SeptemberJanuary 2020

It begins again! I haven’t wrote on this blog since, well the last SeptemberJanuary challenge hosted by Jon Acuff. However, I’m doing it again! What is the SeptemberJanuary challenge you ask? Well it’s a yearly challenge started by Jon Acuff to encourage you to start and finish something in a month. Kind of like how we all have our new years resolutions, but in the middle of the year…ish.

This time I will add on to the challenge of last year. Last years challenge was to create a sticker and sell it. I came up with skullbot sketches as a sticker concept. The sketches turned out great, however something just didn’t resonate when I digitally recreated them in Illustrator. The month went by, and I just decided to continue on it next month. Life happened big time the next month, so the sticker project was just put on the backlog.

What a better way to rekindle the idea than with the same challenge? Only this time I’ve decided to change it up. This year the goal will be to sell 50 stickers. I’ve decided the sketches them selves looked raw enough that I plan on straight up putting them up as stickers! I do have a few steps that I wrote down that I need to plan out properly.

  • Find the skullbot or 2 that I want to make into a sticker
  • Finish it by making it into a sticker
  • Find a stinker printer and order stickers to be made. This one may be tough, because if shipping is more than a few weeks, this whole goal is bust.
  • Market the stickers. Come up with some google adwords, facebook ads, instagram and a variety of other social media platforms. Maybe venture into tiktok? I’ll come up with something.
  • Setup an online shop to actually purchase them online
  • Get shipping materials to send this stuff out.
  • Find a proper pricing to sell the stickers

That’s my short list of what I need to do. So much to do, especially in terms of setting up my own online store and marketing. However, I have the talent to do everything since I’ve done it all before. Now it’s time to do it for myself and see where I can go with it all!

SeptemberJanuary2019 Challenge – Day 10

Second Finalized Skullbot Vector Illustration

It’s Day 10, a Tuesday, and I’ve started this week turning the sketches into vectors. Yesterday I finished the first one, which was the big eyes skullbot. Today I finished up the female version that my wife loved and gave her a nice shade of pink, also her favorite color.

I’ve been creating little icons lately for user interfaces, so starting to create these skullbots have been fun. They’re meant to be very simple illustrations with not too much to it. There will be a new sketch everyday for the rest of the week. Once that is all done, I’ll be creating a sticker sheet as well as a custom logo to go on that sheet. Then it’ll be ready to send out to the printers!

Cliff Nowicki is a Product Designer by day and a freelance web designer by night. If you’re looking for a new website or even a logo, make sure to go to the contact page and get in touch.

Finalized Skullbot Sketches

skullbots finalized sketch

I finally got my skullbots down to the finals! I’ve adjusted it to 7, but 1 of them may get ditched. Why? There may be some adjustments in Illustrator that’ll either create more space or save more space.

How did I choose the finals?

Finding the right skullbots to use for this project was tough. I wanted to get a variety of feedback, so I leveraged my social media accounts. Facebook, twitter and instagram were used to get some feedback on what people liked. Some of the skullbots were big hits! However, there were a few that I was kind of hesitant on and didn’t make the final list. Since my main focus was to get a variety of feedback, I did favor the feedback of people that also showed off their sticker collection. After all, these people will probably buy them! That’s not all I did, I made sure to take the feedback from those who could potentially buy stickers and those who were just fans of skulls/robots

There is an outlier though! I wanted to combine two of my sketches together to create one single skullbot. The skullbot with the headset was cool, but my wife really wasn’t digging the mouth. She suggested that I use the mouth from one skullbot and put it on that one. That gave me a great idea for future projects. What if I made pieces, and created an art kit out of it? Something to keep in mind

Next Steps on Skullbots

So I got the sketches, now what? Each day this week I’ll spend time recreating each sketch. Each skullbot will get it’s own personal attention so I’m not just ripping through them. The process will include bringing the image into Adobe Illustrator and retracing into a vector format. This is where it may change from the original idea, but it’ll still look great!

