Hiking the Gorge

We went to Grassy Knoll last weekend, in the Columbia River Gorge, of course, most of our hikes are there, so many to choose from! At the top there's a 360 view. You can see the river in the photo below on the right. The panorama kind of gives the sense of how high we are. And Mr. Simmons standing on the trail shows it's a little steep. Just steep enough.

We were convinced the trail was four miles each way but sadly when we got back and calculated it was only four miles round trip. Woops. 

So after that grueling hike we had to stop and get a burger. I was staring out the window of the Ale House and realized I had designed the sign hanging in the park across the street. It's the 100th Anniversary of the Historic Columbia River Highway and ODOT hired me to design banners and street light standards. 

Check out the banner I designed as part of the 100 year celebration of the historic Columbia River HIghway

Check out the banner I designed as part of the 100 year celebration of the historic Columbia River HIghway

Cultivating Good

Okay I'll admit it, this is a reprint of my newsletter but it's a good one so I have chosen to show it here. Enjoy!

Some years back my husband had several stents placed in his heart. Before they discharged him from the hospital, a therapist stopped by to talk with us about our lifestyle and how he dealt with any stress in his life. We had no good answer.

So her next question was, "What is your passion, what moves you, what makes you happy?" And, "How often do you make time in your life for what you love to do?" Your body is sending you a message, she said. Now is the time to listen to that message, and find those things that sustain you and feed your soul, and do them.

The top thing on his list was getting out of the city to hike and see wildflowers. It's one thing that we both love, (well, who doesn't love wildflowers, but not many people can name them like he can!). We now make it a point to get out often, into the wilds, and most often to the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. It just feels good.

I've never forgotten what a powerful gift that therapist gave us. Clearly she knew there was a connection between happy activities and a happy heart.

Knowing what makes you happy isn't hard to identify, but taking the time to embrace it, well, that's often another story. I hope you can find the time to do whatever it is that feeds your soul.

It'll cultivate good, for your body and your soul.

The arrowleaf balsamroot is in full bloom right now, this is the Tom McCall Preserve in the Columbia River Gorge. Mt. Adams in the background. Indian paintbrush, lupine and tons of other wildflowers are at their peak this time of year.

As a degree-carrying landscape architect, you just know I love cultivating a garden. And as an experienced graphic designer, I'm pretty good at tending to your print materials to make them shine. Let me know if your business materials need nurturing. 

In the Pink

Springtime in Portland is a riot of color and the display in the front of our house is a good representation of what the rest of the city is looking like right about now. Vibrant is a good word to describe it! Between the light pink petals of the flowering cherry (you can drive down streets that are literally blanketed in pink) and the brilliant fuchsia-colored azaleas it really is intense. When the kids were little we always had a day when I'd make a video of them throwing the petals up in the air. Then there was the wife of a guy I used to work with who thought the spring colors here were bilious! Really. 


So this Springtime will be a time for me to check up on my marketing materials to make sure they're in the pink. There's always something that can be improved upon and this season I'm going to work on (between assignments) assessing and analyzing the look and the content of my site. I keep reading you're only supposed to show four or five of your best pieces. I think I show more like four hundred. Okay, I exaggerate but I did count them up and I have over 100. Time for some spring cleaning. It's also a time to refocus on the message. Another buzzword I keep hearing is niche. I'm identifying several new niches (actually old niches but ones I enjoy working in and have done good work in so there you have it). So that'll be my focus.

Oh and of course Springtime for me is Dragon Boat season! For the past 16 years I've been on a team that practices for three months, leading up to the races the first of June. It's so much fun. Good exercise, good camaraderie, good wildlife viewing. Just getting out on the Willamette is also good. MENTAL HEALTH BREAK. Not to mention rejuvenation.

So there you have it. Spring has sprung! Get in the pink!





Hearing VOICES?

