Thinking without Thinking Final Cover

The final Thinking without Thinking cover has been printed. John Hopkins Press was incredibly open about what they wanted for the cover, so I gave them a few options to pick from. After a bit of back and forth on what kind of brain synapses photograph they wanted, the author provided her own. Apparently, Ryan has friends doing this work with brain imaging so she acquired a hi-res photograph we modified. A great intersection of humanities and science! The photo we used was definitely the best of our stock photo images.

Original lab photo provided by author, Ryan.
I modified the image to black and white, blurred and overlapped particular areas to create more visual interest and texture where I needed it.

I am thankful the author had access to such quality images, I think it made a HUGE difference in the final outcome, especially if you see the possible options before we received her hi-res image. Stock photos—as you can see, you get what you pay for.

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Letterpress Printing

Kyle made this awesome animated gif of me printing at his shop Baltimore Print Studios!  (gif made using the free Jittergram app) Stay tuned for the a preview of what I was printing…

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File Prep and Proofing

I’ve been working with Erin to get her invitation suite custom printed through paper source. The top three are digital mockups, and the bottom two were the initial postcards we designed (and printed through I adore Paper Source. I used their envelopes and template liners for my own wedding and Erin is also a big fan.

To prep for printing we had to send all artwork in black so they could be colored by the Paper Source in-house team. Because of some of the detailed coloring we were doing with the blossoms I attached both a color and black PDF with instructions on what color is where. My mistake is that I sent them to-size files with no bleed.

Paper source just sent the digital proofs which are very handy for checking on things like color and bleeds. Because of my error of not setting files that could provide invitations with a bleed, we needed to change a few things so I sent an annotated PDF with images to mark the problem areas.

I’m such a visual person, I needed to mock it up as a visual. I used the red to call attention what needed to be fixed, while the below example with green brings attention to the correct application of artwork/color.

Erin is being given the option to have a complimentary printed proof sent to her, I told her to take it. Things like the transparency are often PDF reader problems, so its always best to ensure what it’ll look like in real life—especially if it’s free!

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Tree Love


Another design for an upcoming wedding. This is a digital Save the Date they’ll be sending via email.  I hand illustrated the branches then translated using the pen tool in illustrator.

I did the tree illustration in Illustrator as well. She wanted to work with the aesthetic of chipboard and white ink. The plan is to letterpress chipboard with white for the formal invitations. I can hardly wait!

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No “BOB”

I’ve been designing a lot of wedding invitation suites lately, and the latest are for Bobbie and Ben who have expressed that they’d like a monogram that doesn’t read as “BOB”. Above are inital sketches the bride wanted to see. It will be a traditional southern affair in Atlanta, so they want modern spins on traditional elements (like monograms) to prevent it from feeling too stuffy. Below are the most recent drafts of the monogram. No resolution yet…

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Designing about Thinking

I’ve been working on the cover for a book titled, Thinking without Thinking in the Victorian Novel. I spent the morning reading and researching around victorian designs, arts and crafts movement and looking at typefaces created during the Victorian era. The photographic nerve images are from an initial idea from the client, while the rest are iterations from my own sketches playing with the idea of thinking and analyzing thinking—which I precieve to be a meta experience. So, I started to play with boxes and repetition.

I got a surge of inspiration when I found old archival drawings from the original Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass books. The etching style created a beautiful juxtaposition to the clean vector silhouettes. I believe the strongest one is the all black and white that uses a chessboard illustration in the background. Chess is a comfortable metaphor for complex content of the book.

The light blue and amber/gray color palettes are eye dropped from patterns pulled from images I pulled from William Morris archives.

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New Review: A History of Graphic Design for Rainy Days

My newest from The Designer’s Review of Books is up! (also posted below)

Who can resist a book that provides a paper doll of Saul Bass?

Jam-packed, whirlwind, and charming are the three best words to describe A History of Graphic Design for Rainy Days from Gestalten Press. On a rainy afternoon “somewhere in some country” the reader is introduced to the two main characters, Gramps and Kiddo. The young bored Kiddo ventures into the office of his Gramps, who is working on a letterpress machine.

Kiddo asks the simple question, “What in the world is graphic design?”

To answer the question, Gramps takes the curious Kiddo on an illustrated journey through time to learn the history of graphic design. Designed by Studio 3, the book is an inviting graphic novel that is easy to pick up and immediately start reading. It is also very ambitious.

