I Put the “PEP” in PePCon!

So last week, I got to attend my VERY first design conference in Austin thanks to my workplace department’s snazzy travel budget! I found out about the conference on one of my favorite sites, indesignsecrets.com.

The Print & ePublishing Conference (aka PePCon) was full of fellow desktop publishers and graphic designers who rely heavily on Adobe InDesign and the Adobe Creative Suite to make gorgeous layouts. Call me a huge dork, but page layout just makes me so happy! I love giving proximity to information and making bodies text more visually interesting. I felt like I had found “my” people when I was at this conference. People actually understood my frustrations with formatting text and they actually laughed WITH me at leading and kerning jokes. It was like a dream!

I learned all kinds of groovy information dealing with the new, and slightly intimidating, world of ePublishing (ePub), all about scripts and plug-ins for InDesign that I didn’t know even existed, and I got access to lots of design resources that I probably never would have even discovered without this conference. I’m so happy I was able to go!

I plan to blog a bit about each thing I learned about last week over the next few weeks, but you guys know how that goes… It’ll all depend on how much free time I have in the evenings or if inspiration happens to strike at the right moments.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a photo of myself indoor skydiving in Austin. I hope to “dive right in” to sharing the wonderful experiences I had at PePCon soon!

iFly Austin

Lame jokes mean I need sleep. Later, guys!

A New Tool

So my revived interest in hand lettering has sparked my desire to find more ways to share my work and keep it relevant.

So meet my latest attempt to do so:  My Wacom Bamboo Create Tablet!



So far, this wonderful tool has helped me create this:


Not quite done yet

And this:


What do you get when you’re asked to draw “Madman Rhinoceros?” This.

The smoking rhino drawing was from my weekly sketching group meetings that I have with some friends online. We use a random word generator to choose 2 words and we all take 10 minutes to draw them out in any way we want to practice our drawing  and creativity skills. I highly recommend this process to any creative who wants to stay sharp!

I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I’m enjoying every minute of it. It’s almost meditative to try to make the letters correctly. We’ll see what happens next. 

My Rediscovered Love of Lettering

Holy inspiration and learning, Batman!!

Several months ago, I had the great pleasure of meeting Sherry Saunders, the new graphic design professor at my alma mater, after she sent me an e-mail asking me to be on a critique panel for the latest batch of advanced graphic design students.

We’ve had a few lovely lunches between now and then, and I have tried to soak up all of her design knowledge and advice like a sponge. During one of our lunches, she asked me if I knew anything about Jessica Hische*, but me being in my weird “I’ve got a million things going on, I don’t have time excuse” bubble, I had not.

*Note:  If you have any appreciation for beautiful and amazing work or creativity, you may end up spending hours going through this website.
 UMM. WOW. Where have I BEEN!? I realized exactly how utterly lost and behind I’ve become in regards to the world of graphic design or art and creativity in general after I looked more into Jessica Hische’s work. Her work led me to more and more amazing places such as to the websites of Sean McCabe and Dana Tanamachi. But the thing that surprised me the most about falling in love with these artists’ work was that they’re not exactly graphic designers. They’re LETTERERS first. Find out exactly what that means if you have some time on your hands:  Watch Jessica Hische’s Lecture at the We Love Graphic Design Conference in Denmark


As I looked through these 3 amazing artists’ websites, I realized that they have achieved something I didn’t even know was possible. They have made successful and meaningful careers out of such a specific artform that I didn’t even fathom as possible when I was growing up. LETTERING? Really? What high school student these days is encouraged to pursue a career in illustrating letters!? My mind was/is blown.

When I was in high school, people used to pay me to write/draw their names. Seriously. Nothing big by any means, just 75 cents or so. I’m pretty sure that was how I got most of my loose change and lunch money my sophomore year of high school. My freshman algebra teacher even asked me to draw the words “Thunder & Lightning” on his paddle so that his corporal punishment device would have some “pizzazz.” Maybe he thought the lettering would make it hurt more. And even though it seems laughable now to think that I used to get paid tiny amounts of money to write out my friends’ whole names or encase their names with their boyfriend’s within a heart, I loved doing it. If you told me back then that I could have made an entire career out of doing things like that, I would have laughed in your face. I wish I had pictures of all those drawings…

But lately, I’ve been on a research rampage. I’ve been glued to my old college text book, A Type Primer, trying to relearn typography basics all week, and I’ve probably added a billion more lettering and typography books to my Amazon Wishlist.

