Month Edition: June 2016

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Whoa, that was fast!

The month of June was definitely a rude awakening for me after being pretty much off the grid for the month of May. Returning to work and daily routines after a long excursion feels like you’re hitting a brick wall in simplest terms. Although June felt like it went by in a flash, it has been also been jam-packed with some awesome things in the making!

THE best podcast for graphic designers

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Whether you are a designer just starting out, interested in getting in the business or been working for 5+ in different design jobs, you have to check out The Deeply Graphic Design Cast. The Podcast is hosted by Wes McDowell, Mikelle Morrison and Nick Longo, all of which are fabulous designers and own their own respective design studios. The episodes cover a whole range of design-based topics from your design process, dealing with clients, writing contracts and the list goes on and on! They also host periodical live shows where viewers can submit questions for them to answer on air. This Podcast makes the trips from Kalamazoo to Northern Michigan on the weekends much more enjoyable!

Weekends at the lake

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Speaking of the lake, last Summer my day job required me to work every weekend from 6AM-2PM at a coffee shop so I didn’t manage to get up to my family’s lake-house in Northern Michigan. This Summer working Monday-Friday I have managed to take a couple mini-vacays every now and then. It has been lovely to get away from the business of client work and just be able to grab a drink and relax on the pontoon. Did I mention I learned to paddle-board the other week?!

Spreading the love at GR pride

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After the events that took place on June 12th at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, me and my fellow members of the LGBT community across the world were shook, especially at home here in the United States. Many of us were celebrating LGBT rights the moment that this news came to light and made many of us question going to the Pride Events in our own town. I’ve learned over time that the best thing you can do when fear wants to drive you away is to stare fear in the face, throw some glitter and have a fabulous time!

clients keeping me busy

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One big target of mine this year was to obtain more freelance clients for my design studio. I can happily say that I am carrying a full basket this Summer and that have been beyond happy doing it. I decided on Graphic Design about four years ago and when there are nights that I literally have to force myself off of the computer, I know that I made the right choice. 😉 I can’t wait to share with you all the projects I have been working on in the upcoming weeks!

Until Next month…

I am now ready to take a long weekend off and spend yet another weekend at the lake with friends and family, enjoying the water and managing not to get too sunburnt.


Links

Advice: Battling Discouragement With Evolution

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A few weeks ago I spent a Saturday evening in Grand Rapids with a good friend of mine catching up on life at our favorite coffee place, The Bitter End. We sipped on lattes well into the night gabbing about our recent endeavors, work and eventually touched on our creative projects.

I began to go on about my recent clients and how much I have enjoyed my work and writing lately. This friend then returned starting about a creative project that I got really excited for her about. As the friend went on about this endeavor, the more discouraged she seemed by it and lacked motivation to continue the project.

“What is holding you back from producing the content?” I asked.

She told me that she felt like her writing ability or ability to produce content was beyond her skill-set and she did not have the right equipment to pursue said project.

I had to stop her immediately in her tracks.

“Keep creating. That is the only way to further evolution. Evolution brings clarity.”

If you are a creative individual, the process of creating things is actually quite a beautiful and spiritual thing that takes place internally. I find solace in allowing myself to enjoy the process of trial and error. I find solace in the idea of letting your work evolve.

When I feel at my highest caliber of discouragement, I want to stop everything I am doing and just start a new project. It has taken a lot of time for me to look at discouragement with a new lens. I now allow discouragement to only perpetuate me to keep creating.

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Allow Your Projects to Evolve

If I did not allow myself to start blogging until I had the ultimate editorial formula, I would still be homeless to a domain. If I had waited until I could save up and purchase a premium WordPress Theme, I would still be without a site. I think the beauty of digital publishing is that we can go in at any moment and fix or improve something that needs changing. As I go along posting about my endeavors, I will take time every now and then to tweak something with my blog’s design, update my about page, and insert new projects in my portfolio and take out the old. That is what I mean by evolution. I feel great when I look back at claytongerard.com in 2014(above) and see how far the site has come in terms of design and my writing.

Don’t let lack of EQUIPMENT hold you back

If you didn’t know before I chose design as my career, I was a freelance photographer during my high school years. Before I was performing any freelance work, I was taking macro shots of flowers up north at my grandparent’s cabin with a cheap point-and-shoot camera. Through taking those photos while not very good, I developed a sense of composition and laying out a photo. Keep in mind, this was seven years ago. Nowadays most people have a decent camera packed in their cellphone. Whether it is a camera, writing tool, program, etc. don’t let the lack of “professional” equipment hold you back from producing wonderful things. You can actually learn a lot by having a basic tool to develop your skill.

