Here’s a personal project that I’ve been collecting the data for since seeing and being inspired by the hot Broadway musical Hamilton a couple months ago. It made me interested in learning the history of political parties in the US, and in this heated political environment we’re in, it seemed crazy timely to get a better understanding of the roots and evolution of each party’s ideologies.
There were many ways to approach this graphic, but I settled on illustrating the dichotomy of centralized versus decentralized government to show how the parties have basically flipped on this issue. (A very brief and generic description of how I’m using those terms: believers in centralized government feel that the nation as a whole should work together to support its citizens while believers in decentralized government promote the belief that individuals and/or states should care for themselves, limiting the role of federal government.)
I’ve also worked up a brief summary for each System. It’s a guide to help explain behind the scenes what was happening, but as with most write-ups, probably contains lots of inferences and generalizations, so consider it a jumping off point, not a treatise (this can be found below the infographic in this post). Many thanks to Wikipedia for all the information I gathered, as well as this one really helpful infographic designed by someone at the University of North Carolina that successfully shows the many roots and off shoots of the parties over history, focusing on which persons from which parties ran in each election. Credit also to this amazing infographic that, while beautiful and also full of too much information, tells the story of which parties were in power over the course of history. Unfortunately, neither of these fine pieces showed a history of ideologies, which was the main thing I wanted to tackle in my own design.
A note about the Fifth Party System: there is no consensus that the Fifth Party System has actually ended, or if so, when it ended and the Sixth Party System started. For the purpose of this piece, and based on my own analysis about what seemed like changes in the politics, I made the call that the Fifth Party System ended at the beginning of the 1980’s. I just want to be super clear though: this is currently just my opinion and grains of salt should be taken.
A note about the language used to describe politics, I found in my research that the terms liberal and conservative start popping up in the Progressive Era (post Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency), and reference to right-wing and left-wing seem to come into use even more recently. I designed the infographic to reflect our modern interpretations of right and left so as to emphasize how each party aligns with those ideologies, though I think it’s important to note that the history before 1900 really doesn’t seem to identify with that terminology.
Additionally, it’s much harder to see through the weeds in contemporary politics, so I found there were a lot of new things and loose ends that have yet to be tied up so it gets more complicated and undetermined at the bottom of the infographic. Maybe I can go back in 10 years and clean it up once I have the benefit of hindsight. I also make a note in my write up about how it was relatively easy to size up the political parties based on the dichotomy of which side of the argument for or against centralized government they fell, but as we get into the 1990’s, a whole new axis seems to be forming, where third parties are aligning and fracturing based on their approach to fiscal and social issues. Meaning that some parties may identify with being fiscally conservative (i.e., believing in limiting government-based trade restrictions) but might be ok with a variety of government-based regulations on social issues (i.e., gun control or reproductive rights issues). Just an interesting note for what lies ahead.
Purely nerding out, and definitely information overload, but if you’re into that kind of thing, I hope you enjoy it! Feel free to contact me if you want to talk about my research or interpretation of this information. (click on the image to zoom in, so you can see the fine print).
History of Political Parties in the United States
Over the course of U.S. history, various issues have split people into different factions by political party, but the fight for and against centralized government has been constant since the very beginning.
First Party System
The Founding Fathers did not originally intend for American politics to be partisan, but disputes arose and factions formed. The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, were ardent supporters of centralizing the government, consolidating debt on the federal level, and creating a central bank. Federalists were also keen to maintain good relations with Britain for trading purposes.
The Democratic-Republican Party, led by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, believed strongly in individual liberty, sovereignty of individuals and states, and limited government. They were concerned that a national bank would lead to corruption and monarchism. Democratic-Republicans also felt loyal to the French, who had come to the aid of the American Revolutionaries, but were now fighting with England and struggling through their own tumultuous revolution.
Era of Good Feelings
The issue of whether to side with France or England dissipated at the end of the War of 1812, leading to the Era of Good Feelings, where the two parties were more or less united on issues, especially after Madison agreed to establish a national bank in 1816.
Second Party System
The election of 1824 had four men running, all calling themselves Democratic-Republicans. Andrew Jackson won the most votes, but not the majority of electoral votes, so the final decision went to the house of Representatives, which chose John Quincy Adams.
Jackson in turn formed the Democratic Party, whose ideology embodied the strong Jeffersonian beliefs of small government, free trade, and hard money. Adams’ Party, the National Republican and then Whig Party, followed closer to the Federalists, arguing for stronger central government, infrastructure building, and high tariffs, all to promote commerce. Within the Whig Party, an anti-masonic group formed in opposition to Jackson who they were distrustful of because of his membership in the secret society, as well as a xenophobic party with an anti-Catholic agenda, in response to new immigrants coming from non-Protestant countries.
This period was dominated by the dispute over slavery, staunchly supported by the Southern-dominated Democrats. The Whig Party was not unified on the issue, which eventually led to its dissolution.
