Archive for December, 2009

It’s the end of the road 2009

Posted on 31. Dec, 2009 by .

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happy-new-year-2009Well, 2009 was a great year. I’ve been amazed and blessed by the community who reads what I write on this blog. It’s been a privileged to email, tweet and chat with many of you and even better to exchange phone numbers and chat on the phone. When I look at my stats, here is what the most popular posts are (not all were written in 2009 though).

  1. Making your resume count (2007)
  2. Elementary schedule using 252 Basics (2008)
  3. Child Dedication: Know any good songs? (2009)
  4. Registration cards (2009)
  5. Sample budgets and event planning forms (2008)
  6. The problem with Sunday School (2009)
  7. Child Dedication tag (2009) A lot of popular posts
  8. New Kids Quest t-shirt design (2009)
  9. Requiring parents to serve: Called to serve? (2009)
  10. Orange Tweet Up (2009)

If I had to rank my favorite posts of the year it would be:

So, thanks for sticking with me in 2009. It was a great year and the community has grown. I’m looking forward to 2010, it’s going to be an amazing year!… Read the rest

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Backup your social media with Backupify

Posted on 31. Dec, 2009 by .

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logoI just learned about Backupify. I haven’t even had enough time to review it (just signed up for an account this week). Essentially, backupify will create a backup of most of the social media you’ve got floating around the net. Things like gmail, hotmail, facebook, flickr, twitter and many of the other big ones. It’s a totally new startup and right now they’re trying to make a name for themselves and build their business. If you sign up before January 31st, you get their service free for life. Who knows what it will look like 6 months from now, but I figured it’s worth signing up.

Check it out here.… Read the rest

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Better Design: Alignment

Posted on 31. Dec, 2009 by .

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At time I find this rule for design to be the hardest. You might as well. A good designer pays very close attention to alignment.

Boiled down, alignment means that nothing is arranged on the page without thought and every single item needs to be visually connected with something else on the page. Good design is intentional and alignment is the one area where designer have to pay careful attention.

Here’s where most people miss it. This was the hardest thing for me to overcome and is still sometimes a challenge. I’ll say it gently. RESIST THE URGE TO CENTER! You know what I’m talking about. We design that flyer or program insert and what do we do with the title? We center it. DON’T. NEVER AGAIN!

Sorry I had to yell, but it really is one of the hardest habits to break. There is a place for aligning in the center, but usually reserved for pieces that are more formal, like wedding announcements or things of that nature. Most of the time what you’re designing for isn’t that formal, so don’t design that way.

When item on a page are aligned, even if they are far away, it brings the page together as one cohesive piece. Text aligned either on the right or the left creates a strong vertical edge, and invisible line that connects the elements. I’ve included a few examples below, but just look around you. Open up a magazine and see how alignment is used by professional designers.

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Here’s a great illustration of alignment and contrast working together. The designer aligned both the right and left ends of the text, but the company name is only aligned on the right causing it to really pop, which is what they want you to notice.

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If you’re not used to it, it feels uncomfortable aligning to the right, but see how nice it looks on this business card.… Read the rest

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Help me make a personal tech decision

Posted on 30. Dec, 2009 by .

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old-tv-set2Okay, I’ve really been going back and forth on this one and I’m not sure what to do. Let me throw out all the variables and maybe you can help me decide where I want to go from here.

About 6 weeks ago I bought a new 42 inch LCD TV. I got a great deal and spent all the money I got for my birthday and Christmas last year. I’m super happy about my decision. Now I’m trying to decide what to do next. Sara and I have had cable/satellite for less than 2 years of our 10 year marriage. Although I really like it, I’m just not convinced that I need it anymore with everything available online. So, I did buy my TV with the intention that almost all content shown on it would be through DVD and streamed from the internet someway. I already have a DVD player I bought last year that I really like. Here are the options available.

Option 1: Roku Player. It’s a $100 device that plays Netflix movies through your TV. I think it has a few other channels now too, but it’s primarily a Netflix streaming box.

Option 2: Mac Mini. This is what I’d actually been leaning towards the most. I was going to buy a used Mac Mini for about $350 and get a bluetooth keyboard/mouse for another $150. This would essentially turn my 42 inch TV into another computer that I can brows the web, facebook, watch DVD’s, stream netflix, hulu or anything else that can be delivered from a website.

