365 Ways to Improve Your Graphic Design Skills

Graphic Design Rules / Princeton Architectural Press

While being cooped up at home, now may be a good time to hone your graphic design skills. For landscape architects and designers, urban planners, and architects who present work to the public or private clients, the fully revised Graphic Design Rules: 365 Essential Dos and Don’ts offers common sense design suggestions and up-to-date Photoshop tips that will improve your work. The book is written for those just getting started as a designer and expert communicators who want to refresh their approach.

Created by Sean Adams, chair of graphic design at ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California; Peter Dawson, a typographical designer; John Foster, principal of the design firm Bad People Good Things; and Tony Seddon, a freelance designer and writer, Graphic Design Rules brings together different voices united in the goal of “assisting the designer with issues of craft through rules, suggestions, and methods.”

Adams, an American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) medalist, argues in the introduction that “the best thing about rules is that they often work best when broken.” We wouldn’t enjoy the well-spring of visual innovation — new fonts, layouts, or color schemes — if no one broke the rules. The trick is “when to follow the rules and when to ignore them.”

Graphic Design Rules is organized into sections on type and typography, layout and design, color, imagery and graphics, production and print, and then a final section on the practice of design. Each tip is on one to two pages and features a bright green signal indicating “Go for it,” and a red stop sign that signals “this should be avoided at all costs.”

Readers of the section on type and typography will learn never to use Comic Sans unless ironically. Times New Roman is boring but has its purpose. Zapf Dingbats should stay out of your designs. And the classic typefaces — Garamond, Helvetica, Futura — are classics for a reason.

Graphic Design Rules / Princeton Architectural Press

The authors encourage you to nerd out and study typographical classifications. This kind of guidance is balanced with extremely practical advice like: “Don’t use any more typefaces in one layout than is absolutely necessary.”

Graphic Design Rules / Princeton Architectural Press

The layout and design section delves into rules for organizing information that can apply to everything from a one-page PDF to a brochure, advertisement, webpage, or poster. Here, the authors exhort their readers to use a grid to maintain a layout’s structure, but also break out of the grid if the layout prescribes it. A few essential tips: “Do create a focal point for every layout” and “Do establish a visual hierarchy that leads to the most important information.” Creating layouts or designs in Microsoft or PowerPoint is verboten; learn and use design software.

Graphic Design Rules / Princeton Architectural Press

Beginners will perhaps learn the most from the color section, which explains how colors are made — either from light or pigment — and how to work with them with tools like Photoshop. The authors get you to think critically about hue, saturation, and value (or brightness) and how they impacts designs. You can delve into the technical details of color spaces; how to synchronize your color settings across Photoshop applications, which is crucial for consistency; and the differences between RGB and CMYK.

Graphic Design Rules / Princeton Architectural Press
Graphic Design Rules / Princeton Architectural Press

Some important Dos: Colors need to have a reason for being; don’t just a select a color because you like it. It’s important to ask your client about color preferences, too. One brilliant suggestion is to look at the colors that surrounds you in the environment for color inspiration. “They will always remain in harmony and be unique to your experience.”

In imagery and graphics, you will learn why it’s important to avoid stock images, but to check stock image sites anyway because sometimes the perfect one could be hidden away on page 8 of a search result. The book suggests designers explore technical issues like file types and bit depth. There are tons of recommendations for how to crop, edit, and format images in Photoshop. “Do always apply some sharpening to digital images.” And they lay down the law with a recommendation like: “Don’t use Photoshop filters to disguise a low-quality image.”

Graphic Design Rules / Princeton Architectural Press

A later chapter may only be of interest to those who are trying to faithfully present their designs in print format and want to get into the nitty-gritty of printing. And the practice of design explains how to stay true to yourself as a designer while doing your best for your client. One important tip: “Don’t present mood boards unless specifically asked – and even then.”

