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Flashlight Valentine Card: Making it your own

I’ve gotten several lovely comments on the Flashlight Valentine Card printable, including one from Melissa. She wrote:

These are so cute! I was sitting here trying to design my own cards for flashlights. Nothing was working so off to Google I went for new ideas and bam I found your post. Thanks for the download. You saved my afternoon.

Isn’t that so nice? So then, on a whim, I replied with my thanks and mentioned how I’d love to see her end result, if she felt like sharing. To my delight, she followed up soon after with these two photos and a reply:

Hi Emily.  Attached is a couple pictures of what we did.  I had found the flashlights in town.  Loved how cute your finger ones were.  The kids were so excited to give them to their friends – I have 3.  I had been struggling all week trying to find just the right font.  So I was very excited to find your printable.  I didn’t have white card stock since I had planned on printing the ones I created on a kraft colored paper.  The colors would have been more vibrant had I used white card stock.  But I still like how they turned out. Thanks again for sharing your work.

Well, those words made my day! And also, I found it very interesting to see how Melissa chose to use a hole punch and secure her mini-flashlights with curling ribbon. I think they turned out great! Neat!

Thanks again, Melissa, for taking the time to share your project and for allowing me to share it too! 🙂



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Light Up Valentines + Free Printable PDF

Chloe worked on her Valentine cards right after breakfast this morning. I had designed these cards a few weeks back, knowing I had a stash of tiny finger flashlights for her to give away. These super bright LED Finger Flashlights are about 20¢ each when you buy a set on Amazon. Keeping their size in mind, I made a similar-sized flashlight with a heart and then included the phrase “You Light Up My Life Valentine.” Interestingly, this is the first time I felt like typefaces failed me. None of them looked quite right, so I ended up handwriting it and then scanning it in. Much better!

Here’s what the cards look like freshly printed:

This is what the packages of finger flashlights look like:

If you decide to add a finger light onto a card, use an x-acto knife to cut a small tab near the middle of the printed flashlight, like shown. Then slide the elastic loop onto the tab. Like this:

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Olive Hill Photography Logo

I don’t often blog about my graphic design projects, but I figured my friend Greta wouldn’t mind if I shared the logo I created for her up-and-coming child photography business. I think it depicts a nice mix of fresh, youthful and modern, and most importantly, she likes it too! I’ll be sharing some of the lovely photos she took of Chloe and I in the next post. 🙂


Mother's Day Card

Okay, this isn’t exactly a mother’s day card, but it will be what I’ll be sending out this year. I originally designed this card for Chloe’s Great Grandma Rita. Her birthday was right around Easter and even though we have a family calendar listing everyone’s birth dates (thanks Andrew & Aundrea!), we still missed it. Plus, this little mini-album fulfills my need to finally make a birth announcement-type card, without having to make more than a handful.

The inside shows monthly photos of Chloe from newborn to her current 5 months, and the back has a personalized line listing who it is for and the date.

It is kind of funny how projects like this start – I saw the baby feet stickers at the craft store and had no idea what I was going to do with them. I just thought they were so cute, and voilá, a project is born! 🙂

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Ladygil.com Banner & Avatar

I was recently contacted again by the talented Rachel of Ladygil.com to design another banner and avatar for her newest blog. Taking visual cues from the previous banners I made for her Etsy shop and studio blog, plus her love of green, we came up with this fun and friendly design. She’s excited about it and so am I. And check out the cute little promo magnets she had made using the avatar image. What a great idea!


Custom banner design

I was contacted via Etsy by the talented Sarah Gilreath back in November about doing a custom banner for her blog Sarah’s Studio. Lucky for me she is an incredibly patient person, because it took a while to complete due to the mad holiday rush. I recently sent her three versions, of which she chose this one. Then, because she liked one of the alternates as well, she decided to purchase a second along with an avatar for her Etsy shop, LadyGil Designs. Be sure to check out her adorable 2008 mini coaster calendar, too!


Special Gifts from Grandma Rita

japanese incense

This past year, David’s grandmother moved from the Kansas farmhouse where she has lived for almost 60 years and into a retirement community. In the process, she had to do quite a bit of downsizing. Each of her grandkids and their spouses then became the lucky recipients of certain items that she specifically decided to give them this Christmas.

