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Elevating My Pitch

In my graduate writing class, a topic discussed was elevator pitches. Another was the non-profit sector. Both of which I have my share of experiences. While I was not a grant reviewer, my main responsibilities were part administrative, part marketing (leading me to design) and resource development (or fundraising/campaign). My first campaign? The summer of 2007, when the word, “recession” was very popular.

Professor Kalm said in a recent blog post, “It is always a bad time to ask for money. Ask anyway and be prepared for rejection that will humble you.”  Gone are the days of the workplace being a large community where philanthropy is the expected from management to the mailroom. These were and are tough times. Going out and expecting things were foolish, even in my early twenties, I had enough sense to know that. I had to find my niche.

Owning your execution in this way makes you credible

Just like the way I talk about graphic design in this forum, I had to find my passions in our organization’s mission. I started speaking to company’s about what I thought my organization would want me to say. In hindsight, that method didn’t work. I had to give them something back. I had to say things that resonated with me and came from the heart. I didn’t realize it then, but I became personally invested in the work we did. After that, the pitch was easy. All I had to do was believe it, live it and sell it to people in a way I would want to hear. Who knows me better than me?

The best way to learn your job, is to do your job. We advocated volunteerism, so I volunteered. We advocated early childhood education. I visited and promoted after school programs and even diaper drives we held for my campaigns. People had questions, I always got back to them.

The Pitch

A difficult part of the pitch was just getting to the point of speaking. Sometimes a barrier would be a coordinator that had enough jobs going on, that they did not have time to hear me. I was in the very fortunate situation of designing our campaign collateral, so this made it easier for me to speak about. Once I was in a company for a campaign presentation, I kept my pitch light. I gave an introduction telling people our mission and who we are. Then follow that up with 3 key areas (education, income and health) and a brief conclusion thanking the audience for their time and offering them tangible services (volunteerism and 2-1-1 service).

With this experience in elevator pitches, you might think it comes very naturally for me. When talking about the community when people were (and still are) in desperate times, I felt I had nothing to lose in terms of my pitches. I felt liberated winning someone over in something I believed in. Design is something else I believe in and I am passionate about. Can I bring the same level of intensity in pitching about this niche? This is something I will explore in blogs to come…

Y Change?

I am fortunate to be working on a project for a new YMCA opening in the Greater New Haven, CT region. When I think of the YMCA, I think of swimming lessons and that Village People song that will NEVER go away. Nonetheless, it kept the organization in our conscious, as they should be. In the midst of the design, the YMCA has gone through a rebranding of it logo. Does it work?


Although trendy and following concepts of other brands that have had a recent makeover, I think it does. Some brands are recognized by a logo (think Apple or Coca Cola), while others draw instant credibility from their name alone. The YMCA fits that mold and have rebranded themselves to what many already call them, “The Y.” Certainly, it has a better sound to it than Radioshack’s “The Shack” or Pizza Hut’s “The Hut” rebranding.

Especially in a time of the recession, many brands are getting a makeover to change their image. Tropicana went so radical; they had to switch back, as customers were confused and outraged. The Y’s revitalization works, as it can be used in a number of different background because of the diverse variations of color (Aol tried something similar to mixed results last year).

Aol's Rebranding

Rounded edges in today’s logos are the trend, but it is effective, as it is far less harsh than the original logo. Here is the official press release from the YMCA, oops, I mean, The Y…

The Y’s former logo had been in place since 1967 and was the organization’s sixth since its inception. The refreshed logo, with its multiple color options and new, contemporary look, better reflects the vibrancy of the Y and the diversity of the communities it serves. The new logo’s bold, active and welcoming shape symbolizes the Y’s commitment to personal and social progress. —The Y Press Release

Overall, I think it is a sign of the times, that the 40+ year old logo gets a makeover. It is warmer, more progressive (part of the Y looks like an arrow moving forward) and can be used in a variety of different colors (4 color) or just black and white (1 color). Why do I like it? For one thing, it is going to make my project much easier in terms of “playing nice” with color. What do you think?

Works Cited:

Midterm: A Blogetery Proposal

Have you ever visited a graphic design blog? The first hits on a Google search will land you on the pages that give you tutorials and examples of logos or typography. These sites, while being helpful, have always left me wanting more.

