Posted 08.28.2010

Posted 08.28.2010

How to document a freelance project

Some of my most popular posts are on how I handle freelance clients

You seem to enjoy reading about it or at least you’re willing to click on the link….so I thought I’d share a little more.

I’ve already shared about the folder of templates I have set up on Dropbox. I also keep all my documentation in Google Docs. Anytime, I get a new client or project, I will duplicate the Google Spreadsheet for them.

Why Google Docs?

I like being able to access it anywhere: on my phone, on my computer at work, at home, etc. I could even share it with a client if neceessary. (Share > Publish as a web page)

Each spreadsheet has five sheets that way I can keep everything together in one file.

1 – Production Notes

Google Docs - Overview

This is the project overview.

  • name of the project
  • due date
  • directory I save it on, on my computer
  • contact information
  • where the proposal document is
  • where the sitemap is
  • the current site URL
  • the approved comp file name
  • where the production files are
  • where the content is
  • any miscellaneous information
  • where the templates are saved
  • the color palatte – either an image file and / or actual hexadecimal values
  • fonts I’m using
  • username and passwords for FTP, Database, Site Admin (if I’m using WordPress or Expression Engine), Google Apps information

The username and password information is the most valuable section.

I know some of this information seems obvious if I keep my file structure and naming conventions the same for every project. But, it’s invaluable if I have to hand the project off to someone else or if I have multiple revisions of the same file. Which is the most recent? which one got approved?

2 – Time Sheet

Google Docs - Time Sheet

This sheet is the one that I visit the most. As soon as I sit down to work on a project, I will record the date and the start time. When I’m ready to move onto someone else, I record the end time, what I was able to accomplish, and the amount of hours I spent on the project.

Believe it or not, I’ve had clients question the amount of time a project took. I was able to pull up my time sheet and explain how every hour was spent. It makes a difference when you’re able to provide documentation!

3 – Estimate

Google Docs - Estimate

If I’m doing a site build, this sheet gets visited up front. I try and break down the project by items. One of my problems is I like to operate out of what I would like to accomplish versus what is realistically possible. This sheet helps me. I can say, “Oh that project will take 10 hours,” but if I start breaking it down by task, I quickly realize that my estimate may double: develop assets, design the comp, slice and dice, set up the CMS, hook it up to the CMS… you get the point.

The most helpful line on this document is near the end: 10 – 20% contingency allowance. A lot of times I underestimate the amount of time it will take. This section has saved me. Other times, I’ve been right on. When I only bill for the amount of hours actually spent, this section makes them happy because it looks like I’ve saved them a buck or two. Under promise. Over deliver.

4 – Expenses

Google Docs - Expenses

This sheet is self explanatory. Here, I track anything I purchase for the project, an expression engine license, stock photography, fonts, etc. I want to make sure that I foot the bill to the client.

5 – Meeting Notes

Google Docs - Meeting Notes

On this sheet I track any meetings and / or conversations I’ve had with the client. This helps when I’m trying to rmemeber what and when something was said. I include:

  • meeting notes
  • thoughts
  • action points
  • attendees
  • location
  • duration
  • attachments

The thoughts section is good. It allows me to reflect on the meeting, either things that I said or did, things the client mentioned that I may need to consider down the road, etc.

Action points makes sure that I have a record of what I said I would do and what the client said they would do. A meeting is a waste of time unless an action point comes out of it.

If any files were exchanged during the meeting, I’ll list them under attachments.

Honestly, some project I’m more diligent about recording these things than others. I’ve found, though, that the more I document, the more smoothly the project goes, the less trouble.

Access it yourself.

I’d like to share my document with you. Do with it what you will.

Posted 08.10.2010

Designing the CentriKid Camper Devotional Book

Now that the summer is over, I’ve enjoyed sharing some of the things I’ve been working on throughout the year, such as the CentriKid staff photo, the CentriKid set, and the Bon Appetit theme logo and art direction.

Well, add the CentriKid camper devotional book to that list.

Like the set, I drew everything first in my moleskine, scanned it in, and then traced it on the computer, in Illustrator. I did this for a couple of reasons. First, I’m not as good at freehanding it on the computer. Second, (and more important) when you create things on the computer, they tend to look perfect, exact. Take a straight line, for example. I can draw the straightest line you’ve ever seen on the computer. Click and drag. Cake. Give me a pen (no ruler), I’ll draw a “straight” line. It will have waves. I couldn’t draw a truly straight line if my life depended on it. —part of the kid art direction this year celebrated those waves. It embraaced the jagged edges and crooked angles. It was easier for me to keep the integrity of those lines if I drew it by hand first.

Moleskine Drawings

I did a lot of visual research for this project. First off, if you’re not a graphic designer, you may giggle at the term “visual research.” I know when we throw it around at work, people snicker because it sounds like a fluff task, an excuse to play around online, but there is so much value there. When I went to a design conference at the beginning of June one of the things they talked about was your art collection, images of things (or the actual objects themseves) that inspired you, challenged you, things you admired. A big chunk of graphic design is being able to make connections with things that you’ve already seen.

So I googled pictures of chefs, trying to think of new poses I could put the characters in. See the sprinkling in the bottom left picture, look familar? Look at the drawing included above

Chefs Collage

I also spent a lot of time going through Flickr. There are several collections there where users have uploaded pictures of vintage cookbooks. — These proved invaluable.

Vintage Cookbooks

Vintage Cookbooks

The first thing I designed was the cover. It actually went through several variations before we finally landed on the one that went to print.

