Monday, May 28, 2012

Monique Sterling

I came across Monique Sterling's portfolio on Behance, and I was drawn to the way she uses simple imagery to make a strong statement.  Plus, I'm a sucker for Disney movies, and she made a whole series of minimalist Disney posters like this one.

How would you describe your work? 
I would describe my work as quirky, quite vibrant and radiant. I love simplicity but sometimes I find myself creating complicated designs that appear to be so chaotic and complicated.

How did you end up pursuing graphic design professionally?
My pursuit for graphic design began in my junior year of high school, when I began taking my first career class, Graphic Communications. Then for my senior year, we had a choice of choosing Graphic Communications or Web Design from our list of interests. I chose Graphic Communications because I loved creating artwork and working with the computer. I also love being more hands on. I felt that graphic design allows me to be more creative in a way. I am interesting in web design, but at the time, I wasn't very good and it and I found it quite tedious. 

I read in your bio that you plan on studying web design when you're done with school. How do web design and graphic design relate and interact for you?
After studying in the field of design for four years, I've learned that web design and graphic design are very much tied together, like two peas in a pod. But in my opinion, a good sense of graphic design is fundamental to being a great web designer. It's one thing to know coding and such, but it's another thing to be aware of color, balance, symmetry and other principles and elements of design. During my spare time, I did some research and taught myself web design fundamentals and I've grown to love it. Being able to create and maintain websites would only be an extension of my graphic design skills.

How do you go about starting a project? 
Most of the time, I could be watching TV, forever scrolling on Tumblr or just washing the dishes and an idea would come to me, either from a quote I read, from something someone said recently or a song in my head. Once I get the idea, I write it down or sketch it out and hop on a few art and design blogs (such as yours) to draw inspiration or I'll just go straight to work in Photoshop or Illustrator and modify my designs as the days go by.

What is your workspace like? 
My workspace is pretty much my bed. I like to be extremely comfortable when I'm working and since I work on my laptop most of the time, I just open iTunes, plug in my headphones and get to work while resting comfortably on my pillow.

What is the most challenging project that you've done?
When I really think about it, the most challenging project I've ever done was my final project for my second semester Foundation II course as a Communication Design major, in which each student had to create a book on any subject they wanted but the book had to have some sort of interactivity to it, while illustrating a several design elements. And of course, I created and chose the most complicated subject ever: Music & Art Throughout Time. For my book, I chose songs that represented different periods of time and illustrated a different song for each page. I chose to illustrate songs from the Victorian Era, the 70's, 80's and the present (I used graffiti to represent the present).

What do you think is the biggest influence on your work?
The biggest influence on my work would have to be the work of other artists. My favorites being Matt W. Moore and Raphael Vicenzi; I draw inspiration from their works, my life experiences and from my environment.

I find that I get my inspiration the same way Monique does, from everything around me.  I also really admire her interest in web design.  Web design is something that I've always thought that I should learn a little about, but I've never had the motivation to actually learn it.  Thanks for letting me interview you, Monique!

Thanks for reading!  I've made some changes recently to the site, including the new layout and adding more links to the Cool Kids on the Internet page.  If there's anyone who's doing great stuff that I should write about, email me.

Monday, May 21, 2012


In my ideal office, I have a Nelson Swag Leg Desk.  I keep nothing on this desk, because I have no irrelevant desk rubble.  All I have is my computer and a few Mad Men style desk accessories.  I don't even have a power cord for my computer, it just has infinite energy.  It's a beautiful system.

I haven't quite decided which chair I would want.  Right now, it's a toss up between the Magis Steelwood Chair (above) and the Mattiazzi He Said Chair (below) but I'm not sure how high the arms are in relationship to the height of the desk.  There may be trouble in paradise.
Back in the real world, I have a lot of stuff on my desk, and I have work to do.  Netflix isn't going to watch itself, you know.  The more I think about it, the more I would love an adjustable height desk, like the Airtouch from Steelcase.  It adjusts from 26 inches (the short end of desks) to 42 inches (bar height).  One of the things that has worried me in the past about going for a standing desk is the fact that you're stuck with it.  Once you go for the standing desk, you're in an exclusive little club, and you can't have a regular desk.   But with an adjustable desk, it's okay to want to sit down sometimes.
 After thinking long and hard about what kind of chair to use when I choose to sit, I decided on the Sayl Chair, from Herman Miller.  Aeron was a top contender, but I think that the Sayl is just as comfortable as the Aeron, but looks less like a machine and more like a combination of functionality and usability.
What about you?  What does your ideal office look like?  Do you think it could actually work?  Would you go Aeron?
In this post, the first four images and the final image are from Herman Miller, and the penultimate image is from Steelcase.

Monday, May 14, 2012


TEDxGR was this past Thursday, and I happened to be there as a volunteer. Most of what I saw were the exhibits and lunch that happened at Kendall, but I got to watch a few talks on the video feed as well.

