All posts by stacey

My name is Stacey George. I am a graphic designer, an illustrator, an amateur photographer and I play a mean ukulele. I have a son named Griffin and we live in Massachusetts with two cats named Tiki and Ollie. I was born in Canada, grew up in Massachusetts, got schooled at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia. Then I traveled around the country a little bit before moving back to my liberal wasteland home. I currently freelance for my own clients and through Aquent. Boston is a small town and I've worked for every industry imaginable, finance, healthcare, retail, publishing, biotech, entertainment, and education. I find that freelancing allows me variety, and flexibility, and constant challenge.

To Be in Two Places at the Same Time

Pretty Weed in my Backyard
Take time to snap reference photos of the flowers

How busy are we all these days? It’s only 9 a.m. and I’ve already billed three hours, taken my kid to (sigh) summer school, scheduled a tire repair for the Camry, fed the cats, and followed up with two vendors. Not to mention checking in on Facebook, uploading videos from the Fourth of July, posting an event, inviting the family, and taking some reference photos of this pretty weed growing in my backyard.

I was stomping up the stairs with bags of groceries Sunday and I noticed these lovely strands of budding flowers. They’re tiny, really, and there are three or four of them at the top of this plant that started growing next to my porch. I thought, they would be sweet to illustrate, I could make them into a decorative element, part of a frame, something to letterpress, who knows? But I had arms full of melty stuff in the hot sun, so I didn’t get back to shoot some photos until this morning and half of the buds had already opened. If I waited until tomorrow, what would have been left?!

You can’t photograph flowers while you’re carrying milk and eggs and you can’t be in two places at the same time. So, what do you do? As a freelancer I face this problem all the time. I have a press check for one client, but I need to research vendors for another. I have to get my invoicing and administrative work done to build my business, but I’m facing a desk full of actual billable work with deadlines and clients who want to know that they are my first priority.

Hiring someone doesn’t really solve the problem for me, this is intermittent overload, not enough for full-time help. Plus, I’m not equipped to add another person to my operation. My solution? I use a virtual assistant.

Black Ink Virtual Assistance is better than any app I could recommend for productivity. Chief Efficiency Officer, Melissa Black, is available to be the extra me I wish I could be. If I need to walk away from my computer to get some sketching done, she’s available to respond to my email and make sure my vendors and clients are being heard and their needs met. If I am falling behind on promoting my business because I’m focused on clients, she can ghostwrite my blog—not yet, but she could—build my business Facebook page, or maintain my Twitter account. She’s even helped me with concierge services. My son wanted tickets to a show for his birthday and the day and the hour they went on sale I was scheduled to be at a press check. Melissa made sure we got the tickets while I took care of business.

It’s easy to be efficient when you can delegate your responsibilities. It’s hard to delegate your responsibilities when you work for yourself. Having a virtual assistant allows me to work like I have a back office, with the flexibility of freelancing. What an invaluable tool for any productivity arsenal!

Retro Illustration: The City

The final landscape illustration for TJX is a city skyline at twilight. This series was intended to compliment each other, so I approached the city from the point of view of the residential streets on the outskirts of the downtown. That allowed me to include homes and trees of a similar scale as the country or the farm, and present the buildings as part of the grand landscape, like the mountains or the sky.

How to Get Your Job Printed on Time, Part 2

Remember that the salesman’s job is to get you in the door, but it’s the production artists and the pressmen who are going to get you out on time.

Ask for the moon and until that purchase order is in his hands, the printer’s salesperson is going to tell you that everything is do-able, everything is copacetic. It’s not until the job is in house and it’s too late to change your mind will you discover that your turnaround requirements are ridiculous, or your file needs some serious tweaking and trapping, or your ink densities are proof of dark matter. At that point, the production artist and press person are your best friends in the world. If you treat them right, remember their names, respect their craft and their time, they can move mountains for you. Bark at them, ask for the impossible, fail to understand what can and cannot be accomplished on a press, talk past them to your sales guy, and, well, do you ever wonder what happens when you send food back to the kitchen at a restaurant? No good ever comes of that, I assure you.

Building relationships with the people who run your jobs can be the difference between really delivering for your client or really blowing it. So, play nice, prima donna designer, you’ll thank me some day.


How to Get Your Job Printed on Time

First and foremost, forever and ever, get it tattooed on your forearm;

If there’s a holiday ANYTIME near when you want your job printed, add a week to your turnaround.