One of my favorite clients (yes I know I refer to all my clients as my favorites; it's like having a favorite child, it's impossible to choose) anyway, one of my favorite clients is Francine Read of VOICES Women's Lectures. I've been working with her for, oh, say four years now, providing design direction for her very popular women's lecture series. It's a fun gig, I pretty much have carte blanche as far as design goes, as long as I stay within her already established color scheme, and I get to promote some very interesting women. Francine has just announced her new lineup for the end of this year and into next Spring. It's another year of of four amazing women and four amazing stories. Check it out: Mariel Hemingway (you know who she is), journalist and bestselling author Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, Maestra Marin Alsop, and memoirist and bestselling author Jeannette Walls (surely you've read The Glass Castle???). 

So each season we refresh the look and feel of the promotional materials. Francine usually has found inspiration somewhere and we collaborate to bring to life her new vision. The suite of materials I design start with an email signature she can use that has a head shot of each speaker. The next piece is a flyer that is handed out at a lecture from the preceding season. It lists dates and a brief bio about each speaker and also has a tear-off order form so folks can get their ticket requests in early: many attendees come back year after year and request the same seats. 

Then I design some sort of direct mail piece, either a folding postcard type thing or a single sheet postcard. This year it's a sumo postcard, which means oversized. The front is below:

Postcard cover

But the MOST interesting piece is the eMagazine. She first started using this advertising medium several years ago and it's proved to be very successful. It's such an excellent way to communicate to Francine's mailing list. I love this and wish more clients used this medium. It's designed through issuu and can be updated as often as we want. This is a huge benefit for advertisers because they can then update their ad each season. It's also a huge benefit for Francine because we can continually update the speakers. For example, I just created a new eMagazine removing the February speaker (Annie Griffiths, first woman photographer for National Geographic, she was wonderful!). You get how it works. 

If you're interested in hearing any of these fascinating women, click here and you can get directed to the VOICES website. And look for me there!

And if you're interested in your own extraordinary suite of promotional materials, click here and we can get started working together.

One more thing, here's a testimonial from Francine:

"I highly recommend Christine Rains Graphic Design. After many years with a different company we needed a fresh perspective on our seasonal marketing materials for VOICES Lectures. Christine listened to our needs, created a stunning brochure and supporting materials that really elevated our print materials. We also appreciate her prompt response, personable approach and good value. We are committed to working with Christine!"

Recruiting Reindeer

'tis the season for fun and frivolity. 'tis also the season, at our house, of the reindeer. We've got close to 60 of 'em (not live, of course) that I trot out every first of December and place all around the house (and I mean ALL). They're my way of decorating for the holidays, a somewhat non-ecumenical way. Since my husband is Jewish it seems more appropriate than placing Santa Clauses around.

This year for my holiday celebration at Christine Rains Graphic Design I've drawn many of my favorite reindeer and am posting them on my twitter feed. They're so lovely I just had to share. It's also a chance to showcase my illustration skills which is the point of all this ... self promotion!

Please follow along as I post a reindeer-a-day on my twitter feed until December 21, when the winter solstice officially arrives. @christinerains

REINDEER LORE: Reindeer are also called caribou and are native to the Arctic and subarctic tundra, boreal and mountains of northern Europe, Siberia and North America. Some species have already gone extinct. :( 

Why are reindeer associated with Santa's sleigh, you might ask? The first time we saw it was in 1821 when a New York printer published a 12 page booklet in which he wrote: 

Old Santeclaus with much delight
His reindeer drives this frosty night.
O'er chimneytops, and tracks of snow,
To bring his yearly gifts to you.

That original printer had this to say when asked who really wrote this:

"Dear Sir, the idea of Santeclaus was not mine nor was the idea of a reindeer. The author of the tale but submitted the piece, with little added information. However, it should be noted that he did mention the reindeer in a subsequent correspondence. He stated that far in the north near the Arctic lands a series of animals exist, these hooven and antlered animals resemble the reindeer and are feared and honored by those around, as you see he claims to have heard they could fly from his mother. His mother being an Indian of the area."

