Working with Magazine Gridlines

As part of an in-class assignment last week, we were asked to trace a grid from a magazine noting the margins and columns. Unfortunately, I had to miss class, so I wasn’t able to complete the activity in class, but instead completed it on my own. For the assignment, I selected a page out of the Summer 2016 issue of UMBC Magazine.

Four times a year, a new issue of UMBC Magazine comes out, and I’ve found that one of the things that makes me want to read it (other than the fact that they continue to send them to me) is its layouts. Each page has a unique layout while still maintaining consistency.

What I appreciate most in the design of the page is ability to break up the space using both images and color that draw the reader in to specific areas. The page is information dense compared to many of the other pages of the magazine but because the content is broken up, it doesn’t appear overwhelming to the eye.


Working with Gridlines


For our third photo essay, we focused on finding grid types in the real world. This proved to be much easier than our previous photo essays as many things we use are designed around a grid. In fact, I was able to find grids in text books, magazines, and even the employee guide used by the students at my office. What was incredibly interesting was the use of variety in some print types (e.g. UMBC Magazine) and the lack of variety in other media (textbooks).

Having found examples of grid types, I moved onto the second part of the exercise, tracing gridlines. This was a transformative exercise in that it quickly became apparent just how easy it is to miss the gridlines even if the design is right in front of you. The brain processes the designs without even noticing the underlying structures.

Photo Essay #2: Form Design

For our second photo essay, we focused on printed forms. I selected five (5) forms from various fields: The State Employees Credit Union’s (SECU) Membership form, UMBC’s Direct Deposit form, Carefirst Blue Cross Blue Shield’s Vision Reimbursement form, Krispy Kreme’s Fundraiser form, and the Animal Advocates of Howard County’s Walk for Paws Registration form and waiver.


Despite the wide range of data being collected by these forms, there were a number of similarities. First and foremost, 4 out of the 5 all had clear branding at the top of the form. This not only made it clear who’s form you were filling out, but also served as a marketing opportunity.

All forms utilized boxes and/or highlighting to distinguish different sections of the form. This helps provide subtle direction to the user as to how and in which way the form should be completed.

Also helping to direct users as to how to fill out the form in a subtle way is the use of lines versus boxes. All forms used specific field types (e.g lines, boxes, checkboxes) to indicate how the user should respond. For instance, a checkbox directs the user to place a single checkmark t0 indicate which size T-Shirt they would like for the Walk for Paws event. UMBC’s Direct Deposit form uses individual boxes to indicate a single digit should be placed in each for the Social Security Number field.


The first thing you notice that’s different about these forms is how they use color. SECU’s form used multiple colors to differentiate sections of the form. Others like Carefirst or UMBC’s forms were entirely black and white. Krispy Kreme went a completely different route opting for color, but for the entire form.

The forms also differed between their use of field types. Some forms, like UMBC’s direct deposit form and SECU’s membership application used individual boxes for digits, single boxes for strings of numbers, and lines. Others like the Walk for Paws form consisted mainly of lines.

Considerations for Flying Fruit Cafe’s Breakfast Forms

One of the most important things worth incorporating into the Flying Fruit Cafe’s Breakfast sandwich form is branding. The current form doesn’t indicate that it’s for the cafe in any way, which is a missed marketing opportunity especially if the intention is to eventually allow customers to order while they’re away from the cafe where they might catch the attention of someone who didn’t know about the cafe.

Building off the idea of allowing customers to order outside of the cafe, the Walk for Paws form included a QR code to allow participants to register online. This could be a way for Cafe customers to order online at some point in the future.

Lastly, instructions could be added to the form to guide both customers and employees how best to complete or interpret the form.

Weekly Inspiration: Tone It Up


I practice yoga twice a week. The studio for my Tuesday class is decorated with a mural of waves which has proved to be a driving source for my practice. My class on Sundays is in another studio and instead contains a tree mural which I find much less inspiring. During my Sunday yoga class, as I was using my new yoga mat, the Tone It Up logo I’d seen countless times before stood out to me. Inside the heart was a wave, and I realized I’d brought the waves with me to my class without even noticing.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with Tone It Up, it’s a fitness and lifestyle company based in California founded by two women, Karena and Katrina. Behind their brand is their motto, Share. Love. Inspire. Sweat., and their logo represents all of those in very subtle ways. Each of the four tenants is represented by a line inside the heart (representative of love) that forms a wave paying tribute to the beach which serves as their source of inspiration.

Even the colors that were selected, coral and teal were selected with intention. Teal represents heightened levels of creativity, intuition and sensitivity, while it’s complement, coral, represents energy, beauty, and adventure – all qualities that their brand promotes.

This week’s inspiration goes to show how much design is in front of us every day. Even if we notice the design, there’s still likely a wealth of inspiration behind the design we see just waiting to be discovered.


Reflections on Our First Site Visit

Recently, we visited the University of Baltimore’s Angelos Law Center. At first glance, the building is a modern marvel of design and efficiency, but it’s what’s happening inside that’s the true marvel. The reason for our visit was to meet with a member of UMBC’s Choice Program, a program that provides job training and employment through the Flying Fruit Cafe to youth in Baltimore.

It’s easy to walk into a coffee shop like the Flying Fruit Cafe and quickly point out things that could be done more efficiently, but efficiency isn’t the goal in this cafe. Instead, the goal is to provide meaningful job experience and a positive environment for the youth in the program. This translates to less worry about how to make things quicker, but how to design systems and processes that work for the youth and the cafe. Examples include taking into consideration that some of the employees may have little to no literacy or that deisgns need to be able to implemented quickly and hold up over time.

The projects that were initially presented ranged from designing a new system to order breakfast sandwiches, wrappers for the cafe’s coffee pots and creamer containers, and promotional inserts for the cafe’s napkin holders. With that being said, there were two projects not mentioned that immediately stood out to me when I walked into the space.

First and foremost, the menu is displayed in chunks on a rotating slideshow displayed on the TV and on pieces of paper placed around the cafe. For busy law students, having to search for the right menu and/or wait for the next slide to change on a screen is time wasted. There seemed no better place to place a menu than on the expansive stainless steel panels behind the counter that are seeminly empty and dull compared to the rest of the cafe.

Another area that I noticed was in the labeling of food. Currently, items in the grab and go section are labeled by hand, with employees writing the name of the contents in a white space. However, it appeared that the employees writing these labels often had handwriting that was difficult to read making it difficult for customers to determine what they were actually buying.

Above all, what stuck with me during my visit was the success stories. The Choice Program is making a real difference in the lives of the youth participating in the program, yet it was notably absent or unapparent to customers. In fact, prior to my visit, I had found two reviews for the cafe online. The first centered around poor service from the employees, while the second was positive, and it was due to the mission behind the cafe. It seems like a real missed opportunity that the successes of the program and the lives it changes are not being highlighted. If one of the goals is to make Flying Fruit stand out from the other familiar brands, showing how it makes a difference in community is it, especially in a city with such a strong sense of identity as Baltimore.