Interested in following my sketches as I finish them? I’ll be making sure to keep posting actively after each vector is finished. If you can’t wait, or social media is your thing, you can follow me on twitter and instagram.

Cliff Nowicki is a Product Designer by day and a freelance web designer by night. If you’re looking for a new website or even a logo, make sure to go to the contact page and get in touch.

SeptemberJanuary Challenge – Day 5

skullbot sketches

It’s already Day 5 and I have a few more sketches up! My goal is to have a full sticker set in hand by the end of September to sell / pass out / give / etc. I didn’t even think about the timing release, as next month is Halloween! Yes, Halloween, not October. Some people get it. I think this will benefit the set as I can sell them more in the genre of Halloween stickers.

This Friday / Saturday I plan on sketching a few more before selecting which ones I want to turn into stickers. I had to give myself that deadline, otherwise I’d sketch forever and never put anything into Illustrator. If you have any thoughts, please let me know!

Cliff Nowicki is a Product Designer by day and a freelance web designer by night. If you’re looking for a new website or even a logo, make sure to go to the contact page and get in touch.

SeptemberJanuary Challenge – Day 3

I didn’t sketch today, instead I looked up potential vendors to print my stickers. There’s a lot to the sticker game! I’m trying to give some variety with having 6 individual stickers to a sticker sheet. I think I narrowed it down after a few hours of research to a place that’ll do 125 sheets for $129 at which isn’t too bad! I’m starting to get into pricing models. Do I over value myself at like $10? Undervalue at $3? Or hit the sweet spot at like $5. I figure if I can come up with an awesome landing page and treat them like a limited offer, I could probably sell them for a lot higher.

That landing page will be a mocked up something here or possibly over at . I just need to figure out the logistics of it all when I finally get the stickers. I’ll test around some ideas and come back with a nice number. I’m aiming for a sticker sheet, but I’m not against 1 off custom designs.

Michigan Web Designer – A pivot to freelance?

Up North Michigan Sunset near barn, a place where web designers dream

Every web designer at one point in their life has thought about going freelance. Right? Let’s face it, if they aren’t full time freelance, people are typically looking for side work. Why? To scratch an itch they can’t at work, to make some side money or to add to their portfolio. The possibilities of why is long, but mine are to eventually move up north on a lake (see above photo) and become a Michigan based web designer.

It’s always been a dream of mine to wake up in the morning, hearing the soothing sounds of water from the waves of a lake. A house that has plenty of space as well as a workshop area that overlooks said lake to do all my design work. Is that a lofty goal? Possibly. Is it possible? Yes it is!

Picking up freelance / side work is far and few between for me. When I do, I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity to show my craft. There’s a lot that I can do. Web design, print design, logo design, icon design, video editing and the list goes on. That’s why I made it a huge goal to achieve everything I want by the time I’m 40. Achievable? I’m almost 37 and I’m not getting any younger.

How will I achieve this goal?

I introduce to you my new site coming soon, Over the Cliff Designs. Since I’m open about what I do, I’m sharing it right now. If you look at it, you’ll notice is just a coming soon page, but it’s up and online. Turning that site will be a huge work in progress! It’s all focused around being a Michigan Web Designer so my theme will be up north and metro Detroit based.

What will I do with that site? I’ll be marketing myself as a web designer, print designer, logo designer and icon designer. Finding a niche will be my goal in the first year. In addition, I’ll also add an ecommerce section to sell some merch will also be available at some point featuring stickers, pins and what have you. I hope you stay tuned and keep your eyes on that site as I have big plans for the site!

Cliff Nowicki is a Product Designer by day and a freelance designer by night. If you’re looking for a new website or even a logo, make sure to go to the contact page and get in touch.

SeptemberJanuary 2019 Challenge – Day 2

I’d like to share one of my side projects that I’m starting on. During my spare time and work time, I’ve sketched, illustrated and doodled on just about everything I have. I’m sure anyone who personally knows me can attest to that. I also have an obsession with collecting enamel pins for my laptop case to represent things I’ve done in my life. It’s a really cool collection!

