Tom Sawyer would have painted all day with a brush like this

Custom brush created by a student from an otherwise unusable photo.

Custom brush created by a student from an otherwise unusable photo.

Creating custom brushes is a simple task – only a couple minutes of work to create a brush that can serve a designer a full career.

The art of the brush is creating an image that works well for it. Looking to photos that would otherwise be considered unusable – the classic photo of your feet, accidental images and out of focus pieces can make excellent brushes.

The process of creating a brush is a little anticlimactic. Students were expecting a step-intensive process with hard work to show for their interesting results. Instead, they got an easy process that is more dependent on selecting and modifying the correct image. The brushes are already being used in their work.

A visit from Jonathan Twingley

Sophomore students pose with nationally-recognized illustrator Jonathan Twingley

Sophomore students pose with nationally-recognized illustrator Jonathan Twingley

Jonathan Twingley graciously joined us today as guest lecturer for the freshmen and sophomore Graphic Design and Communications classes. Twingley, a Bismarck native, is a successful freelance artist and illustrator who currently resides in New York City. His work has been featured in several well-known publications including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic and Rolling Stone, to name a few. Twingley has also published an illustrated novel, The Badlands Saloon, a fictional account based loosely on his own life’s journey, featuring several of his prolific paintings. He graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a BFA and went on to gain his Master of Fine Arts in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Twingley’s presentation helped students gain some insight into the creative process of design from an illustrative perspective. Jonathan’s entertaining presentation style made it encouraging and comfortable for students to ask questions. Being able to see a number of Twingley’s pieces from conceptual sketch to finished publication proved that every great idea has a solid foundation. A special thank you goes out to Jane Schreck for bringing him to BSC.

Life one frame at a time

Fridays run differently in the Graphic Design and Communications department. Generally the instructors collaborate on a single theme or project and work with students in a lighter atmosphere.

This project was stop-action video. None of the Freshmen students and only one of the Sophomore students had any experience with stop-action, but it was about more than that. The students were forced to hand illustrate the projects and collaborate on their ideas. All of the students were involved in one way or another.

After completing the process and discussing it with students, most comments were similar – more collaboration and more planning would have improved the videos. It was great to watch the students work together on the project.

Three groups of freshmen created stop-action videos with only a white board and markers. They only received a few minutes of training and almost no rules. Of the three videos, this was most popular:

This video was created by the Sophomore Graphic Design and Communications students created this stop-action piece for another student that has been away from class for several weeks.

Good advice

After several weeks of planning, the iChat presentation by Mahmoud Arafa and his firm, Design Frame, came to fruition.

Arafa spoke from his Washington D.C. office and included his colleagues in Cairo as well. That sentence gives a hint at one of the things that makes Arafa so interesting – his business and designs cross cultural and geographical boundaries everyday.

Arafa provided real-world examples and stories along with inspiration for Graphic Design and Communications students and local industry professionals. His disarming and conversational style made everyone a believer in his motto – “chase your passion, not your pension.”

On a personal note – Mahmoud – thank you very much for sharing your experiences with Bismarck State College students, faculty and local professionals. It meant more to us than we can tell you.

Design with Arabic text

Design with Arabic text

English version of the design.

English version of the design.

Designing for the world – an upcoming presentation


Mahmoud Arafa, President and Creative Director of Design Frame Corporation will be speaking at 9 a.m. Thursday in the Basic Auditorium, room 304 of the National Energy Center of Excellence (NECE) building on the Bismarck State College campus via video chat. The presentation is open to everyone. The room seats approximately 160, so come early to get a good seat. The presentation is planned to last approximately one hour. (Click here to view a campus map)

Arafa was born and raised in Egypt and studied at the London College of Communications. His firm specializes in corporate communications and humanitarian projects. It was established in 2001.

Design Frame has done work across the globe, some of the countries include Norway, England, Belgium, Germany, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and in venerable places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Gaza.

The company’s work has been acknowledged by world leaders such as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Charles, French President Jacques Chirac.

Arafa plans to discuss creating designs across cultures and answer audience questions.

Arafa is currently working from his Washington, D.C. based office, but intends to include a virtual office tour from his colleagues in Cairo as well.

Beyond just being talented, Arafa is a wonderful person and has worked diligently with the Graphic Design and Communications staff, specifically Tom Marple, to put this presentation together. Arafa has been very gracious with his time and talent to help our students and area designers understand new perspectives in the design world.

Check out Design Frame’s Web site at

Midterm tests

There hasn’t been much to add to the blog due to midterm tests all week. A number of assignments have been wrapped up and classes will start with fresh topics next week. Below is a copy of the Graphic Design and Communications 103 Intro to Digital Imaging test.


The questions are blacked out to protect the innocent.

Play Poster Selected

For the past year and a half the Graphic Design and Communications Department has been working with Dan Rogers and the Theater Department to produce posters for their fall and spring plays. The poster picked this year was designed by second year student Joel Janikowski.

Play Poster by Joel Janikowski

Play Poster by Joel Janikowski

Mastering layer masks

Layer masks are a wonderful tool, but the classes are tired of them. The final assignment before midterm tests involved assembling two images into a single photo. Sean Thorenson shot the photos and Jason Lueder attempted to show his good side. The result was two images that could be easily combined into a single, more intriguing photo with the use of a layer mask.

The assignment was created to gauge the students’ understanding of layer masks. This photo only requires five or 1o minutes of work to create the double image, but understanding how the process works and what tools to use can take much longer.

Two Graphic Design and Communications instructors discuss the current display.

A Graphic Design and Communications instructors discuss the current display with himself.

Masking the obvious

Seattle postcard created using layer masks.

Seattle postcard created using layer masks.

Layer masks are a tool that allow nondestructive modifications to images in Photoshop. They are a powerful tool, but underutilized by graphic designers. Over the past couple weeks students have been working through exercises and exploring what layer masks can do. This piece was created as an in-class tutorial with a basic photo, shot by the instructor, and a public domain map modified slightly to add perspective.