply–to make order in a world of chaos. Helvetica did that. It was bold. It was modern. It let the words speak for themselves. When the design trends of the seventies erupted the movement was much more towards letting the type speak for itself (aka back to crazy land). The eighties and nineties were popularized by grunge, perhaps the most extreme counter to Helvetica’s smooth contours.

Can you guess what I did once I finished? I pulled out my MacBookPro, opened PhotoShop and started playing around with Helvetica. One of the designers in the movie notes that Helvetica leads the designer into a particular place–flush left, simple and concise. I would have to agree.

When a great movie is released like Helvetica there are always beneficiaries (of the monetary variety):

  • Linotype – Yes I did have to buy all of Helvetica Neue. I felt it was like paying homage to the design Buddha
  • Freitag – The cool messenger bags featured in the movie. Yes I just had to have one. And guess what. It has Helvetica on it.
  • Apple – I had to buy a digital copy of the movie. I just had to.
  • Apple again – watching Helvetica lead me to the director’s next visionary tale: Objectified (it’s on industrial design)

Scrooge

It’s not often that plays and musicals can become such a part of one’s life, but The Gospel According to Scrooge–or Scrooge as I refer to it–has definitely been that way for me. My dad started directing the performances at Kingwood Assembly of God in 1987, the year I was born. That year was one of the few years that my mom was not involved because she was pregnant with me. The performances were most likely modest at best and no where near as elaborate as they are today. Scrooge performances have been going on for almost every year since then and are a mainstay in my December planning.

Scrooge was responsible for my first childhood villain the ghost of Marley, Scrooge’s dead business partner that came to haunt him one cold Christmas eve in 19th century London. Early on, our church used a combination of sheets, victorian clothing, chains and heavy dosage of baby powder to pull of the ghost of Marley. I remember feeling terrified when I would see the character back stage. At night I would lay in my bed and feel that right when I closed my eyes, Marley would come and take me away through my bedroom window. In a cruel fate of irony for the past three years I have played the part of a young adult Marley who leads Scrooge into a life filled with greed and indifference.

My next fear as a child came from when my parents–married at the time. Played the role of young adult Scrooge and Belle (Scrooge’s love interest). There is a song in this musical where they break up  because it becomes apparent to Belle that Scrooge’s love for money and success supersedes his love for family and more importantly, his love for God. Needless to say, to see my parents break up on stage 5 nights in a row was not very fun.

Each and every year the play was produced, I remember seeing less and less of my dad as he was heavily involved in the stage and set design from mid-November to the performances in early to mid December. I would often find him in the church sanctuary after school, painting or decorating a new part of the set. Every year the theatricals became bigger and greater. His final year of directing, the production included many pyrotechnics, a remarkable set (the kind that would catch the eye of even those on Broadway), a script that found the right balance of comedy and drama, a costume department that could dress a cast of 100+, and a dedicated crew that helped him annually retell the play to an audience of thousands.

This year is the plays twenty-first year of running (with my family being involved in some way) and the twentieth year of production by Kingwood. I know every song by heart and if given the chance, could probably perform the lines of all the core characters including Scrooge himself. I’ve been apart of an experience that has lead thousands to start a relationship with Christ and because of that, I am truly indebted PLUS I can do a heck of a British Cockney accent.

A quick plug. The final performance of 2010 will play out tomorrow (Sunday, Dec. 12) at 7pm at Kingwood Church. The performance will be packed out. Many that will be turned away (if you plan to go, get there an hour or two earlier to get a seat). Performances are free and 100% of the proceeds collected at the end go to help poverty sticken families in the local area.

Brothers

I have two younger brothers, Jordan and Ryan. I don’t really remember going to the hospital to see Jordan when he was born (I was 2 at the time), but I do remember Ryan (when I was 5). I really don’t have any brotherly jealousies–you know that feeling some children get as if they are losing the spotlight–but there was always the occasional tiff. Don’t get me wrong though, I have two of the greatest brothers in the world but just they weren’t short of their annoyances.

