July 21, 2011

Lessons learned: thoughts on the HOW Design Conference #HOWLive

Filed under: Creativity,Small Business — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 9:28 am

HOW Design Conference in Chicago

Last month, I attended my very first HOW Design Conference in Chicago. It seems crazy that I waited so long, seeing as I started my design business over ten years ago. But since it was in my hometown, I made the time and effort. Now, being seven months pregnant at the time, it was a bit of a challenge and I did have to make some concessions (going home early, no cocktails) but it was well worth it.

In addition to catching up with friends and colleagues and making new connections, I walked away with a wealth of knowledge—and a new outlook on my business.

Lessons learned at the HOW Design Conference

  1. Go to more design conferences: it wasn’t long before I realized the benefits of being around like-minded creatives and how that could inspire my own work.
  2. Read more books: many of the speakers mentioned useful books—and the onsite HOW Bookstore was a great source of inspiration. I walked away with books on photography (Photo Idea Index) and web design (Above the Fold)—and recently picked up a copy of a book I had been eyeing at the conference (Made to Stick).
  3. Incorporate what I love into my business: Peleg Top‘s session, The Creative Side of Running a Business, made me realize how personal interests can be used to enrich your business. Actually, several of the speakers mentioned this concept which really resonated with me. (see #4 and #5 below)
  4. Focus on a creative obsession: Armit Vit‘s session Turning Your Creative Obsessions into Opportunities was one of the most inspiring. As someone who always has several “creative obsessions,” I realized how focusing on one (or at least just a few) can lead to business opportunities.
    One of my current creative obsession: photographing automatic sprinklers in my neighborhood. See the flickr set in-progress here.
  5. Incorporate personal interests into my work: Stephen Doyle‘s session, Where Ideas Come from and Where They Go, was a great example of this. He has successfully integrated both his remarkable paper sculptures and other personal interests into client and professional projects.
  6. Ask for advice: after taking a fantastic workshop on making and selling products by Heather Lins of Heather Lins Home, I realized the importance of asking for advice. Having your questions answered by someone who has been through it successfully can boost your confidence and encourage new ways of thinking.
  7. Tell a story: whether it’s for a client or your own business, it’s important to tell a story and be authentic.

Did you attend the HOW Design Conference in Chicago? What were your top takeaways?

July 8, 2011

Exhibition review: Renaissance Prints in Daily Life

Filed under: Design & Art — Tags: , , , , — lidia @ 6:31 pm

photo © Art Institute of Chicago

I stopped by the Art Institute of Chicago today for a quick visit and stumbled upon a wonderful exhibit: Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life.

Most of us are used to seeing old woodcuts and engravings in books and on museum walls. But back when they were created (1500-1600s), Renaissance prints were sometimes used rather mundanely in daily life.

A few standout examples:

  • Prints adhered to wooden storage boxes—something you may still see today (see example at right)
  • Prints used as wall coverings (instead of the more costly tapestries of that time)
  • A “scrapbook” of engravings, woodcuts, etchings and aquatints pasted into a journal
  • Pattern books for needlework and amateur artists—similar to the Dover Art Books you find today
  • Compass and sundial decorated with woodcut prints
  • Prints used as playing cards—a great example is the Italian tarocchi deck, which you can still buy today in Florence
  • Anatomy flap prints: prints showing the human anatomy with removable, cut-out organs—a fabulous precursor to today’s pop-up books and paper cutting art

The exhibition runs through Sunday (July 10) and is worth a visit!

June 6, 2011

Hidden gems: unique sights to see in Chicago

Filed under: Creativity,Design & Art,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 2:35 am

Summer is a great time to get out and explore Chicago’s great museums and public spaces. You may be familiar with the well-known spots, but but have you seen some of our hidden gems?

Being a fan of art and nature, I’m constantly seeking out new and interesting places to get my inspiration fix. Here are a few museums, gardens and cultural institutions that you may not have seen yet—tucked away in Chicago’s neighborhoods, along main streets, and in surrounding areas.

Unique sights to see in Chicago…

Loyola University Museum of Art (Magnificent Mile, Chicago IL)

A great stop on your next Magnificent Mile shopping trip, The Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) is located in Lewis Towers, a historic 1926 Gothic Revival building on the Water Tower Campus of Loyola University Chicago. The Museum maintains collections that explore and promote the spiritual in art of all faiths and cultures.