For David, Rita chose two smurf drinking glasses which held two small smurf figurines. The figurines look like they’d seen many a fun time in the hands of little boys, with a solid weight unlike the cheap plastic toys found today. The glasses were in surprisingly good condition, the colors still rich, probably never having seen the inside of a dishwasher. They are almost 25 years old. Due to their fragile nature and the already fullness of our suitcases, we decided to leave them safely at David’s parents for safe-keeping.

For me, Rita chose the 3 ceramic asian bowls, which I love. David’s mom says that they were purchased in California, when David’s parents were living there and Rita came out for a visit. This was before David was even born. The two blue and white pieces with the abstract maple leaf pattern look practically modern. I’ve used the smaller bowl like a lid in the photo, to hide a thin brown fracture in the larger bowl, but I don’t mind it at all. They’re beautiful and I am grateful to have them.

asian bowls

My absolute favorite item that Rita included is a small box of Japanese perfumed incense. This is one of the rare times that Google completely failed me, with no matches to the name Kyonohana. The design and construction of the package and the colors and texture of the incense very much appeals to my inner graphic designer. Although the individual scents are long gone, the general fragrance still lingers in a lightly sweet and transportive way. David’s mom said that each of these items were chosen by Rita, but I can’t help but wonder how she chose what to give. Did she guess I would love these things? Did the fact that I am half asian influence her decision? One day I’d like to ask, but for now I’ll just be grateful, enjoy their beauty, and feel good about remembering to send a thank-you card.


Free gift to you (or someone else!)

Download and print these free notecards! (see below)

Okay, I know this post was supposed to fall on Christmas Eve, but Christmas Day will have to do. I’m working on a borrowed laptop (thank you, Andrew), because the operating system and software on our old laptop was more versions back than we thought. Oops.

Anyway, Merry Christmas to all of you out there in blog land. It is snowing here in Colorado where I am visiting with my husband’s family for the holidays. My first white Christmas in a long time. It is warm and cozy in the house though, with a fire going in the wood stove. We went to Christmas mass this morning and sang many traditional songs, which was fun. Now we’re waiting for David’s brother Eric, and his wife, Liza, and son, Paolo, to arrive. Their United flight was cancelled because the crew “just didn’t show up.” Can you believe that? Luckily United placed them on a similar flight through Continental, even though they had to layover. What’s worse, when they arrived at the airport they found that their bag with all the Christmas gifts had gotten lost. Sad. But the important thing is that they arrived safetly and are on their way.

Today marks the final day of my free weekly holiday posts. Thanks to everyone who left nice comments. I am so glad to hear that each pdf was so well received. As a final gift, today’s free download-and-print pdf is for a set of 3 Little Bird Notecards. One each of “Thank You,” “Happy Birthday,” and “Hello.” These are notecards that can be used throughout the year, not just during the holidays. Also, for those of you who are scrambling to come up with a last minute stocking stuffer, these could be great! Just print out a couple sets on cardstock, trim and wrap with ribbon and you are all set!

Merry Christmas everyone!!!


Free Holiday Cheer Board Game

Holiday Cheer Game

Holiday Cheer Board Game – download free pdf here

A couple of weeks ago while I was shopping at Michael’s I made several spur of the moment holiday purchases, including 2 foamy-style rubber-stamp blocks and 3 packages of epoxy stickers. I have no idea what made me pick these items up because I don’t stamp, or use stickers (much). There was just something pretty and tactile about them that made reach out and place them on the check stand. (Actually, I was just going to buy one stamp, but it didn’t have a sku tag, so the checkout girl asked if I could grab another. Then I heard myself saying “I’ll just take that one, too”). Thank goodness they didn’t cost much!

So I’ve had these foamy stamp blocks on my desk for a while now. David asked me why I bought them and I guiltily mumbled something about probably returning them, or using them for… something. Later, I found myself tossing one around and noticing how it bounced merrily before settling. Then I thought Eureka! I could design a holiday game for my nephew with it! (Okay, so I didn’t say Eureka!, but that word perfectly described how I felt. As in: Whew! If I can make something useful/fun, then I can be excused for making an impulse buy. After all, it must have been fate at work that day, right?).

This picture is misleading. These are the two stamps I bought, but only one is used for the game.

