You may have seen our short blog post Sunday night, announcing that Call for Makers is now open (fill out your form here!). That can only mean one thing: planning for the 2018 Dayton Mini Maker Faire has officially commenced. We get to start talking to the makers from last year and see what they’ve been working on since August, while trying to find new and interesting things to show off just how awesome the Dayton maker community is. Part of finding the folks who make these things is doing stuff like hanging posters and handing out flyers around town. Which, in turn, means we need a flyer.

And here’s where things tend to be difficult. A lot of the planning team are engineers by trade and training. Offhand, I don’t think any of us have any sort of artistic training. And when engineers want to convey information to an audience, we tend towards the bulleted list. This is not the most fun thing to look at.

By Piet Mondrian - [1], Public Domain,

Which one is art? No, really. Please explain.

What I’m getting at is that graphic design and the visual arts tend to be a little outside my own personal comfort zone. So, I took that as a challenge, and decided to try and design this year’s poster. I’ve used a laser cutter before, so I had played a bit with Inkscape. And I had gotten one piece of advice that really helped:

“Find a style you like, and copy that”


I did know enough that I wanted something retro. And it’s been my own opinion that Maker Faires are the spiritual successor to the World Fairs of over a century ago. So I looked at the old posters for those. And I found several that I liked.

Like this one


Now, the challenge was learning to use Inkscape better. It’s fine if all I need are some basic shapes or to tweak something to cut it on the laser, but something that people will actually WANT to look at? That takes a bit more work. Fortunately, I found a YouTube channel with tutorials I enjoyed. Armed with this knowledge, I set off to create this year’s poster. The initial results were obviously great enough to make strong men weep.


Well, their eyes were definitely watering


And I think this is the tricky part of working outside your comfort zone. You know your result is not what you wanted, but you aren’t sure where you went wrong. If I’m working on something technical, I can test things piece by piece and sneak up on whatever went wrong. But with this, the elements I wanted were there (I thought), but the result was not. So, I walked away from it for a while. DMMF 2017 was done, the holidays were fast approaching, and I had more pressing things to take care of. I’d idly play with it occasionally and try to tweak things, but that was it.

But that was enough. I managed to tweak things here and there when I had a few minutes and finally put the finishing touches on it just this morning. Actually, I’m happy enough with it that I may try to make a few more in a similar style for the fun of it. So, for the first time, here is the potential 2018 Dayton Mini Maker Faire poster/flyer (pending the rest of the team’s approval):



I think the key was stepping away from it. For one, after you haven’t looked at your project for a while, it’s easier to let go of things that don’t work. (Seriously, that green sky). This is pretty broadly applicable, and it’s pretty common advice. It can just be hard to make yourself do it. And I think it’s doubly true when you’re working outside your comfort zone. In addition to the project not working, you’re trying to figure out what you don’t know. So stepping back from it, hanging out in your comfort zone for a bit can help. You get to dip your toes in, so to speak, instead of swan-diving into the unfamiliar.


So, what projects do you have going that put you into new waters? What have you discovered that helps you work in a new area?


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