“Graphic design is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, abnormality, hobbies and humors.”George Santayana

I couldn’t agree more. Beyond Photoshop, there has to be more to design. That is what I seek to uncover in this blog.

What Is Blogetery in Motion?

Blogetery in Motion is my (somewhat) witty take off the phrase “poetry in motion.” Where is the motion? Well even though this is a blog, I am always moving. Moving towards a graduate degree, becoming a better graphic designer and forging a successful career. So many blogs give “10 Ways To…,” it seems like a lot of people in the creative field have everything figured out, right? Graduating with a bachelor’s right in the midst of the recession, everybody talks about success, but few seem as though they talk about how they got where they are. Whether it is trying my hand at drawing as a small child or just trying to work with a client who happens to be a good friend, these are some of the stories that separates this blog from the rest.

Humanizing The Job

Don’t get me wrong, some blogs are informative and aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I appreciate a personal touch. Working in non-profit, if there was a donor that worked with me, I would leave a handwritten note. Just to show them I appreciate them.

Until they ran out of credible artists, VH-1 milked the show, Behind The Music. People enjoyed the journey of music artists both good and bad. Am I living the life of Motley Crue? No. Do I think my life and journey is constantly interesting enough to share? Not always, but it humanizes my job. The goal is to have the reader understand my point of view and to “pull the curtain back” of my job and give a fresh perspective. When I say pull back the curtain, I mean talking about design in ways other bloggers do not. I want to bring a level of authenticity from someone who is still maturing in the field.

Online Presence

A Voice – I have had experience writing for blogs that I never really had the intention of growing. It was a way to find my voice and create a tone. While I am still evolving, I do feel as though I have developed. I feel most “at home” sharing personal stories relevant to design, but now I am ready to also share my take on design concepts and trends.

Twitter - In the increasing interactive world we live in, it is important to have multiple platforms for your voice. Twitter, is used on a semi-regular basis (though not overkill for a follower) as a way to announce new blog posts, revelant links about design or just saying/retweeting a witty joke. I chose the name @JonBlogetery to create a sense of continuity between Twitter and Blogetery in Motion.

Other Avenues – I use LinkedIn as a way for clients to post recommendations (which I am currently building) and to link up to an online portfolio. As far as an online portfolio, I am currently creating a Flash version of one (via The ultimate goal is to design my own page, but I am still in early stages of learning html and Drupal (which will be something to blog about). Also, I am looking into designing my own background to reflect the theme of the blog.

The Blog – This is where my online presence resides the most at this time. As of now, I do post and tweet under a pseudonym, but would change that when my professional portfolio/website is up. I am also going to put a description of the blog below the title, to make it clear what the blog is about.

Lessons Learned

“If Ernest Hemingway, James Mitchener, Neil Simon, Franck Lloyd Wright, and Pablo Picaso could not get it right the first time, what makes you think that you will?” – Paul Heckel

Get To The Point - In the past several weeks, I have posted well over 20 blog posts pertaining to design. The initial goal was to systematically start off with my history with design, then move into the field at large. Sometimes we get so involved in our own history, we fail to remember that not everything we post, resonates with the reader. I have always liked what I call the “slow build.” In a movie, the story is set, you have some background on the characters, and then the film hits the ground running. A future goal in the blog, would be to get the core of design. Recent blogs like Trading Ethics for a Design, Find Inspiration, Not Theft and Visual Metaphors have reflected this approach.

Never Be Content – The great work of other designers is what motivates me to get better. The same can be said of writing. I did go into my blogging experience thinking I had an edge, since writing was a passion in my youth. The ability to win over a reader that otherwise would have no interest in the subject is a big picture goal here. I want to be good, really good. Not just in my design, but in how I articulate that in my writings.


“Stop looking at yourself as a designer, and start looking at yourself as a deliverer of ideas.” – Stle Melvr

Whether it is finding your niche or just being stuck in a rut, I want people that, even if they avoid Photoshop, walk away thinking of a relatable experience, even if it doesn’t have anything to do with design. Blogetery in Motion is meant to entertain, but also inform. Why listen to me? I have a great passion for sports, comedy, music and movies, none of which I intend on pursuing for a career. I could write about those topics, but I feel I would be cheating the reader and myself. With design, the creative well never runs dry and it’s a big part of what I want to do.

