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Getting Started

The requirements for this project were to design a set of 6 icons of my choosing with a theme and target audience in mind. I thought of many topics including animals of Yellowstone, the fair, agriculture, dogs, the circus, maps, movies, and others. Of these topics, I tried to then think of individual characteristics, since I needed six icons that I could digitally render. As I thought about these things some more, I slowly morphed agriculture into Old MacDonald Farm Animals.

This topic almost automatically defined my target audience of young children and parents. I began sketching, using pictures from the internet for reference, and giving myself a few guidelines. For example, I sketched each animal 5 times; once facing front, once in profile, once using a triangular shaped face, once using an oval shaped face, and once with just the head in profile. After this process, I was able to see that  I had some consistent things repeating and other things that would either be too difficult digitally , or were better for other visuals and not icons.

Design Decisions

The sketches showed that there was some potential for the triangular shapes to be effective while providing a thematically consistent direction. Initially, I simply designed the icons with eyes and facial features similar to that seen in the pictures I was referring to, but limiting my color palette to a predetermined set. As you can see in my first rough draft, I started simple, and the animals progressively got more detailed.

Old MacDonalds farm

Furthermore, I was designing these icons very large on my screen and not stepping awayOld MacDonalds farm very frequently to analyze them at small sizes. Because I was designing against a white artboard, I wasn’t seeing enough contrast with the lighter colors and so far, my solution had been to outline the shapes with a stroke.

There are other problems, too. My son said that the duck wanted to “devour his soul”, and there were several who had trouble identifying it clearly. The turkey also has issues; size, detail, and clarity among them. Not to mention that the stroke is again, a distraction.


In class, I received some feedback that was helpful and guided the next session of design decisions. The most helpful question I was asked was, “Which one is your favorite?” To which I replied, “The sheep.” It was agreed that the sheep was the shining star of this first draft, so my edits revolved around making all the icons more similar to the sheep. First, I removed the duck and the turkey from the lineup, replacing them with a horse and a dog. Next, I went through each of the other animals in order to define them further and remove the stroke. I changed all of the eyes to match the sheep, but edited them according to the animal and placement on that head. It was also pointed out to me that some in the first draft were more photo-realistic and others were more illustrated. I tried to also change this and make each more cohesive. The last thing I did was limit the color palette even further and add a background shape to each image. During this step I made sure to check the grey-scale values so that the backgrounds didn’t compete with the animals, either.

The Set

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After all of the edits, my final icon set for Old MacDonald Had a Farm are ready to go! They are simple, but have just enough detail and character that they are recognizable individually and as a set, and best of all, none of them want to devour my soul. Designing them was challenging, but really fun, and I was able to use and practice many of the new skills I learned in Illustrator while I designed them. This is helping me get better, be faster, and more organized as I practice these skills.

Editorial Design

Magazine Final- Beka Ackerschott

Designing for a Magazine

There are certain elements of an editorial design that are consistent in order to make a multi-page document look cohesive. Different magazines have certain audiences and thus have a certain look. People Magazine looks significantly different than Forbes Magazine, for example; and the Ensign of the Church looks significantly different than Fast Company. However, all issues of People, or Forbes, or the Ensign look similar to their respective brand image and issues.

Looking for and identifying the consistent content in a given issue helps to reason why the magazine is laid out the way it is. For this assignment, our class looked for similarities in the Ensign. We noticed that running footers are always consistent. Placement and alignment of article titles varies, but is significantly similar enough to look like an Ensign title. There are other similarities as well, body copy is always a serif typeface, text wrap is applied to images, the author is sometimes pictured, and all photos have been given proper credit. These are but a few of the things that the Ensign handles their issues to insure consistent hierarchy and display of their issue.

Religious Freedom and Photography

The assignment called for each of us to choose an article to design for a spread at least 3 pages in length. Additionally, the article needed to contain photographs within the content to supply visual unity and variety. These photos were to be taken by ourselves. I chose an article about religious freedom contained on lds.com, and proceeded to take some photographic images that would visually illustrate the content of the article. These are my images:


As written in the assignment parameters, the editors of the Ensign have hypothetically hired me to design this article for an upcoming issue of said magazine. Therefore, my audience is LDS, adults, and generally English speaking. However, the audience might also include adults of various other faiths and ethnicity. My images were taken in an effort to appeal to a large general audience.

The SpreadMagazine Final- Beka AckerschottMagazine Final- Beka Ackerschott2

I used the principles of color, photography, proximity, alignment, contrast, and variety to express the article in a visually appealing way. I designed the two page spread with a large image spanning the width of both pages  and included an additional image within the body copy content which also employs the principle of big, medium, small in the layout design as well. I further used some contrasting typography to engage the reader and help them find interesting reasons to proceed reading. I decided to include a color within the subheads of the article, and by doing so, found a repetitive element and contrast to the neutral layout of the article.

I found the image of Elder Christofferson  here, all other images were taken by myself. I don’t consider myself to be much of a photographer, so I’m quite pleased with these happy accidents!


I have enjoyed putting these principles to good practice and look forward to doing more. I learned a great deal by using a template under my layout to help me decide on leading and sizes of subheads, etc. I now know that I need to practice doing that and redesigning other articles to develop the eye to see the subtle differences and strengthen my decision making skills in editorial design.

Design Analysis: Photography

Principles of Photography

Photography is an art, indeed. Just knowing how to handle the camera in order to capture an interesting image is a feat that I struggle with. However, with some basic settings and the following principles, photos can come to life with interest and beauty, as well as tell a remarkable story visually.

I’ve borrowed three images from James Neeley Photography to help illustrate the principles with professional skills and then I’ll try to follow the same principles with my own photos.