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (May 1-15)

Field Day campers / Jonathon Geels

A Virtual Landscape Architecture Camp Introduces Girls to Careers They Didn’t Even Know Existed — 05/13/20, Next City
“The eight-week camp covers key concepts in landscape architecture, from the meaning of ‘place’ to interpreting information about the environment, understanding the ways that different people use spaces, and the early stages of the design process.”

How the Virus May Change Your Next Home — 05/12/20, The New York Times
“After spending so much time indoors, having access to fresh air and nature at home is likely to become a priority.”

BIM in Landscape Architecture: Scenarios, Possibilities and Breakthroughs 05/11/20, ArchDaily
“For professional landscape designers, a greater effort is needed to understand how to behave within this new universe of intelligent modeling and how to contribute, through landscape architecture projects, to the multidisciplinarity that BIM brings.”

Architect of Sweden’s No-lockdown Strategy Insists It Will Pay Off – 05/07/20, The Financial Times
“Anders Tegnell, Sweden’s state epidemiologist who devised the no-lockdown approach, estimated that 40 per cent of people in the capital, Stockholm, would be immune to Covid-19 by the end of May, giving the country an advantage against a virus that ‘we’re going to have to live with for a very long time.'”

A Schoolyard Fence Proposal for Greenwich Village Raises Questions about Creeping Privatization — 05/05/20, The Architect’s Newspaper
“To screen or not to screen? That was the question before New York’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) on April 28, when panel members reviewed a seemingly innocuous proposal to permanently alter a chain-link fence surrounding a schoolyard in Greenwich Village.”

How Life in Our Cities Will Look After the Coronavirus Pandemic — 05/03/20, Foreign Policy
“The pandemic is transforming urban life. We asked 12 leading global experts in urban planning, policy, history, and health for their predictions.”

Are We Ready to Restore the Planet?

Ancient Norse farms in southwest Greenland / David Moreno-Mateos

The United Nations has declared the next 10 years the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. This builds on the European Union’s recent commitments to biodiversity protection, including the restoration of 15 percent of its ecosystems. The New York Declaration on Forests — which is a result of the United Nation’s 2014 Climate Action Summit and has been endorsed by 200 governments and other groups — aims to restore 350 million hectares of forests by 2030. Another initiative is the 30 by 30 forests, food, and land challenge, which calls for reforestation on a global scale, also by 2030.

In a Zoom lecture sponsored by Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD), David Moreno-Mateos, a restoration ecologist and an assistant professor of landscape architecture at GSD, asked: “Are we ready to restore the planet?”

The trends on global biodiversity aren’t good. As humans degrade or destroy an increasingly large share of the Earth’s ecosystems, extinction rates have tripled in the past 100 years. “Vertebrate populations have declined 58 percent in the last 40 years,” Moreno-Mateos explained. Furthermore, local species richness has declined by 40 percent in most developed countries over the past 150 years.

Moreno-Mateos believes nature itself is a thing of great value. Nature provides an estimated $125 trillion of benefits in the form of food, water, medicine, and other resources through its ecosystems. Biodiversity is critical to ensuring the function and resilience of these ecosystems. To connect the dots: biodiversity is then central to clean air and water and the preservation of our food sources through seed banks, pollinators, and fisheries.

The challenge is that “ecosystem restoration is a long-term process.” In a review of scientific studies on some 3,000 restored ecosystems, research has shown that after 150 years, restored ecosystems are 70 percent less diverse and 40 percent less functional than undisturbed ecosystems.

Land-based ecosystems are made up of a diversity of animal, insect, fungi, and plant species, with specific carbon, soil, and water characteristics. There are specific levels of nutrients, including phosphorous, organic matter, and nitrogen. These elements all interact in particular ways. Given all the complexity, “ecosystem restoration has limited effectiveness.”

So this was perhaps the key message of Moreno-Mateos’ talk: the best approach is to not degrade incredibly complex ecosystems. There is still too much about their functions we don’t understand, and it’s nearly impossible to recreate their dense networks of interactions.

