How I Inspire Myself as a Graphic Design (Even When I Have a Brain Freeze)

For one of my classes, I’m running a graphic design blog. This is my latest post and I thought that I would share it on this blog as well for people to read.


Since I was really young, I’ve always been a creative person. No matter the medium, I threw myself into whatever I was working on. Sometimes though when you’ve spent your entire life doing creative work, it feels like the steam can run out. Whether it’s tearing up the paper or deleting everything in an Illustrator file, I’ve had my fair share of creative blocks. Even just this past semester I went through a rut of feeling like I couldn’t create anything of value. So if I want to be a graphic designer for my career, how am I supposed to get past these points?

I’ve compiled a list of steps that I take to get past my creative blocks and hopefully these can help you get through them as well!

Take a Break

Taking a break can mean a variety of things and it all comes down to personal preference. Now that spring has arrived, going outside is one of my favorite solutions when I’m struggling. Too often I find myself cooped up and hunched over a computer for hours on end. Not only is that bad for your posture (or so I’ve heard), but it can feel like you’re going crazy.

My university just returned from spring break and I had the opportunity to spend the week at Folly Beach in South Carolina. Though I had to do some web design projects over break, I never felt myself get overwhelmed because I knew that I could walk right from the house and be on the beach. There were some days I spent two hours just wandering the beach by myself, taking the time to think about things but to also not think about things. I’m a part of the population that overthinks everything and being able to clear my head like that was exactly what I needed. Sadly, that was only a temporary solution now that I’m back at school. But the idea remains the same.

Getting outside helps stretch your body and there’s just something about inhaling fresh air. Maybe it’s just getting up and walking outside for a minute, or maybe it’s going to a coffee shop nearby just to break up routine. Or it’s actually putting down the pen or mouse for the day and taking the rest of the day off. Overworking your brain will never lead to quality results, and it can also help you give ideas if you forget about the project and return to it with a fresh mind later.

Sketch and Doodle Ideas 

This one oddly sometimes is the hardest for me, but it does work. Typically after taking a break like I talked about in my first step, I take to sketching. Returning to the roots of my art background always helps me come up with my strongest ideas. Even if all I grab is a bunch of printer paper instead of a sketchbook, it still helps.

Personal tip: use a pen. Not being able to erase anything helps me just get my ideas out because I know I won’t be able to sit and stress over going over one section over and over again.

Even with a tablet, it’s much more freeing to sketch on paper. And the beauty of doodling is that it doesn’t matter what level of skill you’re at, it’s all about just putting lines on a paper. Whatever works best for channeling ideas, whether it’s scribbles and a bunch of notes or detailed drawings, it makes coming up with ideas much easier and allows then for the transfer to the computer to be easier.

The other day I had to turn in 100 thumbnail sketches for one of my classes. Though it was extremely difficult, since I have never made myself sketch that many thumbnails, it did help me just like doodling in high school did. It helped me let go of ideas that I was holding on to and really try to think outside of the box. No, not everything is going to be good quality. But that’s not what’s important in the drafting or doodling phase, it’s all about channeling creativity and generating ideas.

Research Other Work

As a competitive person, sometimes I just need that spark to get me going. I’m a former athlete so I like to challenge myself. For me, my background is in golf. In golf, my success was dependent on the work that I put in; I was in no control of how my competitors would do. That taught me from an early age to look at what others were doing and to see what I had to do to get to their level. Graphic design isn’t a sport, but sometimes I use the same principles to help get me inspired.

Since I began to work in art, photography, and design, I’ve had one main mantra: “If someone made it, that means it’s possible for me to make it too.”

For me, this means that when I see extremely well made work, I try to study and see how I could create something similar. This isn’t about copying or stealing ideas, but learning techniques and design elements. For example, maybe I see a really intricate logo design. I’ll try to break it down, try to figure out where the inspiration came from and what it took to create it. Or maybe it’s a beautiful piece of digital art. I’ll try to understand the techniques used and test them out for myself. By doing all of this, it pushes me to learn about the software that I use and makes me think more about my own designs. Seeing other people’s work can lead to those “ah ha!” moments and unlock a creative brain freeze.