Trial and error

In the evolution of a project, you will find out over time what works and what doesn’t. I would be lying to you if I said that I have the same exact process of handling clients from the day I started designing. I am always tweaking my creative process to what best suits me and what is most efficient. You will make changes that at one time may have felt right but in reality does not fit correctly when applied. That is the only way you will learn what works best for you! You will set yourself up for a long road of heartache if you want your projects to be perfect from day one.


In Closing

When taking on a large creative project, it may seem completely overwhelming at first. Some people love this feeling of the unknown while others hate it. I feel enormous amounts of excitement when my friends come to me to tell me about a new project they are starting. It inspires me to keep doing the work that I do and taking the time to let my own projects evolve. With that, take the leap and start. Have a good one, readers.

*Need advice? Shoot me an email at hello@claytongerard.com and I’ll make sure to include you in a future post!

How To Have A Hot Date With Saigon

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I have a little secret. 

Before traveling to Vietnam last month, Asia had never been anywhere near the top of my travel bucket list. It’s not like I ever disliked the idea of traveling Asia, it just never really crossed my mind and I had not done much research about the area. That all changed once I had the opportunity to travel Vietnam and Hong Kong with my travel companion, Tiffany. Ever since I have visited, I cannot think of anywhere else I would love to return to first!

Since I spent most of May in the fabulous city of Ho Chi Minh, I have laid out the perfect guide for having the most fantastic day in this wonderful city, and definitely within budget!

Get Breakfast from a street vendor

Bánh cuônThe glorious thing about Vietnam is that you can find food at almost every street corner with an unlimited amount of authentic Vietnamese culinary options. You can sit in at a cafe or eat from one of the many street vendors in Saigon. I recommend eating from the street vendors as the food tastes more authentic and is more affordable!

Visit Bến Thành Market

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You can get your shop on at Bến Thành Market and spend hours browsing the various stalls where you can buy food, jewelry, custom clothing, beauty products, and the list goes on and on. Bến Thành is one of the must-see places in Saigon that you cannot really miss. It is right in the city center so it is not difficult to get to at all!

Just make sure to keep your belongings in a safe spot as pick-pocketing is prevalent in Saigon, especially in condensed places such as Bến Thành. Another note before heading to the market is that it is perfectly okay, if not, expected to bargain prices at Bến Thành. Stick to your guns when bargaining with the locals as they are going to try to get the maximum profit from you. It’s okay to walk away if they won’t meet your price, but they are very persistent so don’t be caught off guard if they try to follow you. They may actually agree to your price when you decide to walk.

Take a stroll down walking street

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One of the newest attractions to make its way into the tourist-scene of Saigon is Nguyen Hue, or better known as walking street! During the day the street is pretty vacated which makes for wonderful pictures of The People’s Committee building on one end, with various flags and the river on the other end. This street is lined with plenty of shops and restaurants and is sometimes referred to as “the Times Square of Saigon.” This place is definitely another must-see.

COOL OFF WITH SOME BOO COFFEE

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Vietnamese iced coffee is super tasty, and if you are a coffee lover, Boo Coffee is the stop for you. It’s on walking street and only a 13 cent elevator ride will take you up to the ninth floor where you can sip on some coffee and overlook beautiful views of the city. Tiffany and I probably stopped back here too many more times to count!

soar above saigon at the saigon sky deck

UntitledIf you really want to experience the highest views of Saigon, you must stop by The Bitexco Financial Tower which is just a short walk from Walking Street! Once you’re there it is a small price to pay to get to the observation deck that overlooks all of Ho Chi Minh city. The coolest part about the geography surrounding Saigon is the winding rivers that lead out towards the Mekong River Delta and the ocean!

explore THE PARKS

UntitledWhile Saigon is extremely hot and humid on most days in Saigon, you will find pleasure in escaping the busy streets to the solitude of Saigon’s many city parks. Each park has something different to offer. This one specifically was my favorite because of this monument that sat over the pond with koi fish below. Absolutely beautiful!

visit the war remnants museum

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One of the most emotional experiences I had while in Southeast Asia was visiting the war remnants museum where I learned about many of the truths that took place during the Vietnam War. While the war was over forty years ago, the photos that are displayed will tear at your heart strings and you will find out about how the nation is still suffering from the destruction brought to the land during the course of this long and brutal war.

