Tara Bender

Writing. Design. Multimedia.

Gabrielle Cheikh Photography

While I was still living in Bloomington, my talented friend Gaby asked me to help her create some logos and branding illustrations for her photography business. It may have taken six months, but we finally have a finished product!

Despite the length of time it took to complete, this project is definitely one of my all time favs! Gaby is an awesome photographer (with the credentials to back it up — she got her BFA from IU in December), and I am so happy that she let me do this with her.


With a muted, feminine, vintage-inspired color palette and a paper doll concept, the first thing I did was create a Gaby doll. The idea is that each outfit for the paper doll represents a type of photography she specializes in, like fine art, portraiture, and travel.

                                 Beautiful, even in 2D!


I scanned in fabric to make this casual dress. Using shadows helped give it dimension and the feeling that it could twirl all day long. Wee!


Wedding Day Gaby will make your dreams come true. Ooh-ooh. Ooh-ooh-ooooh. I like how the subtle texture of this wedding dress turned out.


Power suit! She doubles as a lawyer. Watch out, criminals! But actually Power Suit Gaby specializes in commercial photography.


Gaby has done some overseas traveling, with camera in hand, of course. Safari Gaby is a travel photography pro.


Painter Gaby is my favorite. Looks like she’s had a long day in the studio creating fine art.


And for one last avant-garde look, I asked myself “WWLGD?” That’s right, What Would Lady Gaga Do? She might wear a dress made of film and camera lens glasses.


All together now:

Somewhere in the middle of the paper doll process, I began working on Gaby’s logo. She already had one sketched out, which I thought was too good to lose, so I started there.

                                         Gaby’s drawing:


Here’s my first round of logo mockups:

And these are the finals:

Gaby is using some of them on her blog now. She mixed and matched a couple for the banner and is using the circular ones as watermarks on her photos.

Blog banner:



As soon as we wrapped up the paper dolls, Gaby took all the pieces and put together these adorable postcards:

                     The photographer for all occasions! Love it!


I really hope to do more illustration in the future. I’m thinking about going into business making personalized paper dolls and selling them on Etsy. Full time. Think it’ll be a hit?

Go check out Gabrielle Cheikh’s blog, website, and like her on Facebook. Especially if you are in the greater Indianapolis area!


Updates from the Design Studio

Hello! I’m sitting here encoding video for a Century 21 Scheetz freelance video project and thought I’d hop over to blogworld and let you in on a few Design Studio happenings.

Things have been busy as usual. Amanda and I just wrapped the second issue of In Jersey magazine for iPad, coming soon to a Newsstand near you for the low, low price of 99 cents! What a bargain! (You can still download the first issue for free if you want to try before you buy.)

This issue features sound clips in a story about the Montreal Jazz Festival and a behind-the-scenes video from a fashion shoot at a super fancy new resort/casino in Atlantic City. (More photos to come.)

Of course, the Design Studio is never all-work-and-no-play. I recently turned 28, and to commemorate my birthday and the fact that I am indeed a princess, my friends decorated my desk.

Imagine my surprise as I walked through the door to find this Pepto Bismol-colored Princess Partysplosion! If you look closely, you’ll see the crown and wand that I took full advantage of, ordering my kingdom around for the day. Power-hungry Bender?

Last week we also celebrated Cupcake Day at the studio. I don’t know whose genius idea this was, but it was a hit! I’ve never seen so many cupcakes in my life. I’m not sure, but I’m pretty sure I got a cavity from just walking into the office kitchen.


I’m currently dieting, so Cupcake Day was kind of my worst nightmare. I decided to contribute some healthy snacks and made 100 calorie sugar-free chocolate zucchini muffin cakes topped with sugar-free Cool Whip and strawberries. I didn’t see anyone puke from eating them, but I did see someone take a bite and immediately throw the remainder away. They were truly not for the faint of heart.

Perfect timing — my videos are finished encoding, and it’s off to Final Cut Pro to get this party started. This week I’m also starting another project for CASA’s annual playhouse fund raiser including an 8-foot banner. Can’t wait to share the final products!