The Republican Party was formed from the remains of the Whig, Know-Nothing, and Free Soil Parties, which were all against the expansion of slavery, plus Democrats who were against secession. Abraham Lincoln, leader of the Republican Party, won the election of 1860, prompting the secession of seven southern states, and shortly thereafter the beginning of the Civil War.
Third Party System
In the election of 1864, Lincoln renamed the Republican Party the National Union Party. The temporary name was used to attract those who would not vote for a Republican. He ran with Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, hoping to prove his seriousness in working with southern states to reunify after the war. This proved to be a fateful decision as Lincoln was assassinated just over a month into his second term, and only 5 days after the South surrendered, leaving the Democratic Johnson as President during the critical early years of Reconstruction.
Johnson’s views did not align with those of the Republicans who held a majority in Congress. He opposed granting freedmen many civil liberties that Republicans had intended, including property rights and citizenship. He vetoed the Civil Rights Act, but the veto was then overturned by Congress, making this the first major bill to become law over presidential veto. Johnson was impeached, but was saved from removal by one vote. In 1868, General Ulysses S. Grant, a Republican, won the presidency. He built up the Republican Party in the South, but over the course of Reconstruction, corruption ran rampant as “carpetbaggers” (northerners who had come south) took advantage of their power. At the same time, groups like the Ku Klux Klan used intimidation and violence to run Republicans out of office and repress voting by blacks, leading to white Democrats regaining power of Congress.
The remainder of the period’s politics focused primarily on economic issues. Republicans continued to support high tariffs and protectionism to build the economy and to support federal programs like education, while Democrats argued for fewer restrictions, free trade, and fiscal conservatism. They also clashed on international policies, with Republicans supporting an active foreign policy while Democrats maintained an anti-imperialist stance.
One Republican principle that has been in place since the end of the Civil War is the strong support of military spending, stemming primarily from the desire to provide for the veterans of that war.
Fourth Party System
The Fourth Party System began after Grover Cleveland’s second term, coinciding with an economic depression due to the abundance of silver coinage then in circulation.
Labor unions began to gain influence and power and a Populist Party formed. Additionally, a small faction of the Democratic Party that was against silver ran candidates in the 1896 election, which helped turn the vote in favor of Republican McKinley. McKinley continued high tariff policies, was pro-business, and used “interventionism” to justify the Spanish-American War, gaining the colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, and Cuba.
When McKinley was assassinated, his young Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the helm and chartered in a new “progressive” era, promising fairness, breaking of trusts, regulation of railroads, and regulation of food and drugs. He also prioritized conservation, establishing a myriad of national parks, forests, and monuments. His successor, Taft, tended towards a more conservative agenda, favoring big business. Roosevelt challenged Taft in the 1912 election by creating his own Progressive Party (nicknamed the “Bull-Moose” Party). This split in the Republican votes ensured the election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson.
Wilson did continue a more progressive agenda by passing such legislation as the Federal Reserve Act (central banking), Federal Trade Commission Act (anti-trust and anti-monopoly) and other consumer protection policies, as well as reintroducing income tax, increasing regulation in the labor sector, and signing off on the 19th Amendment, opening up the vote to women, a decision that went against his party. The US entered WWI, and following armistice, Wilson issued his “Fourteen Points” that promoted an international approach to the progressive domestic policies that were being pushed at home. This was the beginning of “Wilsonian Idealism” – an infusion of morality into internationalism that promoted global democracy.
After the war, there was a desire to return to “normalcy” – how life was before war. A more conservative Republican leadership came into power. Calvin Coolidge was an adherent of the laissez-faire ideology, believing in the states’ power to manage themselves, which up until this point had been a primarily Democratic ideology. The economy boomed during the “roaring 20’s,” resulting in decreased union activity and declining federal regulation. The Market Crash of 1929 began the Great Depression, which brought with it a major political shift and end of the Fourth Party System.
Fifth Party System
At the beginning of the Fifth Party system, the country was deep in the middle of the Great Depression, which wreaked havoc on the economy and left 1 in 4 people unemployed. Under Hoover’s lead, the federal government increased tariffs in hopes of promoting the purchase of American goods, but this only exacerbated the depression world-wide. He promoted the notion that private business would volunteer not to lower wages or reduce their workforce, but that was not sustainable.
Hoover was voted out in favor of the young Franklin D. Roosevelt, a Democrat, in 1932. Roosevelt sought to restructure the economy and to use the federal funding to create demand. FDR’s first “New Deal” included the establishment of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FDIC, and the National Recovery Administration, which forced private industries to work with the federal government to set price minimums, reduce production in order to raise prices, and allow unions to establish labor standards and competitive conditions. The second “New Deal” created Social Security, the Works Progress Administration, and a stimulus to grow labor unions. In 1938, a bipartisan conservative coalition formed to stop further expansion of the New Deal, afraid that the country was turning into a socialist state. When unemployment dropped to 2% in the early 1940s, most of the New Deal programs were disbanded, except Social Security.
