Name Games

Here’s a language game I’ve been working on for a couple of months – recording all the y ending irish names that I run across. I have finally alphabetised them. If you have any to add, send along to I’m not sure why so many Irish names end in Y. I think many may originate in French, since the people or northern France, Ireland and southern England were once the same. Or rather, there was a lot of migration from Brittany, northern France, to southern England, and on to Ireland. Also I wonder if many Y names started out as a Gaelic ending, finally spelled out as aigh. Not sure, but interested!

Irish names ending in y

Waterfront Architecture Debate

Old next to new brick buildings
A new building (right) with its mandated brick coating does not compare favorably with a brick building built in the 1800’s.

Introduction: In 2015 I wrote a number of opinion articles for the Alexandria Gazette Packet. This one ran July 30, 2015:


The debate rages in Alexandria about what our new waterfront should look like. It is an issue that our next Mayor will be dealing with. One argument says that new buildings should fit in with existing brick buildings, mainly the 2-story homes and townhouses that were built with local clay from the late 1700’s to the early 1900’s. This idea has been the guiding light for every building built in Alexandria for the last twenty some years. Every office building must be built with an outer brick shell.

So-called modern architecture and art have suffered under public sentiment since the early 1900’s when the western world went through massive changes in thought about art and design. New ideas were a reaction to the increasingly ornate, frivolous European painting and architecture styles, baroque and rococo of the 1700’s and 1800’s. Patronized by a European aristocracy on the decline, painting went from dark and pompous portraits of the wealthy to bright landscapes and ordinary people by the impressionists right before the turn of the 20th century. New democratic ideas of equality of all prevailed. Photography took away the painter’s job of realistic rendering. In Europe cubist painters took imagery down to its simplest shapes and colors. Architects did the same thing. Decorative was out. Simple was in. In Berlin, Germany, geometric high rise apartment buildings by architect Walter Gropius were built to solve social problems of housing. People hated them. But artists and designers kept following this path. The conflict rages to this day and is exemplified in our own little city.

During the second world war, a lot of these older ornate buildings in Germany were destroyed. (By us.) The modernist movement in Germany showed up in new buildings built in between the old ones. I first visited Frankfurt in the early eighties and I was struck by the beauty of an ornate sandstone building next to a glass tower. Gargoyles were reflected in the glass. I could see at a glance which was old and which was new.

In Old Town Alexandria new buildings in brick coats are placed next to old brick buildings. Sometimes the new buildings are nicely designed and look better than the old ones. Sometimes the new building is a simple brick shell that one could do without. If the new building had been built with modern materials and design, and had been put next to the old brick one, you would recognize it instantly as new and you would appreciate the older as coming from a former age.

In Glasgow, Scotland, there is an excellent museum of architecture called “The Lighthouse” ( There I saw an exhibit showing Scotland to have the worlds largest and most diverse amount of stone and granite. Scotland has been the leading exporter of stone building materials. I saw many beautiful samples of sandstone, slate and granite. How much more visually interesting would Alexandria be if our architects were allowed to stretch their professional horizons and bring beautiful building materials to Alexandria! A successful waterfront may require, instead of asking an architectural firm to mimick “history,” allowing them to do their job.

I studied art in the late 80’s and worked my way through the art history course meant to weed out the slackers. In the nineties I took the class in history of design for my design degree, and went back through the whole history of mankind again from a design perspective. I loved every bit of it. When I hear people argue about how the waterfront should look, I think it would help if the well-meaning, thoughtful people of Alexandria are sure to understand that our conundrum is not in a vacuum. Our decisions are formed by what happened before us, and will be seen by those who follow.


In 2015, I also wrote 3 other articles for the Alexandria Gazette Packet on the topic of transportation, specifically on the Alexandria bus system, the Alexandria train station, and rail vs. bus. You can read those articles by clicking the purple links.

Happy 2015!

Happy 2015 from Yellow Dot Designs! Today is a lovely sunny day to start out the new year. We had a terrific end of the year for 2014, working on motion graphics email greetings for the holidays, video slide shows for a retail space, and a WordPress website. Such a busy December could be seen as a good sign for the coming year.

The Yellow Dot holiday video was bit more adventurous this year. I composed the music for the first half of it myself, including my own voice on two tracks. It also has a choir background track. I included video footage of me typing on Grandma’s old typewriter, since that is one of the themes of the video.

Shop Window Video Up!

The video is finished for K Aubrey Flowers on King Street in Alexandria! The owner bought two large-screen “smart TVs” which can play any video file. You simply load the video file onto a thumb drive and plug it into the USB port of the TV monitor. And, Voila! You have a Time Square-style motion graphic attracting people to your store!

I’m heading over there now to see how it looks at night!

Here is the link to the video file:

Video for Window Display

Next, I’m working on a motion banner ad for a website, for a membership organization. The ad will have 6 frames which will alternate, showing 5 different comments, and finally the website address. The ad will link to their website.

Glorious October

With elections coming up, the political direct-mail marketing and ad agencies are working full-tilt to get last minute messages out to constituents. I have been working at such a firm, designing postcard mailers for senators, councilmen, school board reps and congressmen and women.

