Monday, October 23, 2017


So you have a site online. How do you get the word out on social media without pushing people away? How to tell friends, family and total strangers out there to drop by and take a few minutes away from their busy lives? With the amount of blogs and sites out there, how do you get people to drop by as opposed to the other places? Well how?  

If you didn't know, I dabble in political commentary, and have since October 2011. Since I launched my blog, I've written 365 commentaries expressing my opinions on the latest event that shook my world. And what had originally been just a way to rant and vent on Facebook has turned into one my major passions. And for whatever I think people might be interested in reading what I think. Happily that thinking, has begun to occur, as my blog and now been viewed by over 56,000 visitors.

Michael Moore in his brilliant Broadway show, The Terms of my Surrender, the possible future Presidential candidate (see the show you'll understand that) tells his audience to get up and do something. The smallest thing could change the world. In a way,, my political blog is my little bit in trying to make America greater and the world safer for all of us. 

Approximately a year ago, I decided to see how many were visiting my many blogs online. You see I have several, sadly some I actually have forgotten and only remember when I do one of those Google searches on myself. I know, I do it too. I don't know about your reasonings, but in my case its about seeing if anything I'm doing as an actor, writer, graphic designer or illustrator is getting any buzz. 

Or if something I've worked on is in a festival, or if I find out my stuff are in places it shouldn't be. Its quite interesting and sometimes quite infuriating, but its away to see if all my hard work has been worth it. 

Anyway, to my amazement in August 2016, my political site, originally called had suddenly found an audience. I discovered that somehow 10,000 people had dropped by to read my posts. 

Believe me I was shocked, considering the first year of its existence, I was happy if 5 or 10 people had probably accidentally dropped by. But then an amazing thing occurred, I discovered that within a couple months the page views on it went from the 10,000 to 30,000, which was when I realized that I should promote the numbers on social media to possibly help attract a bigger audience. 

So I decided to showcase the visitors to the site by thanking my visitors with a little message on Twitter and Facebook. Which was when I designed the first announcement, which is the first graphic showcased in this post here. Its a shame I hadn't done this from the beginning, I guess a sleep at the wheel. Bad Neil, bad! 

Neilizms is supposedly just a hobby I do in my spare time, I get a thought. Something happens and my mind explodes and thoughts and words just comes spewing out of me. Well it might be considered a hobby by others, but to me its become possibly the way I express myself most. Good or bad I spend way too much time writing articles that probably should be a third shorter.  

But when you got things to say and you run the ship, well, you decide when to say good night. Well how do you get people to drop by? How to announce the latest page visitor tally? Better, is that all I have to pitch is that somehow my site has begun to gain popularity. 

Of course, from researching just a little, my growth in viewers, which I was stunned at is seriously small compared to others. As the numbers grew, I mean, one of my little commentaries has been seen by over 4,000 people. I might not be J. K. Rowling, but averaging over 300 per has to say something. Of course compared to others which average in the millions, my opinions pretty much have been on the down low. 

So once the numbers starting growing I decided my way to pitch it was to do what I used to do when I worked as an art director and graphic designer at Hachette Filipacchi designing onserts, inserts and other magazine promotional elements for their multitude of publications. 

I used to joke, how many ways can you say FREE or 50¢ off? So I began documenting the page views as an exercise in figuring out ways to announce the numbers. As well as trying to showcase a brief history of the site, and of course, most importantly a way to thank those who were nice enough to take the time to read what I had commented on that day.

As you can see from the graphics, each announcement is slightly different. Playing with colors, frames, type faces. I should note, for the most part I've only designed and showcased these designs on Facebook and Twitter. As of now, I haven't been creating direct mail packages or another any kind of ad campaign.  

I should also note, as of now, I honestly still haven't designed a logo for the blog. One would think I would have come up with that even before I first launched the site, when the original url was, I actually was waiting to shorten the site's url, eventually and wanted to wait to see if it would attract any attention.

Sadly backwards thinking. I would say that because of my other pursuits, I've been too busy to spend the time to design logos, but once scanning the items showcased here, it kind of looks like I could have done that too, or done a few less of these. 

That said, here are the designs I have come up with. Its actually been fun playing with the numbers. Kind of takes me back to my life before I transferred to editorial magazine design at the Home Plans Group and before that at ZIff-Davis.

As showcased after I reached 44,000 visitors, I decided to shorten it to 46K on the next announcement. I also started playing with the dimensions of the ads. The frames, and the colors used. Trying to alter each update every time to resign it and best promote the site. 

As the visitors to the blog have continued and the numbers has continued to grow, I thought it was important to make the announcement more substantial. Hence I made it more of a tombstone ad, like the ones I used to help design at Ziff-Davis and their Wall Street Journal and New York Times Forbes campaigns.  As you can see, as I updated this design, its began to get wider. You see I showcase them currently on Twitter, and I've discovered that a tombstone ad can look small when showcased on this Social Media site. I also think it looks better slightly wider, more white space as they say in design speak, well in this case… yellow space.

As well as announcing the good news while trying to get the word out, I also started creating banners to use when announcing the latest entry into the blog.

