Michael Bierut: Wow! That's a lot of awards

Michael Bierut: Wow! That's a lot of awards

Fix in your mind the biggest, most important person you can think of. Now, imagine this person with hundreds of awards, distinctions, and accolades. This person would be a giant in whatever they did, right? Are you picturing Michael Bierut? If you were thinking about graphic design, then you certainly should have been. 

Born in 1957 in Ohio, Beirut threw off the face of tradition and studied Graphic Design. This was not a field that was generally promoted to young adults at this time. In fact, there were only 2 books in the library at the time on design. However, his love of art and his determination led him to the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning. 

He has worked on many, MANY projects over the years (including book design-check out this book he designed for Justin Timberlake!, campaign design, and product design, but he is most known for “brand identity” … this includes everything from logo creation to editorial design to icon design. Basically, it’s the way that a company presents itself on paper. The better the design, the more likely a viewer is to remember them.

Image Source
Image Source

Penguin Random Houe
Image Source

Consumer Reports
Image Source

Remember that I mentioned Bierut’s accomplishments? Besides having written 3 books, Beirut has also served as president to the American Institute of Graphic Arts and been on the board of the Architectural League of New your and the Library of America. He’s won more than 100 design awards and he has permanent collections in various museums in New York, Washington D.C., Germany, and Montreal. - Like I said, he’s kind of a big deal.

Coming from such simple beginnings, Beirut has some excellent advice or budding graphic designers: “I like people who, in talking about their work, scratch below the surface. Don’t talk about typefaces and Photoshop effects; talk about the subject matter, and how that interested and inspired you." (quote source) In other words, KNOW your work, know why you do it, and know yourself.

For a FREE worksheet on Michael Bierut, sign up for my email list by clicking the button below!

Painting with Light Experiment! (BONUS PHOTO ASSIGNMENT)

Painting with Light Experiment! (BONUS PHOTO ASSIGNMENT)

Painting in photography? You bet! The word “photo” means light in greek and “graphe" means drawing; so we’re just going to take it up a notch and paint instead of draw!

Let’s get down to business, how are we going to do it? You will need to gather a few things first:

  1. DSLR camera
  2. Tripod
  3. Glow sticks or flashlights (or sparklers if you have them available)
  4. A dark room or night conditions with no street lamps

Now, set your camera onto your tripod and set the camera to manual. You may need to mess with the settings a little to get it looking right, but know that you will need to have a SLOW shutter speed. From there, you will just need to adjust the other settings (aperture and ISO accordingly). The images below were taken in a completely dark room. No light coming from any windows or anything. The settings for the pictures taken here are: 

  • ISO: 800
  • Aperture: f/3.5
  • Shutter: 8 seconds

Next, have someone wave the glow stick or flashlight or sparkler around in front of the camera. You can have them try to write something, or make a shape, or just move it in any which way to make it look like an explosion of light!

EASY! Right? So go get some glow sticks and paint with light!





This last one was taken by cutting open the light sticks and flicking the paint out of one end...messy, but oh, so cool!


If you found this article helpful, click below to download the FREE project outline for Color Contrast Photography.



George Lois: The Man with the Idea

George Lois

Born in 1931, George Lois has been a staple in the graphic design community for a long, long time. In his mind, a career in the arts was never a question, "Drawing every second since I was 5 years old, led me to the High School of Music & Art."

From there he was struck by the concept of what he calls "The Big Idea". As an advertising designer, this means that the idea that he comes up with should not only stick in the minds of the viewer, but it should "sear the virtues of the product into the viewer's brain and heart".

In his 1990 ad for ESPN, he demonstrated his "Big Idea" (not for the first time) by convincing a reluctant management staff to run an "in your face" ad campaign. At the time, ESPN was known as a second rate sports cable network. Despite the opposition, Lois managed to convince them that he could get 15 of the hottest sports stars of the day to appear in their commercials...for free! He knew that the lure of appearing on TV and looking like a million bucks would make most athletes drool!

Image source

This is not to say that you have to have big names pose for all your designs. In his 1955 magazine ad for American Airlines, he couldn't get any of the Dodgers baseball players to pose for he sat in front of his own camera, put on a baseball cap, and snapped a winning shot. This particular design appealed to the American public because of the rumors that the Brooklyn Dodgers would move their franchise to Los Angeles. "It’s always an eye-opener when you can tie something hot happening in the news with an advertisement," remarked Lois.

american airlines
Image Source

"The Big Idea" is somewhat of a lifelong obsession for Lois and it has served him well for his career. “When I create an image, I want people to take a step back in awe when they see it for the first time. I want them to be taken back first by the strength of the image, then by the meaning of the content. This makes people understand what’s special about a product or how exciting and interesting a magazine is.”

