Misc. Graphic Design Work

Graphic design work and the intrigue of digital artistry is one of the first areas that propelled me into the world of programming and UX. I’ve worked on plenty of odds and ends for my own enjoyment and growth, as well as for events and groups.

One fun design where I pushed myself to leverage new techniques and approaches was my “Clock Town Mask” display for the 72 Hour Mask Challenge put on by Nintendo.

I had sketched a mask design on a piece of paper, and knew I did not have the time or resources to create it in real life. Instead, I tried to replicate the textures of a primarily wood mask in Photoshop, and to set the design in what looked like a museum display case.

While looking back the design is a bit flat, I’m still quite proud of some of the unique ways I was able to bring my sketch to life in this design.

Designed graphic of a Clock Town Mask fan mask in the style of masks from the Legend of Zelda Majora's Mask. The image mimics a display case in a museum, describing the details on the mask and indicating it is on display for the 72 hour mask challenge. The mask itself features the Termina clock as the mask face, with eye holes cut from the center. Four spires extend from the 45 degree diagonals, each colored to represent the four areas of the game, with Hylian text and symbols matching the areas seeming carved in. The clock's hand pointing at 12 is holding a triforce, with the pedestal from the clock tower above showing an angry moon. The left and right sides of the mask feature cutouts of the fairies Tatl and T ael. Below, the mask appears to have a "beard" that extends, resembling the twisting blade of the Fierce Deity in teal and green. Nested between the twist is a heart container.

As a member of the Blue Key Honor Society, one of my duties in undergraduate was to assist with our university’s Winter Carnival. I worked on the publicity committee, allowing me to utilize my graphic design interest.

While the logo is created by community members as part of a yearly contest, I wanted to ensure that I incorporated the feeling and color scheme of the logo in the work I was asked to do.

Two major pieces I created for the 2014 Winter Carnival were the ice arena banner and the event schedule poster. The banner is largely focused on the winner’s logo, but I wanted to ensure to draw focus to it in an interesting way. Given the theme, I opted for “papercut” style VHS tapes drawing the eye to the logo, with film reel running up and down the sides. I used the same snowflake pattern of the winning logo in the backdrop to aid in consistency.

I am especially proud of my work on the calendar of events. I used the same “papercut” style and the five colors used in the logo, and managed to create a visually interesting schedule of events that incorporated various film-associated shapes. The poster was a limited size and needed to incorporate all of these details – I was quite happy with the ways I fit everything in!

Concept image for Michigan Tech's Undergraduate Student Govenerment. Using elements of the "piano dog" logo, the stripes are used to cut into and angle off the left side of the "U". The husky head extends out from between the U and into the lower curve of the S to cut the lower S curve into its shape.
Logo image featuring two wizards with red banded and blue banded hats wielding wands from either side. Their wands emit their colored clouds of smoke, billowing and mingling at the center of the image. The text "Bonzai Brawl 2014" is cut from the clouds in the middle

I also created many posters and logos for various groups. One of my most utilized designs was for our undergraduate student government. A friend in the group asked me for logo ideas. I utilized the stripes from the end of our “Piano Dog” logo to cut the ‘U’ in a visually interesting way, and then used the husky head to create the curve of the S. It was a simple rough draft, but worked! While I was never told whether the group liked my design, the next year I noticed USG branding themselves with a clean and finalized logo featuring…a cut U and a husky head in the S. I guess they must have liked it!

I also created the logo design for our 2014 BonzAI Brawl, an event where students create and battle AI. The theme was wizards for the year, and I used a 5-color palette to limit t-shirt printing costs. This logo was featured on t-shirts and posters. It was simple, but fun and effective!

One of my larger practice designs as a personal project was my “Colorado Sunrise” designs. Inspired by my family trips to Colorado, I wanted to create a dreamy image that evoked the “happy place” I saw in my mind. I wanted to practice with the pen tool, and worked to draw and shade the scene using only basic shapes and shape cutouts I had carved with the pen.

