Summary of eat places:

  1. The Place Restaurant (Marpole) 8028 Granville St Vancouver BC V6P (604) 261-3948
  2. Amato Gelato (Vancouver & Richmond) 78 East 1st Ave, Vancouver BC (604) 879-9011
  3. Little Nest (Commercial Drive) 1716 charles st, off commercial drive (604) 251-9994
  4. New Town Bakery & Restaurant (Chinatown) 158 E Pender Street Vancouver BC (604) 681-1828

Being new to graphic design, not only in trade but also in the business, at times I feel lost. And lonely. People in my network are mostly supportive of my career change venture; however, little of them are from the creative business side. In short, I feel that I got no one to talk to about the challenges, struggles and ups & downs of being a graphic designer.

Fortunately, there is no lack of generous folks out there in the graphic design world who willingly share their experiences. Some of their wisdom is transferred in form of books. Here are some examples I recently come across:

book list

A few of the good books on Graphic Design

  1. How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer Debbie Millman: Don’t be fooled by the tame book title and dull cover design. This book is a precious gem containing personal interviews by Millman of designers including Milton Graser, Paula Scher, Stefan Sagmeister, and Massimo Vignelli. Contrary to its title, it is by no means a “how-to” kinda self-help book. Rather, I find most of the interviews honest and humbling. (I say “most” because I haven’t read all of the interviews.) I was greatly aspired by the great graphic designers’ experiences, particularly by their passion and in some cases their mission in what they do. (The link points you to Google Book IT’S FREE!)
  2. How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul Adrian Shaughnessy: I’ve to admit, at first I shy away from this book for reasons I cannot recall. Maybe it was the “losing your soul” part that turns me off. But I’m glad I picked it up ‘cos I can’t stop reading it. The author Adrian was a co-founder of London design firm Intro and its creative director for fifteen years. From the beginning to the end, the good and the bad, pretty and ugly of the graphic design industry, Adrian has seen it all. I love his British humor and brutal honesty, esp. of bad things that has happened to him as a graphic designer. I picked up a few pointers from the book but I appreciate more the sharing aspect, as if I was picking Adrian’s brain. It’s like having a mentor who’s also funny and speaks with a British accent. It’s great.
  3. Start & Run A Graphic Design Business Michael Huggins: Again, try not to judge the book by its cover. (hee hee) The book is surprisingly current (published in 2009). Compared to the previous two books, this one is more of a “how-to” book. It comes with a CD with lots of goodies (which I haven’t utilized yet). I’m only starting to read it and I’m already sold by the author’s intro: “Don’t get scared away from pursuing your heart’s desire just because of a few things you may not know right now. You see, you have something I didn’t—another graphic designer who has been where you are and is ready to help you. That’s really what this book is all about.” Awww! He’s speaking to me!!!
  4. Penguin 75 Designers, Authors, Commentary (the good, the bad…) Paul Buckley: This book isn’t about the graphic design business per se. It’s included on this list because it contains 75 beautiful Penguin book covers and the design stories behind them. Each cover is accompanied by comments from the author, designer and sometimes the vice president Creative Director at Penguin Paul Buckley. I particularly like the comparisons between the “proposed covers” and the actual/final ones to see how similar/different they are. Even the best designers revise their designs based on the clients’ feedback. There is a knowing laughter when a designer writes “…and the comps meet the recycling bin”. I know how that feels, haha!

By no means these are the only books/resources available out there. I hope by sharing, some helpless novice graphic designers like me would find the list useful. 🙂


I first come to know about Neil by watching this TV commercial:

It was probably on an unusually cool July day when I saw it. I thought to myself, “that’s a nice way of looking at things.” Seeing that Neil published his blog into a book, I borrow the book The Book of Awesome from my local library and start reading it last night. Luckily I’m the only one sleeping in the basement because my laughter would have waken people up.

Although it is true that I found the book in the “Self Help” section of the library, Neil’s blogs are by no means cheesy. He is honest, funny and actually quite sarcastic, making him very relatable. He could be your brother, husband, colleague, the guy holding the cue at the supermarket checkout…The things he talk about are everyday things, some perhaps are more dear to his personal experience. There are also some “universal truths” that should be respected by all courteous human.

My favourite AWESOME things according to Neil so far include:

  • Using all the different shampoos and soaps in someone else’s shower: 3. Sampling is encouraged. If you’re staying with a couple, chances are good they’ve got His and Hers sections. Try both! What’s this? New scent of body wash? Squirt! Weird kiwi-grapefruit face wash? Squirt! Forty-dollar-a-bottle salon conditioner that looks like it came from a science lab? Squirt, Squirt, Squirt!
  • The Universal Fry-Sharing Policy: The Universal Fry-Sharing Policy states that if you are eating a meal with someone who ordered fries, and you didn’t order fries, you’re entitled to grab one of their fries as it’s landing on the table as long as a) you ask first, b) you make eye contact and raise your eyebrows until they nod, c) you just know them really well.
  • Finally clipping your fingernails after you’ve been meaning to do it all week: (I hate cutting my nails. I find the procedure very tedious.)