Along with promoting the growing numbers I also have used my site to try to make statements against what I see as hypocritical problems facing the media. In this case I've stopped watching CNN, as statement against their hiring and firing practices. Here are the first three designs to announce my 'viewer strikes' against the news network. Note, currently its reached 4 months.

The TOP 15 NEILIZMS As I continued writing the editorials, it was interesting to see which ones got the most traction. And once I had written enough I began charting which did the best. Perhaps trying to see what the audience I was acquiring was most interested in reading. Which turned into this design. Here are the first two I came up with.

So there you go. I hope this gives you a good idea of the many ways you can showcase numbers in design. As you can see it can get tedious having to keep coming up with solutions to this design problem, but it as you can see the solutions are never ending.  

Any questions, please ask, and please check out my blog. A direct link to it is: 


Sunday, July 10, 2016


Finally had some time to actually create something new, especially made for the mag, as opposed to 'just' art directing the layout, promoting the mag & …

As mentioned in my first post here, on my Design Blog. I launched my very own publication, entitled OFFWORLD in the 1990's, and well did practically everything on it but, the fiction and most of the art that we published. Frankly I just didn't have the time, remember I was doing this 'publishing' thing in my spare time, at the same time I was freelancing full-time at Ziff-Davis Magazines. I mean who needs sleep, right?

That said, while I was launching the first issue, as I  realized that I had nothing in it, except of course for my art direction, layout and whatever editorial copy I had written for it. So one of the magazine's section, our Tribute section allowed me to  showcase one of my illustrations in our Premiere and since my E.T. The extraterritorial hadn't seen print yet, I figured perfect. Since our magazine only showcased unpublished work. 

After OFFWORLD #1 premiered, in addition to my BladeRunner illustration, in the second edition's Tribute section, I finally had the time to hire myself to illustrate one of the stories. The best part, since I had read and approved all the stories our editor Arnaldo Lopez had chosen, I knew which one I wanted to illustrate. I picked a beautiful tale written by John B. Rosenman entitled Only a Stone. A David vs. Goliath inspired fable. Loved it and well, here's what i came up with.  


Like John B Rosenman's short story, Only a Stone, each story we published would be illustrated with a 4/c opener, and then several black and white illustrations, created specifically for the magazine. Hopefully the scans are big enough for you to actually read John B. Rosenman's great story.  

The opener would be a Full Color, and the rest of each story I'd alternate spreads with art and spreads without. As showcased, here, I got the chance to do a really cool science fiction illustration. Pretty proud of this one. Honestly its not the type of image I usually get offered. Hence my excitement of doing this story. And no that isn't air brush, the original art was painted in oil paint on illustration board. 

Depending on the story and the page count for each, some tales had 3 spots while others had 4, but each began with a four color illustration. I tried to layout each story to maximize the visual impact of all the art. I must say trying to make the spreads with out art work, wasn't easy. But it was so much fun laying out the text. Designing how the foot folio and headers would look.

As showcased with the third spread above,  I decided I wanted to somehow create a very wide illustration. Trying to make my illustration make the most impact in the middle of the story. And once I came up with the idea, I simply loved painting it. As above, the painting was done on illustration board and was illustrated with black and white oil paint.

And remember, all of the art in the magazine was brand new, created especially for it, excluding the art we published in the Tribute Section, but as mentioned above neither E.T. or BladeRunner, showcased above, had ever seen print, so I hadn't broken any rules. In fact, one of the funniest parts of being the art director and publisher was discussing with some very talented illustrators, some I grew up admiring, that no we couldn't accept their offer to reuse some of their most famous illustrations in our magazine. Even at half the price. That would go against every thing that I was trying to publish, only all-new fiction and art.

And finally as showcased above, I decided that the last image would be a full page, and thought it balanced the spread real well. And as shown below, the last spread in the tale, actually ran 1 column short. So I came up with a preview box, showcasing the highlights of the our next edition. Which sadly never saw print.

There you have it. Let me know what you think, and if you do read the story, let me know if you agree with me what a terrific read it is. 

To learn more about my history in design, please check out:

Any questions, please ask.


Saturday, July 2, 2016


Art Directing every aspect of a magazine's editorial can be daunting task, especially when you're a one man art department


Art Directing at Hachette Filipacchi Magazines for their Circulation and Promotion Division was a blast, but I was craving more. One of the reasons I got the gig at HFM was because I had launched my own magazine, OFFWORLD (discussed in  previous post) a few years earlier. That happily seemed to impress a few people, besides myself. So when the opportunity came to Art Direct The Home Plans Group, I jumped with both feet.  

The HFMPG published 4 titles under this umbrella group: Best Selling Home Plans, Home Magazine’s Home Plans, Metropolitan Home Plans & Woman’s Day Favorite Home Plans. Totalling 17 editions a year, four of which were collections which ran 320 pages in length. And in this job, I worked on every single page, including the ads.

Unfortunately when I took over, the magazines were pretty much a nightmare. The previous Art Director who I met with before I decided to accept the job, had told me that she spent approximately 10 hours a day at work. Well I'm pretty fast, when I get going, and figured I could get that down to 8. Well what she hadn't told me was after she got home, she also spent a good 4 to 5 hours there finishing up the days assignments. I discovered this after I took the job, by the Production Manager. So point blank, I was lied to, so I made it my mission to fix this titanic of a mission. 

