Updates for July 2013

I’ve taken care of a few much-needed updates for the site, adding a book review from May and samples from the zine I’ve been volunteering on, which was released in June.

Since May, I’ve been working on the second edition of Divergent Consistencies, ensuring that it meets Lightning Source’s specifications and awaiting a proof.  Our initial order for standard color through LS was disappointing in terms of paper and print quality.  So we’ve elected to go with premium, but various hiccups in the process have led to longer waits.  For those interested in online publishing (something I discussed back in April), there is definitely a learning curve with Lightning Source that might be too challenging for many beginners.  They do not hold your hand through the process, that’s for sure!  But we’ve found their customer service very helpful and professional.  If you’re serious about self-publishing, want to cut costs, and are willing to learn, I can’t recommend them more.

I’ve also been working on an exhibition book for Artworkers, a show organized by Hugh Merrill at the Spiva Center for the Arts in Joplin, MO, which we’re hoping to have published in the fall.  Unfortunately, I don’t yet have samples available to show.  In addition, I’ve been working on creating samples for a book on social practice art, by Hugh Merrill and Adelia Ganson, which we are hoping to have published through a traditional publisher.  Until we know more about what’s happening, the details will remain “hush hush.”

Much of my time in May and June were focused on the design of the first issue of Undercurrent, which is currently available online and locally at Double Rainbow.  You can learn more about the project and see samples on the portfolio page here.  I’ve also been helping to spread word about the zine throughout Kansas City by helping to table on July First Friday at Kultured Chameleon Gallery and last Friday at Badseed Market.  Our zine was also featured as part of Plug Project’s Art Book Fair, and we celebrated the release with some zine creators last Thursday at Double Rainbow. Our next issue is slated for December.

Thanks for stopping by my website and having a look around.  If you’re an interested employer or a potential client looking for a graphic and/or web designer, please feel free to contact me with your questions or projects.  I am available for freelance work and still looking for a fulltime gig.  Let’s talk!

Book Review:

The Complete Graphic Designer

This is a solid, albeit rather brief and basic, guide to graphic design, covering mainly fundamentals and how the business itself runs. The language is clear, straightforward, and highly informative, while the numerous examples help to highlight different creative strategies and good design for a multitude of assignments. That it covers both the aesthetic/theoretical and practical/business side of things is quite helpful. Though it’s worth noting that this is not a comprehensive idea book or resource guide. It also won’t tell you how to run a design business, how to bid on jobs, etc. only what kinds of projects are common, different types of clients, and different types of solutions.

The last book on the subject I read was more concept-driven and the design distractingly cluttered. This one, on the other hand, is more practical in its orientation and a very quick read. It’s probably most ideal for beginners, or more experienced designers looking for a simple refresher course. The numerous examples and overview of best practices make it a worth including on one’s home shelf (though I will continue seeking something more expansive).

Original review posted on GoodReads.

New site for Graphic & Web Design

Welcome to the new site for the graphic and web design work of Amanda Rehagen. You’ll notice it looks a lot like my main site Lunar-Circuitry looks (or used to look), except with a different color scheme.  I am hoping that this will serve as a better showcase for my design and help prospective employers and clients get a clearer sense of my abilities and experience.  I will be adding more samples soon.  In the mean time, feel free to have a look around and use the contact form to reach me if you have any questions!

Online Self-Publishing: My Experience

Today I visited the Kansas City Art Institute and spoke with a zine-making class about self-publishing through online Print-On-Demand services.  While the class was focused on more DIY publishing routes and many of the students were not currently intent on going the POD route, I was able to give them a rough overview on what’s involved and answer a few questions.  It’s always great to be able to share knowledge with young artists and hopefully offer some guidance.

My personal experience with PODs go back about 4 years, though I’ve been aware of their existence a bit longer through my involvement with online writing communities.  In the fall of 2009 at the Leedy-Voulkos Art Center, Hugh Merrill exhibited a 40-year retrospective of his studio and community artwork.  For this exhibition, titled Divergent Consistencies, I designed PDFs and infosheets detailing his career ad specific bodies of his work, which Merrill eventually decided to publish in book format.  After seeing a student’s book published through Lulu and researching a bit about the company, he decided that self-publishing through a POD was the way to go.  The entire process of getting the book to print took another year, as Adelia Ganson edited the text and wrote supplementary material, and I gathered high res images and learned how to design according to Lulu’s standards.  In 2011, the book was finally published and has since sold nearly 300 copies, mainly to college libraries and museums.