The New Deal splintered the Democratic Party, with Southern white conservatives (Dixiecrats) joining forces with the conservative Republicans to form the Conservative Coalition, which promoted an anti-socialist and anti-integration agenda. Once the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed, Southern Democrats abandoned the Democratic party entirely, becoming Republicans instead. At the same time, a liberal faction of the Republican Party continued to support Social Security and other social programs, but this faction slowly faded out. By the end of the Fifth Party system only the Conservative side of the Republican Party remained. From that, a far-right splinter group, the American Independent Party, formed in the 1960’s that began to heavily influence the Republican Party.
The Fifth Party System saw a transition in the demographics of each party. The traditionally Southern-held Democratic Party became the party of liberal-minded constituencies, such as Jews, African-Americans, labor unions, progressive intellectuals, and populist farm groups. Republicans lost the African-American vote and gained evangelical Southerners. Republicans began to promote stronger states’ rights over federal jurisdiction and sought economic deregulation.
Sixth Party System
While there is no official transition from the Fifth to Sixth Party System cited yet, some historians argue that the Sixth Party system began in the 1980’s. The Republicans held more conservative viewpoints while Democrats pursued more liberal agendas. Unlike the preceding systems, the two major parties’ positions are more polarized and extreme in this era, with a corresponding rise in partisanship and congressional gridlock.
The Republican Party of this era is pro-business, anti-regulation, and believes in the reduction of spending and tax cuts for the wealthiest in order to promote the economy. Republicans have also taken on more socially conservative agendas such as anti-abortion and anti-gay rights. Reagan won due in part to the support of “Reagan Democrats” who were attracted to his socially conservative policies. The “Christian Right,” not a specific party but a faction of the Republican Party, gained strength and drew the whole party farther to the right. Another group, called the Tea Party, emerged in response to a perception that mainstream Republicans were insufficiently conservative.
Democrats continued to support social programs such as healthcare reform and believed in increasing taxes in order to support and promote the economy. They also believed in reducing taxes on the poorest, and increasing for the richest to balance the budget. In light of the success of Reagan’s landslide victory, a part of the Democratic Party created the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and began to take an economic liberalism approach to fiscal issues that allowed for more power of the individual in business and promoted free trade, but allowed for certain amounts of government intervention such as regulating monopolies.
Parties focused on very specific issues gained traction in this System, highlighting issues such as the peace and the environment (Green Party), Reducing National Debt (Reform Party), and Reduction in Government Spending and general decrease in size of Federal Government (Libertarian Party). These third parties sometimes do not align directly along the dichotomy of centralized versus decentralized government, sometimes swinging in opposite directions on fiscal issues versus social issues; a whole new axis of dichotomies to start tracking.
Here’s an at-a-glance view of the infographic, to get a better feel for the spin offs, merges, and switches that happen:
*Update to post. I’m including a couple bits of my research source material as has been requested. It’s not comprehensive, and anyone who is suspicious of my research or sources is entitled to be. I am not an academic and have been very frank that this is an overly simplified interpretation of a very complicated and easily biased topic. Feel free to take from it what you like, or don’t take it at all. Also feel free to create your own interpretation of your own research. I’d be curious to see what you come up with. I did mostly scour wikipedia for my details, creating an incomplete wireframe of dates and basics info in this excel spreadsheet. Once I was able to glean the general pattern from this pared down data, I dove into more detail in the infographic itself. As I mentioned in my intro paragraph, I also used a number of visual aids that I thought illustrated well some of the transitions and switches. I’ll include a link (again) to all of those visual aids here as well. I don’t imagine this will make everyone happy, but it is my hope that anyone who reads this and finds some value in my interpretation of the data I found and understands that it is imperfect but well-intentioned. I’d rather put my efforts out into the world and have a debate rather than be afraid of the imperfection and never share or create anything that might be controversial.
In honor of International Women’s Day (#IWD2016), I’m working on a series of portraits of some famous and awesome ladies of history. This is an ongoing project, so will be continuing to post them as I make them. Check back here for more!
03.08.16 – I’ll start with Queen Elizabeth I (1533 – 1603). A formidable character, worthy of recognition for her long and (mostly) peaceful reign of England. Daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth ruled for 44 years, known as the Golden Age, where English drama flourished, led by playwrights such as William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe, and seafaring English adventurers such as Francis Drake made their name. Nicknamed the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth never married or bore an heir.
03.10.16 – Second in the series, is Harriet Tubman (1820 – 1913), an African-American born into slavery. She escaped and subsequently made some thirteen missions to rescue approximately seventy enslaved families and friends, making her a brave and critical member of the Underground Railroad. After the civil war, she continued to campion for rights of both freed blacks and women.
