Blog Posts | 2019

My Journey in Design

The Subtle Art of Capturing a Moment

Great photography is about simplicity. The primary trick is learning to see what you, the artist, are observing, and to understand how a camera interprets light in ways that can alter the subject as you perceive it. Just capturing what is in one's field of view is not necessarily capturing what one perceives from a subject. It is about observation. A great photographer takes in a moment, they take in the emotions, actions and eloquence of the subject. A good artistic portrayal captures how we perceive those moments in much the same way any person remembers a powerful moment in their own lives. A photographer gives a photo the kind of elements and life, through whatever creative means work, that makes us perceive them on film in a way we would have perceived them in person. It’s these simple elements that makes good photography great art.

“At its most beautiful, photography invites us to discover, to ponder, to create, to invent or provoke”

However, like any art form, photography has its difficulties. Trying to capture qualities in a purely visual way is often difficult because what we perceive or feel, or even seem to see, about something is not always what we actually see. In architectural photography, there can be all kinds of terribly distracting things a photographer never even noticed at the time they took the picture. If there are geometric lines such as the lines of the edges of walls and ceilings in the background of a picture, taken at any other angle but the squarest of angles or at some geometrically interesting angle to those edges, the room will look distorted and badly built. None of the edges will look correctly vertical or horizontal. The same is true in portrait photography. A beautiful face outside in the noonday sun actually has terrible shadows in the eyes and socket area because of the protrusion of people's brows. But we do not notice that when talking to someone. So, if a person’s eyes appear beautiful, it is not just because of the way they look, or the way they would look to us if we painted or photographed them accurately. A photographer who takes a close-up head and shoulders picture, with a normal 50mm lens of an adult, you will get just enough distortion in the proportions between the nose, eyes, and ears that the portrait will usually be unsatisfactory though it may not be apparent why or what exactly is wrong. Yet, while looking through the camera's viewer the face will probably have seemed normally proportioned to the photographer.

Part of the trick in photography is to portray a subject the way it does or can instead of the way it would look. A photographer must learn to capture the essence and perception rather than a strict physical appearance. They have to discover or decide what the essence or the perception is first; and that is not always easy. In portrait photography, one of the things that makes someone attractive sometimes is their personality, not just their physical looks; so in order to capture their beauty a photographer has to somehow capture their personality. If a photographer doesn’t and the subject does not have much beauty in their looks, the portrait will be just a very unflattering and unattractive picture. Being a good photographer isn’t just about capturing a perspective through angle, height or focus. It is also about connecting with a subject. Good art, good drama, good photography, is about having the skill to capture an impact or an essence.

That’s because like any great art, photography is a form of expression and a tool that can show the world for what it is, what it isn’t and what we imagine it could be. At its most beautiful, photography invites us to discover, to ponder, to create, to invent or provoke. It is a tool that can challenge our preconceptions. It can force us to see ourselves and our society with new eyes— with a new lens. Photography can enchant us by exhibiting the beauty of nature. It can also show us the simple humanity of us all. A great photographer doesn’t just capture pictures they help illuminate the worlds around us.

Designing For Change

In the last two years I’ve worked as a Communications Coordinator for Florida State College at Jacksonville’s office for Diversity & Social Change, recognizing and utilizing design to encourage a more inclusive culture has been a part of my mission. Even in the confines of a large college, design can have an influence on the culture of that campus and its environment. By acknowledging that design can have a broader influence on culture and education I’ve been motivated by the question “How can it be used to provide an inclusive college environment and promote change?”

In my time at FSCJ I’ve created materials that have focused on advocacy and awareness that cover topics related to immigration, black identity, LGBT advocacy and multicultural understanding. In every initiative I operate cautiously prior to designing, ensuring that proper research is made before a design approach is reached. After research, my approach and strategy to designing is built upon answering few key questions:

  • Is there an opportunity for the design be culturally inclusive?
  • Is there an opportunity to visually educate or inform students on an issue, culture or history?
  • How can the design be used to affect the culture of the College?
  • Is it culturally appropriate and does it respectfully represent the culture?
  • By outlining these questions, it has helped guide any design strategy I put forth as Communications Coordinator. In order to be culturally appropriate one has to use appropriate symbols and visuals. For example, my criteria for materials that celebrated Hispanic Heritage was to use symbolism, color and connective styles that are used across multiple Central and South American cultures while avoiding cultural symbols only relevant to Mexican culture or stereotypes. Additionally, materials also have to incorporate correct language and terminology. In the case of materials that touch on LGBT issues, using correct terminology about gender identity or sexual orientation is crucial to reach that community and educating others about the LGBT community. Another important strategy is developing an awareness of cultural issues and taking time to gain wider understanding of the politics surrounding issues related to underrepresented communities.