Mind you my fixing up all the mess, was occurring while I was also working on the issues, getting them to press on time. So approximately 3 months into the gig, once I finally got the magazines organized and on track, I talked the Publisher and Editor's into allowing me to redesign all the elements of the four titles, including all of its FOB and BOB sections.

Each month I got the chance to design all the editorial pages in the magazine. What I thought was interesting, was when  discussed designing the covers and doing the photoshoots for the editorial sections, our editor was surprised, she thought that as editor that was her job. And when I explained to her, well, my title was Art Director, so shouldn't I art direct the cover and cover story?

I guess I proved my abilities, because eventually they also let me help set up the shoots, and I got to go and really play. Which was so much fun, getting a day away from the office. They would choose one of the houses that were built using one of our floor plans (which we sold in our magazine). So we got to visit the house, meet the family living it. Set up the shoot, add the props that would improve the visual and shoot a ton of images, that I would eventually take and design our editorial pages with.  

Another fun part of the job was I got to hire freelance illustrators for certain FOB sections, so I got to really sit down and play with the editorial layouts. Sadly, even though I am an illustrator, I was informed during my interview that I could not hire myself to do any of our editorial art. Supposedly it was company policy. But I could hire whomever I wanted, within our budget restraints. So, I got to hire illustrators I liked, including a few of my friends. As these three examples showcased. The art was done by the very talented illustrator  Laura Freeman, a friends who I met going to the HS of Art & Design.

As mentioned above, I also got the chance set up photoshoots for the magazines, but even when I didn't, I was supplied the photo's to use. For the most part when that happened, I got the chance to choose which images I thought would work. And since I was doing the layouts I got to basically showcase the images as I pleased.  


The other big part of the job was the selling of the Home plans in the magazine themselves. Which was what the publication was really for. You see, thats how it paid its bills. Including the cover and editorial pages, each magazine we published, was really a catalog for selling blue prints. My job was to showcase in the best way possible why people might choose one. So for example whatever was the cover home for that edition, we would also promote it in the ON THE COVER page.

So in addition to the editorial pages promoting its blueprints. the magazine for the most part featured its HOME PLANS pages, both in black and white and full color single page ads. Part of my job was to organize the thousands of plans we had either in computer files, in portfolios, and from old editions of the magazines. You see, depending on sales figures, our editor chose which plans made each issue. So I spent many an hour recreating old floor plans and revising blueprints.

Each issue, would consist of 20 to 30 pages of editorial, plus 100 to 200 pages of floor plans. Sadly the way our template was designed, depending on what page that floor plan fell in the page count, the layout of the page, needed to be reconfigured to be on the left or right hand page. So, it wasn't just a simply cut and past thing. The colors of the banners would change, the foot folios would change. Half the time I would need to fix the blue print section, fixing measurements that were wrong, and if the square footage increased or decreased the banners on top of the pages might also have to change. Plus, since we used the same floor plans for all 4 titles, I also needed to style each plan to suit each magazine's individual styles. Just saying, it wasn't as simple as it looked.  

I also designed its promotional material and internal ads. And for the remainder of my time at The Home Plans Group, I spent happily designing to my hearts content. Everyone seemed to be very happy with me. I seriously thought I had found a place I could be for the next decade or so, or until my next big break occurred.

Sadly approximately two years into the job, that dream ended. Turns out, I did such a great job of organizing, redesigning and getting our magazines out on time, under budget with profits exceeding what they had hoped for, that eventually the Home Plans Group was sold to another company, out of state, and I was out of a job. I guess I should mention, that no I wasn't offered the gig, so no I never had to make the decision to move across country somewhere in the middle of no where. I've always wondered if I ha been asked, if I would have gone.


So, I was giving a time frame of a few months, to finish getting the magazine's out before the big bye bye, and while that was happening, I was allowed to find a new job internally at Hachette Filipacchi, or I would be out of a job. Eventually I was offered a position at Woman's Day Special Interest Publications, or simply Woman's Day SIP, and even simpler WDSIP, as a Senior Designer and I got the chance to showcase that I could alter my sensibilities to match what this division was putting out.

Under the umbrella group, Hachette published 37 editions a year. As senior designer I was responsible for the interior sections, including its contents page, FOB and BOB sections and its editorial articles of four of them. 

And like my position at the Home Plans Group, I was also allowed to hire freelance illustrators during my time at WDSIPs. As showcased below, I really got the chance to work with some really terrific artists. I mean watching them send me their sketches, seeing them tweak them to suit what I needed for my layouts was way cool. And when the original finished art arrived, man what a great moment to see them in person. It was always a great moment when i got the chance to bring the finishes to my supervisors, to see their smiles simply made me feel I did good and hopefully showcased that yes, I knew what I was doing.

Eventually my time at the magazine ended and it was time to go on to my next assignment. Which turned out to be at America Media. 

To learn more about my history in design, please check out:

Any questions, please ask.