03.21.16 – Third up, Joan of Arc (1412 – 1431), is considered a heroine of France for her role during the Hundred Years’ War, and was canonized as a Roman Catholic saint. She claimed to have received visions of the Archangel Michael, Saint Margaret, and Saint Catherine instructing her to support Charles VII and recover France from English domination. After the uncrowned King sent her off as part of a relief mission on the siege of Orléans, victories ensued and the King was crowned. She was later captured by the English side and then burned at the stake at roughly 19 years of age. So, she might have been a little crazy, but a teenage woman going into battle in the 1400’s is still pretty bad ass, so makes my list for famous and awesome women of history.
03.28.16 – Sacagawea, also Sakakawea or Sacajawea (1788-1812), was a Lemhi Shoshone woman who helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition achieve each of its chartered mission objectives exploring the Louisiana Purchase. Reliable historic info about her isn’t limited. Most of the info we have is based on the journals written by the two explorers. She traveled thousands of miles from North Dakota to the Pacific Ocean with the expedition in 1804 and 1806 as the wife of a Quebecois trapper (married to him at the age of 13). She was brought along primarily as a Shoshone interpreter. She established cultural contacts with Native American populations, including a reuniting moment with her brother whom she’d been separated from at the age of 12. She bore her son, Jean Baptiste Charbonneau, while on the expedition.
We owe a lot of credit to the National American Woman Suffrage Association of the early twentieth century for bringing her history and importance into the forefront, by adopting her as a symbol of women’s worth and independence.
04.03.16 – I’m pleased that this post aligns with Dame Jane Morris Goodall’s birthday (b. 1934). She is a British primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace. Considered to be the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees, Goodall is best known for her 55-year study of social and family interactions of wild chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania. She is the founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program, and she has worked extensively on conservation and animal welfare issues. Apparently as a child, she was given a lifelike chimpanzee stuffed animal named Jubilee by her father, which apparently kickstarted her early love of animals.
04.10.16 – Sally Ride (1951 – 2012) was an American physicist and astronaut. She became the first American woman in space in 1983 (two Russian women preceded her). She remains the youngest American astronaut to have traveled to space, having done so at the age of 32. After flying twice on the Orbiter Challenger, she left NASA in 1987. She later worked at Stanford and then University of California, San Diego as a professor of physics. She served on the committees that investigated the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle disasters, the only person to participate on both. She was the president and CEO of Sally Ride Science, a company she co-founded in 2001 that creates entertaining science programs and publications for upper elementary and middle school students, with a particular focus on girls. It was revealed after her death that she had been in a 27 year long relationship with her partner Tam O’Shaughnessy, making her the first known LGBT astronaut. She was a strong advocate of science and space exploration, and I’m honored to promote her accomplishments.
04.17.16 – Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) is a Mexican painter best known for her self-portraits that exposed her physical and emotional struggles and pulled imagery and colors from her Mexican cultural heritage. She suffered lifelong health problems, many of which were caused by a bus accident she survived as a teenager. She was pegged as an surrealist painter by André Breton, but she felt her work reflected more of her reality than her dreams. She was married to famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera for what turned out to be a very volatile relationship. Throughout her life, she was very politically active. Since her death, Kahlo’s fame as an artist has only grown. Her childhood home was opened as a museum in 1958. She is viewed by many as an icon of female creativity.
04.24.16 – Susan Brownell Anthony (1820 – 1906) was an American social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she started her politically active career at the age of 17, collecting anti-slave petitions. She met Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 1851, with whom she became a lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities. The list of things she did is long, from founding the New York Women’s State Temperance Society, to founding a newspaper for women’s rights, to founding the National Women’s Suffrage Association, to literally co-writing the book on the history of women’s suffrage, to submitting an amendment to Congress (submitted in 1878) that was finally passed in 1920 as the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, giving women the right to vote. She campaigned around the country and the world for women’s rights her entire life. When she first began campaigning for women’s rights, she was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. Luckily, over her lifetime, public perception of her changed and by her 80th birthday, she was invited to celebrate at the the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley. She has continued to be celebrated, notably with her portrait appearing on the 1979 dollar coin (the first non-fictitious woman to appear on U.S. coinage). I for one am eternally grateful to her and all the women who worked so hard to pass that amendment and endeavor to never take for granted all the hard work that she and others put into the cause.
