Friday, October 29, 2010

Holiday Fun

You know, it's funny. It happens every year and every year we all talk about it like it's the first time it's ever happened before. What I am referring to is the commercialization of Christmas, and how retailers can't get that Halloween stuff off the shelves fast enough to begin displaying all the Christmas goodies. All the traditional favorites such as candles and wreaths and lights to those must-have items you can't live without such as Christmas moose shoelaces, jingle bell dog food dishes and toilet paper with Christmas trees on it. Okay I made that last one up, but if there is a store locally selling it, I'm totally buying it this year.

I keep wondering how long it will be before they're clearing the summer seasonal stuff out in July to put up Halloween stuff, so they can clear that out in August and put out Christmas stuff. Wait, I just re-read what I wrote and realized, it's already happening. Try buying a bathing suit in August in a store like WalMart. FAIL, because they've already cleared them all out for school stuff which will be long gone before school even starts, only to be replaced with Halloween stuff. This is why I like those quaint little stand-alone shops that are exclusively Christmas stores, year round. I like knowing I can go any time of year and the aisles aren't cluttered with boxes of stock, there's no sense of urgency with the staff, and it's just a nice, feel-good shop. While I love Christmas and all the goodies that go along with it, I don't really like going into a store when the aisles are cluttered and the staff is nearly breaking their necks to get the displays up.

I was doing some shopping today for a birthday party my 11 year old is going to and I ran into this kind of busy, cluttered Christmas scene. And it's not even Halloween yet! Madness I tell you, simply madness. (Although I did manage to get the softest, cutest teddy bear on the planet, in the Christmas aisle).

One of the benefits of online shopping of course, is that you never run into that kind of thing. Online shopping was made for people just like me. People who really don't like shopping to begin with, people who dislike crowded stores, people who have an unhealthy attachment to wearing comfy-pants all day long, and people who like to take their time and just browse at their leisure, instead of feeling like they have to grab the last whatever, before someone else does. One of the fun benefits to having an online shop is that I can stock it with whatever I want, whenever I want. And I never leave boxes in the aisles!

When it was crazy hot and sticky humid in the summer, I started designing fun Christmas stuff, complete with snowflakes to make me feel cooler. Quite often by the last part of winter, I'm busy designing pretty summery things and beach gear. Folks in Australia (who enter summer the same time we enter winter) are probably wondering what hemisphere I'm really in.

I've been in "holiday mode" in design for a while now, because it's just so much fun to design for. It's pretty, it's sparkly, it's whimsical and magical and it's all very warm and fuzzy, no matter what time of year it is. I confess, I thoroughly dig warm, fuzzy and magical.

Today I finished two new designs I'd like to share with you:

While I'm more of a "stay at home, stay off the roads, watch a fantastic old or new movie" New Year's Eve person, I love to create these kind of custom invitations for the big, wonderful, fantastical types of celebrations. To be honest, if I received one of these in the mail, I might even consider attending to see if the event was as fun as the invitation.

If you're hosting a super fun New Year's Eve gathering this year (or know someone who is), let me help you make it wonderfully memorable beginning with these custom invitations! Whether it's a small dinner party for the adults, a big, crazy church youth group outing complete with fireworks in the park, or whatever your plan is, I have a fun selection of New Year's Eve invitations in store. I even have a fun party invitation for a KIDS New Year's Eve party (perfect for parents, community groups, churches or schools).

Now is a good time to begin planning for the busy holiday season, so I just wanted to share my newest New Year's Eve party invitations with you. Plus, I really love the way they turned out and I wanted to sorta show them off. :o)

Happy HallowThanksNewChristGivingMasYearWeen!
(I prefer to selectively celebrate one at a time, but I'm just going to cover all the bases here).

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dirty Old Thang Meet Pretty New Thang

Recently I looked at my mousepad. I mean, I really took a good look at the beat up, ancient, used up, dirty old thing and wondered if a mouse could clock miles, how many miles this poor old thing had clocked in the last ten years. Yep, I've had the same mousepad for at least 10 years, maybe longer. It's old, dirty and gross. No matter how hard I've tried to keep it clean, it's still old, dirty and gross (even if it does have Sylvester and Tweety on it, and it does!)