I then wanted to set the design as though it was being seen from a “portal”, and placed the central portion of the design inside a beautiful skull cutout, which I adorned with beads and floral accents. I didn’t realize until I was working on it and needed to put a background color behind it, but this would make a beautiful print for a shirt!

I have also been extremely interested in data visualization, and especially in exploring interactive methods for it.

For a media course at my university, I chose to explore visualizing the data of Twitch Plays Pokemon, and wanted to do so by laying out events in various ways.

Ultimately, my goal was to have an interactive website with a traversable and filterable timeline. During a hackathon I had a functional “timeline” to click through, but it was not the engaging feature I wanted for my final project.

Instead, I chose to create a static visualization connecting types of events across days and time. This allows users to see active time periods, days, and types of events, as well as the “mode” of game during the events.

The background image was added to fill deadspace, but was created by another fan of the series (IrisChroma on DeviantArt). Given more time for this project (and not a change in trajectory of my approach!) I would have devleoped my own backdrop or put a bit more design such that I did not feel the visualization needed one.

I certainly think there are a lot of aspects of this I could have done better on. But, for my first major data visualization telling several data stories at once, I was quite happy with what I learned from the process. And certainly, I’d like to try my hand at visualization again – maybe without it being a class deadline though!

Infographic exploring the Twitch Plays Pokemon play-through. The graphic has hours along the Y axis and days along the X axis, allowing for a visual of what time of day most activities happen horizontally, and what happened in a day vertically. The graph features pink dots for Pokemon captures, blue dots for leader or badge wins, and green dots to indicate the start and end of the game. All dots in a color are connected by lines. Dots are also outlined with red for if anarchy mode was on, green for democracy mode, and yellow for both occurring throughout the event.

Misc Sketches & Art

Drawing and creative pursuits have always been a major area of interest for me. The ability to express myself online is one of the reasons I became so interested in graphic design, web programming, and later programming proper and UX design!

While I can draw digitally, I’m much more confident with a pencil sketch as a picture on a base layer, then digitally inking and coloring that.

This image started as a joke sketch given how much my partner and I enjoyed the Nintendo game Splatoon. I liked how the sketch came out so much, I worked to digitally ink and color it. This was one of my first “full” pieces of digital art!

Digital colored drawing that shows a male and female inkling driving a jeep along a highway, with a license plate that says "Bri (heart) Nate". The female inkling is driving, has pink hair and is wearing a school outfit with a heart hairpin while wielding a splat roller weapon out of the vehicle. The male inkling has teal hair and is wearing a visored cap and aviator sunglasses alongside a Hawaiian shirt while holding a deco gal weapon. The land around them is mostly sandy with some low lying shrubs, and mountains in the distance. A giant purple ink tornado is behind the vehicle, and text is added to the front of the image that says "We Can't Stop Here, This is Splat Country!"

I found a challenge on Instagram to create your “Villager Persona” from Nintendo’s Animal Crossing, and after discussing with my partner and friends regarding what animal and type I would be, I set to work on my sketch and enjoyed it so much, I wanted to see it in full color. Below, you can see the before of initial pencil sketch to the final, digitally inked and colored result.

A digitally colored and drawn sketch of a woman's face with messy hair surrounding her. Shading is done in various pastel warm tones and shadow is done using purple.
Colored digital drawing of a chibi stylized avatar with her hair pulled to one side, wearing a purple to orange gradiated kimono style outfit. She is holding a fan and has chopsticks in her hair that have flowers on them.

While I may prefer a pencil sketch prior to m digital inking and coloring, I’m not completely lost if I’m without the ability to get a pencil and paper sketch as my base layer!

While I was still working to learn shading techniques in digital art, I sketched a quick female face with wildly messy hair to practice shading using not just shades, but various hues.

When hanging out on tradition BB style forums, I really enjoyed having art in my signatures. I sketched up and colored this quick “chibi” cartoon figure of my site avatar to use in a forum signature.