    This is particularly true when touching on movements such as BlackLivesMatter and MeToo. Using visually impactful or recognizable design elements to educate students to evoke emotion, controversy, or logic is a beneficial strategy in engaging or educating any population.

    Importantly I’ve also made progress making design more universal and more inclusive. One strategy is to make sure color palettes and typography is easier to read for the visually impaired. Another approach is to design materials with bilingual or multilingual options when appropriate. I was able to accomplish this for our Hispanic Heritage celebration by including materials that were written in Española. Such strategies help those in underrepresented communities feel more included in the overall culture.

    However, the most important approach in design is making sure that there’s more diversity and inclusivity behind the scenes. Representation matters and hiring a design team with a diverse set skills, background and cultural knowledge is extremely important in promoting change. I’ve also taken this approach in my hiring practices of my design team. Graphic Design can play a crucial role in our culture and those that are designers need to reflect our ever-changing society.

    Evolution of an Artist

    “my art had evolved from a way to cope with the challenges of life to a way of exploring what life had to offer. ”

    Art for me started as a method of coping with life’s challenges. I grew up as a Navy brat, frequently moving to major cities along the Atlantic coast. That was until my father resigned from the Navy and decided to move back to his home state of Illinois. Suddenly, I found myself in a small town, hours away from a major city and hundreds of miles from the ocean. Many of the people in that town had never traveled beyond the state, let alone moved to another city. I found myself unable to relate to anyone and I often found myself alone. It was a huge culture shock for me. One of the ways I coped was by drawing the things I missed, particularly things related to the ocean. Drawing quickly became a coping mechanism after that move.

    As I grew up in middle school and junior high school, I was socially awkward, dealing with several personal struggles and was often traumatized by bullies. I expressed myself by drawing cartoons about my experiences and turning them into humorous tales. This quickly became the genesis for the creation of my cartoon strip, Peeved.

    Peeved really became an extension of my personality with various characters acting as different facets. The strip centered on a family and their imaginative pets. Two of the pets, Boeaguard, the family dog and Sparky, the family parrot, represented the two halves of my personality. Boeaguard represented the part of me that was growing older, sarcastic and pragmatic. Sparky was the side of me that was wildly imaginative, naive and immature. These two characters became the soul of the strip. When the strip was published by my junior high and high school’s newspaper, the characters became locally popular. However, my artistic talents weren’t limited to drawing cartoons.

    Throughout high school and early adulthood, I took on sketching, painting, computer art, sculpture and writing. Many of my earlier works experimented with expressionism, impressionism and surrealism. As I grew as an artist, my appetite for learning other artforms also grew. My skills as a cartoonist really helped hone my ability at storytelling and got me interested in other forms of narrative storytelling such as animation and filmmaking. After I graduated high school, I tried pursuing a degree in illustration and video with the Savannah College of Art and Design. Unfortunately, by that point my relationship with my family soured and I found myself homeless and unable to afford any art school. I was literally a starving artist during my early adulthood and, while I never gave up on my cartoon strip or my art, it became secondary as I tried to put a roof over my head and just survive on menial jobs.

    It took nearly a decade for my life to stabilize and to feel secure, but my experience in life gave me a wealth of story material. I eventually tried to take up my cartoon strip and attempted to reinvent it as animated shorts. I invested in some animation software and began teaching myself how to do flash animation. While my attempts at teaching myself animation were decent, I hit a few roadblocks in what I could do based on my level of knowledge. At the same time my career in the service industry was growing but it wasn’t a career I wanted. I decided at that point it was time to earn my college degree and take a step towards a career as a creative.

    With some left over grant money, I purchased my first DSLR camera and a small lighting studio and that’s when I began to truly find my eye. Many of the photos I took early on I began compositing to develop my own form surrealism and in use for mock ups in my design portfolio. It didn’t take long for me to begin experimenting solely as a photographer. I would take pictures of architecture, landscapes, nature, wildlife and even took portraits. Photography quickly became a new way I focused on art. It was at that point that my art had evolved from a way to cope with the challenges of life to a way of exploring what life had to offer. Photography became my new lens on how to view both myself and the world.

    Latest Posts

    May 2019 The Subtle Art of Capturing a Moment
    April 2019 Designing for Change
    March 2019 The Evolution of an Artist