So, I decided it was time for a new one and I came up with this:

When I was done I thought "hey, I like that, I want a new mug to match" so then I created this:

When I was done with that, I thought "hey, a new line of fun desktop gifts - matching mugs and mousepads!" So then I had a lot of fun creating a whole slew of fun new designs for matching mousepads and mugs. I'm honestly not sure how many constitute a slew, but there are lots.

So now there are matching desktop gifts for men, women, teenagers and kids too in lots of fun designs. If you're looking for a totally unique gift (and many have the option to personalize them) then I highly recommend these very cool, very useful matching desktop gifts. I did blog about this a couple of weeks ago but my internet connect has been terribly unstable for a few weeks so updating anything was nearly impossible. That finally seems to have been resolved so now there are 34 pairs of super cool matching desktop gifts in store.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

It's Random

Time for more Random Thoughts from a Random Thinker:

• Why is it, every time I see a "smart car" (you know the kind, those little tiny things with little tiny tires?) I fully expect to see Woody Allen and Diane Keaton inside it?

• When I'm out and about running errands I almost always see a complete stranger that resembles a celebrity. It's a fun People Watching thing I've done for as long as I can remember. Recently I was at WalMart and while I did not see a celeb doppleganger, I did see and hear a very old man in a motorized scooter that had the thickest Scottish accent I've ever heard in my life. The accent alone makes him the coolest old man in Canada. I could have stood there all day just listening to him talk. I don't even care what he'd talk about.

• Recently in the news was an article about possible charges pending against a runner up for Father of the Year award recipient who attempted to force his girlfriend into an abortion, at gunpoint. Criminal charges, they say, because he attempted to commit an unlawful termination of a pregnancy. I find this striking on many levels, not the least of which is the fact that in our culture it's perfectly okay for Mommy Dearest to slaughter her unborn child, but if Daddy Dearest tries his hand at it, he faces jail time. Our culture is disgustingly twisted beyond any recognition of moral uprightness. (I was being sarcastic about the father being a runner up for any kind of award, except for maybe the Creep of the Year. He definitely deserves at least that much.)

• In other twisted news, a single Christian woman in Michigan faces several hundred dollars in fines and a forced participation in a "fair housing" program because she had the audacity to post a "Christian roomate wanted" ad on the bulletin board of her church. In Michigan the Fair Housing Act prevents people from publishing an advertisement stating their preference of religion, race or handicap with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling. So by her posting the ad on her church bulletin board, she was "expressed an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths" according to the complaint filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.

Aside from the fact that this is possibly one of the MOST stupid laws I've ever heard of, what really blows me away is the fact that someone from this lady's own church, turned her into the Fair Housing Center. Yes indeed, according to the article: "the person who filed the initial complaint saw the ad on the church bulletin board and contacted the local fair housing organization." Isn't that just swell? Rather than contacting the lady herself and letting her know that the ad might violate the STUPID law and encourage her to reword it, this wonderful person just went straight to the Fair Housing center to bust her for illegal discrimination. This just makes me so angry. UGH.

• Lastly, I keep hearing about Willow Smith and her being this incredible, breakout pop artist with a great new song/video. In case you didn't know (and I didn't, and honestly didn't care) Willow Smith is the 9 year old daughter of Wil Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith. Her new song is called Whip Your Hair. I clicked a link (no, I will not repost it here, and you'll thank me later) to her site to watch this fantastic new video and hear this earth shattering new song, and then... well, then I had more issues than a 1 legged man in a pogo stick race. This is quite possibly the dumbest, most pointless, most annoying song/video since Walking On Sunshine. In fact, I'd rather watch that video again a thousand times, before I ever have to watch/hear Whip My Hair again.

...and, that's all the randomness I have for today.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Store Stuff: Thanksgiving

If you follow me on twitter or are a FB friend, you know I've been having a lot of fun lately with whimsical and cartoonish designs. I must confess, they're just a lot of fun to create.