If Neils writing doesn’t make you feel better about life, at least you will have a good laugh at some of these seemingly insignificant things.

Admittedly, I too fall into the little dark spots when things don’t go my way. Neil’s blogs inspired me to notice and cherish the silver linings around the grey clouds. So this morning at breakfast, I sat down and came up with my own “Awesome” list. Here it is (in no particular order).

Gillian’s List of Awesome Things

  1. The first sip of ice cold Coca Cola (better yet, from a glass bottle).
  2. When you think you’re out of cash, you find a twenty dollar bill tucked in the wallet somewhere.
  3. Scoring cheap gas when the tank is about empty.
  4. Baby grips tight to your finger with his little hand.
  5. A pet (dog or cat) cuddling.
  6. Three strikes in a row when you’re not that good at bowling.
  7. Warmth travels down your throat to your tummy after drinking some hot tea on a cold day.
  8. Others compliment you on your new hair style/shirt/glasses.
  9. Bump into a celebrity you actually recognize and care about.
  10. Smell the roses.
  11. Get the joke in the comic strip/commercial.
  12. Finish a very thick book.
  13. Say something brilliant at an important business meeting.
  14. Cleaned your room/bathroom/closet/kitchen/garage.
  15. Ran 10km.
  16. Finished climbing Grouse Grind.
  17. The first kiss.
  18. Found that book you’re looking for in the local library.
  19. The movie everyone says is great is actually quite good.
  20. Checking the clock for the first time in the day and finding it’s almost time to go home.
  21. Warm toilet seat (no, I’m not kidding.)
  22. Hot apple pie with ice cream.
  23. It starts to rain as soon as you get inside.
  24. Sound of Music is on TV!
  25. Slipped but didn’t fall.
  26. Caught something falling in reflex and prevented it from breaking.
  27. Listen to rain falling on the car’s roof when you sit inside the car.
  28. Find the lost earring.
  29. Brief moment of complete soberness five minutes after consuming coffee.
  30. The very first sip of coffee of the day.
  31. Sharing a silent joke with a stranger through a glance.
  32. Rocking the self-serve checkout at the supermarket.
  33. Made something nice by hand.
  34. Screamed at the top of your lungs and it’s OK.
  35. Picked the perfect gift.
  36. Strike out the last item on the to-do list.

I encourage you take a moment and make your own list, and share with me. 🙂


As mentioned in the previous post, I was in need of some business cards for an industry event. As I was unable to commit to a design I like, the pressing deadline made me quite stressed!

Luckily, I stumbled upon a wooden press block with the letter ‘G’ that I quite like. So I decided to make my own business cards. I found some paper suitable for press at Opus on Granville Island, and I’ve already purchased some black block printing ink.

wood press block

The lucky find!

The next challenge turned out to be cutting from a large piece of paper to (roughly) 2 by 3.5 inches business card size. I’m a retard when it comes to using the x-acto knife. A rule of thumb I’ve learned is that always use a sharp blade. Don’t be cheap like me.

Then, I inked and pressed the block on pre-cut pieces of paper, and wrote my info on every card, and repeat…um, 80 times. It was hard trying to avoid typo while my mind wanted to zone out under repeated tasks. Out of nowhere, I started doodling on the ‘G’s. The results were surprisingly good. The doodles made each card unique, and justified the cards being made by hand.

The G

The G

Repeat 80x

Repeat 80 times...

Owl for Caileigh

Owl for Caileigh

The Bird

One of the many designs


It’s a wrap!

07May11

Design Essentials Cohort 24 Industry Night May 3, 2011

It is hard to believe a year has already passed since the Cohort 24 started the first class at 9am on Sunday April 11, 2010. After many countless late nights (or early mornings), hair pulled out of frustration, recycled pieces of paper with not-good-enough thumbnails, many mind maps in search for the innovative concept, after swearing at the computer (whether it was running Photoshop, Illustrator, Dreamweaver, Flash or InDesign) cursing its stupidity (when we are all too aware it’s really our fault)…words cannot describe how I feel now, standing at the other side of the tunnel.

me at grad show

Me at Grad Show (photo by Winnie So)

On Tuesday May 3, 2011, my cohort together with other schools in the BCIT Digital Arts program held an Industry Night at the Roundhouse in Yaletown. Since I wasn’t planning on attending the actual convocation, the night served as my graduation ceremony. Lots of hard work was put into preparation for the show. All the work goes into the job search in the real world.

