New website project launch: Growing Minds

A good friend and colleague in the Boston area, Dr. Anya Dashevsky, is launching a private psychology practice, and I had the privilege of assisting her with her marketing materials.

She had already decided on a name for her new practice: Growing Minds. She made sure that the domain name growingmindspsych.com was currently available, so we moved forward with that. She specializes in assessment of children (starting as young as 18 months) through adolescents, so she had come up with a name that conveys both the objective (minds that are growing) and the process of assisting those minds to grow and develop.

My first task was to come up with a logo. I wanted to capture that same duality, so I used two contrasting typefaces:

  • a script face known as Banshee with a dynamic, organic feel, and
  • Book Antiqua (Microsoft’s knockoff of Palatino), which will also be suitable for general text use in her website and business materials.

For her branding colors, I chose green to represent optimal growth, and blue to connote a calming, supportive, and trustworthy presence for the presumably-anxious parents seeking her services. (Note that blue is a common choice among medical practices as well as financial institutions.) I provided a wide range of alternative concepts, but this jewel-toned scheme was the one my client was drawn to, so I knew we were on to something!

[Growing Minds]

The two-sided business card featuring the final logotype.

Next, we worked together to create a website for her practice that would provide substantive information as well as basic logistical details to inquiring new clients. We settled on a clean white background and a simple page template that would perform just as well for iPad visitors as for desktop browsers. All the text is in Book Antiqua to match her brand identity.

[GrowingMindsPsych.com]

The finished website frontpage. Look at that smile! Click to browse the full site.

This site build uses pure CSS, no JavaScript, to achieve both the dropdown main menu tabs and the click-to-expand bullet points on the front page. The menu code was adapted from this simple but effective version on CSSMenuMaker.com. The bullet point code was substantially adapted from this vertical accordion on sitepoint.net — they made use of CSS3’s built-in :target selector, and I had to change around the code to make it function under CSS2, but the basic structure remained the same.

The site is hosted on 1and1.com (Mr. Y’s recommended vendor for basic, economical web hosting). I had my client set up her own customer account, then went in myself to set up the domain name (growingmindspsych.com), post a placeholder page, and eventually transfer the files for the full site once the design and content were complete.

My client’s new practice officially opened this week in her Lexington, MA, office. Congratulations and best wishes for much success! (We’re still working on the coordinating brochure. I’ll post that as a follow-up when it’s completed.)

New art piece: To Everything There Is A Season

Today is Rosh Chodesh Elul (which means only one month to Rosh Hashanah). In honor of the new Hebrew month, I’m debuting a new art piece!

As a young teenager, I was deeply into the music of the 1960s, and I still remember getting goosebumps the first time I heard the Byrds’ 1965 hit recording of Pete Seeger’s “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season)”.

I knew it was taken from a passage in the Book of Ecclesiastes, though I didn’t know much more about it than that. Much later, I experienced Ecclesiastes as the Hebrew scroll of Kohelet, which is traditionally ascribed (like the book of Proverbs, or Mishlei ) to King Solomon, and in many Jewish communities is read aloud in its entirety at Shabbat synagogue services during the fall holiday of Sukkot.

A couple of years ago, at a friend’s house, I saw a framed calligraphy piece based on this same passage, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8. That inspired me to want to do a version of my own.

The primary motif I had in mind was to set the English phrases as a sine wave or a helix, winding around the structure of the Hebrew. The above-and-below undulation would convey the duality in each of the pairings. Each Hebrew phrase is color-matched with its English equivalent to create a visual connection between the two levels. I chose to invert the Hebrew in these layers so that the text flow of both languages could run in the same clockwise direction — another way to echo the “wheel of time” feeling of the passage.

Ultimately, I arranged the text in a mandala of four nesting circles. The outermost circle is formed from the opening verse, which provides the conceptual frame for the whole passage. The second layer contains eight pairings, the third layer five pairings, and the last pairing forms the final circle with “peace” at its center… driving the whole composition, like Pete Seeger’s adaptation, toward an optimistic goal at its core.

