adding artwork to a design

At the beginning of November I decided it was time to get cracking on my own Christmas card. In last year’s card, I took some of my random photos and placed them into an accordion fold template. This year, I wanted to do something different and toyed with a few ideas. Initially I had an idea that would have required many photos that I did not have in my own archives.

So I turned to which is a great, inexpensive source of photographs and illustrations. You can purchase credits and then use those credits to purchase artwork or photographs that can be used when designing marketing materials. (Some work is available, at a higher price, to place on products to resell.)

I was reluctant to use stock photos for all the obvious reasons, so I soon turned my focus to Christmas illustrations and found some that I loved and that fit in well with one of my ideas. I opened up the downloaded document (which contained 13 major icons plus a flurry of snowflakes) in Illustrator. This allowed me to make some color adjustments, pull out the desired Christmas icons, or alter parts of the icons to suit my purpose.

Since I’m more fluent in Photoshop than Illustrator and could easily send a Photoshop file to my destination printer, I opted to create the entire card in Photoshop, although I could have created it in InDesign or Quark and then placed the artwork into the layout.

My first step in Photoshop was to create a nice blue background based on my PMS color (reflex blue) for the front and back of the card. Back in Illustrator, I changed the color of the snowflakes from a pale green to a light blue and then placed them into my Photoshop document on several layers, resizing some of the original flakes to fill in.

Turning my focus to the back of the card, (bottom half shown above) I pulled in the North Pole icon onto a new layer. On subsequent layers, which I then placed behind the North Pole layer, I created a few snowbanks with the Pen tool, using the gradient tool to add some shading to the snow banks. I made sure to leave the card mostly white towards the left and bottom and added my logo and information there so it would stand out best.

I reversed the colors on the inside of the card, leaving it mostly white with some blue accents. The red and green colors of the icons set against the blue and white backgrounds gave the card contrast and punch.The process of designing the entire card took some time, but I had a lot of fun putting this together. And this Christmas, I plan to take more pictures so I have my own, more varied stock of Holiday photos for next year should I choose to use a photo or two on a card!

happy thanksgiving

It’s been a long while since I made a new entry. Things got a little busy towards the end of the summer and into the fall, and the blog had to take a back seat.

It’s been a little over a year now since I restarted my business, and it’s been challenging at times, but always interesting and fun. Since June, I shot a few weddings and events; created logos; put together a few brochures, postcards, and ads; wrote another two rounds of business articles; and have been working on some branding materials.

Hope to post some new work soon, but in the meantime, Happy Thanksgiving to all.

creating a series of flyers

I recently completed a set of three brochures for Notification Delivery Network (NDN). The service allows emergency teams, schools, and businesses to communicate quickly with many people via voice, e-mail, text, and SMS.

Initially, each flyer was to share the same layout but utilize different color combinations to differentiate them from each other. For example, school bus yellow and red for schools, red and blue for crisis management, and a medium shade of green and red for businesses.

Since the flyers are targeted to different audiences and are unlikely to be presented to the same group, the color scheme was changed in keeping with NDN’s company colors.

The text on the left hand side of each flyer gives some information on the scenarios associated with each target audience and the advantages of having NDN in place, and the sidebars highlight the important features most relative to that target audience. Photos were purchased from

school flyer crisis flyer business flyer

speaking in a foreign tongue


Kicking around in the iTunes store about 11 weeks ago, I came upon My Daily Phrase Italian (one of many language programs by Radio Lingua). And so “step by step, day by day, phrase by phrase,” I have been learning and relearning a few words. I have been learning to speak Italian from Mark, who speaks English with a Scottish accent. Interestingly enough, I now find myself speaking English with a Scottish accent on occasion. When I was a child I spent much of my time with my grandfather, and so back then I spoke English with an Italian accent. For example, I would ask the waitress to cut my toast “corn to corn” because I wouldn’t eat bread unless it was cut at an angle, from corner to corner.

