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T-Shirt Design

When designing a t-shirt for a small organization, troche it becomes important to build your design in a manner that gives the organization a personal touch. I have done many t-shirt designs, most of them for the mass public. This one was special in the fact that only thirty t-shirts were being made.

This design idea is based on a t-shirt for a high school yearbook staff. The staff wanted a t-shirt that would allow their yearbook logo displayed and give everyone the ability to sign the t-shirt before it went to print. Due to budgetary constraints, the number of colors had to be limited to make the printing process cheaper. To get some ideas, I asked for some proofs of their pages along with the book cover so I could try to make the t-shirt design match the yearbook design.

I first began with their logo, which was a 3D metallic logo that was to be used on their cover. I scanned this logo and converted it to black and red, which were their school colors. This was done primarily so it would show up on the t-shirt better and the colors were chosen to help the logo stand out on the white t-shirts. Had they chosen dark t-shirts, I would have replaced the black with white and kept the red to keep the primary school color in place.

Around this round logo, I added the text “Mustang Yearbook Staff 2004” to signify who the t-shirts represented. The final logo looked like this:

Since the staff wanted an area for everyone to write their messages and sign their names, I then had to think of a creative way to organize this. I noticed in their page proofs that they repeated the logo on the top left of their pages for autograph pages. I replicated this by creating a book design on the back and taking the created logo and putting on the top left of one of the pages. This gave an area for the entire staff to sign their names and it resembled the autograph pages of their yearbook.

I printed the back off and took it to the high school for everyone to sign their names with a red sharpie. I did this so I could scan their signatures, put them back into photoshop and change the colors on the signatures to match the red I was using and save on printing costs. In the end, they got a t-shirt personalized for their group, with the ability for each member to show some individuality, which matched their work, and to (hopefully) give them great memories for years to come.


New Paid Review Service

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Our website has a new look!

Hi all, ed

A big thanks to everyone who has supported us over the years. We have finally decided to upgrade our website. We have completed the tedious job of shifting all the content from the old site to wordpress – a very big job – phew!

We are still in the process of upgrading the look and feel. Please let us know if you encounter any problems.


Getting Your Websites Reviewed

Many people send email asking why it is so hard to get their websites reviewed. In response to that, we ask the submitter to read the website suggestion page carefully.

Many sites submitted were directories, new sites or forums. We are looking for unique websites in particular and we didn’t come across many.

Moving Pictures

The quality of your photography can depend on how you adapt to your environment, especially when you can’t control that environment – like in the great outdoors.

I have done many indoor photo shoots for studios where you could control the lighting, the subject and the direction you want to follow but outside there are many elements to consider which often involve split-second decisions on how to get that perfect photograph.


In a studio, I can sit the subject where I want, talk or arrange it/them perfectly and take a photo pretty quickly. Studio shots are meant to be a bit lacking in movement as they are primarily taken for atmosphere/mood, products or display. They are organised and the items/people are naturally stable in that environment. When taking photos outside there is more movement – nature does not sit still and neither do the products/subjects that work outdoors. Imagine which is more realistic – a tractor driving through a field of tossing grasses or a tractor sitting still while grasses bend in the wind? I guess it depends on the effect you are after, but the real action does depend on a real subject which moves around and reacts with the scenery. When you intend to take action photos, capturing them as realistically as possible means that the subject will be moving, and the landscape will be interacting.

The advice I can give regarding this is to have a brief list of all the items that you have to make sure are right to capture the photo. For example, the subject must look comfortable and natural; the product should be performing as per intended, and you should take a lot of photos to make sure there’s a goodie in there somewhere. Posing in the great outdoors not only takes a long time to shoot properly but can look contrived depending on the skill of the model and of the photographer, and the appropriateness of the product’s intended movement.


There’s nothing like going outside to take the perfect photo when the weather is against you. Adjust all your camera settings, play with the scenery and still the sun can shine too bright, the wind can blow your model’s hair around too much and honestly, why did that fly have to fly right into the photo you just lined up? The best way to cut interference down to a minimum is to adapt and work with the unusual conditions to create something very different to what you are used to. Instead of worrying about the high contrast in your shots, include it to be part of the style of what you are creating and see if you can get some brightly coloured parts to shine as well as the white sky (and use a polarising lens of course!)

On a dull day, it’s not as hard work, as adjusting the curves in Photoshop will easily brighten up the dull colours while retaining mid-level shades. Another tip is to take a lot of photos in the adverse conditions to make sure that a fly, a frown or a lot of windblown hair don’t get in the way of the perfect photo!