 

 

From Kathryn to Kat, and Other Things from 2014

I rarely succeed with New Years Resolutions, and I try to not make too many specific ones due to knowing my tendency to not follow through with them. There is one resolution though that I did manage to hold on to this whole year and it’s the most important one I could have kept.

“Take care of myself.”

Mental health and self-care should always be priorities, but with the way life feels most of the time, they tend to get the back burner. I know I’ve been guilty of it, when I create a to do list, I don’t include checking in to make sure I’m doing alright. But this was a year of self-transformation and taking care of myself and I’m so happy to be able to say that this is the best I have ever been. I have a habit of starting my “years” with my academic calendar, and with everything that went on this fall, it’s hard to believe that it was only a few months. But for me, fall 2014 was a rebirth and a new beginning, as if it was the start of a new year. And it was in a sense because it was a new me.

The biggest change: I made the decision to no longer play college golf. Instead, I chose to focus on my academics and give myself the opportunity to fully throw myself into developing my career path.

I suddenly went from the athlete, the golfer, an identity I had maintained for years, to just a student. I was terrified of an identity crisis, but excited about the chance to see what else I could bring to the table. And much to my relief, it turns out I can bring a lot.

I went into the semester as a new team member of Live Oak Communications, Elon’s on-campus communications agency (make sure to check out our website, we just redid it and it looks phenomenal), with the role of Creative Content Producer. This was my first time focusing on graphic design, specifically in an agency setting with real clients. I fell in love with the work and spent hours in the office working on different client projects. I found myself creating a variety of things and learning even more about Adobe InDesign and Illustrator. After a month of working there, I was honored with the promotion to Graphics Production Manager. This was a first, especially for someone who was only a bit into their first semester working. I continued to push myself, tackling huge projects that left me working multiple 7pm-3am nights in the office (purely voluntary and a good indication that I enjoy this type of work). We pushed ourselves as a creative team and produced amazing content. I found a group of students that I could bond with over new things, and I’m so happy to be a part of the Live Oak family. I couldn’t have asked for a better semester. But then I received an even bigger honor than I ever could have imagined. Moving into the spring semester, I will be Live Oak’s brand new Assistant Creative Director. Even typing it out I have a hard time believing it’s happening. Discovering this new passion was more than I could have ever dreamed of, and it helped validate my decision to no longer be a collegiate athlete. It has helped open entirely new doors in my future and I can’t wait to see where it takes me.

But in regards to the title of this blog post, that’s where some of the more internal changes begin.

For those who know me from home, you all know that I’ve always simply been Kathryn. Nothing else, no real nicknames. Not out of dislike for them, but I’ve always just stuck with my full first name. Well fast forward to this fall and things changed unexpectedly. Through class and Live Oak, I made a new friend who within roughly a day of knowing me, asked if he could call me Kat. Not really thinking anything about it, I said it was fine with me.

It seems funny that a nickname would have an impact on your personal life. As Shakespeare’s Juliet so profoundly asks, “What’s in a name?” Well, surprisingly a lot, at least in my case.

Thanks to the aforementioned friend, I found myself quickly meeting what felt like almost the entire School of Communications, and I was introduced as Kat to everyone. These people all started out as brief acquaintances, introductions made in the hallway, at parties, and on the sidewalk on campus, but then quickly evolved into amazing friendships. And they all knew me by this new name. As my involvement grew within the Communications department, I found myself answering to the nickname, though it wasn’t until I started signing emails as Kat and answered the phone with “Hey it’s Kat!” that I realized how much it had taken over. But it was more than just a nickname. This new me, Kat, was the version of myself that I had been aspiring to be for my whole life. Kat was confident, both in herself and her work. She was involved, volunteering to help out with other projects and spending hours helping film, edit, record audio, and design. She was someone that people said, “I’ve heard a lot of great things about you.”

And the craziest part was that she was me.