Oriental Institute (Hyde Park, Chicago IL)

One of my favorite local spots, The Oriental Institute is a research organization and museum devoted to the study of the ancient Near East—a fascinating period in art history (and one of my favorites!) The museum displays objects recovered by Oriental Institute excavations in permanent galleries devoted to ancient Egypt, Nubia, Persia, Mesopotamia and others, as well as rotating special exhibits.

The current Huichol exhibit

National Museum of Mexican Art (Pilsen, Chicago IL)

Maybe I’m biased because of my love of Mayan art (not to mention they are one of my clients) but this small museum manages to host some of the most striking art exhibits I’ve seen. Pair that with a rockin’ gift shop and eclectic restaurants and cafes nearby and you have the makings of a great museum trip.

See my blog post about the invitation and gallery graphics I designed for the current Huichol exhibit.

International Museum of Surgical Science (downtown, Chicago IL)

Admittedly I have not visited this museum (I’m scared!), but my friend who is a nurse did and thoroughly enjoyed it. The Museum features historical and modern-day artifacts, paintings and illustrations relating to the medical field. See a listing of current exhibitions.

One of my hand-bound journals

Gallery at the Center for Book & Paper Arts (CBPA) at Columbia College Chicago (South Loop, Chicago, IL)

Did you know Columbia College—my alma mater—has a center devoted to book and paper arts? It sure does and I was lucky enough to study hand bookbinding there post-graduation. The gallery features intriguing book and paper-related exhibitions and lectures. Check the website for gallery hours and current exhibitions.

Lurie Gardens at Millennium Park (Downtown, Chicago IL)

A true respite from the bustling city, the Lurie Gardens are located in the southeast end of Millennium Park, just steps from downtown Michigan Avenue. Stroll through the beautiful wildflowers or attend a free guided garden walk.

…and just outside Chicago

Japanese Garden at Chicago Botanic Garden

Chicago Botanic Garden Regenstein Center (Glencoe IL)

In addition to the breathtaking horticultural displays and lovely walking paths, the Chicago Botanic Garden hosts a wide variety of exhibitions, including photography and artwork. They also have workshops and classes for gardeners and artists. Gardening questions? They also maintain an extensive horticulture library, available to Garden members. I’ve been a member for years and still discover something new on each trip!

Know other hidden gems in Chicago? Leave a comment!

April 11, 2011

Signs of Spring in Chicago

Filed under: Local (Chicago) — Tags: , — lidia @ 6:39 pm

Potted pansies, runners and a busy Mary Bartelme Park in the West Loop

With our first 80+ degree day yesterday, Chicagoans were pleasantly reminded: yes, it does get warm in Chicago.

After many long months of cold, snow, rain and greyness in general, the warm day brought the city alive. Bulky jackets were shed for shorts. Smells of BBQ lingered in the air. Kids and dogs populated the parks and streets. The warm day also nicely coincided with Chicago’s kick-off to the running season, the Shamrock Shuffle.

Though most trees and plant life have yet to wake up, I managed to find some signs of spring in my Chicago neighborhood, as well as in my mom’s garden. Go Spring!

Follow my Chicago spring tweets (and others’) at #signsofspring.

Snowdrops and sedum make their spring debut

 

February 17, 2011

Featured Project: Exhibit Invitation & Gallery Panels

Filed under: Featured Design Project — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — lidia @ 10:00 am

left to right: gallery panel and exhibit invitation

We recently worked with the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood to create an exhibit invitation and gallery panels for the exhibition, La Nación Huichol: From the Sea to the Desert.

The goal was to create a visual identity that reflected—and respected—the rich history of Huichol art and culture. The opening reception for the exhibit was very well-attended—despite the sub-zero Chicago temperatures!

Special Note

After the exhibit closed, the exhibit panels I designed were donated to the Casa de Mondea in Real de Catorce (San Luis Potosi, Mexico). It’s an honor to know that my designs celebrating the Huichol will be appreciated for years to come!

See more examples of my Event Collateral design work.