At any rate, I now know how to say “Sto imparando l’italiano. Non parlo molto. Parli inglese?” a group of phrases which make my mother laugh every time I say them. (I’m learning Italian. I don’t speak much. Do you speak English?) After 11 weeks, I know quite a few other phrases and words too (but none of the phrases and words I heard my grandfather say under his breath). I have got to work it a little more, but I find myself beginning to think in Italian every so often, and also at times when I fumble for an Italian word, I find I come up with the French equivalent. It’s been awhile since I’ve studied French so it is quite fun to relearn bits of that as I go along too.

Learning Italian has also brought me a new awareness of the musicality of a language, which in turn benefits my creative writing. I find that opening myself up to new things has always benefited my endeavors in some way. Designing for a dance company and viewing modern dance performances added a fluidity to my design work which had not been apparent before. It also challenged me to create collages of photos, work that I have not done for some time, but have been thinking of experimenting with again.

But now I must get back to the business of writing copy for a business. In between, I’ll keep learning Italian “step by step, day by day, phrase by phrase,” and continue to experiment with new techniques in writing, design, and photography.

Tutto per oggi! Ciao!

skipping out

A friend of mine skipped down to the beach this morning. “I feel so guilty,” she said when she returned my call. “I should have called you.” She was already on her way back when she phoned at 11:30 am.

By that time I was through with my morning writing and trying to talk myself into sorting through files and paperwork and doing some accounting and all that other not-so-fun but necessary stuff. I promised myself this would be a day of reorganizing and cleaning, but I find myself thinking of the ocean as the long weekend closes in.

It was August of last year when I took this picture of “Miss Abby.” It was a miserably hot and humid day, one of the worst days of the summer, as I recall. A childhood friend who was visiting from Oregon was reeling from the humidity and we went down to the dock in search of some relief. Even by the water there was little relief, but it felt just a bit better to look out at the blue water, the pale blue sky. It was a gorgeous day.

I’m still at it at 4:00 pm. I have to admit that I “skipped out” myself from shuffling papers to fiddle around with some photos, my website, and some design work. Back to the grind for at least a while longer today. But I keep wishing I was at the beach.

chasing the crow

This morning I saw a small bird soaring right behind a large black crow. It seemed like the small bird was chasing the crow who was about five times the size of the small bird.

As I watched them, I thought about art and creativity, and how all the creative things that artists do are sort of like the small bird chasing the crow. You have a goal in mind that you’re in pursuit of, a vision of something greater than yourself, and you’re trying to catch it.

Later, as I tooled along downtown, I heard an old song by Donovan with a line that ran something like this, “First there is the mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.” The song also mentions a caterpillar turning into a butterfly. Sixties songs and Donovan’s influences aside, I thought of those words in relationship to the bird and the crow and to the process of art as well. A vision of something larger than yourself. Either a feeling of missing the mountain or scaling it step by step and losing sight of the mountain. And then, there it is back again, and hopefully you’re not still at the foot of it.

While I’ve been busy writing and doing design work, I have also been busy trying to get a new online photo service for my work, go through some of my photos and pop them into my gallery, and this has re-ignited my desire to pursue pinhole photographs again.

In addition to experimenting with color pinhole and using my digital differently to get similar effects, I also worked on scanning some of my original black and white pinholes. Although that presented a few obstacles, I had fun doing it. The pinholes are so different than everything else I have shot, but as Marian Roth, my pinhole teacher, told me: these are a part of who I am too. “You think it’s the camera,” she said, “but it’s not. It’s you.”

Since I’ve been thinking about blogging, and haven’t done so for a month, I thought I’d share a few pinholes today. They are a lot darker than my other photography, and the color ones have presented some pretty eerie effects, but I love them just as much, if not more than getting crystal clear, light- and color-filled shots.

Fountain of Ghosts
The fountain in the yard at Snug Cottage in Provincetown. Taken with what I referred to as my “fish-cam.”

wharf 1
Lancy’s Wharf, Provincetown
Also taken with the “fish-cam.”

The “fish cam” was a can decorated with colorful fish. I used the fish to orient the paper inside either vertically or horizontally. The paper was curved inside which provides the warped look.

wharf 2
Lancy’s Wharf II, Provincetown
Taken with the “eye-cam.”

