Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #13: Design

 

Hello, and welcome to Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge #13! In my family, 13 is a very lucky number, and I hope this challenge is lucky for you too!

As I said in the recap for the last challenge, Lucky Challenge #13 is special and a bit different than previous ones. As most of you know, Julia and the Hoop.la tech team are in the process of redesigning the entire Cookie Connection website. (Read more about that redesign here.) In conjunction with this project, we will be asking you in this challenge to design the new site's banner and background images using cookies!

Depending on the number of entries we receive, we (my usual panel of contributor-judges plus Julia) will be selecting up to 12 entries to feature in this challenge's Spotlight - one for each month of the year. In addition, each entry that is selected for the Spotlight  will be displayed on Cookie Connection for a full month, starting in January 2016. But wait! There's MORE. Each winner will be the subject of a special Cookie Connection feature interview in the month that his/her entry posts to the site!

And, as if it couldn't get any better, we also have a PRIZE for one lucky entrant, to be chosen at random from among ALL of the entrants, not just the spotlighted artists! The prize for Challenge #13, generously donated by Wickstead's Eat Me, is their large Christmas/Holiday Collection of edible wafer papers in vanilla flavor (retail value: £34.65 or approximately $53.40 USD), plus shipping anywhere in the world! Below is a glimpse of what this prize contains . . .

Wickstead's Eat Me Cookie Connection Prize

Now that you are all fired up to win fame and fortune through this challenge, let's talk about some guidelines, parameters, and rules. Because this is a challenge of "design," your entry must meet very specific cookie and photo design requirements that are critical to its application to the new Cookie Connection site.  

Design Challenge Goals:

1. Design both an image to fit the new Cookie Connection site banner and a site background, using cookies of your own design* as the focal point. We are seeking gorgeous cookie photos that make a statement without being overly distracting - basically eye candy for our new home page. *Because of strict copyright laws and site requirements, all entries must be cookies of your very own original design and, therefore, may not include any trademarked or copyrighted characters, copies of other artists' images, copies of greeting cards, and the like. 

2. Both the banner and background should be designed in a color palette that harmonizes with the new site's color scheme.

Top Navigation Bar Colors

Information Box Colors

The top set of colors corresponds to those in the new site's main navigation line, while the bottom set of colors corresponds to the widgets, or call-out boxes, that will reveal along the right side of the site on every page. Your entries do not have to be composed of strictly these colors, but your entries must "harmonize" with these colors.
 
3. Both the banner and the background should complement and balance each other, as they will be displayed together. They should also convey a feeling, images, or themes that relate to a month of the year of your choosing.
 
4. Again, please note that your images, particularly the background, should not be overly busy, meaning they should not distract readers from the primary content on Cookie Connection. Elements in the middle of the background are also unlikely to be seen (as they will be covered by the site's text), so your background design should concentrate on the sides and top of the image. (See additional background design notes below.)
 
5. The background image can be a photo of a single cookie composition, or you can fill the required space by piecing together parts of different photos or the same photo. For instance, in the bat-themed cookie backdrop below, Julia used one photo, but laid it on a black background in three different positions in order to fill the entire 1900 x 1200 pixel space. (If you go this route, this can be accomplished in Photoshop or any other photo editing program.)

BatsBackground3ShowingThree Images Shifted

6. Your photos can contain SECONDARY elements other than cookies, such as the branches in the above bat cookie background, but cookies MUST be the focal point.

7. As always, we ask that you make a set of brand new cookies for this challenge, get creative, and HAVE FUN!

To Enter, aka The Technical Requirements:

Each entry MUST include the following items, followed to the letter:

1. A high resolution 300 dpi BACKGROUND photo that is 1900 x 1200 pixels (W x H) and conforms to the design goals stated above. (Upload this image into the Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge clip set as your primary entry, no later than December 6, 2015 at 5 pm central.)

BatsBackgroundwithNewSize

Unfamiliar with terms like "dpi" and "pixel?" You are not alone. Get smart about them here.

2. The month of the year for which you are designing the banner and background. (Include this information in the first comment under your background photo entry.)

