Diversify with discipline

The more I grow as an artist,
the more I think I become like my father as an artist.
The more I diversify,
the more I become like my father, which is true to who he was.
[Ziggy Marley]

Pre-art-school work

I produced the booklet at the right before I went to art school in the early 1980s. Getting it ready to go to print was the catalyst that sent me into graphic design training.

I went to a print shop to ask how I needed to fix my booklet for printing. In five minutes, the printer gave me advice I’ve used over and over. He said:
1. If you can’t afford color, pick good paper and ink with a slight tint.
2. Lay it out black on white. Use this blue pen to make marks that you don’t want to show, and then he gave me the pen and paper with a pale blue grid.

After that experience, I thought I’d specialize in publication design. The real world, where a person puts food on the table and a roof over one’s head, taught me different. Here are 5 items I’ve learned about career direction as an independent designer since 1985:

  1. Diversify… Unless you live in a large metropolitan area where you can work for a big agency or publication firm, you can find more work if you can do more than one thing well. There are people (very few) who can earn a tidy living from book cover design. There are others (very few) who can sell their illustration work in high enough volume that they can earn a living. There are people who only design logos and collateral pieces, and those who specialize only in web design, etc. Most of us, however, need to tailor our services to our client base. That means we need to diversify.
  2. … with discipline. Among other tasks, I design, produce and maintain websites. Every so often, I have to remind myself that I’m offering services as an artist/designer when a client needs programming on a site. I learned HTML and keep up with the advances in the field, but I’m not a programmer. I hire someone to help. I can do some Flash production, but I hire a Flash person for involved jobs. I know nothing about video production so I hire someone for that.
  3. Define what you have to offer clients so that you can stay on point. I want quality to be my hallmark. I also want my clients to know that, when they turn a project over to me, they no longer have to worry about its timely outcome. I can only learn and do so much. Therefore, I can offer a variety of services, but I only offer what I can deliver and still maintain my standards.
  4. Tend to business. Keep thorough client, project, time, and financial records. Business management is a profession in itself. It is often a challenge for non-business people to adequately organize and manage a business. Good records not only help at tax time, but they help in knowing how much money is coming in and how much is going out—a necessity for making sound decisions.
  5. Keep Learning. The pace of change in the graphic design field, especially in technology, is speeding up. Keeping ahead of the curve is a challenge. Ongoing training is essential.

Slight change of direction

It’s never too late – in fiction or in life – to revise.
[Nancy Thayer]

Every so often, a person has to decide whether to fish or cut bait*. The prospect of spending money was the main catalyst for making a firm decision. Would I upgrade my software to Adobe CS6 Design Premium Suite, and extend my membership on Lynda.com for another year of software tutorials, or would I keep what I have and let my business slip into obsolescence? I’ve decided to fish, or rather to keep working instead of fading into retirement. I don’t believe in retirement and I love my work so it wasn’t a hard decision to make.

I do, however, feel the need to redefine the direction of my business. The software upgrade and tutorials will help me adapt my work environment to the rapid changes in the publishing industry. I’ve thrived in this business for over 25 years by adapting to change and redefining my business objectives – I’ve come a long way from Dazzle Draw, t-squares and rubber cement. Here is my working list:

  1. Acquire professional-level production skills at using the new software upgrades.
  2. Revise my online presence (website and blogs) to reflect my new business direction.
  3. Continue to serve my current publishing and web clients.
  4. Polish, lay out, publish and market online, 30 of my knitting designs into enhanced electronic files.
  5. Offer my services as a speaker/instructor in the fields of both graphic design and hand knitting skills.
  6. Explore the possibilities of developing an electronic magazine, an Apple book app, and even an electronic game.

I’ve taken three steps to start this process:

  1. I renewed Lynda.com membership for another year
  2. I ordered a CS6 upgrade. I prefer to have Adobe ship the boxed version rather than simply getting a downloaded version.
  3. Graphic Design Notes has been my online portfolio for several years. I’m adding posts about graphic design tips and thoughts to its offerings.

