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Web Design For The Non-Web Designer

I have posted a lot about graphic design on this blog. You have read my words and perhaps heard my voice (on this video), but you have not really seen a lot of my work. I have alluded to some of the projects I have worked on, but trying to showcase them all is not easy, especially since I am not a web designer. However, as a graphic designer, I am very specific in how I want to show my work. For a while now, I have been looking into a customizable, online portfolio to show my work. Without knowledge of coding, HTML or CSS, finding reputable (and free) options are limited.

Wix

Wix.com allows for some Flash animations and is customizable. The widgets and apps have features that allow you to connect with Google Maps, PayPal and RSS feeds. The downside is that it takes too long to edit and you are often limited to what templates are available. Also there did not seem to be a way for me to link up a widget on this blog, thus not as much connectivity between online platforms. From a website with potential to…

Web.com

I signed up for web.com last winter. Big mistake. It is free for 30 days, but they still have your credit card information on file and will charge you when the trial runs out. Since it is a publicly traded company with 275,000 subscribers, I assumed the site would be legit. I called just to make sure the site was customizable for my needs and the operator assured me they were. They answered my questions a little too swiftly, making me suspicious from the start. The available templates were laughable and something you would find on Websites That Suck. I later found out that there was very little customization on the user end and if I wanted any of the advanced features, I would have to pay for them (NOT what the operator told me). Even the cancellation process was a hassle. When you do a Google search on web.com one of the auto results is “web.com scam.”

Lesson learned. I just wanted to have a level of independence to showcase my own work and be taken seriously.

Coroflot

I was initially hesitant to use coroflot.com. It seemed very bare bones without a lot of customization. The more I thought about things, I realized that while web design is a goal for the future, I want to show my work now. I remember choosing Facebook years ago over Myspace. I did not want to deal with all of the add-ons and features that Myspace had. I wanted a clean and (at the time) simple interface that Facebook provided. With Coroflot, I didn’t have to be ashamed about my lack of coding skills to create my own personal and professional portfolio. The layout puts everyone in the same boat, while making your work speak for itself. While not overly flashy, Coroflot also allows you the option of placing a badge (similar to embedding a YouTube video or Facebook Fan Badge) to your own website (as seen below).


view my portfolio:
coroflot.com/faccento

It is not the end all of what I want to do. The goal (as I move forward in my graduate program and career) is learning the ins and outs of web design. In today’s job market, the lines between a graphic designer and web designer are blurred. A lot of jobs expect both out of one person. I always had dreams of launching a website to show all of my work and branding. Someday that will happen, but in the for now, its important to show the work you do have. In the meantime, my portfolio will have to do, at least until this website idea takes off.

Stepping In the Social Media Squared Circle

I have always been interested in sports and entertainment. With my nephew recently discovering the live action soap opera that is professional wrestling (marketed as sports entertainment), I thought it was the perfect time to revisit what I watched as a child (World Wrestling Entertainment) and review their social media presence.

I stopped watching the then-WWF as a teenager for a time because I felt they were always slow to adapt to change. To my surprise, their social media presence is apparent right on the front page. There are links and logos for Facebook, YouTube and Twitter prominently featured on the front page. The Twitter page gives links to all of the wrestlers’ official Twitter accounts. I would be very curious to see if the performers are required tweet in character or not. I actually think it is a great opportunity for a newer performer to connect with fans. Characters live and die with fan support, so this could be a great way for a performer who may not get a lot of television exposure to stay in eye of the fans. While their website offers their own video player, I think it is also important to utilize YouTube. I think having a personalized YouTube page for WWE’s brand offers fans the opportunities to potentially embed videos to their own blogs.

I chose review the WWE’s social media presence because I feel it was always an industry slow to adapt to change. While they never really outright inform fans each broadcast, it was long been accepted that the events are staged and results are predetermined. It goes to show the importance of social media. Even a traditionally “sheltered (in terms of other working with other media)” company like the WWE realizes that there are more ways to connect with fans rather than just using their website. It provides a new way for both fans and performers to interact with fans, in ways that “real” sports does not officially adopt.