Steelcase sponsored an exhibit of their furniture arranged in sitting areas, with their Campfire Paper tables, so that people could write on them.
Nearby, the Eames studio had stacks of cards, which everyone wrote on and used in the house of cards, which evolved as the day went on.
Behind that, the next exhibit showed 3D technology of the present and past, with holograms and sterographs. The sterographs were an older technology to see a 3D image, in which two images taken inches apart are viewed through a set of divided glasses, making the image appear 3D.
The next two exhibits were done by Kendall, the Material Connexion and 3D fabrication. The Material Connexion is the school's library of 300 samples of materials, from a larger archive of 5,000. The 3D fabrication exhibit was pretty interesting. It showed three different types of 3D printers that Kendall uses in operation, and students were there to explain the different purposes that they were used for. One of the 3D printers could print with wax in extremely fine detail, which than can be cast and made into jewelry. I knew a little bit about 3D printing before, but now I'm more interested in learning about it and learning how to use it.
If you've never heard of TED before, it's an organization that organizes conferences to share ideas that are worth spreading. TED talks are all about big ideas, and I think that's fantastic. However, I'm not quite sold on it's little brother, TEDx, the franchised version of TED. TED is great because it connects people who have big ideas to other people who can add their ideas, which can lead to great things. In my mind, an ideal TED talk says “Here is this great technology, which was invented for thing A, but we could apply it to things B and C, and that could be huge.” or it says “Here is a way of thinking about thing D, but when we apply it to other things, it revolutionizes them.” TEDxGR didn't have quite that feel, and I'm not sure if the other events have it. At this event, nothing felt terribly revolutionary.
In TEDxGR, the lack of big ideas was the main issue. It might be because this year was only the second time it happened, so it's not terribly established; speaker curation might be a thing that takes some time to get right, and we could be watching that process with TEDxGR. Maybe it's because Grand Rapids is a fairly small city, and this event didn't have the involvement of a major university, that many other TEDx events have. If this had been in a city like Ann Arbor, smaller than Grand Rapids, but home to a large, well known university it could have worked differently. It will be interesting, nonetheless, to see where TEDxGR and the whole TEDx concept goes in the future.  I hope to see it become a version of TED, with TED caliber speakers, but with greater accessibility.
If you have any ideas for things that I should cover on this blog, or if you have some feedback, feel free to email me.
If you're like me and constantly struggle to carry your portfolio around, you might be interested in this StartGarden project that a friend of mine has going, to create portfolio racks to put on a bike. If enough people endorse him on StartGarden, he'll get a grant to start making these. It's free to endorse, all you have to do is go here and log in with Facebook. Thanks!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Ric Bixter

I first saw Ric Bixter's work with these rubber band boxes he designed for a school project.  The assignment was to go into a store and find an object to repackage in an interesting and creative way.  Not only is the text on the boxes amusing, the shape of the boxes varies, based on the strength of the rubber bands they hold.  I thought this idea was really clever, so I asked Ric if I could interview him about what he does.
Fifteen Seventeen:  How would you describe your work?  
Ric Bixter:  I try to base my work around ideas and clean graphics.

FS:  How did you end up studying graphic design professionally?
RB:  I always liked art when I was younger and studied Art and Design in school. The course was about experimenting and I started designing on the computer. Moving on to study Graphic Design at university was quite a jump as it was a different way of thinking and working. Since starting university, I have been introduced to a whole world of design, literature and ideas which I am still discovering.

FS:  How do you go about starting a project?  
RB:  I usually start with some broad research on the topic, finding as many images as I can, that relate to what I am working on. I will then sketch out some ideas before moving onto Illustrator to continue the development. 

FS:  What is your workspace like?  
RB:  I have a sketchbook in front of my laptop which is plugged into my tv so I can use a duel screen when designing, on the other side of the desk, I have my cutting mat and usually a heap of trimmings that pile up on the desk. I try and keep it relatively minimal and tidy but sometimes in the middle of a project that idea goes out the window.

FS:  What is your dream project to work on?
RB:  I would love to be designing film posters for some of my favourite directors like Quentin Tarantino, Guillermo del Toro or Christopher Nolan. If I could completely make up a job, I would be the on site graphic designer for the F1 teams just in case they needed some designing in the middle of a tour around the world. 

FS:  What is the most challenging project that you've done?
RB:  I would say any of the projects I have done at university. With rather broad briefs and 5/6 tutors, it can be hard to get your head around an idea sometimes.

FS:  What do you think is the biggest influence on your work?  
RB:  I would have to say my university course as before I was doing Art and Design but since then I would say being surrounded by students and professionals of graphic design and reading books like The Art of Looking Sideways, Elements of Typographic Style and A Smile in the Mind

Another project that Ric has done, a design for recycled tissue paper is pretty cool, and you can see it here.  Ric's blog is here. Thanks for reading, and if there's anything cool that I should write about, email me.