I have been looking forward to this day for quite some time. It’s the first official day that I’m working out of the luxurious Casa Pena Designs office.
That’s a fancy way to say that I’m working at Heidi’s kitchen table while she’s crouched over her desk-like cubby, in the corner with the weird shadow. But it’s our first official collaboration day, and it’s exciting!
I Always Find Inspiration Outside My Comfort Zone
My comfort zone = my house (+ dogs + refrigerator).
Today, the inspiration began before I even left the city. My normal radio stations weren’t giving me what I needed, so I reached over and grabbed the book of CD’s (I know, I’m old AF) that slid out from under the passenger seat.
I chose at random, and the universe richly rewarded me with the familiar opening of Dolly Parton’s Jolene:
Man, I love this song. It’s so good, and there are so many great iterations of it, like this one:
The fact that she sang it with her goddaughter, Miley Cyrusis almost too much for me to handle. But the time she did a collabo with Pentatonix and nailed it so hard I involuntarily burst into tears of joy, it was too much:
Or how Drunk History shared the origin story of the song. If it’s true, then Dolly Parton finds inspiration everywhere, too!
Dolly Parton is More than Big Hair and Big Talent
While Dolly Parton’s talent easily earns my respect, I’ve loved her for as long as I can remember because there are so many stories like this one, as depicted by Drunk History:
Recently, I was moved to tears, yet again, when I learned of her long-term generosity for the nearly 900 victims of Tennessee wildfires. This article outlines the details, but reader beware: you’re going to fall in love with Dolly Parton!
My Annual Date with Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
I could go on and on, but I think you get it – I love Dolly Parton. From where I sit, she represents all that is good in the world, and the epitome of this sentiment is captured in my favorite holiday album, Once Upon a Christmas, a collabo with Kenny Rogers.
As per tradition, I’ll be listening to this album, nonstop, from the day after Thanksgiving to December 25th.
Dolly Parton, you are most certainly good design. Thank you for the inspiration today and always. I love you.
I really enjoy business card projects. Every design is different and comes with a unique set of challenges and considerations. I love the process of figuring out what the client wants, what they need, and how I can use my design skills to make it happen.
In this post, I detail the design process for Rustic Treehouse’s business card, including what went well and what could be better. I learned a lot on this one and am excited to see how they look when they come back from the printer.
Client: Rustic Treehouse
My talented sister, Emily, and her wife, Missy have figured out how to successfully turn their passion and talent for repurposing used wood into beautiful, handpainted signs, like these cuties:
Their business is growing organically and they need a basic business card that works in a variety of situations. The primary purpose is to include with completed orders. New business is a secondary objective – how awesome is that?!?
They have a logo that they love, and I have to say, I love it too. Until now, Missy had been hand painting it on the back of the signs, and in some cases, burning it in.
When I saw the wood burned version of the logo, I was excited to turn the image from a photo into a digital logo that they can use on future promotional material.
I asked Missy to text me the photo. Once I received it, I uploaded it Adobe Capture, a fun app I’ve been playing around with for a few months.
Say you were walking down the street and saw something that inspired you so much that you had to take a picture. Capture can be used to, well, capture, whatever it is about the image that inspires you – perhaps a color or pattern for example. In this case, I wanted to extract the shape, and it took less than a minute to do it!
Capture is compatible with other programs in the CC Suite, so I plopped it right into Photoshop, where I knew I could quickly transform the background from white to transparent.
Early on, I floated the idea of using an image of wood instead of a solid colored background. They loved the idea, so I provided them with a few samples to keep the project moving. This was the crowd favorite after our initial design conversation:
Imagine my delight when Missy shared this image of a Rustic Treehouse workspace:
It just feels more authentic, which makes sense, because it is. I was thrilled to replace the stock photo with an image that truly represents the business.
Fonts were the most challenging aspect of this design.
The client uses a beautiful cursive script in most designs, and I wanted to honor that by incorporating a similar font into the business card. Early on in the process, we decided to use Playlist Script as the attention-getting font, but font pairing options were tabled until the last minute.
As if font pairings aren’t complex enough, I was too excited about using Capture to transform a photo into a digital logo to notice the R and T, which are a far cry away from a script font.
While the idea of pairing seemingly random fonts moderately inflamed my OCD, I wanted to get all the information on the card before playing around with the fonts. Before I could get back to fonts, the client fell in love with the back of the business card. If they’re happy, I’m happy!
The front of the card, however, was a different story. It took some time to find a font that we could all live with, and I hope I can revisit the font sitch at some point. For now, this is the front of the card:
This Side Hustle has the Potential to be Much, Much More
The rate of organic growth for new sign requests is insane. What started out as a fun hobby for my favorite sign making pair has turned into an almost overwhelming obligation. I have a whole business plan designed in my head, and they know I’m here when they’re ready to move to the next level.
