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Through this website and blog it is my hope to offer news bits about current graphic design challenges (my own and others) as well as fine art news. To continue with the theme of my new book, "Graphic Design Exposed," this blog will expose the development of graphic design and fine art projects. From time to time I will invite guests to blog here in order to keep the news and views fresh and informative.
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Vector vs Raster

On 27, Jul 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

In order to have the best possible out come for their web and print communications it is helpful for my clients to understand the differences between vector and raster art. This understanding permits us to work together closely so that all of the images we use are clear and appropriate.

I enjoyed reading the explanation on UCreative and have borrowed excerpts and photos to create a simplified “white paper.”

Raster Image EnlargedA raster graphic is an image made of hundreds (or thousands or millions) of tiny squares of color information, referred to as either pixels or dots. Pixels refer to color blocks viewed on an electronic monitor where as dots refer to the ink dots on a printed piece. 

The most common type of raster graphic is a photograph. The designer’s preferred program for creating and editing raster files is Adobe Photoshop.

Popular raster file format extensions include: jpg/jpeg, psd, png, tiff, bmp and gif.

Pros of Raster Images

Rich Detail: “DPI” means “dots per inch,” a measurement of how much detailed color information a raster image contains. If you have a 1” x 1” square image at 300 dpi—that’s 300 individual squares of color that provide precise shading and detail in your photograph. The more dpi your image contains, the more subtle details will be noticeable.

Precise Editing: All of those individual pixels of color information can also be modified, one by one. If you’re a true perfectionist, the level of editing and customization available in a raster image is almost limitless.

Cons of Raster Images

Blurry When Enlarged: The biggest downfall to raster images is that they become pixelated (aka grainy) when enlarged. This is because there are a finite number of pixels in all raster images; when you enlarge a photo, the computer takes its best guess as to what specific colors should fill in the gaps. This interpolation of data causes the image to appear blurry since the computer has no way of knowing the exact shade of colors that should be inserted.

Large File Size: Remember how a 1” x 1” square at 300 dpi will have 300 individual points of color information for the computer to remember? Well let’s say you have an 18” x 24” photo— that’s 129,600 bits o’ info for a computer to process which can quickly slow down even the faster machine.

vector-image-enlargedA vector graphic uses math to draw shapes using points, lines and curves. Whereas a raster image of a 1” x  1” square at 300 dpi will have 300 individuals pieces of information, a vector image will only contain four points, one for each corner; the computer will uses math to “connect the dots” and fill in all of the missing information.

The most common types of vector graphics are fonts and logos. The designer’s preferred program for creating and editing vector files is Adobe Illustrator.

Popular vector file format extensions include: eps, ai and pdf.

Pros of Vector Images

Infinitely Scalable: Vector files can be scaled up or down as much as you want without losing any image quality. Whereas a raster image must guess the colors of missing pixels when sizing up, a vector image simply uses the original mathematic equation to create a consistent shape every time.

Smaller File Size: Using our previous 1” x 1” square example, a vector file needs only four points of data to recreate a square versus 300 individual pixels for a raster image. For simple graphics, like geometric shapes or typography, this means a much smaller file size and faster processing speed.

Edibility: Unlike popular raster-based formats, such as a jpg or png, vector files are not “flattened.” When reopened in a program such as Adobe Illustrator, all of the original shapes exist separately on different layers; this means you can modify individual elements without affecting other objects in the image.

Cons of Vector Images

Limited Details: Because of the way that vector files retain data, they are not practical for complex images that require exact coloring. You can create basic color gradients, but will never be able to match the color detail available in a raster image where each individual pixel can be its own individual shade.

Limited Effects: By definition, vector graphics are created from simple points and lines. This means they can’t handle certain styling effects, like blurring or a drop shadow, that are available with raster images.


Using the octothorpe in a logo design

On 20, Jul 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design | By Caren Hackman

When I began working with the octothorpe as a “finalist” for the Barthle Tax and Accounting logo design, my daughter suggested that I look into the fascinating history of the symbol. I “wiki’ed” it but she went one step further and sent me this link to Roman Mars 99% Invisible podcast on the subject.