Printers work crazy hours, printers work all night, printers don’t leave until the job is done, no seriously, doctors can hand off their patients, but I’ve seen pressmen 3 days into a run and I know they’ve only napped in the break room. So, when Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Arbor Day… are you following me yet? Any holiday, no matter how big or small, is a day of rest for these fellas and they aren’t giving it up with out time and a half and then some.

So, your brochure HAS to be ready to go July 7th? You need to have that sucker on a press by the third week of June, at the LATEST. I’m not kidding.

Thank you, this has been a Public Service Announcement from your Friendly Neighborhood Designer.

Accessory Quest

I have an iPad 2 and it is true that no one needs an iPad until they get their first iPad and then they cannot imagine what they did without an iPad. I’m sure owners of other tablets feel the same way. I don’t know any, but I’m sure they love their tablets.

Sometimes I feel like a crazy, little dog lady who spends way too much time and money decking her terrier out in the finest sweaters, and doggie beds, and toys. I am always in search of the perfect accessories for my iPad. In the end, I will probably spend more money on apps and accessories than I did on the actual tablet. I should be ashamed, but I’m not. I love my iPad.

I named it Calculon, did I tell you that? I name all my computer devices after Matt Groening characters. My iPhone is named Nibbler and my AppleTV is Zapp Brannigan. I don’t call them these names, but they have names on your network and you can customize that, so why not have fun with it, no? I also have devices named for Simpsons characters, but I digress.

Portenzo iPad Case
My Portenzo iPad Case

The two accessories I would like to tell you about today are new to the fold. The first is what I believe is the best manifestation of the Moleskine/iPad case genre. There are a few companies doing this, and some Etsy stores, but for my money Portenzo is doing it best. The construction is solid and reviews suggest that Portenzo’s rubber corners secure your iPad much better than the competition. They give you your choice of different interior liner colors, in fact there are a number of options you can add including a stylus holder, a hole for the back camera, magnets in the cover that replicate the smart cover features of the iPad 2, an elastic ribbon to hold the cover shut, like on the Moleskine. You can mix and match to produce the iPad case of your dreams. The one drawback so far, Portenzo cases are made to order, so if you need one right now, this is not your accessory. Mine took 6 weeks from the day I ordered it to delivery.

The second accessory I got for a specific need but it turns out this thing is crazy useful all the time. I play ukulele and I have all of my sheet music on my iPad. It’s one of the best uses of a tablet I can think of, honestly. I used to carry binders of music around and it was unwieldy and hard to find what I was looking for and it wasted paper. The binders were also hard to read under low light situations and I like to play my uke while sitting around the fire with friends. An iPad solves all these problems, and yet, it’s really hard to hold an iPad while playing an instrument, and it seems silly to carry around a stand to prop it on for those occasions. So, I ordered a Joby Yogi.

You’ve probably seen Joby’s GorillaPod flexible tripod solutions. This works much the same way. Once the iPad is in the Yogi holder I can wrap the legs around anything convenient to hold my iPad in place. What I discovered is, the legs wrap nicely around my leg, which is the perfect arrangement for playing ukulele, I just cross one leg over and my iPad is securely in my lap.

The cool thing is, when I’m not using the Yogi for ukulele chiminea singalongs, I can use it to prop my iPad up on my desk to watch a movie, or next to my bed as an alarm clock, or I’ve arranged the legs so I could hook this bad boy onto a hook on my wall to keep it up and out of the way. I was surprised at how useful the Yogi is and it’s not that expensive. So, if you’re feeling the need to spoil your iPad, that might be a nice accessory to add to your arsenal.


Greasing the Wheels

Clown Shoes Lubrication 22 oz Bomber
Clown Shoes Lubrication American Black Ale

Presenting my latest label for Clown Shoes Beer, Lubrication American Black Ale. The launch party is tonight at Foundry on Elm in Davis Square, Somerville. Foundry is new to the area, I’m not sure when it opened, but it feels like it’s been in the Square for years. It is classic and comfortable, with elegant seating and lighting, and a slight edge that lets you know that the food will be approached with an artistic eye and creative twists. Also, they serve poutine! So, yeah, you know I’m giving Foundry the thumbs up.

Now, back to the label. This is only phase one of the Lubrication package design, as Lubrication will be the first Clown Shoes beer available in 12 oz. bottles. The smaller bottles will come in a 4-pack carrier and in cases.