Option 3: BluRay Player. (I hadn’t really considered this until last week) I’ve not been convinced the need for a BluRay player; however, the $140 Samsung players stream Netflix and Pandora wirelessly and it’s likely through firmware updates, more functionality will be added to BluRay.… Read the rest

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Eye-Fi Review

Posted on 30. Dec, 2009 by .

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If you follow me on facebook or twitter, you’ve probably noticed that I post pictures via eye-fi (you’ve seen my eye-fi automatic updates every time pictures are posted). I bought one of these eye-fi cards last May, so I’ve had plenty of time to play/experiment. I thought I’d offer and actual review. In case you aren’t familiar with eye-fi, here’s a quick video that explains the basics.

So I bought this card for two reason.

  1. I love new tech and it look super cool.
  2. I loved the idea of not having to connect my camera to my computer anymore (I feel SO lazy typing that).

When I first got it and tried it out, I was impressed, but not totally sold. I wasn’t entirely sure it was worth $50 for it to just send photos to my computer. What I thought would be really cool is if you could actually access this card from you computer like a wireless storage device. Over the coming weeks I spent more time getting to know what the eye-fi card does and it seems like eye-fi kept updating the card with new features. It wasn’t long before I was in love, probably one of the coolest gadgets I got in 2009. What I loved the most was not how it just uploaded pictures to my computer, but how it also sent them to flickr and sent tweets with links to the pics (for all my twitter and facebook friends to see) as well as sending me twitter direct messages letting me know that all the pictures were uploaded. Genius.

It’s such a great device, I bought one for my dad for Christmas. My dad likes gadgets too, but I’ll admit, I bought him this card for selfish reasons. He takes a lot of pictures, but only seems to download them to his computer a few times a year.… Read the rest

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Better Design: Repetition

Posted on 30. Dec, 2009 by .

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So this rule is easy. Repetition is finding certain elements that naturally repeat and strengthening them. The idea of repetition is to unify your overall design. Although this is really important on multi-page designs, it is true too of postcards, banners, flyers or other one page pieces. Repetition has the power to add visual interest. Perhaps your flyer has a paragraph of information. See if you can’t divide the content into 3-5 one or two sentence bullet pints. Not only does it make it easier to read, but it makes it more interesting to look at. Maybe you’re refining your resume. Incorporate repetition into your headings and sub-headings. Don’t use 5 different fonts, just use one (two at the most) and stay consistent through your piece. Consistent and repetitive elements guide the viewer to see and read what you want him to see and read.

Here are some good examples of repetition.

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This is more of a multi-piece design, but you can even seen the repetition on single pieces, specifically with the yellow color as well as the repetition of the logo as a watermark both on the stationary and the business card.

rep_mac-osx-firefox2

This web page uses repetition mostly in color. I don’t think it’s accident that they chose that color green leaf in the first picture box. You see the green and gray colors repeated throughout the page which unifies the design. Event he little rss feed icon at the top of the page, which is usually naturally an orange color, was changed to green to repeat the color scheme.

rep_portfolio_sample02

Circles. They’re in the logo ad they’re in the brochure. I can’t see close enough, but it looks like the bullet points are not just your typical bullet points, but tied into the circle theme.

rep-leaflet-design-4A

It’s a very crowded card, but the use of repetition helps unify this two sided card.… Read the rest

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Experimenting with dropbox

Posted on 29. Dec, 2009 by .

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dropbox-thumbA few years ago I became familiar with a free little application called FolderShare. Microsoft had purchased FolderShare and had been working to incorporate it into their “live” suite of services and today FolderShare is known as live sync. For the past two years, this has been the most wonderful little application for me. I could sync any folder on my computer with any folder on any of my other computers. It works beautifully. The cool part is that you can create synced folders with friends and co-workers as well. Yes!

However, I upgraded to Snow Leopard a few months ago and live sync stopped working. I’ve heard that Live Sync is finally working again, but I had to find something else in the meantime. I had become to dependent on live sync.

