Jennifer K. Oliver

Speculative Fiction Writer

Tag: graphic design

Keyword Research #1: Geometric

My chosen keyword for the first module assignment on my MA is geometric. I am interested in how geometry is used to create pattern, symmetry, and definition, and also how it is used to create mood and imply meaning (rather than using text). Geometric design has risen in popularity in recent years, from logos and artwork comprised of mathematical shapes, to complex mandala and tangle designs, and I would like to find out why and what it is about geometric shapes and patterns that appeals to so many designers.

I first became interested in concentric and geometric patterns when I spent three months in Southern India in the year 2000. When I arrived in Tamil Nadu I experienced the Pongal Festival, a four-day long harvest festival which is an extremely important Hindu celebration. Many people draw kolam designs on the floors of their houses to bring good fortune and give thanks. The patterns are usually drawn in coloured chalk or rice powder. This was my first obvious exposure to mathematical shapes used in spiritual art.

In recent years mandala designs have become popular, particularly across image sharing sites like Instagram and Pinterest. I find the art of creating mandalas relaxing and have dabbled in digital and hand drawn designs. This is a type of design that I would like to explore further, and discover new ways of incorporating them into my work where they give meaning and significance. Many people see repetitive patterns as a way of stress therapy. This has given rise to the term and drawing style Zentangle, another form of drawing where repetitive shapes create complex patterns.

I also plan to explore naturally occurring geometry; for example: honeycomb, leaves, shells, spiderwebs, snowflakes, wind-blown sand dunes, fractals found in geodes.

Induction Week – Paper Challenge

My MA in Graphic Design officially starts this week, but last week was Induction Week and we were set a small, fun challenge to take a piece of paper and make something with it. There were no boundaries on what we could make, only that the paper was the feature of the piece and we didn’t use anything else to decorate it. There are some lovely submissions to the challenge up on our Pinterest board, such varied and inspired work. I was a little worried that mine would come across as silly, as I didn’t dig too deeply to come up with the idea – it struck me that Hallowe’en is just around the corner and I wanted to create something playful and fun. So here is my spooky house, complete with monster.

I used sticky foam pads to layer the elements and the original plan was to shine a torch up through so that the different layers were backlit, but I ended up posting it during the day so the lighting was wrong. Still, it was fun to make this, adding a new element each night after work. Looking at this now, I can see many things I could have done differently and refined more, but at the same time I didn’t want to fret about this mini-project too much.

Our first assignments were posted and I am considering my chosen keyword that will form one of my projects. More to come!

Keeping It Real with Snippets

Sometimes you find yourself with an image or a line of prose (or an entire story concept) and you just don’t know what to do with it. You work at it, poking, picking, twisting, shaping, but it never quite comes together. It’s as if the idea stubbornly remains hidden (if it’s there at all), and yet you’re sure there’s something in there that just needs tempting out. I think of these things as snippets. They usually end up stored away in a folder called “miscellaneous” or “WIP,” and few of them ever see the light of day.

Lately I’ve been thinking about snippets; all those wobbly, unrefined drawings and lines from stories I haven’t completed yet and probably never will. A lot of my favourite stories have their wobbly bits. Some of my favourite stories that I’ve written are stories that are not finished. A lot of art I like or images that grab my attention are messy, asymmetrical, or unrefined.

I’ve come to the realisation that this stuff doesn’t always have to be squirrelled away in a misc folder deep in the bowels of a hard-drive.

It’s difficult not to be influenced by my idols and people whose work grabs my attention. I find myself trying to post my work in a similar format to theirs. Theirs is always beautifully presented, always carefully pulled together. Even the “rough sketches” are geometrically immaculate and the “first drafts” are too obviously edited to be true first drafts (or “Draft Zero” as a lot of writers like to think of it: that horrendous crap that comes spewing off your fingertips before you’ve had chance to tidy it up into a first draft. Yes, that is a thing). I don’t always believe what I see, but a part of me still tries to emulate it.

I’m teaching myself to show my work more, and maybe share things that I’m not necessarily done with or massively proud of. I got into the habit of thinking that creative output always has to be finished, in final, edited and polished draft form, before anyone can see it. I’m trying to train my brain into allowing myself the leeway to show all those concepts and attempts that perhaps don’t fit anywhere. Sometimes it takes someone else to interpret something to understand that these fragmented pieces are worth reading or looking at, or might simply inspire something entirely new.

Not quite symmetrical

Big Life Decisions

It’s both scary and exhilarating making big life decisions, especially if that decision could result in major changes to your day to day life. When I was younger I didn’t particularly like change, but as I’ve grown older I’ve come to embrace new scenery and new experiences. On the flip side, when you’re older you tend to have more and greater responsibilities, and a big change can impact every part of your life – from work and hobbies to running a household and relationships.

I would say, if you’re young, don’t fear change. Surround yourself with people who encourage you to do what you want to do and who support you as you make your way through life.

I’ve also learned over the years that I’m happiest when learning, and thrive in an environment that facilitates the broadening of the mind and development of skills. This is tied in with my chosen career path (graphic design), something I do for a living but also because I simply love it. Creativity is such a massive part of who I am that it makes sense to continue nurturing it throughout the course of my life.

