Better with Time!

This week, we finished creating direct mailers for our theoretical client, the OU office of admissions. More than a couple of things were tough about this task, from learning how to use photoshop for the first time, to being creative and designing in an attractive way while following OU’s brand guidelines.

The process of deciding which students to target with my direct mailers was lengthy and full of changes. Eventually, I narrowed down my groups to two very distinct demographics.

The first group I decided to target is student veterans. In my mind, the students are those who have served and are now entering the college world needing a good community, and scholarships.  In my research I learned that the University of Oklahoma has made a good attempt to connect with student veterans, including requiring Green Training from the faculty.

To target this group I included familiar student veterans logos, while keeping the direct mailer clean and simple.

The second group I decided to target are the aspiring “campus climbers”. This group of students are those who are interested in things like community service, leadership groups, and other student organizations.

To target this group, I included pictures from various student organizations and attempted to showcase the many opportunities OU offers for involvement. I also used a more charismatic color scheme.

 

This assignment has taught me a lot of useful skills which will help me as a PR professional. I learned how to resize and combine images, create transperant images, recolor items, and how to create an attractive publication. After working with the photoshop program and going through so many processes, I can now create a work from scratch in photoshop, which is a nice feeling.

While I still prefer InDesign, I feel prepared to use photoshop in the professional world, and I look forward to creating more.

My Bathroom as a Design Study

There are many aspects of design which companies use to market products, including variations of color, typography, balance, minimalism and use of space, proportion, and many more. For Public Relations Publications, I was asked to look in the world around me for examples of objects, ads, designs and other things which illustrate the many concepts of design.

Being that my collection of beauty products is nearly the size of a small shop, I wanted to turn to my bathroom to look for examples of design that I am exposed to every day. The products I chose to analyze all cater to very specific audiences, and that is apparent in the design of the product containers. It was also interesting to me to compare the theme of designs with the cost of the item.

The first product I decided to analyze was an instant tanning spray made by L’Oréal. The most obvious design element being used is the color of this bottle, a metallic bronze. When looking at the section of tanning products in a local drug store, they all tend to follow a general theme of brown and bronze colors. To a consumer, these products are immediately distinguishable as tanning products, even from afar. It is worth noting that the name brands, such as L’Oréal, tend to have fancier packaging, being metallic and abstractly shaped, whereas the off brand products were simple, tan squeeze bottles.

This product is a floral-scented body wash from Bath & Bodyworks. I think that this bottle is a great example of a couple of design elements, including typography and dominance. Coupled with the blue and orange color scheme, the bottle literally screams beach at possible consumers. The large text creates an overwhelming beach feeling, making it appealing during winter months when shoppers are eager for warm vibes.

Furthermore, the designs on the bottle are textured, with the fish being slightly raised, and the background font shining a metallic gold.

This Burt’s Bees lotion serves as a good example of unity, when all of the design elements come together to create a whole image before the eyes are drawn to specific elements. At first glance, the bottle is light and inviting, in tune with the product being sold, which is a lotion marketed as having revitalizing properties to dry and damaged skin. Burt’s Bees used a combination of warm letters, a yellow background with a radiating design, and the clean center to create the overall appeal. 

This conditioner is marketed to a different audience than most of my other beauty products. Rather than a product intended to enhance general beauty, this product is for those who are frequently exposed to chlorine and want to protect their hair from the drying effects.

It uses color design elements to create a simple, clean look. It avoids design elements which indicate gender, and leans towards a practical use. The bottle achieves this clean look by using a lot of minimalist elements and negative space. The main things that take up space are the sans serif font and the illustration of the swimmer. To me, this appeals to a wide variety of consumers. 

For the last product, I chose a bottle which I personally believe fails in many aspects. The typography down the bottle is inconsistent, with three fonts being used for no obvious purpose. The logo symbol, which is supposed to make the brand pop, is a small, hard to read font, especially when placed on top of the dark background. The various light colors, used on the dark background, create no sense of balance, especially when placed next to the distracting pink floral shape in the left corner.

