Stuff I designed before I was a daddy
The kiddo’s settled down for a long winter’s nap, so I’ll crank out one more Card of Xmas Past…
We were at my parents’ house this weekend for Christmas I, which included opening presents with my brother and his wife, a couple of way-too-large meals, and Sunday morning service at my Dad’s church. Christmas II will be at our house. Grandma & Grandpa are coming up here for another round of presents and a ginormous lasagna.
As we were leaving my parents’ house Sunday night — all a-flurry and a-scurry to make sure we got all our loot (presents), crap (non-present stuff), and JJ’s everything — my brother asked, “Do you want to take your little girl home, too?”
Yup, we almost forgot the dog.
As many other parents of both dogs and humans will tell you, our dog (Cordi, short for Cordelia*) truly was our “first baby” — a test run of sorts. She’s a 7 year-old “pre-Obama” Portuguese Water Dog, and is the sweetest, smartest and most adorable dog of all time. Don’t believe me? Check out her headshots after this 2006 Holiday card featuring a be-spotted buttshot. Another well-loved card, many of which I sold to local pet and gift stores. Several years later I was out walking Cordi, and someone stopped to admire/pet her. This person mentioned how much she looked like a dog on a Christmas card she received once. She’s not Bo famous, but it’s a start.
End of the world, blah blah blah… Mayan calendar, blah blah blah… Apocalypse blah blah blah…
I had told myself I wouldn’t get sucked into writing about all that nonsense, but this DoXP card seemed to fit nicely…
2008 was the first of the “lean years” in our economy — at least it’s when Design Nut first felt it. Subsequently that year I decided to recycle/upcycle/repurpose/whatever and instead of printing all new cards, packaged several holiday and note card “Greatest Hits,” put them in a nifty, green photo box (LOVE me some Container Store!), and digitally printed a label for the top and a message card for the inside.
This year’s card is a collage of some of our photos from Italy — they were just too delicious to not use. So on a related subject… today’s DoXP card is from our first trip to Italy in 2003, AKA The Honeymoon.
Thankfully I had the forethought to take a sketchbook to the breathtaking, life-changing, awe-inspiring Amalfi Coast, and thus ended up with an incredible keepsake of drawings from all the wonders we witnessed. Sketching (as opposed to zipping around with a camera) was a wonderful way to experience the country. I had to actually be still and soak it all in. (Obviously, this was pre-JJ) My favorite moment was sitting with my pen and pad in the square with the Amalfi Cathedral looming overhead.
Upon our return home, I scrapped the original idea I’d had for the Holiday card/promo, and used my sketch of the Cathedral for the Christmas card. Additionally, I had 8 different note cards printed featuring various sketches and photos from our trip. I designed a belly band/cover, boxed them up and gave them as client gifts — by far my most popular client gift to date. I was even able to sell quite a few sets in the years since.
Lately we’ve been using Santa’s naughty/nice list (and the above song) to motivate JJ to niceness (hey, whatever works) — which reminded me of this blast from the past…
Day two of my journey through Christmas cards past brings me to a one that proved quite popular… and delicious! The card was 2-sided, so depending on how you opened it you got either a “naughty” or a “nice” message.
Last December I undertook the gargantuan (some would say unwise) task of doing 1 post a day — complete with an original doodle/graphic — as an online Advent calendar of sorts. While it was fun and enlightening for me (and I assume a few readers, too) it took up a WHOLE lotta time. And time ain’t something in abundance come December.
So this year I’m going recycled/retro and sharing some of the cards I’ve designed in Christmases past. While that may not seem very “Daddy”-related, the fact that I’m scaling back on holiday blogging is due entirely to my very celebratory three year-old, and all that he entails. Yeah, I’m really tired a lot.
I’m not necessarily going to do 12 — or go in chronological order — but today’s Days of Christmas Past (DoXP) post is my first ever original Holiday card of the modern era (post-college). The year was 1999 so it was not just pre-Designer Daddy, but pre-Design Nut. However I think you can see the seeds of design nutty days to come.
Another interesting (only to me, probably) fact: this illustration/collage was printed out on my own little Epson and adhered by my (and Papa’s) hands to the cards, which had also been cut and folded by me. I was young, poor and crafty… and this was the LAST year of such nonsense. That’s why God made professional printers.
The Girl Scouts turns 100 today (Congrats, ladies!) so I thought I’d share a project I did a bunch of years ago for them. I know I say this about pretty much everything I post here, but it really WAS one of my favorites. And it’s the closest I’ve ever gotten to illustrating a children’s book.
Follow the Reader was an activity book for the Daisy Scouts (K-1st grade) meant to encourage parents to read to their kids and generally take a more active role in their learning. It was chock full of word games, matching activities, and cute-as-pie illustrations (if I do say so myself). The biggest challenge was that the book was also bi-lingual (English/Spanish) which meant 2x the type in an already jam-packed layout.