05.08.16 – Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910), known as the “lady with the lamp,” was a celebrated English social reformer and statistician, and the founder of modern nursing. She was born into an affluent British family, but from a young age was drawn to philanthropy, mainly ministering to the sick and poor. Against her family’s wishes, she chose to pursue a career in nursing. She studied in Germany, and when she returned to England, quickly excelled in her field and was promoted to superintendent within the first year of being hired. When the British entered the Crimean War, she and a team of nurses were called upon to aid the British soldiers on the front. The conditions were appalling, and with the help of her staff, they were able to improve the unsanitary conditions at a British base hospital, reducing the death count by two-thirds. She wrote about her observations and proposed reforms to sanitation. Her writings sparked worldwide health care reform. In 1860 she established St. Thomas’ Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses. She remained a prominent figure and authority on the subject and was regularly consulted by governments regarding the establishment of field hospitals. At the age of 88, she was conferred the merit of honor by King Edward. She had contracted “Crimean Fever” and lived bedridden from the age of 38 until her death at 90. Since 1965, International Nurses Day has been celebrated on her birthday each year, May 12.
This year, my client gift was a custom deck of playing cards featuring landmarks from San Francisco, a fun personal tribute to the city I love and that so many also love to love.
I am no stranger to designing cards, having created a custom deck of poker cards for a charity poker tournament, as well as two card-based games for Google (Data Center Manager and Launch & Iterate). I love games, and also love designing for them, so deciding on a poker deck as a client gift seemed like the perfect pair.
I started back in the summer, thinking how to organize the face cards. There are a variety of options, such as by neighborhood, or by personalities (techie, hippie, by park, etc. I decided on buildings and landmarks because they had a pretty decent correlation by category for each set of 4 face cards and also had a certain amount of historical and intrinsic value to the people of San Francisco. But, as no option was perfect for capturing every aspect of the city’s culture, heritage and history, some icons didn’t make it, such as Dolores Park, AT&T Park, or the Presidio, to name a few that got cut from the long list.
What I did include were 3 categories of landmarks for each set of face cards.
Kings were represented by famous tall buildings or towers: Sutro, TransAmerica, Coit and the Ferry Building clock tower. I think I chose them as Kings purely based on height.
Queens were some of the beloved bridges that are either in or connect to San Francisco: Bay Bridge both east and western spans, Golden Gate, and the slightly less famous but delightful bridge in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. Perhaps I chose them for queens because they hold some of the real power in the city, as far as connecting us to our neighbors.
Jacks comprised of other famous tourist attractions including the Painted Ladies in Alamo Square, Alcatraz Island, Lombard Street, and the Palace of Fine Arts, which coincidentally happened to celebrate its 100th birthday this year.
Of course, the real character of the cards lies in the Joker, whom I aptly chose our dear Emperor Norton to fill the role of. It seemed all too appropriate. (Don’t know who he is? Check out the wikipedia page).
The final consideration for the cards was the color palette, which is very limited. These colors are the ones I’ve chosen for my personal branding, but it’s not a huge coincidence that the cadmium red (not quite international orange, but certainly in the spirit) and sea green are in play for this San Francisco-based designer.
Want a deck of your own? Email me, and I can mail you a pack ($20+shipping). While supplies last.
Hard to believe, but it’s already been a year since I decided to dive into the sea of uncertainty that is freelancing. I’m happy to report that it’s been a fantastic ride, and I’ve been having more fun and more adventures than I ever anticipated for the first 12 months of this journey.
Looking back over my progress, I am most pleased to have found a niche in designing infographics. Hindsight is 20/20 and it seems so obvious from where I am now that this is where I was headed, but it really took having the flexibility and initiative to design/take projects around it in the last year that made it possible.
An added bonus for this new phase in my career has been the confidence I feel in my own abilities. I have had to put myself out there in ways I never had to before, and having a few more projects under my belt and a growing client list makes me feel like “I’ve got this.” It certainly still feels like a roller coaster, but I kind of enjoy the ebb and flow.
Most of all, I have had a ton of fun working on a variety of projects. Every one has its challenges and rewards, and I’m learning so much. Here are some highlights from what I’ve been working on in the last year.
Here’s to another year of fun projects and learning!
I was invited to Google last week for a really cool Tech Talk presented by the creators of the game Launch & Iterate, that I took part in the graphic design for. It was a really great presentation that gave a detailed explanation of the process of creating the game, from the first email exchange where the notion of making a game was first introduced (a good 2+ years ago now) to where they are now with a final product and lots of positive feedback, with all the lessons learned along the way and the things that went right that they’re most proud of.
Having worked closely with the team on the project from a relatively early stage of the development, it was still enlightening to hear their stories of all the testing and reasons for all the changes they made along the way. I also learned that their target demographic was actually students who were not already familiar with the genre of Euro-style gaming, which for some reason came as a surprise to me (wait, doesn’t everyone play these games now?? Are you saying I live in a board game bubble?).
They were very generous in giving me a shout-out in the presentation as the outside professional they hired to pull the game together. I probably couldn’t talk enough about how great of an experience it was to work on this project, and how much I have enjoyed watching (and participating in) its evolution. It was inspiring, and of course, puts the fire under me to once again have a go at creating my own game again.
