Thursday, July 29, 2010

What I do: Packaging Design

I realize that I have talked very little about what I do for a living. The goal of this blog was to be a creative outlet, outside of my job, where I could share home projects and the goings-on in my life. But maybe some of you are interested in what I do. It is a big part of my life. 40 hours a week!

I am a graphic designer, specializing in print and packaging. I design private brand food packaging, for leading global private brand broker and design agency, Daymon Worldwide. Our on-site design team works with Wegmans Food Markets, a major regional supermarket chain, and one of the largest private companies in the U.S. (Source: This means I get to design some of the boxes, bags, trays, bottles, cartons, stickers, and wraps that catch your eye while grocery shopping, and make it into your cupboards, refrigerator, closets and drawers. And then get tossed into the trash. Or recycled. But the point is, that you made a purchase and chose Wegmans brand! Mission accomplished.

Our team works on a variety of projects for different products every day. We develop concepts and design solutions, within the parameters of dieline specifications, different substrates and printing capabilities. We put our strategic creativity to work with the use of color, fonts, illustration and photography, along with technical and legal information, like nutrition facts and ingredients. Sometimes it may be a single item. Sometimes it may be a line of 40 items. That sure keeps it interesting.

I work primarily with Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. I start with a dieline, a flattened out blueprint of whatever container or packaging it will be. Measurements need to be exact and to scale. There are type and graphic area limitations. Clear windows with no ink must be designated. Flap orientation, perforations, folds and gussets must be considered in artwork placement.

The ability to translate the essence of a full front panel design, into a skinny little side panel is truly an art. Downsizing or increasing a design to fit a smaller or larger box is an art as well. It's not as easy as it looks.

I definitely like the variety of my job. One day I could be working on a cereal box design, and the next, a bag of frozen vegetables (and I mean, a LOT of frozen vegetables). We also tackle non-food items, such as paper products, health & beauty, and pet food. People often ask, "What's your favorite design?" It's hard for me to answer that. I have had the opportunity to work on so many different projects, and have such a sense of pride an accomplishment with each one.

The very first label I ever worked on, was a long skinny sticker for a tray of cleaned and cut butternut squash. It wasn't even my original design. But when I saw it on shelf for the first time, I felt like it might as well have been in the Louvre. It was that exciting for me. I still get a tiny butterfly feeling in my stomach, each time a product hits the shelf and I notice it on display, for all to see, in 76 stores. Something that I had a hand in creating, literally. 
We have an awesome team of talented designers. I feel so lucky to be doing something I really enjoy and actually went to school for. So many artists have trouble finding jobs in their chosen field. I am blessed to be where I am. Of course, it has it's ups and downs, like any job. Did I mention the deadlines? The shelf target dates? And oh yeah, it needs to be ready for pre-press by Friday. Ha! And that's not mentioning the matter of opinions and the fact that design is subjective. It comes with the territory. And gives you thick skin.

I can definitely see my personal growth as an artist over the past 4+ years as a packaging designer. I have gained a wealth of knowledge about design in general as well as the world of printing. Process vs. spot colors. Number of plates. Additional hits of white. It's the things they can't and don't always teach you in the classroom.

And most importantly, spell check. Every. Time.

Photos courtesy of

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Other Half

Today is my sweetheart's birthday. He's as old as I am now. It's about time. Those four months when I'm older are not so cool. Ha! Andrew is truly my other half. He makes everything in life much more fun. I'm so proud to call him mine. I don't know how I got so lucky. Happy birthday Love!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Adorn by Christine, Hand Painted Art Apparel

I would like to introduce you to my talented friend Christine, the artist behind Adorn by Christine, hand painted art apparel. In preparation for her first craft show and establishing her new business and brand, she hired me to design a logo, business card, and sticker label. What a great project! I jump at the opportunity to work on freelance projects. It gives me the chance to break free from the food packaging mold and exercise my creative juices on another level.

Christine has mastered the fine art of painting the most beautiful silk scarves, like the one above. This piece was my inspiration for the logo.

Here's a look at a few packaged and labeled scarves with the oval sticker.

Isn't she talented? So many gorgeous colors and designs.

This is one of the longer scarves. She also paints wraps and sarongs, as well as custom orders.

If you would like to contact Christine to learn more about hand painted art apparel, you can email her:

They make great gifts!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Sonnenberg Gardens

On day two of our anniversary celebration, we took a drive to Sonnenberg Gardens & Mansion State Historic Park, in Canandaigua, NY. The weather was perfect and the scenery was absolutely gorgeous. As soon as we arrived, I wondered if I had enough free space on my camera. Everywhere I turned, there was a different flower, garden, pond or path, just begging to have it's picture taken. So, that's what I did. For those of you who prefer picture books, feast your eyes. When we crossed the entrance, we were greeted by these sunny black-eyed susan.

Our first stop happened to be the hydrangea house, which should have been called hydrangea heaven. One of my absolute favorites! There was row after row of amazing colors and blossoms. I wanted to take them all home with me. I felt like Agnes, from Despicable Me - "It's so FLUFFY!"