While he began his career as a magazine designer, he has also become a top name in the world of commercial design, working with clients such as MTV, ESPN, VH1 and Tommy Hilfiger. 

Image Source

To see more of his ad campaigns, click here to go to his website.

Lois' "Big Idea" philosophy has served him well from the beginning of and throughout his career. He would strongly advise young graphic designers to find that big idea for whatever product they are trying to promote because when you do, the result will be a sales explosion!

For a FREE worksheet on George Lois, click the button below!

3 tips for shooting LOW CONTRAST photos

3 tips for shooting LOW CONTRAST photos

In my last blog, I introduced contrast and highlighted how to take high contrast images. This week we are going to take a look at low contrast images, why they are important, and how to look for them in your photography.

High contrast is extremely valuable in photography because it really makes the image stand out and make a statement.

It can be argued that one should avoid low contrast because the image looks uninteresting and dull. But I would argue that a low contrast image can be just as valuable as a high contrast image, taken in the right context.

For example, imagine a cloudy foggy morning at a pond or lake. As you scan the waters, you notice a group of ducks making their way across the lake. There is no sunrise, so there isn’t any bright light in the background, just the same grey tone covers the whole scene.

What kind of words come to your mind if you were to describe it to a friend? Calm? Restful? Peaceful? Would the same message be conveyed if there were a bright light behind the ducks making the ducks silhouetted and the ripples on the water stand out? I think not.

So now that we have established the need for low contrast in your photography, let’s talk about how to affectively achieve it in your photography:

  1. Cut the light. Think a cloudy day, or if you have a tripod to keep your camera from moving, you could look for something in the evening before dusk when there is adequate shade. The key here is that you don’t want a bright light shining on your subject because that will create shadows and we want the tones in this photo to be pretty neutral.
    low contrast
    image source


  2. Black and white. I mentioned it with high contrast, but it is also true for low contrast. Cut the color (or perhaps mute it), eliminate those distractions!
    low contrast cat
    image source


  3. Post editing. For low contrast, you could use some of the same tools in Photoshop as you did for high contrast, but create the opposite effect. When you go into curves, create a “C” curve instead of the “S” curve. When you dodge and burn, look to minimize the contrast instead of enhance it.low contrast curves


So mellow down a little this week and look for some low contrast imagery. If you found this article helpful, click the button below and download the FREE project outline for Low Contrast Photography.




Big SALE! Happy New Year!

Big SALE! Happy New Year!

Christmas break was great...but school is back in full swing! Are you needing a little boost for your new year curriculum? Never fear! Digital Art Teacher is here!

For the remainder of January you can get 30% off the monthly or semester subscription plans! Thats up to $30 in savings! 

Currently, I have 3 full semesters of digital curriculum. 2 semesters of Graphic Design and 1 semester of Digital Photography. Use the coupon code: JAN2019, and click the button below to get started!




3 tips for shooting HIGH CONTRAST photos

3 tips for shooting HIGH CONTRAST photos

Want people to stop and admire your photography? Want your image to nearly pop off the wall and say “LOOK AT ME!!!”

High contrast can help you do it! There are 3 different kinds of contrast in photography: High, Normal, and Low. 

Low contrast means that there is very little value change. It could be that the the light is mostly dark, mostly grays OR mostly light. The key is that there is not a lot of contrast in low contrast.

Normal contrast means that there are some bright lights, many mid tones, and some darker tones. This type of contrast will likely make up the bulk of your photos.

High contrast means that you have a lot of bright lights and a lot of dark tones with very little middle gray. And this is the contrast that we will be focusing on this week.

When taking photos for high contrast, think drama! Don’t think that normal or low contrast is bad, they certainly have their place, we just want to focus on high contrast for this week!

