Graduation Day – May 12, 2013

Today I graduated with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Accounting. What, you might ask, is a graphic designer doing going to college for a degree in accounting? Well, several years ago I decided that, being good with numbers and having an excellent memory for them, an Accounting degree would be the perfect way for me to work from home and earn a good income. Little did I know that barely a year into the program I would find out that I really disliked accounting quite a bit.

Already being a year in, however, made it seem like to stop then would be a waste, since I had convinced myself that the degree was for the betterment of my family. After all, my kids would benefit, my husband would benefit, and I would benefit from all the time I would be able to spend at home while making money.

[Insert GROAN here]

During this time I was doing various design projects for friends and family, as well as playing a large part in the bookkeeping and design aspects of my husband’s new business. It was about this time that *gasp* I learned people actually called themselves Graphic Designers, and that they made money doing it! From home!! Successfully!!!

That is when I started the final two years it took to acquire the accounting degree while daydreaming about opening my own graphic design business and embarking on a career that I could honestly say I LOVED. Which is why this fall I will be changing my major to Art and will decide if I want to purse the BA or the BFA with a concentration in drawing. I have a lot to think about as far as my future is concerned.

Don’t worry, the accounting degree comes in handy every single day. As I said before, I do the bookkeeping for my husband’s business although we do outsource the end-of-the-year accounting to a good friend of ours. Maybe someday I will tackle that, but for now I am comfortable with using my limited accounting expertise to adequately perform all bookkeeping tasks for the business as well as to use those skills in the start-up of my own business. Wish me luck!

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When A Printer Goes Down – Google!

I recently experienced something that might put fear into the heart of any freelance graphic designer who prints proofs on a home printer — my printer, an HP OfficeJet 6500, suddenly stopped printing black ink. How could this be?! I know of some people who let their color ink run out of their printer (obviously they are not graphic designers) and only use their printers for black ink printing.

So I did what any self-respecting amateur printer technician would do in my position — I got out a new black in cartridge and switched them! Did it work? No, of course not. I proceeded to “print” yet another blank page. It’s rare that things work out that easily!

Enter Google, stage Left…

When something goes wrong, when I can’t figure something out, or when I need some advice from someone who doesn’t have a conscious mind I turn to Google. In this case it turned up several interesting suggestions, among them unplugging and then plugging the printer back in, turning off the printer overnight, and reinstalling the printer software. After unplugging my printer and reinstalling the software I decided to try the more extreme method of fixing the problem, which was outlined by a person who discovered their own solution to a Yahoo! Answers question that they had posted — taking the printer heads out of the printer and rinsing them under warm water.

This is a foreign concept to me. Take apart my printer? No way, not even if you pay me. But risk having to spend a couple hundred more dollars on a nice printer or try this last ditch effort to fix the one I have? You bet!

And to my surprise, when I took out the little contraption under the ink cartridges it looked like the black printer had vomited all over it. And then dried. And then vomited again.

So with my husband’s help we rinsed off the chunks of dried ink, patted it dry and let it sit on the kitchen counter while we went into town. As soon as we returned I put it back in the printer, replaced the ink cartridges that I had initially pulled out of the printer (including the original black ink cartridge), and it proceeded to print out a page that apparently was still in the queue. Ta-da! I fixed the printer!

This whole scenario led to me also googling how to store an open ink cartridge since I certainly didn’t want my brand new XL black ink cartridge to dry up on me. It is now in the bottom drawer of my filing cabinet in a Ziploc bag with a moist paper towel. Let’s hope it works when I eventually go to install it in the printer!

To Trademark or Not To Trademark?

I have recently been looking into trademarking some custom t-shirt designs for both my own retail purposes as well as for other businesses that I currently design for. This is new territory for me and I have found it to be completely confusing and difficult! Not only does there appear to be no practicing Intellectual Property lawyers in Alaska, but the whole process itself also sounds intimidating. No wonder the United States Patent and Trademark Office recommends using a lawyer to get you through the process!

For anyone else who might be interested in trademarking a brand or slogan the best service I have found is The Trademark Attorneys. They will hold your hand through the process for $1,500.00 or you can fill in an online application and pay a reduced price of $770.00 ($445 in lawyer fees plus $325 per class of item).

There are still a lot of unanswered questions and in my quest to answer them I will be posting the answers to the blog. For instance, apparel appears to be one class of item, so what if I wanted to print on mugs, mouse pads, or tote bags? Does that mean I will have to pay an additional $325 for these classes of items? I hope not!

There is a lot of confusion in the differences between copyrights, trademarks, and even between trademarks (TM) and registered trademarks (®). A design is technically copyrighted as soon as it is designed, but anyone can take it and alter it to suit their own purposes. Registering the copyright can help if any future legal issues arise. Trademarks are used more for a word, symbol or name used to identify the source of a good, like the Nike “swoosh” or the Coca-Cola logo. It is this type of mark, a registered trademark, that I am seeking to establish a whole apparel brand that my husband and I can bring to market. As I said before, to help others on the same road I will be posting further updates of the process as we move forward with our designs and our ideas.

Until then we will be adding TM to our design to help establish our ownership of the original design, and to avoid legal issues of illegally using the registered trademark symbol ®!