In my rampage, I also discovered this simply delightful, knowledgable, and immensely talented young lady named Karen Kavett who has an entire YouTube channel about graphic design, crafting, and other fantastic things. I seriously wish I had discovered her before I went to college, but at that time, she was only 12-years-old. Gah, if that doesn’t make me feel old, I don’t know what does.

I want to be friends with all of these people. Karen Kavett and Jessica Hische are based in San Francisco, so if/when Nick and I ever move out there, maybe it’ll happen some day! (Hey, a girl can dream…)

Thanks to some advice from fellow creative friends and the people I mentioned above, I started practicing my hand lettering a lot through tracing existing letterforms to better understand their nuances and to develop my muscle memory when drawing. I haven’t felt this excited about anything in a really long time, and I hope my passion and skills continue to grow.

As my first attempt to start illustrating letterforms, I got one of my favorite quote about one of my most hated garnishes in existence:  cilantro. I figure if this quote came from the superstar legendary chef, Julia Child, I know I’m not crazy for loathing it as much as I do…



I’d like to keep recreating this quote as my skills progress to track how much better (or worse) I get at hand lettering. Practice makes perfect, right?

I have a long way to go before I’m nearly as good as any professionals out there, but this is definitely something I want to become great at doing in my lifetime. It’s super tedious, but it’s almost like meditating, and I love it.

I’m always looking for other ways to improve my skills. If anyone out there has any recommendations on how I can get better at hand lettering, please feel free to share!! I know I have a lot of technical skills to learn and that my composition kind of sucks, but that’s what the learning process is all about. I hope to eventually start transferring my hand drawn lettering into Illustrator so that I can mass produce my artwork and maybe even sell some one day. This is *way* more challenging and stimulating than I could have ever expected, and I can’t wait to do more!

Personal Development

My goodness. I can’t believe it’s been OVER a year since my last post. I’m terrible.

On the bright side, I am back, and I do have the best intentions to try to keep up with my design/creativity/inspiration blog more often. A LOT has happened since last year, and I won’t bore you with all those stories, but if you’re really that curious, check out my fitness blog aka Melanie’s Journey to Tinier Pants. The posts for that go all the way back to April 25th of this year, so that should be good enough, right?


ImageAs of now, I am trying desperately to figure out my life’s goals and passions. They’ve been reignited by my involvement with Nick’s animation school adventures and my getting asked to be part of a review committee for the advanced graphic design students of my alma mater.

I’ve been my own biggest obstacle. Why do we all tend to do that to ourselves? I’ve wanted to learn more about graphic design, lettering, and typography, but when I begin the process, I never follow through or I get too easily distracted by life’s ups and downs. Granted, this year has had its seemingly UNfair share of ups and downs, but why does it take me so long to get back on track when the dust settles?

I’ve been searching like mad and trying to figure out how to balance it all. I’ve recently become a huge fan of The Skool of Life blog, I’ve been watching countless inspirational videos online, and I’ve been trying to step out of my comfort zone at least once every day…

One thing I’ve done that I’m pretty happy about is that I’ve created myself a Behance profile. I’ve failed multiple attempts of creating my own website, and I think that Behance is my best temporary solution for sharing my work since I’m really NOT a web designer by any means. At least not yet. My mind isn’t closed to being more web savvy, in fact, it’s pretty much necessary in the design industry, but for now, I’m happy to finally have a way to share my latest projects with people in an easy and well-organized way. What’s better is that I can even post work I’m doing that’s still in progress so that I can get feedback from other designers/friends.

That’s all for now, friends. I hope to be back again sooner than later!

It’s Been Too Long

I am in Pearland, Texas on my cousin’s futon blogging in the dark because I’ve finally created something that I’m excited about for the first time in AGES. I’ve made some projects I’m proud of for work, but THIS series is near and dear to my heart.

My cousin Celina and her husband Nick recently had a baby girl named Ena Grace, so naturally, many of my family members are trying to make time to meet their newest little addition. This weekend, Celina’s sister Melissa, and her son/my Godson, Matthew, are in Pearland to spend time with us and the new baby. I’ve always wanted to do extra special things for Matthew since he IS my Godson, but being as busy as I am plus being 400 miles away from him can put a damper on thigs. I took off of work on Thursday and Friday of this week so I could spend an extended period of time with all these lovely people. Naturally, we’ve been stuck at the house, for the most part, since Ena is too little to be out and about, and we need to keep ourselves entertained.

