Finals Week with Photoshop

It’s hard to believe that I’ve already arrived at the end of the semester, and I am almost done with my VIC 5325 course. Coming into this class, I had very little prior experience with Photoshop, and my web design knowledge was limited. Fifteen weeks later, I feel that I have learned so much and I cannot wait to further develop my skills and continue my training.

For my final Design Showcase, I was assigned to create a e-card that the University of Florida could send out to its students. Our focus this week was in lighting effects, which I didn’t even realize you could utilize in Photoshop before this week. This has been one of my favorite lessons, because working with light effects gives you so much more flexibility with an image and can really transform your final product.

Instead of focusing on a holiday, I wanted to take a different approach with my e-card. Because I know so many students (myself included) are pushing to get through that end-of-the-semester workload, I decided to create an encouraging e-card wishing students good luck on finals. As just about every college student has experienced, finals week is brutal: from balancing projects to cramming for exams, all-nighters are almost a necessity, and coffee becomes your new best friend, even if you don’t normally drink it.

I began by finding an image that I wanted to use for the base of my card. I found a great image on Unsplash of a coffee cup next to a bed, which felt like a great finals set-up. After a while, I know I take to my bed, hunched over my textbooks, to get everything done. The image was a little bright, so I applied an adjustment layer and lowered the saturation until I felt that the image had a nice feel. I also used the color replacement tool to make the coffee cup orange, keeping in line with the gator colors established by the brand. To create a nice, contrasting space for my greeting, I applied a blue gradient at the top of the image, and mirrored it with a smaller one on the bottom for balance.

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I chose to use the typeface Palatino because it is the standard font used in the university’s logo and wanted to ensure that my e-card looked like it came from the school. I placed my greeting on two lines, off-centered, making the “Good luck” text the largest to make it stand out. I applied a drop shadow to all of the text on the card, excluding the logo, to help with readability. On the logo, I used an outer glow. I felt that an inspiring quote would be a nice touch to give students a small token of support in the last minute stress of the week.

Once I had placed everything accordingly, I added my lighting effects. I  first used a white, three-spotlight effect, angling all three to highlight the coffee cup. I adjusted the ambiance to a high degree, ensuring that you could still see the entire image. I also used a soft omni light on the quote, but this one I tinted a slight orange color. This second lighting effect just slightly adjusted the image’s tone, making it slightly warmer.

Paid Sick Days for American Workers: An Infographic

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with ThinkProgress and this is for solely educational purposes.

Brands are constantly trying to find new ways to convey information to a quick-skimming audience in an interesting manner. Along with an increase in video content (see last week’s assignment), infographics—images that take information and represent it graphically—are gaining in popularity.  Infographics are eye-grabbing, and they break down data into charts, diagrams and imagery that viewers can easily digest. For my Design Showcase this week, I was assigned to create an infographic based off of this ThinkProgress article, which describes Obama’s proposed Healthy Families Act. The act aims to enforce that full-time workers should be able to earn paid-sick days, as the U.S. is the only developed country that does not already have such a program in place.

I have never created an infographic before, so the process initially seemed a bit overwhelming. I began by going to Pinterest and looking at infographics of all kinds for inspiration on how to separate information, what kind of charts are popular, how text is chunked and so on. When I felt ready to start, I pasted my article into a word document, highlighted any information that I wanted to include and then separated the data by a hierarchy of bullet points. I took information from the original article as well as this second article, which is linked though in the first. I thought that stressing the length and intensity of the average American workweek really helped to stress why it’s important that full-time workers should have access to paid sick days.

In the end, I decided to divide the data into four main areas, excluding my header and footer. The first discusses how few Americans currently have access to paid sick days. The second emphasizes the intensity of the workweek. The third deals with maternity leave, since Obama plans to sign a memorandum that will give federal employees paid sick days for the birth of a child if the act is passed. The fourth and final section describes the effects of the act.

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When I was developing the actual layout, I selected a color scheme and typeface and moved forward from there. I wanted consistency with flat icons but created some variation by playing with their opacities. I used the pen tool to create the semi-circles in the first panel that represent the percentage of Americans with paid leave benefits. This was probably the most difficult part of the assignment, as the pen tool is still new to me and I really struggled with forming the shapes that I wanted. My favorite imagery is in the third panel, which depicts the minimal amount of countries that do not require paid maternity leave as a few drops of milk in the bottom of a baby’s bottle. I wanted to get the statistic across in a creative way that immediately conveys the point.