  1. The right time of day. Golden hour (if you aren’t familiar with this term click here to read my post on light). One good way to guarantee that you will have good contrast is by taking your shots at dawn or dusk. Not only is the light AMAZING, but you can also look for good opportunities for silhouettes, which you know are going to have good contrast! (SIDE NOTE: you can also simulate the silhouette affect by putting a bright light of some kind behind your subject.)
    golden hour
    image source


  2. Black and white. I talk a lot about how distracting color can be, and this is one of those cases. Not all photos that have good contrast are in black and white, but there is something about stripping the color from an image that makes it look more classy and contrasty. Try it and see!
    black and white
    image source


  3. Post editing. So once you have taken your amazing high contrast photo, you can enhance that contrast in your photo editing software. In Photoshop, the #1 way to do it is to adjust the levels. Cut out all the empty space in the histogram for each of the colors. Then make the “S” curve on your curves adjustment. And if that is not enough, you can always go in and dodge and burn sections of the photo.edits


Got to love that contrast! If you found this article helpful, click the box below and download the FREE project outline for High Contrast Photography. Happy shooting! (…with a camera…don’t get any violent ideas out there!)




3 tips for finding AWESOME pattern in photography

3 tips for finding AWESOME pattern in photography

Pattern is something that you see EVERYWHERE. Not only art, but in nature, architecture, product design, even science! Why do you think that they stress learning patterns as early as kindergarten! It is important!

Finding pattern in photography is not hard, it just takes a little extra intentional observation. Take a leaf for example. Any leaf will do. Look at the way that the veins on a leaf. Notice how they methodically trace themselves back to the central vein and into the stem. That’s pattern! 

image source

Or look at the windows on any building. Notice how there are the same amount of bricks between each window. Or look at the bricks themselves! Methodically placed and spaced the same distance apart. Pattern!

image source

Any average Joe can notice pattern, but it take a photographer to make the ordinary seem extraordinary! Check out my tips below for finding and capturing the pattern in our lives:

  1. Fill the frame. When you find a good pattern, position your camera so that the pattern completely fills the frame of the image. This makes it look like the pattern goes on forever!grate


  2. Try an angle. Many shots can look good from a straight on view, but sometimes if you shift your camera to the side a little, you can find some leading lines which can add visual interest to your image.bamboo


  3. Break the pattern. So you’ve found an amazing pattern, now see if you can add even more visual interest by breaking it! Imagine seeing a picture of 50 orange Skittles with one blue one in the lower third. Patterns can be broken in a number of ways (change the color, the texture, the shape, form, etc).pens breaking pattern

    If you found this article helpful, click the button below and download the FREE project outline for Pattern.

3 tips for telling stories with your photography

3 tips for telling stories with your photography

I would argue that every photograph you take tells a story. How well the story is told, however, depends on the skill and creativity of the photographer.

Confused? Take this photo for example:

emmett selfie

This photo was taken by my son, who stole my phone to snap some shots of himself. It was the first time that he had done this, so his skills are a little on the low side, but the point is: can you see the story? I can see it even through the smug look on his face.

How a photo’s story is perceived may also vary from person to person. Look at the picture of this church below.
image source

The story that I see is that that would be a peaceful, quiet place to rest. Others, however, may see it as a lonely, desolate place.

Do all the photos that you take need to have a good, clear message? Not necessarily, I just want you to be aware that images talk (an image worth a thousand words, you know). And the more powerful the message behind the photo, the more compelling and interesting your photography becomes.

So let’s talk about how to take photos with a good clear message. 

  1. Plan. Have an idea for what you are looking for before you start out. If you are going to go to an old desolate barn to take some shots, think about the lighting. Maybe it would be best to take the shots at dawn or dusk so that it gives a more eerie feel. Maybe you want to make the shots black-and-white so that the view is not distracted by color.
  2. Look for emotion. When shooting people (not with guns…) look for emotion. The easiest example is a crowd at a sporting event. If the game is exciting enough, they are often oblivious to what is going on around them and you can get the raw expression on their face.
  3. Don’t forget about composition! It is difficult to tell a good story if the viewer is distracted by poor composition. (Think distracting objects in the background, bad balance, too many objects in the frame, etc.) Just remember to help the viewer focus on the main thing!

So this week, go out and take 3 pictures that tell a story. ANY story. Just as long as your photos are intentional, your story is valid. Keep the tips above in mind ask you shoot!

REMEMBER, your options here are limitless! These could be candid photos, they could be flash photography, maybe it is a still life, perhaps you want to try portraiture. Go have some fun this week!

If you’d like a project outline for Telling a story with photography, click the button below!