They put a lot of time and love into each sign, and I’m inspired to document their process. This would allow me to build my video/tutorial skills, while delivering a solid marketing asset if they should ever want or need it.
If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my blog (on the right hand side of the screen) to learn with me. Check out Rustic Treehouse on Facebook to see more of their inspired designs.
After spending too much time researching how to build my graphic design skill set, I decided to do what every piece of research recommended: just start doing it.
Many of the articles I read suggested re-creating designs and images that already exist. I’ve never been short of ideas, and I was hesitant to go this route at first, but ultimately, I decided it was better than what I was working on, which was not a gosh darn thing.
Luckily, when I looked over at my ever growing “interesting things” pile, Eeboo’s Good Citizenship Flash Cards were sitting right on top. I picked three of my favorites and pinned them up on the bulletin board above my desk.
I think this is the debut of my Nessie bulletin board pins! I picked these up during a recent trip to the National Building Museum. They have a sweet gift shop that I highly recommend!
I picked the elevator card to be one of my first because it’s good advice that I’ve never really followed – I’m more of a “close, close, clOSE, CLOSE” button pusher.
This reminds me of one of my favorite episodes of Radiolab. They provide some very interesting information about the Close Button around 4 minutes in.
I’m going to try to do these using extraterrestrials instead of animals. The elevator card was easy enough to turn into an abduction scene, so naturally, that’s the route I went.
With the exception of the starry background on the front of the card, these images are from Adobe Stock. I believe the starry background is from Pixabay, but I downloaded it a long time ago and I’m not 100%.
I used photoshop to remove the backgrounds from the three individuals (2 aliens (which are different species/races if you ask me) + 1 white dude). I’m getting pretty comfortable with the magic eraser and background eraser tool.
As much as I’d like to switch it up and learn new programs, I’m still learning how to use Canva and it provides me with all the functionality I need at this point.
Once I uploaded each of the images, it was just a matter of adjusting them on the page.
When removing the background of an image, choose one with a solid background
It’s a lot easier to remove an all-white background from an image. Let’s just say I wish I would have watched this 3 minute Adobe Photoshop tutorial about 16 hours before I did.
Save Image As PNG to retain transparent background
Once the background is removed, save image as PNG (TIFF / GIF work too) to retain transparent background. Saving as a JPEG will just save the same image you were working with – colored background and all.
I need to keep building my Photoshop skills
This was a really good start, but I want to be able to do more. For example, I’d really like the running white dude to be dirty, like he’d been there for awhile. It would be great to make it look like he had a bloody nose, which is creepy, I know.
Pay attention to the details
As I put together the images for this post, I noticed that the back of the original card has a border on it. I need to be done with this project, so I let it go for now. Next time I want to be sure I incorporate details like that into my design.
The same goes with the shape of the card. They have rounded corners and I totally missed that detail.
I need to keep building my Canva skills
I don’t know how to create these with rounded corners, so I need to see if Canva has the functionality to create images with rounded corners.
Crystal Ball Time
Stay tuned for my next interpretation, which will either be the Recycling Card or what I call the “squealer” card. I can’t even wait – I have mixed feelings about the quality of this advice:
Want to know when the next one is done? Be sure to subscribe to my blog (on the right hand side of the page) to stay in the loop!
A few years ago, I was looking for some images to include in an eLearning module. I wanted to incorporate visuals into some of the more text heavy slides, but didn’t have a budget. I thought it would be easy breezy to find free images to use.
Man, was I wrong.
At the time, free images were scarce. I spent countless hours searching, but in the end, I used my personal account to purchase stock photos.
Thanks to today’s collaborative and open resource sharing culture, free high quality stock assets are easy to find, if you know where to look.
I’ve never met, or even talked to, photographer Ryan McGuire, but I really enjoy his images and the way he views the world. Many of his photos are offered as free images on Piktochart, which I thought was interesting.
I can always find something that inspires me or makes me laugh, like this praying mantis smoking a ciggy:
This is a cool and easy to navigate site that I like a lot. They hooked me with this shot of a beautiful blue volkswagen beetle (sigh):
This list compiled by Adobe Stock is similar, but includes sources that offer additional free assets, such as video and illustrations.
Adobe Captivate Asset Store
This is pretty specific to eLearning developers that use Adobe Captivate, so I won’t dwell on it too much. I learned about this resource during one of my research binges for a class I was taking. It was perfect timing, and it helped me provide specific instructions in the reboot of a storyboard I was working on at the time.
These next few sites may be considered something other than images, but I’m not exactly sure how else to classify them. All I know is they’re super cool and I’ve lost time – lots of time – geeking out and downloading my heart out.