Overall, this proved to be one of the more time-consuming projects I have completed this semester. It has also been one of my favorites, because I was able to take information and completely develop exactly what I wanted to say and how I wanted to show it from the bottom up. I have been wanting to take a stab at infographics for a while, and I am happy with my results.

Video Editing in Photoshop: Ojai Olive Oil Company

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the Ojai Olive Oil company and this is for solely educational purposes.

Everyone knows that Photoshop is the premier program for editing images, but what fewer know is that you can also edit videos within the program. This is something that I had no knowledge of prior to this week, so learning about Photoshop’s video capabilities was interesting for me. I have very little video editing experience, so this week’s Design Showcase proved valuable, giving me some insight into video editing with software I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with.

I was provided with a video clip from lynda.com  about the Ojai Olive Oil company and a tutorial on how to edit the video. After being given the basic guidelines, I was assigned to rebrand the company and enhance the video as I saw fit. My only requirements were that it needed to have a title, lower-third element, and closing slide with information about the brand.

After viewing the video, I began by designing a new logo for the company. I wanted to create a brand that felt approachable and kept the family-owned feel while also modernizing it. I chose a trendy sans-serif font, Dolce Vita, for the main logo and Mistral for the “Extra Virgin Olive Oil” text. I also wanted to incorporate a graphic element, so I found a free vector image of an olive branch online. I placed a right branch in alignment with the cross of the A in Ojai and a left one along the bottom of the O. I edited them to take some of the leaves out and put in olives that I created, finishing the logo.

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Never having done much video editing, I found working with Photoshop to be a neat experience. I liked that I was able to use elements I am familiar with, such as the marquee tool, text tool and smart objects to impose new graphics over the original video. I decided to shorten the video, as the original was a bit long and the entire second half felt like it should be its own video on a different topic. I did, however, use a piece of this to create an end slide with different music and a semi-opaque background to entice the viewer to learn more about the company. I personally like simple transitions because I feel like they are less distracting, and so I primarily used fade outs and minimized the use of motion.

Social Media for the Summer Season

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the AAA company and this is for solely educational purposes.

The summer months are quickly approaching, and now is the time for brands to begin preparing for the excitement and warm feelings associated with summer. Since so many travel companies get the most business during this time of year, this week I was assigned to select a company within the travel industry and create new social media graphics for them to use. My family is a big fan of the American Automobile Association, so I chose them for my campaign.

AAA began as a company with “the purpose of lobbying for driver and passenger rights, fair laws and safer vehicles — all to better promote the love of the open road and the adventure of driving.” Since then, AAA has expanded to also provide roadside assistance, insurance and travel accommodations for members. I wanted to focus my campaign on the travel aspect of their company, encouraging members to use AAA’s services to plan a summer trip.

I created three Facebook cover photos that the company could alternate between throughout the summer months. On the company’s website, you can find the slogan “Expect Something More.” I wanted to incorporate this into my designs and portray a variety of environments where members could vacation to. I also wanted to evoke emotion, creating a desire for travel.

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Along with the cover photos, the rest of the Facebook page must also convey the same feel. The profile image should be kept as the simple logo, but posts should pertain to summer travel. The brand could highlight weekly travel spots to promote their deals, keeping with the “expect ______.” theme.

Bringing this idea over to Twitter, I also created a cover photo for the company’s profile. Though their Twitter is primarily focused around driving news and facts, the company could use this image if they decided to change their focus for the summer.

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AAA has a presence on most forms of social media. However, the company actually does not have an official Instagram. I think that creating one would be beneficial for the company, especially if they used it to feature travel destinations. They could also use it to promote driving facts and new information.

I created a sample image, using an overlay that the company could use to brand their summer campaign.

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To keep all imagery consistent, I made sure to place the logo on all materials and always use the same font, Bebas Neue Regular. I also used sunny, fun and attractive imagery. The hashtag I created, #ExpectSummer, could be used on Instagram and Twitter.