The other week I decided that I wanted to illustrate my own enamel pin. After looking up the cost and decided to do a test run by creating stickers first. I zoned in on a fun series of sketches I call “skullbots” which are just a series of fun and quirky looking robot skulls. I came across a new goal setting month called SeptemberJanuary by Jon Acuff and decided to fast forward the process and put a timeline for having a physical product on hand by the end of the month. There’s also a new site I’ll be creating to eventually sell the physical end results, but for now I’m focused on one thing.

While I can’t promise I’ll write daily, I’ll do my best to check in and show my progress from the day. In the coming weeks, I’ll be showing sketches, illustrations of the final product, my process of finding printers for stickers and maybe even a tutorial video or to of me actually designing the drawings in Illustrator! My goal by the end of the month is to have a physical product in hand. Stick around to watch my journey this month!

Cliff Nowicki is a Product Designer by day and a freelance designer by night. If you’re looking for a new website or even a logo, make sure to go to the contact page and get in touch.

WordPress 5.2 Upgrade!

Before I start. Yikes. This layout with the twenty nineteen default layout is oogly when I switched over from twenty seventeen.

This is very odd for me to write in this new kind of layout. Many people have already made the switch to WordPress 5.2 a while ago and some have even asked me when I’ll switch. I honestly thought I did a few months ago at a local WordPress Meetup until someone asked me what version I was on. I looked up the version and I was at 4.8 I think? I made the assumption that WordPress updated automatically for me since that’s how I set it up. The issue was that my hosting was at a lower PHP version that didn’t support the new upgrade and therefore didn’t upgrade it automatically. I did some digging and saw that it was a way outdated version of PHP that was probably a huge risk on my end.

So It Begins

The other day I decided to update the PHP for my hosting so I could update to version 5.2 and experience all the Gutenberg loveliness. Upon updating the PHP, I had another window up to click the button to officially update WordPress. That’s where the crap show started. The 500 Internal Error showed up and it wasn’t going away. I sat on it for a day and came back to the screen still showing up. Sorry for those who tried to view my site that day. So what did I do? Here’s a quick scramble timeline of what I did:

  • Google what a 500 Internal Server Error is and how I can fix it.
  • Deactivate plugins by renaming the folder plugins-deactivated. Failure
  • Delete wp-admin and wp-includes and replace with brand new 5.2 files. Failure.
  • Do that a second time, cause I’m pretty sure I messed it up the first time some how. Failure.
  • Backup my content folder, cause why haven’t I done that yet?!
  • Download an old version of WordPress 5.1.
  • Delete wp-admin and includes folder a 3rd time but this time upload the 5.1 WordPress. Eureka!
  • Reload page. Goes to a D path error something er other. Failure.
  • Delete admin/includes and upload a farther version of 5.1. Eureka!
  • Wait. Not Eureka. I got into my admin, but my site is blank. Failure.
  • I was still able to get into my admin, so I deactivated all my plugins and update to the newest version of WordPress hoping that would work.
  • The version did update, however I did still keep with the blank white screen.
  • Switched theme to twenty nineteen. Eureka!

It’s Alive!

Now that my site had content live again, I was happy. Well, kind of happy because the theme made it look like a plain text site from 1995. Doh! I decided to drop it back to twenty seventeen and see if that worked. It did! It was quite a whirlwind of frustration. Normally I wouldn’t care because I’m not really trying to impress anybody or show anything off. However, I recently applied for a talk at WordCamp Ann Arbor and I knew coming up with a non-working WordPress site on top of a meh default theme would just be the final blow.

I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience of what exactly went down when a random person such as myself had an issue. What caused it? From digging further, I found out that the update to WordPress 5.2 with my plugins activated may have been the issue. I’m not 100% sure since I did deactivate, but I’m sure at that point it was too late.

Cliff Nowicki is a product designer by day and freelance designer by night. If you’re looking to get a new website, then go to the contact page and send him a message.