What About Design?

Web designers are always on top of the latest trends. When I do a search on social media and graphic design, I see that a lot of great work is being done in terms of designing logo, templates and favicons. However, I don’t see an abundance of interaction within social media. Blogs whose feeds I subscribe to include You The Designer, 2expertsdesign and Logo Design Love. All they really have are infrequently updated tweets on their Twitter accounts. What can I learn from this?

My Own Social Media Squared Circle

Like the WWE’s undercard of talent looking for a break or fan reaction, I think it’s important to stay on the forefront of social media, even if I’m not a publicly traded sports entertainment company. How to do this?

Twitter
I find that the more I tweet, the more followers and blog reads I receive. I recently blogged about the relevance of the OBEY Giant artwork. I personally found the topic interesting (did I mention that I watched wrestling as a child), so I posted an offbeat tweet about it. To my surprise, I received a fair amount of feedback. However, I don’t always check Twitter as religiously as others, so when I go weeks without a tweet, I notice I’ve lost a few followers. Clearly, the advantages (especially for an upstart professional) outweigh the disadvantages. I’ve learned to tweet items relevant to your blog and not post with a course agenda to them. Unless sending a direct message, I want my tweets to sound authentic. I tend to never read a tweet from a peer that posts “Assignment 5: Post 1.” We all have writing requirements, but its important to continue to attract outside followers with similar interests. Now the key, is to hold their interests.

Facebook
I do not consider Facebook (at this juncture) to be a viable means to reach my audience. As someone with a personal account, I don’t feel comfortable promoting my brand to friends and family at this stage. To gain notoriety and success is the dream of any graduate student and should (or optimistically when) this occurs, I would feel it is appropriate to create a Fan Page.

LinkedIn
I find that LinkedIn is sometimes in the shadow of the other social media giants, but is also important. While not as informal in tone as my blog posts, I think it is important to show the client where I have been in my career and also read recommendations on my work.

YouTube
YouTube is the next realm of social media that I want to take more seriously moving forward. I have already posted a link to my DesignSource project and YouTube will be a platform to not only post tutorials, but perhaps a video slideshow of my portfolio. Perhaps not necessarily YouTube, designer Dave Werner utilizes video to describe his work in an extremely effective manner.

I think most of us (even you wonderful baby boomers) have come to accept social media as the norm and not a fad. For an upstart trying to make a name for myself, it would be foolish for me not to try. Of course, I can go on about this…now to make it happen!

To GPS or Not GPS (In Design)?

At my current job, we have our logo and branding in place. Sometimes, I can add in my own creativity in a design, but mostly, we have our templates laid out. Change is not an expression at this job, it’s a slow process. When I first started, I felt stifled by the creative limitations. On the other hand, when a design is due at the last minute, I can always quickly modify a template and get the job done.

Recently, I had a client that was the opposite. They told me to create a poster for a grand opening to their business. What would you like? What’s the size of the poster? What theme are you going for? The response I got was, “Make it nice and use your best judgment.” I thought that was perfect, until I sat in front of my computer scratching my head for an hour. Where do I start?

The question is what works more effectively, too much creative direction or too much freedom?

Free At Last?

Freedom is why people even come to America. However, in the design field too much can make the mind wander and lose focus. When the mind wanders, time drifts away. At a certain point, I find myself watching a rerun of Seinfeld hoping a killer idea will magically appear. This can turn into a time consuming process and when there is a deadline looming, a lack of direction can put you in a creative rut. I look at it like a head coach telling a player to coach the team for the rest of the game. Sure, it is liberating, but at some point, you need a little direction.

