Portfolio: Improvement Isn’t Always Vertical

Graphic design is hard, it’s messy, it’s frustrating. But most of all it’s about allowing yourself to be creative and to leave your footprint (digitally) on something that can be as large as life.

During my time in my graduate level visual communications class the biggest thing I learned was that improvement isn’t always vertical. Sometimes you fall backwards and your work isn’t as great as the week before. But that’s necessary. Why? Because it allows you to grow and it allows designers to know, “hey maybe let’s not do that literally ever again.” So here’s some work from that class in hopes you might know what to do and what not to do.

First up is the first design we were ever tasked with, logo improvement. We were given a logo from a magazine with no information and told to fix it. And boy did it need it.

And what started off as this…

Turned into this…

I figured since it was titled “Bay Magazine” it would likely be based in the San Fransisco Bay Area out in California. So I took the California state flower, the poppy, and put it behind a blue archway on a sand colored background. For this project I used Procreate, an IOS drawing platform.

Our next project was to create a type poster based on an event taking place in the near future. For this I went with an event held by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute on October 14, 2021, at their Moss Landing center.

The next project relates to our text poster because we were tasked with bringing color to our plain posters. Here is how mine turned out.

The colors were based on this picture:

Our fourth project of the semester was a group project where we needed to create a symbol to represent something. Our group went with leadership and we choose the colors that we believe best represent a leader and their “followers” and the design was simple enough for any one of any age to understand.

Our fifth project was the logo (re)design. Where we were tasked with finding a logo for a brand that we liked (the more we knew about it the easier it would be to design something for it). I went with a coffee shop in Visalia, California, called Component Coffee Lab. Though locals just call it component. This is their original logo:

And here’s what I came up with:

I wanted something that would fit on small objects like buttons and hats, but it would also look good on larger items like shirts and mugs. I chose a vinyl record because they frequently play music in their shop and it’s always reminiscent of another time. The colors were color matched from their original logo as well. I really enjoyed this project because it tested what I could do in regards to the real world and something that could affect their business. This project was quite easily the hardest and most rewarding of them all.

I actually had something different planned originally, but it looked bulky and weird and it just didn’t fit the brand’s aesthetic at all. Design is more about how people feel when they see it than anything else. And I didn’t want to put something out there that didn’t feel right just because it was the easiest choice. When I realized that I couldn’t make the original the final submission I must have gone through ten different options and ideas until I landed on this one. Then it was all about which color went where. What text ended up on the final product. And of course making sure it was usable for any product of any size.

Our final project was our executive report. We were to look at a brand or company and (re)design their executive report. This was the longest project we were tasked with. It was supposed to amass at least seven or more pages. The company I chose was the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here’s a sample of what I came up with.

The left page was about what the aquarium did during the pandemic and the right page was about the money they were given and how it was spent.

An interesting thing happened when I was writing the paragraphs for this project. I found myself utilizing techniques I had learned in my speech writing class. I scoured the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s website and read their original report a dozen times. This allowed me to take on the voice and style that the aquarium uses throughout their products.

All of these projects allowed me to see what design is about. It allowed me to grow in my creativity. It allowed me to know that mistakes are okay as long as you learn from them.

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