I would like to share three fascinating octothorpe facts with readers that are highlighted in the 99% Invisible episode 145. Please listen to the entire podcast.

1. As a “hashtag” on twitter: The symbol earned its name because the British called it a hash mark. In the world outside of Twitter, though, it is still “the number sign.” It has a lot of other uses, too. In chess, it represents a move that results in checkmate. In proofreading, it means a space should be inserted. On Swedish maps, it represents a lumber yard.

2. In 1968, Bell Labs  they decided to add keys on either side of the zero. This would make the keypad into a nice even rectangle, and give users a few more options on a phone menu.They settled on the asterisk (*) and the number, or pound sign (#), mostly because they were symbols that they knew computers would be able to recognize and were already on the standard QWERTY keyboard.

3.  In October of 2007, a developer named Nate Ritter was reporting on a wildfire in San Diego, and Ritter was using Twitter to post updates as the story developed. He began related tweets with, “San Diego Fire.” Chris Messina reached out to Nate Ritter and proposed that he use “#sandiegofire.” Then other people looking to find out about the fire would know exactly where to look on Twitter.


Barthle Tax and Accounting new branding design

On 06, Jul 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design | By Caren Hackman

barthle-old-and-newI recently completed an interesting logo design and rebranding project for a client with whom I have been working since 2005. Over those 20 years, I had considered asking about making some improvements to the branding, because the logo had been difficult to work with at times. The opportunity arose this year when Eileen Barthle, owner of Barthle and Associates, approached me with plans to expand certain areas of her accounting practice such as payroll services.

I love the creativity involved in logo design and branding projects. I thought that I’d share a very simplified step by step process about how a typical logo design project proceeds.

  1. I create a logo “taste test” for the client. The taste test guages the client’s reaction to a group of logo images from within their business field and from outside their business field.
  2. Based on the client’s visual preferences, I begin work on a logo image.
  3. The first design presentation generally consists of 5-8 concepts. That means that I’ve probably generated at least 40 designs, pared them down and refined them to the 5-8 that the client is shown. The client and I discuss the concepts.  Our goal is to identify one or two of the concepts or elements from several that will be refined and developed further.
  4. After more design work, I present the client with refined concepts. We’ll discuss and narrow down the selection.
  5. We’ll have another round of adjustment to the logo artwork and then I will create the final logo files.
  6. Logo files are presented to the client in formats such as pdf, eps, jpeg and png with a one or two page logo usage guide.

During initial discussions with Eileen, we agreed that a minimum of text was best. Included in the new logo designs are the more descriptive words, “Tax and Accounting” and a second variation with “Payroll” instead of “and Associates.” After executing step one above, I elected to handle the design process by going in two directions and letting Eileen choose which was best for her business. One set of logo design concepts for Barthle and Associates involved forming a visual bridge between the existing design and a newer one. I worked to maintain some elements of the existing art deco typography or the burnt red/brown corporate color. The idea behind retaining some of the existing elements was that it might provide a level of comfort to her established clients.

Once I had several very solid “bridge” logo design concepts to show Eileen Barthle, I asked myself, “If you could have Barthle and Associates use any logo design what would it look like?” I might never have presented Eileen with this additional set of logo designs. However, during the “taste test” phase of the project, Eileen identified a clean simple style with rounded letters in blue and green colors as her favorite. I went directly to this color family and worked with symbols (the octothorpe) that were tied to working with numbers, money and financial reporting.

Eileen was drawn to the newer designs and decided that it was unimportant to have a visual bridge between her previous brand. We rebranded all of the Barthle Tax and Accounting and newer Barthle Payroll communications print and web items with the fresh new look. Eileen Barthle has told me that the fresh brand image has received very positive feedback from both clients and colleagues.


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All Stars on the Fringe

On 20, Jan 2015 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

I’ll be participating in Continuum West Palm Beach this week. The evening of January 21, a pair of Converse All Star high top sneakers that I “styled” with fringe will be auctioned off  to benefit Faith’s Place after school program. The sneakers are wearable and comfy! CONTINUUM is a pop-up art gallery at 501 Fern St. in downtown West Palm Beach that takes place during ArtPalmBeach and the American International Fine Art Fairs; January 21 – February 7, 2015 Please visit the gallery or let me know if you would like to bid on this super unique, stylish foot ware. Hackman-all-stars-on-the-fringe


On 14, May 2014 | One Comment | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

Wayside-House-logo-emailFor quite some time now I’ve been noticing the increased use of the color pink in graphic design, home decor, and clothing.