Limited Too

Time is saved to a very high degree in this case. But at what price? It is nice to have a job that is a little easier every now and again, but to have no say in the creation is frustrating. I find that a lot of the jobs that tend to be limiting are often jobs that I wouldn’t really want to include in my portfolio. It feels like a lie for an idea I didn’t really help mold. Besides, how am I ever supposed to grow and master my craft if I’m not allowed to think “outside the box?”

What’s The Solution?

The easiest solution is balance. I was lucky enough in my first full time design job to have a boss provide an outline of what she wanted, but always asked my input. It felt like a total team effort. If we weren’t on the same page, she would have the final decision, but was always open to whatever additional drafts I created. This reminds me of the film, Fletch, in which director, Michael Ritchie and Chevy Chase had different visions of how a take should go. Ritchie would have final say, but allowed Chevy to ad-lib his own take. It was that nice creative balance. It’s easier said than done, but it’s nice to have direction and your own “Chevy take.”


Pitches and Proposals (Module 8)

Proposal 1: Design Source

Sentence

Ideas are almost never conceived perfectly. Design Source can take your idea to the next level, develop an eye-catching design and find the job right for you.

Elevator Pitch

Nobody ever said brainstorming was easy. Many organizations that have a marketing team simply cannot afford a graphic designer with all of today’s cutbacks in the business. Trying to find a designer with fair rates is not as easy as finding a repairman in a phone book. Design Source takes design and crowd-sourcing (outsourcing tasks) to the next level. It gives designers the opportunity and platform to showcase their portfolio and website, but also serve as a way for companies and agencies to hire, recruit and discover designers. Designsource.com connects the client with the designer, all in one source.

Promotional

Are you a client looking for the right design? Are you a designer looking to showcase your talents? Let Designsource.com be your bridge to creative networking. Many websites offer online communities to showcase portfolios, but tie in a product you have to use and edit. With Design Source, there are no gimmicks. For designers, just link to your website or embed your pictures and videos. For organizations, agencies and recruiters, post your job listings. It is a way for designers and clients to create, explore and connect. Its taking the work or potential work you have and sharing it with a community dedicated to making the client/designer relationship as smooth as possible, all in one place.

Find creativity. Share creativity. Design Source.

Proposal 2: Barbara Healy Associates

Editor’s Note: Pitches and proposals are a big part design process. In my short time as a freelancer, most of my dealings with clients have been informal. For the purposes of this proposal (and growth in my business/professional etiquette), I will be referring to an actual client that I am still continuing to work with to develop her brand, both aesthetically and marketing-wise .

Sentence

Barbara Healy Associates is a consulting practice focused on developing people, organizations and creating solutions. We believe that people are the key to the success of any organization.

Elevator Pitch

In a time of economic downturn, many people don’t know where to turn or what their next step will be. Our mission is to develop people and create solutions for their professional needs. Are you trying to develop leadership within your organization? Are you an individual looking to facilitate the “next step” or transition in your career? Barbara Healy Associates helps you with these difficult decisions in an increasingly complex professional landscape.

Promotional/Proposal

In terms of promotions, I am laying out an overview, goals, objectives and solutions on what pieces need to be in place for a successful design.

Overview

Barbara Healy Associates is a consulting firm dedicated to helping people with their career goals and is looking for a full branding effort, both web and print.

Goals and Objectives
Barbara Healy Associates is in need of a corporate identity to showcase its offerings in the business consulting industry. The company is in need of a corporate logo, business card design, company letterhead, website graphics and brochure. These marketing materials will help set the tone for the brand and business. The tone for the graphics will be light, cool colors that convey a sense of femininity as well professionalism.

Solution

The development of an original, corporate identity and marketing package.

This package will include:

  • A corporate logo
  • Business card design
  • Company letterhead
  • Billboard design
  • Merchandise brochure

The marketing pieces will work together to continuity among the materials to showcase the new company as a highly regarded career and business consultant.


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?

Credit: underconsideration.com/brandnew

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?

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