On my podcast RUN THE LAYERS with Creative Bobbie, I ask my guests six questions surrounding the topic of creativity. One episode featured my friend Torrence, who described creativity as a way of solving a problem or providing a service. His response inspired me to write this blog post about seeing creativity as an act of service for the greater good of others.
The year of our Lord 2020 was a year of…events. Events that have left us forever changed and our worldview challenged. I never thought I would live through a time as challenging as those in the history books from school but there we were and here we are. Despite (or probably because of) the challenges of 2020, I found myself learning a lot and even having successes worthy of celebration.
A podcast is an episodic audio programme on a particular topic. The topic of my podcast, RUN THE LAYERS, is simply creativity. On the pod, we are peeling back the layers behind the creativity we see and exhibit while motivating ourselves and others. I want to celebrate and encourage creativity amongst my friends and everyone within my sphere of influence. RUN THE LAYERS with Creative Bobbie (that’s me!) is a platform for me to express myself and, from time-to-time, promote those I know who are using their gifts to deposit a little bit of themselves into the world. Through this project, I also want to continue to learn and grow as a content creator.
The Everyone and Their Brother podcast is where four (give or take) brothers at the family dinner table having a meeting of the minds about everything from pop culture, food, news, & more. This fun and hilarious podcast I’m a part of is celebrating 100 EPISODES! Reaching 100 episodes is an achievement deserving of celebration. Being the graphic designer of the group, I designed a logo for the milestone.
I’ve created graphics in celebration of Black History Month in the past. However, I wanted to do something different this year. I wanted to give some shine to African-American graphic designers that have made an impact on American culture. This design project also was my chance to learn about these designers I should know.
In 2019, there were albums that made such an impact on me that I just had to design something for them. I’m an extremely happy person any time I can use my creative skills to celebrate things I enjoy. Last year, I did a Top 10 design series. This time, when I was putting together my list, I had to include 11 to properly capture my favorites of the year.
In my newest video series, Making A Mark, I take you through my process of creating designs.
In the first episode, I try to interpret the word in·se·cu·ri·ty into a logo design.
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I am the Publications Manager & Multimedia Designer at Kappa Kappa Psi & Tau Beta Sigma National Headquarters. This means that I serve as the one-man graphic design department at headquarters and handle a variety of projects, which include websites, visual brand identities, trade show displays, magazines, and more. Last year, the more included designing the visual layout for the Chapter Vice President of Membership Teaching Manual and the Membership Candidate Guidebook for the Kappa Kappa Psi National Membership Education Program: The Road to Wisdom.
The Road to Wisdom is a comprehensive education plan that provides lesson plans and activities that was adopted at the 2017 National Convention in Orlando, Florida, by an overwhelming majority of brothers. The work behind this plan began years before its completion. My work with the Kappa Kappa Psi Curriculum Committee began with design the logo for the program. Knowing this logo would be the centerpiece of the entire brand of the program, I wanted something that would be immediately recognizable.
The star is a frequently used shape throughout the imagery and symbolism of Kappa Kappa Psi. I made the star the main shape and within it cut out the shape of a road. The road is drawn at an angle and curve, moving forward, upward, and onward. The two lines on the road mark the center of a two-way road. The two-way road can represent the giving and receiving of education as well as two-way communication between teacher and student. The logo was used to promote the program and brand the curriculum committee but the two full textbooks would be a much larger and in-depth design undertaking.
The outstanding Kappa Kappa Psi Curriculum Committee spent a lot of time crafting a lesson plan and corresponding documents to provide maximum value to brothers and Membership Candidates. Once they had the content collected and organized, they trusted me to interpret their great work visually. To do that efficiency, I used Adobe InDesign. For this kind of project, there is no better program to use that InDesign.
First, the covers of the two textbooks had to properly represent the Fraternity and the program. I put the Road To Wisdom logo large on the cover with the official Greek letter logo of the Fraternity at the bottom. The title of each book was placed in-between. In the background, there is a collage of various photos related to Kappa Kappa Psi, including historical landmarks and symbols.
Inside the book, I had to use the power of InDesign to setup certain things to make sure each book was visually consistent throughout. Font choices and title styles were saved in the Paragraph Styles section. Section titles, excerpt text, Membership Candidate Responses, Guiding Questions For Discussion, and other elements that would be in every lesson were made to be consistent throughout. Also, speaking of consistency, InDesign allows you to create Master Pages that create the template for the rest of the pages in the document as assigned. The majority of the books use the template I created with the full text Kappa Kappa Psi logo on the left, the Road To Wisdom star in the center, and “Road To Wisdom” with the page number to the right.
Each lesson in the Road To Wisdom is color coded. These colors are not only featured in their corresponding section but in the Table of Contents. The Table of Contents also are the first hint that I will be using the road (from the main logo) as a motif throughout the books. The road is featured on each of the lesson covers. Each lesson has its color and a summary of the information they will be learning or teaching, depending on the book. The Vice President of Membership had additional elements such as Required and Recommended Attendees. The differences in the two books stem from the different perspectives (teacher and student).
Throughout each book, information and directives are presented so that the teacher and student can get the most out of their membership education experience. The committee and I talked at length about the best way to translate their incredibly important and hard work into tangible publications. The purpose of The Road to Wisdom is to ensure that each future Brother, regardless of initiating chapter, is receiving the same national standard of education and training. These books are the foundation of building a positive life-long Brotherhood experience and I am blessed to have played a role in their design.