Sketching has certainly been an up and down road for me, but I am happy that I never gave up on it, and am always surprised at sketches that turn out well even after months of time away.

I have a long way to go as an artist, but I’m getting much stronger at dynamic posing and creating a sense of presence with facial expressions and movement.

This image of myself as a magical girl inkling from the Nintendo game Splatoon is one such sketch where I’m proud of it breaking away from stiff posing. I hope to ink and color this one soon!

(and hopefully one day, I’ll be better at drawing hands)

Drawn sketch of an inkling from Splatoon 2, wearing a magical girl scout outfit and a crown. The inkling has their tentacles in a heart hair tie to form a ponytail, and is smiling with its hand to its forehead showing a peace sign. Its other arm is at its side, holding a splattershot weapon that is dripping ink.

Often when I’m in a meeting or sitting and waiting, I tend to doodle away. As I’ve gotten older, it takes commitment to sit down and really commit to a fully detailed and fleshed out sketch. Regardless, I’m happy that I can continue to grow in my drawing skills, and I’m happy that digital art has provided me even more opportunities and intrigue to continue honing my skills!

A digitally colored drawing of a heart shaped perfume bottle with a silver crown cap. The bottle contains a dawn-gradient colored liquid that is bubbling up, and the bottle has wings on either side. A purple vintage air puffer extends from the cap. A ribbon across the bottle is purple with skull and cross bones on it, and a seal on the ribbon is a masterball from Pokemon. The image is meant to represent a poison gym leader badge.

Swear Web Banner Art

One of my biggest wishes with Swear Studios was to have each page’s design be able to tell a story. There is some gorgeous and evocative stock photography out there, but the heart of Swear always ran deep with fantasy story themes I had conjured. I knew illustration was what would best evoke the fantasy I wanted for the website, but I felt stuck in being able to have my artistry deliver the ideas I envisioned.

In October of 2019 I took part in the challenge of drawing a picture every day, using a list of themes I had created that seemed intriguing. I started off only certain of what the first four images should really “be” – the story line of a young woman on an adventure who finds a crystal that helps realize and unlock her magical potential.

I had made several attempts prior to this challenge to draw the first image, “Discover”, and none were even remotely close to captivating in the way the “picture in my head” was. Something about this challenge though flipped the switch – while the picture wasn’t the original composition I had in mind, it turned out better than I could have hoped, and was one of my more dynamic drawings in terms of movement. This was surprising, given how little time I had been able to devote to drawing because of graduate school!

Drawn sketch of a girl in a snowy weather outfit Discovering a levitating Crystal in a Cavern

The surprises continued to emerge for me as I carried on with consistent drawings each day. What had originally started as a small routine to get me back into practice became one of my largest endeavors and some of my most fantastic drawings yet. I was stunned at the progress I made through the month and the ways I pushed myself. I used reference more judiciously and consistently, and explored poses and compositions I would have been terrified to try prior.

While by no means are these drawings perfect, I was astounded at my growth and ability to step outside of my usual bounds with some degree of success. I completed a drawing for each of the 31 days, and even did a few “mascot style” doodles after.

Of course, sketches were only half of the battle – website banner art requires digital composition to work well!

While I am still working through digitally inking each of these drawings, I am also proud of the growth I’ve had in my inking capabilities from this project. I grew up using Photoshop, and was more comfortable with it as a result. However, I wanted crisp vector lines to be able to scale and work with my sketches better. As a result, while I had inked prior in Illustrator, I was also invested in growing that skill.

My art isn’t perfect, but I certainly feel that my inking skills have grown as well. I used to feel that whenever I inked a drawing, some of it’s “soul” was lost – the fine detail in some of my lines or the light shading a pencil gave fell away, and the result was flat and lackluster. I truly wanted better for these drawings so that I would feel happy seeing them around my site – and that care and dedication I feel showed through in a growth in my digital line art.

