Saturday, February 06, 2010

What do I do for a living?

I don't make a point of talking about work everywhere I go. In fact, many people I know very well sometimes ask me, "What do you do at Vision Forum?" even though we've known each other for at least a year and a half.

To be honest, I don't have a problem with that. I'm in a unique situation for my work and community life are very closely tied - the people I know are largely the people I work with and vice versa. For most people who have a corporate or "semi-corporate" job, work is often the only thing that ties them together. My colleagues aren't just "colleagues," they're my friends.

OK, with that aside, I realize that many of you really don't know what I do at Vision Forum. The goal of this post is to give you a window into my life as a graphic designer.

What does a graphic designer do?

That's a good question, and one with a lot of different answers. Some designers create websites, others design logos, some develop marketing campaigns with promotional materials...etc. Since I work for a retail business, my design work focuses primarily on products and advertising. Let me break that down and show you how it all works.

Working with products

Here at Vision Forum we are trying to propagate our message of family renewal and reformation through a variety of mediums, whether it be conferences, articles, personal interaction, books, CD messages, and more. We offer a variety of resources, some of which we produce here in San Antonio, others which we purchase from other companies and offer on our website.

As a designer, I work in both worlds. I have the opportunity to design CD artwork, DVD artwork, book covers...etc. for products that we produce, as well as work with products designed by someone else. In the course of my employment here I have been the primary designer for at least 1 CD cover, and 1 DVD cover, along with a variety of logos. So at this point, I don't play a key role in designing products which "go to press," but I do work with a lot of "third-party" products, preparing them to go on the website, in emails, in web ads and print ads.

That means I'm the guy with the scanner. For books, I scan the cover and the spine, then in Photoshop I create "mock-ups" using one of our pre-existing templates. CDs require basically the same process.

So when you look at a product image like "The Devolution of Law" DVD (a cover I designed by the way), you're not looking at a photograph. It was created using a Photoshop template.

I also scan and process artwork for our media download site This is quite a bit simpler than mocking up a product for, because the artwork is "flat."

In this particular case we decided to help out our vendor, Marc Leblanc, and I redesigned his artwork for him. We don't "tamper" with people's artwork very often (unless it's really really poor quality) because sometimes they get upset. :)

I used to design homepage banners for, but now this is handled by my good (and very capable) friend, Peter Serven. He does some really awesome work! Check out the homepage to see some of it.

I also function as the staff photographer (one of them). Certain products can't exactly be "scanned," so it's my job to set up a photo shoot in the back room, select the best image, and "cut it out" in Photoshop. This means I remove the background and a add a transparent shadow so we can use the image on different colored backgrounds (like in our annual catalog).

Working with advertising

This post is now officially LONG. I know you have a lot of (better) things to do today, so I won't keep you much longer.

In the Creative Media (aka Graphic Design) department we often joke that we are the "Email Department." If you subscribe to our email newsletter (and you should), you already know that we send out a whole bunch every week. Each of those emails is designed by someone in our department, and many times that someone is me.

Just like our products, each email is based on a pre-existing template. We create a custom banner and select a good color for the header and footer graphics, then save out those images as JPEGs. The second step is to set up the HTML code, which contains all of the text and governs the way the images are laid out.

When everything is ready, we put the images in a designated folder on our servers, plug the HTML into our mass-emailing service, test it a few times, make sure everything is approved by management and then send it off to you!

I also design web ads and homepage banners for

To summarize

As a designer at Vision Forum I:

1. Design CDs and DVDs and prepare them for printing
2. Scan and "mock up" products from other vendors
3. Photograph and "cut out" products that can't be scanned
4. Design emails
5. Design homepage banners for our website
6. Design web ads for products and promotionals
7. Design artwork for
8. Manage artwork from all our BlueBehemoth vendors
9. Have a lot of fun with the staff here at Vision Forum!
10. And much much more...


I occasionally work as a researcher and writer for Mr. Phillips and others on staff. For instance, I wrote an article on Darwin's finches for last years' Galapagos Expedition (my first published article!). My research was used in our new film The Mysterious Islands, and I got an award! There are a lot of perks in this job of mine.

1 comment:

AndraLea Rose said...

That was really interesting, Benjamin. Thanks for sharing! I actually did always wonder what you, and the other vision forum entrepreneurs, do. :)