But if an ecosystem has been disturbed, Moreno-Mateos sought to find out: what happens over the long-term? What can be done?

Species diversity results in community composites. Think of a meadow, a community of plants that thrives together. There are interaction networks within those communities and between communities. A resilient meadow has a greater abundance of network interactions, with a higher number of “strong links” — “that is species that interact more strongly.” The same is true below ground. Amid soil communities, “the higher the complexity, the higher the functionality, and, likely, the resilience.”

For his own research, Moreno-Mateos started with the assumption that ecosystem degradation reduces genetic diversity. In southwest Greenland, Norse farmers settled two sites some 650 years ago. Archeologists discovered each village had about 100 people who farmed hay for cattle. To Moreno-Mateos, this seemed to be the perfect place to study the long-term impacts of ecological disturbance.

Examining an undisturbed site and a disturbed, former agricultural site, and looking at their above ground plant communities and below ground soil communities, Moreno-Mateos found “both sites had a similar amount of plant communities (35 species in the disturbed site and 34 in the reference site), but the compositions were totally different. In the disturbed site, one plant community dominated.” Moreno-Mateos also discovered the former agricultural sites had more nutrients because the Norse would add manure to the hay fields, which meant more nitrogen and phosphorous.

David Moreno-Mateos samples soils in Greenland / David Moreno-Mateos

There was another key finding: the original, undisturbed site had more “mutualistic interactions.” The degraded site had more “pathogenic interactions.” This fit his hypothesis: “loss of biodiversity means more pathogens” and loss of function and resilience.

This was proven through the very different network interactions between plants and fungi in the soils in each site. In the formerly agricultural landscape, there were 15 plant species and just 37 fungi species, creating 62 links. In contrast, in the ecologically-healthy, undisturbed site, there were 12 plants and 76 fungi that created 148 links. This means networks in disturbed sites are more vulnerable to change.

Moreno-Mateos’ research could have implications for global ecosystem restoration. He believes restoration ecologists must “first understand how the complexity of ecosystems re-assembles over hundreds of years, and then find species that play critical structural and functional roles in the assembly process and use them in the restoration process.”

To increase the resilience of restored ecosystems at a more rapid rate, Moreno-Mateos called for sequencing whole genomes of species in recovering populations to understand their adaptation potential. This process would help identify populations of target species whose genomes have the best chance to adapt to ongoing global change.

The idea is to select species with critical ecological roles that come from populations with the highest adaptation potential and strategically insert them into recovering ecosystems. This process would involve finding populations of species in a landscape with high-functioning genomes and using those seeds to help restore ecological balance elsewhere.

Moreno-Mateos envisioned designing assemblages of high-performing plant communities and targeting them for tough environments in cities or for recovering forests or other ecosystems at a landscape scale.

Adaptation modules / David Moreno-Mateos

“We need to imagine what landscapes will look like in 400 years.” Our future ecosystems must be “resilient to climate change, biodiverse, self-sustaining, provide ecological services, and last forever.”

APA and CNU Offer Virtual Conferences

NPC20 @ Home / APA

Our friends at the American Planning Association (APA) and Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) had to cancel their national conferences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. To support these vital organizations, you can attend their upcoming virtual conferences.

National Planning Conference (NPC20) @ Home
April 29 – May 1, 2020

APA is hosting a three-day digital conference in the spirit of their annual conference, which was to be in Houston.

According to APA, the virtual conference will offer a “concentrated offering of essential planning trends and topics, focusing on rebuilding community, planning in the digital era, and navigating the future of planning.” There will be more than 25 sessions and networking activities in real time. Sessions were curated from the NPC20 peer-reviewed program.

Registration is just $125, and $25 for students.

CNU Virtual Gathering / CNU

Congress for New Urbanism: A Virtual Gathering
June 10-13, 2020

CNU had to cancel their in-person conference scheduled for the Twin Cities in Minnesota in June. Instead, they will host a virtual conference that will offer 55-70 sessions.