Grab an afternoon treat at abc bakery

UntitledI had a wonderful time visiting ABC Bakery throughout my stay to load up on carbs and treat myself to some sweets throughout my stay in Vietnam. This local chain has a complete array of affordable baked goods to satisfy any taste. I got this beaut’ on my birthday, which I was lucky to celebrate while I was away!

Cruise around town on a motorbike!

UntitledOne of the coolest things I did while I was staying in Vietnam was riding along on the motorbikes across town. You have the option to rent your own motorbike for the day(If you’re feeling brave) or get the attention of the various locals stationed around the city who are willing to take you around for a small price, which usually is cheaper than taking a taxi!

Do mind though, traffic laws are much looser in Vietnam than other parts of the world and motor-vehicle deaths are at a high rate in the country. At high time of rush-hour, the roads are a free-for-all and you will find yourself in for a surprise if you do not do your research before entering the motorized zoo.

Go for a pub crawl on the bui vien

UntitledThe late night party scene in Saigon is pretty radical. Many of the big cities in Southeast Asia are known for their pub-crawls. It is not hard to find a group to register to be apart of and get a taste of all of the bars in the city. If you’re not feeling like traveling in a group, you can take a walk along the Bui Vien which is a popular destination for backpackers and tourists alike. You can meet some locals and some travelers and meet some new friends; you can tell I did! Just remember, drink responsibly!

finish off with some late night entertainment

UntitledIf you want more of an authentic club experience while in Vietnam, look no further than Acoustic Bar in District 3 of Ho Chi Minh. This bar has live entertainment every night with some of the best talent that Saigon has to offer. Acoustic has actually ranked as the best performance bar on many travel sites in Saigon. I got to know many of the singers that perform there and the locals go absolutely nuts over the shows every night! It’s the perfect way to end your night. 

Things to note


  • Pick-pocketing is very prominent in Vietnamese urban settings. I never felt that my belongings were particularly unsafe, but I have heard multiple horror stories from others who have visited. Always keep an eye on your things and your valuables close to your body.
  • When taking a taxi, keep your business refined to Vinasun and Mai Linh taxis. Other taxi services are known to program their meters to double in price at random times. Other taxi services are known to take very round-about ways to getting to your location to up the cost. You should on average not pay more than $2-5 USD for a taxi ride in the city.
  • The currency in Vietnam is inflated and noted in thousands. Keep an eye on your money when paying for things as it is easy to get 10,000 VND confused with 100,000 VND. I almost paid $5 for a baked roll instead of fifty cents. I was lucky enough to have the street vendor correct me. Others might not be so lucky.
  • The heat in Southern Vietnam is incredibly humid and warm. Make sure to always carry around a water bottle and stay hydrated when walking around under the Sun. I almost passed out during my first week by letting myself go to long without eating or drinking.
  • Speaking of water, it is best to stay away from tap water and crushed ice as the tap water is considered unsafe to drink in Vietnam. Thankfully, bottled water is incredibly cheap due to this and the high demand of bottled water. You can buy a large water for no more than thirty cents.

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In closing


Vietnam has come to be one of my favorite places that I have ever traveled to. I had no expectations or ideas of what the climate or culture would be like, but I left completely in love with what I saw. I recommend anyone who is looking to travel somewhere far away to take a look at Southeast Asia as there is something for everyone and is not to disappoint. 

Question: Where is your favorite place that you’ve traveled? What were your expectations before going there? Did they meet your expectations, or even exceed them? Let me know in the comments!

Have a great week, readers!


You can check out my other travel guides here!

Best Of GR: Vertigo Music

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If you are interested in the music scene of Grand Rapids, there is no way you haven’t heard of Vertigo Music. I make sure to visit when I am back in Grand Rapids when I am not operating in Kalamazoo. You can spend hours scanning through all of the vinyls, old and new! They have an offering of CDs as well so you really can find anything!

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I know that Vertigo is frequented by Grand Rapids vinyl music owners. What’s nice is that you can purchase vinyls from your favorite classic artists or even most artists of today are available on vinyl as well. The staff is pretty friendly and willing to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

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The store also has a pretty decent selection of t-shirts and posters. Some of my favorite wall posters are up in my apartment.