Like the Girl Scout organization itself, the book was about as inclusive as you could get. There were kids of every skin tone, all shapes and sizes, a girl with leg braces, one in a wheelchair, even a couple of girls NOT in dresses!
However, after having already completed most of the illustrations, the Girl Scouts decided they wanted to add a little girl with a hearing aid. The only problem was that none of my people had ears! So, I created one little girl with an ear so it could show a hearing aid.
I remember thinking at the time (2002) that it would be cool if they showed a girl with 2 mommies or 2 daddies. Back then it seemed a bit far-fetched, but I’d like to think that if I were hired to do an update they’d include such a family.
In addition to parlaying my last name (Almond) into my business name (Design Nut), I’ve had a long and storied past with another famous nut…
My nutcracker connection (not to be confused with my Rainbow Connection) dates back to 3rd grade, when I was cast as the narrator of our class production of The Nutcracker Suite. I remember spending some serious time practicing the pronunciation of “Tchaikovsky,” and then being crestfallen when I came down with the chickenpox. Fortunately I was still able to perform my narratorial duties from the side of the stage, far away from the other kids. The show must go on, even in elementary school.
Fast-forward a couple of decades to my first year in business for myself. I was hired by the Kennedy Center to do some illustrations for children’s products being sold in conjunction with that year’s performance of The Nutcracker. Graphics of the Nutcracker Prince, Clara and the Rat King were printed on tee shirts, caps and tote bags, and garnered several design awards, including inclusion in Print’s 2003 Regional Design Annual.
Subsequently, I turned the illustration of the Nutcracker into my holiday card, carrying the theme even further into the nifty client gift shown above.
That same year we started collecting Nutcrackers (beginning with some of the leftover client gifts) to display during the holidays. We now own a couple dozen, including a set of Nutcracker-themed matryoshka dolls, a pair purchased on a trip to Germany, and a 3-foot tall patriotic Santa nutcracker won in a raffle.
Then last year I was again cast in a rendition of the famous ballet. Our chorus’ production was entitled “Men in Tights: A Pink Nutcracker” and starred Clarence instead of Clara, and yours truly as the Sugar Plum Fairy. It was pretty much the most fun I’ve ever had on stage, except for almost twisting my ankle in my measly 1-inch heels. Big props to you ladies — I don’t know how you do it. And yes, those are cupcakes on my shoes.
I was speaking at an adoption expo recently as a panelist on the topic “Are You Ready To Adopt?” In sharing our story, I referenced our family album a few times, as it was such a big part of our home study process. And it struck me that a) our family album was the ultimate “Designer Daddy” project, and b) I hadn’t yet featured it on the blog. Time to remedy that!
For those of you not familiar with the adoption process, it varies if you’re adopting domestically or internationally, and if you’re going through an adoption agency or the foster care system. But in all cases, potential parents must submit to a home study, which is way more than a walkthrough to make sure electrical outlets are covered. Financial, employment, and residential histories, a physical exam, fingerprinting and background checks, letters of referral, home inspections from the fire department and several other procedures and stacks of paperwork are all part of a home study. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard (and thought), “Good grief! If biological parents had to go through this, it would completely remedy overpopulation!”
While all that sounds pretty overwhelming, the most stressful and time-consuming component of our home study was creating our family album. It’s also The Most Important Thing I’ve Ever Designed.
I started doing “This Little Piggy” with JJ in the tub recently (not sure why I just now started) but he loves it — but not the “Weee! Weee! Weee!” part. It’s all the other noises I’ve created for the other Piggies that crack him up. Piggy going to market? I make “La, la la” skipping-to-market noises. The Piggy eating roast beef (what’s that weirdness all about…)? Yummy noises. The other two loser toes (Stayed Home Piggy and Had None Piggy) they get short little “wah” noises. It just cracks him the hell up. But God forbid I should do one foot and not the other. Talk about squealing…
Anyhoo, it reminded me of this promo postcard I did in ’07 (Year of the Pig, natch) which I also turned into a note card (along with 4 other porcine-themed illustrations). Click to enlarge the images, and see if you can count all the pig-related puns. They are legion.
(PS: Hit me up if you want to buy any note cards. I’ll make you a special DD Reader offer!)
Here I am – heart in hand (or morphing into a bird, rather) – once again apologizing for a long span of blog silence. But I’ve been busier than I have since… well, I can’t remember since when. And with the economy still recovering and so many friends looking for work, I am extremely grateful. Especially since I know a dry spell is always just around the corner. Such is the life of the self-employed.
But another reason I’m enjoying this giant mountain of work I’ve been buried under is that most of it is good stuff. And for a designer (well, for me at least) good stuff = 1 of 3 things:
1. Creative Freedom
2. Decent Budget
3. Likeable Clients
And in several cases, I’m even into my #4: Projects/Clients I Genuinely Support and/or Am Excited About. So yeah, I’m savoring this, counting my lucky stars, rubbing the Buddha, etc.
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