The CNU states that “this online event will have many of the elements you would expect from our annual Congress: thought provoking sessions, live Q and A opportunities with speakers, social gatherings, art room sessions, plenaries, and pre-Congress events.” Most sessions will be LA CES approved.

Registration rates range from $300 to $600. There is also the option to attend just one session for $20 or a full day for $100-$200.

Landscape architects can also find many opportunities to learn at home through ASLA Online Learning and LA CES. ASLA members can earn 1 free PDH per month through ASLA Online Learning and receive discounts of 75 percent on all courses.

ASLA 2020 Conference on Landscape Architecture Call for Presentations

Miami Beach soundscape by West 8 / copyright Robin Hill

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) is now accepting proposals for the 2020 Conference on Landscape Architecture in Miami, Florida, October 2 – 5, 2020.

The ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture is the largest gathering of landscape architects and allied professionals in the world—all coming together to learn, celebrate, build relationships, and strengthen the bonds of our incredibly varied professional community.

We seek education proposals that will help to drive change in the field of landscape architecture and solve everyday challenges informed by research and practice.

Help us shape the 2020 education program by submitting a proposal through our online system by Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

More than 100 education sessions and field sessions will provide attendees with the opportunity to earn professional development hours under the Landscape Architecture Continuing Education System™ (LA CES™). Many of the sessions will also qualify for continuing education credit with the Green Building Certification Institute (toward SITES AP and LEED AP credential maintenance), the American Institute of Architects, the American Institute of Certified Planners, and other allied professional organizations and state registration boards.

Education session speakers selected from this process will receive a full complimentary registration to the 2020 Conference on Landscape Architecture.

To coordinate proposals and network with potential speakers, we encourage you to use the Call for Presentations Google group.

Please visit the submission site to learn more about criteria, the review process, and key dates.

Submit your session proposal today.

This post is by Katie Riddle, ASLA, director of professional practice at ASLA.

Using Tarot Cards to Understand the Spirit of Place

Fairy Hills of Scotland / Elizabeth Boults

“The idea that big data will be the generator of design in the future is very depressing,” said Elizabeth Boults, ASLA, a landscape architect and educator, at the ASLA 2019 Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego. She instead called for “alternative methods that incorporate a more spiritual perspective.”

With her husband Chip Sullivan, FASLA, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, who is a passionate proponent for honoring and designing with the unseen forces that shape landscapes, Boults outlined how one method that sounds a bit woolly at first — tarot cards — can actually be a thoughtful design tool for understanding the genus loci (spirit of place), which is so central to landscape architecture.

Boults believes that landscape architecture is a mix of art and science. Art relates to the “mysterious, non-linear, subjective” process of design, while science is about “rational structures, categories, and typologies.”

Beyond art and science though, there is also the spiritual aspect of landscapes. “Across cultures, people shape landscapes based on their beliefs.” Many cultures have had “gods and goddesses who are guardians of the spirit of places.” For example, Romans believed each home had a genius, who were honored through a shrine.

Roman shrine to the genius of the home / Household Gods by Alexandra Sofroniew

Prehistoric peoples were attuned to the “atmosphere, the flora, animal life, and geological formations; they listened to the trees, wind, and moon.” Boults wondered: “Are we still listening today?”

Enduring ancient beliefs are still alive and well in modern practices such as Feng Shui in China, Vastu Shastra in India, and landscape cosmologies among Native people and across many cultures. Within these cultural approaches to the landscape, it’s always important to “consult the genus loci of a place before starting a design process.”

Sullivan then steered the lecture towards the use of tarot cards, which he had previously “never paid attention to.” But then one day he began to wonder, “what are they about? When we have our cards read, what are we putting our value in?”

Examining historical and contemporary decks, he discovered they are “all about the landscape,” with their “Pre-Raphaelite imagery that compresses natural information.”

Antique Italian tarot card deck / Elizabeth Boults

During a studio project with his students to define core landscape design principles, he discovered what they were creating were essentially tarot cards, depicting sacred archetypal elements like the tree of life, the enchanted forest, the well. His students then began using the tarot decks in order to actively divine new designs; the result were “amazing.”