We’re told that we need to give out business card. Designing my own business card occurs to be one of the most difficult tasks! I suppose it’s hard to be both the designer and the client! I was unable to commit to a design which I want to mass produce. With luck, I stumbled upon a wood press block with the letter ‘G’, which I used to create some unique business cards a couple of days before the show. =P I’m pleased that everyone seems to like my hand-made effort.

hand-printed business cards

Hand-printed business cards (photo by Winnie So)

Special thanks to you who came to the show and shared the happy moment with me (in no particular order): Homa, Jen Phu, Winnie So, Silvia, Gary, Len, Frank, Vincent and Brenda, Patricia, Angus, Tim and Carmine, Catherine, Horace and Lillian (do I get her name right?), Joyce, and Angie.

group pic

With Jen, Winnie and Gary.

Last but not least, I want to thank my fellow classmates in DE Cohort 24 for making last year super fabulous! More than one instructors think that we have raised the bar for the other cohorts to come. Let’s keep raising the bar! Good luck and stay in touch!

DE Cohort 24

DE Cohort 24 (almost everyone!)


Today I received not one but two (!) pleasant surprises in the mail. No, it’s not one of those “you’ve won a million dollars” spam. No, it’s not tax refund either (not yet, at least).

The first surprise was a parcel in a bubble wrap envelope. I don’t recall ordering anything online…Upon opening, I was greeted by a substantial printed book. It turns out to be the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada (GDC) 2009/10 Annual Report.

Being a relatively new member of the GDC, I wasn’t expecting to receive an annual report. Normally annual reports are dry and difficult to understand. As a result, they usually travel directly into the recycling bin.However, I’m very glad that this GDC annual report will be a keeper.

This year’s theme is sustainability. The designer, Foundry Creative in Calgary, Alberta, took it to heart and decided to print the entire book on the backs of completed jobs. If you can image, a piece of previously printed page is folded in half lengthwise, where each half becomes 2 pages. The result is a custom-made, one-of-a-kind book where the insides of the actual pages vary from one book to the other. There is also the element of surprise as I peek into the folded leaflets to imagine their previous lives.

The book is rightly titled “The message is the medium” on the cover and “The medium is the message” on the back. The book is perfect bind using side sewing. (I’ve to look up my pre-press notes for we’re just learning about post-press.)

In addition to the creative usage of print material, the book is beautifully designed using a vast variety of illustration, typographic treatments and layout to tell the story and present data.

The second surprise is the Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) catalog. The cover is beautifully illustrated by Luke Ramsey of Pender Island, BC. Although the cover might not entice me to visit MEC and check out their merchandises soon (but it’s entirely my fault since I’m not very active…), the catalog definitely stands out among the competitors. It’s fun, cozy, and approachable which I believe suits the company’s image very well.

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Even before I went back to school to study graphic design (in the Design Essentials program by BCIT and Emily Carr), I’ve always been intrigued by typefaces. If you’re familiar with word processing software such as Words, you might recall how Word allows you to pick the font, such as between Times News Romans and Arial. Times and Arial are two of the thousands of typefaces available.

One of the biggest challenge I find being a novice graphic designer is to know when to use which typeface, and how to pair them. Supposedly there is some logic and process behind picking the right typeface, but I get a feeling that it’s very much an art, if not an instinct.

What I hope to do is to study the typefaces up close and personal. Perhaps one glyph at a time. It’ll likely take my entire lifetime to study every single typeface, and there’re so many beautiful typefaces, with more new ones to come everyday!

Let’s start with the lowercase ‘g’. Not only because it is part of my initial, but also because the letter ‘g’ possesses such fine, delicious curves and details. It is one of the few letters to have a ‘link’ and a ‘loop’ (Ref: The Complete Manual of Typography, James Felici, p. 33).

Here are just a few samples of ‘g’:

  1. Futura (medium)
  2. Helvetica (regular)
  3. Sense Regular OT
  4. American Typewritter (regular)
  5. Adobe Garamond Pro (regular)
  6. Gill San (regular)
  7. Adam BP Text Regular OT
  8. Baskerville (regular)

    Baskerville (photo by iStockPhoto)

What I did is that I traced them using color pencil on tracing paper. As you can see, there is such variety of form, stroke weight and counter (the white space inside the closed-loop of the ‘g’). Can you feel the variation of mood these letters are conveying?

I’m particularly touched by Baskerville’s ‘g’. The tiny “emph!” at the tip of the loop shows so much detail, craftsmanship and love from the typesetter. Don’t forget Baskerville was set in lead by hand hundreds of years ago. There isn’t any computer then.