It also sounds a little silly I’m sure, a little too out there. I mean it’s just a nickname right? Maybe. But also at the same time, I know that I’ve changed this semester and it really traces back to the simple question, “Can I call you Kat?” I’m so thankful to have been able to make so many new friends this semester, people I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without knowing but people I know that will remain a part of my life long past graduation. I’ve been exposed to so many new opportunities this year and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. And it all came about in thanks to me going with my gut and making a decision that was best for me.

While it was hard having the fall semester come to a close, mainly just because it meant it was over, I am so excited for the new year.

I will be spending my January term studying abroad in Europe, hitting up England, Germany, and the Czech Republic. After that I’ll be coming back to amazing friends, great classes, some huge projects, and even more great opportunities. So far the plan for summer 2015 is to work in Los Angeles (I’m avoiding emailing about internships while I write this post), and experience life in Southern California. And then I’ll be a senior. Okay that part I’m not too excited about, life outside of college is too intimidating to think about right now. But until then, I’m embracing all of 2015.

Are there things I want to work on in the upcoming year? Of course. But I don’t think I’m going to worry too much about them right now. For now, I think the process of taking care of myself has done more than any other resolution I can make.

 

 

Here’s to 2015, may the adventures continue.

The Evolving Presence of Feminism and Women in Rock and Roll

Introduction

Rock and roll has long been seen as seen as predominantly a man’s genre, consequently catering mainly to its male audience. Since the big explosion of rock in the sixties, women have been fighting to find their place in the rock culture. It has been a struggle for women and it could be argued that even in the modern world, that they are still fighting for space. Through the decades however, different female rockers have had an influence that has helped pave the way for other successful women. Rock is an expansive genre, encompassing subgenres such as heavy metal, punk, grunge, and post-rock, all of which have their own particular associated codes of conduct and display” which offers and encourages “separate gendered responses” (Leonard 23). This research paper hopes to examine what exactly has the impact been over the years of women in rock and what it means to be a woman in a male-centric genre, as well as study the different eras of women in rock. Along those lines, it will examine what it took for women to fight through the male-dominated genre and how the female role has changed in music and in rock over the years. As well as studying various female rockers, it will also examine feminist theory and criticism, and how women have been portrayed and viewed over time from the early sixties all the way through the nineties.

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Finding the Glass Slipper: A Feminist Analysis of the Disney Princess Films

Abstract

This research studied Walt Disney’s female representation within the Disney Princess franchise. With the princess movies’ target audience being very young and impressionable, it’s important to understand how female characters are being presented. With that, it is important to see how it has changed over the years. The study was done by performing a content analysis of the Disney Princess films, through the application of the Bechdel test. Then through an extension of the test, the types of relationships found in the films were analyzed. Along with the content analysis, a critical analysis was applied to the films in order to better examine some of the female relationships. The critical analysis was supplemented by the use of secondary sources from the literature review. The findings of the research demonstrated that the majority of Disney’s Princess movies passed the Bechdel test, but did not consistently have good female relationships or representation.

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Out of this World // Movie Review of INTERSTELLAR

This has been the fall and winter of movies and I have yet to be disappointed. Starting off with David Fincher’s Gone Girl (which I wrote a review about here), to Dan Gilroy’s directional debut with Nightcrawler (which I’m going to write a review on later), to Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (which is today’s review), I knew that these trips to the movies these past couple months were going to be intense. And I have been far from disappointed.

The Pros

To me, Interstellar was everything it promised to be. Mind-blowing. Out of this world, if you don’t mind puns.

I’ve only recently become more interested in the sci-fi genre, so I tend to go into these movies mostly unaware of what to expect or how things will be portrayed. Leading up to seeing the movie, I had been constantly hearing about how thoroughly researched the film was. This was a huge plus to me because it almost took away the “fiction” feel of the film’s ideas, letting me as a viewer fully embrace the plot not just in a moment of suspension of disbelief, but because the actual science presented allowed it.

While a fairly basic, and probably unfair choice, the only movie I can roughly compare Interstellar to is Gravity. Both are huge space epics, but there are definitely distinct differences to the two. While the visual eye candy of Gravity is extremely hard to challenge, Interstellar moved me in a way that I didn’t experience with Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. You’re able to actually connect to the characters and feel for them. Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway played their characters brilliantly and their characterization helped connect them to the audience. I also confess that I did cry a couple times during the movie.

