College and University T-shirt Design Competition

graphic design competition at vote for art

Voteforart is a new site that is a bit like Threadless but for University and College Apparel. Anyone can enter the design competitions to create a t-shirt design targeted at specific colleges/universities. The winning t-shirt designer will get a cash prize and their design will printed on t-shirts and sold in the University Book Store. For example one of the current design competitions is shown below:

The University Of Maryland is looking for a cool, never-before-seen design for their basketball fans, and you’re gonna give it to them!  Whether you’re a fan or not, blow the Terps away with your creativity and originality for a chance to see your winning design in the “Maryland Book Exchange” and earn $500 cash. All artists no matter where they are from and what school they go to can submit designs into the contest.

I asked Jeremy Parker, president of VoteforArt a few Questions about his new business

How did you come up with the idea for the T-shirt Design Competitions?

I came up with the idea while at the university of Maryland bookstore. I didn’t see any designs that I liked.  I felt that if given the opportunity, artists from all over the world would create a lot more creative designs. I also felt this could be a way for unknown artists to break into an industry and get their work seen by thousands of people and make money in the process.

I thought that Universities and Colleges already had their own mascots and logos, how creative can artists and designers be?

Universities have there own marks and logos but our design contests allow artists to retouch logos (color, position) and create intricate designs around the already established school logos.

Do the Winning Artists and Designers also get a royalty on their designs in addition to the cash prize?

For specified contests, artists also earn a percentage of sales that take place through our online store (2% of online sales).

Find out more at

Overcoming Design Rejection

Whether you are a student designer just learning graphic design, a graphic designer looking for design employment or if you have just set up as a freelance designer you may experience design rejections at one time or the other.

For those new designers just looking for their first job in the design industry I should imagine its a pretty tough time at the moment, it has always been difficult to get that first elusive design job but during a recession it will be even worse.

I thought I would share some of my previous design rejections just to show that you should not listen to bad comments people make about you or your design work. If it is constructive work on it, but there will always be another person who thinks that same design is great, that’s the subjective nature of graphic design.

I may have shared a few of these in the past but here goes –

At School

The lows

I was always good at art at school and after A levels my art teacher told me I would easily get into a course at my local college to do a One Year Foundation Course in Art. So I went to the interview, and they said my work was not diverse and developed enough, so they would only offer me a 2 year General Art and Design Course. I was gutted – at 18 years old an extra year of study is a long time, I had deliberately stayed on and done my A Levels in order to go on to that course.

The highs

So I did the 2 year General Art and Design course and while I was there realised I was as good as a lot of the people on the Foundation Course. I got offered both of my first choices for a Degree or HND in graphic design after this course too.

Back in Design College

The lows

It was getting near the end of my graphic design college course so I started aplying for jobs. I think it was actually one of my tutors that set me up on an interview with a graphic design company in Leicester. So I got to the interview they looked through my college portfolio and pretty much told me I was rubbish and  – they really did say this – If I was lucky I might get a job in a print company! (no offence to anyone that does – back then design in print companies was pretty basic). So much for encouragement.

The highs

Many year later I went to another design company in Leicester. It was going really well and they were interested, then they asked if I could leave my portfolio to show one of the other directors who wasn’t there. I asked if I could see their work – the work wasn’t good so I had to tell them that I didn’t want to leave my portfolio with them as I didn’t think the job was suitable.

Applying for My First Graphic Design Job

The lows

I remember creating a bizarre pop up curriculum vitae of my head to try and get my self noticed (not sure if it would have been for the right reasons 🙂 ), they took a long time to put together too. I must have sent out about 100 of them and got loads of rejection letters back and only 1 or 2 interviews where I didn’t get the job. There were very few design jobs about at the time especially for new designers.

The highs

Getting my first job a position in the college marketing department designing the marketing materials. I remember getting told they chose me as I was so enthusiastic. So remember it’s not just your work that counts but how you come across as a person and if you will fit in with the team. Once you have your first job its much easier to move on to a better one once you have some real design work experience.


The lows

Getting a harsh telling off from a previous design boss years ago for how I had managed a project. My problem being with it that the account manager was so lazy that he would hand the job over in a complete mess that was impossible to work out and then he would not want to get involved. I put in writing to him what I needed from the account handler to be able to handle the job efficiently.

The highs

My old boss having to handle the same job when I was on holiday and realising and admitting what a complete shambles it was.

The lows

One of my clients a design and print company (that I do some work for) referred a client to me for a logo design. I thought it was a little strange as they would normally take it and give me the work through them (ie taking their cut). I met with client, who hadn’t filled in my logo design questionnaire (she told me she hadn’t had time) so I tried to go through it with her. What she was saying seemed to go against what she was showing me – ie. he scribble of one possible angle she was thinking of. Alarm bells were ringing but I thought I would give it a go. I did the initial concepts and she didn’t like any of them, to her credit she offered to pay for the work to date but I declined, suggesting she should think more about what she wanted before hiring another designer.