However I wanted to bring your attention to two new products I was inspired to create today:

Both of these Thanksgiving Dinner invitations are entirely customizable for you to add all your own details for your Thanksgiving Dinner/gathering. These invitations are 5x7 size, come in packs of 10 with envelopes. You can choose from six different paper types, and here's two wonderful coupon codes to choose from (unfortunately you cannot use both coupons, you have to select one or the other, whichever best fits your order) and save:

• Save 12% when you order 10 or more: Use discount code 12INVITATION at checkout.
• Get FREE shipping (US only) on orders over $50: Use discount code FREESHIPFORU at checkout.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, October 15, 2010

If I Were An Owl, and other random goodies

Do you ever just have one of those days where, every single time you try your best to get to the planned schedule, something comes along and derails it yet again? I'm sure you do, I think we all have those days. Today was like that for me, but in some really fun ways so I'm not really complaining.

I'd planned to sit down and blog this morning but it was just one thing after another until before I knew it, time got away from me. I have lots of random stuff to say so here we go:

• Last month I did a custom designed stationery set for a friend of mine who lives here in Canada, and she ordered it through my zazzle shop. Now I have a little pet peeve to rant about. Shipping to Canada, depending on the weather, mood or whatever off the wall criteria that makes no sense, is insane! Kev orders cds from a place in the deep south and his orders get here in 3-5 days. Other places it's a week, yet other places it's 2, 4 or 6 weeks and without any reason, it seems. Order is placed, shipped, then sits in customs at the border for... who knows how long? It's a toss up, and you never really know when your order will arrive. My friend's stationery took FOUR weeks from date of shipping till the day she received it. Four weeks, for paper. Someone needs to explain that to me, because it's just stupid.

• While on my daily walk after dinner tonight I noticed so many things. Mostly, I noticed how I noticed things that I'm sure I always notice but never really pay attention to because they're just ordinary, everyday sorts of things. Did that make any sense at all? In other words, I purposely payed attention to what I was seeing, hearing and smelling while on my walk.

I noticed how the corn that in July was a deep, shimmering green is now a dusty, crunchy brown, and ready to be harvested soon for feed corn.

I noticed how the sky was a gorgeous shade of crisp, clean blue, dotted with pure white puffy clouds that looked so perfect, they almost looked fake.

I noticed the shotgun blasts I heard off in the distance, and immediately thought "farmers, shooting at coyotes". Anyway I hope that's all it was.

I noticed how some of the trees are already completely bare of all their leaves, while others seem to be hanging on to them for dear life. I also noticed how all hints of green, red, orange and yellow are gone from those leaves, and how it'll only be a matter of days before they're off the trees as well.

I noticed the tree I always notice and think "this is a perfect tree with a perfect limb sticking straight out. If I were an owl, I'd sit right there and just be cool." The thing is though, I've seen this tree a million times (give or take) and I've never seen an owl sitting on that limb. Clearly, I don't know nearly as much about being an owl as I like to think I do.

I noticed that I haven't yet noticed the tell-tale scent of fall. That is, the unmistakable odor of woodsmoke in the air, as neighbors begin to heat their homes to keep the chill out. It really hasn't been cold enough yet to build a fire though. That's coming in the next few weeks, I'm sure.

1977• Today my sister dug out a dusty old photo album and posted lots of old family pics on FB. Many of them were of her, our brother and myself, like this one. Now, allow me to explain this picture before I explain this picture.

This was taken in our kitchen sometime in December of 1978. I would have turned 14 on December 12th, so I was either 13 or 14 when this was taken. The only reason I even remember this, is because of the bandage on my arm. Walking home with 2 friends on Friday night from the roller rink, all three of us were hit by a car. One friend escaped with just scrapes, another was in a coma for a week and later recovered fully, and I was thrown about 30 feet straight up, and landed on my back and left elbow in the road. The attending paramedic said the only reason I didn't crack both elbows is because in my other hand I was holding onto the giant, foot long candy cane I had won at the roller rink that night. Apparently I was still holding onto it when the ambulance arrived. It was a pretty traumatic experience and I'm sure my mom felt the same way when they called her from the emergency room where we were all taken, via ambulance.

In any event, for whatever silly reason my sister decided to plaster some cotton quilt batting all over her head and pretend to be Santa Claus. It had probably been many years since we all had our picture taken on Santa's lap, so Mom got out her polaroid and we all had pictures taken with "Santa". She has this one, and I have the one of her sitting on my mom's lap, lol. Yes, my family is seriously silly, and we like it that way.