3. A high resolution 300 dpi BANNER image that is no less than 690 x 127 pixels (W x H) and conforms to the design goals stated above. Your image should fit within the blue area in the following site header.

Challenge Header Template-1

If your image is a little larger than 690 x 127 pixels, that is fine, but you must use a 690 x 127 pixel aspect ratio. In addition to the picture above, I have attached a Photoshop .psd file to assist in your design process. (Attach this banner image to the first comment under your primary background photo entry.)

4. Neither photo should include a watermark. Credit will be given to spotlighted entries in the Cookie Connection feature interviews mentioned above, and spotlighted banners will be linked back to the creators' sites.

Additional Notes:

1. Background design tips: Site background design can be a little challenging, as what reveals to viewers will vary with the device being used. If one is viewing on a relatively wide laptop screen, more of the backdrop will be seen along the sides of the site than if one were viewing on a cell phone. For example, Julia recently loaded the following backdrop and banner onto the site.

BatsBackground3

owl bannermine

She has an average size laptop screen (12 inches across), and the screenshot below shows how much of the backdrop reveals to her.

Screen Shot

She actually can't see any of the backdrop underneath and to the right of the red lines drawn on the background below.

BatsBackground3withCrop

And the body of the site covers all but about 1 3/8 inches (165 pixels) of the backdrop to either side of it. But, if she had a larger laptop, she very well could see more, both to the right of and below the red lines. And, if she were on her cell phone, she wouldn't see any backdrop. This all said, it's best to concentrate your design in the upper left and around the right red bounding line in the image above. That way, your design will view best on the typical laptop.

2. Please save copies of your high res imagesSince photos automatically get compressed (saved at a lower resolution) by the site when you upload them (as is normal for websites like this), we will likely need the spotlighted artists to resubmit their high resolution photos directly to us by email after the challenge has ended.

That's it! Have fun! And please let us know if you have any questions!

Julia's Addendum: First, thanks for taking on this challenge! I'm hoping it will be a fun way for you to leave your imprint on our new site, and to help shape the look and feel of our community over the coming year. As you dive into the challenge, remember: it is as much about the cookies as it is about the overall composition and quality of your images. If you feel more out of your comfort zone than usual, that's probably to be expected - heck, we're pushing you in at least a couple of new directions at once!  But I'm here, along with Christine, to help keep you "comfortably out of your comfort zone" by answering technical questions whenever needed. Please don't hesitate to reach out by posting in the comments area below at any time.

***** UPDATE FROM THE EDITOR: ANOTHER EXAMPLE *****

Hi, all! Below is another example of a banner (already inserted in the graphic that includes the site's logo) and a background as more food for thought for this challenge. In this case, the background isn't tiled or composed of multiple cookie photos. Instead, it's a much tighter detail shot of one of my 3-D cookie cakes that has been faded to make the background less visually busy. I am sharing these images to demonstrate that there are other ways to approach this challenge that require very minimal photo manipulation, and that large scale images can often make less distracting backgrounds (though not always). This banner and backdrop will be on the new site when it launches in a couple of weeks, so you will be able to see them in situ then.

FloralSlightlysmaller

CakeFaded4

Christine Donnelly began her professional baking career at 16, when she was hired on the spot at her local bakery to work the counter and decorate cakes. After detours to college and law school, she worked as a trial lawyer in Chicago for many years, ultimately leaving that career to become a stay-at-home mother to her two children. In her “retirement,” she continued to bake at home, at last finding her preferred artistic medium in decorated cookies. In February 2013, Bakerloo Station was born with a presence on both Facebook and Instagram. Christine makes cookies to balance her left brain, to inspire and share creative ideas, and to feed those needs that only art can satisfy. 

Photo credit: Christine Donnelly

NotePractice Bakes Perfect is a bimonthly Cookie Connection blog feature written by Christine Donnelly that poses inspiration or challenges to get you to stretch as a cookie artist - for practice, for prizes, and for fun! Its content expresses the views of the author and not necessarily those of this site, its owners, its administrators, or its employees. Catch up on all of Christine's past Cookie Connection posts here.

 

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A CLARIFICATION BASED ON A QUESTION RECEIVED ELSEWHERE:

 

The bat background and banner that are currently loaded to the site are cookie compositions and mock-ups of what we have in mind (though I personally think they are a little too dark). There are some strings and branches in them, but they are mostly cookie. (A few non-cookie props are okay for this challenge, but the focal point of both images should be cookies.)

 

All of the mock-up images have also been attached to the above challenge post, and you can download any of them by opening up the attachments at the bottom of the post and doing whatever your device requires to download. (It's a right click and then a selection of a "Save Image As" function for me.) That way, you can see the actual image I loaded (though the download will be a lower res version) AND how that image appears to you loaded on the site.

Thank you for donating such a fabulous prize!  And just in time for holiday baking, too!
 
Originally Posted by Wickstead's Eat Me:

Oo looks like you will all be having a lot of fun with this contest

Can't wait to see all the entries I am sure they are all going to be amazing ^.^

Good Luck Everyone <3 

 

Em... where do I find the photographer with the professional equipment and skill to make suitable pictures

 

Is it absolutely necessary to name a precise month? Several themes would be good for e.g. all fall months (harvest themed, pumpkins, rainy days, etc.). Just wondering if in the end there might be 20 entries for April and none for March... or will you proactively sort the entries to the possible matching months?

Originally Posted by Laegwen:

Em... where do I find the photographer with the professional equipment and skill to make suitable pictures

 

Is it absolutely necessary to name a precise month? Several themes would be good for e.g. all fall months (harvest themed, pumpkins, rainy days, etc.). Just wondering if in the end there might be 20 entries for April and none for March... or will you proactively sort the entries to the possible matching months?

We all need to learn to improve the way we present our work, so, yes, the goal is that this challenge will also spur some creative photography experiments! Yes, please name A SINGLE MONTH for which you are submitting your work. We can worry about how to sort entries and will decide if we want to use an October submission in November, for instance. Assigning a month will actually make it easier for us to initially sort and review submissions, and also easier on late entrants to determine which months are underrepresented and which they might want to submit to fill any holes.

No professional photographers or equipment required!  I have a semi-professional Cannon camera and set up, but I almost never use it.  For 99% of my cookie photos, and for this challenge, I will be using my trusty Nikon pocket camera and my laptop. You could also use an iPhone 6 or other phone with comparable quality camera. The key is to take the pictures in high enough res that you have room to play when you get to the photo sizing/editing portion of the challenge. I can't wait to see what you come up with!
 
Originally Posted by Laegwen:

Em... where do I find the photographer with the professional equipment and skill to make suitable pictures

 

Is it absolutely necessary to name a precise month? Several themes would be good for e.g. all fall months (harvest themed, pumpkins, rainy days, etc.). Just wondering if in the end there might be 20 entries for April and none for March... or will you proactively sort the entries to the possible matching months?

 

IMG_3208

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Your welcome hope the winner will love them ^.^ looking forward to seeing everyone's entries 
 
 
Originally Posted by Bakerloo Station:
Thank you for donating such a fabulous prize!  And just in time for holiday baking, too!
 
Originally Posted by Wickstead's Eat Me:

Oo looks like you will all be having a lot of fun with this contest

Can't wait to see all the entries I am sure they are all going to be amazing ^.^

Good Luck Everyone <3 

 

 

I have been out of the loop for quite some time and have not been able to participate in any of the challenges and the last time I did anything was for the Christmas Cookies when the site first started.  I am so excited.  I just have one question, can you submit more than one design?

Originally Posted by Kimberlie:

I have been out of the loop for quite some time and have not been able to participate in any of the challenges and the last time I did anything was for the Christmas Cookies when the site first started.  I am so excited.  I just have one question, can you submit more than one design?

Yes, absolutely! We always encourage multiple submissions as long as they are completely different. Welcome back!

Hi Julia and Christine!
One thing it's not clear to me... Maybe it's just language barrier... Can we also use digital background to create the final images? I mean...  I take pictures of my cookies on a white background and via photoshop I make it transparent so I can put my cookies on s different background more suitable for what I have in mind... Can I do that? Of course I would use only purchased images, with no copyright issues!
Thanks in advance
Jenny
Originally Posted by The Italian Baker:
Hi Julia and Christine!
One thing it's not clear to me... Maybe it's just language barrier... Can we also use digital background to create the final images? I mean...  I take pictures of my cookies on a white background and via photoshop I make it transparent so I can put my cookies on s different background more suitable for what I have in mind... Can I do that? Of course I would use only purchased images, with no copyright issues!
Thanks in advance
Jenny

I'd prefer to have no stock/purchased images in these submissions, so that I don't have to verify purchases of them. But, yes, you can use Photoshop to manipulate your cookie images on other backgrounds other than the one you shot against/on.

Hello Dona,
 
As with all of the challenges, you can feel free to post any questions here, and we will provide whatever guidance we can.
 
Christine
 
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

okay  had to re-read this again       

 

soooo   what kind of help is being offered   ?     

put questions here ?

 if someone has a problem    will they be offered assistance?

 

Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

okay  had to re-read this again       

 

soooo   what kind of help is being offered   ?     

put questions here ?

 if someone has a problem    will they be offered assistance?

Yes, as Christine said, we're here to answer any questions about the rules and post above. I don't think we want to get into actual technical assistance with photo editing and such, but if a guideline is not clear, please feel free to ask and we will do our best to answer promptly.

Dona,
 
You have plenty of time.  The challenge does not close until December 6th.  When you upload your entry, the main picture should be your background, and your banner should be in the first comment under that picture. 
 
Christine
 
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

okayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy    i'm gonnnnnnaaaaa   post this as a test      i have ms office picture mgr  (2 others too   not sure   rarely used)     anyway    apparently i know of pixels       ms opm  is different than what i used when i was employed      there i could do so much more with a pic     its been so long     i may not use the correct words   but in that prg i could connect pics  so they formed one pic     no separation in between        anyway   yep  i'm playing   think i have it   unsure about the background    DO WE POST THE BACKGROUND TOO ? 

 

below is     my attempt at tech pro vet      smashing head!  i know i'm not dumb  darn it    hahahhaa

 

 

 

maybe i am dumb    lol   i tried   it  didn't work          i guess i won't meet the deadline

 

Unfortunately, part of this design challenge is fulfilling the technical requirements, so I cannot edit photos that you send me.  If you have specific technical questions, I am happy to help with those, however.  
 
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

staring at the post        what technical questions are you assisting with (see addendum)?

So we can send pics to you and you'll fix them?

 

Are you on a PC or Mac?  And what are you trying to accomplish with your pictures?
 
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:
Originally Posted by Bakerloo Station:
Unfortunately, part of this design challenge is fulfilling the technical requirements, so I cannot edit photos that you send me.  If you have specific technical questions, I am happy to help with those, however.  
 
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

staring at the post        what technical questions are you assisting with (see addendum)?

So we can send pics to you and you'll fix them?

 

i'll take a stab at it   not sure if i'll word my dilemma correctly           when i right click and save as  on the background and banner     i am unable to do anything with either one in any of the software that is on my computer     paint    ms ofc pic mgr     a few others         i've tried doing in word  ppt    to no avail        apparently i don't know which to use       i don't have pshop     the picasa that mint referred me to does the same functions as what i have on my comp    

 

Hi, Dona, Just jumping in here to clarify what I meant by "technical assistance". We are happy to answer "technical" questions that are within the bounds of our own technical knowledge, but we are not masters of every photo editing program out there. I know Photoshop quite well, but not the others you mentioned. 

 

And as Christine said, part of the challenge is technical - i.e., it may involve you doing a little online research on your own to figure out how to size and crop images. We will not fix or edit photos for anyone, as that's part of the challenge.

 

If you could be a little more precise in describing what your editing "dilemma" is, then perhaps I could point you to some online resources that could help you out. For instance, are you having trouble cropping the images? sizing the images? saving the images? But, please note that my direction to resources related to the programs you mentioned would be nothing more than what I could find by doing a Google search on your trouble.