I stumbled upon some silly photos of people who’ve posed their kids on the ground in different adventure scenes on a design/photography blog several months ago, and I’ve been dying to do something similar ever since.

This is what I came up with…

I am having a RIDICULOUS amount of fun creating these floor adventure scenes with Matthew, and he is, too! I think we’re going to try to make another scene tomorrow, but I will admit that it’s a lot of work, even with a kid as cooperative as Matthew. I wish I had known we were going to do this sooner so I could’ve prepared more props, but I’m enjoying the creative challenge of using what we’ve got instead of pre-planning everything.

I’m glad I get to spend time with my Godson and my new niece and still be creative and helpful all at the same time. It’s good food for the soul. =)

Back on Track

Hello, All.

Please excuse my 4 month absence… Life got quite stressful since my last blog post, and let’s just say my design blog was the LAST of my concerns during all of that time.

As of now, I am in the midst of working on my largest project yet for LIT — our magazine, TechSTAR!

Here’s a little taste:

TechSTAR Cover

Magazine Cover design by Melanie Lanuza

Layout for Armored Car

Photos & Layout by Melanie Lanuza / Story by Beth Bryant Miller

Should be done within the week!

Unfortunately, with the events of the past few months, I had to drop my graphic design course that I was taking, but I’m hoping to take another course during the fall semester, or possibly in summer II.

I’m also hoping to be able to update more regularly again as well. It’s good to be back. 🙂

New Work Work + More Learning

I’m pretty happy with some of the things I’ve been producing for work lately, and I think that taking the class at Lamar is helping me get my design mojo back. Honestly, I haven’t felt this creative in a VERY long time, if ever! I feel like I’m on the verge of experiencing a personal renaissance, and I’m trying to take advantage of this flow of creativity as much as possible.

Of course for work, I have to put a *bit* of restraint on how out there I want to go with my layouts. At least for now ;). I’m still trying to get a feel for how much I can get away with design wise at work, and so far, people seem to be happy.

I’ve been making some web banners…

Looking back on this, I would've moved the image up a bit so that there was more space between The "S" in "Spring" & the "R" in "Registration."

Some posters…

I didn't realize we had an eagle mascot to work with until right before I made this poster. Otherwise, I would've tried to incorporate it on the web banner too to keep the campaign more cohesive & unified.

Aaaand more brochures than I’d care to share right now…haha

I’m also in the process of designing the catalog covers for next year. Things are great and super busy, and I’m enjoying every minute of it! Granted, these aren’t the most EXCITING layouts ever, but at least they’re getting the message across for now. You can’t exactly push the envelope too much for an Institute of Technology in Southeast Texas, but I’m working on it. 😉 I am really trying to break through with trying some new typographical designs, but I’m saving those for myself until I feel confident enough in presenting them to the public. Till then, straight and forward are my friends for a while.

Sadly, I wasn’t be able to attend class on Wednesday since I have a lot of deadlines at work that are really pressing. I’m so thankful to have the luxury to attend when it’s most convenient for me because the class, even though the lessons are pretty basic for the most part, are actually stimulating my creativity in ways I didn’t think they would or could. If I can sneak over there for a little bit, I might — I’ve never been one who’s been too keen on missing class (because I’m en enormous nerd…haha).

I have a WHOLE new appreciation for people who work full time and attend school. I don’t know when I’d ever sleep if I were actually REQUIRED to do ALL the assignments given in Crispin’s class. Of course, I try to participate as much as I can, but unlike the other students in the class, I already work as a graphic designer professionally, and right now my job has top priority.

Speaking of learning, I also just started some lessons in Tagalog with Rosetta Stone. Better late than never, I suppose! My parents decided not to teach me how to speak their native language when I was growing up here in Texas because they said they didn’t want me to get confused, but childhood is actually the BEST time to learn multiple languages! Oh well…they were still able to teach me a lot, so the learning process isn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it was going to be. I’m just excited and relieved about better understanding sentence structure and other grammatical instances of the Tagalog language. I was much better at pronunciation back when I was in high school, though — I’ve got my work cut out for me.

An old acquaintance/friend of mine from high school (Scott Hamric) was awesome enough to share one the software licenses to his Rosetta Stone with me free of charge! He’s newly engaged to a Filipina, so he’s trying to learn Tagalog for her, which I think is super sweet. I wish them the best and I thank Scott for thinking of me in sharing the software! I’ve done it two nights in a row now, and I’ve already learned a lot!

