Archive for February, 2013

Viz Series: Meet the Viz Team

February 28, 2013

In our first post in this series, we explained visualization and how the process helps you make the awesome products you see on our site.

In this post, we’ll get to know some of the members of the Viz Team. Their paths to becoming glorified Zazzle Viz Team members are storied and eclectic (considering the cutting-edge and specialized work that they do, it’s no surprise).

Alex Louie

photo (3)

Q: Not to take a line from Office Space, but…“What would you say ya do here?”

A: I landed here at Zazzle in August 2010. I like to think of myself as the glue that holds this team altogether, but the truth is that each member of our team has a unique talent and personality that makes the bonds stronger. I’ve worked throughout the years on 3D modeling software and CD-ROM games with some members of this team. The Viz Team has a diverse set of backgrounds to cover both art and engineering requirements. We all work to provide the tools that power the visualization technology on Zazzle’s site.

Q: No, really why do they keep you around?

A: I’m really good at organizing projects and I get to play that role on this team. When I used to work on video games (from ‘95-’01), I used to project manage the whole team.

Q: Give me the 30-second, speed-dating version of your background before Zazzle.

A: Made video games. Drew Pictures/Pulse Entertainment, time spent working on the cockroach video game Bad Mojo (from Wikipedia: about “An entomologist planning to embezzle money from a research grant to escape his sordid life above an abandoned bar”), time at Genentech, Flash web games for Yahoo! and Shockwave (including a popular game around Ren & Stimpy).

Q: You worked on a 90s video game about cockroaches?

A: A lot of what you do in games is a blend of engineering with art. Engineers are very analytical and artists are the creatives. I love storytelling, and yet I consider myself pretty analytical. I’m the go-between and this works perfectly here at Zazzle.

Brent Burgess

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Q: I hear your life was pretty boring before Zazzle.

A: I came to Zazzle in October 2009. I spent some time consulting for companies (finance and startups).

Q: Give me the 20-second version of your background before Zazzle because Alex took too long telling me about a 90s cockroach video game. Alex calls you “a software start-up jack-of-all trades.”

A: Beta-testing for 3D software packages (early 90s), technical writer for Pulse Entertainment, part-owner in multi-media software company working on 3D architectural modeling and rendering application and NeoPix, a client/server-side graphics system for web graphics delivery. Then, IT consultant and administrator. All of this has given me an underlying understanding of technologies and graphics in web design and web delivery — including UI, fonts and print servers.

Q: What’s something someone would be surprised to learn about you?

A: I have a degree in economics and European Area studies.

Q: I hear you like small things and color.

A: I handle photography and processing of small products on our site — so mugs, trucker hats, buttons, magnets, etc. I also handle all of the color matching and correction of color curves on apparel on our site. On a whole, I help develop and iterate on the visualization process.

Q: Alex says he loves this team — do you share in this love?

A: I love the quality of individuals on this team and the variety and challenges we face every day. Our days are always different. We’re doing work that no one’s ever done before — everyday we have to be creative and innovative.

Nicholas Culpin

photo (4)

Q: Give me the 20-second version of your background, using more words in actual English than Brent used.

A: Freelance 3D artist, video game startup — background in concept design, levels design and modeling. MFA with an emphasis in animation and visual effects.

Q: Unlike other members of the team, your background is in illustration?

As a little kid, I was a bit of an art geek. I loved The Ninja Turtles, Disney and Ghostbusters. At first I wanted to get into entertainment. My professors in undergrad were traditional illustrators and they pushed me to come out to the West Coast. I thought I was going to work in film. I got an MFA in animation, digital art and 3D modeling out here. I handle a lot of the more difficult photography shots — usually glass products or where the image has to go through glass (trophies).

Q: What’s the best part about being on the Viz Team?

A: We like to work fast. We all know how to think about products, very quickly and efficiently. It’s part art, part research and development. There’s plenty of experimentation.

Next up, some more members of the Viz Team. 

Seller Spotlight: TreasureTheMoments

February 28, 2013

After graduating with a degree in psychology and spending some time job-hunting, TreasureTheMoments found out about Zazzle and turned a hobby of designing in her downtime into a lucrative store on our site. She took some time to talk to us about her products and why — when in doubt — leopard print and pink are her go-to patterns and colors. 