As for another social media channel I would recommend, I would choose to implement a company Tumblr. The company does have a travel blog, but it is a bit outdated and disorganized. A company’s Tumblr seamlessly blends in among regular user posts, and AAA could use one to create a revamped travel blog.

Autism Speaks Continued: Email Marketing

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the Autism Speaks organization and this is for solely educational purposes.

Let’s be honest: Most of us ignore the dozens of promotional emails that flood into our inbox each day. For users with Gmail, they’re automatically stored in their own neat little folder where they’re hardly ever opened. This being said, when I do decide to take a look, I really only pay attention to them if the subject line catches my eye and I like the design inside.

For Design Showcase 11, I was assigned to create an email to accompany the banner ads I designed last week to promote Autism Speaks’ Walk Now for Autism events. To recap, Walk Now for Autism Speaks is series of walkathon events that raise money and promote awareness for autism research. Because I had so much fun working on the banner ads last week, I knew that I would enjoy creating the email marketing.

I began my design process by writing out all of the requirements on a sheet of paper and sketching out a basic rectangular template for the email. I found some good promotional images on  Autism Speaks’ website, and decided from there that I wanted to use the three images to divide separate areas of text. To carry my theme from the banner ads over, I decided to use the phrase “always moving forward” written down the page imposed over my images. I sketched this out, adding lines to represent copy and filling in the blank space with squares for images. I designed it to be read vertically, optimal for email structure.

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Once I had my basic plan, I moved into Photoshop and measured everything out to the exact proportions I wanted. I put in the three images and began designing the text in between. I wanted the email to not only promote the walk, but also give some basic background on the events so that recipients on the mailing list could forward it to friends to stimulate new interest in the walk. I also added several features in the bottom panel where readers could get more information about the organization itself, share the email and contact the company.

My color choices came from the logo itself, and I also wanted to use the same colors as those in my banner ads. I also repeated the Sanchez font over the images to keep consistency between the two. I used flat, iconic imagery, including the recurring shoe print.

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I actually found this Design Showcase to be easier than some of my past assignments, but this may also have been because I was truly motivated and excited to work on it. The most difficult part was making sure that all of my text and shapes were properly aligned and spaced, as well as organizing all of the individual layers into groups.

Creating a Series of Banner Ads for Autism Speaks

Disclaimer: I am in no way affiliated with the Autism Speaks organization and this is for solely educational purposes.

Autism Speaks, a science and advocacy organization dedicated to furthering autism research, has always been a company that is close to my heart. My brother was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome as a young child, and so I grew up around autism support groups and lots of individuals facing the the autism spectrum.

One of the primary ways that Autism Speaks raises money and promotes awareness is through their annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks events. Across the country, groups organize to walk for the cause, and it is all supported through volunteers, families and local businesses. I have been to numerous of these walks and I have seen the impact that they have on the community.

That being said, I was excited to focus my Design Showcase this week on a worthwhile cause. I was assigned to create a series of banner ads that a company could use to advertise their current campaign. Since many of the walks take place during the second quarter of the year, I felt that this would be a perfect opportunity to promote them.

I began by looking at the company’s current branding and color scheme, deciding that I wanted to achieve a simple style that matched the colors of the recognizable logo of the brand. Since the silhouetted puzzle piece is commonly associated with autism, I decided that I wanted to focus on that and other similar flat imagery.

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Because the walk is a known annual event, I wanted the promotion line to convey a sense of establishment while also showing the organization’s devotion to progress. I decided on the tagline “10 years of progress and still moving forward.” I also decided to use a line of shoe prints as my main imagery to symbolize continuing forward while also literally referring back to the walk itself.

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In making each ad, I had to adjust the recurring elements to display them in the most appealing format for each canvas size. For most of the designs, I made the logo the most prominent piece, though this approach worked better on the horizontal ads. I changed the size and arrangement of the text to effectively cover the blue space and draw the viewer’s eye across the banner. I also kept the shoes in a right-facing horizontal pattern, only changing this for the skyscraper to keep the flow with the other ads and draw the viewer down the banner.

The final part of my assignment was to make one of the ads into a changing GIF. I decided to animate the skyscraper into three panels: The blank with just the logo, the added text, and the final completed banner with the call to action.

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