Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Business Identity: A Visual Exploration of Who You Are


I spend a lot of time in my own head, so I have a strong grasp of what makes me tick.  Exploring and representing someone else's identity was a fun way to escape and reinvent.  Working with the Integrative Physiology Lab (IPL) at UIC was a great "real world" experience.  Side note, I believe every aspect of grad school is the "real world," but there is something to be said about presenting to a client that adds an extra bit of motivation to making your design great.

Our graphic design class was asked to create a logo for IPL.  We got a tour of the facility, met people who worked there, and were given their business profile - a very tough form. I'm now filling out a business profile for my own business, so I can attest to how much labor goes into crafting a single sentence to define what you do and why.

IPL did a great job showing how enthusiastic and creative they are in their field.  The inspiration came from the same place, but the members of the class all came up with very unique and differing designs, yet they all completely encompassed IPL.  I love that about design, the "right" answer can be so many different things.  After spending hours combing through scientific literature for pharma and surgical, my brain needs a little freedom.

The progression of my design is fascinating to me, one spark of an idea gets molded to become something truly polished but with so much meaning behind it.  Every line and curve come from something, but can also be interpreted in different ways.  My initial idea came from the shape of a magnifying glass, but our client, Tracy, saw a petri dish.  I loved the duality and it pushed me to choose that as my final design from the three ideas we had initially shown Tracy.

Though my design was not chosen by IPL, I'm still extremely proud of my logo.  I've got a lot of creative energy left from exploring business identity and am currently busy working on a logo for my own business called Visual Vitality.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

InDesign Export to EPUB: The Destroyer of Good Design

I've embarked on a journey of epublishing this semester and the journey has begun with a steep climb up a mountain of a learning curve.  I naively thought that a program such as Adobe InDesign would wish to work with me to make a well designed ebook.  That is not the case.  I give InDesign a file full of text and images placed ever so and then I click export > EPUB and, BAM, destruction.  Yes, I definitely wanted all my images at the end of the book, don't place them near the text they are related to that would be silly...  Apparently ebook design is more like ebook correcting.  You make something nice, InDesign destroys it and then you painstakingly correct it.

iBooks Author seems like the answer to these problems, it has been made solely for epublishing.  But Apple decided to make it solely for Apple publishing only to be read on an iPhone or iPad.  *****UPDATE 11/2/13:  Hooray, Apple now has an app to read ibooks on a desktop!!!!*******  Amazon?  Only a majority of ebooks are sold on Amazon, who would need to be compatible with them???

So it looks like I have some bitterness to get out of my system.  I think what upsets me the most is that there is so much potential for ebooks to help people have greater access to reading and to make reading more fun, engaging, and easier to learn from.  But instead there is so much confusion in ebook software and publishing that good ebooks are too difficult to make often.  Amazon doesn't publish EPUBs, the "global" format of ebooks.  Apple makes a great software program to make ebooks but only allows people to publish with them.  And reading ebooks on a desktop is somehow made challenging for the average computer owner.  It's an "electronic book" not a "only read on a tablet book."  

I think there is a large market out there for well-designed ebooks.  Glitchy, ugly looking flowable EPUBs give ebooks a bad name.  They aren't going to compare to the beauty of a printed book.  But ebooks could kick printed books' butts if audio, video, and other interactive features are added and allowed to be published by widely known ebook sellers.  Reading can become a video game, movie, or TV show, and self-publishing can be a viable option.  

YouTube has allowed every person to host their own TV show with their own personal channel; epublishing can allow the same access to writers to create published niche books for specific audiences because they don't have to go through a publisher.  I love reading self-published books that are way too unique to be picked up by a large publisher.  I want to see more and at a higher quality.  I think we are so close to getting there, but I hope Adobe, Apple, and Amazon can get their acts together and stop putting limitations up for their own personal profits.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Cooking Up a Storm!

Chickpea tenders
 I've been in the kitchen making a lot of tasty treats lately, and I thought I'd share.  I've been working my way through Lindsay Nixon's cookbook Everyday Happy Herbivore.  I was excited to make the chickpea tenders because I've been missing chicken strips.  In my free-eating undergrad years I ate lots of spicy chicken strips at the MU, yum.  So I thought, maybe a bit too optimistically, that these would replace that need.  They weren't bad so much as really, really did not meet my expectations.  I got to use my new package of vital wheat gluten and well as nutritional yeast, so that's fun.  But unless I find it makes an epic sandwich, I'll just stick to eating chickpeas in other ways.

Banana bread
 I was too excited with my pumpkin bread (shown below) to let it rest a couple days to let the pumpkin-y flavor to really come out.  I finished the last piece the day it actually was really tasty.  So with the banana bread I'm trying to not let that happen.  I haven't actually tried it yet because I'm waiting!!!

French toast muffins
 I got to use my new garbanzo bean flour for these muffins.  I think they should be named just cinnamon muffins.  I like their texture, but I think it needs another ingredient.  I'm not sure if it needs some chocolate chips or blueberries but it needs something to make it really pop.  Maybe some kind of frosting, hmmmm.

Mexican chowder
The best thing I've made this semester!  Well, I can't be 100% in making that commitment but it's delicious.  I can't wait to eat more of it.  The nutritional yeast flavor works for me in this.  I've been craving a bit more spiciness in my diet.  I made a southwestern salad for lunch today, too.