Cheers to unending learning! I just hope my brain and body can keep up with what I want to do next…

Keepin’ it Classy: Graphic Design I

Last Wednesday (January 12) marked the first time I listened to a class lecture since August of 2008. A crazy mixture of feelings ran through me when I entered the classroom that morning:  anxiety, excitement, determination, doubt…  I have been in that computer lab probably hundreds, if not thousands of times before, and yet I felt like I was in a brand new place. They have done a complete overhaul of a remodel since I attended Lamar just barely 3 years ago, which included new floors, removal of the obnoxious yellow air conditioner vents from the ceiling and rows upon rows of shiny new brilliant iMacs.  YES, MACS. That ol’ computer lab used to be dominated by sluggish PC’s with only one measly row of Mac Mini’s, but now it’s literally MAC’D OUT. There is also a HUGE monitor towards the back of the classroom so that the students can watch what the professor is doing with ease (as opposed to how we used to have to watch this crappy old TV when I was there)…

Yes, the old dingy computer lab is now a shiny new one equipped with CS5 and other wonderful tools to help the graphic design program at Lamar flourish.  And I am ECSTATIC.

Since I missed the first day of class, I observed what the students had to do since Monday. They were required to do twenty or so sketches of a cube drawn from every possible angle, and then they had to choose what they thought were the “Top 3″ most interesting sketches of the twenty, and enlarge them to 3 separate 5 x 5” drawings. As a class, we all decided which sketches seemed the most accurate and interesting, and then we helped each individual student choose which of their cube sketches was the best of the 3. After the cubes were chosen, Crispin helped the students scan their cubes and he taught them how to place them into Adobe Illustrator (plus some other VERY basic things like telling them what some of the tools do, how to change document size, etc.), and he then proceeded to teach them how to use the pen tool in Illustrator and trace the cube that they had scanned. Since I consider myself to be an “advanced intermediate” Illustrator user, I went ahead and began creating a cube with the pen tool without a scanned image. Oh. Wow.

It was so frustrating! I’m pretty sure that I spent a good 40 minutes just trying to make a “perfect” cube with the pen tool, and let’s just say I felt completely inadequate. I was obviously a lot better off and further along than the other students in the class, but I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to SEE the imperfections of where I needed to make adjustments on the cube. I had to step back (a lot) and I had to step away so that I could look at the cube with “fresh” eyes every once in a while before I was finally happy enough to print it. I felt like I wasn’t seeing something, and I looked at it SO MUCH that I was making myself crazy…

Cube 1 is the one I printed; Cube 2 is the one I altered after Crispin's critique and I'm STILL not happy with them.

And that was EXACTLY the point Crispin wanted to make to the students. He enlightened me with this information after class when we spoke about how we could help each other for the remainder of the semester. There’s no way you CAN make anything perfect, but you can get really close. The BEST way to do that is to look at everything EXCESSIVELY (as time allows) from EVERY angle.   Look, look and look again. Analyze, study, SEE. Who knew that ONE super simple and BASIC exercise such as this would help me remember how to SEE. Especially since I’ve been working away from school, I’ve taken my ability to see things differently and in a unique way for granted, and I haven’t nourished that gift nearly enough. It’s a never ending, always changing gift that I NEED to help grow, or else I will lose it or it will never improve. This was just day 1, and I can already tell that this is going to be a great semester and learning experience.

It looks like I’ll also get to do the assignments at my discretion. Crispin wants me to “use the class to [my] full advantage,” and he seems to trust me enough to decide what I think I can take away from the class. I’m kind of relieved about that, and I’m kind of dreading I’ll disappoint myself by being lazy by not doing assignments I don’t think I “need” to do, but luckily, I HATE disappointing others (especially teachers or other authority figures) so I think I’ll get along alright. I intend to do my best to decide which assignments I’d like to actually DO, and I will DEFINITELY soak in everything that I possibly can to get the most out of this amazing opportunity. I truly feel so blessed…

For our next class, we will be using the cubes we created in Illustrator and we will somehow incorporate them with type. Crispin gave us all a handout that looked like this:


These are the only 12 fonts we will be allowed to use ALL. SEMESTER. LONG. I LOVE the fact that we’re starting from such very basic, classic fonts. I hope the students will appreciate these typefaces as much as I have learned to over the past couple of years because if you can create a dynamic design with these, you and typography will be great friends. Hooray for passion and learning! I CANNOT wait…