As soon as the credits rolled and Hans Zimmer’s name came up, a friend and I both threw our hands up as a sort of “of course he composed the music!” reaction. Zimmer, who composed movies such as Pirates of the Caribbean, the Dark Knight trilogy, Inception, and 12 Years a Slave, yet again created a masterpiece. The music was unbelievable, helping elevate the journey.

It’s also just a generally beautiful film as well. Specifically in the first third of the film on Earth, the lighting and dramatic scenes are beautiful to watch. Though the space scenes are the majority of the film, and they are spectacular as well, Nolan doesn’t take that as a cue to let the Earth scenes be lackluster. Early scenes involving the dust storms take your breath away, while even just a shot of McConaughey looking out a window is dramatically lit as we have a silent moment with his character. The expansive setting of farm fields helps play with the figurative idea of space, paralleled by the eventual literal space that the rest of the movie spends its time in. While dealing with outer space and planets, there is a sense of intimacy when it comes to the filming of the characters. Except for when emphasizing something happening in the location around them, shots focusing on the actors are tight and personal. The people of the story are just as integral as the vast worlds around them and we never lose sight of that.

The Cons

Interstellar clocks in at almost three hours, which is hardly an usual length for a movie these days so it isn’t typically a con. However there’s something about this movie that makes it feel even longer–try four to five hours. In a seemingly fitting way in regards to the plot, you lose track of time while you’re watching the movie. While I wasn’t particularly bothered by the length, I was definitely aware of how long the movie felt, versus how some movies can be extremely long (Wolf of Wall Street and Pulp Fiction for example) and not feel nearly as long. To me, it’s important to be able to lose myself in the movie and not be aware of external factors, such as how long I’ve been in the theater.

While it was listed in my “pros” section, there’s also a big of a con to me involving the science in the film. And that’s because of exactly that — the science. This movie delves into a type of science that is so difficult to understand that really my best advice is to almost tune out what they’re saying and accept it. While the amount of science researched was immense and helps demonstrate a realistic story, it can be overwhelming at times. At one point near the end, there is also a switch where suddenly the science goes from “okay I think I get it” to “this makes no sense at all,” and to me that’s dangerous. To build up an entire movie on the actuality of science works until suddenly it’s all theoretical is very difficult to keep up, and somewhat of a let down. This is a minor issue, but does cause some confusion and might be the movie’s biggest struggle. Sometimes you have to explain everything or nothing, not just most of it.

The Conclusion

Even if science isn’t exactly your thing, or if it is, I absolutely recommend seeing Interstellar. And if possible, make sure that you see it in theaters in order to maximize your experience. Some movies are fine no matter what format you watch them in, but this is a movie that is meant for the biggest screen possible. Maybe it’s not my favorite film, and that’s okay. It was amazing to watch and to see the story unfold. When the movie ended, the entire theater just sat for a minute as everything sunk in. This movie is truly an experience to be had. If you haven’t seen the trailer, make sure to check it out and the next time you have an evening (and you’ll need all of that evening), maybe grab some tickets and check out Nolan’s new space epic for yourself!

Gone Crazy for Gone Girl || Movie Review

I’ve been eagerly waiting for Gone Girl to hit theaters and was able to get to see it yesterday and now that I’ve had a night to sleep on all of the thoughts whirling around in my head, I’m finally able to sit down and begin to write my review of the film. I will do my absolute best to remain spoiler free because I’m adamant that if there’s ever a movie to NOT be spoiled, it’s this roller coaster of a story.

It’s been about two to three years since I first read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. My mom had originally read it for her book club and told me that it was a must read for me as well. And wow, was she right. I was blown away by the book and I also nearly threw it across the room when I was done (book readers and movie goers will know why). So when I heard about it being made into a movie, I was both excited and nervous. The only thing that eased my trepidation was finding out that Flynn wrote the screenplay and I allowed myself to get caught up in the excitement.

I was not disappointed in the slightest.