Annoyance #1 – The copy-cat
This was the first annoyance I recognized. Jordan was the primary culprit. It comes with brotherdom that there is almost always a time when your younger brother will try to imitate your every move. At first it can be kindof cool. You pretty much are the focus of this young kid’s world…but later on it just gets plain annoying. You always have to shoot it straight with them. “No, you cannot go with me and Andy. We are playing Cowboys and Indians and you would just make this game chaotic.” “No, both you and I cannot be a magician (my first profession in life) at the same time.” Later on in high school the copy-cat syndrome changed into music tastes. Nowadays I am happy to say that for the most part the copy-cat syndrome is gone and more often times than not I find myself copying them.

Annoyance #2 – Playing the drums at the most inopportune times
It just so happens that Jordan is a drummer. He is an amazingingly talented drummer. But I am sad to say that it was not always this way. There was a time–yes a time that lasted several years–when Jordan had a drumset that he would play with little to no training. And he had a knack of playing the set at the most inopportune times, like say when I was playing an old school Playstation game like 2Xtreme or say when I was watching the latest episode of the Batman Superman Adventures. It just so happened that the drumset was located in the den, the room that contained the only television and game station – aka the entertainment center of the universe for a young middle/elementary schooler. The worst part about the whole escapade was the fact that the drum hits were random. Later on his terror did get better, but there was the whole LOUDNESS factor of it all. When he practices you can pretty much forget about concentration on your Algebra II exam. The one positive benefit of it all for me was I learned to love headphones.

Annoyance #3 – Here, let me mess up your magic trick
I was always very fond of magic tricks growing up. I would always spend my limited allowance money on any magic trick I could get my hands on at the local Wal-Mart. You know, like the occasional trick deck of cards or the disappearing handkerchief fake thumb. Anyway, Jordan LOVED (this could be quite possibly an understatement) to mess me up in the middle of the trick. So say I was presenting the disappearing handkerchief to my parents, well he would come up and rip the fake thumb right off my finger. At one point it got so bad that I had to hide all of my magicians equipment away where he could not find it–less he destroy my next greatest act. There was one trick that I’m pretty sure he never figured out. I believe it was when I took a pencil and carefully placed it through a Styrofoam cup filled with water without allowing any water to drip…even after removing the pencil.

Upbringings

Artist-types, it takes one to know-one–or at least spot one quickly. My experience with “artist-types” started with my father, a multi-talented music pastor at a thriving Assembly of God church. For those of you who are not familiar with the Assemblies of God fellowship, the denomination is pentecostal, upbeat and the type that speaks in a “heavenly language” that can sometimes be interpreted. Needless to say as the son of a pentecostal music pastor I had a very unique upbringing that drifted somewhere between the son of popular musician and the social etiquette of a royal family. It really wan’t till I moved out of the house that I felt comfortable wearing jeans to church on a Sunday morning–something my mom continued to obligate after my parent’s divorce in high school.

As a son of a music pastor I was required to get involved in almost every church adolescent outing like children and youth choirs or attend special services. At that time I really didn’t care much for being forced into the youth choir. Basically anytime the church was open, I was problaby there and on my best behavior. I wasn’t much of one to push the boundaries as a pastor’s kid. I know some pastor’s kids are known to do that, but it really wasn’t in my nature. I’ve always been one to try to stick to the good side and not one to push boundaries–which is frankly funny considering my profession as an art director–aka: artist type. One of the few times I remember getting in trouble in church was when the church had a worship service on a Sunday night. I started goofing around with some of my friends in the pews–at least until my mom had a note delivered to me from the choir loft to let me know to “STOP”. Other than that I was a pretty good kid.