Like conventional decks, the genus loci tarot laid out core elements such as “the journey of the hero, the call to adventure, facing trials and tribulations, finding resolution, crossing the threshold, and achieving enlightenment.” Sullivan believes people are attracted to tarot cards because they depict life as a journey.

He also believes it’s no coincidence that tarot cards and mysticism are so popular in highly creative Silicon Valley, which is home to companies like Oracle (another sacred symbol).

In the last third of what was one of the most unusual and fun ASLA conference sessions ever, Sullivan and Boults offered glue, collage materials, watercolors, pens, and index cards so that attendees could create tarot cards depicting their own conception of genus loci.

Genus loci tarot card / Edith Drcar
Genus loci tarot card / Fred Ogram
Genus loci tarot card / Jessamyn Lett

Two attendees from different parts of the room realized they drew the nearly-exact figure of a wellspring, the source of life, showing that natural archetypes remain real in our disconnected digital world.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (August 16 – 31)

Boston City Hall renovation / Sasaki
Boston City Hall renovation / Sasaki

Sasaki Is Redesigning City Hall Plaza for the MassesBoston Magazine, 8/21/19
“The design firm’s Kate Tooke and Christine Dunn talk revamping Boston City Hall Plaza.”

A Santa Monica Backyard Is Remade for Outdoor EntertainingThe Los Angeles Times, 8/22/19
“Landscape architect Joseph Marek’s clients made do with their Santa Monica backyard for six years, but eventually they decided that previous owners’ “improvements” just didn’t fit their lifestyle.”

The Hoosier Gardener: Jensen Landscape Restoration Garners Landmarks’ Award The Indianapolis Star, 8/23/19
“Indiana Landmarks recently recognized one of Indianapolis’ most hidden treasures, the Jens Jensen-designed garden at Marian University.”

Landscape Architect Uses Video Game Development Software to Rethink Digital Landscapes The Star, 8/23/19
“The digital world of video games has changed over time thanks to architects and their expertise in spatial design and designing 3D environments. Digital model building are skillsets architects use every day, so who better to help design these digital worlds?”

The New Orleans Museum of Art Flaunts Its Waterside Sculpture Garden The Architect’s Newspaper, 8/26/19
“The Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden, which adjoins the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), reopened this summer after a major expansion.”

Philadelphia Galleries: Penn Celebrates Landscape Architect and Beloved Professor The Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/28/19
“Ian McHarg (1920-2001), the Scottish-born landscape architect, founder of the University of Pennsylvania’s landscape architecture department, and magnetic professor there is considered the dean of ecological land-use planning.”

Six Scholarships for Emerging Women Leaders to Attend the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture

San Diego Waterfront Park by Hargreaves Associates / iStockPhoto

A group of landscape architects raised $10,000 for scholarships that will cover the travel and hotel costs for six emerging women landscape architects to attend the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego, which will be held November 15-18. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) has covered the cost of registration for the six scholars, contributing nearly $5,000.

Thanks to the efforts of WxLA — which is led by landscape architects Cinda Gilliland, ASLA, Jamie Maslyn Larson, ASLA, Steven Spears, FASLA, Rebecca Leonard, ASLA, and Gina Ford, FASLA — and all its gracious donors, the cost of the conference for the six who win the scholarship will be completely covered.

According to the group, the purpose of the scholarship is “to aid in the professional development and success of young and emerging leaders in our profession.” Furthermore, the scholarship “intends to promote gender justice and help level the playing field for women in the profession. As such, preference will be given to female candidates, including non-binary and transgendered female candidates.”

The 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture offers more than 120 education sessions, which enables attendees to fulfill their professional development requirements, while networking with colleagues from all over the world.

The call for applications is now closed. Please contact Gina Ford to find out how to make a donation for the 2019 scholars.