I so love the image of flying reindeer.

The Night Before Christmas was first published in 1823 when all the reindeer are named. Come on, you know them all. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donder, Blitzen.

And no, I haven't named my reindeer.


Happy 21 days of Winter!

The Haptic Brain - - - or the value of print


West Coast Paper (@PaperChoice) hosted a luncheon event featuring SAPPI paper (@ideasthatmatter) expert Daniel Dejan (@danielatSappi). His topic is haptics, which is the study of how the things we TOUCH shape the way we feel. He gave out a book titled A Communicator's Guide to the Neuro Science of Touch. This should be a Bible for ANY graphic designer who has the potential to produce print projects as well as the need to convince clients of the value of printing their annual report rather than only posting it online. I've kind of summarized some of what the book says. You can get it for yourself by clicking on the brain at the left. 

The research Mr. Dejan quoted was mostly done by Dr. David Eagleman, a renowned neuroscientist who has explored how the things we touch impact us. He says that more than half the brain is devoted to processing sensory experience, much of what is focused on touch. Us print people (you know who you are) have always had a reverence for the touch of paper and have valued print, for many reasons: 1) It's permanent; 2) It shows a level of craftsmanship not always seen in online postings 3) It has been through a long series of checks and balances before it made it to print, assuring a higher degree of quality; 4) It smells good and feels good to hold and to turn over. In other words, it appeals to our haptic senses. (who even knew what that meant????) Mr. Dejan cited something called the endowment effect, which means if we own something, if we hold it in our hands, touching something, gives us a sense of ownership and we therefore value it more. Ain't that the truth?

Our sense of touch is the main way we send and receive information—we learn to interpret letterforms and can thus read. The type of media we use to deliver the message helps shape the brain. Tactile media by which our ancient ancestors first communicated on, like stone tablets and later papyrus (YES! Saw all this cool old stuff at the British Museum and the British Library!) started an incredible evolution for how our brains are organized. And once paper became light enough to travel (YES! Saw the Gutenburg Bible at the British Library!) our communications efforts were exponentially increased.

How does this affect us today???? Study after study has proven that if you read something printed in ink on paper you are much more likely to retain it and to understand it than if you read it digitally. The more senses you stimulate the more your brain remembers and more brain activity is stimulated when we read ink on paper. It utilizes our working memory differently and increases knowledge and makes us remember things longer. When we read something on paper, we attach great value to it than if we read it online. 

And so I give you three reasons why ink on paper is way better than digital:

  1. It makes content more intuitive to navigate. 
  2. It makes it easier for our brain to mentally map the information
  3. It drains fewer of our cognitive resources which makes retention easier

As a print designer, you know I am a 100% believer in the value of paper. And did I mention my father was a printer? I grew up with the smell of freshly-printed paper and still love it.







Jolly Old London

Lucky me, I get to spend a week in London thanks to the generosity of a friend. I think I've walked ten miles each day. That's the best way to see it all, in my book anyway. 


LONGEST LINE: Waiting to get your photo taken next to the 9 3/4 Platform at the Kings Cross Station. My daughter pointed out it was a particularly auspicious day for Harry Potter fans because Sept 1 is the day Harry's son goes back to Hogwarts. Harry Potter got married?????? Who knew? Millions, apparently. 


There's a guy dressed up like a porter who holds your scarf or jacket to make it look like you're going into the wall. 

There's a guy dressed up like a porter who holds your scarf or jacket to make it look like you're going into the wall. 

ABBEY ROAD: Can't be in London and miss Abbey Road. The street is pretty busy making it hard to recreate the famous album cover. 

ROSETTA STONE: Is huge! Maybe 5 feet high. I (along with every other museum goer) attempted a shot. Guess what color my rain jacket is? (Yes that's my reflection) 

The orange blob is me

The orange blob is me

BRITISH LIBRARY: No photos allowed of any of this which is kept in a darkened room to protect them, although invariably there are people taking photos. Note I didn't take any. I'm a good rule follower.