How to make your photos interesting

One of the many ways to make your photography interesting in the great outdoors is to vary the angle and depth. You can do this in a studio too, but without the action part (flying hair, moving product, interactive landscape) it’s just not the same. And sometimes it’s too much trouble to make it appear the same.

Next time you want to capture something interesting outside, try varying the angle and depth. Everybody’s had a go at flower closeups, but have you tried doing a closeup of your child while the background blurs behind them? Have you tried lying on the ground looking up at a moving tractor or looking down upon your subject from a height? The best angles for use in design seem to be the ones that are “from an angle” – they are not straight-side or front-on or back-on shots. They are the ones where you see the “corner” of the product, the person who is facing a 135 degree rather than a 90 degree angle. And the good ones also involve the person looking off into the distance or looking at you from their angle as opposed to facing you and looking at you.

Try to let a bit of real world in and being natural. If someone does have a bead of sweat or a wrinkle or large feet, let the manager within you go and take a photo of it. We are swamped with airbrushed and sterilised photography and it’s great to see something that is believable and real. If the product has a scratch, has some dirt on it or is not quite right – clean it up to an acceptable standard and leave a little on. It helps increase the realism. It helps photos relate to real human beings who are also not airbrushed.


The most important thing is to take a lot of photos when in the great outdoors. I often take 1000+ photos in one day of shooting and normally I get a handful of absolutely brilliant action shots. I also get about 300 almost-but-not-quite shots and 650 good-for-family-albums duds. The reason for this is that I am working with tractors in particular, where the angle of the front-end loader matters, the tractor name should be readable, the subject’s facial expression should be favourable and the action of the implement should look busy. It’s a little precarious sometimes to get all of them right…but playing with angles and depth and being able to adapt to the weather on the day means it’s much easier to capture something to be proud of.

For more examples of great action photos outdoors, visit

A very annoying fly

A good action photo with lots of colour

Too much sun creates a pink tractor

Challenge: Design a Logo That Contains Another Logo

Designing a logo is challenging enough, but designing a logo that includes another logo can be an entirely different process. Here is the process one designer used to take on such a challenge.

On a sunny day in the spring of 2007 I received a phone call from my friend, Crystal. At the time, she was working in the Public Relations Department at Rumpke Consolidated Companies, Inc. in Cincinnati, OH. Rumpke has a large operation that is best known for its trash and recycling services in Cincinnati and the surrounding areas. Crystal told me that Rumpke needed a logo designed to commemorate its 75th anniversary.

For the most part the job guidelines were fairly loose. Rumpke wanted 75 years mentioned (obviously), possibly the years of operation (1932-2007) and a slogan mentioning “community.” There were also some more strict guidelines. Rumpke’s corporate colors (red and black) needed to be used as well as the corporate logotype.

I expected the corporate logotype to be a requirement for the project—after all, it is plastered all over the company’s trucks, dumpsters, and port-o-lets. It’s even strategically placed throughout an illustration of Cincinnati that is used on a jigsaw puzzle that my dad owns. That’s how well-known Rumpke is in the area!

The challenge of the project was to communicate this company’s diamond anniversary with text and/or images that complemented this bold, slab-serif, two-color, bottom-arched logotype.

My first action was to find typestyles that would match up well with the typestyle already in place. My preliminary list included Academy Engraved, Americana, Barbedor, Bell MT Italic and Bengel Black, among others. I mainly focused on how the sevens and fives of these typestyles looked placed next to each other, in that order.

I also spent some time looking that the overall shape of the Rumpke logo. From there I worked with the arched bottom of the shape where I thought an illustration of a multi-faceted diamond would fit nicely. Academy Engraved was chosen for the surrounding text because it seemed to match well with the diamond.

This first option was an okay start, but I knew I could do better. I decided to have a little fun by adding my own slogan, “Pick up trash long enough, and you’re bound to unearth a gem.”

The second option I presented featured “Seventy-Five Years” written in my own handwriting. The “Y” in “Seventy” became the bottom of the “7” while the “F” in “Five” became part of the “5.” I was pretty proud of myself for discovering this letter/number form combination even though I knew it was not very legible.

Now that I had all of my bad ideas out of the way I knew it was time to dig deeper to produce the logo I was hired to produce. I began to further examine the Rumpke logotype. After playing around with the different elements of the overall shape with minimal results I took a break.