Overall, this bottle fails to use design elements in a way which would create balance and help send the message. The message of the bottle isn’t immediately clear, as one has to read closely to figure out the the product is a natural conditioner made for curly hair.

You Know What They Say… Fonts are a Gateway to the Soul

One of the most compelling things I have learned as a public relations major is the subconscious effects that design elements can have on the audience one is attempting to reach. I had no idea the depth of thought which goes into choosing which fonts to use, how to design a layout, or even when choosing color schemes.

Design directly influences the way that an audience absorbs the information put in front of them.  Typography, defined by Business Dictionary as the “study of the design of typefaces, and the way in which the type is laid out on a page to best achieve the desired visual effect and to best convey the meaning of the reading matter,” is a large aspect of design. Those creating publications must decide which fonts to use, the spacing between letters, and font size, and many other things, all focused on finding the best way to display content.

In Public Relations Publications, students were given the opportunity to play a couple of online typography games to practice various typography skills. The first game I decided to play was ‘Type Connection‘, a game that turns the fonts into eligible bachelors.

The First Step of the Game: Choosing a Main CHARACTER

With this game, I ended up creating a successful ‘date’ between Adobe Garamond Pro, a strong and serious font, and Maple, a font which tends to bring warmth and comfort to the table. Together, the two make a great combination to show off information in an inviting way, such as on an upscale restaurant menu.

This game helped me realize the depth of analysis that goes into typography, as the matches went down to the minute details of things like the transition from line into foot serifs.

The next game I decided to play was ‘Kern Type‘, the kerning game which teaches players how to properly space letters for legibility.

The Kern Game Teaches Players to Properly Space Letters

After adjusting the spacing of letters, I was to compare my work with that of a professional typographer. Needless to say, I didn’t do too well my first couple of tries, a testament to the difficulty of spacing. I was surprised at just how specific the letter spacing needs to be. Often times, I knew that the word didn’t look right, but lacked the skills to adjust accurately. When playing this game, I played alongside a friend of mine who is a design major, and was horridly outpaced.

The last game I decided to play was ‘Type War‘, a relatively simple game, compared to the others, which challenges players to visually determine what font is shown on the screen.

The Type War Game Challenges Players to Identify the Font Shown on the Screen

Type War was the hardest game for me, but it gave me a great opportunity to become more familiar with the various fonts. I began to notice some patterns in the fonts, such as some fonts having serifs, and others not, a helpful distinction.

Overall, playing these various typing games gave me a chance to become familiar with a couple key aspects of typography.

 

Professional Portrait

Taken in Oct. 2017, Lincoln, Oregon. Photographer: Sarah Smallwood

My name is Sarah Smallwood. I am a Norman, Oklahoma native currently attending college at the University of Oklahoma. I am pursuing a degree in public relations with a minor in environmental studies.

Being a junior in college, I have narrowed down my future goals to include working as a public relations agent for an organization working with the environment, either in marine conservation or outdoor gear and clothing. My hobbies include photography, video-gaming, and a multitude of outdoor activities.

My passion for the environment and conservation is what drives most of the fundamental decisions I make. I believe that climate change is simultaneously one of the largest threats to society, while also the most overlooked. I want to advance the cause of conservation and wildlife advocacy by managing the relationship between the public and wild-life related entities, whether that is a conservation firm or a clothing company which sells hiking and camping gear.

As a public relations major, I am expected to combine effective writing and communication skills with research and strategic thinking. In a world that increasingly relies on personal devices for sources of content, the area of design is becoming vital to public relations specialists. Currently, I am a novice to design and all that it entails, still learning how to use an advanced camera and editing tools.

I look forward to attempting to master various design tools and techniques, and learning how to apply these to my career goals.