One note on the translation: The well-known King James Version translates the second half of verse 1 as “and a time to every purpose under the heaven”. The Hebrew word used there, however, is cheifetz, which in other contexts is always rendered as “please” or “enjoy”. (Compare to Psalm 115:3, V’elokeinu ba-shamayim; kol asher chafetz asah. “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.”) Thus, some English translations give it as “to every delight” or “pleasure under the heavens”. Many other translations simply say “event”, “matter” or “activity”. I wanted to find a word that conveyed the semantic direction of “pleasing” without categorizing killing and destroying as “delights”, and settled on “to every impulse under the heavens.” I also tried to preserve the distinctions in the Hebrew between “a time to [verb]” and “a time of [noun]”.

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I created Version I using the classical Roman-style font Trajan for all of the English text, for a smooth and formal look. However, then I wanted to try to bring out the (literal) texture of the passage with a little more contrast, so I experimented with applying a calligraphic italic hand (a font called Aquiline) to accent the changing keywords in each English phrase. This resulted in Version II.

Both pieces are now available in my Etsy shop, along with a hi-res PDF download that includes both versions in case you prefer to print your own.

Which version do you think works best? Let me know in comments.

Chodesh tov!

How I make art, Part 1: Resources for Hebrew text

This week, I’ve been working on a new Judaica art piece, which I look forward to releasing next week! But before I get there, I wanted to talk about my process for making art out of text in Hebrew and English.

It starts where everything starts — with an idea. Some words catch my eye and fire my imagination. Most often, it’s either a Biblical text or a passage from the siddur, the Jewish prayerbook. (Frequently, it’s both, as Biblical quotations make up a significant portion of the wording of our formal prayers.) Occasionally, it’s a quote from the Talmud, about which more below.

But how do I get going from there? First, I go to the Internet!

… Why not start on my own bookshelf? I own numerous Bibles in both Hebrew and English (one of my favorite translations, incidentally, is Everett Fox‘s Five Books of Moses, a.k.a. the Schocken Bible). But here’s Confession #1: I’m not so strong on chapter and verse. So I start by doing a Google search for the English phrasing, in order to locate the verse I’m thinking of.

From there, I look up the Hebrew. Mechon Mamre maintains an excellent complete Hebrew-English online Bible, featuring the well-reputed standard English translation by the Jewish Publication Society (JPS). I will usually go here to copy and paste entire passages. Note, though, that they provide “pointed” text, with the nekudot: vowel marks and other punctuation that are positioned around the actual letters (or, in the words of psycholinguist Dorit Ravid, “diacritics ancillary to consonantal graphemes”).* This notation is essential for study purposes, but I generally go on to strip out the nikkud, because I prefer to use just the un-pointed letters in my artwork.

* However, the Ancillary Diacritics is totally my new band name.

My next stop is, perhaps surprisingly, a Christian Bible site, one called Blue Letter Bible. While I tend to steer clear of Christian-sponsored sites, this one offers a spectacular feature that I haven’t found elsewhere: a word-by-word breakdown of the original Hebrew, as well as the Greek from the Septuagint, for every single verse of the Old Testament.

[Blue Letter Bible tools screenshot]

The language tools at Blue Letter Bible. Careful observers will pick up a clue as to the forthcoming new art piece.

My own Hebrew skills are normally sufficient to match up the corresponding words from an English translation; in fact, this is an important element in my artwork, where I frequently color-code specific words or phrases to create explicit visual connections between the texts. But sometimes I feel like the English in front of me doesn’t quite capture the nuance I’m getting from the Hebrew. When I want to refine the translation I’m including in the piece, it can be amazingly helpful to see a range of English translations side-by-side, or to click through to the Strong’s Concordance entry to see how the same word has been interpreted in different contexts. Plus, they provide a box to toggle the “vowel points” (the aforementioned nekudot) on or off, so I can copy a whole verse with just the unpointed letters. Priceless.

Now, what if I am researching a Talmud quotation? Certain sections are easy to find in translation, like the tractate of Avot, better known as Pirkei Avot, or in English as “The Ethics of the Fathers”, which is reproduced in its entirety in most traditional prayerbooks. Often, however, I will see delightful quotes attributed solely to “The Talmud”… which may be technically accurate, but not very helpful! Google is my friend here again. Sometimes it turns out that quotes attributed to “The Talmud” (such as this one, identified here) actually come from Midrash Rabbah, which is a fantastic (and often fantastical) body of interpretive commentaries, but not part of the Talmud.