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So You Want To Start A Blog? Here are 5 Steps To Creating a Blog!

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Hello!

So I hear that you want to start a blog?!

It’s okay, take a breath and relax. There’s a LOT for you to learn but it’s going to be okay. Before I start throwing a lot of information your way, I have a very crucial piece of advice.

Start

I have been consistently blogging since the Summer of 2012 and had an online presence well before that and it has been a constant work in progress. Don’t feel like you’re required to have the best blog in cyberspace from day one. That is the beauty of the internet; in which we can constantly make changes and only then we can grow. So kick back, relax start jamming away at this post and then start playing with the bits of advice I have given you to begin delving into the wonderful world of blogging.

Step One: Choosing Hosting & Domain

Hosting on the surface may seem like a complete jumble of confusing words and terms but it can be much simpler than that. To put it lightly, hosting is the service that provides your blog or website public access to the internet. Secondly, your domain is the distinct URL that you purchase on the web. Think of it as cyber real estate.

There are two routes you can go with starting a blog either through a shared hosting service or VPS Hosting. Shared hosting services include Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr, TypePad etc. VPS Hosting services sell you domains as well as space on the internet for you make a home for your blog. Examples of VPS Hosting services include Bluehost, Hostgator, DreamHost, GoDaddy, and 123Reg. If you are serious about blogging and want more freedom for customization, I recommend going down the VPS Hosting route which is what I have used since the start of this blog.

Step Two: Choosing A Blogging Platform

My number one recommendation for choosing a blogging platform has always and will always be WordPress.org. I must make it clear that there is a difference between WordPress.COM and WordPress.ORG. WordPress.com is a shared hosting and blogging service provided by the makers of WordPress. At the bottom of this post I have provided a list of resources including WordPress tutorials for those who need technical advice for applying this framework to your hosting.

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Step Three: Setting Up Pages

Assuming you already have a direction for the content of your blog, you need to have navigable pages that your readers can click on to get more information about you and your blog. The two pages I recommend having are an about page and a contact page. An about page will contain more insight to you as the writer of the blog and a summary as to what your blog is going to be about. A contact page can help people reach you for further communication which is crucial if your blog surrounds a service you are providing. I will write about these topics more in depth in the future.

Step Four: Setting Up A System

I treat my blog like any other publication whether it’s a magazine, a journal, or newspaper. I have documented an Editorial Calendar where I lay out my posts on a monthly basis that I cross off when they are complete. Doing this helps me keep my ideas organized so then I don’t feel overwhelmed starting off the week not knowing what to post. Every time I get a new idea for a post, I make sure to write it down and then work it into my editorial calendar which keeps my posting at a constant flow. To read more about my personal blogging routine, check out this post I have written that goes deeper into creating my posts.

You may need to ask yourself when starting a blog how often that you would like to post. My usual blogging schedule involves posting three times a week leaving the weekend for me to relax, work on other projects, and write for the following week.

Step Five: Critique Yourself Every Now & Then

No, do not criticize what is wrong with your blog. What I mean by this is to step back from your blog or website intermittently and ask yourself what you can improve to your blog, what you can add or even what can you take away. You may find that there is something that makes your blog way too cluttered which may benefit you by removing from your site all together. It’s best to keep yourself a series of documented “briefs” on your computer that you can keep to look back on and analyze the progress of your blog.

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External Resources

1. The Style List has compiled an A to Z glossary on blogging to help clear the air on any terms that are still a bit foggy.

2. WordPress for Beginners by Reeta Krishna is a fabulous book jam packed with plenty of further technical advice for setting up the WordPress.org platform.

3. Ready to learn the ins and outs of blogging in depth? Check out The Blogcademy Online and attend their live workshop from home, today!

4. If you are serious about turning your blog into a business, I recommend reading ProBlogger. I have been reading Darren Rowse’s work for a while now and he covers many blogging related questions you may have.

5. Blogging Basics 101 has also provided fantastic guide to creating your own blog.


In Closing

These tips can provides as the basic framework for starting your blog. Like I mentioned at the head of this post, it is most important that you take some initiative and just start. The internet is very flexible in that you can always add and take away elements that work for you over time.

I will also be writing about these topics in depth as well as various other blogging topics over the year. If you have any specific questions or topics you would like me to cover, you can shoot me an email at hello@claytongerard.com or you may reach me on through my various social media profiles linked on my page.

Have you started a blog? Send me your link and I’ll check you out!