I’m mostly self-taught — I taught myself how to use photoshop and took some time to inspect Zazzle, the products and the design tool.

I love making products that are pink and girly. I gravitate towards as much “bling” as possible and animal print. My designs are bold, sassy and loud — it’s for the “confident and popular woman — who owns it.” It’s been a hit, especially with women in their teens to women in their late 20s and early 30s.

Chic Bowed Zebra Print Invite [Pink]
Chic Bowed Zebra Print Invite [Pink] by TreasureTheMoments
Floral Damask Invite with Purple Bow
Floral Damask Invite with Purple Bow by TreasureTheMoments
Sassy Leopard Sweet Sixteen Photo Invite [Brown]
Sassy Leopard Sweet Sixteen Photo Invite [Brown] by TreasureTheMoments

Invites are my most popular products. People have also requested coordinating products, in addition to the invites, for events spanning from weddings to baby showers. Designing coordinated products for events is my specialty — I’ll usually design a whole set around a customer’s tastes and vision.

My advice to others on Zazzle is to be persistent and have faith in yourself. Be authentic and be true to your own style. Someone out there will like it.

Pink Glitter Invite With Zebra Print Bow
Pink Glitter Invite With Zebra Print Bow by TreasureTheMoments

Floral Lace Invite with Diamond Bow
Floral Lace Invite with Diamond Bow by TreasureTheMoments
Admission Ticket Invite [Gold]
Admission Ticket Invite [Gold] by TreasureTheMoments

Viz Series: What is Visualization?

February 27, 2013

In this three-part series, we’ll find out how visualization plays a crucial part in making your favorite Zazzle products and learn more about some of the mystery members of the Viz Team.

Every day on our site, people are zooming in on their one-of-a-kind iPhone case to get their initials just right, they’re designing the perfect slogan on a fitted t-shirt for their favorite pooch and they’re transforming their gorgeous wedding photos into a wrapped canvas work of art.

There’s much more that goes into making it all happen than meets the eye. The technology we use is completely novel — to make that bright red “Keep Calm and Om Nom Nom” mug you’ve been pining for, it needs to be rendered virtually, as though the mug were already sitting on top of your kitchen table. While your mug doesn’t exist (yet), you’re able to see just how it would look, as if it’s already been manufactured. Without our technology, you wouldn’t be able to make your perfect product — exactly to your personal specifications, just how you want it.

Om Nom Nom Mug
Om Nom Nom Mug by carryon

You have Zazzle’s Visualization Team (or the “Viz Team,” as we affectionately like to call them at Zazzle) to thank. Though they tend to hang out in a dark room, questions about who they are and what they exactly do became so numerous (and so pressing) that we decided it was time to shed some light on this team.

We cornered some members (they don’t put up much of a fight) and got the download on visualization (or as much as they could tell us without giving away all their secrets).

Visualization

Visualization at Zazzle can best be summed up as the perfect blend of engineering and art. The team uses proprietary technology and computational photography to make it easy for anyone to upload an image, make design tweaks, and see a product as though it’s already made. Users and sellers don’t have to know anything about 3D modeling — that’s why we have the Viz Team around. The Viz Team is responsible for making it look all too easy.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.50.53 PM

Product Magic

A lot of the magic happens when they gather information about each and every product before it launches on our site. Products and samples are examined to see what areas can be customized and where designs can be printed. When they talk to product manufacturers, the Viz Team gets manufacturers to help specify design areas (which later become your design areas on our site).

After they nail down that info, they prep the product samples for a photoshoot — much like for real-life human models or starlets, except the products don’t demand bottled water or take calls from their publicist.

“Special” Photography

Once the Viz Team figures out what one can actually design or make on the specified areas, they take a photograph with “special cameras.” This process is meant to help you: it gives consumers and designers a way to look at the product and see exactly where the design could go once the product is on our site. For more complex products, the team will actually go the distance and build 3D models.

On Site, Ready to Customize

Through “special image processing,” the team locates the design area for the product and then the product goes on our site for your customization.

Once it’s on our site, the product is ready for your designs (using our nifty design tool.) A lot of people don’t hit “the plus button” (shows the high art view of the product), which gives you the precise field of the area that you can design. This makes the Viz Team sad.