Once I can get a specific citation, I can look up the Hebrew in Mechon Mamre’s online Talmud Bavli (the “Babylonian” Talmud that is the version commonly studied). Some chapters are available in English at Halakhah.com, at Sacred Texts, and at the Jewish Virtual Library. If I’m looking for Midrash Rabbah, there’s a complete online Hebrew edition at Tsel Harim.

For Hebrew text from the prayerbook, I am more likely to turn to my actual bookshelf. However, there are several useful Web resources, such as the Online Siddur, the Open Siddur Project, and the Free Siddur Project.

There are many more great collections of links and scholarly resources at sites like the following:

One last technical note: I create my artwork in Adobe InDesign. Now, if I copy a line of Hebrew text from a web page, it is almost certainly in Unicode, which the browser knows to render right-to-left… but InDesign pastes in the character sequence from left to right. Because here’s Confession #2: I don’t actually use it to handle Hebrew properly. Now that I’ve upgraded to Creative Suite 6, its World-Ready Composer gives some built-in support for right-to-left sequencing at either the paragraph or character level… but the way it behaves still isn’t very intuitive for me, and I get frustrated after just a few minutes. It’s actually easier for me to cheat with an intermediate step: reversing the string in order to make it come out correctly. On a few old projects, I did this by hand (!), but these days I turn once again to the magic of the Internet, where there are handy web-based utilities for this purpose.

  • Reverse a String Online was my longtime quick-and-dirty favorite for single lines.
  • Text Mechanic’s “Reverse Text Generator” offers an additional option called “Flip Text”, which reverses each line (or technically paragraph), but keeps the lines themselves in the correct top-to-bottom sequence — just what I need for longer sections.

Once I’ve got all my text in place, in Hebrew and English, that’s my raw material. Only then can I start to play with it to create art. But that’s a totally separate process that I will try to address in another, less technical — and probably shorter! — post.

Shabbat shalom!

Poppin: Gorgeous office supplies for color nerds

I first saw it in a Facebook ad. I try to avoid EVER clicking Facebook’s sidebar ads, but the picture in this one was so appealing, I couldn’t resist: a spotless white office desk tricked out with a whole suite of beautiful, brightly colored, matching office supplies.

This was my introduction to Poppin, whose mission statement begins, “Poppin believes you should be able to surround yourself with objects of beauty everywhere you go and in everything that you do.” Founded in 2009 by NYC entrepreneurs with a background in fashion (explains the killer aesthetics, right?), the company was publicly launched in September 2012, but it’s only more recently that their impressive PR is really gaining traction.

The sheer glossy perfection of it was what got me. I was in awe. Not just visually, but technically: How do you even achieve that kind of color matching across a dozen different materials and manufacturers? (It turns out that this was, indeed, a nontrivial issue for them.) I emailed the Shop By Color link straightaway to my BFF (an avowed devotee of all things purple). I followed Poppin on Pinterest. And then on Twitter. I was hooked.

But it wasn’t enough for me to lovingly browse the color selections. I had to know: What were the specs for the 16 colors?? With a few minutes of poking around their website style sheets, I managed to uncover the official hex/RGB codes. But even more specifically, I wanted to know if they had officially designated corresponding swatches in the industry-standard Pantone Matching System, or PMS. Read more about Pantone here.

I couldn’t find any mention of Pantone in their FAQ, but luckily, Poppin also encourages you to email questions to their “Work Stylist” team. So I did. Not 45 minutes later, team member Shannon sent me a perky response email with an attached PDF document — an array of the 16 swatches with their PMS numbers. My respect for the company ratcheted up several more notches.