…and I App-rove This Message.

It’s been too long! I’ve taken a little blog-world hiatus and for good reason: In mid-April I was approached by my bosses to be part of a team that would develop and design the very first iPad app produced in any of the Gannett Design Studios. What seemed an unsurmountable task became an exciting, motivating, fulfilling project that I am so happy to share here.

I worked on the app as a two-person team with my friend and co-worker Amanda Soto — a fantastic creative partner. Our job: to adapt the print version of In Jersey Magazine for use on the iPad. The print product is separate from the Design Studio and has, until now, been a three-person operation.

When given this assignment, Amanda and I were given free reign to re-imagine the concept and look and feel of the product in hopes of pushing the print product toward a redesign. Needless to say we were like little sugar-hungry designers in a candy store!

We had a few obstacles, though— the first being that neither of us had designed for tablet before. Woops! Turns out hours of Adobe TV, Googling everything we could think of, plenty of trial and error, and more Beyonce than a normal person can handle makes all the difference in the world! We created our app using In Design Digital Publishing Suite like so many others (Vogue, PC Magazine, Vanity Fair, Bloomberg, and tons more!)

In just over two weeks we developed a color scheme, typography palette, a slew of buttons, tabs, and other “furniture,” and managed to get our first app off the ground on deadline. Whew! We spent plenty of late nights in the back room of the Asbury Park Design Studio, singing “I Will Never Say Never” by Justin Bieber (for motivational purposes, obviously) too many times for the sports team to handle, but we got it done, and we are really proud of our work.

I have some screen shots to share, but it just doesn’t have the same effect as it does on the iPad. If you have one of these magical devices, you should go to the App Store and download our first issue FOR FREE!

Except for the cover, these are shots of stories I designed in the May issue.

Interactive Cover: by Amanda

Beauty cover: (Thanks to Amanda for seeking out this photo and inspiring me to trash my original design.)

An inside Beauty page: You can see one of the interactive features here. Tapping the buttons on the left changes the photos on the right.

Travel cover: I want to go to there.

Homescape cover:

An inside Homescape page: More interactivity with the photos — perfect for a story like this to organize multiple photos instead of cluttering the page.

Relationships cover Part 1: My friend and co-worker Rachel Kugelman contributed this illustration. She is such a talented artist, and I’m glad her work is featured in both print and digital products! I had so much fun turning her illustration into an interactive feature (see next photo).

Relationships cover part 2: Pushing the + button makes the rest of the image appear! Like magic!

Fashion cover: The photography for this story was really great! A fun one to design!

An inside fashion page: Each page of this story has an interactive shopping feature. The button on the left opens a panel that brings the shopper directly to the item of her choice to purchase if she wants. One of my favorite features!

Travel cover: I wanted to use all of the provided photos inside, which gave me an opportunity to illustrate an animated cover. Upon opening this story on the iPad, the lights in the buildings blink from window to window.

An inside Travel page: Scrolling text on the left, photo butons on right, and one that takes you to Boston’s tourism website.

Inside Travel page part 2: This is what happens when you press one of the photo buttons on the right, like this one for Fenway Park.

That’s all for now. Amanda and I are in the middle of production for the June/July issue right now, incorporating new features including video and audio clips, and always refining our design to make it as great as it can be.

Designing for tablet has been an invaluable experience that has opened my eyes to so many possibilities. They are truly endless on this medium! I’d love for you to check out this issue and future issues on your iPad and see why I spend so much time hibernating up in a little room, chained to a Mac for 12 hours a day. (That’s only partially true).


Studio Spirit Week

The Gannett Asbury Park Design Studio Spirit Week has come and gone. It’s always fun to work in an environment where people don’t take themselves too seriously, and as you’ll see from the photos, a lot of us don’t.

Mustache Monday:


(Determined that my mustache was one of a Peruvian llama herder turned mariachi band member.)