Spanish Club

This semester has been an exciting one, partly in thanks to Spanish Club. Our group stayed small from the beginning, and this allowed us to get to know one another well. Meetings consisted mostly of practicing Spanish, getting homework help, and discussing study abroad plans. It’s exciting for me to have been a member of the club as a freshman, an officer as a sophomore, and then a member again as a senior. The transformation that I experienced has translated into wisdom and advice that I can provide for others who are looking to study abroad, take certain classes, or pursue international career paths. To keep this short and sweet, I’m grateful for the camaraderie and fun that Spanish Club has given me. It’s a great group of people.

(Mostly) Unnecessary Update

I suppose this is one of those posts that don’t make a whole lot of sense to anyone reading it but is still necessary for me, the writer, in order to make sense of myself and the place I am living right now. I’ve been spending a great deal of time getting angry with people who ask me “how was Ecuador?” expecting anything other the very long-winded truth that leaves me near tears and them wishing they’d never asked. I cannot tell you how Ecuador was in three words, if you really wanted to know, you would choose to be important enough in my life to see how it was just by looking at the circles under my eyes and the stars in them. Everyone that got to stay in Ecuador keeps posting pictures of the things they are doing and it makes me want to peel off all my skin and put someone else in that frame, so that Hannah Asfeldt wouldn’t be able to remember the might of last semester. I guess to put it plainly, I am jealous and I already feel forgotten, two things that I haven’t ever let get the best of me before, but now it seems they are. I want someone to say, “I wish you were still here”, heck, I wish I was still there. Do you realize how lucky you are? Do you realize how easy it is for a place that once felt like home to start feeling like a coffin?

 

I’ve been staring at my homework for hours lately, just staring, not doing. I’ve been staring and wondering if any of it is worth it, if I wouldn’t actually be happier running away into the Great Unknown, (seriously attempting to make money off of my words and my music), buying some little trailer and just driving and camping wherever I need to. I could settle down in Glacier National Park and strengthen my new found faith in ice people. I could crash in the Redwood National Forest and speak to trees all day long and tell God that He did well. Or I could (finally) conquer my fear of Utah and discover canyons and rock I have never experienced before. I still do not know what the desert looks like. I had real fun for the first time last night in a while and it had a little bit to do with the phenomenal company and whole lot to do with the wind in my hair and the lack of a destination. The call of the Great Adventure is turning into an incessant pounding of drums at the forefront of my ears and I’m wondering how long I can resist for the sake of ‘adulthood’ before I go and once more join in that song.

 

It seems I’ve started thinking three years ahead of everyone else around me and that makes justifying anything Undergraduate related seem positively ridiculous. My degree is now the only thing that matters at college, and I can’t even muster the motivation to work better at that. Everything is foggy.

 

God has been making me trust Him more as of late. I always trusted Him, in the way a trapeze artist trusts that the net beneath her will catch her, but she does the whole show perfectly anyways so it doesn’t even matter that the net is there. Now that I know life doesn’t have a safety net – if you believe it does, you haven’t lived – God is telling me to give the show all I’ve got anyways because He will catch me when I fall. Note that I said when not if. He’s been telling me lately that I really don’t know anything of true trust, that I’ve never actually let anyone in that deep. Sometimes we talk for hours and sometimes we don’t even speak for a minute, sometimes I can’t look Him in the eye without my walls up, but He tends to take them down in the most violently loving way possible, so I’m learning to just leave them there, down.

 

Scandinavian music has become the soundtrack to my life as I have finally realized that I have to stop chasing the understanding of everyone else’s background and finally start chasing my own. So far one of the most surprising things I’ve found is that my old Viking ancestors were way more religious than I thought. Naturally, they believed in different gods than I do, but their faith was just as much if not more guiding than the compass of the man at the helm of those ships. Even though I don’t believe in those gods, I’ve found their stories to be a comfort; I’ve found their truths in my own blood regardless of their level of fiction. I’ve found Loki hopping between my neurons when I sit down to write, I’ve found Thor chasing behind me when I run, I’ve found Forseti perched upon my shoulders when I read the news, I’ve found Vidar hold my chin up when it starts to fall, and I’ve found Skadi placing a crown of ice on my head when I feel my beauty is a thing to be ashamed of. I wonder if they know they aren’t real. There is a reason people keep writing books when the world already has enough to fill several lifetimes. Stories are what keep us alive.