I’m about to start the ball rolling on a big life change, something I have wanted to do for a long time but have never quite been in the right place (professionally, time-wise, and personally). I’m not going to say too much yet as nothing is set in stone, but I’m hoping to be able to update this blog more regularly at some point with more graphic design and creative content.

For now, wish me luck!

Graphic design of the Shuffle poster

I’ve been hunting through my graphic design folders and found some of my old story promos, and found the poster I made to promote my short horror story Shuffle back in 2015. I also found the original stock photo of the woman I chose to portray Sarah and thought I’d share a little study in the awesomeness of Photoshop and what its tools can do.

This is the image I settled on, as I knew I wanted Sarah to be lying down staring up at the sky in the poster. I liked this model’s profile and liked the idea that Sarah had vibrant red hair (apocalyptic hair).

After many layers, textures and blend modes, I eventually ended up with this:

The texture gives the poster and her skin a more worn, beat-up look, and I added blood streaks and cuts on her face and splatters on her clothes. I used the Burn Tool to create the darker rings around her eye and darker patches around her nose and mouth/lips, as if she was eroding.

Shuffle was published at Kaleidotrope magazine in their summer 2015 issue. Go here to check out their more recent issues and archives for high quality speculative fiction.

Graphic Design Shenanigans

I’ve been caught up with various graphic design projects lately, which has eaten into my writing time a little. The creative tables are constantly turning between text and visuals, but that’s just how I roll. I wanted to share something I’ve been working on, a logo design featuring custom-made artwork and lettering.

This logo was so much fun to make, and I’m quite happy with how it turned out. I love anything that has a dash of tongue-in-cheek. The chicken is from a small design project at my day job. Rather than let my disgruntled chicken go to waste I figured I’d showcase it.

I listened to a playlist of mellow music while making this. It seems that movie soundtracks and smooth beats work well with my visual-creative half. Choice tracks include:

Flight, by Lycoriscoris. Beautiful ambient beats.
Princess Margaret, by Lorne Balfe and Rupert Gregson-Williams (from TV show The Crown)
Fireisland, by Aly & Fila and Solarstone, from Quiet Storm. I also love the Uplifting Mix of this track, which you can find here.

I am available for freelance work right now, so drop me a line if you need a logo or business card design, or a book cover!

Bad Bunny Logo Design

Logo design originally created for a small cosmetics startup company. Yes, there is some tongue-in-cheek here with the rabbit + cosmetics, which worked alongside the essence of Bad Bunny – the colour palettes of the cosmetics were going to be vampy and loud. Nothing came of the startup, sadly, which leaves me with a logo that I still like. That’s not to say that Bad Bunny Cosmetics won’t happen in the future, but for now it’s on hold.

There is a dark version and a light version, and both work depending on where they are used. The dark would have been on bottle labels and boxes (nail polish, lipstick, eyeshadow) as both would have had black backgrounds. The light works on marketing materials, such as letterheads, business cards, and flyers, or on merchandise like t-shirts.

Interestingly, Bad Bunny has garnered some attention on my Behance portfolio. Someone approached me asking if they could buy the logo. Unfortunately they wanted to use it as the logo of their adult toy shop. Needless to say, the sale did not go ahead, but it was nice that my work caught someone’s eye.

You can see more of my graphic design at my other website J. Oliver Designs.

Graphic Design for Writers

My graphic design website has had an overhaul, with an updated portfolio and option to contact me using a contact form. Graphic design is a huge part of my life. It is my day job, an on-the-side freelance business, as well as something I do for pleasure. I prefer graphic design for writers and can create logos, infographics, as well as story and book covers. I’m going to share a few of my graphics here over the next few weeks, but if you are already interested check out my alter-ego J. Oliver Designs.

This first design was made for fun, simply because I a) love bunnies, b) love texture and vibrant colour, and c) wanted to try my hand at creating a mandala. I’m rather proud of the outcome. The texture used in the background was also custom-made by me for this design. It’s available to download as a texture on my Instagram. Eventually I plan to have a dedicated resources section on my other website for textures and vectors, so keep an eye out!

Run Rabbit Mandala | Adobe Illustrator CC

J. Oliver Designs

Run Rabbit Mandala by J. Oliver Designs

New Blog, Much Tidier

I’m moving my Dreamwidth blog to WordPress for a couple of reasons. Firstly, Photobucket recently switched to a paid image hosting platform and almost all of my old images display as a ghastly Photobucket placeholder. Secondly, WordPress is just a cleaner, fresher place to be. The fact that so many of my posts are broken on Dreamwidth bothers me too much, so I’m bringing content that I think is still relevant or interesting here.

I have written a lot about writing and reading, shared a lot of graphic design and artwork, and talked a great deal about life in general over the years. It would be a shame for it all to get lost under placeholder pics. This is a laborious task, however, and it will take some time weeding out the good stuff and discarding the irrelevant. Please bear with.

Find me on Twitter, Instagram (predominantly graphic design), Goodreads and various other places. I will blog here from now on, though I still might mirror relevant posts to my Dreamwidth journal from time to time.

I still run my graphic design business at J. Oliver Designs, where I create promotional posters, book and story covers, business card designs, website banners and graphics, as well as corporate material. I love designing for fellow authors so if you’re a writer looking for a cover or promo graphic, drop me a line.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén