Friday, July 22, 2011

Photo Dump: Black Hills Trip

Though staring at fossils for our entire trip to the Black Hills would've been fine by me (see previous post), I did lots of other fun stuff while we were there:


I stayed in a log cabin in Custer State Park for three nights.

Horseback Riding

I went horseback riding through mountain trails near Nemo, South Dakota.

Inside the Sky Dome

I visited Reptile Gardens.

Moluccan Cockatoo

I admired a Moluccan Cockatoo attempting to nap.

Giant Sea Turtle (Archelon ischyros)

I saw a cast of the giant sea turtle Archelon ischyros in the Sky Dome at Reptile Gardens.

Snake Show

I touched an albino Burmese Python. I promise I didn't push over any little kids to get up there.

African Grey

I talked with an African Grey.

Giant Tortoise

I touched and had my picture taken with a giant tortoise (either an Aldabra or Galapagos Tortoise; both were kept in this enclosure).

The Lists

I made a scene at Mount Rushmore with my mother-in-law's entire extended family.


I experienced a buffalo-caused traffic jam.

George W & Me

I posed by this giant bust of my favorite U.S. president.

South Dakota

I took some pictures of the prairie vistas I take for granted every day.

The rest of the photos from our trip can be found here.

Wait...was my delivery of the part about my favorite president too deadpan?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Museum @ Black Hills Institute

Two weekends ago I travelled out to western South Dakota to the Black Hills, the quintessential vacation spot in this area. Ok, maybe not so much "quintessential" as "only" vacation spot in this area. That is, if you'd like to see something other than vast monocultures of corn and soybeans in every direction. The Black Hills area is basically one big tourist trap, but the scenery is beautiful and some of the attractions are well worth seeing.

This trip centered around a family reunion with various events spread over several days, but we still had time to pick a few things to see and do while we were there. I had way more picks than were realistic for the time we had. So I skipped over the Mammoth Site, Wind Cave, and Badlands National Park (all of which I've seen previously, albeit quite a few years ago) for my first choice: the Museum @ Black Hills Institute in Hill City.

Museum Entrance

Let me just say that despite how unassuming this looks from the outside, and how small the building actually is, this museum is AMAZING! Do consider your source: I've never had the opportunity to visit the large museums that are regarded as the best in America (The Field Museum, Smithsonian, etc.) so I can't compare. But wow, this museum is absolutely packed from floor to ceiling with wonders of natural history. I could have easily spent an entire day here if I would've had the time.


The biggest draw here is the actual Stan the T. rex. He is certainly impressive! I couldn't stop walking around him and just gazing up in awe. The information included in his displays was excellent. You can take a look here and here and view it in larger sizes. The layouts could certainly use some improvement (grid system, please?) but they weren't too bad. I especially like the excavation illustration showing the way the fossils were found.

Two Tyrannosaurs

As if Stan wasn't enough, there's another huge Tyrannosaurus!

Tyrannosaurus rex, Etc

This one was labelled more like the rest of the exhibits here. The actual information given was great throughout the museum. The cast replicas were identified as such, and the current location of the original bones was also usually included. This T. rex wasn't labelled with a name, but later I looked up its specimen number (MOR-555) and found that it's nicknamed the "Wankel Rex" or "Devil Rex." 

The Wankel Rex was surrounded by a herd of smaller dinosaurs, including Chirostenotes, Thescelosaurus, Pachycephalosaurus, Struthiomimus, Edmontosaurus, and the Senckenberg Mummy. I suppose the fact that they're all just sitting on the floor in a group with no backdrops or anything might seem boring to some visitors, but I felt much more up close and personal with these dinosaurs than I've experienced at any other museum I've been to. Many of the dinosaurs' heads and tails extended right over the little chain that cordoned off this grouping. It was really satisfying to get to observe them so closely.


The Chirostenotes is a cast composite of two similarly sized individuals found in Harding County, SD (Hell Creek Formation).

Struthiomimus, Etc

Struthiomimus...and friends.

Tyrannosaur Skulls, Etc

There were enough Tyrannosaurid skulls on display to make anyone stare in a state of childlike wonder, especially once you realize that many of them are from well-known specimens like Black Beauty, Duffy, and Jane. Also note the ammonite fossils in the photo above; there's a huge collection of ammonites spread all over the museum.


This Bambiraptor was posed so dramatically. Here's another angle. I also stared at that Hyacinth Macaw skull (to the right) for an inordinate amount of time. My lifelong obsession with Psittaciformes rears up in the most unexpected places.


The last thing I expected to get to see here were some of the newer fossils from China, but there was a whole area behind glass dedicated to just that. They were casts of course, but they were beautiful. The detail of the feathers is so incredible. Above is Confuciusornis.

Elaine's Skull

This skull, from a Camarasaurus named Elaine, is still in its original plaster field jacket.

I took way too many photos to share them all here, so visit my Museum @ Black Hills Institute Flickr set to see more. But only if you live too far away to actually visit it in person! Your $7.50 admission fee gets you in for an entire year. Huzzah!

If only Sue could've been here. Oh, Sue...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Emily + Mark's Wedding Invitations

Invitation, Info Sheet, Envelope

These were sent out a couple weeks ago now, so I can finally share them here!


Early developmental sketches. The full size of the invitation when folded all the way open is 5.5" x 34." It's 5.5" x 8.5" while folded up. The envelopes are standard 6" x 9."

Opening the Invitation

Invitation Folding Open



The timeline matches up on the top and bottom when folded around.

Invitation (detail)

Detail of the timeline and pictograms. I created everything in Adobe Illustrator. Just to clarify, I made every graphic you see here completely from scratch. In the past, I've had people question where I "found" the icons I use in some of my infographics. I never use pre-made graphics of any sort. For these, I used the pathfinder, shapes, and pen tool to create my pictograms.


The stripes on the envelopes were made by cutting strips of colored duct tape.


Invitation + Info Sheet

Info Sheet + RSVP Postcard

The RSVP card fits into slits on the information sheet. The wedding day schedule is found underneath once the card is removed.


Invitation with String

The info sheet is the same dimensions as the folded invitation. A string tying them together was the final finishing touch before going in the envelopes.

I think they turned out excellent, if I do say so myself. I really enjoyed using infographics, which are generally thought of as being generic and utilitarian, and applying them in a very personal way to work for a wedding. Their main colors for the wedding are purple and brown - I think the concept of using pink and blue to make purple as their paths come together is a lovely and understated touch.

It seems that I can't discuss anything to do with wedding designs without degenerating into some kind of here goes. With all the endless design possibilities out there, I just can't understand why nearly every wedding invitation I see is basically the same as the next. Though this wasn't exactly a low budget project, it doesn't require a lot of money to create something more personal and thoughtful than the standard design templates every wedding shop is pushing (please, please, give the Zapfino a rest!). If some people really like the usual wedding templates, then by all means they should get them. But sadly I suspect that most couples just don't even think about or realize that they can truly do ANYthing they want. So anyway, this opportunity to make wedding materials without any regard for the standard was a real treat for me.

Most importantly, Emily and Mark are very happy with their designs. Success! I couldn't have done it without them!

There are a couple more photos of the invitations in this Flickr set.