How to Play: Here was my thought process. The foamy stamp block would work like a die that you roll (there is a snowman side, a snowflake side, a kid’s face, the words “Let it Snow,” and two blank sides). Whatever lands face up is the icon that you’d move your game piece forward to on the board. Sounds pretty easy right? The only kicker is that when you roll a blank side you lose that turn and don’t get to move forward. I designed the whole game board with this idea in mind.

I should mention here that I don’t know anything about three and a half year old boys, or any kids at all for that matter (although two of my good friends are now expecting!). Paolo, our nephew, lives in Austin and we rarely see him. I could be totally wrong about skills at that age or his interest in something like this. However, the other night when I explained this game to Marcy, she said it sounded like Candyland, which I looked up and is rated for ages 3+, which is perfect.

To make a long story short, you can download my Holiday Cheer Game here. It’s pretty large, with a full size of 17 x 22″ so it has to be printed out (or tiled) in four sections if you’re printing it out on regular letter-sized paper, like I did. Then I pasted the sheets to a larger piece of thin cardstock for durability/foldability.

Playing Cards: Unless you happen to find the same stamp block at Michael’s, the best way to play is to print out a second set of pages and cut out the squares from the game board to use as cards. Instead of rolling a die, you would set the stack of “cards” face down and each player would draw a card and then move his or her game piece forward to the nearest icon indicated. You would also have to cut out some “blank” cards to use as “lose a turn.”

Holiday Cheer Game

These are the simple plastic playing pieces I made . I would have preferred something more 3D, but they seem to work okay.

Game Pieces: I made game pieces out of Shrinky Dinks plastic (I am having such fun with that stuff!), but any small objects will do. Playing pieces from another game, a set of erasers, coins, bottle caps or anything that will fit on the squares should work.

Advanced Play: Depending on the level of the players, you can make the game harder by adding additional rules. For example, instead of two players sharing a square, maybe the original player gets kicked off his space and moved backward to the nearest same icon. Or maybe he moves all the way back to start! It’s up to you.

Have fun!


Drawing on other people's creativity

“Treehouses” limited edition cards (photo and design from Kirin & Co)

I was thinking today that I should feature other people’s designs more often, especially the ones that really strike me as particularly beautiful, creative, cool or otherwise inspiring. Since I can’t afford to buy anything right now (see this post if you’re wondering why), I thought it would be like “window shopping” using my monitor… or maybe it would be more like curating my own imagined shop? Plus, I’m really hoping to motivate myself to begin at least one of the projects that have been sitting in the back of my mind.

One of my very recent favorite finds is the letterpressed card shown above, a collaboration between Lara Cameron, an Australian designer, and Lynn Russel of Satsuma Press, based right here in Portland. There are a set of three designs: treehouses (above), japanese tree, and birch. According to Lara’s Etsy shop, each card is letterpress printed with a vandercook sp-15 on crane’s 100% cotton lettra paper with hand mixed inks. However, if you live in the US you’d save on postage by purchasing from Lynn’s shop. I love the single use of color, the mixture of thin lines and solid shapes, and especially the little details.

“Japanese Tree” limited edition letterpressed cards (photo and design from Kirin & Co)

“Birch” limited edition letterpressed cards (photo and design from Kirin & Co)


"Be Green" Promotional Materials

We recently received a promotional package in the mail from a local printer. It contained a custom folder which held a brochure on sustainability, a shopping list-sized note pad, a page of 10 “Be Green” stickers and a unique bamboo pen. It was quite a good-looking presentation. Obviously, they wanted to both promote that they are an FSC certified printer and to educate their clients about sustainability, including tree-free paper alternatives, recycled content, Green Seal certification, clean wind power, and the impacts of air polution, de-forestation and waste.

But here’s the question: Did they do a good job? I’m not just talking about the graphic design itself, but the whole package. I mean, does the piece put into practice what is being preached about sustainability?

I’ll agree that the design and presentation scored points with me, besides, who doesn’t like the occasional freebie in the mail? I certainly do. However, I’ll probably use the pen and the pad, but likely not the stickers, and the brochure, folder and mailing envelope have already found their way into the recycling bin. I wonder though, how many other people will simply throw everything away? What a waste of money and resources that would be.