5 tips for taking Candid Photos

Taking candid photos

So the last article was all about how to use a flash…well now we are going to throw  all of that out the window! For candid photography, you want to almost be sneaky. Not because you are doing something wrong... no, no, but because you are trying to catch people without them knowing your taking their picture.

People completely change their demeanor when they know that someone is taking their picture. Everyone has different responses (some may put up 2 fingers and smile from ear to ear, others hide their face in their hands or turn away), but you simply can’t get a candid shot when people know you are taking their picture. You can’t see the pure, genuine feelings that are displayed when they know their picture is being taken either. And nothing shouts that you are taking a picture like…a flash!

There are so many different tips for taking candid pictures, but I will try to keep it simple for you. Here are 5 things to keep in mind for beginner candid photography:

  1. Use a phone or a point and shoot camera. These types of cameras are less obtrusive than your DSLRs and you can quickly maneuver them when you need them. Imagine yourself looking at your phone at the dentist office and you see a little kid doing something funny or interesting. How easy would it be to just turn your phone to camera mode, tilt your phone a bit, and snap a quick shot. Nobody need know the wiser!
    camera phone
    Image source


  2. Go to the crowd. When there are a lot of people around, you can “hide in the crowd”. How does the average Joe know that you are not taking pictures of the person behind him? Think sporting events, fairs, lunchroom, mall, etc.
    Image source
  3. Look for people who are “busy”. Look for someone who is so completely absorbed in what they are doing that they couldn’t possibly notice someone quietly taking their picture. Examples? Someone roaring at a basketball game. A child working on a coloring page. Girls talking in a group (nobody can interrupt that!).painting


  4. Take LOTS of pictures. If the camera you are using has a burst mode, turn it on! I preach incessantly to take lots of pictures and candid photography is no different, but in this case, most of the pictures you take of the subject may look pretty similar (no different angles or lighting). When you find an opportunity for a candid photo, lift that camera and push that shutter! (If your camera is in burst mode, it will take pictures continuously.)burst mode


  5. Wait PATIENTLY. Sometimes, if you wait, you can get the PERFECT shot! Get yourself in a good position to observe people, and when the moment arrives, you’re ready! For example, sit on a bench in the mall and observe people. As each person or group of people walk by, you have an opportunity to capture the perfect moment! Or sit in a corner table at the lunchroom and scan the crowd, a moment is bound to present itself you!waiting


REMEMBER! This is just an introduction to candid photography. If you really get into this, there are other ways to go about it. But this will get you started and hopefully spark something creative in you!

If you’d like a project outline for candid photography, click the button below!

Using a SPEEDLIGHT flash in your photography

How to use a SPEEDLIGHT

As promised, now we are going to talk about using an external flash on your DSLR camera. Scroll to the end of this post for a FREE project outline about using your speedlight.

There are SO MANY resources on how to use a speedlight (or external) flash, but I am going to give you some quick tips for using your external flash when you are just starting out.

This post is going to focus on how to use a speedlight as it sits on the top of your camera. NOT mounted on a side stand. 

This week try to use your flash to direct the light in your image. We are going to BOUNCE the light from the different surfaces in your environment. Give these tips a try and explore using that speedlight!

  1. Straight on flash light. Just stick that speedlight on the top of your camera and shoot your brains out! This is a quick fix for you if you are in a place with little light, but it’s…well, not usually desired or flattering, especially for portrait photography. See how the light completely washes out all of the features of the face? We want to redistribute the light so that it is more appealing.straight on


  2. Bounced from the side. Depending on your ambient light (the light that exists in the room or area you are shooting pictures), a side light may be the answer to your problem. Take your picture next to a blank (and preferably) light colored wall. Turn your speedlight to the side and bounce the light off this wall and onto the subject. It will brighten up some of the shadows which would be present without the flash, but not completely wash the subject out (as would happen on the straight on flash light).from side


  3. Bounced light from above. If you have a light colored ceiling, you can tilt your speedlight upward and bounce that light off the ceiling. This could be helpful if you have ample light coming from the sides and need a bit more coming from above. If you have a bounce card (which is built in to many newer models including the one I use) you may want to pull it up to pull more light forward toward your subject.from ceiling


REMEMBER: You can increase or decrease the amount of light coming from your speedlight (with most models) so keep that in mind as you shoot.

If you’d like a project outline for speedlight flash photography, click below! (Note that you will be added to my email list. No spamming, I promise!)