Find Inspiration, Not Theft

“In West Virginia yesterday, a man was arrested for stealing several blow-up dolls. Reportedly, police didn’t have any trouble catching the man because he was completely out of breath.”Conan O’ Brien

If that quote teaches us anything, it’s that crime doesn’t pay. The same holds true in the creative realm of design.

In today’s digital age, stealing material is viewed subjectively. Take arts and entertainment for example. Music and piracy has been an issue, from the days of bootlegging a concert to Napster at the height of its fame. Even in the entertainment world, the stealing of a comedian’s jokes has been a long standing issue, from Robin Williams to Dane Cook. Just Google or YouTube search Carlos Menica. The results range from his infamy in stealing jokes to unabashed hatred towards the man. In a world where people have traded ethics for personal gain, do they exist in the design world?

There are ethics in design. They are the same that exist in different avenues of creativity. If I were to tune out my peers and legendary artists that came before me, and still be able to produce great work, then I would be a creative genius (I wish). I use Delicious to bookmark my inspirations. I need to get inspired and learn from people that came before me. I believe in viewing various concepts to encourage a design, though with my own spin on things. After all, how many musicians were inspired by The Beatles and/or Elvis? Sure, there were a few blatant copycats along the way, but they also helped influence some legendary individuals.

Get Inspired

Inspiration may sound like “borrowing” for some, but there are several sites that encourage sharing of designs and have sections specifically for inspiring designers. Sites like You The Designer and the American Institute for Graphic Arts (AIGA) are great examples. Speaking of AIGA, official ethical practices in design have actually been in place. In an earlier post, I talked about personal ethics in a job. AIGA’s original idea, known as The Living Principles of Design focuses on not only that concept, but provides an online community to share best practices, tools and ideas for designers of all ilks.

Just like the code of ethics and rules on academic plagiarism (that we usually don’t have time to read), you have to understand what you are getting into when you use a concept. Be sure to credit your inspirations. Not everything I’ve done for clients has been totally original, but its important to establish your own ethical boundaries.

Works Cited:

Stuck In A Creative Rut?

So it about 8:30 p.m., I’m going to sit down and get started on a design. Before I do, let me just check my email. Okay, I’m kind of thirsty, let me just grab a water. I need to get the creative juices going, let me just listen to some music. You know, I don’t know enough about The Doors, I should Wikipedia them really quick. Okay, now I really need to get started. I wonder what my buddy Drew thinks about LeBron James going to the Heat? Let me call him. Wow 11:30 already??? I’ll just start tomorrow…

That scenario is procrastination brought on by a heavy dose of being in a creative rut. So, how does one overcome?

Scott Hanson posted a blog called, Overcoming The Creative Block. In this, he received quotes from 25 designers and creatives on what they do to combat the lack of creative juices. As I type this I am getting distracted from this, as a friend sent me a video about obsolete video formats. I’m sure many of you bloggers go through the same issues. A lot of the creatives had some interesting bits of advice in this blog. Some cook food, listened to music, travel or simply take their mind of the work and get away from the computer all together. Chad Hagen’s advice resonated best with me,

Staying creative is hard work. Honestly, I don’t think when I got into art school I was very talented at all. I struggled to stand out. I struggled to stay in school. Staying creative was hard work. BUT, the one thing that kept me focused was my desire to be good. I wanted to be really good. I wanted to be as good as those people that WERE talented. I used to think I would eventually, if I worked hard enough, master art like a math equation and then I could relax and just make great stuff and let everything else follow. That time definitely never came, and I know now I never want it to, because the most important thing that keeps me creative is my wanting to be good. So if I’m ever in a rut, the best things to get me out of them is to put myself in places that engage that desire to be good. In a general sense this means to get out and be expose to others creating. In my opinion, there is no better way to trigger your own creativity, than to see what great things others have made or are making. Going to museums, galleries, shows, etc. always inspires my mind in a way that make me want to get back into my own work and make good things.