*fish or cut bait: I am using the modern interpretation here – cutting bait meaning to cut the line and quit fishing.

Portuguese Style of Knitting—Book

Someday the sun is going to shine down on me
in some faraway place.

[Mahalia Jackson]

Andrea Wong introduced her new knitting book, Portuguese Style of Knitting, at the TNNA convention in Columbus, Ohio in June of 2010. She and I worked together on the layout and design of the book for a year. What a delightful experience. I felt like I’d won a chance to travel to faraway places with strange sounding names even though I stayed in my own studio and she traveled.

I laid out this 96-page book in Adobe InDesign, and used Adobe Acrobat to distribute copies for proofing. Then the book was printed in full color and perfect bound by Friesens Corporation in Altona, Manitoba, Canada.

2011 Willowgreen Products

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful,
we must carry it with us or we find it not.
[Ralph Waldo Emerson]

2010 was a busy year for production at Willowgreen. The following briefly describes a selection of our work:

Willowgreen’s 1-Minute Inspirations
What can you communicate in 60 seconds that matters? That inspires a little? That appeals to the eye and the ear? That touches the heart and the soul? These are the questions that Jim Miller attempts to answer on Willowgreen’s 1-Minute Inspirations every week. A new 1-Minute Inspiration debuts each Wednesday morning. To browse this blog, select this LINK

The Gift of Healing Presence: The Book
Our newest book, The Gift of healing Presence: Encouraging Thoughts for Busy Caregivers, focuses on ten basic thoughts that simplify the process of being a healing presence. Only 32 pages long, incorporating one-page chapters and highlighting Jim Miller’s full color photography, this book gives caregivers the background and encouragement they need to be a healing presence for those in their care.

The Gift of Healing Presence: The Audiovisual
In Willowgreen’s newest audiovisual on the subject of healing presence, you can hear Jim Miller’s voice while watching his carefully orchestrated images illustrate the words of his most recent book. Photography from nature picks up on the nuances of the message, inviting the viewer to make personal associations. The eleven-part DVD can be viewed in its entirety or a section at a time. It is ideal for group meetings and workshops.

Un Ser Amado Ha Fallecido
El Duelo Como Camino Hacia Su Restablecimiento

The wisdom and encouragement of Willowgreen’s 32 page book, One You Love Has Died, is newly available in Spanish. Now you can share this popular book with those for whom Spanish is their preferred language.

eBooks
We’ve moved quickly to make 15 of our Willowgreen titles available in electronic format for use on various e-readers. Now you can carry our books with you with ease and read them wherever you go. All of our eBooks can be purchased and downloaded directly from our website. They will also be available through other major distributors.

Audiobooks
To keep our work as accessible as possible, we’re adding this new line of products that can be downloaded almost anywhere, any time. Jim Miller has narrated several of our more popular books, with plans to complete more in the coming months. You can access them directly from our website.

Peace UCC Website

The way we communicate with others and with ourselves
ultimately determines the quality of our lives.
[Anthony Robbins]

The new site that I designed and produced for Peace United Church of Christ serves to communicate both the church’s activities and those of a school that is attached to the church. The differences between the church and school parts of the site are subtle and seamless but fairly separate. This site consists of 75 server-side pages with the menus coded in include files. Each page is designed to fit in a browser window with minimal scrolling.

Willowgreen Publishing Catalog

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread,
places to play in and pray in,
where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

[John Muir]

Past catalogs

2009 Catalog

The 2005 and 2006 Willowgreen Publishing catalogs (above, left) were laid out in QuarkXpress. I used Adobe InDesign for the 2007 and 2008 layouts (above, right). The 2009 catalog (right) has recently shipped.

Every August, I look forward to this job. The owner of Willowgreen, Jim Miller, is a photographer so I have an endless supply of inspiring photographs from which to choose—a delight for a publication designer.