Adobe XD: Why I Created a Tutorial Video

youtube channel banner the has the Over the Cliff design talk logo and the phrase How to create a coming soon page in adobe xd

I’ve been using Adobe XD for almost a full year at my work and I’ve got to say, I love it a lot. The program is for web designers, product designers and app designers to create fast and efficient designs.

There hasn’t been too much excitement for XD since Sketch is the go too choice for mac users. However XD doesn’t care what OS you’re on since it’s part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. Did I mention it’s free to use and comes with a single preview link? A single preview link is pretty good as a limitation for a powerful software program.

Why Did I create a tutorial video for Adobe XD?

When I first started learning Adobe XD, it was hard finding tutorials. I wound up going to for a course that helped out a lot in learning the program. Daniel Scott has a great tutorial here that I used which was a great foundation for learning. Adobe has been making great strides in releasing new content and keeping up to date. There are still a few things that are a pain to work without, but their forums are active in coming up with solutions. Since I’ve used the program so much and feel sort of like a teacher to some, I created a tutorial video. The video is a short video of how to create a “Coming Soon” landing page for your site before it launches. The idea sounded simple enough to do my first walk through of creating something with Adobe XD.

The video begins from opening up the document, gathering assets and figuring out what to put on the landing page. I did minimal research other than gathering the social media icons and my own logo for filler. When I make videos, I want other people to see all the mistakes and guessing I do when I design. I really feel like that helps other designers know that nobody is perfect and everybody isn’t 100% the first time.

Check out the video below, and if you like it please subscribe to the channel for future videos!

Cliff Nowicki is a Web Designer in Metro Detroit that has a YouTube Channel to share his knowledge and provide value to other designers. Cliff also takes on freelance work, so make sure to contact him if you have a project in mind.

Can I be a Web Design Speaker?

sepia tone image of sketches of a web design talked about in this post can i be a web design speaker

Last night I spoke at a local WordPress event that begged the question, “Can I be a Web Design Speaker?”. The group was called the West Metro Detroit WordPress Meetup and the topic was “Show and Tell”. The subject revolved around showing off what you’ve been working on lately. It was hosted by Deborah Edwards-Onoro of Lireo Designs. It was a nice small gathering that took place at the Grand Traverse Pie Company. I went to speak about my experience having a design published in .net magazine for their monthly “Design Challenge” article. Speaking has always made me nervous as an introvert. However, location seemed like a relaxed place and I was pleased to have only a small group to speak too. The larger the group, the more nervous I get about speaking so I was in my comfort zone there.

If you know me, then you probably have already heard me talk on and on about this thing, but believe it or not there are people who haven’t heard about it yet! I’ve told the story so many times, that it feels like I’m telling it for the first time, every time for someone who hasn’t listened yet. Even though it was only for about 20 minutes with lots of good questions, it felt like I was good at being a web design speaker. The back and forth question they asked were easy knowing I took the consideration for a lot of things in my design. The design choices, font choices, layout choices, overall user experience; I answered them all without hesitation. Why? Because I took thought into every aspect of my design knowing it was going out internationally.

What made me think I could even be a web design speaker?

Earlier that day, I saw a post about a call for speakers at WordCamp Detroit. I shared my interest with the group that I was looking to come up with a topic for it. Could I be a web design speaker? I love web design and I sure had a fun time talking about my experience and sharing it with the group. The group came up with some good ideas based on what I talked about that night. That idea is first and foremost, but I wonder if there is anything else I could talk about.

All day today I though about potential ideas that focused around web design. I have been to a few WordCamps in the past, so I know there is a lack of design tracks. As a web designer, it always bummed me out not seeing a good topic that is both design AND related to WordPress. I’ll be coming up with a few topics and I’m building up the confidence to speak at WordCamp Detroit.

Cliff Nowicki is a Web Designer that has a YouTube Channel to share his knowledge and provide value to other designers. Cliff also takes on freelance work, so make sure to contact him if you have a project in mind.