Learning Graphic Design with Butter & Honey

All photos by Alexandra Gunn.

Graphic design is all around us these days – from magazines, product packaging, websites and even social media. You can’t leave your home without seeing and – quite possibly – being influenced by it. In the ever expanding digital world, understanding the principals of graphic design and being able to create custom content is becoming an obvious way for small business to separate themselves from the other guys. Young professionals are coming up against the expectation that their generation will have a wide array of digital skills. They’re expected to be social media savvy and able to brand, market and create content that speaks to their demographic and beyond.

Graphic design has become an important tool that enhances how we communicate with one another. But here’s the thing, good design makes you look good and bad design, or no design, makes you look bad – sometimes, very bad. You only get one opportunity to make a lasting impression.

Wanting to learn the basics of design to stay ahead of the curve, I came across a company called Butter & Honey offering a graphic design workshop that was specifically designed for individuals and small business looking to tackle the fundamentals of Adobe Illustrator. The ‘Small Business Graphic Design Workshop’ was designed for someone like me – someone who only wanted to spend a day learning the basics and would leave with a collection of design templates and guides to assist me with more intermediate design.

On the day of the workshop, I showed up to a contemporary space called La Charrette and walked into the room to a group of women with their laptops open and coffees in hand. Owner and Graphic Design Teacher, Rachela Brisindi was set up at the front with a projector displaying her desktop screen and had folders of instructional content out for us to review. Many of the women in attendance were Rachela’s clients, and some of the other women were at the workshop to brand or rebrand their small business.

Rachela spent much of the morning going through the basics of Adobe Illustrator and walked us through the software until we were comfortable playing around with the various tools. We spent the remainder of the afternoon working on our individual projects. Some of the women wanted to redesign their business logos, work on promotional flyers and even create a convention banner for their booth. We were also given a lesson on social media graphics and the templates that we should follow to produce optimized graphics for the different digital platforms.

I spent much of that evening and the following few days playing with the software, browsing for new fonts online and sketching out designs for future content. It was a great opportunity to meet and learn more about the #613Design community and I hope to build on my skills in the coming months.

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Q&A: Design and Creativity with Rachela Brisindi

I spoke with Rachela to find out what it takes to be a professional graphic designer, maintain her creative edge and why she started sharing her design skills with Ottawa in her workshops.

Q: As a graphic designer, is it difficult always having to be creative? Do most clients have an idea of what they want when they come to you?

A: It can be! I’ve been a designer for over 15 years so it can sometimes be difficult to find creativity all the time. When I hit a creative block, I do a variety of things to find inspiration. Like taking a walk, going to Chapters, flipping through magazines, etc. As far as my clients, some bring very concrete ideas to me and some have no idea. Most often, when a client comes to me with a blank slate, it’s a lot easier for me to design something than when a client has a set idea. When I listen to my clients’ needs, understand their target audience, get a feel for their brand and sprinkle in a bit of intuition, the results are almost always exactly what the client envisioned but didn’t even know until they saw it.

Q: What do most people not know about graphic design? Is there something that people take for granted?

A: There is a lot of work and detail that goes into design. I think most people think it’s something that can quickly whip together but there’s definitely more to it than that. The design process begins even before you open up your design software – brainstorming, research, and sketching are necessary planning steps just to name a few. Then comes finding and picking the right fonts, images and text to fit the overall mood and purpose.

Q: What was your inspiration for the Graphic Design Workshop?

A: The main inspiration came from my clients. Hiring a graphic designer can be quite costly, so many clients design their own smaller graphics, like menu items, monthly sales flyers, and social media images but without any real design skills or knowledge of software, the graphics they were producing were not inline with the caliber of business they want to portray. I found a need to teach these small business owners and bloggers the basic design fundamentals, as well as using the proper software.

Q: How has the community/your clients reacted to the workshop?

A: The reaction has been really positive. I’ve held 5 workshops since I started running them in September, all with 7 or more participants. The max is 10 people. The latest workshop was completely sold out and I have a large list of people waiting for the next workshop date to be announced.

Q: Why do you love teaching? 

A: There’s something about bringing complex design concepts to a group of people and seeing the lightbulb moments go off in their heads. I’ve also been in their shoes before – I started designing before I knew there were “rules” and structure, and a whole lot of technical know-how. I’d like to help as many DIY designers avoid costly mistakes in designing their own logos and graphics using the incorrect programs or files.

Q: Do you have any proud instructor moments?

A: Always. With every single workshop, I am completely blown away by the talent and quickness in which each student picks up the software. It’s pretty mind-blowing to see what they can do in just a single day. At the end of every workshop, I feel like a proud mama bear.

Q: What do you hope this set of students takes away from the workshop?

A: With every set of students, I want each to leave the workshop with a better understanding of the design process and a clear grasp of the software so they can successfully design their own graphics. Fully grasping the software takes a lot more time than what can be learned in a day but the workshop provides a solid foundation to start. If the students continue to play around and practice the software, there’s no limit to what they can do.

You can find their website at butterandhoney.net and for free design resources, upcoming workshops & guided practice sessions, please go to butterandhoney.net/design-school.

The next scheduled workshop is Graphic Design for Social Media taking place on Friday, May 27th 9 am – noon.

For more information on workshops or private and custom group lessons, contact rachela@butterandhoney.net.

Social Media:

Private Facebook Group for DIY Designers: facebook.com/groups/DIYDesignerStartup.

Twitter: @ButterandHoney

Instagram: @Rachela_Bella