For most of my adolescent life I defined my identity with my father, and many in my surrounding community defined me as that. The son of the music pastor. Not much outside of that. I attended school at the small church-run private school, so my surrounding contacts with people were for the most part pretty limited. Unlike my best friend Andy, I’m a fairly introverted person. I kept quiet most of my childhood and was labeled somewhat shy.

My life completely changed the summer after my freshman year in high school. First, I found out that my dad was leaving his pastoral position at the church. Later that summer my parents told us that they were getting a divorce. I knew life was going to be different after that. It was also that summer that I started learning the tools of the design trade, primarily Photoshop. Before that I had dabbled in web development, building fan-sites on free hosting websites like Freeservers and Angelfire. The sites ranged from gaming to fingerboarding–practical occupations for middle-schoolers. I knew at that time that the future of my development as a web professional meant I needed to learn more about design. The real catalyst of the skills development that summer was a brand new custom-built machine that I put together with some of my friends. Before that my family had an extremely slow old Compaq that couldn’t handle Photoshop. Most of my work with Photoshop was done on computers at the church and with my dad leaving the ministry, that wasn’t going to be a very feasible option. The second catalyst happened when I quit playing football. I started playing football in middle school. In the previous season I was named as the most improved varsity player on the team. I started as a defensive end on the varsity team my freshman year at the private school. I got my butt kicked on a lot of plays, but the team was in dire straits for players. When I quit football that summer, I suddenly had a lot of time to start experimenting with web development and graphic design.

The Future of Marketing

Mobile Website Design

Rick-and-Bubba-mobile-site-lulus-mobile

So recently I am getting more experience with mobile website design. Here are a few tips:

  1. Text Legibility: Make sure the text is readable at small sizes. Contrast is a must
  2. Button Sizes: For touchable mobile phones like the iPhone (or even the iPhone touch), button sizes are extremely necessary. Fingers can sometimes be clumsy and really inaccurate.
  3. Choose Menu Items Wisely: A mobile site should not contain every aspect of it’s big brother site. Instead focus on relevant menu items for users on the go. For restaurants (see LuLu’s Mobile) directions and menu info can be a lifesaver for the on-the-go parent. For a radio show like Rick & Bubba, users want to access show emails as well as social media links

Interview with Alan Hunter

This was an interview I edited and produced with for UAB | AMA. I just found out that it won first place in the Acton Foundation’s Take an Entrepreneur to Lunch.

Make the Logo Bigger; OK, will do.

We’ve all been in that same situation before. “Could you make that logo just a little bit bigger?” “I’m not sure about those colors.” “We need more punch.” “Add a starburst.”

Were those elements really necessary? Problaby not. But should we do them?

I’ve seen/heard many arguments from designers that say no, design integrity should be upheld. For my own pleasure, I’m going to attempt to play the devil’s advocate and argue otherwise.

Getting Political
I guess you could say high school still rubs off on me and every now and then I’ll remember something that I learned from one of my classes. In this case it comes from my political science class regarding views on political representation. There are two basic schools of thought when it comes to how government representatives view how they should answer the many questions they face in office:

The Caretaker Approach
This view believes that the official must be a good caretaker to their constituents even if it means disagreeing with them at times. For a designer this view is more ideal. We must be a good caretaker of the clients brand even if it means telling them no. But do we really know what’s best for them?

The Democratic Approach
This view is more swayed by popular opinion. “The people know what’s best for there lives. It’s my job to give it to them.” The clients views are #1. Disregard your design sense. Just give them what they want. In reality though, clients know (or at least should know) more about their business and their target market than you do. While making that logo bigger might make zero sense from your view, there possibly could be some increase in the bottom line because of it.

Please Handle with Care
Obviously there has to be a happy medium between these two viewpoints. All I ask is that you take a second before saying no to a design change. Are you really increasing the clients bottom line?

Free Designer iPhone Backgrounds

James White released a tutorial in an issue of Computer Arts Magazine

http://blog.signalnoise.com/?p=591 

I got inspired & created some other backgrounds as well