*Disclaimer: I recently purchased a nice, new camera for an upcoming trip. It was supposed to arrive yesterday, but it did not. My images will be taken with my phone instead (because I also don’t live in Rexburg for the rental to work for me today). Believe me, I don’t think my skills would be much better with a real camera. Especially not in comparison to James’ work!

James Neeley Photography

James Neeley is a freelance photographer and educator. Specializing in landscape, nature, and architectural photography his work has been recognized and published locally, nationally, and internationally. James loves to teach. He has conducted photographic workshops throughout the western United States with Mountain High Workshops and Perfect Light Camera. He also teaches HDR and Photoshop courses. From: JamesNeeley.com

Rule of Thirds

rule of thirds

Amazing, right?

rule of thirds

The rule of thirds is a powerful principle of design because it effectively uses the Fibonacci Sequence, or Golden Ratio. Here, James Neeley captured the principle quite literally.


my rule of thirds

My photo lacks artful composition, but illustrates the rule of thirds by dividing the space into nine sections and placing the focal point at one of the intersections.

Leading Lines

leading lines

Beautifully composed, James Neeley uses the leading lines in the landscape to draw the eye of the viewer through the photograph, never trapping or leading into the corners.


my leading linesJames Neeley’s photo used the lines to allow the eye to travel through the landscape, I followed his example to a degree in that I looked for lines in the landscape that were strong visually, but instead attempted to allow the lines to draw the eye to a spot in the distance.

Depth of Field

depth of field

In this simple shot of the wheat, a single tare is in sharp focus while the rest of the image falls into a fuzzy background to which is enough contrast to create a visually interesting image.

20170513_145246my depth of field

Lucky for me, it is springtime and the flowers in bloom on trees provide an easy reference for depth of field photography. I was careful to make sure that the flowers remained in focus and that everything else fell out of focus and into the background.


As I said before, photography is definitely an art. Following these principles certainly help a photograph become much more compositionally sound than just an ordinary snapshot, but there are other elements that take the photo to the next level of becoming extraordinary. Photography doesn’t come easily to me, but I understand the principles and with them, occasionally I get lucky!

Design Analysis: Typography


Contrast in Typography

Minneapolis-based Fallon created these outdoor boards for Chicago-based Nuveen Investments to promote its sponsorship of the baseball team. The work celebrates the deep loyalty, tradition and mystique that exists between the team and its fans. The boards are located inside Wrigley Field around the luxury boxes.

Fallon is a “fully-integrated creative, media and production agency, headquartered in Minneapolis with offices around the globe.” according to their website. They employ over 115 creatives between 5 locations. This Cubs ad is one of seven billboard ads commissioned by Nuveen. I found the ad on the Communication Arts gallery in advertising. www.commarts.com/gallery

Headline Typeface

design analysis - type sansThis all caps, sans serif font is easily identified because there are no serifs attached to the ends of each letter. In fact, this font has so many characteristics apart from just sans, that it might even be considered decorative, owing a lot to the blocky geometry of each letter. Nonetheless, it functions as a sans serif typeface.

Script Typeface

design analysis - type script

The second typeface used is a script. The connected, fluid, cursive style of this type qualifies it to be a script, and it clearly contrasts the block style of the sans serif.

The two typefaces working together creates an interesting composition that is engaging. Because the types are so different, it causes a viewer to pause and read what is written in order to understand. It is both elegant and bold, sophisticated and athletic, as well as optimistic, which is an effect that Cubs fans hold tightly to!

Print Ad Design Analysis

Well executed design is all about using the principles wisely and effectively . This ad by Volkswagen illustrates each of the design principles subtly and with great success.














Volkswagen analysis - alignment










The ad uses a clever alignment trick with the strong diagonal line of each item. If the items were scattered randomly throughout the ad, there would be no connection to parking that the marketers are implying. The words on the page are aligned with a strong right alignment which mimics the same diagonal line mentioned previously. Finally, the Volkswagen logo, and the text line up perfectly with the bottom of the diagonal, giving the image implied margins and a road map for attention in the order it is intended.


Volkswagen analysis - contrast










The area of highest contrast always becomes the focal point in an image. Here, the porcupine is the area of greatest contrast in texture, size, and grouping. We can clearly see which of these is not like the other! Volkswagen also cleverly included their logo with a dash of color contrast, blue is found no where else in the ad, and it is a complement to the fish in an otherwise neutral environment.


Volkswagen analysis - proximity










In this case, the items that belong together (in spite of their contrast within the group) are placed near each other. The line of objects are mimicking a line of vehicles, and their close relationship to each other are effectively communicating that visually. The text on the ad are also grouped closely together to give unity to their message, and if that isn’t enough, this text is also grouped with the logo.


Volkswagen analysis- repetition










The repetition of the orange fish works elegantly to create the needed repetition in this ad. These little fish and the bags that contain them are the only repetition found in the image. It is enough to give the ad the needed element of this last principle. Imagine if each bag contained a different kind and color of fish! The ad would be completely lacking in repetition and fail to be an effective example of good design.

When each design principle is included, the strongest results occur. A little wit never hurt anything, either, but this ad would not visually communicate effectively if it were lacking in any one of the principles. Identifying them and learning them is great practice for remembering to use them in my own design.


Family Meeting Question


I would be lying if I said I hadn’t wondered this question before. In fact, I am actually a little afraid of the answers that the question might produce. I wonder how my kids would react to this thought, or if it might plant a seed of consideration in their heads?

In our house, we are nothing if not passionate. We love with passion and we fight with passion. It’s not always a good thing. I think we will have a little experiment with this question…

Please stand by…