The “eye cam” was a smaller Body Shop can. I drilled the hole for the pinhole through the eye on the cover of the can. I didn’t shave the hole clean, and this added a little something to the process.

This broken up pier just keeps disintegrating with each passing year. I’ll be sorry to see it go.

golf tournament marketing

fore the girls

Now that the weather’s warming up (for the moment anyway), I thought I’d share some material done during the winter months in preparation for a golf tournament this coming June.

golf girl
A redesign of a school golf tournament, Fore the Girls! was called for. The look that was sought was more of a “fun” look and there was a call for four color. My goal was to add these elements without detracting too much from the initial brand that golfers had become familiar with over the previous eight years.

The initial logo also featured a girl golfer and to fit the scheme, I colorized the original black and white line art. The girl was later rejected, but I colorized stock black and white artwork to create colorful tees, bags, and tufts of grass. A funky Tekton font also added to a more fun feel to the material.
brochure frontbrochure back

Shown above are both sides of the letter fold brochure.

Shown at right is the letterhead.

This was a small, fun job for a good cause. It was a great opportunity to do design work that gave me breathing room from writing projects and more demanding design projects, and a nice chance to create a comprehensive look and carry that over various marketing materials.

identity materials

For those of you who’ve had the pleasure — or pain — of being my marketing guinea pigs, thank you for your viewpoints and perspective on my evolving design. It gave me much to reflect on and was a great help.

In designing identity materials, the goal is to create a look, a recognizable brand, that you can carry consistently through your marketing materials. While a product (business cards, letterhead, etc.) is the end goal, I believe the process of creating that look can be one through which you ultimately learn more about yourself and your business. In addition to sharing my new materials, I thought I would share the process.

Although I experimented with more drastic design and color changes, in the end I made a few minor changes that made a noticeable difference.
business card before business card after

First, the name. Conventional advice would have me use my name rather than a name like Scrivo. I wrestled with this the first time, when I chose Scrivo! Graphic Design & Writing Services. Scrivo was initially chosen as a nod to my Italian heritage, a unique opener to describe what I do, and to highlight the fact that I wrote copy as well as designed. It felt right to me then, and it still feels right to me, and many of you, now.

My initial focus was on writing and graphic design, but that no longer encompass all I do, so I changed the “design & writing” to design, photography, and writing.

Arguments can be made for and against the choice of the color blue. After playing with other colors,I came back to blue but decided to replace the black. In developing this site, I had chosen a warm gray to offset the blue. I liked the look. For the cards a cooler gray, which worked better, was chosen.

As for fonts, my initial use of Simoncini Garamond and Lucida Casual was meant to convey an idea of practicality and fun. Classic yet sporty. Since I’ve more or less hung up my Chuck Taylors, I opted to replace the Lucida, and looked for a non-serif font which I felt was clean, reserved, and modern. After trying some more unique fonts, I chose a standby, Helvetica.

In my first revisions, the “ink blots” came out. I tried lines. I moved sections around in the layout. People missed the “blots” and I missed them too, so for now, the blots remain, but smaller.

The idea of replacing the exclamation point of Scrivo with a scan of a quill pen occurred to me, and I worked on several variations of the scan, manipulated in Photoshop. I tried a more edgy quill, designed in Illustrator. Lots of fun, but they both took more from the name than they added to it, a feeling also expressed by some of my marketing “team.”

business card frontbusiness card back
The addition of a second side was a must. The cost of adding a second side is minimal and it provides more information for potential clients. A second card was created to hand out at photography events, and the back has space to add the website to which an event’s pictures are posted.

Another change was the card stock. I was tired of the gray granite look and wanted the blue to pop and the gray to be more prominent. So white was the best choice. Other minor changes to the letterhead and the envelope were made.

The tag line posed the most difficulty, and I tried out many before deciding on this one, and I chose to place it on the back of the card but featured it more prominently on the letterhead, envelope, and web site.

“Portraying your spirit and vision in business and life” comes the closest to what I try to do. I believe it is important, in business and in life, to be true to yourself. My goal, through design, is to reflect the mission and vision of your business in a beneficial way unique to you.