I am so pleased to finally be able to post the final product of this project. It took almost a year to finalize, and it was so much fun to work on, so am thrilled to finally share it.
This is a co-op game with the end goal of launching the most products. Designed as a game to play at recruiting events, it is targeted at programmers and people familiar with programming lingo and/or Google, but no reason why anyone who just loves games couldn’t play it, too.
The game design and mechanics were already mostly defined by the time the Google team who worked on it decided they were ready to reach out to a designer to create the game’s art. I came in to do a test round with their scratch deck and I was immediately inspired. They had a really good concept for game play, fun and clever ways to incorporate the Google brand and programming job functions into the theme of the game, and also had already compiled most of the details about verbiage, card distribution, game balance, etc. So it was my job to take the pieces and ideas and put them into a cohesive looking deck with fun, bold, Google-esque graphics.
I have played enough card games to understand some of the more practical elements required in making a good deck of cards, such as combining colors with symbols to make identifying types of cards easier (especially for color blind folks), putting at-a-glance info on the sides and corners of cards since they’re typically held fanned out in your hand, and also making sure layouts are consistent, fonts are legible, and type isn’t too small. These basic requirements, along with keeping text and pertinent design elements within the proper margins, were my guides in getting the designs started. I also had the benefit of having a well-defined brand to work with, which uses eye-catching, bold, primary colors (they also have their own font!).
It’s a thrill to see how this project evolved. I commend my contact at Google immensely for being such a great communicator. She was very organized and thoughtful with feedback (both her own and what she compiled and filtered down to me from the rest of the team), and I feel the feedback and changes they suggested really furthered the design immensely. Looking back on some of my round 1 and 2 ideas makes the excellence of their input and insight so clear as you compare it to our final product. I absolutely love when a project comes together in such a way.
So I started with a relatively blank canvas. The scratch deck they had created had a rough card layout with a solid bar of color on the left side with text on the blank space adjacent. It wasn’t a bad starting point, since the majority of the cards would be hand-held, and having that left bar for at-a-glance icons turned out to the basis for the final design of most of the cards in the deck.
So, a brief synopsis, there are Tech Cards, Event Cards, Launch Cards, as well as penalty/bonus cards, in addition to 4 “Tech Stack Base” cards.
Tech cards are split into Tech Stack cards (labeled with F, A, S, or T and numbered 1-7) that will get piled on top of one of the 4 coordinating stacks on the game area. Each color is assigned a color and shape (blue/square, red/circle, yellow/4-pointed star or green/triangle).
Additionally, there are “One-Shot” Tech cards that do not get stacked on the base piles, but are instead used one time and then discarded and are black with no attached symbol.
Other cards in the deck are not held in-hand such as the Tech Stack Base cards, Penalty/Bonus Cards, Launches, and Events.
Penalty Cards will either get placed on top of a Stack, or in front of a Player.
Launch Cards are the basis of how you earn points in the game, by earning Users.
All the Launch cards were cleverly designed as one of Google’s April Fool jokes (aka, products that were not real and were also far-fetched and hilarious). Examples such as Scratch and Sniff Google Searches, Locate a nearby kitten, Google Translate for Animals, etc.
These guys really went through some transformations.
I really enjoy how the eventually turned out, and find the process in getting to that point so valuable and interesting.
This is a culmination of roughly 70 hours of work for me over the course of 10 months including a folded page with instructions (not including the Visually Impaired version we augmented the layout for). I loved every minute and it inspired me to want to design and create the art for my own games (it’s really hard, btw). I really loved brainstorming with a team of super smart people to realize what I believe is a really thoughtfully designed game. I will jump on any chance to do it again.
For you Board Game Geeks, here’s a link to the game on BGG.
I really enjoyed working on the mock ups for this rebranding project. The mission was to bring back to life a mom & pop business located out of San Francisco that has been making all natural, organic soaps and beauty & healing products for decades. They used to have a brick and mortar shop, but gave it up years ago and have been working out of their home doing online sales here and there. My clients were excited by the idea of updating their brand to be more modern in order to capture some of the business bigger brands offering similar products have been getting.
Background: The company name “Beyond the Sea” was inspired by the Bobby Darin song of the same name, and they intended to keep the continuity of the name. Their original branding included an image of a mermaid, and wanted to keep her in the logo. They wanted to stress the value of their product, and their commitment to using natural ingredients. I absorbed those criteria and applied a few of my own desires to the project. I wanted to make sure the product would stand out on a shelf with similar products; I wanted to make it feel as light-hearted as the song is; I wanted to incorporate bold but natural colors and patterns; I wanted to use materials that felt or looked natural or handmade.
Step one was defining the color palette. I put together a pinterest board with some inspiring images and color samples to get me going. I chose faded beach colors that I felt were relaxed and fun, and that I felt worked well together.
Then I made a few patterns that worked with those colors. 2 kinds of waves, shells, and kelp. I could make so many more patterns like this. It was a lot of fun.
