Graphic Design Project: Rough Draft

a collage of some of my best graphic design work displayed on a wood desk using gimp
Click to open full-size image in new tab. The wood desk background image was found CC0 (public domain).

Idea and Inspiration

For this project, I felt it was important to highlight the kinds of excellent graphical work that can be accomplished whether as a hobby, class work, or professional project. I spent some time coming up with ideas, like doing a video collection of past work with bullet points (sort of like a PowerPoint presentation converted to video), or a graphical resume, or perhaps an infographic. However, I decided on this modality because I felt that with a tight schedule I wouldn’t be able to get as involved as I would need to with the other ideas. Plus, the instructor’s described project scope didn’t include video, and I didn’t feel like pitching it to him.

This is an excellent lesson for students to learn: the balance between time management and exceeding expectations, and paying careful attention to instructions. I find that a lot of students don’t pay enough attention to instructor’s project description and wind up killing a lot of time doing something that isn’t desired. This is also a time management issue, since, even if you do choose to do a project within the original scope, you may try to do something a little too grandiose for the time available.

The lesson is to balance the priorities in such a way that you do the best work you can within the time and constraints you actually have. Don’t base your creative choices completely on what you would like to do, although sometimes it is helpful to push yourself just to accomplish a certain goal you may have. Knowing when to do that makes all the difference.


Design Process

Just as I believe these pieces of work are excellent examples—not only due to the A grades they earned but also because they communicate their messages well—I also felt a need to arrange them in such a composition that would express the excellence that can be achieved through diligent, hard work based on genuine creative principles.

First, I started by thinking of some ideas for the project. As I mentioned above, that started out as a video compilation that would showcase these works in a brief video, which I changed again to a graphical resume, then finally to a relatively simple digital composition. I’ve heard some people say it’s good to brainstorm lots of ideas quickly before judging between them to pick the right one, but I actually evaluated each idea as it came up. After changing my mind about the video, I researched examples of graphical resumes and decided against that also.

Then, with my project images and a free background image of a wooden desktop, I started thinking of what I would include and how I would lay it out. I didn’t actually have a very specific plan at first, but as I played around, a visual strategy started to emerge from what I was trying to include.

Based on the design principles we’ve learned in this class (which would be reiterations for most designers/artists), I saw the repetition of several elements as examples of similarity, continuation, and proximity (Gestalt theory; two overlapping safari designs on the left, three iPhones and multiple uses of my Tate app icon design, the alignment and sequence of the black circles in the billboard/bumper sticker design and the head of one of the stick figures, and the arrangement/intensity of blues in the composition for the purpose of unity and leading the eye).


Technical Details

To help explain the creative process of this project, I will list a few of the technical aspects involved. I used the following effects and techniques in the GIMP program to accomplish the result:

  • Finding the wooden background image using Google Image Search > Tools > Usage Rights > Labeled for reuse and modification > typing “wood desktop” and searching > after clicking on the preview and arriving at the image site, I double checked that the image was indeed free to use, and it was CC0 (a creative commons license), which makes the work free to use for any legal purpose because it was placed in the public domain
  • Changing the tint of the background using Color > Hue-Saturation in GIMP to give it the reddish color instead of its existing gray shade
  • Creating the title and subtitle using the Text tool > switching to Rockwell Bold for the title and switching to Yu Gothic Bold for the subtitle, with italics selected
  • Giving the title a carved effect using the Layer Effects plug-in for GIMP by going to Layer > Layer Effects > Inner Glow
  • Adding media with shading by clicking File > Open as Layers, then going to Layer > Layer Effects > Drop Shadow
  • Removing unwanted black border of my CMDC billboard/bumper sticker design by adding a white layer stroke, going to Layer > Layer Effects > Stroke
  • Adjusting blues, layer by layer in several of the pieces because of their clash with the overall red tone of the composition by clicking each layer then either changing saturation or hue in Colors > Hue-Saturation
  • Increasing contrast in the Tate App design background by first adding white to the background, then selecting all the white pixels of the background with the Fuzzy Select Tool (Magic Wand in Ps) and adding a gray to white gradient from the center outward
  • Uploading my signature from an app on my phone to GIMP, deleting the white background with the Fuzzy Select Tool, then adding a blue background at an angle via the Rotate Tool

One of the technical challenges I faced with this project was trying to make the title look like it was carved out of the wood by means of an inner glow layer effect coupled with lower opacity on the text itself. I also tried applying a couple of blending modes to the duplicate layer created by the inner glow layer effect, including soft light, which was too light to look like a carving. I wound up settling on grain merge and a lower opacity on both title layers (about 23% for the original and about 60% for the inner glow layer above it). I think for the final draft I’m going to toy with an inner shadow layer effect and see if that does a better job.

I’ve already started adding a couple of changes to the design, like adding a conical gradient to the EZ Rollr™ design. One other idea is to add some labels to the projects that are less obvious, like the Tate App design and maybe the Oregon Wildlife Safari website redesign. I am eager to find out what other changes would help improve this initial design and looking forward to the final product.


Sources and Materials

The only thing I used that wasn’t my own work is the wooden desktop background image by FWStudio as mentioned above. As mentioned, I have permission to use it by virtue of the fact that it is licensed using Creative Commons Zero (CC0) license, which means that it is dedicated to the public domain. This means that the image may be used for any legal purpose, private, commercial, or otherwise.

I had a different one in mind originally, but after showing it to my wife, she suggested looking for another image. Her issue was that the one I originally chose looked more like our hardwood floor than a desk. I agreed and found another image that was too gray for my liking, but the grain looked good. The color issue is easily resolved in GIMP, as I learned through doing the Photoshop tutorials for this class.

This is another great lesson for designers. Show your work while it is still in process mode to non-designers, family members, and anyone willing to look. Lay folk may not know why, but if they think it doesn’t look good, it probably doesn’t. Plus, sometimes there are just some really basic errors we’ve made or improvements we could make that we don’t catch at 1am the night before the project is due.



Whether you are improving your skills via your own personal creative endeavors, trying to get an A on a school project, or just trying to do more excellent work in your career, it is nice to see some examples of excellent, modern graphic design work all placed carefully onto a fake desk in GIMP in such a way that makes it look like its a slightly sloppy assortment of real prints. The idea was to keep it simple, but do a good job and finish within the allotted time, which is done as of. . . now!


Benjamin Woodruff