Hi, Dona, I'm not sure what you mean by "altering your banner and backdrop". To enter the challenge, all you need to do is post a background image in the size/aspect ratio indicated above (1900 x 1200 pix), and to attach a coordinating banner image (in the dimensions for the banner, 690 x 127 pix) to the first comment under the background image. The background image (with banner in first comment under it) gets uploaded to the Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge clip set, as we always do, in order to be officially entered.

 

No one but me can actually place the images on the site in the banner (i.e., next to the site's logo) and background positions (as the bat images are currently on the site), but me.

 

But as long as images are provided in the sizes required and as outlined in the above post (and in this comment), I will position them on the actual site IF they are one of the selected "winners".

 

I hope I've answered your question; if not, please be more specific about what you mean by "altering your banner and backdrop."

Dona, if all else fails, maybe you could try importing pictures to Power Point?  I think you can make whatever wallpaper effect you are trying to do there, but I am definitely not a powerpoint pro!
 
Originally Posted by Julia M. Usher:

Hi, Dona, I'm not sure what you mean by "altering your banner and backdrop". To enter the challenge, all you need to do is post a background image in the size/aspect ratio indicated above (1900 x 1200 pix), and to attach a coordinating banner image (in the dimensions for the banner, 690 x 127 pix) to the first comment under the background image. The background image (with banner in first comment under it) gets uploaded to the Practice Bakes Perfect Challenge clip set, as we always do, in order to be officially entered.

 

No one but me can actually place the images on the site in the banner (i.e., next to the site's logo) and background positions (as the bat images are currently on the site), but me.

 

But as long as images are provided in the sizes required and as outlined in the above post (and in this comment), I will position them on the actual site IF they are one of the selected "winners".

 

I hope I've answered your question; if not, please be more specific about what you mean by "altering your banner and backdrop."

 

Also, just because others have tiled their backgrounds (meaning, have repeated several smaller images to create a big one) with great results, you can construct the backgrounds in other ways. I would actually encourage that, as tiling can sometimes be a busy effect depending on the images that are tiled. My bat background is not a tiled composition. Extremely large close-ups of details can also look great as backgrounds.

Dona - Another suggestion, perhaps you can let us know what exactly you are trying to do (I am still not clear about that) and what software you have; then other members could perhaps also help you out if Christine and I are not familiar with your software. It also amazes me how much great technical help can come up in doing Google searches.

Dona - Also, Word is not a photo editing and layout program, and from what I know of Pic Manager, it is not either. (The latter allows some basic editing, resizing and cropping, but it is primarily a photo organizer.) I doubt either has the functionality to group photos and massage layouts if that is the issue. 

 

Not sure what other programs you have at your disposal. Powerpoint could conceivably be used to layout images, but it is not very flexible and can be frustrating to try to use for this purpose. Photoshop also has a steep learning curve. BUT . . . many people seem to use Pic Monkey, which is free, for making quick collages. Perhaps that's something for you to explore. But, again, the backgrounds don't need to be collages. In fact, when the new site launches, the background is an extremely close detail shot of one of my cookies. But for this approach to work, you must be sure your images are well focused and in high res, as noted above.

Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

test    ?????   lol

Hi, Dona, It looks like you're getting there, but this this image is more like 690 x 176 pixels, as opposed to 690 x 127, so it is too long to fit the banner spot and does not meet the challenge specs. But, you're close.

Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:
Originally Posted by donaharrisburg:

test    ?????   lol

hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!

you two ladies are giving me an ulcer!   hahahhaa   

right  about word  i tried with a text box   useless   msofcmgr  is a g-t-h    lol

ppt    no way      

i don't have pshop  looked at it   started to dload    that and picasa      grew more leery of downloading the two        and/or any other software    

i think i've heard and/or looked at monkey   but again   too leery   of downloading      

o   tried to create a baner     wasn't working  

sigh     the attached photo was done with paint    go figure     and i had some harrowing longggggg minutes     that is just a test here   not what i will try to do with a set of cookies    or two sets     

you know i don't really look to win anything      i just want to get along    relate     co-exist       amuse everyone         

hopefully i can jump in  on the challenge        if i can't   welllllll   i have pis to post!           hip hiphipppittttyyyyy hoppppping    on the gold brick road     click click of heels      jimminy cricket style   

 

biggggggggg grinnnnnnn here!

