Monday, May 18, 2009

Dreaming in purple

It's spring. The sun is shining (ok, it's usually shining. This is, after all, Los Angeles) birds are singing, the tree outside my window is once again covered in beautiful green leaves, and I get the itch for flowers. I always try madly to ignore this itch: cut flowers live for a short while and then die. Which equals big mess for Dani to clean up, before my cat-niece gets to it. And as for potted plants ... well, I've long ago come to terms with the fact that not only do I not have a green thumb, I have a black thumb. I have even managed to kill a cactus. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, plants and I don't get along. If I have to take care of them, that is.

And still, I love flowers. Maybe it's my girlie side coming through, maybe it's just my aesthetic sensibilities and appreciation for all things beautiful. I haven't often received flowers in a romantic fashion, though I really appreciate it when I do (in spite of the afore-mentioned clean-up).

My favorite flowers - by far - are tulips. In purple, naturally. My tastes lean in the direction of clean, crisp lines, and of all flowers tulips deliver on this aspect. Tulips are flowers that don't need company in a vase. They hold their own, proud, unhampered and unencombered by such fussiness as baby's breath or grasses. They are simple, classic, and timeless. As for the color - there is just something about purple that makes my heart go pitter-pat every time I see it. There isn't a splash of it in my apartment currently, though my car is, indeed, purple.

Now I've waxed poetic long enough about the virtues of purple tulips, and the urge to hop on over to Trader Joe's and buy a bouquet would be overwhelming if not for the fact that I'm down with the flu. For curious parties, here's a great arrangement of my favorite flowers, as done by FTD. It can be purchased here. Happy spring!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Need inspiration?


Creativity is fun. Creativity is exciting. Creativity is joyful. Unfortunately, creativity does not always show up on demand. So what to do when you've got a great but vague idea for a background and need that extra little something to take that idea through execution?

Truth is, inspiration is all around you. From the way the rays of the sun shine through the leaves of the tree outside your window, to the way the magnet got knocked askew on your fridge, any visual can be that trigger that sends your imagination soaring. But for those times when you're really stuck the web is a treasure-trove of inspiration, if you just know where to look.

Want to design something fresh and new? Grasping for ideas to even begin designing a layout? Why not see some great examples of what's already out there. A great first stop is one (or both) of the sites that aggregate the best of Twitter background design: Twitter Background Gallery and Killer Tweets. Here you'll find examples of how to effectively break the grid for a Twitter background while making it work within the parameters of Twitter. Scrolling through the galleries you'll also get a feel for which areas of the design to concentrate on most, as well as some themes and styles for your potential design.

When I'm on the hunt for inspiration my next step is usually looking at more generic background ideas on one of two sites: Deviant Art's Wallpaper section has such a huge range of subjects - from tech to goth to pop culture - that something inevitably catches my eye. The stock website iStock Photo is another great resource. Do a photo/illustration search on "background" and you'll come up with some wonderful examples, from simple textures to incredibly ornate illustrations.

A selection of the wallpaper designs available on Deviant Art

By now you should have a fair idea of the style and rough layout for the background you'd like to design. It's at this point that I usually turn to some of my favorite Photoshop and Illustrator tutorial sites for ideas on how to create specific elements for my design. There are so many great effects that can be created with these two programs, I know I've barely scratched the surface of what's possible. These sites will provide you with not only ideas on what to do, but step-by-step instructions on how to achieve the effect you seek (err ... as is the purpose of tutorial sites, I suppose). Some tutorial sites that are great resources are: Abduzeedo, Color Burned, Tutorial 9, Photoshop Lady, PSD Fan, PSD Tuts, Vector Tuts, Vectips and Veerle's Blog.

End result of one of the great tutorials on Veerle's Blog

Now you've got the know-how, but what about the tools? The sites mentioned above are generally also great resources for various Adobe freebies - brushes, styles, actions, patterns, swatches. However, there are some other great resources that should not be overlooked. Check out Brusheezy, Vecteezy, My Photoshop Brushes, Deviant Art's Application Resources section, and Adobe's own Exchange and Kuler (a great resources for browsing, creating and downloading swatch libraries that can be used in all Adobe applications).