Next, I set up a few mock ups based on the products they had available, so, soaps, a spritzer, body butter, and moisturizer. The labels would ideally be printed on a natural, possibly even handmade paper. There are two layers, first the patterned paper underneath, topped with a with a sandlike patterned, cream paper for the product info to be printed on.
Finally, I made a website front page mock-up to show what style site I had in mind for showcasing their product. I grabbed a stock soap image, but preferably would have actual product images in that hero space. I incorporated the patterns and colors I made in both the background, and for some fun hover effects.
I was a really fun project, and look forward to digging deeper when it comes time to realize the mock ups into actual products.
I worked on a personal branding project for a client who made a move from Seattle to Monterey. I worked up a change of address card showing the move from “the Space Needle to the Cypress Needles” and worked in an illustration of one of my favorite trees here in California, the Monterey Cypress, using a California Craftsman style, with the warm earth tones, art nouveau inspired curves, and outlined shapes. I wanted the overall shape of the tree to parody the shape of the space needle, as I had originally thought a 2 sided mailer would look neat if they lined up, but changed the plan when I decided to make it a postcard instead of a stuffed mailer. The shapes are still similar, but I relaxed the curves of the tree which I think worked out much better in the long run.
Knowing my client loves the color cobalt blue, I worked that in to the overall branding, including envelopes, which I think will really pop when compared to other mail. I included a design for a regular natural colored envelope as well, matching the paper used for the letterhead, and printed a blue bordered version of her branding directly on the envelope.
Deciding to leave my full-time position was not a light decision. I had been there a long time and felt quite comfortable. I started at Sereno Group as an associate designer, but quickly rose to become the lead of the design department, which I ran for 7 years. I’ve come to realize that 7 years at one job is not common this day and age, certainly not amongst my immediate peers. Being somewhere that long had its rewards though: a solid accrual of vacation days, familiarity with all aspects of your job, and other people’s reverence for the knowledge you have amassed. I became an information super center, able to answer seemingly random questions in half a second since I was either there when it happened, or was the person who put the system in place. I thoroughly enjoyed when we hired new designers to the team and they would wonder why things were the way we were and I could provide solid evidence and anecdotes to back up the decisions I had made (though, always eager to see a fresh perspective in case there was something I had been missing in my own view of the way things were). It was gratifying to be working in a system where you understood the ins and outs, and knew where to find things, and knew the reason behind why things were being done, versus the usual mantra of “I dunno, that’s what I was told.”
But I also found that being steeped with such knowledge and know-how had the simultaneously adverse effect of feeling like nothing was new. Over the years I became increasingly lazy about note-taking and recording my processes since I was the only one involved in each step. When I decided it was time to start my own venture, the reality of how many things I needed to pass along to my replacement was a bit daunting. Being mostly proactive about upcoming deadlines and projects, I had a decent mental map of what was coming on the horizon and when things would need to be started, and how they would need to be accomplished, but lived in a sort of reactionary world where the time of year, for example, would trigger the memory of needing to tackle the task, more so than any calendar of events I had inscribed somewhere.
So when my replacement asked me for instructions on how to take over the projects I’d been doing solo for 7 years, I felt overwhelmed with all the things I had not taken good notes on that I needed to pass on. On top of it, she asked me to make them pretty (yeah, designers, I know). I wondered how I could relay the detail, caveats and nuances of all the projects into simplified graphic instructions. I ended up making a set of “pretty” instructions, and then also bombarded her with loads of emails full of more detailed instructions for certain projects that I hope will be more useful when the time comes for to actually need them.
So, for the “pretty” instructions, I made a brain dump, describing with each page of the packet the process involved with each task, distilling it as much as possible into illustrations and flow charts. It actually made the task of relaying all this knowledge rather delightful, as I was challenged to be concise and informative. There really isn’t anything I love more than making cute illustrations, anyway.
It’s official. After nearly 7 years working as an in-house designer, Director of Marketing, and manager of both people and projects, I have decided it’s time to go rogue and have started my own Design & Illustration business. It will be a big change to not have that paycheck hit regularly, to not have coworkers to mingle with day in and day out, and to not have anyone but yourself to blame when it doesn’t go right. It will be difficult, but it will be rewarding.
It’s been a long time coming, in truth. I’ve been doing freelance work since college, always making time for it outside of my usual work hours, and in the last year, have been increasingly more busy with projects and new clients – enough so that the idea to commit to doing that full-time actually seems feasible now. It is not without its fears and concerns, but I am overwhelmed by the support and encouragement I’ve received from friends, family, and professional acquaintances who all believe I will do great.