Screen Shot 2013-02-27 at 1.44.41 PM

More fun facts: the red dotted line is called the “safe area,” or the area where the image is guaranteed to be printed, the “black area” shows the actual size of the design area, and the “the bleed area,” or red solid line, allows for extra jostling when the product is actually made, so you won’t get uneven spaces of white on your product.

Next up, meet some of the members of our Viz Team. 

Artists’ Series: William Morris

February 27, 2013

In honor of William Morris’ birthday this upcoming March, we want to pay tribute to his decades of work helping lead the English Arts and Crafts Movement, co-founding a design firm that decorated churches and homes across England, reviving textiles, writing and illustrating books (influencing authors such as Tolkien) and designing beautiful, versatile patterns that celebrate nature and continue to be loved to this day.

You may not realize how many William Morris designs you already recognize, but once you do, you will start to see him everywhere. In fact, hundreds of our products feature his designs, from iPad covers to greeting cards to tiles.

To evoke the feeling of blooming spring, nothing beats the Tulip design – bright, dynamic and virtually bursting into 3D. It’s fun and striking on a mousepad (and even comes in stamps):

Floral Wallpaper Design with Tulips by William Mor Mouse Pad
Floral Wallpaper Design with Tulips by William Mor Mouse Pad by corbisimages
<Blackthorn> Wallpaper by William Morris Post Cards
<Blackthorn> Wallpaper by William Morris Post Cards by corbisimages

And as a covering case, his Pimpernel design manages to make an iPhone look vibrant, stylish and also elegant:

<Pimpernell> Wallpaper Design by William Morris Vibe iPhone 4 Cases
<Pimpernell> Wallpaper Design by William Morris Vibe iPhone 4 Cases by corbisimages

Here’s to Mr. Morris!

Artists’ Series: Art from Italy

February 26, 2013

Where to start with Italian art? It has given us masters all the way from the Roman Empire to the Futurists and beyond. Their creations fill the world’s museums – and can enliven your own home or office with the thousands of reproductions available in our Art department.

One of the most celebrated paintings ever is Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (c.1503-06), famously housed – and thronged like a celebrity – in the Louvre Museum in Paris:

Mona Lisa, c.1503-6 Print
Mona Lisa, c.1503-6 Print by bridgemanart

Mona Lisa’s facial expression continues to cause a stir: is she smiling, or smirking, or neutral? We will be gazing and guessing forever at this portrait, whose mysterious eyes follow us from every angle. Try for yourself.

Another icon of the Italian Renaissance spans the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in the Vatican, which the acclaimed Michelangelo took five years to complete. At its heart, The Creation of Adam (1511) shows God’s and Adam’s index fingers reaching toward each other and never quite touching:

Hands of God and Adam Posters
Hands of God and Adam Posters by bridgemanart

It is thought to depict the creation story of the Book of Genesis, in which God gives life to Adam as the very first human. The Mona Lisa may be its only rival in fame.

Just as Michelangelo was covering this chapel with frescos, Raphael gave us his own: The School of Athens (1510-11). Also in the Vatican, it presents ancient Greek philosophers from Plato to Aristotle – some say they’re all there (though finding them is like a mega Where’s Waldo?):

School of Athens, from the Stanza della Print
School of Athens, from the Stanza della Print by bridgemanart

Bravo a tutti!

Artists’ Series: A Greek and a Princess in Spain

February 25, 2013

Our artists’ series now takes us to Spain, which has brought us some of the world’s greatest art, from the Golden Age El Greco to the modern Miró and Dalí (as seen in Midnight in Paris). If you haven’t been able to view the art up close at the Prado Museum in Madrid, you can choose from thousands of masterpieces to adorn your own walls as posters or wrapped canvas.

Perhaps the most famous Spanish painting ever is Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas (c.1656), which presents the family of Philip IV through a complex chain of perspectives from the viewer to the young princess to the painter himself (and has kept art historians abuzz for centuries):

Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV, c.1656 Posters
Las Meninas or The Family of Philip IV, c.1656 Posters by bridgemanart

El Greco, originally from Crete (hence his nickname “The Greek”), became one of the master painters, sculptors and architects of the Spanish Renaissance. His momentous, large-scale works dominate many a museum wall with depictions of Biblical moments, such as The Adoration of the Shepherds (1603-05):

Adoration of the Shepherds, 1603-05 Poster
Adoration of the Shepherds, 1603-05 Poster by bridgemanart

Painted in the last year of his life, this piece now hangs in Valencia’s Museo del Patriarca.