I am fond of the color pink, but have been hesitant to use too much pink in my graphic design or my artwork for fear that it would have limited appeal.

Prior to World War II blue was associated with the fairer sex. Red, and by association, pink were reserved to signify the strength of the male gender.

Since the 1980’s, prevalent advertising trends have drawn girls to pink and boys to blue. At birth, most children prefer blue and primary colors. By age three, social pressure and current advertising trends influence them to associate pink with girls and blue with boys. 

Pink has been popping up everywhere. T-Mobile has a pink logo and the London Olympics logo included pink. According to PantoneView, “when brand consultancy Wolff Olins first unveiled the logo for the 2012 London Olympics, the reception was mixed – not least because of the prominent use of pink.”  Recently opened Queen Elizabeth Olympics Park  includes the Olympics Stadium and employs the olympic color palette, which includes pink.

During online searches of major men’s clothing brands, I noticed an uptick over the last few years in pink clothing for men, ranging from soft peach to bright magenta.

The only pink logo that I have designed to date, is for Wayside House, a women’s recovery center. Will I have an opportunity to design a gender neutral logo that includes pink anytime soon? Do you think that pink and blue will ever become gender neutral colors?

Olympics Park

Queen Elizabeth Olympics Park


T-Mobile logo


2012 London Olympics logo

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Typography in painting

On 07, Mar 2014 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

New painting in process with Irish blessing

New painting in process with Irish blessing

I take great pleasure in taking advantage of both my passion for painting and graphic design to create something unique. Years ago, I introduced stenciled lettering into my paintings. Recently, I’ve returned to incorporating typography in my fine art. In my new works I enjoy experimenting with a greater variety of type styles.

As I begin new graphic design projects, I enjoy scrolling through my font library to choose a type face that best communicates the client’s message. Now, I’m doing the same for my paintings. I’m experimenting with more expressive messages.

A new, as yet untitled, and very wet painting on which I am working is pictured at the top of this post. I look forward to posting the final piece, when it is completed. Depicted in this blog post, below is the “Sprinkler Dance,” which contains some of my earlier stenciled lettering and the “Daylily” painting, with the title incorporated in script lettering.

Do you have an affirmation or philosophical phrase that is very meaningful to you? Please send it to me or comment on this page if you would like me to include it in one of my paintings.


Sprinkler Dance mixed media on paper

Sprinkler Dance mixed media on paper with stenciled lettering

Daylily painting on canvas with title painted in flowing script
Daylily painting on canvas with title painted in flowing script


Participation in Continuum art events on Clematis Street

On 15, Jan 2014 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

My style sneakers, inspired by Nick Cave's Sound Suits

My styled sneakers, inspired by Nick Cave’s Sound Suits

During the week of January 22 – 27, when Art Palm Beach is at the Palm Beach County Convention Center, local tours, exhibits and events will be popping up all over the county. I am pleased to announce that I will be participating in Continuum, taking place at 312 Clematis Street in West Palm Beach. The space will be exhibitting  two and three dimensional art works, including my paintings, during the entire art week of January 22 – 27.

On January 22, from 6-11 PM, Continuum will host the first annual VIP Black Tie & Sneaker Charity Affair. Participating artists have turned pairs of Chuck Taylor Converse All Star sneakers into works of art. The foot ware artworks will be auctioned off that evening. Proceeds will be donated to Faith’s Place Center for Education.

Please join me for the auction and for many of the other events that will take place as part of Continuum and ArtSynergy.

VIP Black Tie & Sneaker Charity Affair

Attire is formal with sneakers.

Please bring a pair of new sneakers to donate to the organization.

There will be a Silent auction for artsy painted sneakers, live art, music, fashion show, and light cocktail hors d’oeuvres.

The Title Sponsor is the West Palm Beach Downtown Development Authority.