What really struck me about this picture though, is my brother. Not the goofy look he has on his face, but his t-shirt. Nearly all his old t-shirts eventually became mine, and this one was one of them. I loved this shirt. No, correction, I loved this shirt. It's a little hard to make out from this 30+ year old photo, but the graphic is of a squirrel holding a nut (a hex nut, not an acorn) and the shirt itself was a pale yellow. As I said, eventually this shirt (along with many other graphic shirts that were once my brother's) became mine and I wore it until I wore it out.

I had to laugh when I saw it in this picture today, because even though I hadn't seen it for years and years, I actually did see it very recently when just this spring, I created this cutie-patootie cartoon squirrel. It never really occured to me where some of my inspirations came from to create the cartoon animals that I do, until I saw my brother wearing this shirt, from 30 years ago. It's almost the exact same squirrel, even though I hadn't seen it for so long. There are slight differences of course, but essentially, my squirrel come from the older one. Obviously the cute-factor made a lasting impression somewhere in my brain and when I sat down to create the new one, the idea of what he should look like clearly came from my fond memory of my brother's shirt from 1978.

My sister posted another picture of a favorite cartoon animal graphic (a super cute porcupine, of all things) shirt of mine from about the same year (I was wearing it, in that picture) and I immediately had to recreate it and modernize it. I had no plans to do this tonight, but once I saw an old favorite shirt of mine that has been long gone for at least a quarter of a century, I wanted it back! I know, it sounds silly, but there is just something incredibly delightful about cartoon animals. I get a lot of positive feedback from folks about the squirrel and the other animals, so at least I'm not the only one who finds them so much fun.

Well, that's all the randomness I have for now.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Fun Design News

I learned over the weekend that one of my chicks had been selected for zazzle's Pink Ribbon Breast Cancer Awareness Shop. You can find Hope Chick on t-shirts, bags, buttons and more at the Pink Ribbon shop. The great thing about this shop is, all the designs found there are donated by fellow zazzle designers, customers get fantastic products and 20% of all purchases there go toward support of breast cancer awareness causes. It really is a win/win all the way around.

In other design news, I also learned over the weekend that I have been selected to be a contestant in Project Zazzle Season 2! Okay, you have no idea what that is. Basically it's a design challenge contest where you're given design parameters, you create, you submit, there's voting, winners, shiny prizes and more. Okay I'm not to sure about shiny prizes but it's going to be a lot of fun. Project Zazzle was created by a fellow zazzle designer who also happens to be the same person who set up the challenge to zazzle designers to join the Daily Mile, get off their big, fat... computer chairs, and get more active and fit. All the contestant info isn't in yet, so the site hasn't been updated but when it is I'll be sure and let you know so you can vote for me tons and tons of times so I'll win shiny prizes, and stuff. (Yes, I'm kidding about the prizes, but I'm SO not kidding about the voting for me, lol).

And lastly in other, other design news, I have a brand new section at Reflections zazzle: Desktop Gifts - Matching mousepads and mugs for just about anyone on your gift list, or even for yourself! Many of the sets here are ready for you to personalize for a perfectly wonderful, totally unique gift.

There are currently 17 pairs of matching mugs & mousepads for men, women, teens & kids, with loads more on the way. My internet connection has been desperately unreliable for the past week so uploading the new designs is tricky going right now. I only hope this is resolved very soon.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

The Top 5 Online Shopping Sites - According to Me

For a lot of people, there is just no beating the convenience of shopping online. No long lines at the check out, no driving anywhere, no rush to beat the traffic or avoid the crowds. You can sit in the comfort of your own home, in your pajamas if you like, with your coffee or your tea or whatever your favorite beverage is and just browse all you like until you find the AH-HA! perfect gift and then just... purchase it. Even if you don't have or don't like to use a credit card online, many online merchants are now accepting paypal and that's a real bonus for many people.

While everyone's personal preferences will certainly vary, (and each site has their own payment options and shipping guidelines) here are my top five online shopping sites in no particular order - as each different site has it's own fantastic and unique content to choose from:

I'm pretty sure there isn't anyone on the planet at this point that isn't familiar with amazon (and for those in Canada).