MAGNA CARTA: Is a dingy, shriveled up relic that looks like it's been through the laundry a hundred times. And no, you can't take a photo. 

BEATLES LYRICS:  A Hard Days Night was written on the back of a birthday card to Julian. Michelle was on the back of an envelope.  

LEONARDO DA VINCI:  Wrote in mirror writing, left handed and right to left. Which I think I'd read before but seeing it makes it more bizarre.

Overall, London seems like a Disneyland version of New York. So clean, so proper, so many flowers, people waiting to cross the street on the green man, not jaywalking. 

Its lovely. 

Nuggets from Nashville

Here are some tidbits I picked up from the Designers Retreat in Nashville.

Nuggets from Nashville

I promised to share some of what I learned at my designers retreat so here are some tidbits I picked up last month. The retreat was focused on helping creative freelancers learn better ways to get our business running smoothly and to empower us to focus on our craft. This is just a sprinkling of the many ideas I came away with–there were many! I'll bet there's something here you can apply to your business.

And let me just say, Nashville (aka Nash Vegas) is one wild city. I loved all the original neon signs that still stand . . . not to mention all the free music that was everywhere. I had a lot of fun with Mallory Gazecki of SlickandSlicker checking out historic bars like this one.

• Before working with a new client, ask yourself, "Will this client enable me to do my best work?"
• Good question to ask: "Let's see if we're a good fit."
• Spend one day a quarter on redefining your business vision.
Thanks to Emily Cohen

• Put some thought into your messaging. Use the right key words in your profile title, that title follows you everywhere.
• What differentiates you must resonate with your target market: it doesn't have to be unique or innovative.
Thanks to Ilise Benun at Marketing Mentor

• TOMA: Create Top of Mind Awareness so when future clients are ready, they think of you first.
• Be crystal clear about why you're doing what you do.
• Practice makes progress.
Thanks to Maurice DiMino
• Marketing is tactics
• Branding is strategy
• Find a group on LinkedIn based on your target market, contact them, or better yet, attend their conference. It's a great way to prospect.
Thank to Nancy Ruzow at Ruzow Graphics

• Something is calling you to do what you do . . . believe in it and believe in yourself.
• Know the "Why" before you attempt the "How." Live it and create it and the how will appear when you're ready.

• MAKE IT MATTER: Do good work, and the work will come to you.
• This is my favorite of all the tidbits: Passion takes its own steps.
Thanks to Rashelle Roberts

And finally, the simplest of reminders yet maybe the most meaningful:
• Be nice
• Do really good work
• Meet deadlines
Thanks to Jim Krause

I'm using some of these tidbits to strengthen my business operations and provide better service to my clients. I also found lots of inspiration for my design and illustration work. I'd be happy to help inspire your business as well.

A good old-fashioned phone call

Yesterday I had some issues with PayPal credit not issuing a credit from a company who charged me for a service I had requested to stop. I went back and forth with both companies, the seller claiming they had already issued the refund, PayPal saying they had no record of it. I had sent PayPal a "resolution required" complaint which they decided to cancel! Nice service. I called PayPal again (at least I could actually talk to somebody) and he decided the way to handle it was to issue a new resolution complaint that would take another two weeks or so to resolve. I suggested he just CALL the seller and resolve it on the phone, instead of having to go all through their process that takes forever. It took him awhile to realize he could do that. Once he called the seller, the situation was easily fixed. 

Why can't we just call people on the phone anymore to resolve issues? I was online yesterday (it was a day of conflict resolution) for an hour with Squarespace and Namecheap, using their "Chat Live" feature. Which is VERY cumbersome. Takes forever for the chatter to respond, especially since I learned one of my "chatters" is in the UKRAINE. It would be so entirely much faster if we could just pick up a phone and talk to a live person and if there is a technical problem, have them walk you through the necessary steps.

Technology is great but sometimes we just need to think about whether or not it's actually serving us.