The Romantic painter Francisco Goya, a Spanish court artist like the previous two, influenced modern artists from Manet to Picasso through his subversive elements and bold use of paint. We can see aspects of Francis Bacon’s haunting scenes in Goya’s Saturn Devouring one of his Children (1821-23) — even the title suggests its harshness:

Saturn Devouring one of his Children, 1821-23 Posters
Saturn Devouring one of his Children, 1821-23 Posters by bridgemanart

Mythology tells us that Saturn ate his children to preempt being overthrown, and Goya conveys this frenzy with which people in power sometimes try to maintain their grip. Some see it as an allegory of 19th-century Spain, but it certainly resonates across eras and lands.

Foto Friday

February 22, 2013

Check out this week’s Foto Friday!

What’s Foto Friday? It’s our weekly blog post of customers enjoying their Zazzle products. Want to join in the fun and earn $5 towards your next Zazzle order? See details on how to participate in Foto Friday.

Join in the fun now! Learn more about submitting your photos and videos to Foto Friday!

IMG_20130216_085102

The product arrived so quickly! Such a great option for last minute procrastinators.  :-) The options are many and the choices are endless, not too mention the web site is extremely user friendly. I will definitely be recommending Zazzle to friends and family!

Marie1

Last week I ordered my favorite painting “Marie Masquerade” by the artist Jasmine Becket-Griffith. I could not have been happier! It is absolutely beautiful and looks like the real oil painting. I bought it to add some color to my office at work, but she’s too beautiful!

Seller Spotlight: SquirrelHugger

February 21, 2013

Teri Francis (otherwise known as SquirrelHugger on Zazzle) took up photography in 2004, practicing her camera angles on squirrels in her backyard. Besides her passion for photography, she was also a marketing consultant for 30 years, handling everything from copywriting to graphics to design. She quickly found her niche creating “streamlined and corporate designs” — parlaying her years of designing for “urbanistic and contemporary” advertising and executive events. 

When I started on Zazzle, I saw that there was an opportunity to put more corporate, streamlined designs out there. That’s my main piece of advice for designers out there — do what you know. If you’re a schoolteacher, design for schoolteachers, if you’re a fisherman, design fisherman-related things. It’s a great place to start.

My designs are influenced by my 30 years of corporate marketing, and I love creating for birthday parties and anniversary parties. I get a lot of male clients — for them I try to stay with darker colors. It’s no surprise, but they don’t love fancy, frilly or cute. It’s all about minimalistic designs and blocks of darker color.

Here are some of my favorite designs:

65th Birthday Party Invitation 

65th Birthday Party Invitations
65th Birthday Party Invitations by SquirrelHugger

Working mostly with men for many years, I learned that their favorite colors are usually black, red, maroon, deep blues, textured browns, and gold-tones.  They often miss (or dismiss) fine lines and fancy detail work, so I try to use large block-style accents of color or trim.  The tricky thing to remember with masculine designs is that the product you’re creating may very likely be purchased by the woman in his life — so, it’s important to a put a measured balance in your style that will appeal to his lady and make her say “Oh, that’s just perfect for him!”

Sweet 16 Birthday Party Invitation

Sweet 16 - Personalized Birthday Party Invitations
Sweet 16 – Personalized Birthday Party Invitations by SquirrelHugger

A customer requested a very specific theme of pink and white “Ice Cream Parlor” style invites for her daughter’s Sweet 16 birthday party. I used pink and white stripes to reference the typical ice cream parlor awning, and used a vintage style “menu” board for the invitation text. I also added the big pink bow because she said her daughter was very “girly”. This became a best-seller for me, and I still get requests to duplicate it for other birthday years. One bride had me create her entire wedding ensemble for her with this design.