I grappled with “to color or not to color” the art for quite some time. While I think it would be interesting to explore color at some point, I also felt that the line art nature kept the focus on the art and the page design consistent, rather than fearing color composition would take away from the banner narratives.

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing these designs on each page. They tell the story of a girl realizing her magic and using it to help others while growing herself. It’s a story that resonates with me – and with the desire I have for this studio.

Mile of Music Capstone

For my master’s in Human-Computer Interaction capstone project, I chose to explore proposing a redesign of my employer’s mobile app for the “Mile of Music” music festival. Mile of Music occurred every summer in the local area, and featured downtown venues hosting indie bands and artists for a weekend of live shows.

I began the project by considering my personas. Who was using this application, and what goals might they have? I ended up with 4 personas capturing: a music fan, an area business networker, a friend within a group, and a traveler visiting the local area.

After developing the user personas, I also wanted to ensure I considered the stakeholder personas and their goals. While the app should of course benefit visitors to the event, stakeholders had desires in building the application, especially given it was a pro-bono project. The stakeholder personas I envisioned were a performing band, a downtown bar owner, a developer at my employer, and an event organizer for the festival.

With several users and stakeholders in mind, I began working to understand the application through various interviews. I spoke to an event organizer, developers at my employer, and spoke to developers who were also avid festival goers about their experience as users of the application and attendees of the event. I also looked to my husband for advice as an avid music fan who had yet to attend the festival – a fresh perspective from someone who was not pre-disposed to any existing format.

Based on these interviews, I considered existing path flows for the application, and how these may be revised for accessibility and interest. I also worked to consider how new and valuable features for both users and stakeholders could be incorporated into this redesign. This resulted in a low-fi prototype of a proposed re-design.

The proposed redesign not only had modified paths, but incorporated the following features based in persona and interview research:

  • A search filter that provided various features from days of the event and subgenre to help users find relevant information faster.
  • Artist favoriting, in order to manage not just shows attended, but artists enjoyed.
  • Similarity search, in order to find artists “like this”
  • A “heat map” of hot spots and artists, to be able to locate the action based on the app’s GPS
  • Social media sharing features
  • Ecommerce links embedded in artist pages if they have a merchandise shop
  • Phone notifications for festival updates and show start times. This would include not just a notification but a “card” like feature to show maps and distance to shows.
  • Tentative scheduling for favorite artists to see festival schedule layout for artist combinations.
  • A “near me” GPS feature
  • Increased backlinking and paths for user flow
  • Better labelled and clarified interactions and behaviors.

In order to actually assess the utility of this redesign, I conducted user tests comparing the new low-fi prototype to the existing application flow, also set up as a low-fi prototype. I wanted to ensure that the control and intervention were not muddied by aesthetic factors, so both were brought to the same fidelity so that features and flow were the focus of the testing.

Based on the user testing activities, the proposed redesign was favored unanimously over the existing design. User testing was conducted with 11 users, and involved a think aloud protocol, pre and post interview/discussion, and various tasks one might expect to complete during the festival.

More statistics and information about the testing can be found in my Mile of Music Capstone Presentation Slide Deck (PDF)

In order to better drive the value of these features, after completing the redesign and testing, I worked to develop realistic user journeys with various features of the application for distinct personas as well. This helped with selling not only that real users enjoyed and could navigate the new design, but that in context, it appeared valuable to real needs and scenarios.

I was very proud of my work on this project, and my capstone presentation was well received by the masters committee. This project was one of my first chances to really “carve” a UX process pathway from start to finish and create my own testing protocols. I’m so happy with what I learned in doing this project, and pleased with the results!

Enchanted Forest Wedding

When my partner and I were planning our wedding, I knew that I wanted to be able to design many of the elements for our day.

We had chosen teal and pink as our colors, with grey as the base neutral. Thematically, the designs were planned around the idea of an elegant enchanted forest. After all, our cake toppers were a Venusaur and Totoro – forest creatures that matched our theme and our interests.