Just look at the delicate little buds on this one. Waiting to burst into full petals.

Next, we walked through a tropical greenhouse. I felt like I was in Florida for a moment.

My Love, standing next to some cascading ferns and foliage.

There was a cactus (cacti?) greenhouse, full of exquisite shapes, sizes and prickly things. Reminded me of Arizona. So many unique species!

These ones growing out of the ground were huge! Dad, what are they called? I forget.

I would hate to accidentally run into one of these things in the dark. Ouch!

Orchids! What extraordinary flowers. 

I have never seen ones with a zebra pattern like this. Simply Beautiful.

We were taken by surprise when we rounded the corner to find a pond full of coy. Love their colors too!

They even had bouganvilla, another one of my favorites. These trailing beauties remind me of India.

Outside, we headed to the Japanese Garden. Wish we could have gone inside this little tea house.

Here we are, standing on the bridge overlooking some water lilies.

Why are lily pads so fascinating to me? Such pretty floating flowers too.

A beautiful little waterfall on the other side of a gazebo above.

A very cool looking fountain.

Then there was the rose garden. Aisles and aisles of roses. In every color. I have never seen so many in one place. (Pay no attention to the ladder and scaffolding in the background - ha! We didn't realize a few things would be under construction)

This is one of my favorite photos of the day. I love how open these roses are as they hang loosely against a wooden post.


What time was it? A little after 3pm I think. We were there for over 2 hours, enjoying the beautiful grounds and touring the mansion.

My handsome prince ascending a staircase up the stone tower. Like something right out of a fairy tale!

On our way out, we paused to admire the peaceful pond.

A truly beautiful way to spend an afternoon. Especially with the one you love. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

Anniversary Mini Wedding Cake Replica

In honor of our 5th wedding anniversary, I decided to test my skills at baking and decorating a mini replica of our wedding cake. I got the idea from Buddy Valastro, owner of Carlo's Bakery, better known as the Cake Boss. I am in love with the idea of working in a bakery at some point in my life. Pastries, cookies, cannoli, cakes, pasticiotti...

This is what our actual wedding cake looked like. I loved the simplicity of 3 white round tiers with decorative piping, topped off and with different colored gerbera daisies, my favorite flower. There was a layer of raspberry filling in the middle. Delish.

I started with 1 white cake mix, and baked according to the directions, in two 9 inch round cake pans.

After the cakes cooled, I placed one onto a serving dish. Using a large serrated knife, I shaved a little off of the rounded top to level it out and make a flatter surface for the top tiers to rest on.

I used TWO cans of vanilla frosting for the entire cake. Duncan Hines creamy home-style classic vanilla frosting is perfect because it sets up a little bit and stays in place once it dries. I frosted and smoothed the first layer of cake. I "dirty iced it," as Buddy would say. I highly recommend using one of these frosting spreaders. I got it at a cake party years ago, and it makes frosting anything a dream. However, I cannot do it blindfolded. Yet.

Place the second cake round onto a piece of wax paper on your work surface. Use a bowl as a guide to cut out a smaller circle, right in the middle. Cut it out with a knife. 

Take the small cake circle out and set aside. Using the small circle as a guide, begin to build another layer of cake in the shape of a circle on top, by cutting shapes out of the remaining cake ring. 

I managed to put together this quartered circle-like sectional, and added a piece to fill the middle. It's like building with foam, except it's cake. And you can eat the scraps.

Here is a look at how it stacks up with the mini round. Shave a little off the top if it looks too rounded. The sectioned cake circle will be the base of the second tier.

Start positioning the sectional pieces on top of the frosted base, in the center. Be sure to add frosting between each piece, to hold it in place.

Frost the sectioned round. Don't be bashful. It's easier to put a lot of frosting on, then remove the excess. Place the circular mini round on top. 

This is where smoothing the frosting is important. Cover the entire cake, smoothing and evening it out as much as possible. If there's a bump or an uneven spot, add more frosting or cut a little off. Frosting solves all. Fill a cake decorating bag with the remaining 1/3 - 1/2 can of frosting for the detailing.

I only have a couple of cake decorating tips, so I used a floral one. I wish I had a simple round tip. It would have been easier to draw lines and more true to the original cake, but it did the job. Fill in the borders with decorative edging, draw shapes and jazz it up. Keep in mind though, less is more. It is very easy to get carried away with the decorating bag. Ask my husband why his birthday cake was covered with flowers two years - Oops.

Now it's time to add these beauties. I trimmed the stems to about 1 1/2 inches, ran them under water, then wrapped them with plastic wrap. I stuck two blossoms right on top and tucked one on the side. How cute is that?

It came out better than I thought it would! The only thing missing was the raspberry filling. I think Buddy would be proud of my first attempt. Maybe next time I'll attempt to use fondant and incorporate cereal treats. My sweetie was impressed and it tasted great. Mission accomplished! You could even make a cake similar for a bridal or baby shower, with your flower of choice.

Here's a look back at the original.

And a look at two young kids cutting into it, in 2005.

And us now, in 2010.

Let them eat cake!