Later, inspiration came in the form of an old Coca-Cola bottle I saw at a Coke-themed restaurant. The bottle had some kind of secondary commemorative logo printed on it. It might have also been an anniversary logo. I don’t remember. What I do remember is how that logo helped me to see the Rumpke logo in a new light.

When I returned to my studio I began to pick apart the overall shape of the Rumpke logotype—literally. I isolated the bottom curve and cut it in half then proceeded to play around with this little curved line segment.

One of the results of these curvilinear interactions was a very long diamond.

Well. I’ll be darned. If you dig around in the trash long enough you will unearth a diamond!

After experimenting with different sizes and positions of the diamond I decided to position it horizontally and extend the points far beyond the edge of the main logo. I then filled in the side points of the diamond to make it better relate to the bold, slab-serif, two-color, bottom-arched logotype. Next, I chose the typestyles for the surrounding text; Americana BT Bold for the letters and Devangari MT Bold for the numbers. Knowing I was close to finishing, I highlighted the “75” with a red outline. This put the ever-important number on the same level as the main logo, but also kept it different from the red-with-black-outline text. Finally, parts of the diamond that interfered with the text were removed.

When I was done I presented all three options to the client. They confirmed what I already knew about the first two; the “unearth a gem” slogan was clever, but not what they were looking for, and the other one was a good idea, but it just wasn’t legible enough. For those I just wanted to present them with the ideas. If they liked one of them then I could polish them up a bit.

As it turned out I didn’t have to do much polishing. They loved the third option! After adding “Proudly serving your community” in arched Americana BT Bold at the top, the project was complete!

It can be a daunting task to design under somewhat strict guidelines. Preliminary ideas and sketches for such projects are not very good and can make one doubt his or her own worth as a designer. The beauty of these projects is that it requires designers to push themselves to find solutions that are deep below the surface. For this reason, I am always eager to take on such challenges because I know that through the process I will grow as a designer.

Rumpke’s corporate logotype

the overall shape of the Rumpke logo

“Pick up trash long enough and you’re bound to unearth a gem.”

“Sevent7 5ive Years”

“I’ll be darned!”

Towards Better People Pictures!

This article provides a brief tutorial on how to take better people pictures. The topics covered include getting to know your camera, online understanding your subject, a bit of posing, and fill flash.

How many times have you been in a friend’s home and looked at the family and friend photos plastered on their refrigerator and thought, “What were they trying to capture in that photo?” or, “Wow, that’s a good photo!” ?? Actually, we all likely have been in the same place before and, hopefully, seeing other people’s photos causes us to pause and think about improving our people photos. In that vein, here are a few quick tips with examples that will help you put better people pictures on your refrigerator and elsewhere around your home and office.

Get to know your camera…

The best advice that I can give you is to get to know your camera better. Spend some time taking photos around the house, of your family, your home, anything, and then figure out what you feel you’re doing well and what you’re not doing well, and use this as a learning time. And, push your camera to its limits; figure out what all of those different settings mean so that they can be useful. By getting to know your camera better, you’ll take much better photos when the important time comes!

What’s the subject?

Or, as another question, what’s the story that you want the photo to briefly tell? If the subject of your photo is a person or people, then focus on them. Consider tightly focusing on your subject, so that’s the story that’s told by the photo.
(See Photo 1. Person photo)

If the main subject of your photo is not the person but the location, then adding people helps to provide perspective in telling the story of the room or your vacation. The story in this type of photo typically says “we were here – see?”


The most common way to take a photo of someone is to place them right in the middle of the your viewfinder, facing right at you, and then click. Easy, but not always very interesting. Consider moving the subject(s) off center a bit, to add some visual interest to the photo. Also, instead of having your kids directly facing the camera, have them turn their shoulders or head a bit. Instead of their hands down to their sides, maybe your subjects could be holding something that’s important to them or helps to better tell the story of the moment, whether you’re on vacation (a fishing pole? Hiking stick? Shopping bag?) or having dinner with the family (fork of food; ice cream!).

Also, if the subject is people, consider focusing on them from the waist or knees up (is it really important what shoes they wore?). The important thing in the photo is a person’s face, and the more of their body that appears in the photo, then the less distinct will be their face.

Watch the background!