It is exciting to be working in Washington, DC. The downtown area has undergone such a transformation over the last 20 some years that I have been here. The new convention center Marriott is magnificent – all glass and metal. North of the convention center is a gleaming new Giant super market, partially housed in the old O Street Market, which is a charming red brick, late 19th Century building. They’ve put in market-style produce, meat and deli stands. At Mount Vernon Square, in what was the Museum of Washington, DC for about five minutes, the stately Carnegie Library building in the center of the Square, is now being used as a rent-able events space and Kiplinger research library. On the top floor they are exhibiting the Kiplinger collection of images of Washington, DC throughout its history.


Video For Shop Window

Working on a nifty video for the front window of a shop. The shop owner wants a simple slide show to play in a large screen “smart TV” viewable from the street. He had 14 full size images created with his logo on each one with images. My task is to make a video file that will play on the smart TV. I will add fade transitions between each image, and the whole thing will loop continuously, so there will always be a new image as people walk past.

Nerd Fest

Every time I read this I laugh! As you may know, you can learn most anything by searching the internet. Often the answer to your question shows up in a “Forum” which is an online conversation by various strangers, trying to help one another. It’s an amazing piece of global communication. I was looking up a small technical issue and came across this frustrated guy, venting his annoyance with the software that I use for motion graphics, After Effects. Granted, AE has a really “steep learning curve” as they call it. That means you’ll spend YEARS learning it, with its ins and outs. Here’s what he said that cracks me up:

“AE requires lots of digging and revealing scrolling, rigging, and nerding to get something simple to work… They need to stop nerding out and wasting every one’s time… The only reason I use Adobe’s nerd fest of a program is to make money.”

OK, that was HIM, not me! I love doing motion graphics, and it’s not just for the money for me.

So, apparently “nerd” is now a verb! So, maybe this is an insider thing, an industry joke. But after all the work I’ve put into this software, I just can’t help but laugh.

Logo Unveiling and Film Festival

The Alexandria Film Festival took place November 7 to 10th, and it consumed a lot of time! This year’s festival, we all agree really went well. Ticket sales were robust after a concerted campaign to promote the event through social media, newspapers, local e-newsletters, flyers and posters and other online means. We had about 12 or so “events,” or blocks of films of varying length. The big draw, and what makes this event special are the filmmakers who attend and answer questions after the screening. Back in the Summer I worked on the festival video in tandem with Creative Liquid Productions of Alexandria. They brought their cameras and equipment and really made it look professional. We got the festival Chair, Patti North to say some words which helps relay the true mission of the festival. The video helped boost findability of the festival website. Having a YouTube video really helps with Search Engine Optimization.

In addition to the Festival, I created a website for Dissertation Voyages, a charter sail yacht company. The website is See my article below.

My big news this season was the logo unveiling, of the logo I did for Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce. I worked with Gavin Carter and Associates to come up with the right logo for the Chamber during the Summer. I also created letterhead, envelopes and business cards with the new logo. They had a nice event for it where I gave a little speech about how terrible design competitions are.

Logo unveiling for Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce


New Website for Sailboat Company

I just finished a lovely website for old friend Bob Wittmann, for his sailboat charter company, Dissertation Voyages. Bob owns a beautiful, 50 foot sailboat which I sailed on with him and his wife Cheri, and my Dad this Summer.

The website is at

Bob used to go sailing with his childhood friend and my Dad, Cliff Johnson, my Grandfather, also Cliff Johnson, and my Uncle Samuel. Grandpa was minister at Westminster Presbyterian Church here in Alexandria. He taught the boys to sail.

Here are some photos of me and Dad on Bob’s boat this Summer, a photo of my Grandfather preaching at a young age, and the boys on Grandpa’s first boat, the Allie S. Click on the thumbnail to see the photo larger.

The photo of Grandpa, (Clifford Johnson) must be from the 50’s. The boat photo is from the late 50’s. Samuel tells me this was Grandpa’s first boat the Allie S, named after my Grandmother. That’s Dad, Grandpa, Cousin Paul, Great Uncle Ashby and my Uncle Samuel, out on the Chesapeake Bay.

Summer Stories

The economy seems to be improving this year, based on number of requests I am getting from new and former clients. Membership organizations are growing their membership ranks, allowing them to update their logo and materials. So lately I have been helping clients with updating materials. A new form of email is an html email. I created a custom html email for a client. This was sent out by a partnering publication.

This Summer, my husband Andrew and I traveled to Andrew’s beautiful homeland, Scotland. We were in the southern part, near Glasgow. The country is so small, that we were easily able to visit the entire width of the country, in a few outings. A 45 minute drive west took us to the beach town of Largs. A Scottish seaside town is not what we expect. It’s cold. No more than 65 degrees for most of the Summer. But across the water from Largs you can easily see islands, one looming behind the other. Daily and hourly ferries take you across. In the other direction, east, we did an outing, past Edinburgh, over the Forth bridge, and up into Fife. We drove along the gorgeous coast along the north shore of the River Forth, visiting medieval era towns. At the tip of land we turned north and drove along the North Sea to St. Andrews, golfing capital of the world, and where the royals Will and Kate met while at University.

Back in the US, to my beloved buzzing bugs, and warm Summer evenings, I am back at work, getting ready for the Alexandria Film Festival, now only two short months away! I am producing the program, tickets, passes, web pages, a huge banner for a public space and printed t-shirts. I’m sure it will not end there.