Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic – Technical Guide 2020

Another 12 months, another post.  This time around it is the third year I’ve created the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic Technical Guide.  This year the time required was a little less which given some formatting changes and a deign change to look a little like the Herald Sun Tour guide (another NRS race so important from a branding stand point), so not bad.  Having designed or redesigned most of the artwork last year also cut down on the time needed this year.

Improvements on last years guide include:

  • more table consistency (the sprint and KOMs were left as is but could be improved upon)
  • text size consistency – previous years had small text for tables.  This time the only small text present is in the mocka.
  • standard notation used – better than the provided KM, KMS, 09:00am, 6.04.56 for times etc.

As for last year, Kanboard was used to allocate and track tasks.

Kanboard project management – hosted on my own server – no insecure cloud crap for me.

Throughout this project, I stayed in touch with the client via email and phone.

Again, the most time-consuming part was formatting the race mocka.  I’ve improved on the process so it is far quicker which is a nice gain.

Below you can see the non fancy table formatting that was seen in some locations in 2019. This time around, all table look like those in the second image.

Non convoy details “suggested” by me and then ratified by the client

2020 example showing table consistency addition.

This year a spreadsheet mocka was provided for the marshals along with a pdf of the guide for posting online and printing out.

The M2W20 Technical Guide

What to improve

Various iterations of the guide resulted in incorrectly linked documents. An Illustrator file was sourcing unrelated images rather that the ones it should have been and the mocka seemed to lose changes now and then (this was curious as I inserted the spreadsheet and linked to it so changes should have been automatic).  I think what happened here was a result of using the 2019 and 2020 brief directories and a few different InDesign files.  This meant I spent unbilled time fixing things.

So, next time, follow my own procedures and work out of the one directory using the files there.  This is a nice example of why not following procedures and winging it is not the best idea.  I should also introduce a procedure for proof reading using a comparison between previous and current documents before releasing them.  That will cut down on such errors.


Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic – Technical Guide 2019

Wow.  18 months later and this is my next post.  My day job and cycling appear to have been taking priority.  in 2017 the guide was a hack job with lots of cut and pasted images from an export of the 2016 guide. In the interim, I learned how to import formatted tables from Excel and how to alternate the colours in rows or columns.  The alternation was a basic little trick.

Alternating fills – a simple trick

With more time to create the technical guide, I could format it properly and insert/create lots of tables, rather than pdf export images.  I also had the time to convert all images from RGB to CYMK.  Rather than cutting images out of the previous guide, I was able to design things properly.  The front page was created in Illustrator and dropped into the InDesign project.

During this project I used “Dashboard” to plan and time tasks.  I provided an estimate on time based on all materials being provided (copy, logos, photos) and without (or partially).  I have further fine tuned my time estimates for brochure creation.  With everything provided, it takes ~10 mins a page from start to final QA check.  Without, it is ~20 minutes.

Project management using “Dashboard”

Throughout this project, I stayed in touch with the client via email and phone.

Having created the page template in 2017, the most time-consuming part this time around was formatting the race mocka and race entries.  With the mocka, I needed to get it to fit onto a series of pages.  For the race entries, I needed to source team jersey images, convert them and size them as consistently as possible before placing them into the document.  Here jersey designs were inconsistent – some were photos and most were various template designs.  That makes a designer groan, but we work with what we are given. With time, I could have created them all from scratch – that I did not have.

A few items I was asked to create from scratch.  Non convoy detours and feed station maps were some of these. As neither copy, images or direction was provided little tasks like these can take longer than expected: find images, size appropriately, determine where cars are to travel to avoid the race as much as possible, document the routes to travel.  Have this double checked after creation and amend as instructed.

Non convoy details “suggested” by me and then ratified by the client

This year, I designed the front and back pages in Illustrator, the social media informative footers, the race signs, the course elevation, the green and gold stripes on the NRS banner, the key for the finish line photo, the race number / transponder placement image and the directional arrows.  I created a spreadsheet in Excel and then imported tables of the mocka, the sprint and KOM points and non convoy vehicle routes into InDesign.  I tried this with the race entries, but it did not work (it looked bad).  Some elements were ditched due to the need to apply style guide rules for logos.

Incorporating my own photos #1

With the exception of the winner photo on the front page and the Minister for Sport, all the photos, including the one in the front page NRS fade banner were taken by me with my own equipment.

Incorporating my own photos #2

The estimate for this project was 9-10 hours with logos, maps and copy provided.  Without, I estimated 12.5 which was a fairly bad underestimate.  What blew the time out was determining and documenting non convoy routes, sourcing satellite images of feed station zones, importing and them tweaking the race mocka and setting out the race entries nicely (in 2017 and in the 106 documents, I always felt this looked a bit cramped).

The mocka took time to create, check and format

Tables formatted in MS Excel were imported into InDesign

Changes after the client proof read the document were not billed.  This is one thing that jars between my science background and graphic design.  In science, I’d spell check and proof read documents.  In graphic design, the client’s supposed to provide the copy and the designer is just supposed to whack in into the document as is, errors an all.  I guess I value add here by correcting errors if I see them.  Conducting quality assurance on a document of this size adds 2-3 hours to the project.  Some clients would be willing to pay that, some would baulk.