Now, this is a mistake that all photographers make, even the professionals. It’s just that the professionals have made it so many times, we’re more likely to also be thinking about the background. Hopefully, the background of your people photo adds to the story and does not distract or detract. A background that’s “busy” will take the focus away from the people in your photos. Also, watch out for how your subjects are placed against the background, as having a pole or something stick out of someone’s head isn’t too appealing (although, there are many times when it’s funny).

Watch your flash!

One way to help to separate the people in your photo from everything else, to help them to better stand out in the image, is to use a little fill flash. In a darker room, or outdoors when the natural light is weak, turning on your flash will help to make the people stand out better in the photo. And, a dramatic shot can frequently be made if you will place a sunrise/sunset behind your subject and add the fill flash. The sun light can fool your camera into thinking that there’s plenty of light (which there is!), but your subject will appear dark against the bright sky unless you add some dramatic fill flash to help the subject “jump out.”

Also, learn about the limits of your camera’s flash. When a flash is used well, it’s hard to notice it. But, when you poorly use your flash, the mistakes will leap out at you! You’ve got to love those learning moments! Most on-camera flashes are designed to work well only within a certain range; and, the reasonable flash range is dependent on the sensitivity (ISO/ASA rating of the sensor) that you’re using in your camera. If your camera is set to an ISO of 200, and the manual says that the best flash range is 3’ to 15’ (1 m to 5 m) for ISO 200, then that’s the range where you’ll get the best results, particularly around the middle of that range. If you increase the sensitivity (ISO rating) to 400, then you’ll increase that range by double the amount or, in our example, from 6’ to 30’ (2 m to 10 m). But, be certain to find the limits of YOUR camera!

Frequent flash mistakes are taking the photo with the flash too close to the subject, so that the subject appears “washed out.” Also, beyond the reasonable range limit of your flash, it’s just not going to help, which is why I always chuckle when I see all of those flashes going off in stadiums from the upper deck, trying to photograph a player way down there on the field! People’s glasses can cause difficult reflections with a flash; but, people who wear glasses tend to be more aware of this issue and slightly turn their heads so that they’re glasses won’t directly reflect back to a camera. And, if you have glass or reflective surfaces behind your subject(s), then those surfaces can reflect your flash, so think about shooting at a slight angle to glass, reflective and light-colored surfaces.

So, here are a few simple tips towards more appealing people photos. And, the most important tip is to spend some quality time with your camera so that you’re more likely to produce quality photos!

Children in the Studio

Photographing children, illness as in most people, has a lot less to do with my equipment, lighting and props, than with my rapport with my subjects and the environment I provide or seek out for them. The environment has just as much to do with the subject’s comfort and demeanor as it’s actual presence in the shot.

For example, these girls are sisters, they were rolling around a platform of down and pillows, ribbons and bows, frolicking together, like they might on their own bedroom floor. As is ideal, I was eventually just a guest to their fun, instead of a photographer trying to illicit some trained response from them. Their smiles are genuine because they are smiling for one another, not for me. The pillows and ribbons are never seen in the shot, but are as important as the girls themselves.

On the viewer’s left is the older of the two sisters, not looking at the camera. In traditional photography, the subject’s lack of eye contact with the lens could have been seen as a flaw and this print may have ended up on the darkroom floor. Modern photography is much more in tune with seeing people as they are, as natural as possible, which is most often captured when they are not intently staring at the camera. I would say my best portraits are those where my subject is looking elsewhere. No where is this as evident than with children. If a child is looking at me, they are thinking of me and what I am doing. There is nothing endearing about that. If they are looking somewhere else, we are more likely to catch wonder and curiosity or if we’re very lucky, happiness. Children grow and change daily and parents are always taken with a photo that really shows them as they are everyday, an image they want to capture. It so happens this older sister is also the shy one, the one who “looks away.” True to her personality, the younger sister is not only more outgoing, but more affectionate as well. The older sister’s hand reaching up to touch her shoulder might seem a distraction, but in fact, it was her trying to politely distance herself from her baby sister, who was all too happy to snuggle up. She actually said to me; “She’s touching me.” Naturally, we laymen wouldn’t know this by looking at this picture, but we must always remember who the client is. Their mother knows these things instinctively and she was the client.

Most of all, when shooting children, no tool is as important as time. You may even have to convince parents to accept a larger appointment block, but be sure to point out their stress will be less if they know that time is not an issue. Children will photograph best when they have had a chance to warm up to the photographer, adjust to the environment and really be themselves. Once this has been achieved you’ll want plenty of time to enjoy their comfort zone and have a safety net for unexpected surprises. Children are after all, delightfully full of those.