I really needed that advice 5 years ago, but it still rings true. I failed classes as an immature youth. I assumed everything would fall in place. In some respects, some things have. I reached a point (late) in my undergrad career where I was no longer content “getting a good grade.” I wanted and still want to be good, really good. I look at some peers in my ICM grad class and strive to match some of the work I see. I used old coworkers with great deals of experience as mentors and want to match their levels. Like Hagen says, why sit back and relax and let it all flow? You still have to challenge yourself. So when I have to create something for a job or school, I look at the great work that others are doing and get jealous. Not in a “sinful” way, but in a way that drives me to attempt to match those levels of hard work.

Why did I post a column about being in a rut? Well, all this blogging about designing has kind of drained me out of ideas so in a way, this is therapeutic. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get distracted.

Works Cited:

  • Hanson, S. (2010). Overcoming The Creative Block.

Research: Trading Ethics for a Design?

Could a Democrat work for a Republican? Could the Yankees support the Red Sox? Could you work for a client in a campaign you don’t believe in? The latter does come up in design. Certain design jobs do affect a person’s set of ethics.

This form of design ethics was raised by designer David Airey. What if you have to design a product you don’t believe in? What if I designed promotions for the aforementioned Republican Party and was a Democrat or vice versa? What if I designed for an alcohol company and I had a loved one with alcoholism issues?  Airey poses this scenario,

I believe in how the fashion industry is twisting reality and contributing to eating disorders in many young women, but if I was approached by a fashion model to launch a portfolio site, I don’t think I’d have many sleepless nights. Is that just me being hypocritical?

I say no. Design is a passion, but also a job that people use to make a living. Unfortunately, I am not in the position to be overly selective in which jobs I accept.

Citizen Designer

Perhaps the most socially irresponsible work is the over-produced, typographic stunts that serve no real function, speak only to other designers and the cultural elite, and through opulence and uselessness revel in a level of conspicuous consumption that glorifies financial excess. Michael Rock

Like Michael Rock, Susan S. Szenasy talks also about designers becoming socially responsible or “citizen designers.” I find that a lot of the people talking about being a “citizen designer” are rich with experience and have the time/finances to do so.  Has some design moved away from the arts and toward commercialization? Of course it has. I do not shy away from that, as I was an Advertising and Promotions major as an undergrad student. I would, one day, like to be apart a greater social cause, in time and experience.

Surviving & Staying Ethical

David Airey mentions working with non-profit agencies on cause you do support to counterbalance the job you may not fully support. I have worked full time at a non-profit agency and several agencies with freelance projects. Ennis Carter founded the organization, Design for Social Impact, specifically to address the design needs of non-profit and community based organizations. As Carter explains, “We strive for a fair and just society in the best way we know how – through beauty, story and service to the community.” The pay on this level can be little to non-existent, but the levels of appreciation my non-profit clients have shown me is tremendous.

Are You Experienced?

I have learned to pick my spots with jobs. If a client wants me to design something hateful or bigoted (if so, then I should question the clients I attract), I will turn it down. On the other hand, would I be able to work for a political campaign for an opposing party I support? I would find it to be a unique challenge and not rule out the job. As designer Adrian Shaughnessy says, “I like the fight, and I get satisfaction from winning over a difficult client.”

I’m sure a young George Clooney’s ideal acting choice was not the guest spot on The Facts of Life. Some call taking a job you don’t believe in unethical or “selling out” for the sake of a dollar. When I have the resources to make a difference, feel free to call me that. In the meantime, income aside, I see it as way to build experience. I look at these jobs as a true challenge, so when a project comes along that I truly feel passionate about, I will be more than prepared. If you toil enough at your craft, sooner or later you will be able have that artistic freedom and make your own rules.

Works Cited:

  • Fisher, Jeff. “11.” The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success: Ideas and Tactics for a Killer Career. Cincinnati, Ohio: How Design, 2005. 171-72. Print.
  • Shaughnessy, Adrian. “7.” How to Be a Graphic Designer without Losing Your Soul. New York: Princeton Architectural, 2005. 104-05. Print.
  • Heller, H. J. ., Bolesław Bierut, and William Drenttel. Looking Closer Critical Writings on Graphic Design. New York: Allworth, 2007. Print.
  • “Ethics and Sustainability: Graphic Designers’ Role.” AIGA | the Power of Design. Web. 06 July 2010. <>.
  • “Responsible Design? (1/2).” Sketchblog. Web. 07 July 2010. <>.
  • “How Ethical Are Your Design Practices?” David Airey, Graphic Designer. Web. 06 July 2010. <>.