I designed a logo that incorporated aspects of our interests into a heart – Batman wings, a pokeball, and a small crown. This logo was used across several wedding design elements, creating a common branding “stamp” for our day.

Graphic of a wedding logo, which is in the shape of a heart that has a crown on it and bat wings extended from either side. The heart is a teal to pink gradient, with branches faded across it that look similar to marble streaks. In the center of the heart is a band and button similar to a pokeball from Pokemon, with the text "It Started Out with a Kiss How Did it End Up Like This?" in the band. Tiny hearts are cut out into the wings. Above the band it says "Briana and Nathan" and below the band it says "Sept. 6, 2014"

Design mockup of a wedding invitation bundle. The bundle features a square wedding invite, a vertical guest information sheet, and a horizontal RSVP card. The bundle is wrapped with a matching paper ribbon that is charcoal and pink with charcoal branches in the Pink area. A paper buckle seals the ribbon which features the letters B & N and "2014" over the pink to teal cherry blossom backdrop. The bundle is shown with a grey envelope.

I also developed, printed, and assembled our invitation bundles, which included the invitation, information for guests, the RSVP card and its envelop, all wrapped in a styled paper ribbon with a front piece to serve as the “bow”.

I was enamored with the design having a square shape, which proved quite hard to find appropriate envelope sizes for. I was unable to locate grey envelopes in the appropriate shape and size like what are pictured in my original planning mockup. However, this turned out to be a blessing. I had the white square envelopes printed with the branch pattern used across all of the designs, and had the guest’s names and addresses printed to each envelope in the font used across the designs. Working with the available materials actually helped me create an even better design!

There are many design elements that go into a wedding – and I was committed to creating each of them. Each table was numbered with a custom designed card attached to a vintage book (we had met in a library!), and each card’s design element and quote had a story. Guests were encouraged to “guess” why their table had a particular design, and a designed key was provided at the front table if they wanted to see if they were correct. For example, the design shown here incorporated an image of Venusaur, who shares a color palette with the wedding and is my favorite Pokemon – and Venusaur’s Pokedex number is 3.

Additional designs included the program provided at the service, labels for a self-service candy bar; informational displays about the photo booth, candy bar, and guest book; a slideshow projected on the wall of the reception venue; and thematic blank thank you cards to fill out after the wedding.

Graphic design for a table number placecard for a wedding. The card has a charcoal and pink border that features charcoal branch patterns with in it. The center is whitespace with pink to teal branching cherry blossoms. An image of the Pokemon Venusaur is faded in the lower right. Script text says "Table 3" in teal and pink, and a quote from Pokemon the First Movie is below in serif font, saying "I see now that the circumstances of one's birth are irrelevant; it is what you do with the gift of life that determines who you are."

Graphic design of a wedding guest name placecard to be folded down the center. It features a charcoal and pink border with charcoal branches extending through the pink border. The white space on both sides has a teal to pink gradiated cherry blossom branch through it. The front features the back features the wedding logo. The front features a colored band for adding a guest's name to, with a small heart in the upper left. In the lower right, it says "Thank You For Joining Us!"

My wedding was also an opportunity to consider using custom design work to enhance the experience of the day.

I had wanted my guests to be able to sit wherever they liked at the wedding, but we had multiple entree options – which would prove difficult for servers to bring the correct plates. This hurdle was overcome with a color coding system. Each wedding dinner card was printed with the guests name, but the colored band the name was written in signified the entree. Venue staff were provided the color key for what entrees corresponded to each color: Chicken, Beef, or Special Dietary. This also provided a sheet to list the special dietary information required.

This design solution allowed for guests to sit wherever they liked with their name card in front of them, allowed the name card to be a conversation aid in chatting among guests, and gave the venue staff an easy cue for entrees by table in the color key.

While I may look back and see aspects of these designs I would do differently now, I am quite proud of the designs I created for my wedding, and they helped to craft the experience of the day that I desired for my guests. This work even resulted in requests to assist others with their invitation designs as well!