P.S. You can check out the official Road To Wisdom webpage we designed as a resource for the program.
The Power of Video
Recently, Instagram announced their new feature, IGTV. When initially announced, I thought it would be like Facebook Watch where only the most popular & well-known creators would be able to create programming for the platform. Imagine my surprise when my Instagram app updated and I found out everyone on IG could now create long-form video content. At launch, some well-known creators and personalities had content populating IGTV, showing us what was possible. Days before the launch, I had been thinking about making more videos for Instagram and possibly making an “Instagram show” of sorts so this development pleased me.
Instagram has evolved from just photos to allowing 15 second video (which I experimented with) to allowing up to 60 second videos. Now, with IGTV, creators can upload videos up to 15 minutes with some creators being able to upload up to 1 hour. I’ve written about the power of video before and the power only increases with each new advance in tech. So, with each new advance, comes new opportunities to experiment and attempt to master.
The Process of Making IG Video
The process of designing anything for any platform or purpose begins with setting up the file. I edit all my videos in Adobe Premiere Pro. So, when I create a new sequence in Premiere, I have to make sure of two things in particular: the frame size and the pixel aspect ratio. For square Instagram video that I’d post on my regular feed, I use a 1080 x 1080 frame size. For IGTV, I use a 1080 x 1920 frame size for the vertical video format. With any video I am posting on the Instagram, I always have the pixel aspect ratio at 1.0 (square pixels).
According to Instagram’s website on IGTV:
Videos must be between 15 seconds and 10 minutes long. Larger accounts and verified accounts can upload videos up to 60 minutes long, but they must be uploaded from a computer.
Videos must be in MP4 file format. Videos should be vertical (not landscape) with a minimum aspect ratio of 4:5 and maximum of 9:16. The maximum file size for videos that are 10 minutes or less is 650MB. The maximum file size for videos up to 60 minutes is 5.4GB.
As far as filming (or using) content for IGTV specifically, I try to keep in mind the vertical video format. I either just try to keep the main content centered when filming so I can maneuver while editing in Premiere or just film vertical, which you can do naturally on your phone. I have attempted to translate some videos I already created into IGTV format from my YouTube channel. The challenge there is to not assume all the content will be seen in a vertical format. I shift video file around and get creative in editing to make sure I am presenting the visuals in a way that’s appealing and unique to the platform.
I encourage everyone who has a personal Instagram account or manages one for a brand to experiment with IGTV and video on Instagram in general. With any new feature or platform, you have to taste it and figure out how to best use it for the building and sustaining of your brand for your goals. I like that Instagram is giving creators so much on one app. I don’t necessarily see it as a YouTube killer but it does give creators another option and avenue. I have enjoyed my IGTV experience thus far and am looking forward to producing more content on it in the future.
From the moment I laid eyes (and ears) on her “Tightrope” music video in the year 2010, I have been in love with the creative tour-de-force that is Janelle Monae. She is my favorite music artist of any genre, any time period. She and the Wondaland Arts Society produce music that is so creative, exciting, soulful, meaningful, and exquisitely crafted. I devour any and all music that she releases or is featured on. Recently, she released her latest marvelous body of work, Dirty Computer, and I was inspired to create illustrations based on each of the marvelous songs on the album.
Similar to my 100 Songs Project, I listened to each song as I attempted to illustrate a corresponding visual concept. I sketched out some ideas that I thought would work for each track. From each sketch/idea, I went into Adobe Illustrator and came up with something I thought would speak to each track. Along with listening to each song on repeat while designing, I used the lyrics and breakdown from the website Genius as well as her own interactive tracklist with her listed inspirations. Some of the illustrations are also inspired the accompanying emotion picture she released along with the album.
Here are the 12 illustrations I came up with for the project.
1 – Dirty Computer – This one was a minimalistic illustration of the back of my MacBook Pro with a silhouette of an Janelle Monae illustration from her “Django Jane” music video (which you’ll see featured in number 5) replacing the Apple logo.
2 – Crazy, Classic, Life – This is an illustration of a frame taken directly from the Dirty Computer emotion picture.
3 – Take A Byte – A microchip branded with love with a literal bite taken on out of it.
4 – Screwed – This illustration is directly inspired by the lyric – “You f*cked the world up now, we’ll f*ck it all back down”.
5 – Django Jane – I drew this from the frame in the “Django Jane” video where she pans right for the angle.
6 – Pynk – Directly inspired by the music video and the pants the dancers wore.
7 – Make Me Feel – Inspired by the shades she wore in the music video and how she danced between a man (Mars) and a woman (Venus), hence the symbols.
8 – I Got The Juice – Juice box for the win! Using the Django Jane silhouette here too.
9 – I Like That – Made my own like icon on this one. Inspired by “Told the whole world, I’m the venom and the antidote / Take a different type of girl to keep the whole world afloat”
10 – Don’t Judge Me – A judge’s gavel crossed out.
11 – So Afraid – This one was the most challenging. I was trying to figure out how to visually represent fear. So, I took inspiration from the Scream movies. I utilized negative space for the heart shaped tongue, the teeth, and the tears welling up in the eyes.
12 – Americans – A good old-fashioned American apple pie! With equal signs all over the top. Using red, white, and blue.
Tribute projects are fun to work on. I am happy anytime what I love do can intersect with other things I am passionate about. Put time into design series like this is great practice for me and a way for me share what I like with the world – like the greatness of Janelle Monae.