50th Anniversary Party 

Fancy 50th Anniversary Invitations - Your Photos
Fancy 50th Anniversary Invitations – Your Photos by SquirrelHugger
50th Anniversary - Personalized Photo Album Binder
50th Anniversary – Personalized Photo Album Binder by SquirrelHugger

50th anniversary celebrations have a special place in my heart. I designed the invites and theme for my own parents’ anniversary party — it was one of the most memorable events in our family’s history. My dad passed away shortly after, but we found great comfort in remembering how happy he was and the wonderful memories we have of that day continue to make us smile. I do every anniversary invitation as if it was for my parents. Fun fact: the 1940′s era couple I use in most of my 50th anniversary invites are indeed my parents on their wedding day.

Bride Binder

A girlfriend who was getting married and could not find bridal cards and accessories specifically for women of color, so I created cards, binders and magnets with her in mind.

African American Bride - Wedding Planner Binder
African American Bride – Wedding Planner Binder by SquirrelHugger

Christmas Greeting Card for a Special Friend

Christmas Card - Special Friend
Christmas Card – Special Friend by SquirrelHugger

I created this for a very dear friend who was going through a tough time. When creating greeting cards for any occasion, my best advice is to write the words you would like to hear if you were the one receiving the card. Those are always my best sellers.

Artists’ Series: From the Gardens of Giverny to the Paris Stage

February 20, 2013

In case you’re looking to redecorate a little at this time of year, an idea would be to start with your walls.

Our art department has hundreds of thousands of posters ranging from vintage to funny to artistic — with thousands of classical paintings that you can search for by country, era and movement. In their honor, we’re starting a series of posts on the great artists whose work you can choose from to enliven your home, office and more.

First we’ll “exhibit” the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists, whose depictions of landscapes, flowers and urban life have been beloved for decades.

Paul Cézanne, one of the most influential Western artists, is celebrated for his still lifes, portraits and landscapes, including “Sous-bois (près du Jas de Bouffan)” from the 1890s:

Sous-bois 1890-94 print
Sous-bois 1890-94 print by bridgemanart

Jas de Bouffan was Cézanne’s family estate in Provence, and he painted often on the grounds and on the walls of the house’s grand salon.

Many of us also love Claude Monet’s paintings, for their bright color palette and striking light (fun fact: the Impressionists were among the first painters to depict light using color, because scientists had discovered in the early-1800s that light refracts into the colors of the rainbow). Several of Monet’s works show the gardens of Giverny, his former home outside Paris, such as “The Artist’s Garden at Giverny” (1900):

The Artist's Garden at Giverny, 1900 Poster
The Artist’s Garden at Giverny, 1900 Poster by bridgemanart

You can see the real thing in-person at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.

And for anyone who likes ballet, Dégas is a dream. His paintings of ballerinas capture the drama and thrill of dance — waiting in the wings, performing onstage, taking a bow. “The Star, or Dancer on the Stage” (c.1866-67) is a stunning example:

The Star, or Dancer on the stage, c.1876-77 Posters
The Star, or Dancer on the stage, c.1876-77 Posters by bridgemanart

For our next “exhibit” in the series, we say ¡Viva España!

Dreaming of Spring — in Pastels

February 19, 2013

It might not be spring exactly, but we’re seeing pastels pop up all over products here on Zazzle. Not just for the Easter Bunny, pastels come in fun colors such as turquoise, lavender, baby pink, peach and jade green.

For anyone that loves the soft and pale look on the saturation scale, here’s some of our favorite products:

You loved the movie — now get the movie poster in the perfect shade of baby blue:

argentina poster
argentina poster by skibbyb

Check out this wall clock with perfect stripes of baby pink:

Pastel Pink Stripes. Wallclocks
Pastel Pink Stripes. Wallclocks by Graphics_By_Metarla

Rest your head on this sunset striped pastel pillow:

Sunset Pastel Stripes Pillows
Sunset Pastel Stripes Pillows by pastelnation

Got a wedding coming up? Love pastels? Adorn your envelopes with this light green and polka dot label.

Tandem bicycle lime green polka dot wedding custom shipping labels
Tandem bicycle lime green polka dot wedding custom shipping labels by weddings_

Why just protect your case when you can do it with this white and light aqua blue geometric print case?

Geometric Light Aqua iPhone 5 Case
Geometric Light Aqua iPhone 5 Case by whimsydesigns

If you’ve got an iPad you need to cover, take a look at this beautiful DODOcase iPad case with retro Easter flowers:

Vintage Spring Floral Design iPad Covers
Vintage Spring Floral Design iPad Covers by FineArtists

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