The 12 oz. label presented a new challenge. Because all of the previous Clown Shoes beers were only released as 22 oz. bombers, the labels had a lot of real estate and that allowed me to develop a direction that was very illustration-centric. The 12 oz. bottle labels are considerably smaller, but require a lot of the same information, legally speaking. Featuring a prominent illustration would not be practical, yet, the illustrations are part of the brand we’ve established for Clown Shoes.

To further complicate matters, Clown Shoes is planning on releasing the Clementine White Ale to a 12 oz. bottle, too. The Clementine label was illustrated and designed over a year ago, when they only released 22 oz. bottles. Whatever solution I developed for Lubrication would have to be retro-fitted to work with Clementine and any other previously released Clown Shoes bombers.

The solution was to design a “shoe-centric” text only label for the 12 oz bottles that would incorporate a single identifying mark of the 22 oz. label, for the Lubrication it’s the white, horizontal “grill lines,” for the Clementine, the swirling unpeeled oranges. Then, on the 4 pack carrier, the illustrations will be expanded beyond the small windows on the 22 oz. bomber labels to fill one full panel of the box. This kept our illustration-based branding visible on the cooler shelf, but gave us a simplified, scalable solution for the 12 oz. labels and by extension, the case box design which could only be 2 colors.

I can’t wait to post photos of Phase 2, the 12 oz. bottles, the 4 pack carriers and the case boxes. We’re also getting custom crowns, bottle caps to you and me. They’re on a ship in the Atlantic at the moment, but they’ll be here in a few weeks. In the meantime, I’m going to crack open this bottle of Lubrication and pour myself a tall, dark and handsome pint of ale.

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

For me, working from my home office increases productivity. I don’t have to spend hours commuting. I don’t have the temptation of office socializing to distract me. I can take a break and go for a walk and recharge myself when I hit a wall. But the one thing that really hinders my ability to work from home is school vacation.

Griffin is home for the summer. He has applied for some summer jobs, but in this economy few people are hiring 15 year olds. He has spent the past three days in my living room, ten feet from my desk, playing video games, watching cartoons, and playing ukulele. He’s also very chatty. If he slept in like a normal teenager, I could wake up early and get the bulk of my work done before he pulled himself out of bed, but he’s been getting up at 7 a.m. to go jogging, so that’s not an option. If I were younger, I could spend the day doing administrative, low-attention span work and then get the bulk of the design done after Griff went to bed. But I’ve discovered that I’m not as productive at 1 a.m. as I used to be.

So, what to do? There’s always the laptop and the coffee shop. I can get writing, billing, and production work done that way, but not much design or illustration. I could look at renting a desk at a freelancer co-op space but that cuts into profits. I could kick the kid to the curb, like my mom did when I was a kid in the summertime, but I believe my son should feel welcome in his own home, so I’m not loving that idea. I could take an on-site gig for the summer, but working in an office during the best weather of the year is the antithesis of why I work from home. Honestly, if anyone has a suggestion, I’m all ears!


Propane and Propane Accessories

Weber 200Q Grill
New grill on its maiden voyage, with chicken breasts

I was late with my Tools Tuesday post because I was out at the mall picking up my new Weber Q 2oo grill. For years, I was a charcoal girl. I had the Smokey Joe and my charcoal chimney, and I was very proud that I had not succumbed to convenience of propane. But ten years is a long life for a Smokey Joe, he was ready to retire. When I considered my options I had to admit I didn’t like it when all my guests were on the porch, but I had to be out in the yard because I was concerned I’d set the house on fire with Smokey. And honestly, “all my guests” usually amount to me, my son, and a couple of friends—I don’t have huge barbeques, I don’t need a grill of historic proportions. The Weber Q series is small, somewhat portable, and uses either camping size propane canisters or, with an adapter, a regular size tank.

The grill surface is enameled cast iron and wicked heavy. It leaves the best grill marks and apparently it seasons as you use it, like a good cast iron pan. The side tables are a convenient extension of your work area, but when you’re done they fold up into the grill, reducing the area you need to store your grill away. For apartment dwellers, it’s pretty sweet.

Weber iPad App
The grill timer is built into the cook book

Finally, the good people at Weber have released an iOS app full of recipes and tips. It also has how-to videos and shopping lists. One of my favorite features is the Grill Timer. Touch the time in the recipe and the timer pops open, ready to go. I’ll miss Smokey Joe. He was a good pal. But I must admit, I am really excited to break in the Q.