The highs

Ok, well its not quite a high, but whenever you do a job like that and the cleint doesn’t like it you wonder, did I do a bad job. My mind was put at ease when I went out for a drink with one of the girls who worked for the company who referred her to me. She said oh, that womans a complete nighmare she is never happy with anything, we have done work for her in the past. Since then I have also had great comments from other clients about my logo designs –

Cut and pasted from a client email

“Wow!  I’m seriously impressed! They look fantastic – exactly what I hoped for and better than what I expected.”

I have had some knock backs but now make a good living working from home as a freelance designer wth nearly 20 years (yikes) experience behind me – so what did those people know anyway! Don’t take the critisism to heart, work on anything you feel is right about these peoples opinions and ignore the others.

What have been your highs and lows in your graphic design career?

How do you Choose a Graphic Design School?

I have received a few emails recently from people asking me for advice on choosing a graphic design school/university. It’s a long time since I was at design college and so I thought I would throw the question open to you to see if any one else can help.

  • What made you choose the Design College or University you went to?
  • What did you like dislike about the course?
  • Are there any specific design schools/universities you would recommend?
  • What specific things/subjects would you look for in a design school/university?

I actually went back to my old college to look at the end of the year design show and was shocked by what seemed to be a lack of web design examples everything still seemed focussed on design for print when I would have thought this was a key area that should have been pushed. A lot of the students didn’t even appear to have online portfolios. I think if I was going to college now I would make sure that web and multimedia were a key part of the course as well as design for print.
has a series of links to articles about choosing a design school which you may find useful.

Creating your Portfolio of Graphic Design Work

Although you can have an online portfolio, a graphic designer who does print work still needs a physical portfolio. The way I have produced a portfolio has changed a lot of the years and the size of my portfolio has shrunk from A1 straight out of college (which was a nightmare to carry round) to the A3 size it is now.

My earlier portfolios all contained printed work which was painstakingly spray mounted onto black mount board or card and laid out in a way to try and display my work to its full potential. Heather at has a great tutorial if you are looking to create a portfolio using this method.

My next portfolios went much more digital and I would create eps my brochures (from quark) and pull them into photoshop on an A3 page. I would then take elements of the brochure that I was showing such as logos etc and use them as faded watermarks/shapes in the background in effect creating a design of the entire A3 page with the design work as the focal point.

graphic design portfolio

My later portfolio pages of graphic design work including the one I have now are much simpler. I create pdfs in quark of my brochure (or other design project) pages then pull them back into A3 Quark documents with my logo at the top of the page. I put simple keylines around the work and hope that the design work speaks for itself without the need for further embellishment. I also make all the work of the same orientation to save keep turning the portfolio round when talking through the work. I put the pages in plastic sleeves and put them in an A3 black ringbinder portfolio. As the work is often reduced in size to fit on the A3 pages I tuck a few finished print examples of a few pieces of work in the pocket at the back of the portfolio.

graphic design portfolio

How do you display your work in your portfolio?

For more tips on creating graphic design portfolios see:

Design For Print Check List

Lauren over at Creative Curio suggested a print checklist would be a good idea for a post, so here are my suggestions on setting up a graphic design job for print.

When you are designing a job that needs to be printed there are certain things that need to be remembered and checked.


print check list1. Make sure all images are 300dpi at actual size and saved as a tiff or eps
Note: if you blow a raster (Photoshop) image up in your layout programme (Quark/Indesign) you are in effect lowering the image resolution. Vector (Illustrator) files are resolution independent, which means they can be blown up without image quality deterioration.

2. Make sure images are set to CMYK
Note: CMYK stands for cyan, magenta, yellow and black, the colours the printer will use to create the print. Small dots of these colours will make all the different colours in the printed document eg. small dots of yellow and cyan will look like green.

3. Allow Bleed on a document – usually 3mm unless otherwise stated
Note: Bleed is an amount of image/colour etc that reaches out past the trim lines. This allows for print movement and slight inaccuracies, so if the guillotine moves slightly you won’t have a white edge for instance where there should have been blue.

4. Convert illustrator eps text to outlines
Note: Before you send a job to print if you are using an illustrator eps with text within it convert the text to outline. This prevents any font issues from the embedded font. make sure you save yourself a copy of the files without the text turned to outline in case you ever need to amend it.

5. Check your document only contains only the 4 colours CMYK.
Note: Make sure if you do have any spot colours that they are specified to split into 4 colour process.