The Event Hosts are Craig Mcinnis & A.T.B. Fine Artists & Designers LLC.

A portion of your contribution at the shoe auction is tax deductible.

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Combining my two passions

On 08, Jan 2014 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

Fine art and graphic design are two of my great passions. I feel fortunate that I am able to work at them everyday. Occasionally I have the opportunity to combine the two as I did recently for a New Jersey client, the second of two I’ve done for him..

I completed a painting of the front of a client’s retail location in Red Bank, New Jersey. I designed the logo and signage for A. H. Fisher Diamonds and Claimlink Jewelry Replacement and handle web content, print advertising and brand identity.

In the 1980’s, I painted a watercolor of the first store location at 10 Broad Street in Red Bank, New Jersey. The store later relocated to the center of town, also on Broad Street, so last month I presented him with the painting of the second location. While transforming the view into a painting presented some challenges (Painting the logo on the sign was a killer.), I enjoyed working on the piece for many reasons. Artistically, creating a sunlit impression on the richly textured brick, and green and gold signs satisfies my artistic side. Watching A. H. Fisher Diamonds and Claimlink Jewelry Replacement, survive,  prosper and become a two-generation family business in its 30 years is heartwarming.

If you are in Red Bank, New Jersey, stop by A. H. Fisher Diamonds at 46 Broad Street. If you ask to see the painting, Alan or Matthew Fisher will give you a $25.00 gift card.


A. H. Fisher Diamonds at its present location, 46 Broad Street

A. H. Fisher Diamonds at 10 Broad Street.

A. H. Fisher Diamonds at 10 Broad Street.

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Giving your art

On 21, Dec 2013 | No Comments | In Blog, Design, Fine Art | By Caren Hackman

As a regular columnist with The Rickie Report, an online news source for artists in Palm Beach County and beyond, I respond to questions that pertain to visual communication, extending some of the basic information covered in my book, “Graphic Design Exposed.” The Rickie Report receives numerous emails and phone calls from readers asking a variety of questions.

This month’s topic addresses art work as a gift. A reader asked,  I am an artist. I’d like to give a personal gift that shows my work without giving away a high cost original. I’d also like to offer lower cost gift items, with my art images, that can be purchase during the holiday season.

Every holiday season I print notecards and package them for friends, family, and clients. The cards offer me an opportunity to share a favorite image with others. I asked two other artists, Nina Fusco and Deborah Bigeleisen, both of whom had some wonderful suggestions for artists. Please visit The Rickie Report and read the full article HERE.

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A new logo is born

On 13, Aug 2013 | No Comments | In Blog, Design | By Caren Hackman

Wayside House logo

New Wayside House logo

I love to design logos. Why? Because designing a logo for an organization is both challenging and rewarding. The goal is not to design a beautiful piece of art. Anyone can do that (well almost). The goal of a logo design is to capture the essence of an organization. The logo or logotype should be quickly and easily recognizable and easy to reproduce. In my book, Graphic Design Exposed, I share a list of characteristic traits of good logo design.

Every project begins by learning as much about my client as possible. In addition to learning about the organization, I also must determine what styles the decision maker(s) prefer.

Wayside House provides women with programs that facilitate recovery from addiction. I requested a list of descriptive words. Additionally, I was told the story about the necessary struggle every butterfly must make in order to emerge healthy and strong from the cocoon. A butterfly symbol was historically used on Wayside House materials and I was asked to continue that tradition. The Wayside House tagline is “Addiction Recovery For Women By Women.”

I designed a butterfly icon that appeared to be taking flight to reflect the spirit of optimism and strength of the recovery process. To honor the “For Women By Women” portion of the tagline, the icon is constructed using two female profiles face to face. I crafted the lettering from a typestyle called “Pump” in order to eliminate all hard edges. Executive Director, Cathy Cohn and I chose the color, inspired by the blooming bougainvillea that grow on the gazebo in the Wayside House garden.

Although I focus heavily on symbolism during the development process, I rarely share those thoughts with the client. A logo choice is made at an intuitive level. Clients must be happy with the visual aspects of the logo and feel that it represents their organization.

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