Right from the opening clip, David Fincher’s Gone Girl pulls you right into the story. While you do feel aware the length of the movie (clocking in at 149 minutes), you never once feel like you’re losing interest or that it’s dragging. The twists and turns keep you riveted on the action on screen. If you’ve read the book, it’s amazing the great transitions that Flynn was able to make in transposing the story for the film. It’s told in an extremely similar fashion to the story-telling of the book, which I wasn’t sure at first they would be able to pull off.

I was also blown away by the performances of lead actors Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. It might be one of the most perfect castings I have ever seen for a film, and it’s impossible to imagine any other choice. They truly were able to embody their characters in a chilling, yet perfect way. Affleck nails his role as Nick Dunne, the husband who has to deal with the disappearance with his wife while dealing with figuring out what happened and dealing with a police force and town that is questioning his innocence. Affleck is able to transition through the different faces of his character, giving a depth to Nick that is both subtle and explosive at the same time. In a fantastic combination of the writing and his acting, Affleck creates a character that you’re both drawn to and repulsed by. And having only seen Pike in the 2005 remake of Pride and Prejudice, I was beyond floored by her portrayal of the beautiful, yet cold, Amy Dunne. To avoid spoilers I won’t talk much about her role or character, but if she doesn’t received an Oscar nomination I will be severely disappointed. These two roles are both extremes in every aspect and these two actors were able to capture them in such a raw form that it’s almost as if it was originally written for them.

As a cinema student and a sucker for anything aesthetically pleasing, it’s impossible for me to avoid talking about how beautifully the film was made. Fincher, as usual, nailed it. This isn’t just a dark story, this is a dark film. There is no warmth in color or in feeling, and instead we get a glimpse into their characters’ lives just when things are at their worst. Much like Se7en, there’s a detached and sort of cold feeling to the way it is shot. While I haven’t seen as much of his work as I want to, I’ve been lucky enough to be able to listen to and analyze his work in different cinema classes. There are intimate shots of usual objects, and he often just lets the action unfold in front of a stationary camera, not letting us get distracted and instead focusing purely on what’s going on. We are however given a complete vision of what it is that we need to see.

The score for the film adds a lot to it as well. Even though it isn’t a “scary movie” or a movie that has any type of jump scares, the music helps keep you on the edge of your seat. There’s a tension that seems to consistently build, never letting us forget that something bigger is going on.

Overall I couldn’t get over how well made the movie was. It was hands down one of the best adaptations I have ever seen, while also being one of the best new movies that I have seen in a while. Now that I’ve seen it, I find myself itching to reread the book and I can almost guarantee that I will see the movie in theaters again. And if that’s not the mark of success then I don’t know what is.

Two Weeks Down

This blog started out as personal posts, something to keep family and friends up to date on my life in college. So here’s my attempt to break up the photos and the essays and bring it back on in to that.

I’ve just finished the second week of my junior year of college. Scary right? It was four years ago that I was looking into schools, trying to decide if I was going to make it out on the East Coast or not. I had people tell me that I wouldn’t make it, that I would find myself transferring to Boise State (or any other Idaho school for that matter) by second semester freshman year. Well fast forward to now and I’m looking into an internship in North Carolina for summer 2015  and who knows, maybe I’ll move to Charlotte. But who knows! I would love to travel the United States and explore more before I even come up with an idea of where I want to live, there are too many possibilities. But for now I think I’ll stick with being in denial about being half way done with college and continue to live in a bubble of being sort of an adult but still not fully an “adult” in all aspects.

Things are also shaking up this year and I’m certainly filling my time up! I’ve now become a part of Elon’s Live Oak Communications Agency, where I have the official title of “Creative Content Producer.” Words can’t even begin to describe the excitement I have about being able to finally delve into what I want to do and begin to create professional work. It’s essentially a full internship on campus, though instead of payment I get school credit. As anyone in the creative field knows, it’s all about your portfolio at the end of the day and I’m excited to be able to continue to update my website with what I’m able to create for local clients and expand my talents.

For classes, I’m taking four pretty different classes actually.