Still can't quite put your finger on that color/texture/pattern that's itching the back of your brain? One mustn't overlook the importance of more generalized design blogs. These sites that pull examples of great design from a wide variety of disciplines - interior, industrial, fashion, graphics, photography and more. Seeing a range of seemingly disparate things put together just might be that last element that polishes off your creation. Some of my personal favorites for inspiration are 100 Layer Cake, Design*Sponge, Decor8, and Oh Joy!

An example of 100 Layer Cake's idea board - great for adding details to a "feel"

Hope these resources help you materialize what you're seeing in your mind's eye. Most importantly: have fun designing!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A New Endeavor

Thanks to everyone's support, I am now a featured (and paid!) Twitter background designer on Killer Tweets and Twitter Backgrounds Gallery. Check them out for my newest works, to read my articles (soon) and/or to hire me!

Freelance jobs have been sporadic at best of late, and so I'm exploring all avenues for making a bit of extra cash. I've fairly recently happened onto the phenomenon that is Twitter, and naturally commenced personalizing my profile. My Tweeps oohed and aahed my background, and I began designing customized backgrounds for them, as well. I soon realized I could be making some money from all this, and so I will be embarking on a mini-design adventure.

So far one of my designs has been featured on Twitter Backgrounds Gallery (all votes would be highly appreciated, just look for OhDaniB). They'll be featuring other designs and I'll be launching a blog to market my custom Twitter background service, but in the meantime you can see my works here:

Love Your Tile

One of the things that bug about living in an apartment and being a design geek it's that many times the built-ins are ... not quite what I would have picked out. Whether ugly, old, or just plain boring, it can be very difficult to modify certain apartment features to one's liking in a manner that is reversible (I may be an aesthetic snob, but I'd rather not give up my deposit for a bit of taste). Tiles can be the worst offenders: my good friends E&J decorated their spacious 2-bedroom beautifully. And still they were stuck with a bathroom that was tiled in pink and mint green. Plus the decorative tiles in their kitchen were actually installed upside-down!

Finally there's a remedy even for this: introducing Tile Tattoos. Available from Exclusively Home and Huset, these sticky-backed appliques can add interest to the boring and disguise the unattractive, while being completely removable. With design ranging from contemporary to retro, subtle to statement, there's bound to be something for everyone.

Mibo Tile Tattoos - Bembridge, Chessel, Loverstone, Shanklin, and Ventnor

Friday, March 20, 2009

And the Worst Logo award goes to ...

I try not to be a design snob. Really, I do. I do get frustrated sometimes when people who have access to professionals choose to go with "designed at home" items that are actually doing them a disservice, but I understand what I do is essentially subjective. As I'm currently pursuing my MBA, and as I'm a self-described Brand-Geek™ (blog in the works), it's something I'm actually actively researching.

I've spoken to some branding professionals who see graphic design as simply a commodity: a means to an end and nothing more. These same individuals – and many others – argue that with the omnipresence of design software everyone can be a graphic designer. I, of course, whole-heartedly disagree with that assessment. My personal belief is that the availability of these software programs allows anyone to design graphics, but does not make them graphic designers. Yes, there is a lot of bad design out there, and more is created every hour. But, unlike the previously mentioned branding professionals, I believe that this will only make good, truly professional and educated design key to differentiation and success. When there's a bunch of trash out there, the gems stand out all the more.

So, to all so-called graphic designers who are as unfamiliar with concept development, strategy and hierarchy as I am with brain surgery I say: keep on keeping on. The more of your work that gets out there, the better my work looks. Hopefully your work won't end up featured on this blog: At the very least, it could be a good resource for education.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Literature can be art in more than one way

I love books. I love art. These facts are not news to those who know me. I also love my homeland of Israel (yes, I was actually born there). And I've found someone who combines these three loves beautifully.