Hi, Dona, To be honest, I'm really struggling to follow all of your messages here. If you could succinctly state what the exact issue is, then I could perhaps help. But I don't know what to do with this message. So sorry.

Dona, I use Pic Monkey quite a bit, so if you go that route, I am happy to help any way I can. Plus, Pic Monkey is not a download - you use it online and then download just your finished picture.  That might be your best bet.  It's also fairly simple to use, and there are tips and tutorials available right on the Pic Monkey site.

***** UPDATE: ANOTHER EXAMPLE *****

 

Hi, all! Below is another example of a banner (already inserted in the graphic that includes the site's logo) and a background as more food for thought for this challenge. In this case, the background isn't tiled or composed of multiple cookie photos. Instead, it's a much tighter detail shot of one of my 3-D cookie cakes that has been faded to make the background less visually busy. I am sharing these images to demonstrate that there are other ways to approach this challenge that require very minimal photo manipulation, and that large scale images can often make less distracting backgrounds (though not always). This banner and backdrop will be on the new site when it launches in a couple of weeks, so you will be able to see them in situ then.

 

FloralSlightlysmaller

 

CakeFaded4

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Leave it to The Cookie Architect to lend some light to all of this photography and pixel stuff.  She has just written an excellent blog post about how to appropriately stage, photograph, and size pictures, and specifically relates her examples to this very Practice Bakes Perfect challenge. I highly recommend her blog post for anyone planning to enter this challenge (or anyone who just wants to post better pictures on social media and beyond!). 

Thanks so much Christine! Hopefully it is a little helpful to someone!  I just know my friends and I have all been wrestling with these questions lately!!
 
Originally Posted by Bakerloo Station:

Leave it to The Cookie Architect to lend some light to all of this photography and pixel stuff.  She has just written an excellent blog post about how to appropriately stage, photograph, and size pictures, and specifically relates her examples to this very Practice Bakes Perfect challenge. I highly recommend her blog post for anyone planning to enter this challenge (or anyone who just wants to post better pictures on social media and beyond!). 

 

Originally Posted by RebeccArchitect:
Thanks so much Christine! Hopefully it is a little helpful to someone!  I just know my friends and I have all been wrestling with these questions lately!!
 
Originally Posted by Bakerloo Station:

Leave it to The Cookie Architect to lend some light to all of this photography and pixel stuff.  She has just written an excellent blog post about how to appropriately stage, photograph, and size pictures, and specifically relates her examples to this very Practice Bakes Perfect challenge. I highly recommend her blog post for anyone planning to enter this challenge (or anyone who just wants to post better pictures on social media and beyond!). 

 

Thanks, ladies - and especially Rebecca - for making this post available to people here! It couldn't be more related to this challenge! I highly recommend that anyone entering (or not) read it as well!

Hi! yesterday I posted a clip containing a set of cookies, today I am wondering if I can enter the challenge posting photos of the same set of cookies in the recommended sizes of I have to post a new one. thanks in advance! stefania
Yes, you can post the same cookies/different pictures for the challenge, as long as the clips meet the size and other challenge requirements.  
 
Originally Posted by Sweets_by_me:
Hi! yesterday I posted a clip containing a set of cookies, today I am wondering if I can enter the challenge posting photos of the same set of cookies in the recommended sizes of I have to post a new one. thanks in advance! stefania

 

I have a question.  I posted the picture for the challenge but now I know I need to shift the cookies to left.   Do I need to delete what I posted and enter again or can I just enter as new even if it really looks similar to previous one? 

Ryoko ~Cookie Ave. posted:

I have a question.  I posted the picture for the challenge but now I know I need to shift the cookies to left.   Do I need to delete what I posted and enter again or can I just enter as new even if it really looks similar to previous one? 

Please delete the old one and start over. We don't allow duplicates, or close duplicates, on the site anyway. And having the two there will only confuse me as to which is the "right" one.

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