I asked her if I could share the breakdown, and she said “feel free to spread the info!”, so here it is:

Name Hex RGB Pantone
White  #ffffff  R: 255 G: 255 B: 255 n/a*
Yellow  #ffd200  R: 255 G: 210 B: 0 PMS 116C
Orange  #f47b20  R: 244 G: 123 B: 32 PMS 166C
Coral  #ff6666  R: 255 G: 102 B: 102 PMS 178C
Red  #d31245  R: 211 G: 18 B: 69 PMS 200C
Pink  #eb4498  R: 235 G: 68 B: 152 PMS 219C
Lime Green  #c1d82f  R: 193 G: 216 B: 47 PMS 382C
Mint  #abd2aa  R: 171 G: 210 B: 170 PMS 2254C
Aqua  #68c8c6  R: 104 G: 200 B: 198 PMS 325C
Pool Blue  #00a5d9  R: 0 G: 165 B: 217 PMS 639C
Navy  #00457c  R: 0 G: 69 B: 124 PMS 295C
Purple  #52247f  R: 82 G: 36 B: 127 PMS 2617C
Light Gray  #c5c6c8  R: 197 G: 198 B: 200 PMS 421C
Silver  n/a**   PMS 877C
Gold  n/a**   PMS 871C
Black  #000000  R: 0 G: 0 B: 0 PMS Black 6C

*Pantone does actually offer a selection of white shades, but Poppin didn’t spec one. :-)
** These metallics are represented on their website with background GIFs instead of solid CSS color blocks.

For now, the CMYK equivalents (for use in four-color process printing, including your home or office laser printer) are left as an exercise to the reader. (Pro tip: InDesign will give you a reasonable conversion right in your Swatches library if you create a swatch of your target PMS color, then convert to CMYK. This will give you a slightly better match than converting from an RGB swatch, since those can be tricky to render with the same vibrancy in CMYK.)

Guess what else? If your branding colors happen to be in the above set, you’ll be thrilled to know that you can also order your choice of custom imprinted products. (Some stellar product placement on that page, BTW. Internet cachet cuts both ways!)

So which are my personal favorite shades of the collection? If you’ve seen my design homepage, it’s no surprise that I’m torn between Lime Green (canonically the most “Erica” of colors) and Pool Blue.

I look forward to seeing what else they add to the menu as the company grows.

My new Etsy shop: Schultz Yakovetz Judaica

Recently, I took the plunge and did something I’ve been thinking about for ages: open a storefront for my Judaica artwork on Etsy.

Check it out! Visit now: www.etsy.com/shop/SchultzYakovetz

SYJbanner

For anyone not familiar with Etsy:

Etsy is a marketplace for crafters, artists, and collectors to sell their handmade creations, vintage goods, and crafting supplies. Etsy celebrates individual creativity in design and craftsmanship by connecting unique people, stories, and items in a playful and meaningful way. —from the site

So far, my storefront features a subset of the art prints available on my main Judaica site. Here’s a quick sample:

In the coming weeks, look out for:

  • Downloadable hi-res digital files (so you can print a piece for yourself and save on shipping!)
  • Photos of the framed finished pieces (so you can see how awesome they’ll look on your wall)
  • Holiday cards (remember, Rosh Hashanah 5776 starts Wednesday, September 24)
  • My top ketubah designs available to customize
  • New art pieces exclusive to Etsy

Happy shopping… and shabbat shalom!

Don’t forget this essential finishing touch on your webpage!

Webmastering pop quiz time:

  • Raise your hand if you’ve ever seen the word “favicon”.
  • Keep your hand up if you actually know what it refers to.
  • Now keep your hand up if you already know how to produce one and add it to your own website.

… OK, you awesome folks with your hands still raised can go grab a coffee. The rest of you, read on!

What is a favicon?

Go to your Bookmarks or Favorites menu in your web browser. Right now. (Readers who aren’t well acquainted with bookmarking can probably go grab a coffee too and skip the rest of this post… but let me know and I’ll do a separate post on that, seriously. It is the key to managing your Internet life.)

[sample bookmarks menu]

A snippet from my own bookmarks menu, showing 9 visually distinctive favicons… and the dreaded “blank page” default icon in the highlighted 10th item.

See those little icons next to every item in the menu? Some of them are plain “blank page” document icons, but the majority of them are colorful little images that tell you at a glance exactly what site they’re referencing. This is a favicon, short for “favorites icon” (because it shows up in your Favorites list, get it?). It’s your site’s brand identity boiled down into 16×16 pixels (or 32×32 or more, depending on your operating system). And since it’s the only piece of your visual identity that gets stored along with a user’s bookmark, neglecting to supply one is like leaving your business cards in your other pants.

How do I make one?