As I put together this post, I included Vintage Printable as an afterthought – I had actually forgot about it! When I went to find the site, I came across this Vice article that is a must read if you’re into vintage posters. I spent about a minute looking around before I found this gem:
Have fun exploring these sites! Keep in touch with any suggestions or additions to the list. Feel free to share this with your pals!
I’ll keep these free resource posts coming, so be sure to subscribe to my blog if you like what you see.
In a post a few weeks ago, I highlighted some of the best parts of the professional development training event that I designed and conducted in Denver. What I didn’t mention were the sessions that could have been better, including the one where attendees started to leave while I was still talking.
The sessions that went well all had two things in common: I spent time planning and they were designed around adult learning principles.
I’ve been studying adult learning for the past few years and it’s been a challenge to find general resources on the topic that can be applied to a variety of situations. I’m putting together a comprehensive resource collection that I’ll share soon – keep in touch!
In the meantime, this post will help you think about designing your presentation and/or training around adult learning principles so that your learners will be more likely to retain and use what they’ve learned.
Step One: Determine What You Want Your Learners to Take Away from The Training
My rule of thumb has always been to ask, “If learners can only take away one thing from this learning experience, what would it be?”
I know, I know, we always want learners to take away at least three things, but the reality is, unless you’re putting together a super hands-on, relevant training that directly applies to what your learners are going to do when the session is over, I would consider having them remember one thing to be a resounding success.
When I was working for the organization that helped me find my love of instructional design (ID), what we wanted our learners to do at the end of every session, regardless of who gave the presentation, who the learners were, or the content of the session, was to visit our website and subscribe to our blog.
We wanted our learners to take action, or do something when our presentation was over. But first, they needed to know how to do it.
I’ve found this to align with most professional development opportunities where the learners need to know or do something as a result of what they’ve learned.
I know it’s a bit more complex than this, but this is an introductory post. I’ll go into more detail about learning objectives another time. If you really can’t wait, I recommend this resource on writing learning objectives.
There is one specific adult learning principle to consider here, if possible:
Step Two: Determine Who Your Learners Are
I want everything I design to be a learning experience, not another mandatory session or hour-long waste of a valuable lunch hour (also known as the standard webinar).
Designing a learning experience is a lot easier if you know who your learners are. Of course, this is one of those things that can get complicated, even political, but at the very least, try to find out who you can expect to be in your audience.
If you have attendee lists available, check them out for sure! I get a bit obsessive about attendee lists because they contain so much valuable information, but I’ve found them to be often overlooked.
Here’s how I use attendee lists for ID purposes:
I always look first to see if I know anyone that’s attending or coming to my session. That way, if you haven’t planned the exact content to cover, you can ask someone you know what they want to learn.
This is more than being social, it’s abiding by another adult learning principle:
Asking the audience at the beginning of a session what they want to learn works too, just use their questions to provide context as you present, if you can.
After scouring for any familiar names, take a look at the titles – are there more managers, entry-level attendees, or gasp, VP’s and high-level folks?
Maybe you already know who’s coming. Perhaps you give the same monthly overview to new hires or you’re preparing for an annual event for a national network of new directors.
In my former life, I received a request to do a general presentation of what my program was all about, which was to provide technical assistance to a national network of refugee employment service providers. The request came from the organizer of an event that another program in my office was putting together – Children’s Services.
It would have been easy to provide the same old 45-minute schbeel about what we did and how they should subscribe to our blog when they left the session, and that’s what we were asked to do.
But I just couldn’t do it – our standard presentation was for adults that worked with adults, not adults that worked with kids.
I wanted them to learn something they could actually apply when they got home.
Is this going to be an in-person event or a virtual one? In today’s fast paced, high tech world, it could also be a combination – a blended learning approach.
Regardless of how your presentation is going to be delivered, there are so many options for designing great trainings, it just takes a little creativity and hard work.
If you’re designing a webinar training session, do some research on the software. Look to see if you can upload resources for learners to instantly download, or my favorite, encouraging interactivity with quizzes.
If it’s in-person, do you know anything about the room? It’s amazing how much the setup of a classroom can impact the effectiveness of a training.
If you’ve ever been thrown off by the setup of the space you had to train in – virtual nod of understanding and apology. It’s kind of the worst. But, as I’ve heard “them” say, the show must go on.
We had some significant space challenges in Denver, but we made it work. A computer lab wasn’t our first pick for the motivational presentation without slides, but it worked, and the assessments for this session were some of the best of the entire event.
This group of managers/supervisors was a lot bigger than we anticipated, but the real leaders must have emerged when this session moved into the hallway for a productive, safe and structured way to discuss the difficulties of managing a staff.
Step Four: Determine When You’re Presenting
If you’re scoffing at why this is even a consideration, I’ve got three words for you: after lunch session. If you’ve got this time slot, I’m sorry, and I can relate.