  • COM 495 Great Ideas (Capstone for Comm Students): Students examine great ideas that shape media and communications such as free expression, the global reach of communications, technological convergence, disruptive innovation, media entrepreneurship, the diversity of audiences, and media effects. Students write an original research paper or substantive analytical paper that examines a specific issue
  • ISC 111 Data Science and Visualization: The Internet is full of rich data sources that anyone can use to answer questions and solve problems. How can we process this data to uncover interesting patterns? This course teaches students how to access online data, write programs to analyze the data and use visualization tools to describe the patterns we find in a compelling way.
  • GST 303 Culture of Rock: This course, as the title indicates, examines the “culture of rock.” Specifically, it is concerned with the evolution of rock music and subcultures centered upon that music. In particular, the course examines the music and nascent youth culture of the 1950s, the counterculture of the 1960s, the reggae and punk subcultures of the 1970s, and beyond.
  • COM 365 Editing the Moving Image: Students learn the concepts and techniques of digital video editing for broadcast and cinema. The course examines the historical and theoretical evolution of editing, and students complete projects that require mastery of video editing techniques.

All in all I’m absolutely loving my classes. I do get minor headaches in my Data Science class but I’m also already using some of those skills that I’ve learned in that class and applying them to possible research for my Capstone class. I will also be writing two massive papers this semester, one that’s 16-20 pages and one that’ll be 20-25 pages. How much of a nerd does it make me if I’m actually really excited about doing the research?

I’ll continue to try to do more updates but for now, signing off on this belated personal update. I hope family and friends are doing great as we move into the later part of 2014!

And big news! I finally reached over FIVE THOUSAND views on my blog! I considered doing a special post about it and maybe I will later but we’ll see. There’s a pile of research anthologies calling my name so I think this is where I’ll be ending this. Goodbye for now!

xoxo

Kathryn

My First Website

As someone who is constantly on the internet, I have my fair share of social media accounts (essentially I’m on all of them).

I then created a blog just two years ago and broadened my use of the internet. And today I published my online portfolio/my very first website – www.katbuckingham.com.

And let me tell you, it’s been an adventure.

Since this year is the beginning of a focus on my future, I knew it was time to create an online portfolio. Once I made the decision to do this, I decided on using the site builder Weebly as my platform. And then began the ultimate task of finding everything that I thought would play an important role in showcasing what I was capable of creating. Silently praising myself for all of the file organizing I’ve done, I dug through my computer and external hard drives and compiled it all together. I sifted through emails to find articles that I had emailed to professors. I had to sit and think about what would be the best examples that I could present and suddenly things either seemed not good enough but I still pushed through. Stumbling blocks came in the form of missing files (“Mom didn’t I email you a copy of my advertisement??”) and non-jpg files that I couldn’t open on my laptop (“Maybe this is why I should update my InDesign”) and currently there are pieces missing from the site. But don’t worry, I’m putting on my thinking cap once I get back to North Carolina and getting these last files together.

I also realized that while I have taken numerous (read: hundreds) of selfies, I in fact did not have a professional photo of myself. Or any type of image to use as a background. So just the other day my mom and I found ourselves making our way to the foothills to get something presentably professional, but also with a hint of me in it.

Even up until a minute before I hit publish, I’ve also been spending large amounts of time agonizing over links and making sure they are properly connected, which is for sure something I’ve never thought about.

What felt like the most adult thing I’ve ever done, I decided to pay not only for the upgraded account with Weebly (I most definitely needed the video feature), but also for a domain name through GoDaddy. As my family looked at it, this is an investment. I will now be sending this website out for future internships and possibly jobs and it’s important for it to look as professional as possible.

I’m sure I’ll still find issues with it and I’ll be adding files for a while, but it feels nice to have been able to finally hit PUBLISH and get the site live. This is probably the hardest I’ve worked on something and I’m honestly exhausted. But here’s to accomplishing probably the most grown up thing I’ve ever done. For now I’ll sit back and enjoy it, as the work is never done (I actually have to go update my resume right now but I’m not jumping on it).

I’ll need to start packing today, I’m returning to North Carolina on Friday and finally back to college. I’ll be beginning my junior year which is unbelievable! But that’s another blog post.