There’s a special file type called “.ico” reserved for just such uses as these (also, say, desktop icons for Windows application files). Most browsers will also accept a PNG file as your favicon image, but not all. (For the technical specs, I commend to your attention this excellent 2013 article, “Understanding the Favicon” by Jonathan T. Neal.) So it’s best to use a dedicated .ico file.

Here’s the trick: for some reason, image editors do not include “.ico” in their repertoire of file types. So to convert your desired image (PNG, GIF, JPEG, even BMP) to .ico, you have to use one of the many online file converters. Here are a few:

  • http://realfavicongenerator.net/ – If you want heavy-duty performance, this site will take a 260×260 file and produce a single icon that correctly embeds all the different sizes any modern icon set requires, then check your usage once you’ve installed it.
  • http://favicon-generator.org/ – Quick and dirty for 16×16 pixels.
  • http://tools.dynamicdrive.com/favicon/ – As a happy medium, this one will embed 32×32 and 48×48 versions of your image, as well as 16×16, into a single .ico file.

You can certainly use a solid square image, but if your logo is natively any shape other than square, your favicon will look more slick and professional if you use a transparent background.

Once I have the image, how do I set it as the favicon for my website?

If you have named your file “favicon.ico”, all you really need to do is place it in the root directory of your site. Browsers are hard-wired to look there and do the right thing with it. Presto!

You can also place it in another directory (such as /images) or use a different filename, but then you have to place a little extra code in the headers of your pages. Just add these two lines for your .ico file.

<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/images/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon">
<link rel="icon" href="/images/favicon.ico" type="image/x-icon">

(Of course, use the actual path to your own image filename, if /images/favicon.ico above isn’t it.)

If you’re using a PNG file, the code is similar, but you also have to change the specified type:

<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/images/favicon.png" type="image/png">
<link rel="icon" href="/images/favicon.png" type="image/png">

Good news for this WordPress.com blog and everyone else’s: you can now set a custom favicon here, too. Go to your blog dashboard (you can type in /wp-admin after your blog’s wordpress.com URL) and click the “Settings > General” tab. On that page, you’ll see a box in the right-hand column for “Blog Picture / Icon”. Upload something here, crop and save, and it will automatically be set as your “blog image” (avatar), which WordPress will also use as your favicon.

Bonus question: How is it pronounced??

Unsurprisingly, opinions do differ. The top contenders seem to be:

  • FAV-ih-kahn (short a, short i)
  • FAVE-ih-kahn (long a, short i)
  • FAVEEYE-kahn (long a, long i)

Whatever your preference, happy fav(e)-ing!

Space ketubahs!

Today is Tu B’Av (the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av, a date sometimes known as the “Jewish Valentine’s Day”)… and our 6-month wedding anniversary is coming up in just a couple days. So in honor of those two romantic observances, let me share with you one of my favorite wedding-related design projects.

In planning a Jewish (or, in our case, Jewish-style interfaith) wedding, one of the fun things to work on is the ketubah, or marriage contract. This traditional document is signed — usually by two witnesses, the couple, and the officiant — on the wedding day, often in a separate ritual before the actual ceremony, though our rabbi had us incorporate the signing right into the ceremony.

Now, anyone who knows Mr. Y at all knows that he is a huge Star Wars geek (you should see the collection in our upstairs hallway). But what is only slightly less well known is that he is also a longtime real-life astronomy buff, who worked for many years in the local community planetarium (WHICH WE TOTALLY HAVE, FYI, and which he has yet to take me to visit, but I digress).

So when I started thinking about what would make the most awesome motif for our ketubah, the answer was SPACE.

When I emailed a first set of drafts to Mr. Y, I couldn’t resist including this version, which I made on a lark (click to enlarge):

DEATH-STAR-KETUBAH

While this had precisely the desired effect (“That’s FANTASTIC! … I totally cracked up when I saw the Star Wars version. Freaking great! You are awesome.”), we concurred that it probably wasn’t seriously the best way to go, no matter how perfectly it would complement the set of movie posters in our living room.