Beginning at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in 1776 and traveling through time to the Digital Revolution of the 1990s Gramps and Kiddo make an appearance on every spread as they jump from historical events like Art Nouveau, Polish Poster Designs, and Postmodernism. The reader will find Kiddo holding a conversation in the men’s bathroom with Jan Tschichold and later see him stumble into a bar as Aleksander Rodchenko throws one back with his Russian Constructivist buddies. There is also something delightful about watching Gramps grill a burger in an IBM apron as Paul Rand suns himself in a nearby lounge chair.

However, do not let the humor undercut the historical and intellectual merits of the book.

In Bauhaus, the information is spread through several pages using text-heavy talk bubbles and displaying diagrams like the Bauhaus course wheel and Johannes Itten’s Farbkreis color wheel. There are even small timelines that mark current events like when the BBC was founded or when the Great Depression began.

Building on their experience from Hyperactivity Typography from A to Z, Studio 3 infuses every inch of A History of Graphic Design for Rainy Days with informative texts about leaders of design, seminal works and important technologies.

Each spread uses two colors with famous design pieces reworked as one-color illustrations. Cartoons of important design figures like Paul Rand and Jessica Helfand pop up throughout the book. This graphic stylization allows for visual consistency while maintaining the iconic integrity of each piece and person.

The book introduces historical genres at every turn. Readers learn the conventions of Art Nouveau as Eugene Grasset sits and cheers his fellow designer outside a Paris Café,

“Merci, Cheret! Indeed, this movement is really focusing on organic forms and the female shapes and that is also where I find my inspiration. But what I find most delightful is that we no longer copy directly from nature nor from the past. We invent!”

Even the influence of graphic design in outer space is covered.

“Did you know that the first typeface to ever walk the moon was Futura? NASA used it on the commemorative plaque for Apollo 11 which they left on that big piece of rock in 1969.”

The book is peppered with activities and timelines for topics like the Bauhaus, Penguin Books and Punk Design. There are fill-in-the blank exercises, crossword puzzles and even a color-your-own Rietveld Red, Blue Chair in the Bauhaus section. While these activities are engaging and fun, they can be difficult to answer correctly if the reader is not familiar with graphic design history.

Coming to the book as a relative novice to the topic, I was stumped by a fill-in-the-blank asking for the names of the design duo that created Émigré magazine. (Rudy VanderLans and Zuzana Licko) I flipped to the back of the book hoping to find an answer key. No luck. It was frustrating not to have answers to reference. A credit page states that the answers are posted online at but unfortunately, at the time of publishing this review, there was no answer key on the book’s website.

However, I did find a nice surprise at the back of the book. Here, a series of paper pieces beg to be cut out. Readers can trim and display a First Things First Manifesto or construct a Macintosh computer circa 1990. Or, they may simply play with the paper dolls of Josef Müller-Brockmann and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.

For those new to graphic design history, the book is an easy introduction to important people and ideas. Experienced history buffs will be entertained by the graphic translation of serious genres, and even get to test their knowledge on the various quizzes and interactive elements. The strength and charm of the book lies in its illustration style and humorous narrative of the history of graphic design.

And also, that paper doll of Saul Bass.

Publisher Information
Graphic Design History for Rainy Days is set to release in the US, November 2011 through Gestaltan Press. You can support the Designer’s Review of Books by ordering from Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE )

About the Reviewer
Ann Liu Alcasabas is graphic designer, educator and devout coffee drinker. She is currently freelancing and teaching graphic design in Baltimore at the Maryland Institute College of Art. You can follow her @annmaryliu, and find her work online at

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Erin + Chris

I designed and illustrated a Save the Date for friends, Erin and Chris. It’s based off their concept that they’ve lived and traveled all over the country together. They also wanted a play off the phrase “Meet Me in St. Louis”. With their colors of gray and light yellow and a list of some icons they wanted for each city, we were off!

I hadn’t done a lot of icon or illustration before this project. Creating icons is no easy feat. I began by rendering detailed illustrations of building and statues from different cities, but quickly realized that I needed simple, bold shapes shapes and strokes that could render in the small .25″ space they’d be printed in.

Pictured below is the comparison between the icon I used (left) and my original vector illustration (right)

As you can see through the actual printing size and placement below, the window details are muddled and you lose the visual separation. I went back to each icon to distill it down to more simple shapes and spaces.

Now that I’ve experienced the issue of scale in icon design, I really want to go back and refine them even more!

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Hello, DC!

Veering into peach/soft yellow tones now!

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Always Enjoy

Using the Coke “C” and all of it’s little turns, twists and overlaps as part of my UNIQLO Coca-Cola Grand Prix 2012 Submission.

Also, how awesome is this South Africa Folk Art Bottle? I found it while browsing the Heritage section of Coke’s website. Some beautiful photographs and illustrations in there.

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