Since then, I have designed two publications for Chameleon Arts & Youth DevelopmentPortrait of Self details the community arts curriculum used by this non-profit, while Camera Dance is a photo essay book by Director Hugh Merrill.  Earlier this year, we began planning another book on social arts practice, but we are currently seeking a traditional publisher.

One thing I noted during my talk was that Lulu and similar services like Xlibris are not technically POD publishers.  They might better be described as POD facilitators, doing all the dirty work for you so you can get your book printed and distributed as quickly, easily, and cheaply as possible.  Lulu actually prints the books through other companies, which ship the final books directly to you.  There are very few actual PODs in the US, the main ones being Amazon’s CreateSpace and Lightning Source.  Each of these services comes with its advantages and disadvantages.  While many beginning self-publishers love the convenience, the final books often retail at a higher price.  Creators get a discounted price, but it is often higher than the typical wholesale percentage of 50%.  Basically, Lulu offsets the initial costs you might pay with other services, into the final price.  This is why we’ve been looking into printing a second edition of Divergent Consistencies through Lightning Source, which has a significantly lower wholesale and retail price for its books.  (And according to some accounts, better quality).

The other thing I covered during the talk is ISBN, which I have recently been learning about in more detail than before.  An ISBN is required of most books distributed through major retail channels, bookstores, libraries, and so on.  Lulu offers a free ISBN, which they own–a fact that may be problematic for anyone who wants to be viewed as a legitimate owner of their work and freely distribute the title.  ISBNs in the US are purchased through Bowker.  A single ISBN costs about $100, but they offer packages of 10 for about $200, etc.  The fact that Lulu is technically the publisher of our books is not something we had investigated very deeply before publishing, and is something I urge potential self-publishers to understand before beginning the process.

One of the students asked about self-publishing a chapbook as an e-book.  I recommended a service like Smashwords, which sells only e-books.  A similar website would be Book Baby.  Both of these have specific formatting requirements and are not ideal for anyone wishing to publish a book with images, like this student wanted.  It’s important to be aware that many people downloading e-books will be using an e-reader, which is often not ideal for viewing images.  Obviously, the best option for image-based books is to offer the e-book as a PDF download, but I haven’t done enough research to know whether there are services like Smashwords to better facilitate purchase of these.

The students passed around a copy of Divergent Consistencies and seemed pretty engaged with the book, which I take as a good sign of the quality of content and design.  The quality of the interior color printing through Lulu is in my view quite solid, though I find the color on the perfect bound covers to be too saturated and the finish too glossy.  Research on Lightning Source tells me they do a better job.  Nonetheless, to see the quality of what can be done through a POD (or facilitator) opens many people’s eyes up to new possibilities and at least offers another venue to consider in getting the work out there.

Book Review: The Elements of Graphic Design

The Elements of Graphic Design

I would give the actual text of Elements of Graphic Design 4 stars, as it is chock-full of useful information and really helps cement basic design principles. However, I’m giving it 3 stars because the structure and design of the content makes gleaning the information at times a challenge.

The content itself is pretty basic graphic design principles, how to think about them, how to use them. Size, color, proportion, white space, grids, typography, etc. While is could have been organized so there was a little less repetition and clarity, most of it was well explained and demonstrated. Much of it was not new to me, but then I have a BFA, worked a good deal in the graphic art side of printmaking, and have spent a good deal of time with typography. I didn’t study design, however, and much of this is framed as a teacher might cover it in a class, therefore quite welcome. I’m especially grateful for the checklist of questions to ask about a design, which is extremely helpful for clarifying potential issues in my design work that I’m not always good at identifying or articulating.

The design of the information, though following the kind of order and internal logic described in the text, is often too busy, overloaded with examples and quotes. All quite helpful indeed, but the lack of white space and inclusion of 3-4 threads of information makes everything difficult to parse. You could argue that the author is drawing attention to these elements by using them in a more heightened way, but then that begs the question of whether it really helps the reader to grasp the actual content. I don’t really mind design that challenges presumptions of good design and pushes the limits, but within the context of just conveying best use principles, this may not be the best approach.

This is certainly a great-looking book, and I’ll be keeping it on my shelf for the general guidelines and checklist, but personally I would prefer something with a more straightforward approach to the content.

Original review posted on GoodReads.