The dreaded after lunch time slot needs something a little extra to get learners back and ready before the “three o’clock slow down”kicks in. Regardless of what you’re covering, if you’ve got this time slot, try to get people up and moving around at some point during the session.
Be prepared to end the session a little early if you’re right before lunch – we’ve all found ourselves packing up early to be the first one in the lasagna line. Respect your learners’ time and they’ll respect yours.
Did you know that there are best practices as far as when to offer webinars? According to ON24’s 2017 Benchmarks Report, the best time to offer a webinar is mid-week, which I’ve found to be spot on.
For other great webinar stats and industry benchmarks, check out the full report.
Step Five: Determine Why You’re Presenting
As my dog would say, listen babe. No really, our dog Emmett, he talks and calls everyone “babe” – it’s so embarrassing.
If you’ve made it this far, you’re not just presenting because you have to. You’re like me – you want the people in the audience to learn something. You want them to walk away feeling like, “Yes! I can do this!” – whatever “this” is.
Sure, you’re not going to get that sort of passion and enthusiasm from a group of learners coming out of a session on mandatory reporting requirements, but imagine a world where you hear “That story about that office and how they botched that one requirement was crazy – I’ll never make that mistake!”
That reminds me of another adult learning principle:
The only thing better than learning from your own mistakes is learning from someone else’s. I always share my mistakes if they’re relevant to the conversation – personal stories help your learners feel more comfortable and can be a great way to build a quick connection with them.
For me, I take pleasure in the little things. Part of my holistic design strategy for the Denver Workshop was a free surprise resource bonanza on the very last day. I had been saving up posters and every piece of free snazzy gear I could find for a year. It was a resounding success with attendees, so I’m glad I paid that extra luggage fee to bring it along.
But nothing made me happier than when an attendee came up to me with a poster in his hand and said, “Thanks, I finally got something out of this event“.
Now that’s good design – a little something for everyone!
By figuring out the who, what, why, where and when of your presentation, you’re already designing with adult learners in mind.
Here’s one last resource – this one pager triggered my interest in adult learning principles, and after looking at it again for this post, I’m reminded why!
I primarily use Vistaprint for my printing needs, but I’m always open to trying new things. They almost always have a sale and I’ve always been happy with the quality of the product.
I really love my shark cards, but they lacked any white space, which is one of the things I like best!
But for the rest of the series, I want to include white space so that potential clients and contacts are able to write anything down on the card that they see fit (hopefully something like “get in touch asap” or similar).
At first, I tried to match the font color to the blue sky on the poster image, but I didn’t love it.
Luckily, my girl Heidi had the brilliant idea of matching the pop of green in the image – brilliant. To do this, I used Colordot:
When the cards arrived, the image on the back has a slight white border on the bottom edge, but otherwise they look great!
Here’s my newest business cards that I’m thinking I should use to target new DC clients:
Don’t Rush Image Alignment
The little white border that was printed on my cards wasn’t exactly a surprise – I played around with it on Vistaprint for a few minutes before deciding I just needed it to be done. I convinced myself that it probably wouldn’t print – it was well below the “safety” line.
I’m happy to send hard copies of this series if you’re a tactile person (like me – we’re so weird!). Just get in touch with your mailing address and I’ll pop ’em in the mail for you!
I struggle with colors, especially when it comes to matching. Without any formal training, it’s been tough to know what really works and what colors to use if I’m trying to achieve a specific purpose, like motivating learners or gaining subscribers.
I’ve spent countless hours obsessing over colors and have found several helpful resources that help take some of the guess work out of it for me. Hopefully one of my four favs will save some color-challenged designer from the eyestrain that I’ve come to associate with color matching.
The feature that I use the most on this site is the palette. You simply choose two colors that you want to work with and voilà – you’ve got yourself a palette! Since I invested in Camtasia for school, as well as to build my video editing skills, I made my first very short, very silent tutorial on how this baby works:
Besides the palette feature, the icons and colors sections are worth checking out as well.
This site is more inspirational for me than it is functional, but I spend a lot of time on here looking at beautiful colors. If you love a famous work of art, this site might be able to provide you with the color palette. For example, one of my favorites is The Great Wave off Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai, and with the click of a button, this site provided me with an inspired color palette to use as I wish:
I’m so glad that I was able to be a part of this event. It was one of the best learning experiences of my career and it confirmed my passion for designing high quality professional development opportunities.
I designed and planned managed nearly every aspect of this event, and I went big. I may cover some other aspects in a later post, but for now, here are a few of my favorite design accomplishments.
Last summer we got in touch with Michael Owen, a local artist we adore, to design and install a mural to add a little life to our back patio space.
We didn’t give the mural the celebration it deserved last year, so we decided to have a city garden party in early June. I knew I would need some help with the planning, so I called on my girl Heidi at Casa Pena Designs for some assistance.