Despite doing everything “properly”, the preflight feature of InDesign complained about non CMYK colour spaces in some imported tables and a number of low resolution images.  The colours could be cleaned up with about an extra 90 mins of checking.  That’s likely down to needing to prepare my Excel tabled in CMYK and not RGB (perhaps). The low resolution images were a result of needing to source them from the Internet myself and not having time allocated to recreating them in Illustrator.

At the end of the project, four files were provided.  Two 2 up saddle stitch files (one with printers marks, one without), and two web suitable documents.  One a page to a page, and the other in spread format


Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic – Technical Guide 2017

I was contacted late Sunday afternoon by Cycling Australia and asked if I could produce the Melbourne to Warrnambool Cycling Classic Technical Guide for 2017.

Sure thing I said.

I stayed tuned for some emails which provided logos (mostly large jpg’s), last year’s guide and text. I did not possess the Univers typeface much of the document was written in.  To keep costs down, rather than spent $35 for each of the 3 fonts I lacked, the Helvetica group was used instead.

After a couple of phone calls to discuss the minor details, I got started.

The most time-consuming part was setting up the page template.  From last year’s guide I was able to extract the images relating to maps, mocka and signage.  A few 2016 dates needed changing to 2017.  It had been a while since I’d used InDesign, so it was good to take it for a spin.

The main page needed some logos changed and the footer on all pages needed a 2016 changed to a 2017.  Blanking out the old logos using a white box in Illustrator allowed me to hide them and add the new ones, rather than fiddle with layer extraction.  Importing last year’s pdf into Illustrator and creating an art board around the footer and changing the year allowed me to import that into the InDesign template I created.

InDesign did not like me when I did my high quality pdf export – lots of images at the wrong resolution and using RBG, not CMYK, however the final result does the job and the print out renders well.

I could have charged for the “late notice, rush job” though waived this fee and charged standard rates.  Why was this?  I was a little rusty so could not produce my best work (though one can argue that could be the case with all rush jobs).

The winning rider image from 2016, I grabbed from Rob Gunstone’s Twitter post from last year and advised the Cycling Australia to double-check that the use of the image was approved by the photographer.

Excluding some cleanup, the project took me 8 hours.

This is v1a of the #M2W17 Technical guide (there might have been slight changes between this and the distributed file).

2017 M2W TechGuide v1.2a

2017 M2W TechGuide v1.2a #M2W17.


“Discount” Rates

This month I appear to have been working on the cheap.  Towards the start of the month, I conducted bicycle maintenance work for a friend of my house mate.  This involved changing overa cluster and chain, checking the gearing and fitting new handle bar tape. For this I charged 6 blocks of 220g Cadbury chocolate. 3x dream, 3x peppermint.

A couple of weeks ago, I designed an event flyer for $15 – the cost of race entry to the event.  I did that as I was feeling generous on the day of the request and had nothing better to do. The task was also good to learn a few more Illustrator techniques.

Towards the end of last month, I was approached by my cycling club to design a flyer for a safety initiative the began.  For this one, I gave the option of a no frills flyer for $250, or one where they get 3 versions and get to choose the winner for development for ~$600.  They went with the no frills version, and I got the signed contract and paper work back at the start of the week so worked on that one evening.  I’m not happy with a couple of design aspects of this one, so it’s into a drawer until the weekend when I can look at it with new eyes.

Last week I was contacted by an ex regarding designing some wedding wrapping to specification.  I did that over the course of two nights and learned how to use Illustrator to produce the style of graphics I wanted to use when I designed my World Track Championships poster last year.  This work borrowed heavily from the supplied artwork’s background, but they appear not to be unique so no copyright issues there (and if there are, Mr. Original Designer, let me know).  For the wrap, I asked for some chockies (either the aforementioned 22g blocks or a toblerone or two).

Today I was asked if a student working in a lab where they wear a t-shirt design of mine could have a digital file of the design for a promo.  For that, I have asked for payment in the form of a plug for the designer (me) and some chockies.  2018 update.  Nothing came of this of course.  That is why $$ rule.


I recently attended an information session on “movie and tv extras”

Last week I ventured out to “an information session” run by a talent agency.  They had advertised for extras on job boards recently and I figured it was worth a look.

Randomly distributed on the seats in a hired function room, were flyers containing lots of testimonials.  Always positive.  Always fairly light on information.

The session was run both both of the company’s principals.  Did this mean they had no staff to dedicate to running info sessions or they had no staff?  If no staff they must have been raking in the cash.

After an hour of saying what they did (provide extras for TV and movies in Melbourne only), showing lots of testimonials and quickly glossing over how for $295, we could register with them, of the 60 or so people in the room, about 40 signed up.

After the session I asked how soon I could expect a return on my investment. They could not given me any answers and given I am currently Government funded due to being unemployed, the $295 is not within my budget.

The cynical side of me thinks there were a few plants in the room who went up immediately to the guy with the ATM machine and eagerly handed over their money.  If so, a great use of their non speaking extra pool.

With a conservative 35 of those who attended the information session singing up, that netted the talent agency $10325 for an hour’s work.  Take away room hire (say $500) and the photography shoot for everyone’s online profile (say $150 per person, bulk deal), the agency still made a little under $5000.  If two of those sessions are run a week, even without their 20% commission on any extras they place, the two human agency would be raking in the cash.