There are a million and one reasons why it's such a great site to shop on, not the least of which is their huge selection from clothes, toys, electronics, groceries, books, jewelry and tons more. Amazon has fast shipping (in many cases), and a really great way to keep your own wishlists and share it with anyone. Amazon is just a really great place to shop, hands down, no matter what you're looking for. (and

In much the same way that amazon offers a ton of selection, you'll find that same variety at ebay. There are some truly incredible deals to be found there, and I'd be willing to bet just about anyone you know can tell you about a great deal they found there. For me personally, I was able to purchase a brand new copy of photoshop there just a few months ago for half the price I'd pay retail for it. 50% off brand new software is an excellent price to pay!

The one thing I'd advise when shopping on ebay or any other similar site, is that you purchase from reputable sellers with HIGH feedback rates. You really want to be dealing with someone on ebay who's been there a while and has earned a good reputation as a reliable seller. While this is not to say new sellers aren't trustworthy, it is to say that established sellers have earned their good ranking and you can be more sure that you're doing business with a reliable seller.


ThinkGeek's own desciption of who they are and what they have to offer:

Since 1999, ThinkGeek has grown from a fun side project started by a few computer geeks to a multi-million dollar e-commerce business catering to the geek in all of us. From apparel to gadgets and computer accessories to caffeine, ThinkGeek is a one-stop shop for everything geeky. is unique and memorable; not only because of our laid back and fun style, but also because of the popularity our custom made products like Shower Shock Caffeinated Soap and our Caffeinated Hot Sauce!

My own description: ThinkGeek is just COOL! They have the most unusual, unique, funny, clever, awesome gifts you'll ever find online, anywhere. Truly, when my own online shops grow up, they want to be ThinkGeek. If you've never shopped there, click here now and check out their t-shirts and apparel, office gifts, computer stuff, gadgets and more. If you're a geek (and really, who isn't?) you're going to love this site. Oh, and be sure to sign up for their newsletter, it's a hoot and you'll be glad you did.

A word about shipping: the last time I ordered from ThinkGeek I paid for regular shipping to Canada and my order arrived in 2 days. Count 'em, TWO. Now that's just incredible.

From zazzle's About page:

Zazzle is the world's leading platform for quality custom products. Zazzle's proprietary technology enables individuals, professional artists, and major brands, including Disney and Hallmark, to create and offer billions of unique products for customers worldwide. Zazzle's rapidly expanding product base covers every topic imaginable and includes t-shirts, business cards, invitations, in addition to a variety of custom gifts. Upon creation, products are instantly and accurately visualized on the site and offered in the Zazzle marketplace. When ordered, each product is made on-demand, typically within 24 hours. Launched in 2005 and based in Redwood City, California, Zazzle's vision is to redefine commerce, powered by the world's imagination.

As regular readers know I have several shops on zazzle. They're just a tremendously wounderful source for incredible gifts, customized paper products and so much more. If you've never shopped at, be sure to check this page out, to read a little more about what you can expect there. Shipping within the US is fairly quick (generally less than a week from order to receiving) while shipping to Canada can often take anywhere from 2 to 6+ weeks, depending on the item purchased. To be fair to zazzle, that has more to do with Canada Post than anything else. Once the item is shipped it's out of their hands and in the jurisdiction of Canada Post.


In a similar way to zazzle, CafePress is yet another pretty amazing place to find tons of unique, creative and wonderful gifts for just about anyone on your list. From custom t-shirts to drinkware, pillows, clocks, ornaments, buttons, keepsake boxes, license plate frames and just so much more! From their own About Us page:

With a community of 6.5 million users, and over 11 million unique visits each month, CafePress is where folks from all walks of life gather online to create, sell and buy "print on-demand" products. Each design speaks to what people are most passionate about. It may be a political cause, a to-die-for film, an obsessive hobby, a funny (or flirty) thought, whatever... And if you can't find what you want, simply create your own design. Just upload an image (or use our easy design tools for many products), and we'll print it for you -- whether you want 1 or 1,000.

So there you have it, my personal top 5 online shopping sites. Your mileage may vary, but you're guaranteed to find a fantastic gift at any one of these sites for just about anyone you're shopping for. And you'll be able to do it, sitting in your pajamas sipping coffee.