Pumpkin bread
Deliciously moist, ate it a time short enough that it's embarrassing, haha.

Pumpkin raisin oatmeal cookies
 These were great out the oven but then it was raining and humid out.  They became soggier than I wanted them to be.  Maybe I'll leave them in the oven a bit longer next time.

Herbal coffee
I didn't cook this, but I'm very happy with this purchase.  I rarely drink caffeine and am pretty sensitive to it.  My apartment has free coffee every morning, and I was tempted too many time in the summer.  I would cave, drink a bunch of it, feel like I was invincible for an hour, and then crash and get sick.  I love tea, but sometimes I want a stronger flavor in my morning beverage.  This has no caffeine and tastes like coffee to me.  No more temptation by the free coffee!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Poster of Science / Cooking Plant-Based but a Restaurant Omnivore


Back in undergrad classes involving terms such as "molecular" and "chemistry" did not appeal.  I wanted to learn about things I could see and understand, not some mumbo-jumbo concepts that seemed quite un-relateable to me and my field.  And like many of the things that I said I did not like in undergrad, I now am beginning to have an appreciation and even a growing fondness for molecular level science.  Not that I'm going to become a chemist or research scientist, but reading and understanding scientific papers regarding those topics is an interesting puzzle.

The scientific poster above, I designed for an article regarding PKM2's role in cancer and how siRNAs may be able to combat tumor growth.  A systematic approach was necessary to break down the article into understandable chunks.  It's like learning a different language, both reading it and writing it.  Both the purpose statements and summary section I composed.  My first drafts were a little too "creative."  I was actually making it harder on myself than necessary because it should be short, sweet, and directly to the point.  It needs to be as accurate as possible and extraneous information is like lying in this context.

Our next assignment is creating a PowerPoint on the article for a business audience.  It is again, learning a new language.  Yes, we have to make sure to tell the truth in the business context but the audience is going to have less of a scientific background.  The PowerPoint needs to lead to a certain conclusion (like how this could be a drug that makes lots of money and is very safe) but still stay scientifically accurate.  I have yet to crack this code, but I'm working on it!

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Now to totally change up topics: how I eat and how I feel about it.  Over spring semester 2013, I slowly transitioned to a plant-based diet at home.  (I would define plant-based as a "almost vegan" who eats lots of fruits and veggies, avoids processed foods, and who doesn't freak out if some animal-based product is consumed.)  I emphasize "at home" because I am not vegan or even vegetarian and at this point I have no desire to become completely vegan or vegetarian.  I simply like to prepare plant-based food in my own kitchen.

Here's why:
-Easy to keep things low calorie
-I like fruits and vegetables
-Cheaper than buying meat
-I don't have to worry about undercooking meat
-It makes me feel healthy and happy
-I end up trying a lot of new foods

This seems all hunky-dory, no problems at all.  A girl can cook plant-based and still order a steak at a restaurant with no drama, right?  Or if she feels like staying vegetarian that day she can order the meatless entree and not have to explain herself.  Seems reasonable - but because food is such a social event and part of our culture, there are a lot of people demanding answers to the crazy idea of being part-time vegan.

For some reason vegan seems to be an all-or-nothing category.  Though there are a lot of quiet vegans in existence, the ones the average person knows about is the vegan who is fanatical.  Preaches it like a religion and makes people feel uncomfortable about the topic in general because they make it a matter of ethics.  All I see is a chance to eat more fruits in vegetables!  It doesn't need to be scary and weird, it is so un-scary and un-weird it makes me laugh that people think it's so strange.  Soup, salads, stir-frys, burritos/tacos are all easily vegan.  Have you had a peanut butter sandwich?  Vegan.

Pumpkin-raisin oatmeal cookies - vegan

But on the other side, when I go to a restaurant - especially a nice restaurant - I'm not going to order a baked potato and steamed veggies just so I can stay plant-based when they have trained chefs who make delicious omnivore-tastic food.  My project research involves teaching a vegan diet, I have read, watched, and listened to a plentiful amount of scientifically-based data about the health benefits of eating vegan and the detriments of eating animal-products.  So ordering chicken or steak at a restaurant has given me a second of pause, "Am I killing myself with this entree???"

Pumpkin bread - vegan
The answer I've come to is NO - I'm shortening my life no more then getting into a car, walking outside, or even being in the city of Chicago.  Because being alive is a risk of being dead.  Who knows what could happen tomorrow, if I want that steak sandwich at a restaurant (I rarely eat out by the way) I'm going to order it and enjoy it. And the next morning I'll make myself oatmeal for breakfast, pack a salad for lunch, and have a veggie stir-fry with rice for dinner.  To me being plant-based and a meat-eater can happen simultaneously.  There are a bunch of people out there who will strongly disagree with me, but I also see a more relaxed view of plant-based rules making it so much more accessible to the general public.  Plant-based/vegan shouldn't be a secret club for the food elite.  Everyone should know how truly delicious a salad can be.  But Blue Bunny Premium Chunky Chocolate Chip Ice Cream should not be blacklisted because it is delicious.

Ice cream - not vegan but worth it!