His name is Nir Golan, and he specializes in doodling in books. Yes, it may sound like something we all did during class, but in Nir's hands it's so much more. Nir finds old books - some with lovely inscriptions, which you won't be able to read unless you read Hebrew - and turns them into artistic masterpieces. His site can be found here.

Monday, March 16, 2009

What's old is new once again

Thanks to Mr. Stephen Fry via Twitter (@StephenFry), I've discovered these fantastic watches. As I looked deeper into them, I thought to myself: "These are quite cutting edge! Very cool! Very expensive. Would love to have one!" And then something caught my eye: "Original design: 1972". Say what??? Yup, these are (for the most part) resuscitated designs from the late 60's and early 70's. What was ugly is beautiful once again, in the cyclical nature of fashion. Here are some examples, so you can see what I mean:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Looking for logo inspiration?

Then look no further than Logo Gala. This relatively new site is a great depository of logo designs. If you're looking for ideas, you're bound to find inspiration here. Obsessed with logos and branding as I am, I was happy to discover that they are having a giveaway in celebration of their spectacular growth. From their site:

LogoGala has been online now for exactly two months. Its growth in that short period of time has far surpassed the expectations that I had before launch. In a short two months, LogoGala has quickly become a popular site for logo inspiration and is by far my most popular site.

To celebrate the success LogoGala has seen so far, I’ve decided to run a promotion which I hope will help get LogoGala even more exposure. Oh, did I mention that I’m giving away some great prizes? I didn’t? Well, in return for your helping me promote the site, I’ve got some great prizes to give away.

What are the Prizes?

So join me in celebrating Logo Gala and their endeavor, and maybe pick up some great design ideas in the process. You can see all the details here.

Classic silhouettes, updated

When trolling the 'net last year for decor for my apartment, one trend that really caught my eye was the flattening or reinterpretation of classic silhouettes. Generally speaking I definitely tend more towards modern and stay very far away from what I consider to be more busy or heavier shapes. However, I found that this new take on these forms pleased both my modern aesthetic and my girly-but-not-too-girly side. For this first collection of Internet finds, I present the following:

Clockwise, from top left: Silhouette pedestal side table, Trollsta side table, Vintage Shelf, Hemnes bedside table, Silhouette console table, Vika Hyttan/ Vika Fintorp Table

Clockwise, from top left: 3-D Chandelier, Ghost Candelabra, Bari Pendant, Calista Glass Cylinder Tealight Holders

Clockwise, from top left: Lost Cuckoo Clock, Fantome Clock, Illusion Champagne Flutes, Vintage Style Ivy Vinyl Wall Chalkboard Decal, Myrica Sir Elton Electric Headboard, Illusion Wine Glasses

And, last but not least (my friend A.S. actually proposed with these):
Acrylic Diamond Rings

Thursday, March 12, 2009

G-ma's Liptauer Cheese

I promised I would post this a while ago, but as I usually eyeball all the measurements (per g-ma's instructions) I had to make it again. So, I've now made it again (per requests from fam as well as J.C. & A.S.). At long last, here's my g-ma's recipe for Liptauer Cheese. I like it on toast best, but J.C. has been using it as a dip. Regardless, it's yummy & addictive. And no, it doesn't taste like anchovies, so buck up!

G-ma's Liptauer Cheese

  • 12 oz. whipped cream cheese
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. anchovy paste (can be found by the canned tuna usually)
  • 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup green onion (scallions), finely sliced
  1. In a large bowl, combine sour cream and cream cheese until smooth.
  2. Stir in mustard, anchovy paste, paprika and cayenne.
  3. Fold in green onions until evenly disbursed.
  4. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours, then taste and adjust mustard/anchovy paste/cayenne as desired.
And that's it! I usually keep the cream cheese/sour cream containers for storage of the Liptauer.