February 3, 2011

Snowed in: scenes from the Chicago blizzard

Filed under: Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 1:44 pm

The lengths we go to for our morning coffee: snowy scenes from Chicago's West Loop. Click for more pics.

Yesterday was quite a day for many Chicagoans.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday we experienced one of the largest snowfalls in history, with totals creeping over 20 inches.

Snow was flying sideways at high speed. Thunder and lightning lit up the night sky. Chicago Public Schools were closed for the first time in over 10 years. Retail stores and banks were closed. Drivers were stuck in cars and buses for multiple hours on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. Homes lost power for 12 hours or more. Quite a day, indeed.

We were one of the buildings in Chicago that lost electricity for many hours. Not having heat, coffeemaker or internet connection, we trudged through the snow to our local Starbucks (one of the few places open!) for a warm breakfast. Along the way, we saw Chicago cab drivers and buses determinedly making their way through the snowy streets. While dogs (including our Essie) and children seemed to make the very best of the huge snowdrifts that accumulated in the streets.

The calm after the store—not to mention the massive clean-up—starts today. With cars still buried in side streets and temperatures dropping to frigid lows, many of my clients (and myself) are happy to be working from home again today. And schoolkids are once again enjoying a snow day.

See neighborhood photos of the Chicago blizzard posted by local public radio radio station WBEZ.

Share your links to blizzard photos in the comments!

December 14, 2010

‘Tis the season for giving

Filed under: Community Outreach,Local (Chicago) — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 8:29 am

"Hope" gift box from GothamChick on Etsy

With charitable giving taking a hit in the current economy, local and national organizations need all the help they can get. This is a great time of year to reflect on your good fortune and share what you can with others.

I have several friends and clients at local nonprofit organizations, so they are first on my list for giving. Over the years, I’ve seen how these organizations help the community so I willingly do my part to help out.

Ideas for holiday giving

  • Your local food pantry
  • An organization that supports a cause close to your heart or family
  • American Red Cross or other aid organization
  • Organizations that provide housing or care to the homeless
  • An organization that connects with your personal interests. Love music? Support your local music conservatory.

GuideStar.org is a good place to start your research: search by name, location or type of nonprofit organization.

Donating without writing a check

You don’t have to limit yourself to cash donations. Here in Chicago, there is an organization called Leave it for Love that takes unused gifts and “re-gifts” them to a local charity. During this time of year, you can also usually find organizations (or retail stores) that collect donations of coats, eyeglasses or shoes and donate them appropriately.

Do you have other ideas for giving during the holidays? Leave them in the comments!

November 1, 2010

Business greeting cards & stationery: online shop now open!

Just in time for the holidays, the official launch of our new business greetings online shop!

Shop our selection of holiday cards, as well as thank you, birthday, office occasions and networking cards personalized with your business info. Perfect for small businesses who want to keep in touch with clients and prospects.

Our personalized notecards are handy for quick business notes— and a great holiday gift for clients and colleagues.

All cards and stationery are designed by our design studio and printed and shipped locally in Chicago. Order cards online or talk to us about a custom order.

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October 26, 2010

Chicago Resources for small businesses

Filed under: Local (Chicago),Small Business — Tags: , , , — lidia @ 9:26 am

I attended the City of Chicago’s One Hour Mentor Program yesterday, featuring a panel of entrepreneurs and representatives from city organizations discussing starting and growing a small business.

In addition to emphasizing the importance of having (and following) a strong business plan, they spoke about obtaining financing for start-ups and established businesses. All three organizations offer small business loan/microloan programs, as well as small business counseling, workshops and seminars (many free of charge). Several of the organizations also have business plan competitions. Visit the websites for more information.

Chicago small business resources

March 15, 2010

Featured Project: Attorney Website

Filed under: Featured Design Project — Tags: , , — lidia @ 9:26 pm

click to view website

We recently created a website for The Law Offices of R.D. Skelton, Ltd. in Geneva, Illinois.

Located just outside of Chicago, the firm, which specializes in business law, estate planning, and probate and trusts, wanted to establish a web presence that would set them apart from other attorneys without being overly complicated and sterile.

With the use of bold graphics and a brown/green palette, we created a website that was understated, yet strong enough to stand out and emphasize the firm’s experience and qualifications.

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