It is not without sadness that I will leave the job of 7 years behind as I’ve made valuable friendships and learned many great lessons, both on a professional and personal level. I’ve learned what my strengths are, and know I can leverage them when conducting business for myself. I’ve learned what my weaknesses are, so know there are options for avoiding or delegating them so that I can focus on the good stuff. I expect I will make many mistakes still, but hope I will meet them as a challenge to just get better. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had, the people I’ve worked with, and how it all is leading up to this new direction for me.
So consider this proclamation the beginning of a great new adventure, and come back here to keep checking out the latest projects I’ve been working on, ideas I’ve been having, or the things I’ve been admiring. Oh, and of course, feel free to get the word out to anyone seeking some design or illustration help. I can help with posters, info graphics, brochures, game design, invites & announcements, packaging, apparel, logo & branding, editorial illustration, as well as web and mobile design. And of course, I do still paint, so keep an eye out for some new landscapes or what not – perhaps to fill that nook between your bookshelves and tv stand that needs a little extra color.
I did it! I’ve made a parallax site. For anyone who hasn’t noticed, parallax has exploded in the last year (or less?). It is such a wonderful way to create layers, animation, and add a sense of depth to a web experience. I have just barely touched the tip of the iceberg with what I’ve created here – the potential to add even more transitions and animations to a parallax site are boundless.
I was excited to experiment with this new technology with my long-standing client, that being the annual WooCamp invite. I’ve created 4 of them so far, alternating between print and web based invites. The event lends itself to themes of adventure, exploration, wilderness, and camaraderie, and this year, inspired also by my client’s recent trips to Antarctica, Patagonia, Everest, K2 (the list goes on), I settled on “Victorian Adventurer” for the invite’s theme. (Previous incarnations have been National Parks, Wild West, and something akin to Summer Camp).
I started with some fancy Victorian lettering, pulling inspiration from a Pinterest board I created that is full of Victorian/Explorer images. I also not-so-secretly admire Jessica Hische and all her beautiful lettering projects, and wanted to take a stab at one myself, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I also created a “ticket” that could be used for email, directing invitees to the website, which was another Victorian travel inspired piece.
In addition to some fun side graphics I created that illustrated the events of the weekend, I had to include in there somewhere an homage to the phrase, “Livingstone, I presume.” I mean, I had to.
My first iteration of the Livingstone portrait – I took my client’s face and photoshopped it into a portrait of Henry Morgan. I thought initially I might be able to make little Livingstone-esque portraits for all the attendees as part of their invitation, but realized I simply didn’t have enough time to do that.
Drawing inspiration once again from my Victorian source material, I wanted to include images or maps of the area. The beautiful botanical drawings that came from that era have such a wonderful tone and saturation about them that I wanted to emulate. Tempted initially to bust out water colors and paint up some background images, I instead came across a wealth of photos I had taken while I was at WooCamp one year. Taken when the sun was setting, the colors were ripe and with a few tweaks and filters I feel like I captured the essence of the place, while also playing along with the theme I had established, and created images that had a painted quality about them.
So the background parallax effect I borrowed the general look from this site tutorial. But I really wanted the background images to move slightly, so had to add that code in. Additionally, I wanted to include some more graphics that could tie into the “what to do/what to bring” section, so created another animation speed for those objects so they would appear to “fly up” the screen at a faster rate than the regular scroll. Kind of like how things scroll up the sides of a Pixar animations credits.
The potatoes are my favorite.
I hosted a cookie party last weekend and made this little interactive website invitation for it. Using Hype again, I made it in 5 “scenes” – an intro (be sure you let the whisk spin!), the invite text, “how it works”, “when and where” with links to add the event to your calendar and directions via google maps, suggestions about what kind of cookie to make (just ideas because I wanted to draw cookies and that seemed like a good excuse), and then the RSVP which if you click the oven mitt, it will email me saying that you’re coming, plus links to the shared google form (don’t want any duplicates), and another source for recipe inspiration.
I kept the animations to a minimum, but wanted to include a couple hover states like quick twists and little speech bubbles, and also did a roll over using a shape that was transparent. Just playing with some of the fun little features of HMTL5 that add a little extra character to something that might not otherwise have that splash.
So I was going through updating my portfolio site, as one does, and I came across these illustrations I made back at Pratt, when I was taking Lynn Pauley‘s class. We took a trip to Coney Island in the off-season. It was eerily deserted, sand piled up on the boardwalk, carney’s lazily hanging about. It was great. I don’t even remember having a camera at the time, but I guess I was able to capture quite a few reference shots which I pulled this series from.
I was heavily influenced by Pauley’s style in that class. She works very loosely, basically considering nothing sacred, owning, no, cherishing the “mistakes” like a line that didn’t end up where you’d expected, or eraser marks boldly left half erased. I don’t think I ended up owning her style for myself, at least not to the extent that she owns it, but it was such a valuable experience to create something with almost casual ease. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I feel that these paintings that came from the experience feel casual and light-hearted, while still feeling a bit washed out and creepy, which I think was kind of what I was going for at the time.