This one was never finalized. You can tell, I’m struggling with spacing with the logo and title of the book.

I made headway here, by moving the logo to the top. But, I’m still struggling with spacing with this cover.

This one is getting close. I haven’t added the circle around the logo and the CentriKid logo is at the bottom on the back cover.

Here’s the final.—Definitely the strongest option. It’s all part of the process.

Then, I began to lay out the copy. —and there was a ton of copy! That’s the thing about working for a publishing company, they their love copy.

In some cases, I could pull from the library of characters I had already created and design the page layouts with them in place. But, on other pages, I added the characters last. I printed out what I had already designed and overlaid tracing paper and drew the characters on the tracing paper to see if I could get the positioning and spacing right.

The thing that I loved about this project was I was able to interject some of my personality and hide some easter eggs.

When I was working on the copyright page, I was trying to figure out what to write. I couldn’t delete that page, we had to have it. So, I included “boring copyright information, the lawyers made us” — which is so true!

For the memory card cutouts page, I put “cut along the jagged line.” When, I was creating it, I thought “this sure is a jagged line more than a dotted line.” —So I used that.

Cut Along the Jagged Line

A clean kitchen is a happy kitchen? Anyone?

A Clean Kitchen

The last few pages were reserved for notes. When, I was creating it, I thought, “How many kids are actually going to take notes? They will draw all over these pages.” So, I wrote “Notes or Doodles.” *Plus, I got to draw a pie in the face

If you look carefully in the bowl of alphabet soup, I hid my name. grin

Amy in Alphabet Soup

I’ve already started working on next year’s theme, Shipwreck Island. In fact, yesterday, we finalized the logo. It should be a fun project too.


Posted 08.08.2010

Posted 08.08.2010

Developing the CentriKid, Bon Appetit Art Direction


A year ago, last spring, Darrel (Creative Director) and I sat down to brainstorm the Kid art direction. We had already decided on a cooking motif, titled “Bon Appetit.” (For you CentriKid Trivia lovers out there, for a while it was going to be “Taste and See.” “Dig In” was another option, but we finally went with “Bon Appetit”).

Darrel had found an artist named Derek Yaniger that had a very distinct style.

Derek Yaniger

This style is not unique to Derek, though. Jim Flora was an artist (1914-1998) known for his jazz and classical album covers. He also did children’s books and illustrated for magazines.

Jim Flora

You can see the same feel in the Monsters, Inc title sequence.

Monsters Inc Title Sequence

We decided to stay within that same flavor (no pun intended).

Can I do it?

I was one of those weird kids that always knew that I wanted to be an artist. Hey, I spent all my birthday money when I turned 10 on Disney’s Art of Animation, from Mickey Mouse to Beauty and the Beast. I would judge babysitters on their artistic ability. My favorite ones would sit and draw with me. My mom talked about how you could always entertain me at a resteraunt by giving me a pen and a piece of paper.

I believe that when God created us, he placed a part of himself in everyone. “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26) It’s the Imago Deo. We each have a diffrent piece and it’s only when everyone gets together that we should look even more like Him. My piece? I’m a creator, a builder. One of my favorite stories in the Bible is the creation story. Creating something out of nothing. But, it doesn’t end there. The entire Bible, our lives even, are all stories of God molding us and making us. The book of Isaiah talks about the potter and the clay. Jesus was a carpenter. Priscilla and Aquala, tent makers.

Can I do it? I think that’s every creative’s secret fear. Can I do it? Will my last idea be just that, my last idea. For me, it’s that insecurity, that “thorn” that forces me to literally pray everyday for inspiration, to ask the author of the universe to inspire me, grant me the ability to create something today.

I fear the well will one day run dry, but look at Jesus’ encounter with the woman at the well in John 4. “…whoever drinks the water I gve him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

So, like the boy with only five loaves and two fish, I ask God to multiply my efforts to the point where I have basketfuls left over.

The pieces that I work on that people enjoy and appreciate the most are the ones that I’ve prayed over the most. That’s not a coincidence.

So, just like any other project, I asked myself “Can I do this?” I wouldn’t categorize myself as an Illustrator. We were curious if we would need to hire a freelancer. I began to do some tests.

The blue lady was the first thing I drew. She actually made it to the Camper Devotional book, but I flipped her in the final piece.

The chef was my next attempt. He never made it.

The third and final charaacter test I did was a food critic. This character also made it into the camper devotional book, except in blue and sans wine bottle. grin


Last fall, I designed the CentriKid website. When we had designed the logo, a year ago, last spring, we determined our main color would be orange. When, I designed the site, Darrel and I decided that each section would have a different background color. I developed the other 3 colors based on the orange. —For the non graphic designers out there, that means that I needed to find colors that would compliment the orange. No clashing here!

CentriKid Color Palatte

Since we were really trying to reinforce the new CentriKid look, we decided to use the same colors with the theme. —And actually, we’re planning on allowing these colors to make another appearance next year with Shipwreck Island.


For the logo, I always knew I wanted the type to be in a script.

Logo Inspiration

I began looking at different fonts online and hand letting different options.

I ended up pulling some of my favorite letters together and creating what eventually became Bon Appetit.

Final Bon Appetit Script

Then, it became the issue of adding the character. I started drawing different options. This was the first one.

But, we decided the man made the overall shape too tall. The work did not go wasted, though. He made an appearance inside the camper devotional book.

Tall Blue Man

The next option was the one that we finally landed on. I think it’s a good case in point: never go with your first idea unless you’ve explored several other options. Nine times out of ten, your next idea will be better than the first.