When we, as designers, are asked to work on a piece touting sustainability, how far is too far and how little is not enough? Gone are the days when a “sustainable” look included a muddy duotone of green and brown on grey unbleached paper. That just isn’t (or rarely) cool. Now companies want to look “environmentally friendly,” but often that is all it is, a “look” using leafy textures and nature photographs. In practice, they want no less than full color, full bleeds (regardless of the waste from trim), and fancy varnishes, even if it would be more environmentally friendly to go without. So I ask myself, was it necessary to varnish the stickers? Were all the bleeds and die-cuts necessary, considering the wasted paper that would produce? How about the mailing envelope? Did it have to be a bubble mailer? These are just a few questions that I think responsible designers and companies can ask themselves, to see if they are walking the walk and not just talking the talk. Maybe the best we can ask for right now is a balance – FSC Certified/100% clean wind power credits balanced with full color, bleeds, and varnishes.

Lastly, I think part of the responsibility also falls on the consumer to make the effort as well. It takes only minutes to cancel old catalog subscriptions and opt out of “junk” mailing lists (not saying this was junk mail) whenever possible. Case in point, we received two of the promotional packages, one addressed to our company and the other specifically to my husband, so it would be our responsibility to contact the printer and let them know to drop one, so duplicates will not happen again.


Why I bought an imac

imac side

This past weekend I finally broke down and bought a new imac. Somehow I missed puremotif’s Mac Dreams post – we could have been commiserating together – apparently she was also struggling with the decision to buy, although she eventually chose a laptop. I can only hope my old ibook will hold out a little bit longer.

Working on my old G4 was just getting too painful… waiting for items to load or save, not being able to work properly on large files, and seeing the “wheel of death” way too often … it was just too much. I think I was beginning to loose my sanity. Plus, while working at my old design firm I got really used to scrolling with a mighty mouse and not just an optical. It’s kind of embarrassing how we get used to new technology and feel like we can’t live without it.

So, why did I go with an imac? Price, really. Since I’ve been working at home more than ever (which is still not as much as I’d like) I realized that it only made sense to have the proper equipment. Although, in some ways, I wish I could have waited, and maybe purchased a G5 tower. Besides being stronger and faster, it would have lasted much longer due to its many user customizable and upgradeable features. With the imac, I learned, the only upgrade I can do myself, without an apple certified specialist, is adding memory.

On the other hand, lucky David already has a G5. You’d think we might have been able to split time on it a little bit better, but when two graphic designers get simultaneous jobs, it is hard to sit and wait around (me) knowing that clients expect a reasonable turnaround. Also, we both do other computer-related activities like Age of Empires/surfing the web/emailing (David) and blogging/photo archiving/surfing the web/emailing (Me). Actually, it is downright scary how long we sit in front of our computers – our chairs maybe 2 feet away, yet world’s away in our heads.

And lastly, I had a monitor problem. Can you imagine concentrating on a project, only to have the screen go blank for several seconds at random every once in a while? Just the memory of that makes me GRRR!!! I will admit that patience is not one of my better virtues. It just isn’t. Thus, my brand new imac. I only wish they still came in white. 🙂


"Stranger than Fiction" Movie + Infographics

It is very unusual for David and I to find a movie that we both enjoy, but we recently netflixed Stranger than Fiction, which falls into that rare category. It is a comedy/drama about a lonely IRS agent (Will Ferrell) who starts to hear a voice narrating in his head. Turns out the voice belongs to eccentric novelist Karen Eiffel (played by Emma Thompson) who is on the verge of killing him off, not realizing her main character is real. Other supporting roles are played by the ever charming Maggie Gyllenhaal (the love interest), Dustin Hoffman (a professor who Harold goes to for advice), and Queen Latifah (who plays Karen’s writing assistant). The film’s unique storyline is artistic, dramatic, funny, poignant, revealing and classic.

Picture clipping of two frames out of the animated opening credits sequence (see video, below)

Picture clippings during the introduction of the main character (see video, below)

Beyond the story, however, is a very well done method of info graphics that was pretty intriguing. I don’t know why, but there is no hint of it in the trailer, so it came as a surprise while we were watching. David did a little online research and found the info graphics were done by MK12. Their site is definitely worth checking out because they’ve done some wildly cool design and animation. David also came across the blog infosthetics.com, who also posts about this subject.

I suggest watching the trailer before watching the opening sequence below, just so there is a better understanding of the film.

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