It just doesn't get much easier than that.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Monday, October 11, 2010

Visualizing Ideas

It was suggested to me recently that I should write a bit about the creative process that goes into a graphic design piece. Now, I love what I do but I realize there might not be all that many people interested in this so feel free to click away to something else if this is not your bag of chips.

"Graphic design is the art of visualizing ideas" - Jessica Helfand - AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts - founded 1914)

I'm a woman of many hats. Among those hats would be designer, and/or artist. I am always reluctant to call myself a graphic designer because I do not have any formal training or schooling in the art of graphic design. There is a world of difference between a formally trained, skilled, creative designer and someone who can read directions and install photoshop. The former is the artist you want to hire when you need a drop-dead gorgeous, professional design package (an artist like this, for example) and the latter is the person who has recently discovered clip art and free font sites. I fall somewhere in the gray area between those two extremes. I am a self-taught individual who has sketched, painted and created since my earliest childhood memory, and essentially graduated from pencil and paper to electronic pencil and paper. While I do not have a certification or a degree in my field, I am in fact an idea visualizer, all the same.

I read a couple of articles recently on this subject and both really stood out to me for different reasons. In the one article it mentioned the use of fonts and how some are just "sexy" and others are just downright boring. I don't like the use of the word "sexy" to describe a font because frankly it just sounds somewhat perverted, but I comletely understood the point behind it. Part of a really great, incredibly memorable design is the style of font used. Take the Coca-Cola logo for example. It's a unique font to the Coke geniuses, but if you were to take that logo and recreate it using any other font, it just wouldn't have the same affect. While the Coca-Cola brand has been around forever and is already well established in cultures literally around the world, they'll never be able to change that logo now because they've left a positive impression on consumers with that font, for so many years. You just don't fix what isn't broken. Some have tried and it almost always fails quite miserably and the resort back to the original look of their logo or branding package with the more familiar, accepted font. It's pretty incredible really what a simple thing like a font can do. Other examples that you'll recognize immediately would be the fonts used for Star Wars, The Godfather, CSI, 24, and even LOST. Each franchise used a particular font and it just worked, and worked well, for the package being put out there.

When I'm creating a design that is either font based on heavily dependent on a font, sometimes it's a very long process to find just the right one that works for the design. Other times, I'll see a font I've haven't used before and the design idea actually jumps out from the font. Fonts are just plain fun to work with.

The other article focused on how graphic design is literally everywhere you look. From billboards to Bibles, grocery store receipts, web pages, junk mail, newspapers, tv shows, sports gear, food packaging and clothing labels. It is quite literally everywhere, and in each case there was a person behind every curve of every font, every image placement and every color gradient. I'm quite sure most people never give that a second thought, but it's true all the same. While professional designers are well trained and well paid to do what they do, the one common element between them and me is, the creative process. It all starts somewhere and it all follows a process.


In the work that I do, big ideas come from two sources: my own ideas and inspirations for creating something new, or someone else's brilliant ideas for a new design. Since I do quite a lot of custom work, it's really important to actually hear what someone is asking for when they're asking you to visualize their big idea for a new design. While they come to me because they trust that I know what I'm doing, they also expect to see their idea created, and not my idea of their idea, if that makes any sense. In fact, the person that suggested I write this post was someone who recently came to me with an idea of her own and asked me to create it for her.

Example: I recently received a phone call from a friend who was in a hurry to get a custom design done for their church web page for an upcoming event. The design? A funny, bright, lighthearted advertisement for a golf outing. It doesn't really matter much that I know next to nothing about golf, what mattered was the mood the ad would put you in, if you saw it. The ad had to say "you really WANT to come to this outing, because it's going to be a lot of fun!" without actually saying that in the copy. It had to be funny, it had to be bright, it had to be lighthearted. Those were the three elements I had to work with, with the underlying golfer theme. That was someone else's big idea and I was able to pull something together for them and they loved the final product. I confess I liked it too, and if I was someone who enjoyed golf, I would have wanted to be there for that outing - just because of the ad.