 

Basically, being alive is really good. My future is unknown but it’s bright. My body is doing things it’s never done before and my mind is falling in love with what it’s convinced itself to do. I miss Ecuador and it’s mountains and the way everything felt alive always. I miss feeling alive always. I’m at about a 77/23 where I am now. But I’m learning, as one tends to do in college, and I’m listening in places where I’ve previously heard silence and the whole of it is beautifully loud. I sometimes wonder if people want to hear the things I have to say. Is there anyone out there who would listen if I wrote more than this website? Maybe it doesn’t matter, I think that’s part of being an artist, making art for creation and not for reception. The more I listen the more I have to say and to me, that’s why God is an empowering God. He never tells me to be quiet, not the way the god I thought was God used to.

 

That’s all for now. Hopefully I’ll be going to South Dakota for the summer (which is surprisingly sooner than you would think) and hopefully the openness of that place will help clear the fog away. Life is good but the future is confusing. Or maybe it’s life is confusing but the future is good. I’ll take it either way.

International Group: The Informed Citizens Discussion Group Fall 2016

For my sophomore year of college, I decided to shift from an international book club to a discussion group which focuses on diving into the deep issues of current events, both domestic and foreign.

The Informed Citizens Discussion Group(ICDG) is an organization on campus which organizes small discussion sections to spread awareness and understanding of pressing issues from all around the world.

I was initially attracted to the group because I have a deep-rooted interest in current events and global affairs. Since I was old enough to understand the dynamics of politics and related issues I have been drawn to talking to anyone and everyone about what is occurring in the world. Since starting college and with the introduction to larger classes, there have been less opportunities to sit down and have a discussion with a group of equally invested individuals.

I decided to join the Informed Citizens Discussion Group because I knew of a few other Global Engagement Fellows who were involved in the program and really enjoyed themselves. I signed up for the Wednesday time slot which held a meeting every Wednesday from 4:30-5:20.

The experience was exactly as I have imagined and hoped it would be. Every week I was able to engage in conversations about a wide array of current events. The group gave me another reason to stay up to date with articles and be actively involved in seeking out information about news.

Being the presidential election season, the discussions were definitely interesting, to say the least. I am glad to have been able to be a part of a gathering of students who were each so passionate about what they were discussing. Most of the students held generally liberal views, yet there was a pleasant sprinkling of differing opinions which kept the meetings from becoming an echo-box of reinforcement.

Discussions ranged from talking of Kim Jong-un’s recent theatrics to an in-depth analysis of the Oklahoma state questions which were on the ballot in November. We discussed the human right’s abuses being carried about by Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte, the cabinet appointments that president-elect Donald Trump has been making, the formation and rising prominence of the ‘Alt-Right’, the death and history of Fidel Castro, immigration reform and polarizing issues.

The discussion group taught me to sit and listen rather than thinking of only of what I am going to say next. It was interesting and exciting to sit and listen to 10 different voices and opinions engaging with each other. Some were very conflicting while others were reinforcing and supportive. Being exposed to differing thought processes encouraged me to be introspective, analyzing my own opinions and the reasoning behind them. Surprisingly I found myself taking a different stance on a topic by the end of a discussion session, more than once.

The Informed Citizens Discussion Group gave me a safe spot to engage in serious conversation once a week with no ties to grades or repercussions for having a lack of understanding on a topic.

I look forward to continuing participation in the group for the Spring 2017 semester, especially as the Trump presidency begins to take hold and effect the United States and global community.