But I’d also created a draft that we would eventually refine into this:

SPACE-KETUBAH

After editing together the final art assembly, I spent some time looking for just the right Biblical text to draw in the cosmic theme, and ended up with Psalm 19: “The heavens tell the glory of God… In them He has set a tent for the sun, which emerges like a bridegroom from his chuppah, like a hero rejoicing to run his course” (19:1, 4-5). How’s that for relevance? This passage is used as a decorative border all around the piece, mostly as white text, with corresponding key words accented in yellow in both the English and the Hebrew.

Note that since Mr. Y is not Jewish, this text is not the traditional ketubah text, but basically a completely unrelated text in English and modern Hebrew, one that I had received previously for a custom ketubah project. We liked the wording a lot, but just as importantly, I also trusted the Hebrew translation to be not only accurate, but idiomatically correct (this is often not the case with Hebrew translations of custom texts; I could do a whole post of horror stories on that topic).

And, since everyone asks, the final version was signed in silver Sharpie. (Just one more of their million uses. :-) It’s now happily framed in our front hallway:

SPACE-KETUBAH-framed

Portfolio updates

One of the things I’ve been working on this last month, in addition to some new freelance projects, is updating my online portfolio.

That last page includes links to more updated portfolio pages of ketubahs, invitations, and additional wedding materials such as programs and bentscher covers.

Here’s a quick sample:

A lot of my design work last winter revolved around (no surprise to any designers reading!) my own wedding, which took place in February. I kept the invitations very simple and traditional, but since we were getting married on Valentine’s Day, that gave me a very clear design direction.

I got lots of compliments on the elegance of this design, especially when paired with red-foil-lined white A2 envelopes from JAM Paper in NYC. (Boy, do I miss that place.)

But the great part is that they were also super cheap to produce, since I had them color-laserprinted onto plain white card stock at FedEx Office and cut into quarters. The RSVP return card was a postcard (printed double-sided but black only), which also saved on return envelopes. The whole ensemble, with envelopes, ended up costing only about a dollar per invitation — not counting the postage (for which we ordered the supremely cool Miles Davis commemorative stamps, appropriate to our jazz-club venue).

Tomorrow’s post will be a detailed case study of another essential design piece in a Jewish wedding — our ketubah. Stay tuned!

Reboot!

Since my last post in January, dear readers, I have:

  • Gotten married (February)
  • Quit my job in NYC in order to move back to northwest Indiana, into my new husband’s house, 15 miles from my hometown and 40 miles from downtown Chicago (April)
  • Logged almost 8,000 miles in the Ford Focus, across 17 states and including 7 national parks, on a 6-week Epic Roadtrip Honeymoon (late May through early July)

Needless to say, it’s been an eventful 6 months!

We came home on July 4, after which I started working in earnest on updating my resume and combing online listings for jobs that might suit my skill set.

Besides submitting job applications, most of what I worked on last week was some developmental and copy editing on a new musical by a good friend in NYC. The book is still in process, but preliminary recordings of selected songs can be heard here.

I’ve also got a book project in progress (typesetting a Hebrew translation of a children’s book, which is a first for me; more on that after it’s completed), some inquiries about new website projects, and some other creative design projects in the works.

In the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to making some updates both to this blog and to my website in order to share some more of my recent work.

Know someone who wants my day job?

Happy 2014!

Well, since I last posted (literally a few days after my last post), I got engaged to an incredible guy from back home — the Chicago area, specifically northwest Indiana, one town over from where I grew up. This is someone I have known (and been various degrees of madly in love with) for almost 20 years, which is actually a fantastic story for which this is not altogether the place. :-)

The point is, in early April I’ll be moving back to the Chicago area into his house there. This means that my current employer needs to replace me and is trying to find a moderately experienced Webmaster/Social Media Associate to start in March.

Anyone in the NYC area interested in a full-time position that combines technical skills (HTML), graphic design chops (Adobe Creative Suite), and general social media savvy, please check out the following listings and apply as directed:

http://www.ramaz.org/public/jobs.cfm#webmaster
https://jewishjobs.com/jobs/view/27019

(Some knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish culture is EXTREMELY helpful, but not strictly required.)

Feel free to share this with any likely candidates of your acquaintance!

As for myself, I expect to be looking for a graphics-related job in the NWI region, as well as bumping up my freelance work and joining the family consulting business. But not until April (or possibly July). In the meantime, I will have a few, er, wedding-related design posts to make, so stay tuned. (Space ketubahs!)