Visual Metaphors

“Why don’t you just say what you mean instead of dressing things up in all this flowery language like the great Romantic poets–”Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day”? Why don’t you say, “You’re hot–let’s do it”?Stephen Colbert

Sorry, Mr. Colbert, I am guilty of dressing up my language all the time. I use metaphors and analogies to increase meaning in my writings and speech to have people understand something from the point of view of something they do know. I realize that some metaphors are a dime a dozen, but we use and see them far more than we think.

In the blog for my grad school writing course, my professor wrote about metaphors. He said of the subject, “When we share the new with the old. When we look into the unknown with the familiar.” The word look was a standout for me. In design, I try to build a connection between the project and the audience. Sometimes that connection is obvious, while others can be unexpected. Until recently, I never really thought of designs and the term metaphor together.

Mario Pricken’s book, Creating Advertising: Ideas and Technique’s From The World’s Best Campaigns, he talks about the basic principle of metaphor and analogy in advertising. He describes visual metaphors as taking two elements from different spheres (like nature or technology) and compare the similarities, be it function of physical characteristic. The book cites the Volvo ad below as an example.


Volvo cars have that unique shape that many people are familiar with and comparing that to a paperclip shaped like it is unexpected (to me). It is simple, yet effective (although I can’t help but think what other messages they are trying to tell us, is it a lightweight car?) Another example that stood out was from Dunkin Donuts.

Dunkin Donuts

With the exception of an old, decrepit location around the corner from my apartment, Dunkin Donuts has gone through a slight rebranding. From the slogan, “America Runs On Dunkin,” which has a visual metaphor right in the graphic to the actual locations, the famous franchise has been remodeled. The above ad sums that up.

Somewhat unknowingly, the metaphorical approach was something I was going for in an ad I created for the United Way of Greater New Haven.  The event was a diaper drive for their annual Days of Caring volunteer event.

United Way Days of Caring 2008

I chose three different babies in diapers, with the subhead, ensuring babies are dressed for success. While that message was clear, what I was really going for was United Way’s mission of education, income and health. The baby on the far left with the block represents education, the baby in the briefcase and tie represents income and the baby with the stethoscope represents health. My attempt was to use a metaphor for not only the event, but the bigger picture for United Way’s general mission. They appreciated that as it spoke to a general and specific audience.

Whether it’s comparing a coffee cup to a building or most of Dennis Miller’s comedy act, metaphors and analogies are used to make something relatable to our audience. They can be effective in how we speak, but also what we see. As Pricken says “They function as mental maps, making it easier to understand new and complex content in an elegant way.”

Works Cited:

  • Pricken, Mario. “Chapter 2.29.” Creative Advertising: Ideas and Techniques from the World’s Best Campaigns. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002.

Write or Right?

“When you’re not concerned with succeeding, you can work with complete freedom.”Larry David

Long before Photoshop and the term “interactive communications” was coined, I wanted to be a writer. I knew I could not draw and was a pragmatic enough child to know that being the star quarterback for the New York Giants was not going to be a reality. I liked to write. I felt no matter how bad my penmanship was if what I had to say was strong enough, writing would be the life for me.

Enthusiasm Curbed

My grammar school teachers praised my efforts and even though I was a lazy teenager, my high school teachers told me I had flashes of potential. Then I was off to college. Some professors used intimidation tactics and seemed more focused on making sure we had the correct MLA format rather than the actual content of the paper. I was interested in writing what resonated with me. I had also been sidetracked with discovering my creativeness through other means of technology along the way.  Just like that, my dream of becoming a writer was a mere afterthought.

Not long after college, I revisited my first creative passion and started writing under a surname for a couple blogs ranging in tone to sports to just goofing around with friends. Writing became fun again. Larry David’s quote I mentioned above is a breath of fresh air for me. I just wrote what I knew and did so with creative freedom.

A Blog About Nothing?

My niche here is graphic design. I see it as being creative and will always talk about it in some form, but beating the reader over the head with it wouldn’t appeal to me. If design is subjective, why must I have a dominant, underlying theme in every blog I write?