It's not always so easy visualizing someone else's ideas, and can require several proofs before the customer hits the "bingo!" moment and says "YES, that is exactly what I had in mind!" Sometimes other people have incredibly huge (aka: virtually impossible) big ideas and other times while it may take a lot of work, hours or even days to create the visual that someone else had in mind, the end result can be even better than what they first imagined. An example of this would be a custom birthday party invitation I created last summer for a customer. She was very specific in what she wanted: summery look, backyard, cookout, swingset with attached sandbox, sprinklers, and blonde, curly haired children. It was quite enjoyable to see her detailed list of what she actually wanted since most people don't really detail it out like that.

It was a lot of different design elements to pull into one design, but I knew I could do it. It did take several hours of creating the "wood" to build the swing set and making sure every drop of water coming out of the circular sprinkler was coming out at the correct angle but by the time the final design was complete it was exactly what she had visualized and she was quite happy with the end result. That made me happy, that she was happy! Being able to put someone else's ideas into physical form that they can hold and see and touch is a pretty incredible thing to do. I enjoy doing that very much. It makes people happy, and that's priceless.

Visualizing my own ideas on the other hand, is an entirely different process. Believe it or not, a lot of my ideas come to me in dreams. In the dream I'll see a t-shirt or a gorgeous party invitation or something that is just so outstandingly awesome that it's the entire focus of the dream. When I actually sit down to recreate the design that I saw in the dream, it doesn't always come out the same way. Sometimes it's impossible to recreate it with the same wow-factor it had in the dream, and sometimes it turns out a thousand times better. Dreams are very weird place to get inspiration but that's where much of mine comes from.


The actual process most designers use can vary quite a lot, depending on the designer. Some never touch a pencil, some exclusively use a graphics tablet, others use Illustrator, Photoshop or a huge combination of graphics software tools. My process also varies depending on the complexity of the design.

With the backyard barbeque invitation I actually sketched it all out on paper first. I closed my eyes and imagined what the back yard would look like with all those elements and placed them all on the paper in that exact location. While I don't always use pencil and paper first, I do always imagine it first. What would this look like if I were holding it in my hand? What angle would this be at, which direction would the light be hitting this element, what color would this be and what kind of background would look best?

Once I have the elements where I want them, I step away and let it sit. I may go run errands or just save and close the program completely and do something else. I return to it later with fresh eyes to see if I still like the way it looks. Sometimes I do, sometimes I see things that need to be changed. Once the design looks the way I want it to, then comes feedback time.


Feedback comes in the form of what I call my Quality Control team. That team consists of my hubby Kev, and kids Jordan, Rachel, Samuel and Ruth. Especially if the design is a kid-friendly one, nothing goes in the shop unless it's passed their inspection and approval. They know best what kids like, so they're the ones who get the final word. If the design is geared more toward adults, I'll ask Kev to come take a look at it and give me his first impression. If he laughs outloud, it's an immediate approval. If he gets a puzzled look on his face or hesitates at all, we discuss it and I make changes.

Sometimes I can go through this entire process and at the very end, scrap the entire design. That doesn't happen very often but if it doesn't meet the final approval of the team, or even if it does but I come back later and look at it and I'm the one who doesn't like it, I'll scrap it and either start over or put it in the pending file to work on at another time.

Creating the designs that I offer for sale is a lot of fun, and a lot of work at the same time. I absolutely love what I do, and I love the idea that there are people literally all over the world that also love what I do and purchase the products I design for. Just recently I hit a pretty incredible milestone as I served my 500th customer in my main zazzle shop. That was a pretty great feeling, and has served as a wonderful inspiration to keep doing what I love to do.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe

Friday, October 1, 2010

Get Your Christmas Shopping Off to a Great Start!

I've already tweeted/FB'd these things but I wanted to share here as well for those who don't tweet or FB.

HUGE sale - 50% off all custom tote bags until 5pm ET! Here (at Reflections zazzle) or here (zazzle's gigantic marketplace) use coupon code FFHS50OFFBAG at checkout! (after 5pm ET all bags are 20% off for the rest of the weekend, which is still a pretty nifty deal).

• Save BIG on great custom binders: $9.00* off custom Avery binders when you use the coupon code AVERYCUSTOM1 at checkout! Details here.

Graphic design by Carla Rolfe