6. Add a percentage of a colour to large areas of solid black

Note: If you have a design that uses large areas of solid black it is a good idea to add a percentage of another of the process colours to it to give more density. For example if I am doing a job with a large area of black I would perhaps create a new colour called special black with 100% black and 50% cyan (make sure it is set to split to process colours). This is often known as a shiner. You do have to be careful using this technique if you are using small text on the black, as any slip in the colours could mean that your white out text, ends up cyan. If in doubt it’s best to take advice from your printer on this.


1. Make sure all images are 300dpi at actual size

2. Make sure images are set to duotones (or you can use monotones of one of the colours)
Note: If you are using duotones (images made up of two colours) make sure you have named your two colours the same in photoshop as you have in Quark or Indesign. Any slight differences will mean your document will output to more than one plate. For example if you have chosen pantone 144cvc as one of the colours in your duotone, but then choose pantone 144cv (no c at the end) you are in fact creating an extra plate.

3. Allow Bleed on a document – usually 3mm unless otherwise stated

4. Convert illustrator eps text to outlines
Note: As mentioned in point 2 also make sure you have named colours the same throughout your files.

5. Check your document only contains the 2 colours you need and they are set up as spot colours
Note: (you won’t be able to get rid of the CMYK colours but in Quark can remove the default RGB blue green and red)


1. Create your cutter guide in illustrator and colour the stroke a SPOT colour, I usually name this Cutter. in illustrator specify in WINDOW – ATTRIBUTES overprint stroke (checkbox).

2. If you are pulling your cutter guide (as above) into quark – go into EDIT COLOURS – EDIT TRAP and set your cutter colour to overprint. This makes sure the cutter doesn’t interfere (knock out) with any of the print work below it.


In general I leave quarks trapping to its defaults, except in the case of cutter guide as mentioned above or if I am working on a 2 colour job where I have text in one colour going over a pale tint of the other, when I will specify the text to overprint. Otherwise you get a spreading effect. If in doubt ask the printer to check the trapping for you.


Whenever I am designing a document – unless I am just a concept stage I will ensure my images are all CMYK and 300 dpi and I have include 3mm bleed as I go along. Once I get the go ahead to send the artwork I will however do a final check. I use Quark so I will double check:

  • I have include bleed wherever needed
  • That all my colours are set to 4 colour process (for a 4 colour job) and I remove the default RGB Red Blue and Green colours in the Quark palette.
  • Then I do a collect for output and open up all of my photoshop images to check they are CMYK and 300dpi and open up my illustrator images check them and convert any text to outlines
  • If possible send a printout or PDF to the printer so the files can be checked against it. If you are using any spot colours make sure these are specified to the printer.

There are programs such as Flightcheck that will check your print is set up correctly – in terms of colour splits and images, but this is quite expensive.

If you are looking for more information on setting up design for print has some good advice.

David Airey Graphic Design also has some good advice on on things you should consider before printing.

If there is are any suggestions or methods you use to check your design before it goes to print, please feel free to add them to the comments below.

Flexible Online Portfolio for Designers and Photographers


I have recently been reading about a website called format pixel.

formatpixel is an online application which allows you to create ‘page’ based presentations; anything from magazines to fanzines, brochures to catalogues and even portfolios”

The basic idea is that users can upload images and display them, but the thing that seems to separate this site from others is that it offers you the ability to literally layout pages and edit images – in a sort of stripped down Quark/Photoshop sort of way. Looking at the screen shots it looks like it could be an interesting application. It looks ideal for a designer/student or photographer who wants to create a quick online portfolio of their work. It allows you to embed both moving images (including youtube) and static ones.

It’s free for one project and then from £15 to £40 year depending on the amount of projects and space you require.

Features as listed on the website include:


  • Insert pages
  • Use the Spread Planner to arrange the order of, add and delete pages
  • Layer objects on your pages in front of and behind one another
  • Apply colour to your pages
  • Apply background colours to your project
  • Utilise the snap-to-grid functions and alignment helpers
  • Upload your own images with the built in image library
  • Export Projects to your desktop**
    Embed projects in your own HTML pages or Blogs

Text objects

  • Change font face
  • Change font colour
  • Change font style [ normal, bold, italic ]
  • Change font alignment [ left, centered or right justified ]
  • Change the background colour
  • Add drop shadow
  • Change the kerning [ spacing between letters ]
  • Change the leading [ spacing between lines ]
  • Add links to other pages, sites or email addresses

Media objects

  • Import your own JPG, GIF or PNG [ including support for transparency ] files
  • Import FLV Video files
  • NEW Link to YouTube Videos
  • Create your own formatpixel image library
  • Edit the names of your images or delete them
  • Crop your images
  • Add blending modes to images
  • Apply colour filters [ normal, greyscale or sepia ]
  • Apply a customisable blur effect
  • Scale object

Shape objects

  • Change shape
  • Change shapes colour
  • Add blending modes to your shapes
  • Add links to other pages, sites or email addresses