Power Suit Tuesday:


(This is supposed to be funny, but it might be what a lot of offices actually look like. Woops! *Ahem*…don’t talk to me, I’m busy approving spreadsheets and firing people. Buy! Sell!)

Pinball Wizard Wednesday:


(Asbury Park has a little gem called Silver Ball Pinball Arcade & Museum, where we had our party. I came to win. Just sayin.)

Western Thursday:


(Hey, cowboyzzz.)

Ice Cream Friday:

(Bosses: keep your employees happy with ice cream. You’re welcome.)

It was such a fun week! I proposed multiple times that every week should be Spirit Week, but I don’t know if anyone else was in favor. I’m keeping that mustache in my drawer for a rainy day, though.


Some Recent Packages/Pages

Rochester Local Section Front



Bridgeton Journal Front Page



Rochester Local Section Front



Rochester Local Section Front



Happy first day of spring!


HEY! You’re part of it!

Next week, the Asbury Park Design Studio turns 1. I’ve been a part of it for two months — long enough to see a few changes, transitions, struggles, triumphs, stresses, and successes. It’s fun to be involved in something that is really still in its infancy. We now design 8 newspapers in our studio, and by the end of the year (or earlier), that number will grow to 15. I can’t imagine what kind of craziness that will entail, but I’m sure it won’t be long before we all find out.

Here’s what we get to do to in celebration of the studio’s 1-year birthday:

(Considering that I live for theme parties, Halloween, and any other excuse to wear a costume, I’m pretty excited about this. Mustache Monday? It was meant to be.)

On an equally exciting note — I got to sign B-Steen’s guitar! There’s a long hallway that leads to our studio (a funny, long, narrow room with zero windows, 6 big-screen TVs, and a heaping handful of friendly pals). Painted on the wall is a giant orange silhouette of Bruce Springsteen’s famed myserious-ish guitar. Yep.

Everyone in the studio gets to sign it, and I finally got my turn the other day. As if I hadn’t already felt initiated, this moment really sealed the deal. I never thought I’d end up designing newspapers in New Jersey, but here I am. One happy little camper. One busy little bee.


My Rite of Passage

Living and working in New Jersey, and specifically Asbury Park, I knew it was only a matter of time before I would get my hands on some Bruce Springsteen content. If you’re not super familiar with B-Steen, you’re not alone. (I’m on a mission to make “B-Steen” happen. It’s not actually a thing right now. No one says “B-Steen.” But they will.) I know little about him except for a few of his greatest hits, that I reside in his “hometown”/stomping grounds, and that he has an album named after it.

He makes lots of local appearances, and the people here love him. LOVE. Hometown hero. Local legend. Whatever you want to call him, the way New Jerseyans revere him, there’s no question that he’s The Boss. I should probably be brushing up on my Bruce trivia, discography, best places to paparazzi him, etc. now that I am where I am. In time. All in good time.

Anyway, I think this page was a rite of passage for me. I have become one with The Boss. I am now officially accepted as an employee in the Asbury Park design studio, which uses his guitar as its logo. Weird, right? Just kidding. Love ya, B-Steen!




Recent Covers & Section Fronts

I’ve been a busy bee here at the design studio! Here are a few more recent pages you can find in the Newspaper Section:

Rochester Democrat & Chronicle Local Section Front

Bridgeton Journal Cover

Bridgeton Journal Cover

Cherry Hill Courier Post Op/Ed Section Front

Bridgeton Journal Cover

I’m continuing to learn and grow and enjoy my time here in the studio. Can’t wait to see what’s next!


Two H&L Articles

Since making the move to New Jersey, a new issue of H&L has come out and features two of my stories! Both are about local Bloomington artisans.

Robert Hamm makes beautiful rustic furniture and also rocks a classic fedora, which puts him in the category of “adorable.” Pam Kinnaman is someone who has been gracious enough to let me interview her twice about being a fiber artist. I got to spend a day on her llama/alpaca/goat farm and absolutely loved it! Both are wonderful artists and people.

To see either article, head to the H&L website and flip through the virtual magazine. Enjoy!