Maybe to a fault, I watched Seinfeld at a young age and loved the show. He played on the show what he really is, a comedian. Of course, there were some extrapolations of who he really is on the show. At the same time, I talk about what inspired me as a child to where I’m at presently. Does it tie back to design? Yes or at least, eventually. I hope to convey my passion for design and make that clear to you, the reader. At best, writing will help me articulate who I am and help me establish an online presence, which is increasingly important in today’s digital world. At worst, I get to write with creative freedom and have fun. It’s a win-win.

Algorithm/DIY: Let’s Tear It Up

One of the best things about being a graphic designer is that the field is a “bottomless pit” of learning. A few months ago, I wanted to learn the torn paper effect that I saw on the movie poster for the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind for my own creation. While I thought I was in over my head with the task, it is not as hard as it looks and I was pleased with the result.

I realize that not everyone reading this blog is a graphic designer, so if you do not own Photoshop, you can test out a free 30 day trial at and follow along.

Choose your photo – I took a photo (going for a mug shot look) and erased the area where I wanted the tear, in this case, my mouth. I have been told I am a talkative fellow, so the idea was to erase the area around my mouth (which people that know me got a kick out of). I used the same technique for other layers that I wanted the tear. Now to touch up the erase marks…

Original Mugshot

Pick your eraser – This is the key to creating the “tear.” I did a “spotty” job erasing the edges, as to give the sense of an authentic, messy torn look. When in the Eraser tool, go to Brush and select a preset (I chose 14x). Next, head over to the Brush Options window (seen below), change the Shape Dynamics settings to create a “spotty” stroke. To do this, I lowered the smoothness and adjusted the shape dynamics in the brush presets.

Brush Presets

Pick your paintbrush – Torn paper has a texture to it. Underneath the torn layers, I added in another layer using an off-white paper color, as seen below.

Paint Brush Setting Same As Eraser Settings

Now, the easy part here for the brush stroke, is to use the exact same preset as in the erase brush tool. Now to have this look a bit more authentic, we will add a filter. Go to Filters, then add Texturizer (as seen below).

Texturizer Settings

The default settings work fine here. Within the document, this is a rough idea of what the tear with the texture may look like.

For the final version of my design, I used this technique on several different layers to give the piece a sense of depth. It is a little time consuming, but once you get a feel for modifying the brush settings, it gets easier. Now, if only I can follow the message of the poster…

Final Version

Not All about the Benjamins

I have done my share of pro bono work in design. After all, working in the non-profit sector for 3 years gave me some connections, although not always with the deepest pockets. I have also had some clients that didn’t pay me at all. At the end of the day, I want some compensation for my time and efforts.

I realize, I’m no Andy Warhol, so having the options of picking and choosing who and when I work is not always an option. At this point, the freelance jobs I have are mostly to build experience and credibility. So if money isn’t pouring in, what is my compensation?


Especially working with folks that pay next to (or) nothing, this is a must. I referenced LinkedIn a few times last week and this is a great forum to have the recommendations showcased.  I have tweaked around with the idea of my own website for awhile now (I really should have one), but having my own testimonial section would be a necessity for me. It adds credibility to my work, especially if the client loved the job.

More Business

It’s obvious, yet true. The goes together with networking. Most of the jobs (freelance or otherwise) have come from a referral of a happy customer/co-worker. Especially when things are going slow, it’s important to have a wide network of clients. I have also tried to expand my network with other designers. If there is a job I can’t do or is a bit out of my realm (web coding/animation), I will refer them to someone I know can accomplish the task. I know sometimes designers can be a bit cutthroat when hoarding clients, but I think its good practice to play nice. You never know when you might need a favor.


Especially when creating website or logo design, getting a “Site designed by…” somewhere on the clients’ page is a big plus. On the other side of the fence, I have asked clients (even for my ICM 502 design class) if I could use logos I have created for clients. This was a slippery slope, as I have worked for a national organization (they sometimes frown on that sort of thing), but if I’m permitted, it helps showcase all of my work.

Overall, I will never scoff at a good payday, but especially starting out in a competitive field, you have to be pragmatic. I learned to take on whatever jobs I can, but also try to get the most out of the experience beyond my asking price.