WxLA requires scholarship winners to assist in the creation of a convening of women leaders across the profession, which will be done “in concert with and with the guidance of the WxLA team.”

Learn more at WxLA’s Instagram account about their Women’s Landscape Equity (re)Solution. And check out WxLA’s partner, the Vela Project, created by Samantha Solano, Associate ASLA, and TJ Marston, ASLA. They have produced a series of great infographics about gender equity in the field of landscape architecture.

ASLA leadership data / The Vela Project
ASLA Professional Awards and Honors data / The Vela Project

ASLA will acknowledge the scholarship winners at the 2019 ASLA Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego.

Landscape Architecture in the News Highlights (April 16 – 30)

Pier-35-3.jpg
Pier 35 on the East River waterfront / SHoP, Ken Smith Workshop

How Wildlife Bridges Over Highways Make Animals—And People—SaferNational Geographic, 4/16/19
“Bridges for bears and tunnels for tortoises have significantly reduced the number of wildlife-car collisions worldwide.”

Make America Graze AgainThe New York Times, 4/22/19
“Nashville’s Zach Richardson uses sustainable practices — and a flock of sheep — to clear overgrown landscapes.”

Design Center Unveils Land Bridge StudyNashville Post, 4/23/19
“There are many local urban place making experts and hobbyists alike who have often contended the single-greatest drawback to Nashville’s failure to maximize its most effective form and function is not limited to the city’s lack of comprehensive mass transit.”

Pier 35 Eco-Park and ‘Urban Beach’ Is Open to the Public6sqft, 4/23/19
“After years of anticipation, Pier 35 on the East River waterfront is officially open (h/t Curbed). The project, designed by SHoP with Ken Smith Workshop, consists of a new eco-park and an “urban beach” anchoring the northern flank of the East River waterfront esplanade and providing much-needed public space on the waterfront.”

Landscape Architect Pushes His Students to Serve Communities, Design For Greater Good The Daily Evergreen, 4/26/19
“Steve Austin, WSU Architecture professor and landscape architect, said he believes we need to hold open discussions on climate change.”

ASLA 2019 Communications Internship

ASLA 2018 Professional Research Honor Award. Urban Aquatic Health: Integrating New Technologies and Resilience into Floating Wetlands. Ayers Saint Gross

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) seeks a full-time summer communications intern. The intern will research and update ASLA’s sustainable design resource guides, create case studies on resilient design, and write weekly posts on landscape architecture and related topics for The Dirt blog.

Responsibilities:

• The internship is full-time Monday through Friday for 10 weeks, from June through August.
• The intern will research and update sustainable design resource guides.
• The intern will provide communications support for the Smart Policies for a Changing Climate project, including creating case studies on resilient landscape design.
• The intern will create original weekly content for The Dirt, covering projects, events, and new publications.
• The intern will also have the opportunity to attend educational and networking events at the National Building Museum, Harvard University’s Dumbarton Oaks, and other museums and think tanks in Washington, D.C.
• Other communications projects may come up as well.

Requirements:

• Current enrollment in a Master’s program in landscape architecture.
• Excellent writing skills. The intern must be able to write clearly for a general audience.
• Excellent photographic composition and editing skills.
• Proven research skills and ability to quickly evaluate the quality and relevance of resources.
• Excellent interpersonal skills and ability to interact graciously with busy staff members and outside experts.
• Working knowledge of Photoshop, WordPress, and Microsoft Office suite.

How to Apply:

Please send cover letter, CV, two writing samples (no more than 2 pages each) to jgreen@asla.org by end of day, Friday, March 29.

Phone interviews will be conducted with finalists the week of April 1 and selection will be made the following week.

The 10-week internship offers a $4,500 stipend. ASLA can also work with the interns to attain academic credit for the internship.

The internship is in-house located at the ASLA Center for Landscape Architecture, the national headquarters, which is conveniently located in downtown Washington, D.C., one block north of the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metro Station on the Red, Yellow, and Green Lines.