So, about a month ago I downloaded and installed Dropbox and for the most part I really like it. Dropbox creates a folder on my computer labeled “dropbox.” Everything I put in the dropbox syncs with the dropbox website. That means I can access anything in this folder from any web connected folder, even if my computer isn’t even on. That’s a great feature. I can sync files with others and our computers don’t have to be online at the same time; the dropbox servers take care of that.

The downside. You only get 2GB for free. If you get others to sign up, you can get 3 more GB added to your account. So right now I have almost 5 GB available. Not too bad. To pay for 50GB, it will cost me $10 a month and 100GB will cost me $20. As much as I love this service, I don’t love the price. I like the features that come with it (cloud servers making my data available from anywhere), but $120 a year or more doesn’t make it worth it.… Read the rest

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Better Design: Contrast

Posted on 29. Dec, 2009 by .

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The first rule is to incorporate contrast into your design. You want to avoid elements that are all alike. Usually contrast is the most important part of the design… the thing that gets a person to look at the design to begin with. It’s like a great plot to a story. Without conflict of some type, the story is boring. The same is true of design. Don’t be afraid to create contrast in your design. The stronger the contrast, the bigger.

Don’t just simply use bold and italics to create contrast within your design. Use huge fonts next to small fonts. Use colors to create contrast. Rather than use a small picture on the card, blow up the picture so that it dominates the card and let your text fill int he space around the image. Here are a few examples of how you might use this rule.

contrast-ss-sizecontrast-ss-colorcontrast-ss-type

Want some real life examples. Click here to see some beautifully designed magazine layouts. Notice the use of contrast. Huge font sizes. Huge contrast in colors of font and background. Huge amounts of white space. These things all cause contrast. They tell your eyes “HEY! LOOK HERE!” Always remember this rule. If your attempt at contrast isn’t immediately noticed, you didn’t go big enough.… Read the rest

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Better Design: 4 Rules

Posted on 29. Dec, 2009 by .

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ruler_20_30There are more than four simple rules, otherwise everyone would be a design genius. However, these four rules will significantly help you to design better. Just becasue you follow these rules doesn’t mean everything you design will be perfect, but it will look significantly better.

The interesting thing is that you probably already know these rules. You’ve seen them. Actually, once you read these posts and begin looking at well designed layouts,  you’ll see the four rules in place EVERYWHERE. It’s just what makes design look right.

Why four rules? Because those of us who aren’t artist need rules to help us do what natural artists see by default. We get very comfortable with a logical approach to design that seems to make sense in our head, but looks bad in reality. We know it looks bad too, but we just don’t know how to make it look better. An artist will know what to do naturally as they have a different way of doing things. We have to rely on rules. And I promise you, some of these rules will stretch you. You won’t want to do it becasue it doesn’t seem natural or right… but if you do it, it will look natural… and right.

So, an easy way to remember the rules is a simple acrostic. CARP.

Actually, I re-arrange the letters to form CRAP. Good acrostics are memorable and I’m just not that in love with fish. The tie in here is that if you don’t follow these four rules, this acrostic is what your design may look like.

Okay, enough of the setup, let’s get to the rules… in the next post.… Read the rest

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Better Design: Why you should care

Posted on 28. Dec, 2009 by .

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1313521-2-i-love-graphic-designI had to take a design class as a part of my masters program for Education. Although I was glad to take this class (since I love design), I wasn’t sure why this was required. Now I understand.

It’s the same reason why you as a Children’s Pastor/Director/Leader should also care about design.

By the very nature of what you do, you are a communicator. It’s how you do what you do. Although the majority of what you communicate my be verbal/written, design plays a significant role in your ability to effectively communicate. Whether it is a take home paper, a note to parents a sign on a door or even slides for weekend productions, we’ve all had to design these. Whether you like it or not, you’re a designer and here is where the rubber meets the road. As communicators, we want to be heard. We make notes, signs, slides and other pieces becasue we want kids/parents to read them. We have something important to communicate. However, if our design is horrible, our message may not be read or clearly understood. You see, if we fail as a designer, we may possibly fail as a communicator.

As a communicator, you should care about design becasue you want to be heard and understood.

Since most Children’s Pastors/Directors/Leaders don’t have access to a graphic designer, that task falls on you. You can be a better designer, especially if you follow a few simple rules.… Read the rest

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